Running from our sin. It’s a natural tendency to want to flee and hide when we are confronted with the reality of our own sinfulness and the ugliness of the sin.
We want it etched from our memories. We want a fresh start. We long for forgiveness.
My son recently turned 4 and he is at an age where he is becoming more cognizant of his fleshly reality. It’s a difficult age, for many reasons, but it is also an exciting age in that he is very moldable and teachable.
I began a series on #GraceForTheSinner a few months back because, after a personal experience of coming to grips with pride in my heart, I felt compelled that there might be others who needed to be reminded of the grace that comes from Christ Jesus. Not a cheap grace that requires no repentance on our part nor grace that doesn’t result in obedience. Rather, the grace that is taught in Scripture came at a very costly price (the life of God’s Son), yet is given to any and all who believe and is more powerful than any of sin’s grip on our lives.
Looking back, I had some unrealistic expectations for Mother’s Day given the age of my child. Yet, somehow I had conjured up images of a day where Philip would be easy and obedient, a day where I got to do what I wanted to do, and a day full of thanksgiving for all that I give to my family. Ahhh. What a nice thought. Isn’t that what Mother’s Day is all about anyway?
Both Osvaldo and I prepped Philip for the day. “Sunday is Mother’s Day, that means we get to celebrate Mommy for all that she does for us.” “You’re going to be a good boy on Mother’s Day for Mommy, right?” spoken in an almost pleading voice.
I’m shaking my head as I even put down on paper the tactic we were using to produce an obedient child for one day. Parents make mistakes too!
It would have been one thing if Philip had been his normal self on Mother’s Day – fun and delightful with a few issues here or there. But no. He began the day and finished the day as a completely different child. He was the exact opposite of the child I had imagined for the day. Screaming, throwing himself down in tantrum style, spitting, kicking, talking back, saying “No,” are just a few of the things we dealt with on Mother’s Day.
Every parent knows exactly what I’m talking about. It was as if the more we tried to produce a good child, the more he rebelled and became exactly the opposite child we were wanting him not to be.
By the end of the day, after I came to terms with my real Mother’s Day (not the one of my expectations), Osvaldo and I were exasperated. We stood in the kitchen and looked at each other with defeat both thinking the same thing, “We are failing as parents!”
We decided it would be best to talk to Philip in his bedroom. Osvaldo began the conversation with, “Philip, no matter what you do, we love you. Our love for you will never change. We will never stop loving you.” Then he followed with, “We are always ready to forgive you when you come to us and say, ‘I’m sorry.’” From there he told Philip what it was that he had done that we did not like.
I followed by saying, “Philip, God gave us to you as your parents to give you a place to live, to give you clothes, to give you food, to take care of you when you are sick, to give you love, hugs and kisses, to play with you, and to even do fun things with you. The only thing God and we ask in return – the one thing you are to do for us – is to obey. When you do what you did today you are not showing love to God and you are not showing love to us.”
Then we left. We closed the door until there was just a crack and left him in his room to think about these things. A few minutes later, I went to peek through the crack to see what he was doing. What I found was that Philip was going around in a circle and every time he stepped on his Superman cape, which was lying on the floor, he grunted.
When we brought him out of the room shortly afterwards, we asked Philip what he was doing in his room. This is what he said: “I was trying to get away from all the bad things I did.” And in his 4 year old speech that needs my translation he explained that he was stepping on his Superman cape to give him the power he needed to get away from those bad things.
We gave him a hug and Osvaldo said, “Philip, you can never get away from the bad things on your own. None of us can. Papi can’t. Mommy can’t. But there is one who can, one who is greater than Superman and who has the power to take away the bad things. His name is Jesus. When he died on a cross, he took away all those bad things. If you turn to Jesus and ask him to forgive you and to take away those bad things, he will do it, Philip.”
Philip said, “Ohhhh.”
We weren’t sure if the truth stuck, but the next evening before dinner, Philip prayed, “Jesus make for me the cross to take away the bad things I did.”
A week later he told me, “Mommy come see.” When I came into his toy room where his Grandpa was sitting on the floor, he showed me that he had made a cross out of two sticks in his room. He said turning to Grandpa, “Grandpa, Jesus makes a cross for you to take away those bad things you did.”
And just last week after telling Philip three times to get into the car without him doing so, I said very sternly, “Get in the car now.” Philip got into his chair and said to me, “Mommy, why did you talk like that?” I said, “Like what?” “Like mean to me.” “I didn’t talk mean to you, but said to get into the car firmly after you kept disobeying.” Philip looked into my eyes and said, “It’s OK, Mommy. Jesus makes the cross for you.”
“Jesus makes the cross for you” is Philip’s way of saying that Jesus forgives you. Jesus, because of what he did on the cross, can take away those bad things from you – to make them as far as the east is from the west.
John Newton, famously known for penning the words to that great hymn, “Amazing Grace,” was an unlikely person to come to faith in Jesus. Prior to his redemption, Newton was a cursing, blaspheming sailor who lived in the 18th century. He lived a life of complete immorality, who immersed himself in the evils of the slave trade and made women and alcohol his hobbies.
While on one of his many journeys at sea, Newton woke one night to someone crying, “The ship is sinking.” It was during this terrifying experience that he later wrote, “What mercy can there be for me?” Biographer Jonathan Aitken wrote about this experience saying that Newton came to the conclusion “that anyone who had ridiculed God and his gospel with so much profanity could not possibly receive divine salvation in the hour of need.”
“Conversely, however, Newton kept on remembering the promises of God, which he had learned from Scripture in his youth. He recalled the extraordinary twists and turns in his adult life, describing them as ‘the calls, warnings, and deliverances I had met with,’ as he wondered whether they could be interpreted as any sort of sign of God’s favor.”
This was the beginning of Newton coming to terms with the great grace Jesus offers to him because of what he did on the cross.
Newton would eventually go on to become a great preacher, pastor and hymn writer. Yet Newton “never forgot that he owed his redemption from a life of sin to a life in Christ entirely to divine mercy.” As he said on his death bed, “I am a great sinner, but Christ is a great Savior.”
He made this further clearer by writing the words that would later be the inscription on his tomb:
Once an infidel and libertine
A servant of slaves in Africa
By the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour
Preserved, Restored, Pardoned
And Appointed to preach the faith
He had long laboured to destroy.
Jesus made the cross for John Newton.
Jesus makes the cross for Philip.
Jesus makes the cross for Grandpa.
Jesus makes the cross for me.
Jesus makes the cross for you.
“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” Col. 2:13-14
“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross.” Col. 1:20
“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” 1 Timothy 1:15
*My quotes from John Newton and about John Newton come from Jonathan Aitken’s “John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace.”