We got into a discussion today in the church office about the common tendency in modern evangelical Christianity of adopting an all-or-nothing mindset towards salvation and our relationship with God. The conversation centered around a theology often called “lordship salvation” which emphasizes the importance of making Jesus Lord of every area of your life. That sentence may sound just fine on the surface but when you start applying it to, say, salvation or, say, sanctification, things get very dangerous. Suddenly if you aren’t “all-in” with Jesus you aren’t in at all. OR if you aren’t “all-in” in daily life then you aren’t all right with God. So you search your inner soul for secret sins and hidden blocks of being to find areas not under Christ’s “lordship” so you can confess them and repent and get back into right fellowship with God.
“What does this have to do with the above Peanuts comic strip?” You demand. Hold on now! It’s coming. I promise. But back to theology first…
Where is grace in “lordship salvation?” Well, that’s the battle. Grace becomes something less than all sufficient. But rest assured that Paul says where sin abounds grace abounds one step beyond sin (Rom 5:20-21). And there is no condemnation for sin for those in Christ (Rom 8:1), hidden, unconfessed, or simply imagined. And that God no longer counts our sins against us (2 Cor 5:19). And Saint John wrote that even if we do sin (knowingly or unintentionally) we have an advocate in Christ Himself, so our sins (small and great) are not counted against us (1 Jn 2:1-2). Now that that’s cleared up, let’s get to the comic…
Inside this comic is the message of God’s view of man and man’s view of man. Not in the voice of Charlie Brown is God to be found here but in the dreamers behind him, Linus and Lucy. Linus looks at puffy white clouds and he doesn’t just see clouds. He sees maps, people, and even biblical events. He sees possibility. Intricate possibility. When God looks at us, He sees possibility. He doesn’t see sin. Does He know when we sin? You betcha. Does He like our sin? Not a bit. He is holy, don’t forget! But our sin has been dealt with, past, present and future. That dealing happened at once, the moment Jesus breathed His last on the cross. There is no penalty for sin left for those who have believed in Christ. Not a continual refreshing of belief to bring continual innocence, like I have to brush my teeth to prevent cavities, but one time faith that saves for eternity. Once we make that simple act of faith, we become new creatures with a new spirit, clouds with intricate patterns of Honduras, Eakins or Stephen. We are masterpieces of grace and grit. Flesh and spirit. Not just clouds anymore but works of art being gradually painted. Or sculpted. Or simply imagined.
Charlie Brown sees simplicity in the clouds. He can’t see beyond the surface and his imagination is unrefined. When we look at other people we see rough canvas, stone or cloud. It’s hard to imagine fine detail or great possibility. We see the limitations of each other so well. But God sees the eternalness of all of us even better and when God starts working in someone’s life we stand amazed. For He so frequently does what we cannot imagine. He takes stone and makes a statue. A hard heart and makes a saint.
It’s all a matter of perspective. When the prophet Samuel was looking over Jesse’s sons, he passed up the more polished clouds… err… sons to choose David, the runt of the pack. Just an ambiguous cumulus. But the Lord said this profound thing upon David’s selection, “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7)
You see, God’s not going to hide His face from us when we sin. He’s already done that once, and it was for all time. When Jesus hung on the cross, what did He say? “My God, My God why have You forsaken Me?” No, God doesn’t hide His face from those in Christ. We may see puffy clouds in each other but God sees works of art (beautiful ones, and getting more so as He works). And He will complete His work in each one of us.
For His throne is mercy and His dealings are grace. Remember that the next time you look at a cloud. And if you do happen to see Honduras, please let me know. That would be really cool.