7 Implications of Grace

Grace is God’s love given to us though we don’t deserve it. It means we are loved by God though we haven’t earned- and can’t earn- that love. Though we are sinners and don’t deserve God’s love, he sent his son, Jesus, into the world to live the perfect life we couldn’t live, to die the death that we deserved and to overcome sin and death on our behalf in the resurrection. Instead of giving us hell as we deserve, he gave us the opportunity to know his grace and forgiveness and life.

One way to think of grace is to use the acronym of GRACE. It is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. We get the riches of God- forgiveness, heaven, adoption into God’s family- because Christ paid the penalty for our sins on the cross.

But what does it mean for us in the here and now? What are the results of this evidence of God’s love we call grace?

Note these 7 implications of grace

1. Holiness matters to God. If sin doesn’t really matter, neither does grace. We don’t need grace if sin doesn’t damage. But sin always damages. It kills, steals and destroys. We need to be saved from the death sin brings. But even after salvation, grace is our reminder of how damaging sin is. Holiness will always matter to God and should, therefore, always matter to those of us who follow him. Grace should lead us to holy living as we see the cost of sin.

2. God’s love is deeper than man’s. Our love tends to run shallow. We love when it convenient or when it matches our feelings or when it is returned in the manner we wish. But God loves perfectly. He loves, period. It isn’t based on a whim or because we can give him so much in return or due to our great goodness. Understanding grace can lead us to have the kind of love that lasts through good and bad; thick and thin.

3. We obey God out of grace, not for grace. If we don’t get grace because we are good, why be good at all? There is a stronger motivation for believers to obey God than earning God’s love. God’s love given to us freely becomes that greater motivation. We want to obey the Lord because we know how much he loves us. Knowing this love motivates us to obedience. Our motivation is not fear of not being loved, but a desire to please the one who has already proven the greatness of love for us.

4. We can love people who are hard to love. How in the world can we love cranky co-workers and grumpy relatives? Even more, how do we love those who have wronged us or hurt us or wounded us? God’s grace, given undeservedly to us, is the only means I know by which we can love and forgive those who don’t deserve it from us. And, when we do, it speaks volumes to this world which so seldom sees love like that.

5. We matter deeply to God. Grace is the evidence of our value to God. We have inherent value because we are created in God’s image. But that image is marred by our sin and disobedience. Yet God has given a demonstration that he loves us still. The cross is that demonstration. Calvary is that evidence. Never doubt that you matter to the Lord. Remember the proof of that love shown in spilled blood and a broken body.

6. We need to be saved, not just reformed. You will never be able to reform your way to perfection. Grace reminds us that we have no way to reach perfection because we are already broken sinners. But, grace teaches us that we can be reborn into a new life. Jesus paid our debt and we can be saved from the power of sin and hell. Jesus already did the work. Our response is to repent of our sins, place our faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection and receive him as our personal Savior and Lord. Have you truly done that?

7. God doesn’t give up on us. God doesn’t love you because you deserve it and he doesn’t stop loving you because you don’t deserve it. He doesn’t give up on you because of your missteps anymore than a mother gives up on her child after their first failing steps. No one wants you to succeed in life more than the Lord. No one wants you to grow into the person he intends you to be more than your Savior. Don’t give up on your future because God hasn’t.

Grace is an incredible truth. It is a supernatural truth. Learn from it and live it and grow in it.

Remember, God loves you!

Asking People to Do the Hard Things

One of the most important jobs of Christian leaders is to ask people to do the hard things they don’t want to do. We ask people to take the narrow, uphill road when it is easier to go down. We ask them to die to self when it is easier to live for self. We ask them to give, serve and sacrifice though none of those things come easily.

Following Jesus is not about taking the easy road. It is about doing the right thing even though that is often the more difficult thing. If we are asking people to follow Jesus, we are asking them to take the harder path.

There is a reason we ask people to do the hard things. Not only do we ask them to do it because it is right. But we also know it is in their best interest to do so. Continue reading

10 Suggestions for Young Preachers

Here are 10 suggestions I have for all young preachers. Some I learned from others (they are the good ones) and some I learned on my own or from the school of hard knocks.

1. Prioritize your devotional life. You ignore this one at your peril. You can get by for a while, I’m afraid, just on some ability and talent. But in the long run, preaching comes out of who you are and your own walk with Jesus. Read the Bible for yourself and not just for preaching. Spend time with Jesus in prayer, worship and his word. God wants you and not just your preaching.

2. Read the Bible through every year. Read for breadth and for depth. Get to know the Bible well. Study the details of a text for your sermon but don’t neglect to get to know the overall message of God’s word. Over time, reading the Bible annually allows you to see major themes, understand the relationship of the Old and New Testaments and know the Bible story in a way that nothing else can provide. It will provide clarity to your understanding, richness to your theological insights and familiarity with truth.

3. Watch some video of yourself preaching. It can be brutal to watch replays of your messages. We see quirky gestures, bobbled words and botched stories. But we must, if we are to improve, be honest about our sermons. Preaching is about communicating the truth. Are we failing to communicate well by distracting hand waves,  repeated usage of crutch words or never making eye contact with our audience? Learn to evaluate yourself rather than depending on spouse, friends or critics.

4. Preach out of love for God and people. Please remind yourself to preach for God’s pleasure rather than man’s. Remember to love those people in the congregation even though they are imperfect people just like the preacher. Beware angry preaching or reactionary preaching or depressed preaching. Be sure love is the motivation to do what you do. Love lost people, saved people, sweet people, sour people, people who love you back and those who don’t. Love God above all else.

5. Start your sermon preparation on Monday. Saturday night is a bad time to start the sermon and Sunday morning is even worse. Where possible, do at least a little sermon thinking on Monday and each day. Turning in my sermon notes by Thursday noon has been so good for me. Planning sermon texts and titles in advance is especially wise. (Though God can interrupt if he wants.)

6. Pray and get others to pray. Preaching matters so we should pray like it does. Ask God for direction in your planning. Ask him for clarity in your preparation. Ask for his power in your delivery. Prayer partners are wonderful. Ask some people to pray for you every day and especially before you preach.

7. Be the best version of you. Don’t be Billy Graham or any other preacher. Be you. Be the best version of you, but be you. God called you to preach your sermon. Learn from other preachers, of course, but be cautious about imitating them. Never plagiarize sermons. God wants this sermon to come out of your heart, mind and soul. God knows your weaknesses and abilities so be the best “you” you can be.

8. Learn to connect. Learn how to connect with people while preaching. Make eye contact rather than always looking down or over their heads. Tell some stories that grab their attention. Jesus told lots of stories. Connect with them before and after the message. Look them in the eye, shake their hand and laugh at their jokes. Listen to each but connect with as many as you can in those few moments before and after the sermon.

9. Preach with faith. God is big so preach like he is. He can do great things through you. That reality is more about God than about you. Believe he can use you. Believe he can use the sermon to changes lives. Trust him with everything and ask your hearers to trust him with everything.

10. Be passionate about preaching. Preaching is a God chosen method. Preaching isn’t your idea, but God’s. So bring some passion and some energy to this important task. Show some enthusiasm in your voice, mannerisms and words. Have more passion for preaching the eternal word of God than for hobbies, activities or politics. Preaching matters deeply so be passionate about doing it and, if God has called you to do it, pour yourself into it.

Preaching is a high and holy calling. Learn, study and improve. Preach with compassion, boldness and humility. But preach God’s word knowing that the One who called you did that for a reason. So preach it, preacher!

 

Kindness Doesn’t Sell

“Be kind and compassionate to one another.” Ephesians 4:32

If you want more hits on your social media site, kindness won’t work. If you want to get attention in modern society, kindness isn’t the way to go. Let’s face it, in our modern world, kindness just doesn’t sell very well.

Kindness may not be our culture’s way, but it certainly is God’s way. Here are reasons to choose to be kind in a world that doesn’t value it.

1. God tells us to be kind. Want to obey the Lord? You will have to be Continue reading

Passionate About the Right Things

Maybe you’ve seen it. The guy is passionate about his football team. When he talks about them, he gushes with praise or bleeds with pain. He is all in! But when it comes to the things of God? Well, a yawn seems to be the leading response.

Reading the book of Acts does not give one the impression that the early church considered Christianity boring. Quite the opposite! Those believers had a passion for the gospel that drove them to purposeful engagement, meaningful worship and great sacrifice. They witnessed everywhere they went. They urged lost people to come to the Lord. They willingly gave their time, energy and even their lives. They were all in!

Here are some thoughts on how Christians today can become more passionate about the right things.

1. Remember who Jesus is and what he has done for you. Nothing affects your passion for the Lord more than Continue reading

Random Thoughts on Preaching

Here are some of my random thoughts on preaching from my 34 years as a senior pastor.

1. Boring preaching is criminal. The most important and amazing message in history and you are going to make it sound boring? Jail time.

2. It is hard for preaching to be boring if the preacher is excited about the text.

3. The preacher’s devotional life affects his preaching. Maybe you can get away with it for a while, but neglect time alone with God and preaching will suffer in the long run.

4. You can’t separate who you are from the task of preaching.

5. Preachers who read a lot Continue reading

Preaching Tips for Pastors, part 2

What is your sermon about?

Years ago, while serving as a youth pastor, I got the opportunity to preach at my church on a Sunday morning. The day before the big event, I saw one of the teenagers in our church and he asked me what I was preaching on the next day. Five minutes later I was still talking to the poor student in an ill-fated attempt to explain the upcoming sermon!

I didn’t know much about preaching (should I use present tense instead of past tense here?), but I suddenly realized that I needed Continue reading