“Being Shaped by God’s Grace”
May 31, 2015
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Remove, O Lord, any tension or anxiety, and stress or worry, which may keep us from fulfilling Your wishes of who we could be. Fill us with the grace of the Father, the strength of Christ, and the hope of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today is Trinity Sunday – liturgically, this is the Sunday we pay special attention to the Christian claim that the God we worship is … Three-in-One – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but all one God-head.
Comprehendible? Not in the least. It’s what we call “mystery”. Truth, but beyond perfect explanation.
But, the thought of Trinitarian Theology always makes me want to ask more about who God is.
And since God can be known, but not fully explained, how can we, how do we know Him?
The same question can be asked about the people in our lives. I can say, “I know Jennifer”, by the ways I have experienced Jennifer. Can I explain her to you? Not in the least; but I do know her.
I could say that, in a lesser way, about most of you. “I know you, by the ways that I have experienced you” – in distress, in celebration, in quiet study, in excited game-times. Can I explain you? A little, probably; but not perfectly. Can you explain me to someone else? A little probably; some of you more than others; but not completely.
So, how do we know the triune God? Maybe by the ways we have experienced Him – in reading His Word, in prayers, in miraculous events, in sensations and dreams and through friends and situations.
I’ll bet we could invest the next 90-minutes listening to stories of how people have experienced God. Maybe that should be our Fellowship Time assignment, or our Lunch-time assignment.
Have you ever actually “experienced” God?
If you can say “yes”, how do you explain that to someone who’s not sure God is even real? [By simply sharing it as your experience – beyond explanation as a coincidence – this was God. Of course it’s not provable – but neither is it provable that it wasn’t a God-experience.]
How do those experiences “shape” us as human beings?
Interestingly, they don’t even have to be our own experiences – other people’s experiences have a formative nature on us, testimonies, stories, of someone’s God-experience can have life-changing effects on us! [Corrie ten Boom, the Apostle Paul, Billy Graham, Simon Peter, who else …?]
Last week Brianna invited a friend from college over for a visit, and so “Eric” stopped by for dinner, and we got to talking. Jennifer masterfully asked him about any “experiences with God” he may have had. Here’s my version of what he said: “I believe God is out there, watching, maybe occasionally nudging – but not actually involving himself in our existence. Is there a God? I believe there is a ‘something’. I’m just not sure he’s benevolent. The quote: ‘God created man in his image, & we have returned the favor’ is probably way more true than we’d like to admit. ”
This opened all kinds of doors for further, deeper conversations and opportunities to talk about who this Triune God we say we believe in is. It helps define for us the meaning of life. We talk about having a faith that is seeking understanding; but sometimes maybe we simply have an understanding that seeks a faith to support it.
This brings us to this week’s lesson from the Bible. We are starting a new series which will explore the depth and the height of God’s Grace – how it is more than we deserve and how it is greater than we can imagine. So before we talk more of how we experience Grace – here’s a command from God’s Word about what we do with God’s Grace. Hebrews 12:14-17…. —-
14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.
May God bless the reading, hearing, receiving of His Word which never fails.
So, let’s start today defining what we might mean by the word “Grace”:
What are some of the ways we use this word?
The bank, maybe the library, perhaps our doctor’s office gives us a “grace period” on when the next payment or book is due. Why is that called “grace”? Because it’s more than we deserve by the letter of the contract we agreed to.
We say “grace” before a meal. Why is that called “grace”? Because we are grateful for the gift of abundance, or simply for the sustenance to keep living. “Grace” deals with gratitude for a gift.
I have recently heard musicians speak of a “grace note”. What is a “grace note”? From what I understand a grace note is a kind of music notation used to denote several kinds of musical ornaments that is melodically and harmonically nonessential, but that adds a special musical gift to the number. (Is that about right?) Why is it called a “grace note”? Because it is more than is required, but adds a little something special to the song.
We might say that Kay or Joanna or Sandy or Kathy are “gracious” hostesses. Why are they called “gracious”? Because they do far more than merely open the door and let us in – they serve us in ways far beyond what should be expected.
We say that a dancer is “graceful”. Why is Fred Astaire “graceful”? Because he moves across the floor with flair and an ease in ways that somehow make us feel loved and taken care of.
When we talk about “God’s Grace”, that’s what we mean – only far, far more!
My experience with how we understand “Grace” is that we really don’t – or at most, we barely understand it. We sing about “Amazing Grace”; we offer the “grace of Christ” to each other at funerals; when asked if we believe in grace, of course we say YES – who wouldn’t?
But I wonder if we think of God’s Grace as a politeness God offers us, something with no demands or expectations attached to it. God’s Grace is so much richer and deeper than that.
Your Sermon Notes page has a line on it that says: “‘God’s Grace’ is a STRONG, powerful grace.”
During these next several weeks we will discover ways we have been changed by God’s Grace; emboldened by His Grace; Strengthened by Grace; Softened by Grace; Shaped, and maybe RE-shaped, by God’s perfect Grace.
Some of us in this church have a dear friend, Cindy, who has endured many organ transplants – including a heart transplant. Someone had to die in order for Cindy to receive that healthy heart. When the doctor listens to Cindy’s heart-beat, it’s actually the still-beating-heart of someone else – someone who has given Cindy new life.
In his letter to the Galatian church (2:20), Paul says, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me!” That makes me wonder whose heart God hears beating in my chest? Is it, perhaps, the heart of His Son who died, and now lives in me? And you?
In Colossians 1:27 Paul writes, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
That, my friends, is STRONG, powerful grace! Jesus, the Son of God, lives in us!
No other religion makes such a claim! No Buddhist believes that Buddha lives in him; no Hindu believes that their religious founder lives in her; no Muslim thinks that Mohammed lives in themselves. But Jesus, we are told, died for our sins, and in His resurrection, as we receive this truth in our hearts and minds, moves right in, and indwells His people and His Church!
Paul says this some 216 times! John tells us this 26 times! “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God!” (I John 4:15)
Did you hear that Good News? Followers of Jesus – belong to Jesus! And as we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (II Peter 3:16)”, we are increasingly His and become increasingly more like Him!
When we actually experience God’s Grace, it RESHAPES us – it TRANSFORMS us, more and more into the image of God!
I would LOVE to hear some stories about how you have experienced God’s Grace – how God’s grace has SHAPED you into the follower of Christ you currently are – and where you are growing in His grace! Maybe during the Fellowship Time downstairs we can tell each other some of our stories.
In just a minute we will hear from our Moving Back into the Neighborhood Guiding Team; some stories might be told in that report.
To close this message today, let’s hear the author of the Message to the Hebrews as he commands us to: “SEE to it that NO ONE falls short of the GRACE of God….” See to it that … who falls short? NO ONE! See to it that our children, our grandchildren, our neighbors, our co-workers, our classmates, come into contact with the GRACE of God!
The last line on your Sermon Notes page says to name one concrete way you might keep this command this week – one actual thing you can do to share the Grace of God with someone.
More than just being nice – of course do that – but even unbelievers can be very nice! Actually reveal to them the Grace of God! If we believe it is real – we have no choice but to show it to someone who doesn’t!
“Dear God, by Your transforming grace, help Your church point beyond itself through word and work to the Good News of Jesus Christ our Lord. Fill this room again, with Holy Spirit power take hold of each person that is open to Your spiritual gifts and anoint us in ways everyone will know is from You. Fill this place, ignite our faith, fan the flame, and burn brightly through Your people into our neighborhoods, by Your Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Let’s hear from the MBiN Guiding Team….
Lucado, Max; Grace: More than We Deserve, Greater than We Imagine; Thomas Nelson; Nashville, TN; 2012; Pp. 1-11.