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GOD'S GRACE SUSTAINS US
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
2 April 1989
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
1 Corinthians 11:18-32
2 Peter 3:18
Preparation Verse: (Deuteronomy 31:8)
“And the Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear, or be dismayed.”
God is truly the sustainer of us all.
We may think that it all centers around the things we do and the way that we do them that gives us the security we are all seeking, but it is not.
It is really only God.
And when we come to realize this, then and only then is it coupled with our
willingness to live in His heavenly will.
The true analysis of what is really required to sustain us is to start taking
away those things that we think we need, and then see where we go for what we
Sometimes we are all hung up on the form of what we do or how we live according to worldly standards; and, again, even when that is taken away, we will find that it will function in a different way, and to our amazement, it may even function better.
But when everything is going wrong, and we are losing everything, there is really only one place to go, and that is to God.
God's grace will always sustain us.
We don't deserve that endless supply of eternal love that God always has for
us but, as we come before Him, we always seem to find it.
Our problem is that we all too often go to God as our last choice, and not our first as we should be doing.
Things and methods that we establish on our own may work for a time, or they may not work.
The things and methods we build upon the Lord will be lasting as long as they are needed; but even when they go, it somehow doesn't seem to matter all that much, for we know that God is still there and that it is only He that really matters.
On Easter we talked about how badly Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John felt when
Jesus was supposedly taken away from them.
But once they realized that He had risen from the dead, and understood what He had been telling them, they were strengthened and sustained into everlasting life.
Everything else didn't matter, for they had Jesus.
And the same is true for us today.
It was also true before Jesus' time upon the earth.
Let's go back and take a brief look at what happened in the life of Abraham when God called to Him, as we read in our Old Testament lesson for today, Genesis 12:1-3:
1. Now the Lord said to Abram,
"Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father's house,
To the land which I will show you;
Put yourself in Abram's position. What would you feel like if you were told to do the same thing?
To do this would take absolute trust in God.
And that is exactly what God wants from each and every one of us.
When we submit ourselves totally to God's will, we will find that He will sustain us; and that the things we thought were so important, that we just couldn't live without, were not so important after all.
And as we obey God, we will also receive the bonus of His blessings, just as
Abram was promised and as they actually occurred:
2. And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
3. And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
In Genesis I5:6 we are told the ultimate result of Abram's obedience and faith in the Lord:
6. Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.
Abraham wasn't righteous. He sinned, just like all of us; but because he believed the Lord, and repented of his sins in order to live the life that the Lord had set before him, God covered those sins and considered him as being truly righteous.
And most importantly we need to remember that no sacrifice was necessary or even requested for Abraham to be forgiven and be considered to be truly righteous.
That is pure grace.
And it is that grace that sustained Abraham.
And it is that grace that will sustain us.
God's promise to Abram was also for us; for it said that in Abram all of the families of the earth would be blessed, and we are the families of the earth that believed in the promise given to Abraham.
But most of the people on the earth today aren't receiving that blessing and that grace, because they haven't believed in the Lord.
Does that mean that the grace of God is not present?
No, it doesn't.
The grace of God is always present, just as He is always present; but we must receive it.
In Romans 11:1-6, note what Paul said about Israel's turning away from God:
1. I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
2. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?
3. "Lord, they have killed Thy prophets, they have torn down Thine altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life."
4. But what is the divine response to him? "I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal."
God's grace sustained all those who believed in Him and followed Him.
And He will do the same for us, as we are told:
5. In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice.
6. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.
Grace is receiving what we don't deserve.
We can't work our way into heaven; for if we even sin but once in our entire life, we are disqualified, and all that we have done is forgotten and nothing we can ever do can erase that sin.
But our faith in Jesus Christ and our true repentance covers our sins and reckons us as being truly righteous.
We are saved by grace.
But we all too often forget.
But the Lord wants to preserve and sustain His remnant and even to add to
Thus we are to come together in church and Bible study to bring to remembrance who God really is, and to strengthen each other with His Word.
Our celebration of Holy Communion this morning is an example of the sustaining power of God's grace, so that we would not forget and thus go astray.
Note what Jesus tells us in Luke 22:19:
19. And when he had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me."
The grace and love of God gave us Jesus Christ.
And in our sharing in The Lord's Supper, we are being given a reminder of His sacrificial offering to take away our sins, so that we would be sustained forever with Him.
God's grace is in this church.
But, unfortunately, everyone who comes in does not receive this grace.
Grace isn't absorbed into us just because we are in its presence; and no one can be saved just by being in God's presence.
In order to have God's sustaining grace, we must receive.
You do not receive The Lord's Supper, in remembrance of Him, unless you eat it.
The grace and the blessing are still there, but it is not ours unless we partake.
And what about the form of our Communion?
Perhaps there would be more of God's grace if we used wine instead of grape juice, because it is stronger.
Or perhaps there would be less grace, because the alcohol in the wine would diffuse it.
The grace is not in the cup.
The grace is in the Lord.
And as often as we come together in remembrance of Him, and receive of the cup, we receive of Him and of His grace.
But sometimes it is served in one cup, and everyone drinks from that same cup; surely that shows the oneness of the body in coming together.
Perhaps it does to some individuals, but it has nothing to do with God's grace or the quantity we receive.
If we receive of the Lord's sacrifice for us, individually, with true
repentance, we receive the abundance of God's grace.
It doesn't matter whether we partake of the blood of the grape, in remembrance of the blood of Jesus Christ, in little individual cups or in one common cup that all drink from, or in one common cup that all dip their bread into, or by mixing the bread and the wine together.
The grace is not in the cup, but in our remembrance of Jesus Christ, as we partake of the cup no matter in what form.
And what about the bread?
In the Hebrew tradition, and according to the Law, the bread of every religious gathering was to be unleavened bread, except for the celebration at Pentecost.
Leaven, in Scripture, generally refers to sin; thus the Jewish celebrations used only unleavened bread to symbolize the sinless character of God and that they were to have removed sin from their lives through true repentance and sacrifice.
It was not the leaven that was sin, nor the sacrifice that took it away; it was the grace of God that made the people acceptable before Him.
And it is the grace of God that will sustain us.
The Corinthian Church had many problems, and Paul spent a lot of time trying
to correct them and show them the proper way of doing things.
In the eleventh chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul explains the relationship of God's grace, and our need to remember Him and what He did for us, as contrasted to our attitude:
Some of the Corinthians must have been making a mockery of The Lord's Supper because of their unrighteous attitude; thus He tells them the proper way of coming together, beginning at verse 18:
18. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part, I believe it.
Divisions and factions in a church are the work of the devil that are intent on destroying the grace of God; but we can overcome these things when we understand that it is not the form or the way we come before God, but it is the intent of our hearts when we come together.
God sees the intent of our hearts and bestows His grace upon all who are open
to receive it.
Let's continue with what Paul is saying:
19. For there must also be factions among you, in order that those who are approved may have become evident among you.
20. Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper,
21. for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk.
22. What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God, and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you.
This kind of problem still exists in churches today, and I am thankful that
it is not happening here.
But every church has problems, including this one.
And we have minor factions and divisions because we are individuals and presume that our own ways are always the best, or that we have always done something this way and any other way is wrong.
But as we more and more allow the grace of God to fill this place and our
lives, we will do away with these problems; for the love of God will prevail in
all of us, and because of that love, we will see through these things and do
things to make each other happy, as we will be loving others as ourselves.
Now, hear how Paul says that we should celebrate the Lord's Supper:
23. For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread;
24. and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, "This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me."
25. In the same way He took the cup also, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me."
26. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.
Each of us must ask our self, "Is this the reason that I come before the Lord's Table?"
And if it is not, we are to repent, but we are to still come.
We are to put our heart and mind in order, so that the grace of God may enter and restore us and sustain us.
Thus Paul cautions us:
27. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.
What we are being told has no age limits on who can come, but only on their intent.
28. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
As we said, each of us is to examine our self, repent of what is not right between us and God, and partake.
And parents, you be the judge of your children, for you are responsible for them before the Lord.
Anyway, upon whom do you think God will bestow His grace; one who comes forth in innocence, seeking God, or one who comes forth in defiance?
Listen again to what Paul has to say:
29. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly.
30. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.
31. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we should not be judged.
32. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord in order that we may not be condemned along with the world.
Therefore, do not worry about how we come to the Lord, but that we just come.
Do not be concerned about our many and varied doctrinal traditions that are designed to lead us to the Lord by a specific path, but that we just seek our Lord with all of our heart and soul.
Do not be anxious about the future of this world and the role you will play in it, but that you will be with the Lord in the next world.
Don't worry about what the Lord will do, just trust in Him that He is doing the right thing, and hear what we are told in 2 Peter 3:18:
18. 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.