Grace Not Guilt

Llanddwyn Isle CrossA couple of weekends ago I spoke at a youth rally in Centerville.  The theme was the cross and each speaker was asked to share something about its meaning.  I spoke on the idea that the cross is about grace not guilt.

Too many times it seems that our main focus of the atonement is guilt.  My sin nailed Jesus to the cross.  My sin caused his suffering.  My sin caused his pain.  My sin caused his death.  I get what folks are saying here but sometimes it feels like the cross becomes more about what we’ve done than what God’s done.

Yes, the atonement was motivated by sin but it was defined by love!  John writes “This is love: not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  Paul said, “God demonstrated his own love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

The focus is love.  Christ didn’t die to heap more guilt upon us.  He died to remove guilt.  He died, as the writer of Hebrews said, “to cleanse us from a guilty conscience.”  When we look upon the cross we should be reminded of God’s grace more than our guilt.

This is not what many of us were taught.  We were taught to see the cross as a reminder of sin.  It is actually a reminder of forgiven sin.  Our sin is no more.  It has been removed.  This was driven home for me in a moving (and unintentional) way at the end of the youth rally.

IMG_1033The church had erected a cross on the stage.  They laid out pens and Post-It notes nearby asking everyone to come up, write down their sins and stick them to the cross.

I’d seen this done dozens of times before but this one didn’t go exactly as planned.  The Post-It notes weren’t sticky enough.  They wouldn’t stay.  They kept falling off.  The students would go back and re-stick them but they’d stubbornly flutter to the ground.

While the youth deacons panicked, I saw something beautiful in the failed illustration.  The sins wouldn’t stick.  No matter how hard we tried they just wouldn’t stay.  Why not?  Because they are forgiven.  They are no more.  They have been removed by the power of the cross.

Have you ever read the verse right after the most famous verse in the Bible?  John 3:17.  It says “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” So the next time you look upon the cross consider this…

It’s not about condemnation.  It’s about salvation.

It’s not about failure.  It’s about victory.

It’s not about shame.  It’s about love.

And it’s not about guilt.  It’s about grace.

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