Grace Isn't Cheap... Or Soft by Josh Creel
Today we will conclude a short series I've titled, "Grace Isn't Cheap." I hope that once today's lesson is completed we will all have a renewed appreciation for exactly what God has done for us in Christ. I hope we will be humbled by how much our salvation cost God. And I hope we will soberly contemplate what it means to believe in Jesus, the cost of receiving God's grace. Grace isn't cheap.
And grace isn't soft. I have a preaching friend who preaches about grace a lot. He's begun to hear remarks that he's soft. He's heard false accusations saying that by preaching grace he's telling people they can be saved without obeying God (he's not). It makes me sad. It makes me angry. When did proclaiming the grace of God make one soft?
I understand that many have a distorted notion of God's grace, mistakingly thinking that a gracious God doesn't care if we pay much attention to following Him. We know that's not true because the Bible says it's not true (Matthew 7.24-27; 28.20; etc.). But the Bible also emphatically declares that we can only be justified through the grace of God (Romans 3.23-24), that salvation is a matter of God being gracious to us and that we cannot save ourselves.
Grace isn't soft, it's Biblical. Grace properly places the credit for our salvation with God. Grace should move us to put our full faith and trust in God (Ephesians. 2.8-9). Grace should teach us to live holy lives, lives devoted to pleasing our gracious Father (Titus 2.11-12). Be humbled by grace. Thank your gracious Father, praise your gracious God, live for your gracious Savior.
Making Your "Vote" Count by Steve Patton
A headline in USA Today this past week: How Did Pollsters Miss The Republican Tsunami? Apparently most of the major polling firms badly missed on their predictions on the midterm elections. They not only missed the margin of victory in a lot of the races they also picked the wrong candidates to win in several more. The article pointed out the same thing happened in 2012, but the polls erred in the opposite direction inaccurately favoring many republicans. Pollsters said the problem was the difficulty in predicting who will actually get out and vote. If they cannot determine that, then their results will be off.
Basically they are saying there are lots of people with good intentions to vote who never get around to actually voting. I think the Lord can empathize with that problem. His church is limited so much by people with good intentions who never follow through. This can present problems for elders who try to plan and guide a local work. They know the potential – spiritually, financially, physically – but when members do not follow through, plans go unfulfilled, potential is not realized, and the Lord’s work is hindered.
The elders are planning the work for 2015 now. They want to maximize the potential of the local work and plan accordingly. But they can only do that if we all follow through on our good intentions. Read James 4:13-7 and remember these words: “To him that knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” Let’s all resolve to act upon our good intentions so that we will actually count in the Lord’s work at University.
Bring a Friend Sunday by Steve Patton
Bring A Friend Sunday has been in our plans and prayers for many weeks. We are excited to have our friends and neighbors with us to worship and study God’s Word. Sundays are very important to us. We meet every Sunday for Bible classes and twice for worship. After all, the Bible calls this day the “Lord’s Day” so we give our time to Him today in a special way.
For over a half century the University church has met at this location. Our numerical growth over the years has necessitated several expansions. But what is most important to us is spiritual growth and the sharing of the good news about Jesus, the Savior of the world. We are thankful for every opportunity God gives us to share His message and to influence others for good. As Christians we proudly wear the name of our gracious Lord and want others to know the importance of being a Christian. We hope you will find our services uplifting and edifying. You may see we do some things differently from other churches. Many of those are not the result of personal preference about how to worship but rather an effort to follow what God taught about how He wants to be worshipped. We come to give the best of ourselves to honor and praise Him. We invite you to join us in honoring Him.
From the desk of Josh Creel
“When you’re dumb, you better be tough.” That’s the motto for Jeremy Calvert and his farm. Jeremy is a year or two younger than myself, but speaks like a man twice his age. I guess a life lived with one’s hands in the dirt and face exposed to the elements will do that to a person. I have no idea what kind of education he has, other than he graduated high school from tiny Cold Springs in Cullman County, Alabama. I have no doubt that Jeremy would have done well in whatever field he chose to turn his attention. It just so happens that he turned his attention to the field. He knows a lot. Just by looking at some soil, he knows what crop will do best. He knows exactly when something should be planted, and when it should be harvested. He knows when and how to rotate his crops. He knows how much to charge for his produce, setting a price that gives the consumer a good deal, while giving him enough to provide for his own family.
Jeremy also knows that, “when you’re dumb, you better be tough.” He’s made enough mistakes to realize that mistakes carry consequences. And if a mistake is made because good advice was ignored, well that’s just dumb. I imagine that Jeremy frequently reminds his young son, James, of this truth. James is only 11 years old, but is already proving to be quite the farmer. But he has much to learn. He will learn much by listening to his father’s advice, but if he chooses to not listen, then he will learn the hard way, the tough way. And as Jeremy says, “when you’re dumb, you better be tough.”
Jesus said something similar to Paul on one occasion. In fact, Jesus’ first words to Paul were, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads,” (Acts 26:14). Oxen are notoriously stubborn and don’t move just because a man shouts at them, or even strikes them with a whip. They will kick back in rebellion, which is where the goad came in handy. The goad had a sharp end that the farmer extended toward the back feet of the animal. When the ox rebelled and kicked back, he would kick against the goad, harming himself in the process. In effect, the Lord was asking Paul, “why are you hurting yourself?” Rejecting God’s ways, rebelling against Him and not heeding His word will only lead to mistakes, and mistakes have consequences. Jeremy has it right, “when you’re dumb, you better be tough.”
"That They May Be Saved" by Steve Patton
“Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.” (Rom. 10:1)
The heart of the apostle Paul ached for the lost who were near and dear to him. He wrote he had “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” for his brethren in the flesh - the Jews (Rom. 9:2). He even said he would be willing to be “accursed from Christ” for their sake if it would result in their salvation. Paul knew and understood the horror of being lost. Only by God reaching out to him on the road to Damascus had his life been turned around so that he might know salvation. No wonder he was so intent on saving the lost.
The heart of every Christian should burn with a like passion for lost souls, especially those near to you. They should be on our hearts and minds daily. If we are concerned about their souls then we will be looking for ways to reach them with the gospel.
Do you pray for the lost souls you know? Paul did all the time. I wonder if we believe in the power of prayer when it comes to saving the lost. We are charged with working to save the lost, teaching, exhorting, inviting - whatever we can do. But we must also trust in the Lord to providentially work in the lives of others. Pray for opportunities to teach. Pray that lives will be influenced by the Word and by the lives of faithful Christians. But also pray that God will open their hearts through His Word and providential work so that they will listen to our efforts to save them (see Acts 16:13-15). We have a great opportunity this month with our Bring A FriendSunday to see God at work. Let Him use you as His tool to influence someone to hear the Gospel of Christ. And pray daily for these lost souls.