The God Who Sings and Rejoices

The following article will appear in next week’s edition of The Eclipse, published in Parkersburg, Iowa.

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing (Zephaniah 3:17).

. . . as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you (Isaiah 62:5).

I don’t know about you, but I need to be reminded every day that I’m not saved by what I do. I’m in desperate need of knowing, feeling, and believing that God’s love for me isn’t conditioned upon my performance. If it is, I’m done for. Close up the shop and let’s go home. I’ve got no hope. I can’t barter with God. I’m all too familiar with the feeling of looking in the mirror and saying, “Again? I promised I wouldn’t but I did. God, if this were the first time, it would be different. But it isn’t. How many times can I expect to fall and have your arms catch me?”

I’m in need of grace. One author defines grace as unconditional acceptance given to an undeserved person by an unobligated giver. It is one-way love.[1] It’s the message that has changed my life; and I believe it is the only message that can change the world. In his book Love in the Ruins, Walker Percy writes, “We love those who know the worst of us and don’t turn their faces away.”[2] In like manner, psychologist David Benner observes, “To truly know love, we must receive it in an undefended state—in the vulnerability of a ‘Just as I am’ encounter.”[3]

The beauty of love isn’t experienced in simply knowing another person intimately; it’s also experienced in being known by another person intimately. We long for both. Oftentimes, the reason we never take off our masks and let others see who we are is because of fear. We’re afraid that if we let others in, they’ll be horrified by what they see, disgusted by what they find, and troubled by what they hear. Rather than giving us a hug (which is what we need), they give us a lecture (the last thing we need).

This is why I’m thankful for Jesus. He invades our lives, comes into our guilt, shame, fear, and hopelessness and says, “I love you no matter what. I will never leave you, nor forsake you. You are free.” Truly, he is “a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). So run to him. Run to the one who sprints to prodigals reeking of sin and shame and covers them with a robe of righteousness (Luke 15:11-32). Run to the one who interferes with those who want to stone an adulterer and says to them, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone” (John 8:7). Run to the one who, after they had crucified him, cried out, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Run to him. He loves to save broken, messed up people . . . because broken, messed up people are all that there are

[1] Tullian Tchividjian, One-Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2013), 33.

[2] Walker Percy, Love in the Ruins (NY: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 1971), 106.

[3] David G. Benner, The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery (Downers Grove: IVP, 2004), 24.

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