Many pastors will begin their sermons with the words of Psalm 19. “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer.”(vs.14) Yet these are words that should not be limited to a Sunday sermon. This is a prayer for each of our days. Paul also reminds us when he wrote, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”(Ephesians 4:29) This doesn’t mean that all of our words are flattery or nice sentiments. Sometime guidance, and correction are needed. But it does meant that our words “give grace to those who hear”. They are spoken in love and concern to the others good, and not out of personal anger or selfish desire. This is the way our Lord speaks to us.
|A while back our microwave oven when up. Who knows why?!! It wasn’t all that old, but it just quit between heating my morning coffee and the leftovers for lunch. I even took the cover off and looked inside, which of course the manual tells you not to do, but I did it anyway. Nothing burned, nothing obvious. So there it sits. We also have a 26″ flat screen TV that quit – sound but no picture. An internet search said, “Yes, that does happen sometimes.” Big help! The problem is we are in a day of throw away appliances. It cost more to take it somewhere for repairs than it does for a new one. Now it’s ready for the trash. Very fortunately, God did not make people that way. We break down all the time, in health, in doing what we are not supposed to do, in missing opportunities we should have met. In God’s healing, patience, forgiveness and love, He repairs us, and starts us over again. God does not choose to throw away anyone. In Him, new life is always available. And best of all, it is free.|
The magnitude of God’s glory, Paul writes, is so great, “things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard … of all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” (2 Corinthians 2:9) C.S. Lewis likens the comparison to a ghetto child playing in a street mud puddle, having no concept of making sand castles on a clean ocean beach. We use superlative words for God like awesome, majestic, glorious, and holy, but still have little concept of the depth of what these words mean. Too often we content ourselves with the toys and trinkets of this life, not realizing that there is so much more for us in a life in harmony with God through Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…”(Matthew 6:33) He would not have said it if He didn’t mean that it was possible. We can live at least a beginning of Kingdom life even in the midst of this broken world. The sand castles are real.
“This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24) We have plans, but we never really know what any given day will hold. Yet, the day begins with this same declaration of praise. The Lord has given us this day, and it is filled with His grace. Things may run smoothly. That is His grace. Our way may prosper. That is His grace. Completely unexpected events many occur. His grace brought them. The day many hold difficulties, loss, or even tragic events. His grace is still there. You see, the Lord, who never leaves or forsakes us, is never taken by surprise, and is always working for us. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
It is hard to be a sinner! Now that is a strange remark for a preacher to make. Aren’t we supposed to talk about sin, and our need for the atoning sacrifice of Christ? Certainly, we are. It is a continuing message of sharing the depth of grace God has given us in our Saviour. But somehow the confession that “I’m a sinner” gets stuck in the throat. After all, I try to be a decent person. I help my neighbor. I go to church. I try not to harm anyone. I know I’m not perfect, but there are a lot worse than me. So, it is hard for many to think of themselves as ones totally separated from God, and dependent upon God reaching out to us in Jesus Christ. But that’s where we are, totally dependent upon God doing something for us that we are incapable of doing for ourselves. It is when we see ourselves as sinners saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, that He becomes such a treasure. Because of the love we have been given, our desire is to worship and serve Him, to grow closer to Him, and to give others the love we have been given in Jesus.
It took some years after the beginning of the Church before people were called Christians. In the Book of Acts Christians were called the people of The Way. I’ve always liked that. I think it is an important designation we can take to heart. We are not just part of a religion, but we live by a certain way of life. That life is defined by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. Jesus said of Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”(John 14:6) He followed that immediately by saying, “no man comes to the Father but by Me.” He is speaking of a singular path into the presence of God, not many paths, or all roads as some like to believe. The way that Jesus offers is good. It is not followed by a set of legal regulations, but by a relationship of grace that is offered to each person. The way we seek to walk is guided by the two great commandments, to love God above all else, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. The way of Christ is seeking to walk in daily fellowship with One who loves us more than we know.
Paul began a number of his letters to the churches by writing, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. “What a marvelous salutation and blessing for his people. It is also what you should take seriously as God’s desire for you in this day. “Grace to you” is the hand of our Lord extended to take your hand in the desire to walk with you through all parts of this day. With His hand you have a sense of His guidance and direction for the tasks and decisions of today. With His hand you have the assurance of strength sufficient for today’s needs. With His hand you have the security that nothing can separate you from Him, and in that is a depth of peace that passes human understanding. Know today that because of the grace you have received in our Lord Jesus Christ you are held by the hand of our Father who loves you with an everlasting love, and will never let you go.
God used a variety of visual images through the prophets to show the people the nature of their life with Him. In Jeremiah 13 God uses an illustration of a garment that is bound around the waste like a belt. He is told to take a new garment and hide it among the rocks leaving it there for a long time. When he was told to go back and get it, it had rotted and was useless. Then God said, “I bound all the people of Israel and all the people of Judah to me,’ declares the LORD, ‘to be my people for my renown and praise and honor.”(vs.11) The problem was that the people refused to honor God and became like a rotted garment. The text says that the lives of God’s people are to bring Him honor and praise. God is not an egotist needing people to praise Him. He needs nothing from us. But by our lives bringing honor to Him we find our greatest joy, and we witness to others of the goodness of our gracious Lord. Long after the time of Jeremiah the Apostle Paul wrote, “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”(Colossians 3:17) This is not a life of law and fear of punishment if we offend God, but a life of thanksgiving in the joy of knowing our gracious God. Even in our failures we rejoice that our God does not abandon us. He is always there to forgive, cleanse, and give new life. Living in this grace we bring Him glory.
I made part of our living by running a woodworking shop for thirty years. I’ve made a lot of furniture, built in cabinets, and done refinishing and repair work. I did some good work, but the jobs that I remember most are the ones I messed up, the ones where I didn’t make the customer happy. Sins are like that. Things we’ve done in the past, we wish had never happened. But it is just here that the grace of our God is such a blessing. “When we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”(I John 1:9) We have the assurance that, in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, God does not hold our sins against us. “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”(Isaiah 43:25) Our memory is still there, but through the forgiving grace of God our guilt is removed. The power of Satan to use our past against us is broken. We may have to deal with the consequences of our past actions, just as I had to make the jobs done for customers right, but their power to bind us is gone. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”(Psalm 103:12) This is the freedom and true joy we have in our relationship with our Holy Lord.
Do we really understand the magnitude of God’s holiness? Holiness is absolute purity, perfection, the epitome of all that is good and right. Do we really understand the depth of our own sinful nature? Sin is our rebellion from God, our putting our desires, our will above that of our Creator. Do we really understand the fullness of God’s love? Love that is not a feeling, but a total willingness to give, even to self-sacrifice for the good of another. Do we really understand the magnitude of God’s grace? Grace is a free gift, something we receive which we do not deserve, did not earn, and have done absolutely nothing to merit. I’m not sure we really understand the depth of any of these. I know I don’t. We hear these words frequently in our churches – holiness, sin, love, grace. As we meditate on the meaning of each of these, and far more than I’ve expressed here, we begin to see something of who God is, who we are, and what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. We owe our life, now and eternally, to the One who has loved us so much that He freely gave the life of His only begotten Son to redeem us from sin and death, to bring us into His holiness. As we think about the magnitude of God’s act we come before Him in humble worship.