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No Insignificant Grace - Part 1

David Wright

Presenter

David Wright

Lead/Senior Pastor, Hendersonville SDA Church

Recorded

  • February 1, 2020
    12:30 PM
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Well this morning's message I'm going to start off talking about Abraham Lincoln but even before we get into him you know you can count on it the circumstances and events that lead to greatness in a person often develop in the hidden years of their life when no one's looking and quite frankly nobody cares that's certainly true of America's 16th probably the greatest president of the United States in fact according to 8 different studies many recognize that no president has been more beloved than Abraham Lincoln These are 9 studies over 7 decades there's probably even more but this is one of the most beloved favorite if you will of many individuals and one might assume that it was a fitting climax to an already prestigious life surely he grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth and it must have been easy to slide into President yet if you know your history that was hardly the case Abraham Lincoln and 816 their family was force from their home he was only 7 years old at the time few years later his mother died when he was at age 9 and 831 the main attempt at business but it failed soon after that he ran for state legislator unsuccessfully the same year he lost his job he applied to law school but was laughed out of consideration he borrowed money from a friend for yet another business venture and that business to fail old and so linking claim bankruptcy and spent the next 17 years paying off debt in $835.00 he met a young lady name and Rutledge they became engaged but she grew sick and passed away the following year Abraham Lincoln had a nervous breakdown spent 6 months in bed recovering and 838 he sought speaker of state legislature but was defeated and. 140 he sought Elector of the state but again was defeated and 843 he ran for Congress but this 2 he lost 846 ran again for Congress and lost again in 849 he sought job of land officer in his home state but was rejected in 854 he ran for Senate but he lost there to an 856 vice president nomination but was defeated in 858 he ran for Senate again but lost again finally in 860 Abraham Lincoln was elected to the presidency of the United States of America and if you know your history you know he endured the most devastating war our country has ever known this humble man was so beloved he was elected for a 2nd term sadly only 5 days after Elise surrendered on April 14th 865 Lincoln was assassinated he was dead at just 56 years of age yet not knowing his background perhaps were quick to assume my what a magnificent background he must have half but if you take a deeper look you see a life riddled with failure and tragedy and heartache and pain and surprise surprise or even shocked how could this be. But the fact remains the steal of greatness is forge in the pit was true of Joseph and his dungeon experience it was true of David on the run from Saul and often times it's true of all of us don't forget death especially when you're in the pit and you're convinced that not any good can come from it was also true of another man who's going to be the focus of our study for the next several months as we start a series Paul a man of grace and grit our 1st introduction to him is hardly either one it's brutal and it's bloody and it's not Paul but rather Saul of Tarsus here we find saw in Scripture and it's a horror to behold he stands nodding in agreement and guarding their garments while they stone God's prophet Stephen he looks more like a terrorist than a devout follower of Judaism and we could ask well who is Stephen Black 6 verse 8 describes a man full of faith and power verse 10 speaking with spirit with wisdom verse 15 whose countenance shone like the face of an angel yet they still stone him murdered him in cold blood and why well as Stephen was preaching boldly for Christ. Learned rabbis and doctors of the law engaged in public discussion with the and they were confident this is what they were all about how they could gain an easy victory over Stephen but they found very quickly they were unable to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spoke defended the truth he advocated uttered utterly defeated his opponents and in him was this promise fulfilled Luke 211415 therefore 7 your heart is not to meditate before hand on what you will answer for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist that was fulfilled in Stephen and the priests in the rabbi's saw the power that attended him and they were filled not with surrender but with hatred they wanted to silence him by putting him to death and so they brought him before the Sanhedrin the council if you will. The Sanhedrin called the council in Acts 6 verse 12 where the 71 member Jewish high court is located in Jerusalem and in position number one the high priests would sit head and shoulders above everyone else in the room then in position to all the members of the Sanhedrin arranged in a semi-circle 3 rows deep we believe and in position forward 2 scribes to record the court's rulings and last in position number 3 a defendant and in this case it was Stephen and while Scripture doesn't mention it scholars feel highly probable that Saul of Tarsus would have been one of those 71 that he would have been in the room and in fact Spirit of Prophecy says Saul of Tarsus was present and took a leading part against Stephen he brought the weight of eloquence and the logic of the rabbis to bear upon the case to convince the people that Stephen was pre-teen delusive and dangerous doctrines. The Scripture says they brought in false witnesses against Stephen yet Stephen connected Jesus Christ so well with all of Jewish history and the prophecies and maybe later today you can go home and read the entire discourse of Stephen it's rather long but it comes to a head in Acts Chapter 7 and so if you have your bible that invite you to turn with me as we begin this journey looking at the man Paul who is still soul were in Acts Chapter 7 Stephen has been addressing this group throughout the chapter but in verse 51 he holds nothing back at this point Stephen says you stiff necked and uncircumcised and heart and ears you always resist the Holy Spirit as your fathers did so do you which of the profits did your fathers not persecute perhaps the singing of Isaiah or Jeremiah or easy and they killed those who foretold the coming of the just one of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it verse 54 when they heard these things they were cut to the heart and they gnash it him with their teeth keep your finger there we're going to come back to that but just turn your Bibles if you will a few verses over to Acts chapter 2 we have the same phrase used by the same author Acts chapter 2 verse 36. It is the day of Pentecost is the context of x. after 2 The Holy Spirit is being poured out people are accusing them of being drunk and Peter stands up and addresses the men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem and so Peter takes them through the scriptures and prophesy and finally concludes and in verse 36 he says therefore all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ's birth 37 now when they heard this they were what cut to the heart same phrase same expression we just read it in chapter 7 Here it is again but notice what they say in response to that they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles Men and brethren what shall we do there cut to the heart there convicted and they're saying what should we do and they say repent let every one of you be baptized and they have Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit but if we flip back to Acts chapter 7. 54 and when they heard these things they were cut to the heart and they gnashed at him with their teeth but he being full of the Holy Spirit gaze into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus stand the right hand of God and said look I see the heavens open and the Son of Man Standing at the right hand of God he seen Jesus serving as our high for East verse 37 they cried out with a loud voice stopped their ears and ran at him with one accord it's not always necessarily good to be of one of course it depends on what your own Want to court about and notice that they are physically stop beating their ears to keep truth from coming in and then verse $58.00 and they cast him Stephen out of the city and stone him and the witnesses lay down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Sol There he is. 1st mention verse 59 and they stone Stephen as he was calling on God as saying Lord Jesus receive my spirit just as Jesus did in verse 60 then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice Lord you not charge them with this sin and when he had said this he fell asleep sounds a lot like Father forgive them they know not what they do this is none other than the author that we just read about here standing guard over the clothes you see in the picture the author of Romans Corinthians filament Galatians Philippians testimony and if Eason's cautions Timothy Titus I believe Hebrews and you would think the man love the Savior from birth folks is not even close. He hated the name of Jesus so much so he became a self a valid violent aggressor persecuting and killing Christians and allegiance to the God of heaven and shocking though it may seem we must never forget the pit from which he came because the better we understand the darkness of his past the more we understand his gratitude for grace yes this is the introduction that Scripture gives us of this young man named Sol he's not out running with his friends he's not doing innocent things he's standing guard over their clothing as they killed God's innocent prophet Samuel now we have to admit that his childhood was not marked by anger and violence by his other statements we can kind of cobble together his past if you will in Acts 21 verse 39 he says I am a Jew from Tarses in Sicily I'm a citizen of no ordinary city Tarsus at that time was a busy metropolis with diverse culture and international commerce and if you find it up here on the map Tarses is in Sicily and today it's part of modern Turkey and this is where Saul was born if you find Jerusalem there on the map go up the coast there and just as it turns yellow you see Tarsus about a dozen miles from the glistening beaches of the Mediterranean and they're beautiful I imagine even much more then than today. And the town is cradled in the Taurus mountain range running from the seacoast of the north which provided sweeping protective shield the mountains did and it was also part of a popular trade route connecting the Orient in the east to Rome in the west there were only a few passages through the mountains and Tarsus was one of those we also can piece together the cells parents were fair See who were most fervent in Jewish nationalism and strict obedience to the Law of Moses and as such friendships with Gentile children was certainly discouraged and frowned upon and being raised there in Tarsus he would converse in Greek but at home they would speak Aramaic the language of Judea a derivative of Hebrew and while Roman citizens they look to Jerusalem as their holy city they sought an honor to be Israelites the people of promise to whom alone the living God had revealed his glory and his plans and so by his 13th birthday Saul would have mastered Jewish history the poetry of the songs have a mastery of the prophets and he would be ready now for a higher education for this Saul would have been sent to Jerusalem to study about 600 miles away on foot but perhaps he went by boat and it says the next 22 Verse 2 I am indeed a Jew born in Tarsus Silicio but brought up in the city at the feet of command taught according to the strictness of our Father's Law and was jealous towards God tradition would tell us that he probably spent 5 or 6 years at the feet of a man. Here so would have learned how to dissect a text here to learn how to debate question and answer style known as a diatribe they were taught to be part preacher. And part lawyer so they could prosecute and defend those who broke the Sacred Law and Saul he had a very powerful mind which would lead him to the Sanhedrin the Jewish Supreme Court if you will these 71 man ruled over Jewish life and religion the buck stopped with them but it when you open the book of Acts we see everything that they have been building their dynasties upon crumbling around them all because of the life death and resurrection of a man named Jesus and it was causing huge upheaval and then further with Pentecost the outpoint the Holy Spirit things were changing fast you're familiar with this verse next chapter 2 verse 41 then those who gladly received his word were baptized and that day about 3000 souls were added to them these were maddening times for the Sanhedrin their attempts to silence the followers of Jesus by crucifying their master had backfired and it backfired significantly they were doing everything in their power to squelch their rebellion but there's another key piece you need to look at Falls not mentioned here but it only makes sense that he would have been in that place turned back to Acts chapter 5 we're going to read from verse 17 Acts Chapter 5 verse 17. We read in the High Priest rose up and all those who were with him which is the sect of the Sadducees and they were filled with indignation verse 18 and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison but at night and the angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out and said Go stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life and when they had heard that they entered the temple early in the morning and taught talk about backfire the religious leaders thought they had dealt with the rebels they had put them behind bars but in reality what transpires with the angel coming and releasing and so on only further motivate them to preach with greater conviction look at what God has done nothing can hold back and stop what God is doing through His prophets and his people Drusilla is set ablaze with their preaching and the religious officials were becoming a shrinking minority and unaware of what had happened in emergency meeting is cold and we continue and pick it up still in verse 21 the 2nd half but the high priest there unaware of what's happened the high priest and those with him came and called the council together with all the elders of the children of Israel and sent to the prison to have them brought but when the officers came and did not find them in prison they returned and reported saying indeed we found the prison shut securely and the guard standing outside before the doors but when we opened them we found no one inside what do you mean you didn't find anyone inside. I mean this is getting embarrassing and these prejudiced judges are out of their minds trying to figure out what happened but things only get worse for them as we continue in verse 25 so one came and told them saying look the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people 1st 26 and the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence for they feared the people lest they should be stoned don't miss that last statement by the way that last little detail these pious leaders feared their lives as they sensed the tide turning against them more and more I imagine people in the streets are saying Hey don't touch these guys they're telling us things that we need to hear things which you never told us. I wonder if there could be some parallels there to some in time 3 angels message preaching don't touch these guys we want to hear what they had to say and so for fear of their life they try to take them peaceably verse 27 and when they have brought them they set them before the council and the high priest asked them again the Sanhedrin saying did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name and look you have filled Druce them with your doctrine your false doctrine we could say and intend to bring this man's blood on us you're telling people that we're the reason that this false messiah was crucified I want you to know the Romans did it wrong you're making us look bad the people are turning against us but I love how Peter responds notice verse 29 but Peter and the other apostles answered and said This is holy boldness we ought to obey God rather than men period the God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree Him God is exalted to his right hand to be Prince and Savior to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins and we are witnesses to these things and so also is the Holy Spirit whom has given to those who obey Him and when they heard this they were furious and plotted to kill them I imagine that Saul would have been part of the day that heard the speech. That was furious and plotted to kill them plotted to kill Peter never thought of that before while standing in the shadows of the room I imagine the hair on the back of his neck is bristling this young pious up and coming Fair see Listen angrily at this ignorant untrained fisherman named Peter who spoke of the now dead Jesus who claimed to be God It was almost more than he could bear his passion I imagine boiled within him as Saul began formulating plans could it be thinking if I could just get my hands on him I would kill him like all the rest Little did he know that this ignorant fisherman would one day be his co labor in establishing Christian churches throughout the known world not yet not now but it's pretty ironic if you stop and think about it before Saul could organize an assault on this man and all of his companions God intervene in another surprising turn of events as Saul's mentor stood to his feet verse $34.00 then one in the council stood up a fair See named. A teacher of the law I held in respect by all the people and commanded them to put the Apostles outside for a little while this is same one that's all studied under as a teenager in Jerusalem I imagine Saul is a breathlessly watching as his mentor is now going to be an action like a law student after graduation because it's a courtroom to observe his admired professor of practice law he's going to go after him he's going to get him I need to take notes here this is going to be good. He's going to fix it and we continue verse $35.00 and he said to them men of Israel take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men for some time ago Thaddeus rose up claiming to be somebody a number of men about 400 joined him he was slain and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing after this man Judas of Galilee rose up in a few days in the days of the census and drew away many people after him he also perished and all who abate him were dispersed and now I say to you verse 38 keep away from these men and let them alone for if this plan or this work is of men it will come to nothing but if it is of God You cannot overthrow it lest you even be found to fight against God I imagine Saul was shock and disbelief let them alone let them alone this man was supposed to be the spokesman for Judaism and the law has been lately all lost his mind I mean has he just gone soft What is this you know I imagine Despite his initial reactions I imagine a seed was planted a seed that would grow in Saul you cannot fight against God You can't fight against God. You can't fight against God I believe through the intervention of God The male e.-l. became or becomes an unexpected ally and Peter's life is spared keep that in mind next time you feel your situation is hopeless by the way God is still in control silently and sovereignly working all things out according to His perfect plan you cannot fight against God and so wisely the religious leaders took command advice. Verse 40 and they agreed with him and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus and let them go this was a pain for I mean when you get your skin stripped off your back maybe you won't forget we mean business back off was the message clogging was a terribly painful and humiliating torture yet here is where our respect for these men of God only intensifies look at their response here in verse 41 and 42 so they departed from the presence of the council rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name when the last time you did that thank you Lord for accounting me worthy to suffer for your name for your cause and there rejoins seen they've just been flogged they have blood all across their backs praise the Lord we are able to suffer in his name and in verse 42 and daily in the temple and in every house they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ you cannot fight against God I mean this is incredible it almost seems as if the blood on their backs has not yet dried and scabbed over and they're back out of their preteen Jesus as the Christ and Saul hated them for that it was what drove him to more aggressive action against them which he later at MIT's Acts 26 verse 10 this I also did in Jerusalem and many of the saints I shut up in prison having received authority from the chief priests and when they were put to death I cast my vote against them Saul says I hated those Christians another one x. 10 verse 11 and I punished them after in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme and being exceedingly in raised against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities he's going out of his way to search them down like animals and another confession Paul writes of his former life this way. I was formerly a blast femur and a persecutor and a violent aggressor 1st Timothy 113 and this is the same man who would later write of God's grace and God's mercy this is the same man who would later preach to his opponents and the idea would be the same you cannot fight against God But until the grace of Christ laid hold of him he had violently opposed everyone and everything related to Jesus maybe you can relate and he do it all by the way in the name of God blindly believing his bloody deeds honored God by ridding the earth of this cult have mercy one of the greatest people to be feared a religious terrorist because they're doing it in the name of God that was Saul Acts Chapter 8 verse 3 Saul began ravaging the church entering the house after house and dragging off men and women he would put them in prison I mean it's really difficult to imagine such a deep hatred there's no question that Saul was sincere but friends he was sincerely wrong but for now that's where we're going to leave Saul before we conclude 3 observations about Paul a man of grace and grit and every great life I believe there's a surprise or surprise is often jolting surprises who would have guessed that the one writer of the New Testament the prominent writer of the New Testament would probably have the most significant impact on each of us here in this room today in 2019 who would have thought there would come from a man with such spiritual blindness and physical brutality but it did that's why I claim the title chief of sinners you may be tempted to soften them don't. Leave it alone let it be I don't believe Saul was attempting to sound modest in his mind he was the chief of sinners and he very well may have been but 3 observations the 1st no matter how you appear to others today everyone and that means everyone has a past you would be amazed if you knew the darkness lurking in the past of those people who have made a difference in your life and I'm not trying to excuse it I'm not trying to say that it's Ok but I am saying that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God All of us can look back at times of spiritual blindness a time that was neither pleasant nor encouraging is the life we lived before turning to the Savior It's just that we're not as vulnerable and open as Paul was I'm not sure that we need to be about it's just that he lays it out Colossians 113 and 14 Paul writes he has delivered us from the power of darkness Have you ever been controlled by the power and let me tell you it's powerful darkness is powerful and a hangs on and clings to you he has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of this son of his love in whom we have redemption through His blood the forgiveness of sins the fact remains it was grace that stoop down to pick up Saul and picks up all of us how the words go of that him that we're going to sing here in just a moment Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a what's the word wretch like me leave that word in there don't replace it. Our existence before Christ was among the wretched let's never forget what life was like outside the boundaries of God's grace Saul was there and so were we survey should number 2 good news no amount of or depth of sin in your past can trump the grace of God regardless of what you have done no one is beyond hope well that's fine for everybody else but that doesn't work for me friends no one is beyond hope if you question that remember the brash fair sea of Tarsus and when the Lord saved him he didn't put him on probation the disciples did that no we will see that God gave Saul a new name and in the process made him a new creature or a new creation I mean that's what makes grace so amazing is that God can take this villain this murderer with blood on his hands with anger in his heart doing this thing for God and he can reach down and touch that life and change it by grace and say I'm going to use you as one of the greatest instruments in my hands that's Grace and it's amazing Observation number 3 and then we're going to go even though you're past a soiled anyone can find a new beginning with God Anyone anyone friend is never too late to start doing what's right and Jesus promises to help you he doesn't say get it right and come back and see me when you do he says I'm here to help you I'm here forgive your sins I'm here to cleanse you to show you a better way if you just walk with me when Saul knelt before the Living God he finally faced the reality of his sin deep within the Man Christ transformed his life and he started doing what was right Grace provides a sort of a new beginning don't get stuck on where you were. Don't waste your time focusing on what you used to be the hope we have in Christ means that there is a brighter tomorrow the sins are forgiven the shame is wiped away we're no longer chained to a deep dark pit of the past yet I imagine in our congregation this size is mourning someone is stuck because of something in the past and perhaps they feel pinned to the ground as a result of it with embarrassment or with shame or with fear and you're crippled by it and you're saying to yourself I don't belong here but the reality is friends none of us do that way of thinking from the pit by the way satan longs to rub your nose in the dirt why his way of distracting you from the marvelous claims of God's grace and I was to make you don't allow him that power in your life don't allow him to speak those faults Hood's he is the father of lies Oh but it's true I did those saying yes you did but it's also true that you've been forgiven you've been washed by the blood of the Lamb and you're a new creature in Jesus Christ speak the truth all the truth don't allow the devil that power in your life around you are people who have no greater claim on grace than you do and the Lord mercifully brought them and you all of us out of the pit of sin and he could turn a Saul of Tarsus engage in this murderous rampage into Paul the apostle who preached and live the message of grace my goodness if he can do that with Saul he can do that with me notice we don't remember the Apostle Paul as a Christian killing Christian that was no longer his identity he was changed he was a new creature in Jesus Christ and so it is with you you're no longer a drunk Christian. A spaced out Christian or whatever you want to fill in the blank Christian you are a new creature in Jesus Christ you don't know where I was last night preacher that was last night what about today 1st Corinthians $159.10 Paul said for I am the least of the apostles and not fit to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church of God and he was embarrassing for him to admit that it was shameful for him to have to face that time and time again but he just says very plainly but by the grace of God I am what I am with that be our prayer today you know the words well Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me I once was lost but now I'm found was blind but now I see Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved how precious did the grace appear the hour I 1st believed through many dangers toils and snares I have already come to His Grace has brought me safe thus far and Grace Will Lead Me Home to all there is in our wretchedness our deliverance from fear our claim of grace to see us through and to lead us home what is it in your life from your past that's just holding you back you say well I've given it to God will give it to God and leave it there don't allow the devil to continue to to create your identity based on a past person you are a new creature in Jesus Christ even if it's only starting today and if he can take a Saul and turn him into a Paul what can he do with you Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me our dear Lord our Heavenly Father. We all are in need of grace we need you to cover us to forgive us to transform us to renew us into the image of our father our Heavenly Father and Lord the verses that we oftentimes claim many of which that we have memorized were reminded again this morning have come off the lips of a man who did horrific things yet you said I can use him and you say that about us I can use him I can use her for my purposes for my glory for my honor if they'll simply turn if they'll simply surrender if they'll allow me to do a work in their life that I long to do and the Lord I imagine there's somebody here that needs to respond in some way and so Lord if if that prayer is ours if we want to say Lord forgive us of our past cleanse us from all unrighteousness restore unto us the joy of your salvation they this with your grace not just for salvation but for sanctification and for your glorification of that some of his prayer here I just pray they'll raise their hand just now and say Lord I want to be a recipient of your Grace I want to be a champion of Grace I want to treat people with grace and I want to be unable to do any and all of those things by your grace and Jesus' name we pray. This media was brought to you by audio a website dedicated to spreading God's word through for a sermon audio and much more if you would like to know more about audio 1st if you would like to listen to more service to visit w w w audio 1st or.

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