Messy Grace: Address the Mess

Apr 30, 2017 by: Sam Hestorff| Series: Messy Grace
Scripture: Romans 3:19–3:20

Now here's a phrase that you've heard before but I bet you didn't know that it had the history. It’s been around for a lot longer than all of us and it's this phrase right here, "Hot mess."

This phrase goes all the way back to the 19th century . . .

• In the 19th century, a hot mess referred to food especially within the context of the military. When the grub was splattered on your plate, they called it a hot mess.
• In the 20th century, it took on a different meaning. A hot mess referred to a dangerous environment, a firefight where a group of soldiers was in a very dangerous situation, they would say, "They've gotten themselves into a hot mess."
• But then in the 21st century with the evolution of the word "Hot," a hot mess is defined as an attractive disaster. Somebody whose life is an obvious disarray and yet they remain somewhat functional and somewhat attractive.
So, what that really means for us in the 21st century is that being a hot mess is our goal in life. Maybe it’s not your goal but this is what most of us do.
Today we’re beginning a new sermon series and we’re going to be exploring all kinds of messes that we’ve gotten ourselves into; financial messes, family messes, marriage messes, health messes, and academic messes. Whatever your mess is.
And sometimes it's messy because we create the mess and sometimes we inherit messes and sometimes we just look up and suddenly there's mess all around us. You have no idea where it came from but this is just the way life is . . . It’s messy.
But here’s the good news . . . there is always someone whose life is a bigger mess than yours.
Although that’s probably true, there is even better news than that . . . it's not just you; it's not just your life. It's not just your family. It's not just your job. It’s not just your finances. It's not just your GPA. We’ve all been in, are in, or are only one decision away from a mess.
What that means is that you're surrounded by a whole bunch of hot messes, because we've all got a mess going on somewhere in our lives, but we just clean up good.
Here's what we're gonna talk about for the next few weeks . . . mess is what brings us together.
And if this is true . . . there are some implications for us;
When you see someone else's mess before you are critical, you need to remember that you're a mess as well. And that when it comes to the people around us whose lives are messy, we should be students, not critics.
We need to take the time to listen to the story behind someone's mess, because when you do, you begin to see them differently. You begin to see them with compassion and understanding.
We should be students rather than critics when it comes to other people because we've all been a mess.
The other implication and the reason this is so important is because sometimes you make a mess that you can't get out of by yourself. And it's a reminder that we need each other because we've all been in holes that were so deep, we looked up and we realize, this hole I dug for myself is so deep that I cannot get out of this by myself.
And if you ever had somebody step in and assist you when you'd made a mess or your life, it's a reminder that that's to be our response to people when we realize and discover they're messed.
Now, as we jump in, I want to put a lay down a theological foundation to build from as it relates to the mess . . . this is so powerful; Christians believe that the mess that brings us together is the mess that brought God near.
For God so loved the world, for God so loved the messy world, for God so loved the messy people of the world that he sent his Son to address the mess.
And when Jesus showed up, it was a surprise. In fact, one of the reasons that people didn't recognize Jesus for who he was is because in that time, much like our time, when people thought about God addressing the mess of people, they expected a judge. They expected punishment. They expected criticism. They expected God to get in their face and punish them and never even ask about their story.
But when Jesus showed up, he introduced a new concept into the messes of the world that was so unexpected. Nobody saw it coming. And most people missed it. That word is Grace.
So, if your life is a mess, if you're a hot mess, the Gospel is for you because at the heart of the Gospel Jesus came into this world because of the messiness of the world.
And here's something else that Christians believe . . . The mess in your life and the mess in this world is a lens to see God.
Now, this is maybe hard for you to believe, but if you can see your mess, you can see God because God reveals himself within the context of mess. To recognize one, is to acknowledge the other.
Now, the interesting thing is God used a really bad dude to teach us this lesson. Paul steps on to the pages of history as a one-man wrecking machine and his mission in life was to destroy the Christian church because he saw them as a knock-off of Judaism that distorted the law.
And as you know, God got his attention and he becomes a fanatic Christian and begins creating churches around the Mediterranean. And as he does, he wrote letters to those churches to encourage them in their faith.
And he is the one who introduces this idea that our messes are a lens through which we can discover the presence of God. Here’s how he said it. Romans, chapter 3.
"Now, we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law."
This is just a fancy way of saying, if you're under a law, the law is over you. Now, there are a lot of laws that we are under but in this context, he is speaking about God’s law.
• If you're Jewish person, it would be the law of God as found in the Old Testament.
• If you're a Christian, it would be the law of Jesus that is summed up to love God and love others.
But let's make it broader than that. It could be as broad as the law of your conscience. There are things that you just intuitively know you should do and you should not do. You are under the law of your conscience. You feel accountable to the law of your conscience. It's over you, and you are under it.
Now the interesting thing is this . . . all of us fall short of the standard, either God's standard or the standard of our conscience. We all fall short of that. We all mess up from time to time.
And when we mess up, we often retreat to the idea that “nobody is perfect”.
When you acknowledge this . . . this is big. This is what Paul is leaning toward. Whenever you acknowledge no one's perfect and I'm not perfect, you're acknowledging there's a perfect that I am not.
And there's a subtle sense of accountability and when you recognize that you fall short, you mess up, is we tend to carry around guilt.
Paul goes on and says that the point of that struggle, the point of that sense of guilt, the point of that tension, isn't so that you will be perfect. It's not that you would feel so bad that one day you would finally perfect yourself.
The point of the law, the point of the struggle, the point of the mess, the point of the tension, is that you would be silenced. And when I'm about to look at you and be critical of you, I would be silenced because I fall short as well.
And when you're tempted to look at me and be critical of my mess, you would be silenced, for you would be aware that you are a mess too.
That every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world held accountable to God, that nobody has room to talk. We are all accountable to the source of the law we fall short of.
This is why Jesus says, before you judge somebody else, you better look in the mirror, and when you look in the mirror, you're gonna go silent because the whole world is held accountable to God.
And then he says this, "Therefore, no one will be declared righteous in God's sight, by the works of the law." In other words, you'll never be so good that God says you're good enough.
"Rather through the law”, whether it's God's law, the law of your conscience, whatever it is that you believe that you're under that's over you. "Through the law, we become conscious of our sin or our failure,"
It's one of the reason you don't like church perhaps, it’s because nobody likes to be reminded of the fact that they don't measure up. Nobody likes to be reminded of the fact they are not what they ought to be.
But there's no way to escape it. So, when I read the Scriptures, I'm reminded I just don't love my neighbors consistently. I'm reminded that I don't forgive quick enough. I'm reminded that I'm not everything I ought to be for the people I love the most. I'm reminded because the Scripture, the law of God is a mirror and it's a reminder.
Let me ask you a question and this is uncomfortable. What does the law that you're under, whatever that is, remind you that you're not?
And isn't it kind of heartbreaking?
Because in that moment, you're experiencing the law for exactly the reason God gave it. It is a mirror and it is a reminder.
Then three verses later, he gives us his bottom line . . .
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
You not only fall short of your own standard, he says, "For all have fallen short," and everybody is silenced, because everybody ultimately falls short of the glory, the splendor, the magnificence, the greatness, the perfection, of God.
And what he's reminding us of is that the reason you recognize a mess when you see one is because every mess has a reference point. The reference point for the mess that you've created is the 'unmess'.
And here's Paul's point, "Awareness of our messes awakens us to something outside of us to which we are accountable." That the awareness of our messes, the awareness of the fact that I can't even keep up with where I think I should be. I can't even live up to my expectations. If there's a God, I'm sure I can't live up to God's expectations.
And so my natural inclination is, "I'm gonna try harder and harder and harder."
And Paul says, "No, God didn't give you the law so you'll try harder and God doesn't ding your conscience so that you'll just become a better person. God speaks to you through your conscience and God reminds you so that you will become aware, that there's something, there's someone outside of you to whom you are accountable."
As I said earlier, once we acknowledge our messes, we are a baby step away from acknowledging God.
This is what has broken open and created the faith for so many adults, when they understand that pressure is not a pressure from God to just be a better person, it's a reminder that there is a God that is pressing on you, that wants you to be aware of his presence.
You know what that means? It means that while you are wrestling with the mess, while you are grappling with the situation that just doesn't seem to be any end inside, it just seems to be mess after mess, after mess, after mess, it is a reminder that there is a God that is beyond the mess. There is a standard against which all messes are measured.
There is an un-mess. No one's perfect because there is a perfect that no one is. And it is the pathway, it's the lens to begin to understand the presence, the power of God. Isn’t that amazing!!
I know that's kind of heady, wo we’ll flesh this out more over the coming weeks
Today, I want to land on something a little more practical.
We all have something in common, the mess. And the reason this is significant for this week is we launch into these series is it means that you have something in common with the person or group of people you despise the most.
Paul says, "When you recognize your mess and when their mess begins to remind you of your mess, everyone is silenced."
So, this week, I want you to try something. When you see somebody making a mess, instead of being critical, instead of being judgmental, instead of setting yourself apart, instead of thinking, "I'm better than that”, I want you to whisper under your breath this phrase, "I know a mess when I see one because I am one."
The reason I even know that's a mess is because I'm aware of an un-mess. And the fact that I recognize there's such a thing as an un-mess is a reminder that I am a mess. The mess is what brings us together
And we'll pick it up there next week.

** sermon content and handout used with permission from Northpoint Ministries

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