Today's drear was lifted a bit by Brad bright greeting. Despite the grey outside, he told us that today's message would be the Blue Sky view, which meant he was taking us above the clouds to a larger overview of this summer's theme, an exposition of the book of Romans.
The announcements included...
1) An acknowledgement of several members of the church who ran in yesterday's marathon, including Pam Johnson and Rich Mullvain. Special commendation to Rich who could not run a year ago due to back surgery. Nice comeback, kid!
2) Today is Father's Day. All fathers were to make sure they got a helping of pie after the service.
3) Brooke gave a VBS report. We had more kids than ever this year. More than eighty participated during the week, with a high of 67 on one of the days, only 20 of which were from New Life. The week also raised $823 for Thailand mission needs. The theme this year was Pandamania... "God is wild about you." The kids got it.
4) The blood drive is next Sunday. If you are able to give and will be here, call Ruth Anne by Monday.
Chuck, Ken and Darlene led us in worship today, with Chuck noting that his dad was his first hero. A fitting tribute to begin a father's day service.
After worship, offering and a time of prayer, Brad delivered today's message.
The Other Half of the Story
Brad began with the exclamation, "I am here because of grace." Grace is amazing. But too often we allow time to muffle the amazement of grace so that eventually it is intriguing grace and finally "Ho hum, grace." In church, surrounded by Christian friends, we start to take grace for granted.
So we turn to Romans again and the receive an overview of the first three chapters. Paul notes that all people instinctively understand that there is a God. But in a variety of ways we move away from God, cut ourselves off from Him. After details of debauchery, Paul details how people can get into making and keeping rules to show how "good" they are (better than others) and puff themselves up with a blather of self-righteousness. This latter attitude puts us no closer to God than the former behaviors. In short, as Paul emphatically underscores with a passage from the Old Testament, "No one is good. No, not one."
At this point Brad led us to the book of Ephesians where Paul details our exact situation before grace. We were "dead in our transgressions." Dead equals no life. That is, we can dress them up but dead flowers are quickly wilting and becoming dust. Once cut off from God, the soul dies.
And here is Paul's point: Since all have sinned and fall short, human beings cannot save themselves.
We are wholly dependent on God, then. Saving faith is not a gift man offers to God. It is from God to man. Grace always flows downward.
I was a sinner. Now I am called a saint. Not by merit, not by having matured spiritually. Saint means sanctified for God's service and set apart for His use.
We don't "try to become saints." We ARE saints.
Then Brad had us turn to Romans 5:6-8
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
No matter how far you are from God, His grace can reach you. Rahab, the prostitute, is a perfect illustration of this. In fact, she gets numerous mentions in Scripture. In the famous "heroes of the faith" list in Hebrews 11, she is right there with Moses and Abraham.
Grace did not come to Rahab after rehab. She believed, responded to God, and God lifted her.
The rest of her story is equally remarkable. She married and had a son, whose name was Boaz, and she is listed in the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah.
I am because of grace, Brad affirmed. And because of grace, Scripture declares I am God's child, Christ's friend, united with the Lord in one spirit, born of God and the evil one cannot touch me.
What's more... I am the salt of the earth and the light of the world, I am the branch of the true vine, Jesus, a channel of His life, I have been chosen and appointed by God to bear fruit, I am a personal, Spirit-empowered witness of Christ, I am a temple of God, a minister of reconciliation for God and God's fellow worker, seated with Christ in the heavenly realms, God's workmanship, created for good works, prepared in advance. I may approach God with freedom and confidence and know that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
"Friends, you are not defined by what anybody else says you are," Brad said in closing. Fill your minds with the truth of who you really are in Him. Because of grace.