that the time of the Lord’s favor has come. (Luke 4:18-19).
Perhaps you’ve seen the commercial on television advertising one of those lending companies. This nice man with a painted on smile stands surrounded by this nice all-American family, and he says, “I’ve got a beautiful family.” The next scene shows a picture of a big house and the same man says, “I have a four bedroom house in the suburbs.” The next scene the man drives by in a car. “Like my car,” he asks? “It’s new!” Yet another scene on the golf course with friends and he announces, “And I even have a membership to the golf club.” Then, over the bar-b-q, he says, “How do I have all this? I’m in debt up to my eyeballs.” The commercial goes on to talk about how this lending company can help this man, and subsequently anyone who might be in his position and the final scene really tells it all. The scene shows the man riding his lawnmower, and with the same painted on smile that began the commercial says, “Somebody help me!”
My friends, we need help when it comes to a restored and right relationship with God. Well, God wants to help. God didn’t come to offer us things (like money or power or success or possessions) that we think will make life full, or us happy. God sent His Son Jesus Christ to offer us a relationship that is a relationship of love that flows out of His self-giving nature.
Justifying grace is that grace that becomes real in our lives in that moment that we accept the relationship God offers in his Son, Jesus Christ. We are justified in that very moment. This moment of acceptance is commonly referred to as conversion. It is what happens inwardly at that moment when most people would say, “I’ve been saved!” But the phrase “I’ve been saved” does not mean that conversion is ended. Rather it means we have begun a more adventurous portion of the journey that is God’s salvation. We can just as easily say, “I am saved,” or “I am being saved,” for conversion continues when we find new ways of accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Like when we come to a better understanding of ourselves, and when we come to a better understanding of the claim God is placing on our lives, but we will hear more about that next week.
Here is where it gets sticky and we have difficulty accepting God’s offer of salvation. Let me try to explain why. We have been taught all our lives that America is the place where hard work and determination meet opportunity to produce wealth and success. While there are exceptions we all could point to, we realize the American dream is fueled by hard work and determination. Remember John Houseman in the old Smith-Barney commercials? “We make money the old-fashioned way. We earn it.” Gary Player, the legendary golfer and a South African, understood this attitude. He said, "The harder you work the luckier you get." The American attitude is an up-by-the-boot-strap mentality, and that attitude is what has made America