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"Embracing Grace"

by David Legge | Copyright © 2015 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com

'Preach The Word'Galatians chapter 2, verse 11 then of chapter 2 - we will not read the whole chapter. We will be referring to some of the former verses, but we'll just concentrate on verses 11 through to the end of the chapter. Verse 11 then: "Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed", of course this is Paul talking, he withstood Peter to the face, "for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, 'If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain'".

The question was raised: must these Gentiles become Jews and observe the rites and rituals of Judaism?

Let's pray together, and as I always do I'm going to invite you to ask the Lord to speak to you, whatever your circumstances are spiritually before God, that He might reveal Himself to you in a special way - and we all need that, don't we? So let's ask the Lord, and invite Him, welcome Him, to come and speak into our lives. Let's pray: Father, we come to You again in the mighty, all-victorious name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We want to extol and lift Him up - and, Lord, we thank You that we can come boldly in His name, by the merits and efficacy of His shed blood, by the new and living way, we can enter into Your very immediate presence - and that is just incredible, Lord! It amazes us to think that we can come face-to-face with the living God in Jesus Christ by the power of the Spirit. Lord, we want to know that tonight, we don't want that to be theoretical, we want to actually experience an encounter with God. We pray that as we come to Your word this evening - and for some these matters will be old truths, but, Lord, that You'll bring them afresh to them - for others they might be new truths, Lord, that they will be inspiring. For all of us, that we would know the renewal of the Holy Spirit as we receive the truth of God. We need You, Lord, we can't do this without You. We are not in a lecture, Lord, we are here to meet with You and hear from You. So we ask just now that You will come, and that You will minister to us by the Holy Spirit. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

If you were with us last week when we looked at chapter 1, and it was the first session on the study of Galatians here in Scrabo Hall, you will remember that I told you that the first Christians in the church were Jewish. Sometimes we often forget that, because the majority of the church globally today is Gentile, and we forget that originally the totality of the early church at the very outset was of a Jewish nature. At the beginning of the church it was assumed that the characteristics and the ceremonies of Judaism, their essential Jewish identity, would continue. So there was a great problem and dilemma caused whenever Gentiles were converted, the idea of the Jewishness of the church was challenged - this was a new thing. God, by the way, tends to be into new things, and He often challenges convention, the status quo, and accepted norms.

The question was raised: must these Gentiles become Jews and observe the rites and rituals of Judaism? Then a further issue was how the Jews should relate to these Gentiles, because they had very strict dietary and social laws concerning unclean Gentiles. So how would all this work now? Of course, when there are dilemmas like this, human wisdom will not get you out of this corner - it takes a revelation from God. That's exactly what happened in Acts chapter 10, you might care to turn with me there to Acts 10 just for a moment or two to get again the context of this theological issue. I'll not read it all of course, let me give you a bit of the story. Peter is on a housetop in Joppa, and God gives him a vision. There is a sheet, an actual material cloth sheet in this vision that is dropped from heaven, and that is just littered with what we would call 'unclean' animals, according to the Old Testament laws of Moses. Three times God says to Peter: 'Kill and eat'. Now some of you who know Scripture will know that it's all very important if God says something once, if God says something twice you need to sit up, but three times the Lord said to Peter: 'Kill and eat. Do not call anything impure that God has made clean'.

When God works often it really does challenge us, particularly as believers.

Now I reminded you last week that in the Gospels Peter had been given the keys to the Kingdom. He was going to open the door not only to the Jews in Acts chapter 2 at Pentecost, but he was going to open the door of the Kingdom to the Gentiles here in Acts chapter 10, specifically through the house of Cornelius, this Italian Roman Centurion. So what happens after he preaches words to Cornelius and his house, whereby they may be saved, the Holy Spirit falls upon this company as the Holy Spirit did in Acts chapter 2. I just want to point you to verses 44 through to verse 47: 'While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished' - why? - 'as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also', they were beside themselves! Could this be possible? They could not believe what they were seeing! They saw something, they didn't reach for the theological books to see, 'Do they believe what we believe?', They saw something! The Holy Spirit fell upon them, but that completely scrambled their doctrinal framework. Verse 46: 'For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, 'Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?''.

Now this was something completely new, foreign, a new creation - in fact, that's what Paul later calls it. A new man, a new body, and it challenged convention, it challenged Jewish theology, it challenged rabbinical interpretation, it challenged social etiquette, it challenged religious order and decency. Some of you may not understand what I'm saying, or even like it, but God likes to mess things up at times when they're wrong. When God acts, as He did in the book of Acts, He tends to push our boundaries. Jesus did it, the Holy Spirit did it in Acts, and I believe God continues to do it if we are open to Him. He wants to squeeze us out of our comfort zones, He wants to confront our concrete mindsets and provoke our prejudices. It was Jonathan Edwards, the great theologian of revival from America, who said: 'A work of God without stumbling blocks is never to be expected'. When God works often it really does challenge us, particularly as believers. It might be news to some of us that Almighty God is not restricted to my convictions - were you aware of that? - nor my tastes, or my ideas. We so easily can put God in a box, but He will not be boxed, even if it is the theological box as present-day Judaism was in Galatians and Acts.

Now Peter struggled, there is no doubt about it, with this new thing. If you look at Acts 10 verse 14, Peter said: 'Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean, I've never broken Your laws'. Again when he is reiterating this later on in chapter 11 verse 8, he repeats this statement that he said: 'Not so, Lord!'. But you know that is a redundant statement, you cannot say: 'Not so', and then end it with the title 'Lord'. As someone once said: 'He is either Lord of all, or He's not Lord at all'. I know we're working our way towards surrender completely, none of us I'm sure has arrived - but nevertheless, there ought to be that spirit of compliance and consecration in our hearts, where we are saying: 'Lord, there are things I'm struggling with, but I want You to help me with them'. But Peter said: 'Not so, Lord!'. There was an old preacher many years ago, some of you will have heard the story, and a young girl came after a meeting to get some counsel on a particular moral issue she had - I think it was a partner that she wanted to be engaged to and marry, but he was not a believer. The preacher of the day, it may have been Campbell Morgan, turned to that particular verse and gave her a pen, and asked her to either stroke out 'Not so' or 'Lord' - because you cannot have both. You either say 'Not so' to Him, or you say 'Lord'.

We don't want to be ignorant of the fact God often gives revelations to our hearts that we struggle with...

But we don't want to be ignorant of the fact God often gives revelations to our hearts that we struggle with. The church, which was Jewish, struggled with it. It was against everything that they had ever known that was true and right. I really don't think we appreciate this as Gentiles in the 21st-century - if you are Gentile, I'm assuming you are! The Samaritans were seen as apostates, they were unclean, they were sort of a mixed idolatrous 'gone bad' form of Judaism - and you need to know a wee bit about Old Testament history to understand that - but you know what the Jews thought. The woman at the well said: 'The Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans'. They even took a long route around the Samarian district in order not to set a foot on it, it was so unclean to them. Now we see that reflected in the story of the good Samaritan, that's why it was a real broadside to the Jews of the day - because this unclean Samaritan was treating the man beaten up along the roadside, the Jericho Road, they treated him better than the Jews. That was totally inconceivable for the Jews, that the Samaritan could do anything right at all, or worthy. Then of course there was the Samaritan leper, the only one who came back to thank Jesus; and the Samaritan woman I've already mentioned, where Jesus actually went out of His way to go straight, went into that Samaritan unclean territory, and went to that woman and waited for her at a well. Married five times and cohabiting with a fellow, but she was looking for water, and once drunk she would never thirst again - she got it that day.

These are little glimpses, I believe, in the Gospels of what the intention of this great Gospel of the Kingdom would be to spread the ends of the earth. But this? This is a bridge too far! Samaritans were a struggle, but Gentiles? This could not be right! I'm sure at some point, at some meeting in the church, someone was heard to say: 'Anybody who would know their Bibles, would know that this is wrong!'. Can you imagine it? But we can so easily have our prejudiced spectacles on, and this is an important statement: a knowledge of the Bible without a personal knowledge of God becomes perverted.

Then in Acts chapter 15, if you turn there, the Judaisers were already at their wicked work. You remember we talked about them, they were the ones that were affecting Galatia, and they were saying that the Gentiles had to effectively become Jews and be circumcised, and keep all the rites and rituals of Judaism, or they would not be saved. This whole matter came to the Jerusalem Council, to some of the apostles there in the church, and the conclusion on the whole matter - I love the NIV's translation in verse 19 of Acts 15 - 'We should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God'. That was their conclusion: 'We ought not to make it difficult'. By putting all these hurdles, Jewish and even biblical in as far as they were from the law of Moses, all these restrictions on Gentiles, we're making it hard for people to come to Christ - that is not our job! Did you know that? As the church, it is not our job to make it hard for people to come to Jesus, we're meant to make it easy! We're not to dilute the claims of the Gospel, but the Gospel in Christ is meant to be the only stumbling block.

As the church, it is not our job to make it hard for people to come to Jesus, we're meant to make it easy!

These were the only restrictions that they put upon the Gentiles coming into the church, verse 28, you see it that there was a letter written: 'For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well'. I love this phrase at the beginning of verse 28: 'It seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us' - you will note that the Holy Spirit comes first. If you read the book of Acts, you will see that the reason why they were so guided by the Holy Spirit is because they were never off their faces in prayer and fasting, seeking for the wisdom from Heaven to know what way the church should be. When was the last time you heard anybody say: 'It seems good to the Holy Spirit, and to us'. A lot of you might think that's presumption, to suggest that anyone should know the mind of the Holy Spirit. Well, the Bible says you have the mind of Christ, which is the mind of the Holy Spirit. We are meant to get so close to the Lord, and be waiting upon Him, that we hear. The conclusion was that unnecessary burdens should not be laid upon these Gentile converts.

Now, let's get back to Galatians. The Galatians embraced this Judaising teaching, and this is what I really want to focus your attention on just now. Peter, who was so involved as an instrument in ushering in God's new thing in Cornelius' house, he stumbles at the offence of these Gentiles in faith! Let me remind you of what we've already read, verse 11: 'Now when Peter had come to Antioch', Paul says, 'I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy'. Now of course Peter was in agreement with welcoming Gentiles into the church without the law, we know that from Acts 10 already, but practically there was a difference being made here. You see, you can know something theoretically, but act practically in a totally different way - and most of us Christians do that a lot.

So Peter came to Antioch, which was Paul's home church, and, boy, it's another story now. He refuses to associate with the Gentile Christians when the Jewish brethren came from Jerusalem. You can see this very clearly happening, can't you? These other guys come down from Jerusalem, and all of a sudden Peter withdraws himself. Now, what is the reason for this? Well, it says in verse 12: 'Fearing those who were of the circumcision', fearing the Jews - and fear of man brings a snare. So much of what we do in church is out of the motivation of fear of man. It's a very powerful thing, it's a contagious thing, so much so that we read and verse 13 that even Barnabas was infected by this. You know what 'Barnabas' means, who he was, 'son of encouragement', and he becomes a source of discouragement because of this spirit of legalism pervading the church. You cannot underestimate the power of the fear of man.

But I think as you read Paul, his biography and his teaching, you will know - now there were times he was fearful - but he was never motivated, or never changed his mind or made a decision before God out of fear of man. As we saw in chapter 1, he was not the servant, verse 10 of chapter 1: 'For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ'. We have one Lord, and one voice that we are to listen to - but there was another reason why Peter caved in in the church in Antioch. It was intransigent tradition, interpretation of the Bible that was unwilling to yield to the softening oil of the Spirit. Last time I said to you, last Sunday night, it's amazing how knowledgeable people oppose what is an obvious work of the Spirit on doctrinal grounds - but it happened here in Acts, it happened in Galatia, it's still happening today: 'If you knew your Bibles you would know that this is not of God'.

So much of what we do in church is out of the motivation of fear of man...

There are examples right throughout history, but also - and sometimes I wonder, even ask myself, what Bible I'm reading, because we so easily miss things that are very clearly there; where God asked people to do things that were apparently contradicted by Scriptural principles. Have you ever considered that? I know some of you are getting very worried, and you say: 'Well, this is very dangerous, be careful'. Look, we're talking about what's in the Bible - when I add something to the Bible, come and talk to me - this is what's in the Bible, where God actually commanded people to do things that appear to be at face surface level wrong. So, you were at the bottom of Mount Moriah one day walking your dog, and old Abraham comes along, and he's got Isaac with him, and a bundle of wood under his arm and a torch. 'Hi Abraham, what are you doing today?'. 'Well, God spoke to me, and He has told me to go up the mountain here and sacrifice my son'. What would you do? You would reach into your pocket, compact Bible, and you would turn to Exodus chapter 20 to the laws of Moses, and you would see there and show Abraham - I know he's a father of faith, but just in case he'd forgotten - I know the law hadn't been given yet, I know that, but it was written on people's hearts from the very beginning: 'You shall not murder'. 'Abraham, I don't know whose voice you're hearing, but it's not God'. Is there anything wrong with what you would have said? No, only it was the voice of God, and His ways are not your ways, and His thoughts are not your thoughts. 'Oh, be careful where you're going with this' - listen, let's not be careful at all, let's blow the myth that we know what God is thinking, that we know the end from the beginning. He did, He knew He was going to withhold Abraham's hand, save the child, and bring a wonderful redemptive typology from it - He knew, but we don't know everything!

Oh, there are many other examples. Hosea, God says 'Go and marry a prostitute'. I don't think that's a good idea, do you? If we were doing some premarital counselling for Hosea, we might be saying: 'Now, I would just hold off for a little while, there are few things that you might need to sort out and iron and out before you shack up together in marriage'. You would maybe say: 'Look, this is what inevitably - if you don't sort out moral problems in your life, you're going to fall into these traps again and again and again, and it will be perpetuated and you're going to have a headache for the rest of your days' - yes? But God was telling him to do it. What about Ezekiel? I could go on. I could talk about Isaiah walking around naked for two years, or was it three? I wouldn't like God to call me to do that! What about Ezekiel? 'Ezekiel, I want you to go and cook with human excrement' - now it is in your Bible, OK! Just go and read, it's there! What would you do? What does Ezekiel do? 'I will not do that, it is unclean!'. It was unclean, and God - isn't He wonderful - He says: 'OK, Ezekiel, use animal excrement'.

What am I saying? Well, I'm saying you need to know your Bible, but you need to know your God. We can so easily turn things on their heads, and forget how big God is. Wait till I tell you: if you think that such talk as this preaching right now opens the floodgates to everything, it doesn't. What it does is to realise how big God is, how greater God is, His ways are not your ways, His thoughts are not your thoughts, as high as the heavens are above the earth - just look at some of the pictures from the Hubble telescope, and you will find out all about that - so are His ways, His wisdom, His thoughts, greater than yours. We can be so fearful of admitting anyone into fellowship, like the Galatians were, who aren't fit; that we fail to see that, for God, it's far worse thing to refuse fellowship from true believers upon whom the Spirit has come, even if they don't fit into our box.

What we're seeing here is that because they had a performance-related mentality toward God in their legalism - they were trying to earn favour with God through good works and through keeping Scripture - they then ended up, because they were vertically performance-related, they became horizontally performance-related to others. So, 'If God requires me to live up to His standard to be accepted with Him, you're going to have to live up to my standard to be accepted with me' - that's why legalism pervades the church, because people don't understand the grace of God for themselves to themselves. Do you see when you do you understand it, do you know what happens? You offer it to others, you're gracious and loving toward others.

In verse 14 he says: 'I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the Gospel' - that's what we need, isn't it?

Paul had to boldly expose this hypocrisy, and that wouldn't have been easy because Paul was the new kid on the block, wasn't he? In verse 14 he says: 'I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the Gospel' - that's what we need, isn't it? Being straightforward about the truth of the Gospel. You see, they were Jews who were not living under the restrictions of the law, that was the utter hypocrisy of this matter. They were born Jews, but they had given up the law once they came to Christ - I don't mean they were lawless, but they were living by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. Jesus had fulfilled the law, He had died to pay the penalty of the law; and now His Spirit, through the resurrection and the ascension and Pentecost, was now living in them to live righteous lives before God by faith. So they were living like this, but now they were expecting Gentiles to go and live the way they lived pre-conversion. Paul again had to remind them of the foundation of their salvation, and he actually reprimands Peter to the face. You would love to have been there that day, wouldn't you? Paul and Peter at loggerheads.

The foundation is found in verse 16: 'Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified'. Someone put it like this, a well-known Bible scholar: 'It would be hard to find a more forceful statement of the doctrine of justification than this' - in verse 15 - ''We know', it is insisted upon by two leading apostles', namely Paul and Peter, 'we know'. 'It's confirmed by their own experience ('we have believed')', that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, 'and it's endorsed by the Old Testament ('by works of the law shall no flesh be justified')' - it's commonly understood as a quotation of Psalm 143:2. The commentator says: 'With this threefold guarantee we should accept the biblical doctrine of justification and not let our natural self-righteousness keep us from faith in Christ'.

For Paul the apostle this was a non-negotiable, and it also ought to be for us. He had a sanctified stubbornness when it came to the Gospel being 'by grace, through faith', and he demonstrates this. We didn't read the verses, but if you look back at the beginning of the chapter, verses 3, 4 and 5, he refers to an incident: 'Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. And this occurred because of false brethren' - what a description of these false teachers - 'false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty', our freedom, 'which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you'. Isn't that mighty? Now, if you know your Bibles, you will know that in Acts chapter 16 Paul consented to Timothy being circumcised in order to reach the Jews with the Gospel, but here he says he refused to have Titus circumcised - why? What's the difference? Well, there has to be a difference, and the difference is all down to motivation. Paul had Timothy circumcised in order that there wouldn't be a stumbling block in reaching Jews with the Gospel, but these Judaisers wanted Paul to circumcise Titus in order to demonstrate circumcision being part of the Gospel. Paul was not prepared to compromise the central message. Yes, he would become a Jew to the Jews to reach the Jews, he would come under the law to reach those who were under the law; but he would not change the Gospel to include law.

Of course, Timothy had a Jewish mother and a Gentile father who, it might be the case, didn't want him to be circumcised - but Timothy was essentially, I suppose, Jewish; but Titus had no Jewish blood in him at all, he was a Greek. Martin Luther, for whom this epistle was so fundamental in the Reformation, commented like this: 'If they had asked it on the plea of brotherly love', that is, the circumcision of Titus, 'Paul would not have denied them, but because they demanded it on the ground that it was necessary for salvation, Paul defied them and prevailed - Titus was not circumcised'. Do you see the issue? It's the Gospel.

Having given the foundation of justification in our salvation, Paul anticipates the objections that might be raised against this...

Verse 17, now having given the foundation of justification in our salvation, Paul anticipates the objections that might be raised against this: 'But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not!'. Now please try and picture this scene here, remember that Paul is speaking to the faces of the people sitting in front of him. Over in one corner of the room with the men from James are Peter, Barnabas, Paul's best friend, and all the other Jewish believers. Over on the other side of the room are the Gentile converts. The Jews are objecting, hypothetically, according to Paul: 'If this grace is as you say it is, and we are sinners who' - Romans 3:23, they wouldn't have been quoting it of course, but Romans 3:23 tells us we - 'fall short of God's glory, then is Christ a minister of sin? Is He turning a blind eye to sin? Is He condoning sin?'. It's the same objection as Romans 6: 'Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?'. If it's only through faith, how do we deal with the sin in our lives? Do we not need laws? That's maybe the way some of you are thinking when you're hearing this preaching on grace.

Well, look at his answer in verse 18, it's masterful: 'For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor'. What Paul is saying is: 'If I reinstate the law into my life, I will be guilty of more sins than I already am as a Christian' - why? You only have to read Romans 5, 6, 7, 8, and you will find out there what the law was given for - it was not given to make us righteous before God, it was given to show us that we are sinners. In fact Paul said: 'Before the law came, I had no sin' - that didn't mean he was sinless, but he didn't know his sin. So when you start living by law, what happens is: you magnify and you multiply sin, it actually encourages sin within us, it stirs up that nature! It's just like telling a child: 'Don't do this', and what does he want to do? He is tempted to go and do it. Paul says: 'If I reinstate what I have destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. Grace does not make me a transgressor, grace forgives me, grace frees me, but law imprisons me'. In verse 19 he says: 'For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God'. The law killed Paul, killed him! Why would he want to return to death when he has life?

So how was Paul living? Verse 20: 'I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me'. He was not living, trying to obey the commands of God as such - though we must, if we love Him, we keep His Commandments - but that is the key: it all begins with the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by faith, through the grace of God. It comes through renewal and redemption, it comes through rebirth, it comes through that wonderful conversion whereby we repent of our sins and our old self is nailed to the cross where Jesus died, and the resurrection life of Jesus Christ comes to live and reside in us. The more we release ourselves to that life, the more we will know victory over sin. Grace is not disgrace, it's not turning the grace into lasciviousness or lawlessness. You cannot claim God's grace and then carry on in sin and make grace an excuse! God's grace sets free from sin, but it's not law and don't ever make it be - it's grace.

So, how are you living? How are you living your Christian life? Are you building again those things which have been destroyed at the cross? Are you trying to obey commands just in the flesh? Are you trying, perhaps, just to live up to expectations of others around you, parents, authority figures, church leaders, denominations? Or are you living a personal faith-based relationship, with God as your Abba Father through Jesus Christ His Son, by abiding in Him, walking in loving obedience to Him and to His word, through the person and the power of the Holy Spirit? There is a world of difference.

You cannot claim God's grace and then carry on in sin and make grace an excuse! God's grace sets free from sin, but it's not law and don't ever make it be - it's grace...

I may have shared this illustration with you before, forgive me, but it's worthy of repeating. A.J. Gordon was a great Boston preacher years ago, and he attended the World Fair in Chicago. In the distance at that great event, he saw a man robed in bright gaudy kind of oriental clothing, and he was intrigued. This man appeared to be laboriously turning a crank on a pump, and thereby making a mighty flow of water come. Gordon was so impressed with the man's energy and smooth motions, and his obvious physical conditioning, that he decided to go a bit closer. He was pumping the water in tremendous amounts - but as he drew closer, Gordon was surprised to discover that the man was actually made of wood. Instead of turning the crank and making the water flow, the flow of the water was actually turning the crank and thereby making the man go. That's the Christian life - it's not being unanimated, it's not being passive, but it's not living through the energy of the flesh. That which is of the flesh is flesh.

Jesus said that He has put a well deep inside you, and He desires that that well should spring up and become, from your innermost being, rivers of living water that will make you go. 'I do not set aside the grace of God', verse 21, 'for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain' - He died for nothing. But some of you know that He didn't die for nothing, some of you are living in the power of the cross and the resurrection. I want to ask all of you who profess Christ tonight: do all of you know? Are you embracing grace? Let's pray.

Now, are there any that God has spoken to this evening - I'm sure there are. What are you going to do? What is it He's talking to you about? Have you been striving and struggling? There is a part for you to play, we are in it - as I said last week, we do have to position ourselves, to put ourselves in the flow of grace, but that's very very different - receiving grace - to striving in works and law. It's all about being - Jesus called His disciples to be with Him, then He sent them out to do the works that He had ordained. Jesus only ever did what He saw and heard the Father do. Some of us, particularly in evangelical circles, are run ragged - we're absolutely exhausted, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, on a works-ethos: get saved and serve, get saved and serve. It's not, it's: get saved and sit at the feet of Jesus - that's it - and see what He says to do, and then serve; and that will be in the energy of the Spirit, not in the energy of the flesh. Maybe some of you need to reassess - I often do, often do - 'What's this coming from? Where is this motivated from?'. Before God, let Him tell you. His word has been preached, I hope and trust faithfully, what is He speaking to you about? Will you respond to Him in this moment or two of quietness before I close the meeting? I'm not going to tell you what to say or what to pray, but just respond. Maybe you need to repent of a works-based, performance-based relationship with God. We heard this morning how David went into the Temple and ate the showbread, and wasn't rebuked by God, because lives are more important than laws. We have to understand God's heart. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, I believe, said, preaching on Romans chapter 6, that if you're preaching grace correctly there will be those who will misunderstand what you're saying as a licence to sin and do what you like - but it's then that we know that we are preaching it correctly. Those who have known grace never choose to live like that.

Father, I thank You for this company of people, I thank You for every person here. Lord, I pray that You will do what You will do, what You desire in these lives. None of us would hinder You by our small concepts of You. Lord, when we realise how big You are, we realise how small we must be. We pray that we will all humble ourselves before You, for it is with the contrite and the lowly that You dwell in the highest lofty heights of heaven. Thank You for grace, it is amazing, because Your Son is an amazing Saviour. We thank You for His blood, we thank You for His cross, and we thank You that He didn't waste His time when He hung there for us. May we all enter in to possess our possessions, what was purchased for us there, that we might live in freedom. Through Jesus Christ our Lord we pray, Amen.

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Transcribed by:
Andrew Watkins,
Preach The Word.
January 2015
www.preachtheword.com

This sermon was delivered at Scrabo Hall in Newtownards, N. Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording titled "Embracing Grace" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.

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