Convicting Grace

  • Convicting Grace
  • Philippians 2:5-11
  • Lyndol Loyd
  • October 9, 2016
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10-9-16 Sermon from LakeRidge UMC on Vimeo.

10-9

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NASB) –   8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

 

Last March, Joni and I celebrated our twenty-second wedding anniversary and in those twenty-two years together, we have lived in nine houses. Just before our big move to Texas this past summer, our neighbor made this sign for us so that we could remember all of the addresses we have had over time. It was a really thoughtful gift, but the thing that bothers me about it is that the bottom rung on the sign is blank. Joni and I decided that we were just going to write Heaven on that one so that we could be done with adventures in moving. I share all of that with you to say that the Loyd’s know more than we probably want to know about the moving process.

I can tell you that…

  • if you don’t have to take the baby bed apart, don’t do it.
  • no one ever moved out of a house that was left dirty and likewise no one ever moved into a house that was completely clean.
  • Bubble wrap is your friend if you don’t want things to break. It is worth the investment.

I also know that there is nothing better than when you finally get everything moved in, unpacked and in its place. Currently at LakeRidge, we are in a series called, “Moving In: Experiencing Grace.”

John Wesley is considered to be the founder of the modern Methodist movement and when Wesley used to speak about grace, one of the recurring images that he used was to speak of grace as being like a house. He used it as an image to illustrate what he referred to as the “Order of Salvation.”

Wesley understood grace to be a multifaceted subject and he used the different aspects of a house to help people understand grace.

Last week Brian Brownlow spoke to you about Prevenient Grace, God’s early grace in our lives. It is the idea of God pursuing us and seeking relationship with us even when we are unaware of him or maybe even when we don’t care who he is. If we are thinking about a house, Prevenient Grace draws us to the porch of the house. There on the porch we encounter a different function of grace that we want to focus on today, “Convicting Grace.”

The doorway is Justifying Grace, the grace that makes us right with God, the grace that makes salvation possible for us. Then Wesley spoke about Sanctifying Grace as living in the house, the process of God refining us and shaping us as we allow him to be the Lord of our lives, or the leader of our lives is another way to think about it.

The goal is to live in the house. The goal of the Order of Salvation is sanctification, the full transformation of our lives into the image of Christ.

But before we can arrive there, we need to unpack the idea of Convicting Grace which is our focus for today. Prevenient Grace is that grace that God bestows upon us, enables the worst effects of our sinfulness to be overcome so that we can indeed freely respond to God’s offer of salvation. It doesn’t move us into right relationship with God in and of itself. It simply makes that possible for us.

Now when we come to Convicting Grace, the question we really need to ponder is can we change before we recognize a need for change? We live in a world in which many people seem to be comfortable with their brokenness and we have to get uncomfortable with our brokenness before we are going to see any kind of change take place.

It is only when we realize our brokenness, our need for change, that we can respond to God in a way that empowers this. So Convicting Grace is that grace which interacts with us in such a way that it helps us to see ourselves as we really are. It helps us to see ourselves as God sees us. It helps us to see the self-centeredness of so many of our actions.

Just take a moment and pause and think about the ways in which we interact with people around us. How often do we interact with them in ways that simply tries to draw them into service of us or try to make us feel good?

There was a book by Diogenes Allen called Finding Our Father in which he describes human sinfulness in this way. Human sinfulness at its core is our attempt to make ourselves the center of everything.”

What we do with the people around us is we try to draw them into orbit around ourselves. So we categorize people as either being good or bad. Do you know how we do that? Well, we do that in relationship to ourselves. Does she make me feel good? Does he serve my agenda? Do they help me meet my ends? If so, then that’s a good person. If not, then that’s a bad person.

But you see, the fundamental core of this sinful nature, that we have, is our self-centeredness, our selfishness, our desire to be the middle of everything.

Convicting Grace helps us to see the extent to which we do it, and God helps us to see just how much that is disgusting to him. It isn’t how he created us to be.

Again and again in scripture, we are given pictures of how God intends for us to live in relationship with those around us. They are pictures of self-giving love where we elevate the interests of others over our own interests.

In fact when we go to that great passage from Phillipians 2:5-11, Paul says this, Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God  and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

Paul is reminding us that we should have the mind in us that is in Christ Jesus, that we would not think about our own interest first, but that we would think about the interests of those around us. That is how Jesus operates.

Convicting Grace helps us to see just how deeply broken we are because it helps us to see how much our own self-interests are at the core of what we do.

Now, God’s Convicting Grace isn’t just there to be depressing or discouraging or to leave us feeling bad. God doesn’t have, as a goal, making us feel broken just for the sake of feeling broken.

That isn’t my purpose in talking to you about Convicting Grace this morning. If you want to feel bad about yourself, you don’t need to come to church for that. There are plenty of places and people in the world who are willing to take on that task.

This is about recognizing who we are so that something can be done about our predicament, so that we can get better, so that we can experience life in all of its fullness.

The right response to Convicting Grace is repentance. We recognize who we are. We recognize the depths of our brokenness. We use that Prevenient Grace that God has given to us and we turn to him.

It isn’t just feeling bad. It isn’t just feeling sorrowful about the things we have done in the past, though it does include that, it is this component of repentance, of turning away. Not just turning away mentally saying, “I won’t do that anymore.” It is actually changing our behaviors to be a different sort of person, to think about God in a different sort of way, to think about those around us in a different sort of way.

In the Greek the word repent literally means for us to turn 180 degrees and walk in the opposite direction of our sin. Convicting Grace is what enables us to turn our lives toward Jesus and start walking toward him and away from our past.

Wesley didn’t say we were in the house yet. We weren’t yet living in the house when we receive conviction and repentance. We are still on the porch, but God is moving us in the right direction.

Convicting Grace helps us to see our brokenness, to see our need for change. It calls forth repentance and when we respond to repentance then we are ready to take the next step of inviting Jesus to forgive us of our sin and lead our lives.

Scripture is filled with great examples of Convicting Grace at work. I want us to take just a few moments to compare and contrast a couple of these scriptural encounters of Convicting Grace.

One of the great examples from scripture, that features Convicting Grace at work, is the story of the rich young ruler. We find the story in Luke 18. It is the story of a religious leader who asked Jesus the question, “What should I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus responds by telling him, “You remember the commandments. You know those:You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. Honor your father and mother.’”

And the man says, “Sure, I’ve done those things all of my life.” Almost as if to say, “Now tell me something I don’t already know.” And Jesus has no problem pointing out the young man’s problem. “There is still one thing you haven’t done. Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

The rich young ruler comes face to face with Convicting Grace. God has been at work, drawing this guy to himself. God has been busy pursuing him and grabbing his attention. And now Jesus presents him with his problem, with his sin. He loves all of his stuff more than he loves God.

Then in Luke 18:23 we find his response. “23 But when the man heard this he became very sad, for he was very rich.

There is no doubt that the rich young ruler feels God’s Convicting Grace at work in his life. He’s what you might call a “good boy.” He follows all of the rules, but based on his free will, he turns back and walks away from God and walks away.

 

Now let’s contrast this with the story many people know as “The Woman at the Well.” We find it in John 4. Jesus was tired from a long walk and sat beside a well around noon. About the same time Jesus did this, a Samaritan woman came out to draw some water. Jesus asked her for a drink.

Now this shocked the woman because Jesus was a Jew and she’s a Samaritan and the two groups usually didn’t have anything to do with each other. So she looked at him and said, “Why are you asking me for a drink?”

To which Jesus answered, “If you knew who I was, you would be asking me for a drink of living water. You can drink all of the water from this well that you want, but you will only end up thirsty again. But I can offer you living water and you will never be thirsty again.”

This sounded like a pretty good deal to her so she said, “Give me some and then I won’t ever have to come here and do this again.”

At that point Jesus instructed her to go and get her husband. This is where Convicting Grace enters the story. The woman responded that she had no husband.

Jesus said, “You’re right. You’ve told the truth. You don’t have a husband. The truth is that you have had five husbands. The man you are living with right now, you aren’t even married to.

In that moment she came face to face with her sin much like the rich young ruler had done. Only the woman at the well didn’t walk away sad. The woman at the well came to the conclusion that Jesus was the Messiah, that he was the Christ. Convicting Grace brings her to a turning point where she begins to follow Jesus.

This grace moves her forward and manifests itself in an amazing sort of way. In vs. 39, it says, 39 Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, ‘He told me everything I ever did!

The rich young ruler and the woman at the well are powerful illustrations of God’s Convicting Grace at work. One experiences conviction about sin and comes within an inch of repenting and allowing Jesus to be the forgiver of his sin and leader of his life, but ultimately decides not to walk through the door and, live in the house. The other experiences the conviction of God, and rather than denying it, she responds in faith and finds life like she has never known before.

If you have a choice between the pathway of the rich young ruler and the pathway of the woman at the well, you have to ask yourself which one you would rather be. I believe that the choice is clear. If you feel God’s Convicting Grace this morning and you’ve never responded to that grace, I want to ask you to consider doing so right now.

As a matter of fact, I want to ask everyone if you would bow your heads and pray with me.

It also occurs to me that all of this talk about conviction might leave some of us here this morning feeling a sort of guilt, sort of convicted. And as I stated before, the point of Convicting Grace isn’t to make us feel bad for the sake of feeling bad. It isn’t about making us feel broken and staying broken. That isn’t Convicting Grace. That is condemnation.

I’ll never forget talking to one of my church camp counselors when I was in high school. I had been praying for God to forgive me for some sin in my life and even though I knew the Bible said that God had forgiven me. I was struggling to forgive myself.

The counselor looked at me and said, “Lyndol, have I got a Bible verse for you.” It was Romans 8:1 which says, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” That was some of the best news I had ever heard in my life.

Some of you here this morning might find yourself in the same boat that I was. You feel guilty about something that you’ve done and now it is difficult to receive God’s grace and forgiveness. If that is you, then I want you receive Romans 8:1 as God’s word especially for you this day. “Now, there is no condemnation for you. You belong to Jesus.”

I’m going to make a statement to you that will be up on the screen. Once I have read it, I want to ask you to respond with the statement listed for the congregation.

Pastor: In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.

Congregation: In the name of Jesus Christ, I am forgiven.