Summary: We all face obstacles that block the flow of God's grace in our lives. This message is a message given during a Walk to Emmaus weekend.
Obstacles to Grace
Rev. Lynn Malone
Toby Keith has a popular song right now that I have heard several people walk around either singing or humming the words. The song is entitled I Want to Talk About Me. Have you heard it? The words to the chorus go like this:
I wanna talk about me
Wanna talk about I
Wanna talk about number one
Oh my me my
What I think, what I like, what I know, what I want, what I see
I like talking about you, usually, but occassionally
I wanna talk about me
I wanna talk about me.
We snicker because we know from the rest of the song that Keith is singing about his talkative girlfriend, and sometimes, just sometimes, he would love to talk about himself. But the words of the chorus capture in a compelling way the prevailing sentiment in our culture today. It is all about me!
Hi. My name is Lynn Malone, and I am talking today about Obstacles to Grace. Obstacles to grace are those cunning ways we have of letting the priority of self get in front of the priority of God-with-us. In essence, this is a talk about sin.
But what is sin? For many of us, sin may be hard to define, and in the world we live in today, we don’t like to talk about sin too much. After all, one person’s sin is another person’s pleasure, and who am I to judge. Just live and let live. That’s the motto of the age. But can we really deny that sin exists in our world, and if sin exists in our world, there is the distinct possibility that sin exists in my life. Therefore, I must pause to answer the question in a real way. The Bible says in 1 John 1:8: “If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth.” John also goes on to say that “if we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts” (1 John 1:10). So, what is sin?
The word used in the New Testament most often for sin is actually an archer’s term. When an archer would shoot an arrow and the arrow failed to hit its intended target, it was hamartia. The archer “missed the mark.” Sin is missing the mark. Anytime we fail to enjoy the loving relationship God has intended for us, we miss the mark. We sin. Whenever we abuse the created order that God has established, we sin. Whenever we reject the grace of God in our lives, or when we fail to see the potential God has placed within us, we sin. Whenever we choose our own will over the will of God for our lives, we sin. We put ourselves at the center of our own little universe. Everything revolves around me, around my wants, around my needs, we sin. We move ever so easily to the center of our own universe. All our decisions and all our relationships are dependent upon what we want or think. The most destructive factor in any relationship, especially our relationship with God, is self-centeredness. This is the essence of “missing the mark.”
We really don’t have to look far to know that sin surrounds us. The abuse and neglect of children and the elderly. Corruption in business and government, and even in the church are vivid examples of how easily sin can ensnare us. If we feel distant from God, that is a result of sin. Perhaps not our own, but maybe even someone else’s, for we do not live in a vacuum, and what we do affects other’s lives, and what others do affects our lives. Even the neighborhood bully, or for many of you, the overbearing boss, can be an example of sin in our midst. The abuse of power by one person over another is an example of sin. It is not God’s design for his creation, and it is sin. Sin is all around us, and it is an obstacle to grace.
Throughout our lives we have become experts at erecting barriers between ourselves and God. The barriers we erect, or obstacles, if you will, prevent us from receiving God’s love. Other priorities, and even other relationships, can hinder our relationship with God, and simply put, this talk is about how we block God’s love in our lives.
So how do we sin? I mean, I haven’t killed anyone, or abused anyone, or lied or cheated or stolen. What are those obstacles that block God’s grace? Well, the first obstacle to grace is ignorance. We alienate ourselves from God and others unknowingly. Without understanding what sin is we cannot know what can potentially separate us from God, and we are unwittingly defeated. We must acknowledge sin’s existence, and be constantly seeking ways of overcoming sin to enjoy the relationship God desires with us.