Aughrim Gospel Hall

Grace ...

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Grace

Good evening everyone. I would like welcome you to the gospel meeting tonight and trust that the Lord will bless our time together in His Word. If you have a Bible with you this evening would you please turn with me to John's gospel chapter 8, reading verses 1-12.
For a second reading please refer to the gospel according to Luke and chapter 23, reading verses 13-21.
Finally, a reading from Ephesians chapter 2, verses 8 and 9.

At the outset this evening, I would like to put a title over each of the 3 portions we have read, and these titles come under one of the greatest themes in the Bible; the Grace of God.
Grace has been described by many people in many ways, but one of my favourite ways, is to use each letter of the word Grace -

God's Riches At Christ's Expense (repeat). This is the reason why we are here tonight. Many of us can rejoice already because we have tasted God's Grace in our lives when He saved us from our sin and eternal separation from Him. However, if you are here tonight in the meeting and you do not yet know Jesus Christ as your saviour and Lord, I would like to invite you to listen for a few moments to what God has done for you personally so that you too may understand what it is to taste Grace and inherit eternal life.

From the first reading in John 8, I would like you to think of the title 'Grace is God stooping down'. Augustine, who was a well known early Christian from centuries ago, stated 'How great a God is He who gives God'. This is effectively what God did for us here tonight; He gave Himself. He stooped down from Heaven to become a man and walk amongst men and women like us, with the ultimate aim of saving us. This man is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Picture Mary from our first reading, as she is dragged by the Priests and Pharisees through the streets. She has been caught in a sinful act and these so called religious leaders are going to show her for what she is in front of the people gathered at temple. The people are there in large numbers to listen to the message of Jesus of Nazareth. This man however is very different from the religious leaders and Pharisees as we will find out. They say to the Lord Jesus "This woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do you say?"

It would seem a dire situation for Mary. Caught in the act, the pious religious leaders are surrounding her and the law sentences her to death. There is no one to speak for her! But there is someone who will stoop for her. In verse 6, "Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground". One would expect Him to stand tall, step forward and speak; but the Lord descended lower than anyone else - beneath the priests, the gathered crowd and even beneath Mary. The accusers looked down on Mary but had to look even further down to Jesus. We see Jesus stooping for others throughout the gospel accounts; to wash the disciples feet, to embrace young children, to pull Peter out of the sea. Even more significantly however we see the Lord stooped at a Roman whipping post, stooping under the weight of a cross. Grace is God stooping down. The same finger that stooped to write in the ground on Mary's behalf, was that which formed Adam from the clay. God created the universe and yet in act of Grace, stooped down to become a man and die on a cross to save you from your sins. Accept His gracious gift of eternal life tonight by thanking Him for stooping for you.

The second reading from Luke 23, I have given the title 'Grace is Jesus Christ paying for our mistakes' (repeat). On this occasion, picture Barabbas in his tiny cell awaiting execution on a cross. He has been sentenced to death because of his lead part in uprisings against the Roman authorities and is a law breaker and a rebel. But now the hour has almost come for him to hang on a cross and the swagger and rebelliousness are likely gone as he awaits his fate. But things change rapidly as the same religious leaders and Pharisees who brought a sinning Mary to Jesus crying for her punishment now cry to have this sinner Barabbas released so Jesus can be punished instead. It seems these so called religious men have no good in them and their religion is not in true worship of God, but rather to promote themselves as Holy. With Mary they tried to catch the Lord Jesus out with the law and this trend continued throughout His earthly life. Now they have conceded that He is wiser than them and indeed Holy, but instead of worshipping Him as their Messiah, they accuse Him of blasphemy and have Him brought before Roman Governor Pilate to have Him slain and demand the release of the actual rebel Barabbas. But Pilate finds no fault in Jesus. He makes 4 attempts to prevent sentencing crucifixion. He tells the Jews to settle the matter; he refers the issue to Herod; he tries to persuade the Jews to allow Jesus to be the prisoner released at Passover; and finally he offers a compromise, to have Jesus scourged rather than executed. He could find no fault in Him. In 2 Corinthians 5 verse 21, Paul tells us Jesus "Knew no sin." He could have bargained with Satan in the wilderness or disobeyed the Father in Gethsemane but Hebrews 4 verse 15 tells us "He was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin." The Man Jesus was the perfect man, always honest, relentlessly kind in a cruel world, focused at all times on the Father amidst all distractions; He never sinned.

We are the opposite, sinning on a daily basis. Ephesians 2 verse 1 says we "are dead in trespasses and sins" and later in the verse 12 of the same chapter we are described as "strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world." We have nothing good to offer God just like the Pharisees. Indeed all our righteousness is as filthy rags to a Holy God. We are just as bad as Barabbas. John Newton sums us up well in the first line of his hymn, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me?"

In the modern world people don't like to be called wretched anymore. They don't accept sin as being real, but rather a person was poorly parented or misguided, unfortunate or addicted. But this is sin; to be the ruler of your own destiny and accept no responsibility for your actions. This is to deny Jesus Christ as Lord and show no need for His salvation. Isaiah 53 verse 6 states "All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way" and we all have done this in one way or another. Romans 3 verses 10-12 tell us "There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one." These words are unpopular in the world tonight, but they are true about every one of us. Like Barabbas, we are guilty before Holy God and the punishment is death; eternal separation from our creator. Barabbas hears the executioners footsteps as he walks to the cell and awaits to be told 'it's time to pay for your sins'. But something amazing happens; he is instead told 'you are free to go, they have taken Jesus instead of you'.

Barabbas has just tasted Grace, and tonight in this meeting you can too. Think of the title for this reading; Grace is Jesus Christ paying for your mistakes. We deserve death and hell for our sins, but the Lord Jesus has been crucified in our place. He was nailed to a cross for you and willingly was made sin for you, He who knew no sin, that He might bring you to God. If you have never trusted Him this evening, ask God to forgive you for your sins and point to the Lord Jesus on a cross dying in your place. I deserved death but by the Grace of God, Jesus died for me so that I can be set free from sin and death. So can you if you simply trust Him tonight.

Finally, we have looked at Ephesians 2 and the title this makes me think of is 'Grace cannot be earned, it is a free gift' (repeat). P T Forsyth, a famous 19th century theologian once said "Christianity is not the sacrifice we make, but the sacrifice we trust". In the world tonight, many people are trying to win favour with God by how they live their lives. If I give to charity, if I help the poor, if I feed the hungry, if I be the best person I can, surely God will let me into heaven. People are trying their best and doing good works, hoping that will satisfy God. But this is not good enough; God is Holy. No matter how hard we try we can never reach God's standards. Only one man has and that is because He is God; the Man Christ Jesus. Tonight, if you are unsaved in this meeting, how can you get to heaven? Not through your own works, but through faith in Jesus Christ's work of salvation at Calvary. "For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God". Salvation is a gift that you accept, not something you earn. It is not the sacrifice you make, but the sacrifice you trust.

"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."

If you want eternal life tonight and if you want to come face to face with the Lord Jesus when your earthly life is over, simply trust Him. If you have realised you are a sinner in God's presence tonight and have no hope for eternity, accept the Grace on offer to you and thank Jesus for dying in your place on the cross. This is all you have to do to taste God's Grace. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." John Stott, who was a renowned evangelist and Anglican cleric once said 'Grace is God loving, God stooping, God coming to the rescue, God giving Himself generously in and through Jesus Christ.' Grace is all that you need for eternity.

Accept the Lord Jesus as you personal saviour and taste this amazing Grace for ever more.

Peter Brown

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