Wait on the LORD: be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen thine heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD.
- Psalm 27:14
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By Grace Alone 10.1.2017
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from His Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ be with you now and always, Amen!

This Sunday we begin a five sermon series on five foundational truths upon which Christianity is built, which were five cries of the Protestant Reformation of the 1500's. By Grace alone, Through Faith alone, In Christ Alone, According to Scripture Alone and For God's Glory Alone. Today we begin with By Grace Alone, Gods Riches At Christs Expense

Our sermon text is from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 20 verses 1-28.
How do we begin to understand grace in the light of our everyday world where there is so much ungrace? What I mean by this is that our entire life is regulated by the opposite of grace. For example, consider these slogans.

There is no free lunch
You get what you deserve
You want money? Earn it
You want love? Earn it
You want mercy? Earn it
Do unto others before they do it to you

Because we are fallen beings, we act out of our fallen nature too often, so therefore this morning it needs to be our prayer that we would be refreshed in the meaning of the grace of God. He loves us and has entered into our brokenness in order to bring His unmerited favor of grace to us.

A MD with the name of Richard Selzer wrote the following words: I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her postoperative face, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth, has been severed. She will be thus from now on. The surgeon had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut the little nerve.

Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed and together they seem to dwell in the evening twilight, isolated from me, private.

Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wry mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily?

The young woman speaks.
Will my mouth always be like this? She asked me, her doctor

Yes, I say, it will. It is because the nerve is cut.
She nods and is silent.

But the young man smiles.
I like it, he says. It is kind of cute.

All at once I know who he is. I understand and lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with a god. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth and I am so close I can see how he twists his lipe to accommodate hers, to show her that their kiss still works.

God is gracious, He has twisted Himself to give us the kiss of life. He gave us this life through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. Listen to how Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke of the initiative of grace and of its cost.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner.

Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son. Ye were bought at a price, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.

The saved sinner is prostrate in adoration, lost in wonder and praise. He knows repentance is not what we do in order to earn forgiveness; it is what we do because we have been forgiven. It serves as an expression of gratitude rather than an effort to earn forgiveness. Thus the sequence of forgiveness and then repentance, rather than repentance and then forgiveness, is crucial for understanding the gospel of grace. Brennan Manning, from his book Ragamuffin Gospel

Assured of your salvation by the unique grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is the heartbeat of the gospel, joyful liberation from fear of the Final Outcome, a summons to self-acceptance, and freedom for a life of compassion toward others. B. Manning

When we live in ignorance of both the knowledge of what grace is and of its experience, we can be very judgmental. But at what cost?
By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love ‚€” Martin Luther King

Last Friday during our morning gathering here at our church, a man shared of how one of his friends talked in wonderment and in amazement of the riches of God's Grace: I still can't get over the realization that God was so gracious to me so as to forgive all my sins.

What is grace?

Unmerited Favor
When a person works an eight-hour day and receives a fair day‚€™s pay for his time, that is a wage. When a person competes with an opponent and receives a trophy for his performance, that is a prize. When a person receives appropriate recognition for his long service or high achievements, that is an award. But when a person is not capable of earning a wage, can win no prize, and deserves no award‚€”yet receives such a gift anyway‚€”that is a good picture of Gods unmerited favor. This is what we mean when we talk about the grace of God.

This is the mystery of the riches of divine grace for sinners; for by a wonderful exchange our sins are now not ours but Christs, and Christs righteousness is not Christ's but ours. Martin Luther

This grace of God is a very great, strong, mighty and active thing. It does not lie asleep in the soul. Grace hears, leads, drives, draws, changes, works all in man, and lets itself be distinctly felt and experienced. It is hidden, but its works are evident.
Martin Luther

Will not people get away with sin if we give them grace? Martin Luther addressed that.

You‚€™re worried about permissiveness‚€”about the way the preaching of grace seems to say it‚€™s okay to do all kinds of terrible things as long as you just walk in afterward and take the free gift of God‚€™s forgiveness. While you and I may be worried about seeming to give permission, Jesus apparently wasnot. He wasnot afraid of giving the prodigal son a kiss instead of a lecture, a party instead of probation; and he proved that by bringing in the elder brother at the end of the story and having him raise pretty much the same objections you do. He is angry about the party. He complains that his father is lowering standards and ignoring virtue‚€”that music, dancing, and a fatted calf are, in effect, just so many permissions to break the law. And to that, Jesus has the father say only one thing: Cut that out! We‚€™re not playing good boys and bad boys any more. Your brother was dead and he‚€™s alive again. The name of the game from now on is resurrection, not bookkeeping.‚€Ě

The effects of Grace Received.

A story is told about Fiorello LaGuardia, who, when he was mayor of New York City during the worst days of the Great Depression and all of WWII, was called by adoring New Yorkers 'the Little Flower' because he was only five foot four and always wore a carnation in his lapel. He was a colorful character who used to ride the New York City fire trucks, raid speakeasies with the police department, take entire orphanages to baseball games, and whenever the New York newspapers were on strike, he would go on the radio and read the Sunday funnies to the kids. One bitterly cold night in January of 1935, the mayor turned up at a night court that served the poorest ward of the city. LaGuardia dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself.

Within a few minutes, a tattered old woman was brought before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. She told LaGuardia that her daughters husband had deserted her, her daughter was sick, and her two grandchildren were starving. But the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, refused to drop the charges. It's a real bad neighborhood, your Honor. the man told the mayor. She's got to be punished to teach other people around here a lesson.

LaGuardia sighed. He turned to the woman and said I've got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions--ten dollars or ten days in jail. But even as he pronounced sentence, the mayor was already reaching into his pocket. He extracted a bill and tossed it into his famous sombrero saying: Here is the ten dollar fine which I now remit; and furthermore I am going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Baliff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant."
So the following day the New York City newspapers reported that $47.50 was turned over to a bewildered old lady who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her starving grandchildren, fifty cents of that amount being contributed by the red-faced grocery store owner, while some seventy petty criminals, people with traffic violations, and New York City policemen, each of whom had just paid fifty cents for the privilege of doing so, gave the mayor a standing ovation.

Come Home

Longing to leave her poor Brazilian neighborhood, Christina wanted to see the world. Discontent with a home having only a pallet on the floor, a washbasin, and a wood-burning stove, she dreamed of a better life in the city. One morning she slipped away, breaking her mother's heart. Knowing what life on the streets would be like for her young, attractive daughter, Maria hurriedly packed to go find her. On her way to the bus stop she entered a drugstore to get one last thing. Pictures. She sat in the photograph booth, closed the curtain, and spent all she could on pictures of herself. With her purse full of small black-and-white photos, she boarded the next bus to Rio de Janiero.

Maria knew Christina had no way of earning money. She also knew that her daughter was too stubborn to give up. When pride meets hunger, a human will do things that were before unthinkable. Knowing this, Maria began her search. Bars, hotels, nightclubs, any place with the reputation for street walkers or prostitutes. She went to them all. And at each place she left her picture--taped on a bathroom mirror, tacked to a hotel bulletin board, fastened to a corner phone booth. And on the back of each photo she wrote a note. It was not too long before both the money and the pictures ran out, and Maria had to go home.

The weary mother wept as the bus began its long journey back to her small village.
It was a few weeks later that young Christina descended the hotel stairs. Her young face was tired. Her brown eyes no longer danced with youth but spoke of pain and fear. Her laughter was broken. Her dream had become a nightmare. A thousand times over she had longed to trade these countless beds for her secure pallet. Yet the little village was, in too many ways, too far away. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, her eyes noticed a familiar face. She looked again, and there on the lobby mirror was a small picture of her mother. Christina's eyes burned and her throat tightened as she walked across the room and removed the small photo. Written on the back was this compelling invitation. Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn't matter. Please come home She did.

Her mother understood grace and so she offered it freely to her daughter. May grace yet reign in this world even as the Apostle wrote:
Romans 5:20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:

21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

A child of grace,
Pastor Orval Wirkkala

Posted on 01 Oct 2017 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
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The Cross of Christ 2.25.2018
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