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26th July 2015
God’s grace has no limits. You will never exhaust or run dry the well of grace, mercy and love that He has for you. He likes you! He loves you and delights in you!
Have you ever found out about a party you weren’t invited to? Sometimes when we read the Old Testament it can look like God is only interested in some people – a select few who receive God’s blessing. It looks like God’s grace is limited and not everyone is included.
The truth is that God has always had a plan to provide a means of salvation for all who would come to Him. He has always been concerned about the multitudes. The whole Bible is a book about rescue. God promised Abraham an inheritance from all nations, more numerous than grains of sand on the seashore.
God has always wanted a people for Himself who are noticeably different to everyone else – He has set this people apart and made them distinct. In Exodus 19:5-6 God identifies His people – the Jews were God’s “treasured possession”; there was an exclusivity to it. They did things that other people groups didn’t, and they refrained from things that others did. They were the only people to inherit God’s promise.
If we fast-forward to a few years after Jesus has died, been raised, and ascended to heaven, we read in Acts 10 the story of Peter (a Jew) and Cornelius (a Roman centurion who is generous and prays to God, but is not a Jew).
Both men have visions. Cornelius sees an angel who tells him to bring Peter to his house. Peter sees a sheet lowered down with animals – some clean and some unclean: some Peter would not touch let alone eat. But God says, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” Not eating certain food was one of the things that made Peter, as a Jew, distinct. By telling Peter to eat ‘unclean’ meat, the distinction between Jews and Gentiles is being broken down.
This is a key turning point in the spread of the gospel: the boundaries of God’s Kingdom and grace are changing!
Peter’s initial response is, “No!” But God tells him, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” God isn’t primarily talking about food here – He’s challenging Peter’s understanding of the gospel story: the distinction is no longer between Jews and Gentiles, but is now simply whether you have been adopted by God and brought into His Kingdom – and the doors are open to anyone! No one is ruled out.
Most of us were like Cornelius – excluded from God’s promises, outside of His grace, not His people. But now God’s grace has no limits, meaning those who were not God’s people can now be His people, His beloved, sons of the living God (Romans 9:25-26). We are now included in God’s promises and part of Abraham’s inheritance.
Jesus came not just for the Jews, but for everyone who would put their trust in Him. There is no longer Greek or Jew, but all are one in Jesus (Galatians 3:28-29).
So Peter enters the house of a ‘common’ Gentile to bring salvation from God, which would have never been possible before Jesus. Cornelius and his household were baptised in the Holy Spirit and Peter declared: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality.” (Acts 10:34)
What this meant for Cornelius is also what it means for us: God overcomes our rebellion and brings conversion (Ephesians 1:4); He overcomes our condemnation and brings us forgiveness (Psalm 103:12); He overcomes our wrongdoings and brings righteousness (1 John 1:9); He overcomes our sadness and brings joy (1 Peter 1:8).
Do you understand that you were once cut off, but have now been brought near? Do you understand the great cost for you to be brought into God’s family? Do you rejoice in your salvation?
Posted by Aled Cousins
25th May 2014
At the start of Ephesians 2, the Apostle Paul gives us a reality check. He says that all of humanity is in the same boat – we are all dead in our trespasses and sins. We can see that there is bad in the world, but the reality is that there is bad in all of us. We don’t have to be taught to be naughty or defiant.
We can imagine that God has set us lots of rules and regulations, but actually He gives us warnings about what is good for us and what isn’t. He also tells us about the consequences of wandering outside of what He knows is good for us.
God’s love and holiness aren’t competing – they’re complementing each other. Everything was permissible for Adam and Eve, except eating from one tree. When God told them that to eat from it would lead to death, He wasn’t threatening them with a punishment – He was warning them of an inevitable consequence. Just like a phone will eventually die if it’s not plugged into a power source, so death is the inevitable consequence if we are not connected to the source of life: Jesus.
Does this make you feel like the good news is more like awkward news? We can feel uncomfortable when people ask us how a God of love could send people to hell, but that’s as ridiculous as asking how dare a police officer give us speeding tickets when we drive too fast! We need to take ownership of our sin and the consequences of it.
But the answer is grace! The Bible is the greatest rescue story ever written – it’s about the God who loved His people so much that He grabbed hold of people who were running hard and fast away from Him, towards death, and set them free. Jesus took all of the debt that we owed – the consequences of our sin – and in return we get all of His riches. ALL OF HIS RICHES!
We receive blessing after blessing after blessing – “the incomparable riches of His grace” (Ephesians 2:7). God’s grace is excessive and it is wonderful!
Now that Jesus has died and risen, a right standing with God is no longer based on what we do, but on whom we are. We cannot earn our salvation; no amount of good deeds can buy favour with God. We don’t receive faith or grace by doing ‘good works’, but then Paul writes that we were “created in Christ Jesus to do good works”! But the order of what’s written in this passage is very important: there’s nothing wrong with faith, grace or works, but if you get them in the wrong order, you don’t have Christianity.
It’s not supposed to go ‘do this, do that, keep busy, perform well, and PS there’s grace and faith to help you’. No. The truth is that you were saved by grace, through faith – and PS these will equip you to do the good works that God has planned for you to do. Just like a baby’s first cry is just a sign of life rather than giving the baby life, so your good works don’t bring you life, they are signs of life.
Our ‘good works’ are whatever God has called and planned for us to do. Everything you do that is a blessing from God that is done for God’s glory is a good work. There’s no such thing as a sacred job or a secular job for the Christian – if you love Jesus, whatever you’re doing is a worshipful job. It’s a good work. Do it for Him. Don’t underestimate the value that God has placed on you or the things He has called you to.
Q1. Are you plugged into the life-source, Jesus?
Q2. Think about what it means to get all of God’s riches. What does that include?
Q3. Are your good works flowing out of grace and faith, or have you got them in the wrong order?
Download the sermon 'So what about grace?' here.
Posted by Aled Cousins
8th January 2014
In these ten verses, the Apostle Paul describes the wonderful gospel: the first three are doom and gloom; the last seven are glorious truth, which shines even brighter against the backdrop of the first three.
Dead in trespasses and sin, children of disobedience, passions of the flesh, by nature children of wrath – it's all pretty grim. But it's followed by God's rich mercy, His great love, us made alive with Christ, by grace we have been saved, we're seated in heavenly places... grace, grace, grace!
Spend time praising God for your salvation and praying for those you know who don't know Christ.
Our two weeks of prayer run from 5-19 January. Join us tonight at 7.30pm at the Hastings Centre to pray.
For other prayer meeting times and dates, visit the calendar.
Posted by Paul Mann
26th August 2012
When we expire on Earth, we can take nothing with us. We arrived naked and we leave with nothing – not even a carry-on case! But, as Christians, we can invest in eternity and store up treasure in heaven (see 1 Timothy 6:19 and Matthew 6:20). This isn't like treasure here on Earth, which can be lost in a moment; it's unseen treasure that can never be spoiled or lost.
The greatest treasure we can have it to be with Jesus for all eternity, seeing him face-to-face. But the Bible also talks of an inheritance for those who are in Christ and rewards for work done in faith (see 1 Peter 1:3-4, 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 and 2 Corinthians 5:10). Some of the ways in which we store up this eternal treasure are outlined in this passage in 1 Timothy, where the apostle Paul writes that we are "to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share" (v18).
The good news of Jesus is spread through word and deed: God is good and has been good to us, so now we reflect that goodness in our actions to others. Every kind action expresses the gospel, and as a church we want to find multiple ways to help and bless our community, such as the foodbank. We don't want to just tell people of God's love (though that is important); we want to demonstrate it through actions, or as Paul writes here, by being "rich in good deeds".
Just as God has been very good to us, he has also been incredibly generous to us: Jesus gave himself for us, laying down his life for each one of us. His generosity cost him everything! Since God is so generous, we need to be the same. Being generous can be costly and inconvenient, but is part of investing in eternity and, as it says in Proverbs, those who are generous will be blessed – it really is better to give than to receive!
Linked to generosity, we should also be willing to share. It can be easy to give away old stuff that we no longer need or want, but how good are we at sharing the possessions we value, or our time?
The only way we can be rich in good deeds, generous and willing to share, is by God's grace, and this is what the apostle Paul brings us back to at the end of this letter, writing: "Grace be with you." (v21) As John Stott says, "They would not be able in their own strength to reject error and fight for truth, to run from evil and pursue goodness, to renounce covetousness and cultivate contentment and generosity, and in these Christian responsibilities to remain faithful to the end. Only divine grace could keep them. So at the letter's conclusion, as at its beginning (1:2), the apostle wishes for them above all else an experience of the transforming and sustaining grace of God."
Verses: 1 Timothy 6:17-21
Food for thought:
Posted by Santino Hamberis