Summary: The grace of God challenges our delusions of being able to do it on our own. The grace of God leads us to worship our gracious God.

Sermon for CATM – Thanksgiving 2007 – October 7, 2007 –“Grace and Worship”

An atheist once said, “If there really is a God, may He prove Himself by striking me dead right now.” Nothing happened. The atheist proudly announced, “You see, there is no God.” His friend responded, “You’ve only proved that He is a gracious God.”

I am so glad that God is a gracious God. I am so glad that he freely gives us all things. I’m glad, frankly, that God is NOT a tightwad. He does not skimp on His love. He does not hand out forgiveness sparingly.

God is lavish in His graciousness to us. He wants us to experience blessing. He wants us to be rich in friendships. He’s designed us to feel enriched when we give of ourselves to others.

This Thanksgiving, what are you thankful for? What is the source of your gratitude to God? There is real value to this time of the year when we have a clear opportunity to pause and reflect on the things we are thankful for.

You know what I’m most thankful for? Well, I’m thankful for my wife and my children and my extended family. I’m thankful for this church and this mission. I’m thankful for all of you and I’m thankful that we can gather to worship and celebrate today.

But when I really think about it, I’m most thankful that Someone saved my life. Someone reached down into my dark world and my hopeless state and lifted me.

I’m thankful for the hand of God that for no reason other than His love, has rescued me from myself. I’m thankful that He loved me before I even knew Him. When He was a stranger and I was an atheist and I would use His name in vain.

When I would echo the beliefs of my family and friends that there was no God. When I denied His very existence and would have vowed that I was right, He reached right through it all and got my attention.

Do you know how He got my attention? It wasn’t fear. I had no fear of God. It wasn’t big, dramatic miracles. I could explain away each one as a coincidence or fluke of nature. It wasn’t any kind of manipulation or coercion.

It was grace. Just grace. Nothing more, nothing less.

Ephesians 2:4-9 says this: But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

The incomparable riches of His grace. Wow. I think of all the riches and beauty that I know of on this earth. The joy in a baby’s eyes. The love of my wife.

All the gold upon a thousand hills. All the beauty hidden deep in humanity. Art, music, sculpture, dance, drama. None of it compares to the transcendent, matchless unparalleled riches of God’s grace.

And how did God show us, give us access to those riches of His grace? It was expressed in his kindness to us in a man. A first-century Palestinian Jew named Jesus Christ.

[Unannounced PPT] 1 John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

I think law is easier to understand than grace. The law referred to here of course is the Old Testament law. Keeping the law was the way to stay in right relationship with God.

Abiding by the Ten Commandments and a huge number of other laws and rituals was seen as the road to God. They were the conditions that had to be met in order to appease God.

[Unannounced PPT] Col 2:17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

During a British conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world debated what, if any, belief was unique to the Christian faith.

They began eliminating possibilities. Incarnation? Other religions had different versions of gods appearing in human form. Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of return from death.

The debate went on for some time until C. S. Lewis wandered into the room. “What’s the [commotion] about?” he asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity’s unique contribution among world religions.

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