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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

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The Spirit of the Lord Brings Freedom

Peninsula Community Church

The Spirit of The Lord Brings Freedom 

July 24, 2016

Good morning! To be honest with you I did not anticipate that I would be sharing this message this morning as I had thought I would be in Richmond welcoming our new little prince into the family. But, as He often does, God had a different plan. With that said turn with me in your Bibles to 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 and let’s read together.

2 Corinthians 3:12-18 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

As we look at this passage this morning let me ask you a question. How many times have you found that people reject the truth? Have you ever tried to share undeniable truth with someone and they defiantly reject the truth that you are offering? For us, who know truth, the truth seems so believable and right and yet, there are those around us who resist the truth and the path of righteousness. We find that such blindness to truth comes from two sources. First, the god of this world blinds us so that the truth is not revealed. Secondly, truth is rejected when there is a desire to believe a lie more than to accept the truth.

As we look around our world, we do not have to look too far to see the results of this around us. Notice how Paul starts this passage. Paul stated that there were problems but there is also hope. That hope is found in Christ. Paul also makes an interesting observation. He notes that Moses had to place a veil over his face because the people of Israel were not ready to receive the truth and thus they missed the hope that was available to them. In essence, Paul is saying that this was the way things were but that was not the way things had to be.

You see the reason Moses would place a veil over his face is that the Children of Israel could not see what God had done in Him. The reason was simple. The children of Israel had hardened their hearts and they were not ready to receive what God had done. They saw, but they refused to allow the work of God to make a difference in their life. They closed God out and they kept God at a distance. We see this evidenced in the way they lived. One moment they would be praising God and they would deny and reject Him in the next moment. Why was this? It was because the truth had not found its way into their heart. They were rejecting the truth and the ways of God.

Paul also addresses this when he makes the following statement in 2 Corinthians 4:3-11. He says and even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 

Though different, Paul is presenting the same message. The god of this world had blinded the mind of the Corinthians so they could not see the light of the gospel. Their minds had been blinded so that the word of God cannot penetrate their heart. You see when we share faith with others we must understand that many have had their minds darkened and their minds cut off from the light of truth. But that is not the end of things.

Rather than give up we can stand strong as God promises us that the light can shine into darkness. You see no matter how dark one’s life might be the light of the gospel can penetrate the darkness. Notice what Paul says in our text this morning when one turns to God and the veil is removed, truth is revealed and life comes rushing in. Then Paul makes a powerful statement that should be held close to our hearts. He states that the Lord is a spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. Because the Spirit of the Lord brings freedom we realize three things that come from the spirit of freedom.

First, the Spirit of the Lord brings freedom. By way of the spirit of the Lord there is freedom to receive the grace of God. By way of the spirit of the Lord there is freedom to change. By way of the spirit of the Lord there is freedom to live in truth and not in darkness that leads to a hardened heart.

I love one of the first messages that Christ spoke. It was the initiation of His ministry. We find it in Luke 4:18-19 that Jesus proclaims “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” The Spirit of the Lord is upon Christ and He has been anointed to proclaim the good news, to proclaim liberty to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. The ministry of Christ is to bring liberty and that liberty is available to those who turn to Christ.

Elmer Townes had this to say about revivals and the experience of witnessing the move of God in one’s life. He says that we are to seek intimacy with God rather than the hand of God. In other words while God moves in us He calls us to seek His intimacy. He wants a relationship. In his book “The Worlds Ten Greatest Revivals,” in regards to the great revival of 1904, Townes states The changed lives of converts resulted in reductions in crime, drunkenness, and gambling, along with increases in honesty, truthfulness and chastity throughout Great Britain. In America throughout the nation, political reform was effected as corrupt district attorneys, mayors, governors, senators and assemblymen were replaced with those perceived as honest. Why was this happening? It is because the Spirt of the Lord came and things began to change. The Spirit of the Lord brought freedom and change. How many would like that kind of change?

Second, the Spirit of the Lord shines His light in and the darkness goes. Now that is a powerful statement. You see He is the light of the world. In Him there is no darkness. In Him there is no shadow of darkness. He is the light. And where He is there is light as well. So yes, one’s heart and mind might be darkened by the god of this world but that does not mean that is where they have to stay.  It is for that reason that I love this year’s VBS theme. It is Following Jesus The Light of the World. He is the light. He brings hope and He brings us freedom. Jesus is the Word and it is the Word that is a lamp unto our feet and a light on our path.

Third, the spirit of the Lord comes to transform us into the image of Christ. You see, not only does the Spirit of the Lord change sinners but it changes us as well. First of all because Christ is in us, we find that we do not have to wear a veil. We have an open invitation into the presence of God. We can behold the glory of God. What is the glory of God? It is the character of God being revealed in us and through us.

Often I am asked what a mature Christian looks like. I would say to you today that a mature believer is one that looks like Christ. Are you being transformed into the image of Christ? Are you being changed? If the spirit of the Lord in us we will find that we are being transformed. Once again the idea of transformation is to be totally changed. We are not what we were and we are not going to be what we are now We are changing and we are being changed for His glory and for His honor.

We must understand that our model is not anyone person here on earth. We have some good role models but they are still human and humans will fail and will fall short of the glory of God. That is why Christ must be the model of our transformation. The spirit of the Lord transforms us into His image. How much do you look like Christ? That is the measure of your success and maturity as a believer.

Will you stand today in recognition of your need for the freedom that comes from Christ? Will stand and receive the truth that we need a revival in our hearts? Will you acknowledge that the revival must begin in us?

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

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Ephesians – Belt of Truth – Getting It to Together

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians – Belt of Truth – Getting It to Together

May 17, 2015

Ephesians 6:14-15Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.

This morning we continue to look at the idea of dressing for success by putting on the whole armor of God. It is to be noted that Paul begins this passage with the command to stand. The term standing expresses the idea of not giving up any ground that has been gained, especially by way of Christ’s victories in our life. When watching football, you will hear the commentator say that the defense is taking a goal line stand. What they are saying is that the defense is setup to stop the advance of the offense whose desire is to cross over the goal line for a score. This is the idea of standing and standing strong. It is to position ourselves so as not to give up any territory to the evil one. Many a football game has been won and lost from this position. The word also expresses the idea that when we have done everything we know to do, we keep standing against the schemes of the enemy to avoid his advancement in our lives. We don’t give up and we don’t give in. While not inclusive let me give you a couple of thoughts here. We give up ground when we believe the lies and half truths spoken to us and about us. We give up ground when we live with unconfessed sin. We give up ground when we continue to rehearse and live in the past experiences that have brought us pain and hurt. And, we give up ground when we give into the temptations that come our way.

In this passage, Paul begins to describe the armor that is necessary to take this stand. The first piece of armor in Paul’s list is the belt of truth which is fastened around the waist. To fully understand what the belt of truth is, we must understand the use of the belt in Paul’s day. First of all the belt was used to secure the tunic or the robe of the warrior. This was necessary because the tunic or robe was a long loose fitting garment. If not secured, the tunic would impact the ability of the soldier to effectively do battle as it would get tangled in the soldiers legs or in the armor itself. If this occurred, the soldier’s ability to fight the enemy was diminished and his focus would be on the problem with his armor and not on the ability to fight.

The second purpose of the belt was to secure the rest of the armor. The belt was that piece of the armor that tied everything else together. Without the belt, the armor would not fit properly. The result would be a lack of protection for the soldier because there was the potential of vulnerable spots being exposed. Without the belt being in place during a fight, the soldier might find himself in an awkward state as he would have to hold his tunic, or clutch his armor with one hand, and fight with the other. Such a situation would expose the soldier to the tactics of the enemy.

In this passage, Paul is relating to a well known visual for the Ephesians so that they could grasp the spiritual application of the principle. Paul emphatically states that we must put on the belt of truth. We have discussed the belt but we must also understand the meaning of the word “truth.” The word for truth is “althaea” and it speaks to both the intellectual aspect of truth as well as the attitude of truthfulness and integrity as a character trait. Truth, therefore, is not just the accuracy of specific truths held by a person but it is also the quality of truthfulness. This simply means that the Christian is to not only have an understanding of truth intellectually, but the Christian must be truthful in every area of their life.

The best way for me to illustrate this is with a story that is found in Chuck Swindoll’s book Growing Deep in the Christian Life. In the book, Chuck tells the story about a man who bought a bucket of fried chicken for himself and his date one afternoon. However, when the fast food restaurant gave him his order, they inadvertently gave him a bucket of money from the day’s sales instead of the fried chicken he ordered. After driving to the picnic site, he sat down with his date to enjoy some chicken when they discovered that instead of chicken, they had been given over $800! Once they saw the error, the man quickly took the money back to the store, because he considered himself to be an honest man. As you might imagine, by this time the manager of the restaurant was frantic. The man who had taken the money got out of his car, walked into the store to return the money. He became an instant hero. The manager was so thrilled. He was so thrilled in fact that he wanted to call the newspaper to have them take a photo and have this real life hero’s story published. The manager being excited was quick to compliment the man on his honesty. However, the man was also quick to respond “please don’t do that!” Then he leaned in and whispered to the manager, “You can’t do this because the woman I’m with, is another man’s wife.” The moral of the story is that the belt of truth must be applied to every area of our life and not just to some areas for it will expose us to the tactics of the enemy who will use such an opportunity to attack and destroy our testimony and our life.

As with the soldier in battle, we must secure the belt of truth around our waist. This is needful because for the believer the belt of truth brings security. You see when a believer does not have the belt of truth in place we will be vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy. We will walk in fear because we are not dressed for success. Conversely, when the belt of truth has been secured, the believer in Christ will be complete, stable, and ready for every battle. The fact is, when the arrows of deception are flying around and unjust accusations explode around us, we need the truth and we need the truth of character to keep us from falling apart.

Spiritually, we must understand that security and truth is found in the Word of God and that real security is only discovered when the word of God comes alive in our hearts. This is the idea represented by Paul in this passage. To be secure, we must bind the word of God to our hearts. We will be ineffective in our walk with Christ if we are not allowing the word to transform and change us. If our character is not being changed by the truth of the Gospel, there is a good chance that we are not fastening or putting on the belt of truth. Without the belt of truth, we end up living an inconsistent life. Without the belt of truth, we will be entangled with issues and problems that will hold us back and trip up us. We will in essence be trying to hold onto the issues of life and fight a battle at the same time.

In our current culture we do not have to look very far to see that biblical truth is no longer a viable concern in most lives. In fact, truth is no longer valued as the basis of one’s actions or thinking. Too many live as if anything goes. Rather than fastening on the belt of truth, society rejects truth. |And the sad commentary is that many churches and believers today are also rejecting truth. The result is that the acceptable boundaries of God’s word are being moved and reestablished. As a result, society has become unstable. It is interesting to note that people who have forgotten the belt of truth in their life often scratch their heads wondering why life is filled with confusion and why there is such evil in the world.

A second idea is that the belt of truth prepares us for battle. Peter confirms this in 1 Peter 1:13-16. Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy. The word used in this text for “prepare” is the same word in Ephesians for “fasten.” It gives us the sense of preparing for battle. In Peter’s case, we prepare the mind and in Paul’s case we fasten the belt of truth to our inner most being. Notice that Peter calls the follower of Christ to not conform to the passion of one’s former ignorance, but live as one who has been called to holiness. Peter understands that our passions are not always based in truth. We can never measure the validity of truth by virtue of our feelings or our emotions. Our feelings can come and go and they can change so quickly. Feelings and emotions are most often based on our circumstances and the environment that we are experiencing at the time. Truth does not change, while one’s feelings continue to ebb and flow. The point is, we must always let truth dictate our actions and not our emotions.

Jesus also recognized the need for being prepared when he stated the following. “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks (Luke 12:35-36). What Jesus is communicating is that we must be continually dressed for action as we do not know when we might engage the enemy. The children of Israel before leaving Egypt were called to prepare themselves as well. Moses wrote. In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover (Exodus 12:11). They were to eat and work but they were also to be prepared for the Exodus. As believers, we must put on the belt of truth so that we are prepared to face whatever battle, temptation or concern comes our way.

Finally we must understand that the belt of truth is more than just head knowledge! In John 8:31-32 we find that Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him,“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. Here is a point that must be made. The factual reality of truth does not free anyone. We must know the truth and properly apply the truth into our lives. It is the truth properly applied that sets you free and not the truth itself. Notice the key here. It is the abiding in the word of God that allows us to fully know the truth and it is that truth that sets us free. Therefore, truth rightly applied is the source of our freedom, our stability, and our victory. We too can experience the freedom, stability, and victory that comes from having the belt of truth fastened and by rightly applying the truth to our lives.

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

Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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