Grace is our business

Introduction Thank you for the warm welcome we have received from all at the PCK. We have had a wonderful time visiting your amazing country. Your hospitality is second to none. We have visited Palaces and markets and we hope to visit more places before we return home to Scotland next Thursday. Greetings May I bring to you the greetings of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. We have been having a wonderful time here in Korea and both my wife and I would like to thank you for your hospitality and care for us over the past week. Reason for the Sermon I have chosen this text because I want to reflect for a short time upon some of the issues that face our young people as they grow up in the competitive world. Whether you live in the UK, the USA, or here in Korea, our societies all all about achievement. From the day a child is born parents want the best for their child. We tell our children you must achieve if you want to succeed. So we promote achievement in Sport, in Education, and we often run our churches as organisations that are based on achievement. The truth is this philosophy even creeps into our spiritual lives. We end up competing, as it were to be accepted by God. We can judge ourselves and others by the number of church meetings attended. I think we need to learn to live in a less stress filled way. We need to hear the words of Ephesians. Text Ephesians 2.8-10 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith)—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." The danger of seeking approval through Achievement I've chosen the above text because I think it is relevant and important for all of us who claim the name of Jesus to be aware that we do not live the Christian life on our own strength, but it is totally a grace filled gift which we receive from God. AS people of the Reformed tradition we say we do not believe that we are saved by our works, however there is little doubt that many of us are judged by our works, and we judge others by their works. Our judging can be unfair and may lead to tragic outcomes. We can put great pressure on young people to succeed and make them believe they only have significance if they do well in their exams, or indeed if they live in such a way that we will be proud of their achievements. Illustration young people in Universities A few years ago I remember talking to a taxi driver in Chennai India. He told me of the ever increasing number of young people who are committing suicide in that city because of the high expectations that parents have placed upon them regarding their academic achievements. Stress filled lives In the UK more and more people, are taking time off work because of the demands of stressful jobs. Others feel under valued and feel they have little significance because they don't have the right clothes, or the right accent.Even our churches pastors and church leaders are taking time out because they are stressed at work. Too often people are being judged by their achievements. And when they don't match up, they feel they have let everyone who is connected with them down. The Father delights in Jesus A well know clinical theologian Frank Lake back in the 1960s, while looking into this whole issue of achievement, decided to look at the life of Jesus and try and understand what it was that made Jesus, in the face of so much difficulty, opposition, and hardship, able to continue, even to the cross. He took the incident, at the very beginning of his ministry, recorded in the gospels relating to his baptism and asked what he could learn from it? Cycle of Works v Cycle of Grace He came to the conclusion that Jesus felt totally accepted by his Heavenly Father. In the quotation from the Gospel of Luke we read " You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" Lake believed that there were lessons to be learn about self worth and value in this incident. He came up with four words that he put into a theory which he called The Cycle of Works and the Cycle of Grace. Four words – Achieve – Significance – Sustaining-Strength - Acceptance There are four words in the Cycle. We live in a world where Achievement seems to be everything. We in Britain have just completed hosting the Olympic Games and the Paraolympics. On both occasion it was the Achievement that was rewarded. We all like winners. To Achieve gives us Significance. We all live in a world where people are looking to be recognised as significant people. The world of popularity and fame has now reached the point where reality TV shows now produce the next celebrity. Deep down we are being told if you achieve you will find significance. Now Lake noticed that when people believe they are significant, this belief can sustain and strengthen them and make them able to continue living. They seldom ever think about suicide in the way our young Indians seem to be doing. What others think about them enables them to continue. Significance is a meaningful step on the journey to self acceptance. This leads them to the place where they feel Accepted and loved. However it is a cycle that depends on being, someone who has achieved. This means that people have to work hard and strive to be noticed to be recognised as a significant player, perhaps at work or in their family. It is only when they have earned the right through achieving some goal they might feel they are accepted. In truth this is the model that many people have been building their lives upon. – A Cycle of Works The Problem with this Model The problem with is, what happens when you feel you have failed? When you have not achieved in the eyes of other people? Well perhaps that is how you feel today and you know how it feels. You have been treated poorly by those around you. You have been made feel that you are a worthless person. Covenant of Law In the Bible the Cycle of Works reflects what the Apostle Paul calls "striving to keep the law" He calls it living under the law" How ever this kind of law cannot save us. It only makes us feel worse because we have failed to achieve. Covenant of Grace Today I want to talk to you about the alternative. I want to talk about the covenant of Grace. Now you see what each one of us needs to hear is the voice of God the Father. The voice that Jesus heard at his Baptism." You are my beloved Son, you are my beloved daughter in whom I am well pleased."Did you know that God takes great delight in you. We are told in Scripture that is why he sent Jesus into the world. In John Chapter 3.16, we read " For God so loved the world…." That means you. Now what Frank Lake noticed was in the story of the baptism of Jesus, there was a Cycle of Grace. Cycle of Grace At Jesus' baptism God was making a new covenant, with the new Adam - Jesus! Now God deals with us through Jesus, through the new covenant he has made. He turns the Covenant of Works into the Covenant of Grace or as Lake saw into a Cycle of Grace. God starts at the opposite end from humanity. We say if you achieve you will eventually be Accepted. God says You are Accepted and because of this you will achieve. Return to the Ephesians Text For those of us who would look at this text again. It could be translated, ‘For by Grace you are Accepted and loved, it is not anything you have achieved that makes God accept you. It is out of His shear abundant grace. It is a gift from God. It is not that you have achieved, but it is because of the love and compassion of the Almighty, You have been bought at a great price. Now if you look at what follows, God knows that this word grace draws from us a sense of gratitude and thanksgiving. Thus we offer to God our Good works not in order to be accepted, but as an offering of thanksgiving and worship.Notice it is a response for what God had done. The Confidence of Jesus You see Jesus knew he was accepted, this is what gave him his significance. He knew he was the Son of the Father. In John's Gospel he says "I and my Father are one" If you have seen me you have seen the Father" It was this knowledge that sustained and strengthened him through the wilderness experience, immediately after his baptism. And it finally brought him to the cross. Look at Hebrew 12 ‘ For the Joy set before him endured the cross" God's Love Would Raise Him To Life In the garden he prays ‘Not my will but thine be done" Because he knew he was loved by the Father and even if he passed through death the love of the Father would raise him to life again. Perfect love casts out all fear. This is the Gospel of Grace. God has reconciled us back to himself. At the heart of this reconciliation is the unconditional love of God. How should we live? Now if this is true. We are called to be people who live out grace also. We are called to build our friendships and relationships not on achievement but on Love and Acceptance. Acceptance leads to Sanctification If we look at the cycle of Works backwards you will notice that it is this Acceptance that gives the self sustaining strength to carry on. Knowing the love and acceptance of the Father is a sustaining knowledge. Paul once said I. An do all things through Christ who strengthens me. This is what we know as the sustaining power of the Holy Spirit. This is what prevents people from drifting away from our churches. it is the knowledge that they know God accepts them. inclusive Loving Evangelism I believe the Holy Spirit calls us first and foremost to the place of belonging before we ever believe. this idea is a crucial idea when we think of evangelism today. Understanding Human Longing We need to be people who are embracing others even when we can't agree. We need to engage with their longing so that they begin to feel the belonging. This becomes the sustaining power that brings belief. Paul Understands - So he helps the Jailer in a Crisis The Philippian Jailer, had a sense of belonging before he asked the question, what must I do to be saved. Paul had prevented the prisoners from escaping, in doing so Paul had saved the jailer's life. the Jailer thought. I want to be part of this,ten he asks, " What must I do to be saved. Then Paul said "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." Knowing Your Significance So you see it is the sustaining strengthening presence of the Spirit that allows us to feel a sense of significance. Jesus was able to say of himself "it was for this purpose that the Son of man came - to seek and save the lost." Paul was able to say, It is for this purpose that I Paul am an Ambassador in chains. The Covenant of Grace gives us significance. Turn with me to the last phrase of our text. In it we are told told God has work for us all to do. This allows us to have significance. God's Achievement Man thinks a failure Finally, we come to achievement. God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the mighty. God's achievement seems to humanity insignificant. In the eyes of the people of Jesus' day He was just another messiah type figure who was crucified. The World Might Think The Same Of You People in the world who know nothing of God's ways, may look at what God thinks as achievement and think what a waste! But God sees a resurrection Take courage my friends, take heart. Take hold of the covenant of Grace and live by it. BELIEVING it. Believing God will bring about daily resurrections in your lives. "Take heart little flock for I have overcome the world." Do not be afraid God says My Grace is sufficient for you. In the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit.
1 Comment

Posted By: Pam   On: 26 Sep 2012   At: 12:28pm

So clear , so encouraging.‘God has work for us all to do. This allows us to have significance.’ Thanks Albert.

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