The scripture begins with God’s perfect timing of salvation,
considers who we are which shows the need for salvation,
who God is which is addresses the desire for God to save us,
and what God did, which speaks to God’s plan and ability to save.
Salvation is finding peace with God which begins now in this life and extends to eternity. And that salvation transforms our heart, attitude and actions so that we work towards reconciliation and peace with our family, friends and community.
A. The timing: At just the right time. Amazing thought. The right timing, I believe, is a daily grace of God as he watches over our lives. Most of the time we get in routines and we don’t even notice, once in a while the timing is so incredible we cannot help but be in awe. Years ago I was climbing Mt. Baker. I was first on the rope, then Steve VandenBos and last was Tim VandenBos. We were way ahead. The top of Mt. Baker is domed. It was foggy. Unknowingly we took an arc route across the top instead of going straight across. We were tired. We were trudging. I had never seen a crevasse on top. Two of us fell in and one stayed on top. The amazing details that came together were amazing so that we are alive. A dozen things could have worked out slightly differently and we'd still be in the crevasse.
God’s perfect timing: neither too soon or too late. One person said we always seem to be way ahead of God or way behind. Most of the time we seem to be way ahead, wanting God to act NOW, resolve our life’s problems… in last week’s scripture the phrase perseverance was used, the need to methodically wait, the timing, waiting for God’s timing…at just the right time. I believe that God always acts in just the right time. Nothing is arbitrary. Sometimes he allows us to suffer the consequences of our own actions, sometimes we are plucked out of danger, I cannot tell you how he decides, but I do not believe it is arbitrary. The Bible says, Jesus died at just the right time. The single most significant event of the ages at just the right time. The story of the old testament is a story of anticipation, the challenge of believing in a God who will save, the New Testament is the story of the death of Christ and then trying to grasp the incredible meaning and impact on humanity. The Church today is centered on the cross and living as a forgiven people charged with sharing the incredible news of God’s love for all. God has perfect timing!
B. Who we are: the need for salvation. Three words are found in today's scripture. helpless, ungodly, sinners.
a. Helpless. I hate the feeling of helplessness. Years ago stranded on the side of the road when Sally and I were moving to So. California. A dead car. Not knowing a soul. That feeling of vulnerability, stupidity, dependency. I think God gave me a message… Tell me about a time when you felt completely helpless, no options, used up your own strength, skills, at first might be a time of great depression, or perhaps a time of self-disappointment, or maybe an overwhelming feeling that life is unfair. The amazing things is that you can grow in that sense of helplessness, when you come to see yourself as completely helpless there is freedom, because that is when God can begin to work. TRUTH: we are helpless by nature. The more quickly you realize that truth, the quicker you will accept help from others. Guys don’t want to stop and ask for directions, the sooner we stop and ask the more quickly we are pointed in the right direction. Our lives get out of control, in our stubbornness we want to do it ourselves, our own answers, our own solutions, yet the quicker we stop and ask for help the quicker the Lord will transform us and set us right.
b. ungodly… i.e. self focused, doing it without God. ungodly… I like this article titled, "How To Be Miserable.": Think about yourself. Talk about yourself. Use "I" as often as possible. Mirror yourself continually in the opinion of others. Listen greedily to what people say about you. Expect to be appreciated. Be suspicious. Be jealous and envious. Be sensitive to slights. Never forgive a criticism. Trust nobody but yourself. Insist on consideration and respect. Demand agreement with your own views on everything. Sulk if people are not grateful to you for favors shown them. Never forget a service you have rendered. Shirk your duties if you can. Do as little as possible for others.
I heard my father preach for over 20 years. I don’t remember many specific sermons, but one of the things he was fond of pointing out is that babies are born selfish. Everything is about them…How old is a person before we grow out of such a self focused existence? Surely a life long process.
c. sinners… But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Sin: a deliberate turning away from God by our actions, by what we don’t do. Once upon a time I am told evangelists could assume sin, assume that people understood they are sinners. Now, for many people in our communities, we must first prove we are sinners. Until people accept this truth, the gospel is not likely to make a deep impact. I am amazed what some people do, but they still don’t call it sin, they call it personal choice, they call it anything goes, they call it “there is no God anyway.” Sin does have an attraction. I like this story:
Several years ago our family visited Niagara Falls. It was spring, and ice was rushing down the river. As I viewed the large blocks of ice flowing toward the falls, I could see that there were carcasses of dead fish embedded in the ice. Gulls by the score were riding down the river feeding on the fish. As they came to the brink of the falls, their wings would go out, and they would escape from the falls.
I watched one gull which seemed to delay and wondered when it would leave. It was engrossed in the carcass of a fish, and when it finally came to the brink of the falls, out went its powerful wings. The bird flapped and flapped and even lifted the ice out of the water, and I thought it would escape. But it had delayed too long so that its claws had frozen into the ice. The weight of the ice was too great, and the gull plunged into the abyss.
The material possessions of this world, the tempting opportunities that seem so harmless, can entrap us if we become too attached to them. They will take us to our destruction if we cannot give them up. And as one person observed, "Oh, the danger of delay!" So we are back to God’s perfect timing. Do not delay.
My question as I watch so folks struggle, people that are helpless, people that are consumed by themselves, people trapped in destructive patterns: where is the bottom? Today in the Herald I read an article about Domestic Violence in Whatcom County becoming more frequent, more extreme, the article is prompted by the death of Debi Weeks two weeks ago. That’s but one more issue. How hard it is to watch people that are helpless continue to struggle to make it on their own… godless, continuing to trust in anything or anyone but God, sinners that will not admit their true nature… What will it take for some people to go to God?
C. Who God is: Why does God want to save us anyway. God is nothing like the making of many of our nations forefathers who were Deists, believing that God created the world then wound up the clock to march its way through time with little direct intervention along the way. That’s not the God I see envisioned in the Bible: The Bible tells us that God is love, perhaps the greatest mystery of all. I am amazed anyone loves me… but how incredibly more amazing is God’s love: But God shows his love for us
The Word of God leaves no wiggle room. God’s love for you is undeniable. I like how one guy, a prison inmate, discovered God’s love: “The prisons in the Canadian province of Quebec enforce a ban on smoking. With no cigarettes, the inmates have resorted to creative solutions. In place of tobacco, some use a mixture of tea leaves and residue from the nicotine gum that is provided to help smokers kick the addiction.” “The concoction is rolled up in a page from the Bible. The Bible is used because these pages reportedly burn slower than normal paper. An inmate named Robert told reporters, ‘I smoked Matthew, I smoked Mark, I smoked Luke, and when I got to John, I read about how God loves me and now I don’t smoke because I’m a Christian. I smoked Matthew, I smoked Mark, I smoked Luke, but in John, I read that Jesus loves me.’”
God’s love created the world, sustains the world, transforms the world. The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell…
What God did: By nature we are helpless, ungodly, sinners. In God’s perfect timing, because of his incredible love for us, God sent his one and only son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross.
The mother of a 9-year-old boy, named Mark, received a phone call in the middle of the afternoon. It was from the teacher of her son’s school, and she said, “Mrs. Smith, something unusual happened today in your son’s 3rd grade class. Your son did something that surprised me so much I thought you should know about it immediately.”
The mother, of course, began to be very worried. And the teacher says, “No, nothing like this has ever happened in all my years of teaching. This morning,” she said, “I was teaching a lesson I’ve taught for many years on creative writing and as I always do, I tell the story of the ant and the grasshopper. The ant works hard all summer and stores up plenty of food, but the grasshopper plays all summer and does no work. Then winter comes and the grasshopper begins to starve because he has no food. So, he begins to beg: ‘Please, Mr. Ant, you have so much food! Please, let me eat, too!’"
"Then I said, ‘Boys and girls, your job is to write the ending to the story.’ So there you have it. The ant worked all summer, the grasshopper played around, the ant has food, the grasshopper is starving, he comes and says, ‘Please, can I have some food?’ "
" Your son, Mark, raised his hand and said, ‘Teacher, may I draw a picture?’ "
" ‘Well yes, Mark, if you’d like you can draw a picture, but first you must write the ending to the story.' As in all the years past, most of the students said that the ant shared his food through the winter, and both the ant and the grasshopper lived. That’s how the kids tended to like to tell the story. A few children wrote, ‘No, Mr. Grasshopper, you should have worked in the summer. Now I have just enough food for myself. So the ant lived and the grasshopper died.'”
“But your son ended the story in a way different from any other child that has ever fulfilled this assignment. He wrote, ‘So the ant gave all of his food to the grasshopper. The grasshopper lived through the winter, but the ant died.’ "And the picture? At the bottom of the page, Mark had drawn three crosses.”
Mark got it. Do you? Does your family? Do your friends get it? Does this community? God’s love and God’s perfect timing make it possible to overcome. Remember where you were: helpless, powerless, ungodly, sinner. Remember what Jesus did. He died so that you didn’t have to. It’s called salvation, a gift from God. In God’s perfect timing, that gift is yours. the road to salvation is narrow, but //// anyone can walk that road. The road is narrow, but the pathway is open to all. /////