Have you heard something like this…
Look at the price God paid for you; His own son! God wouldn’t sacrifice his son for something worthless would he?! Therefore we must be immensely valuable to God!
The crux of the idea of this; God’s primary motivation in sending Jesus to die is because you are personally worth that sacrifice, you are worth that price. The trouble is… you’re not. No one is worth the death of God the Son, the Eternal One. Especially not one of God’s enemies!
So if God didn’t sacrifice Jesus because we’re worth it, why did he do it? Well, first, because of his gracious love.
But you will say, “Aha! We must be worth something to God for him to love us!” But no! It’s not gracious love if we’re worthy of being loved. If we’re lovely in any way then God’s love ceases to be gracious.
But doesn’t God care about us, and doesn’t he know the number of hairs on our heads? Yes… but does he care because out hair is worthy to be counted? No! He cares because he is a caring God. He’s a God who cares for things that are not worthy of his care.
That’s what God wants us to know above everything else; he is the God who loves the unlovely, who saves the not-worthy-of-saving, who adopts the useless, who justifies the wicked.
And that’s why the death of Christ is “worth it” to God… that “price” was what it cost to show that he is gloriously gracious.
So, he didn’t send his Son to die because we’re worth it, he sent his Son to die because being known as amazingly gracious is worth it.
Paul writes is Titus chapter 2,
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…
People often approach this passage with a particular sin in mind… they have that behaviour they try and hate, they try to stop, but they really love and they keep on doing… and they come to this passage and feel even worse because it seems to imply that the reason they keep doing it is because they don’t understand “the grace of God”. They think to themselves, “Why hasn’t the grace of God taught ME to say ‘no’ to this sin?! Why hasn’t it taught me to be ‘self-controlled’?!? Maybe I’m not even part of God’s grace!?”
That’s Satan talking, twisting God’s word – again.
God grace “is teaching”. Continually and presently. It hasn’t finished teaching. Just think, if it had, you would NEVER sin, in ANY way.
So how IS the grace of God teaching us? Well, what does the grace of God actually do – or allow us to do?
Grace allows us to boldly approach the throne of grace (Heb 4:16). Where sin increased, grace increased all the more (Rom 5:20). See, every time we sin and repent to God, (i.e. asking him for grace again), we are again trusting him at his word that he will graciously forgive again. We are being schooled by His grace every time we pray the Lord’s prayer, “forgive us our sins”. Responding to God’s grace reminds us and teaches us what is unrighteous (our sin) and what is righteousness (God’s grace through Jesus’ life, sacrifice and death for others).
Grace will only be our teacher if we continually go to his lessons.
What does it mean to repent of sin? It’s more than just feeling remorse for sin. It often entails taking definitive action… saying sorry, giving the item back, making amends. But it’s more than performing certain actions too. We’ve all seen the child who gives-in and reluctantly returns the toy to their sibling.
Christian repentance must have something to do with Jesus. And the best way I can think of this is like trading-up.
Repentance is when you admit to Jesus that you were wrong, that you wanted the wrong thing – even if you didn’t DO it, you still deserve punishment… and admitting that you’d like to trade it in.
“Jesus, my heart wanted something you hate. I even acted on that desire. I rightly deserve wrath. But if you’re willing, I’d like to take up your offer to trade-in my wrong for your forgiveness and righteousness? That’s an amazing deal I don’t deserve.”
See, repentance is the action of giving our wrong desire to Jesus, and asking him to take it away from us so we don;t do it any more… and asking him to replace that wrong with his righteousness.
We’re a people who keep trading-up, day after day!
“Hi, My name’s Dave and I’m a sinner. Yet by God’s grace I’ve been forgiven for more than 20 years.”
“Keep going Dave!”, “Make it through the next week Dave!”
People who will tell you that groups like AA helped them deal with their addiction will also tell you that they had to get to breaking point. They all had to get to the point where they realised they couldn’t do it on their own… that they were lost, empty, powerless, impotent to control themselves. And their AA groups helped them grapple with what they were – addicts. And they know how hard it gets when you don’t go to meetings. They have a code when they meet outside of meetings… not “How long since you’ve had a drink?” it’s “How long since you’ve been to a meeting?”.
Now… how much more addicted to sin are we compared to their addiction to alcohol? Can we even go a day without sin?
A right understanding of our fleshy – though slowly transforming – hearts should help us better understand why simply attending church and GrowthGroups is so important. We’re just not that strong on our own.
If you are saved by grace, and you stay in by grace, that means you can’t keep yourself in – you’re dependant on God’s grace.
And if one of the means of God’s grace is the fellowship of other Christians under the stewardship of faithful teachers and elders, then that seems like something God has made you dependant on…
23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Why would you even consider missing that?
Following on from yesterday’s post… I tried to argue that even though humans rights are good (for human relationships), they do not apply to our relationship to God. And this is such an important idea, because if you don’t get this… if you think that humans do have some sort of right before God… then you’re going to get stuck on all the issues that commonly come up…
This about the big questions that non-Christians usually ask: What about suffering? What about sex before/outside/different-to marriage? What about predestination? They all start with an assumption that God should defer to my rights as a human being.
- What about suffering?
You do not have a right to a life without suffering. If God has determined to allow you to suffer, you have no legal, moral, or existential foot to stand on and appeal the decision. It’s got nothing to do with what you want. God is not being unfair, he’s being God.
In fact, if you understand this, you’ll see that the better question to ask is, “Why God do you allow us to continue living, when you have every right to annihilate us all?!”
- What about my desires/satisfaction as a person?
You do not have a right to a life where you get a fairy-tale ending. We do not have a right to demand that God bend his will and allow us our fleeting whims. The idea that “Everyone has a right to love someone and be loved by someone” is false. They are not rights, they are undeserved gifts – with the emphasis on the undeserved.
- What about my choice in predestination?
You do not have a right to choose. Yes, you should have a right to choose some things when it comes to human relationships. But you do not have a right to expect that should take your desires into account when he determines what to do with you in eternity. In fact, the very fact that God uses our choice to achieve his will should make us gasp in amazement.
See, we really need to keep reminding ourselves how fragile our relationship is with God. It is entirely by his grace. Every year, month, day, second, heart-beat and nano-zap. All at his whim, nothing because of our rights.
With that in mind… read this:
People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
God binds himself to us silly little humans, so that we have a right to take hold of the hope of salvation and forgiveness in Christ. Amazing!
If God’s grace is the basis for salvation, that means that every salvation is only by grace. Simple, right? Always comes out in the way you speak, right?
Think about it… every salvation is only by grace… so every christian person you meet has been amazingly changed from sinner to saint. Does that come across in the way you speak? When you meet a brand-new christian, do you somehow give the impression that something more exciting has happened to them than has happened to the other “I grew up in a christian home” christians around them.
I want to cultivate a culture that is amazed at God’s grace in every conversion.
Every Christian in that room is a “convert”.
They may not be your convert (but who cares). They may have converted years ago (but again.. so what?!). They may have converted as a child in a family that never knew a day when they weren’t a convert (praise Jesus!). But they are all converts. Every soul in that room is someone who God, my the majesty of his Holy Spirit has chosen before the beginning of time to drag into his love in Christ.
We need to keep preaching the gospel to ourselves and remember this, so that we don’t loose heart. So that we don’t fall into the trap of thinking that God saves this nice bunch of people because they turn up every few weeks or so.
Rather, we need to remind ourselves, and our congregations, “If God saved me, the wretch I am, he can save others.”
There seems to be a common formula in modern preaching, it’s not bad, but it’s just worth thinking about. Often a preacher will apply a passage in two ways. First for the non-Christian, and then, once they’ve been invited to trust Christ, there’s a second application for the Christian. It goes something like, “ok, what does this mean for you if you’re a Christian then?”
There’s some very good reasons for doing it this way… It models the right thing to the right people. It says that you come to Jesus first, trust him, and in response to his grace, you live a certain way. All good.
However, I wonder if people are just more likely to remember the last thing they hear?
I also wonder if even our Christian brothers and sisters need to be reminded of grace again and again?
What if we applied the passage to our lives, and then said… “That’s a tall order isn’t it. In fact it’s impossible for us. But God forgives in Christ. God transforms in Christ. God helps through Christ’s spirit. Does that make you want to try and do it all the more?”
Does ending on grace show that we’re all in the same boat, needing to be saved?
So just have a go. Why not?! Why not be bold? Why not put it out there? Why not say what you think will help/encourage/build-up/strengthen/correct/etc…? Why stop from saying something that God could use to help people.
That’s just it you see… God uses people. Not great people, not always skilled people, just his people. There’s nothing to make you think that he WON’T use you. NOTHING!!!!
But what about… NO! That (whatever that is) doesn’t mean he can’t use YOU. There’s nothing about you that makes God go “uhh… no, I’m not using you!” (assuming you’re a Christian).
Except for one thing…
There is one thing that will mean God won’t use you…
When you don’t have a go. When you don’t act in love. When you don’t say the hard word, the loving word. When you don’t just give them a call.
God won’t use you, when you don’t trust him enough to act.
So go on, have a go!