Sunday, February 1, 2015

DTR on Revival Ch.4 "The Necessity of Grace"

DTR on Revival Ch.4 "The Necessity of Grace"
PK here: I offer the following sermon by my friend, the Reverend David Ryan, pastor at Pastor David and I are simultaneously preaching a series based on Adam Hamilton's book "Revival". Here is what Pastor David has to say:

We have finally made it to the sermon time!
Yeah! I’m so excited!
I happen to be way more excited about this
Than tonight’s Superbowl….but that’s just me.
I wish I had a string of cheerleaders up here in the front!
Choir? No?

Ok…but I’m excited for us to be
 Digging into Grace today!
So…are you ready? Let’s go!

First…let’s just start out reading together
Part of the scripture read earlier –
We can’t let ________ have all the fun!

Ephesians 2:8-10.
“For by Grace you have been saved through faith,
And this is not of your own doing;
It is the gift of God –not the results of works,
So that no one may boast.
For we are what he has made  us, created in Christ
Jesus, for good works, which God prepared before hand to be our
Way of life”
Ephesians 2:8-10.

You know, I have been using as a resource
For this sermon series,
Adam Hamilton’s book –“Revival”.
I’d encourage you to get a copy,
Or borrow my copy after this series.
There’s a whole lot more in here
Than I have time to share with you on Sunday mornings.

In “Revival” Adam Hamilton
Says that Wesley preached from this text
No less than 45 times!
This fall I got to stand in one of the pulpits
John Wesley preached from
It was his portable one that was carried
Out into the fields where he so often preached.

So it’s highly likely that Wesley
Preached on this text from this pulpit
Which I got to stand in
And now am sharing that same text with you!

I mean….is that at least  as cool as a super bowl commercial?
Well…I know…I’m a preacher.
I’m weird….but it’s still pretty cool if you ask me!

To make it even cooler, my friend Pastor Kerry Bart,
With whom I studied this book
Is preaching on this same text today in West Virginal
And the text applies to us in PA and in WV
And the folks in England in Wesley’s day.
It’s a great word on GRACE.

Let’s just read that text one more time:
“For by Grace you have been saved through faith,
And this is not of your own doing: it is the gift of God
Not the result of works, so that no one may boast.
For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus
For good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

Ephesians 2:8-10.

Now…let’s do a little learning here
As we dig into grace.

The Greek word for Grace is “Charis”
And it appears 148 times in the new testament.

Now…its one of those words that can mean a few different things
We can talk about a person moving with grace
Or acting gracefully…we can use it to talk about
A prayer before we share in a meal
But that is not how Paul used it.

He used it in two main ways…
To talk about God’s Character
And to talk about God’s Action.

First, let’s talk about God’s Character.
So many people even though they may not say it out loud
Think of God as this kind of angry judge.
Adam Hamilton says they think of God
“As a judgmental parent who can never be satisfied.
One who sees our sins and shortcomings and is constantly disappointed
With us.”

How many times have we said…even jokingly…
“OHHHH…God’s gonna get you for that!”
Or…in our cursing say….”God Damn you”.
Am I right?

That influences our thinking in such a wrong way.
Of course..I have also heard some saints say
“That poor man…God love him”…
Next time you want to say…God Damn You to some one
Say instead….”God love you”…it’ll change the perspective on things!
There is more than enough damning going on it world.

Jesus wanted us to see God in such a different way.
Adam reminds us that Jesus more often pictured God
As the shepherd who searches out for lost sheep
The father who runs to meet his prodigal son
The friend of drunkards , prostitutes and
Ever other kind of sinner.

One of my favorite Psalms,
Psalm 103…one I am working on memorizing…
In verse 8 -17 says
“The Lord is compassionate and gracious
Slow to anger and abounding in love.
He will not always accuse
Nor will he harbor his anger forever.
He does not treat us as our sins deserve
Or repay us according to our iniquities
For as high as the heavens are above the earth
So great is his love for those who fear him
As far as the east is from the west
So far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children
So the Lord has compassion on those who fear him
For he knows how we are formed
He remembers that we are dust…
From everlasting to everlasting
The Lord’s love is with those who fear him.”

Yes. We mess up. We sin.
God knows that.
But the main focus of the gospel
Is not that we are sinners, but
We are saved from our sins by Christ.

Again, Adam reminds us that we recognize
The graciousness of God
When we describe life as a gift.
Adam writes:
“Our existence is an act of God’s generosity and love.
Every good thing in our lives is, in an ultimate sense
A reflections of God’s grace.
We rightly respond to that grace with worship
Praise and a heart and life
Filled with gratitude”.

I told you this was good stuff!

The other meaning of Grace, in Paul’s writing
Is about God’s action.
Paul talks about grace when he talks about God’s
Active influence in our lives.

Now, theologians – they are folks who think about theology…
Theo…meaning God…so these are folks who think about God
And how to talk about God and God’s working
Talk about Three Categories of Grace.
Now…they didn’t  just dream these up…
They are based on the scriptures and on experience….
Which is a very Wesleyan approach to how we think about God.
Wesley used what he called “the Quadrennial” method
Something that has four parts to it.
Wesley said that when he tried to think about something,
He thought about – first what the scripture has to say
Then…what experience has to day
What reason has to say
And what the tradition of the church has taught.

So…those things…scripture, experience, reason and tradition
Lead Wesley to think of these three categories of Grace.

The first we call – Prevenient Grace.
This is the grace that God applies to our lives
Before we even know him
Before we are even seeking God out,
God is seeking us out.

It’s how God woos us.
It’s how he beacons us
It’s how God’s spirit is reaching out to our spirits.

Think back on your life.
What is it that brought you to faith?
Was it a certain experience that you had?
Was it certain people in your life?

For me it was a number of things.
First, I born into  a family that went to church
I had grandmother who made sure we all got there.
My parents used to go out a lot on Saturday nights…
Which was fine.
But Mom mom used to say
If you can go out Saturday night, you can get up Sunday morning
And get to church.
It’s just what we did.

And God used the church to woo me.
The church was where I found love.
Its where I fit in.
Its where adults paid attention to me
And taught me songs of faith
And taught me the bible
And…just loved me.

All that was to prepare me for receiving Christ.
It was God’s prevenient grace at work.
Others have more exciting stories.
But that’s mine…and exciting or kinda plain…its all Grace.

And hopefully it leads to our next experience of Grace
Which we call Justifying Grace.

Just as he poured Prevenient grace into my life
So God poured Justifying Grace into our  my life.
At Brandywine Camp meeting I heard a preacher say
“You may have been a good kid all your life
And gone to church and sang in the children’s choir….
But you still need to come to Christ.
You need to pray a prayer that invites Christ into your heart.
You need to receive the gift of salvation for yourself”.

And I prayed that prayer.
Adam Hamilton writes:
“Wesley taught that we experience justifying Grace
When we say finally say yes to God, when we learn to trust the Christ
Who gave his life to redeem, to save , and deliver us from sin.
This form of grace is God’s declaration that we are
Delivered from sin and death and at the same time it is God’s
Power working in our hearts to free us from
Guilt and death, and to reconcile, redeem and make us new!”

Now…folks…isn’t that more exciting that a touchdown by
The team you are rooting for?

So Prevenient grace makes it possible for us be ready
For Justifying Grace.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17
“If anyone is in Christ,
There is a new creation: everything old has passed away;
See, everything has become new!”

When we experience Justifying Grace, it’s like we are born anew.
Jesus in fact, called it being born again.

On more than one occasion I have heard someone say
“Well, I’m not one of those ‘born again’ Christians”.
But that is not really possible.
I know that they are talking about a person who
Expresses their faith in a certain kind of way
But the truth is
We are all born again when we place our faith in Christ.

We start out new.
But we can’t stay.
Oh…some do…some never get beyond the baby stage.
Those of my generation may remember a song
Sung by Amy Grant

In fact…I think it’s time for our own halftime show!
I found a great clip on line I want to share with you now.

We don’t want to stay babies.
Babies are good babies when they are born
But they need to grow.
We need to grow.

And that is where the third experience of Grace comes from
Wesley and others call it Sanctifying grace.

Just like the two before it,
We can resist it, or we can cooperate with it.
Sanctifying Grace is the grace that grows us into holiness.
 Remember we talked about before…
God’s call on us to be holy, even as He holy.

We can’t do that on our own.
Only God can do that…
And do it he does!

I’ve not only collaborated on this sermon
Adam Hamilton and Kerry Bart,
Travis Fisher also helped me with it.
Travis has this to say:

God's grace is the only thing that can bring bad to good.
 Can turn darkness into light.
God wants us to be holy, and see's us as holy....
and it's only by his Grace that that can be so....
because, after all, we are only human..
.and God is God

Hmmm..wonder where he got that last line from!

God’s spirit wants our spirits to grow in faithfulness
To become more and more like God.
I don’t know if we will ever be fully sanctified before
We reach heave or not.
Wesley said he knew of one woman, maybe two
Who he thought maybe were.
The rest of us, he would say
“Are moving on towards perfection”

And it’s God’s sanctifying grace that  is moving us.
God does this through what we call
“The means of grace”.
That’s point #4 on your note sheet.

Wesley had a sermon called “the Means of Grace”
And in it he identifies a number of spiritual practices
Through which God pours his grace into our lives
Scripture Reading
Partaking in the Lord’s Supper.

In the General Rules of Methodist Societies
He also talked about
Public worship

To that list we might also add things like
Serving in mission  and ministry with others,
Reading spiritually oriented books
Walking in silence in the woods
Spending time in fellowship in small groups

All these things we have talked of often.
We need to do more than talk though…we need to do.
Ask one another from time to time..
How is it with your soul
What are you doing to be moving on to perfection?
How are you growing in your faith?
What are you doing to put yourself in the best position
To receive God’s grace?
These are serious questions.
I hope you to attend to them.
You don’t need to be doing all the things I just mentioned
But you need to be doing something.

Otherwise it’s like reading about a diet,
But if you don’t do it, you won’t lose weight.
It’s like watching someone else exercise….doesn’t do you
Any good unless you are moving yourself!
Do it.
Adam Hamilton writes
“Watching people in my own congregation,
I notice that some age gracefully, while others become
Less gracious as the years go by. The difference, I think
Has a lot to do with whether we’re pursuing the means of grace,
And if we’ve set our hearts on the goal
Of sanctification.
Where are you in this process of grace”?

I know…we are running into overtime…
They get to do that in football…so…I figure
I get to do it here…hang with me, we are nearing the end!

#5 is an important point.
Wesley , and I agree with him, said that God’s grace
Was free to all.

There are other theologians –
John Calvin perhaps the most famous of them
Who believed that salvation was not for all
That God has determined before hand
Who would be saved and who would not be saved.

But another theologian, Jacobus Arminius
Challenged Calvin’s teaching on election.
From Arminius, Wesley got his idea of
Prevenient Grace.

A God who would choose beforehand who would be saved
And who would not be saved…seems…un loving and unjust –
That Can’t be the God we know.
1 Timothy 2:4 says “God wants all men to be saved
And to come to a knowledge of the truth”.

Wesley beloved this. I believe it too.
Because he believed this to be true
Wesley had a passion for the lost.
I wish I had that same degree of passion.
It’s an area that I don’t work hard enough on,
And I need to improve.
May be you do too.

We need the church today to have a passion for the Lost.
We can’t be a club unto ourselves.
Having our spiritual needs met
Enjoying the fellowship of each other
Passing on the faith to our children and grandchild.
Yes…we need to do those things
But we need to do more.

We need to be constantly seeking ways
To bring others in….not just so that our church can grow
But so that  people may know Christ.

Maybe Paul himself puts it best in Romans 10:13-15
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord
Will be saved” How then can they call on the one they have not believed in?
And how can they believed in the one of whom they have not heard? And How can they hear without someone preaching to them?
And how can they preach unless they are sent?
As it is written – How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news”.

Now…do this for me.
Everyone take a look down at your feet.

But look at those feet.
Are they beautiful feet?
They are…if those feet take you to someone else
And share your faith.

After church today, say to someone you know shares their feet.
Say…My what beautiful feet you have.

Let’s not have ugly feet
Let’s be a congregation who has beautiful feet!

Touch your lips.
Those are beautiful lips if you use them to speak
A word of grace and love into someone’s life.

Touch your ears.
Those are beautiful ears if they listen
To one who is hurting
And then does something to heal that hurt.

Let’s have beautiful feet.
Beautiful lips
Beautiful ears.

Amazing Grace….how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch life me.
I once was lost
But now am found
Was blind…but now I see.

God’s grace…..God’s grace.
Dig into it.

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