You know it’s amazing to me how different subjects that are taught here at MRC seem to get different responses from everyone. Some of the topics are inspiring to people and hit our hearts. When we talk about grace, and love and forgiveness we know that we will get some hugs. When we talk about authority, or we try to expose the religious spirit, or obedience or holiness…well Ken and I just refer to those Sundays as “no hug Sundays.” No one is coming up inspired to hear about what they are to do or not to do in certain areas of their lives…well today would fall into the category of a “no hug Sunday.” While this subject today can be challenging, I’m very, very excited to speak on it today. Today we are going to expose yet another way that we can wreck our hearts…and that is to abuse God’s grace.
I know that none of us here in THIS church would ever take advantage of the freedom that we are given in Christ Jesus…but there are many out there, who use grace as a license to do whatever they want to do, whenever they want to do it. Let’s face it, we live in a time when our rights and our freedoms are very important to us, and we really don’t want anyone telling us what to do. We don’t want to hear that there are things that could harm us, we should be allowed to experience it all right? I mean this what we would refer to as “The Enlightened Era.” We don’t need to revert to such caveman type things as rules, or sin, or right and wrong right? So in life we certainly don’t want anyone constricting us with those types of things and frankly that is why we come to MRC right? I mean they wear jeans. They play rock n roll type worship sets and they teach on the amazing freedom that comes in grace. We come to MRC because here…we understand our freedoms in Christ! Well grace is an amazing gift, and yes we wear jeans and sneakers and yes we work really hard on trying to get people to just relax, breath through their noses for a little while and understand the amazing love and grace of Christ but and it’s a big but here…that doesn’t give us the license to sin…because and we will get into this…God knows your heart, your thoughts and your motives. Check this out…
Psalms 44:20 If we had turned away from worshiping our God and were worshiping idols, 21 would God not know it? Yes, he knows the secrets of every heart. TLB
This scripture in Psalms (and there were many places where we see similar things in scripture) is a big deal and will get to the very core of this discussion…but before I get everyone too uncomfortable today, let’s talk about what grace is…that should warm up this conversation for a bit!
So what is Grace? Well this is not news for us here at MRC, this is our rallying cry! Grace is unmerited favor. Grace is a free gift…and what is that free gift? It’s the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ!
Ephesians 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. NIV
This is why we worship. This is why we celebrate, and this is the good news we hope people will all understand! It is this message that people need to understand. So many people here a person who loves Jesus say “I’m a Christian.” When they hear that they translate it in their minds to mean this. “That person thinks that they are better than me.” When what we are actually saying when we make the statement that we are Christian is “Hey I am a sinner. I mess up. Yet God loved me enough to send his son to this Earth to save me!” This is what is front and center here at MRC that we have been saved through Jesus and his ultimate sacrifice on the cross for us all!
So what exactly have we been saved from? Well since we are closing in on Christmas, remember what that angel told Joseph when he was ready to divorce Mary about who his son was going to be? The Angel said…their baby (Jesus) would save us all from sin!
Matthew 1:20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” NIV
So we know what grace is…grace is a free gift from God. We know what that gift was that we would be saved through Jesus Christ and his amazing work on the cross…and we know what we were saved from, Jesus came to save us from our sins. All of them, our past sins, our present sins, and our futures sins. The cross is bigger than them all! This is why we grew up seeing John 3:16 at every football game or big crowd event and heard it in almost every sermon of the 80’s and probably why we still should today…it explains it so well!
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. NIV
So that is what grace is, it is a beautiful thing. We have been given the gift of salvation through Jesus. But I made statement a minute ago that really becomes a stumbling block for many…did you catch it? It’s this statement that really leads us into the more challenging portion of this talk today. I said…
The cross is bigger than all our sins.
Do you believe that statement? I do. I believe it with all of my heart. I think believing anything less than that really sells our God short and minimizes the amazing sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. But see here is where things get a little messed up. Many of us hear that statement and think, because Jesus forgives all sins, past, present, and future, and because the cross is bigger than it all. I can do whatever I want to do…right?
After all it wasn’t but a couple of weeks ago Sam, you came up on stage and read this right from scripture…
1 Corinthians 10:23 Looking at it one way, you could say, “Anything goes. Because of God’s immense generosity and grace, we don’t have to dissect and scrutinize every action to see if it will pass muster.” But the point is not to just get by. 24 We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well. MSG
How awesome is that? Well let’s go back to the NIV because I think it’s just so clear here.
1 Corinthians 10:23 “Everything is permissible”- but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”- but not everything is constructive. NIV
You know I have a buddy that used to always ask me what he was “allowed” to do as a Christian or what he was not “allowed” to do as a Christian. He actually drove me nuts by asking me this stuff all the time, and after a while I started to enjoy kind of messing with him as he would ask me the questions…because every time he asked, I knew he already wanted me to say yes to what he was asking. He would call me up or we would be together and he would ask things like this… “Sam, do you think it’s ok for me to drink beer?” My response and I will admit I enjoyed giving it was, just a blunt; “No.” He would get frustrated and say, I don’t know why I ask you anything…why do you always do that?” Because we would go down this road a lot. “Sam can I smoke a cigar? Can I chew? Can I date girls that do? I would always answer…bluntly…NO! It drove him nuts. Why? Because he wanted me to give him permission to do something that in his world, didn’t seem right to him. If it did seem natural or right to him he wouldn’t have been asking me in the first place…but he sure wanted to do it! And I just wasn’t willing to give him what he wanted! Kind of fun for me, but the reality is that as Paul says, everything is permissible but not everything is wise or smart or beneficial…and if you want my opinion if something deep down inside you feels so wrong that you have to go to ask if it’s something you should be doing…for you, it should not be done. But that isn’t what he wanted to hear…because deep down to him those things were wrong, but he wanted to explore his new found freedom in Christ. Do you see it? I never told him beer was evil…or that it was even a sin, but I knew for him in his heart it was wrong, and I also knew for him he was going to do what he wanted anyway…so why not have some fun right?
What Grace is Not.
Grace is a beautiful gift given to us from God, but it is not something we should take advantage of or abuse. Grace does not give us license to do whatever we want, that is actually abusing the gift of grace…do you see it? My buddy was looking for the permission to feed some of the appetites that Ken was speaking on last week…and I’m not willing to open that door for him. LOL, I did love how frustrated he would get when I would just bluntly say “No!” though.
It really goes back to what we read in Psalms…
Psalms 44:20 If we had turned away from worshiping our God and were worshiping idols, 21 would God not know it? Yes, he knows the secrets of every heart. TLB
You see here is the reality. Yes the cross is bigger than all of our sins. Yes we have freedom in Christ to do whatever we want. But if you truly love God, and if you truly understand how amazing grace really is you would never, never abuse it. So that is my job right? To point out another sure fire way to wreck your heart…well here you go. Live your life doing whatever you would like to do. Feed all those appetites that Ken spoke of last week and abuse the beautiful gift of grace that God gave you in Jesus and you will wreck your heart…big time.
Check out Paul’s warning on this matter here in Galatians…I’m not sure it can be any clearer.
Galatians 5:13 It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. (MSG)
So Paul would say that we are called to a free life…but we need to be careful that we don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever we want to do…because we can destroy our freedom! We aren’t just encouraged all through scripture to pursue holiness but we are also warned over and over not to abuse God’s grace! You can forfeit the freedom you were given and become a slave to sin.
Peter gives a similar warning here…
1 Peter 2:16 Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. NIV
So here are these two great apostles Peter and Paul both giving a similar warning…do not abuse the freedom we were given. Basically and I could go to all kinds of places for you to see similar warnings…these two amazing men keep telling us…stay away from sin. Do not abuse grace because it will wreck your heart. Paul would go as far to say that in sin we earn death. Remember?
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. NIV
So now we start hitting some nerves right? Because we don’t really want to hear that we would have any responsibility for our actions right? That isn’t the culture that we live in is it? Well I hate to be the one that brings this up but there actually is cause and effect in this world. Your kids may not know this because of all the participation trophies, but there really are winners and losers in sports, and frankly in life we actually will feel the ramifications of our decisions and our actions. Paul says here that when we choose sin we earn something and what we earn is death. WOW!
But let’s be real here for a minute…we don’t really DIE right? I mean often times we have a ton of fun in that sin right? I mean we can’t talk about it here at church, but in the end we are having such a good time in the moment, that maybe Paul is just over stating it or maybe he has really just missed it hasn’t he? Sin is often fun in the moment, and I sure don’t feel like I died when I jump into it…do you? Especially when I can justify my sin by saying in the end I’m good because Jesus already forgave the sin I’m committing right now! Man…that sounds so twisted when I say it out loud. How insulting is that to our amazing Lord and Savior.
Well I think this is why sin is so dangerous. It often feels good in the moment. We don’t experience…death in the moment. It is fun. But in the end, it is causing more damage than you realize. I know this is the enlightened era, and I understand that your parents cleaned up most issues for you your whole life and you never had to deal with ramifications for any of your actions, but I love you too much to not tell you something extremely important. There are huge ramifications for our sin but more than anything else I could bring up to you today is that when we abuse God’s grace and engage in sin…we lose our closeness or intimacy with God. We just can’t feed both our fleshly desires, and our deep need of being connected to God. I think at the root of the death we earn through sin is that we lose that intimacy with God…which is the most important thing we can have. It’s our life line in this dark world isn’t it? We can’t serve both ourselves and God right? This is why over and over and over again from the prophets to the apostles all through scripture we are told to pursue holiness!
Isaiah 59:1 Listen! The LORD is not too weak to save you, and he is not becoming deaf. He can hear you when you call. 2 But there is a problem — your sins have cut you off from God. Because of your sin, he has turned away and will not listen anymore. NLT
This is the most devastating result of sin…we lose that intimacy. Check out the same verse in the NIV…
Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. NIV
So yes, I’m having a blast in the moment. Yes most of the sins I commit aren’t putting me in jail, and frankly they feel really, really good. But the most devastating ramification is that when we sin…when we willingly abuse the amazing gift of grace. We lose intimacy with God. That sin separates us from him.
You see our prayer for you at MRC is that you can walk in your own beautiful and intimate relationship with God. Hearing from Him, speaking to Him and feeling His love and goodness on you and in your life. But the reality is that sin causes a separation between you and your Heavenly Father.
Now for some of us this is a difficult thing to discuss right? I mean we are here at the church where we wear jeans and talk about grace and freedom in Christ. I was told I can’t earn God’s love and now Sam is saying there is something for me to do! What is up with that? Well it’s about understanding what this freedom is all about right? I’ll let Paul explain…
Romans 6:15 So, since we’re out from under the old tyranny, does that mean we can live any old way we want? Since we’re free in the freedom of God, can we do anything that comes to mind? 16 Hardly. You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom. Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it’s your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits. All your lives you’ve let sin tell you what to do. 17 But thank God you’ve started listening to a new master, 18 one whose commands set you free to live openly in his freedom! 19 I’m using this freedom language because it’s easy to picture. You can readily recall, can’t you, how at one time the more you did just what you felt like doing — not caring about others, not caring about God — the worse your life became and the less freedom you had? And how much different is it now as you live in God’s freedom, your lives healed and expansive in holiness? 20 As long as you did what you felt like doing, ignoring God, you didn’t have to bother with right thinking or right living, or right anything for that matter. 21 But do you call that a free life? What did you get out of it? Nothing you’re proud of now. Where did it get you? A dead end. 22 But now that you’ve found you don’t have to listen to sin tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way! 23 Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master. (MSG)
How dare Paul do this to us right? How dare he try to help me live this way right? I am a grown man, how dare he tell me how to live my life…if I want to do something I’m going to do it! I hate to be the meanie who breaks this to you but in the end there are ramifications to your actions…and it’s our prayer that each day of your life would be spent moving towards God and walking in a life giving relationship with Him.
Can you do whatever you want…sure! But it will absolutely wreck your heart. God’s grace isn’t something to abuse it’s something to embrace. Will you get it right every day? No, because you are human and we all mess up from time to time…but it’s in that conversation with God that we walk in everyday that we can understand the beauty of grace and the love of God. You want to wreck your heart…keep looking for loop holes. Keep abusing grace and you will earn death. You want life? You simply embrace grace, you repent of your sins and spend your days trying to move towards holiness.
Grace does not give us a license to sin…in the end it becomes the fuel in our hearts to pursue holiness! And it’s our prayer that in this walk towards God you will find true freedom in the loving arms of God’s grace.