At this point in our church's life, I have the joyful responsibility of not only preaching the Word of God to the people of God...I also have the privilege of leading God's people in God's praise. I get to lead an talented group of brothers and sisters in our praise team. Together, we work hard preparing for Sunday morning's service. I spend time writing chord charts each week. Leading Wednesday night rehearsals (one of which starts in about 2 hours). It is an additional "thing" on my plate, and it can't go on forever. But I have to admit...it is fun!
In a recent rehearsal, one of the musicians made a mistake. That's not really rare...we all make mistakes as we're working on music. What was rare about this time was that someone called out, "Give him a second chance!" I jokingly said, "We don't give second chances here." Then came the reply, "That's not very gracious of us." In that moment, it struck me. I knew it before then, but it came into focus once again as I stood among musicians trying to work out a song.
Grace is not about giving second chances. Oh, you may listen to the radio and hear your favorite DJ say exactly those words. But they're wrong. Contrary to my favorite song (musically speaking) in the Veggie Tales movie, Jonah, God is not the God of second chances. Let that sink in, and maybe disturb you for a minute, and I'll come back to it.
I love playing golf. I love that when you're on the course, it's really hard to think about all the things you "need to get done" in the office. I also love mulligans. You know what a mulligan is? It's a second chance. You hit a bad shot off the tee, and your buddies tell you to take a mulligan. So, you tee up another ball, and you take another swing. That second chance may be an improvement. And it may actually be worse than the first shot. But it's a second chance. A second chance to make a good shot. To give it your all. To improve on your first shot.
That's not grace. Grace is not getting to tee it up again. Taking another swing at life. Seeing if you can improve on the first attempt. Grace would actually be crippling if that's all it was. Grace is far more than that. It's more than a mulligan. God did not send Jesus Christ to die in our place so that we could take another shot at being good people! To see if we could improve on our moral record! There's nothing amazing about that concept of "grace." Nothing awe-inspiring. Nothing worth singing about.
Grace is God's favor given to us apart from anything we could do to earn it. In fact, Jesus earned all of God's favor for us...in our place. Titus 3:7 says we are justified by grace. That means that because of God's grace, we are credited with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. He was counted as the vilest of sinners on the cross; in exchange, I am credited with His righteousness. He bore the red stain of my sin; in exchange, I am as white as snow. He died under God's curse; in exchange, I live forever blessed.
Grace is not God looking at you and saying, "Ok...you can give it another try. Hope you get it right this time." No! No! A thousand times no! Grace is Jesus doing everything in your place. Living a perfectly righteous life under God's law in your place. Dying the death God's law requires of sinners...in your place. And then you get all the credit for His work! You are righteous! That's what grace has accomplished.
You see..."Mulligan Christianity" is only works righteousness in disguise. "Works righteousness" is the idea that God accepts us for our goodness. Don't fall for it! Works righteousness can subtly sneak into our thinking and our living, but it is an enemy of the true gospel. No matter how many mulligans you get, you can't do it. No matter how many shots at living righteously, you'll fail. Even our best works are filthy rags before a holy God.
So, put down the score card. Put down the clubs of moral effort and philanthropy and church involvement. Stop thinking of life as a series of second chances. Stop trusting the mulligan. Instead, trust in Jesus Christ alone.