Seven Billion Reasons - Because Jesus gave first!
Generous churches are filled with the grateful dead!
What is scary to you? Hurricane Sandy is pretty scary! It’s being called the “Frankenstorm” and it’s supposed to pound the Northeast! Scary? Is it your typical rats, spiders and snakes or something super scary like me wearing skinny jeans? Not a good sight! What is scary to you? Is it climbing really high or spelunking really low? Is it scary fiction – like a movie? Or scary reality, your kid gets hurts or your car breaks down on the side of the road – at night – and you’re all alone! Is it seeing an accident right before your eyes? Watch this German man try to jump in his frozen swimming pool! (Video here) What’s scary is that guy did that to himself. My tailbone stills hurts! Is it people who dress up their pets for Halloween? (This pirate cat, this lobster dog and this Oscar the Grouch![i]) I think they’re kinda cute, actually! Or maybe its people dressed in costumes. Not this kid! There’s nothing scary about a big Snickers bar! But this kid is carrying his own head in a jar[ii]! That’s kinda creepy!
I don’t know what scares you, but I have an idea of what scares the Apostle Paul. Open up your Bibles today to Galatians 2! What’s scary for me is trying to teach the Bible without you having a Bible! Do you need a Bible today?
I want to say thanks to you and here’s why! You gave 109 boxes of mashed instant potatoes and 105 bags egg noodles! Wow! I hope today you brought cans of coffee and Ritz crackers! We will now focus our attention on the Gift Shop! The Gift helps our Friday Fare families. Children who receive weekend backpacks! Look at these two notes! One of our school partners said, “I truly appreciate you doing the Lord's work by helping our students and families.” A Second Grade Girl. "Before the backpacks I felt poor. Sometimes we wake up without breakfast and it's not fun. It's scary because you get sick a lot because of the hunger. The backpacks help because sometimes my mom doesn't get paid and then there's no food. The backpacks give us food. My favorite backpack food is the pudding. Sometimes I eat it for dessert and sometimes for lunch. With hunger, you don't get to eat a lot. It stings when I don't get to eat. My sister (5 years old) cries when she's hungry. The people who donate food are helpful. Mom feels thankful." This church is making a difference in Central Ohio! For that same little girl would you bring toys, dolls or stuffed animals for the Gift Shop!
Do you have Galatians 2? Find verse 15! (Read 15-16) "We who are Jews by birth (the BIG three. James, Peter, John – Paul) and not 'Gentile sinners'  know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.
Justified! Interesting word. Paul borrowed “justify” from the law courts! It means to “declare righteous or innocent.” The opposite of course would be to “pronounce guilty or to condemn.”[iii] With that in mind, let’s read verse 16 again! Here’s what’s scary to the Apostle Paul. People believe there’s more than one way to be saved! Actually there are two ways. Perfection or Forgiveness.
Let me tell you a story. People are getting on a train! The train is heading to heaven! They take their seats! Soon the conductor yells, “All aboard, this train is on its way to heaven!” Once the passengers are safely seated the conductor then calls for their tickets! “Tickets please! Your ticket allows you to go to heaven!” And all the passengers are stunned! They start talking to one another. I don’t have a ticket? Do you? Nope. I didn’t know tickets were required. They soon ask the conductor. How do we get a ticket? “Get it?” Well, you earned it. You earned your ticket by living a perfect life! You did everything right - nothing wrong. You never cussed, lied, stole, or lusted. Your every motive was for the benefit of someone else and not yourself. You are perfect!” But we’re not perfect. Can we go to heaven anyway? And the conductor replies, “Not on this train!”
I had a professor in college who told a different story. He started his story by folding a piece of paper this way and then tore it in two places. Then he told his story! People are getting on a train! The train is heading to heaven! They take their seats! Soon the conductor yells, “All aboard, this train is on its way to heaven!” Once the passengers are safely seated the conductor then calls for their tickets! “Tickets please! Your ticket allows you to go to heaven!” And every person hands him their ticket! But they didn’t earn their tickets. Their tickets were given to them the moment they accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior & Lord. The moment Jesus pronounced them “not guilty!” Their tickets were not earned. Theirs were given. Their tickets were provided none other than the cross!”
It’s true! There are two tickets to heaven. One ticket is salvation by perfection. You earned it! The second ticket is salvation by forgiveness. You didn’t earn a thing! You were given the free gift of grace. Don’t kid yourself – you/we desperately need this ticket! We need what only Jesus could do on the cross! Let’s take communion right now! Ushers would go and prepare at this time! As they do. Look at these verses on the screen! Romans 3:23-24. Verse 23 is the bad news. Verse 24 is the good news! (Communion slides)
We must go back to Galatians 2:16. Observing the law can’t declare anyone innocent; it can only pronounce someone guilty! “A young man was appointed president of a bank. Intimidated by his new responsibilities, he nervously seeks the advice of his predecessor: "Sir, what has been the secret of your success?" "Two words: right decisions!" But how do you make right decisions?" "One word: experience." "But how do you get experience?" The old man smiled. "Two words: wrong decisions." What is the benefit of the law? It shows us all the wrong decisions we’ve made. It shows us where we’ve messed up. Turn to Romans 3:20! Rats! The law said not to lie but I did lie! I have lusted. I have coveted. I have hated! So have you and so has Paul! Find Galatians 2:17. (Read 17-20)
There are Seven Billion Reasons to be generous! Here’s Reason #4. Because Jesus gave first! Generous churches are filled with the grateful dead! That’s not a reference to “dead heads” or Jerry Garcia reincarnated! Jesus gave himself up for you and for me! How are we going to respond to such an enormous sacrifice? Let’s read verse 20 again!
How many of you are familiar with the Bill of Rights? The Bill of Rights make up the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. They were written by James Madison. Let me briefly summarize. We have the right to freedom of religion. The right to assemble to worship. The right to speak freely. The right of free press. The right to keep and bear arms. The right to defend ourselves against unreasonable search and seizures. And a number of rights to a speedy and fair trial.[iv] You’ve heard of the Bill of Rights let introduce you to the Rights of BILL! Now who is Bill? Bill is anyone. Bill is everyone. Anybody here today named William or Bill? My Dad was named Bill and my oldest brother is named Bill. Pretend with me! Bill accepts Christ! Does accepting the One who died on the cross change Bill’s life? Paul said it this way. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live… Honestly what does that mean? Well, Jesus died. So did Paul. And so did Bill. And Bill now follows a different set of rights. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live - I give up my right to live for myself. I now live for God. …but Christ lives in me. - I give up my right to pursue fame. I will use my body to make Jesus famous instead. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God - I give up my right to have all the facts. I will walk by faith! …who loved me and gave himself for me. - I give up my right to live for me. I will live to give! I will live to serve.
Please turn to John 13:1. The full extent would have to be John 19:1. And 19:16. But no. It starts with Jesus washing his disciple’s feet. It was Jesus who said, Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. We crucify ourselves when choose to serve.
I want us to do two things at once. Let’s take our offering. Ushers would get the trays and come right up! But let’s also become an offering. What response should we have to someone who gave himself first? Let’s pray. What’s scary? Thinking we can earn heaven! Come to the cross. Give up your rights; only to gain life!
[iii] Barker & Kohlenberger, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 718