Sunday, January 24, 2010

Grace That Empowers

A dense snow was falling throughout the Northland today as we gathered for worship this morning. Pastor Shannon greeted us with a warm "Good morning."

In his introductory remarks he noted that last week's message made the case, "I am because of grace." This morning, he said he planned to take this further. "We can, because of grace, live a life of victory and no longer be slaves to sin."

Today's announcements included:
1) We are taking an offering after the service for the needs in Haiti, to be forwarded through Covenant World Relief. Additional information on contributing can be found at For regular updates on this need, visit
2) The Sweetheart's Banquet is coming soon... a celebration of romantic love for young couples, old couples, even couples and odd couples. Singles are also welcome. Mark Saturday, February 13 on your calendar. Social hour begins at 6 p.m., the banquet at 7 and program at 8, with coffee and a dessert bar at 9. $9.00 per person. RSVP or sign up after the service these next couple weeks.
3) Gwen invited those who were interested to join them once more for another round of The Truth Project. The twelve week program was quite excellent, and the Cressman's are opening their home again on Sunday afternoons from 4:00-6:00 p.m. Joanne enthusiastically shared what this study of the Christian world view meant to her and encouraged others to attend.

After Darlene's introit, Brad and Darlene led us in a number of worship songs from the silver song book, The Song Goes On. After the offering, Scripture reading from John 17:6-19 and a time of prayer, Pastor Brad began his message.

Grace That Empowers

I can... because of grace.

Brad began with a story about Handly Page. Page was an early pioneer of British aviation. On one occasion, while on a solo test flight in a new cargo plane, a rat ran between his legs. This would have been disconcerting enough, but while in flight he could hear the rat gnawing on something, which turned out to be hydraulic lines that operated the landing gear. This being the days before autopilot, he felt helpless to do anything about it. (Stay tuned for the rest of the story... later.)

Brad read for us a portion of Romans 7 in which Paul details his struggle with sin. This passage from verses 13 to the end of the chapter is taken from The Message.

13I can already hear your next question: "Does that mean I can't even trust what is good [that is, the law]? Is good just as dangerous as evil?" No again! Sin simply did what sin is so famous for doing: using the good as a cover to tempt me to do what would finally destroy me. By hiding within God's good commandment, sin did far more mischief than it could ever have accomplished on its own.

14-16I can anticipate the response that is coming: "I know that all God's commands are spiritual, but I'm not. Isn't this also your experience?" Yes. I'm full of myself—after all, I've spent a long time in sin's prison. What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can't be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God's command is necessary.

17-20But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

21-23It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

24I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question?

25The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

Paul states that the Law has shown me how crooked I am. "The law tells me what to do, and I even have the desire to do good, but can't do it."

Brad pointed out how Paul used the word "I" 21 times in this section of Romans. In great detail Paul writes about his inner tug of war. Ultimately, the battle is in the mind. Even though his inner being recognizes, and even appreciates what is good, Paul outlines how we are at war within ourselves. And after all these "I" statements, he cries out, "What a wretched man I am. Who will deliver me from this spin cycle of doing what I do not want to do?"

Thanks be to God there is a way to live free.

The answer is in chapter 8. Therefore... because of grace, "There is no condemnation." You are free.

So many Christians are living as if chained to sin. Paul says you are free.

At the end of the Civil War, despite being freed by the 13th amendment, some slaves remained as slaves. In some instances it was because they did not believe it. In other cases their masters repressed the truth.

Here is the truth. We don't have to "try" to be children of God. When we are in Christ, we are children of God.

Once you are in Christ, you no longer wear those other labels. You know how it is where you label yourself alcoholic, bulimic, whatever. No, the only labels that stick for us are Forgiven and Child of God. Realize who you are in Christ, and relax in this truth. Christ living in me is my only hope of living in glory.

Brad shared a powerful analogy. The law of gravity is a reality that affects everything. When we get into an airplane and leave the ground, however, we defy gravity. The law of gravity has no effect on us. On the other hand, if we step out of the plane we're instantly back under the power of gravity. So it is that in Christ we defy the law of sin and death.

The battle is in the mind and Satan's primary weapon is lies. Freedom comes through truth. Hence Jesus' prayer in John 17:15-17...

15My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17Sanctify[a] them by the truth; your word is truth.

The best way to recognize counterfeit money is to study real money. And the best way to recognize Satan's lies is to study the revealed truth of God's Word.

Paul writes a little further on that when we set our minds on the things above, the result is life and peace. Yes, we can live in victory, because of grace. "Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world." And He begins to change us from the inside out.

So we return to Handly Page's predicament. He was flying at about 10,000 feet and heard that rat gnawing on the hydraulic lines. He tried throwing things back there, but to no avail. Then he remembered a lesson from science class that rats need more oxygen than humans do, so he pulled back and set the plane on a new course, climbing higher... and higher, till he didn't hear the sound any more. When he later landed, they found a dead rat in the cargo area.

When sin is gnawing at your life, climb higher into God's word. Be a student of the Word and internalize God's truth, God's promises of freedom, hope, strength, life and His all-sufficiency. Climb higher. Climb into the truth and you will find His grace sufficient for all our needs.

After the service we had a congregational meeting to discuss whether to pursue the possibility of making Caribou Lake school our future home. There was a good open discussion and it was agreed to look into it further, but with care and proper due diligence, and to keep praying for wisdom for our leaders in all these matters.

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