Summary: We are saved by grace.
August 23, 2015
Saved by Grace!
Opening words: I love this story. A young Billy Graham was driving through a small southern town, when he was pulled over by a policeman and charged with speeding. Graham admitted his guilt, but was told by the officer that he would have to appear in court. At first, the judge did not recognize Graham. He asked, "Guilty, or not guilty?" When Graham pleaded guilty, the judge replied, "That'll be ten dollars -- a dollar for every mile you went over the limit." Suddenly, the judge recognized the famous minister. "You have violated the law," he said. "The fine must be paid--but I am going to pay it for you." He took a ten dollar bill from his own wallet, attached it to the ticket, and then took Graham out and bought him a steak dinner!" Later, Billy Graham said, “That is how God treats repentant sinners! My story is a story of true grace!" If you can understand that simple story, then you can understand this morning’s message.
This is sermon number thirty-two in my sermon series called Church Planting. During the summer months, I have been preaching through the Book of Acts. This is no small task, because Acts has so much to offer. I believe the Holy Spirit is vital to our future success. Human effort and determination are not enough to revive the church. It is the Holy Spirit who created the church originally, and it must be the Holy Spirit who revives the church again. With this understanding, let us look at our scripture lesson for today, Acts 15:1-11. Let me call this message Saved by Grace!
Acts 15:1-11 1Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. 3 The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. 4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them. 5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”
6 The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7 After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
It is one of the great hymns of the church. You may know the story of Amazing Grace. It was written by John Newton, who was born in 1725. He grew up without any religious conviction. As a young man he was pressed into the Royal Navy. After the service he got involved in the Atlantic slave trade. The practice was just as sinister as it sounds. West Africans were captured and sold into slavery in the Americas. As many as 20% died en route. In 1748, when Newton was 23 years old, his ship encountered a terrible storm off the coast of Ireland and Newton cried out to God for mercy. That experience marked his Christian conversion. He stayed in the slave industry for another six or seven years, then he began to study Christian theology. The hymn, Amazing Grace, came from his own personal experience. Read the words; he couldn’t believe God could save such a sinner as he. How many times have you sung Amazing Grace? When was the first time you experienced God’s amazing grace?
It has been said there are two groups that wrestle with God’s grace. The first group sees themselves as too sinful. Like Newton, they see themselves as too far gone. Not even God’s grace is that powerful. The other group sees themselves as too good. They really don’t need God’s grace because they aren’t that bad. They can save themselves. Let me say this clearly. We all need God’s grace. Jesus is our only hope of salvation. If you believe Jesus is your only hope of salvation, say, “Amen!” With this in mind, let us look at this morning’s scripture lesson together.