“Grace Pays Our Debt”
June 14, 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 the Son, and the hope of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
For those of us who pay quarterly estimated taxes, due date is tomorrow. The June due date is only 2 months after the April due date, so it always sneaks up on me and I occasionally miss it. So when June 16 comes around it always reminds me of how Grace works.
“Grace” and “taxes”? Yup. They always go together for me. Here’s why:
In the Spring of 1990, 6 months after my ordination, I was preparing to file my first Clergy Tax Returns – oh my goodness, I could not believe how complicated this is – Clergy file as self-employed employees of the church – yup, you heard right.
So we called a woman in our church who did taxes for a living – and asked for her help. What we learned was that I should have been filing these kinds of tax returns for the previous 3 years (I worked as a “Pastor’s Assistant” while in seminary). So, I owed some $4,000 – and we had $0 in our savings account!
This sweet tax preparer, Tamara, decided to not charge us for her work (she counted it as professional training, she become the firm’s clergy tax expert) – and then she paid our $4,000! Interest free!
Talk about Grace!
Have you ever received an unexpected, undeserved, gift of grace? Maybe not $4,000 worth, but something?More recently, I asked a friend who works in the auto industry for advice on some work on Caitlin’s car – he took the car for a few days and made almost every repair – for FREE! Grace? That’s a picture of grace! This Summer we are looking at different aspects of this theologically loaded word: Grace – more than we deserve, and greater than we imagine. Listen to today’s Old Testament reading from Isaiah 52 & 53…. —-
“52 13 See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
and his form marred beyond human likeness—
15 so he will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.
53 1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
May God bless the reading, hearing, receiving of His Word which never fails.
This passage of Isaiah was written some 600 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem – but is there any confusion among us whom God had in mind when Isaiah wrote this?
God’s plan of having His own Son, Jesus, become a human, and suffer and die on behalf of sinners like you and me, was no after-thought; this was no last-ditch effort to try to save humankind; this had been God’s plan since the beginning. Check out Genesis 3 where God talks about the offspring of Eve crushing the head of Satan, and in Genesis 12 where God promises Abraham that his offspring will be a Savior for all the world. Both Eve’s and Abraham’s salvific offspring is Jesus! Isaiah reminds the Israelites of this truth 600 years before this Savior is born.
On Good Friday, Pontius Pilate reminded the crowd that it was their custom to release one prisoner for the Passover holiday. He offered the crowd a choice: JESUS (against whom Pilate could find no criminal offense) or BARABBAS (who was a convicted murderous rebel).
Most of you know this story. Which of these men died for the other?
Pilate tried some 4 different times to get the crowd to let Jesus off the hook. Pilate said, in so many words, “I see no reason for Jesus to be condemned. He has done nothing deserving crucifixion.” He pled a lesser punishment – “How ‘bout a severe whipping?” Nope, not good enough. Finally, Pilate “washed his hands” and sent Jesus back to the local magistrate, Herod.
It seems that Paul later says plainly what Pilate was thinking: “God made Him who had no SIN [Jesus] to be sin for us, so that in Him WE might become the righteousness of God.” (II Corinthians 5:21)
That is Grace! Jesus Christ, who was sinless – not that He was unable to sin, remember the temptations in the wilderness; but that He refused to sin – took on our sin, experienced the painful effects of my sin, extreme separation from His own Father, remember His “Why have You forsaken me?”. Isaiah says, “He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him!”
That is Grace!
600 years before Christ, the prophet Isaiah knew who deserved what. Look at verse 6 on your Sermon Notes page: “We ALL, like sheep, have gone ASTRAY.” He goes on and says, “Each of us has turned to our own way.”
And friends, we know that our ways are not God’s ways. In John’s Gospel Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth and the life – and no one comes to the Father except through/by me.”
“We ALL, like sheep, have gone ASTRAY. Each of us has turned to our own way. … and the Lord has laid on Him (who is the “Him”?), and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all!”
That is Grace! Say it with me, “That is Grace!” How have you “gone astray”? Is there a habit that is not God-honoring? Is there a choice you know is wrong? How about an attitude – of superiority, or disgruntledness, or worry, or pride?
How has our church “gone astray”? Are we as faithful in reaching beyond our doors as we should be? Do we feed the hungry like we might? Are there some kinds of people we just “don’t want around here”? Have we ignored God’s clear teaching and done our own thing?
How has our church “gone astray”?
What does Isaiah 53 say Jesus did for us? Does it not say, The Grace of Jesus paid off our debt of sin?! He paid it all! We are completely free to follow Him well and serve Him wholly!
That is Grace!
Who is someone in your life who does not deserve Grace? Seriously, who deserves retribution? Who deserves their comeuppance? Who deserves to be smacked, or at least shelved? Got that face in mind? (Why is everyone looking at me?)
Now, how will you show that person God’s Grace?
Hebrews 12:15 gives us the clear challenge to “let no one fall short of the GRACE of God.” How will you do this this week?
That, my friend, is Grace!
“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. 31-37.