“Life Without Excuses”
Pastor Tom Millner
John 10:10-11; Galatians 3:28-29
I’ve heard just about every excuse that can be contrived. I’m always amazed when I see people trying to convince themselves of the justifications for doing or not doing a particular thing or acting in a particular way. The classic one is “the Devil made me do it.” We’re always looking for an excuse for what we do. Excuse making is about as old as creation. Adam blamed Eve; Eve blamed the serpent. Every time we engage the blame game, we attempt to excuse ourselves from accountability. There is no running from accountability, however. Even the most egregious misconduct comes home to roost, whether publicly seen or not. Not a single one of us is immune to excuse making. Romans 3:23 states; “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Accepting that truth and laying down our guilt and need for excuses before His throne and accepting the “justification” made for us by the life of Jesus Christ is the foundation for living without excuses.
Debunking common excuses:
“It’s my childhood experience.” I’ll bet that if we took a survey here we’d find that at least eighty percent of us had some kind of negative experience as a child that we would deem near traumatic. Scars from childhood can be hard to overcome. Whether they are scars from parents, from siblings, or from classmates/friends, they can have lasting effects on our sense of self and how we experience the world. Even though wounds heal, scars often do not disappear so easily. Each time we see that place, hear those words, recall that experience, we are emotionally moved and experience what we call the emotional scar of that experience. Fortunately, we don’t have to stay at that place. The scar may not totally disappear, but we can significantly reduce its presence and size. Jesus tells us in our scripture reading today that “The thief comes only to steal and destroy; I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.” There are resources all around to help us move out of that place of perpetual agony over the past. God does not want us to stay there. Jesus, who was rejected, who was lied about, who was betrayed, beaten, nailed to a cross and killed, was the same Jesus who rose from the dead. He died so that we might have life and have it more abundantly than we otherwise would have had He not died for us! He came to heal, He came to save, He came to give new life, He came that we might have life eternal with Him. When we insist on staying at a place of victimhood, we choose to use our past hurts as an excuse for our current behaviors. In the light of John 3:16, and John 10:10, we are called not to use all these old events as the justification (excuse) for our lives, but rather recognize that Jesus is the JUSTIFICATION (just as if I’d never sinned) bringing us new life. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” To excuse today’s bad, angry, begrudging, hurtful, or other negative behaviors on scars from childhood, is like blaming being caught in a rain storm as a reason for not bathing! We need to know that after the rain comes the sun; after the winter comes the spring; and after the cross comes the resurrection. We are not bound to what was, but what is! If there’s something that happened in your past that you use or are tempted to use as an excuse for your current bad behavior, give it up, Dorothy, you’re no longer in that storm! You have been given all you need to live life fully in the knowledge of His grace and mercy. Exercise your choice; live the life He died to give you! 1 Corinthians 13:11 states: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became (an adult), I put the ways of childhood behind me.”
“It’s because I’m _____.” Other excuses that may be used for poor behavior is orientation, or gender, or cultural background, or socio-economic status. It’s amazing to me the amount of alcohol, drug, and sexual abuse that abounds in our community. Many in this Body of Christ do now or have struggled with addictions that manifest as substance or sexual abuse. When I speak of sexual abuse in this context, I don’t mean intentional infliction of pain and suffering upon others (although that can exist in the same arena), but rather the behavior that uses others as objects of sexual gratification to the extent that one’s own ability to love and be loved in a healthy one on one context is severely compromised. Idolatry comes in many forms and it keeps us from worshipping God who created us for relationship with Himself and Godly relationships with others. Too many people buy into the lie that orientation is about sex, drugs, and alcohol. It’s time this community grows up and recognizes that orientation is not an excuse for behaving like irresponsible, irrational, and irritating adolescents. When we use our orientation as an excuse for bad behavior it’s because we buy the lie that is perpetuated by the legalist fundamentalists who can’t bring themselves to a grace filled place of common sense about the diversity within God’s creation – all of which bear His divine reflection! Being straight is not a justification for multiple marriages, strip clubs, brothels or speed dating. Why is it that so many gay folks tend to blame their bad behavior on their orientation? Jesus leveled the playing field. There is none greater or lesser in His Kingdom. That is not intended as a license to behave badly – quite the opposite. It is “get out of hell” card so you can know and love Him with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind and then approach other of His creation with the same care and interest as you would desire for yourself. Galatians 3:28-29 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” The promise is not for better lives through living badly, but for the grace and mercy to live a life reflecting His passion for each of His creation. It’s the promise of new life experienced to the fullest – without excuses weighing us down. Often we have bought so deeply into the lie of what it means to be created uniquely from the majority that we find it difficult to believe that God could really love me!
“God can’t love me.” This is one of the most tragic statements I’ve ever heard from another human being. Yet, there is an element in many of us that holds to this notion. Let’s break this apart for a bit. What the person is saying is that he or she doesn’t believe that John 3:16 applies to him or her – that he or she is not a “whosoever.” It’s pretty clear that John is stating the facts about the Gospel – that God (creator of the universe who is Love Himself) loves His creation so much that He has given His only Son (Himself), so that if you believe that Jesus is who God says He is and did what scripture says He did, all sin barriers between God and us are wiped away and relationship with God is restored to how it was in the beginning of creation! So the question I pose to you is this; why don’t you believe this act of grace and mercy applies to you? I submit to you that whatever your response, it translates to the same – you have set yourself up as the god who judges and always has the last word! If you can’t forgive yourself; if you can’t get past your own judgment, you can’t receive grace and mercy from a second hand God! When you’re ready to put God first in your life, you’re ready to accept that God the CREATOR loves you to squeeze out the death of your past and breathe life into your today and tomorrow. Paul in His letter to the believers in Rome wrote; “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:28-29) Nothing can separate us from His love, but setting ourselves up as the final arbiter of all that is acceptable to be loved is to deny ourselves the joy of our own lives, saved by the grace of God. There is no valid excuse for living life as a less than when God has already done the more than for us! He’s already done more than we can do, more than we deserve, more than we can earn…He has bestowed grace and mercy on each of us! Let go the ego! It’s too weak to box with God! Paul sums it up for us nicely in Romans 12:1-2 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” What is God’s will for our lives? Mark 12:30-31 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” What’s your excuse?
Pastor Tom Millner, Sr. Pastor
http://www.cohssnj.org (Sister church in NJ)