"Flip Your Badge"
Read 1 Cor 15:3-11
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
Last week, we looked at 1 Cor 15:3-8, and we took a logical approach. Paul, takes the Gospel, this magnificent story of redemption, and boils it down. He simplifies it, and uses a very logical approach, and we came to the conclusion that you can this case for the gospel makes good logical sense. That’s fine. But we are not only logical beings.
Remember Mr. Spock from Star Trek? Spock was this character that only operated on logic. He did not have any emotion. The running joke was always how he was amazed at how humans acted on emotions. To this day, we still go back to the old Spock catch line that is highly illogical captain.
The truth is though, that God created us as emotional beings . We have feelings, we have desires, and we have emotional needs. And although Paul did break down the Gospel logically, there is a certain amount of emotion that you cannot separate from it. What I mean by that is that although there are logical reasons to accepting the gospel, we also have a certain emotional response as well. And I don’t know if we can separate the two, or if we even should.
Let me explain. Today, we are doing something different. We are using Psalm 103 throughout service. As I read through this Psalm this week, I in awe of how the Psalmists describes the Gospel. Throughout the Psalm, there are phrases and verses that describe the Gospel. Psalm 103 is in the Old Testament. Now as we have we have been talking about the Gospel we notice it is about Jesus. The Old Testament was written before Jesus. Yet what we find is that God, from the very beginning, had His gospel woven throughout His word. Form the very beginning, everything God does seems to point to this Gospel. In the introduction, I want to point out some of the parallels of Psalm 103 with the discussions we have been having about the Gospel.
Gospel in Psalm 103
The Psalm starts out in verse 1
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
The Psalm starts with an expression of Praise to Lord. All that is within me bless His Holy name! This doesn’t sound very logical. In fact what this is is a very emotional response to receiving God’s great love and mercy through the Gospel. This is an expression of joy that results from receiving the Gospel.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
Forget Not His benefits
Praise the Lord and forget not His benefits. That is what we do here! We Praise the Lord, and we remember. We talk about what the Lord has done. What is the most spectacular thing the Lord has done for us? He has given us the Gospel.
Just like Paul said In 1 Cor 15:1. Remember, 1 Corinthians 15:1? Paul writes, “Now brothers, I want to remind you of the Gospel I preached to you.” There is something that happens to us, there is something that happens to our soul when we remember what the Lord has done. We are filled with joy, we are filled with Awe, we are filled with love for the Lord, because we remember that he first loved us. Perhaps, when we were not very lovable, when we were still in our sin. I want to remind you Forget not his benefits.
What are those benefits?
who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
He forgives our sins. He forgives our sins and we walk into that new healed relationship with God our Father.
1 cor 15:3, right? This being of first importance that Christ died for our sins.
A word about the phrase-”heals all your diseases.” Listen carefully, for all those in fellowship with God the Father-through the Gospel of Jesus Christ-God heals all. Believe it or not he heals everyone who is fellowship with Him. The Lord heals however, as He pleases, and when he please but all are healed. Sometimes the Lord heals right now, miraculously. Outside of the bounds of reason, and science. Sometimes He heals in that manner just because He wants to display his glory in that particular way. Sometimes, the Lord uses all the things at his disposal to heal people. He uses the biological processes that He established to help your body heal. He uses Doctors and nurses that He created, and brought into that field. He uses their brains to diagnosis and treat. Sometimes, God decides that His grace is sufficient for us in this earthly life, and He uses that weakness to display His glory, and he waits until we cross over into His presence to heal us, and to fully display His glory.
Then the Psalm goes on. Because of our relationship with our great God and Father listen to all these other things he does, He redeems our life from the pit (v4), he crowns you with love and compassion, he satisfies your desires with good things (v5), and by the way that may not be cars and jewelry. It may be love and grace and mercy and peace and patience and kindness and gentleness and self-control.
In this relationship with the Lord, he is compassionate, and gracious. He does not treat us (those who have recieved the gospel), as our sins deserve. Instead Jesus paid that price, when he died for our sins. For as High as the heavens above is how great is his love for us. He has compassion on us.
So far this morning, we have read up to verse 16, in Psalm 103.
The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.
Weakness of Man
The Psalmist isn’t speaking very highly of people, does it. The Psalmist reminds us of our weakness. We are like grass, and although we flourish fora time, like it or not, even the wind can destroy us and then we are gone. It is really true isn’t it? We think we are strong. We do a lot of great things here, on this earth as humans, but even the greatest among us is still weak. The mighty still fall to death. In all we can accomplish that one still escapes us, ultimately we are weak.
There is a good reason for that. We learned this already, it is because of the curse. The wages of sin is death, and all sin and fall short, therefore all die. It is this common weakness that we all face. And by all, I don’t just mean us in this room. All of us, this whole planet. Even the mightiest among us is weak.
That is where we pick up, our Sermon text this morning, right in the middle of that weakness of sin.
and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
Paul calls himself “abnormally born”, and “the least of the apostles”. He even goes on to say “does not even deserve to be called an apostle”. An apostle is a very specific title. An Apostle is someone who was with Jesus. There are two main criteria for an apostle. An apostle is someone who physically walked with Jesus in His ministry while he was physically present here on earth. But there is more than that. Then out of all the people that knew Jesus, and were present for his ministry Jesus personally selected the first 12 apostles. Then after Judas betrayed Jesus, the apostles with the help of the Lord, selected Matthias to replace him.
Paul, was not with Jesus during His earthly ministry. Paul was not a Christian by any means. Paul was a devote Jew. He kept all of the jewish laws. He knew the torah, the Old testament Law inside and out, and he kept the law to the letter. He hated Christianity. He thought it was blasphemous. People were calling Jesus the Christ the Messiah, claiming he rose from the dead, and Paul saw that as a threat to Judaism. He loved judaism. Man he loved the God of Israel. He saw the Christians as immoral. They were lawbreakers. He needed to keep the religion pure right? Protect the sheepfold of Israel from the wolves and false teachers. Out with the Christians.
But see, while we were still sinners, while Paul was still sinning, while he was on his way to sin some more-and He would have done it too! He was on way to kill some more-BUT God. But Jesus-The risen Lord Jesus Christ The Lord Jesus who had risen from the dead, and had already ascended to heaven appeared to him on the road to damascus. The Lord Jesus appeared to Paul, and the Glory of the Lord temporarily Blinded Paul. And Paul became an apostle.
Not the normal path, and certainly not deserving. Imagine that for a moment. Paul thought he was fighting the enemy of God. Yet, the whole time He was fighting God. Then God calls him not only to believe in the Gospel, but to spread the Gospel? That’s why Paul says he doesn’t deserve this. In fact Paul knows that what he deserves is death.
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
But BY THE GRACE OF GOD. Grace-unmerited favor. We often talk about Justice, mercy, and grace.
Justice is getting what you deserve
Paul, was killing Christians. Justice, would be that he was put to death. A life for a life. The wages of sin is death. Justice is that we die, when we sin.
Paul also recieved Mercy.
Mercy is not getting what you deserve
God let Paul live. God did not kill Paul immediately, and then send him to hell for his sins. He let him live to receive the Gospel. God gives us mercy when we sin. God lets us live to have a chance to receive the Gospel. We do not get what we deserve-death.
Paul said he recieved grace
Grace is getting what you don’t deserve.
Paul recieved what he did not deserve-Grace-Salvation
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast.
When we receive the Gospel by faith, we are saved by grace. Then we receive what we don’t deserve. All those things from before in Psalm 103, right? He forgives all our sins, He heals our diseases, he redeems our life from the pit and He crowns us with love and compassion. He takes us out of the pit of sin, where we deserve to be left, but he takes us out, and just doesn’t stop there, but He crowns us with his love and compassion. His LOVE HIS compassion are displayed on us like a crown. His GLORY is displayed by the rescue of us from the pit because he is a God of love and compassion. Do you see that? He rescues us from the pit to display His glory!
That is what he does with Paul, and that is what Paul is saying here. Paul was this hateful person, he dod not Love his neighbor as himself. He loved being “thinking he was right”. He was a murderer, he was a sinner. He did not deserve to live, but God took him, by the power of the Gospel, by the risen Lord Jesus Christ and made him an apostle.
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
Turn your badge over
The grace that God gave Paul was not without effect-It was not in vain to use his language from the beginning of the passage. When Paul recieved the gospel something happened, he changed. And Paul does not take credit for it. Instead he he gives God the glory. Paul says, “No, I worked harder than all of them-yet Not I but the grace of God that was with me.
We love to wear badges. They are marks of who we are they are the defining things moment traits that we think make us who we are. We all have badges, they are were we came from, they are our struggles and they they what make us, us. They are our upbringing, our race, our addictions, our diseases. and we all wear them and we display them and we even see the world through them. We talk about them, let me tell you about my struggles, and I will hear about yours.
Take the popularity of wearing a ribbon for instances. There are so many colored ribbons There are red ribbons and blue ribbons, and yellow ribbons, and green ribbons, and rainbow ribbons. They tell the world who we are. They show the world how WE have overcome those struggles. We like to take credit for our badges. And when we overcome them, we proudly display them. People even write books about their badges and tell how they overcame them.
But this is not the case with Paul. Paul had badges, all kinds, persecutor, pharisee, zealot, do-gooder, hater, sinner. BUT GOD changed Paul.
Paul takes his badge, and flips it over, and on the other side it says but GOD. What if those badges had 2 sides? What if on one side they had your struggle, whatever the color, but the other side was just white and said But God.
No not I, BUT GOD. By the Grace of God. The badge is still important, but it is only important in that it displays the glory of God. When you are no longer and alcoholic because GOD healed you of alcoholism. When you are cancer survivor because GOD healed you of a cancer. When you are no longer a victim, because God made you precious in his sight by his Gospel. When you are no longer a racist an adulterer, a liar or a thief, because the grace of God recieved through faith in the gospel changed you into a child of God. The glory goes to God
Sometimes, because we live in a world of badges we get caught up in this thinking of how important I am and we forget about how the gospel healed us of our sin sick disease. SO how do we do that? How do we keep going to give the glory to God in our overcoming the badge that we wear.
We look at the prisoners.
There is popular saying and you may have heard “But for the Grace of God go I” It is said that a man named John Bradford coined that phrase from this Bible verse. John Bradford lived in the first half of the 1500’s. He was an evangelical preacher and scholar. Bradford new that his Protestant views could get him killed. And as he saw prisoners being led away to execution, Bradford would say , Ahh but for the grace God go I” . John Bradford was burned at the stake in 1555, just before the fire was lit, Bradford turned to the man being executed alongside him and said be of good comfort my brother for we shall have a merry supper with the Lord this night.
Really, we are all in the same set of circumstances in that we are all sinners. Some are bigger sinners, some are less but we are all sinners. We are all criminals sentenced to death. We all have our badges, some worse than others, but we have them all. The difference is those that have recieved the Gospel of Jesus Christ by faith, have the grace of God. SO we can look to the fellow prisoners. We can see them in their captivity. We can see their sin, we can see their badge and we can remember that but for the grace of God I. We can know that Gos has rescued us, has pardoned us, has not sentenced us to death but to by grace he has given us eternal life, and he did that TO SHOW US GLORY.
Then we can share with those prisoners, with those badge holders, the glory of God, The power of the Almighty the love and compassion that the Lord Jesus has given us. and God’s glory will be seen in all we do.
Then Paul closes this section affirming, that this is the Gospel.
Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
No matter who preaches it to you, whether it is Paul or someone else. This is what you believed, this is the Gospel. The Gospel is the redeeming resurrected message of Jesus Christ not glorifying man but glorifying God. If you hear a gospel glorifying man, that is not it. If the preaching is not talking about Jesus dying for your sins, if the preaching is not glorifying the risen Christ, but instead glorifying man and His accomplishments, it is not the gospel you have believed. The Gospel glorifies God.
And we will close with Psalm 103 verses 17 through 22, the verses that glorify God, the verses that turn the badge over from man’s struggles to God’s glory.
The Gospel Glorifies God
But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children— with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts. The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion. Praise the Lord, my soul.