Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Major League Grace

     This is from In the Grip of Grace by Max Lucado and and was called "Major League Grace." I put it in my own words. It was a great message for our Saturday evening service.     

     Think back to 1995 major league baseball season. Remember what baseball was like that year? That was the year the players all went on strike, major and minor league players.
          The owners were set on going ahead with the season so they invited anyone who knew anything about the game and could perform all the basic plays with energy and excitement to come and play.
          It was a different year. Batters hustled to the plate, some questionable calls were made but they went uncontested; umpires were actually being thanked after the game and fans returned the foul balls they caught.
          These guys weren't in condition and they huffed and puffed as they chased fly balls and ran the bases. But, boy did they have fun. They were playing ball because they loved playing ball.
          I read that in Cincinnati the general manager stepped out on the field to thank the fans for coming out to the game. The Phillies gave away free hotdogs and sodas. And the Cleveland Indians gave 5 players to the Cincinnati Reds for free!
          They weren't the most exciting games to watch but it was neat to see men playing for the sheer joy of playing a game they loved. They were living a dream, a life they didn't deserve. It was pure luck they were able to be there. They were chosen because they had a particular skill; they were picked because they were willing to play. And they knew it!
          Never did we read about any of them arguing over the poor pay they received. They wasn't any grossing over the fact their names weren't stitched on their jerseys. No strikes were threatened. No one was trying to get someone else's position. They were all just happy to be on the team.
          Now, in light of the passage we heard read from Romans, do we deserve to be here? No, but we don't want to trade the privilege for something else either. God's grace has given us a place on the “dream” team.
          Because of God's grace we've also received blessings. Blessings of peace, hope, joy, and love. Paul said, “Since we have been made right with God by our faith, we have peace with God.”
          Peace with God...just because we have faith! Imagine that! This isn't just peace with our neighbors or our family or even other countries, this is real peace...peace with God. Salvation brings peace...with God.
          Max Lucado told a story about a monk and his young apprentice traveled from their abbey to a nearby village. They parted for the evening and met again the next morning.
          The apprentice was unusually quiet the next morning so the monk asked if anything was wrong. The response was short and snappy, “What business is it of your?”
          The monk could tell that his brother was troubled but he held his tongue and continued the walk back to the abbey. The distance between them grew  greater and greater as the apprentice walked slower and slower. When the monk arrived at the gates of the abbey he stopped and waited for the apprentice to arrive.  He asked him, “Tell me, my son, what troubles your soul?”
          The boy started to snap back but stopped when he saw the warmth and compassion in the monks eyes.  “I have sinned greatly. Last night I stayed with a woman and abandoned my vows.” “I'm not worthy to enter the abbey at your side.”
          The teacher put his arm around the student and said, “We will enter the abbey together. And we will enter the cathedral together. And together we will confess your sin. No one but god will know which of the two of us fell.”
          Isn't that a good description of what God has done for us. We keep our sins silent. We withdraw from God. We see him as our enemy. We try to avoid being in his presence.
          But when we confess our sins, lay our faults at his feet, our perception is changed. God isn't our foe anymore, he's our friend. We are at peace with him. He did so much more than the monk did for his friend. He didn't just share in our sin, he was crushed for the evil we did. He accepted the shame. He leads us into the presence of God.
          Because of what God did for us through Jesus we have a place with God. Jesus has brought us into that blessing of God's grace that we now enjoy. In the Greek that is translated as being ushered into the presence of royalty.
          In Ephesians Paul said, “It is through Christ that all of us are able to come into the presence of the Father. Now we can come fearlessly right into God's presence...
          Christ meets us outside and takes our hand and walks right in with us into the presence of God. That's where we encounter pure grace, no condemnation, no punishment, just mercy. We wouldn't have been able to gain an audience with God with Jesus being by our side.
          When Jesus takes our hand and walks with us into God's presence it's a little bit like one our children walking in with a friend we've never met. We welcome them because our child has their hand. They're okay since they're with our child. If they just showed up at our door and wanted to come in for supper or to play we might not be so quick to let them in.
          When we become friends with Jesus we're able to gain access to God.  Because we're his friends we have access to the throne room in heaven.
          This isn't just a one time event but a permanent “access by faith into this grace by which we now stand.”
          This is where we're different than those baseball players. Their time playing on the field was only temporary where our privilege will last as long as God is faithful, and his faithfulness has never been questioned. Paul told Timothy, “If we aren't faithful, he will still be faithful, because he cannot be false to himself” (2 Tim. 2:13).  David said that the Lord's faithfulness “reaches to the heavens” (Ps. 36:5).
          Notice the sequence of these blessings. One is in the past; we have peace with God because he's forgiven our past errors. And the second deals with our present. We have a place with God because Jesus presents us to the Father.
          And the next blessing is our future. “We are happy because of the hope we have of sharing God's glory.”
          We were washed up but now we are called up and put in. How do we share in God's glory you ask. Friends, that will have to wait for another time.
          God loves you my friends and so do I. Thanks be to God for his grace. Amen.