United to Share God's Grace to Each Other
This morning we are looking at the part 3 of our 5 sermon series introducing and unpacking our church’s mission statement. By way of reminder, our mission statement can be found in the bulletin insert, and reads, “A church united in Christ to share God’s grace and show God’s glory.
The first sermon of the series, we looked at our union with Christ on a more personal level, and last week we considered how our union with Christ affects our union with each other – how we are a church united in Christ. This morning, we will consider how we – as a church united in Christ – can share God’s grace. Our primary focus this morning will still be within the household of faith. How we can and should share God’s grace to each other as a church united in Christ.
Our primary passage this morning will be . If you are able, please stand for the reading of God’s Word. We do this to show appreciation to God for His Word, and in recognition that these words are the most important words we can possibly hear today. says,
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Thank you, you may be seated.
So, what does it mean to show God’s grace? Or better yet, how can we be a people of grace? And why should we? I want to start with that last question and establish the answer to it, because the answer to that is foundational. Why be gracious and forgiving? Because God in Christ forgave you. I realize that I just gave away the farm, that I just put the climax of the sermon right at the beginning. But, we must keep this truth before our eyes. As we get into some of the specific ways we can share God’s grace, we can never, even for a moment, think that we are sharing something that we have not received or that we are sharing something that we received because we deserved it. So again, to be clear, our kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness flow from and must look like the kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness that we have received from God in Christ. Abounding. Quick. Repeated.Undeserving. The list goes on and on.
If you talk to unchurched people, one of the recurring complaints about “the church” is that it is full of hypocrites. Now, there are a few things about that accusation that I am not going to get in to deeply, but feel I should at least mention. There are a few reasons that the accusation that “the church” is full of hypocrites is kinda true. We do not take regenerate church membership and discipline seriously anymore, and so there isn’t as much holiness in the church as there should be. It is also true that we are not fully sanctified, so we still stumble and sin. And it is also true that people often just use hypocrisy as a cop out.
But there is one aspect of the charge of hypocrisy that I do want to address, and that is our ability to wear masks. We all still stumble into sin from time to time, and we all have various trials and struggles that may not be related to our sin, but we tend to act as if that is not true. We act – especially in church, but even when we are outside of church – like everything is okay. Perhaps you’ve heard the story about the pastor who yelled at his kids in the car all the way to church on Sunday morning, but once the front tires hit the parking lot, there was nothing but smiles and happiness on the family’s faces.
Now, we will sometimes talk about our physical maladies or the problems of other people that is affecting us, but we very rarely are willing to drop the façade and let others see what we are struggling with. I suggest that the reason we aren’t honest and open about our struggles is because we fear we will not be met with grace, with kindness, or with tenderheartedness.
Some of this goes back to what we talked about last week. We fear that people will talk about us behind our backs and we will be gossiped about. We fear that people will use our struggles and weaknesses against us. But as we saw last week, that is not the way of Christ’s church. We saw the warnings about disunity and how not to act, but now I want to show through a number of passages how we should respond to each other in our struggles. And these passages are listed in the outline if you want to look them back up at home.
says, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” – So, how do we deal with someone who is caught in sin? With gentleness, not harshness. With humility, knowing that it is only by the grace of God that we aren’t caught in yet even greater sin. We help each other with those burdens.
says, “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” – See the focus on unity in Christ and how that flows into kindness and at the foundation of that is the idea that as God has forgiven us, so too ought we to forgive.
says, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” – Again we see this love, sympathy and tenderheartedness with humility.
Likewise, says, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” – Gracious speech. And that one wasn’t in your outline, so you can might want to jot it down.
commands us to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
Look at which says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” – God comforts us so that we might be able to comfort others.
So often, when someone is struggling with sin, they will try to fight the sin in private, all alone because they are afraid that they will be met with judgement instead of gracious speech. Why do they think that? Frankly, probably experience has taught them that. They’ve heard the way we talk about certain types of sin and so they could never publicly admit to struggling with that.
Maybe a hypothetical situation will better explain what I mean. Suppose there is a young man who is struggling with pornography. He knows that it is sinful, and he wants victory over that sin, but he’s scared to tell anyone about his struggle because a year ago, he overheard two church members talking after church about how disgusting porn is and how gross people who use porn are. Because of their ungracious speech, the young man never seeks help and continues for years in the grip of sin.
Do you see how the church member’s speech was ungracious and not humble? Let’s suppose instead, that the conversation the young man heard was something more along the lines of, “Oh, I’m really concerned about the role pornography has in our culture. I pray often for those who are caught in its snare and hope they can find deliverance from it and that God will protect me from that sin.” The young man, instead of fearing that he will be judged as gross and deplorable, now knows that there are people in his church who are rooting for him and his deliverance and humbly praying for him. Now, he believes that he can share his struggle with someone and he will be met with grace and gentleness.
I’m not suggesting that the young man should tell everyone at the church that he struggles with pornography, but he should seek out some Godly council and get help in conquering his sin. Sin is much like mold. It grows in the dark and dank recesses of our hearts, and to kill it, we need to open the doors and let in fresh air and the light of the Gospel.
Our church should be a safe place for people to be honest about their brokenness. The big buzz word today is “authenticity”. But we should be authentic. We should take off the masks and confess our sins to one another as we were told in . Emmanuel Baptist Church should be a place where those who struggle with pornography and those who struggle with gossip are free to be honest about their struggles. We should be a people who are equally gracious to those who struggle with same sex attraction and those who struggle with addiction and those who struggle with judgmentalism and those who struggle with having a critical attitude.
Now I want to be clear about something. I am not saying that we are welcoming to licentiousness and sin. We call sin, sin, but we are gracious to those struggling with it. The person who is embracing sin, or who makes it their identity or who shrugs it off like it is no big deal is not a person struggling with sin. I am not advocating lawlessness or antinomianism. I am not saying we embrace sinful attitudes or sinful ideas or sinful actions. I am saying that we embrace sinful people who are struggling to shed their sinful attitudes, ideas, and actions. And I am humbly suggesting that we have not been great at doing that.
What about struggles that are not sin related? Again, I think “the church” does not have a great track record of bearing each other’s burdens in this area. Where can people who struggle with depression or anxiety or schizophrenia or any number of other mental health problems turn? Where can those with learning disabilities or ADHD turn? Where can the abused and downtrodden turn? Make no mistake, hurting people, people who are struggling, will turn to something to try to mask or remove their pain. Where can they turn? Where else but to the body of Christ. To a church united in Christ to share God’s grace. Grace that we have be showered in so that we can share it with others. But they will never turn to us if our speech - which includes our facebook profiles - if our speech does not reflect the grace we’ve recieved. Our lives - our speech should give people a clear view of who Christ is.
We could spend years delving into how to deal with all the various struggles, but that isn’t my point. My hope is to lay groundwork, a foundation that we realize that we should be the type of people whose language is so consistently gracious that people know that they can share their struggles with us regardless of how “bad” it is.
I have been advocating all morning that we should share our struggles with each other. That we should be authentic and not wear a mask, so to avoid hypocrisy, I want to share a struggle I have. I am not sharing this for any kind of sympathy or anything like that. I’m sharing this, first of all to lead by example. Secondly, to let other people know that they aren’t alone in their struggle. And thirdly, to illustrate that you never really know what other people are going through.
With that being said, I want you to know that I struggle with depression. Sometimes deep, dark depression. It isn’t constant, right now, I’m doing well, but about a month ago, I was not doing well. I struggled deeply over the course of a month. Fortunately, I have godly friends who I can be honest with and who I know will give me good, biblical council who I can turn to when I’m struggling. Again, this is not to garner sympathy – I don’t want it, but I do want you to know, brothers and sisters, that whatever your struggle is whether it is sin or something else, there are people whom you can turn to. And should turn to.
Here is another benefit of being a church that shares God’s grace. If we are all honest about our struggles or even some of our past struggles that God has delivered us from, that gives all of us a deep well of experience from which to draw from. Scripture says that there is nothing new under the sun, so it is very likely that the thing you are struggling with is the same thing someone else sitting just a few pews over is struggling with or has struggled with. So, you can lean on each other. Share each other’s burdens.
I want to give a few words of caution. If someone comes to you with their struggle, please, please, please respond in grace. It is very difficult to be honest and remove a mask when those masks have nearly grafted onto our skin. This is especially true if they are confessing sin and even more so if they are confessing sin they have committed to you and are seeking forgiveness.
When a person is real and honest with you, they are taking – at least in their own minds – a huge chance. They are trusting you. Likewise, please, please, please, make sure that the council and advice you give is biblical. Don’t give trite phrases – those aren’t helpful. If you don’t know how to help them, take that person to someone who does, who can help. Also, in your gracious response to sinful struggles, do not minimize the seriousness of the sin. The sin is real and serious, and they want and need help defeating it, they don’t want or need help searing their conscience about it.
Like I said before, we could spend a huge amount of time talking about how to help people who are struggling and, but that isn’t the point of this one sermon that is already becoming too long. I have one last thing I want to make explicit. If you are struggling with anything, and you don’t know who you can talk to, I want you to know that you can talk to me. My cell phone number is on the front of the bulletin for a reason. You should know that I will be honest with you and will not help you to excuse your sin, but also – by the grace of God – I will not respond by throwing stones at you either. I will, with Christ’s help be gracious and point you to the One who is more gracious still.
I recognize that our last few sermons have been targeted primarily to the church and to church members, but If you are here this morning, and have never trusted in Christ, I want to speak to you just a minute. I want you to know that no amount of mask wearing can hide your sinfulness from God. I want you to know that God takes your sin very seriously. It is an offense to His Holy nature and justice demands it be payed for. I want you to know that you must repent of your sin and trust Christ, and if you do, you will be met with grace that is incomprehensible. If you are struggling with what all that means or if you are struggling with knowing how to be saved or whether you are really saved, I want you to know that no one is going to throw stones at you for asking questions and wrestling honestly with these issues.
Brothers and sisters, fellow members of the household of faith, please do not struggle alone. If you are struggling with sin, get help, swallow your pride and take off your mask. If God has been gracious to you in helping you conquer your struggles, do not hide that. Proclaim God’s goodness and mercy toward you and use that experience, that grace, that mercy to serve your brothers and sisters who may be struggling with similar things.
We will now be moving into a time of worship through response. We believe that any time we hear the Word of God, we respond either in worship or in rebellion. Please do not rebel and try to hide your sin behind fig leaf-masks. Worship God for his mercy towards us and His forgiveness in Christ. I will be on the front row worshipping with you. If you need to talk or pray with someone, I’d be happy to do that, just come up and get me. Or if you want to talk after the service, I’m happy to stick around to do that as well. The front is also always open to pray as well.