We often sing a song entitled “Just as I am”. The song conveys the idea that Jesus accepts us in any condition that we find ourselves. This is a true statement and yet we need to look a little deeper.
Probably one of the best examples of accepting a person “just as I am” would be the apostle Paul. A devout Jewish believer and a diligent persecutor of the Church, Paul was given an up close and encounter with the Risen Lord. Ananias was sent to Paul (then known by the name Saul) to heal the blindness and share with Paul what it was that the Lord had in mind for his life. (Read Acts 9, 16, 22)
The thing worth noting, of course, is that Paul did not continue to live his life persecuting the Church. Quite the opposite, he began to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah and completely changed his actions. As he puts in in Galatians 2:20:
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.English Standard Version
Today, it is not uncommon to see those who say that they are Christians but whose lives have not changed. They say that they are saved and are glad that God saved them but they don’t attend services, they don’t read their Bibles, they don’t help promote the cause of Christ. Their dress, language, and entertainment are aligned not with modesty, edification, and purity but rather aligned with the ego, pride, and sensuality of the world. If you were to ask them what is different about their life now as compared to before, they wouldn’t be able to answer you.
A few years ago, I ran into an acquaintance of mine who claimed to be a Christian. He appeared to be bothered, so I asked him how he was doing. He said that his family was upset with him because he was living with his girlfriend. He seemed upset at such judgement. Then he said “But they don’t know how the Spirit is leading me!” Obviously, he was under the impression that God would make an exception for his admitted and unrepentant immorality.
It is the greatest news the the world has every heard. God will save sinners. He will save murderers, thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, swindlers, the envious, gossips, foolish, faithless, ruthless, prideful, rapists, molesters, and in other sinner whether he engages in small sins or big sinners (I speak in human terms) HOWEVER, even though God will save such a person, he does not and will not continue to extend His glorious grace to the one who will not change his life.
We preach the Gospel to all. We are not to judge who will and who will not respond to the call of obedience. Those that respond and obey the Gospel message are baptized into Christ, they put on Christ. They submit to the waters of baptism a repentant sinner who believes the message and come up out of the waters a Saint, granted mercy from God “by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5; Acts 22:16)
As Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 6:11 “and such were some of you…”. Notice the past tense. “WERE” not “ARE” or “continue to be.” We are now to be friends of God not friends of the world. Because as James says:
James 4:4 ESV You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
The life of a Christian needs to move away from what the life of the sinner was in the world and towards what the life of a saint is in Christ. God will save any and every sinner just as he is so that we can truly sing the song:
“Just as I am, Thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse relieve; because thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come! I come!”
But then we want to start living and singing: “Just as I was, you received, welcomed, pardoned, cleansed, relieved….” Let us not continue to be of the world, rather let us live as lights among the world in which we shine as an example of God fulfilling His promise in us and the hope that He can do the same for them.
In Genesis chapter 6, we are introduced to Noah and the promised flood to come. As always, there are many things that we can learn from this chapter but we are going to look at three today. Please comment below with the things in that chapter that stand out for you.
God’s people and the World’s people don’t mix.
It has been said that if you put a boat in the water, it works perfectly. But, if you put the water in the boat, you have a problem.
In this passage, the Sons of God are not just finding the daughters of man attractive but they are taking them as wives and producing children. When those that are righteous allow those who are not righteous to have such an influence on their children (as all mothers do), it should be no surprise when in a short period of time that the wickedness grows. It grows so much that scripture says ‘that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually’ (verse 5).
That is a lot of evil thinking among people who live to be 600 to 900 years old.
Why is it that the Sons of God wanted the daughters of man? Verse two says that they were attractive. I don’t think that this is to say that the daughters of God were unattractive but I imagine that the daughters of man were more willing to emphasize their feminine characteristics, perhaps with braiding of hair, gold or attire, the very thing that woman who seek to please God will DE-emphasize according to Peter.
1Pe 3:3 ESV Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—
There is little doubt that a worldly woman will more often than not turn a godly man from service to God. Even a wise man like Solomon fell to this trap.
1Ki 11:4 ESV For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.
The good news is that a godly woman can turn hearts to God and build up the strength of those already serving God. Sons of God should look for wives among others who will follow God with their whole heart and be more like the worthy woman of Proverbs 31. While there are exceptions (Rahab and Ruth stand out here) most of the time that worthy woman is going to found among the Daughters of God.
Noah found favor in God’s sight-Noah walked with God.
Just like his great grandfather, Enoch, Noah walked with God. Verse 9 tells us that he was a righteous man and blameless in his generation, that he walked with God. These three things are key to why Noah found favor in God’s sight. When the world is finally destroyed, who will be the ones who are saved? It will be those who walk with God. Those who are righteous. We, of course, will not stand in our own righteousness but rather the righteousness of Christ.
Php 3:9 ESV and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—
Noah did not stand in his own righteousness either, but his faith, just like all who walk with God, will be counted as righteousness through Jesus Christ.
Noah did all that God commanded.
The book of Hebrews tells us that by Faith Noah took God’s warning seriously and built that ark. Faith is used in Hebrews 11, as it generally is, of trusting obedience. Noah believed and trusted God and then obeyed what God told him to do. We don’t know what kind of wood Gopher wood was but assuming it was Cedar wood, then Noah did not build the ark out of Elm or Pine….He built it to the given dimensions and also with the right number of doors (one) and windows (one) and gathered the animals God sent him.
He did all that God commanded him. When we do things by faith we do them the way God tells us to, not the way we want to or His way if it is convenient for us.
There are many points to make from Genesis 6. What other lessons have you found in this chapter that warns of the flood to come?
Over the last several weeks we have been studying the idea of “Living by Faith”!
We say this as if a person has a choice about “Living by faith”. In reality, a person always lives by faith….the faith they have in what they believe.
Some people SAY they have faith in God or God’s word but they don’t believe that this “faith” requires any action. In other words they DO believe they DON’T have to do anything, therefore, their life shows no difference in their action.
A person’s actions will eventually align with their true belief. If you believe God is real and will judge us, then your life will reflect that.
There are two types of faith that James talks about. Faith with works and faith without works. Which one will save you? That is what we discussed in Sunday’s lesson.
You can hear it here.
I always like it when a Scripture generates an idea or a thought and in it’s own way teaches me, reminds me, and confirms to me that there is much to be learned by constantly reading, or in this case listening to, the Bible. As I was preparing to go through Revelation on my CD, Jude is the first track. I almost skipped by it but thought “why not listen to it”….I mean, it is only one chapter and it is part of God’s word too. This verse struck me:
For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jud 1:4)
Jude wanted to write to them about other things but he found it necessary to remind his audience that sometimes it is necessary to contend for the faith.
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jud 1:3)
You see, sometimes, we need to stand up for the faith. However, Jude was not writing about those outside the group of believers but some of those from within. Which is not to say that they were necessarily much better than those in the world, but it is to say that the truly faithful had not been paying much attention; they had let their guard down.
These people who Jude mentioned were Perverting the Grace of God. Other versions use “turning” or “converting” the Grace of God. Which is to say, sadly, that God’s grace can be perverted. How does one go about doing that? By turning it into what it never was: A blanket covering for all sin, a get out of jail free card, a blank check.
You see, if you properly understand the doctrine about grace, you will come to realize that God is very willing to forgive us for our sins. In fact, to the Christian, we have the blood of Jesus to forgive us our sin as John says in 1 John 1:9
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (1Jn 1:7)
Or as Paul says:
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Rom 8:1)
Those who pervert the grace of God focus on the blood that cleanses or the lack of condemnation but tend to omit or deemphasize the other part of the same verse: Walking in the light or walking after the spirit. They do this so that they can focus on the freedom that is in Christ and take it to the extreme.
Jude says that they convert the grace of God in to sensuality, an excuse to enjoy the pleasures of this life. “Oh I can go forward Sunday and ask for forgiveness” this person thinks. Or simply pray for God’s forgiveness.
One day at a previous job, I had the occasion to walk by a co-worker who looked a bit sad. I knew him more from some of the Bible studies that had taken place at work during lunchtime. I asked him what was wrong and he told me that his family was not so happy with him. Why not you ask? Well, it seems that they were not happy that he was living with his girlfriend and they were getting on his case about it. Sounds reasonable, right?
However, his next statement shocked me: His defense was “They just don’t know how the Spirit is leading me!” What was that?
You know, I really don’t try to make judging statements but I can say one thing for real sure: God’s Spirit was not leading him into a relationship of fornication. Try as he might, I know, and any rational person knows, that God is consistent in His character and the character that He wants from his followers. This co-workers action was neither walking in the light nor was it walking by the Spirit.
We need to be on guard about those who would promote this life of sensuality while saying that God’s grace will take care of it all.
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (Jas 4:6-7)
God gives grace. Grace is a word that should not be so mysterious. A recent sermon that I did talked about this topic. Grace is favor, it is granted and not earned. Did you hear? God gives grace!
This positive statement stands opposed to statement of those who push God toward jealousy with their friendship of the world. It should be known that ‘world’ in this context is not the people (as in “God so loved the world”) but rather the principles of the world which are against God’s principles. Those who are proud and prideful stand against God and wish to do things their way.
God will give favor but only to those who are humble. Consider these examples:
Two thieves on the cross. One repented the other continued his tirade. One went to Paradise, the other did not.
Two apostles: One betrayed Him, the other denied Him. Judas was sorrowful but in his sorrow did not see a way to get back to God; he hung himself. Peter was sorrowful and wept bitterly, God raised him up to preach the Gospel. Judas was, of course, wrong. God would have forgiven and restored him. Paul, is a clear example of that fact, being called from his persecuting ways to preach the Gospel. Paul humbled himself and repented. Did you hear? God gives Grace!
That grace is given the humble and not the proud is so often taught in the Scriptures, you almost don’t need book, chapter, verse but still one of my favorite passages is Matthew 18 where Jesus talks about the need for us to humble ourselves like children in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
One of the characteristics of children is their humility. They trust authority and will yield to its call. One of the characteristics of young adults is that they tend to rebel against authority and exert their own will. Later, adults (but still young) may realize that their parents were right and understood a thing or two. The newer relationship is a better one when that happens.
In a way, we all go through a phase like that spiritually speaking. As children, we trust God and can sing songs like “Jesus loves me” at the top of our little lungs, loving God with everything we understand to be love. Sometimes we grow to think, we are self-sufficient and that God, our Father, doesn’t know what He is talking about. What we fail to realize is that, to God, we will always be children. Also, there will never be a time in our existence where we are not His children. The fact is, we need God more as adults than we ever did as toddlers or young children.
The Good news is that when we submit ourselves to God, Satan runs the other way. He is not stronger than God, our humility and willingness to choose God is something that he cannot fight. Jesus did that when he responded “It is written…” to each of Satan’s temptations. We can do it too, if we will only say “it is written…God gives Grace to the humble!”
To me the word Grace has had a kind of mysterious flavor. Something that belongs in the ‘better felt than told’ category. However, the Bible, at least the New Testament, uses the word many times. There is a lot to be said on the topic of Grace and this morning’s sermon does not touch on everything ( how could it?) but it does make a start into an area that I think many Christians do not understand.
Using Matthew 18:21-25 and the parable of the unforgiving servant, we will see at least three things that we should note about Grace. One is God’s grace for us, its enormity and magnitude. Trying to understand that will give you a headache and send goosebumps up and down your spine like standing in a glass floored elevator on the 98th floor. Second is our reaction to God’s grace and how we let it affect our lifes–or don’t, as the case may be. Third is the grace that we show to others.
Grace is a word that, in most cases, can be translated ‘favor’; “unmerited favor’ is a favorite substitute also. It appears about 123 times in the Bible (depending on versions) and about 117 of those are in the NT. Grace is not always called grace in the scriptures but the concept of it is found in things like mercy, forgiveness, compassion, leniency and the like.
Paul uses it in every one of his epistles (unless you include Hebrews in that list) at the beginning, he wishes God’s grace and at the end he does the same. Amazing!
The point of the parable, if you don’t want to take the 30 minutes for the sermon, is that when we are forgiven so very much by a Holy God, the small offenses that our brother give to us should be easily and gladly overlooked.
I think it is worth noting that the text seems to imply this is for our brothers. However, the concept of this being for our brothers should not lead us to the extreme of being cruel with those who are not. It should, instead, emphasize the absolute idea that in relationship to fellow Christians, forgiveness is an over riding principle and must be practiced.
In other words, we too must show Grace if we wish to have Grace shown to us.
the lesson is linked here