I recently offended a couple hundred someones…
I made had made a few revisions to the song Come Thou Fount, I changed the lyrics “prone to wander” to “prone to love.”
For those who have never read why I changed those lyrics, at least, when I sing the song, you can read My Grandma was Prone to Love or Adam & Eve – Minty Fresh. I have been writing and living the message for several years now. It’s been an awesome journey!
Whenever I write or talk about our new nature in Christ, there are always some Christians that seem to get a little irritated, maybe even a lot irritated. I recently read a blog by a fella who was very offended by those particular lyrics being changed. He insisted that anyone who believes we aren’t prone to sin is a fake, insincere Christian – more or less an idiot who gives Christianity a bad name.
Last I checked, there were nearly 250 responses to his blog, most emphatically agreeing with the author’s assessment, both that we are dirty rotten sinners who are helpless to our ‘sin nature,” and that anyone who would change the lyrics of Come Thou Fount is an insincere moron.
It made me a little sad. Not that strangers might think I’m a moron, I’m not a moron. Neither was I saddened by the fact that so many believers are convinced they are prone to sin, I understand. I’m still walking out my faith regarding my true nature, the one Jesus purchased back for me. But the thick condescending tone of hundreds of believers convinced that defending a proclivity to sin is somehow a badge to prove their authenticity, that’s heartbreaking.
Somehow authenticity has become synonymous with confession. Confession is good but authenticity isn’t just about confession, but also transformation. Confession without transformation is actually the definition of hypocrisy. I’ve always found hypocrisy to be incredibly inauthentic.
As a Christian, to admit I sin is only authentic if it’s followed by transformation through the power of His mercy and grace, the cross.
Jesus didn’t live, die, and rise from death so we can live in a continuous cycle of confession by men and women who couldn’t help but continue to sin due to thie sinful nature. No Jesus purchased for us our true nature, He restored the original narrative. He forgave and redeemed us. He revealed the power and wonder of grace: a transformed life. He didn’t come to show us how weak we were, He came to reveal that through grace, even when we are weak, we can be strong.
What am I getting at? Well, as I read through the 100’s of heartbreaking sin conscious comments one particular scripture kept being used to promote the idea that we are helpless to a proclivity to sin. You have probably read it, 2 Corinthians 2:7-10 “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.”
I think the temptation is to read this section of scripture through the lens of our own experiences and determine that Paul was acquiescing, tolerating, or even licensing sin, which is what was suggested by many responding to the fellas blog. But that is the furthest thing from the truth!
More than likely, Paul wasn’t even referencing sin. Most biblical scholars believe the “thorn” was an illness. Paul mentions an illness in Galatians 4:13 and without going into detail there are enough other references to suggest that Paul may have had an issue with his eyes. Of course, the thorn could also be the trials Paul was facing which he mentions just a couple verses later as, “insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties.”
Whether it was illness, persecution, or even sin, Paul never acquiesced; he never suggested that the thorn had any right to him or control of him, or that somehow it was sent by God to test him. In fact, he writes just the opposite – the thorn was “a messenger of satan.” So even if the thorn was a sin, it wasn’t a part of Pauls DNA or nature, it came from satan.
Paul continues, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it (the thorn) away from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”
Later in this same letter to the Corinthians Paul describes the power of this “sufficient” grace. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” ( 2 Corinthians 8:9)
So Paul prays three times for God to take away the “thorn,” affliction, illness, or sin. And then in the very next verse, God does something absolutely amazing, he answers Pauls prayer! God says, “My grace is sufficient.”
Here is a thought, the grace that was sufficient for Paul was the same grace Jesus operated in; the same grace in which Jesus become poor that His rich power would be available to all of us. It’s the same “grace of God that brings salvation” Paul wrote about in Titus 2:11.
Could it be that the power of this grace is the whole point of Paul’s message? Of course it is! All you have to do is read anything else written by Paul to know that Grace is not a Band-Aid, Grace is a Person more powerful than any thorn.
Regarding the “thorn”, could it be that, just like all of us, Paul lived in the tension and mystery of unanswered prayer? And yet even there, God answers and says “My grace is enough.”
Is it possible that Paul wasn’t contradicting everything else he had ever written and the very life of Jesus by suggesting that just this once the grace of God didn’t bring salvation? Of course not!
When we read this scripture and use it to license a nature prone to sin, we miss the one key phrase in this section of scripture that is the whole point, His “grace is sufficient.” His grace is the power that is evidenced through weakness; the same weakness Jesus humbled himself in that we would be raised up.
But there’s more, Paul continues, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
I love this scripture because Paul doesn’t say when I am weak, He is strong. Which, by the way, is another song I may lyrically edit some day…
Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong, when I’m weak then I am strong.”
That’s what Paul writes, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” That’s what Grace does, it makes us strong. Even in the questions, the seeming unanswered prayers, the struggles not with flesh and blood but with the principalities and powers of darkness, even in the midst of loss or confusion, even when we do fall short, even when we don’t act like the saints His righteousness has transformed us to, His grace is sufficient, His grace is the power of the Gospel to bring salvation.
I would like to suggest that this “thorn” scripture is not about a weak and hopeless Paul who just can’t seem to overcome this one thing, no, this scripture is about Paul running the race in the power of Grace that makes us strong in weakness. We aren’t prone to wander, Grace says so. When we face unanswered prayers, Grace is sufficient. When we fail, Grace picks us up. When we tire, Grace strengthens. And when we repent, Grace transforms.
It’s just the good news! Its the good news always getting better – even when it offends…
Jason Clark is a writer, speaker and lead communicator at A Family Story ministries. His mission is to encourage sons and daughters to grow sure in the love of an always-good heavenly Father. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children.
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