It's good to be here. Sabbath is always a special time, isn't it. It's good to come together with brothers and sisters wherever we're at. We have a lot of brothers and sister up in Toronto right now dealing with some major issues, and we need to be praying for them and praying that God's spirit will rule over them. I don't know if you are aware of it or not, but many of the denominations across North America, not just the Adventist denominations, but the Baptists, the Methodists, the Presbyterians and many other mainline denominations are having their world general conferences right now. A lot of issues are hitting the fan and we can be thankful that we're here many times.
As we begin together, let's ask the Lord to anoint us in our thinking, in our sharing together.
Our loving Father, as we open Your Word these few moments, we have come today to worship You. We have come today to hear Your voice speaking to our hearts. As we open Your word, may You spirit come and minister to and through me, and may You minister to everyone of us. May we hear the very voice of God to our hearts today. We thank you for hearing. We thank You for inviting. We thank You for loving us in these moment together, in Jesus name we pray, Amen.
I really owe you an apology. As I titled the sermon this week, I did not realize that "dancing" is a big discussion on the Adventist forum on the internet right now. I really did not have that picture in mind when I chose the title. I had another image or picture in my mind and we'll talk about that as we go along.
Let's open our Bibles to Titus 2. It's a fascinating text, one that I can remember years ago memorizing because in Titus 2:11-14 are some very profound, wonderful incites. And I really want us to focus on one word within this, and that is the word, "grace." But, let us read it together. It says, For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us... Grace teaches us? Grace in the context here, and really throughout the Bible, grace is much more than a doctrine. It's much more than a word and an intellectual concept. Grace is a reality. And let's watch it here. This verse, verse 12, teaches us to say "No'"to ungodliness and worldly... passions,,,Grace teaches us. It enables us, it helps us to say no to these things. And notice what else it does: and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, Grace is power. It is reality. Notice what else it says: while we wait (Are we waiting today? We're waiting for the blessed hope of the soon coming of Jesus? While we wait, this grace enables us to wait magnificently, powerfully, wonderfully. Notice what it says: while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
Is that you today? Are you pure and holy? Is God's grace permeating you, teaching you, transforming you? I want to talk about this idea of grace.
Now in the context, (I checked this out with Dr. Bennett. It's been so long since I took Greek it's not even rusty any more. It's gone. So I wanted to check it out with him because you can get a lot from the way the English is used. But different translations will translate it a little differently and give you a different meaning in it. What the translators are trying to do is squeeze the Greek for its meaning. And they're trying to put it in the larger context and make it say something. Now some of you have a translation that goes something like this: For the grace of God that brings salvation to all men has appeared. In other words, grace is emphasizing the salvation that has appeared. Do you see the difference there? What that emphasis is. The emphasis on the grace is talking about the Christ event on the cross, that specific event that God performed how many years ago? About two thousand.
So the emphasis on grace is historical. Back there, God did something that has saved all men. Is that true? Absolutely. And so many of your translations emphasize the cross as being the focus of the grace right there. I might add that not everyone has accepted God's grace or salvation.
God's grace that happened two thousand years ago, well the day, when Paul wrote this of course was not that long ago. God's grace happened there particularly focussed on Calvary brought salvation to all people. Now that's good news, isn't it. Wonderful news. And that's the cornerstone of the Christian doctrine.
But for many of us, we live in the past. We think God's grace happened there. But the other emphasis, that's a little more subtle in the text here. Because this is a perfect tense. When it talks about "has appeared." "Has appeared" in the Greek is emphasizing according to those who know Greek. "Has appeared in the past and continues to appear." God's grace is continuing to appear. And it is transforming people. It's teaching us to deny ungodliness. It's purifying, it's preparing us, it's enabling us to wait and to stay faithful to God every day. Both of those are right here. This is God's grace, showered down on Calvary, but it's being showered down on us today.
If what Paul is saying is true, then God's grace is here right now. So let me ask you this question: have you encountered God's grace today? What did it look like? What was it? What was the grace? is grace something that your senses can tell you about? Can you see God's grace? Now, the disciples could see the cross. Adam couldn't really see God's creating, but he could see the aftermath of it. Was creation God's grace? What did Adam do to deserve being created? What did he do to deserve the trees and the flowers and the birds and the bees and the butterflies and everything else God made? What did Adam do to deserve it? Nothing! What did you do today to deserve waking up?
To deserve, now maybe there are some of you, and I want to be sensitive here, because I know, I had a roommate in college who was color-blind. But what did God do give you the ability to see color? I mean, what did you do to deserve God giving you that ability?
The ability to hear, or see, or feel, or think, or relate, is all of this part of God's grace? Has God's grace appeared to you today? It is showering around us and I believe that His grace constantly flows into my life and all around me and the lives of others. And so often I get blinded by my own successes. I get blinded by my own failures. I get blinded by the problems and the difficulties and the trials and the challenges of doing life, that I no longer see the blessing. And so often what I find us doing, is like Adam and Eve. Remember, after they'd eaten the forbidden fruit and the presence of God came into the garden, what did they do? They ran and they hid in the shadows. If God would have not pursued them with His grace, where would we be today? Because they did not deserve God coming, did they? They didn't deserve God pursuing, did they? They didn't deserve God pulling them out of the shadows and say, "Come into the light."
And let me tell you about plan B. The whole Old Testament is really a tracing of God's development of plan B: the Messiah. Look at the lineage, look at the genealogy, look at all the stories there. It's not all God did in the world. It's only what God did to preserve a lineage for the Messiah that would come. And that's why Jesus says, "When you search the Scriptures" (John 5:39), you're talking about the Old Testament. "You think in them you have eternal life, they're only a testimony of Me." Everything in the Old Testament points to the Messiah that will come. The New Testament says, "He has come!" Wonderful day, joyful day.
You and I have to rely on that recorded historical reality called, The Bible. We have to choose to believe those people, that they were telling us the truth, and part of the testimony that they're telling the truth is that almost every one of them put their life on the line for it. Few people would put their life on the line for a lie that they knew was a lie. Who would die for a lie? Well, there are probably a few people who are twisted enough to do that. But here we have a lot of people who died for what they saw. So we're basing our faith on their testimony, and our own experience of the reality of God in our lives.
Is God real in your life today? Is His grace flowing in your life today? I want to challenge you to open your eyes. I need to, asking myself, "What does God's grace look like today? What does it look like so far? What does it smell like? I'm tuning myself in, you see, God made me a whole being. I know within our church, within our denomination, and particularly around our educational institutions, we really emphasize the intellectual. And that's good. We need that. Goad gave us a brain to use, right? But did God not also give us emotions? Did God not make us a whole person? We need to be tuned in to the reality of God, His reality and His love and His action for us.
Do you realize that today, right now, our Father God has a passion for you, that He loves you with all His heart. And what probably causes Him more pain than the evil of the world is the paralysis of the church. Our distractedness from His love. You can tell people that know they are loved by God because of their facial muscles. When you are loved, doesn't it make a difference? When you know you're loved.
Now I've got three teenagers, so I'm at least triple humbled. But, being loved and knowing you're loved can be different. Sometimes I have to convince my kids that I love them because it doesn't seem like it for the moment. Do you know what I mean? Some of you I know, it's been so long since you've been a teenager and you've probably forgotten, but we struggle with that. Kids struggle growing up. And one of the most important lessons they can learn is that they are loved, unconditionally. Isn't that right?
The story of the prodigal son tells us nothing else. It ells is that the daddy loved the boy in the pig trough. He didn't agree with his behavior, but he didn't force him to stay home. When the boy walked off, did the daddy's love quit? When the boy came back did the daddy's love begin again? It was there all the time. The boy, in the pig trough, finally woke up to his senses. It says he came to his senses. He remembered his daddy's love and he went back where he could experience it. That was the difference.
The tragedy of the story is that the boy that stayed home all the time, still loved by his daddy, never tuned in to his daddy's love. One boy came out of a pig trough. The other boy never made it too. One boy came to his senses. One boy didn't.
Our Daddy loves us with all of His heart. His grace is constantly being showered onto us. Now this is the definition. On the way back from Knoxville yesterday, my son was driving and you know that I was praying because he was driving. This is the definition I wrote down. What is grace? What is it? It has to be more than the definition: unmerited favor. What is that? What is the hands-on definition of grace? This is what I wrote down: Ultimately, grace is God's love demonstrated to the world, in the real world. And when you and I experience it, according to our text, we are transformed. God's grace teaches us. It was clearly demonstrated on the cross, but it is being showered into your life and mine every day. The same God who clearly unveiled His love at Calvary, is still unmasking his love in our lives every day. Is that true? I want to open my eyes to it. I want to open my heart to it. I want to tune in to God's love for me now. That's what will transform me. And what will transform the world is not twenty-seven doctrines. It's the reality of the real, living, loving God. And that's what every one of the twenty-seven fundamental beliefs should be telling us about. They ought to be individual windows into the reality of who God is and what He is doing in your life and mine. When we get on fire with the reality of who God is in our lives we will have something to share that the world is dying to hear.
Let me share with you a couple texts here. Romans 5:8 and then verse 5. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: Does God love us? It says, While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Christ died for us, you and me. God's love was most clearly demonstrated on the cross. Jesus died for me even before I was a twinkle in my grandaddy's eye. God demonstrated His love long ago for Bobby (the speaker). He loves me that much. And until I personalize it, I haven't captured that idea of His love. But notice verse five: And hope does not disappoint us , because God has poured and continues to pour out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us and continues to give to us. He demonstrated it on the cross, and He continually pours it out through the Holy Spirit.
Do you have the Holy Spirit today? You do if you have accepted Jesus as your Savior (Ephesians 1:13). God has given you the Holy Spirit. I wrestled with that for years. I went on fasts and I went on sabbaticals and I plead with God for the Holy Spirit. Finally the Lord told me in His quiet way, you know, "Bob, how can I give you what I've already given you? You're looking for some ecstatic thing to happen. You already have my gift. Now, please accept it. Enjoy it. And grow with it." "Oh! Okay. That's a good thing to do."
Romans 5. We have God's love. It was demonstrated at the cross. No question about it. The most graphic demonstration. But that's not place that God's love has been demonstrated. It's constantly being demonstrated in your life.
Some of you get up in time to see the sunrise. You have some magnificent sunrises around here. On the road between Ooltewah and Cleveland, when you come up over that hill there and down on just the other side, (I know why they call them "smokies" now.) there's all this fog laying in the valleys there and these little islands of hills sticking up. The other morning, driving down there, the sun came up and there was enough fog that the sun was just glowing red, and all these little islands sticking up out of the fog. You know the fog looks like smoke. Out west they're having a lot of smoke (from forest fires). This is fog. I prefer the fog. It was gorgeous! And I thought to myself, If an artist had painted a picture like that, we'd have thought he painted something that just doesn't exist. He's just kind of making it up in his mind. It was beautiful. Gorgeous. The master Artist at work. I can look at that and walk away, or I can see God's love being demonstrated for me.
And whether I ever saw it or not, He's still pouring out His love. And these cardinals out here sing whether I hear them or not. They just relish in God's love.
This week, Wednesday night there was this thunder and lightning show, you remember? In our home, up on a little hill, one of those bolts of lightning came radically close to our house. It hit and blew out the ground wire and blew up one of the power lines in the house and started a fire inside the wall. It just so happened that the fire heated up a nail in a stud. That nail was resting against a copper water pipe. This nail heated up and created a little hole in the copper pipe. That just happened to put out the fire. After the fire was out it kept putting water out so we had to turn the water off and fix that. But I thought, God's protective grace. His amazing grace.
Let me share with you a picture. Zephaniah is one of those minor prophets on the Old Testament. Really what I want to do this morning is to change your view of your life and of your God. God delights in you, my friend. He doesn't delight in your sin. He doesn't delight in your rebellion. He doesn't delight in some of the things we do. But He does delight in You. Listen to this portrayal of our Father God, dancing with delight with you His child. This would be a good promise to memorize if you're looking for things to stimulate and strengthen your own Christian walk. There are not many things that will help you more than memorizing powerful promises that touch your life. Zephaniah 3:17. The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. Is your problem bigger than God? You difficulties, your indebtedness, your what-ever-you're-struggling-with-right- now, is it bigger than God? I don't think so. But notice what it says here. The Lord you God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing. Do you ever think of your Father God being so elated with love for you that He sings? He's the creator of music, you know.
Now, this is really the picture that I had in mind when I thought of the title, "Dancing with Grace." Remember when you children were little? You would put them, even before they could walk, one foot on your foot and their other foot on your other foot. You would hold their little hands and you would walk around. You'd take little steps because their feet can't stretch like yours. And you'd walk around the house and they would giggle with glee and be delighted. Those children were not worried about how much food was in the cupboard. They weren't worried about where next month's rent was coming from. They weren't worried about anything. They were delighted with the reality that daddy was dancing with them. Now, we would never have used the word, "dancing", I know that. We were helping them to walk, or fifty years ago, marching was in. That was the Adventist form of it. But here we are, dancing with delight.
Now, suppose that the father is doing this with the child, and the child is always looking around. His attention is engrossed with other things. The father is still dancing with the child. But the child is not enjoying the dance. The child is not focussed, he's distracted. He's doing other things. He's thinking of other things. The daddy doesn't stop dancing, he doesn't stop loving, but there's a little less delight. All I'm suggesting is: it will bring great delight to our Father God and greater delight to us when we enjoy the dance of grace.
His grace is constantly being poured out upon us. Everywhere, every day. Open your eyes like Elisha's servant. Let us see the salvation of our God every day. Not just at Calvary. And I'm not putting Calvary dow; that's the cornerstone of our faith, that's the clearest demonstration of it. But it is not only historical, it's reality now. And we have the privilege of living in His grace, enjoying and drinking it in, and dancing with our Father God , who has great delight in us.
So look at your life, not as an endurance contest, not in getting through the gauntlet until Jesus comes and I've got to stay right, but as a delight. Our Father God is delighted with us. He wants us to be delighted in Him.
Hymn of Praise: #100, Great is Thy Faithfulness Scripture: Titus 2:1-4 Hymn of Response: #508, Anywhere With Jesus Transposed from audio tape.
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last updated 7/6/2000 by Bob Beckett.