His Masterpiece

(a work in progress)

Jenn and I watched Ragamuffin the other day, a movie about the life of the late Christian singer, Rich Mullins. We had always been a big fans of Rich’s music but knew very little of his actual life, so the movie was a real eye opener. While we didn’t agree with everything in the movie, including some of (okay, a lot of) the theology, we would definitely recommend it to anyone. Really, the movie was about brokenness and the sufficiency of God’s amazing grace to heal our wounds and give us the strength to move on. For Rich, it took a lifetime of breaking before he was able to surrender and find the peace that passes all understanding by letting go of the past and forgiving the people that hurt him.

Here is a review from Amazon.com that really resonated with me:

Reality is that Christians struggle with alcoholism, same sex struggles, lying, cheating, gambling, etc. God never promised to deliver us from these struggles, but is there with us through them. Christianity of the Bible is not all sanitized and clean. Ex: Paul, David, Moses, Abraham to begin with. This is something that people need to understand. Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean these struggles are over, or that we are all 1950’s sanitized. It means that we are forgiven, loved, redeemed and counted righteous despite these struggles and failings. It’s not about what we have done or do, it is about what Christ has done. That is the message of this movie. It is something Rich Mullins came to understand when he heard Brendon Manning’s message.
The beauty of this movie is that it did not hide Rich’s struggles and failings. But he held on to Christ the whole time, never giving Him up. That is the difference between a born again Christian and a non-Christian. Holding on to Christ not giving Him up despite our failings which are sin. Keeping hold of our faith until Christ’s love breaks through and we realize He accepts and loves us right where we are, muck and all. “Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.”

I agreed with so much of what that reviewer stated. Our struggles against the flesh will continue until the day we meet the Lord. But that doesn’t mean God wants us to live a defeated Christian life. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. We have been given the Holy Spirit, so that we can have victory in our walk with Christ. It is by His power that we “live, and move, and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) Victory is only attainable when we walk in the Spirit, in surrender to His will and purpose for our lives, as presented in the word of God. That said, it takes some people longer than others to reach that place of brokenness which leads to surrender. Each person’s walk is different. We should be careful not to compare our experiences with those of others. I, personally, identified with Rich Mullins’ story, his fears, pain and feelings of inadequacy. I love that the movie Ragamuffin, did not hide this from us. Some will call him a hypocrite, but I call him human. We’re all hypocrites. We’re all just a bunch of ragamuffins. Consider this quote by Rich:

Maybe the problem isn’t that you go to church, maybe the problem is that you go home! I never understood why going to church made you a hypocrite either, because nobody goes to church because they’re perfect. If you’ve got it all together, you don’t need to go. You can go jogging with all the other perfect people on Sunday morning. Every time you go to church, you’re confessing again to yourself, to your family, to the people you pass on the way there, to the people who will greet you there, that you don’t have it all together. And that you need their support. You need their direction. You need some accountability, you need some help.Rich Mullins, Anderson, IN, November 16, 1995

Of course there is hypocrisy in the church, but that’s not the real problem. The real problem is that there is a great dishonesty in the church concerning its hypocrisy. Everyone cleans up well on Sundays, but on Monday through Saturday we hide beneath our suits and dresses. We like to appear better than we truly are. The truth is that we are all hypocrites, every single one of us. No one completely and perfectly lives that which he believes. No one.

Spiritually speaking, we are perfect in Christ, but within our flesh, sin still resides, constantly reminding us of who we once were. From time to time, if we are honest, this sin works its way to the surface. An the truth is, we will struggle against our flesh until the day we die, or until the Lord returns and we receive a new body.

Why do we want to hide our struggles in the flesh beneath a shiny exterior, so no one can see our failures, fears and inadequacies? The world needs to see our weakness so they can also see the strength of our Savior. Pretending to be stronger than we are is nothing more than self-righteousness.

[Tweet “How will the world see their need for a Savior, if they can’t see our need for Him?”] How will the world see their need for a Savior, if they can’t see our need for Him? When we are weak, He makes us strong. We are His workmanship. He molds and shapes us. We cannot mold and shape ourselves. Clay cannot make itself into anything. It is the Potter who spins the wheel, while we start off as just an ugly lump of clay, like everyone else.

The Pharisees could not understand why Jesus hung out with the sinners. They saw themselves as righteous, but their righteousness was not found in God, but in themselves. They were sick with the disease of self-righteousness, but the worst part was that they didn’t even know they were sick. This is what prompted Jesus to say the following, “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” The sinners that Jesus ate with KNEW that they were sinners. That is why Jesus could heal them.

The Pharisees were so deluded by their own self-righteousness that they could not see their need for grace. So what? I’m not a Pharisee, you say. But we should not be so foolish as to think that this need for grace ends at the door of salvation. We will never outlive our need for the grace of God. And, if we do not let the world see our need, they will not see theirs. [Tweet “And, if we do not let the world see our need, they will not see theirs.”]

And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance
Mark 2:16-17

The Pharisees had it all wrong. Christianity has nothing to do with being good and obeying rules. It’s about realizing that we are incapable of being good and obeying the rules. It’s never been about what we can do for Him. It’s about what Jesus is doing in us. His work, not ours. He is the Potter. We are His clay. He shapes us. We can’t shape ourselves. We’re just the ugly old lump, on the wheel, that God is forming into a marvelous masterpiece.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

We’re all just bunch of imperfect ragamuffins being perfected by the King. We come to His door with nothing. He takes us in and gives us living water to drink. He removes our filthy rags and clothes us with the fine robes of His righteousness. And, then He does the unthinkable; He adopts us and calls us His children, giving all He has as an everlasting inheritance. This is grace. None of us deserve anything. We’re just recipients of God’s amazing grace.

When you grasp this, it has profound implications in your life. When you realize it’s not about you, but all about Him, it can truly change you and your life. It frees you up to experience the joy that’s in Christ, so you’re not weighed down by the burden of trying to look/act/be “good enough.”

This ended up much longer than I’d planned it to be, but that’s how God works sometimes! In closing, I’d love for you to read Ephesians 2:4-9. Notice Paul says, “that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” God’s grace doesn’t just lead us to the cross. God’s grace is infinite and abounding. God will extend His grace to us for all eternity, simply because He loves us that much.

Grace be with you,

PS Jenn just shared this song with me tonight as we were finishing up this post (yes, she helps me!). She is going to do it in church in a month, and tonight was the first time I’ve heard it. I just have to add it here, because it totally fits with this post. I hope it blesses you as it has us.

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  1. Beautiful song. It’s really not easy to be a Christian. But knowing that we are all a work in progress somehow makes it easier for us to understand each other and be kinder to ourselves.

  2. Your blog post is very enlightening. I think perhaps, this is why some stay away from the church because we have given the world this image that we are perfect. When the truth is, we are messed up and in desperate need of a Saviour. The world needs to know that we are saved by grace but we fall down and make mistakes. We are broken people. This is the message we should be sending to the world. I especially love your comment: “Everyone cleans up well on Sundays, but on Monday through Saturday we hide beneath our suits and dresses. We like to appear better than we truly are. The truth is that we are all hypocrites, every single one of us. No one completely and perfectly lives that which he believes. No one.” Thank you for sharing this truth!

  3. What a great reminder that we are far from perfect. We are human. And we have plenty of room for improvement. God is always working on us. Thank you for this excellent post!

  4. What a wonderful, inspiring post filled with so much wisdom! Thanks for sharing your heart with us….I am definitely interested in seeing this movie now. God bless!

  5. Thanks so much for this piece & for the encouragement to come to God as we are & allow Him to transform us into His likeness, reflecting His glory. I appreciate this post a lot! Thanks for linking it to Grace & Truth too!

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