The interest of the people by now was building. They were all beginning to wonder, "Could this John be the Messiah?"
But John intervened: "I'm baptizing you here in the river. The main character in this drama, to whom I'm a mere stagehand, will ignite the kingdom life, a fire, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He's going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He'll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he'll put out with the trash to be burned."
There was a lot more of this—words that gave strength to the people, words that put heart in them. The Message! But Herod, the ruler, stung by John's rebuke in the matter of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, capped his long string of evil deeds with this outrage: He put John in jail.
After all the people were baptized, Jesus was baptized. As he was praying, the sky opened up and the Holy Spirit, like a dove descending, came down on him. And along with the Spirit, a voice: "You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life."
From the very beginning following Jesus wasn’t meant to be going to church once a week, singing some songs, and hearing a speech. No, from the start following Jesus was supposed to be about “the kingdom life, a fire, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out.” This kingdom life was supposed to be a thing that set our hearts on fire and made our lives different.
I find myself often wondering, do I really understand the depths of grace?
Richard Rohr in his helpful little book, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, wrote, “Grace seems to be at the foundation of everything.”
To that I say a hearty, “Amen and amen!”
I remember sitting in my pastor and friend’s living room and we were talking about grace in a small group bible study. He said, “Dan and Amy, you’re on staff with Campus Crusade, what’s the definition of grace?” Without missing a beat we said, “Unmerited favor.”
His next question left me slack jawed and has been a splinter in my brain ever since.
“Is that what inspired someone to write, Amazing Grace?”
I remember the story of a writer going to meet with Dr. Bill Bright the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ and he asked Dr. Bright what he thought about Jesus. Dr. Bright simply teared up and couldn’t speak for a moment.
When we begin to fully realize the depths of grace we are moved in the deepest parts of who we are.
I know that I am still coming to grips with it. Too often for me grace is a theological concept to be understood not a reality that starts a fire in my soul.
One of my favorite poets, Bono, wrote this:
What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things
That’s not a cold theological data point. That’s spark that sets a blaze in your soul.