Summary: When we are intercepted by God wewill be struck by his kindness, mercy and grace.
Title: How to Be Transformed by Grace
Thesis: When we are intercepted by God we will be struck by his kindness, mercy, and grace.
Series: The Bible in 90 Days Whole Church Challenge
How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a fanciful movie based on Dr. Seuss’ classic holiday poem. The Grinch, a hairy, green, cantankerous beast, looks down on the town of Whoville from his home on a mountain of garbage. What he sees disgusts him. The people who live in Whoville (called the Whos) love Christmas and all its trappings. Possessions, decorations, lights, and partying consume the Whos. The Grinch’s disgust originated when he was mocked as a child because of his odd looks and the Christmas gift he hand-made. The Whos hate the Grinch as much as he loathes them.
Intent on destroying Christmas, the Grinch single-handedly devastates Whoville by stealing all their presents and Christmas trees. Tucked in his hideaway, he prepares to destroy all the loot he has stuffed into a gigantic pack. But before he can, he hears the townspeople singing in the valley.
The narrator explains: "Then the Grinch heard a sound rising over the snow. It started in low and it started to grow." The Grinch grimaces as the narrator continues: "But the sound wasn’t sad, but very merry. Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small, were singing without any presents at all."
The Grinch is bewildered by these people who are robbed of their possessions yet are happy and singing.
So explains the narrator: "He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming. It came. Somehow or other it came just the same. And the Grinch with his Grinch feet ice cold in the snow stood puzzling and puzzling how could it be so."
Finally, the Grinch speaks: "It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags. Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."
His eyes grow warm and soft and as big as saucers. Suddenly, he throws himself to the ground, convulsing as his heart grows three times the size it was before. He laughs. He cries. He claims to feel all toasty inside. Unfamiliar with tears, he thinks he is leaking, while a brilliant shaft of sunlight bathes his green face and reveals a sincere smile. The conversion of the Grinch is matched by a brilliant sunrise.
But then it dawns on him that the stolen gifts are about to slide off the mountain and be destroyed. For the first time, he actually cares. Transformed, he risks his life to keep the gifts from falling from the precipice. The Grinch’s changed heart is matched by changed behavior. (How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Universal Pictures, 2000), rated PG, written by Dr. Seuss, Jeff Price, and Peter Seaman, directed by Ron Howard; submitted by Greg Asimakoupoulos, Naperville, Illinois)
The story of How the Grinch Stole Christmas is about the transformation of the ugly, mean-spirited Grinch determined to destroy Christmas into a warm, gracious and loving Grinch. Our story today is about the transformation of an ugly, mean-spirited man who was determined to destroy Christians into a warm and gracious man who became a Christian. It is also the story of how our encounters with God are to serve as transforming moments in our lives as well.
How can we experience a life-altering encounter with God’s grace?
I. When we become aware of our own sin we can change.
Saul fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting…” Acts 9:1-6
Saul was a smug, self-righteous, right-wing radical Jewish leader. We first heard of him in Acts 7 where, during the martyrdom stoning of a Christian named Stephen, we are told that those who bore witness against Stephen and who were stoning him, laid their coats at Saul’s feet. Acts 8 tells us that on that very day a great persecution broke out against the Church in Jerusalem and Christians were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. And we are told that it was Saul who was the driving force behind the movement to destroy the Church and persecute anyone and everyone who was a follower of Jesus Christ. Acts chapter 9 begins with the words, Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s followers. He then had sought and received written permission to travel to Damascus to arrest any Christians he found there, be they men or women and return them to Jerusalem to stand trial.
This is a foreign scenario for we western Christians living in 21st Century United States of America where we have long cherished our First Amendment freedom of religion. The freedom of religion, freedom from the establishment of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly and association are at the heart of our constitutional democracy. The First Amendment forbids the government from the establishment of religion and guarantees all Americans the freedom to exercise or practice religion.