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Sun am 15 February 2015 – Justus Swart
(Matt. 4:18-22); Mark 2:13-14; (Gen. 1:3-29); Matt.19:16-22; Luke 10:25-29; (Luke 10:25-37)
We started two weeks ago and did an introduction about cheap grace and costly grace. Cheap grace appeal to our consciences by lulling us into complacency and making us feel as though we have nothing left to strive for. You are fine as you are. We know the saying ‘God loves you but He loves you too much to leave you as you are’. Cheap grace stops at ‘God loves you as you are’. Cheap grace is keeping the Church back from following Jesus the way He would want us to. Cheap grace is incredibly compelling in the world today because it offers us total acceptance without pointing to the cross of Christ. It is the voice in the back of your head that like to say ‘surely I have given enough’. We like to draw parameters around what God requires of us. What is it that God will need of me? Cheap grace likes to say’ this is far enough, you have done enough’. Secondly we looked at costly grace and we were reminded that because Jesus gave His life for it. We are required to do the same. We commit ourselves to him entirely to follow Him just as His disciples did when they were called when they were fishing (Matt.4:18-22). The reality of costly grace is that Jesus calls us (amidst the business of our lives) to immediate obedience to follow Him wherever He may lead us. It is precious and costly because we are required to seek it with all that we are. It is the voice in our heart that asks: “Where to next?” It is a bottomless pit and God fills it with Himself but you have to make space for it. My aim is not to rob grace of its beauty and attraction. Grace is grace because it is given by God. Because it is a precious gift we have to keep it. We have to protect it from being thrown around and mistreated. We have to do everything in our power with this gift from God which is granted to us. We have to carry it with integrity so that the world will look again at the Church.
Today I want to take it further and make it more personal. We have talked about how each one of us is a concrete being. We all come from somewhere. We all have a history, relationships, families, responsibilities, jobs; but too often we are guilty of using these things as a barrier to follow Jesus. However Jesus is not interested in any of your excuses no matter how good they can be. Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him (Mark 2:13-14)”. Such a simple story, just like Peter, Andrew and John, Levi responds with immediate clarity. He asks no questions. He simply got up and followed in obedience because the call had been ushered by Jesus. The simplicity of this confronts us because we are busy people. We cannot understand how a person busy at his job can suddenly get up and walk away. His job, all these things that were holding him back are not important. The only thing that was important was being obedient to Jesus’ call. When Jesus calls there is little to be said about the psychological reason why one should follow Him. It is simply a matter of being called by Jesus. He created you, He created the world. When He calls you, when His voice is sounded into your spirit you cannot walk away from that. He will call you out of death; He will call you out of anything because it is the most powerful voice in this world. It was the voice that created everything. God said, and there it was (Gen. 1:3-29). Levi was instantly required to forsake everything he knew in order to follow Jesus; to tear himself from all of his commitment and offer himself wholly to Jesus. They are many who find this proposition way too difficult to accept. They want to believe in Jesus, they want to have faith but they do not want to leave their current comfort to follow Jesus. I will admit I have been there. We are talking about anything that acts as a barrier to following Him wholeheartedly.
So there are people who see Jesus and they accept Him but only in the present moment of trouble. They have faith in Him but they choose not to get up and follow Him. They thus never get to know Jesus as the Lord of their lives. He is merely a crutch in time of trouble, a comfort in time of need. Once again, we see how cheap grace is so prominent throughout the Church today. It is so easy to separate obedience from faith. We need to keep in mind that the whole context of Jesus life was walking towards the cross and these are the people He met along the way. He was a messianic entity walking among men. He was God-Man walking among men. He spoke straight to the heart when He spoke to people. “Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth” (Matt. 19: 16-22). The first thing we notice about the young man is that he thought very highly of himself. He approaches Jesus about questions of eternal life. For him the questions of eternal life were about academia. Jesus tells him that only God is good and cuts to the core of the matter. He is hiding behind the complications and moral difficulties. So Jesus cuts to the core of the matter of his possessions. The young man’s problem is obedience. His possessions have come to define him, make him who he was. The crux of the matter comes down to man trying and trying but rather start by obedience and following Him. It is spontaneous obedience.
Eternal life does not start at the end of your life, it is now; it starts by following His Voice, running behind Jesus. Jesus identifies that the man is battling with the most basic commandment which is to have close fellowship with Christ. The young man walks away because he is unable to commit. He realised what a great cost it is to walk in grace. He wanted eternal life while remaining independent from God. He wanted a good life. But when Jesus asks to be Lord of his whole life the man shrinks away sad, unable to give up to the high cost. He wanted eternal life at no cost.
We love to be posing problems to God. We make excuses why we cannot follow Him wholeheartedly. We may feel like we are doing the right things and yet we think something is lacking. Following Jesus is unpredictable and spontaneous. We are asking the question “What?” instead of the question “WHO?” Following Jesus is unpredictable, it is an adventure. The topic of obedience feels uncomfortable, it feels like submission. We like to think that we need to have faith in order to follow, but faith and obedience cannot be separated. Cheap grace will do everything it can to separate the two. Obedience and faith go hand in hand. They happen together. We know the commandments but yet we like to sit back with our moral difficulties that prevent us from following Him to the end. The commandments can be vague and tricky at times but Jesus has the incredible ability to simplify them for us. On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10: 25-29). The question is not “What must I do?” but rather, “Why am I not doing it?” He wants to justify himself with more questions to Jesus. There is intent to disobey. Jesus says to him that he the neighbour and everyone else has a claim to his neighbourliness (Luke 10:25-37). Only those who obey have faith. To truly lay hold of costly grace means forsaking all things for the sake of Christ. We know the commandments so let us get on to the job.