Saving Grace

Often our own obsession with fairness blinds us to God's grace.


Good morning.  David Sorn. Lead Pastor of Renovation Church.  
Well, you came on a great Sunday because we are starting a brand new series this morning called “Radical Grace”
For 4 weeks we are just going to focus on God’s awesome grace
And we’re going to take a look at it from all different stages of the Christian walk
Whether it’s just starting out in grace or walking away from grace or living in grace, dispensing grace, you name it
I’m so excited to talk about grace because quite frankly we need it.  
We need to hear about it.
Talking to a friend this week who said to me, “Churches tend to do a real good job of talking about evil and sin, but not always such a good job with grace and forgiveness”
And I liked that quote.  I don’t want to be a church that neglects the first part of that statement, but let’s be a church where people get a glimpse of just how loving God really is (Deal?)
But, I must admit that at the outset of this series, that I’m worried about some of you
Especially those of you that have been walking with God for quite some time now
Once you start to walk w/ God for a while, what happens is often grace becomes something you “know about, but don’t really know” anymore
For example, I have a 4 year old niece who’s really smart, and her favorite phrase right now is, “I know that already”
They “know,” but they don’t really know
I want to caution you…in this series…if you catch yourself saying, “I know that already” or “this is just for beginners”…if you catch yourself there, than I would say that you need to hear the words of this series perhaps more than any other
Because grace (by definition: “Underserved favor” / forgiveness) isn’t something you “know” (point to head), it’s something you feel
And it’s something that moves you.  
Whether it happened in the past, is happening right now, or is happening to someone else, it should move you…not just be a fact that you once learned

Let me just humbly state I’m not sure that I understand or dispense grace very well.
If we were to line all of us up in a row and rank us based on how well we understand grace, I might be like a 3/10…30% percentile.
I’m a fairly rule-bound, logical guy.  
I like things to be in order.  I like there to be rules and expectations, and I don’t like them to be broken.  
Let me give you an example.  
When I did training for our missions trip to Mexico as  youth pastor, we would always teach this slide about cultural punctuality
(Show punctuality Slide)
Some used to joke that I had my own personal definition of what was on time (show other slide)
And that probably comes from the environment in which I grew up
I grew up in a very ordered, structured, and disciplined environment
Well, I mean, that’s not all bad
That also helped me become very motivated and driven
But, when you grow up in a family that highly values the characteristics of discipline, structure, and equality, often grace is a missing companion
But that’s not just me, that’s a glimpse (maybe a more intense glimpse), but a glimpse of the culture we live
If we were to make a chart with punctuality expectations for all the 195 countries in the world, our excused/hostility ratio would be one of the shortest amount of times
But it’s not only that we are unforgiving when it comes to time, we are unforgiving when it comes to “who deserves what”
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately (and have mentioned it a few times in subtle ways), but I tend to think we don’t really grow out of the annoying phrases we use as kids, we just change the language
And a big phrase kids use (and you did once too) is:  “It’s not fair”
“Mom!  It’s not fair! How come she gets a present?”
“Dad!  It’s not fair! How come I have to do chores all day, and he just had to do them tonight?”
“It’s not fair! How come she gets to go and I don’t?”
“It’s NOT Fair!”
Sure, we probably don’t say, “It’s not fair” as often as adults, but we still live the same way.
We are a nation that is obsessed with eradicating inequality (in a sometimes unhealthy manner)
“How come your kid got picked to be the starting quarterback or the star of the play.  There ought to be a rule where everyone rotates and gets to do it”
“Did somebody get promoted, even though they’d been at the company way less than everyone else?  That’s not fair. There should be a rule against that”
“Is so and so getting paid more for less work and less experience, we better get the union on that!”
I think if you showed our contracts and legal agreements (the fine print) (which are really exhaustive effort to cover all bases and provide equality) to some people of third world countries, it would be simply mind-boggling to them
And our meticulous efforts to bring equality aren’t all bad (they’ve certainly helped us lead the charge in human rights among other things), but I think our obsession with fairness has damaged our ability to understand grace
To understand what it means to receive “undeserved favor” from God

I want to read to you a story that Jesus told that had a profound impact on my life and my understanding of grace
(Matthew 20:1-16) – NIV
1"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. 3"About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4He told them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' 5So they went.
"He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. 6About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, 'Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?'   
7" 'Because no one has hired us,' they answered.
     "He said to them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard.'  8"When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.'  
9"The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. 10So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12'These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.'
13"But he answered one of them, 'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? 14Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?'
16"So the last will be first, and the first will be last."
A little bit more background on this story…
Typical work day was 6am-6pm and many Families in the ancient world often went day to day, earning enough money and thus food for that particular day..
So some, not all, would just wait in the marketplace, waiting to be hired.  Or some would come later, or what have you
And here you have this landowner (who represents God in the parable), who needs/wants more people to work for him, so He keeps going out looking for more
And people keep agreeing to go work for him
But the shock comes when the rewards are given out
For the people who worked only an hour are given the same reward as those who worked all day…just as God gives a relationship with Him and heaven as a reward to people…no matter when they come to Him
I remember reading this story when I first started reading the Bible at 18 and saying, “I’m sorry Jesus, but you’re wrong here” (as I did in my arrogance with a lot of what he said)
Because it doesn’t make sense!  OR, “It’s NOT Fair!!”
But really, the truth is, the people’s own obsession with fairness, and their own selfishness had merely blinded them to generosity and grace
Because they got what they were supposed to get
He said he’d pay them a day’s wages (which is typical), and He did!
And to those people who had had some tough luck… or maybe even they were wasting their time away in idleness, or wild living, or isolation, or depression, maybe they just couldn’t get hired all day BUT, to those people (the people whose families probably needed the money to eat the next day, out of the generosity and GRACE of his heart, he gives them a day’s wages anyway
What generosity!  What love! What GRACE!
But yet, all of the other workers see is themselves!  All they see is fairness! And how they could’ve had a shot to make more money.  WOW.
And as I transition to the other point of this parable, let me say something to those of you that have been working in God’s vineyard for a good portion of your life
As we now speak of God’s saving grace, let go of your need to always get what you need to learn on a Sunday morning, and let your hearts be moved as the Grace of God reaches those who have come later to the game than you have
And I would ask that you begin praying for the Holy Spirit to really do a work

Because, here’s where this passage has really impacted my life.  
I did not grow up in a Christian home.  I didn’t live for God for the first 2/3 of my life so far.  I did my own thing…
But when I was 18 years old, God started to knock a lot louder and louder in my life, and I started to notice him.  
He started to move in my heart, (it’s a process) but he started to move…to ask me to work for him…to be with him
And you know what, he had been there before.  He had come asking before…looking for workers…looking to hand out grace
But I had just been wandering around the marketplace doing my own thing…sometimes, I think, I even saw him, but I ignored him, kept doing my own thing, thinking, I’ll find my own way.  I’ll provide for myself
And the thing that’s so powerful about this parable, this image, is that, it’s the landowner who’s out in the heat of the sun looking time after time for workers
Wealthy landowners don’t do that…their servants do that
But Jesus wants to show us this image of God searching for you.  He’s looking for you. He’s been trying to find you, and get your attention!
And when I finally noticed him, and decided to follow Him…I was not only blessed to be in a relationship w/ him, but I was rewarded by his underserved grace
And listen, Maybe you’ve even spent your entire life not even waiting in line…not looking for the “landowner” and now, at this last hour, you’ve decided to show up and maybe offer your life to Him.
But just as you’re about to step forward, and follow Him to the vineyard, you stop and think, “Wait, I mean, I’ve been doing my own thing for a long time now, ignoring/avoiding God, and I mean the fact that he would love me, forgive me, and offer me eternal life like everyone else even though I was living my own life while so many others have been working for him since they were little kids, (these are questions I had to ask as well) and we think…it just doesn’t…well, it just doesn’t seem…well…fair.  
But listen, God’s not like us.  His ways are not our ways. And you know, what, He is fair.  But his fairness is usually quite different than ours. His fairness is absolutely drenched in love and grace.  
Because sure, to be dead honest, you and me, we don’t deserve it.  I don’t deserve eternal life in the presence of God. Are you kidding me?  No way.
And in fact, if anything, we don’t like to say this, but I (we), we deserved to be punished
And since God is fair, he agreed that punishment must be done
And in the most grace-filled decision of all-time, He decided that he would send his Son Jesus to die in your place
That yes, to be fair, there must be punishment.  But that punishment, he would take Himself on a cross.
And out of that, he offers us a gift.
And it truly is a gift.  It is the gift of salvation. Nothing we earned.  Just a gift offered to you.
And it sits in front of you, like on Christmas morning…and the choice is yours.  Will you open it?
The Bible says that the result of our sin is death…the result of our lives, our imperfect/rebellious lives (because we’ve done nothing to earn favor) is death and separation from God
But God offers you something different
In Romans 10:9 in the Bible, it says this:
(Romans 10:9) - NIV
9That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
And that is, effectively, to open the gift.  
That’s why they call it, “Saving Grace”
God rescues us from darkness, saves us from our sins, and brings us into relationship with him
And none of it has anything to do with anything we deserved…
And my challenge to you this morning is to not let your human version of “fairness” get in the way.  
Because you might look at your life and say, “I don’t deserve eternity in heaven with God”
And no, you don’t.  But God wants you to have it anyway.  And not only that, he wants to forgive you, to be in relationship with you, and to begin renovating your life.  
And my challenge to you is to be like a kid on Christmas morning.  
If you had 20 presents under the tree and someone said they were all for you, you would say, “Nah…that can’t be.  Too good to be true…not fair.”
But if you told that to a 3 or 4 year old, they might hesitate, but quickly, with child like faith, they would take your word for it and open them all up  
God is offering you, out of his grace, the incredible gift of eternal life
This is what Christianity is all about    
And I believe that some of you today (and maybe it’s not today…it’s a process…it was a process for me), but I believe some of you are ready to take this step.
You’re ready to officially cross the line of faith…to become a Christian (not just “I live in America, I’m a Christian), no, a true Christian, a follower of Christ, someone who believes that he paid for their sins on the cross and gave his life for them and thus they now have said, I will give my life to you (as best as I can), to work for you in the Vineyard
Maybe you’ve even been thinking about this for a couple of months now.  And maybe now is the time to say, I will.
So here’s what we’re going to do…
In just a moment, we’re all going to close our eyes and I’m going to pray, but I’m going to give you 45 seconds of silence first.  
And in that time, I want you to talk to God.  Feel him looking for you.
And if it’s time to accept that gift of grace.  Of salvation. To become a Christian, I want you to raise your hand up to Him
Just as the workers on that day would have.  “I will go. I will work for you. I will live for you”
Not because anyone here is looking cuz they won’t, but because it’s helpful to symbolically step forward to him.  To say, here’s where I’m crossing the line
Then afterwards, we’ll all pray together    
Even if you’ve done it before, you can pray it with us again (good to remember)
If you are already a Christian, I suggest you pray like you never have been before during these 45 seconds
I’ll start by saying Dear God, and then I’ll give you time to talk to Him or raise your hand out to Him…
“Dear God”
Would you say this with me in your heart??  Whether it’s for the first time…or something you’ve done before, but still good to remember why we did it.

God, I know that I have sinned against you
and that I deserve
the punishment for my sin.
But I am truly sorry
and want to turn away from that life
and turn towards you.

I believe that your son Jesus Christ
died for my sins
was resurrected from the dead
and wants to come live in me.

Jesus I now invite you
to be my Savior
to become the Lord of my life
and to reign in my heart
from this day forward.  

Thank you God
for saving me
and for forgiving me.  
In Jesus’ name,

If you look under your chair right now, you should see a connection card and a pen.  Go ahead and pick those up.
One of the things we do every week at Renovation Church, is fill out these connection cards.
It’s a way for you to connect with us and for us to connect with you.  
You’ll notice on there that there is a line that says, “I committed my life to Jesus Christ today”
If you raised your hand today, I want you to check that box
We want to be able to follow-up with you and help you start your journey with God
Also, while you finish filling those cards out, I want to let you know that our House Groups are re-launching this week (in fact one of them starts tonight even)
House Groups are our version of small groups, but the difference is we put 25 people in one house
Half Large Group.  Half time in small group
Listen, this walking with God thing isn’t easy.  And it certainly isn’t easy to do alone.
And we are becoming a people that are more and more isolated and alone than ever before.  
Last time we’re really going to focus on house groups for a while,
Want to encourage you today to take a risk in your faith, and connect yourselves with other Christians…others looking for God anyway
Take the 4 week challenge
I believe in this so much
Cinderella Man example
Sign-Up in Hallway after the service
1 of our House Leaders will be in hallway
They can sign-you up and answer Questions

We are going to take an offering as we get back into
It’s a way for us to give back to a God who’s gift of grace to us has been so much
If you’re a visitor, feel free to let the offering cans just pass you by
As the offering goes by, you can stick your connection card in there as well
Let me just pray for the offering quick
Let’s pray

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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