Happenings around Antioch

Welcome home

Last week I wrote about 5 roadblocks to grace, according to Jerry Bridges in his book, Transforming Grace. Here is one more of the 10 he wrote about. You don’t understand grace if you…

Think you can do something to make God love you more or love you less. We have all heard it: there’s nothing you can do to make God love you any more than he does. There’s nothing you can do to make God love you any less than he does. We hear it. But we don’t believe it. So we keep trying harder to get it all right and to be perfect. But that’s looking in the wrong place. Arthur Pink wrote years ago, “The great mistake made by most of the Lord’s people is in hoping to discover in themselves that which is to be found in Christ alone.” Sam Storm wrote, “Grace ceases to be grace if God is compelled to bestow it in the presence of human merit…Grace ceases to be grace if God is compelled to withdraw it in the presence of human demerit…(Grace) is treating a person…solely according to the infinite goodness and sovereign purpose of God.” As the hymn writer said, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.”

That’s what was happening in Jesus’ story of the prodigal son. Philip Yancey wrote a modern version in his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace, that starts like this: A young girl grows up on a cherry orchard just above Traverse City, Michigan.  Her parents, a bit old-fashioned, tend to overreact to her nose ring, the music she listens to, and the length of her skirts.  They ground her a few times, and she seethes inside.  “I hate you,” she screams at her father when he knocks on the door of her room after an argument, and that night she acts on a plan she has mentally rehearsed scores of times.  She runs away. She ends up in Detroit, on the street, on drugs and selling herself to support her habit. Months go by and she sees her picture on a flier one day with “Have you seen this child?” written under it. That scares her but she laughs it off because she doesn’t look anything like that picture, and she is certainly not a child any more. Her life takes a turn when she gets sick, a cough that won’t go away and her skin starts to yellow. She is all alone and afraid and suddenly all she can think of is home in Traverse City. 

The girl makes three phone calls home and each goes to voicemail. On the third call, she leaves a message: Dad, Mom, it’s me.  I was wondering about maybe coming home.  I’m catching a bus up your way, and it’ll get there about midnight tomorrow.  If you’re not there, well, I guess I’ll just stay on the bus until it hits Canada.” On the seven hour bus ride she practices what she will say, telling her dad that she’s sorry and it was all her fault, not his…her throat tightens; she hasn’t apologized to anyone in years. The bus arrives in Traverse City and the driver says, “Fifteen minutes, folks, then the bus will pull out.” She straightens her skirt, runs a brush through her hair, looks at her nicotine stained fingers and wonders if they will say something about them, and then she shuffles into the terminal…

There, in the concrete-walls-and-plastic-chairs bus terminal in Traverse City, Michigan, stands a group of forty brothers and sisters and great-aunts and uncles and cousins and even her grandmother.  And taped across the entire wall of the terminal is a banner that reads, “Welcome Home!” Out of the crowd of cheers and well-wishers walks her Dad.  She stares out through the tears quivering in her eyes like hot mercury and begins the memorized speech, “Dad, I’m sorry. I know….” He interrupts her.  “Shhh, honey.  We’ve got no time for that.  No time for apologies.  You’ll be late for the party.  A banquet’s waiting for you at home.”

One day several years ago, as I was driving down the road and thinking about the grace of God while talking through some verses in Titus and watching for deer, I was suddenly filled with an almost overwhelming sense of God’s presence with me and his assurance to me that I am his. And that he loves me. And likes me. And that he is pleased with me, that by his grace I am what I am. 

He thinks the very same thing about you, each of you who have been welcomed home from the far country into an eternal relationship with Christ.