Summary: Sermon is a call to faithfulness in the grace of God, in prayer, in service to the Lord.
We will begin this morning in Acts 13:43. Paul & Barnabas went into a synagogue in Antioch and preached. Some of the hearers responded well to the message and wanted to hear more. Acts 13:43 “Now when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.”
I have one word for you this morning. That word is “continue.”
I. Paul told these people to “continue in the grace of God.”
It’s one thing to begin right; it’s another to end right. It’s one thing to begin in the grace of God; it is another to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and continue in His grace. The day you were born again you encountered the amazing grace of God. God gave Himself to us no strings attached, free gratis. We had nothing to bring Him but our need and our brokenness. As a free gift He forgave our sins and granted eternal life. Not of works, lest any man should boast, by grace you are saved.
Later, Paul wrote a letter to the Galatian church. He said to them, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel.” They began right but got off course somewhere along the way. In Galatians 3:2 Paul writes, “This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Verse 3, “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” This great salvation we have received from the Lord is a salvation of grace from cradle to grave. We initially receive the life of Jesus as a gift and in the same way we draw upon that life daily. We’re dependent upon God for every bit of it.
We are to live in continued dependence upon the divine flow of God’s life. We begin in grace and we continue in grace.
The supply of strength to continue comes from God on a daily basis. “Give us this day our daily bread.” God does not dump a truckload of strength on our front door with a note asking us to get back with Him next month. Like the manna in the wilderness He gives us what we need for each day. “As thy day is so shall thy strength be.” I confess to you that I sometimes struggle with this daily dependence issue. There is something in me that just wants it all taken care of way in advance. But God wants conversation with me every day. He wants me to talk with Him about my needs and thank Him for His provision. I seem to do that more when I feel my needs. I do it even more when there’s an element of desperation in it all. But the rule of the kingdom is this, “ask and it shall be given to you.” Continue in the grace of God.
In 2 Cor 1:8-11 Paul talks about his continued dependence upon the grace of God.
“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. 9 Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, 10 who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, 11 you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many.”
Paul’s life got so difficult that he despaired even of life. He didn’t know whether he was going to make it or not. He was troubled on every side and burdened beyond measure. This happened while Paul was serving God with everything in him. There was a spiritual battle to be fought and Paul found himself right, smack in the middle of it. Why would God allow such a thing in a man’s life who was trying to serve Him in every way he knew how? Paul gives us the answer to that question in verse 9, “that we should not trust in ourselves but in God.” The fundamental difference between works and grace concerns where our trust is. The moralist is trusting in himself. He is trusting in his own ability to perform well enough to get into heaven. But when we’re operating in grace we are trusting in the Lord. We are trusting Him to get us through. We are trusting Him to make a way that we cannot make ourselves. Paul continued in the grace of God; but God used some circumstances to keep him doing that. I love the way Paul tacks this phrase on as a part of his statement: “who raises the dead.” Do you have burdens and problems? Paul’s were life-threatening; but Paul’s God and our God is one who raises the dead. The problem can never get too difficult for Him to solve. Has God come in for you in the past? He will come in for you now. He does it through this kingdom principle: ask and you shall receive. He does it in answer to prayer.