I hope and pray you had a great weekend and your Monday is off to a wonderful start. I enjoyed a restful weekend, here in RVA. I'm excited about this week and the weeks ahead as we move toward the fall, (which is my favorite season of the year). Fall means the bulk of my attentions turn toward Richmond Prep! (Shameless plug. lol!)
Today is a rather special day in my musical life. A year ago, today a song that I recorded with No Malice (formerly of the insanely popular hip-hop group, The Clipse) was released on his Hear Ye Him album as the lead single. The song was entitled Bury That.(Here's the music video for the song.) The whole experience around the song and the release of that album was exhilarating. It was really cool to have folks walk up and say "Hey! I just saw you on MTV!"
Bury That was a ground-breaking release. It was a song about No Malice's conviction to bury his past as a drug dealer and the highly lucrative rap career he and his brother, Pusha T, had built on stories of their drug peddling exploits. It extolled Biblical virtue of over popular culture's principles of indulgence and self-satisfaction. What made it so ground-breaking is that this song was played out before millions of hip-hop fans who were hard-core fans of No Malice's (formerly Malice,) drug-game hyping history. Bury That and the Hear Ye Him album were all over the news. It was even on CNN!
Over the course of the last week or so, I've found myself thinking about that song a bit and the Biblical concept behind what No Malice so eloquently laid out in the song. In the theologically rich passage that is Romans chapter 8, we find Paul reminding the Christian church in Rome that they had a responsibility to bury some things:
Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
- Romans 8:12-13
In today's "Jesus is my Homie" culture, we spend a lot of time talking about the amazing grace of God. We do a lot of talking about God's gracious love and his call to us to come to him as we are. These are really beautiful concepts to consider - that God's grace covers us. However, I think it is important for us to be careful here. We must remember that God's call is for us to come as we are. It is not for us to stay as we are!
By no means am I writing today about getting on some kind of self-improvement plan. I don't think that's what Paul was telling the Romans to do. I don't think he was telling the Romans to get themselves straight. What I do think Paul is saying here is this: accepting grace isn't a passive act.
Sin is tricky. It makes us think we owe something to our flesh. We all have these sticky places in our lives where we have trouble escaping sin. Often, we convince ourselves that our sin is okay because we're "only human" and grace covers it. So, we're good. Right? I know I do this. I'm definitely stepping on my own toes with this whole email today, but it is true. I so often try to use my weakness as an excuse and God's grace as a cover for my deliberate wrongness!
Here's the thing, though. Grace doesn't just cover. It also empowers us. It removes the myopic lens that sin puts on our eyes - the lens that shows us the gratification of the moment. Grace gives us a choice! Grace frees us from slavery to those pesky temptations that tell us "you'll never be free of me! You're only human." Grace gives us a place to go. It replaces that obligation that we feel to do things that we know are destroying us, with an obligation to God - who is so committed to our well being that he subjected his only son to humiliation and murder at our hands in order to save us!
God's glorious grace is about more than cover. It is also about burial. The astounding grace of God empowers us to funeralize our obligations to our old nature; that part of us that pulled us toward actions and thoughts that only result in shame and guilt and hurt. Grace gives us something more beautiful!
Again, I have to emphasize this point: I'm not saying we need to get on some kind of self-improvement plan to obtain God's grace. I'm saying just the opposite. I'm saying that God's grace gives us the opportunity for improvement through him! Whatever our personal thing might be, we are empowered by grace to overcome our old nature through the Holy Spirit!
God's grace is irresistibly beautiful! So, this week let's look toward God's grace with fresh or renewed perspective. Let's not just think of it as a covering. Let's remind ourselves as we look at our lives and see flashes of our old obligations to temptation that God's grace does more than just cover that. It gives us power to Bury That!
- What comes to my mind when I hear the phrase "The Grace of God"?
- Do I have a "thing" - a temptation I can't resist? What is it and what is the usual or eventual result of my giving-in to it? Would I classify that result as "living" or "dying"?
- What am I really saying if/when I tell myself "I'm only human"?