Summary: A look at why God saves by grace and how that should impact what the church looks like.
- The "reverses the line" story off Preaching Today.
“FOR THAT VERY REASON”: Grace “reverses the line.”
- This verse continues with the thought from verse 15 that we discussed last week: that Paul considered himself the worst of sinners.
- The overall point of verse 16 is that God showed great mercy and patience in bringing Paul to salvation.
- There are four words that are of particular interest to me and that I want to focus the sermon on this evening: “for that very reason.”
- It’s an interesting phrase. When we think of Paul’s great persecution of the church and the enormous resulting sin guilt, it’s not that God saved Paul despite that, but that God saved Paul because of that. This is worthy of some serious thought.
- It does not mean that Paul had no choice in his salvation. Of course he was free to reject God’s revelation of Jesus as Messiah.
- It more means that God did not look upon Paul and think, “He’s really messed up, but I guess I’ll save him anyway.” Rather, He looked at Paul and was drawn to the opportunity to save someone so deep in sin.
- How do I know this? In v. 15, Paul says that he was the worst of sinners. In v. 16, he says that “for that very reason” (i.e. his “worst-ness”) God showed mercy to him.
- “Reverses the line” refers to the idea that that those in the front of the line are suddenly in the back and those in the back are suddenly in the front.
WHY DO IT LIKE THAT? One reason is that it gives more glory to God.
- How does it give more glory to God? When lives are transformed that were clearly beyond fixing, God receives more glory for that. When hearts are changed that were notoriously black, God receives more credit for that.
- The worse the situation, the more glory God receives.
- One of the goals of our lives should be to bring glory to God.
- We want to honor and glorify Him as much as possible. Why? 1. In thanksgiving for all He’s done for us. 2. Because there is nothing higher to live our lives for than God.
- Another factor here is the willingness to repent.
- People who see themselves as respectable and “good people” and upright are less likely to admit their sinfulness. Just look at how vociferously the Pharisees rejected Jesus in comparison to the embrace that He received from the tax collectors and prostitutes.
- Grace reverses the line and it turns out that those who know they’ve messed up and messed up badly often know they need to make a change, but felt they were so far gone as to have no hope of a change. Grace opens that door – God will receive and save everyone, even the worst of sinners.
WHAT THAT SHOULD MEAN FOR CHURCHES: Churches should be less “respectable places for respectable people” and more “places where the broken are healed and the bound are freed.”
- We’ve become establishment institutions, where membership is evidence of social standing and respectability.
- Rare are the churches where the broken are welcome. Rare are the churches where the hurt are embraced. Rare are the churches where we see miracles of people released from addiction.
- This is not the way it should be. This is evidenced that we are not modeling the Christ life.
- When Jesus was here on earth, those that gathered to Him were not the respectable and honored. It was the broken, the destitute, the bound, the hopeless. If we’re not seeing that happen, something is wrong with the way we’re doing things.
OUR PART IN WELCOMING "THE WORST OF SINNERS":
1. DON'T EXPECT THEM TO ACT LIKE CHRISTIANS. . . BECAUSE THEY'RE NOT.
- Heizer Creek baptism story.
- Philip S’s church sending them home story.
- Casting Crowns song: “change heart before change shirt.”
- We’re shocked when people cuss and say inappropriate things and do things that are wrong. Why are we shocked? They’re not Christians, so they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing, right?
- That doesn’t mean that we excuse sin or justify sin. It’s still wrong. But we need to quit being shocked that people are acting like that when they don’t have the Lord in their life.
2. WE'VE GOT TO BE WILLING TO GET MUDDY.
- People far away from God are going to come in with messy, dirty situations. Someone’s got to get down in the mess with them and help them find a way out.
- In some cases, there are no easy answers. Any road you choose is going to have difficulties and problems. The easy thing to do is to step back and condemn the compromised choices that they make. Harder is to get down in the mud, try to figure things out with them, and live with some of the “less-than-perfect” parts of the journey.