Welcome to week 8 of the 10 week ProGrace experience. If you’re just joining us, be sure to check out the first posts: Start a Conversation, Continue the Conversation, Grace Overcomes Shame, Grace and Forgiveness, Shame and Scarcity, Grace and Truth and Grace and Truth, Part 2.
The gospel I heard growing up was based on me getting cleaned up before I came to God – and then working very hard to stay clean in order for Him to be happy with me. For example, there was the 3rd grade Sunday school teacher who told us about a kid who was laughing during communion, who then received God’s judgment when he fell and ran his tooth through his lip that afternoon. Or the preacher who told us that if we had “backslidden” into sin, we were in danger of losing our salvation, so we better get saved again just to be sure.
That gospel left me feeling insecure about my standing before God. Was He ever really happy with me? I ended up judging others in order to try and feel better about my holiness and my relationship with Him.
That’s why I’m so thankful God has taken me on a journey these past few decades of understanding how full of good news the Gospel really is. A big part of this is realizing how much more He does than He asks me to do. And how much He initiates grace first.
Consider the order of John 3:16:
- God loves
- God gives
- We believe
- We receive
The Gospels are full of illustrations of this order of the Gospel. This week, we will choose one of these “grace-first” encounters between Jesus and someone who carried the reputation “sinner.” Their sin was considered the worst of the worst, and they would have been shamed and judged in first century Jewish culture:
- Matthew 9:9-13 (The calling of Matthew)
- Luke 19:1-10 (Zacchaeus)
- John 4:4-30 (The woman at the well)
Read the Scripture you chose (or listen to the audio) and let the scene come alive. What stands out to you about how Jesus initiates each interaction? What does the Holy Spirit highlight to you?
If you have time, here are some more questions to think about: What does Jesus say or do first? How did others (religious leaders/disciples) react to the fact that He initiated these encounters? Do the people in these encounters move toward Jesus and a holy life or away from it?
Now ask the Holy Spirit to make this personal. Again, like last week, if you were the main character in the story and you wore the title “sinner” because you had been publicly exposed, how would you feel after this interaction with Jesus? Have you committed any sin that would keep him from extending this same type of grace to you?
Take some time to let God’s grace flow over you. Let Him speak the truth of His “grace-first” Gospel for you.
Because when we understand grace for ourselves, it’s natural to extend it to others.
Many people today assign a woman facing unplanned pregnancy the same reputation that Matthew, Zacchaeus and the woman at the well carried. And her main fears revolve around the fear of judgment (shame) and the fear of not having enough (scarcity). Think of how sweet the good news of the true Gospel will sound to her. If we can demonstrate to her that first and foremost God loves and God gives, won’t she be much more likely to ultimately believe in Him and receive His gift of eternal life?
Matthew, Zacchaeus and the woman at the well all moved toward a relationship with Jesus as a result of their encounters with Him. I can’t wait to see what Jesus will do when we follow His model and extend the same “grace-first” Gospel to women facing unplanned pregnancies.