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TRUST IN GOD’S GRACE

LUKE 6:27-38

IN A "PEANUTS" CARTOON, LUCY IS TELLING HER BROTHER LINUS,
        “GET ON THE BALL . . . GET WITH IT . . .GET INVOLVED.”
AS LINUS STANDS SUCKING HIS THUMB AND HANGING ON TO HIS BLANKET FOR DEAR LIFE, LUCY SAYS,
•    “YOU CAN'T DRIFT ALONG FOREVER.
•    YOU HAVE TO DIRECT YOUR THINKING.
•    YOU HAVE TO DECIDE WHETHER YOU ARE GOING TO BE A LIBERAL OR A CONSERVATIVE.
•    YOU HAVE TO TAKE SOME SORT OF STAND.
•    YOU HAVE TO ASSOCIATE YOURSELF WITH SOME SORT OF CAUSE.”

LINUS PULLS HIS THUMB OUT OF HIS MOUTH, PUTS DOWN HIS SECURITY BLANKET, AND ASKS LUCY,
      "ARE THERE ANY OPENINGS IN THE LUNATIC PARTY?”

WE KNOW, OF COURSE, THERE ARE MANY GOSPEL EPISODES IN WHICH JESUS IS LOOKED UPON AS A MEMBER OF THE LUNATICS. NOT ONLY BY HIS ENEMIES, BUT ALSO BY HIS FRIENDS. AND, WHETHER WE REALIZE IT OR NOT, IT IS JUST AS TRUE THAT SOME OF JESUS' FRIENDS STILL LOOK UPON HIM AS A MEMBER OF THE LUNATICS. ESPECIALLY ON SUNDAYS WHEN THEY ATTEND CHURCH AND LISTEN TO WHAT JESUS IS SAYING IN THE GOSPELS ABOUT GOD'S GRACE. GOD'S GRACE OFTEN IS A SHOCKER!

Satan uses the emotion of fear to prevent you from enjoying what the Lord has planned for you. You may think that you don't have any fears, but the truth is that nearly everyone is afraid of something. Your fears may be hidden, and that makes them even more dangerous. Our Almighty God is greater than any terror your mind can imagine, and He wants you to walk in courage and faith, with no fear (Isaiah 41:10; 2 Timothy 1:7). In Romans 10:4-13, Paul discusses belief, faith, and trust.

WE ARE UNDER GOD’S GRACE AS CHRISTIANS.
•    WE SAY WE KNOW JESUS AS OUR LORD AND SAVIOR. WE ARE JESUS' FRIENDS. BUT THEN WE READ THE "PARABLE OF THE PRODIGAL SON." . . . AND WE HAVE DOUBTS.
•    HE TELLS OF A MAN WHO HAD TWO SONS. THE YOUNGER OF THE TWO TAKES OFF WITH WHAT WAS TO BE HIS SHARE OF THE FAMILY INHERITANCE AND SQUANDERS IT ON LOOSE LIVING. AND WE HAVE DOUBTS.
•    HE GETS TO THE POINT WHERE HE IS LIVING, LITERALLY, LIKE A PIG, IN A PIGPEN. THE OLDER BROTHER STAYS WITH THE FATHER AND REMAINS LOYAL AND WE HAVE DOUBTS.
•    THEN THE WAYWARD, SLEAZY BROTHER DECIDES TO GO HOME, AND THE FATHER NOT ONLY TAKES HIM BACK UNCONDITIONALLY, HE ALSO THROWS A BIG PARTY IN HIS HONOR. AND WE HAVE DOUBTS.
        LET'S BE HONEST! IN OUR HUMANITY, AREN'T WE INCLINED TO AGREE WITH THE OLDER BROTHER WHEN HE GRUMBLES ABOUT THE RED-CARPET TREATMENT THE FATHER GIVES THE YOUNGER BROTHER? WE ARE JESUS' FRIENDS.
•    BUT THEN WE READ HIS "PARABLE OF THE VINEYARD" IN WHICH A MAN HIRES SEVERAL LABORERS TO WORK IN HIS VINEYARD. . . AND WE HAVE DOUBTS.
        SOME ARE HIRED EARLY ENOUGH TO PUT IN A FULL DAY'S WORK. OTHERS ARE HIRED LATER, AT VARIOUS TIMES DURING THE DAY AND PUT IN FEWER HOURS. AT DAY'S END, THE HOUSEHOLDER PAYS THE AMOUNT AGREED UPON TO THOSE WHO WORKED ALL DAY. AND HE GIVES EXACTLY THE SAME AMOUNT TO THOSE WHO WORKED FEWER HOURS.
        LET'S BE HONEST! AREN'T WE INCLINED TO AGREE WITH THE ALL-DAY WORKERS WHEN THEY GRUMBLE ABOUT THE HOUSEHOLDER'S GENEROSITY TO THE OTHERS?
•    WE ARE JESUS' FRIENDS. BUT THEN WE READ THE GOSPEL EPISODE IN WHICH JESUS IS DINING WITH MANY PROSTITUTES AND GANGSTER-TYPES. . . AND WE HAVE DOUBTS.
        LET'S BE HONEST! AREN'T WE INCLINED TO AGREE WITH THE PHARISEES WHO GRUMBLE ABOUT THE KIND OF COMPANY JESUS KEEPS?

ALL THE GOSPEL PARABLES ARE SAYING SOMETHING TO US ABOUT GOD'S GRACE. AND, MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, GOD'S GRACE IS A SHOCKER. IN 1 CORINTHIANS 1:25 THE APOSTLE PAUL HAS WRITTEN,
        "FOR GOD'S FOOLISHNESS IS WISER THAN HUMAN WISDOM, AND GOD'S WEAKNESS IS STRONGER THAN HUMAN STRENGTH."
THIS TELLS ME THAT WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND GOD’S GRACE THROUGH THIS UNUSUAL COMPARISON. AT TIMES IT MAY BE LESS THAN EASY TO PREACH ABOUT THE  FOOLISHNESS OF GOD SINCE HE IS NEITHER FOOLISH OR WEAK. JESUS SAID IN LUKE 6:27-38 TO:
•    LOVE YOUR ENEMIES
•    DO GOOD TO THOSE WHO HATE YOU.
•    BLESS THOSE WHO CURSE YOU.
•    PRAY FOR THOSE WHO TREAT YOU BADLY.
•    TO THE MAN WHO SLAPS YOU ON ONE CHEEK, PRESENT THE OTHER CHEEK TOO.
•    TO THE MAN WHO TAKES YOUR CLOAK FROM YOU, DO NOT REFUSE YOUR TUNIC.
•    BE COMPASSIONATE AS YOUR FATHER IS COMPASSIONATE . . . DO NOT JUDGE . .. DO NOT CONDEMN . . . GRANT PARDON"

IT'S NOT ALWAYS EASY TO PREACH THIS FOOLISHNESS OF GOD, KNOWING ALL THE WHILE THAT FOR MANY, IF NOT MOST OF US, IT'S JUST "SUNDAY TALK," AND NOT SOMETHING TO WORRY ABOUT COME MONDAY MORNING. CONSIDERING THIS FROM A HUMAN STANDPOINT,
•    ISN'T IT FOOLISH OF GOD TO SPEAK OF REALITIES WE CANNOT FULLY UNDERSTAND WHEN THE REALITIES WE CAN UNDERSTAND ARE ALREADY MORE THAN WE CAN HANDLE?
•    ISN'T IT FOOLISH OF GOD TO SPEAK OF LOVING OUR ENEMIES WHEN WE HAVE A HARD ENOUGH TIME LOVING OUR FRIENDS?
•    ISN'T IT FOOLISH OF GOD TO SEND US OUT ON A JOURNEY FOR WHICH THERE ARE NO MAPS, AND TO AIM US TOWARD A GOAL WE CAN NEVER KNOW UNTIL WE GET THERE?

SUCH IS THE FOOLISHNESS OF GOD, AND YET, WHAT DO WE REALLY EXPECT FROM THE DIVINE?
•    DO WE EXPECT GOD, WHO IS BEYOND US, TO BE UNDERSTANDABLE IN HUMAN TERMS?
•    DO WE EXPECT TO FIT GOD'S WAYS NEATLY INTO OUR LITTLE EARTHLY SYSTEMS?
•    OR DO WE BOW BEFORE THE AWESOME MYSTERY OF GOD, AND HUMBLY, AND REVERENTLY, POSITION OURSELVES TO EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED KNOWING THAT GOD IS NOT FOOLISH OR WEAK?

IMAGINE YOUR SURPRISE IF YOU SAW A SIGN IN A SHOPPING MALL THAT READ, "THE TRUTH SHOP!
        I COULD HARDLY BELIEVE MY EYES WHEN I SAW THE NAME OF THE SHOP. THE SALES PERSON WAS VERY POLITE.
                'WHAT TYPE OF TRUTH DID I WISH TO PURCHASE, PARTIAL OR WHOLE?'
        I REPLIED,
                'THE WHOLE TRUTH, OF COURSE. NO DECEPTION FOR ME. I WANT MY TRUTH PLAIN AND COMPLETE!
        THE SALES PERSON POINTED TO THE PRICE TAG.
                'THE PRICE  IS VERY HIGH, SIR,' SHE SAID.
          'WHAT IS THE PRICE?' I ASKED.
                'YOUR SECURITY, SIR,    SHE ANSWERED.

IS THIS THE LUNATIC PARTY THAT LINUS ASKED LUCY ABOUT? NO.  IT’S PART OF GOD’S GRACE. JESUS TELLS US THAT IN ORDER FOR THE GRACE OF GOD TO TRANSFORM US FROM WHO WE ARE TO WHO WE OUGHT TO BE, WE'VE GOT TO PAY THE PRICE. IF WE WANT TO BE CHRISTLIKE, WE'VE GOT TO PAY THE PRICE (MARK 8:34-35).

IF YOU ARE DETERMINED TO REMAIN LULLED INTO A FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY BY CONFORMING TO WORLDLY STANDARDS, YOU WOULD BEST SKIP OVER JESUS' "SERMON ON THE MOUNT." BUT, IF YOU ARE DETERMINED TO FOLLOW JESUS ON THE JOURNEY  TO NEW LIFE, YOU WILL FIND THE PRICE TAG IN THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT. WE THE FRIENDS OF JESUS, ARE GIVEN A CLEAR CHOICE.
•    WE CAN MAKE THAT ONCE-AND-FOR-ALL DECISION TO TAKE GOD SERIOUSLY.   OR
•    WE CAN COME AWAY WITH A HEAVY HEART.

THE URGE TO BE TRUE TO GOD IS REAL. BUT SO TOO IS THE URGE TO BE UNTRUE. THERE IS A POWER--A DEVILISH FORCE--AT WORK, TRYING DESPERATELY TO PULL US AWAY FROM GOD. IN TODAY'S SUPER-MATERIALISTIC WORLD, A SATANIC ATTITUDE AND APPROACH TO MONEY AND POSSESSIONS MAY BE PULLING MORE PEOPLE AWAY FROM GOD THAN ANY OTHER SINGLE CAUSE.
•    HOW WONDERFUL IT WOULD BE TO HAVE A    "SMALL FORTUNE."
•    HOW GREAT LIFE WOULD BE!
•    HOW SECURE LIFE WOULD BE!
•    HOW FULFILLING TO POSSESS THINGS "JUST FOR SHOW!"
THAT IS SATAN SPEAKING.

AND THEN JESUS COMES INTO OUR LIVES TO TELL US HOW MEANINGLESS IT ALL IS. WHEN WE ARE CAUGHT UP IN THE FRENZIED RACE FOR MONEY AND THINGS, WE ARE GOING NOWHERE. SATAN SEEMS TO BE TEMPTING MODERN MAN BEYOND THE LIMITS OF HIS SPIRITUAL ENDURANCE.

YET, ON SELF-EXAMINATION, YOU DISCOVER THAT THE QUEST FOR MATERIAL THINGS HAS BECOME YOUR NUMBER ONE PRIORITY, WHICH MEANS THAT SATAN HAS MOVED INTO THE CENTER OF YOUR LIFE.
•    IT IS TIME TO CHANGE.
•    IT IS TIME TO DEMONSTRATE THAT YOU LOVE PEOPLE MORE THAN YOU LOVE MONEY.
•    IT IS TIME FOR SERIOUS REFLECTION ON THE DIRECTION IN WHICH YOUR LIFE IS HEADED.
YOU HEAR GOD CALLING YOU FROM ONE DIRECTION, THE DEVIL FROM ANOTHER. THE QUESTION IS, "WHICH WAY DO YOU GO?" THE DECISION, OF COURSE, IS YOURS.

IN LUKE 4:1-13, JESUS, CALLED BY THE FATHER IN ONE DIRECTION THROUGH THE RITUAL OF HIS BAPTISM, IS NOW  CALLED BY SATAN FROM ANOTHER DIRECTION. JESUS HAS BEEN OUT IN THE DESERT ALONE FOR FORTY DAYS. HIS LENGTHY FAST HAS MADE HIM WEAK AND VULNERABLE. HE IS HUNGRY. VISIONS OF INSTANT GRATIFICATION FROM THE DEVIL HAUNT HIM.
        "WHY NOT CHANGE THESE SMALL CHUNKS OF DESERT STONE INTO BREAD? YOU CAN DO IT, AND IT WILL SATISFY HUNGER IMMEDIATELY,”
SAYS SATAN.

THE LENGTHY PERIOD OF SOLITUDE HAS MADE HIM LONELY.
        "WHY NOT DO SOMETHING SENSATIONAL THAT WILL ATTRACT ATTENTION? WHY NOT JUMP FROM THE PINNACLE OF THE TEMPLE AND LAND UNHURT? SOMEONE WILL SEE WHAT YOU HAVE DONE. THERE WILL BE A LOT OF EXCITEMENT AND YOU WILL BE RELIEVED OF LONELINESS"
SAYS SATAN.

THEN SATAN, THE DEVIL, SAYS,
        "WHY NOT BE THE KIND OF CONQUERING MILITARY HERO THAT THE PEOPLE EXPECT OF THEIR MESSIAH. YOU WILL BE POWERFUL AND RICH."

AUTHORITIES ON THE MAJOR DESERTS OF THE WORLD TELL US THAT A LONELY DESERT TRAVELER WITH INADEQUATE PROVISIONS HAS TWO CHOICES:
•    PROTECT HIMSELF AS BEST HE CAN UNTIL HELP ARRIVES     OR
•    ALLOW PANIC TO TAKE OVER.
WHEN PANIC ENSUES, DEATH OFTEN COMES QUICKLY. ONE DESERT EXPERT HAS WRITTEN,
        "ONLY HE CAN SURVIVE WHO HAS PREPARED BEST."

JESUS DID NOT PANIC AS HE MOVED THROUGH THE DESERT WILDERNESS. JESUS DID NOT PANIC IN THE FACE OF THE DEVIL'S POWERFUL TEMPTATIONS. HE HAD PREPARED HIMSELF BEST. SCRIPTURE TELLS US HE HAD FASTED FORTY DAYS AND FORTY NIGHTS. HAVING FORTIFIED HIS SOUL THROUGH PRAYER AND FASTING, JESUS WAS ABLE TO MAKE A CLEAR MORAL CHOICE WITH RESPECT TO WHICH VOICE HE WOULD RESPOND AND IN WHICH DIRECTION HE WOULD POINT His LIFE AND MINISTRY.

FINALLY, THE DEVIL RUNS OUT OF IDEAS ON NOW TO GET JESUS TO POINT HIS LIFE IN HIS DIRECTION.
        "HAVING EXHAUSTED ALL THESE WAYS OF TEMPTING HIM," LUKE TELLS US, "THE DEVIL LEFT HIM."

LIFE IS A CONTINUOUS SERIES OF
•    PEAKS AND VALLEYS
•    HIGHS AND LOWS
•    UPS AND DOWNS
NONE OF US CAN AVOID THE WILDERNESS EXPERIENCES, THOSE TIMES WHEN OUR WHOLE WORLD SEEMS COLD AND DRAB AND EMPTY. AND IT IS PRECISELY AT THESE TIMES WHEN PRAYER BECOMES MOST IMPORTANT TO US. WE LITERALLY MUST PRAY OUR WAY OUT OF THE WILDERNESS.

ALTHOUGH WE ARE FRIGHTENED IN OUR LONELINESS AND FRUSTRATED IN OUR EFFORTS TO ACHIEVE WHOLENESS OF LIFE,
•    WE NEEDN'T PANIC.
•    WE NEED TO PRAY.
•    WE NEED TO STOP TALKING TO OURSELVES IN ORDER TO HEAR GOD OUR FATHER, TALKING TO US.

IN THE DESERT OF NOTHINGNESS, LIFE SEEMS ABSURD, PURPOSELESS, MEANINGLESS--LIKE A BIG JOKE BEING PLAYED ON US BY SOME EXTERNAL FORCE WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND. AND THE ONLY WAY OUT, THE ONLY WAY TO DISCOVER OUR LIFE'S TRUE MEANING AND PURPOSE, THE ONLY WAY TO DISCOVER WHO WE ARE AND WHAT WE OUGHT TO DO, IS BY
•    LISTENING
•    LISTENING  
•    LISTENING
TO THE CHRIST SPIRIT OF GOD THAT DWELLS IN US. IT MAY TAKE ANOTHER FORTY DAYS AND FORTY NIGHTS FOR THE GOOD NEWS TO GET THROUGH TO US. IT MAY TAKE LONGER. THE POINT IS NEVER STOP LISTENING. WHEN WE STOP LISTENING, WE ARE ILL-PREPARED TO WARD OFF THE DANGER OF PANIC. THE NOTHINGNESS WILL OVERWHELM US, AND THE DEVIL WILL MOVE IN FOR THE KILL.

DURING MY MANY EXPERIENCES IN COUNSELING, I HAVE SEEN SOMETHING LIKE THIS ON A NUMBER OF OCCASIONS--HUMAN PRIDE AGAINST THE TRUTH.

SAID THE COUNSELOR TO THE PATIENT,
     "I'M NOT AWARE OF YOUR PROBLEM, SO PERHAPS YOU SHOULD START AT THE BEGINNING."

SAID THE PATIENT TO COUNSELOR,
        "ALL RIGHT, IN THE BEGINNING I CREATED THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH."

THE PATIENT'S PROBLEM IS OUR PROBLEM TOO.
•    IT IS THE BIG STUMBLING BLOCK WE ENCOUNTER AS WE MOVE THROUGH THE NOTHINGNESS TOWARD THE LIGHT.    
•    IT IS THE TEMPTATION TO TRY TO GO IT ALONE.
•    IT IS THE MISGUIDED NOTION THAT WE CAN GET THROUGH TO THE LIGHT INDEPENDENTLY, WITHOUT GOD.
•    IT IS THE TEMPTATION TO RELY ON OUR OWN MEAGER RESOURCES FOR ANSWERS TO THE QUESTION OF THE "WHY?" OF LIFE.
•    IT IS THE TEMPTATION TO MAKE LITTLE GODS OF OURSELVES.

ONE MUST SAY TO ONESELF,
         "ALL RIGHT. I DID NOT CREATE THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH: THIS IS GOD’S CREATION. GOD IS THE SOURCE OF MY LIFE." I NEED GOD TO TELL ME WHO I AM, AND WHY I AM, AND WHERE I AM GOING WITH MY LIFE. I NEED GOD TO LEAD ME FROM THE EXIT TO NOTHINGNESS INTO THE LIGHT OF HIS GRAND DESIGN."

I WILL CLOSE WITH SOME READINGS FROM PSALM 103.

THE INVITATION
★    You can't depend on your own goodness to get to Heaven. We've all sinned  (Romans 3:23). Jesus paid the penalty for your sins with His death on the cross and His resurrection (John 3:16).
★    To be forgiven and be guaranteed a place in Heaven, you need to repent of sin, confess that you are a sinner, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ in your heart (Acts 2:21).
★    You can use the following prayer or your own words, but you must actually believe in your heart that your prayer is real:
       Lord Jesus, I believe You are the Son of God. I confess that I have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed. Please forgive all my wrongdoing and let me live in relationship with You from now on.
       I receive You as my Savior and recognize that the work You accomplished once and for all on the cross was done on my behalf.
       Thank You for saving me. Help me to live a life that is pleasing to You.
                In Your name I pray, Amen.