Message, Tim LaFleur
November 1, 2015
If you have your copy of the Word of God, turn to the book of Ephesians if you would. And you will remember, during these days we have been talking about being wise; seeing things from God’s viewpoint so that we can apply it to real-life situations so that we can be skillful and successful in relationships and the responsibilities we have.
Where would we be without the marvelous, matchless grace of God. As I heard our choir and orchestra today, as I heard them sing and lead us in musical worship, I couldn’t help but realize that God has extended His grace to every one of us.
When I saw this video and saw all the things that we are able to do as God worked in us to work through us, it has just been amazing to recount all of the blessings of God that you and I have and it is all because of His marvelous, matchless, wonderful grace. Amen?
Look at Ephesians 2:8-10. I want to remind you of the grace of God. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast.” Look at Verse 10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Do you see it? God bestows grace and as we receive grace, we respond to grace. We are the very workmanship of God. You and I are God’s masterpiece, amen? Because we are the workmanship. We are His workmen, created in Christ Jesus, it says, for good works which God prepared beforehand. He ordained those works that you and I should walk in them.
Listen, tomorrow, when you get up, you don’t have to worry about whether or not God has a work for you to do, amen? Because you are the very workmanship of God. God is more concerned about the workman because you are the work. He is working in you to work through you to accomplish His purposes. Amen? Thank God for His grace.
Look at Titus Chapter 3 and Verse 4. When you get there, say “Word.” Titus Chapter 3 and Verse 4. We are talking about the grace of God. Amen? Are you there?
“But when the goodness and lovingkindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us,” notice, “not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit Whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by grace,” there it is, “we might become heirs or partakers of the hope of eternal life.” And see, that is our great hope. Amen? It is all possible because of the grace of God.
Do you remember that old hymn, Grace, Grace, God’s grace? Grace that can pardon and cleanse within. Grace, grace, God’s grace. Grace that is greater than what? Than all my sin. Amen?
Aren’t you thankful for what God did in His grace through Jesus Christ. Somebody said this acrostic: God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense. And if you and I admit, you and I have been graced by God. Amen? We have been saved by grace. We are sustained by grace. We are being led by grace. It is all about the grace of God. God’s riches at Christ’s expense.
Listen, you can’t do a thing to earn or to merit the great salvation we have in Christ. It is not based on our performance. It is based on Christ’s finished work. And all of us would agree that no one ever comes to faith in Jesus except by the grace of God.
But I have got a question for you. If that is true and we believe it is, how do we respond to the grace of God. How can you, as a believer, respond because you have been embraced by grace? How should we respond?
Today, I want to talk to you about being wise about your response to grace. Paul asked himself this question in Romans 6 and 1. He said, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” And his answer is, by no means, certainly not.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer helps us in his classic work, “The Cost of Discipleship,” where he contrasts cheap grace with costly grace. I think we have it on the screen. Notice. “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship.” For a discipleship pastor, that is a good quote, isn’t it? “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship. Grace without a cross,” notice, “grace without Jesus, living and incarnate.”
Costly grace is costly because it demands, it compels a man to follow Jesus. And it is grace because it enables him to follow. Do you see it? Costly grace, God’s grace compels us to follow Jesus. But it is grace because it enables us to follow Him.
Listen, God is not going to call you to do anything that He doesn’t equip you and empower you to do. Amen?
And so the question is, how do we respond once we have been embraced by grace? If I ask for a show of hands, many of you would say, listen, I remember the day when God allowed me to be graced with the salvation that only Christ can provide. You will remember the time when you were embraced by grace. And listen, we have all experienced grace for the totality of our lives, but there was a moment in time where you met grace and by faith you trusted the Lord Jesus Christ. You were embraced by grace. The Spirit of God came to indwell your life and empower you and help you to be what God wants you to be. You are a gracious people, amen. You have been graced by God and you extend grace. And that is what God wants us to do. And listen, you and I are to respond in such a way where we are grateful to God and thankful to God. We are living life intentionally in response to His grace.
Now I believe the key to responding to the grace of God is found in a word picture the Apostle Paul uses in the book of Romans. And I want you to turn there, if you would. Turn to Romans Chapter 1 and Verses 14-16. I want you to see it in Verse 14. Paul says, “I am a debtor.” In the language of the New Testament, what he means is, I am under solemn obligation before God. In light of all God has done in my life, because I have been embraced by the grace of God, I am one as under solemn obligation before Him. I have got to live life intentionally for the glory of God. Because I have been embraced by grace, my life should be a response, a loving, intentional, grateful response to the grace of God for the glory of God. Do you see it?
And so all of life we live life in response to the grace of God. Paul says, “I am a dedicated debtor. I have got a debt to the grace of God.” Now let me tell you what he doesn’t mean and I want to do this by clarification. Your salvation is not a debt you pay; it is a gift you receive. Amen? We quoted the scripture, “For by grace you have been saved through faith and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast.” You and I can’t boast. We didn’t earn this gift. This is a gracious gift of God that you and I receive by faith. Be clear.
Something else I want you to be clear about is this: You can’t ever pay God back. Do you know that? People say, well, God has been so good to me, I am just going to pay God back. Listen, you could never pay God back. God has done so much for you in the person of His Son, there is no way to pay Him back. It is not based on your performance; it is based on Christ’s finished work. It is God’s riches at Christ’s expense. You can’t earn it. You can’t boast. You can’t brag. Why? Because Jesus Christ did something for you that you could never do for yourselves. Amen?
But the last thing I want you to see by way of clarification is this: You are no longer under law. You are under grace. Now that is a problem we have in the church today, right? People either go to an extreme in grace and they don’t feel like they have any responsibility at all. They are licensed or they fall into legalism where they feel like they can do something to earn their salvation. And it is not Jesus only anymore, it is Jesus plus. Jesus plus church membership. Jesus plus my baptism. Jesus plus my giving or what I can do to pay God back. All those things are important, but I want to tell you, it is not Jesus plus, Brother and Sister, it is Jesus only. Amen? You are not under law; you are under grace. And when God looks at you, you are the accepted in the Beloved according to the Word of God, Ephesians 1:6. You and I have been blessed by God and part of that blessing is that we are acceptable in the Beloved. When God looks at you, He sees the very righteousness of His Son.
Now I want you to turn to Romans 12:1-2. Romans 12:1-2. And while you are turning there, listen to this, the reason I feel like the key to a response to the grace of God is found in that word used by Paul several times in the book of Romans, that word picture, the idea of being a debtor to God is for this reason. G. Campbell Morgan called the book of Romans, the gospel according to Paul. It is a treatise on the gospel of grace.
In the first three chapters, he talks about the truth that every person who has ever lived is under sin. In Chapter 4 and 5, he talks about our justification by faith. That was the battle cry of the reformation. That was rediscovered. And in the same way that they rediscovered being saved by grace and not by works, you and I need to rediscover that. Because why? Because we have been embraced by the grace of God. But it doesn’t stop there. Because we have been embraced by the grace of God, look at Chapter 6-8. In 6 and 7, he talks about our sanctification. We are dead to sin according to the Apostle Paul and we are alive to God. And so we are to reckon ourselves dead indeed unto sin but alive to God through Christ. In Chapter 8, he talks about the Spirit-filled life. In Chapters 9-11, he talks about God sovereignly working with the nation of Israel. And God is not done with Israel. Some would tell you that God did away with His working with Israel, but that is not the case. God is still sovereignly working with the nation. And it is amazing.
I have the opportunity to go to Israel in a couple of weeks and it is just amazing to think about the land and all that God is doing there to prepare for the coming, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
But in Chapter 12 and Verse 1, there is a shift. He talks in Verse…Chapters 1-11 about this great salvation we have and it is all of grace. But then in Chapter 12, he talks about our responsibility to grace and service. So from Chapters 12-16, he is talking about how a believer ought to respond. What does that look like? How does that flesh out?
Notice what he says. “I beseech you, therefore, Brethren, by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice.” There it is. Our lives ought to be presented to God as a living sacrifice. That ought to be our intentional, loving, grateful response to the grace of God, to present ourselves as living sacrifices before God, “wholly acceptable to God which is your reasonable service.” The New King James says, but some of the later translations say, spiritual service of worship.
What are you saying? I am telling you that in the same way that you and I gathered together to worship on Sunday mornings at 8:30 or 1:15, God has called us not just to come corporately to worship, but after we scatter and leave this place, God has called every one of us to live a lifestyle of worship. Do you know that? Everywhere you go, every person you come in contact with, you are to present your bodies a living sacrifice, wholly and acceptable to God which is your spiritual worship. Notice what he says in Verse 2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
And so that is the life we have been called to. That is our response to grace. Now go back to Chapter 1. I want to show you three different passages where Paul uses this word “debtor.” Now remember, it means one under solemn obligation. And here is how it goes. In light of all that God has done on our behalf, what should be our intentional, thankful, gracious response to a holy God? Well, he tells us. Look at it in Chapter 1 and Verse 14. “I am a debtor, both to Greeks and barbarians, both to the wise and to the unwise.” Notice. “For as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greeks.”
I want you to see Paul’s burden. He felt like he had an obligation to share the gospel of Christ with those who were lost. And you and I have that same obligation. Notice his burden. He says, “I am a debtor.” I am one under obligation before God. I have an obligation to share the gospel, whether they be Gentile or Jew, whether they be a Jewish religionist or a rank pagan, whether they be rich or poor, red, yellow, black, white, educated, uneducated…makes no difference. He felt like he had a burden, he had an obligation to share the gospel with everybody he came in contact with.
Do you have a burden for the lost? We saw a mission video a moment ago. We have the privilege to go to unreached, unengaged people groups with the gospel. Are we burdened enough to walk across the street and share the gospel with folks in our neighborhood?
Paul had this burden. He had this passionate burden to share the gospel with everybody everywhere. Notice his belief. He had this sense that God wanted him to proclaim the gospel in Rome. Now why Rome? Because the adage was, all roads led to Rome. He knew that if the gospel was preached in Rome, he knew if there was a strong church in Rome, and there was a church. There was a blossoming congregation. He knew that if he went there, he would be an encouragement to them and he would encourage them to take the gospel everywhere. And so he had this passionate belief. He had this conviction that he must take the gospel to Rome. And so sort of as a precursor, he writes the book of Romans. And he says, “I am on my way to Spain, but I am going to come to see you.” And he is burdened for these believers. Why? Because he knew of the tremendous potential they had and if they were very acquainted with the gospel of Christ, they could take that gospel to everywhere.
Now why was he bold in his proclamation? I will tell you why. Look at Verse 16. It is not only his burden and belief, but his boldness. “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation, to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” He knew the truth that there was power in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He knew the mighty working of God to change and transform a life through the power of the gospel.
You might be wondering, well, I don’t have the gift of evangelism. Well, join the club. Neither do I. But let me tell you something, God has called every one of us to do the work of an evangelist.
Let me share a secret with you I learned many years ago when I was in college. A successful witness is not seeing someone saved, as wonderful as that is. And we pray that every time we have an opportunity to share the gospel, we can see people saved. But that is not a successful witness. I learned in college through Campus Crusade, Cru, they called themselves now. Bill Bright said it this way, “A successful witness is sharing Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God.” Success comes in the sharing. All we have to do is tell it. Amen? All we have to do is share the message of the gospel.
Somebody says, well, I am afraid to share it because I might say the wrong thing. The question I want to ask you is, where are you going to send them? Hell #2? Amen? There is no wrong thing. You share your story. You share the gospel the best you know how. If you don’t know how, we want to train you how. Somebody can teach you how to articulate your faith and share the gospel. And if you want to know how to do it, there is a simple model in Colossians Chapter 4. I call it the Colossians 4 model. Basically it is, pray for those you are burdened about. Live the life and then intentionally share the message. You can find it in Colossians 4 Verses 2-6. Pray for an open door. Live the life. People sometimes can’t hear what we say because they are watching the way we live. And you know, my mantra, if you would is that we are to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel. Listen, we can’t expect that people will listen to the gospel if we are not showing the gospel with our lives. So we show the gospel and we share the gospel with our lips.
I remember like it was yesterday. A young man came into the BCM Center at Nichols State University. His name was Preston. He was from North Louisiana. He had been raised a Baptist. Now that was very unusual. In Louisiana there are two regions basically. There is the region below I-10, South Louisiana…not many Baptists or evangelicals. And then there is that region above I-10 that is North Louisiana. My Grandmother called all those people American. I said, Grandma, we are all Americans. She said, no, you are a Cajun. If you can imagine that. That is how backward we were.
But Preston came and he had been a part of a great church in Alexandria, Louisiana. Alexandria for Louisiana is like Nashville in Tennessee. It is kind of the mecca for Baptist life. He grew up in a great church. He was under the sound of the gospel. He had the greatest youth pastor probably at the time in Louisiana, Philip Brooks. Now he is the pastor of that great church, Calvary Baptist Church. But Preston came to Louisiana with some issues. And he had run into some of our students and they invited him to a service and he was under the sound of the gospel. It was the first worship time gathering that we had and I was able to preach. And he came forward and said, Bro. T, I want to rededicate, he said, my life. And so I prayed with him and encouraged him. And I said, Man, we have got a flag football team starting up and I know you are into athletics. And I want to invite you to be a part of that. So we always had room for people who were newcomers to be a part of our team. And we had a very competitive team that year with some godly young men who were in that team and on that squad. And they used it as a platform to share the gospel with others.
So Preston got involved in that group. And he kept coming to the BCM and hearing the gospel. And then he came to see me in my office one day. And he said, you know, when I rededicated my life, I think I did the wrong thing, Preston said. I said, what do you mean? It is always good to commit your life to Christ. He said, yeah, that is the problem. He said, being around the guys, being involved in a D Group, being in the Bible Study in the dorm, I realized that I don’t need to rededicate my life, I need to give my life to Christ.
And here was the deal. Here was a young man who had grown up in church. And I have got a sneaking suspicion there are many people in this region that have grown up in church all their lives. They have heard all the right things. They have a form of godliness but they really don’t know God. They know all about God, but they don’t know God. And that was Preston’s problem. And he came to faith and his life was transformed and changed by the power of God.
What are you saying? I am telling you, you can be right in the middle of church and never come into a relationship with Christ. You can say all the right things. You can do all the right things. Your name might be on the church roll. You might have been baptized. You might have come forward and shook a preacher’s hand, but you have never come to faith.
This next Sunday, we are going to have Membership Matters. It is going to be in this building. And one of the things that we do at Membership Matters is we share the gospel with every person who wants to join our church so that they can hear articulated the gospel, the simple truth of the gospel of grace. How about you? If you have been saved by the grace of God, let me tell you something, you ought to be burdened for the lost. And if you are burdened for the lost, you need to, if you don’t know how, learn how to share your faith because we have got to show the gospel and share the gospel with everybody everywhere.
The second thing I want you to see is this: We not only have an obligation to share the gospel, we have got an obligation to submit to the Spirit. Turn to Romans 8 and Verse 12. Romans 8 and Verse 12. When you get there, say “Word.” “Therefore, Brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh to live according to the flesh.” Notice, “if you live according to the flesh, you will die. But if by the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are Sons of God.”
What is he saying? He is saying that you and I owe nothing to the flesh. You and I are not under obligation to the flesh. The flesh is the old man, the old nature, that part that has a bent to sin and is rebellion against God. Listen, the Bible says, put it to death. Put it to death. You owe nothing to the flesh. Paul says in Romans, in me, that is, in my flesh dwells no good thing. The flesh profits nothing. He says in this text, if you live according to the flesh, you die, but if by the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body, you live. One translation says, the misdeeds of the body. Put them to death. Our obligation is not to the flesh. Paul says, our obligation and response to the grace of God is to the Spirit of God. Why in the world are we Baptists so afraid of the Holy Ghost? The Holy Spirit of God has done so much for us. We have got an obligation to submit to the Spirit. Listen, you and I ought to be controlled and empowered by the Spirit of God. Think about all the Spirit has done on our behalf. When you were lost, He convicted you of your sin. He convinced you of your great need for Christ. He called you to repentance and faith. He drew you to Jesus. That is what the Scriptures teach. When you trusted Christ, He indwelt your life in His person and power and presence. He empowers you to live the Christ-life.
Paul said in Ephesians 5 and 18, “Do not get drunk with wine for it is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, be controlled and empowered by the Spirit.” The Spirit of God enables you to be Christ’s witness. And He gifts you with spiritual gifts so that you can serve Him in a meaningful way. Every one of us have a spiritual gift. We better find out what it is and then begin to use it for the glory of God if we want to respond correctly to the grace of God that works in our lives.
When I first got saved, an old pastor came and put his arm around me. And I have done that to many young men, especially those who have been called to ministry. But it is true for every believer. Here is what he said, Bro. Godwin told me this. He said, Tim, the Christian life is either easy or it is impossible. And I looked at him and I said, what do you mean? He said, it is impossible when you try to live it in your own strength.
Have you been a Christian long enough to know that? When you try to live the Christian life in your own strength, it is impossible. You don’t get anywhere. But here is what he said. He said, when you allow Jesus to live His life in and through you, it becomes more easy. That is not very good English, but it is great theology, amen? When you allow Christ to live His life in and through you in the person and presence and power of the Holy Spirit, it becomes…it is a matter of surrender. And the great work in the Christian life, I believe, is getting to a place where you surrender to God.
Remember Bonhoeffer’s quote. Grace is not really grace if it is without discipleship, with a cross and without following Jesus living and incarnate in your life. Do you see it? That is why I say and you have heard Pastor Robby mention many times, every day you ought to begin with a funeral and a coronation. Die to self and crown Him King. And basically what that means is, you surrender to the Spirit of God.
The last thing I want you to see is, we have an obligation to strengthen other believers. Look at Romans 15 and Verse 1. Romans 15 and Verse 1. You have got an obligation to share the gospel. You’ve got an obligation to submit and surrender to the Spirit of God. And now you have an obligation to strengthen other believers.
Notice what it says. “We who are strong ought to bear the infirmities or the scruples of the weak and not please ourselves.” Some of your translations, if you have ESV, it says, we have an obligation to strengthen the weaker brother. We have an obligation; it says in the ESV. That is the same idea that we are under solemn obligation before God in light of all that He has done in our lives because we have been embraced by grace. We have a responsibility and an obligation to one another. How many of you know that when you came in here today, you came and sat down in the middle of some people who are hurting? Now I know when we come to worship, we put on our Sunday best. We come to worship and we put on a face. And you can look good on the outside but there are times when you are hurting on the inside.
My son-in-law’s great aunt was a member of my church, Aunt Gladys. And I will never forget an encounter I had with her and then what happened after that time. I was part, brand new pastor. We had a revival meeting. I remember pulling into the church and I was very excited. Man, I had a song in my heart. I had a snap in my step. I was fired up about the things of God. I was ready to preach. We were having a revival and I had a guest evangelist, but during the week, I would be doing the noon days for that revival service. And it was so exciting because I knew people were going to come forward that Sunday. I had this expectancy.
Now the big reason I knew is, it is one thing to fish in a pond you are not familiar with, but it is another thing to fish in a stocked pond. How many of you know that? Amen? Now the pond was stocked. We had done a lot of work. We had a one-day soul winning clinic on the Saturday before the Sunday. And we taught believers how to share their testimony and use a marked New Testament and a gospel tract. And went everywhere all over the community. And we had several who came to the faith. And we were excited because they promised to come to the meeting the next day and share that with the church. So we were fired up. We were excited.
I opened the door. It was a little country church or Cajun church. And I opened the door and there she was, Aunt Gladys. She had her hand on her hip and her finger in my face! I am thinking to myself, doesn’t she know I am the pastor of the church? Who does this woman think she is? So I kind of walked around her and I went to my office. Do you know that woman had the audacity to follow me to my office! I put my books down and I breathed a prayer. I said, God, help me. I don’t want to start this day off bad. I turned around and the only thing I could think of, I felt led by the Spirit, and don’t do this, but is what I felt led to do. She was a little Cajun woman, prime and proper. I grabbed her and swung her around and gave her a big kiss on the cheek and said, listen, let’s get first things first. I love you. So she sorts of fixed herself up. I walked around her and headed down the hall. She had been fussing about a Sunday School class. She said, Oh, Bro. Tim, Shay, she said, it’s okay. It’s okay. I will come help you clean this class. We had left the class dirty. She said, I will go help you clean this class. I thought to myself, Duh, why didn’t you just clean it up from the beginning? But she was so mad.
And do you know what I realized about her? She was lonely. She had some issues. She lived for her nieces and nephews and some of them were on drugs and she had prayed for them. She was a faithful member of our church. And she was going through a rough patch. But we showed her love. Every week, my kids and I had three preschoolers at the time, we would go. She would make me coffee and she would cook apple pie or pineapple. I remember she had a great pineapple upside down cake. And the kids would play and we would talk. And you know, that woman became one of my best supporters at the church. And she loved to come and be among God’s people. Why?
Why do you tell this story? I am telling you, there are people all around you that are hurting that need a word of encouragement, that need to know that they are loved. And listen, if we can’t share that in the body of Christ, why do we have church anyway? Your response to grace is, sometimes strengthen that brother or sister. Do you come to church primarily to get or do you come to church primarily to give? That would be a good test of discipleship. You know, I can’t go there anymore because I don’t get fed. I get that if you are a brand new believer, but many of you have served the Lord for 15, 20, 25 years and more. You don’t come to church to get fed anymore. You come to church not to get, you ought to come to church to give, amen? Give.
And so what are you saying? Here is what I am saying. We glory in the truth that God has lavished His grace upon us. But I am telling you, it is not grace at all unless there is a loving, intentional, grateful response to God in light of all that He has done and accomplished through Jesus Christ.
Let me show you one more place where that word is used. Look at Romans Chapter 15 and Verse 27. In Verse 26, the Apostle Paul talks about the Macedonians and the Achaeans and what they do, they gather a contribution and they make that contribution to the poor who are in Jerusalem among the saints. It says in Verse 26. Now look in Verse 27. “It pleased them indeed and they are their debtors.” Do you see that word? Same word. What is he saying? He is saying that the Gentiles are debtors to the Jews. Why? Because they brought them the gospel. We are their debtors. Do you see it? “For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, it is their duty, or then it is their duty also to minister to them with material things.”
Now in a moment, we are going to take up our Harvest Day offering. And I want you to listen very, very carefully. These believers felt obligated to the Jewish believers. They were going through a rough patch. They had experienced persecution. This is this Jewish relief offering I mentioned last week. They were experiencing famine. They were experiencing intense persecution. They had great need. And so the Gentiles, because they had received the gospel, wanted to share to meet their need. And let me tell you how it works for us. We have the gospel and we have adopted 50 unreached unengaged people groups. We have an obligation to get the gospel to them because we have received the gospel, we have got an obligation to get the gospel to them.
Last week I told you about wouldn’t it be wonderful to pay off church debt? We are on track to do that, provided we meet our budget and based upon our giving. And statistics tells us that 25% of our giving for a whole year is within the next two months, if you can imagine that. But if we didn’t have a debt, what could we do as far as getting the gospel out? And so we have a tremendous opportunity to give in response to the grace of God for the glory of God.