Pastor Don Mossman

Text: 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, Ephesians 2:8-9   Theme: Saved by grace, beautiful grace

Introduction

While a student at Concordia College in Edmonton, we had a delightful classmate named Grace Huber.  We kidded her that, because we were saved “by grace”, we should always hang out together.  Silly when you think back to those days, and rather immature on our part.  But ironically, I’ve never forgotten her name, certainly because of the major theme of Lutheranism, of Christianity really, that we are indeed saved by grace, beautiful grace, without the deeds of the law.

The word “grace” comes from the Greek “xaris” which essentially means undeserved kindness or divine favor.  It’s a word that is used in different ways today, as in Grace Lutheran Church / Blaine, or in a sentence as “how kind of you to grace us with your presence” or something you say at meal time, a person’s name, and of course, the spiritual perspective – being saved by grace.  The word is used 155 times in the NT, and rightly so.  It is that which God’s grace lives in us, below us, ahead of us, behind us.  Anything we have is because of his grace.  We are justified by grace, we are made holy by grace, and we will be glorified unto all eternity because of his grace.

  1. Thorns in our lives
  2. Man is born into trouble.
  3. Job declared, “Man is born into trouble as sparks surely fly upward.” (Job 5:7) And the apostle John (16:13) has reminded us, “In this world you will have tribulation, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” Physical suffering is tough. As someone said, growing old isn’t for sissies.  There is pain out there, and/or in our lives at this point in time. EG: My brother-in-law loves hot chili peppers.  So much so he grows his own, believing store-bought chili peppers won’t have the hotness he loves.  He says he loves a little pain in the chili con carne he makes.  He doesn’t, however, grow or use the Carolina Reaper (world’s hottest) pepper, which is said to be 500 times hotter than tobacco sauce and will melt the skin of your face.  Even the name itself scars me.
  4. The challenges of life come upon us regardless of age. Illnesses, surgeries, loneliness, depression – Christians are subject to these even as we confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior. I’ve never said, “Come on Lord, send me another trial.”  They come without invitation.  Personally, I don’t like trials, but God doesn’t excuse me.  We know that whom the Lord loves he chastens.  Perhaps we’ve all had different reactions to that truth.  “Why do you love me so much Lord”?
  5. The thorn of sin. Destroys the soul…
  6. Paul’s challenge
  7. Paul had a broken heart when he wrote this second letter to the Corinthian Christians. He had received a severe blow to his ministry.  You see, he had spent two years among them preaching and teaching, establishing them in the true faith.  But when he left for other mission fields, false teachers swooped in among them and discredited the Paul.  His teaching was despised by those who were seeking to crush the gospel and not a few of his former church members.  Some slipped back into the religion of the Corinthians, which included temple worship with prostitutes, false gods, cheap grace that they could easily live with.
  8. So he defends himself, reminding them that, if need be, he could tell them of all the hardships he had endured for the sake of the gospel. And he shares that to keep him from being filled with pride, God sent a “thorn” (“skolops” – not a rose bush throne, but a stake used to impale the flesh, an “angelos”/messenger from Satan, a demon.  Conceit, arrogance, self-importance, all possible distractions from humility and reliance upon God.  Paul asked for this thorn to be taken away a number of times, but God’s gracious response was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”  You see, this thorn, this suffering, kept him humble, kept him dependent on God, and gave occasion for the showering of His grace upon Paul.  Temptation of every age: if God doesn’t show his power over my affliction, then he is not good enough to be my god.
  9. Costly grace
  10. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Discipleship: cheap and costly grace
  11. He believed there was a natural tendency for people take grace for granted, and can entertain themselves with “cheap grace”. He writes (see quote…).
  12. A friend whom I had invited to worship said” “Why this heavy confession in your services? I can’t acknowledge that.  I’m not a poor, miserable sinner.”  But our sin is as deep as the roots of sin can go.
  13. And so we have our confession and the absolution, the announcement of full and total forgiveness as if Jesus himself were speaking. I’ve often said with humor and joy in my heart that we ought to have a trumpeter announce the absolution by the pastor as if by Jesus himself.
  14. The lavishness of grace, the excess, never-ending outpouring of grace
  15. Lamentations 3: 19, 22-23: “Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love (grace) of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
  16. John 1:16 – “And from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.”

 

Conclusion

Look at LSB #809: Great is thy faithfulness

 

sdg

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