Grace!

June 23, 2019

Grace!
Romans 5:1-8
Luke 15:1-3 & 11-24

 

A student... in a seminary class... stood to his feet and announced to the professor, “I do not believe in God!”

 

The professor, completely unfazed, asked the student to “describe this God that you don’t believe in?” After the student described a hateful, unloving, and vengeful God, the professor replied, without hesitation: “I don’t believe in that God either. My God is a God of love.”

 

I know... I talk a lot about God’s love for us... and the fact that you and I are deeply, wholly loved by our Maker.  God’s Word tells us that His love is both eternal (Psalm 136) and everlasting (Jeremiah 31:3)... and I, for one, don’t think that you and I can talk about it enough!

 

In fact, IF the only thing you ever get, from all my sermons, all my efforts at teaching God’s word... if all you remember is that God loves you... that’s enough... I will have accomplished my task...

 

God’s love is faithful... unfaltering... unwavering.

 

The Bible (not me... the Bible, God’s Holy and authoritative Word) tells us without mincing words, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). In other words, love is more than an attribute, or virtue, of God... Love is God’s nature.

 

And you and I simply cannot hear that enough in a day & age that seems determined to only stress hate and divisiveness. Not only because you and I need to be reminded of God’s love for us... but because our understanding and acceptance of God’s love is foundational to both our relationship with God, and one another.

 

Do you ever truly stop, and actually consider the ramifications... the implications... the magnitude... of God’s love for us?

 

No matter who you are... and no matter what you’ve done, or what you haven’t done... God loves you!  

And nothing... nothing in this life or the next... can ever separate you and me from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

 

Like the father in the Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son... the son who’d “squandered his [life, his wealth, his inheritance] on wild living”... God longs for us to return to him, despite our failings... our wanderings... our shortcomings.  He wants to shower his grace, and love, and mercy on all of us!  He longs to celebrate when you & I return.

 

I imagine the father of the Prodigal, waiting at the window, in the doorway, on the porch... always looking, hoping, longing, and praying for his son’s safety... and return.  And when it happened... when the son “came to his senses” - the father didn’t just casually walk out of the house to begrudgingly greet his wayward son.  The father didn’t keep his distance, or give him the cold shoulder... he didn’t scold him or “take him out behind the woodshed.” The father dropped everything he was doing... and ran!  He ran... throwing his arms around his son before the boy could get the words of repentance and apology out of his mouth... and welcomed him home, offering him the best of what he had to offer. For this son who’d been lost, was now found. 

 

The Jewish people, the nation of Israel, lived under the Law of Moses: the Old Testament Law. And to break just one Law was to violate the whole law.  And the Prodigal (or Lost) son, had surely broken pretty much every law you could imagine.  

 

But despite all that... despite all the hurt, and pain... all the embarrassment and shame this son had brought upon his father... the father’s love remained.   

 

What an image... a reflection of God’s love for each of us...

 

God’s Word tells us in 1 Peter 3:18, “Christ died for [our] sins ONCE FOR ALL, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring [us] to God.”  ONCE FOR ALL means the saving grace of God in Christ is available to everyone, through faith. One sacrifice... made for all.

 

And Romans 5 reminds us, that, “at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly... [and that] God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

 

Christ died for the ungodly! While we were still in our sin... Christ died for us!

 

That’s amazing news! God’s grace is for all of us... everybody!  Every single person under the heavens can come to God in the same way: through faith in the grace of God, through Jesus Christ.

 

Does “everybody” include short people? Yes.
Does it mean criminals? Yep. 
Does it mean rich people and poor people? No doubt. 
Does it include people who vote like us? Yes it does.
Does it include people who don’t vote like us? Duh.
Does it include gay people? Newsflash... Yes.
What about gluttons? Yes.
Liars? Yes.
Politicians? Yes.

 

It means everybody. Everyone! God’s grace is available to you.

 

The problem is, we’re used to conditional love, aren’t we?  We tend to love conditionally (and others tend to love us conditionally), so we can’t imagine God being any different.  So we try to place stipulations on God’s love. God will love you... IF... Jesus will love you... IF you do this, or if you don’t do that.

 

I saw a meme last week that Ann Dreyer (Pat Sprayberry’s sister, who lives in Texas) posted on Social Media. The meme read:

 

    *A liberal church says... you’re welcome here and you don’t have to clean up your life.
    *A legalistic church... says you’re not welcome here until you clean up your life.
    *Jesus says you are welcome here and I will change your life from the inside out. 

 

That’s grace.

 

It’s not your job... nor is it my job... to change anyone.  It’s our job to point others to Christ.  It’s our job to share with others the love of God in Christ.  It’s our job to show God’s grace in the way we act... in the things we say... and do. 

 

You and I simply cannot understand what it means to have a relationship with God without understanding grace. Because without grace, we can’t even have a relationship with God to begin with!

Grace is the heart of our faith. Grace is the cornerstone of Christianity.  It’s the foundation of following Christ and being a believer. 

 

And the grace of Christ is always sufficient...

 

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access - by faith - into this grace - in which we now stand...

{For} while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

 

This is the word of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God.

 

Amen.

 

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