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By Grace ...

Notes & Transcripts

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

By grace, we shall stand.

‘How are the mighty fallen!’(2 Samuel 1:19,25,27). The tragedy of Saul was there for all to see. He had made a right mess of things! What are we to think when we read of this tragic figure? He started out so well. He ended so badly. There were high hopes - but it all came to nothing. Do we not see ourselves in Saul? - This could happen to me, if I’m not careful. The danger signs are there. Satan is at hand. He is ready to sweep in. He will sweep the feet away from us, if we don’t watch out. We are very weak, but the Lord is ‘able to keep us from falling’(Jude 24-25). These are things we must never forget - our own weakness and the strength of the Lord. Disaster threatens. Tragedy looms. Jesus draws near. He speaks His Word - ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness’(2 Corinthians 12:9). By grace, we shall stand!

In the Lord, we have full redemption.

We are not to pray to God with superficial words that don’t mean very much to us. Our prayer is to be a real cry from the heart: ‘Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord’(Psalm 130:1). We are to ‘cry for mercy’ with a deep awareness of how sinful we really are: ‘If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?’(Psalm 130:3). We must come to God with deep humility - ‘My heart is not proud, O Lord’(Psalm 131:1). When we truly confess our sin, we receive God’s ‘unfailing love’and ‘forgiveness’(Psalm 130:4). ‘In the Lord’we have ‘full redemption’(Psam 130:7). It is for ‘now’ - ‘The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives’. It is ‘for evermore’ - ‘But purer and higher and greater will be our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see!’. ‘Praise the Lord!... Give Him the glory!’(Psalm 131:3; Church Hymnary, 374).

How can we refuse to be changed by God's love?

There are times when it seems nothing is going right for us: ‘I am the man who has seen affliction...’(Lamentations 3:1-3). In such times, we must remember this: ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end’. When we find ourselves in circumstances of great distress, we must learn to look beyond the things that are happening to us. We must learn to look to the Lord and say, ‘Great is Your faithfulness’. It will not be easy to see God at work in our lives when everything seems to be going wrong. We must be patient as we wait for the blessing of the Lord to return to our lives. We must put all our hope in the Lord, trusting in His precious promise: ‘The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul that seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord’(Lamentations 3:22-26).

In our ‘grief’, we must not forget the ‘compassion’ of God (Lamentations 3:32). He understands us. He cares for us. How do we know that God loves us? ‘Christ died for us’(Romans 5:8). This is the greatest demonstration of God’s love for us. How can we doubt God’s love for us when we think of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, dying on the Cross for us as our Saviour? When we think of God’s love for us, we must remember that He calls us to love Him. We are not to take God’s love for granted - ‘God loves me. I can do what I like’. We are to appreciate God’s love - ‘God loves me. I will love Him’. God loves us. Christ died for us. How can we say, ‘I’ll do what I like’? How can we refuse to be changed by His love? ‘Let us examine our ways and turn back to the Lord. Let us open our hearts to God’(Lamentations 3:40-41).

"O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever."

‘I will exalt You, O Lord’(Psalm 30:1). God is not exalted because we exalt Him. We exalt Him because He is exalted: ‘He is exalted, for ever exalted, and I will praise His Name’(Mission Praise,217). How do we come to the point where we say, ‘I will exalt You, O Lord’? We realize our need of Him - ‘when You hid Your face, I was dismayed’(Psalm 30:7). We look to Him for mercy - ‘To You, O Lord, I called; to the Lord, I cried for mercy’(Psalm 30:8). God hears and answers our prayer - ‘You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy’(11). God calls us to worship Him - ‘Sing praises to the Lord, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy Name’(Psalm 30:4). ‘The joy of the Lord’, His ‘unutterable and exalted joy’, gives us ‘strength’(Nehemiah 8:10; 1 Peter 1:8). We worship God: ‘O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever’(Psalm 30:12).

"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift."

We may face difficult circumstances. We may experience much suffering. In all of this there is one thing we must never forget: ‘God… comforts the downcast’(2 Corinthians 7:6). He lifts us up when we are down. He enables us to ‘excel in everything - in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness, in love, in giving’(2 Corinthians 8:7). How are we to excel in everything? We must ‘give ourselves to the Lord’(2 Corinthians 8:5). Everything else flows from this. We are to ‘give ourselves in devoted service to others’(2 Corinthians 7:12; 2 Corinthians 8:4-5). Where does this spirit of ‘rich generosity’ come from? It comes from God, from ‘the grace that God has given’ to us (2 Corinthians 8:1-2). It comes to us as we give ourselves to Him. Before we can ‘excel in this grace of giving’, we must receive ‘from His fullness, grace upon grace’(2 Corinthians 8:7; John 1:16).

How are we to be ‘cheerful’ in giving ourselves to the Lord (2 Corinthians 9:7)? How are we to be confident that ‘God is able to provide us with every blessing in abundance’(2 Corinthians 9:8)? Before we ever think of giving ourselves to God, we must look at all He has given to us. We look away from ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ: ‘You know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ…’(2 Corinthians 8:9). We look at Him and we say, in our hearts, ‘Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!’(2 Corinthians 9:15). Can our giving to Him even begin to compare with His giving to us? We give to Him as those who have first received from Him. In his giving, we see His love. Our giving expresses our love, our response to His love: ‘We love because He first loved us’(1 John 4:19). Rejoice in His love. Thank Him - for ‘every blessing in abundance’!

"Do not fear, only believe."

The story begins with Jairus (Mark 5:21-24). Then, there is an ‘interruption’ - which brought healing to a woman (Mark 5:25-34). The woman had nowhere else to go (Mark 5:25-26). She came to Jesus (Mark 5:27). She was healed - not because she touched His garment (many others were brushing against Him), but because she had ‘faith’(Mark 5:28, 31, 34). Jesus brought her out into the open - so that she might confessHim (Mark 5:30, 32-33). The new birth can take place in very quiet circumstances - by faith in Christ. Jesus wants us to ‘come out’ - to confess Him. Back to Jairus’daughter - People thought there was no hope. Jesus said, ‘Do not fear, only believe’(Mark 5:35-36).

The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary - Year B.

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