Meditations On Grace
March 15, 2020 | Randy Smith
Meditations On Grace
Sunday, March 15, 2020 • First COVID-19 Home Service
Pastor Randy Smith
In this unprecedented circumstance, I echo the words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:17: “But we, brothers, having been taken away from you for a short while – in person, not in spirit – were all the more eager with great desire to see your face.”
Gathering as a church in person on the Lord’s Day is a family reunion. Hopefully this circumstance is very temporary and that we together will navigate these unchartered waters with fearless leadership, committed love, relentless faith, divine wisdom and a Christ-centered focus. May the Lord work the unexpected, and by faith may we trust Him to exalt Himself and bring good to our lives. And one of those “good’s” is you (possibly with your family), gathering together in spirit with the rest of your church through the advent of technology.
As of now, I plan to continue to teach through the Gospel of Luke. Today’s sermon will be four “meditations” from chapter 18 dealing with the topic of grace. That is our main point. I’ll also provide five optional discussion questions along the way where you can pause the video if you wish. Let’s read the entire section together, beginning at verse 15, Luke 18.
“And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. But Jesus called for them, saying, ‘Permit the children to come to Me , and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.’ A ruler questioned Him, saying, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.’’ And he said, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth.’ When Jesus heard this, He said to him, ‘One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. And Jesus looked at him and said, ‘How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ They who heard it said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ But He said, ‘The things that are impossible with people are possible with God’” (Lk. 18:15-27).
The Rest Of The Story
By way of review, I’d like to start the first meditation from what we covered last week. You’ll remember there was a Pharisee and a Tax Collector. The Pharisee was viewed as the most righteous person in the land. To the average Israelite, if anyone were able to get to heaven, it clearly would have been him. He even believed it himself. As verse 9 says, he trusted in his righteousness.
Then there was the Tax Collector. He was viewed as among the worst of sinners. He was unjust and without religion. And he knew it as he referred to himself as “The sinner” (verse 13). Yet when he came before God and (verse 13) acknowledged his sin and cried out to God for mercy, in verse 14 Jesus said he was “justified.” He was accepted.
Why don’t you pause this video and discuss (or think though if you are alone), the point of the story in comparing a Pharisee with a Tax Collector right now as it pertains to receiving salvation? This is a review from last week.
Yet here’s something interesting for you to consider. We know back then the bad guy in this parable was the Tax Collector. The religious nation of Israel had no tolerance for the unrighteous and godless.
Yet in modern times – we have reversed things. The bad guy today is the Pharisee because we have no tolerance for the self-righteous and religious. Ironically, many in society today would actually run around thanking God they are not like the Pharisee!
Today we despise the Pharisee and actually like the Tax Collector. We like living a heathen life and then finding God’s favor whenever we feel like running to Him. We don’t need a church. Purity was for the Puritans. Religious people are hypocrites and kill-joys . Anyone who makes sacrifices to please God is like the Pharisee, we convince ourselves. Free thinking and diversity in belief is for the modern man. Picking and choosing what we want to believe from the Bible.
Let’s be clear that this parable from last week was only picturing one side of salvation. Yes, God hates the self-righteous religious person trusting in his deeds, but God also hates the cry for help and then the continual return to sin without ever a thought of repentance or submitting to His lordship as well. True salvation is a changed life and in that change is a continual increase in humility and righteous living.
Pause the video for a minute and discuss why good works to earn salvation are offensive to God, but good works as a result of His Spirit in us after salvation bring Him honor?
Me And A Baby
The second meditation I am calling, “Me and a Baby.”
So, here in verses 15-17 we have the familiar story of Jesus receiving the “babies,” but the disciples believed the babies were a waste of our Lord’s time. However, Jesus rebuked the disciples and desired to welcome the babies, also called “children.”
People have often used this passage to show God’s love for little babies, and rightly so, but what is the main point as to why Luke includes this account right here in his Gospel?
Jesus said it in verse 16. “Permit the children to come to Me , and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Followed up with verse 17, “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”
As we work our way through the following sections in Luke over the next few weeks, we’ll see that Jesus defines what we must do, who we must be to receive eternal life. The key is not what we have done either good or bad in the past, but rather the condition of our heart in the present.
So again, pause the video and discuss how the heart of a baby pictures the heart that Jesus desires when coming to Him.
I am sure you came to the right conclusion. Babies are totally helpless and dependent on others. Without the constant supervision of a loving adult, they would be unable to survive. In the same way, when it comes to receiving God’s grace, we cast ourselves entirely on God. We are fully dependent for Him to love us, save us and receive us in His presence.
You see, there is an intrinsic beauty to all babies. They are lovable and adorable. They have done nothing to offend us. And beyond that, we have a rightful obligation as their parent, by law and conscience, to provide the best care for that child.
On the other hand, while I do not disagree that God’s loves us as His image bearers, we have violated His will. Through our sin, we have shamed His holy character. God is not obligated to save us or even more so adopt us as His children into His family. The only hope we have is His mercy and grace. When we have a childlike faith, we understand that, and we have the faith essential to come to Him on His terms. We come to Him with nothing to offer. We depend entirely on His mercy and grace.
Did the Pharisee have that last week? Boasting of his so-called righteous deeds? Comparing himself to others in a disparaging way? Expecting God to reward him because of his accomplishments? Shortly we’ll see the same from the Rich Young Ruler.
But what about the spiritual models from Luke in this section? A despised Tax Collector from last week. Another Tax Collector named Zaccheus. A blind man named, Bartimaeus. The Disciples themselves.
Are you trusting in your own goodness or are you trusting entirely in the goodness of God? Have you received Jesus Christ by childlike faith? Is He truly all your righteousness? Because of your sin, do you really understand the essential need for God’s grace and mercy? Are you right now humble and broken and dependent entirely on God?
Not All Seekers Are Seekers
All Christians have a tremendous zeal to see people get saved. We dream of the days when friends and family members and even people on the street who know we are a Christian, ask us the way to eternal life in Christ.
Could you imagine with me for a moment if someone approached you with a personal desire to be saved, but that you with your words made the person walk away without trusting our Lord? Perhaps you’d feel miserable. Perhaps you’d be considered the worst evangelist in the world!
Well, this exact situation happened to Jesus. We are introduced to the man known as the “Rich Young Ruler” in Luke 18, verse 18. He expressed confidence in Jesus calling Him a “Good Teacher.” And he also expected Jesus to point him to eternal life. Look at his question in verse 18. “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
You know, quite often in our good desire to see people receive Jesus as their Savior, we compromise the Gospel in our presentation. If Jesus would have added the typical evangelical response, this man would have responded favorably, and the typical evangelical church would have considered him a convert. Jesus did not say, “Invite Me into your heart.” He did not say, “Get baptized and begin attending church.” Neither did he say, “Believe in Me” without qualifying the kind of belief that He requires.
Jesus told this man that true biblical faith requires full submission to the Lordship of Christ. It’s faith like the baby that requires total dependency or put in biblical terms, no other gods before the true God. True salvation is a willingness to forsake all we have for all that Christ is. In a unique way that only Jesus could, Jesus took him down that road. As a result, the man walked away from Jesus (verse 23) “very sad.” For this man, as we will see, his true god, his idol was money.
Again, please pause the video and briefly describe what idols your heart can desire more than Jesus.
Works Don’t Work
Let’s go to one more meditation. We’ll end where we began. The Rich Young Ruler serves like that Pharisee as another negative example.
By all accounts, he was a religious leader. He was an upstanding citizen in the country. From his youth he appeared to have lived a moral life. He knew God’s expectations and seriously desired to fulfill the commandments, specifically the Ten Commandments. We even see Jesus question him on that topic of the Ten Commandments and the man replied in verse 21, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” And no doubt he felt genuine in his answer despite the fact that in God’s eyes no one can perfectly obey them.
But Jesus is able to see his heart knew he had something he loved more than God. Verse 22, “When Jesus heard this, He said to him, ‘One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’”
This man’s god was his money. He thought he fulfilled all the Ten Commandments, but actually violated each of them. How about the First Commanded which states, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Ex. 20:3). And despite the promise that he’d have greater reward in heaven, be a follower of Jesus while on earth and the guarantee of eternal life (the very thing he was seeking), he chose his money over Jesus. Let me ask you, barring any unknown repentance, two thousand years later do you think man right now believes he made the right decision?
Jesus concluded in verse 27, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.”
Pause the video one more time and discuss why salvation is only possible with God.
Well, thank you for joining us in our first virtual church broadcast. May you be thankful for God’s amazing grace, His unfathomable love in Christ that has made a way for our sins to be forgiven and a relationship with Him achieved. And that relationship is received by grace with the heart of a child that depends entirely on God’s work to save and keep us.
This now concludes our service. Have a blessed day!