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LIVING IN THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (PART III)
RECEIVING GOD'S GRACE
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
4 JUNE 1989
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Preparation Verse: (Acts 4:33)
And with great power the apostles were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all.
Ever since the beginning of mankind and our first sin, God has dealt with us from a position of grace.
For even though we sin, God, in all His love and mercy, provides us a way of escape from the death that sin brings, so that we might be redeemed.
Sin brings death, but God's grace gives us life.
But in order to have this gift of grace, we must receive it.
And our way of receiving it is through our true repentance.
But there is one ingredient missing.
Many believe it's Blood.
The blood of an innocent animal in Old Testament days, and the blood of Jesus Christ today.
We have the cleansing power of Jesus' blood when we accept Him as our Lord and Savior.
There is a mystery contained in the reason for this soul of the innocent for the soul of the guilty, and we can speculate on the reason; but it doesn't give us the full answer.
Note what we are told in Genesis 15:6.
6 Then he [Abram or Abraham] believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.
In this case, which was before the Law, Abram was forgiven simply because he believed.
Or, we could say he received God's grace because of his faith.
But Israel didn't understand this concept and gift of God's grace when they came out of Egypt.
And even to this very day, almost 2,000 years after the atoning death of Jesus Christ, God's grace is not fully understood by most people.
The people of Israel had seen all the many miracles of God prior to and during their exodus from Egypt, but they didn't fully trust and believe in God.
They were not like Abraham.
So in order to show them about grace, He established the Law; a Law so restrictive and so severe that no one could ever completely keep from breaking it from time to time.
But within the Law, there was also grace; for God gave them a way of escape through their repentance, which was the key aspect contained in the sacrifice.
It wasn't the blood.
For no matter how much blood was spilled, there was no forgiveness without true repentance.
Most other religions also sacrificed, and they weren't forgiven.
As we looked in on Israel in our Old Testament lesson for this morning, we are at the time when God begins to hand down the Law.
And from here, the 19th chapter of Exodus, until the tenth chapter of Numbers, we are given what has become known as the Mosaic Law, because God gave it to Moses to give to the people.
Let's go back and look at this passage again (Exodus 19:1-8).
1. In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai.
2. When they set out from Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; and there Israel camped in front of the mountain.
When we see in Scripture the repeating of the fact that Israel camped in the wilderness of Sinai (as we are seeing in these verses) coupled with a specific time as we have here, take special note of what is being said; for God wants us to know that everything that follows took place exactly as it is recorded and exactly on the day when it was said, in order that we would believe.
This kind of statement is also set forth to confound the proud and so-called wise person, who believes that the Bible isn't true, for there may be some archaeological record to prove the event and date.
This is also part of God's grace to future generations, so that their faith
would be strengthened.
3. And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel:
The house of Jacob and the sons of Israel sound like God is referring to the same people, for God changed Jacob's name to Israel, and they could be, except for the context of this passage.
The name Jacob means "deceiver", and the reference to the house of Jacob refers to those who are continuing to deceive themselves into thinking they can fool God.
The name Israel, on the other hand, means "a prince of God", or "one who strives with God (in prayer)". Thus it refers to those who strive to do the will of God, even though they wrestle with the will of God, and sin from time to time.
God wants all of us to do His will, and He prefers that we do it freely.
But He knows that many of us struggle with things occasionally, and He is willing to wrestle with us over them, as He did with Jacob, so that he would wholly turn to God and become Israel.
This is God's grace, and understanding it and submitting to His will, even after a struggle, is living in the power of the Holy Spirit.
So after telling Moses that he is to tell everyone what God tells him, whether they follow Him or not, He continues:
4. 'You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings, and brought you to Myself.
Everyone had seen what God had done, and were without excuse; but in His
grace, God continues to reach out to everyone.
5. 'Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine;
6. and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel."
God was about to set apart the tribe of Levi to serve before Him, and of them, Aaron and his sons to serve as priests. Then why was He saying that all of Israel was to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation?
Because of God's grace.
God was never just intent upon saving Israel alone. He wanted to save the whole world from the death caused by their sin and corruption.
Israel was His vehicle to reach out to the rest of the world, for all of the earth is the Lord's.
The desire of God's heart was that Israel would live such a holy and righteous life that the whole earth would see the difference and seek the Lord for themselves.
Israel was to be a living testimony of the word of God, and by their very lives, they would be preaching the truth and praises of God.
Come to think of it, that is what Christians are to be also.
And Israel responded in the same way as do most Christians.
7. So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the Lord had commanded him.
8. And all the people answered together and said, "All that the Lord has spoken we will do!" And Moses brought back the words of the people to the Lord.
And so it has been with all of the messengers of God ever since; and the people, in general, have fallen short of their vows.
Haven't we also, Christians?
But in all of His mercy and grace, God continues to reach out to the whole earth, so that we would turn wholeheartedly back to Him.
It is just as we were told in our New Testament lesson for this morning, Titus 2:11-15:
11. For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,
12. instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,
13. looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus;
14. who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
This is God's love for us!
This is His grace!
But in order to have it, we must receive it and respond.
God doesn't want us to live with one foot in the church and one foot in the world, either; for since we came from the world, the one foot that is in the church only shows that we are partially committed.
Our God is not a half way God, and He doesn't want us to be half way people.
Salvation is not a half way condition.
Either we are saved and go to heaven forever and ever, or we are not saved and go to hell forever and ever.
That's the way it is!
So ... God continues to reach out to us so that we would return to Him of our own free will, with a repentant heart, and truly seek to be one with Him.
God's salvation message should be constantly instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires.
So that we would constantly look forward in eternal hope for the appearing of Jesus Christ, our Lord and our Savior;
That our lives would be visibly set apart from the rest of the world we live in;
That our words would be believed, because we live the message we speak.
And what are we to speak?
We are to speak the gospel message of Jesus Christ.
We are to speak of the many things our God has done and, personally, of the things he has done in our lives, so that all who hear will also receive of God's grace.
15. These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
Have you taken this challenge to live in the power of the Holy Spirit?
Maybe you've been a little sloppy in your Christianity, as most of us are from time to time.
Will you resolve in your heart to do away with this sloppiness?
And maybe you have never committed yourself in this manner.
Will you do so now?
Don't answer me with your words now, but work out this situation with the Lord.
Call upon Him to help you.
Then show me with your words and your life that you have committed yourself to the Lord.
And if I see it, I think the world will see it also, and the message that we heard today will be fulfilled.