Last week my bride joined me on the drive from Dallas to Houston to cheer our Baylor Bears basketball team. Along the way I spotted a billboard near the exit for an adult video store.
Drop the porn.
I spent the next several miles thinking what a sad message that billboard proclaimed. It might cause some guilt and shame for those who do want to drop the porn. They might vow to try harder not to view such material but when they fall again they will be swallowed by guilt and hopelessness. The sign might cause anger for those who feel judged and condemned by the holier than thou types. It might open the door for Satan to stir up old hurts and shame contributed by self-righteous moralists who receive grace easily but cannot return it.
What made me sad is that the billboard did not communicate the central message that Jesus suffered the Cross to achieve. You don’t have to work or earn your salvation. It is a gift of grace. And when you become a new creation with a new spiritual identity you can receive the power to overcome sins.
How many struggling seekers believe that they have to clean themselves up before they are acceptable to Jesus? How many think they that God could never love anyone as messed up as they are? How many think they have blown it too many times to deserve another chance?
I thought about a time when some religious zealots dragged a woman caught in the very act of adultery to Jesus, demanding that she be stoned to death. The Apostle John relays the story.
They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
“No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” (John 8, NLT)
I thought that if Jesus did authorize a billboard it might say something like this.
I forgive you.
Depend on me and you really can go and sin no more.
An example from Good Friday might make a good billboard message. Jesus was crucified along with two common criminals. One mocked him. One cried out for mercy.
One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”
And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23, NLT)
Hmmmm. That flies in the face of some folks theology. Randy Alcorn succinctly points out how radical this response was in his book “The Grace and Truth Paradox”. Randy writes…
“The thief would never be baptized, make restitution, attend church, take communion, sing a hymn or give an offering. He had nothing to offer Christ, no way to pay Him back. Neither do we.” (Emphasis is mine)
Maybe Jesus would approve of this billboard.
Believe in Me.
I love you no matter what you have done.