Summary: This is my fifth of the five clergy talks that are given on Grace in the Walk to Emmaus Ministry. It is on Obstacles to Grace or Overcoming Sin.
Obstacles to Grace
--Romans 5:12-21 (Verse 20, Primary Text)
I’ve been a runner since the summer of 1968 when I began the original Kenneth Cooper Aerobics program. In September of 1978 I was inspired by the late Jim Fixx, author of The Complete Book of Running with whom it was a joy to personally correspond, to follow in his footsteps and run the distance around the equator or a total of 24, 902 miles, a dream the Lord enabled me to achieve on Pearl Harbour Day, Saturday, 07 December 1996.
In school I was never know for my athletic prowess (“PROU’ IS”). Academics; music, band and chorus; and drama were my priorities and pursuits. In fact I was most clumsy and could be dubbed the original “class nerd.”
I don’t have a lot of confidence in psychological tests given by schools, business, and industries, for they so often provide us with an incomplete picture of a person and their capabilities for a particular career; they so often given an inaccurate profile and miss the target in analyzing a person. In the fall of 1970 I was ready to begin my seminary career, but despite good recommendations from friends and acquaintances and a fine academic record in college, obstacles appeared in my path that seemed to block my course.
The seminary questioned my psychological profile and fitness for ministry. As I had interviews with both the Dean and also the chairperson of the Department of Pastoral Care and Counseling, they both were concerned that I “did not look them in the eye” when speaking to them. They also wondered why my interests were music, drama, and academics, and rather than sports, automotive mechanics, and building trades. That led them to seriously question my effectiveness in relating to people as a pastor.
Originally I was admitted to seminary “on trial” and in the Master of Arts program rather than the Master of Divinity degree to which I had applied and which would lead me into the pastoral ministry. The Dean and the Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling furthermore recommended that I consider the ministry of music or Christian Education rather than the pastoral ministry.
That first year of seminary was a very difficult time, for I had to “prove myself” fit for the Calling I had clearly heard from God for the past eight years. As I recall these difficult days, I realize God was teaching me that “He never calls the powerful; He empowers those He calls.” Through the work and power of the Holy Spirit in those situations what I first had seen as obstacles were overcome by His grace. He enabled me to receive my Master of Divinity degree on schedule, and for thirty-two years He has continually reaffirmed His call on my life in pastoral ministry.
Obstacles to grace constantly attack us, but God’s grace is always sufficient for us and His strength is regularly made perfect in our weakness. Good afternoon, my name is David Reynolds, and the title of this talk is “Obstacles to Grace.”
Barb Woolridge has shared with us the message of God’s “Prevenient Grace,” the grace that comes before our moment of decision to accept Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Saviour. We have seen that from the moment of our conception the Holy Spirit has been pursuing us to come into a personal relationship with God in and through Jesus Christ. Ken Dees then shared with us that “Justifying Grace” begins the moment we say “yes” to this relationship God offers us but that it embraces more one initial faith response. There are many moments in our lives when we are invited to say “yes” to God. As we continue to live the Christian life the Holy Spirit continues to invite us to accept all the “Means of Grace” God bestows upon us through Jesus Christ and His Church.
Obstacles to Grace are “barriers to a relationship with God; any part of life being presented as the whole.” In short, we can say obstacles to grace are what the Bible refers to as sin. We all have an idea what sin is. From early childhood most of us were taught that sin is “all the bad things we do.” Sin separates us from fellowship with God, and we are all born sinners. David, in confessing his dual sin of adultery and murder and seeking God’s forgiveness and restoration, admits in Psalm 51:5:
“Surely I was sinful at birth,
Sinful from the time my Mother
Paul reminds us of this fact as well in Romans 3:23, when he declares,
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” If any doubt the truth that we are all sinners from birth, just stop to reflect: “No one every has to teach a child how to be bad, our parents struggled with us, as we do with our children and grandchildren, many pain staking hours in trying to teach us how to be good.”