Monthly Archives: September 2018

Grace and Action

Peninsula Community Church 

Grace and Action 

September 16, 2018 

2 Peter 3:17-18 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

This morning we are on our third installment of our series, Amazing Grace. We have looked at grace and truth and we have looked at grace and mercy. This week we will take a bit of a different track as we will explore our part in grace. While grace is a free gift, we also recognize that we have a role to play in accepting His grace and His mercy. We have a role to play in the stewardship of His grace and what we do with His grace makes all of the difference. 

John Piper has stated After “Jesus” there is no sweeter word in all the Bible than “grace.” As Dr. Widen, a member of John’s church, use to say, It’s the greatest unused resource in all the world. It is the wealth of God’s kindness; the riches of his mercy; the soothing ointment of his forgiveness; the free and undeserved, but lavishly offered hope of eternal life. Grace is what we crave when we are guilt-laden. Grace is what we must have when we come to die. Grace is our only ray of hope when the future darkens over with storm clouds of fear. How true and how powerful that is. 

In considering this study, we must acknowledge that we can do nothing to earn God’s favor or increase His love for us. Too often, we are deceived into thinking that we have to earn God’s favor, and we can believe that we have to work extremely hard for Him to love us more or even consider loving us. This is such a issue and it is an issue that I am most familiar with. For years I worked hard in an attempt to get God to love me more. I felt that if I did not work hard enough, He would reject me and stop loving me as His child. How relieved I was when my understanding of God’s grace changed my mind, and enveloped my heart with the confidence that He loves me, and accepts me no matter what. The frustration and anxiety of trying to please God was diminished and I was freed up to actually accomplish more for His Kingdom. 

While it is true that we cannot earn God’s favor, nor can we work harder to get Him to love us more, there are some steps we need to take. The free gift of His grace must be stewarded or managed in order for us to maximize the gift we receive. Through stewardship, we recognize that we do not own anything, but we have been blessed to receive great gifts from God. That is why stewardship is so incredibly important. We must steward our finances, our possessions, our relationships, our employment, and we must steward the gifts God has given us.  

In Matthew 25, we have the parable of the talents. A landowner headed out on a journey. He entrusted his servants with the talents in order to manage the farm was he was gone. The first sergeant took his five talents and was able to double them. The one with the two talents did the same. Unfortunately the one with one talent went and hid it. When questioned he stated that he did so because he was afraid. The landowner responded by taking the talent from him and giving it to him who has the ten talents. What is the lesson here? We must steward what we have been given or else we can lose it. Now understand we cannot lose God’s grace but we can begin to minimize it in our life to the degree that it no longer guides and directs our steps. We can ignore God’s grace and that has sad consequences and difficult outcomes. 

So how do we steward or manage grace? In our passage today, we see that one way to steward His grace is by growing in the grace He has given us. In other words, grace is not a passive gift. It is active in the sense that we need to recognize the value and power of grace. When that happens, we will be moved to action. The question for us is what motivates us as stewards of grace. Well, we do not act on grace to gain salvation. It is a free gift. We do not act on grace to gain His love. He gives His love freely and graciously. We do not act on grace for His acceptance. He already accepts us because He sent His son into the world to die for us. All of these things are already set in motion because they are free gifts freely given.

With that said, in our passage today, we find that we are exhorted to grow in grace. So, how do we do that? I would suggest four things we can do to steward and grow in the grace God has given us. First, I would suggest to you that we need to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. In Philippians 2:12-13 Paul states Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

In this passage, I would propose to you that we must make our salvation our own. We must receive His grace as the gift it is . Notice two aspects of this passage. First, Paul exhorts us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. This relates to the seriousness and necessity of this action. We are exhorted to work through the problems that keep us from understanding His grace. We must deal with the bondages and shortcomings of our life to grow toward a state of healthiness and understanding of His grace. 

This brings us to the second part of this passage. It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. This is important because we often feel we do not deserve grace. We reject His grace, because we somehow feel there is too much water under the bridge for God to accept us. We can also believe we are too defective and too broken to be healed. 

I love this passage because we see that He works in us, because it is His will to do so. In fact, it brings God pleasure to work in us. Did you catch that? It is His will to work in us. It brings Him pleasure. Wow! What grace that is! Notice too that this passage gives us the balance between grace and our actions. We are called to work out salvation, but it is His work in us that makes it happen. We do and He will. He is willing and ready, but we must act. We cannot be passive. 

Secondly, in 1 Timothy 4:7-8 we find that Paul exhorts us to train ourselves for godliness. Listen to his words. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The word here for trained is an athletic term. Just as those who participated in the Grecian games had to prepare themselves so also, we must actively train ourselves for godliness. This means you will not always feel like it. You may be too tired, or you may be disinterested, but train anyway because there is a goal in mind. It is a goal of godliness and that is a most worthy goal. 

While we receive God’s righteousness and godliness as a gift of grace, we must train ourselves in the understanding of that grace. Our training in godliness is not a passive experience but one where we must be engaged in order to grow and develop a greater understanding of who He is. One who is training for an athletic event does not sit in their recliner and eat potato chips all day. No, they are up early and working out. They are eating healthy. They are resting appropriately. They are training their body and getting ready to participate in the event they are training for. 

When it comes to godliness our training includes personal Bible study and growth. I would suggest that we need to take advantage of the opportunities that are provided for us to grow. So, let me be a bit shameless and do a promo for the studies we have going here at PCC. We have the Ladies Thursday Morning Bible Study. We have the Ladies Thursday night BSF Bible study. We have the Tuesday night Bible study for ladies. We have the Tuesday night Bible Study for men. We have Sunday School for everyone. We have Sunday worship. We have one our Life Groups launching this Saturday with more to come. Coming in October we will have the Grief Share Group meeting at IRSC. All of these provide opportunities for growth and personal development. No one has an excuse for not growing in their faith. All of these events are opportunities for personal growth, but it also a time for fellowship and outreach. 

That leads us to a third vital point. Do not stop gathering together. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25). We need one another and it is in the assembling of ourselves together that we can and should experience God’s grace. As we work with one another, we have the opportunity to experience grace and give grace. Grace is best worked out through our interaction with one another. The temptation most often is for us to isolate and hide, but in isolation we are more susceptible to defeat and depression. We need one another! We need encouragement! 

Finally, I will end where we began. We are to grow in the grace and the knowledge of God. As we close let me summarize these keys to growth. This list is not exclusive, but I believe it is the priorities we need to seek. First, we grow in grace through worship and prayer. Through prayer and worship we experience a greater understanding of who God is and all that God has for us. Second, we grow through His word. Read the Bible and study the Bible for yourself. It is God’s manual for life to accomplish He desires. And finally, we must continue in fellowship. Do not isolate. While it is a gift of grace, when we isolate, we fail to share that grace with others. 

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Grace and Mercy 

Peninsula Community Church 

Grace and Mercy 

September 9, 2018

Hebrews 4:14-16 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

This is the second installment of our Amazing Grace study. Last week, we looked at the duality of grace and truth to realize that grace does not allow us to do what we want, but rather grace empowers us to overcome sin in our life. This week we will take some time to focus on the idea of grace and mercy. As we do that, we find this passage focuses on the great high priest that came to give Himself to provide the opportunity for us to receive grace and mercy. 

As we examine this passage, we determine that we have a great high priest who passed through the heavens. Here is what I see this means for us. Christ came to earth as a baby born of Mary. He came to us, so we could get to Him. He reached down to us, so we could reach up to Him. He came to fill the void between us and God. 

What is this void? We find in scripture that man could not look upon God because God was completely holy and totally sinless. In fact, God’s glory was so powerful that there was no way for man to look upon God without death. When Moses, one the holiest men ever to live, wanted to see God, God stated that “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). So it was that God in His glorified state could not come to man directly nor could man get to God in his sinful state. There was a great chasm between man and God. That was a big problem. A bridge needed to built and Christ came to be that bridge for us. 

As we noted last week, Jesus came to earth to become man. He dwelled among us and it is here that He sympathized with our weaknesses and our struggles. Notice in this passage that He was tempted in every way we are, but there was a caveat. He was tempted, but He never sinned. He never succumbed to the temptations He faced. He successfully navigated the pitfalls of temptation and was able to maintain His sinless state. Some have rejected this concept as they cannot believe that Jesus was tempted and if He was He could not give into temptation because He was God and God cannot sin. They argue that He could not really understand us if He never sinned, because He was perfect in His ways. 

However, I love what C.S. Lewis had to say about this subject when imagining someone objecting to Jesus being tempted without sin. Here is what Lewis wrote in response to that objection. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist.

John Piper suggests that perhaps Jesus can sympathize with us in our allurements to sin, because He was tempted in many areas. Perhaps, he was tempted to covet all the nice things that Zacchaeus owned, when He himself had no place to lay His head. Perhaps, He was tempted to take revenge, when He was wrongly accused. Perhaps, He was tempted to lust, when a young girl Mary wiped His feet with her hair. Perhaps, He was tempted to pout with self-pity, when His disciples fell asleep in his last hour of trial. Perhaps, He was tempted to murmur at God, when John the Baptist died at the whim of a dancing girl. Perhaps, He was tempted to gloat over His accusers, when they couldn’t answer His questions. We do not know if that is true, but we do know that He was tempted in every way we are, but He resisted that temptation and remained pure and sinless. He knows temptation and He knows how to resist temptation. Therefore, He can sympathize with whatever you are facing. He has been there.  

We then come to the crux of the issue here. Because He was tempted without sinning, a door was opened for us to come before the throne of grace with confidence. At that throne He will hear us, and most importantly that He will understand us. It is there we are accepted. That is a miracle in itself. He understands us. He knows us and He is still willing to accept us even with all of our flaws. 

Notice this, the Son of God, who understood grace and mercy more than anyone else, has opened a door so that we can confidently approach the throne of grace. Notice two things here. It is a throne. That tells us that there is majesty and royalty on the throne. Thus the throne needs to be approached with honor and respect. Secondly, it is a throne of grace. While we approach with honor and respect, we do not have to fear the one on the throne in the sense that we believe He will reject us. It is a throne of grace. The problem for so many, and the lie that has been propagated by the enemy of our souls, is that when we have been tempted and we succumb to that temptation, there is no hope. We feel lost and helpless. But notice that when we approach the throne of grace with confidence, He gives us grace and mercy in our time of need. 

You see we approach the throne of grace with confidence, not fear and doubt. We can approach the throne of grace without the fear of rejection and the worry that we are good enough to be accepted by Him. Sometimes, it feels like we are being called into the principle’s office, or before the judge for a crime we have committed. But, when we are in God’s presence, it is a place of grace and mercy. It is a place of acceptance, where we boldly come to ask for repentance and healing. 

Because He has done what He has done, we can approach God with confidence. One of the saddest results of temptation is to be drawn away from God, but the lesson here is that He is for us. Rather than hide from our sin, our wrongs, and the issues we face, we can enter with confidence that He is going to accept us. Rather than trying to hide because of our sin, the author of Hebrews shows us that we should draw near to Jesus, our sympathetic high priest, who gives us access to God’s throne. For those who are in Christ, the throne is not a place of fear, but rather it is a throne of grace! It is not a place of doubt and questioning if He will accept us, it is a throne of grace. It is not a place of rejection because we have sinned some great sin that we believe is past God’s touch. It is a place of grace! It is a place of mercy! 

The story is told of a little boy who wanted to buy a puppy. He had saved his money and the day came to go down to the pet store to buy this new pet. The shop owner paraded several dogs before the young boy and finally he showed the boy four brand new puppies. The boy loved those puppies and wanted to buy them, but when he heard the price he hung his head. He responded that he could not afford to buy them, not even one of them. Suddenly, from around the corner came one last puppy. That puppy was also a part of the litter and had been born with only three legs and several birth defects. The shop owner stated that the dog would never grow up to be a normal dog. The little boy proclaimed emphatically that was the dog He wanted. The shop owner asked him why and the little boy rolled up his pant leg to show that he was missing a leg because he too had a birth defect. He told the shop owner that his family did not reject him and loved him in spite of his defects. The shop owner with a tear in his eye gave the dog to the young boy for free. Because Jesus knows our pain and our shortcomings, He accepts us just the way we are.  Regardless of our defects and issues, God receives us and accepts us, because His throne is one of grace and mercy. 

As we close this morning, let us look at the words grace and mercy for a brief moment. We discussed last week that grace is the unmerited favor of God. By grace we get what we do not deserve. Mercy on the other hand means that we do not get what we do deserve. We deserve death, but Christ came to pay that debt for us. You see the wages of sin is death, but Christ paid that debt upon the cross, and if we come before Him and humble ourselves before Him, He will receive us and give us grace and mercy.

Here is the point being made. We can enter with confidence into the throne room of grace because God understands us. That is amazing and that is amazing grace at its best. Jesus understands this and He knows the difficulties firsthand that we face in every day life. It is for that reason that He can extend us grace and mercy, so that we are free to live full lives, as a result. 

Finally, we can rejoice that there is a throne of grace. What a world would this be if God sat on a throne of “justice” only, and if no mercy were ever to be shown to people! Who is there who would not be overwhelmed with despair? But it is not so. He is on the throne of grace. By day and by night; from year to year; from generation to generation; He is on the throne of grace. In every land He may be approached, and in as many different languages as people speak, they can plead for mercy. In all our trials and temptations we may be assured that He is seated on that throne, and wherever we are, we may approach Him with confidence that He will receive us.

So, where has the enemy lied to you. How often has he communicated to you that you are not worthy to approach God? Where has He lied to you that you have sinned too much or that what you have done could never be forgiven? These are all lies because the throne of grace is alway available to us. We are never prevented from coming to that throne. It is a gift freely given through a God who freely gave His all for us. So, enter now with confidence and boldness. 

Let us pray!

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Grace and Truth

Peninsula Community Church

Grace and Truth 

September 2, 2018

John 1:14-17  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

As we read Scripture, there are some words that blow me away, as I try to understand them. The word grace is one of those words. Within this word there is so much truth that bears our consideration. For that reason, over the next couple of weeks, we will look at the amazing grace that has been given to us. We will explore the duality of grace and truth, as well as grace and mercy. We will consider what it means to be a good receiver of grace, but also what it means to be a good giver of grace. Additionally, we will consider how to give ourselves much needed grace personally. An understanding of grace is critical as we encounter those who are EGR people, and when we face EGR moments in our life. Do you know what EGR people and moments are? They are people and moments in our life where Extra Grace is Required. Of course many times, we are that EGR person, even to ourselves. 

This week we will begin our study by briefly defining what grace means. In that regard, we find that one of the most common definitions of grace is “God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense.” To understand grace is to understand that grace is receiving what we do not deserve. We receive the blessings of God not because we deserve them, but because of who He is and because it is He who is giving them. The fact is, grace has been and continues to be the mechanism by which God gives us everything we need for life and spiritual growth because none of us are worthy in ourselves of God’s grace and blessing because we have all sinned.

In our passage today, we find that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. That is a big deal. Christ freely came to give us grace. That is the linchpin of our salvation and it is the cornerstone of the belief system we live by. Without grace, there would be no free salvation. Without grace, we would have to work and work hard for our salvation. We would also have to work hard to keep our salvation. Without grace, there would be no hope for us. We would worry about making it to heaven and being acceptable to God. Without grace, we would be forced to attempt to reach a level of holiness and righteousness that is unattainable, apart from grace.

The Word, Christ, became flesh and He dwelt with us. That is grace at its best. Christ freely left heaven to come to earth and be an example of what life could be and should be. Think about this, the God of Heaven came to live among us. He did not just come to earth as an observer or an uninterested party, He came to live among us. That is amazing to me. He did not have to, but He did. He did not have to give up heaven, but He did. He did not have to humble himself, but He did. He did not have to forgive me, but He did. That is amazing and that is grace in action. 

The second aspect of this passage is that grace and truth are inseparable. There is a sense, by some, that grace is an excuse to sin and do whatever we please, whenever we want to. That is not the objective of grace at all. Grace is never an excuse for sin, but it is a means to receive forgiveness and healing. Unfortunately, there are some who believe in hyper grace that says we can do whatever we want because we are under grace and God will cover our sin. While that is true to some degree, grace can never be an excuse for sin, but it is the primary reason to seek forgiveness and redemption. 

When discussing grace, we find that too often grace is equated with the idea of a free pass. We see sin, and somehow we imagine that God gives us a free pass, but when grace is combined with truth we realize that we cannot ignore sin but rather we must confess it. We are living in a culture that encourages the minimization of sin, and the cover up of unrighteousness, particularly if it is our sin and our unrighteousness. Our culture scoffs at taking responsibility and accountability. We are quick to give a free pass and to receive a free pass but that is not entirely what grace is about. True grace gives us the power to give forgiveness and seek redemption, because, we recognize these things are freely given by a gracious God. We do not have to hide them, but we can expose them and be delivered from them.

True grace does not ignore truth, but the real power of grace starts with truth. It is grace that settles the score that is against us and it is that grace that sets us free. It is by grace that we are redeemed. It is by grace we are given the free gift of salvation. So you see, grace is the undeserved favor of God. 

As I was preparing for this message I read an interesting take on how the Lord’s Prayer illustrates God’s grace in many ways. Let me explain. It begins by calling God “Our Father.” We do not deserve to call Him Father, but by grace we have been adopted into His family. We ask for His kingdom to come. We do not deserve His kingdom, but he allows us access. In this prayer we ask for “daily bread” we do not deserve, and for forgiveness we cannot earn, and for deliverance from temptation we cannot overcome, from a devil we cannot defeat on our own. This prayer from beginning to end is a frantic cry for undeserved favor. It is call for grace. Why? Because grace changes us. As we encourage truth, God’s grace turns rebels into citizens, orphans into children, enemies into friends, and an adulteress into a sinless bride.

The second aspect of this passage is that For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John here makes a great theological statement. He states that the law came through Moses. This is critical for those in John’s day as they understood the concept of the law. The law was all that was available to them to deal with their sin. The problem however is that the law was good at pointing out sin, but it did little to remove sin. John understood this and that is why John’s next statement is so powerful. The law came from Moses, but the fullness of grace and truth came from Christ. 

Paul understood this when he wrote the following in Romans 5:20-21. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. The law increased the trespass by revealing what was wrong.  Grace came so that where sin abounded grace was there in great abundance. In other words, there is no sin beyond the ability of grace to cover and redeem. The law calls us to work harder. Grace calls for us to trust God. The law does nothing to heal, but grace restores and heals. 

The law was limited but grace came in the fullness of all we needed. It does not lack anything. The law continually demands righteousness from man, while grace gives righteousness freely to man. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins (Romans 3:21-25). Listen to romans 4:15-16. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.

The law is connected with Moses and works; grace is connected with Christ and faith. The law demands that blessings be earned; grace is a free gift. I love this quote “The law was given by the servant, and made men guilty. The grace which came by the King freed them from guilt.” In His grace toward us, God says, I see your sin and I have made a way for your specific sin to be dealt with upon the cross of Christ. You do not have to cover it up, ignore it, or try to deal with it on your own. Because of Christ, you have an avenue to be free of your sin. How? We confess, repent, accept his grace, and you will be completely forgiven.

Here is what God’s word says to us. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace (Ephesians 1:7). For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:8-10).  For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! (Romans 5:17). Grace amazing!

So where do you need grace today? What sin or wrong is haunting you? What are you trying to cover up and hide rather than deal with? Where do you need to confess sin and receive His grace? That can be done and the riches of His grace is available to all who will seek Him. Turn to Him, repent, confess, and accept His grace, today. 

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized