Undeserved grace

Gardening and home improvement programs on TV are very popular.

There is the established variety: reality garden and home makeovers.  The program makers search for a very lousy garden and an unfortunate looking home, offer the owner the opportunity to get a new garden and home, and the quick-and-easy job is done in about half an hour’s viewing time, less if you take advertising into account.  The owners have to go away for a day, and when they return everything has changed.

Instant gratification!

There is a new slant on this type of reality TV:  the makers of these programs are not only looking for a lousy garden; they also look out for someone with a very bad experience in life, or someone who really “deserve something better”, especially if these people volunteered time and effort into the community.

Some time is then spent in informing the viewer of the unhappiness or good works of the person, usually with a tear or two.  Then the makeover follows, with of course, more tears at the end of the program.

There is a certain philosophy behind these programs that needs our attention.

We certainly need to have compassion with people with disabilities, and also with others who are doing it tough.  We certainly need to be thankful for those who give of their talents, time and efforts to the wider community.

But no one really deserves anything!  Having compassion is immensely more than feeling sorry.  TV programs excels in making the viewer feel sorry – and somewhat guilty – about the fact that they might be better off than others.

Which is of course where the TV itself steps in as the modern day Robin Hood. Not only does the participants in the program get more than what they “deserve”, they also get facials, spa baths, limousine transport – you name it.  And everything they get is usually “really good”, “fantastic” or “unbelievable” – that is, by the standard of those who provide the service.

In the meantime the marketers excel in “product placing”:  they have their name or logo (very overtly and blatantly!) written on every car, delivery truck, hair salon, nail polish, piece of furniture, etc.

The deserving participants are brought back to their new home and garden with new hairstyles and new outfits, and those who provided the deserved facelift to the place get the praise for the outcome they provided for the victims of fate, or the slaving volunteers.

These “service providers”, after all, deserve recognition for being to handsomely open-handed (and commercially prudent)!

Are these TV presenters and producers anything more than modern day Pharisees who love to show off their good works, but in the meantime promote all sorts of other sins, especially if it is presented as freedom of choice, irrespective of morality?

Did our Lord not say that if we do good our left hand should not even know what our right hand is doing?

We need to understand that we deserve nothing.  What we have, what we are and what we will have is all just by the grace of God.  If our Christian love and empathy drives us to care for other s- and it should! – let’s do not with the view to get praise or benefit out of it.  After all, we do it as unto the Lord!

 

What kind of knowledge?

© D Rudi Schwartz

Solomon declared:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

In other words, to fear the Lord and to have knowledge of Him is the basis on which all other wisdom and knowledge are built.

The simple fact that we live in God’s world makes this statement logical.  He created it in the finest of detail and He sustains it even to the minutest of every aspect of if.  Reject this truth and the world, life and relationships become a nightmare of human interpretation.  Everything is open to chance which can strike randomly without reason, whether good or bad.  In fact, good and bad lose its meaning without God.

God’s people in the time of Jeremiah were lead by godless prophets and priests.  And of course the kings were no better. They deserted the Word of God as rule for life and practice.  They rejected God.  The result was a total absence of knowledge and wisdom. Verse 7 of Jeremiah 8 speaks volumes:

Even the stork in the sky knows her appointed seasons, and the dove, the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration. But my people do not know the requirements of the Lord. (Jeremiah 8:7)

The stork, the dove and the falcon know seasons:  they know when to migrate and where to go; and they then know when to return and where to return to. They were more clever than God’s people!

Every time we buy a new piece of equipment, we first try it out according to what we think how it should work.  After much frustration and a lot of time wasted we reach out for the instruction manual.  Life is much easier then.

Reject the Bible as God’s Word and what kind of knowledge do you end up with?

We are surely very clever these days:  we follow our own way, reject God’s Word regarding marriage, and end up with much pain:  children are hurt, souls are scarred, and relationships are wrecked.  We try to fix it, but it gets worse.

In stead of honouring the sacred relationship between husband and wife by keeping sex within the bounds of marriage, we end up with unwanted children (these children know and feel unwanted!), abortions, AIDS, venereal diseases and hurting emotional baggage. We redefined marriage to include about every relationship, for as long as people love one another.  The problem is just that the definition of love keep escaping us.

Rejecting God’s Word we follow our own “scientific” method and teach our children humanistic and atheistic values.  We teach them they are merely a higher form of animal life, and when they started acting like it, we are surprised.

Never have we known and experienced more mental illnesses as in our time.  Suicide, depression, schizophrenia, psychosis, etc. just compounds by the day.

Reject the Bible as God’s Word and what kind of knowledge do you end up with?  Knowledge implies rights and wrongs; it implies standards, it implies truth and lie.  These basic things are now thrown out the window.  Post-modernism does not allow absolutes—that they declare, is the absolute truth!

Reject the Bible as God’s Word and what kind of knowledge do you end up with?

This is surely a question our society has to answer very honestly.

Heavenly Father, please rescue us from our blindness and ignorance. Save us from our wisdom and make us wise by Your everlasting standards.  Teach us once again the preciousness of your Word and your instruction.  Give us a heart of a David who delighted in your Word, day and night. Give us understanding to come to Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Amen.

Supreme irony

In a supreme irony, the bulk of the imported maize being supplied to starving Zimbabweans from Zambia is coming from the white commercial farmers who were evicted from their lands during Mugabe’s chaotic land invasions.

Some of the dispossessed farmers moved to Zambia where they developed new farms.

It is now being found that most of the 300,000 tonnes of maize imported from Zambia to feed the millions of Zimbabweans facing starvation comes from these farmers who had their land stolen by Mugabe’s ZANU-PF government.

Frontline Fellowship

Prenatal surgery at 17 weeks saves Miami girl’s life

In May 2010, fetal surgeon Ruben Quintero and Dr. Eftichia Kontopoulos operated on Tammy’s baby in utero. Using an endoscope guided by ultrasound they performed a first of its kind surgery and removed the tumor from the fetus’ mouth.

The surgery was performed in the 17th week of the pregnancy and Tammy, who was under local anesthesia, was awake during the procedure.

“This is what happens when we allow ourselves to focus on the unborn baby as a patient and person – extraordinary, life-saving medical procedures …”

Read this remarkable story.

 

Two kinds of tears

“There are two kinds of tears and I think that they who truly seek the Lord shed both of them—the one is a tear of sorrow because of sin, the other is a tear of joy because of pardon.” (C.H. Spurgeon)

To God be the glory!  I saw them both yesterday when the young man came to Christ.

 

God’s spiritual building displaying his glory

(Sermon preached by Rev Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 24 June 2012)

Christian Living

Scripture Readings:

  • Exodus 19:1-19
  • 1 Peter 2:4-12

Hymns/Songs:

  • “Consider Christ”
  • “There is a redeemer”
  • “Thou Wilt keep him in perfect peace”
  • “The power of the cross”

Introduction

In a TV show about homes and architecture they showed a home built in the mid 50’s which followed an unusual open plan design.  This was the first of its kind in Australia.  This house, now looking pretty ordinary, attracted many spectators: cars lined up along the street to have a peek at it.  The architect was pleased and was rewarded many accolades.  The house drew the attention to the architect.

I was privileged to a very rare exhibition of the works of Leonardo Da Vinci.  I had had no idea that this 16th century artist produced work over so many fields.  As I stared at the Mona Lisa, looked at his scientific and engineering drawings, his drawings of anatomy and other notes, I realised that this man must have been someone special.  And I thought: it would have been wonderful to have known this genius.  His work made him look great.

God’s wondrous work of glory

God’s creation of this world in all its splendour, the depths of which are still looking into, and the marvel of which scientists still research, and the depth of which philosophers are still pondering, all display the beauty of God, so much so that the Psalmist cries out:

Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.” (Psalm 19:2–4, NIV)

But how beautiful it might look, how grand it might be, it is sin-stained.  It groans under the curse of sin, and it yearns for redemption.  It calls for a Saviour to restore and redeem.

Christ’s work of glory

The stone rejected by the builders

There was a second creation of God: the creation of his church.  God did the unspeakable by taking as cornerstone for the building, which is the church, a stone rejected by the builders. This stone is Jesus Christ, God’s own Son. Other builders rejected Him. He just did not fit their expectation.  Isaiah said about Him:

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” (Isaiah 53:2–3, NIV)

Of Him John said in his Gospel:

“He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1:10–11, NIV)

When Jesus told the parable of the vineyard and the bad managers He predicted what would happen to Him:

Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’ “But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. “What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them?” (Luke 20:13–15, NIV)

He was sinless, perfect, the Lamb without defect; He was the one the prophets prophesied about, the Messiah;  He was the one John the Baptist preached about, “The lamb that will away the sin of the world.”  The angels sang at his birth, “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests!”  When He was baptised, the heavens opened and the voice of heaven proclaimed, “You are my Son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased.”

But the builders rejected Him.  Peter preached to them, “You, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing him to the cross.”  “You disowned the Holy and Righteous One … You killed the author of life…”.  They cried out, “Crucify, crucify Him, let his blood be on us and our children.

And even on Pentecost Day when they were called to repentance after they had heard they God is merciful by raising Christ from the dead for their sake, some still hardened their hearts and scoffed the Gospel of Christ.

They stumbled over Him and now they fall. Jesus Himself said, “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” (Luke 20:18, NIV)

Peter says, “They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.” (1 Peter 2:8, NIV) Clearer it cannot be.  What does it mean? Don’t stumble over this Stone, don’t disobey this Stone – He is your only hope.  When God builds his spiritual temple your are either build into it, or you are out.  There is no halfway.  Jesus said to the church in Laodicea:

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15–16, NIV)

They were a rich church.  Financially they lacked nothing.  The bank account looked good, and the members of the church were in good standing with the world.  The problem is that, because of their lukewarm position, being equally happy in the world and in the presence of God’s people, they could not look at themselves as God looked at them.  Of them He said, “But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” (Rev 3:17, NIV)

The Stone accepted by sinners

The Stone rejected by many is precious, He is God’s own workmanship.  After He had done what his Father required of Him, He could cry out, “It is done.” And so we understand his words which He prayer to his Father, even before the builders rejected Him: “While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.” (John 17:12, NIV)  For them He died and paid the price of righteousness; for them He gave his blood to be an atonement;  it is they who would know this truth, “The one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.

They were not perfect and therefore He chose them.  He came to seek and save the lost.  The stones He found to be part of his spiritual temple He picked up where the prostitutes, the tax collectors, and the outcast of the world gathered.  He stopped when He saw the devil-possessed living in the cemetery, the touched the leper, He broke his journey to listen to the blind man cry out for help.  Yes, He looked for stones to build his temple on the ash heaps of the world.  Of such Paul writes:

For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:10, NIV)

They are not wise, but fools in the sight of the world.  They are not strong, but powerful in the hands of God. They don’t bring their gold or money to buy membership, and they don’t use the influence of friends in high places, because in the sight of God a sinner is a sinner.  Besides, God does not look at the person and He does not show any favouritism.  He says,

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:12–13, NIV)

In this way, Christ builds his spiritual temple, calling people who know the dark side of sin.  He shows them the marvellous light of his grace.

Royal priests

He makes the saved sinner part of this royal priesthood – yes, you come to Christ and you look like the High Priest, dressed in a robe that cannot be torn, made of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen – this is the righteousness of Christ which covers your sin.  You look around you, and you see a multitude of others who did not reject the Stone of Zion, you take hands, and you may enter into the Most Holy of God’s presence in the Name of Christ – you are a royal priest!

Member of a holy nation

When God rescued his people from Egypt they were just Egyptian slaves with no address and just s miserable past.  They had nothing, no land, no possession, no name, no identity. Then, at the foot of Mount Sinai, God changed it:  they became his treasured possession, his own nation, and they lived in a relationship with Him who called them his own.  Out of all the nations on earth He called them – all without anything they did or could do.  Moses reminded them of this later in Deuteronomy:

The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors …” (Deuteronomy 7:7–8, NIV)

When the grace of the Gospel of Christ come to us, we become part of this holy, blessed nation.  We’ve got a name, we belong, we have a home – a heavenly Canaan.  Peter says we became a “people belonging to God”, and he says we have an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade kept in heaven.

Sinners to proclaim the glory of God

The stammering voice of the sinner who comes to Christ, becomes an angels’ voice “proclaiming the praises of Him who called out of darkness into his marvellous light”.  Some might once even have raised their voices in service to darkness, but now all is new; it’s different.  In Christ we are new creations.  The man who made his living cutting himself, yelling uncontrollably like a madman in the cemetery, now sit at the feet of Jesus.  The man in the temple courts received life and leaped around shouting about the greatness of God.  Paul who once locked up Christians, became an apostle proclaiming the wonders of God’s grace.

That is exactly why we are saved: to proclaim, like prophets and priests and kings, the wondrous grace of the saving, merciful God.  We are not saved for ourselves; we are saved for Him, and to be useful in his spiritual temple.  Yes, we attract attention to the Architect and the Builder – to Him be the glory.

We take hands as priests in the Kingdom, we stand together as members of God’s holy nation, we encourage one another as brothers and sisters of God’s holy nation – and we march forward under his command.  Never do we do this as if we are of this world – we have turned our backs on this world – but we do so as people who expect a heavenly kingdom.  We are aliens in this world, and we display the character of God who saved us and made us holy (different, set apart).

Living dangerously

Maybe you are now all worked up and enthusiastic about being on God’s side, having heard about his grace, forgiveness and eternal hope.  So you should be – may we be exited about being a Christian.

But just hang on for a while.  There is a price; and I cannot make it cheap, the Bible doesn’t.  Jesus said,

If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26–27, NIV)

Yes, God’s people are different, not taken out of this world, but surely not of this world.  We abstain from sinful desires.  We battle against the self, the old nature and the devil.  This is the road of sanctification, or holiness.  Take up your cross daily.  This is to die daily; it is to see nothing as more important than following Jesus.

Christians are risk takers. Christians live dangerously.  The world is hostile to living Christians. Peter writes:

For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.” (1 Peter 4:3–4, NIV)

We live amongst pagans who find it strange if we do not join them in all they do.  You will experience their ridicule if you want to keep your marriage holy; they will despise you if you do not cave in to their demands to redefine marriage to include same sex couples; they will think you are off your rockers if you start giving your time and money to support missionaries; they will laugh when you do not approve of filthy TV programs.  They might even label you as racist when you say that all other religions are wrong if they do not worship Jesus Christ as the only way to the only God.  You might even find yourself on the wrong side of the law in Australia for saying anything like this, you may be guilty of “hate speech”!

You might suffer for being a Christian.  Listen what Perter says:

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:12, NIV)

Yes, they disagree, they might accuse you of doing wrong, but your job is to make God look great.  That is what might attract them.

Conclusion

Do you want to be part of a lukewarm church?  Do you want to be part of a church of which the world says, “they are a bunch of hypocrites”?  Or do you want part of a vibrant, God-glorifying, God-trusting, Christ believing people?

There is no halfway in between.  You’re in our out. If you’re out, be sure to fall over the chosen Stone and be crushed on the day of his return (“the day He visits”).

If you want to be in, trust Him and you will never be put to shame.  It is a commitment to holiness, to service, and to praise.  I trust you will fill out the form we will now hand out.  Read it carefully, take the step and commit yourself to service.

May God give us grace and use this church mightily for his glory.

Amen.

The audio file for this sermon can be found at http://sermon.net/wwpc