Thursday, October 13, 2005

"Jesus Plus Nothing" - Galatians 1

This is the first message in our series "Extreme Faith Makeover"...

What we’re going to be talking about over the next 6 Sundays could be the most important thing that we’ve talked about all year.

I want to help you to be free. But, you see we have a problem in life.

The problem is that we do wrong things. The Bible calls it sin. Our bad choices – or sins - end up separating us from God and others.

This leads to two other problems:

1. Having to figure out how to make up for or fix the wrong things we’ve done
2. How to escape out of this endless cycle of making bad choices.

NBC has a new show out called, “My Name Is Earl”. It’s about one guy’s struggle with this problem I’ve been talking about.

(From NBC site)

Earl is a guy who has taken one too many wrong turns on the highway of life. But, a twist of fate turns his life around.

Earl wins a small lottery, and, after deciding to transform his good fortune into a life-changing event as he sets out to right all the wrongs from his past.

But, before Earl can begin his journey, he has some bad luck again. Seconds after winning the lottery, he is hit by a car and while unconscious; the winning lottery ticket blows away. Later in the hospital, Earl watches "Last Call with Carson Daly" where Carson says that his success is a direct result of doing good things for other people.

It’s at that moment Earl discovers karma- and in hope of a better life, he decides to set out to correct every bad thing he's ever done.

He makes up a list of all the people he’s ever done wrong and begins a journey to make things right. He starts with a grade school geek, named Kenny, who Earl used to pick on.

Earl says this, “The secret to life is fixing all the bad things that you’ve done.”

The whole idea of karma has some basis of truth to it, but it also has a lot to it that is wrong.

You do reap what you sow and we’ll talk about during our last week in this series. You can make a good choice and expect the direct result of that choice to be something good.

But one of the wrong parts of karma is expecting that if you pile up enough good deeds in your life that you will then attract good results in your life. That’s not true!

We see in the Bible that God offers us something better than karma. He offers us grace!

Grace is one of the most important concepts in God’s word. Grace is the word translated in the Bible to describe God’s undeserved favor towards us.

Someone once described grace this way…

"When a person works an eight-hour day and receives a fair day's pay for his time, that is a wage. When a person competes with an opponent and receives a trophy for his performance, that is a prize. When a person receives appropriate recognition for his long service or high achievements, that is an award.

"But when a person is not capable of earning a wage, can win no prize, and deserves no award--yet receives such a gift anyway--that is a good picture of God's unmerited favor. This is what we mean when we talk about the grace of God."

Romans 6:14 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The payment we earn from our sin is death.

When we sin the results end up destroying our life in small ways – killing off the chance for us to experience some of the good things that making the right choices would have given us.

The payment we get from sin is that it destroys the chance for us to be all that we could be.

Sin, little by little, ultimately gives us only death! Look at a person in prison or look at a drug addict and you can see how sin kills off the good experiences in life.

But, it’s subtly doing the same in us who look cleaner. It’s just harder to see!

The gift we receive through deciding to follow Jesus is life.

When we follow Jesus he begins to show us the right choices to make and he frees us to make them. This choice gives us the results that lead to real life both here and in eternity! It’s not what we earn. It’s a gift!

I’ll take grace over karma any day!

• Karma says we get what we deserve based on what we’ve done.
• Grace says we get what we don’t deserve based on what God’s done!

The idea of grace is what makes Christianity different than any other religion.

All other religions are basically based on what you can do to get to God/heaven, but Christianity is all about what God did to get to us!

There’s a great story that shows what grace is all about…

A story is told about Fiorello LaGuardia, who was mayor of New York City during the worst days of the Great Depression. He was a colorful character who used to ride the New York City fire trucks, raid speakeasies with the police department, take entire orphanages to baseball games, and whenever the New York newspapers were on strike, he would go on the radio and read the Sunday funnies to the kids.

One bitterly cold night in January of 1935, the mayor turned up at a night court that served the poorest ward of the city. LaGuardia dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself.

Within a few minutes, a tattered old woman was brought before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. She told LaGuardia that her daughter's husband had deserted her, her daughter was sick, and her two grandchildren were starving.

But the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, refused to drop the charges. "It's a real bad neighborhood, your Honor." the man told the mayor. "She's got to be punished to teach other people around here a lesson."

LaGuardia sighed. He turned to the woman and said "I've got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions--ten dollars or ten days in jail."

But even as he pronounced sentence, the mayor was already reaching into his pocket.
He extracted a bill and tossed it into his famous sombrero saying: "Here is the ten dollar fine which I now remit; and furthermore I am going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Baliff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant."

So the following day the New York City newspapers reported that $47.50 was turned over to a bewildered old lady who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her starving grandchildren, fifty cents of that amount being contributed by the red-faced grocery store owner, while some seventy petty criminals, people with traffic violations, and New York City policemen, each of whom had just paid fifty cents for the privilege of doing so, gave the mayor a standing ovation.

God did the same thing for us.

Some people think grace just means God overlooks or ignores your sin – that he lets you get away with it. That’s wrong! God NEVER overlooks sin!

The punishment still had to happen. The payment for sin still had to be made.

It’s just that God paid the cost for our sin (the fine) when he had Jesus die on the cross to take the punishment for our sins. He conquered death for us when Jesus rose again from the dead.

God deserves a standing ovation for what he's done! That is grace!

Here’s the crazy thing…

God wants us to be free, but most of us most of the time we live in slavery. Slavery to our own evil desires. Slavery to guilt. Slavery to living life by the rules.

The reason that we stay trapped when God wants us to be free is because: we believe the wrong things about grace, we don't fully understand it and we don’t know how to receive its full benefit.

For the next 6 Sundays we'll be looking at the book of Galatians. It's a book that is all about grace and how to receive it. I'm calling this series “Extreme Faith Makeover”.

Here's why…

On Extreme Makeover, they take someone who’s body has been sagging and dragging and make them not just as good as they were before, but even better.

What I want to do with this series is help adjust our faith and understanding back to what it should be and get it to a place where its even better than it was before.

We can’t live in the freedom God has for us unless we understand and believe the right things! That’s the goal of this series: to give our faith an extreme makeover!

Turn with me to Galatians chapter 1.

Hear the message below:

MP3 Stream

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