Summary: we know we are saved by faith, but we often live with guilt because we can’t measure up to God’s standards - we need God’s grace as much after we are saved as before
June 20, 2010
The Apostles Paul and John, in most of their New Testament epistles, began with a greeting that included something like this one in
1 Corinthians 1:3 (NIV) Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In fact, it’s the exact same greeting in 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians and Philippians, Romans, and 2 Thessalonians, and almost the exact same wording in Colossians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon and 2 John.
So, on Father’s Day, we see it clearly stated that grace is from God our Father. And apparently, grace was pretty important in the scheme of things – why else would it appear in the greeting of 13 letters?
Now, unlike Mother’s Day, when I feel a genuine sense of obligation to focus the Sunday morning sermon on some sort of Mother’s Day theme, I feel no such obligation on Father’s Day.
So I began this morning’s sermon with an idea expressed in scripture that’s loosely connected to fathers, and to what we’re going to explore this morning, and that’s it. So, Happy Father’s Day.
Though the gospel is the Good News of God’s salvation by grace through faith, we tend to think of the gospel almost entirely in terms of what it means for our salvation.
Yes, we all know the basics. We’re all sinners, unable to earn our way into heaven. Because of that, we need the sacrificial gift of Jesus, God’s own Son, who loved us and gave Himself for us, and shed His blood for the forgiveness of sins, making a way for us to the Father, giving us eternal life with Him. So we, as Christians, have the desire to tell unbelievers this good news, so that they can receive this free gift of salvation, and spend eternity with God. All well and good, and perfectly appropriate.
But something we sometimes forget, and need to be reminded of, is this:
The gospel is just as much for Christians as for non-Christians.
We need the Good News of His grace after we’ve received Christ, just as much as we needed it to come to Him in the first place. The reason is somewhat different – after we’re saved we need the gospel to change us into the image and likeness of Christ, and that’s a lifelong process that theologians call sanctification. But the truth is, we still need the gospel of grace.
I know that we need to be reminded of this because of several things it’s easy to observe in almost any group of Christians. Perhaps the most telling observation is that we seem to carry around guilt, like we carry cell phones, or purses or wallets – in other words, guilt is almost always with us. It’s not always a crushing, debilitating guilt. In fact, for most of us it isn’t that at all. But it’s a low-level, almost shadow of guilt that follows us around during most of our lives.
Guilt over things like these (source: Kevin DeYoung blog)
• We could pray more.
• We aren’t bold enough in evangelism.
• We like sports too much.
• We watch movies and television too often.
• Our quiet times or our devotional life are too short, or we don’t do it often enough.
• We don’t give enough.
• We bought a new couch, or car, or TV.
• Our kids eat Cheetos and french fries. Or we eat Cheetos and French fries
• We don’t recycle enough.
• We need to lose 20 pounds.
• We could use our time better.
• We could live some place harder, or in something smaller – we could live more sacrificially, like some of our missionaries.
The bottom line is that we feel a sense of guilt for the things we don’t do often enough, well enough, or perfectly enough.
What do we do with all this behind the scenes guilt? We don’t feel stop-dead-in-our-tracks kind of remorse for these things. But these shortcomings can have a cumulative effect whereby even the mature Christian can feel like he’s rather disappointing to God, maybe just barely Christian. Kevin DeYoung
Here we are, followers of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Saved, not only from death, but saved from the power of sin. Headed for eternal life. Yet we carry this sense of failure around. I wonder if that’s what God really wants for us?
Now the challenge is that guilt can be a good thing. We’re supposed to feel guilt about sin in our lives, and we all sin. If we never feel a sense of guilt, we’ll never repent and we’ll just wallow in our sin, and we won’t experience the transformation that scripture assures those who follow Christ.
The other reality is that it’s easy for any of us to grow complacent – it’s part of our human nature to drift and we must resist that. Sometimes guilt can be an indicator that something’s wrong, something’s wrong with our attitudes or behaviors. It can bring conviction, and a genuine desire to change, and this is good and often necessary.