The Expectancy of Grace
The Expectancy of Grace
How many of you remember flannel graph. Back before kids were entertained by PowerPoint presentations, our Sunday School teachers would use a piece of flannel strapped to a board. And for each Bible story that they taught they would use character and props that could be somehow, magically, stuck to this board. So, if the story was about lets say…David and Goliath. Well, there would be one flannel graph for David and one for Goliath. And there would probably be one of a big stone that would move across the flannel…with the help of the teacher of course and strike Goliath in the head. Then, Goliath would be ripped off of the board to indicate David’s victory. Anyone remember this? Well, I bring all of this up, because the passage of Scripture we are going to be in this morning probably is not available in flannel graph. It is not Scripture that you will find on a coffee mug or bumper sticker.
While I was still in college, I was asked to preach at a church in Abilene. So I began to pray about what God would have me to preach on. Well it just so happened that the Sunday I was preaching at this church was, “Family Sunday.” So, the normal preacher I guess would preach about family values or something to that effect. But, God had laid a separate story on my heart and it was the passage and scripture that says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Again, this was family Sunday. Needless to say I haven’t been invited back yet.
But again this morning God has laid on my heart a passage of Scripture that is not popular. But, its message is one that I believe can speak to everyone in this room. Whether you are a Christian or not or on whatever level of Spiritual maturity you are on. It is a message that all of us need to be reminded of often. So let’s read Luke 13:1-5
At this time there was a group of people around Jesus who began telling him this story. Now at this time, it was not unusual for people to come up to Jesus, tell him something, or ask him something and then eagerly await his response. This is the man who has gone around this area healing people, calling people to come back to life, and saying just amazing things. So I’m sure if Jesus were here today, we would have some questions about life and justice. And this is the situation that these people present to Christ. Apparently there was a situation where Pilate had killed some Galileans, possibly priests who were making sacrifices, and mixed their blood with that of the sacrifices that were being made. Now, it is easy for us to hear that story and say, “Yeah that’s bad but life goes on.” But to those who held the sacrifices to be holy and sacred, this was a huge tragedy. It was a great insult.
It is not clear in the text but this group of people must have been presenting this to Christ to ask his opinion, probably expecting that he would condemn it as a tragedy and injustice or he would explain to them how these Galileans had committed some great offense and thus deserved to die this way. But his response is quite different. He says, (Verse 2)
Jesus does not offer an explanation or denounce this as injustice or point out the great sins that these people must have been committing to deserve such a death. Rather, he turns the tide and he puts it back on the people who are asking. “Do you think that they were worse than everyone else, and this is why this happened?”
Then Jesus brings up a similar story of some who were walking by the tower of Siloam, which was a guard tower, and the tower fell and killed eighteen of them. Again, Jesus asks, (vs. 4b )
In both cases he answers his own question saying, “No! But unless you repent you will also perish in the same way.” Wow!
So what does this mean? Well there are several things that we can pull out of this text.
First of all, Jesus points out the faulty thinking, I like to call stinking thinking, that we have. We seem to believe that if a person is suffering in any way, it must be because of some great sin in their life. Calvin said, “whenever someone meets with any calamity, we condemn them as wicked and reprobate persons. On the other hand, every man that is not sorely pressed by the hand of God slumbers at ease in the midst of his sins, as if God were favorable and reconciled to him.” Sometimes it seems as if those who have great public sins prosper. So we assume that if you are sick or suffering you are drowning in sin and if you are prosperous, then you must be a good ole boy. I remember one of my cousins, who had a cold, telling me that someone told him that if he would confess the sin in his life, his cold would be healed. This type of poor thinking can ruin people’s lives. I knew a girl who had a terminal illness who was putting a lot of merit into this idea, but I wonder what happens to someone who has reached a point where they have confessed every sin and even some sins they did not do, just in case, and yet they are still sick or suffering.
In another instance found in John 9 the Bible says,
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" 3 Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.
Jesus says that it was not his sin nor his parent’s sin that caused hid blindness but it was so that God could be glorified. So, does sin cause suffering in our lives…sure it does, Annanias and Saphirah sure would say so, who lied about their tithe and God struck them dead. But suffering can also be because God wants to teach us and grow us and so that his power might be displayed.
So, Jesus says that it is not because these people had some great sin that these things happened. But Jesus said that if you don’t repent, you will perish in the same way. Someone said, “We must not rejoice at the just punishment of others, but rather we should be instructed by it to repent.” And I think that is part of Jesus’ point. Now honestly, if we were there when Jesus said this, we would probably ask, “Why do I deserve to perish?” We might begin to wonder what great sin that we had committed that would cost us our lives. Well, its not what sin, but that we have sinned. The Bible says that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” The Bible also says that “the wages, or result of sin, is death.”
This morning if you are here and not a Christian, this is the reason why we Christians are here. By God’s grace we came to the understanding that because we have done wrong things, that we have sinned, we deserve death. You might think that is a dismal understanding. I once shared Christ with a boy at VBS….
The, “but” in Romans 6:23 is huge…”The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” So, we have come to the understanding that because of our sin we deserve death, but we have also accepted the free gift of God. By God’s grace, Jesus has died in our place so that we might not die, but that we would live forever in the awesome and wonderful presence of Christ.
So, we ask the question, why should I repent, or why am I going to perish? Because of sin! Because of Adam and Eve. God told Adam not to eat the fruit of a particular tree or “You will surely die.” But they did indeed eat from that fruit and by one man sin entered into the world and none of us are immune from it.
Jesus does not decry the plight of the Galileans or that of those eighteen at Siloam as injustice, but rather he says, “The question you should be asking is, Why did it not happen to me?”
People die everyday around the world, and sometimes the way they die is unjust, think of those in Darfur who are being slaughtered by the thousands as the world for the most part sits idly by. The way they are dying and what is happening is unjust. But, we cannot claim that God is unjust when a person dies. For all have sinned, and thus all deserve death.
That’s sometimes a hard pill to swallow, because we have come to have the expectancy of grace. We have come to always expect grace over justice.
In the Old Testament there is recorded the story of Nadab and Abihu, who were the priestly sons of Aaron. They were in charge of the temple and sacrifices offered to God. Well on one particular day they decide to offer what the Bible calls, “An unauthorized fire before the Lord.” Whatever it was, they were disgracing the altar, which was one of the most holy things to the Hebrew people. And immediately God sends out a fire and it consumes them and they die. Aaron runs to Moses probably to cry, “Why did God do this, he is unjust!” And all Moses says is, “This is what the LORD has said, 'Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.'" And Aaron held his peace.”
God is not injust, but rather we have the expectancy of grace. So rather than being truly amazed and astonished and humbled by God’s grace, we are amazed and astonished when God is just. It should be the exact opposite.
My point this morning is not to make you afraid of God and make you see him as a guy in the sky with a big fly swatter who swats at anything that moves when he doesn’t want it to. But we need to have a true understanding of God. I’m not talking about “The power of positive thinking…” but just understanding all aspects of God, not just the ones we think are pretty and thus deserve our attention. Our God is just and our God is holy, and we should fear him (like a power line), with awe and wonder. But the reality is, is that we cannot truly understand and be amazed at God’s grace unless we understand his justice. What’s so amazing about the death of Christ unless we realize that he bore the wrath of God on his shoulders in my place and in your place? No one needs a savior who doesn’t deserve death. Jesus point in the passage we are looking at this morning was not to scare these individuals, but to change their way of thinking from, “Why did this happen?” to “Why did this not happen to me?” And the answer is, because of God’s grace.
If you are a Christian this morning, then you know that your eternity with Christ is secure, but that is no license to abuse grace and to make it cheap. But, we do this everyday: Okay, well I am gonna gossip a little with these people because I have to tell them this, and yeah gossip is sin, but God’s grace. Or men, cause I know most of you were thinking that must be for the ladies, but men, flipping through the channels late at night and you stop on one and you think “I probably shouldn’t be watching this, its gonna cause me to lust and have impure thoughts but hey, God’s grace.” That’s cheapening God’s grace to make it the supernatural get-out-of-jail free card. And that is not what grace is. Paul writes in Romans 5:20, “But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” So, if there is sin, there is grace to cover it, there is never going to be too much sin and not enough grace. But Paul goes on to write, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” So is it okay to sin so that there will be more grace, God’s word says “Absolutely not!”
A great Christian author tells this story about an experience while he was a professor in college. “Sproul story.”
We too come to expect God’s mercy and His grace, rather than his justice.
We kinda get spoiled, like children do. Have you ever been into a toy store. I personally love to walk through toy stores. I don’t think it really matters how old you are but if you walk down a toy aisle and you see those toys that say, “try me” or “press here”. I’m 23 years old and I will walk down that aisle and press poke and grab every toy I see. It just draws you in and mesmerizes you until you here a kid screaming, “but mommy you always buy me a toy.” And because this time she isn’t that child is throwing a fit. The child is spoiled and expects a toy. We expect grace and mercy and are stunned when God is just.
This is my challenge to you, if we changed our way of thinking, and we began to expect God’s justice his grace and mercy would be so much more precious to us. Truly we should wake up each morning and thank God that we are alive and that we have shelter and food and that we have salvation because we understand that it is only by God’s grace and by God’s mercy. Not like the Pharisees who walked around saying out loud, “Thank you God that I am not as bad off as this homeless blind man over here.” But understanding that God holds my life in his hand and the only reason he continues to hold is because of his grace and his mercy. And then truly we could say and actually believe and understand it: “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I am found was blind but now I see. Through many dangers, toils and snares...we have already come. T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far...and Grace will lead us home.”
We indeed our beneficiaries of God’s grace but God calls us to be holy as he is holy. We are saved by grace, but God calls us to move forward.
2 Peter 1:3-5
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness , through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
We have everything we need for godliness and holiness…we need to go there. How many of you have ever felt stuck. You want to know God more, but you just seem to not be able to get over the hump. Or there are those here who may be coasting Christians. Coasting means being at the highest point and letting go and letting gravity do its work. We try to do that with our Christianity, after salvation we think we will just coast on into heaven. How do you know if you are here? Well, if someone asks you what God has done for you, and you still revert back to the same experience you always share. Or if I asked you, what is God doing in your life right now…you might have to think back a ways…for some, years back. We are saved by grace, and we live by grace, but we need to “work out our salvation” as Paul says. This is not legalism, so that we get out our Bibles and a piece of paper and start writing down all the does and don’ts that we find. For, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Not so that we can go back to rules and regulations. But He as called us to holiness and has given us the things that we need to get there. My friends if we will stop expecting grace and once again be wowed and amazed by it and begin seeking after Christ, our relationship with him will grow and increase. God has given us all that we need to do that.
For those of you who may not have a relationship with Christ, I want you to hear this too, because our God is awesome. And though we deserve death because of our sin, by his grace Christ has taken our place. He was beaten, his back was flogged, his beard was plucked out, a crown of thorns was shoved on his head, his hands and feet were nailed to two wooden posts and he was raised up in the air to be humiliated by all. Why? So I wouldn’t have to. That is grace and if you will believe and accept that Christ took your place you can have eternal life with Christ.