The Amazing Grace #4
A couple of years ago, Leadership Magazine had a story about a Christian Grammar School in Wheaton, Illinois. The third and fourth-graders were asked to complete the following sentence: “By faith, I know that God is …”
Amanda answered: “forgiving, because he forgave in the Bible, and he forgave me when I went in the road on my bike without one of my parents”
Brandon answered: “providingful, because he dropped manna for Moses and the people, and he gave my dad `a job.”
Paul said: “caring, because he made the blind man see, and he made me catch a very fast line drive that could have hurt me. He probably sent an angel down.”
Jeremy wrote: “merciful, because my brother has been nice to me for a year.”
One of the students wrote: “faithful, because the school bill came, and my mom didn’t know how we were going to pay it. Two minutes later, my dad called, and he just got a bonus check. My mom was in tears.”
And Hannah said: “sweet, because he gave me a dog. God tells me not to do things that are bad. I need someone like that.” (1)
We all need someone like that. Someone who “tells [us] not to do things that are bad.”
In a sense, that’s exactly what the Holy Spirit does within our lives. Remember Paul’s teaching in Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed,” That’s what this is all about.
Through the power and presence of Jesus Christ in our lives, the Holy Spirit guides us, strengthens us and helps mold us into the likeness of Christ. In other words, the Holy Spirit helps us “reProduce” the image of Christ in our lives.
For the past few weeks we’ve been looking at The Amazing Grace of God. We’ve talked about how through God reaching down to us we experience God’s Prevenient or Preceding Grace. The grace which allows us to hear God’s call and reStart the relationship between us and God that was broken by sin. Then we talked about how hearing and answering that call can lead us to reach up and take God’s hand as God is reaching down to us. The moment we take God’s hand we experience God’s justifying grace and we reNew our spirits.
Then we talked about those ways in which we reFresh that relationship every day. We do that through the Means of Grace or the spiritual disciplines of prayer, study and worship which reFresh our spirits and helps us keep a firm grip on God’s hand..
Today we’re going to look at how God, through all of these forms of Grace, helps us “reProduce” the image of Christ in our lives through God’s Sanctifying Grace. You see, while God meets us exactly where we are in life, God doesn’t want us to stay there. When we put our hand in God’s hand, the Holy Spirit begins to mold us and shape us into the image of Christ. And we are part of that process because we willing work with God to become more like Christ. When that happens, God begins perfecting us through God’s Sanctifying Grace. Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 5:14-21
 For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died.
 And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.
 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way.
 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation;
 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.
 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Did you notice the way Paul talks about how God “urges us on” so we “no longer live for ourselves, but for Him.” And how we are “becoming the righteousness of God.” Through Sanctifying Grace God is molding and shaping us, “perfecting us” as Wesley put it in order to reProduce the image of Christ in each of us.
An awful lot of people get this idea of Sanctification or Christian Perfection wrong. It’s a process and a goal, to become like Christ, not to develop some self-pious, self-righteous, holier than thou attitude. That’s anything but perfect, except in their own eyes. God doesn’t want Perfect Christians, God wants Christians who can be perfected. If we’re perfect, it means we don’t have to change. But if we put our lives into God’s hand then God can Perfect us. And lead us on to Perfection. God can reProduce the perfect image of God, which was Christ, in us.
Wesley believed and I believe that it’s possible in this life. We can go on to perfection. But the minute we start thinking we are, we ain’t. Kind of like guy who received a medal for being so humble, they took it away when he started wearing it.
Though we may not reach Christian Perfection until the moments before we die, when we place our trust completely in God and God’s Amazing Grace, the perfecting work of Sanctifying Grace begins. We may not be perfect but we’re on our way to perfection at the urging of Christ.
And as we are being molded, as God is perfecting us, God is also empowering us to live as God has called us to live. God stands by us, so we can be perfected. God, through the Holy Spirit continues to tell us not to do things that are bad,” as that little girl said. And we need someone like that.”
God helps us become the people God created us to be. We can be good and do good and let God reProduce the image of His son in our lives so we CAN be the people God has called us to be. How many of you have seen the movie The Gridiron Gang?
The movie is based on actual events. The story is about Sean Porter, a former pro-football star, who is a social worker and supervisor at the Kilpatrick Detention Center which is routinely filled with various street gangs and dangerous young criminals. Because Porter, himself, struggled as a troubled youth in a dysfunctional home, he identifies with the boys and wants to make a difference in the way their lives turn out. He sees the lack of discipline, self-esteem, union and perspective in the lives of these young men and proposes to prepare a football team to play in one league. Reluctantly at first, he is supported by the warden and his superiors and begins his program.
What Porter discovers is that his boys talk tough, but they don’t have the courage that is required to succeed at football. So, he suits up to teach troublemaker, Willie Weathers, a lesson.
I think one of the reasons I like sports movies like this so much is that it reflects the idea of Sanctifying Grace. The head coach sees the potential in some hopeless team or individual and begins to mold the team or the person into what they can be. They overcome huge odds, and gihugic temptations to quit, give up and just go back to what was familiar and safe. But in the process the coach opens something up in their spirit and they begin to see and are transformed.
Those kinds of stories touch our hearts. What we don’t see in those 90 to 120 minutes is the length of time it took to mold that person or team into their potential. They couldn’t see the end product so to speak they didn’t have the same vision as the coach but as they are shaped and molded, not only do they catch that vision that vision gets “reProduced” in their lives.
And that’s the exactly how God’s Sanctifying Grace works. God molds us and shapes us. Sometimes it is through tough training like the coach put Willie through. But the whole purpose is for us to be able to catch the vision of God’s plan for us and to move and work so that God can ‘reProduce” the Image of Christ in our lives and in all we do.
The Coach, the Holy Spirit, molds us, leads us and urges us on. The Coach, the Holy Spirit, perfects us little by little until we become the Disciples we’ve been called to be.
A few years back I read an article from Christian Century magazine which talked about an announcement one Sunday in the bulletin reminding everyone that the next Sunday the church would celebrate the Lord’s Supper. A new Christian with no church background saw the notice and called up another member of the church and said, “I have two questions,” she said. “It’s about this supper thing. Am I invited and how much will it cost?”
The world is still asking these questions. Can we come? And how much will this supper cost? The answer is all part of God’s Amazing Grace. Everyone is invited. EVERYONE. This is the Lord’s Table. And the cost, Christ is the one who paid the cost. The only cost to us is to answer the invitation, pull up a chair and feast with God.
You see, just as we were shaped as we learned about our family heritage, expectations and values at the dinner table with our family; God shapes us during the conversations at this table. It is here that the work of the Holy Spirit does that deep work of shaping so God can reProduce the image of Christ in us.
So, my challenge today is this: If you’ve been listening to God’s whisper or feeling God’s nudge or have seen God’s hand reaching down to you to “reStart” your relationship with God, then “reNew” that relationship. Open your heart as you open your hands to receive the Sacrament today. “reFresh” your soul through this delicious Means of Grace. Then let God mold you and shape a little more into the Image of Christ. As little girl said, “We need someone like that.”
Let God “reProduce” that image in you so you can tell others about The Amazing Grace of God.
1. Leadership, Vol. 18, #3
2. Leadership, Summer 2003
3. Roger Lovette, Dinner Reservations, article in The Christian Century, September 20, 2005, p. 21.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.