A Distortion Of GraceSeries: Fruit Of The Spirit
A DISTORTION OF GRACE
Sermon By Terry Siverd /January 08, 2023 / Cortland Church of Christ - - www.cortlandcoc.org
We closed last year with an emphasis on Christian disciplines like gratitude … joy … and gladness.
In Gal.5:22-23 Paul delineates other Christian virtues which he refers to as the fruit of the Spirit - -
qualities like: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.
These are not to be “beauties” that only show forth in our lives every once in a great while.
They are to be constants, cultivated intentionally and shining steadily from day to day on good days and down days.
In 2Cor.2:14-15a, the apostle Paul exhorts the first-century disciples in Corinth saying,
Thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of Christ...
This is a gut-check question as we begin a new year: Do WE manifest the sweet aroma of Christ Jesus?
BEARING THE FRAGRANCE OF CHRIST IS THE LIFEBLOOD OF THE CHURCH.
Like many good things, grace is sometimes abused.
Man's ability to rationalize and make excuses for sinful behavior never ceases to astound us and/or shame us.
Typically, this tendency to rationalize starts early in life. Young children quickly become adept at rationalizing.
When I was a student at Harding U back in the mid 70's, Dr. J.D. Bales was on the tail end of a long and distinguished
tenure as a Bible professor. He was sooo learned, but when it came to young children he was sometimes oblivious.
Once his young son (c. age 4) responded unhappily to one of J.D.'s directives by kicking at his father.
He missed, causing him to fall down, and then proceeded to cry aloud saying, “Look what you may me do, daddy.”
As told by his wife, Mary - - J.D., simply looked at the child and said, “son, stop rationalizing!”
We are privileged to live in the world of the new covenant.
It is a covenantal realm that is on the receiving end of God's disposition of grace.
God sent forth His only begotten Son to save us from our sins (Jn.3:16).
God's grace was dispensed to us by means of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.
In making all things new (Rev.21:5), God the Son redeemed us from the grip of death.
The “wages of sin” had resulted in bringing about a separation between man and God (Isa.59:1-2 and Rom.6:23).
But when Jesus bore our sins in His body on the cross (1Pet.2:24), man was invited back into the presence of God.
The book of Revelation, which is a record of this changing of the covenant worlds, closes with an amazing declaration.
Read from Rev.22:1-5.
In principle, what we discussed last Sunday in our sermon titled, Seeking His Face, is no longer a problem (a roadblock).
Whereas in times past man's sinfulness had caused God to hide His face from His people, such is no more.
Concerning the arrival of this marvelous heavenly kingdom which describes life in Christ in the here and now,
Rev.22:4 proclaims, there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb
shall be in it, and His bond-servants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face...
Although it should never be so, God's disposition of grace has sometimes resulted in man's distortion of grace.
This is a classic case of taking a good thing for granted. In this case the very best thing!!
I am determined to remind us often that this kind of behavior is totally unacceptable.
Being the beneficiaries of God's marvelous grace brings with it obligations and responsibilities, as well as privileges.
It requires unmitigated audacity to use the grace of God to rationalize our sinful behavior!
Paul addressed this struggle with the flesh in his epistle to the churches of Galatia. In Gal.5 he writes - -
5:13/You were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh …
5:16/Walk by the Spirit and you'll not carry out the desire of the flesh…5:25/If we live by the Spirit let us also walk by the Spirit.
God forbid that we would blame our failure to produce of the fruit of the Spirit by misapplying the grace of God.
To reason, “Since I am covered by His grace I do not fear God's disapproval” is the ultimate DIS-grace.
In the days surrounding WWII, Dietrich Bonhoeffer rose up to be a voice crying in the wilderness. As a preacher, Bonhoeffer witnessed the German motherland, rich with God-fearing men and women, compromising their faith.
He spoke and wrote often, using words that were clear and unequivocal. He criticized what he called, cheap grace.
He referred to cheap grace as an illusion that could lure one into a false sense of security, causing one to be sure of salvation, when such grace or salvation wasn't sure at all. He contrasted cheap grace with costly grace. He rightly proclaimed that cheap grace is essentially fake salvation. The real danger of cheap grace was that it could cause its adherents to lose out on eternal life. He wrote a very formidable book entitled, The Cost Of Discipleship.
I hope the brevity of this message doesn't rob it of it's importance. This is a priority sermon!!
Christianity comes to us with a high price - - God's Son died that we might be saved.
Real Christianity demands true discipleship. And true discipleship requires discipline in walking in the steps of Jesus.
In other words, being a disciple costs us dearly.
The apostle John amens this point, declaring, anyone who does not practice righteousness is NOT of God (1Jn.3:10).
The apostle Peter echoes John's thoughts (1Pet.1:15-16 and 2:9) - -
Like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written,
'you shall be HOLY, for I am holy … You are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession,
that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
Heb.12:28 concludes, Therefore since we receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken,
let us show gratitude, by which we may offer an acceptable service with reverence and awe...
James also affirms the need for the fruit of the Spirit, writing in Js.2:24 & 26 - - You see that a man is justified by
works, and not by faith alone...For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
In conclusion, we'll circle back to some added words from the apostle Paul.
2Tim.3:16 / Be diligent to present yourselves approved of God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed,
handling accurately the word of truth. After illustrating examples of ungodliness, he adds (2Tim.2:19) - -
...The firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, 'The Lord knows those ware are His',
and 'Let everyone who names the name of the Lord abstain from wickedness'.
On a positive note, Paul writes to the church at Ephesus (Eph.5:1-2; 5:8-11 & 15) - -
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you,
and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma...you were formerly in darkness,
but now you are light in the Lord; WALK AS CHILDREN OF LIGHT (for the fruit of light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth) trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. And do not participate in the
unfruitful deeds of darkness, but expose them...Therefore BE CAREFUL HOW YOU WALK.
When it comes to cultivating the fruit of the Spirit, we are cannot just coast.
Our walk must be careful and intentional, exerted with great diligence (2Pet.1:5 & 10).
We'll close with one more passage from the sacred writings (1Jn.2:6) - -
The one who says he abides in Him, ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.