Monday, 15 June 2015

God's grace is new every morning

I have been helping out with a new faith community in Googong for the past couple of years. This year we have started meeting monthly for an hour in a cafe to have a condensed service. We sing some songs, pray, have a reading or two and someone gives a talk. We have about 20 people who turn up. Yesterday I had the privilege of giving the talk. Since we are a new faith community in a new suburb, I thought the theme of newness was appropriate. Below are the two readings (from the Good News Translation, because it uses easier language) and the short talk that I gave last night.

Lamentations 3:19-27
19 The thought of my pain, my homelessness, is bitter poison.
20     I think of it constantly, and my spirit is depressed.
21     Yet hope returns when I remember this one thing:
22 The Lord's unfailing love and mercy still continue,
23     Fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise.
24     The Lord is all I have, and so in him I put my hope.
25 The Lord is good to everyone who trusts in him,
26     So it is best for us to wait in patience—to wait for him to save us—
27     And it is best to learn this patience in our youth.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21
17 Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. 18 All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also. 19 Our message is that God was making all human beings his friends through Christ. God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends.

20 Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ's behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21 Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God.

< I started off talking about names and meanings, and asked people if they wanted to share middle names and what the meant. This bit has been removed to hide identities, not because it was really sensitive, but because I don't like posting about people who I know who could be identified online. It did segue into Lamentations nicely, you just have to believe me>

Now Lamentations is not really a popular book to read. The title gives it away, it is all about lamenting, or crying out in grief. The book itself is made up of five poems that are lamenting the fact that they have been conquered, dragged off to another country and that they had disobeyed God1.

But in the midst of all this pain and depression there is this bit that doesn’t really fit the theme. We read it tonight. There is this expressions of hope and comfort. This is kind of good because hope and comfort are two things you really want when you have all this pain and depression around you. The poet says in verse 23 that God’s grace is new every morning. What they mean is, there is a freshness, or renewal2 of God’s grace. It is continual and does not run out. This is good news, especially in times of hardship. The poet says, as sure as there will be a morning tomorrow, God does not forget His people.

Now the hope of God’s grace being renewed every morning isn’t a blind hope or some warm and fuzzy wishful thinking. This hope in God is as sure as the sunrise. The person who wrote this lament, is confident in God’s love for them based on what they know and what they feel. Even though things may be terrible, this person patiently put their hope in God knowing that they will be saved. And why do they say this? Verse 24: “The Lord is good to everyone who trusts in him”.

Now, it is too simplistic for us to say that if you trust in God you will get everything you want and that you will never get hurt or let down. When we think like that, we are actually coming to God telling him what we think is good. Instead, if we do trust in God, if we really trust Him, then this trust should include us believing that He knows what is good for us. Like how a child (well a good child), trusts a parent when they tell them to “stop” or “don’t touch that”. God’s sense of what is good for us, may well be different to what we think will be good for us. But regardless of how this may work out in the specifics, we do know of the ultimate good that God has for everyone who trusts in Him. We read it in the Corinthians passage.

Not only is God’s grace new every morning, but God is also about making new people. Ruth talked about this last time, and I thought it was such a good idea for a new community of faith within a new community, with new houses and new neighbors, for us to again consider the newness of God. Everywhere you look in Googong is something new. What would be gold is if we didn’t just see new buildings or faces, but also a new group of people who are new beings belonging to our gracious God.

The Corinthians bit that we read started off saying that those who believe that Jesus is God and trust him with their life are a new being. This change comes from God. This change stops us from being His enemy to us being His friend.

Other translations use the more adult phrase of “being reconciled to God’, but being friends with God is really the same idea. There is now no longer hostility between the two parties, all has been forgiven. This is because Christ bought us not with money but with his life.

In economics, I once learned that the value of something is worth what someone is willing to pay for it3. You find this out when buying car or land or a house. It always goes to the highest bidder. Now do you know how much God was willing to buy you for? God said that you are worth the value of Jesus’ life.

Let that sink in for a bit.

Jesus, our great friend, did what we couldn’t and shared what He had with us. God made Jesus take our sin so that we might share in His righteousness4. This is a bit Christianese5, but what it means is that Jesus took all our wrong doings and gave us His innocence6.

This is the hope we have. We are no long enemies with God but his friend.

And, this is the message that we have.

The Corinthians passage says a few times7 what our message is. What we are really on about, is telling others how they too can be friend with God. We know that God’s grace is new every morning, even in the midst of trouble; and we want others to know this as well. All someone needs to do is believe that Jesus is God and trust Him with their life, and they will be changed from an enemy of God to being His friend.

So, as the Corinthians passages say in verse 20, I plead with anyone here who thinks they are not a friend of God to trust Him and to let Him change you. Trust God that He knows best for your life. This maybe hard, but know this: His grace is new every morning.

And if you are already a friend with God, let us be on about telling more people how they too can be friends with God. Not because we have to, but because we have a good message to tell. God freely saves everyone who trusts in Him. Let us be about telling people how they can rest in the knowledge, and live in the experience that God’s grace is new every morning.

So, are you a new being in Christ? Has Christ changed you from being an enemy to being a friend? If not, let me plead with you to trust God, and he will make you His friend.

And if you are already God’s friend, are you going about the task of making more people friends with God?

Jesus changes all those who trust Him from being enemies with God to being friend with God; this is as certain as the sun rising tomorrow. And just as there will be a new day tomorrow, remember the promise that God’s grace is new every morning.

1 Keil, C. F., & Delitzsch, F. (2002). Commentary on the Old Testament. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.

2 Reyburn, W. D. (1992). A handbook on Lamentations. UBS helps for translators; UBS handbook series (86). New York: United Bible Societies.

3 Upon further reflection, I may have heard this in a sermon by Brett Morgan years ago

4 2 Cor 5:21 (ESV): For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

5 "Christianese" has its own Wikipedia page, so it must be a real word:

6 Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953-2001). Vol. 19: New Testament commentary : Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. New Testament Commentary (201–202). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

7 In 2 Cor 5:19 (Our message is that God was making all human beings his friends through Christ)  and also in verse 20 (Here we are, then, speaking for Christ...let God change you from enemies into his friends!)


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