I was driving to the church this morning between 7:15 and 7:30 and admiring that sunrise. Wasn't it great? I thought, “This is a super Sabbath.” And tomorrow is a Super Bowl, and Tuesday is super Tuesday, and I want to preach to you about God’s super grace today. Because it's great, and it's awesome.
When I was a boy I went to Indiana Academy. And the tuition was very expensive, and so my mother and Shirley Boyles and Terry and Mary Lou all got a job at in Upland, Indiana and my mother's wages went to pay for my tuition at Indiana Academy. I worked in the summer, all summer long, at the farm bailing hay and candling eggs and so forth. Worked in the fall in the wood shop to pay that tuition. The tuition had to be earned. It was $35 a month. This was way back in the 1800s, you know? All my life, if I needed money, it had to be earned by somebody. Isn't that the way it is with you? Nobody was just standing there every week to give me a check. Things didn't come that way. Earning my way has been a lifelong habit. And that's why salvation is hard to understand, because salvation is un-earnable. You can't earn it. It's already been earned. By Somebody else. And it's a gift. And we cannot accept that. It's not a payment for my obedience, you see? Seventh-day Adventists traditionally believe in general Arminianism, as compared to Calvinism. You're aware of all that. Calvinism believes that salvation is for the absolute, elite elect. In fact, Jehovah’s Witnesses lean that way too. Did you know that most Jehovah's Witnesses do not think that they will ever attain heaven? They won't be there. They think that heaven is reserved just for the hundred and 44,000 who are absolutely perfect. Actually, only the inhabitants of the universe are absolutely perfect. They're the only ones that have never sinned. We've all sinned and fallen short. They're the ones that have never experienced sin.
I’d like for you to come to Revelation, chapter 4 in your Bible. John describes a perfect, holy, powerful God. Now I want you to imagine that you are standing there near him. You’re in the presence of this holy being, and look at Revelation chapter 4, verse 3. "The One who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow resembling an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were 24 other thrones and seated on them were 24 elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads, and from the throne came flashes of lightning and rumblings and peels of thunder." Just imagine standing there in front of this Holy Being. He’s 10 times brighter than the sun, and you're standing there. He’s holy. He's absolutely perfect. And imagine telling this Holy Being about your tithe, “I paid tithe. I should be here. I was good.” Those things don't amount to a hill of beans. Look back here in Isaiah. Look at Isaiah chapter 6, and verse 1 and 2 and 3, and so forth. Isaiah chapter 6, in your Bible, beginning with verse 1. "In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of His robe filled the temple." What a train. Verse 2. "Above Him were Seraphim's, each with six wings." Verse 3. "They were calling to one another, holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty. The whole earth is full of His glory. At the sound of their voices, the doorposts of the threshold shook. The temple was filled with smoke." And what did Isaiah say? "Woe is me, I’m ruined." He didn't say, "Lord, I studied my lesson seven times every week, and I read The Review." That stuff doesn't amount to anything. There's nothing that we can do to earn our salvation. God is so holy, He is so perfect, and we are nothing, we’re ruined. Isaiah says. "I’m a man of unclean lips. I live among a people of unclean lips. Mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty." Our best efforts are about as good as filthy rags. Filthy rags.
You know, I’ve preached almost 2000 sermons right here in this pulpit. Can I go to heaven and say, "Lord, I preached 2000 sermons. You can let me in. I'm okay.” Would that do it? All my good deeds are nothing but a little pile of smelly, filthy rags. In God's sight. Compared to Him. Right? At my best, I'm a lowly sinner. Look at Romans chapter 5 and verse 8. The Gospel is the good news. That's what the word gospel means, and here in Romans, chapter 5 and verse 8, it says, "Christ died for us while we were," what? "While we were still sinners." And Ephesians 2, verse 5, "By grace you have been saved." It almost sounds too easy to be saved. The only means of being made right with God is God's grace. And grace can't be earned. You can’t purchase it. It's not for sale. You can’t earn salvation by keeping the law. Or by any amount of good works. All we can do is come with faith and except it and stay surrendered to God's will. That's about all we can do. Every day. None of us deserve grace, and how dare we even think that there's anything that we could ever do which would secure it for ourselves. Any good I can ever do is not from me anyway. The good that I do isn't from me. It's Jesus in me, doing it. ‘Cause I can do no good. My works amount to nothing.
The one thing that sets Christianity apart from almost all the other religions in the entire world is our teaching of salvation by grace, through faith, apart from works. There's a newspaper in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Grand Rapids Press. And it had this headline. Conversion to the Hindu faith is torturous. And the article stated, a West German businessman has completed his conversion to the Hindu faith by piercing himself through the cheeks with a 4 foot long, quarter inch diameter, steel rod and then he pulled a chariot 2 miles by ropes attached to his back by steel hooks. And this goes on and on and what people do. What a contrast to Jesus’ method of salvation. You know, Jesus’ method of salvation is grace. And so, you might ask, “Well, why are there so many more heathens than Christians?” There's millions and millions more heathens in the world, it seems like. People that try to earn their way to heaven. Why would that be? Because, in the Bible, you just have to accept Jesus. John 3:16. So why wouldn't there be more Christians. Why wouldn't heathenism die out? It's so hard. The reason is because people want to do something. They want to do something special, some special act in order to be saved. And actually, we’re not saved by our suffering. We're saved by Jesus’ suffering. We’re not saved by hooks. We're saved by Jesus, and the old rugged cross. Nobody can save themselves.
First Timothy, chapter 2, verse 5, makes a statement that even some Seventh-day Adventists don't believe this statement. First Timothy, chapter 2, and verse 5. It says, "No other name can save us." There is one God, one Mediator, Jesus Christ. That's the only Person that can save us. "There is no other name given among men whereby we must be saved." And we don't believe that statement, very well. Well, if I were to say now, do you believe that Mohammad can save you, you'd say no. Can Confucius save?. No. Can Buddha save? No. But, you think, “I can save myself.” Your name is no good in there, either. There's no name, other than Jesus. Not even your name. You can’t save yourself. It's just impossible. So stop trying. No work that you could ever do will save you, because Jesus is the only Savior. To be saved, we must accept Jesus as our Savior, give our life to Him, and love Him, and we’re saved. Jesus wants us to be saved.
A man got off the train in Pennsylvania as a tramp. For years he had begged on the streets for a living, and one day, he tapped a man on the shoulder, and said, "Mr., how about a quarter," similar to blind Bartimaeus. “How about a quarter.” The man turned around and the beggar looked at the man and it was his own father. His own dad. And his dad said, "Son, is that you?" And they embraced each other. The father said, “You know, I've been looking for you for years. You want a quarter. I've been looking for you to give you everything I've got. It's yours, because I love you. You're my son." And that's how we’re saved. Salvation is a very, very expensive gift, and we become rich by coming to the Father. All you have to do is come, and embrace your Father. Fall in love with Him. We're saved by grace. Grace is everything, for nothing. To somebody who deserves nothing. Ephesians chapter 2:8. "We have been saved by grace, through faith." Verse 8. You and I have already been saved.
There was a young man that came to an evangelist, and he said, "What do I have to do to be saved?" And the evangelist said, "You're too late." And the young man was very upset. He promised to do anything. And the man said, "You're too late. Your salvation was secured hundreds and hundreds of years ago on the cross. There's nothing you can do, to save yourself. Just receive Christ as your Savior. And then Jesus Who is up in heaven will accept you, and you will be saved, through His merits, and His works." You know, you can’t add anything to what happened on the cross. You just can't do it.
One time, my wife and I were invited out by some friends. They said, “We want to take you all to a Chinese restaurant. Do you like chop suey and that type of stuff?” Well we went to this Chinese restaurant and had a lovely meal and it came time for the bill and the bill was given to the man of this couple that invited us and he paid for the entire meal and even wrote on there and covered the tip. There was nothing we could do except just thank them, and you know, we couldn't, "Well let us pay the tip." He covered it all. And that's about how it is with salvation. All we could do was thank them. And all you can do with Jesus is just accept it, enjoy it, and thank Him for it and live a life of response to Jesus for that. We contribute exactly zero to our salvation.
Look at Romans Chapter 4, and verse 5. It says, "However, to the man who does not work." What do you have to do? "To the man who does not work, but trusts God, Who justifies the wicked. His faith is credited as," what? "Righteousness." And it's just as well that a person can’t save themselves anyway, because if we could earn heaven by some works that we do, when you get to heaven you'd hear a lot of bragging. “Well, I did this.” There's not going to be any bragging in heaven. We’re all there courtesy of Jesus Christ. God gives it to His best friends. And you know, God has never been in debt. God has no creditors. He doesn't owe us something for something that we have done. There are no works of ours that God has to pay off. God has no liabilities that He owes. Look at Romans, chapter 4 and verse 3. "Abraham." Abraham did what? "Believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness." What did Abraham do to get that righteousness? He believed God. That's what you have to do. Trust, believe, have faith in God.
I want to read you something out of the Bible Commentary, volume 6, page 1073. And remember what we just read in Romans chapter 4 and verse 3. "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Now this says, “Righteousness is obedience to the law.” Do those two statements agree. Righteousness is obedience to the law. And we could say, "Well, huh! I don’t-- something's wrong here." Well let's just keep reading. Let's give this a chance here. "Righteousness is obedience to the law, but the sinner is incapable of rendering it." You think, “Well I'm not going to be saved until my character perfectly reflects the character of Jesus.” Well you ought to read all that statement too, but what this says, the sinner is incapable of rendering it. “The only way,” and I'm still quoting, "the only way in which he," the sinner, "can attain to righteousness is through faith.” By faith. And then it continues on. "The Lord places the obedience of his son to the sinner’s account." So righteousness is obedience to the law, not by you, but by Jesus. Jesus perfectly obeyed. He did what we can’t do, and Christ's righteousness is accepted in the place of man's failure and God treats him as though he were righteous and loves him as He loves His own son. When He looks at you He sees Jesus, and that's how faith is accounted as righteousness.
You see, Jesus’ contribution is to freely deposit to my spiritual bank account His perfect obedience. And then it becomes mine. And my contribution is to do what? I give Him my love and I give Him my sins. My little pile of dirty, filthy rags. I give that to Jesus. That's my contribution, and that's really all we have to offer is our love and our sins. We can give them to Jesus, and the only thing that we can do is accept Him and stay connected to Him. Stay there. Stay in His presence. Through prayer, through Bible study, stay connected. The connection produces the fruit. We’re always worried about fruit. Worry about the connection. You see?
An apple tree was bearing its first apple. You know, you plant an apple tree, and after about three years you get the first apple. Will this tree had one apple on it. This little tree. And Jack's mother warned him, "You be careful out there playing ball. Guard that apple. We want to eat that apple. The first apple." Well, one day, it happened. He was playing ball, and wouldn't you know it, the ball went toward the apple tree, and hit the apple. It was a big apple. Just beginning to turn away from green, and turn toward red. And it knocked the apple right off the tree. And it fell to the ground with a thud. And Jack was horror stricken. He ran inside, and grabbed his mother’s sewing basket and grabbed some thread and ran out there and tied the apple onto the twig again. It was reconnected. Well, each day, Jack's mother relished the thought of soon they were going to eat that apple, you know. And kind of make something nice out of it, and it would be turning red, and she would look at it occasionally. And it was still green. And it didn’t look healthy at all. And one day, she went up to the tree for a closer look, and she discovered the truth. It was not connected to the tree. It had no life-giving connection.
And you know, you could be sitting right here in this church, hanging on by a thread. But unless you're connected to Jesus, that pew isn't going to save you. You've got to be connected to Jesus. Am I preaching correctly here? Pew sitting doesn't save. Connections with Jesus save. Our part in the salvation is to accept Jesus as our Savior, and stay connected to Jesus. Accept and connect. That's pretty clear. Don't worry about the fruit. We’re always worried about fruit. I think so often we are fruit inspectors, or something. I don't know. You could produce a semi-load, a tractor-trailer load of fruit every hour and that will not get you into Heaven. Fruit doesn't save you. You are the branch. And your job is to stay connected to the Tree. And the fruit’ll come. You just daily surrender to Jesus Christ.
I don't know about you, but I find that my Christianity has a very short shelf life. It does. I’ve got to rejuvenate it every morning. Every morning it's got to be renewed. Jesus is the Tree. I make sure of my connection. First John 5, verse 12. "He who has the Son, has," what? "Life." If you have Jesus, you have life. I must make sure every morning I'm connected. Galatians 2:16. "Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith." That's how we’re saved.
I want to read you another statement here. This comes from a book, Selected Messages, and it says here, "We must not think that our own grace and merits will save us. The grace of Christ is our only hope of salvation." And then down here at the bottom of the page. "My brethren, are you expecting that your merit will recommend you to the favor of God? Thinking that you must be free from sin?" Now listen to this. "That you must be free from sin before you trust His power to save you? If so, I fear that you will finally become discouraged. You will never be free from that." According to this.
We need to think about this. We think that we’re saved by our name, by our deeds. We're not. We’re saved by Jesus and His deeds. I want to become like Jesus. Oh, don't get me wrong on that. I want to be as perfect as I can be, but that has nothing to do with securing my salvation.
In London, a businessman named Lindsay Craig was selling a warehouse. And the building had been empty for months and months, and needed repair. In fact, vandals had broken in and glass was broken, windows were out, rubble was all over the place. Finally a prospective buyer came along and he walked him through, and he said, “Now, don't worry about this. I'm going to clean all this. I will replace the windows. I will take care of all the rubble. I'll clean it all out. I will even correct any structural damage that has been done here.” The buyer said, "Forget the repairs. When I buy this place, I'm going to build something completely new. I'm going to tear this down. All I want is the site. I don't want the building."
Let's not be too proud of our little shack here. We've got a rundown old shack, okay? It'll never compare to the structure that God has in mind to make for us. It's about as meaningless and trivial as sweeping out an old warehouse. God wants the site. He doesn't want the building. God wants to make you a brand-new person. He does not want to remodel you. He wants to make you new. He wants the site, so stop your efforts to clean up and reform the old building. God wants a brand-new person. In fact, Jesus says, "I will give you a new heart." He doesn't want to work on your heart valves. He doesn't want to give you a bypass. He wants to give you a brand-new heart. A brand-new life. He wants the site. Give Him the property, and then He can do the building. He will produce the fruit. He will produce the product. And He will give you a new heart, and you will be reborn, and that's what Christianity is all about.
Second Corinthians 5:17. "If any man be in Christ, he is a remodeled creature." Is that what it says? "He is a new creature." So what do you have to do? You have to be in Christ. And what does it cost you? Nothing. Meritorious works are of no account. Anybody who will walk on the streets of gold will walk there courtesy of Jesus Christ. He is our Savior. Don Gettys is not my savior.
Grace is not a law enforcing judge sitting on his bench administering the exacting law. That's justice. Grace isn’t even mercy. Mercy is that same judge feeling the pain of my guilt, understanding my problems, and giving me the lightest sentence possible. That's mercy. Grace is way beyond that. Grace is that same judge standing up from his big desk and removing his robes of his stately office and coming down to where I am and replacing the covering that I have with his beautiful robes, forgiving me completely, taking out his checkbook and paying the debt that I could never, ever pay in a lifetime of working, and then taking me outside to his personal automobile and driving me to his house, introducing me to his family, and saying, “Meet the newest family member.” That's grace. And what is my response? To love Him forevermore. And in loving somebody you become like them. I have far more works now than I ever had when I was trying to earn my way and be my own savior.
Focus on God's great grace. We’re not saved by steel hooks in our backs. We’re not saved by earning our tuition. We’re saved by Jesus. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. And stay connected to Jesus Christ. And give Him a building permit in your life. So that He can come in, and build you into a brand-new person, in Jesus Christ.
Let's sing our closing hymn, number 111. It takes a miracle.
Hymn of Praise: #6 O Worship The Lord Scripture: Ephesians 2:4-10 Hymn of Response: #111, It Took A Miracle
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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 2/8/08