The following is a sermon I preached for chapel at Trinity Bible College & Graduate School on Tuesday, April 10, 2018.
“But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD’s good plan will prosper in his hands.” Isaiah 53:10 (NLT)
Today I had a student that I am mentoring who mentioned something I said in one of my classes: “Grace is life”. I had said this as part of my response to a student’s sermon addressing grace, but never defining it in any sort of substantial sense. It seemed taken for granted. I had offered that the preaching student consider “Grace is life”. I only briefly added to this a few comments about that life being the life of God in and for us. Then I moved on with the class. This student in my office, however, wondered just what I meant by it.
Being a dad I’m good at giving far more than someone asks for. 🙂
I opened with clarifying that for me this statement flows from my readings and reflections on the work of Karl Barth. I walked the student through the basic idea of God’s freedom for, to, through, and in (and even against) us. This, for me, is grace. God remains always free in his own self-giving. We find ourselves taken up into this in God’s own self-giving in Jesus the Christ. Here is Man given freely to and for God and to and for creation. Here is God given freely to and for God and to and for creation. And always and forever this freely flowing life of God is given in God’s own love for God and our being taken up into that movement by the Spirit of Jesus.
And then tonight as I sat down to do some evening reading I happened upon this statement by Barth regarding election that seemed related to my discussion with my student:
… in the name and person of Jesus Christ we are called upon to recognize the word of God, the decree of God and the election of God at the beginning of all things, at the beginning of our own being and thinking, at the basis of our faith in the ways and works of God. (CD 2/2 p. 99)
For myself (and I pray for my students as well), I find tremendous help in these ideas for pastoral care and praxis. Grace becomes both the opportunity and possibility of life … and that life is in God’s own life. What do you think?
I don’t know about your church, but in mine we typically have an open testimony time (hey, we are Pentecostal after all). We like to tell our stories and that sure works well (sometimes not so much) in a post-modern personal narrative obsessed culture.
What I’m thinking of, though, is your story of first knowingly encountering Christ. Do you recall what he has done in your life? Do you remember a moment (or perhaps a longer time period) of the dawning of your need for him? It is a powerful reminder to think on your own story of encountering the resurrected Jesus in the power of his Spirit. We need to remind ourselves as those tasked with leading the church of this (ongoing) story and remind ourselves of where we’ve been led personally and congregationally. We need to allow our churches to share and relive their own stories, even as they continue to encounter Jesus in new ways in their lives. To re-awaken that first transformative love for Christ and his work in the world is to re-awaken ourselves to sharing the good news of Jesus with others.
I was reminded of my own story the other day (which I won’t share here and now) as I was listening to another pastor share his own story of being set free from a life of selfishness, drugs, and sex (his own words). A life being destroyed by sin. And then he shared his wife’s story of coming to faith as a six year old raised in a Christian home. The thing is: both stories are radically invigorating to hear and he admitted as much. After all, what isn’t amazing about the dead being raised to life? Neither story is about simple reform of sinners. Both are about those once dead in their sins who are now raised to new life in Christ. That is the amazing wonder of a regenerating encounter with the Lord and Giver of Life.
So my question is: Do you allow for folks in your church community to share their stories of encounter with the Lord and his redemptive work? When was the last time you shared yours?
Edited from an original post by me at bluechippastor.org from March 6, 2013.
Yesterday, my eight year old daughter (Cambria) was commenting on the amazing bouquet of flowers beautifully displayed on our table. She got after one of the other kids for knocking some of the babies breath off telling them, “Don’t kill it!” I felt bad breaking the news to her that “The flowers and greenery are already dead.” This brought tears to her eyes as she said, “Can’t we water them?” And I replied, “It won’t make a difference at this point. It will just be slowing the inevitable. They are all dead because they don’t have roots any longer.” Tearfully she continued, “Can’t we get them their roots back?” Again, I sadly replied, “No, sweetheart, once they have been cut from their roots and removed they cannot be returned because their roots are long gone.”
This struck home for me the issue of remaining in Jesus (John 15:1-10). We may look amazing on the outside (even looking like we are alive), but death already has its grip when we no longer remain in Jesus. And, yet, if we remain in him and he in us we are already alive and will not know death (because the sting of death has been taken by the Lord of Life) and everlasting life is ours as we are his.
So I found this amazing video showing the “life of flowers” in sped up time. We watched it several times knowing that life is good and life is what we were made for (John 10:10, 28; 11:25-26).