Monday, August 29, 2011

Saved By Grace ... But Who's Grace?

When I was a teenager, the question of my salvation was not exactly at the forefront of my thinking. I didn’t ponder often – or long – how I was going to be saved. I kind of knew about my salvation. I had been through two years of catechism instruction and had been taught both Law and Gospel by a pastor who himself had extensive learning in Law and Gospel.
I knew my salvation was based on what Jesus Christ had done for me (and the world) when He died on the cross and rose from the dead on Easter Sunday.
But I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it.
I wish I did. Because I think it would have made me think about just what it means that I am saved. It might also have made me think about how other people are saved.
I was taught – and I still believe with all my heart – that I am saved by grace.
Ephesians 2:5 says it plainly, “By grace you are saved.
But then I was thinking, that’s how a Christian is saved, since Ephesians is part of the Christian Bible.
Muslims don’t use the Christian Bible in the same way. Neither to Jews. Are they still saved by grace?
Maybe a better way to say it is that we (Christian, Muslim, Jew, and anyone else) is saved by God’s grace.
After all, most of the planet believes in God in some form or another.
But it occurs to me that this would be to generalized to be of any good. For something as important as eternal salvation, you’d think that God would have been as specific as possible.
Then I came across this passage of Scripture in the Book of Acts:
But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 15:11 ESV).
I don’t believe this is trying to say that only Christians will be saved. But I believe it is also saying that there is only one way to be saved and that is through the grace of the Lord Jesus.
Does that mean Jews and Muslims and Buddhists and any other person cannot be saved?
No, in fact just the opposite. All people can be saved. All can be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus.
We don’t have to go around searching for the right grace or the right way or the right religion. We only have to go one place – to Jesus Christ Himself.
We don’t have to spend our time trying to be good enough, do good enough, or say good enough to be saved.
Salvation is through the grace of our Lord Jesus.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

God's Help - Not Self-Help

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I've been told that I don't have what it takes to be a pastor. That I'm not well-suited for the parish. Thankfully, I haven't been told that recently. But I'm pretty sure that every pastor hears something along those lines at some point in their ministry.

I'm not entirely sure what qualifies a man to be a pastor in the minds of the people who have told me that I don't have what it takes to be a pastor. But I do know what the Bible says about the qualifications of a pastor.

He must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive ... He must not be a recent convert ... he must be well thought of by outsiders (1 Timothy 3:2-7 ESV).

It seems to me that these qualifications are not attainable without help. Help from other people, but most especially help from God.

It is the "help from God" that interests and intrigues me. I have been called by God to be a pastor. I didn't really strive to be a pastor on my own. The closest I come to that sentiment is that I answered God's call with all my heart. What I mean is that I didn't fight God when He called me. I agreed with Him. I want to be a pastor. I enjoy being a pastor.

Still, there are times that I question God's judgment about me being a pastor, just as there have been - at times - other people who also question God's judgment.

In that, I'm not alone. I'm in pretty good company, in a manner of speaking.

God called Moses to be the pastor of His people, Israel.

I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt (Exodus 3:10).

Here is how Moses responded to God's call:

"Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?" (Exodus 3:11)

they will not believe me or listen to my voice (Exodus 4:1)

 I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue(Exodus 4:10)

Oh, my Lord, please send someone else (Exodus 4:13)

I get the feeling that Moses did not want to be what God was calling him to be.

How God didn't take Moses' no for an answer is what sustains me in my calling.

God didn't tell Moses that he was wrong in his self-assessment. Instead, God basically said, none of that really matters because what I'm asking you to do is going to be done by my power, not yours!

But I will be with you (Exodus 3:12)

"If they will not believe you," God said, "or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground." (Exodus 4:8-9)

I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak (Exodus 4:12)

Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do.  He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him.  (Exodus 4:14-16)

When God calls us to do something, He doesn't expect us to do it by our own power. When God calls us to do something, He also gives us His power to do it.

I've been called to be a pastor, a leader in a church and a leader of people. That may not be your calling. You may be called to be a writer, or an encourager of others, or a teacher, or a salesperson, or _______________.

No matter what it is that God is calling you to do, it will involved sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Your reaction may be "I can't do that!"

God's answer is, "do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you..." (Matthew 10:19).

You can do it because God not only calls you to do it, God gives you all the power you will need to do it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

How Long?

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This morning I read Psalm 13. King David asks a question that I have asked myself from time to time.
“How long, O Lord?”
I notice that David says, “Will you forget me forever?”
He doesn’t ask, “Have you forgotten me?” David is feeling that God actually has actually has already forgotten him.

Have you ever felt that way? It’s a pretty devastating feeling. I imagine it is about as lonely as a person can feel.
But as I kept reading this Psalm, silently shouting, “Preach it, David! Right on, David! Yeah! That’s how I feel!” I get to verse 5.
Even though David feels that God has forgotten him, abandoned him, he still trusts in God. He still rejoices in God’s salvation. He still sings to the Lord.
In spite of a devastating feeling, David still believes in God as his Savior.
That’s the kind of faith I want to have.
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Thankfully, the Holy Spirit who gave this kind of faith to David also gives this kind of faith to me.
I will trust.
I will rejoice.
I will sing.