Summary: The purpose of this sermon is to show us what we must do in order for God’s grace to abound in us.
Somerset is a Grace Place!
February 16, 2003
A [Rock and a Soft Place, Citation: Anna Zogg, Salt Lake City, Utah. Christian Reader, "Lite Fare."]
Soon after my brother moved, he made a point of meeting his new neighbors.
He found that a Christian family lived on one side and an attorney on the other.
My brother remarked, "We’ve got law on one side and grace on the other."
1. Of course that is the way it should be—Christians should be marked by grace!
2. But we all know that is not always the truth—law marks many Christians rather than grace.
B. [Lessons from a Tavern, Citation: Charles Swindoll, Leadership, Vol. 4, no. 1.]
An old Marine Corps buddy of mine, to my pleasant surprise, came to know Christ after he was discharged. I say surprise because he cursed loudly, fought hard, chased women, drank heavily, loved war and weapons, and hated chapel services.
A number of months ago, I ran into this fellow, and after we’d talked awhile, he put his hand on my shoulder and said, "You know, Chuck, the only thing I still miss is that old fellowship I used to have with all the guys down at the tavern. I remember how we used to sit around and let our hair down. I can’t find anything like that for Christians. I no longer have a place to admit my faults and talk about my battles--where somebody won’t preach at me and frown and quote me a verse."
It wasn’t one month later that in my reading I came across this profound paragraph: "The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit that there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give his church. It’s an imitation, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality--but it is a permissive, accepting, and inclusive fellowship. It is unshockable. … You can tell people secrets, and they usually don’t tell others or even want to. The bar flourishes not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known, to love and be loved, and so many seek a counterfeit at the price of a few beers. With all my heart," this writer concludes, "I believe that Christ wants his church to be unshockable, a fellowship where people can come in and say, ’I’m sunk, I’m beat, I’ve had it.’ Alcoholics Anonymous has this quality--our churches too often miss it."
Now before you take up arms to shoot some wag that would compare your church to the corner bar, stop and ask yourself some tough questions, like I had to do. Make a list of some possible embarrassing situations people may not know how to handle.
A woman discovers her husband is a practicing homosexual. Where in the church can she find help where she’s secure with her secret?
Your mate talks about separation or divorce. To whom do you tell it?
Your daughter is pregnant and she’s run away--for the third time. She’s no longer listening to you. Who do you tell that to?
You lost your job, and it was your fault. You blew it, so there’s shame mixed with unemployment. Who do you tell that to?
Financially, you were unwise, and you’re in deep trouble. Or a man’s wife is an alcoholic. Or something as horrible as getting back the biopsy from the surgeon, and it reveals cancer, and the prognosis isn’t good. Or you had an emotional breakdown. To whom do you tell it?
We’re the only outfit I know that shoots its wounded. We can become the most severe, condemning, judgmental, guilt-giving people on the face of planet Earth, and we claim it’s in the name of Jesus Christ. And all the while, we don’t even know we’re doing it. That’s the pathetic part of it all.
1. God forgive us for being a place that shoots our wounded!
2. This should be the kind of place where people can admit they are struggling with sin, shouldn’t it?
3. This should be the kind of place where people can admit they struggling with trials, shouldn’t it?
4. This should be the kind of place where people can come and be honest about who they are and what they are going through without be condemned to hell by the “attorneys of God,” shouldn’t it?
5. This should be a GRACE PLACE.
6. In the fifth chapter of 1 Corinthians, I believe we can find four things that need to happen in order for Somerset to be a GRACE PLACE; first…
I. In order for grace to abound, we must mourn over sin!
1 Corinthians 5:1-5 (NIV), It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? 3 Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. 4 When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5 hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.