A STUDY OF GRACE and THE CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO IT.
“Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing and perfect will of God.” _ Romans 12:1-2
INTRO: Last year, 2020, was one of the most unusual years our world has seen since the end of WWII, over 75 years ago. A great pandemic interrupted both the political and social processes of nearly every nation on earth. We lost thousands of lives and saw fear control the attitudes and practices of most of humanity. As Americans we had to re-evaluate who we were as a nation and as individuals, taking stock of how we had lived and what changes would be necessary to successfully live in the future. The world will be a different place, for better or worse, in the year to come. To usher in this New Year for each of us and for the church, I want to offer three questions for consideration. Please let me PRAY with you and then we’ll move forward.
I.WHO ARE YOU? (Ex. 3:11)
A. In Ex. 3, the Lord calls Moses to lead His people out of bondage to Egypt, and like any sane person Moses asks a very honest question: “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” Moses sets before us a wise course of action. Before we make decisions about where or how we are going to move forward, we must take an honest account of who we are. In doing so, there are three areas we should consider.
1.) Emotionally. Are you self-centered, lazy, devoted, diligent? To what are you most devoted? To what do you give your time, effort, money? What do you prioritize and what do you minimize or compartmentalize? If you are emotionally undisciplined, you will hurt yourself and others and the New Year will be painful and unsatisfying. If you know this is true you should get counseling (everyone needs some) and stop being the same old troublemaker you have always been. That’s not meant to be mean, just straightforward and honest.
2.) Physically. Are you to undisciplined and lazy or fearful to make necessary changes? Are you ill, and, if so, are you trying to make adjustments to regain health? Are you treating yourself as though you plan to live to a hundred years old? I’m no You may have some serious health concerns and simply don’t know what to do. I’m no doctor, but the Scripture gives us a clear declaration that God intends we take very seriously. First Cor. 6:20 tells us, “For you have been bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body.” That calls for knowledge, for discipline, and for accountability. Get them and be obedient or neglect them and be disobedient. It’s that simple.
3.) Spiritually. There are three (3) positions possible: a.) The lost. According to the Bible, this is anyone who has turned their back on the grace of God. Either they have decided there is no God or that they can win their way to God based on their own righteousness, disregarding the holiness of God and the unholiness of humans. These include many people from many religions, including some who call themselves Christians, who do not truly know God in a personal way.
b.) The Spiritually Immature in Christ. Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 3:1-2a, “And I, brothers, could not speak to you as spiritual [people], but as to worldly [people], as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it, indeed you are not yet able.” Hebrews 5:12-13, “For, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the [word] of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for [that person] is an infant.” One of the reasons Christianity falls victim to so many cultural attacks is because there are so many “spiritual babes” that don’t have the strength or wisdom to face off against opponents. Hebrews 5 ends in vs. 14, which says, “Solid food (understanding biblical truth) is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” Immature Christians, carnal or worldly Christians, have difficulty standing against evil because they don’t know enough spiritual truth to know what is righteous. They don’t know the Bible, they won’t submit themselves to be taught, they are more controlled by their worldly appetites than by their call to be disciplined, and they are too weak to defend the faith against the culture. These folks may be saved, but they certainly don’t live like it. How do you know if you are one? If you want to know, seek God and you will find out. For example, study the Sermon on the Mount for 1 month and pray for insight. I think you will know.
c.) The Spiritually Maturing. Just as all musicians are not the same, all students are not the same, all athletes are not the same, etc., all Christians are not the same when it comes to matters of spiritual growth. Hebrews 6:1 tells us, “Therefore, leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity.” We all start like babies, but we are not stay that way. We are to grow in our relationship with the Lord, to be more trusting, more loving, more like Him. We are also to grow in our relationship with others in God’s kingdom.
The Apostle Paul put it this way in Phil. 3:12-15, “Not that I have already attained [full knowledge of Christ] or have already become mature, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus (that I might be a person who lives in full devotion to the Father as His child). Brothers [and sisters], I do not regard myself as having laid hold of [this degree of devotion] yet, but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind (my sinful past and my childish efforts) and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are mature, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you.”
II. WHAT DID LAST YEAR DO TO YOU?
A. What did last year bring out in you? Are you a fearful person or a courageous person? Are you a worrier or a calm person? Are you a joyful person or an angry person? Are you more devoted and faithful in God and your salvation or more uncertain and left with unanswered questions? If this year is like last year, or worse, how will you handle it? Are you a better person or a more ______________________ person?
B. What did last year do to this nation? Is it a stronger nation or a weaker nation? Is this nation a nation of Christian faith or a land given over to secular paganism? Do you trust our government to protect us and do the will of the people or are they just involved in a career for their own profit? What part will you play in the nation this year? Will you base your work on your faith or your fear?
C. What did last year do to the church? First, is the church in America weaker or stronger? Did people leave the faith or come to the faith? Did our church get stronger or weaker, and in what ways? Is our church meant to accomplish great things this year or are we simply meant to survive? How did God lead you in your faith last year? Would you say you were a ________________________ Christian and church member because of last year’s events?
III. WHAT WILL HAPPEN THIS YEAR?
A.What will happen to you? Will God guide you or leave you alone?
B. What will happen to our nation? Will God be honored and lifted up or disregarded and ignored? Will He disappear?
C. What will happen to the church? Will the church be publicly alive and active or working underground and under attack? Will our church accomplish its task?
“O WHAT A TERRIBLE THING, A TERRIBLE THING TO SEE. I SET OUT TO FIND MYSELF. . . AND ALL I FOUND WAS ME!” That is the poetry of a person who focuses only on themselves and sees life only from their perspective. They keep searching for the truth they like rather than the truth that is real. No matter what happens, they will lose, because they seek only themselves.
“I HAVE LEARNED TO BE CONTENT IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES. . . . I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME.”(Phil. 4: 11, 13) That is the truth for those who set their hearts on Jesus Christ to face whatever lies before them.