October 23, 2022: We Are A Three Grace Church – Justifying Grace (Pentecost 20)

Image by Amodiovalerio Verde via Flickr

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, please click on the link below to watch the entire worship service as a video on your home computer, tablet or smartphone:

Link to Video:

Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/763029459

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/c360e2Vujlv

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CALL TO WORSHIP:

Lord, I believe: Help my unbelief. Help me to see my world as You see it.
Lord, I obey; Help my disobedience. Focus me; guide me. Prune me.
Lord, I follow;  Help me to stay on the path. Thank you for the path, for guidance, for Providence and protection.
I humbly ask for wisdom and for knowledge in every human situation. 
Lord, help me to flourish as a part of the vine. Amen.

HYMN 163 Ask Ye What Great Thing I Know
“As Ye What Great Thing I Know” – April 3rd, 2016 – The Woodlands UMC
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZYu1WLn_7Y

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − The Centering Prayer: Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help. I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life. Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not. Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature. Help me to serve you as I am gifted. Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood. I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my Lord. Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN 714 I Know Whom I Have Believed
Marshall Hall – I know whom I have believed
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igC3fYB5AOU

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: We Are A Three Grace Church: Justifying Grace
Romans 5:1-11, 8:15-16, 1 Timothy 2:1. 3-4
Series: We Are …

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Saturday Video AudioWesley Sermon Audio

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SERMON NOTES

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. 6 While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man–though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. 8 But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 Not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received our reconciliation.

Romans 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God …

1 Timothy 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, … 3 This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.   – Howard Thurman

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HYMN Blessed Assurance
Alan Jackson – Blessed Assurance (Live)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vfqYwfTqlE

BENEDICTION The Prayer of St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT

We are a three grace church. And today, I’d like to talk to you about one of those three kinds of grace, which is called justifying grace.

Facebook is a wonderful thing. Every now and then, Facebook reminds you of something that you put on Facebook previously. And this picture came up this week. It comes from a sermon all the way back in 2011. What if the real question, it asks, is not whether you are going to heaven … but who are you willing to leave behind? And there’s the picture of the arch there rising above the cloud, the St. Louis arch. And the question, What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? Now, this sermon was preached at Caseyville United Methodist Church. You could stand in the parking lot, and if you kind of crane your head, you can see that part of the arch. The church is nine miles from the Mississippi River.

And the purpose of this slide was to say to my people, are you willing to dare to pray not just for yourself to go to heaven but to pray for the whole city of millions of people? And a wonderful, beautiful, saintly person who lived in Caseyville at that time – she now lives in Canada – she replied in a comment. She said, “I really don’t want to leave anyone behind, but it’s up to God who enters, and I have no control.”

And I’ve been thinking about that all this week, and I want to challenge that belief. That is the basic belief in our culture. The basic belief is you and I will one day stand in front of God. We will come up to heaven. Saint Peter will meet us at the gate and look through the books to see if we are good enough to come inside.

Here’s the problem with that, friends. If going to heaven was a test, if going to heaven was about keeping all the rules perfectly, human beings flunked that test when Eve took a bite of the apple. It’s too late to be good enough or as Mark Twain put it even better, heaven is by sheer favor, the kindness, the grace of God, not merit, not because you earn it, not because you’re better than someone else, not because you’re good enough. If it were by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in because your dog lives a holier life, a kinder life, a better life, a sinless life compared to so many of us.

But that idea of meeting St Peter at the pearly gates is the standard belief in our culture. It sort of soaks in, and we find ourselves believing it without thinking much abut it. It’s a part of our culture so much so that there are lots of jokes about it. And I explained to my wonderful friend, who’s from Canada, I said what I remember from the sermon. And I thought it was this one. I said that I had three goals. and these are paraphrased from John Wesley.

I had three goals.
The first goal was this, I want to go to heaven.
The second goal was, I want to bring all of you with me.
And the third goal, I said, is I want to teach you so that we can bring everyone you love with us, too.

And so yesterday I became convicted. I started looking for these slides. I wanted to find where that picture came from and here’s the sermon that it came from. The question is asked, how big is your faith? In all the things of God, prayer comes first. How big is your faith? Is it big enough for you to believe that you were going to heaven, for you to pray that you would go to heaven?

And the next slide asked, What if the real question is not whether you were going to heaven? You see, there are a lot of churches that continually want you to focus on you, about whether you are going to heaven.

But what if the real question is not about you, but who are you willing to leave behind because they need your prayers? Is your faith big enough to pray for someone other than you? Are you praying for one? Or two? Are you bold enough to pray for a whole city? Are you praying? What would you attempt to do in your prayers if you knew that God could not fail?

On Facebook, I said to Gwen, it’s certainly possible for us to live in a way that drives people away from Christ. It’s certainly possible for us to live in a way that offends people to where they would not want to have anything to do with our church or with our God or with our faith. It’s possible for us to be so repugnant that we can drive people away.

But yet, if that’s true, it’s possible for us to live in such a way that it draws people in. It’s possible for us to live in such a way that draws people to Christ. It’s possible for us to live in such a way that people want to come with us in this life and be in heaven with us in that life.

And the theological word for this is called justifying grace. Justifying grace changes everything. This is a picture of my youngest son. He is holding his oldest daughter. She’s one or two days old. And Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” You must have this new beginning from God, this new start.

And Romans talks about it as justifying grace, this grace where God steps in, not because you’re good enough, not because you deserve it, but because God wants what is broken to be made whole. And it’s an experience that comes from God to us. And you can pray for it. You can ask for it in your prayers, and you can find that your life is completely changed.

In the little square on the screen there is a saying: On one day Paul was killing Christians, and the next day he was a Christian. One day Peter was a fisherman, and the next day he was someone who was fishing for men. If we can believe that God created the whole world in six days, it shouldn’t be hard for us to believe that God can change someone’s heart in one day. And this change of heart is a transformation. You can pray for it. You can ask for it. And I want to suggest that we should.

Here’s what Romans 5 says, “Therefore since we are justified,” made right, made whole. That’s what that word means, made holy. Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him, through Jesus Christ, we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand. Now, notice access right now. And we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And hope does not disappoint us because right here, right now, God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, which has been given to us.

Your life can change in a day as God washes our sins away.

A couple of verses later, verse 8, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Since therefore we are now, now, now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more now, now, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. Not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received our reconciliation.

Justification by faith is something that can happen now. It’s a transformation. You can pray for it. You can ask for it.

Romans 815, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship” – to be a child of God. When we cry Abba, Father, it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.

You can ask for it. When you read John Wesley’s journal, this was something the early Methodists believed. The whole rest of England believed you wouldn’t have any idea until you stood before the gates of heaven. And John Wesley said, “No, you can know. You can know right now. You can know today. And what you should do is pray until you know.” And they would have prayer meetings. They would pray for hours with a person. And sometimes in a little bit, sometimes after hours of prayer, there would be a breakthrough. And they would have this sense that the Bible verse speaks of. They would have this sense within themselves that they were a child of God.

You can ask for it. And here’s why you can ask for it. First Timothy, chapter two, verse one. First of all, then, Paul says, “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men,” not just for good people, not just for church people, not just for religious people. Pray for all of the people. And certainly, the worst of the people need our prayers more than anyone!

But the reason we can pray – look at verse three. This is good. This is good and is acceptable in the sight of God, our Savior. It is good to pray for people who are good people and it is good to pray for people who are far from God. It is good to pray for all the people. Why? Verse four: God desires all men to be saved.

God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. So consequently, when you pray for yourself, when you pray for someone else, when you pray for someone you care about, when you pray for someone who has harmed you or hurt you, you are doing what is good. You are praying a prayer that God desires to answer with a great “yes”!

Let me remind you of what that prayer is like, because you hagve prayed it before. Do these words sound familiar? Lord Jesus, today, I am far less than the person I want to be. Isn’t that true? Or can be with your help? Isn’t that true? I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life. It’s another way of saying, Lord, I ask today that you would come more deeply into my life.

Lord, I’m a sinner. I need forgiveness. I need your help.
Please be my shepherd; guide me in this life.
Please be my Savior, the one who brings forgiveness to me.
Please be my Lord, the one that I serve.
Amen.

This is a prayer for salvation to happen. Maybe you prayed it or something like it a long time ago, but it doesn’t hurt you a bit to pray it again because we are asking God to do what God wants to do, which is to make all things new.

And in fact, it occurred to me it’s a little bit like this. On a wedding day, a couple makes a commitment to each other and I’m thinking that God desires to make a commitment to you. And the question asked is something like this,

“Do you, our Heavenly Father, take this person to be your child, to live together in a holy state of grace? Will you love him, comfort him, honor and keep him in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, for better, for worse, to love and to cherish and remain faithful to him as long as you both shall live?” And I think God answers yes to that question because I think that’s the sort of love that God has for us. You can be a child of God.

John Wesley believed this. On the 14th of October in 1735, he was on a ship traveling from England to Georgia to be a missionary. And while on that ship there was a terrible storm and all of the English he said, including himself, began screaming for their lives because, of course, this might be the day that they would stand before the gates of heaven. They didn’t know.

But Wesley reported that the Moravians, this German pietist group that was having worship during the storm the waves crashed over the side, they just kept on singing their hymns. Wesley came and said to them, “Why weren’t you scared?” And the answer was, “Our people are not afraid to die.” Wesley said, “Well, aren’t your women and children afraid to die?” And the answer was, “No, our women and children are not afraid to die.” And Wesley said, “How can this be?” Because he’d seen a demonstration right there.

And the man from Germany looked at him and said, “Do you know that Jesus Christ has died to save you from your sins?” See, he made it personal. Do you know that? And Wesley’s response was very theological, like the professor from Oxford that he was. He said, “I know that he has died for the sins of the whole world.” And the Moravian looked him right in the eye and he said, “But do you know?” This is where the idea that our faith becomes personal comes from.

There’s a line from the Godfather movie, you know, it’s not personal, it’s strictly business. And you see, the default in this world is it’s not personal, it’s religion. But the fact is that everything is personal and John Wesley had to admit he had a wonderful idea of what God was like, but it was not personal. And he began to pursue this ideal. He looked through the Scripture and he saw case after case after case where people’s lives were changed in a moment, that that was what was normal. And he began to pursue the opportunity to say, “I know he died for my sins.”

And he prayed for that for two years and eight months and a few more days, until finally, on May 24, 1738, his prayer to God was answered. He wrote these words in his journal, “In the evening, I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle, to the Romans.” What they did in those days, just like we watch television today, is they gathered together in small groups and somebody would read out of a book and they would discuss it. So there John Wesley is in this house on Aldersgate Street, and he writes at about a quarter before nine. While he, the reader, was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ

He writes, “I felt my heart strangely warmed.” You see, his faith had become personal. “I felt,” he wrote, “That I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation.

And remember that witness of the Spirit? “An assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.” John Wesley felt something. It had become personal. It had become real to him. He had prayed with people over those two years and eight months for them to have this experience. And finally, his own prayers for himself had come true.

Friends, we do not have to wait till we get to heaven to find out if we were good enough. The Scripture says that you can have that knowledge that you are a child of God, right here, right now. You can ask for it, you can pray for it, and you can yearn, as John Wesley did for God, to answer that prayer.

Sometimes, like John Wesley, you can identify a date when God answered that prayer.

Sometimes again, because, you know, a little baby doesn’t remember the details of the day they were born. But they realize today they are alive, that God has brought them life.

But you don’t have to wait. You can ask for God to change your life. You can ask for it.

Please pray with me, “Lord Jesus, some of us have asked for this transformation, and we do know that it did happen. Some of us simply know that we are alive now and we are so grateful. But it could be, Lord, that some of us don’t exactly know. Some of us are going by that default. We are living in the hope that what we do will be good enough. Instead of experiencing the joy right now, of knowing that you are ready to make a commitment to us, to care for us as a loving father, to care for us as a child of God. Lord, I pray for all of us and each of us that we could begin to pray for this experience of becoming a child of God to be real to each of us, and to all of us. But Lord, on out around us, to people all around us, because certainly, Lord, we all need forgiveness, we all need help. And we thank you so much that you are willing to answer this prayer of faith. We ask this in Jesus’s name. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )
 

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