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Gripped by Grace

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
December 27, 2023 12:00 am

Gripped by Grace

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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December 27, 2023 12:00 am

What motivates you? Have you ever asked yourself that question? There is no doubt about what motivated the apostle Paul. Until his encounter with the risen Christ, Paul was not only a blasphemer, he was also the number one persecutor of the church. Yet the grace offered him by Jesus Christ changed him, empowered him for service, and ultimately motivated him to live a life of holiness. It can do the same for you too! Listen to all of the full-length sermons in this series here: https://wfth.me/obsession

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If we could see that that pie baked for a neighbor was an offering to God. A child loved as an act of worship.

An employee treated with dignity becomes a hymn of praise. The gospel shared with an unbeliever becomes a sweet gift to God. An assignment or a class becomes a holy place where in the presence of God what you are doing is observable but that isn't what you're doing. What you're doing is offering it to God.

What's the motivation behind the things you do? Are you mindful that all of life can be an offering to God? There's no doubt about what motivated the Apostle Paul. Until his encounter with the risen Christ, Paul was a blasphemer. And even more than that, Paul was the number one persecutor of the church. He sought to kill Christians. Yet the grace offered him by Jesus Christ changed him, empowered him for service, and ultimately motivated him to live a life of holiness.

It can do the same for you. This message is called Gripped by Grace. We are in the midst of reading through some of Paul's most personal comments about his heart and life.

He is a man with holy obsessions. One of those we uncovered in our last session was an obsession for holy living, godly living. And we discovered that if we will pursue the same quest for godly living, we must make three radical refusals. We are to refuse mediocrity. We are to refuse lethargy.

And thirdly, we are to refuse apathy. That is, we're to care enough to challenge one another along in this journey of faith. Which if you've been a believer for any period of time, you've learned by now that this journey is rarely glamorous, is it?

Rarely is it ever breathtaking or great or thrilling or consistently stimulating. That's why it's easy for the believer to be caught in the undertow of lethargy and mediocrity and apathy. Whether you are changing diapers or grading papers or selling wallpaper, cleaning gutters, taking an exam, performing surgery, or maybe standing in a courtroom arguing your case before a jury of peers, we are to be obsessed in all that we do that would be done with everything we can put into it so that the name and glory of Christ, whom we belong to, is honored.

So that even the smallest task, the most mundane thing that our hand finds to do, we find our motivation being the pleasure and smile of God. Together we will discover, tucked inside of Paul's personal resume, his obsession not only with godly living but with the grace of God. Let's read it first in Romans chapter 15 before we unpack as much of the truth as we can with the time allotted.

You'll find his resume in chapter 15 beginning with where we've left off in our study. Let's pick it back up there with verse 15. Romans chapter 15, verse 15, but I have written very boldly to you on some point so as to remind you again because of the grace that was given me from God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God that my offering of the Gentiles might become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Now in this brief resume, Paul either implies or directly refers to three different positions or roles that he played in life.

I'll give them to you first, the role of professor, the role of preacher, and the role of priest. And all of it, if you would notice, is directly the result of grace. I would encourage you to circle the words in the middle of verse 15, because of grace. That's the key phrase for every aspect of Paul's life. He was a man obsessed with the grace of God. I think if you could bump into the apostle Paul, he would spill grace. If you could talk to Paul, he would speak grace. If you could pray with the apostle Paul, he would allude to and appeal to the grace of God. I agree with one author that Paul never fully recovered from his conversion and his experience with the grace of God. He was gripped by the saving grace of God. You look back at Paul's history as a faithful Hebrew and a fearless patriot of the law and a meticulous observer of the regulations and ceremonies of the Jewish people, and I think you'd find him with that brother by the riverbank working his way, that futile task of building a path to heaven, and maybe I will impress God enough that he will let me in.

He had walked at least five steps, but there were five million more to go, and he didn't realize he was at a futile attempt in this project. But Paul experienced saving grace along that pathway, didn't he? He was heading for Damascus to arrest more Christians who dared to suggest that crucified criminal carpenter was the son of God, and a flash of light came from heaven. It was the revelation of the glory of the resurrected Lord, and it brought about a flash of divine insight, and Paul was struck physically blind for some time, but he gained spiritual insight. In fact, life by grace and faith in this one that he immediately called Lord.

He would later write out his full testimony. I was circumcised the eighth day as prescribed by the Mosaic law. I was of the nation of Israel.

I was of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews. That meant I was summa cum laude among the Hebrews. As to the law of Pharisee, it was my passion. As to the righteousness which is in the law, I was found blameless.

Whatever of those things were gained in me, merit badges, I counted them as loss for the sake of Jesus Christ. Philippians chapter 3, verses 5 to 7. Now, after his conversion experience and encounter with the grace of God, he began to impact the church as a leader and has now for nearly 2,000 years, and these are the roles that he played. He briefly alludes to them or implies them in this text as preacher and professor and priest. It was Paul's job to be a teacher and professor. It was Paul's jurisdiction to be a preacher to the Gentiles, but it was his joy to be a priest unto God. Let's look at the first role. Go back to verse 15, this role of professor. You'll find it, I think, buried in the implication of these words, but I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again. Sounds just like a teacher to me.

I think a teacher's most powerful tool may very well be the review sheet just before the exam. He passes it out to the eager students, right? I could preach today on the subject of death and dying, heaven and hell, but this audience would not listen to me like an audience will at a funeral. Ask any pastor and they will tell you that an audience's attention at a funeral service is unrivaled. People barely breathe.

You're preaching, and in front of you is a coffin. People want to know. They must know. There's something about being reminded when you really need to know, and that student wants to pass that exam or that course or that high school experience or college, university course.

That couple is about to begin a home. That soldier is about to go into battle and risk his life. That audience is face to face with death, and they want to know about life afterward. What does the Bible say? What does God have to say?

They want to know. Well, like a great professor, Paul gave them and us a number of review sheets, didn't he? About 16 chapters in this particular one to help us pass the exams of life. Now, Paul is a professor, and we won't take a lot of time here, but he used this tool of reminding over and over again. He had spent three years teaching the Ephesian body and elders, establishing them as shepherds, and now in his farewell address to them, the elders, he said, remember the words of our Lord Jesus, that he himself said it is more blessed to give than receive. Paul challenged the Galatians to remember the poor.

Don't forget to show grace to them. As Timothy struggled in ministry as a young pastor, Paul encouraged him to remember Jesus Christ, who was risen. In addition, in that same letter, Paul reminded Timothy when that hinge word carrying through most of the first chapter, remember, Timothy, let me remind you that God has given you the spirit of power and love and discipline. Verse 7, let me remind you further in verse 9, you've been saved and called according to his own purpose and by his grace. Don't forget, Timothy, that the Savior has abolished death and given us immortality. Verse 10, Timothy, I want to remind you that I am not ashamed of the gospel, for I know whom I believed and I am convinced that he is able to guard my heart and life that I've entrusted to him. Verse 12, Timothy, let me remind you not to lower the standard of preaching the truth of God's word. Verse 13.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would submit to you that one of the best things you and I can do at times to refresh our holy obsession for godly living and for an appreciation of the grace of God is to remember. Like Isaiah, the prophet who said, listen, you who seek to follow the Lord, remember the rock from which you were hewn, remember the hole or the pit from which you were dug. Isaiah 51, verse 1. Or David who's saying, he drew me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay and he set my feet on the rock. Psalm 40, verse 2. It's interesting to me that Jesus Christ delivered one ordinance that is to be repeated over and over again by the believer.

It's the table of remembrance, isn't it? Do this so that you can remember me because you're going to be prone to forget me. Even those of us who believe, remember me, remember me. And now Paul says, I am speaking to you in order to remind you of some of these points. Well, obviously the Roman believers welcome the review and like us today, we wish really that Paul had told us more.

He was a wonderful professor. The second role that he played is the role of preacher. Notice the last part of verse 15 again. He says because of the grace that was given to me from God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. If Paul's job was as a teacher, his jurisdiction was the Gentiles whom he was called. Galatians chapter 2, verses 1 to 10 tells us that Paul's primary audience was the Gentile. While Peter primarily preached to the Jew, Paul primarily reached the Gentile. And in this dispensation of grace that would mean the predominant influencer of the church and by far the largest contributor to the New Testament was not Peter, but Paul. Soon after Paul was converted on that road to Damascus, Ananias was given a vision and the Lord said to him, Paul was his chosen instrument of Christ to bear his name first and foremost among the Gentiles. In the first chapter of Romans, we've learned that Paul said it was my challenge as an apostle to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles. Chapter 1, verse 5.

You could correctly say then that the Gentiles were the primary jurisdiction of Paul's preaching influence. But now as he boldly speaks to the Gentiles and he reminds them of his authority, it's interesting to me that he does not say in this text that God has appointed me as an apostle to the Gentiles. He doesn't say that, does he?

Look back. He says God has appointed me as it were a minister. And he directly links that preaching office to the fact that he is the recipient of the grace of God. He is gripped by the truth that he is not only redeemed by the grace of God, but ordained by the grace of God. That's why I think he doesn't flash his credentials here as an apostle to the Gentiles as if to say, hey, listen up now. Come on. I'm the professor, but I'm also your apostle.

Listen to me. No, he uses a word that comes out of nothing less than sheer humility. A minister of Christ Jesus. The word is leitourgos.

It gives us our transliterated word liturgy. The word originally referred to somebody who served a public office at his own expense, much like city council members do to this day. No salary, no pension, no benefit package, just service for the public good out of a heart of generosity.

Over time it came to refer to someone who volunteered to serve their country. I found several examples of what it meant to be a leitourgos in the ancient world. For one, Greek cities had great festivals every year that included a lot of music and drama. People who loved their city would volunteer to collect and instruct and equip a choir or a chorus for these festivals at their own expense. The Athenians, in addition to that, were the great naval power of this ancient world.

And one of the most patriotic things that a wealthy man could do was underwrite the expense of a warship for an entire year, paying the salary of the soldiers and carrying the expenses of that warship for the protection of his city or country. The word was also used in relation to the Athenian games. The Athenians had divided themselves into ten tribes and during these festivals there would be these famous torch races in which teams made up of different members of each tribe would race one another in these great relay races. And they would literally carry a lit torch. To this day we refer to that an idiom in our own language where we refer to handing off the torch to the next runner or the next leader, the next one in line.

These games were paid for by the leitourgos, men who not only paid the expenses but selected and trained the runners to represent their tribe. Over time this word came to be associated with someone who performed voluntarily religious services, more than likely because they were not paid anything. And out of that came the translation minister, someone who handled the liturgies of the church. What Paul is announcing to these Romans is that he views himself so gripped by grace that he is willing to pour out everything that he owns and everything that he has for the sake of his new family, his new tribe, his new city and country. No matter what the cost, no matter what it costs in terms of time, he was willing to sacrifice everything as it were to win the race, to pass along the torch, to train the runners, to protect the country, to even train people to sing for the glory of their leader no matter what it cost him, even if it cost him his life. You know it's people like him that we still talk about today. You don't get your name added to that kind of list without great sacrifice, do you?

I have tucked away in my files for some time this illustration and want to use it now because I think it fits, this kind of sacrifice. Like most physicians of great experience Dr. Cain, Dr. Evan Cain was preoccupied with a particular facet of medicine. He felt strongly about the use of general anesthesia in major surgery.

It was very risky in his day. He believed that most major operations could be and should be performed under local anesthetic. The hazards of general anesthesia were greater sometimes than the risk of surgery itself. And Dr. Cain's medical mission became this passionate obsession to prove to his colleagues once and for all that they were risking, in fact, many times causing the loss of life because of general anesthesia. They ought to explore local anesthesia. To prove the viability of major surgery using only a local anesthetic, Cain would have to find a patient brave enough to try it. In his 37 years as a surgeon, he had performed nearly 4,000 appendectomies.

Many of us in here have our scar, don't we, to prove that we also have had that done. The patient that finally volunteered was prepped in all the normal ways. In the operating room, though, was given only a local anesthetic. As he had done thousands of times before this article read, Dr. Cain entered the patient's abdomen, slicing the tissue and clamping blood vessels as he operated on his patient. Locating the appendix, the surgeon skillfully clipped it away and folded the stump back in place and sewed up his patient's wound. And all the while, his patient was fully awake, experiencing only minor discomfort. After two days of recovery, much faster, by the way, than in general anesthesia cases, the patient was released from the hospital to go home to recuperate there. It was a success full operation.

He had achieved his goal. In fact, his patient was an incredibly a credible testimony that could not be denied or ignored. You see, Dr. Evan Cain had operated on himself. He was the only patient he could find willing to go under the knife to take the risk of experiencing something that had never been done before. Only local anesthesia.

Since that surgery in 1921, his breakthrough technique changed the face of surgery forever and saved countless numbers of lives. Is it any wonder that the people of God who make the most difference in our lives are not the ones walking around strutting their stuff, flashing their credentials, telling you why they're important, why you should listen, no matter how much they know. They are the typical volunteers of an assembly like ours who are sacrificing time, money, effort, sacrificing their bodies, their hearts, their bank accounts, their calendars, to listen to verses that a child might repeat, to teach a young believer the truth hidden away from public view in a living room somewhere. The men who stood out in the rain today to help us park our cars. People who stand in front of a class and teach. The people who are involved in all of the things that take place around here, whether it's making a cup of coffee or greeting someone.

Like Paul, they are obsessed with the grace of God and the God of grace, even in little things. Well, that's Paul the professor and Paul the preacher. There's one more in this text I want to get to quickly. We don't have much time.

Well, let me get to it. It's Paul the priest. As a professor, Paul was motivated by grace. As a preacher, he delivered the message of grace. But as a priest, he was involved in the miracle of grace.

Look back at verse 16 again. He said, by the grace that was given to me, verse 16, I am a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God that my offering of the Gentiles might become acceptable, set apart, made holy, that is sanctified by the Holy Spirit. If being a professor was his job and preaching to the Gentiles his jurisdiction, being a priest unto God was his joy. Now, as a priest, in this dispensation of grace, he was not offering a lamb or a grain offering. The text tells us that he was offering up to God, don't miss it, Gentile converts. They were his offering unto God. This miracle of grace, redeemed hearts, redeemed souls offered to God, the sweet smelling savor was a person.

Interesting use of words. What mattered most to Paul were not his job, not his jurisdiction, not even his sense of joy, but sanctified, growing, separated, holy, maturing disciples. And what a great challenge, by the way, for all of us who are a priest unto God, for Christ, he has made us priests unto God the Father, Revelation 1, verse 6, 1 Peter 2, 9. But we are priests, holy priests to God. It's good to remember we can become easily preoccupied with those programs that we administer, that subject matter that we teach, those books that we read.

We can become preoccupied and forget the purpose of those programs and those projects and those classes and those activities and those lessons and those duties and those sacrifices. It is nothing less than the formation of a strong believer, set apart, holy, sanctified unto God, which is our reasonable service. One author wrote it this way, Paul saw himself dressed, as it were, in priestly garments. Even though he was involved in the dusty, mundane business of traveling the ancient world on foot, suffering from exposure and threats and beatings and rejection, how?

How could he survive it? He saw himself dressed in priestly garb, forever in the holy of holies, lifting up the souls of men, as it were, who ascended as sweet-smelling savor to Almighty God. Even in the most mundane duties of life, Paul saw them all as liturgy, the handling of sacred things, as if he were involved in a worship service unto God.

He was gripped by the grace of God. If we could see our lives and our service like that, we would be filled with the same obsession. If we could see that that pie baked for a neighbor was an offering to God, what a difference it'd make. A child loved as an act of worship, an employee treated with dignity, which becomes a hymn of praise, the gospel shared with an unbeliever, which becomes a sweet gift to God, an assignment or a class, which becomes a holy place where in the presence of God, what you are doing is observable, but that isn't what you're doing. What you're doing is offering it to God as your praise to him. This is the sacred view of life, and we are here to be reminded of Paul, of this holy obsession. It led one believer to make this comment to Christ, the will of God, your will, oh God, nothing less, nothing more, nothing else.

Another believer who live for Christ said it this way, no reserve, no regrets, no retreat. These are people gripped by the love and grace of our Lord. And this grace is amazing. This love is amazing. We have sung about it. It is so amazing. It is so divine.

Don't stop there. It demands my soul, my life, my what? My all. If we haven't given our all, we are not gripped by the grace of God. If we're holding back, we're not obsessed with the grace of God, the will of God, the work of God, the people of God, the name of God, the pleasure of God, the honor, the glory of God, we say nothing less, nothing more, nothing else. I believe that's what it means to be gripped by the grace of God. I hope that God's grace has genuinely gripped you.

No reserve, no regrets, no retreat. We're in the middle of a series entitled Holy Obsession, and we've taken this series and turned it into a book that would help you dive deeper into this topic. During the time that this series is airing, we're offering the book Holy Obsession at a discounted price. Give us a call to learn more. You can reach us at 866-48-BIBLE. You can also find this resource on our website, wisdomonline.org. And join us next time to discover more wisdom for the hearts. You
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-27 00:17:24 / 2023-12-27 00:26:59 / 10

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