He Works in the Mess

I’m grateful that our God works in the midst of, and despite the mess of our lives.  Do you have a spotless, blameless, and clean background and history?  Yeah, neither do I. 

In our current study of the Song of Solomon and ‘The Adventure’ series, you might get the idea or impression that God only loves or works in the ones who do it exactly right.  That the only marriages that will work are those who have a spotless dating record, or haven’t crossed a line physically with one another prior to marriage. 

I’m here to encourage and remind you that God works in the mess; that your past or current situation does not have to define your future.  Show me one person (outside of Jesus) in the Bible who was not messy or stained by sin.  You won’t find one, because we know that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory and perfection (Romans 3:23). 

Peter follows Jesus for 3 years, and then publicly denies that he even knows Him.  And yet Peter repents, and humbles himself.  Jesus pursues Peter and restores him to fellowship, relationship, and ministry.  Peter becomes the leader of the early church, the same guy who denied Christ and earlier had even been called Satan by Jesus.  That’s messy…

God takes a guy like Paul, who basically had made it his job to attack Christians and try and kill this movement of Jesus in the book of Acts.  God steps into his world, saves him, and then he becomes one of the greatest missionaries we’ve ever known.  That’s messy though…

God uses an unmarried, teenage girl to be the one who would give birth to Jesus and become His mother.  What would people think?  What about the whispers among the community?  Even Jesus’ family lineage was not clean and spotless and includes people like Rahab the prostitute.  That’s messy…

Jesus invites Matthew, the tax collector, to come and follow Him, and be one of His disciples.  A tax collector?  Seriously?  The bottom rung of the social ladder, and a shady past to say the least, and He invites Him?  Yeah, that’s messy…

The heroes of our faith were not known for their perfection.  What they were known for was their faith and trust in God.  (Hebrews 11)

If you are a parent, remember when your young child would bring you an amazing ‘masterpiece.’  And it would be this scribbled, water colored, or finger painted piece of art.  And by any standard of a stranger, they might call it messy.  But in your eyes, messy was the last word you would use to describe it.  To you, it was beautiful.  You stuck it on your fridge because in the so-called mess, you saw the beauty.  You saw potential.

In Ephesians 2:8-9 we are told that salvation is a gift from God, and not something we earn.  And that we are saved by grace and through faith.  We are then told in in Ephesians 2:10, right after this life changing truth of salvation, that we are “God’s handiwork [His craftsmanship, His masterpiece], created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

The point of the Gospel is not that we are saved because of our avoidance of messes.  I can’t make it through the 10 commandments and come out clean of a mess.  The point of the Good News is that each of us has made a mess of ourselves because of sin, and yet, that is the very reason Jesus died and rose again.  So that instead of trying to clean up our own messes, we’d run to Him to do that.  And when we run toward Him, when we repent and put our trust completely in what Jesus has done for us, then He not only saves us, but then begins the lifelong work of making us His craftsmanship, His masterpiece so that He would be glorified.  We are saved from our sin, and then saved to a life of good works and faith in action.

Knowing the reality that God works in the mess, then does that encourage us to not really care and go ahead and make some messes and sin intentionally in our life?  Not at all.  Amazing grace and unconditional love beckons us to avoid sin that would hurt our relationship with such an amazing God.  If you were to ask the Prodigal Son in Luke 15, my guess is he would’ve avoided the pig slop had he been able to get a ‘do over.’  I’m pretty confident Peter would’ve told the young girl by the fire that he knew and loved Jesus.  For me personally, I’ve got plenty of things I would’ve turned from and avoided had I been given a second chance.

As Christ followers, we are still called to pursue a life of holiness.  1 Peter 1:15-16:  15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

But one encouraging truth about the Gospel is that we do not make ourselves holy.  God does that work.  Our role is to walk in faithfulness and love to Him.  To rely on His grace and His power at work in us.

Specifically, in the context of man/woman relationships, whether dating or married.  I don’t think any one of us got it perfectly and scored 10 out of 10 from the judge.  Premarital sex took place.  Children were born prior to the wedding.  Physical intimacy boundaries were crossed.  Couples lived together prior to being married.  Previous marriages and relationships failed.  Adultery has taken place.  And all of that is messy…

And yet we know that our God works in the mess.  On our own, we can’t go back and undue what has been done.  But God has the power to take away the sin, and lavish us with His grace.  He is doing a new thing and makes a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland (Isaiah 43:19).  The beautiful thing about the Gospel is that your past does not define you.  The mess doesn’t have to outline the rest of your life and relationship with Him or with others.  God can break through.  His ability and power to restore, mend, and reconcile is greater than the sin.

Today, be reminded of His grace, truth, and power.  If there is ongoing sin, turn from it, walk in the light, and ask for His forgiveness (1 John 1:9).  If there is past sin haunting you, be reminded of His grace, and reflect on the truth in Psalm 103.

Praise God that He works in the mess!