How Grace Works

There’s a reason why God has to save anyone by grace, and grace alone, and not anything we can do.

The apostle Paul uses two “heroes” from the OT to prove this point in Romans 4, Abraham and David. He shows through their lives that even they were made right – justified – through God’s act of grace, not their efforts and achievements. They lived by faith and stood on grace, because only God can “make beauty out of ugly things” (U2), or in Paul’s words, “God justifies the ungodly.”

The good news of the gospel is that grace and life comes to screw-ups and failures. In other words, God justifies the wicked, not the winsome; the ungodly, not the unblemished

Quotable/Tweetable Thoughts

“God justifies the wicked, not the winsome; the ungodly, not the unblemished.” – Chris Gensheer

“Not only am I completely incapable of making God love me more, I’m equally incapable of making him love me less.” – Scotty Smith

“An idol is pursuing something you want, but don’t possess; your boast is holding on to something you have, but don’t want to lose.” – Chris Gensheer

“To “credit” righteousness is to bestow a positive, not merely forgive a negative.” – Chris Gensheer

“I’m much more interested in grace because I’m really depending on it.” – Bono

“Grace makes beauty our of ugly things.” – Bono

Christ Church Mansfield exists to love God, connect people, serve the city, and reach the world with the transforming power of the Gospel in Mansfield, Arlington, Midlothian, Burleson, Cedar Hill, Fort Worth and Dallas TX, and beyond.

Member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), the Southwest Church Planting Network, and The Gospel Coalition.

Skeptics, curious, misfits, and mavericks welcome!

For more go to http://www.christchurchmansfield.com

A Way to Be Good and Right Again

Two weeks ago, I preached and unpacked Romans 3:19-31and the two greatest words possibly in all the Bible, but definitely in Romans so far:

But now.

One secular writer has said that “… the problem with justifying my own existence…is not that I’m such a bad person, but that I could be, and that I should far better than I really am.” In Romans 1-2, Paul has established that every single person does understand – through conscience – that they ought to be living in a certain way, and yet no one does it. Everyone is struggling for righteousness, and no one is getting it.

This is where we get the two greatest words in the Bible, “but now”. But now in the Gospel there is a new reality, a new possibility, a new way to be righteous, to be “good again” (Kite Runner).

The “but now” of the gospel is more than mere forgiveness, it’s justification. Instead of saying, “You may go”, justification says, “You may come!”

The Heidelberg Catechism puts it like this:

60. Q. How are you righteous before God?

A. Only by true faith in Jesus Christ.

Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments, of never having kept any of them, and of still being inclined toward all evil, nevertheless, without any merit of my own, out of sheer grace,God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, and as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me.

All I need to do is accept this gift with a believing heart.

This is the essence of faith in Christ.

Part of the sermon series Romans: Unlocking the Gospel | Unleashing the Power  at Christ Church Mansfield, from Lead Pastor Chris Gensheer. For more content or to know more about the ministry of Christ Church, go to http://www.christchurchmansfield.com.

We Need Creative Extremists Yet Again

In honor of Martin Luther King Day, I am doing what everyone else is doing – posting a thoughtful and provocative quote from the man who has inspired many not only in his day and generation, but for many yet to come.  I wish to offer a brief comment to the quote as well.

“The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

What made Martin Luther King, Jr. so profound is that he was truly counter-cultural.  In his day when the typical response was either acceptance (of my view, my way, my culture, my policies, etc) or elimination (by segregation, intimidation, marginalization or even assassination), he advocated and championed a more profound position – creative extremism. He saw that the most profound and world-changing act of persuasion was neither legislative or brute force.

It was love.

The kind of radical love that actively sought the best interests of another, and took them on as their own, regardless of the reception.

Martin Luther King, Jr. lived out this love, because he was a man who recognized that he had been loved in that extremely creative and radical way by another.

This love has come to us all in the person and work of Jesus Christ, and it is only as we receive that love by the most creative extremist ever can we then turn and share that love with others.

Other-wordly, radical, creative-extremist type love is really the only way anything different can ever happen in this world.

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Forby grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:1-10, ESV)

Food for Thought: Innocence, Victimization and Otherness in Our Civil Discourse

The past few weeks have seen a myriad of eruptions among Christians of all stripes in our country.  I have been encouraged by some of the discourse, but disheartened by most (here is an example of an excellent article).  The following quote by Miroslav Volf has helped me wrap my head and my heart around the problems inherent in these kinds of debates – we try to delineate too neatly between the “right” and the “wrong” over these issues, blaming the other for all that is wrong, and exempting ourselves in the process.  Just once, I would like to see the flavor of our rhetoric match the flavor of God’s love, mercy and grace each of us have received in Jesus.

“Solidarity in sin underscores that no salvation can be expected from an approach that rests fundamentally on the moral assignment of blame and innocence.  The question cannot be how to locate ‘innocence’ ether on the intellectual or social map and work our way toward it.  Rather, the question is how to live with integrity and bring healing to a world of inescapable non innocence that often parades as its opposite.  The answer: in the name of the only truly innocent victim and what he stood for, the crucified Messiah of God, we should damask as inescapably sinful the world constructed around exclusive moral polarities – here, on our side, ‘the just’, ‘the pure,’ ‘the innocent,’ ‘the true,’ ‘the good,’ and there, on the other side, ‘the unjust,’ ‘the corrupt,’ ‘the guilty,’ ‘the liars,’ ‘the evil’ – and then seek to transform the world in which justice and injustice, goodness and evil, innocence and guilt, purity and corruption, truth and deception crisscross and intersect, guided by the recognition that the economy of undeserved grace has primacy over the economy of moral deserts. Under the conditions of pervasive non innocence, the work of reconciliation should proceed under the assumption that, though the behavior of a person may be judged as deplorable, even demonic, no one should ever be excluded form the will to embrace, because, at the deepest level, the relationship to others does not rest on their moral performance and therefore cannot be undone by the lack of it….[At] the core of the Christian faith lies the persuasion that the ‘others’ need not be perceived as innocent in order to be loved, but ought to be embraced even when they are perceived as wrongdoers.” – Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness and Reconciliation (84-85)