The Flip Side of Grace

The Flip Side of Grace

The Fourth Sunday in Lent

Sermon starts at 14:50 in the recording

Service Booklet

All Readings

Gospel: John 3:14-21

14And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17 ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.’

Afterthoughts: Once Bitten

If you heard the sermon from Sunday, you know that I spent time talking about the flip side of grace, which is self-condemnation. This is not something we normally think about or hear talked about from pulpits because it definitely makes many uncomfortable.

How do we come to terms with this truth?

By choosing to disregard the grace and mercy of God,
I condemn myself to be apart from God?

Not easy.
It breaks my heart.
I think it breaks your heart.
And I am sure that it breaks God’s heart as well.

As is said in the Gospel readings from John chapter 3,
God does not intend that any should be condemned,
as exemplified by His gift of Jesus to us.
We need only place belief in Him to enter into God’s abundance.

I don’t want to delve into this part of the sermon,
but it is important to remember this point.

So the Gospel of John reading has a reference to an event from Numbers chapter 21, which was the first reading on Sunday.

In it the Israelites are complaining against God
and God responds with venomous snakes.

Some die.

They all cry out to Moses to intercede for them.
Moses intercedes and God instructs him to make a bronze serpent staff.
When the serpent staff is lifted,
those who had been bit looked upon the image and they were healed.

In a conversation with someone after the sermon,
they brought up an interesting point
(and if I could remember the person I would give them credit).

The point was made that the people still got bit.
Interesting thought.

In this scenario, God could have done a number of things.

· God could have refused to act. This would have left them in peril.
· God could have (and did) provide protection from the bites.
· God could have done away with the snakes.
No danger of being bit.

The snakes remained.
People were bit.
But they were healed.

But the snakes were still there.

Which is interesting because it makes me think,
about Jesus using this story.

Jesus, for us, is the snake lifted up to heal the wounds of sin.
And in this scenario,

God could have done a number of things to deal with sin.

· God could have refused to act, leaving us in the perils of sin.

This would be out of character for God.
If God is love and He has always sought to care for His creation,
this would make no sense.

· God could have (and did) provide healing from sin.

This is where we find ourselves. Alive in God’s grace and mercy.

· God could have done away with sin all together,
leaving no possibility of being wounded.

This would be, at best, a bit of enabling.

Acting in a way that is contrary to healthy relationships with no
consequence for behaving outside of those things?
Not sure that would be very helpful.

But again, to the point of the friend I was talking with in regards to the snakes, people still got bit.

Not by snakes.
Bit by sin.

Sin remained.
People were bit by it.
But they were healed.

But sin remained.

When Jesus is on the cross and close to death He says,

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’
Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

John 19:28-30

The significant phrase comes when Jesus says, “It is finished.”
In the Greek, the verb is in the perfect tense.
It implies a present action with a permanent impact.

To net this out,
The death of Jesus on the cross would not only take care of sin at the moment He died, but also for eternity past and future.

Sacrifices would never be necessary to repair the breach in relationship with God for us.

And, more importantly,
sin would not hold dominion over us.

That’s a pretty big deal.

For hundreds and hundreds of years,
Sacrifices were made on behalf of God’s people to keep the consequences of their sin at bay.

It was an appeasement,
but not a solution.

Jesus would be the solution.

To deal with the impact of sin,
So that our relationship to our Creator could be restored.
And, so that we can navigate this life with confidence.

The impact of the death of Jesus on the cross
Gives us grace is this life when we fall short.
It gives us hope to keep pushing forward in faith.

God’s love, in Jesus, will never fail us.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38-39