Awful Hearts & Awesome Grace

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” 2 Tim 3:16

As Singapore moved to live with the COVID 19 virus, Singaporeans were inundated by a plethora of rules and protocols that caused much confusion and stress.  The pandemic has enslaved us by the rules for social distancing and isolation. We were divided into  the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.  We were inundated by conspiracy theories and bombarded by lies that blind us to the truths that will set us free. The pandemic was, in fact, a window of opportunity to come to terms with the reality of death and to find creative ways to care for one another through the power of love.

Spiritually, this reminded me that we need to die to our pride which leads us to live awful lives trying to please God by the letter of the law. John Tauler, a Dominican monk in the 14th century, had achieved honor and reputation as a preacher. One day, he was confronted by an unknown lay person who told him that he was allowing himself to be “killed by the letter” and was in darkness and had not tasted the sweetness of the Holy Spirit. This convicted Tauler to stop preaching for a while and to examine his life in quiet contemplation. As he did so, he discovered the simple truth of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ – that the way to God was through a new birth by the awesome grace of God.

When we have a simple faith in Jesus Christ, the bible is both as a mirror of our awful hearts as well as a window into God’s awesome grace. The Old Testament is the depressing history of the repeated cycles of rebellion, repentance, rescue and revival in God’s Promised Land by the Jews who failed to live out their calling to be the people of God. The Old Testament is littered with stories of the failures and weaknesses of the heroes of faith. It is but a mirror of our sinful nature that keep us from obeying God’s laws and drives us to seek our own ways. Unfortunately, these stories of their disobedience and rebellion and their tragic consequences project a harsh image of God as a vindictive judge from the human perspective. Our distorted image of God keeps us from seeing the windows of hope in the Old Testament of God’s faithfulness and perfect love seeking to rescue and redeem unfaithful and imperfect men over and over again.

On the other hand, the New Testament is the inspiring record of how Jesus has come to usher in the Kingdom of heaven and how the followers of Jesus were living in the Kingdom of heaven here on earth. It is a window to see how the early disciples of Christ lived out the truth that they have been crucified with Christ and are living by the power of the Spirit. In Acts 13:38-41 Paul gave a succinct history of how God had been working to save humankind from sin through the Jews and proclaimed the good news of the gospel:

“Brothers, listen! We are here to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. Everyone who believes in him is made right in God’s sight—something the law of Moses could never do. Be careful! Don’t let the prophets’ words apply to you. For they said, ‘Look, you mockers, be amazed and die! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.’ ” Acts of the Apostles 13:38-‬41 NLT

The bible is not a book of laws to be mastered or a recipe book of promises to claim. It is God’s love letter for us to explore and to discover the gold nuggets of His forgiving love, His eternal provisions and His omnipotent power over evil. The bible is the sacred record of God’s perfect love for imperfect men – a testimony of God’s faithfulness in unfaithful men. Through the bible we see the love of a prodigal father, the love of a betrayed lover and the love of a shepherd looking for his lost sheep.

The bible reveals the cure for our awful hearts – to be born again as a new creation in Christ Jesus. But first, we need to die to sin by seeing ourselves on the cross with Jesus. Life then becomes a journey of walking through the valley of the shadow of death with our Shepherd of Love to confront the greed, pride and lust lurking deep within our hearts with the peace of God that is beyond all human understanding:

“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” Romans 5:1-‬2 NLT

When we are drawn to God by His love and grace, the spiritual disciplines of prayer, meditation and bible reading are not burdensome chores for they are our avenues of communication with our Divine Lover. We will hunger and thirst for God’s messages of love instead filling our minds with the junk food of social media.  Prayer, according to Henri Nouwen, is radical because it uncovers the deepest roots of our identity in God:

“In prayer we seek God’s voice and allow God’s word to penetrate our fear and resistance so that we can begin to hear what God wants us to know. And what God wants us to know is that before we think or do or accomplish anything, before we have much money or little money, the deepest truth of our human identity is this: “You are my beloved son. You are my beloved daughter. With you I am well pleased.”

We are called to be witnesses of the abundant life of a beloved child of God. It is not a life that we have achieved but a gift that we have received so that “the light of Christ may seen today in our acts of love and deeds of faith.” Our lives are to be the testimony that Jesus Christ has risen and very much alive in us as we proclaim:

It’s no longer I that liveth,
But Christ that liveth in me.
It’s no longer I that liveth,
But Christ that liveth in me.
He lives, He lives,
Jesus is alive in me!
It’s no longer I that liveth,
But Christ that liveth in me.


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