01/24/2016 – I Corinthians 10:6-13 – “The Promise of Deliverance”

Audio version

Mark Wheeler

I Corinthians 10:6-13

“The Promise of Deliverance”

01/24/2016

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Mighty God who delivered the Israelites from bondage in Egypt, who cooled the fiery furnace, who closed the lions’ mouths, who sent Your only begotten Son to save us from our sinful nature, we come to You today, gathered as Your people, because we recognize that we need a Savior. Rescue us today, through Jesus our Redeemer. Amen.

 

Have you ever woke up to your alarm clock blaring, knowing you had something to be at, and then thought to yourself, “15 more minutes …. They won’t miss me …. Suppose I call in sick ….”? Of course you have. Maybe you didn’t follow through with that temptation, but you know you’ve been tempted.

That’s the thing. Everybody experiences temptation. All people get tempted. No one escapes. And you know what? All people also yield to temptation! Not every time, but even once and you’ve joined the club.

Temptation is a reality for everybody. I am tempted, almost constantly, to eat another donut.

Now, not all temptations hold the same consequences; right? Falling to the temptation to sleep another 15 minutes on your day off is probably not that big a deal. Falling to the temptation of sleeping with another 15 people probably is.

Today we are going to talk about that latter kind of temptation – that which is an invitation to DISOBEY God. It is vital to remember that temptation is not a SIN, but DISOBEDIENCE to God is a sin!

 

Give me a quick show of hands – did anybody here make a New Year’s Resolution? Who has been tempted to go off your diet, to skip a morning of Bible reading, to watch one more half-hour of TV? Right? We are 3-½ weeks into 2016! Of course we have all been tempted to break our Resolutions! In a general way, this is one of the most significant challenges every adult follower of Jesus facesovercoming temptation!

How can we, as growing disciples of Christ, as people who claim Jesus as our Savior and Lord, as church-going citizens of the Kingdom of God, how can we resist temptation?

If you look at your Sermon Notes Page you’ll see that there’s a simple 1-2-3 step process for resisting temptation. Don’t believe it. These steps will not secure you a sin-free life. They are, indeed, three practical steps toward overcoming temptation, but the only real security is in a living relationship with Jesus Christ as our Redeemer.

 

Today we read from Paul’s letter to the Church in the sin-harboring city of Corinth. This city sat at the intersection of two major sea ports, with sailors and dockworkers and people from all over the known world – and all the sinful temptations that that kind of social climate produces; and Paul writes to the believers there to help them cope with the various temptations that spawned all around them. Listen to these words from  I Corinthians 10:6-13…. —-

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.  

 

Paul begins this particular pericope reminding these Corinthian Christians of the mistakes made by people in the past these things occurred as examples to keep us from making the same mistakes! So he tells us what they did and why it was wrong; and the command for us is to not do the same things!

Step number 1 is Assume RESPONSIBILITY. When we sin we have no one to blame but ourselves! We can cry that our mother didn’t potty train us soon enough, or that the environment in which we grew up was filled with violence, or even that my genetic code “made me this way” – but the decisions to act on our temptations are all our own. I decide to eat another donut, to drink another beer, to steal what isn’t mine, to cheat on my test or my taxes or my spouse. Those are all on me; on you; on us.

The first step to overcoming, resisting the next temptation is to take responsibility for our own actionsconfess our sins, repent, and ask for God’s help.

In the margin of your Sermon Notes Page, scribble down a temptation you are willing to assume responsibility for today.

 

Step number 2 is Be on GUARD. Look at verse 12: “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”  We seldom fall when we think we’re on slippery ice; we might, but we’re usually much more careful, maybe even asking for help, when we know the ground is slippery. But when we think it’s dry, solid, safethat’s when we take our eyes off the surface and start to make moves we shouldn’t have. We slip when we get a little over-confident or careless – when we think we’re safe!

The second step in overcoming, resisting the next temptation is to be on guard. When I’m a little hungry, I should not go near the table with the free donuts! I should run away from the temptations that usually get me down. That’s why 12-step support groups work. They help their participants recognize their own tendencies to falling, and avoid those slippery slopes. Call your sponsor. After confessing our sin, we repent – literally, we turn around and walk the other direction – and ask for God’s help.

In the margin of your Sermon Notes Page, scribble down a place where your temptation is most dangerous and beware of that danger.

 

Step number 3 is Claim God’s PROMISE. Look at verse 13: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to all mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can handle. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

Let’s take a minute to unpack that verse. First, he says that no one on earth is alone or exempt. All mankind faces temptation – and yours is really no stronger than anyone else’s.

Second, he reminds us, “God is faithful.” The whole of Scripture is account after account of God’s fidelity, His faithfulness, to His creation, to His character, to His Covenant of grace for His people. He is faithful. “Who is like Him, seated on the throne? The mountains bow down, every ocean roars. Praise Adonai!” “Beautiful Lord, wonderful Savior, I know for sure, all of my days are held in Your hand … You gently call me into Your presence, guiding me by Your Holy Spirit.”

The next line says, “He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” Sometimes we hear that line as, and some Bibles translate it saying, “He won’t let us be TESTED beyond what we can handle.” Tested implies that God is giving our faith a trial, to see if it’s real. God does put tests in front of us, but I think the context of this sentence holds that Paul meant to sayGod won’t let us be TEMPTED beyond what we can bear.” Here’s why I believe that’s what Paul meant. God does not tempt us. James is clear about that in James 1, “God does not tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.” God does not drag us away from Himself. Temptation is an invitation to DISOBEY God. Satan gives us those invitations. Paul’s line in I Corinthians 10:13 is in the passive voice: “God will not allow us to be tempted beyond…He will not let Satan invite us to disobey in ways God will not give us an answer to.

But God will allow us to be tempted – that’s the broken, free-choice world we live in! But the last line in today’s passage says, “God will also provide a way out ….Claim God’s PROMISE!

The third step in overcoming, resisting the next temptation is to claim God’s promise. After confessing our sin, after repenting – turning around and walking the other direction – we ask for God’s help.

In the margin of your Sermon Notes Page, scribble down a possible way out for you from your most susceptible temptation.

 

These are, indeed, three practical steps toward overcoming temptationassume responsibility for your own actions, be on guard for the next temptation, and claim God’s promise of a rescue; but the only real security is in a living relationship with Jesus Christ as our Redeemer.

As we move into our time of prayer, let’s begin with a moment of silence as we each confess an area of temptation we are susceptible to slipping into, repenting of those times we have decided to go that direction, and asking Jesus to walk alongside us every day, as our Savior and our Lord.

 

Resources:

Family Bible Study; “Advanced Bible Study Commentary”; Winter 2002-03; Pp. 58-65.

11/08/2015 – Deuteronomy 5:20 – “#9: Speak Helpfully”

Click on this link to find an audio version of this message: http://ppl.ug/QT8cbXSlubA/

Mark Wheeler

Exodus 20:16; Deuteronomy 5:20

“10 Rules for Faithful Living: #9 Speak Helpfully”

November 8, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

We come to worship today, O Lord, some of us filled with discontent, some with fear, some with anger, some with hurt feelings. But, dear Lord, we all came here today. Empty our hearts and minds of malice and bitterness right now. Help us instead, to seek Your perfect power and presence, Your righteousness and redemption, Your Law and Your love in front of all other possible priorities, through Your Son Jesus Christ. Amen. 

The Ten Commandments display was recently removed from the Alabama Supreme Court building.

There was a good reason for the move. You can’t post

Thou Shalt Not Steal,
Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery,
and Thou Shall Not Lie
in a building full of lawyers and politicians without creating a hostile work environment.

 

We have invested two-months looking at the Ten Commandments. In The Gospel according to Mark we read where Jesus said (Look at your Sermon Notes page…): (Mark 12) “29 ‘The most important Commandment is this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”’

And in the very next sentence Jesus says, “31 The second is this (in Matthew He says, “the second is just like it:”): ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

We have a tendency to really concentrate on the “secondGreat Commandment, and even ignore the “first”. We emphasizeloving our neighbor” (which is a very good thing), but when we do that to the exclusion of firstloving God with everything we are” we run the risk of misinterpreting what “loving our neighborreally means.

So, a quick recap of the first four of the Big Ten, about “loving God”, are:

  1. You shall have No OTHER godsanything other than God that we allow to take first place in our lives is out of order!
  2. You shall Make no IMAGESany image of God we make, any statue, any idea, any philosophy, will fall short
  3. HOLY be Thy nameGod’s name assures us of His perfect presence and power, do not misuse that
  4. Take a Sabbath REST – the Hebrew people had lived under the iron fist of Pharaoh, God says that under His authority we are meant to find peace, rest, in His presence

Toward the end of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God (love God above/before anything else), and our cares and concerns will be taken care of.” We are re-stating this every week because without our remembering it, even the next six commandments can be wrongly emphasized.

After we learn how to love God first, He says to love our neighbors. How do we love our neighbors?

  1. We Give HONOR until it’s deserved – starting with our parents
  2. We Respect LIFE – to the best of our ability
  3. We are to be FAITHFUL in our marriages – and in every relationship
  4. We are to be GENEROUS so that “stealing” isn’t even a temptation for the poorest among us.
  5. And …

Today we look at Commandment No. Nine. The NIV writes it like this: “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” Probably better memorized as “No lying!” How do we love our neighbors? Do not give false testimony about them!

I looked in my old Nave’s Compact Topical Biblenot just a Concordance where you look up a word and find where that word is located in the Scriptures, but this book groups ideas together and tells you where you might find that “topic”, or idea, discussed in Scripture. This version is not even exhaustive – it just gives some sample places. An exhaustive Topical Bible would be several volumes long.

So I looked up “lying/false testimony” and it also led me to “gossip” and “slander” and “grumble”.

The Women’s Lighthouse Circle, a couple of months ago, was asked by their President, what command in the Bible was the most often repeated. The answer? “Fear not.” But I would guess that this topic, “false testimony”, lines up as a close second place.

And, “False testimony” is MORE than simply lying, right? Name some other ways we might give “false testimony”:

  • Half-truth
  • One-sided truth
  • Any comment that is meant to deceive
  • When we talk behind someone’s back
  • When we share a “prayer request” in the form of gossip

When we were children, I’ll bet every one of us heard our parents tell us something like: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” And probably most of us have passed that along to our children as well.

It is good advice – but sometimes really hard to follow – because we’re also told to always tell the truth. And sometimes the truth is not nice. “Does this dress make me look fat?Husbands, how do you obey both of those rules at the same time?

I have learned that a better grown-up version of that rule is: “If you can’t say something HELPFUL, don’t say anything at all!

The “truth” might be that the dress does indeed make her look fat – but if admitting that will only hurt her feelings, or start a fight, it’s probably not HELPFUL. If she’s about to go to a photo-shoot, and she wants to look thin, maybe an “honest” response is the best! You see?

So, if I have a complaint about the way my boss is treating me, or a friend, or a fellow church member, I can just complain about the person to others in the group – or I can find a way to make the situation more healthy.

  • Should I just be quiet – because talking/gossiping/grumbling/slandering is not HELPFUL?
  • Should I bring this complaint/concern to the Lord in prayer? Because honest praying is HELPFUL.
  • Should I bring this complaint/concern to the proper person (maybe the person we have a complaint about), so we can find a HELPFUL solution together?

I think we all know the damage that is caused when we are around people who are always critical. We know because we have all been the victim of that. Right? Take a moment and remember when you were the one being talked about, but not being helped by that talk.

Now, just for a moment, remember the person you felt was responsible for that back-biting conversation (do not look at him right now!). Do you recall what you, and maybe several others in your group, thought of that person? Do you remember thinking how miserable she must be to always be that critical? Do you recall wondering how bad his childhood must have been to become such a pain in everyone’s backside? Do you recall wanting to shut that person out of your secrets and your personal dreams for fear that she might just break them apart with her harsh words? Do you recall wanting to return his meanness with some of your own?

How does a habit of “giving false testimony” hurt the one doing it? For starters, even if this is someone we really do like, we become more closed off and people, especially those on the “outside”, distance themselves. Relationships are fragile enough without putting this strain on them.

How do we love our neighbors? I believe this “no false testimonyCommandment is really all about how helpful we could be. When we speak, speak helpfully!

Steps to becoming more “helpful”:

  1. PRAY for God’s involvementLord, please intervene. Lord, please show me my role in this. Lord, please step into this with me, I need Your patience, Your grace, Your strength, Your wisdom.
  2. Look for POSITIVES I believe it was Gerri who once shared that a former pastor or friend of hers thinks of others as “trying to do their best, given their life skills and circumstances”.
  3. Speak only that which moves toward being HELPFUL Lord, if this will not be helpful to the situation keep my mouth closed – if it will be helpful, help me to say it well, lovingly, with grace.

Yes, we are still sinners, and we will still speak hurtfully from time to time – I am among the biggest of these sinners. That’s why God has given us the gift of apologies and forgiveness. And God offers the grace of forgiveness to all of us. But He also holds us to the standard set forth in Scripture. And every time we do not give in to any temptation of “slander”, we give glory to God, we honor our neighbor, we respect the life that we encounter, we act generously to those around us, and we speak words of helpfulness and health.

Remember why God gives us these commandments:

  • To talk about how much we need a Savior
  • To topple down our selfish desires to speak against each other
  • To tell us what God’s character is – and therefore, as people created in the image of God, who claim to be followers of Jesus, what our character ought to be as we grow more and more into His likeness

And God’s perfect grace and offer of complete forgiveness is waiting for all who acknowledge our need, confess our failure, and repent toward loving God better. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life”, because it was “while we were still sinning that Christ died for us.” (John 3:16, Romans 5:8)

Do you need to believe this Good News today? Are you at a place where you are understanding this truth for the first time? Or even for the 100th time? It’s as simple as saying, “Thank You Jesus, I do believe. Help me, today, with where I don’t believe enough.

Love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got;

and love your neighbor as yourselfgive honor until it’s deserved! Respect life! Be faithful! Give generously! Speak helpfully!

We can do this by acknowledging that God is with us, and nothing is impossible for God!

We have heard plenty of debates over whether these Commandments belong in our Court Houses or classrooms – but there should be no argument that they belong right here, in our hearts and lives and church. If our Church ever turns our backs on the authority of these Commandments, may God have mercy on our souls.

Let us worship the Lord our God, above and before all else, and let us love our neighbor as ourselves, today and forever.

Psalm 119:175 speaks our prayer: Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me. Amen.

Resources:

The Law of Liberty; “Unfolding God’s Glorious Law”; Project Restore, Inc; Locust Dale, VA; 2006; Pp. 7.

10/25/2015 – Deuteronomy 5:18 – “Commandment #7: Be Faithful!”

Click this link to get the audio version: http://ppl.ug/3cef-tAGBJc/

Mark Wheeler

Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18; Matthew 5:21-22; Mark 12:28-31

“10 Rules for Faithful Living: #7 Be Faithful”

October 25, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

We come to worship today, O Lord, some of us filled with discontent, some with fear, some with anger, some with hurt feelings. But, dear Lord, we all came here today. Empty our hearts and minds of malice and bitterness right now. Help us instead, to seek Your perfect power and presence, Your righteousness and redemption, Your Law and Your love in front of all other possible priorities, through Your Son Jesus Christ. Amen. 

I read a story about a man who spent days looking for his new hat. Finally, he decided that he’d go to church on Sunday and sit at the back. During the service he would sneak out and grab a hat from the rack at the back door.

On Sunday, he went to church and sat at the back. The sermon was about the 10 commandments. He sat through the whole sermon and instead of sneaking out, he waited until the sermon was over and went to talk to the minister.

Pastor, I came here today to steal a hat to replace the one I lost. But after hearing your sermon on the 10 Commandments, I changed my mind.”

The minister said, “Bless you friend. Was it when I started to preach thou shall not steal, that changed your heart?

The man responded, “No, it was the one on adultery. When you started to preach on that, I remembered where I left my hat.”

 The only reason this is funny is because it stirs in us a nervous guilt. That’s my guess….

We have invested the last month-and-a-half looking at the Ten Commandments. In The Gospel according to Mark we read where Jesus said (Look at your Sermon Notes page…): (Mark 12) “29 ‘The most important Commandment is this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”’” And we saw that the first four of the Big Ten are about that. Can you name those first four?

  1. No OTHER godsall those other things that we allow to take first place in our lives are out of order!
  2. Make no IMAGESany image of God we make, any statue, any idea, any philosophy, will fall short
  3. HOLY be Thy nameGod’s name assures us of His perfect presence and power, do not misuse that
  4. Take a Sabbath REST – the Hebrew people had lived under the iron fist of Pharaoh, God says that under His authority we are meant to find peace, rest, in His presence

These first four Commandments are all about that most important one! Love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got, always, never-ending, without failhave no other gods! Make no false images! Do not misuse God’s holy name! Rest in God’s presence!

But Jesusgoes a little deeper: In the very next sentence Jesus says, “31 The second is this (in Matthew He says, “the second is just like it:”): ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

That’s what the next six Commandments are about. How do we love our neighbors?

  1. We Give HONOR until it’s deserved – starting with our parents
  2. We Respect LIFE – to the best of our ability
  3. And …

Today we look at Commandment No. Seven. The NIV writes it like this: “You shall not commit adultery.”

This is not, especially in a traditional American mostly Caucasian senior-citizen church, [not] a comfortable subject to talk about from the pulpit! But – it’s in the Bible – and it still applies to us. How do we love our neighbors as ourselves? Do not commit adultery!

And, let me add, because of the way Jesus talks about this commandment, and what Paul says in a few places, and what is in the Old Testament Torah-books, and elsewhere in Scripture, I think we can define “adultery as any kind of sexual ethic beyond what the Bible states as “giving honor” and “respecting life”.

Jesus said, in the Sermon on the Mount, [you have this in your Sermon Notes page if you would like to easily read along – I read a paraphrase this week, by a Bible scholar named John Sartelle, that I think states this so plainly and perfectly; so listen to this paraphrase as you follow along: “‘Jesus is talking, and He says, “By the way, when you attempt to redefine the Law and use it to throw away a wife or a husband at your convenience so you can marry someone more appealing to you – that is nothing but out-and-out adultery. Your effort to legalize it does not make it something moral.” This scholar goes on to say, “Jesus was not setting forth a full treatise on marriage and divorce. He was talking about adultery – that was His subject. The Pharisees were saying, ‘We would never commit adultery. We simply divorce our wives and then we are free to marry more desirable women.’ Jesus was saying ‘That is still adultery! You tried to make it look right through a formal divorce, but it still adultery.’ (Matthew 5:27-32) He even says that just “lusting” after a woman commits your heart to adultery.

Why? Because the two had become one! You can’t, willy-nilly, tear that apart! Not without damaging both halves!

Let’s take a few more steps back – in time and in Scripture: Eve stood before Adam, and he stood before her. God had made them for each other. As they observed each other, there must have been wonder. She saw that he was the same, and yet different. He saw that she was the same, and yet different. However, in their differences they fit each other. Their differences actually enhanced their relationship. They reveled in the Creator’s design for their bodily union. And in short time they would discover that there were other differences as wellemotional differences, personality differences, etc. Daily they would discover that the other contributed something to the marriage that the first could not. Each of these differences made them better as a couple.

And because of these differences, God’s design was that, the two would become one. That was God’s plan. “What God has joined together, let no one tear asunder.”

Now, let’s be honest. Adam and Eve had way fewer extramarital options or temptations than we have today! Whom would they have “cheatedwith? Right?

But let’s be just as honest as we look at what is right and what is wrong. The beauty of God’s plan is not made ugly just because we are given more responsibility to be faithful!

Is divorce ever permitted? Ever acceptable? Ever the best choice? Yes. It is not God’s hoped-for plan, but in this very passage, Jesus gives permission to make it right when there has been infidelity! The Command, therefore, is Be Faithful!

And infidelity comes in many forms, including “good, old-fashioned adultery”, but being unfaithful happens with abuse, with estrangement, with “lust”, with pornography, with lack of affection. With all the biblical pictures of “faithfulness”, we are not lacking understanding of unfaithfulness.

It is sometimes the wisest choice to leave an abusive spouse – the right choice for both the victim and the children! When lives are being ruined, by any understanding of infidelity, divorce might be the only right option.

But it should not be willy-nilly simple! God has revealed Himself as the Bridegroom, and Israel and the Church, the fulfilled people of Israel, as His Bride. And He stays with us even though we have strayed away from being faithful! Thanks be to God.

How should we then live? How do we make decisions about marriage, divorce, and remarriage? We must return to the truth and beauty of God’s original design. We must set before the world the wonder and majesty of that physical, emotional, spiritual union that our Creator gave to be an immutable and indescribable blessing to His creation.

Yes, we are still sinners. And God offers the grace of forgiveness to all of us. But He also holds us to the standard set forth in Scripture. And every time we do not give in to any temptation of infidelity to our spouse, we give glory to God, we honor our spouse, and we respect the life that our marriage represents.

For those in the room who are not married – you are not left out in this Command. Be Faithful, like Brelyn Bowman was.

Did you see the story this week of the bride who, at her wedding, gave to her father a certificate, signed by her physician, that she was still a virgin? This couple, and this family, was celebrating their pledge to be faithful to God’s purposes (no sex outside of marriage). And the uproar across this nation has been incredible!

Living with a Biblical standard of sexual ethics might be hard work. That is why God gave us this commandment:

  • To reveal to us how much we need a Savior
  • To reel in our selfish desires to mistreat each other
  • To remind us what God’s character is – and therefore, as people created in the image of God, who claim to be followers of Jesus, what our character ought to be as we grow more and more into His likeness

And God’s perfect grace and offer of complete forgiveness is waiting for all who acknowledge our need, confess our failure, and repent toward loving God better.

Love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got; and love your neighbor as yourselfgive honor until it’s deserved! Respect life! Be faithful!

We can do this by acknowledging that God is with us, and nothing is impossible for God!

We might argue and debate over whether these Commandments belong in our Court Houses or classrooms – but there should be no argument that they belong right here, in our hearts and lives and church. If our Church ever turns our backs on the authority of these Commandments, may God have mercy on our souls.

Let us worship the Lord our God, above and before all else, and let us love our neighbor as ourselves, today and forever. Amen.

Psalm 119:105 tells us: Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Amen.

Resources:

Bowman, Brelyn; ABC Good Morning America; 10/23/2015.

Table Talk: The Christian Sexual Ethic; “What God Has Joined Together”; John P. Sartelle; November 2015; Pp. 4-9.

The Law of Liberty; “Unfolding God’s Glorious Law”; Project Restore, Inc; Locust Dale, VA; 2006; Pp. 6.

07/12/2015 – I John 1:8-9 – “A New GPS: Grace Placement System”

Mark Wheeler

I John 1:5-10

“A New GPS: Grace Placement System”

July 12, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

Remove, O Lord, any tension or anxiety, any stress or worry, anything, which may keep us from fulfilling Your wishes of who we could be. Fill us with the grace of the Father, the strength of the Son, and the hope of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

This coming Friday evening is our church’s “faith night” at Avista Stadium – a group of us from LPC will cheer on the Spokane Indians as they battle it out with the Tri-City Dustdevils. One of the joys of Minor League Baseball is the games the audience gets to play – like “catch the T-shirt” where they shoot rolled-up T-shirts out of a cannon and the audience tries to be one of the few lucky winners. But catching a T-shirt, or for that matter a foul ball, consists of four things all converging: 1) you have to be at the game; 2) you need to be paying attention; 3) there has to be a T-shirt being shot out of a cannon (or a foul ball hit off a bat); and 4) you need to be in exactly the right place for the shirt/ball to land in your lap.

We are in a series which explores 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. Today we’re going to talk about how those same four factors fit into our study on Grace.

1)   Are we “at the game”?

2)   Are we paying attention? What do we expect?

3)   Is Grace being shot out of a cannon?

4)   Are we in the right place to receive it?

This morning we are reading from the First New Testament Letter from the Apostle John, and then we will also look at the Old Testament book of Psalms #32.

The first 3 of the factors we just mentioned are going to be assumed – and yes, I know that’s always a mistake – but because we are here this morning, and notat the lake” or still in bed or off to the casino, let’s just pretend we are all “at the game”. (The whole spectator image is a troubling image to begin with, right? We should all be “in the game”, not just “at” it. But let’s go with this failed metaphor for now. We’re at the game – we recognize that the Christian faith, as described in the Bible and taught by Jesus, is the only right faith system to live under. We areat the game”!

Let’s also assume we are paying attention! That’s a huger assumption, but for the sake of today’s topic I am pretending that I am paying attention to the things of God as well as you are; and that together we are paying close enough attention to actually see where God is leading us.

And the 3rd factor-assumption is the truth that Grace is being shot out of the cannon! God shot that Grace at us on the day that Jesus was crucified on our behalf. Grace was shot out on that day when I heard the Gospel clearly for the first time. Grace was shot out when I was fired, or cheated on, or failed that test, or missed that bus – and God’s perfect revealed will brought me to my knees. Friends, Grace is shot out today, right now. Are you at the game and paying attention?

From I John 1:5-10 we read these words of truth …. —-

This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in darkness [if we claim to be “at the game” and paying attention, but are, in fact, either not really walking in faith at all, or maybe we have received Jesus as Lord and Savior, but today we have decided that it’s just not worth the struggle – if that’s the case], we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. [Ahh, there’s the Grace shot out of the cannon!]

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His Word has no place in our lives.

May God bless the reading, hearing, receiving of His Word which never fails.

The 4th factor is where we are concentrating today! Are we in the right place to receive the Grace that has been shot out? What does that reading from I John 1 tell us is the key to this 4th factor? If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Confession puts us in the right place to receive God’s Grace! Confession is the Grace Placement System! What does that mean? And how does that work?

The definition of the word “confession” includes the act or process of confessing, as in telling one’s life story as a series of failings or tribulations. We think of it as admitting when we’ve done wrong.

The root-word of “confession is the Latin word “fateri”, “to admit“, akin to “fari”, “speak“. And you add to that root the prefix “con which means “together” (congregate = gather together, commune = unite together). Therefore, confess = admit, tell, together.

When we confess our sins, we take off our masks, we reveal our-selves, we open our vulnerabilities, to God (and maybe to one another). And that act puts us in the right place to receive God’s perfect grace (and the grace that might be offered from the victim of our offense).

How many of you had a mom who told you something like: “Confession is good for the soul”? How is “confession good for the soul”? It puts us in the right seat to catch that T-shirt of God’s Grace! That’s the secret difference between going to the Indians baseball game and catching a foul ball or a T-shirt. Being in the right seat is just a matter of luck! Not true for catching God’s Grace. It’s not a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

But do not hear me say that there’s a way to earn God’s Grace. Confession does not make us worthy of God’s Grace. There is nothing we can do to make us more or less worthyGod’s perfect Grace is un-earnable. What confession does do is put us in the right placeconfession readies our soul to receive, confession softens our heart to consent, confession opens our spirit to accept the Grace God offers through His Son Jesus Christ, as Savior and as Lord!

Probably the most famous Bible confession is the Old Testament King David. You know the story: King David looked out over his kingdom and peeping-tommed a neighbor-lady named Bathsheba, whose husband was away serving in the military. So he invited her up for dinner, and before the night was over she was expecting a baby. The story gets much worse than that, but that’s the beginning.Later, David’s friend and adviser helps him see the error of his way – and he confesses, both to his friend and to the Lord.

Psalm 51 contains some of the words of that confession; and Psalm 32 tells the story of that confession. Psalm 32, verse 5, is in your Sermon Notes page, but listen to verses 1-4 as well …. —-

Blessed is the one    whose transgressions are forgiven,     whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one    whose sin the Lord does not count against them    and in whose spirit is no deceit.

When I kept silent,    my bones wasted away    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night    your hand was heavy on me;   my strength was sapped    as in the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you    and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess    my transgressions to the Lord
.”   And you forgave     the guilt of my sin.

Did you catch the principles of confession in this psalm?

The beginning of verse 5 says:Then I acknowledged my sin to you    and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess    my transgressions to the Lord.”

ADMITTING that we have sinned. Admit it! Acknowledge the fact that what I did was a sin! It offended God’s sense of justice and love. It was against His Laws. I disobeyed my Lord! Admission of guilt! I am a sinner!

The end of verse 5 says:And you forgave     the guilt of my sin.BELIEVING that God actually forgives sinners.

He forgives my sins. God forgives your sins. Christ paid the debt our sin deserves when He died on the cross – and was raised to eternal life. The letter of I John, our Thursday class has been discovering, repeats 3 tests of Genuine Faith – the moral test (do you obey the Lord’s commands?), the love test (do you love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind? and do you love your neighbor as yourself?), and the belief test (do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and that He forgives your sins through His death and resurrection?).

I John 1:8-9, If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 

Confession becomes a new Grace Placement System – confessing our sin puts us in the right place to RECEIVE God’s grace.

 

The very bottom of your Sermon Notes page has a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from his WWII era book called Life Together, written for the underground Church in Germany during Hitler’s tyrannous regime. Listen to his words: “A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person.

We Protestants get a little uncomfortable when we talk about “going to a confessional”. The Roman Catholics teach a doctrine about how forgiveness can only be achieved by confessing to the Father through a priest; and we Protestants believe that the Bible calls us directly to God, without the need of a human arbiter. But, there is something powerful about allowing our inmost fears and vulnerabilities be seen by a brother or sister in Christ. I have avoided this for most of my faith, except in general terms as we pray together in church. But for the last 15 years I have been meeting almost weekly with another pastor, a friend, a colleague, a brother, with whom we share our struggles and our fears and our sins, for the purpose of hearing a brother pray with and for us! I confess that I experience the presence of God in the reality of my friend Chris.

In just a moment we will go to the Lord in prayer, but let’s go there to sit in the right seat. Let’s be in the right place to receive God’s Grace.

Let us live into the challenge of Hebrews 12:15: “Let NO ONE fall short of the grace of God.” Let’s pass God’s invitation on to our children, our grandchildren, our neighbors, our co-workers, our classmates; let’s invite them to come into contact with the GRACE of God – maybe by confessing our sins with each other! Amen. 

“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.

Resources:

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich; Life Together; Harper & Row; San Francisco, CA; 1954; P. 116.

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php.

Lucado, Max; Grace: More than We Deserve, Greater than We Imagine; Thomas Nelson; Nashville, TN; 2012; Pp. 79-89.