Summary: Grace is the theme for this Reformation Sermon. Illustrations are from recent "cultural" views or comments like "who is that guy hanging on the cross" "good people go to heaven when they die."
In Jesus Holy Name November 1, 2009
Text: Romans 3:21-24 Reformation
“The All Sufficient Grace of God”
Twenty years after the demonstrations that brought down the Berlin Wall many say that East Germany is spiritually near death. The Nazi and Soviet regimes that ruled East Germany tried to de-Christianize the cradle of the Reformation. The estimate today is that 70% of the East German population knows virtually nothing about Christianity.
Rev. Ulrich Parzany who succeeded Billy Graham has the main speaker at ProChrist evangelistic meetings stated: “I was standing in front of a Berlin church as some young adults passed by. Referring to the giant crucifix over the entrance, one of them asked, “Who is that guy hanging up there?” (Christianity Today October 11, 2009)
In 2005 Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denten published their research with American teens. They concluded that a new religion has emerged in America.
In “Soul Searching’s The Religion and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers” they summarize the new theology:
1) A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life.
2) God wants people to be nice, good and fair to each other, as taught in the bible and by most world religions.
3) The central goal in life is to be happy and feel good about one’s self.
4) God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
5) Good people go to heaven when they die.
My question: “How do you define good?” “Does everyone have their own definition?
Complete these common American phrases for me:
1) If it sounds too good to be true……… it is.
2) We make money the old fashion way, we…… earn it.
3) There’s no such as a free……. Lunch
4) There is no gain without……. Pain
5) God helps those who……. Help themselves
Everything about the American way of life teaches us that you get what you earn in life, that there is no free lunch, that you make your bed and then you lay in it. In America we are very aware of the values of competition and winning and we know what it means to work hard and use elbow grease. We value effort and sweat. We tell people, “You get what you deserve in life.” And “if you want to make something of your life it’s up to you”.
This is called the American work ethic. The only problem with the American work ethic is that God doesn’t operate on the American work ethic. It makes it difficult many times for us to relate to God because we’re in this driven work mentality.
The problem is explained in Psalm 145:8 It tells us that God, rather than being in a work ethic mode, it says: “God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.”
The bible says God is gracious. That means He loves to be gracious. God loves to bless people who don’t deserve it. You can not understand the Christian life unless you understand grace. It is the heart of our faith. It is the heart of our relationship with God. When you understand grace you’re going to feel closer to God. The grace of God is what saved Martin Luther and rescued Christianity from the ethic that you can buy your way into heaven, and purchase your forgiveness with money.
You need to understand the difference between mercy and grace. Mercy is when God with holds from us what we deserve…. Punishment. Grace is when God gives us what we don’t deserve… forgiveness and blessing.
In confirmation class we teach our students this acrostic on G R A C E.
God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.
Romans 3… “All of us need to be made right with God by His grace, which is a free gift through Jesus Christ.” “There is righteousness from God that comes to us through faith in Jesus….for all have fallen short of the glory of God…. And are justified freely by grace, through Jesus Christ..”
If you ask fifty to a hundred people along the sidewalk “How do you get to heaven?” You’d get a lot of different answers. But basically they would all be summarized in, “You’ve got to earn your way into heaven.” Or “The way you get to heaven is you try to be good and do your best.” Or “Work real hard a being good and just try to be a good, moral person.”
You need to understand that God says that salvation is absolutely free…. You can not earn it, you can not buy it, you can not work for it.
This is the fundamental difference between Christianity and every other religion. Every other religion, every other belief system, I don’t care if it’s Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam…. You can summarize every other religion in one word…. “Do”. Each system is different. They may have a different list but to gain heaven, to gain God’s approval, it’s always something you have to do. Rules, regulations, rituals.