Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Obstacles to Grace 10.2013

This rollo is about the obstacles to grace. God through Jesus Christ has given us his grace to be in a personal relationship with him. But, being the way we are because of sin, we‘re not always able to receive the grace given freely to us by our God.
          The fact of the matter is we live in a broken world that doesn’t seem to be getting fixed very quickly. Every day when we read or listen to the news it’s very apparent that the world is in a mess. We live in this world, this very real world.
Every day we encounter obstacles to receiving God’s grace. Every day we do something that strains our relationship with God, our families, our friends, our neighbors, and those strangers we encounter as we go through our days.
If you look in your Bibles at Genesis 4:6-7 you’ll find God talking to Cain about sin. In this passage God lays it out for us… “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”
If we do what is right we’ll be accepted but if not sin is waiting to pounce on us. Every day, every minute of the day, sin is waiting for us to mess it up. And we don’t disappoint. At least I don’t disappoint. Every day I go to God and ask for his forgiveness because I’ve been pounced upon by sin.
Usually it’s because I let my ego get in the way. I forget that it’s not all about “me.”  This society in which we live is so focused on feeding our pleasure centers as fast and as thoroughly as we can.  That’s why fast food places do so well. They have become the experts at satisfying our appetites. And because they do such a good job at catering to our every need and want we become angry when we have to wait or whatever we’ve requested doesn’t exactly measure up to our standard of service.
Look at the word, sIn. How is it spelled, s, capital I, n? Oh maybe you capitalize the letter “s”.  In my example, talking about our egos and everything being about “me,” the letter “I” is capitalized. The “I” is capitalized because most of the times if we’re honest with ourselves that’s what gets us on the wrong side of the fence with God.
On the wrong side of the fence makes me think of sheep. I used to have a 100 head of ewes which meant that I also had 100 plus lambs and a couple rams. More than once they were on the wrong side of the fence…because they saw something there that they wanted and it looked better than what was on their side of the fence. And so, through the fence or over the fence or maybe around the fence they’d go. Did they ever find their own way back? Never in a thousand years. They always needed help, always.
By being on the other side of the fence they couldn’t be with the rest of the flock. They didn’t notice at first but then they would and that’s when I knew, because I could hear them crying. They were alienated from the flock and they wanted back in.
That’s what happens to us. We see something we want and somehow, we honestly don’t know how, we find ourselves on the wrong side of the fence. We discover that we’ve alienated ourselves from our family, our friends, and most of all, God. We realize we’ve made a mistake and we begin to cry.
What got us there? What do you think? Remember the question Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment and how he answered? 37 Jesus answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’] 38 This is the first and most important command. 39 And the second command is like the first: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ 40 All the law and the writings of the prophets depend on these two commands.”
Sin, these obstacles to receiving God’s grace, snaps us up when we fail to love…fail to love God with all that we are and fail to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves.
Sin can also be more than that. Sin can be, and I believe is, anything that diminishes life, abusing our environment, abusing anything that God created, land, water, air, plants, animals, or people.
So, sin can be one of two types, something that messes up our relationship with God and/or anything the messes up our relationships with our people, family, friends, the community, the world.  
Reading God’s word we find words like idolatry, blasphemy, resisting God, ignoring God, disobedience, unbelief, ignorance, pride, and unforgiveness, either toward God or people. Each of these is something that keeps us from being in a right relationship with God.
Things that will hurt our relationships with others are: murder, addiction and abuse, lying, gossip or slander, stealing, coveting, laziness, and dishonor.
And then there’s our relationship with ourselves. We hurt ourselves by our lack of love, bitterness, and spiritual blindness. 
So, what do we do? My friends, God had and has the answer. The answer to all these obstacles, these sins is Jesus Christ. He took all these sins, our sins, upon himself and carried them to the cross. They were nailed to the cross with him. They were buried with him in the tomb.
Through Him we have been forgiven and made clean and acceptable in the presence of God. Through Jesus we recover our identity as children of God.
In John’s gospel 3:16 we read, 16 “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life.
That’s it. If we accept Jesus Christ into our lives and rely on the power of his Holy Spirit then we are on the way to a new relationship with God.
A balanced life of grace needs three things, piety, study, and action. Resist evil and renounce the power of the evil one.
When we take Jesus into our lives our relationship with ourselves and our neighbors is mended. We discover anew who we are and we learn to love ourselves again. We work out our differences with our neighbors…or we accept them as they are, God’s children.
And when we encounter struggles, as we will, we know to turn to the body of Christ for prayers and support and love. We learn that we’re not in this walk alone and we value our support groups and long to be with them every week because they help us to be accountable for living and walking as Jesus walked.
And we learn to pray…pray for our leaders, those in authority over us, pray and love our enemies, feed and clothe the hungry and naked.
My friends, the life of a Christian is a daily decision to put on the yoke of Jesus, pick up our cross, and follow our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is a life that keeps the picture of the cross ever before us and paying attention to our relationships…with God, Jesus, and others. And friends, remember that God always has more grace for us than there is sin. As Paul said to the Romans there is nothing, absolutely nothing that can ever separate us from God’s love. In Jesus the Christ we can overcome any obstacle to grace.
My friends, God loves you and so do I. Thanks be to God for his grace. Amen.