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Grumbling vs. Grace

VIENNA, AUSTRIA - DECEMBER 17, 2014: The comeback of Prodigal son scene by Josef Kastner the older from 20. cent. in Erloserkirche church.

There is a kind of person who hates grace. It’s not hard to imagine why.

Imagine you graduated from college with a mountain of debt (this won’t be hard for many of us). You work for 10 years to get it all paid off, and the day after you send in the last check, some trillionaire makes an announcement that he wants to pay off all student loans in the U.S.  How do you think you would feel?

I like to think I would be thankful for those who would have their loans written off, but it’s hard to know for sure. The reason we might feel miffed is easy: we worked hard to pay off our loans; someone else got it for free. And in the words of any third grader across the country: “That’s not fair!”

Luke 15 starts with Jesus showing grace to tax-collectors and sinners, and the Pharisees and scribes…grumbling. It was their general practice when they saw grace being exercised. They never liked it one bit. After all, they had worked hard for their standing with God, and if the love of God was simply going to be poured out freely on wicked people, maybe all their lawful labor had been for nothing.

The elder brother could relate. He too had worked hard for the Father’s affection, and suddenly his ne’er-do-well prodigal brother was having love lavished on him at no-charge.

One Heart or Another?

In every situation in life, we show ourselves to have one of two kinds of hearts: We can have the heart of the elder brother, or we can have the heart of the Father. The elder brother grumbles demanding retribution and payback, but the heart of the Father grants grace and celebrates sinners who return to Him.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him….And they began to celebrate. Luke 15:20 – 24 (ESV)

We look at this situation quite convinced that we would have done better than the elder brother, and maybe so. But the question about what kind of heart we have can never be settled thinking about some amorphous sinner out there that we don’t know, or a collection of former college students who have had their debts paid off by an extremely generous benefactor.

The Final Test

The question about what kind of heart we have must finally be settled by considering how we will relate to someone…who owes us. After all, our Heavenly Father calls us to forgive…as we have been forgiven.

Here is where our hearts will be revealed. Will we be the elder brother demanding payment be made, or will we be the Father who runs with arms outstretched.

Will we grumble…or will we grant grace?

 

For Wednesday, July 22nd: Luke 16

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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What Jesus Wanted You to Know

PasserottoOne of the tasks of a preacher is to say old things in new ways. And you know why – because it’s a bit like singing old songs. We all appreciate the classics, and they can still move us, but you have to admit that it’s pretty easy to put your mind on auto-pilot when you sing Amazing Grace. Hence the repeated Scriptural admonition to “sing a new song to the Lord.” (Psalms 33, 40, 96, 98, 144, 149)

Likewise, while we may appreciate it when we hear from the pulpit, “God loves you,” nevertheless, a good preacher will find a new way to say it or plan on being tuned out.

Now…Jesus was more than just a good preacher, and He found very fresh ways to say the old truths. Take for instance, how He put that particular old truth of God’s love in Luke 12:

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. Luke 12:6-7 (ESV)

“Do you see those birds flying around everywhere? God knows every single one intimately, and if He knows them, surely He knows and loves you far more.”

It is indeed an old truth told in a fresh way, but here’s what I find especially wonderful: Jesus wanted you to know it. These verses are an example of the Son of God tenderly communicating His Father’s love to you and me. How wondrous that God not only loves me, but that He also sent His Son to tell me so.

Oh…and even better than telling – He sent Jesus to demonstrate it too:

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 (ESV)

 

For Friday, July 17th: Luke 13

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Ultimate Motivation to Live for God

There are many ways we try to motivate ourselves and others to be holy. Most of them begin with something like this: “You ought…” Paul uses a different carrot, and it is the most powerful motivation we can offer anyone.

When the Apostle turns the corner in Romans 12 from the doctrinal section of Romans 1-11 to the “practical” (as if the first eleven chapters weren’t the most practical teaching ever – they explain how to go to heaven) section of chapters 12 – 16, he makes an “appeal” and take note of how he does it…

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1 (ESV)

In the next 5 chapters (12 – 16) he’s going to tell us how to live. He’s about to say things like…

* Use your spiritual gifts.

* Bless those who persecute you.

* Love one another.

* Submit to the government.

But you see, he certainly doesn’t tell us to do these things to earn favor with God, for in Christ, God is already favorably disposed to us…and he doesn’t say we must do these things “to be good Christians.”

Instead, he says, “by the mercies of God.” In other words, why should you and I be motivated to live our lives for Christ and His Kingdom? Answer: because he has been merciful to us, as demonstrated so clearly in the first eleven chapters. Because He has loved us by sending His one and only Son. This motivation – far more than the pointing and accusing finger or the “you ought” words of pressure – this is the truth that moves our hearts and feet to love and serve Him.

After all, as John said…

“We love…because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

 

Tomorrow, April 7: Romans 13

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Why It Is So Important to Know the Love of God

Imagine that someone you love deeply is involved in an automobile accident. For ease of illustration, imagine that you’re a parent and the person injured is your only son.  After the accident, for the longest time, he is in a coma and the doctors are not sure that he is going to make it.  You are naturally by his bedside every day.

Then one day, joy of joys, his eyes flutter open, and he says he is thirsty.  You are overjoyed!  You’re hugging him and crying over him. It’s the best day of your life.  Then the best day of your life becomes one of the worst, when he utters those three words: “Who are you?”

That’s right – your beloved son has amnesia and can’t remember who you are.  Now, as I understand it, unlike the movies, most cases of amnesia are temporary, and that is the case with this as well, but when he does begin to recognize you as his mother or father, he still has a hard time believing that you love him.  In other words, he remembers and believes that he is your son…but does not believe that you love him.

What is it that you try to do?  Faced with the prospect of your child not understanding your deep love for him, you immediately start to demonstrate your love with gifts and acts of kindness. Faced with the thought that your child might not know your love, you simply try to tell him in as many different ways as you can of your love.

Now convincing your child of your love is natural – good parents do it all the time whether their child has amnesia or not.  But think with me for a moment and let me ask: why are you so hyped to tell your son that you love him?  Why are you so energized about this thing?

Well, for one, you do love him and you want him to have the wonderful assurance of parental love.  You want him to experience your love.  That’s a natural part of being a parent.

But there is another reason that you are anxious for him to know your love.  The truth is that as you visit him day after day in the hospital, he’s just not the boy you’ve always known.  In other words, your son is acting polite toward you, because, after all, you’ve taught him to be polite…but something is missing.  There is a distance there.  And you realize intuitively that the connection that you have had with your child through the years is actually formed on the basis of love.  Get this: you have a sense, rightly I might add, that if he does not know your love, you will never have the relationship that you have had in the past and that you long to have again.

Let me put this in a slightly different way:  you have a sense that if he does not know your love, he will never ever be able to love you in return.  Sound familiar? John put it this way: We love because He first loved us 1 John 4:19 (ESV)

And now we are beginning to understand – there is a reason that our Heavenly Father puts it as supreme importance that we know His love. There is a reason that Paul prays for the Ephesians that they might know the height and width and length and depth of Christ’s love, the love that surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:18, 19).

And finally, there is a reason that He gives us His Holy Spirit Who witnesses to our spirits that we are the children of God, and thus…deeply loved:

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, Romans 8:15-16 (ESV)

 

Tomorrow, Wednesday, April 1: Romans 9 

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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