Why We Hate Grace
The Extravagance of Grace • Sermon • Submitted • Presented
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Why We Hate Grace By Rev. Res Spears During the past couple of years as the interim pastor at Liberty Spring Christian Church, I have stood at this pulpit or the one in the sanctuary and made any number of confessions to you all. Some of those have been minor things, and many of them have been unsurprising to most of you. It's no great secret, after all, that I'm a wonderful husband and son, and so that hardly counted as much of a confession. Some things probably DID come as a surprise to you, though, like the time I told you that I used to get in trouble as a young boy. I know that some of these things have been hard to hear, but I think it's important that everybody here have a true picture of who I am, so I've always tried to be pretty transparent about myself. So today, I want to start things off with another confession, but I have to warn you that it's a bit scandalous, and I know there are some of you who will never think of me the same again after you've heard it. But you need to know this, and it's relevant to today's message, so here goes: I do not drink coffee. I can't stand it. I love the smell of coffee beans roasting, but I just hate the taste of coffee, no matter how much milk sugar and caramel you add to make it seem like a melted ice cream sundae. Now the thing about hating coffee is that it puts me in such a small minority that people tend to look at me as if I'm slightly mad when they find out I don't drink it. According to a variety of surveys, somewhere between 83 and 90 percent of Americans drink coffee, at least occasionally, and 64 percent of them drink it every day. We all know someone who is not to be bothered until they have had their first - or maybe even second - cup of coffee for the day. Early in my career as a newspaper editor - back when I was working in Wakefield and catching three-hour naps on the floor of my office in order to get the paper out on time on Tuesday mornings - I really wanted to learn to like coffee. Everybody in my office drank coffee but me, and I was the one who was there working through the night every Monday. I was SUPPOSED to like coffee, and surely I could have benefited from the caffeine. But no matter how I doctored up the 7-Eleven coffee I would buy, it just tasted like what you might get if you strained used motor oil through burnt toast and then added a little milk to it. That little test lasted for about a week before I gave up trying. So, yeah, I have always hated coffee. Same thing's true for raw tomatoes. And onions. And cucumbers. And pickles. And probably lots of other things I know I'm supposed to like. And I'll bet that if we sat down and compared notes, we'd find out there are plenty of things YOU are supposed to like that you just can't stand, some things, perhaps, that you'd even admit you simply hate. So here's the controversial takeaway from today's message: Even though we know we are supposed to love it - even though we know that it's good for us - even though we might know intellectually that we cannot survive without it, most of us go through much of our lives hating grace. It catches in our craw for the guilty to go unpunished. It bothers us when our achievements are not rewarded. It irks us to consider that there's nothing we can do to put God into our debt, nothing that we set before this perfect, pure and holy God that isn't filthy rags. Even if we truly understand that we have been saved by God's grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone - even if we understand that our salvation depends 100 percent upon God - our tendency is then to do what the people of the church in Galatia were doing when Paul wrote his letter to them: Trying somehow to add to or complete or improve upon their salvation by doing things for God. In the Galatians' case, they were talking about circumcision and keeping the Jewish feasts and holidays. In the modern church, this plays out in unwritten dress codes, in sanctimonious tests of righteousness, in the comparisons we make between ourselves and other believers. Why do we hate grace? We hate grace, because grace tells us we cannot rely on ourselves. Grace tells us we cannot engineer our own salvation. Grace tells us we are completely dependent upon God. Grace is a wonderful thing, but grace forces us to admit that we are not all that we think we are, and that's a hard thing for most of us to accept. We hate grace for the same reason that many of us hate prayer, at least when it comes to the deep, spiritual prayers that Paul exampled for us in his letters, the kind of prayers that call on God not just to provide health and prosperity, but to use us and to change us and to chasten us and even to break us. We hate those kinds of prayers, because praying them requires us to admit that God is greater than us; that God's plans are greater than ours, even when they cause us to walk through the valley of the shadow of death; that we need God's help even to hold onto our faith. Much of the time, we have the kind of relationship to grace that Lot had, but God is calling us to be Abraham, leaning completely on God's grace in faith. To show you what I mean, I want us to take a look at Genesis, Chapter 13, today, and while you are turning there, I want to take this opportunity to explain why so many of these messages about grace have been taken from the Old Testament. You see, there's a common misunderstanding about the God of the Old Testament. Christians and non-believers alike often say that grace is a New Testament concept. But the God of the Old is the God of the New. Our God is unchanging in his character, from everlasting to everlasting. And so we should not be surprised to see that His grace, which was demonstrated so very clearly at the cross, where Jesus died to reconcile sinners to His Father, is the same grace God showed to His people, Israel, to the patriarchs of that nation, to Noah, and even to Adam and Eve. So let's see what we can learn about grace in this scene from the life of Abraham today, and perhaps you'll understand what I mean when I say that we tend to hate grace. We pick up this passage just as Abram, whom God would later rename Abraham, returns to the land of Canaan from Egypt, where he had gone to escape a famine. Genesis 13:1-4 NASB95 So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, he and his wife and all that belonged to him, and Lot with him. Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver and in gold. He went on his journeys from the Negev as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place of the altar which he had made there formerly; and there Abram called on the name of the LORD. So we have Abram and his family, including his nephew, Lot, returning from Egypt to the Negev, the southern wilderness area of the land of Canaan. And Moses writes here that Abram was a wealthy man, both in livestock and in precious metals. Abram's wealth here is a reflection of the blessing that God had promised him. By including this information, Moses, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, begins to set up the conflict that this chapter recounts, but he also wants us to remember God's promises to Abram back in chapter 12. Remember those promises? A nation, a blessing and a name. I recently heard the term "blessing" defined as adding value to someone's life, and I like that a lot. God had added value to Abram's life. Why? Solely because of His grace. And so we see Abram returning to the land God had promised to show him, the land of Canaan, and when he returned there, what did Abram do? "He called upon the name of the Lord." Remember that this means he proclaimed God's name. He was worshiping God and sharing the good news of God's grace in this land. Now, look at verses 5 and 6. Genesis 13:5-6 NASB95 Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. And the land could not sustain them while dwelling together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to remain together. What can we tell here about Abram's nephew, Lot? Right! He was also wealthy. Why was Lot so well off? Well, look back at God's promises to Abram in chapter 12. Genesis 12:2-3 NASB95 ... I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you...." Do you see that? Abram would be a blessing to others; he would add value to their lives. And those who blessed him would be blessed. So according to God's promise, Lot had been blessed by God because of Abram. We see this throughout the life of Abraham; those who blessed him were blessed. Does God keep His promises? But what we are about to see is that there is a conflict brewing between Abram's shepherds and Lot's shepherds. Look at the next two verses. Genesis 13:6-7 NASB95 And the land could not sustain them while dwelling together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to remain together. And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram's livestock and the herdsmen of Lot's livestock. Now the Canaanite and the Perizzite were dwelling then in the land. So there are Canaanites and Perizzites living in the land, and what was left for Abram and Lot was not fertile enough to feed all of their flocks, and their herdsmen were arguing. What we will see about Abram is that he valued his kinship to his nephew too much to let that strife turn them bitter toward one another. So, verse 8: Genesis 13:8-9 NASB95 So Abram said to Lot, "Please let there be no strife between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers. "Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me; if to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left." Now based on the geography here, many commentators believe that Abram and Lot were standing on a mountain and looking east, back across a valley and toward the Jordan River. So, going to the left would be going north, and going to the right would be going south. And so, what Abram was offering was that the two split Canaan, with one taking the northern portion and the other taking the southern portion. Remember that this was the land God had promised Abram, so Lot's uncle was making a gracious offer to share what God had graciously promised him. And as we have seen, Lot already had greatly benefitted from this grace. He had become a wealthy man through the blessings God had given Him simply by virtue of his association with Abram. But we tend to hate grace. We want to do everything ourselves. We want to be the ones who make our own salvation. And that's just what Lot is about to prove. Look at verse 10. Genesis 13:10-11 NASB95 Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere-this was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah-like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar. So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward. Thus they separated from each other. There's an echo here of what happened in the Garden of Eden, when Eve looked at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and "saw that the tree was good for food." Just as she had looked and seen things only on the surface, missing the curse that lay within, Lot had looked and seen a beautiful and well-watered valley and had missed the curse within it. Moses gives three clues for us here that Lot's choice is a bad one. First, the reference to Sodom and Gomorrah, which would have been the epitome of evil for the original Jewish readers. Second, the reference to the Garden of the Lord, where mankind had fallen into sin and where their perfect fellowship with God had been broken. And third, the reference to Egypt, the land from which God had rescued the people for whom Moses had written this account. We are to have no doubts that Lot chose foolishly. And as it relates to this message, the point is that Lot was looking for the place where HE could make a life. He was putting his faith in himself, rather than in the grace of God. As we will see, Abram made the opposite choice. And now, we see Lot head off to the east, into the land that he had chosen. In the book of Genesis, going east suggests moving away from God. Adam and Eve headed east from the Garden after they had sinned. Cain headed east to the land of Nod after he had killed his brother, Abel. When the descendants of Noah and his family began to move out into the world, they headed east, into the land of Shinar, where they settled in Babel and built a tower. So Lot's eastward journey, even though it looked to him like it was into the land of plenty, was a big mistake, and we see how that played out for him later in the Book of Genesis. Lot was off in search of karma. He had cast aside the grace that had made him wealthy and safe, and he was now willing to take his chances providing for himself. He had been saved by grace, but he could not imagine that grace was enough. This was the same problem that gripped the church in Galatia during Paul's time. They had been saved by grace, but there were those in the church who were telling these mostly Gentile believers that they could not be COMPLETELY saved if they did not follow the Law of Moses, especially the portions about circumcision and the keeping of feasts and observances. Paul wrote very forcefully to them to make the point about how they were damaging their relationship with Jesus by setting aside His grace for the Law that He had already fulfilled. Galatians 5:4 NASB95 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. Now, this didn't mean that they had lost their salvation. What it meant was that by stepping into the Law - by trying to do things to earn their salvation - they were stepping back from grace. By seeking to be justified by Law, they were saying God's grace was insufficient to save them. I once had a pastor whom we loved dearly who said that Christians should listen only to Christian music and that they should pray for an hour a day. There was one point during his ministry when he put up a Bible reading plan on the wall of the church with a place for people to write their names as they had finished each book of the Bible. The clear suggestion was that those whose names were on the wall were more righteous than those whose names were not there. Now, there is plenty of music that Christians should probably avoid. And Christians who read their Bibles tend to have a better understanding of who God is and what He desires for them than those who do not. And if you spend an hour a day in prayer, you're likely to be closer to God than if you do not. BUT, none of those things contributes one iota to your salvation. They should be the FRUIT of your salvation, but they will not make you one bit more righteous, because if you are a Christian, then your righteousness is the righteousness of Jesus Christ and His righteousness alone. We hate grace, because we want all those things to make God somehow indebted to us. The idea we so often have is that if we are good enough, then God somehow owes us something. If we're good enough, then we can somehow complete our own salvation. That's Lot-thinking. That's casting aside grace for karma, setting aside grace for Law. That's putting our faith in our own righteousness. And that's the opposite of grace. And so, what we see in this Genesis passage today is a picture of a man who has been saved by grace and then steps back from it to make his own life. It's instructive to know that the next time we hear of Lot in the Book of Genesis is when he has been taken prisoner in a war and must be rescued by his uncle, Abraham. And then the next time we see him again, he is in Sodom being rescued by the angels who would destroy that city. In his journey eastward, Lot stepped away from grace, and his life turned into a complete mess. But what about Abram? Verse 12 tells us, he "settled in the land of Canaan." Now the Hebrew word for Canaan means "lowland." And it comes from the Hebrew root "kanNAH" (pron.), and THAT reveals something very important about Abram. KanNAH means "to have to submit," or "to be humbled," or "to humble oneself." So, when Abram settles in the land of Canaan, he is settling in the lowlands, the place where he must humble himself. We hate grace, because in order to receive grace we must first humble ourselves. We must admit that we are utterly lost without it. Lot took the prime real estate, and he had faith that he would build a great life for himself there. Abram, on the other hand, humbled himself and took the lowland, having faith that God would graciously keep His promise to bless Him. Let's pick back up at verse 14. Genesis 13:14-17 NASB95 The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, "Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. "I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered. "Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you." Lot refused to put his full faith in the grace of God, and so he set out to improve himself apart from God's grace. He hated the thought of relying on God's grace. But Abram loved God's grace, and he put his complete faith in it, and God rewarded him greatly for it. God's promises in these verses expand on His promises in Chapter 12. Here, God promises Abram ALL the land that he could see - north, south, west, AND east. God promises Abram a descendant - not just an heir, but one from his own loins. God promises Abram a nation that could not be numbered. What had Abram done to deserve any of this? Nothing. It would all be by God's grace. Abram had learned to trust God's grace. Abram had learned to lean completely on God's grace. Abram had learned to love God's grace. Brothers and sisters, if you have followed Jesus Christ in faith that it is only by His sacrificial death and supernatural resurrection that you can be saved, do not step back from the grace by which you have been saved. Lean on that grace in every part of your life. Rest in the sufficiency of that grace in your good times and your bad times. KanNAH, humble yourself, before the Christ who is the author and perfecter of your faith and whose sacrifice on your behalf was to the praise of the glory of God's grace. The whole point of this series of messages on grace has been to give us a new perspective and a new understanding of grace, to draw us into a deep and abiding love of grace, to help us see the need to kanNAH, to humble ourselves, so that we might receive the full riches of God's grace. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then you have a choice today and every day: Will you be like Lot? Or will you be like Abram? Be like Abram. Learn to love grace. Take the road of humility, and God will add great value to your life. Page . Exported from Logos Bible Software, 1:56 AM August 23, 2020.