Today we will be honoring our graduates. On May 9, Patten University graduated 22 students. This coming Wednesday, PACE will celebrate and honor students who are going from Kindergarten to First Grade; from Middle School to High School; and from High School to College, and then on to Life! Likewise, we have many students who are promoting within the Sunday School and Children’s Ministries as well.
This time of year will often remind us that our lives are characterized as journeys. Theologian Alister McGrath states, “The image of journey reminds us that we are going somewhere…[and] traveling does more than lead us to the goal of our journeying. A journey is itself a process that enables us to grow and develop as we press on to our goal.” The imagery is powerful because it instills within us an understanding that we are traveling both “FROM…and TO.” We are leaving some things, some places, and even some people; and moving forward toward somewhere new, and in this process, we ourselves are changing, learning, growing, and progressing.
Graduation is a marker for many of our young people on that journey. It is the celebration of accomplishment. It is the appreciation that others have invested their “todays” for their children’s “tomorrows.” Further, it is a point of embarkation as they leave the safety of the familiar to embrace the uncertainty of the adventure.
Christianity itself is a journey from SELF to CHRIST; from Self-Interest to Christ-Interest. The Joy of Heaven is the full apprehension of God, whereas the Joy of Earth is the full pursuit of Him! It is in this journey that we begin to find fulfillment and meaning for our lives; not in the self-absorption for which our society so callously panders, but rather in pursuing the purpose and mission for which we were created.
One of the beautiful aspects of our journey is that although we walk an individual path, we are not alone. Throughout our lives, the Lord is with us and He uses the willing gifts of Parents, Grandparents, Family, Friends, Teachers, Administrators, Pastors, Sunday School workers, Mentors, and many others who are unseen and unknown, who invest in our life. Who believe in us and what we can become.
Others have loved us. Others have deemed us valuable and important. Others have said, “Your life counts to me.” Others have invested a part of themselves and their future in us.
What the Lord wants from each of us is to go and do likewise!
Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV84 - For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:10 NLT - For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus...
In the first half of his letter to the Ephesian Church, the Apostle Paul outlines his Theology of Redemption, and the mysterious role the church has taken in the course of human history. In the last half of the letter, he demonstrates the practical application of his theological position. True Christianity is always right theology (what we believe) expressed through a worshipful lifestyle (how we live) that represents the activity of God in the Earth.
Grace is not simply the kindness of God to overlook and forget our sinfulness and transgressions. Grace is the capacity of God to transform the Sinner, and make him or her the very righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, Christianity is not simply a philosophy, doctrinal adherence, or creedal understanding. Christianity is a personal encounter with the Living God that changes a person’s life for now and eternity.
This is why The Word of God tells us that we are “God’s Workmanship;” that we are His “Masterpiece;” His “Work of Art.” We are NOT a Cosmic Accident or a Biological Mishap, but we are a marvelous and intentional creation by a loving and personal God.
Psalm 139:13-14 NIV78 - For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
This makes us unique, special, and even, wonderful…because someone took the time, care, and energy that were necessary to form, and transform, our lives. Therefore, we are created “to do good works” in order demonstrate the beauty and glory of the Artist who created us, that our lives will show forth the splendor of our Creator and Redeemer.
The following is a brief story from Syndicated Columnist Erma Bombeck. Although she passed away in 1996, some of you may remember her. She was a witty and gifted writer. The following was her Mother’s Day column for May 12, 1974. Now, this little story is not necessarily “Theologically Correct,” but its message is… :-)
When God Created Mothers
When the Good Lord was creating mothers, He was into his sixth day of “overtime” when an angel appeared and said, “You’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one.” And the Lord said, “Have you read the specs on this order?
“Lord,” said the angel, touching His sleeve gently, “Go to bed. Tomorrow...” “I can’t,” said the Lord, “I’m so close to creating something so close to myself. Already I have one who heals herself when she is sick... can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger... and can get a nine-year-old to stand under a shower.”
The angel circled the model of a mother very slowly. “It’s too soft,” she sighed. “But she’s tough!” said the Lord excitedly. “You cannot imagine what this mother can do or endure.” “Can it think?” “Not only can it think, but she can reason and compromise,” said the Creator.
Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek. “There’s a leak,” she pronounced. “I told you that you were trying to put too much into this model.”
“It’s not a leak,” said the Lord. “It’s a tear.”
“What’s it for?”
“It’s for joy, sadness, disappointment, pain, loneliness, and pride.”
“You are a genius,” said the angel.
The Lord looked somber. “I didn’t put it there,” He said.
It is that unique tear, that unique toughness, that unique grace, and that unique mercy for which all of us are so grateful. Thank you, Ladies for being a wonderful and sacred expression of our tender and mighty God.
Hebrews 13:15 NIV - …Let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise…
We have been discussing the one remaining sacrifice that we are to offer the Lord: the Sacrifice of Praise. Christ has fulfilled every other sacrifice of Scripture so that we could stand in His Righteousness before the Father. At the end of our service this morning, we will go to His Table to be reminded that His Body was broken and His Blood was shed, so that there is now a New Covenant between Heaven and Earth.
Over the years of pastoral ministry, I have had people ask me, “Why did Jesus need to die for our sins? Why the cross? Couldn’t The Father simply have wiped them away, forgiven and forgotten, as though our sins did not take place? Could He not have just ‘forgiven’ the debt without the brutality of the Cross? It seems so harsh.”
Part of the error with this line of reasoning, is that the horror of sin has been redefined by our modern culture. We prefer to use terminology that is not so severe or “insensitive.” Sin is now seen as an error, a mistake, a vulnerability, a propensity to failure, and not as an Evil Task Master enslaving people. The horrible violations against women, abuses of children, exploitation of the poor, bigotries, the taking of life, extortion, jealousy, envy, greed are all far more than just mistakes, it is the activity of Sin. Every transgression takes something from the life of someone, and collectively it diminishes all of us as a society. All sin creates a debt. It is not done in a vacuum. We can apologize, but we cannot pay the staggering liability that has created the gaping hole within our hearts and drained the very soul of our civilization.
To wave one’s hand and offer a forgiveness without sacrifice as though this horrible iniquity, transgression, and corruption are somehow cosmically okay, is to never have understood the tragedy of Sin. It is to not appreciate the cost of forgiveness; and it is to misappropriate the loving compassion of Almighty God.
“Forgiveness means bearing the cost. God has a just passion to defeat evil and a loving desire to forgive.” --Timothy Keller
Therefore, “Real Love” is Sacrificial because true forgiveness is costly. It exacts a toll on the one who has been hurt, offended, robbed, or violated. God is a God who is Just. To pretend that sin is okay, is not Justice and it is not Grace. Instead, it is profoundly unjust and delusional. What Christ did was pay the cost. The great debt of Humanity (corporately and individually) was laid upon Him and He freely bore the UNTOLD COST, and SACRIFICED the PURITY of His LIFE so that JUSTICE would be met, so Evil would be DEFEATED, and so FORGIVENESS could be received!
1 John 4:10 CEV - Real love isn’t our love for God, but his love for us. God sent his Son to be the sacrifice by which our sins are forgiven.
Dr. Tobey Montgomery