On the Plains of Moab Blog
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September 25, 2012, 2:24 PM

Sermon Replay

I am making the text of last Sunday's sermon available on the blog today.  I think it is important that this be placed front and center so that we know what kind of church we are, or at least aspire to be!  We live in a world that demands that we tow the cultural line.  But, as Christians, we do have a different standard.  Now, this message that I post today is a reminder of how we live out God's Truth.  In our desire to be biblical, we sometimes forget the things that I touched upon Sunday.


September 23, 2012.  The State of the Church, Part I  "Can't Be Good; Be Good Anyway."  Romans 12:9-21

I came across a rather provocative blog post from Southern Baptist pastor and author Thom Rainer the other day.  The title of the post was "Seven Common Comments Non-Christians Make About Christians."  Let me share two of them with you right now:

#1  Christians are against more things than they are for.  "It just seems to me that Christians are mad at the world and mad at each other.  They are so negative that they seem unhappy.  I have no desire to be like them and stay upset all the time."

#4  I don't see much difference in the way Christians live compared to others.  "I really can't tell what a Christian believes because he doesn't seem much different than other people I know.  The only exception would be Mormons.  They really seem to take their beliefs seriously."

There seems to be a radical disconnect between what Christians say they believe and how they actually behave.  Christians love the saying, "I'm just a sinner saved by grace."  "But by the grace of God, there go I."  "I'm not perfect; just forgiven."

Now, from a Presbyterian and Reformed perspective, we are much more sophisticated in our excuses.  You see, we take our theology very seriously.  We recognize that salvation is by grace and grace alone.  We know by heart Isaiah's famous words, All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment. (Isa. 64:6 NAU).  We love Paul's use of the Psalms when he says, "There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one." (Rom. 3:10-12 NAU).  We also know well these other important words, For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it .is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:8-9 ESV).

Now, there you have it.  A primer on a Reformed understanding of salvation and life.  You can't earn your salvation.  No amount of good works will ever buy you a place in heaven.  That is called works righteousness, and that just won't cut it with God.

And the truth is, ...that is the truth.  You can't be good enough to earn your salvation.  That's the whole purpose of Jesus coming in the first place:  To offer his perfect life for your sin-stained life by dying for you so that you might be reconciled with God.

But, what I want to suggest to you today is, the Bible also teaches:  But be good anyway!  That passage from Ephesians that I just quoted was quoted halfway, For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:8-10 ESV).

Take a look again at our text from Romans 12 this morning.  Let love be genuine.  Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.  Love one another with brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor....Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them....Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all....Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom 12:9-10, 14, 17-18, 21 ESV).

I could add a whole lot to those thoughts.  We could talk about the greatest commandment and the second one like it -- love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.  We could go to the Sermon on the Mount.  We could talk about the fruit of the Spirit.  We could go to the book of James and re-learn that faith apart from works is dead.  And on and on.  The Bible really does teach you can't be good; but be good anyway!

Next week, I plan to preach on what we believe.  I'm going to talk about some of the essential things that the Christian Church has held to tightly for some 2,000 years, passing it on faithfully from generation to generation.  But, I thought it important to set that sermon up with a reaffirmation of what Christians with the truth should look like.  And, I want to commend some thoughts to you for reflection this morning that I do not want you to ever forget, no matter what we go through together.

Based on what we read in the Scriptures about the love and grace of God in Jesus Christ, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, these are four non-negotiable marks of New Hope Presbyterian Church:

1.  The doors to this church will always be open to anybody and everybody.  No matter where they are in life; their economic status; their race, color, creed, living arrangements or sexual preferences.  We are called to proclaim the good news of the Gospel; and every man, woman and child should have the opportunity to hear of the transforming, life changing message of Jesus Christ.

2.  This church, along with every other church professing Jesus Christ, will seek to model for our community -- and anyone who walks through these doors, grace and compassion and forgiveness.  We have been given much, and we need to give no less.

3.  This church will, by God's grace, strive to maintain a balance between cherishing the Faith once delivered and living out godly behavior.  That is to say, we will both love God with all that we are, and we will love our neighbor just as much as we love our own skins.

4.  This church's prayer for itself will always and ever be that we do [our] best to present [ourselves] to God as [a people] approved...worker[s] who [have] no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Tim. 2:15 ESV).  And we will never be ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.... (Rom 1:16 ESV).

You can't be good; but be good anyway.

You have heard the Word of God; and now I ask that you consider it so very well.   Amen.


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