When Jesus came on the scene, the church hadn’t heard the clear voice of God in over 400 years. No prophets, no signs and wonders, nothing. All was not lost though. The religious system was firmly intact and was able to carry on with the information that had been handed down from generation to generation.

By today’s standards one would consider the ‘church’ of that day to be a solid, secure, respectable institution. People knew the routine. The rules were firmly established. Expectations were minimal, but that was okay because there were no surprises that way.

 It’s no wonder then, that when Jesus came on the scene a few eyebrows were raised. Aside from the baby Jesus’ dedication, and the scene Simeon and Anna caused over his birth, his life was pretty obscure for his growing years. No doubt he was taught well in the ways of the church. He knew the rules, he knew the routine and he saw first hand the results of bucking the system.

 By the time He was 12 Jesus established himself as an up and coming ‘expert’ in the Law. Luke’s gospel tells the story of Jesus in the temple. Having ducked out of the family caravan headed for home, he stepped into the circle of some the most prominent religious leaders of his day and confounded them with his wisdom and his questions.

 Fast forward approximately 20 years. Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist was preaching a message of repentance and calling God’s people back to him. Although John was outspoken and somewhat brash in his approach, he didn’t seem to draw much attention for the religious establishment. And so, for the first time in 400 years, God had apparently broken His silence.

 At the height of his career, though, John himself received an epiphany of sorts. We don’t know how much contact these two cousins had during their growing up years. But at some point in John’s ministry it became obvious to him that his ministry would come to a close. He was ready to hand the reigns over to his cousin, or as he put it, ‘The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world’.

 From the start, Jesus’ ministry seemed at odds with the established religious system of the day. The awe and respect shown him at the age of 12, now turned to distrust, animosity and sometimes pure hatred. Jesus was not well liked.

 On a purely surface level, it would appear that the main reason for the difference between John’s ministry and Jesus ministry is that Jesus didn’t fit the mold the religious elite had hoped for. Jesus pushed the theological envelope so to speak. He spoke with too much authority, He hung out with sinners and he worked on the Sabbath! I’m just guessing, but I would imagine that the Pharisees could have handled the first two issues. But the Sabbath? How dare he break the sacred rules of the Sabbath?

 In a brief review of all Jesus ‘healings’ much of His problems rose from the fact that he worked Saturdays. This is purely conjecture, but I wonder how the response to Jesus’ ministry would have been different had He simply taken Saturday off?

 Before we are too hard on the Pharisees and the system they had established, we need to take a hard look at the religious system of today. If we are truly honest with ourselves we must admit that we each have our list of the things we can accept and the things we can not. In the 2000+ years since Jesus taught us that the lists were to be destroyed, we’d confidently and quietly re-established the system, complete with do and don’ts and often backed by our interpretation of Scriptures that prove our point.

That’s the problem we have with GRACE. Grace tells us to tear up the list. Grace tells us to turn over a person’s soul to the working of the Holy Spirit. Grace tells us that all the ‘bad sins’ like divorce, immorality, addictions and the like are no worse than a judgmental spirit, anger, stubbornness and all those ‘lesser sins.’

John addresses that very issue in Revelation chapter 2. The church in Ephesus was the ‘established, mature’ church of the day. They were rock solid on their theology and interpretation of Scripture. They stood against sin in their midst. But the church in Ephesus risked the power of God among them because they lacked in love. Without love there can be no Grace.

 Statistics tell us that 90% or better of church growth is transfer growth. We in the church need a new awakening to Grace. We need to reach out to those in our churches and outside the church and show them the Love and Grace of God. The day of making sure our list is secure is over.

“Built with Grace” has a passion to do just that. My passion, my heart reaches out to those who need to know about Grace. These people aren’t the ‘unsaved’. They are the people who have been assaulted, abused and rejected by the church.

In Acts 10, Peter is taking a late morning nap on the roof when a sheet appears three times. Each time Peter is told to ‘eat’. Each time Peter refuses. But the voice from heaven is the same today as it was that day. What God calls clean we have no right to see as unclean. If we hope to bring people to a vibrant relationship with Jesus we each must ask ourselves, “What’s on my sheet. What must I remove to minister to those in need of second chances?”

“From Living GRACE-fully in conflict”