Some people are terrified of the rawness of God’s grace. God’s grace isn’t a little bit of grace just in case you need it. God’s grace is the full love and heart of God for everyone – the vilest sinner; the most religious, condemning Pharisee; the most arrogant, strident atheist, the preacher who condemns his church for rebellion while sordidly manipulating the female members of the church into having adulterous affairs with him; the lonely, pathetic old man sitting in front of his computer watching staged sex shows; the child who simply will not do what they are told; the child who takes a gun into school and shoots six of his friends for “fun”; the child who is living a double or triple life; the lady who has had multiple abortions; the man who is cruising the streets looking for other men; the man plotting to set a bomb off in the middle of a shopping centre because other people refuse to see his theological or political paradigm.
All of them are loved and adored by God. On the cross Jesus Christ once and for all completely and totally paid the perfect price for their actions, their faults and their life.
We need to understand that sin, transgression and iniquity mean three different things. Sin is an old archery term that means to miss the target – we have all sinned and fallen short. To sin is to get up, intending to live right, intending to live for God, intending to love our wife, intending not to shout at our children, intending not to watch pornography, intending not to swear at our employees, intending not to judge and manipulate people through fear and guilt. Our intentions are pure, our heart is willing, but we miss it. Something happens, and triggers our flesh, and boom we fall short of what we wanted to do.
All of us have experienced this in one area or another. All of us know the pain of striving to hit a target of holiness and fail.
Transgression is a different word. It means to deliberately cross a line. This isn’t the person who is trying to live right and fails, this is the person who simply doesn’t care. This is the person who intends to go to work and yell at everyone until they get their own way. This is the person who comes home from work intending to beat their children to relieve the stress their twelve hour shift has caused them. This is the person who logs on to the computer deliberately to find obscene images. This is piling on lie after lie to cover up your weakness.
And the fact is if you are honest, we have all been there too. There have been days where over a certain issue you don’t even care if you are aiming for God’s best or not. You just don’t give a rip about God, about His will, about whether your actions are going to hurt or destroy other people. You are just going to do what you want, when you want, the way you want.
The finally there is iniquity. It is interesting that in many languages the word for “twisted” ends up being synonymous for the word for “wicked”. In English, the word wicked originally meant twisted – a candle “wick” is twisted, a “wicker” basket is twisted to make it, and a “wicked” person was a twisted person. It is the same in Hebrew, and the word translated iniquity means twisted around and around.
If you continually cross the lines of good and evil, if you continually ignore the still, small voice in your heart to follow the loud, screaming, tantruming voice of your carnality, if you continually ignore the hurt and pain on other’s faces as you manipulate, intimidate and dominate them for your own gratification, then eventually you become blind to the line. You lose your ability to know what is right and what is wrong. You are no longer trying to be kind, you are trying to be cruel because to you that is right now. You don’t care about values, you care about yourself. You are frustrated at people who know there is a line because to you that is old-fashioned, that is repressive, that is evil. You all good evil and evil good. You justify murder as choice, immorality as genetic and bitterness as looking out for number one, because “who else would?”
Now everyone reading this understands iniquity. Not just through the detached observation of others but because at times in your own life you have felt that there is no hope, no line, and in some areas you have lived as if there is no line. And no one understands it better than religious people, as they wipe out the line, claim God told them to, and get on with their arrogance, and judgementalism and putting people down and oppressing and using them in the name of Jesus!
Now, in an attempt to balance grace because of a timidity to face up to the implications of this amazing grace, this ridiculous amount of love and mercy; some people will say that grace always leads to better behaviour, that grace must end up in a changed life; and they express it – either explicitly or implicitly – like this: God only forgives us when we are trying our hardest. God cannot forgive deliberate sin. If you become a Christian, you will always want to follow God and always try your hardest, and even when you sin, you were trying.
It’s nonsense. It’s crap (to use a term from Pauline theology). It’s offensive, unrealistic, untried, unreasonable, nonsense. There is absolutely no Christians who only sins. All Christians have transgressed God’s Word and will, who have deliberately failed to love the world the way Christ did. All Christians have replaced some of the boundaries and nature of the love of God poured out in their heart, and acted in rudeness and selfishness and called it love.
But here is the good news. Here is the truth about grace. Here is the ridiculous, outrageous truth of God’s grace. Here is the only place the power of God is found:
He was crushed for our iniquities (Isa. 53.5)