Monday, August 26, 2013

Not ashamed of God's Grace

This next Sunday - in our fellowship - I'm going to embark on a teaching journey through the book of Romans.  I awoke this morning at 3:00 a.m. and began to think about this first message.  I already had something on my heart, but as I've "mused" on the opening verses of Romans it has only become more solidified in my heart.

We who have "received" Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, have received from the riches of God's grace. This Grace is abundant, and free to us...but it was costly for our Father to give us - it cost him His Son's life.

So, what do we then do with this Grace?

Paul calls us to live it out...Romans 1:5-6 (ESV) 
5  through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,
6  including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

This grace leads us to a place of obedience.  It does not mean we will never fail.  I know to well how my failures can mount against me.  I need this grace - every day, hour, minute of my life.  But this is a costly grace and so may I/we never presume upon it as if it were a trite thing.

This next Sunday we'll look again at Paul's confession:  Romans 1:16-17 (ESV) 
16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
17  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”  

That's it...I'm not ashamed of that grace through faith.  Are we ashamed?  Sometimes we act like it.  We're more willing to show people how "normal" we are than that we are people of grace.

Back in the 1930's a Pastor named Dietrich Bonhoeffer lived under the terror of the Nazi state.  He saw the Nazi idolatry infect and begin to take over the Gospel.  The Gospel in the Nazi idolatry was that Hitler was sent by God to get rid of the infection of the Jews and Communists and establish the reign of Aryan people.  It was NOT the Gospel, it was a heresy...but many a German, and many a German Christian was swallowing the pill Hitler was selling.
Bonhoeffer was not.  He saw clearly the Gospel of Jesus Christ in God's word, and he knew that Hitler's message was no Gospel at all.

Then he wrote a book.  It was called "The Cost of Discipleship" and within it, he challenged the German people - and us today - to think about what we mean when we say God's grace.  
His challenge was that God's grace was not cost him His Son, and it costs us too!  

“Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks' wares (My note: CheapJack wares were inferior products sold by hucksters). The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church's inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite. What would grace be if it were not cheap?...

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: "ye were bought at a price," and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

Such Grace is the theme of Paul's letter to the Romans...can't wait to dive in.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wisdom IS the Principle Thing

I have been reading - since May 1st - the Psalms and Proverbs.  I've gotten to Psalm 111, and have read through Proverbs 3 times now, working on the fourth.  I love the Wisdom literature.

Now, I don't want to assume anything, so let me point out that the Wisdom literature is that part of the Old Testament that contains the books Job, Psalm, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs (Solomon).  It's known as the Wisdom literature even though it could be appropriately called the Poetry literature.  Most of the writings in this part of the Old Testament is written in Poetic styles.  It's beautiful literature and contrasts life in a nitty gritty way.  I've recently finished a summer series in Ecclesiastes.  If you're interested you can catch some of that nitty gritty aspect of life - "Life Under the Sun" - on our church's web site -  Just check under the section under the heading "Teaching" to listen.

Here's a sample of the beauty of the wisdom literature.
Proverbs 4:5-8 (NIV)
5  Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them.
6  Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.
7  Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
8  Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you.

Look at the words and read them slowly...  
Get Wisdom - it's there for us to receive and our duty to go after
get Understanding - it's not a matter of just reading the words, it's applying them to our lives 
do not not forsake wisdom

Now, this is where the beauty comes in.

SHE will protect you, love HER, SHE will watch over you... (later on) esteem HER, SHE will exalt you, embrace HER, and SHE will honor you.

I love the symbolism of what this man is writing.  He sees wisdom as personified by the images of a Woman, His Mother, His Wife, His Sister.  Wisdom is pictured as a woman who prepares the house with order and beauty.

The end of the matter is vs 7,  "Wisdom is supreme; therefore get IT...though it cost you all you have, get understanding".

How many times have we thought, "Oh, I wished I had thought about that first?";  or, "I wished I had known that before I went ahead and did/said/watched, etc... that?"


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Land Transgression???

Hi my friends,
I've taken some time off over the last month from writing, primarily just to take a break - a writing vacation - but the summer is fleeing quickly, and it's time to get back to writing.

At the beginning of May I began reading the Psalms and Proverbs - a chapter of each day.  This of course means I'm in my third reading of Proverbs, and about 2/3 of the way through the Psalms.  I have found this to be one of the more enriching times in scripture I've had in a while.

Today I read from Psalm 90, and Proverbs's an interesting verse that made me stop and ponder a bit.
Proverbs 28:2 (ESV)
2  When a land transgresses, it has many rulers, but with a man of understanding and knowledge, its stability will long continue. 

The "land"???  How does the "land" sin?
Some other translations may or may not help clarify the statement:

Proverbs 28:2 (NIV)
2  When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers, but a man of understanding and knowledge maintains order. 

Proverbs 28:2 (NRSV)
2  When a land rebels it has many rulers; but with an intelligent ruler there is lasting order.

Proverbs 28:2 (NLT)
2  When there is moral rot within a nation, its government topples easily. But wise and knowledgeable leaders bring stability. 

Proverbs 28:2 (NCV)
2  When a country is lawless, it has one ruler after another; but when it is led by a man with understanding and knowledge, it continues strong.  

Confusing?  A Bit...yes.  "a land", "a country", "a nation"???  The Hebrew word is erets which is overwhelmingly translated "land" or "earth".  It is also translated "ground", "soil" and "country".

The other confusing thing is "transgression", "rebellious", "rebel", "moral rot"!!

It causes me to stop and muse a bit.  The land itself cannot sin.  There can be weather and climate problems, volcano eruptions, earthquakes, etc...  Yet the context suggests that what can happen is from the people who are in leadership.  Rulers, government, are the real issue.
It leads to a simple observation - when a nation's leaders ignore, willfully or passively so, God's word, it places itself on a path of destruction.

People will always blame God for calamities, problems, division, and violence.  Yet perhaps the need is for our leaders... the President, Congress, Supreme Court Justices, Govenors, Legislators...all those who are meant to be leaders in our nation, to examine whether or not they care about God's word... Just musing.