Tag: grace (Page 1 of 2)

No Deal! Only Faith.

Sermon, Wednesday October 2/Sunday October 4, 2020

Pentecost 18th A.

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20

And God spoke all these words:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work,

“Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

“You shall not murder.

“You shall not commit adultery.

“You shall not steal.

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.

“You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.”

When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”

Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”

I wonder whether you have done a deal with someone lately? You renegotiated your bed time with the parents. You signed up for a Uni/TAFE course. You bought a car or a house. You got married! You took on a volunteer job. You made a commitment to do something or pay something and the other party promised to deliver something to you in return. You do your part. They do theirs, and that’s the deal.

That is what is going on here with these famous ten commandments. The commandments are part of new deal…. But a deal with a difference that makes all the difference.

The arrangement is between God and his people. The commandments are the finer detail of how the ongoing relationship needs to work for it to be kept in good faith.

And that is the big thing to get. These rules are not just random rules. They are rules with relationship in mind. These commandments are all about relationship way more than rules. But the rules enable the relationship to survive and prosper.

Here are the newly free people of God on their desert journey from homelessness to a new home, from being nobodies in the world to being somebodies, from having nothing much to offer or do for the world to being the lynch-pin for the whole world when it comes to a living relationship of blessing and life with the Creator of all things.

And God really wants them and this relationship!

“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possessions. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nations” (Exodus 19:4-6).  

We hear that God gives people these rules:

  1. So that people could be his very own treasures belonging with him, and
  2. So that through his treasured people, God could love all other people.

In this relationship, God’s people get to be treasured by God and given a job.

Their new job in the world is to be priests for the whole world – bringing God’s promises to people and bringing people to God.

Here’s how they keep the deal:

“Love God with all you are and have and love each other in all aspects of life”. That is the way Jesus would sum up these ten things later on.

Sounds so simple. Sounds like a good deal. God does his bit. We do ours. And it is all good. What could go wrong?! Answer? Plenty. “No deal”!

Truth is, we cannot do this deal. We cannot keep our end of the bargain. Our wayward, searching, broken, rebellious heart makes this impossible. God calls for complete love and devotion to him and other people and we can’t love God as he is to be loved or love each other so fully.

The biblical story is brutally honest about this. We are dismal at keeping up our end of this bargain! Worse. We are less than dismal. We are incapable.

If you read on from this high moment, you will see how quickly the people break the relationship. It has to do with a certain golden calf…

If you read on you will know just how many times God’s people and all people break this agreement.

Or in New Testament terms:

“All have sinned (against this agreement) and fall short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23).

And

“we do the very things we know we should not do and leave the things we know we should do (according to these commandments) undone”, says Paul in Romans 7.

You know the struggle. As you hear these ten rules for life with God, do you sense your failure? I do.

So, what do we do with our failure, our inability to keep this deal, and the guilt I feel?

We have two choices.

  1. Get angry with myself or with God or both, and leave the relationship. Many have. Many still do.
  2. Give up and become a crushed needy person always apologising for everything hoping one day I will be good enough somehow…..

Which is it this morning? Angry at God or crushed by God or both?

But, there is something very different about how God does deals with people. That difference is our guilt remover and life saver today.

“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself……. (Exod 19:4-6).  

God is doing a lot. God is actually doing everything. This a different kind of deal.

Let me explain…… In the ancient world there were two kinds of deals between nations. One was a deal between two equal powers. EG. Two countries do a deal about a section of land. Two people of equal standing agree on a price and ownership of the land is transferred to the other.

But then there was an unequal agreement. EG. When a nation was defeated by a stronger one, a deal is made on what the defeated country has to pay the winning country for all the damage and costs etc. Often, the price was unjustly high – like a whole nation being wiped out or turned into slaves for the stronger nation.

Now which kind of agreement do you think God is making with his people here at Mt Sinai? Equal or unequal? Yes. Unequal and hopelessly so!

This is not a deal between two equal parties, this is a one-sided agreement by God with God doing all the work to make it work! That is how God does ‘deals’ with us.

God does pretty much everything for the people while the people don’t do much at all for him. In other words, this ‘deal’ is actually ‘no deal’ at all!

This is a RELATIONSHIP made from love; deep love for us incapable, unequal creations.

Here’s the good news: Our God makes unequal agreements because of love for people who can’t make the deal.

He chooses to relate to and love people who have no hope of loving back the same way. God actually does it all, and the other party – his people, us, can’t do a thing to make this agreement happen.

  • He is the one who hears his people’s suffering in slavery.
  • The Lord is the one who defeats evil in those ten plagues.
  • He is the one who opens up the Red Sea in which his people are baptised into their new relationship with him.
  • He is the one who shows them how to love him, worship him and love each other.

He is the one who gives them a job in the world and promises land and future in him, DESPITE THEIR INABILITY to love him; to keep up an end of the deal.

Are you hearing Jesus yet? I am!

In Jesus, God did his kind of unequal dealing again.

Jesus was obedient to God’s way, even to the extent of giving up his life for the world on that cross. This changed the deal. He did is all, paid it all, suffered it all so I could have it all and be loved in it all. He lived the perfect life so I could have a life.

  • It was he who entered our struggle and pain to remove our shame.
  • He rose from the grave smashing our slavery to self and to things and people.
  • He buried you and resurrected you in your own Red Sea at the font.
  • He gave us the same mission he has always had – to draw all humans into a relationship of love with him and each other.

Friend, in these 10 words which are for us now a curb to keep you from wandering out of his grace, a mirror to tell you the truth and drive you back to grace in Jesus and a guide for loving, sense him carrying you back to your place of being his treasured person. Trust the Spirit reinvigorating you in your priestly job – representing the Lord’s love to people and representing their needs and their lives to God.

Hear Jesus, now. He speaks to you his treasured person;

  • No need to trust anyone or anything else for your life – you can trust trust me.
  • No need to use my name as something cheap – you can use it to give thanks, pray and praise.
  • No need to neglect my Word – you can regard it as holy and listen to it and apply it gladly.
  • No need to treat your parents or others in authority badly – you are free to honour them all and serve them.
  • No need to kill – you can help people in all their physical needs.
  • No need to sleep around or be unfaithful – you can respect your partner and honour people.
  • No need to steal – you can help people improve their lot in life and help people look after their possessions
  • No need to betray people – you can put the best construction on things; do your best speak well of people
  • No need to deceive people or long for what others have – you are free to help people remain loyal and help people keep their possessions.

In the name of Christ

Amen

Re-Form Me

Sermon, Reformation Day, 27-10-2019, St Petri

John 8:31-36   

31To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 

33They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” 

34Jesus replied, Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 

God did something big five hundred years ago that got his people back to himself. He re-formed his whole church. It was a radical re-awakening inspired by people like Martin Luther, a Catholic monk. Luther was blessed to hear anew that God’s underserved love is good news that is delivered to us by the resurrected Jesus.

Luther and others did not only know this intellectually or theoretically but personally, in the heart. Luther himself was set free from a heavy burdened life of slavish serving an angry God which was slowly killing him. He was set free by God’s gracious acceptance to a life freely lived in love and forgiveness. Is this your story too?

This re-forming was painful for everyone. It did not appear to be very freeing at times. It seems that we Church folks don’t like being ‘re-formed’, even if it is by good news of new freedom!

Maybe we are like a prisoner who has become so used to the confines of prison that the thought of being set free in open society is too scary to know!

Today we hear how the Jewish people who had begun to believe Jesus’ words objected to being re-formed by his truth and its freedom.

Jesus goes beyond their religious observance. He goes much deeper. They don’t like it.

They believe they are ‘all good’ when it comes to God. He says, “only the truth will set you free”. That implies they are not free; they are still slaves to someone or something.

When Jesus says that they “slaves”; that they are under the control of another master that is not the God of Abraham, they are upset. They don’t like where this is going.

33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” 

They believe they are free already. They are children of Father Abraham and therefore God’s children. They are this because of their family heritage and their good behaviour. That assures them that they are “free”; that they are accepted by a holy God.

They have the right name, the right story, the right traditions, the right temple, the right Law and they keep it. That is what assures them of their acceptance by their ultimate Father – the One God.

Jesus says different. True freedom from the Father is not based on political or ethnic family lines or on people keeping God’s rules. His freedom is not based on mere right belief to a set of words or moral behaviours.

Jesus says that their trust in their family name, ethnicity and good behaviour shows they are still slaves: slaves relying on, trusting in and seeking their own version of truth according to those things.

Their version of the truth about themselves and the world does not set them free into a living relationship of love and kindness with God their Heavenly Father but keeps them at a distance from him; not really experiencing his kindness in the heart.

They are like a dutiful daughter who is working hard in the business to one day get what her Father has, not for any love of her Father or free relationship with him.

Their trust in their ethnicity and good behaviour as what makes them free shows that their real father is not the God of Abraham but the father of lies, Satan. Tough words to hear! No wonder they don’t like it.

But this is the truth.

“…everyone who sins is a slave to sin”, Jesus says.

“Sins come from sin”. We do good and bad things because we trust other things way more than the good forgiveness Jesus brings in the human heart; in my heart.

Simply put, we have a heart that believes “I obey, therefore I am loved”. “I perform the right way, have the right name, do the right things, be the right person, and therefore, I am accepted and loved by God.”.

Jesus’ says the truth is actually the very opposite. Jesus’ truth is, “I am loved, therefore I obey”. I live and do and serve and give, not to earn God’s gracious favour and blessing but BECAUSE I already have them, or more accurately, I have him. He is all of this in human form for me.

This is bad news for the Jews who had begun to believe it seems. They are not free at all. The form of their faith needs to be re-formed.

It is very good news for those with the wrong form; those without family name, right behaviour, right nationality and unholy standing around Jesus. They welcome the re-forming of their heart and life. They could not get enough of this truth. Which is it for you today?

They needed and we need the real truth and nothing but the truth, please help us God. The trust was with them in a person. He is with us now.

The only truth that is actually the truth is him. The only truth that truly sets you free to be at peace with a holy God and his free witness in his world is Jesus and his teaching; his words.

Freedom not only comes via Christ alone, as we Lutherans are big on saying. Freedom comes by Christ himself.

It is not only Christ alone –to the exclusion of all others—who brings true freedom from this chasing after other words and people and promises; it is not only Christ alone that can deliver true and lasting belonging in divine peace, belonging to a community, self-giving love and lasting good future even beyond suffering and even after death, It is also that Christ himself does this for us.

How do you get it? Experience of him in his word.

This freedom is deeper than mere behaviour or right thinking or human vision. Freedom does not come from a strong will to do more or to resist more bad things or be very, very good. It does not come from or rest on your church membership or family name. Freedom does not come through mere overflowing emotions or intellectual agreement. Freedom only comes to the heart by experience of him and his words – by “abiding”, staying with, living with Jesus and his words.

If you hold/abide to my teaching, you are really my disciples”. 

Friend, Jesus is abiding with you, holding you, staying with you and he calls you to return, to stay, the live, the listen and know true freedom from all that binds us.

With his holding and staying and abiding you don’t need to be squeaky clean, keep up appearances, never make a mistake, be really smart, win the argument, find emotional highs to be happy in life.

He is not saying that you simply subscribe to a news service, sign up for a Facebook account, join a club or fall into line with a set of intellectual propositions to be free. He is calling you to one thing: Himself. He demands and offers nothing less than an encounter with himself. His abiding, holding, living resurrection power to re-form you is what sets me free.

That is his “teaching”. His teaching proclaims that “I am loved; now I can do and be; now I can freely obey from love not from fear.

It is Reformation Day. Jesus is re-forming you. Jesus is always re-forming you. He always reforming his people; his church.

It can be painful. We tend to default to the “I obey, therefore I am loved” way. So, we might not like his truth. But it is worth it to get that freedom of his.

Ask a little German monk! Ask a whole global community of faith in this Jesus! Ask a friend who knows him in the heart.

And when you who know him and love him are asked about his truth and his freedom, tell them.

You are loved today. Now you can go and live in him as he abides with you.

PRAYER

Lord, re-form me! Re-form us in your truth, for your Word is truth and sets us free.

The Struggle with Sin and Grace – audio sermon 16 July 2017 – Pastor Robert Voigt

 

The Struggle with Sin and Grace – Sermon Sunday 16th July

Pastor Robert Voigt

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.            Romans 8:1-2

 

But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.  And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.            Romans 8:10-11 (NIV)

 

22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?   Romans 7:22-24

Jesus is More Episode III

Sermon Jesus is more
Pentecost 11B, Sunday August 9, 2015
St Petri
Jesus is More Episode III

John 6:35, 41-51
35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”
43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’[a] Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father.
47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

 

John is asking us that question again: “Who is Jesus for me?”

We have been hearing that in John’s view. ‘Jesus is more’- more than just a miracle worker or problem fixer with whom we do not personal interest or deeper understanding and experience. He is grace personified, hope revealed, love on show, deep peace for the wayward human heart.

This pivotal account continues. The same questions are given to prod us into deeper thought and prayer: Do I want what he can give me but not actually want him and his Word shaping and leading me in life?

The crowd have had their heart revealed. After Jesus has answered questions with more questions to probe the heart of the crowd pursuing him to eat their fill again, we now hear about a particular group within the crowd for the first time. John just calls them “the Jews”.

Other gospel writers name them members of the Jewish religious establishment – two religious/political parties, Pharisees and Sadducees. Of course, just like has often been the case in our own Lutheran Church story, we might be generally of the same story but that doesn’t mean everyone agrees!

They did not agree on many things. Their biggest bone of contention was about resurrection from the dead.

The Pharisees were more of the people’s political and religious party. They maintained that an after-life existed and that God punished the wicked and rewarded the righteous in the world to come. They also believed in a Messiah who would herald an era of world peace.

The Sadducees wanted to maintain the priestly family – the Levites of the Old Testament and their priesthood. But they were also more open to the surrounding Greek culture and practices around them, even incorporating aspects of Greek art, gods, language in their synagogues, writing and daily living. This was “selling out” as far as the Pharisees were concerned.

The Sadducees rejected the notion that the Word of God is understood and passed on by word of mouth by interpreting it and speaking it. Instead, they insisted on a very literal interpretation of the written word. As a result, they did not believe in resurrection to an after-life, since it is not literally mentioned in the Old Testament Law. Their focus was firmly set on the here and now. Their main focus was on the worship and ritual associated with the Jerusalem Temple.
https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/sadducees_pharisees_essenes.html

So, as Jesus engages with these influential people he raised the issue of being raised from the dead!

43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.

Jesus knows the pressure points! Jesus sets the cat among the pigeons among this group within the group as he presses these religious leaders to respond to that gospel question, “Who is Jesus to you?”

On the one hand Jesus has identified the problem that the people have: They are not searching for Jesus because they can see who he is but because they can see that he can give them what they want. They want what the Saviour can give not the Saviour himself. They want miracles so they can live their life their own way and “be free” (as they understand it).

On the other, he now names the problem that the religious people have. In their concern for being squeaky clean before God by being good and always right they can’t allow that God would bring in his long promised age of new life under his promised Messiah by means of this very ordinary human looking so called “teacher” from the north – especially because this would mean that God is on the move outside their understanding, their prayer, their worship life, their diligent law keeping!

So, we have two groups of people here. We have those who just want Jesus to fix all their problems and make life easy so they can go on living in whatever way they want making their own choices as they see fit, ignoring his call and his Word and his community. They miss Jesus real heart and intent.

And we have those who also do not want a living relationship with Jesus. They are not looking for miracles but they are wanting to maintain and improve their power, place and possessions. They are maintaining these by their own substantial law keeping effort! They are convinced that salvation from all the world’s troubles lies in people keeping the rules and being very good so that God’s blessing and favour is earned by hard work and moral living. Both the freedom fixers and the law keepers miss Jesus.

Whoever Jesus is he is not a magic man sent to make us happy and filled with everything we want. He is also not here to judge and condemn people for getting out of line. He is neither a Jeannie in the bottle to make our life easy, or some leader or a teacher with and big stick intent on keeping us in line.
So who is he?

He is what sustains life in God’s holy presence. He is the difference between selfish pride and self -seeking pleasure that leads to the destruction of relationships and even life itself. Both endless pleasure seeking and rigorous rule keeping end in destruction – spiritually, ecologically and relationally. Endless pleasure costs everything and rigid moralism does too as it reduces everything to winning and losing, good and bad, right and wrong without grace and without forgiveness.

Jesus is the only one through whom any of us can truly experience Grace. He is the only one through whom any of us can experience the grace and love of our Creator God and be forgiven, healed, set free, made aware and filled with the fire of God’s self-sacrificing love for others.

Tim Keller, in his book, “Prayer: Experiencing awe and intimacy with God”, sums it up well. To know God for who he is and not just think he is only some moral policemen or magistrate out to punish us or some impersonal being whose main goal is fulfill our every whim and need to make us happy, is to know Jesus for who he is.

“In our natural (human) state we pray to God to get things…… We therefore pray mainly when our career or finances are in trouble, or when some relationship or social status is in jeopardy. When life is going smoothly, and our truest heart-treasures seem safe, it does not occur to us to pray. Also ordinarily, our prayers are not varied – they consist usually of petitions, occasionally some confession (of sin) (if we have done something wrong). …
Why? We know God is there, but we tend to see him as a means through which we get things to make us happy”. (p 77)

But when we discover by hearing the good news of Jesus as Saviour, Friend and Lord who is for us and with us; who did not come to us to condemn us but to save us, love us, this makes us new.

His word penetrates our soul everything changes. Now we don’t just want what he can give us or even believe life is about being safe and happy and clean and being good. Now we experience what grace really is – underserved love and favour from the One who has my life and death in his hands.
The one with authority to condemn does not and instead makes me new.

Keller goes on…

“When we grasp his astonishing, costly sacrifice for us, transfer our trust and hope” from needing a magic man to fix our problems or a law man to make everyone else good like us and simple turn to Jesus the Christ as my Saviour, My Friend, My Lord, My King, My Life – THE Bread of my life and the life for the whole world, then we begin to simply want to know him better and be with him more often and more fully.

“When we seek him and not just what he can do for us, we will count the cost easily”. We will gladly strive to refrain from things that lead us into going against his Word. Then we will pray for more than just things when we are desperate. We will linger a while and converse with him about everything the whole day long.

Then we, as John Calvin says in his Institutes of the Christian Life,

“Even if there were no hell, it [a ‘gospelised’ heart] would still shudder at offending him”. (Tim Keller, Prayer: Experiencing awe and intimacy with God, p 78)

Friend, are you living your life to gain reward or avoid punishment? In Jesus Christ you already have the reward of new life in joy and hope every day, and punishment for all the sin you could ever muster from that idol making and chasing heart you have has already been exacted on Jesus in his suffering and crucifixion in your place.
What does that mean?

You don’t need a Jeannie in a bottle to fix all your problems and make you happy.

You do need the healing peace and forgiveness and love of the Bread of Life.

You don’t need to be squeaky clean and to try and control everyone else to make them the same.

You do need his perfect forgiveness given his holy Word and gifts – a lot.

You don’t need to try and pray more or harder or be more spiritual or be more holy or upright or prayerful.

You do need to invest time and space with him and see where he leads and what he says.

Crowd or Pharisee/Sadducee, freedom fixer or rule maker, Jesus is more.
Amen.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Share a high and a low for the day or week…..

Pray: Lord Jesus, Bread of Life, open the eyes of our heart, that we may know you better.

Connect: What is your favourite kind of bread and why?

Study and Share: Read John 6 from its beginning (v1) and get the flow of the whole story up to this point. Read until verse 51.
See if you can jot down or share the basic plot f this whole chapter up until our text. Share your findings.
In our text we now switch from Jesus’ challenge to the crowd to his conversation and challenge to a group within the crowd – “The Jews”.

Brush up on your understanding of the Pharisees and Sadducees from study bible notes, existing understanding in the group (or yourself) and from what I offered in the sermon.

I said that Jesus challenges both the crowd and the religious leaders. How would you sum up what he is saying to the crowd about how they have missed the mark on knowing who he really is?

How would you say he is challenging the religious leaders and their lack of understanding what he is all about? Share what you glean from this text….

Which group do identify with the most at the moment – the crowd who want Jesus to fix all their problems and keep them safe and happy, but not really want a him in their life or the religious leaders who want everyone else to keep the rules so we all get along and make a better world – but not by God’s grace – but by rules and being morally clean?

Can you grasp what Jesus is saying to both groups? He is not a magic man to fix all problem and keep us all safe and sound so we can enjoy life and live it the way want. He is not a law keeper who is ready to punish us the very minute we go off course.

He is more – more grace, more truth, more kindness, more loving and he wants us to receive him in trust so we can be made new in his grace and power every day.

Share your response to this or even your experience of God’s grace in Jesus in your life. Encourage each other to trust in Jesus’ grace as you share.

What did you make of the comments I spoke from Tim Keller on prayer? Read them again (toward the end of the sermon). Is he right on this? If so or if not, why? Share your experiences…..

“Even if there were no hell, it (a ‘gospelised’ heart) would still shudder at offending him”. (John Calvin). Share your thoughts on this simple statement of what grace does to you!

Pray for the Holy Soirit’s gift of grace. Pray for a person you know need to know God’s grace anew.

Walking in Grace: a re-orientation

Sermonwalking-in-grace
Lent 4B, Sunday March 15, 2015
St Petri

Ephesians 2:1-10
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

PRAYER: Lord, open the eyes of our hearts that we may know you better

One of the things that really annoys me is when you start a journey somewhere only to get into that journey some way and discover you have to turn around to go home again because you have forgotten something really important.

You are instantly re-orientated from the hopefulness or excitement or just newness of trip somewhere only to then have to switch your whole focus and orientation (literally) as you do a U turn and trudge back home felling angry and silly.

Paul talks here in our text of being re-orientated as Christians. He uses a particular word for this. He uses the picture of “walking” at the beginning of this telling text and then again at the end.

Verse 1: As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked when you followed the ways of this world…..

Verse 10: For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. so that we would walk in them.

So, this Word today is about our orientation in life. It is about deeper things than just pure behaviour or word or our choices. Walking is our complete orientation, or big goal or vision for life.

There are obviously two ways we walk.

  • One is the way of death brought on by not trusting the Lord’s word.
  • One is living in God’s purposes and design.
  • One is being objects of God’s just judgement that is death.
  • One is being God’s handiwork in the world – walking in the words and actions he has prepared for us already.

Now, we Western Christians often tend to believe that being a Christian is about simply making good choices. If we listen to God’s Word and do what it says we will make better choices and stay walking in the right direction. By “walking” we mean thinking, making choices, doing good actions, saying good words…
This belief about “walking” is a little surface level. Notice how there are other deeper forces at work that actually have a direct influence on the way we walk – the way we live.

One orientation for living is to follow “the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient”.

So there are evil forces at work in this world and we can be heavily influenced by them. In Luther’s Catechism these are often named “the unholy trinity” – rather than walking in the way of Father Son and Holy Spirit, we walk in the ways of the evil one, our own old Adam trying to get us to trust in our selves so we get all the glory for any good we do, and the evil people and destructive events we experience in our broken world.

The deathly news is that all human beings are born into this orientation. We are by nature opposed to the works of God. Like a broken drill or a dead lawnmower, we are of no use in God’s will and way.
And the practical way in which we walk in this way of death is by walking with or giving in to or seeking, searching and “gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts”.

This is not popular news! This is just really bad news; worse than realizing 240km’s into the long journey with family in tow that you forgot your wallet! (This has happened!)

Friends, until we hear this bad news and receive it in the head and heart, by ourselves, without Jesus, there are usually only two ways we keep on walking in death’s way;

  1. Despair: Give up because woe is me and woe I will always be, or
  2.  Bold Disobedience: Who cares? I will take my chances and search for other news, other things or within myself to find a way to walk in better stuff than this.

Will you hear about your dead walking this morning? I pray you do, because as you do, what is about to come will change your orientation for the better completely!

Who is this God who tells us we are dead and what are his intentions anyway? That is a question everyone eventually needs to genuinely ask of us Christians and of God himself in his Word.

This is who he is and what he is like and how he treats dead men walking…

4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

“Rich in mercy”. That’s God. Rich in kindness and love for dead sinners in despair or arrogant self glory.
Alive God. A God who alone makes dead people alive. And why?
GRACE – undeserved self-sacrificing, self-giving, self-costing love – more expensive than any silver or gold – given in spades in Jesus.

A God who is not silent or distant or unaware or incapable, impotent or irrelevant.

6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

Friends in this age he is displaying his wonderful grace and kindness for struggling sinners. We have heard him speak and by his speaking we are raised, first in the water at the font, then by the prayers the words enacted in this holy gathering, in the bread and wine of Christ’ body and blood for repeated forgiveness and never-ending life and healing.

Is he changing you orientation yet? You just came to church. He is re-shaping your heart and life.
You may be angry with him for calling you dead. He is loving you in making you alive.

You might be believing yourself to be quite independent of all of this and willing to trust yourself a little more. He is raising you up with Jesus Christ where your life is reorientated in total.

You might be trying very hard to be good and make right choices and be a “good Christian”. He just calls you dead and then makes you alive, and you now can give up on being good enough and simply be made new enough by him.

And then, when we have been turned around; when we have been raised, resurrected, re-shaped, re-newed we are set on a walking course – the way of Jesus of Nazareth that God has already mapped out for us.

10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

We are dead sinners anymore. We are God’s beautiful hand-made woman, man young person and child.
Can the news get any better today!?

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

No. No boasting in ourselves need. It is all him and he includes us. There is the call to walk on. Walk on in his grace. Depending on it to re-orientate your head and heart.

Be God’s handiwork in your place. Walk on this way and resist the first way. Let him spin you around today. It’s the only way to go.

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father,… 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

That we may know him better: Flood of Grace

Sermonflood of grace
Lent 1B, Sunday February 22, 2015
St Petri
That we may know him: Flood of Grace

1 Peter 3:18-22
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive,[a] he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.[b] It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

Last Sunday night we witnessed one of those grand sunsets. So grand was it that I noticed that The Leader was calling for any photos people might have taken of this massive spray from hues of orange, yellow to indigo and all in between, spanning the western sky changing rapidly as the sun sunk further below the horizon. There were photos all over the Facebook pages of Barossans to choose from.
I got a very good view of it. I was on my trust Triumph Thunderbird riding back from spending time with young adults gathered in a state wide young adults retreat at Normanville. High up on the winding coastline road with this magnificent display accompanied by a beautifully glass-like ocean far below was a moment to savour. And I did!

It struck me how calm and peaceful that glassy sea looked. The sea can be like that. I recalled the words of one of those “trawlermen” on that SBS documentary program of the same name, who says that the seas has always been his friend.

But the sea is not always a friend. I remember being at Piha beach on the West coast of the North Island of New Zealand around 2002 with a few families from Mountainside Lutheran Church – having a family day at this well know black sand surf beach. As our Emma, then aged about 8, was playing in the shallows one of the mums felt it necessary to correct what she saw as dangerous behaviour by Emma. Emma was regularly turning her back on the incoming waves. “Never turn your back on the sea”, said Margaret to Emma.
Emma has never forgotten that one line maxim. Whenever we go body boarding now, that line seems to serve Emma well as she tells her younger brother the same thing. We keep our eyes on the breakers coming in over us.
And that is two sides to the sea. Friend and foe. Safe and yet dangerous; possessing the power to take human life and the power to save human life….
Peter uses that great sea event of Noah and his ark as a picture for his people to grasp the reality of God’s grace at work in their lives in their baptism.

“…..only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.”

Baptism is like the sea. It both kills and gives life. All but eight human beings and a lot of two-by-two animals were killed in the great flood of God’s judgement on the out of control idolatry of the world in Noah’s day. But those eight human beings and many animals were carried from death the new life, from God’s judgement to God’s new future in by that water.

So, can you see that your baptism is “immersion”. That is what the word “baptizo” literally means – immersion in water, in sunlight, in the bath, in the sea, in fear, in joy, in faith….. Can you hear that you have been immersed in God’s judgement and carried through to the other side of the sea into God’s new creation, where judgement is complete and transformation from one glory to the next is already underway?

If you have already been killed with Jesus and buried in the tomb with him for the express purpose of being resurrected to a life in his holy and loving presence for the rest of your days and beyond; and if you can, as St Paul says, trust this fact with your life (Romans 6), because it happened on an actual day, actual water was used and real people were there listening, praying and witnessing this great moment, then what difference does this make to how your life now?

If God has spared your life by plucking you out of the sea of his holy and right judgement on your fatal disease of idolatry and rejection of his promised and his character, and if it really is true that in your baptism into Jesus’ death and resurrection you have not been lost at sea like so many were back then, but delivered safe and sound to the far side of the dangerous sea so that you now live freely and fully in the new ark of God – the Nave of the church building, the Church, then how can you now live?
Here’s what Peter suggests is your way now…

Even in suffering you know God’s blessing:

14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.

Come hell or high water, God’s blessing on your life, to give you a name – his name, to give you a place to belong to; his church, to give you a purpose – to declare his glorious grace with your life…. Is for real and is for now.

You are not easily moved off course.

“Do not fear their threat]; do not be frightened.”

The perfect love of God given in the man of sorrows resurrected and ruling the world in peace and forgiveness calms your fears and enables you to be less prone to making unhelpful decisions or speaking and acting unwisely or in hurtful ways because you are just not that scared You know that your life is hidden in God and that he has planned before time the contributions you make to the life of this world. You know that nothing can ever separate you from the love of God for you that he has lavished upon you in Christ (Ephesians 1).

15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.

You are able to give thanks, honour and love God in all kinds of seas – rough, calm, dangerous, churning…..

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

You can speak – speak and act with confidence – and make a huge difference. You can be the healing balm between others, in the work place, in school, at home. You can help people see a new perspective; new life in their midst. You can with the Spirit’s power, first given a seal of the hope to which you belong at baptism, act in his gifts and bear his fruit and in this way bring the Kingdom of Jesus to bear among your friends.

Friends, this Lent is so that you may know him better.

This baptism of Jesus, this temptation and dicing with evil, this way of sorrow and suffering and this triumphant Easter time coming up is all that you may know him better.

I am praying that the eyes of your heart may be opened longer and more attentively to who he is and what he is doing in and through you.

Your baptism into Jesus is the beginning and will be there at the last.

In between we simply call back to God in the calm sea and in the rough – “Open the eyes of my heart Lord, so that I may know you better”.

May you view him and his journey to the cross of life.

He is grander than the grandest sunset and his love wider than the sea.

May the Spirit immerse you in the grace of Baptism this Lent – it is the water that moves you from death to self and life in him.

Reformation Day – “Masks”

Sermon, Reformation Day, 26 October 2014.masks
St Petri
John 8:31-36 Freedom in God’s truth
31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

After viewing Media File – “Masks”…..

I think this is why I am happy to be named a “Lutheran”. Sure, I like to look good. It does not always work though! I am not “Lutheran” because I want to look good or show every other Christian that we have it all together or to wheel out a name and a story and theology to others in order to impress.
I am not happy to be identified as “Lutheran” as if that name and that place and story was a big mask, covering up the real me, or the real us, lest other Christians of other traditions find out we are dodgy or scared or lame.
I am not keen to be named among the Lutheran stream of the Christian community in order to be particularly “Lutheran”, but really because of two things;
1. I did not choose this name, this identity, this story and this community. I found myself placed here. That was God’s doing, I am sure.
2. What I have found in this community across this country and NZ, and in this long reformation story we share, is a freedom not always present in other places I have been, spiritually, Christian and not Christian.
In reformation theology and practice in our church I find an honest appraisal of people. I find a truthful appraisal of who I am as a fallen human being – no sugar coating, no hiding, no pretending as if I really can love God enough, or do good enough of pray enough or believe the right things enough to get myself in God’s good books.
In reformation theology and practice in our church I find an honest appraisal of people. I find a truthful appraisal of who I am as a fallen human being – no sugar coating, no hiding, no pretending as if I really can love God enough, or do good enough of pray enough or believe the right things enough to get myself in God’s good books.
I find myself echoing the Apostle John. I have been told the truth, and by Jesus the Son gave up everything his Sonship of God gives him for me, I have been set free with him. I am now treated by the Lord as his own dearly loved son. That is astounding.
Reformation Day tells me who I am – tells us who we are again….
I have the view these days that what God did through those years of massive change in Europe 500 years ago through various people, including Luther, was bring us his whole church back to the core of his identity and his mission. God took off the masks we try and hide behind and set us free from having to keep hiding away from him.

God used everyday people, including one rather rotund little German monk with a strange haircut, to reveal that he is good to the core and ‘til the last. He convinced us all again that he loves the world and is on a mission to love. His news in his Son is very good news for people hiding behind masks – too scared to be identified by God.
Because I have been shown by the Lord through his people in this church that he is indeed “full of grace and truth”, as John says right at the start of his account of Jesus (John 1), I don’t have to pretend that I am holier than thou, always a winner, never a loser, always on top of things, never confused or hurt and just really sad. Neither do you.
Are you scared of the word ‘Reformation’, ‘Christian” or “Lutheran” or “Church” or “Disciple”? Do they mean “just try harder” to you?
If “Lutheran” or “Christian” for you is about bring very, very good you will always be in one of two places in your effort to get God to keep approving of you and blessing you – either prideful arrogance or hopeless despair.
St Paul says in his second letter to the Corinthian Christians,

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings despair and death. 2 Corinthians 7:10

So, when being a disciple is firmly “all on me”, one place I would end up in would be arrogant self-pride. Instead of trusting that I have not got a leg to stand on before the Lord, and that everything good in me and around me is freely given by a gracious and loving heavenly Father in his holy Word, I will believe that I have set myself free by my own wonderful goodness, effort, history, family, personality, intellect or whatever other “mask” I might choose to wear.

The other place slaves-of-self get to is complete despair and a crushing sense of hopelessness. You know you are not good enough for a good God and you know that it would not matter how good you were for however long. As we heard before,

20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. (Romans 3:20)

Endlessly trying harder to please others and God will end in despair. You’ll just end up super aware of how bad you are – with no end in sight!
And that is exactly where that little German monk found himself: Despairing of his embarrassing and annoying sin. And then he was interrupted in his arrogance and despair by pure underserved love and its joy! He met our gracious God in His word.

Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. (Romans 3:23-24)

Ah friend, meet him today on Reformation Day! Masks off. No need for them today or any day.

“Messes are His specialty”.

“It’s OK to not be OK around here”.

He loves us. Out of this love He calls us to be ourselves as we be his where he has placed us.
The Son has set your free. You are free indeed!lutheran rose

Living the Gospel (Galatians Week 3) + Conversation Starters

Sermon, Pentecost 4C, Sunday June 16, 2013, St PetriGalatians-Living-the-Gospel_medium

Series ‘ Galatians: Living the Gospel, Week 3

Living the Gospel

Galatians 2: 15-21

15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in[a] Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

17 “But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.

19 “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

There’s nothing quite like a local church community in terms of being a community with all kinds of people in it. The diversity of people personalities and experiences in a local church is one of the things that makes a local church such an amazing place.

Of course, because we are human, sometimes the differences we have can create a bit of tension and even conflict.

People may think that the first church community was never in conflict, very unified and quite perfect. But it wasn’t! Paul tells of a conflict between he and Peter.

Peter and Paul had spent fifteen days together before this letter was written when Paul first went down to Jerusalem to consult with Peter about the message he was proclaiming among the Gentiles. All seemed to go very well on that occasion (Gal 1:18). After that meeting, Paul was happy to testify that “God was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews…. (Gal 2:8).

But when Peter came up into Gentile Antioch and Paul observed something about Peter’s behaviour that didn’t quite line up with the gospel of Jesus, the challenge was on.

Paul noticed an hypocrisy driven by fear in the behaviour of Peter. When no Jewish colleagues were around in Antioch, Peter was one of the Gentles. He ate with Gentiles and did not keep the Jewish law among the people. But when the Jewish Christians came up from Jerusalem, all of a sudden, Peter returned to the Jewish law by not eating with Gentiles and returning to the food laws of Jewish people.

Peter was engaged in that “gospel +” living we have been talking about.

Gospel + something else to get God’s grace.

Peter was leaving the gospel of God’s underserved love received only by means of faith in Jesus the Messiah by adding something extra to it for his wellbeing. The “plus” was nationalism. He was insisting that Christians can’t be really pleasing to God unless they become Jewish in their lifestyle and belief. This is just another form of legalism – or relying on the Law for our wellbeing before God and with each other.

Peter was rebuilding what had once been torn down and therefore showing that he himself was indeed a lawbreaker before God, says Paul (Gal 2:18). Before we point the finger at Peter too long, we might look our own legalisms…

Our Mistake?

We have similar sorts of exclusive social behaviour based on a failure to trust the gospel of Jesus as our only means of wellbeing, community and life.

Being Sectarian: It is extremely easy to stress our own distinctiveness in terms of teaching and story and way of being church in order to really say that our church is superior and our belief more authentic or pure that others’.

Class, Nation and/or race distinction: We human beings, and even us redeemed people of God, seem to thrive on making distinctions to feel superior.

We seem to pick just about any difference between us, be it social standing, level of education, income or the place we live in of anything else to cluster in groups and speak about “those other people” in an attempt to cope with our feelings of inadequacy, our lack of understanding of others and our fears of difference.

Taking ourselves too seriously: This is taking our own preferences too seriously and loading them up with moral significance which in the end is only cultural.

EG. Being a church with a certain reserve, less visibly seen emotional expressiveness and feeling superior to those in churches that have more emotional expressiveness and vice-versa.

We struggle to sit with the reality that we just different and make our differences articles of faith when they really may be only cultural differences between people.

We can easily believe that our customs and music and way of gathering are spiritually better than others, when in fact they are just different.

Gospel Response:

Paul declares, “God did not have fellowship with you, Peter, on the basis of your race, culture, custom and keeping of rules.

So, though you were very good and faithful in keeping these customs and rules, these had nothing to do with God coming to you with the hand of friendship and loving you in his Son, Jesus”. In fact, this way of living was really all about you – you at centre, you first then God. It is that old “gospel reversal” of which we have spoken.

GOSPEL REVERSAL LIVING

I think, act, do, keep the law well → God responds by accepting me

So, Peter (or any of us), you cannot have fellowship with God and each other on the basis of customs, race or nationality – these are not where your heart and your wellbeing lie (Gal 2:15-16).

Our only foundation to be united and effective and faithful to our God in life and our only basis for fellowship with him and each other is the gospel of God’s grace given in Jesus. He makes us one. He makes brings us together and gives us meaning and purpose for living.

But see here how the gospel actually shapes not just Paul’s thinking and his faith but his action and his relationships…

The gospel message our lives speak is;

NOT “Try harder”

BUT “Remember God’s grace for you” (the gospel)

EG. Racism is wrong not only because it hurts people but because it is fundamentally opposed to the gospel of God’s grace received by faith by anyone who calls on the name of the Lord.

Racism is then just a continuation of gospel + living and belief in one part of our lives. It is borne of the desire to feel we are in some way “better’ or “righteous” over against others. It is ignoring the truth or just plain forgetting the truth that we are accepted, of great value, loved and we belong to a community by God’s gracious hand given in Jesus through our baptism.

Racism, like any other divide we put in place to feel more accepted, secure, superior, is a failure to live our lives under or in line with the gospel.

So Paul challenges his brother not by making him feel guilty but by reminding him of who he is and whose he is in the gospel of Jesus

So, we see here the way of the gospel:

NOT

You better get better in your behaviour→ God’s will accept you

BUT

God has loved you and accepts you in Jesus → Now respond

Friends, this is the Christian way of living with difference and even at times, “opposing” someone. When you are trying to motivate someone or help them see a truth of God in a particular area of life or wanting them to find the riches of God’s grace given in Jesus for them, then you are best to use God’s grace and mercy as the motivator and not just more rules and the guilt and fear that come from the law.

Yes, Peter’s behaviour was wrong and Paul said this “in front of them all”. And yet he did not only say the behaviour was wrong but then brought them back to the gospel as the only way of renewal, forgiveness and change – he talked about God’s grace as our only hope and life and urged Peter to remember who he was in God’s grace – in his baptism.

He says to a fearful Peter, “Peter, you do not need these people’s approval. You already have got Christ’s”. There was no need for “gospel +” living. The gospel is enough for you.

When we speak the good news of God’s grace as we talk about our wrongs we can speak quite strongly and directly and it will have a much higher chance of being received because it will show that in the end we are actually for the person not against them – and that God is actually for them and with them, not against them and apart from them.

EG.

Parents, when your teenager/young adult leaves the house to go to a party, what is the gospel thing to say?

Don’t do wrong tonight OR Remember who you are tonight

To a friend who is scared and yet outwardly rejecting the church and the gospel we love, which is the gospel way to be?

Friend, you better come to church OR God is still with you and is still calling you back home

When you are wronged: What is the gospel thing to say and do when you are wronged or can see hypocrisy in your parents or your colleagues…

Friend, when you did that or say that it hurts me and others but God still loves both of us and is calling us to forgive each other as he has forgiven us in Jesus.

Friends, what we hear Paul doing is living in the gospel and it is the hope we bring to our parenting, our teaching, our friendships, our marriages, our work place.

Gospel mission as church?

Raising up the gospel of God’s gracious kindness already offered in the person of Jesus for people who can never be superior enough by keeping a million rules and expectations but are freely loved and accepted by a God who really is for them and not against them is the way we do mission as a church.

Remember the grace God has showered upon you – and what does living out and enjoying that grace look like in that situation?

Friends, may we be people of grace and our church be a place of gospel grace – truthful, direct yes. But all for the goal of the gospel – so we all live in the gospel – the underserved beautiful approval and acceptance and love of our God.

Is it possible? Can we be a people of grace and a church of grace? Can we truly live in line with the gospel we have received?

Yes. Why? Because…..

We know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.

And that we have been crucified with Christ and we no longer live, but Christ lives in us. The life we now live in the body, we live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us.

The grace of Jesus, the love of the Father and the fellowship of the Spirit keep us in the gospel. Amen.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

1. When you ponder that call to “live your life in line with the gospel”, what kind of things come to mind for you?

2. In which area of your life do you think you are walking in line with the gospel?

3. Are there people in your church you have not been “eating with” because they are not “like you”? What lies beneath this kind of attitude we sometimes have?

4. How would you explain Paul’s little phrase that sums up the gospel “Justified by faith” to someone asking you about that?

5. Share a story about how you have used the god news of God’s grace to help someone see that they needed to challenge their behaviour or attitude (maybe in your parenting or as a teacher or in your workplace and the like…)

6. How would you explain the difference between being moral and being a Christian to someone who thinks being good makes them acceptable to God?

No Other Grace

Galatians-Living-the-Gospel_medium

Sermon Notes

Pentecost 3C, Sunday June 9, 2013, St Petri

Galatians: Living the Gospel week 2

No Other Grace

Galatians 1:11-24

11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.

18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas[a] and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.

21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me.

If you have ever heard a testimony in a church gathering somewhere, you might recognise this part of Paul’s letter to the Galatian Christians. He recalls God’s grace at work in his life.

He is doing this to refute some claims that people in the Galatian churches are obviously making against him (1:7, “some people”).

A Message from God himself: Paul tells his story to refute the notion that he came to this one gospel of God’s grace by his own reflection and reasoning. No, this one gospel of God’s grace given freely to unrighteous people for the sake of his Son Jesus Christ received by faith in him came to Paul not by human origin but by divine appointment and power(1:11). Acts 9:1-9 shows us that the risen Jesus met Paul face-to-face.

Not to Please the ‘heavies”: Paul also refutes the claim that his gospel message was derived from other people, from Christian leaders in Jerusalem (1:16-17). In other words, Paul is no mere mouthpiece for the establishment or person who has not got the brains to come up with a great message!

Not a different gospel: Very importantly, Paul also says that his message is in line with those respected leaders in the church and what they also received from God. His message is “apostolic”; it is consistent with all of the capital “A” Apostles (1:18-24).

So, Paul establishes his credentials and his message as being authentic and faithful to God. But it also reveals something about the very nature of the gospel itself.

The Gospel – Grace!

The gospel is grace, grace, grace! Paul’s own story of how he was found by Jesus on that Damascus Road and what happened in his life to enable him to be such a instrument of the gospel was pure grace. Paul was an enemy of the God and the gospel of Jesus and the church. He actively set his heart on resiting, rebelling against and destroying the gospel at the local level. And yet, God found him, called him, enlightened his mind and heart and called into his community of grace and gave him a special call to be an “apostle” or “sent one” to non-Jewish people all over the known world! Now that is grace!

All of Paul’s learnt knowledge of Scripture, worship practice, understanding of family and community equipped him for his life’s calling. God was with him all along, even if he did not acknowledge this or understand it.

Gospel ‘Glasses’ for living

The message here is that the gospel enables to view ourselves, our past experiences, our skills and understanding through a different set of glass – the glasses of faith in God’s grace given in Jesus. Through the grace of God that has come to us in our baptism we can see that God has been with us all along and he has been shaping us for our calling in life – our calling to be his ambassador where he has placed us in the many tasks we do every day.

The grace message here is that God does not love you because you are particularly serviceable or useful of gifted; he loves you because he loves you. His love is our solid foundation, our solid security, our authority to live the gospel of his grace.

The Gracious life?

So what does this life in God’s grace actually look like? God rescues us from our lostness, our ignorance, our pain, our trouble, our rebellious heart and built in problem of seeking our well-being in anything and everything except where our life is truly found – Jesus Christ. But then his grace shapes our day and our inner selves and our relationships.

Gracious living is a realtionship: God revealed Christ to Paul so that God could reveal Christ through Paul. Being a Christian is much more than some intellectual agreement with God or “lifestyle choice”. It is a relationship with the living God! And this relationship is never just for the individual to keep but for the individual Christian to share.

Gracious living takes time alone and time together: It also clear in Paul’s journey that the grace of the gospel of Jesus needs time to sink in and to become part of our very character and world-view. Paul seems to have had a 13 year “quiet time” with God (1:17-18)! Not that he was tucked away in some cave in a cliff or sitting on a high platform out in the Arabian Desert for all of that time. Arabia was full of thriving cities as it is today! But the grace of God shapes us into people who “sit in it”. “

Solitary time with God is fundamental to the Christian life; but the Christian life is not a solitary one” (Tim Keller, Galatians is for you, 2013, p 32)

Yes, we need to spend time in quiet aloneness with the Lord regularly, but like Paul, we need the solidarity, instruction, accountability and unity (1:18) in the gospel message we are living together.

No need to “people-please”

Paul has begin this whole section of his letter with verse 10, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?” The answer? “No, you are trying to please God!”

Living in the amazing grace of God poured out upon us lavishly by faith in Jesus Christ removes that human need to please people. The grace of the Lord replaces that “man-pleasing” spirit in us that seeks to win endless approval of others for what we say and do or don’t do, with a spirit of servanthood to Christ.

We live not trying to win his approval but live in his approval.

God calls us, loves us, “graces us” in Jesus   →   we respond in serving him

The gospel frees us from seeking approval of others to responding to God’s gracious love for us freely and fully as we give time for the gospel message to sink deeply into our lives and then work together in the gospel with other “sent one” with whom we work, rest and play.

In the end Paul says he shares his story of God’s grace overtaking his life and continuing to shape his not because he has a big ego (to please people) or because that is the way he always wins them over, or for any other reason than an encouragement for the Galatians churches to not lose Jesus (1:6).

Paul’s story encourages us to tell our story and tell it for the same reason – to encourage others in the gospel of Jesus. He shows that telling our gospel story does take courage – the courage to be a little or a lot vulnerable as needed.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

• Do you ever find yourself thinking you deserve God’s grace? What prompts you to think this way?

• How does the gospel of God’s grace free you from pride and from guilt?

• In what ways can you see how God worked in your life to equip you to serve him now?

• How could you live your life so that people would respect and praise God more because of you?

• How are you most tempted t fear people and seek others’ approval?

• What would change if, in these moments, you lived to please God who is already pleased with you?

• How committed are you to spending time quietly in God’s word…to spending time with other believers….to spending time telling others your story of God’s grace? What would help you live this gospel life more fully?

« Older posts