Tamworth Community Presbyterian Church Experiencing Christ In Community

 1 Kings 8:46-53; Ephesians 2:1-9

Riding on a bus to work one day a man overheard a conversation between two women.  These woman were talking about a book Scott Peck’s The road less traveled, and so this bloke butted asking why was she reading that book?  The woman replied a friend had given it to her and had said that it had changed her life.  He asked what the book about? “a sort of life guide book” was the reply, so this woman began flipping through the chapter titles…Discipline, Love, Grace…the man stopped her right there “What’s grace ?” “I don’t know I haven’t got that far” the woman replied and in some ways across many of our churches we ask the same question “what’s grace?  This is where we find ourselves today as we drill down into grace alone: stronger than vengeance, stronger than racism, stronger than hate[1]. As we read in Ephesians 2:8-9

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--  9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

We have a High Priest who pours out his grace and mercy when we are in need, that makes a difference in how we carry out our responsibilities. We do not have to have it all together, because we serve one who does and who helps us. Grace is the amazing gift of Godand how our sins put on sinless Jesus who was punished for them on the cross.  The result of this is that we can have our sin, our total depravity, forgiven, so we can be justified as we are declared righteous in God’s sight.  The work of Christ on the cross moves us from spiritual death to spiritual lifemeans we are no longer God’s enemies as through Christ we can be reconciled with God, that we no longer have to face his wrath; and we are instead can be saved from itwith a new heart, His Holy Spirit in us, all part of God’s gracious loving and costly gift to us

through the death and resurrection of his son.  We cannot achieve any of it on our own; just like not one of us can even contribute or even co-operate with the achievement spiritually we are dead people who are totally helpless, which is why you can’t work to receive grace, we are saved by grace alone.  The struggle for many of us our natural inclination of our hearts is that deep down we want to believe in our own humanity in our own inherent goodness.  We easily miss the gravity of our sin and we even sometimes ignore just how amazing God’s grace is to us in Jesus. In our thinking we need to make clear the Bible’s diagnosis of our sinful humanity in order to grasp our desperate need for God’s wonderful grace to rejoice at the love of God in Christ Jesus we are saved by his amazing grace alone.  “He gives more grace” is the basis of our relationship with Godis the heartbeat of your prayer life.  This is what we trust, plead, sing, delight in, that God gives us more grace is something we are to be thankful for.  As we read in James 4:6

But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proudbut shows favour to the humble.”

What God intend for us is that in some small manner, we will be light and shine on our brothers and sisters.  The DNA of the Redeemer is that at the center of the Bible’s genetic code and walked in the life of Jesus will become Christ in us.

We become grace givers to other people.[2]So what is grace not then?We need to go back in time to the late 4thCenturyto a man by the name of Pelagius taught  “by our own efforts we can save ourselves”.  Pelagius was an eminent moral person born in Britainand was one of the fashionable teachers around Romeas he supported everyone to live the monastic lifestyle.  What he said was that everyone should withdraw from society and drop into a monastery to take up a more contemplative life; and what Pelagius taught was that man was born sinless, that is untainted by Adams original sin, and so what God gave to each of us was free will that’s unimpaired to choose whether to sin or not to sin.  According o Pelagius it was possible to live and never sin the focus shifted for Pelagius just on what we did, as grace for him is what we do the earn God’s favour, and so we can freely choose it or freely reject God’s favour as we wishas holiness according to Pelagius is working up our own merit.  I hope you can see right through the problem  in what Pelagius was teaching was that humanity as innately good.  At the time of the Reformation one thousand years later than Pelagius John Calvin responded by saying that by being perfect and fully able to win God’s favour by living sinlessly is an inadequate understanding of what we are like at the very core and centre of our being, what he wrote was this  “In respects to God’s grace all we bring with us to this gift from God is our sin.  When brought into relationship with Christ all his merits are communicated to us.”[3]    That should startle usthere is nothing I can bring into a relationship with God except my sin,  as it makes me see the love of God demonstrated to us in Jesus clearer. Calvin was not only convinced  that people should understand God’s word properly and that we should also internally allow God to continue the work in us and change us.  At his end as Calvin lay dying in 1564 a poor man he said, “I depend on nothing for my salvation except God’s free choice of me.  With my whole heart I embrace God’s mercy, through which all my sins are covered.”  So it is time we asked ourselves what do we believe about grace?Do you think of yourself as sinless?What part do understand you played in your own salvation? Or did God need to co-operate with you to bring that about? Like a popular catch phrase of the 1500’s was“God will not deny his grace to those who do what they can” we know it today a different way “God helps those who help themselves” The belief in self merit has nothing what so ever to do with God’s grace it’s as far apart as can be possibly imagined.  As the Apostle Paul expresses it in Romans 3:10-18 (The Message)

Scripture leaves no doubt about it: There’s nobody living right, not even one, nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God.They’ve all taken the wrong turn;they’ve all wandered down blind alleys.No one’s living right;I can’t find a single one.Their throats are gaping graves, their tongues slick as mudslides.Every word they speak is tinged with poison.They open their mouths and pollute the air.They race for the honor of sinner-of-the-year, litter the land with heartbreak and ruin,Don’t know the first thing about living with others. They never give God the time of day.

Grace means courage. Look up and see the mercy of God.  So that when God says, “Fear not,” his aim is not that you would just calm down and experience a relative absence of fear.  He does not say, “Don’t be afraid. Everything will turn out OK.  So you can relax.”  Instead God’s grace alone means he says, “Don’t be afraid. I am with you. So be strong and courageous.”  Do you hear the difference? The deep waters have not gone away. The opposite of fear is fearlessness.  Fearlessness is active and enduring. Courage means more than freedom from anxious feelings. Endurance is a purposeful ‘abiding under’ what is hard and painful, even considering others even when you don’t feel good.[4]  God does not leave us in the dark.  The question is are you persuaded that his mercies are yours?That God is with you, and so are you persuaded that he is on-scene with powerful, necessary help.  Grace alone is the promise God will come for you. The question we are asked is are you persuaded that God will make right all wrongs and bring all joy?Sit again with Ephesians 2:8-9

8  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--  9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

Let’s pray…

David Hassan @ Tamworth Community Presbyterian Church 03/06/18

 

 

[1]Yancey, Phillip, What’s so amazing about grace  p 29-30

[2]Idea taken from David Powlinson Dynamics of Biblical Change p30.

[3]  “thus we are conformed to his sufferings, until we attain to the likeness of his resurrection.” III.XVI.8 p797.

[4]Idea and quote taken from David Powlinson “God’s grace and your suffering” p22.


Tamworth Community Presbyterian Church
EMAIL: minister@TCPC.org.au
PH: 02 6765 2865