Speaking Truth With Grace!

Today Is Last Post Until June 15th

-Uncomfortable Subjects!

Over 40 years of ministry, I’ve learned that if I’m going to be committed to preaching the whole counsel of God’s word, I’m going to have to deal with some passages that will make my audience uncomfortable to hear it; and me, uncomfortable to preach it. 1 Corinthians, chapter 6, is one of those passages; and as much as I would love to avoid it, the Spirit of God compels me to preach it and to teach it. It addresses a topic that I cannot sidestep & neither can you. You & I need this message because we need to hear from God on this subject; and if you ever hope to disciple individuals caught up in certain sins, as the Apostle Paul outlines here, they’ll also need to hear what God has to say.

-No Inheritance In God’s Kingdom!

Here’s what Paul writes to the local church of Corinth: “Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom. And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). If Paul was writing this letter in our day, it most certainly would have been addressed to the Churches of America. Of the 12 NT epistles, with Paul’s name on it, the sins he calls out the Church of Corinth for most closely resemble our own culture. As I open up this volatile “can of worms” my greatest fear is NOT any negative backlash I might face for taking up a Biblical position on the subject matter! My greatest fear, in presenting this message, is being misunderstood & being portrayed as hateful, mean-spirited & unloving toward the LGBTQ+ community.

-We Neither Celebrate Nor Hate!

The dominant culture today tells us we have only 2 choices; that there are only 2 possible camps! You either “celebrate” LGBTQ+ sexuality, or you’re “haters.” If you don’t support them, you hate them. On Biblical grounds, I reject both of those camps! God gives us a better way! If we grasp the truth of the Good News of the Gospel, then we have something better to bring to this discussion. As followers of Jesus, we cannot base our belief system or our worldview on public opinion! That’s shifting sand! Public opinion is a moving target; but we’re called to live by the immutable, unchanging Word of God. And, as God of the universe, He is the final authority on every matter, including our sexuality. He created us “male” and “female” according to the creation account in the book of Genesis. In other words, He created us gender-specific. In the same creation account, God instructed the “man” to leave his father and mother & cleave to his “wife.” It was God who created marriage; and, we dare not change it!

-So How Do We Respond?

As followers of Christ, then, how do we respond to a prevailing culture that has rejected the absolute truth of Scripture? As followers of Christ, how do we respond to a culture that insists on normalizing sexual behavior that is labeled as sin in God’s Word? The key part of that question is “…as FOLLOWERS of Jesus Christ…” How do we respond as followers of Jesus Christ? I’ve often been amazed at how Jesus never compromised the truth of God’s law; and yet He was loved by sinners! No one ever lived a more righteous life. No one exalted God’s standards more than Jesus. So, how could He also be called the “friend of sinners”? It was because He was full of truth AND GRACE! And, in a sex-crazed & sexually-confused world that’s exactly how we’ll respond if we’re following Jesus. When encountering anyone caught up in sexual sin, we act most like Jesus by showing them truth AND GRACE! Every sinner needs truth mingled with love AND GRACE!

The Humility Of Jesus Christ!

-Humble God!

Perhaps the attribute; or, character quality, of God, that we most often forget, is His humility! The Bible affirms the humility of God in Jesus. And, let’s remember that Jesus said, “...if you’ve seen Me, you HAVE SEEN the Father…”; and, “…I and the Father are ONE…”; or, One & the same, He meant. They were of the exact same substance! So, if you want to know what God is like, just look at Jesus because He IS God! And, because God, in Christ, has written Himself into the story of human history, we can see Him & hear Him! We can touch; and, be touched by Him!

-His Humility In His Birth!

And, Luke, in his Gospel, reveals the humility of Jesus in the announcement of His birth; and, in His entry into this world:  “…shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths & lying in a manger’” 2:8-12. So, again, to whom did the angels announce the wonderful news about the birth of Jesus, the Messiah? To shepherds, right? Really? That’s how God announced His arrival? I’m pretty sure that’s not how most of us would have scripted it if we were God!

-Human Announcements In Contrast!

Actor Chris Pratt; and, his wife, Katherine Schwarzenegger recently announced that they’re expecting a baby in 2022.  Now, I’m pretty sure that on the day their baby is born that they won’t be sending messengers down to the docks so the fishermen can be the 1st to hear the great news; or, to all the cab drivers in America. No! You know how it works with human royalty! There’ll be gold-leafed announcements sent to all the prominent people in Hollywood. And, all the tabloids will have perfect pictures of the couple with their newborn child. My intent, in sharing those thoughts, is not so much to bash on the actor & his wife as it is to emphasize the humility of God.

-Bypassing The World’s Customs!

In God’s humility, He bypasses the customary ways of the world’s rich & famous; and, announces His coming to lowly, disrespected & marginalized shepherds. Bible scholars tell us that, “Shepherds were detestable and unreliable. They sometimes couldn’t testify in court. Nobody wanted to be a shepherd. Shepherds were despised by the ‘good’ respectable people of that day…The only people lower than shepherds at that particular time in Jewish history were lepers.” (From The Shepherd Of Israel by Dwight Pryor). God was revealing something to us about His “name”; or, His character! He reveals that He’s a God who cares for the lowly and the needy!

-God’s Character!

He cares for the humble in this world; for the marginalized and for people who are easily discarded or cast aside. He’s the Savior of everyone who humbly admits they need a Savior. He’s the friend of sinners! He eats with tax collectors; welcomes prostitutes; heals Gentiles; and, He’s willing to touch lepers who hadn’t felt a human touch ever since they were overcome by a contagious disease. He’s a God who doesn’t discriminate based on race or the color of someone’s skin! He created beautiful diversity in people groups. The humility of God, in Jesus, is also apparent in the cloth the shepherds found Him wrapped in. Luke records that they would, “…find the baby wrapped in swaddling cloths & lying in a manger.”  According to the Jewish oral traditions, these cloths were used to wrap lambs that were destined to be Passover lambs; and, they were also used for burial cloths! Jesus’ humble birth was prophetic of his humble death!

A Faith That Doesn’t Serve!

-It’s A Questionable Faith!

Faith that fails to serve is, at best, questionable! Listen to what James writes, in his epistle:  “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself” James 2:14-17.  “Is that even saving faith?” James seems to be asking,  “What good is that kind of faith?

-Can That Faith Save Him?

If I understand the text correctly, in the original Greek it has the definite article relating to “faith”; so, the question James really seems to be asking is, “Can THAT faith save him?” Can a faith that has no passion for serving the needy & the less fortunate even be genuine, saving faith? It’s questionable! The Apostle Paul wrote this to the Church of Galatia: “For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love” Galatians 5:6. In other words, if we are “in Christ” HE will produce a faith, in us, that is working through love! God IS love! So, if God— in Christ— is IN us, we’ll love more & more as we are sanctified more & more. We’ll look like Jesus!

-Looking Like Jesus!

He loved the rejects of society, the wounded, the hurting, the forgotten & those who’ve been kicked to the curb! So, if the Spirit of Jesus is “in us”, that has to work its way out through acts of love & service! If you don’t care about those in need around you, perhaps you ought to question if your faith is the real thing! James seems to say that any faith that fails to serve is worthless! What good is it?  Young’s literal translation asks, “What is the profit” of a faith that doesn’t serve? It’s worthless! Jesus lived the most profitable, worthy life ever lived because He lived it for God the Father & for others! For US! He gave Himself up for all the sins of all people of all time! So, how can we say we love Jesus if we live our lives just for ourselves? That’s the message James is trying to get across to the churches he’s writing to:  “A loveless faith is worthless!” It has no value to God; or, to anyone else! He finishes by saying that any faith that fails to serve is DEAD! (v.17)

-As Good As Dead!

He says, “…faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself” (v.17).  He’s NOT preaching that we are saved by good deeds; or, that we serve others to earn our salvation! No! It’s in the serving & the ministry that our “faith” PROVES to be ALIVE! Otherwise, “…it’s dead by itself.” It’s just empty words! The 16th-century reformer, John Calvin, once said:  “It is faith alone that justifies, but faith that justifies can never be alone!” There have to be acts of service & works of love to prove it’s genuine faith. So let me close by making this appeal to you—seek service & ministry opportunities both within your faith community & your city! Not on the basis of obligation; but, because your faith is genuine; and, like Jesus, you’re a “friend of sinners.”

 

Love Is An Action!

-Love Is A Verb!

Someone said it like this:  “Love is a verb! Without action, it is merely a word.” Jesus embodied that love from the beginning, of his life, to the very end when He died a substitutionary death, on the cross, to pay the price for the sin of the world! No one ever loved like Jesus loved! “No one has greater love than this,” He said, “that someone would lay down his life for his friends” John 15:13.  Jesus was the friend of sinners! And, the nearer we are, to Jesus, the closer we’ll get to people— that we might serve them like He did!

-Too Heavenly Minded!

There’s an old saying that, “Some people are so heavenly minded that they’re of no earthly good.” We’ll serve the people, of planet earth like Jesus served, when we love like Jesus loved! Genuine love is way more than words, like, “I love you, brother!” It’s about action! It’s about deeds and service! “Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action” 1 John 3:18.  You can tell people you love them; but, it’s more effective when you show them! In the famous passage of Scripture, where Jesus washes His disciple’s feet, the chapter begins with these words: “Now by the time of supper, the Devil had already put it into the heart of Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son, to betray Him.  Jesus knew that the Father had given everything into His hands, that He had come from God, and that He was going back to God” John 13:2-3.  Jesus knew what His purpose was for coming to this earth He had created! He also knew where He was going— ”…back to God.” So, He knew His destiny. He could live His entire life “pre-occupied” with loving & serving mankind!

-Pre-Occupied With Love & Service!

If we know Jesus, as Savior, we also know our destiny! We’re destined to live forever WITH HIM! “I go to prepare a place for you,” Jesus told those who followed Him, “that where I am you will be also” (John 14:2-3).  It would seem, from Scripture, that He’s doing that right now! From the time He ascended, back to the Father, He has been preparing a place for us to live with Him. If we truly believe that is our destiny, it will change our lives! We can serve others with the secure knowledge that Jesus has taken care of our future! That’s why Paul challenged the Church of Rome to, “…present your bodies as a living sacrifice… it’s your reasonable service” Romans 12:1. We’ll serve like Jesus served when we embrace our destiny!

-It’s Reasonable To Serve!

It only makes sense to serve, Paul says. It’s reasonable to give your life away in sacrificial ministry. Jesus served with reckless, radical abandon because He knew His destiny! We can serve in the same radical way! We know that Jesus will take care of us today; and, He’ll take care of our future! “Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Make money-bags for yourselves that won’t grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” Luke 12:32-34.  Don’t live your life in anxiety! Love! Serve! Minister to others! Your future is secure in Christ!

 

Free To Serve Others!

-A Dog Eat Dog World!

In the world, it’s “dog eat dog.” If you wanna climb up the corporate ladder you have to be a relational piranha— taking advantage of the brokenness & inconsistencies of your co-workers to gain a personal advantage! That’s not Jesus’ way! He was known as the “friend of sinners.” He healed the wounded! He forgave even those who nailed Him to the cross! The Gospel frees us to serve— even those with whom we may be in competition for that promotion! And, it’s all because we can trust a Sovereign God’s plan!

-Our Freedom & Our Calling!

In the Apostle Paul’s letter, to the Galatian church,  he says that our call to freedom & our call to serve are synonymous! In other words, we actually lose our freedom when we fail to serve! We were saved FROM slavery to sin & self; so, when we fail to serve— and, even expect to BE served— we fall back into the old slavery to the flesh! He says we, “…submit again to a yoke of slavery…” Galatians 5:1.  Don’t surrender the freedom you have in Christ— who satisfies your every need— for the fleshly desires of the world to be served or to be promoted! When we serve others instead of using them, we testify, to the world, that Jesus truly is enough! He is all we need!

-Jesus Served Us!

We don’t need to fill any emptiness inside us with the need to be served! Jesus served us and that’s enough! It’s the Gospel of Christ that frees us to love others… even strangers! More than service, the Gospel actually gives us a heart of love for those we serve— “For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself” Galatians 5:14. Paul is quoting Jesus answer when He was asked, “What is the greatest commandment”; and, Jesus said: “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all you soul, with all your mind & with all your might! And, the 2nd is like unto it (OR, 2nd only in importance!) love your neighbor in the same way you love yourself” Matthew 22:34-40. And, then, Jesus illustrated that with His parable about the Good Samaritan who acted as a neighbor to someone he didn’t even know! That’s why a “neighbor” can actually be anyone we have opportunity to serve, even someone who’s a stranger! “And, love them,” He said, “in the same way that you love yourself.”

-Gospel Freedom!

Only the Gospel sets me free to WANT to feed someone that’s hungry just as much as I want to feed myself when I get hungry! Only the Gospel sets me free to WANT to help my neighbor find a job just as much as I want to find a job; or, to WANT a raise or a promotion for my co-worker just as much as I want that raise or promotion for myself! And, to care about what happens to that guy down the street— that you don’t even know— just as much as you care about what happens to you! That’s powerful! And, only Jesus’ Gospel empowers us to love that way! And, when we grow in our love for others like that, it’s an incredible endorsement to the validity of the words we share, with others, about our faith! It makes us real! Genuine!