Isaiah 7:9b
“If you are not firm in faith,
you will not be firm at all.”

Have you ever walked on an icy path, trying with all your might, with arms flailing about, to simply keep upright? Each of your steps running the risk of landing your flat on your back (or worse). We all know what it’s like to have unsteady footing…on a sandy beach, mountain trail, crossing a stream. We all also know, but are usually unaware, of the unsteady footing we have in everyday life. We have an incalculable number of stepping stones on our life’s path that we use to get us from A to B.

  • I place my weight on the how happy, safe and satisfied my kids are
  • I place my weight on the happiness of my marriage
  • I place my weight on how well I do in my job
  • I place my weight on my financial safety net
  • I place my weight on my health report

This list is infinite. And shaky. And sinking. Inevitably sinking.

My kids (like me) are going to make bad decisions, have hard times, be unsatisfied, cry, yell and be in despair. If their satisfaction is carrying my weight, then I will fall.

My marriage will have great highs and terrible lows. My wife, though she is seriously strong, cannot hold my weight on her shoulders.

I may not be able to control my family, but at least I can control my job and how well I do. Right? Again, nope. I have some control, but one day I will work my last day; on many days my career will be overwhelming and life-depriving instead of life-giving.

Isaiah in the passage above tells us an eternal truth that we see all through scripture. If we put our weight on horses and men, kings and banks, health and approval, we will absolutely fall. They simply cannot bear the weight of our souls. And so Isaiah with great hope pleads with us to put our faith in the Lord as our sure foundation. But what does that mean and how can that hold the weight of my heart? Psalm 130 gives us a clue:

Psalm 130:7
“O Israel, hope in the LORD,
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.

God himself, the one who has given us our weight, is the only one who is able to carry it. We cannot even carry it ourselves. The Psalmist gives us hope by telling us Who God is and What God Does:

  1. Steadfast Love — This is the word “Hesed” (my favorite Hebrew word). He alone is and does Love. His love is sacrificial, eternal, unending and strong. His love is what we stand on; what carries our weight; what holds us up.
  2. Plentiful Redemption — It’s not just that God redeems. He has “plentiful” redemption (the same words used in Genesis to “be fruitful and multiply). His redemption, his secure saving power is enough to carry all of me, all of us. “Redemption” means that God (alone) has purchased us from our other stepping stone. His redemption means that he 1) picked us up and out from the miry clay and 2) set our feet on The Rock. (Psalm 40:2).

In Isaiah and the Psalmist’s time, they were looking forward in faith to The Rock, The Redeemer. We now have the honor and blessing to look backwards in time to the coming and completion of the Messiah, The Rock. They looked forward to Jesus who was Plentiful Redemption; we look backwards to the same. Jesus himself is The Rock on which we have faith, on which we stand. He is the only unmovable, unchanging, strong and steadfast stepping stone.

Take a minute to listen to this promise through a remake of this classic hymn — remember the hope: “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.”

The Swing

Luke 17:10
“So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

We have a scandalous religious pendulum swinging in the church.

Cheap Grace

Over the past 100 years, standing on the shoulders of incredible 20th century evangelists like Billy Graham and Billy Sunday, the Gospel went out to great masses, resulting in an enormous surge of people claiming Christ as Lord. One of the destructive misunderstandings of this Gospel Movement is called “Cheap Grace”, which essentially minimizes what it means to be a Christian, a follower of Christ, down to simply subscribing to “four spiritual laws” (or the “Road through Romans”) and saying a specific prayer, resulting in your eternal heaven-card being punched.

In real life, this is where being a Christian is a part of our lives, but not the whole foundation on which our lives are built; where we believe that we’ve been saved and are now free to live however we want (I can do whatever, Jesus will forgive me) ; seeing ourselves as the captains of our lives and Jesus as our first-mate; desiring what Jesus gives me more than desiring Jesus himself.

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Earned Grace

The other side of this evangelistic movement has resulted in an elite spiritual class of church-goers that have taken the call to follow Jesus seriously (which is great) but have taken themselves too seriously. Those on this side of The Swing (which I see in myself more often than the other side) live under the impression that our behavior impacts our value and God’s view of (and love for) us. We see and are in awe of God’s pure holiness, and then try to live up to this level of holiness ourselves, and expect others to do the same, condemning them when they fall short of how well I pretend that I am doing. Yes, Jesus has saved me, but I need to live up to this calling…or else.

“We cannot be satisfied with our goodness after beholding the holiness of God” – Billy Graham

Thankful Grace

Jesus’ parable of “Unworthy Servants” in Luke 17 brings us away from Cheap Grace and Earned Grace

He is telling us that part of being a follower of Jesus is to see and treat Him as the Master, following and serving him with every shred of our lives as long as we live.

He is also telling us that the “afterwards” (Luke 17:8) is already planned; the Lord has perfectly prepared a banquet for us where we together will sit with the Lord and celebrate for all eternity. The banquet invitation has been given and our places secured by Him on the Cross, not based upon the goodness of our behavior.

So this incredible free grace of Jesus doesn’t motivate us to sit and do nothing but to run with great perseverance out of thanksgiving, not heavy obligation. Since my debt has been perfectly paid and His gift fully given, I am set free from the heaviness of spiritual performance as well as from the emptiness of spiritual laziness…and set free to love Him and Others out of uncontainable thankfulness for his Ridiculous Grace.