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From “Just as I am” to “Just as I was”

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.

Show Mercy

In this lesson, presented, Sunday January 18th a.m. we talk about the beatitude of Mercy.

Do you show Mercy? What are some reasons why we don’t show Mercy? How can we show Mercy?

The likelihood is that everyone believes that they show Mercy, sometimes called compassion. But a good question to ask might be: Can we do a better job of showing Mercy.

There are many reasons why people do not show Mercy. One reason is most likely this: They didn’t show me mercy. But that is hardly a good reason to return the (dis)favor. Considering how much we do against God’s character and Holiness and yet still want His mercy, perhaps we should not consider revenge to be a desirable characteristic.

There many ways to show mercy. One of those is how you speak about a person when they are not there. Gossip and character assassination are definitely not merciful characteristics.  In a fight, at least, the person can start out defending themselves. When Gossip is involved, the chance to defend themselves never existed. Speak to build a person up not tear them down.

More is dealt with in the sermon.  We hope you enjoy listening to it.

Grace and Forgiveness

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

 

 

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