Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Next - Sermon, Part 4

Listen to verses 8 and 9: 9 For it is by God's grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God's gift, so that no one can boast about it.

I think we might be tempted to believe that we can be good enough – we can do enough – we can be enough – without God. Without Lent, we might be tempted to believe it. Without Lent, we forget that we cannot jump to the moon. We forget we are dead in our trespasses. When we remember THAT – then the really meaning of grace – that is a GIFT of God – sinks into our hearts along with the spirit of God, and the realization changes us.

On October 29, 1972, I read scripture for the first time in church, using this Bible. I was eight years old. As a sidenote, I think when you ask children to read in church, you should give them the bible and let them keep it. This is a treasure to me.

I read John 3:1-16. I still remember it. The word Nicodemous gave me some trouble. It ends with the famous verse: God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

Just like the Sound of Music, I thought the story ended there. It doesn’t. There is The Next:

Verse 17: For God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its savior.

Yes, God loves us. And that is a priceless realization. But it’s not ONLY that God loves us. God loves us even though we are worthy of condemnation. Even though we live in death. God loves us even though there is no way on this earth that we can, by ourselves, be holy and earn God’s love.

I think sometimes we think grace means that God forgives us when we disobey. And I won’t argue with that, but grace is a God who comes into our lives – who becomes who we are – and who makes us holy, saves us from death and brings us life. That is so much more than forgiveness.

It’s The Next. And we don’t understand it until we understand who we are and where we stand without God. That’s why we need Lent.

To become grateful for Grace.

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