Grace

FREE TO BE A SLAVE

A Slave-Pen at New Orleans Before the Auction

In reading “A Puritan Theology” by Joel Beeke, I came across this compelling story:

A wealthy Englishman went to California in the 1850s to enrich himself during the gold rush.  After much success, he left to go back to England.  He stopped at New Orleans on the way home, and, as all tourists did at that time, visited the infamous slave trading block. 

As he approached the place where people were sold for cash, he saw a beautiful, young, African woman standing on the block.  He overheard two men who were trying to outbid each other for the woman, talking about what they would do to her if they could buy her.  To their surprise, the Englishman joined in the bidding by offering twice the price.

The auctioneer was astonished. “No one has ever offered this much for a slave,” he said.

After purchasing her, the Englishman stepped forward to get her.  When he helped her down to his level, she spat I his face.  He wiped away the spit and led her to a building in another part of town.  There she watched uncomprehendingly as he filled out forms.  To her astonishment, he handed her some manumission papers and said, “There, now you are a free woman.”  She spat in his face again.

“Don’t you understand?” he asked, as he wiped her spit away again.  “You are free!  You are free!” 

She stared at him in disbelief a long while.  Then she fell at his feet and wept – and wept some more.  Finally, she looked up and asked, “Sir, is it really true that you paid more than anyone has ever paid to purchase me as a slave, only to set me free?”

“Yes,” he said, calmly.

She wept some more.  Finally, she spoke: “Sir, I have only one request.  Can I be your slave forever?”

This encounter is meant to illustrate what Christ has done for us, and –don’t miss it– what our response should be to his generous grace!

Christian, you know your own story of unexpected liberation from slavery and condemnation. Are you as willing to make yourself a slave of Christ?

There are believers who occasionally say they are thankful, and there are believers who daily demonstrate they are thankful. Which best defines you?

CONNECTING GOD’S GRACES

Boy Playing in Rain

 

God gave me an unexpected grace.

While I was praying a few weeks ago, God began to unfold in my mind the best way to approach the sermon text for that Sunday. 

I had been struggling with how to best organize and present the truths contained in the passage. Some weeks this is especially difficult. I may have a few clear thoughts in my mind, but I don’t know how to bring them together in a cohesive message. Ideas bounce around in my brain and seem to willfully resist coming together.

When I realized God was graciously bringing the message together for me, I was obviously thankful to Him. I began to praise God for his goodness of stepping into my struggle and filling me with his thoughts. 

A few minutes later, it suddenly struck me, this thankfulness was not enough. I also had the responsibility of connecting this grace from God, to the other struggles of my life. This particular grace did not arrive in isolation, it was part of a ceaseless flow of mercy and goodness from my Heavenly Father.

The lesson here is not to compartmentalize God’s graces to us. Rather we should use a grace manifested in one area to encourage us where we are not seeing grace in another area.

God does not stop and start with his graces. They do not stall out. The opposite is true, they are part of the “living waters” which Jesus declared flow like a river through our lives!

If we are to honor God as he deserves, then we must accurately see that he is continuously and overwhelming gracious to us. God does not haphazardly drop random graces into our lives. In Christ, all of our moments take place within a flow of grace, which runs from the cross into eternity.

 

Image by © Ed Bock/CORBIS

GETTING THE JOB DONE

Jason is an 8-year-old boy coming home sweaty and filthy after a day playing outside. His mom asks him to clean up for dinner.

Jason obediently goes to the sink to wash up in order to be presentable for the dinner table. His mom calls from the kitchen, “Jason, are you cleaning up?” To which he cheerfully answers “Yeah”, and proceeds to take his seat at the table confident that he has fulfilled what his mother asked.

But what do you think are the odds that Jason arrived at the table truly clean?

It’s not that Jason was trying to be disobedient. In his 8-year-old perspective he had done a fine enough job. But his idea of clean is different than his mom’s, and his attention to detail is incomplete.

When it comes to cleansing ourselves from sin, we are like Jason and every other 8-year-old boy!

We ignore parts, miss parts, and then scrub some spots sore, but in the end we are still grungy.

How wonderful that God has stepped in to take over the job of making us clean! He carefully cleanses our soul with a thoroughness that leaves us eternally spotless!

 “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18)

God knows we are incapable of making ourselves clean to his standards, so he sent his Son to step into our place to take the punishment our sin deserves and at the same time wash us of the filth that had stubbornly clung to us.

If you are trying to make yourself presentable to God, it is not only an impossible task, it is also a task already accomplished by Christ when we repent and submit our lives to him.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)

As Christians, it’s essential that we keep ourselves from any sin that pursues us; and that we quickly brush off every sin that splatters us. But take joy in the wondrous reality that Christ has made our soul clean and that is how our God sees us.

If we only look at the job we do in cleansing ourselves, discouragement will quickly overshadow our hearts.

Instead keep your eyes on the job that Christ has done to cleanse you. And in faith rejoice, for the day is coming when we will sit at our Heavenly Father’s banquet table flawlessly, spotlessly, and forever clean!

 

OH, WHAT GRACE!

amazing-grace

Think about grace.

It is such a sweet word.

Oh, what implications exist in the proclamation of grace.

Particularly God’s grace!

Grace is the name of the treasure box in which all the gospel’s goodness is held.

“In (Christ) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us” Ephesians 1:7-8

“When we were dead in our trespasses, (God) made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” Ephesians 2:5

Believer, in Christ you are never without grace – lavish and rich grace.

Grace sets us free from all the guilt and eternal consequences of sin

Grace brings us into an unblocked relationship with God

Grace keeps us in that relationship – forever

Grace completes us so we can fully enjoy that relationship

Take a moment and bring to mind the weaknesses or limitations that tend to discourage you.

God’s grace is in those weaknesses or limitations, so they no longer need to be discouraging. God tells us:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

What are the circumstances that burden you? God’s grace is with you to find rest; for you are his and all his wondrous intention and promise remain true for you. It is a theological impossibility for anything to enter your life (even what is sorrowful, hurtful and evil) without God ensuring that his grace is attached to it.

“For those who love God all things work together for good” Romans 8:28

We have grace upon grace

God’s grace doesn’t drizzle on us – we have been immersed in it as fully as we are by the air around us. Grace shapes our destiny even more than our skin shapes our bodies.

John 1:16 tells us that “from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace”

2 Corinthians 9:14 speaks of the “surpassing grace” upon us

“Surpassing grace” means that grace surpasses everything else that we know, that we can imagine, and that touches us!

Grace so Full – deserves careful attention in our minds. It should dominate all our thought processes.

Grace so Real – deserves to direct the actions of our lives, however big and however ordinary.

Grace so Wondrous – deserves to bring praise from our lips with the same constancy with which it pours forth from God’s heart to us.

TESTIMONY OF A CHANGED LIFE

On Easter, Mike Frampus who grew up in Greentree and then drifted far from church and God, gave this testimony of God’s grace to save him. Mike has a history of significant problems with anxiety – so just standing before everyone to share his story was a wonderful work of God!

Good morning,

Dana called me a few weeks ago and asked me to come up here and give my testimony. She had prepared me beforehand and let me know that she would do that one day, so of course I said yes.

After I hung up the phone, I began to search online out-of-state job sites, because now that someone had asked me to get up and speak in front of the church, obviously it was time to pack up my family and move as far away as possible to begin anew somewhere else.

You see, I have something that I’m sure some of you know a little about….fear of man. Not only that, but Satan desires for me to be ineffective for God’s kingdom, and so I wanted to give 10,000 reasons why I could not do this.

But then I thought of Moses and Jonah and all the other sinful men that God used for his glory, and the only thing I could say in my heart was: “Here am I. Send me!” So I’m here this morning to give you a very brief glimpse into the power of God.

I grew up attending Greentree Church as a child and being in Sunday school. I was even baptized as a teenager right here behind me, which by the way was the last time that I ever fit into a tub. It wasn’t long, however, until I decided that I wanted to take control of my life and do things my way.

I began at an early age to experiment with alcohol and marijuana, and these things helped me to become more comfortable in a world where I felt as if I didn’t really belong anywhere. I began to believe whole-heartedly that every moment of every day was meant to be lived for my pleasure. So I ran hard after sin towards death until God was no longer even an afterthought.

Initially I was convicted in my heart as I did whatever I thought might bring me joy, but as I graduated to harder drugs I was able to quiet that voice inside a little more effectively. The more I tried to run the more broken I became.

My partying lifestyle began to affect every area of my life, as I began high school getting straight A’s only to struggle just to pass my senior year. I couldn’t wait to get out and really start living…or dying as it turns out.

I used heroin for the very first time when I was 17 years old. Although it was not necessarily love at first sight, in just a couple of short years I would be sticking a needle into my veins, and experienced a rapid downhill decline. I began committing crimes to support my heroin addiction, and I began to steal from the only ones in my life that cared about me.

I have experienced overdose, been through treatments, been to jail, I’ve been robbed and pistol-whipped, and I even sailed across an interstate highway and off the shoulder of the road at more than 75 mph. There have been literally thousands of times in my life where I could have easily died one way or another, and at times in my life I even wished for death.

But God, in His great love and mercy looked upon my helpless state…and led me to the cross. By His amazing grace I have not used drugs and alcohol for over ten years. I am now married to an awesome wife and have three wonderful children.

It is God who sustained me and continues to do so each day. He opened my blind eyes to see that Jesus has already paid the penalty for my sins and for any who would trust in Him. Through the blood of our precious Savior Jesus I have been brought from death to life and I have been made a new creation.

If, this morning you have a loved one that you’ve been praying for who you know is enslaved by this or any other sin, or perhaps it is you that are caught in this vicious cycle….cry out to the only one that saves. He is faithful.

WE ARE MORE THAN GOD’S PROJECT

 

Christians sometimes hold incomplete perspectives about God’s gospel work in us.

A common viewpoint that is only partially true and so misguiding to us is to think of ourselves as a good works project by God.

We imagine our salvation as similar to when people save birds caught in an oil slick. Rescuers gather the poor oil soaked birds. After they carefully clean them off and make sure they are healthy, the rescued birds are then released to continue on with their lives.

Yes, it is true that God rescues and cleanses us, but we are not merely a project He looks on with satisfaction and then sets free to live out our now “better” lives.

God rescues us in order to remove us from our state of rebellion and then brings us into His kingdom as dearly loved and adopted children. God has no intention of watching us go on our way – He calls us into His way.

God never stops working in us until the moment when we are complete, ready to be presented to Christ as His perfect Bride.

God does not settle for anything less in anyone He has saved.
Christ desires nothing less in anyone He has redeemed with His blood.
The Holy Spirit will produce nothing less in anyone in whom He has begun His work.

So we should not consider ourselves as anything less than people restored into a forever relationship with God. We cannot explain why, but God wants His eternity to be spent with us!

What are the implications of having a correct and full understanding of our salvation?

We never consider going back to life on our own

We never think of any aspect of life apart from God’s role in and over it

We recognize that we are more than clean (as wonderful as that is), we are literally “new creatures” in Christ

Our purpose now remains God-centered

Our kingdom is Christ’s Kingdom and our home is where Jesus lives

God should receive ongoing declarations of praise and thanksgiving for His ongoing work

We should see ourselves as “overcomers” of all that is sinful and in rebellion against God

Obedience of God’s Word is our heart

Following Christ is our path

Being with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is our destiny

THE GREAT PURSUIT

 

Over the past year and a half, I have given extensive amounts time and thought to the subject of our communion with God. By communion I mean our intimate relationship with Him.

As I have thought, read and prayed about this theme, my delight in it has continued to grow. During my times of worship, I often find my heart either soaring or being overwhelmed in wonder at the transcendent truths contained in our communion with God.

The topic of communion with God is not an esoteric or marginal subject. This is the heart of,

Why God saved us

Who we are in Christ

What our eternal experience will be

I am finding how I think about all the basics of Christianity are being colored by my understanding of this communion. For example:

What is a Christian?

“Someone who has entered communion with God through faith in Christ for the removal of all their sinful guilt.”

or,

How does a Christian live?

“In love for God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that is expressed by obedience and communion with them”

or,

Why do we pray and read the Bible?

“To deepen our understanding of, love for and faithfulness to our communion with God”

or,

What will heaven be like?

“A perfect, uninterrupted and exhilarating communion with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

The Puritans placed a great deal of attention on communion with God in their writings and personal pursuit of God. Sinclair Ferguson wrote this article for Ligonier Ministries in which he discusses how the Puritan, John Owen discussed communion with Christ. In it he writes,

“(Christ) is a person to be known, admired, and loved. Fellowship with Christ, therefore, involves a ‘mutual resignation’ or self-giving between ourselves and Him”

Communion – Fellowship – Intimacy with God is something every Christian can experience. Because God is a person whose greatest desire for us is that we would enter and enjoy that communion with Him.

Fellowship is what God will accomplish in eternity and Intimacy is what He does want with you now!

Communion with God is worth hungering for, thinking about and actively chasing after.

Child of God, when you pursue communion with God, you will discover that He has already pursued communion with you.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 9.21.15

When life is hard, God is still here       

Psalm 6

The Psalms connect our struggles, fears and questions, with the greater realities of God’s presence with us

 

Concerns We Have In Bringing Burdens To God

1.  We are fearful God will respond as we deserve (v1)

David recognizes we never deserve God’s “grace”

Whether or not our sin caused our current problem, we are sinners

God’s help is plentiful, but it is always a grace

Knowing this, should effect how we come to God

We approach with a heart of humility, submission and gratitude

We don’t accuse God of being unfair  

Knowing we are undeserving, should never keep us from coming – otherwise no one could ever come to God!

We come with confidence in Christ, and how his life, death and resurrection allow mercy to flow

2.  We become discouraged that are needs are far beyond our strength (v2)

We think we are capable of solving most problems, but we are actually fairly helpless

We cannot fix people, stop aging, change hearts or stop evil

We all realize we need God sometimes, but we need to see that it’s a constant need

Encouragement is found when we embrace our weakness and God’s infinite strength

3.  We struggle with how long God allows our burdens to last (v3)

We expect trouble will come, but when it doesn’t go away our heart murmurs

Like David, we can be honest about how this is hard for us. God wants open communication, he wants conversation

But, he also deserves our trust, our having an eternal perspective, and our contentment in him

4.  We feel as if God has turned away from us (v4)

Even though we may “feel” this way, we shouldn’t remain in a perspective based on our feelings

We answer how we feel and what our limited eyes see – with biblical truth

We apply what the Bible tells us about God, his gospel, and his covenant with us

5.  We think God hasn’t given us enough grace to fulfill his purposes for us (v5)

David wants to praise and serve God for the sake of the people who are living

He is showing that he is not like people who only want God’s help so they can go on their way

We were created to know and worship God, but sin perverted that

Jesus saves us in order to return us to that purpose

How we come to God for help should keep that agenda in view

It Is Real That Burdens Hurt and Wear Us Down (vs 6-7)

This is part of life in a world that rebels against God’s rule

Faith and godliness stop our own sin that would bring sorrow, but it doesn’t keep us from being hurt by the world’s sin

The Psalms show that God gives space and grace to share hurts

As his people, we should be that way with one another (1 Corinthians 12:25-26)

We cannot imitate God unless we are serious about biblical community

This should be exciting! We can imitate God, impact each other and get the attention of people who haven’t see God’s power to transform

God’s grace and presence is a greater reality than our burdens (vs 8-10)

The Psalmist’s hope is based in God’s character and faithfulness

v8  God sees our burdens and understands how they affect us

v9  God does listen to us and he knows how to respond

v9  God will respond – he never ignores us

 However, v10 those who ignore God, will ‘be put to shame’

In the end they will discover all their labors wasted pride empty

Burdens and God’s grace are both real

But the realities of God are far greater and they should be what rules over our heart

Which reality rules how you live – that life is hard or that God is faithful?

SO YOU THINK YOU KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT GRACE?

DefiantGrace

“Law feels safe; grace feels risky. Rule-keeping breeds a sense of manageability; grace feels like moral vertigo. After all, if all that we are is by grace, then there is no limit to what God can ask of us”

This is how Dane Ortlund introduces his book “Defiant Grace”.

This was my first experience reading Dane Ortlund (although I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing his father preach). And I found myself happily highlighting his book more than what is normal for me. He is excellent at producing deep truths in crisp thought provoking statements.

You might think that you know all that is necessary about grace. But the reality is – all of us need to think more deeply about God’s grace. We need it for our minds and we need it for our hearts.

MOUNTAINS OF GRACE

If we have come to faith in Christ, we know grace. In fact we are immersed in grace. This grace never stops showering our lives, and more is piled up in eternity waiting for us.

Yet, somehow we all can find ourselves forgetful of this grace.

When we doubt God

When we become impatient with others

When we think we our life stinks

When we envy the lives of people who “have it all”

When we think God is asking too much of us

When we think we don’t have enough in us to serve others

When we think a sin doesn’t matter

When we wallow in self-pity

When we don’t feel like praising God

Grace is minimized when we focus on ourselves or on the temporal circumstances of this world. We say to ourselves: “I know that I have received some grace”. But compared with our frustrations, it just doesn’t seem like that much.

In those moments we not only fail to see the magnitude of grace received, we fail to perceive how insulting such an attitude is toward God who has provided and continues to provide abundant grace.

The book of Ephesians is my favorite reading on grace. The first 14 verses of chapter 1 alone present an awe inspiring description of the grace we have “in Christ”.

When grace looks a little thin to you, take the time to peek under the circumstances of life to see what mountains of grace are even now keeping you afloat. Take joy in knowing that soon all that is hidden will soon be manifest and stand forever in all its majestic glory!