Wednesday, May 28, 2014

How are you managing?


Try this little exercise.  In your mind, make a line graph, the kind you find in a board of directors' room, only instead of sales or profits, this one charts your life.  Plot the point to show how good life is as you move from the past, the left, to the future, the right.  Connect those dots with a line.  If a company's graph is a straight line, the managers won't be around very long.  The board wants the line to go up.  It may have to dip now and then to get there, but they want the overall motion to be upward.  Yet when we think about our lives, most of us would really like to have a straight line.  When we have those experiences that make the line go up or down, we call that stress.  Fortune, of course, is fickle, so we hold ourselves back.   What are we so afraid of?  Are we so fond of having our sins glossed over that we don't want to really attack them?  Do we like being respectable so much that we never try to be holy?  When you're young you don’t notice the line is straight because you're busy building your nest and anchoring it down.  When you get older you don't notice because things are going so well that you're stiff, but God has His ways of getting your attention.  No matter how close to the chest you hold your cards, you never know when some event will tear away your mask, and cause the line of your life to plummet down off the graph.

I am not talking about death here.  Think of death as where the line goes off to the right.  I'm talking about when the line goes off the bottom.  Some day we will all arrive at that exit point, but before we do, there are many less final times when we have to give account.  Those are the unpleasant times, the times when the line goes off the bottom of the graph.  We ought to think of such times as dress rehearsals for the Judgment, so think - if we tremble at the ups and downs of fortune, how can we face God's final evaluation of our lives?  Do you work a 54 hour week, and get little sleep at night, trying to protect your property?  Do you find it hard to spend a few minutes for the needs of your immortal soul?  Since you came here this morning I assume you do want God's forgiveness, His comfort, His power of renewal, so please don't be afraid when He makes your line go up and down.  He certainly wants you to have forgiveness, comfort, renewal, and eternal life.  May this message remove from your heart any fear about the certain promises of Christ's mercy.

The Gospel promises do not come with question marks.  There is no debate, no contradiction as far as the Gospel is concerned.  St. Paul tells us plainly, God spared not his own Son but delivered him up for us all.  Maybe you don't understand international banking, or why marriages fail, or how guided missiles work.  Maybe you can't imagine how the first oyster ever got eaten, or why anyone would listen to rap, but when you gaze on the cross of Jesus you can be certain of His love.  The cross speaks plainly.  There Jesus assures you that God loves you.  Yes, He who made the world, the Holy One whom no sinner can approach and live, the Almighty weeps with pity over the fallen world.  He doesn't just weep.  He delivers His Son to death.  The cross tells you plainly …God loves you… God is merciful to you … God has given you a Savior.

These are not questions.  These are statements of fact, and they are clear, not puzzles or ciphers as if they did not mean what they said.  God gives you a Gospel you can understand. There is a problem in that each of us has something built in that tries to deny it, something that doubts salvation could be so simple.  The good news is, it not only can be, it is.  There are no question marks on the cross, neither does the Gospel come with one.

If your doctor prescribes medicine for your illness, wouldn't you be a fool not to take it?  How much more then should you trust the Great Physician who can heal your soul of its leprosy.  Forgiveness is the necessary therapy for spiritual degeneration.  You can be confident that God has provided an antidote to the Fall!  He has given us the Lamb who takes away our sins.  There are many reasons to be skeptical about life.  We often have to doubt politicians, and opinion polls, and celebrities, and critics, but don't doubt the Gospel. God's certain promises are backed up by His certain faithfulness.  They are sealed by the blood of Jesus, and written in a book that cannot err.  That arrangement calls for trust.

Consider the man who wrote this lesson, the Apostle Paul.  He goes on to say I am persuaded - not a question of probabilities but of certainty - that neither life nor death, nor angels or demons, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.  Paul knew there was no weak link in the chain of salvation.  We have the same pledge he had.  There is no flaw in the fabric of the Gospel.  As we enter the balance with the mercy of God on our side of the scale, our shame and disgrace on the other, be sure the mercy weighs more.  When your conscience screams in your ear, turn to the 8th chapter of Romans and read If God be for us, who can be against us?

Finally, let us consider what the Apostle means when he says that because of Christ God will freely give us all things.  All things.  What does this mean?  Go back to that line graph, and think about the ups and downs, the times when it isn't a straight line.  God's love explains all those moves.  They have purposes.  The graph dips here and there, but the greatest blessing is that as we get to the far right side, the line goes off the top.  As long as we're certain of that, nothing can make us sad.  The same boundless love that cleanses the soul ministers to the pains and perils of the body.  There can be no doubt, the atonement Christ made is absolutely thorough, absolutely complete.  There is nothing we can do to help.  It's foolish to even try.  Rather, we pray for and expect all good things that come with God's mercy.  Are you searching for peace?  Are you turned around in your tracks because of financial reverses?  Does worry eat away at your heart?  Has grief invaded your life?  Do you think you have stood as much as anyone can?  Turn to the cross of Jesus.  If He could take care of the biggest thing, then we can trust Him for the little things.  Of course it's easier with the ups than with the downs, but the downs really make your faith stronger.

Perhaps you find yourself saying Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.  Very well.  He hears that; He loves you.  You can trust His certain promises.  AMEN.

~Rev. Lloyd E. Gross

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