“Grace Draws Us Closer In”
June 7, 2015
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Remove, O Lord, any tension or anxiety, any 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.
I was always in the top math group in my class in elementary school – straight A’s and head of my class. So when I entered Jr. Hi, I was already in Pre-Algebra in 7th grade and Algebra I in 8th grade. Here’s the thing, though. My dad was promoted and transferred to new offices, twice, while I was in Jr. Hi. And each time we moved, my new school used the same math books, but were a couple chapters ahead of my previous school. I was a math-whiz in elementary school – so when I fell behind in 7th grade, and then again in 8th grade, I was far too proud, and too humbled by my inability to keep up with the class, that I just struggled silently … and suffered the GPA results.
So when I was in 9th grade Geometry, and 10th grade Algebra II, I could no longer keep my head above the mathematical waters. I was drowning in numbers. My 9th grade Geometry teacher, Dr. Jenkins, felt so sorry for me, that even though I deserved a “D” in geometry, he gave me a C-. And I gladly took it. In 10th grade Algebra II, Mr. Frazier did the same thing … and advised me to not take trigonometry/precalculus.
I guess a D+ is still a passing grade, but I was so thankful for the C- (my first sub-superior grade ever – not my last)!
Dr. Jenkins and Mr. Frazier showed me real GRACE. They gave me a PASSING grade when I deserved to FAIL.
We are at the beginning of 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.
In his book with just such a title, Max Lucado invites us to hear the story in John’s Gospel of the woman caught in the act of ADULTERY, and to watch what Jesus does. You know the story, the Scribes and Pharisees are out to trap Jesus in some kind of bad theology or illegal interpretation and so they walk in on a couple in the very act of … you know. And they drag the woman out of bed, through the streets, and throw her down in front of Jesus, demanding Him to make some kind of pronouncement about best practices with street-walking hookers.
Listen to Max Lucado’s description of this scene: “The woman had no exit. Deny the accusation? She had been caught. Plead for mercy? From whom? From God? [It was] His spokesmen [the Scribes and the Pharisees, who] were squeezing the stones and snarling their lips.”
And then, in ways only Max Lucado can, he points out the obvious and profound truth:“No one would STAND for her. But someone would STOOP for her.”
While no one came to her defense, especially not the man who had been caught with her(!), Jesus stooped down beside her and started writing in the dirt. And while squatting by her side, Jesus made each stone-filled fist aware of their own sins, and everyone walked away realizing they each needed God’s Grace or they were all doomed to be damned.
Jesus asked the woman who was left to condemn her – and then He told her that He, too, offered His perfect Grace.
What did the law say this woman deserved? Total condemnation – to be stoned, to death! But Jesus showed her God’s Grace and told her that her responsibility was to go back home and sin no more!
What are we guilty of? What sin are you guilty of? And let’s not compare, because it really doesn’t matter which of us is the more grievous sinner – what matters is that we recognize that, in fact, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” – and that “all” includes me,,, and you….
So,,, what does the Bible say we deserve? When Adam and Eve sinned, God said that on that day they would surely die! Paul tells us that the wages of sin is … death. We deserve total and complete separation from the love and Grace of God!
But, what did Jesus do for us?
Romans 5:8 tells us, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ DIED for us.”
If what we deserve is death, eternal damnation, separation from the God who created us and loves us enough to give His one and only Son for our sakes – Jesus Christ died for me while I am still in the very act of sinning – who has the right to condemn me? Only God, but God sent His Son to die for me!
This is what our Hebrews 10:22 verse is all about…. —-“Let us draw near to God – not be separated from Him, let us sit in His lap, be held in His arms, be near His power – let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.”
May God bless the reading, hearing, receiving of His Word which never fails.
The woman in John 8 was thrown at Jesus’ feet. Sometimes that’s the only way we’ll ever go to Him. But this Hebrews passage has a gentler plea. Let us draw near to God.
This is an invitation for us to rest in the majestic presence of our Mighty God.
In just a few minutes we’ll be gathered, at Jesus’ invitation, to the Lord’s Table – where even Peter the Deny-er and Judas the Betrayer were also invited. God’s Grace-filled presence. You are invited to draw near Him, too.
And the invitation comes via sprinkled hearts and washed bodies as the means of forgiveness and Grace. That’s a word-picture of our confession of sin, repentance from purposefully sinful choices, and Baptism into new life through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
So that even in, especially in, those scary, difficult days of tests and trials, of medical news and family feuds, of financial woes and frustrating foes, we are invited to draw near to and hold onto the hope we have through Jesus our Lord, not because we are just so good, but totally because God is just so faithful.
We deserve to be thrown into the Eternal Debtor’s Prison because we have sinned our way beyond God’s presence; but we are offered God’s perfect GRACE which restores our broken relationship with Him and invites us to sit at His Table.
Some of you may have learned the meaning of GRACE using the letters that spell that word as an acronym: GRACE is God’s RICHES At CHRIST’S Expense.
We deserve the opposite, but we are given the ultimate and unlimited Riches of God because God’s Son, Jesus Christ, paid our debt when He died on the cross.
A long time ago, probably in the days when I was failing Geometry, I learned to understand “mercy” as not getting what we do deserve (hell); and “Grace” was “getting what we DON’T deserve”: forgiveness, RECONCILIATION/RESTORATION with God.
Lucado says that God’s Grace Stoops down to offer His mercy. Friends, let’s draw near to God, and accept His invitation.
And let’s make sure we follow the author of the Message to the Hebrews as he commands us to: “Let NO ONE fall short of the GRACE of God….” Let’s pass on God’s invitation to our children, our grandchildren, our neighbors, our co-workers, our classmates, to come into contact with the GRACE of God!
“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.
Lucado, Max; Grace: More than We Deserve, Greater than We Imagine; Thomas Nelson; Nashville, TN; 2012; Pp. 17-25.