Jul 2, 2015

Sinner’s Love

The rain was coming down outside so I took my morning cup of joe to the front porch to take in the moment. As I surveyed our yard and the beauty of what I saw, my mind drifted back to another time, twenty years ago…
The year was 1995 and I was at a pastor’s conference. I was about to start my new role as the senior pastor of a church. I had been using the time at the conference to re-charge my batteries as I prepared to transition into fulltime ministry.
During one of the morning sessions, the keynote speaker said something that shook my theology.
 “You will never know how much God loves you until you sin.”
Wait; what did he just say?
He repeated it again; “You will never know how much God loves you until you sin.”
Wait; that can’t be right!
The man shared that he had sinned and had to step out of ministry for a season. And it was through his time of restoration that he realized that he actually felt closer to the Father and that he understood the love of the Father even more…
 “You will never know how much God loves you until you sin.”
Twenty years later, as I stand on my front porch and the rain coming down jolts me back into the present reality, I realize just how true those words were.
As I thought about how good I really have it, I poured out my thanks to the Father for how He has provided for me; my great wife and children and grandchildren and friends and co-workers and my possessions etc., etc., etc.
Standing on the porch I am also aware of my own sinfulness and tendency to go back to straddle the line between right and wrong; sometimes seeing just how close I can come “without really sinning”.
It is in moments like this that I realize that I hadn’t deserved any of this; this was pure gift from One who loved me first. My provision (physically and spiritually) was because of His work; His love, not something that I have done or earned!
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” (Ephesians 1:7)
In fact when I look back at my life, much like the speaker twenty years ago had communicated, it was during the times of struggling with sin that I actually felt closer to God compared to the times when I had it all together. Whatever that means…
 “You will never know how much God loves you until you sin.”
The apostle Paul came to a similar conclusion about God’s love for the sinner and the grace He bestows on us and then asked a rhetorical question that naturally comes up;
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Romans 6:1)
His answer is a resounding; “Certainly not!”
In fact Paul is referring back to something he had written earlier in his letter to the church in Rome when He told them that it God’s kindness and gentleness and goodness that leads us to repentance.
“Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4)
And so I drink my coffee watching the rain coming down and let the gratefulness of what He has done for me, in spite of me, continue to be the impetus to continue to say “yes” to His prompting to “take the way out” when temptation comes my way. (see 1 Corinthians 10:13)
Grateful that He loves a sinner like me.
"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)
All Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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