By His Grace Alone
When I first got my dog, I was determined to teach him all kinds of tricks. We’d spend summer evenings out in the backyard with my pockets full of little training treats. I taught him to sit, shake, lay down, and roll over. I never taught him anything more extravagant than that, but now he’s really good at the basics. Actually, maybe too good at the basics.
Nowadays, anytime anyone is anywhere near his treat jar, or even just snacking on something that he’d like a bite of, he starts running through all of the tricks he knows. Without being asked he’ll sit, offer his right paw to shake, followed by his left, he’ll lay down, and finally roll over. He does whatever he thinks will please you enough to earn him a treat.
Unfortunately, this is a lot like what my relationship with God used to look like. Instead of walking in loving relationship with my Creator, I was just constantly trying to please Him, running through all of the “tricks” I knew. I thought if I could just please God enough, if I could prove myself to Him, then He would love me and bless me.
God is our loving Father. He does not desire this type of transactional relationship with us! We cannot earn or bribe our way to His love and blessings.
Simon the magician learned this lesson when he ran into the apostles in Samaria. When he saw the works that the apostles were doing by the power of the Holy Spirit, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power!” (Acts 8:18-19). But Peter said to him:
“May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God.” (Acts 8:20-21)
I never tried to bribe God with physical money, but my heart was in the same place as Simon’s. God cannot be bribed with money, actions, good intentions, or anything else that we think will gain us His favor and blessing. As Jesus reminds us in John 14:6, HE is the way. HE is the truth. HE is the life. No one comes to the Father except through HIM!
May God bless us with the wisdom and humility to remember that we are saved by His grace alone. There is nothing we can do to earn or purchase our own way into the Lord’s favor. The price for our salvation has already been paid by Jesus Christ. Lord, help us to trust in You fully!
A home mission sermon
“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” Ecclesiastes 9:10
Suggested Further Reading: Luke 22:24-27
George Washington, the commander-in-chief, was going around among his soldiers. They were hard at work, lifting a heavy piece of timber at some fortification. There stood the corporal of the regiment calling out to his men, “Heave there, heave ahoy!” and giving them all kinds of directions. As large as possible the good corporal was. So Washington, alighting from his horse, said to him, “What is the good of your calling out to those men, why don’t you help them yourself and do part of the work.” The corporal drew himself up and said, “Perhaps you are not aware to whom you are speaking, sir; I am a corporal.” “I beg your pardon,” said Washington; “you are a corporal are you; I am sorry I should have insulted you.” So he took off his own coat and waistcoat and set to work to help the men build the fortification. When he had done he said, “Mr Corporal, I am sorry I insulted you, but when you have any more fortifications to get up, and your men won’t help you, send for George Washington, the commander-in-chief, and I will come and help them.” The corporal slunk away perfectly ashamed of himself. And so Christ Jesus might say to us, “Oh, you don’t like teaching the poor; it is beneath your dignity; then let your commander-in-chief do it; he can teach the poor, he can wash the feet of the saints, he can visit the sick and afflicted—he came down from heaven to do this, and he will set you the example.” Surely we should each be ashamed of ourselves, and declare from this time forward whatever it is, be it great or little, if it comes to our hand, and if God will but give us help and give us grace, we will do it with all our might.
Unbelief – Streams in the Desert – June 26
- 202226 Jun
For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? (Rom. 3:3).
I think that I can trace every scrap of sorrow in my life to simple unbelief. How could I be anything but quite happy if I believed always that all the past is forgiven, and all the present furnished with power, and all the future bright with hope because of the same abiding facts which do not change with my mood, do not stumble because I totter and stagger at the promise through unbelief, but stand firm and clear with their peaks of pearl cleaving the air of Eternity, and the bases of their hills rooted unfathomably in the Rock of God. Mont Blanc does not become a phantom or a mist because a climber grows dizzy on its side.
Is it any wonder that, when we stagger at any promise of God through unbelief, we do not receive it? Not that faith merits an answer, or in any way earns it, or works it out; but God has made believing a condition of receiving, and the Giver has a sovereign right to choose His own terms of gift.
–Rev. Samuel Hart
Unbelief says, “How can such and such things be?” It is full of “hows”; but faith has one great answer to the ten thousand “hows,” and that answer is–GOD!
–C. H. M.
No praying man or woman accomplishes so much with so little expenditure of time as when he or she is praying.
If there should arise, it has been said–and the words are surely true to the thought of our Lord Jesus Christ in all His teaching on prayer—if there should arise ONE UTTERLY BELIEVING MAN, the history of the world might be changed.
Will YOU not be that one in the providence and guidance of God our Father?
–A. E. McAdam
Prayer without faith degenerates into objectless routine, or soulless hypocrisy. Prayer with faith brings Omnipotence to back our petitions. Better not pray unless and until your whole being responds to the efficacy of your supplication. When the true prayer is breathed, earth and heaven, the past and the future, say Amen. And Christ prayed such prayers.
–P. C. M.
Nothing lies beyond the reach of prayer except that which lies outside the will of God.
SCRIPTURE READING — ACTS 2:42-47
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
God has redeemed us in Jesus and called us to live beautiful lives of gratitude and joy.
Each of us can do that alone in some ways. Alone, I can pray to God, read Scripture, and enjoy and care for God’s creation.
However, God also calls us to live beautiful lives of gratitude and joy together, as a community.
The first followers of Jesus provide us a model of how to do this well. Their ordinary, everyday habits helped to make this community beautiful. They committed their time to doing ordinary things like learning from their teachers, spending time together, eating together, and praying together. They didn’t worry about accumulating money and possessions; they shared with anyone who was in need. They celebrated the Lord’s Supper and shared celebratory meals together.
Participating in a local church is the best way to live out this kind of beautiful Christian community today. And if that isn’t possible, perhaps you can connect with a Christian ministry online or by phone or mail. Join with others in correspondence and prayer, and try to participate in Christian community as much as possible, expressing the beauty of life together in the name of Jesus.
God, thank you for the gift of Christian community. Show us opportunities to follow you in the way we live our lives together. Shape us into a beautiful community, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.