Viewing Godís Mercies Ė a confirmation drama
†[P. and D. are seated side by side in a plane, D. has Bible and catechism book open]
P:† Studying for a test?
P:† Whatís it on?
D.† The Bible.
P:† The Bible . . . .† Hmmm, that would make you either a Jew or a Christian, right?
P:† Whatís the class?
D.† Itís called catechism.† Kind of an introduction to the Christian faith.† Everybody my age does it.
P:† This is for what - a little quiz? a big test?
D.† Itís the final.
P:† The final!† So by now youíre supposed to know it all.
D.† All the basics, I guess.
P:† So if someone sitting next to you on the plane were to ask you, Whatís this Christianity thing all about? you could tell them.
D.† Like I said, the basics.
P:† Is that little red one your text book?
D.† Not really.† It helps us study the Bible.
P:† Tell you what: weíve got some time.† Tell me what Christianityís about.† Not trying to convert me - give me the facts.
D.† I donít know . . .† Iím not done studying.
P:† Ah, come on.† Call it preparation for your final.† Please?
D.† Iíll try.
P:† So where does one start?
D.† We started with the Bible.
P:† Whyís that?
D.† Well, thatís what Christianity is.† What God says, about himself and us, and everything.
P:† So thatís what the Bible is, God talking?
D.† Sort of.† This is what Paul said (2 Timothy 3.16)
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
P:† So God breathed it and Paul wrote it, like taking dictation?
D.† Kind of.† Almost.† This is what Peter says: (2 Peter 1.21)
21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
P:† So God used people like Peter and Paul to write his word.† By the way, you sound like youíve got it memorized.† Do you have to do that?
D.† One of the Psalms says, (Psalm 119.11)
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
P:† Makes sense, if you need to keep in handy, I guess.† What does your Bible say sin is?
D.† This oneís in First John: (3.4)
4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.
P:† Is that like the Ten Commandments?
D.† There are actually a lot more than 10, if you count them all.† But the Bible says you can boil them down to just two.† Somebody asked once what were the most important of the commandments (Matthew 22.37-40)
37 Jesus replied: ďĎLove the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.í 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ĎLove your neighbor as yourself.í 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.Ē
P:† So, Godís like Santa Claus: he knows if youíve been naughty or nice, whether youíve kept his law or not.
D.† Itís more like, he knows weíve all been naughty.
P:† Ah, come on.†
D.† Itís what it says, (Romans 3.23)
There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
And Romans 3.10:
10 As it is written:
ďThere is no one righteous, not even one;
P:† But what about all the good people, like Mother Theresa? Ė What about your Peter and Paul and John?
D.† I guess it depends on whoís calling them good.† James says in his letter (2.10)
10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it
P:† In other words, everybodyís in the same boat.† How did that happen?† How did everyone get to be naughty?† Didnít God create them good?
D.† He did, but the first one sinned.† And it messed up everybody.† (Romans 5.12)†
Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned
P:† You say death came through sin?
D.† Romans again. (6.23)
23 For the wages of sin is death,
P:† So itís like weíre all on death row - weíre sinners and we canít help sinning.† He gave his law and if we mess up even once weíre out.† And we canít help messing up.† Whyíd he give the law, if he knew we couldnít keep it?
D.† This is all in Romans.† (3.20)
20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.
P:† So itís not enough to be doomed, you have to know youíre doomed.† Thatís cheerful stuff.† And they teach it to kids?
D.† It isnít all gloom. †That one verse I read goes on: (Romans 6.23)
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
P:† So how do I get off of death row, if Iím this poor wretch who canít help sinning?† Your verse mentioned Jesus.
D.† This verse maybe youíve heard.† (John 3.16-17)
16 ďFor God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
P:† God sent his Son Jesus, to get us off the hook.† How does that work?
D.† Paulís letter to the Galatians (3.13)
13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ďCursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.Ē
P:† Hung on a tree.† Thatís that crucifixion business?
D.† Right.† He suffered that for us, in our place.† (Isaiah 53.6)
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
Or this one, in the second letter to the Corinthians: (2 Corinthians 5.21)
21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
P:† That 3.16 one, that talked about believing?† What does believing have to do with it?
D.† Ephesians this time, 2.8-9
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faithóand this not from yourselves, it is the gift of Godó 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
P:† By grace, through faith? †Help me get a handle on that.† Whatís the difference between grace and faith?
D.† How I heard it explained is like this: Grace is the gift package the FedEx guy delivers to your door, faith is your signing for it.† You didnít work for it, but if you donít accept it, it goes back to the truck.
P:† Ok, but believing what?† I mean practically everybody believes in some sort of God, donít they?
D.† Believing the truth about Jesus, about who he is and what he did for us.
P:† Iíve been hearing Bible verses quoted Ė where does it talk about believing?
D.† Romans 10.9-10
9 If you confess with your mouth, ďJesus is Lord,Ē and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, ďAnyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.Ē
And Hebrews 11.6
6 Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
P:† So if I donít believe in Jesus I wonít be pleasing to God, and I wonít be saved, and I wonít have eternal life, and Iíll probably end up in that other place.
P:† Where does it say that?†
D.† John 14.6:
6 Jesus answered, ďI am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.Ē
And the apostle Peter said, (Acts 4.12)
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.Ē
P:† So thereís one name, only one, for everybody: one way, one truth.
D.† Thatís what it says.
P:† And does it say how your FedEx guy is going to get around to everybodyís door with his free gift? †Since everybody seems to need it?
D.† 2 Corinthians 5.19-20
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting menís sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christís ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christís behalf: Be reconciled to God.
P:† God makes you Christís ambassador - like youíre the FedEx guy with the gift package, handing me the thing to sign?
P:† And if I donít, it goes back to the truck?
† Tell me: Do you believe all youíve been telling me?† Or do you just have it memorized for the test?
[David testifies to his faith in Christ.]
I remember the first (and in fact only) hockey game I ever went to.† I was puzzled, at the end of the third quarter how suddenly everybody seemed to lose interest and start packing up their belongings.† Not just a few trying to beat traffic, but the whole crowd.† You mean, asked I, thatís it? Thatís all there is?† Youíve heard what was intended to be a presentation of the Christian faith, and you might well ask, Is that all there is?† Youíve covered how God for Christís sake puts people right with himself, by grace, through faith.† Is that the whole story?
††††††††††† Obviously, within the context of a play or even a sermon, there are practical limitations.† When the apostle Paul was holding forth in a synagogue, at some point heíd say to the audience, See you next week, the story continues.† Today we have practical limitations.† And no next week.
††††††††††† But let us touch briefly on the rest of the story, lest you suppose that Christís team is in fact made up of miserable wretches who canít help sinning, rescued off of death row only because someone died in their place.† That story of rescue is gloriously true, but itís not the whole story.
††††††††††† If part one is Rescue of a helpless wretch, whatís part two?† I was seeking for something to call it Ė just to identify it on my computer Ė and the word therefore happened to pop up on the screen.† And I thought, Perfect!† Rescued by the grace of God, THEREFORE.† We leaned heavily on Romans to establish salvation by grace, letís lean a moment longer.† Chapter 12 begins:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of Godís mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to Godóthis is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what Godís will isóhis good, pleasing and perfect will.
It must be possible for people to stall after part one, ignoring the rest, because Scripture takes pains to warn us against doing so.† Again, Paul to the Romans:
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? . . . Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?
††††††††††† Someone is famously quoted answering that question in the affirmative (though Iím not sure how seriously): I like sinning, God likes forgiving Ė Ah, the world is marvelously arranged!
††††††††††† Shall we indeed go on sinning?† Weíve spoken of rescue from the guilt of sin.† God doesnít stop there.† His love is deeper than that, his power is greater than that.† Jesus said, I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.† Moving into that full life involves being rescued also from the power of sin, from Satanís grip on our lives.
††††††††††† How is that done?† How are we delivered from sinís power?† That isnít answered in a sentence, it would be a challenge to answer it in a thousand sentences.† But look at the verse we just read.† Therefore, in view of Godís mercy Ė in view of what God in Christ did for our rescue - I urge you to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.† God is pleased to put to use, through his Holy Spirit whom he sends to live in us, those rescued hands, feet, mouths, whatever that are offered to him. Out of Satanís service, then, into Godís.
How is that done? †How to offer our bodies? †Thereís no altar to climb up on, no ritual to perform.† So how do I put these hands and these feet to his service, if it isnít just a question of saying, Here, God, take them!?† Weíll be singing shortly, On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand.† The author of the song intended those words to speak of our depending on Christ and him alone, especially on his perfect sacrifice on the cross as payment for our sins.† Thatís wonderfully true; again, itís not the whole story.† On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand?† The imagery comes from Jesus, from his conclusion to his Sermon on the Mount.† Two builders he spoke of, one built his house on rock, the other on sand.† Who is this one who built on the rock, who can laugh at the storms of life?† Everyone, said Jesus, who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice.† How practical can you get?† Find out what the Word of God says, and put it into practice.† Paul said, as David recited, the Scriptures thoroughly equip Godís people for doing his will.† Thoroughly equip hands and feet and mouth to be instruments of righteousness, as Paul says it in another context.† Thatís the other half: how God the Father, by his Spirit, through his Word, makes those rescued urchins into kids doesnít have to apologize for, into children that heís proud to call his own..
††††††††††† But we must return to that word therefore.† It looks back.† Anything we do for God is in view of, and a thank offering for, what he has done for us in Christ.† Thatís the Rock we stand on.