Friday, September 30, 2016

Pastor's Desktop Article for OCtober 2016

“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.  For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.  For I did not receive if from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received if through a revelation of Jesus Christ. “
(Galatians 1:8, 11-12 ESV)
            It is nothing new that we are bombarded by various “alternative” gospels, or supposed answers to the great question of life, “Why am I here?”  Even in church circles, there are many different “versions” of the gospel, and I’m not talking about Bible Versions, but depending on one’s view of Scripture, their take on the gospel may become skewed.  What sounds good and appealing to TV viewers, or others who more fair weather folks might not be so rooted and grounded in Scripture.  Paul saw the same thing going on in Galatia.
            He had planted the gospel there while apparently dealing with an illness of his eyes, (ch. 4:13-14) and had given them the gospel of Jesus Christ based solely upon salvation through faith in Christ, not upon works of the law.  After he had continued on his missionary journey, someone else, namely the Judiazers, came along and required them to be circumcised in order to be saved.  So now the Galatians were putting their trust in the works of the law, namely the rite of circumcision, instead of in the grace of God offered through faith in Christ alone.
            This concept of a “works” salvation works itself into our minds so subtly that even those who have been in the church for most of our lives can be drawn into it without realizing it.  When we start mentally weighing our good deeds against our bad, and justifying our actions as a result, we have allowed this “works” salvation to creep in.
            The bottom line is that our works, our good deeds, our best efforts at being righteous will never be enough to make us righteous before our holy God.  Only the grace of God, and our faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ can make us right and holy before Him.
            It’s not that we shouldn’t do good works.  Ephesians 2:10 reminds us, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  But the verses prior to that indicate, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” 
            There will be no boasting in heaven about how good we were, or what great deeds we may have accomplished.  These will all be dwarfed by the realization of how rich and merciful was the grace of God that saved us, and how underserving we all were.  That’s why it will be such a rich time of the worship of God because of the realization of His greatness, His love, and His benevolence toward those who are there in His presence. 
            Let’s begin that recognition of His goodness to us even now, as we offer back ourselves to Him as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1), and by making this true gospel known.

By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Pastor's Desktop Article for September 2016

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. “
(Ephesians 2:4-9 ESV)
            What is Grace?  We talk about it in the church, we sing about it, we are grateful for it, but how much do we really understand it?  I get the sense that all too often, we think of the position we have been given through faith in Christ as something we’ve achieved on our own somehow, because we were smart enough to figure it out, or we chose wisely in regard to our salvation.  This couldn’t be further from the reality of what grace truly is.  Grace is getting a benefit, some degree of favor that we in no way deserve.  We didn’t have it coming because of our association with a church, or being raised in a Christian home, or because of any “good behavior” we might think we’ve achieved.  Not only did we not deserve it, but we deserved the opposite of grace, we deserved judgment, leading to eternal punishment.  All of us deserved that fate.  That’s what Paul wrote in the verses preceding the passage above.
            We were dead, headed down a dead-end road, on the path to our own destruction, without a real awareness of our dreadful fate when God shows up and grants us this incredible gift—the gift of our heart and mind being opened to His great love for us, and His desire to set us free from the path we were on.  He made us alive in Him.  Alive like we have never been before, awakened to our dreadful selves, and the beauty of His holiness, and putting on us a stamp of “forgiven” without one single effort on our part to grant us that status.  In fact there is nothing we could do to cause us to be forgiven.  It’s a gift from God. 
            He has taken away any ability on our part to be able to boast about our salvation.  Just like the children of Israel, having crossed the Red Sea, and seeing Pharaoh’s army drowned in the sea behind them could not boast and say, “Look what we did!”  Nor can we look back at the forgiveness of God, and the promise of a home in heaven, and lay any claim to that accomplishment.  “It is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” 
            That is Grace.  God gives us something we in no way deserve in order to express His love for us, and to establish us as His beloved children with full rights of inheritance, being made part of His household forever.  Why us?  It was only because He loved us.  John the apostle writes it this way in John 1:12-13:  “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
            Grace is much more than just the kindness of God, but it is the kindness and love of God at a time when we were still his enemies, rebelling against Him, still serving ourselves, and headed for eternal destruction.  It is love when we were unlovely; it is love when we deserved judgment, and death.  “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost but now am found; was blind but now I see.”  John Newton understood grace.

By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen