Two Proper Responses to God’s Grace

Trey Garner December 27, 2015 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

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2 proper responses to God’s grace are to give credit and focused effort 

I. The Gospel is the Foundation for the Proper Response to God’s Grace (vv. 1-8)

A. The four-fold Definition of the Gospel (vv. 3-8)

1. That Christ died for our sins according to the Scripture (v. 3)

2. That he was buried (v. 4)

3. That he was raised on the third day according to the Scripture (v. 4)

4. That he appeared (vv. 5-8)

B. The gospel is the place of stability and hope (vv. 1-2)

II. Give Credit to the Lord for his Grace

A. We do well to remember that God’s grace, by definition, is not deserved (v. 9)

B. God’s grace was the explanation for all that is good

III. Focused Effort because of God’s Grace

A. History of Paul

B. Our history

1. Update your death file

2. Set your budget and have 3-4 specific goals

3. Determine what stuff in your home needs a new home

4. Create a few initiatives for the new year

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It's great to be with you this morning, today is a service pastor Sunday. Essentially what that means is that everybody and their brother is preaching this morning. Here at the 8 o'clock service either for good or for ill you are stuck with me. This year our annual theme has been finding grace. All year long we have been considering the ways in which we may find grace both in the pages of Scripture as well as in the Lords demonstrations within our very lives. We have used Hebrews chapter 4 verses 14 through 16 as our theme verse. Throughout the year we have been reminded that the Lord encourages us to come boldly before the throne of grace. Not because the Lord wants to tell us no, or to explain that, grace is only available to those who get in line early. The Lord tells us, to come boldly because the answer is yes in Jesus, the one who will save his people from their sins, the one called Emmanuel, God with us. Please come boldly before the throne and answer is yes, I will give you grace. Isn't that good?

As I think about this year, it seems to me that all of us can testify both individually and corporately that as we looked for God's grace we've seen it, as we pray for God's grace we've received it, and as we've noticed the results of God's grace we've rejoiced in them. I want to recap a couple of the results of God's grace to us as a church family. While I do that I would encourage you to make a personal list of the results of God's grace within your own life. I want to encourage you both to listen and to write. I know a lot of you are good at multitasking, doing more than one thing at a time, especially the moms out there. Going to encourage you to both listen and to write down some of the examples of God's grace. Here are some of the results of God's grace to us as a church.

First is our senior living community, and were not the first church to have concern for the elderly, were not the first church that has done anything for the elderly, but God's grace was very clear to us. The dream of a senior living community has become a reality. Should God allow it is our hope that our senior living community should expand some day. We've also seen God's grace and the new members and the new salvation's this year. This year we've almost seen 220 people join our church. 220 people, just think about that. The average evangelical church in our country is about 100 person people more than double that number had joined our church this year, and many of those individuals had joined after being saved and baptized. That is just an incredible evidence of God's grace. Then there is our counseling ministry, we've seen new salvation's about every two or three weeks. We've conducted training, here, and in Toledo Ohio, in Iowa, in Seattle Washington, Jackson Mississippi, and when that is combined with our annual biblical counsel training conference, we are talking about reaching 3000 people and the churches that they represent with principles of God's word designed to help them minister to those who are hurting. An incredible evidence of God's grace.

Then there is the Hartford hub, the city gave us a building and a lot- Well, we had to pay a dollar for it. It was almost giving it to us right? That along with the gift from our dearly departed brother, Jack Veale, makes the entire project which benefits are seminary our community development Corporation, are Hispanic ministries, and the Bethany Farms men ministry, makes all of that possible. I know that many of you have been considering making a gift to the Hartford hub, this is actually the last Sunday of the year that you would be able to do that. Of course if you want to receive the tax benefits of making such a gift, you are able to do that through the 31st but we need to have it in hand by that day. Write the Hartford hub on that. Just think about the tremendous opportunities in the days ahead to minister to the north side of our community You want to make that gift this morning you can use one of the white offering envelopes in the chair in front of you and write Hartford hub on that. Just think about the tremendous opportunities in the days ahead, to minister to the north side of our community.

Then there is our faith Bible seminary. Having a seminary is a real privilege. There are now graduates that are now graduates from our seminary that are scattered all over the country, and a few that are doing international ministry very effectively. Our current crop of interns is going to be graduating here in six months, it's hard to believe. As I have watched these interns lead during our winter break ministries, during our living Nativity, I was reminded of just how gracious God has been to us by giving us them. Speaking of the living Nativity, we had an amazing 11,400 person turn out for the living Nativity. That is the largest turnout that we have had since we started keeping records in 1999. Many of those persons came through the living Nativity for the very first time. Our winter break ministries, they are larger than ever, that is yet one more opportunity to reach families with the hope of the gospel. It seems to me that God's grace has just been poured out to us as a church family in some incredible ways.

If you took my advice here to both listen and right then you have probably come up with 4 to 5 ways in which God's grace was particularly significant in your life this year. I would like us to close the books on 2015 by thinking about the right ways to respond to all of the grace of the Lord has lavished upon us. Of God's going to show us this kind of grace, we want to respond in a way that is going to please and honor him. With that in mind, I would like to ask you to turn your Bibles to the book of first Corinthians chapter 15. First Corinthians, chapter 15. That is on page 139 of the facts section of the Bible in the chair in front of you. As you are turning there, I want to remind you of some of the characteristics of first Corinthians chapter 15. This chapter is dedicated to a discussion of the certainty of the resurrection of Christ. Paul's letter to the Corinthians addressed a number of challenges and one of the challenges had to do with false teaching, regarding the resurrection. As Paul begins this argument about the resurrection, which goes on for 58 verses, he lays the foundation by focusing on the grace of God. So let's look together at first Corinthians chapters 15 we are going to begin in verse one.

Here is what the apostle Paul says. He says, "Now I make known to you brother in the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, and which also you stand, by which also you are saved if you hold fast the word which I preached to you unless he believed in vain. For I delivered to you as a first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.", and that he appeared to Cephas, that is another name for Peter, and then to the 12 disciples. After that he appeared to more than 500 brother and at one time, most of whom remained until now but most had fallen asleep, then he appeared to James, and then all to the apostles and last of all to one untimely boar and he appeared to me also, for I am the least of the apostles and not fit to be called an apostle Because I persecuted the church of God. By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me did not prove vain, but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, with the grace of God with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

As we think about the incredible grace of our Lord, I believe that this text encourages us to do two things, to give credit, and focused effort. Those are two proper responses to the grace of God.

I. The Gospel is the Foundation for the Proper Response to God’s Grace (vv. 1-8)

The first thing I would like to point out from this text is that the gospel is the foundation for the proper response to God's grace. I mentioned that the primary issue under consideration and this tax is the validity of the resurrection of Christ, but before Paul addresses that topic specifically, we see that there is a more fundamental concern. It is the gospel. This gospel is not only the foundation of the resurrection but a proper response to God's grace in general. I want us to notice first the fourfold definition of the gospel that Paul lays out. For those of you that have struggled to understand how to present the gospel to another person, this passage right here, this passage is for you. I encourage you to committed to memory. It is the single most important set of verses, defining the gospel in all of Scripture. The first thing that it says is that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.

During our Christmas Eve musical, pastor Greene talked about our love for salvation stories. We love them. From Star Wars, to Lord of the rings, to the Hallmark Channel movies, or frozen, or whatever, because those stories are reflections of the salvation that each of us needs. That ultimate salvation, salvation from our sins, that is the focus here in this text. Christ came, he lived a sinless life and died so that our sins could be forgiven.

The new element that Paul adds is the phrase according to the Scriptures. Whenever we see that phrase we know that something has taken place in the past that is described in the Scriptures. What does Paul actually have in mind here? Without specific reference I think that Paul is actually tracing the storyline of the Bible. It began in the garden, someone would come that would crush the head of Satan. It continued with the early descendants, would everyone be lost in the flood or would God preserve anyone? It continued in the selection of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It continued by the sacrificial system that provided a single day, the day of atonement, where a goat was slaughtered symbolically, cleansing the people. It continued in the servant songs of Isaiah, which refer to the Messiah as the one who would come to fulfill all of the salvation promises that had been made in centuries past. What Paul refers to, is not a single verse, but rather it is the redemptive story line of the Bible. Christ died for our sins.

The second element of the gospel is that he was buried. There is nothing fancy here except for the fact that there were some stories circulating at that time, that Jesus had never really died, or that he was never actually put in a tomb. Paul makes it very clear that Jesus didn't simply pass out from his crucifixion, and that his body was not stolen either, instead this is a clear statement that Jesus really died and that Joseph of Arimathea, really did put him in the tomb. One person once wrote, A person is entitled to believe or not believe that Jesus died on the cross and was buried in the tomb, but what one cannot rightly challenge, is the fact that the people in the first century believed it.

Third element here, is that he was race on the third day according to the Scriptures. Jesus said that he would rise on the third day numerous times. The religious leaders themselves asked for guards for an initial period because they knew what he had claimed. They figured if they could get past that third day, then they were good to go. Once again there is not a specific passage of Scripture, but rather a storyline of Scripture that supported this conclusion.

Fourth element is that he appeared. Here is a part of the gospel message that we often don't discuss but with the resurrection at stake and with all of Christian theology at risk, Paul explains the importance of all of Jesus's appearances. In verses five through eight there is this progression of individuals that he mentions. He says that Jesus appeared to Peter, and then to the 12 disciples, so he appeared to his primary followers first. Then he appeared to 500 others, and some of them at the time and Paul's writing were still alive. In other words, Paul is saying "hey if you don't believe me just go ask them". Then Jesus appeared to James, the other apostles, and to Paul himself. Paul is putting a stake in the ground. He is saying that the fact that Jesus resurrection is supported by the Bible, and it supported by the people who actually saw it happen, the facts are on the table, and he is saying in essence that people have a right to believe what they want, just as they have the right to be wrong.

Friends, in the mist of our activities, we never want to miss place the centrality of the gospel message. It is not only the center of our church but it is also to be the center of our very lives. The more we reflect on the gospel, the more thoughtful we will become about the grace of God. In addition to grounding us in the centrality of the gospel, we also see in these verses that the gospel is a place of stability and hope. In verses one and two, we find the Gospels influence on the church in the past, present, and in future terms. First the gospel was received in the past, this reception of the truth represented a radical change of affairs. So much so, that believers were said to stand in the gospel. Imagine for a moment, what the world would look like without grace, without the gospel. It would be a world characterized by chaos, fear, and worry. Then you add on top of that the suffering that we encounter in life, a health diagnosis, a lost dream, the loss of a child, the death of a parent. It would be easy to move into complete despair but there is something that holds the Christian firm, and it is the grace in which he stands.

When my feet are firmly planted on the rock I can still be heard, I can still suffer, but I am like that old toy, weebles wobble but they don't fall down right? No matter how hard you tried, you couldn't get a weeble wobble to fall down. That is what a Christian is supposed to be like. When my feet are not firmly placed on the gospel, firmly rooted in the grace of God, will then I'm going to run from one issue to another. There seems to be nothing that holds me in place and gives me any stability, security, but the gospel provides a firm place for our feet to rest. We can acknowledge our challenges and still have confidence and still rejoice in all the Lord has done, and is doing, and will do in our lives. We also look to the future, to the day when as the apostle Paul says, you are also saved. To the day when our promised salvation will find its fulfillment. This is a great reminder of the hope that we have in the gospel. Friends, my hope is that the foundation for the theology, for the resurrection, or for a proper response to the grace of God, is the gospel.

When I understand the content of the gospel, that Christ died for sins, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day and appeared to over 500 people, and when I understand the significance of the gossip bull from my present, that my feet are firmly planted and that my future, and the hope that I have for heaven, then I can deal with anything.

II. Give Credit to the Lord for his Grace

It is at this point that we moved to verses nine through ten, and the responses that we should have to God's grace this year. We ought to give credit to the Lord for his grace. In one of the more famous verses of the Bible, Paul says by the grace of God I am what I am.

In verse 10, Paul admits That God's grace labored through him. The point that he is making is that God's grace is accomplishing the work, Paul doesn't try to take credit for what only belongs to God, he constantly pushes the praise back to the Lord. We would do well to remember that God's grace, by definition, is not deserved. As Paul reflects on his own call to ministry he remains in all at what God had done. He remembers well that he was a persecutor of the church. You kinda have to wonder whether Paul even remembered those that he had hurt. Did he regret, for example holding the coats for others as they stoned Stephen? For Paul he never believed that he deserved God's favor. He simply knows that God gave it to him. That is what makes it so easy to pass on the credit. There is no way that Paul can take credit for his own accomplishments because he understands that he would have a very different life apart from God's amazing grace.

I am particularly thankful for this aspect of God's grace as well. None of us come to the Lord squeaky clean, none of us come blameless, we all come with baggage. Even though we have the privilege of leaving that baggage at the foot of the cross, the reality is that without the grace of God we would still be carrying it. Here Paul calls himself the least of the apostles. I don't believe that that is some false humility on Paul's part, I think that was a recognition of what he had been like. A recognition of just how great God's grace was in his life. As a church, we dedicated our stewardship celebration to thanking the Lord for the grace that he is poured out on us. What I am encouraging you to do is to give God credit for the things that you put on your list at the beginning of the service, talk about God's grace at home, try to help one another see that God's grace is very active in your life and very significant.

Let's never be that braggadocio's person, the one who is convinced that the good things that come to them are there because they are gifted, because they are intelligent, because they are personable, talented, or wise, or whatever. Those things may be true but God gives his grace in different portions for different reasons. We also need to understand that God's grace was the explanation for all that is good. When Paul says I am what I am, by God's grace, that was not an excuse for failure. Instead it was a confession of praise. Paul was saying that the wonderful opportunities that he had were founded upon God's grace. Paul was an apostle, by the grace of God. He was a church planter, by the grace of God. He was a theologian, a teacher, a preacher, he was commissioned for specific ministry, he even suffered by the grace of God.

Let me ask you a question. When I ask this question I am asking it not only of you but I am asking it of myself. Do we function with the same kind of mindset that Paul had? Are we so convinced that God's grace by definition is not something that we deserve, and are we so convinced that any good in us is a direct result of his grace working in us, are we so convinced of those things that would reflect all praise to him. Do we give credit to him for things accomplished in our lives? Let's think about any goals that you may have had for 2015, did you reach your financial goals? If so, are you offering praise to the Lord, knowing that his grace worked through you and in you to produce those results? Did you reach your ministry goals? If so then are you offering praise to the Lord knowing that his grace worked in and through you to produce those results? What about your relationship goals, or your spiritual goals?

Paul reflected on his ministry, he pushed the praise, the glory, and the credit all back to God. This week is traditionally a rather quiet week in the workforce. Many of us have a little more time than normal to do some reflective thinking. I would encourage you to offer praise to the Lord for all he has done. For the spiritual growth that he has given you, for the ways that he has used you, for what he has done in your family. I would encourage you to take some time to do that this week.

III. Focused Effort because of God’s Grace

The final response for us to consider this morning is focused effort, because of God's grace. In the mist of confessing, the Lord deserved all the credit for everything that is good, Paul still makes a very strong statement. He says I worked harder than all the rest of the apostles. The point that Paul is making is not to compare his work with that of Peter, or John, or any of the other apostles for that matter, Paul's point is that God's great motivated him to exert tireless effort.

What I love about these two points, these two responses to the grace of God, is that they work together. We need to give credit to God, and we need to exert ourselves in his service. One response without the other would lead to an imbalance. If God gets all the credit well then maybe I should just sit back and watch God work, that line of thinking would violate what Paul is saying here about working harder than all the rest of the apostles. If I focus on my core work, to the exclusion of God's grace operating in me, I tend to think that I am the one who produces these results. In other words I leave the Lord out of the picture and take credit for everything myself. The word of God is too wise to let either extreme win. We are supposed to work hard, but we are supposed to give God all the credit.

To understand Paul's efforts, I think it would be important for us to understand a little bit of the history of Paul. Paul became a follower of Christ roughly in about 33 A.D. From 33 A.D. 247 A.D., about 15 years, Paul spends his time learning, teaching, preaching, and areas that are not recorded in the Bible. All we know is that Paul suffered greatly during this time, as explained in second Corinthians chapter 11. Once the missionary journeys began in a.d. 48, Paul was constantly on the go. He had about 10 years of missionary service, followed by 5 years in prison, followed by 3 to 5 years of ministry before his death. It is hard to believe that one third of Paul's recorded ministry is done from prison. As you've read the book of acts in Paul's letters, you see his work ethic coming out again and again. He worked as a tent maker, he admonished with tears night and day. Paul's singular focus ensured that energy was not wasted on other matters. The kingdoms work required focused effort, sacrifice, and in his case it even required persecution. That is a little bit about Paul's history. Let's talk a moment now about our history.

I am an encouraging you to do that in your own hearts right now, allow the spirit to do his work in you. Many of us have heard the old saying that 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people, or even 90% of the works done by 10% of the people. On one hand, I want to thank you again for all the ways that you have served as a church during this Christmas season. We could have never undertaken the living Nativity if only 10% of our church participated. That is true of so many things. We couldn't offer the biblical counseling training conference, If 90% of the work was done by 10% of the people. We couldn't have a community center, we couldn't have meaningful youth ministries, our children's ministries would be dead on arrival. The fact is simply that we could not do what we do, unless a significant number of you were willing to serve.

On the other hand, I think we can all ask ourselves this question, are we, or even am I, tapped out? Some of you can legitimately answer that question with yes. Others might not be able to say that. I don't think the problem with the average Christian is that they are serving God too much. If you are not tapped out, and the truth is that there is some margin available for the Lord. The question is am I willing to give him some of that margin? One day each of us is going to stand before the Lord and we will have to give an account for the way that we answer that question. Even if you have neglected to use your margin for the Lord in the past it is never too late to start. The grace of God ought to result in focused effort. I encourage you to consider whether God might want you to exert more effort in the days ahead.

I would also like to give you a few additional points of application, to serve as a guide as you prepare for the upcoming year. First thing I would encourage you to do is to update your death file. Say Merry Christmas to you Pastor Trey, now I understand that may sound a little bit morbid, however the older I get, the closer I get to becoming the executor of a will, and the more I appreciate the work that has been done in advance. This involves everything from the division of assets to the planning of a memorial service, and you might not think that that is gospel centered work, until you attend a funeral were no such plan was made and an unbelieving relative makes all the decisions resulting in no gospel presentation at the funeral at all. You might not think that's the gospel centered work until your heirs are spending more time thinking about how much of the inheritance they're going to get rather than the God who cared for them. You might not think it's gospel centered work until you watch a widow go through this planning process with virtually no direction, so instead of grieving and finding ways to share Christ, and make a difference with the remaining life, she's just trying to figure out how to do now that you're gone.

This week, handling a few details for your death file, that can be a very gospel centered task. Second thing I encourage you to do is set your budget and have 3 to 4 specific goals. I have learned that you can spend your time figuring out how to honor the Lord with your finances, or you can spend your time figuring out what to do in a crisis. Wouldn't you rather spend your time on the former? That requires a little planning, and some folks around here are already experts at it. For those of us who are not, I try to keep things as simple as possible. Set three goals, a giving goal, a debt reduction goal, and a savings goal. These goals reflect much of what the Bible has to say about money. You give it away, you don't owe people, and you save in the days of plenty, for the days of hardship. From there you set a budget. A few hours on the front end of the year can greatly help you all the year through. It will keep you targeted and focused on biblical priorities rather than simply desiring the next new thing.

I would also encourage you to determine what stuff in your home needs a new home. The point here is that everything that you have requires a certain amount of energy to maintain and to organize. Your garage, your clothes, your entertainment choices, and some stuff just really needs to leave your home. Sometimes there is no way to organize without a reduction in the number of things that need organizing. How is this part of the focused effort? Each thing that requires organization is another thing that takes time and effort away from the primary mission that the Lord has given us. Part of being focused is learning how to free yourself from cumbersome realities that don't contribute to the primary goal and mission. Next I would encourage you to create a few initiatives for the new year. Our staff does this annually, we update our job descriptions, we write a series of initiatives for the coming year. Sometimes the Lord provides opportunities that you didn't see coming, and sometimes the Lord closes an opportunity that you thought you had. The initiative still serve as a guide for the year, they keep you on track, and focused so that nonessential items don't become critical. At some point, all of our staff initiatives for the coming year are going to be made available but let me encourage you to do something this week.

I encourage you to write out five things that you believe that the Lord might want you to do this year. Maybe there is a Bible reading issue that you need to get handled, if you want to study a particular study from God's word, maybe you want to change some issues about your prayer life, maybe you should serve in a particular way, or in a particular ministry. This year we have seen an incredible display of God's grace, so let's respond in a way that the apostle Paul did. He started with the foundation of the gospel, he remembered it, he focused on it, he rejoiced in it, he gave credit to the Lord for all that was good in his life and for the work that he did. Take time to do that this week. He worked as hard as he could to further the mission of Christ and with the to come there is going to be a few more opportunities to do some planning. This week could set you up to properly respond to God's grace in the days to come.

Let's go before the Lord and pray.

Heavenly father thank you for the example of the apostle Paul. Thank you for the encouragement that Paul gave to us To give you credit for all of the good that is accomplished both in and through us but also Lord for the challenge to work hard, to exert ourselves in your service. Thank you for the gospel that makes all of that possible. Without a relationship with you we wouldn't be able to do anything to advance your mission or to enjoy what it means to know the freedom that we can experience the relationship with Christ. I pray that you will help us To think about how we can specifically respond in the days ahead, with the work that you are doing in and through us. We pray this in Christ name, Amen.

Trey Garner

B.F.A. - Musical Theatre, Texas State University
M.F.A. - Acting, Purdue University
M.Min. - Grace Theological Seminary

Pastor Trey Garner joined our staff in 2001. He and his wife Deb were married that year, and they have two children. Trey oversees our Children’s Ministries, which serves infants, toddlers, and K-5th grade students. He also provides pastoral care for our 8:00 a.m. worship service.

Read Trey Garner's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Garner to Faith Church.