To be sure, the devil has an incredible arsenal of assaults with which he can waylay believers into ineptitude and ineffectiveness. One of his most insidious, though, is undoubtedly the thought that God cannot use you because of your past. Satan assails us by ceaselessly stoking the embers of guilt and shame, regret and remorse. What’s been deconstructed by grace, the devil seeks to rebuild through grief. his treacherous endeavor remains to forge barriers that hinder belief and rest in the gospel of God’s grace.
Akin to this deception is the devil’s duplicitous lie that you have to be good before you can go to Church. Satan’s great swindling of the Church of its grace has resulted in scores of people being hoodwinked into believing that there’s a certain amount of worthiness or fitness that must be attained before coming to Christ. This has led some to accept the idea that the Church is a gathering of a bunch of clean and righteous people learning how to be more clean and more righteous. (Clearly they haven’t been to a Baptist church, though.) This notion of worthiness — or lack thereof — has infected the general populace’s understanding of Church and religion, thereby hindering would-be churchgoers from ever crossing a sanctuary threshold due to a lack of worth or fitness that’s required when coming to “God’s House.”
This fallacious notion runs in direct contrast to the message of Christ in the Gospels. Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus frustrates the respected religionists by continually showing mercy and grace to those deemed unfit or unworthy for any semblance of tenderness or kindness. He eats and drinks with tax collectors and prostitutes. He lives and ministers with carpenters and fishermen. He is a Man of the down-and-outers, a Servant of the wretched and wrecked. He is the Friend of Sinners. (Luke 7:34) And where the religionists planned for this to be a derogatory name that would slander his reputation, Jesus flips the script and boasts in the slur. He revels in the name, because that’s who he is: the Friend and Savior of sinners.
Christ continually disregarded his cultural and social reputation in order to meet desperate people with divine deliverance. Time and time again, Jesus stooped to embrace those whom the religious establishment reckoned as “off-limits.” He upset all our spiritual understandings to show in vivid contrast that there’s no amount of worth or fitness you can attain before divinity meets you. Rather, it meets you where you are.
The divine Hunter seeks and saves those who are unworthy and unfit. The gospel tells us about a God who’s not afraid to get his hands dirty in order to deliver his beloved delinquents. In it, we’re given the grand unsettling news that he never shies away from the skeletons in the closet. It tells us of a Jesus who has come to be our worth. We don’t have to make ourselves worthy.
“The gospel requires no previous qualification. The sinner is not regarded as fit and meet to receive Christ’s righteousness by any thing he himself can do. Christ freely wrought it out, and he freely gives it . . . Your sins shall be freely pardoned, and your pollutions freely cleansed. Free grace shall do all for you, and all in you.” (Romaine, xi–xii, 238)
There are no stipulations to be met. No qualifications to live up to. No worthiness to be found or make ourselves fit for. The gospel of God’s unreserved grace is the best of the best for the worst of the worst. It’s the promise that all is free that’s found in Christ. And all that’s there is grace.
This, perhaps, is what continues to frustrate the religious elite to this day. That is, the shameless nature of God’s grace. As the story of Scripture unfolds, it’s impossible to not be confronted with the myriad of instances in which Christ seemingly gives grace to “all the wrong people.” Instead of coming and rewarding those who “kept the faith,” the Messiah was going about reclining with tax collectors and sinners, touching those who were unclean, and dwelling with the riffraff. (Matt. 9:10–13) And that’s because grace always flows to the lowest point to find neediest person to save.
“The mercy of God and the gospel of Christ, were never designed to assist and reward the righteous, but to relieve the miserable and save the desperate — to deliver those who have no other assistance, nor any other hope.” (Booth, 22)
You have no idea how far the grace of God can go. As mountainous as your rebellion and iniquity may be, the grace of God rises exceedingly higher above it all. There’s not one sin from which Christ’s blood cannot save. Notwithstanding the misdeeds that mar your past, Jesus is for you, because Jesus is for sinners. And sinners are all that there are. He’s for the unfit, the unworthy, and the unfaithful. His promise forever rings, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful.” (2 Tim. 2:13) No matter what you look like, the assurance of grace is that you are whiter than snow. In Jesus, the unfit are made fit, the unworthy find their worth, and the shamed stand shameless.
Soli Deo Gloria!
This article was originally written for Christ Hold Fast.
Abraham Booth, The Reign of Grace, from Its Rise to Its Consummation (Philadelphia: Joseph Whetnam, 1838).
William Romaine, Twelve Discourses Upon the Law and the Gospel (London: Book Society for Promoting Religious Knowledge, 1835).