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Flat On My Back

“…he said to the paralytic— ‘I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.’ And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
The Gospel According to Mark 2:10b-12 (ESV)

There’s nothing like a little infirmity to remind a guy of his neediness. Yesterday as I was bending over to tie the shoes of my two year-old son Beckett I felt something in my lower back give way. It was excruciating pain. Feeling like someone had just shot me in the back, I went to the ground unable to move. It took several minutes for my wife to help me back to bed where I remained all day long.

Lying there incapacitated throughout the day reminded me of several things, not the least of which is God’s good grace to me in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:1-3 describes our condition before salvation,

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (ESV)

It’s pretty clear that when it comes to honoring God all of us are lying flat on our backs, incapable of giving to him what he requires of us. We’re as close to obeying God as I was in winning an Olympic old medal in the 100 meter dash yesterday.

Yet there we are lying on the ground, desperate, destitute and completely dependent on the mercy of someone else to do for us what we have no chance to do for ourselves. Even worse, we don’t merit any help. The truth is we’d rather follow our own fancies being “by nature children of wrath.” It doesn’t take a Rhodes Scholar to realize we were in a pretty bad spot spiritually.

And yet grace came. Ephesians 2 continues with verses 4 through 7,

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (ESV)

Do you want to know what makes God’s love so unbelievable? It’s that he loves us in spite of ourselves. He loves us even though we didn’t love him. He loves us even though we’d choose rebellion against him ten times out of ten. He loves us even though he knows we couldn’t even lift a finger toward him. He loves us “even while we were dead in our trespasses“.  Why? Because the God who has come to our side, who has moved to us when we couldn’t (and wouldn’t) move to him, is a  God “rich in mercy“.

Nice description don’t you think? Ours is a rich in mercy God. A God who does for us what we’re incapable of doing for ourselves. A God who possesses a “great love with which he loved us” that is displayed at Calvary. His Son torn and troubled for a people torn and troubled by sin. This God who loves us with his Son so that “in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Wow! What a merciful God we serve! He gives us exactly what we need but not what we deserve – he gives us grace!

So as I sit up in my bed feeling twinges of pain and soreness, making my kids run all kinds of errands for me and shaking my head at how utterly incapacitated I am, I’m reminded that I serve a God who has come for a people who are flat on their backs. He graciously crossed my path as I was securely fastened in sin, picked me up in his love and forgiveness through Jesus and gave me the life I never deserved.

But I am so…glad…he…did.

Thank you Lord for your grace to this old, broken-down sinner.

P.S. – Two songs that come to mind. One old. One new. Both wonderfully true…

I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me,
A sinner, condemned, unclean.

O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
Is my Savior’s love for me!

I Stand Amazed in the Presence, Charles H. Gabriel

High this mountain, broad this sea
Still, my sin ran deeper
Grave offense my soul did wreak
Against creation’s keeper
But see what power so fell and fair
Has stayed His holy justice
God Himself all Hell did bear
How great His love for us is

So serve Him, O serve Him
He who brings the morning
O serve Him, Only serve Him
He who brings the morning

Ev’ry hour is a precious boon
Ev’ry breath is a mercy
Ev’ry glimpse of yonder moon
A balm upon this journey
How vast the heavens above this place
So small beneath His glory
Still He stooped and showed His face
And poured His mercy o’er me

Jesus, our Messiah King
For those who don’t deserve Him
Conquered death all life to bring
So seek His face and serve Him
O serve Him

Sing, O sing
Praise His name forever

Oh, praise Him
Oh, praise Him
Praise His name forever

Serve Hymn by Anderew Peterson from Love & Thunder

Picture of Yancey Arrington
Dr. Yancey C. Arrington is an eighth generation Texan, Acts 29 Network and Houston Church Planting Network fan, and Teaching Pastor at Clear Creek Community Church in the Bay Area of Houston. He is also author of Preaching That Moves People and TAP: Defeating the Sins That Defeat You, and periodically writes for Acts 29 and The Gospel Coalition.

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