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Previous Message From Virtual Church

Grace, The Raft, and The Sea

Today we want to try to see us as God sees us. Notice that the word "try" was used. We cannot see us as God does but we can, to some extent, see ourselves in light of what He did for us on the Cross. We want to discover what it is that caused Christ to die for us. We want to find out what there is about us that continuously keeps God at our sides during our faith journey.

Romans 11:5 So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.(NIV)

God chooses you by grace. Grace is the love, care, compassion, and/or mercy of God. When God chooses you, it is not a thing to celebrate, for His choosing you could result in your dying for Him. Instead of celebration this event is an event to treasure humbly. For with God's choosing you, it is as if you have been drafted. If you follow God's leading, His leading could lead you to give up your life for His work and His cause here on earth. Being part of His remnant is like being salt or seasoning. When you put salt on your food the salt disappears. The salt becomes invisible. Likewise, when we are added into the world as Christ' seasoning we too become invisible though humility yet we must add to the flavor of life in our part of the world which He has given us.

1 Cor. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

Grace cannot produce anything within you without humility. The idea of grace, in some ways, turns our ideas about God upside down. Grace must be received into our inner beings. It is important to understand that each of us has a choice about whether the grace of God is going to produce some kind of result within us. Our choice is to receive the grace or reject it, ignore it or embrace it, run away from it or continuously seek it, or attack it or welcome it into our hearts. To receive grace we must do inner spiritual work or heart work.

In the discussion of grace, we must look at Christ on the Cross. We must ask, "Did Christ go to the Cross because we are worthless scum? Did He go to the Cross because we are garbage? Many people who do not go to church and many people who do will answer "Yes" to these questions. Maybe you think that in some way, when God is looking at you, he does see worthless scum and garbage.

We must be clear and emphatic about the following point. We are fallen but we are not worthless. We are fallen creatures but we are still redeemable. We are not garbage that must be thrown out, but creatures who God wants to restore, redeem, and make new again. We are each like an old table covered with several layers of paint, varnish, dirt, dents, and scratches. For some people, this old table appears worthless and would be classified as garbage. However, to the eye of a trained antique collector this old table has value and worth. To someone who collects antiques and who refinishes them, the varnish, paint, dirt, dents, and scratches are ignored. The collector uses a kind of x-ray vision to see through the service layers into the wood. The wood and its shape is what ultimately give the table its value.

When Christ went to the Cross, He could see past our surface layer of sin. Christ could see the worth, value, and potential of every person. It is because we have a worth, value, and potential that God pours out his love, grace, kindness, mercy, and Holy Spirit on us. It is because we can become so much more than what we are as sinners that God has a compassion, tolerance, and charity towards us. It is because we can share in the substance of the Holy Spirit that God forgives us repeatedly. God sees us fall down countless times. It is His grace or generosity towards us, the grace that is so great and so strong, that causes Him to reach down to help us up after we have fallen.

God grieves with us when we are grieved at our mistakes. God feels our pangs of guilt when we realize we have done wrong. He calls us to turn away from doing wrong and reach up to Him. Our spiritual water glass may seem empty to some, but God envisions a glass overflowing with love, kindness, generosity, and humility. For each of us to see much value our soul possesses in the eyes of God, we must pull ourselves up by our soul bootstraps and be honest. When we are honest we will see that it was only by God's grace, or Christ' suffering on the Cross, that the wall can come down. If we could envision the wall and the occurrence of its being removed from our lives, what we would see is a meltdown or disintegration of the steel. When grace or the Light and Love of God and Christ come into the heart, the cold, steel wall of sin melts like steel under a laser beam.

It is not any work on our part that can melt the icy steel wall between God and us. Only grace can add the heat that results in our soul being saved. It is the kindness of Christ' nail-scarred hands that reach through the steel wall. His hands melt away the steel barrier between Him and us as He touches our hearts. The continual mercy of Christ enables Him to overlook our human weaknesses. His grace or mercy understands our temptations, and our times of falling away. Grace or the holiness of His Spirit keeps us within His hand when we are tempted and besieged on every side during our journey here on earth. It is God's grace or His forgiveness that understands we want always to do the right thing yet we are weak and sometimes end up doing the wrong thing. God's grace or tolerance continuously puts up with us repeatedly making the same mistake.

In looking at the matter of grace, when we begin to understand all that grace is, then we begin to understand what we can become. We also begin to understand what we must strive to be as a child of God who has accepted His grace. When we accept His grace, we must also strive to become all He wants us to be. For if, we accept God's wonderful gift of continuous mercy we are then under a spiritual obligation to respond to that gift. To receive a gift without gratitude or thanksgiving is incredibly childish and selfish. As the steel wall between God and us melts away, we ought to then be eternally grateful for His continuous mercy. Continuous mercy accepted with humility brings with it an attitude of continuous gratitude and praise.

With God's grace, it is always humility that makes for the impact. Some years ago, a Scottish minister told his congregation about dreaming that he had died. When he came to the pearly gates, to his dismay, he would be denied entrance until he presented his credentials. Proudly the Pastor articulated the number of sermons preached and the prominent pulpits occupied. But Saint Peter said no one had heard them in heaven. The discouraged servant enumerated his community involvement. He was told they were not recorded. Sorrowfully, the pastor turned to leave, when Peter said, "Stay a moment, and tell me, are you the man who fed the sparrows?" "Yes," the Scotsman replied, "but what does that have to do with it?" "Come in," said Saint Peter, "the Master of the sparrows wants to thank you."

Here is the pertinent, though often overlooked, point: great and prominent positions show skill and capacity, but it is humility that determines the depth of one's spiritual life. Humility determines if grace will influence you and all the ones you love.

Let us look at two more verses related to grace:

Romans 3:22.There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (NIV)

Effusions 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-9 not by works, so that no one can boast.10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (NIV)

Yes, we are saved by grace. However, although we are saved by grace, we are still required to do a lot of heart work to open our heart and souls to receive the grace offered to us. We must all remember the grace and cleansing love of Christ is placed before us and not poured down our throats. Grace does not come into our lives without our consent or will. Receiving grace through faith is no easy road. We cannot build our own life raft if we are drowning in the ocean. Christ has placed God's eternal life raft of grace in front of us. Each of us must reach out and grasp the raft of grace and then climb onto it to be saved. Reaching out and climbing onto the eternal life-saving raft requires much of us. Reaching out and climbing on requires we realize we are sinners and have fallen short of the mark. In other words, we must realize we are drowning. Reaching out and climbing on requires we fully accept Christ into our hearts and minds. We must also, in humility, accept His grace if we are to grow from our spiritual infancy into spiritual adults. Once aboard the raft we must hold on and hang on. The seas are rough. On the sea, there are storms of temptation, disappointment, pain, suffering, and persecution. There is, on the seas, disillusionment with the acts of others, and there are obstacles the size of mountain ranges that are ready to topple us overboard. We are saved by grace but it takes work to climb aboard and to stay aboard the eternal life raft of grace. Grace does not itself guarantee safe passage to any port or to any shore. Grace does not guarantee we will not be persecuted, victimized, or unjustly accused and thrown into prison.

Not only does it take work to stay aboard our respective rafts of grace, but we are also commanded to do work for others which should come before all other activities and thoughts. While we are on the rough seas, those who are drowning surround us. We are under a moral and spiritual obligation to reach out to them.

Yes, we are saved by grace and called to do good works beginning at the instant grace is received. The good works we are supposed do were set up, ordered, put in place, and set apart by God. The trouble is, many people do not meet their destination or destiny of doing the works established by God for them to do. Why? It is too difficult. We would rather have the easy way, not the difficult way.

In our modern world, if things are not going smoothly on the seas of your faith journey you will be told there is something wrong. You will be told there is something wrong with you, your faith, your belief, your use of the gifts God has given you, etc. This kind of thinking is in error. The fact is, our church history clearly shows, if things are going smoothly for us something is probably wrong in our service to God. If you are in a sailboat and there was a dead calm, you are not sailing. The trick to sailing is to take the wind provided and use it to fill the sail. With a full sail and knowledge about how to use the rudder you can get to your destination of good work for Christ. With a calm sea and no wind, there is no sailing, no advancement, and no progress.

 

 

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Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (RSV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Copyright © 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Shepherd's Care Ministries author and webmaster, Rev. Patrick Kelly, is affiliated through ministerial ordination with Church of God Ministries, Anderson IN 46018