Welcome In The Name Of The Father, Son, And Holy Spirit.
Although the Church calendar says we are in the season of Christmas most people stop thinking about Christmas after December 25th. However, leading up to Christmas Day some parents use the concept of a Naughty or Nice List kept by a omnipresent gift giver to bribe their children into obedience.
The Grace List pays better than the Naughty or Nice List. The premise of God’s Grace List is that He knows His children are fallen, therefore He sends His only begotten Son full of Grace and Truth, to pay for His children’s sins. The conundrum of a Naughty or Nice list is that no one makes it onto the nice list. The promise of the Grace list is that anyone who receives Christ gets to be on it. The Naughty or Nice list condemns, while the Grace List gives. Those who receive Grace are those who admit they need grace. Grace upon Grace and truth to boot comes through the Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Sinful Woman of Luke 7 knew she needed Grace. Simon the Pharisee gave the Lord Jesus a cool reception, no kiss, no water with which to wash His feet. The Sinful woman, however, washed His feet with her kisses, tears, and hair.
Washing someone’s feet with one’s hair is somewhat hard to imagine in our day. It is actually a nightmarish scenrio to ponder. It would be bad enough to wash someone’s feet with long hair, but it would be doubly miserable with short hair for one’s head would be closer to the foot. Yet washing the Savior’s foot with hair, tears and kisses makes a great deal of sense to the one who has wrestled with the depth of their depravity. Imagine being thusly convicted of sin, and knowing that Jesus came to forgive it all. Imagine searching for the source of the river of pain only to find that it is you and everyone you’ve ever known.
Dustlings know their frame. The fellowship of the suffering takes the long view of life. Shall the Savior not dam up the source of the river of pain through the cleansing flood of life pouring out of His veins? The Sinful woman knew the feet she washed with her hair would be crucified for her.
Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven–for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”
And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
I was watching this documentary on YouTube about Rich Mullins. One of his friends said of him, “He had a greater appetite for sin than me, but he also had a greater appetite for God.” Generally, I don’t recommend comparing ourselves to other people, whether it be in sin or piety. We are not justified by our appetite for God outlasting our appetite for sin. I do, however, think Church people have an incredible appetite for sin. And we’re all so ashamed about it that we sweep the truth about ourselves under the rug. It doesn’t really fool anyone, and we never learn to rest in the Grace of Jesus, because we’re too busy sweeping. You’re not a janitor, and there’s nothing wrong with being a janitor because God honors hard and honest work, but you don’t get to go to heaven for having the cleanest room. You get to go to heaven because Jesus has washed you in His blood. This is why we need a savior.
See, the Woman’s Faith in Christ saved her, and it is God who gave her Faith, (Ephesians 1-2).
See, the Woman had great love for Christ, and it is God who gave her Love, (1 John 4:19).
Dustlings go in peace because of the gifts of God.
Reform preacher Richard Sibbes compares the Christian’s Sanctification to a smoldering wick in his book, “The Bruised Reed”.
a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.
Sometimes we are the flame. We burn bright for the glory of God by clinging to the promises of God. The promises of God have the power and authority to defeat the Enemy as well as our own appetite for sin.
Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Victory over the Enemy comes through the Holy Spirit who is dwelling in every Christian. The Christian never defeats sin on his own. Never. Jesus defeats sin at the Cross. The Spirit of God dwelling in you defeats the Enemy during the Christian’s life. We have nothing to boast about. We simply have a treasure trove of promises from God.
God has left the believer an arsenal to defeat ungodliness, should the Christian so choose to use it.
Other times we fall flat on our face.
The Apostle Paul knew the struggle was real, as the kids say.
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.
For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.
So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.
For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.
For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,
but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
Sometimes we are the flame, sometimes we are the smoldering wick. Thanks be to Jesus that He doesn’t snuff us out when we are smoldering, because if He did, none of us would be around.
In the Pearl Jam classic, “Yellow Ledbetter” the question is posed “I don’t know whether I was the boxer or the bag?”
Perhaps you have had days in your spiritual walk where you felt like the boxer. You jabbed. You moved out of the way of sin. You endured. You were strong.
Other days you feel like the entire gym is beating you.
In the end we will be shocked at what God is making out of old forelorned punching bags.
Sometimes we have trouble valuing the miracle of God loving us because we have trouble admitting how unlovable our love of sin has made us.
Since I’m talking about songs, why not reference another?
There’s this song from the 80’s called, “Listen to your Heart”. Which sounds like a good idea and all except:
Jeremiah 17:9 is in the Bible
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
A lot of Infidelity, Covenant Breaking, Promise Breaking, Divorce, and Crime has a direct correlation to someone listening to their heart and their heart saying, “Everything is about you Baby, take care of #1.”
We need to learn to differentiate between the songs our heart sings, and the songs the Holy Spirit sings.
Here’s a hint, one song uses “me” and “I” in a hypnotic fashion.
The other has selfless and heavenly themes.
We are rather adept at lying to ourselves about ourselves.
If you want to worship in truth you need Word & Spirit.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
I take comfort in knowing the Word of God is no nonsense. My mother, Becky Jean (may she rest in peace) was prolific at cross stitching. There hung in my childhood home a simple cross stitched saying that went something like, “You can fool all of the people some of the time. You can fool some of the people all of the time. But Mother always finds out.”
This diddy can be applied to God’s Word much more so. God knows us. His Word knows us.
We dustings really do have an odd sense of humor. We claim we want authenticity, yet run from the Word of God as fast as our legs will carry us.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Romans 8 is saying I am too messed up to trust myself when I pray. This doesn’t really depress me: this makes me worship. I’d give up on me, but God doesn’t. God makes everything, fixes everything through the cross, and does the praying for us as well.
Only when we are honest with ourselves, about ourselves, will we begin to gush about Grace the way we should.
I don’t want First Christian Church to be the kind of Church that is always tearing people down by rubbing their noses in their sin, I want us to be realistic about our depravity so that we can be real about our worship of Christ.
Let us be honest about what the Bible says about people, so that we can be honest about Christ. That’s the idea. That’s our mission here at the Christian Church.
We need grace because we are the boxer and the bag.