Trust in God's Grundloss Grace
Preached at Gethsemane Evangelical Lutheran Church in Raleigh, NC (cf. http:www.TheMainThing.us) on Wednesday, December 31, 2008 – New Year’s Eve
Well, 2008 is quickly drawing to a close and 2009 is only a few hours away. So, looking back, how would you characterize 2008? For some, it will be remembered for the economic crisis and the government bailouts. For others the economic crisis hit closer to home with the loss of a job. For others the lost finances haven’t mattered as much as the loss of health or the loss of a loved one to a broken relationship or to death. Overall, 2008, was a rough year, wasn’t it?
The prophet Jeremiah had a “rough year.” The city that he loved lay in ruins, devastated by war. His family and friends were prisoners of war in a distant country. The economy was destroyed and the people impoverished. Drought and famine drove people mad with hunger as they ate their own shoes and even their own children. And when Jeremiah spoke the word of God to them, the people wrote songs that mocked and ridiculed the prophet and even threatened his life. What a rough year!
And yet, in spite of all of his problems, Jeremiah was not without hope. He found comfort in God’s grace—a grace that is grundloss. Grundloss is a German word that literally means “groundless.” But it has a double meaning. First it means there are no rational grounds for this to happen. There’s no reason for God to love us. But it also means there is no ground to it. It’s bottomless and will never run out.
It’s because of God’s groundless grace for us that 2008 was as good as it was. And with the confidence that God’s groundless grace will continue, we can face 2009 with confidence and hope. Listen now to the comfort that Jeremiah found in the midst of his lament as we read Lamentations 3:22-33…
22 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." 25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. 27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. 28 Let him sit alone in silence, for the LORD has laid it on him. 29 Let him bury his face in the dust—there may yet be hope. 30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace. 31 For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. 32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. 33 For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.
I. There is No Reason For It
Has this been a rough year for you? Did everything go as planned? No matter how easy or rough 2008 was for you, you can rejoice because it could have been a lot worse. In fact, it should have been a lot worse because you and I deserve none of the blessings we did receive.
Jeremiah understood that God had brought the problems and the pain that he and Jerusalem now faced because of their own sin. He knew the Lord had laid these burdens on them, that he had brought this affliction and grief, because they deserved it. Though they had known the true God and his gracious promises, they chose instead to worship scraps of wood and bits of metal. They chose to ignore his will and to live for themselves. So finally, God sent them well-deserved war and captivity and poverty and famine as a result of their rebellion.
Now I can’t say that the problems you faced in 2008 and continue to face are are a direct result of some specific sin. But I can say that you deserve much worse. You deserve hell. …And so do I. Our rebellion against God is no better than that of the inhabitants of Jerusalem in Jeremiah’s day.
In 2008 you and I have failed to place our trust in God, just as they did. We have failed to appreciate the generous gifts and the amazing promises that he gave us. We have worshiped worthless idols, not of wood or stone, but of plastic, metal, and poly-cotton fiber. We have chosen to ignore his will and to live for ourselves. And we have grumbled and complained—against God!—for our own personal disasters. And for our rebellion we deserve hell. We deserve to be consumed by God’s wrath.
But we’re not. Why not? “Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed… great is [his] faithfulness.” How do we know God is so loving when it doesn’t always seem that way? We know he loves us because of what he’s done for us in Christ. He has been faithful in keeping his promises of salvation. So, when Jeremiah speaks of God’s love we can’t help but think of Jesus…
27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. 28 Let him sit alone in silence, for the LORD has laid it on him. 29 Let him bury his face in the dust—there may yet be hope. 30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace.
When Jesus was young—only 33 years old—he bore the yoke that the Lord laid on him. He bore all of our sins and took them to the cross. He sat alone with no one to help him endure what he went through. He endured in silence and when put on trial he didn’t shout out in anger or rage. He offered his cheek to be struck as he was mocked and ridiculed. He offered his back to be scourged, his hands and feet to be nailed, his soul to the agony of hell. He was filled with the disgrace of our sin and of rejection by God the Father. He was buried in the dust.
Why did Jesus do all this? So that you and I wouldn’t have to. So we don’t have to endure what we deserve. But why is God so loving to us? I don’t know. There is no reason that we should be the object of such love. His love for us is groundless, reasonless, there’s no explanation for it but that God says he is this loving… to you! And no matter what else happened in 2008, God never withheld that love. He never took Christ away. He never consumed you with his wrath… because his compassions—which were without reason—never failed.
And they never will fail, because not only is there no reason for God’s groundless grace, but there’s also no bottom to that grace…
II. There is No Bottom To It
You know that I love my coffee. And I love when the restaurants have that “bottomless” cup. You can drink all the coffee you want and the wait staff will just keep filling it up as long as you sit there. That’s how it is with God’s grace. It never ends!“Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning…”
When we think of the something as being new, we usually think of it in a chronological sense: “I’ve had that one for a year. It’s old. But I’ve had this one for a week. It’s new.” But in the Hebrew that word has more of an idea of freshness, like the manna that appeared in the desert every day. It was fresh every morning.
Think of the presents you just received for Christmas. How long will they be “new” to you? Eventually, (maybe even sooner than later?) they will wear out, fade, or break. The gift cards will be spent, the chocolates will be eaten, and maybe even before you take down the Christmas tree.
But God’s groundless grace isn’t like that. It’s always new! His forgiveness will never grow old or out of fashion! It will never fade, never spoil, never run out, and never wear out! And it can never be depleted! His compassions are new every morning! That means that each day is a “new” day, a fresh start with a clean slate, with every sin or mistake of yesterday forgiven!
Why do we celebrate a new year every year? I mean, not much will really change between tonight and tomorrow morning besides an 8 becoming a 9. Well, I think New Year’s Eve is such a big deal to so many people because we look forward to starting over. We look forward to another chance. We can place the mistakes of last year behind us and get another shot at those resolutions we failed to keep.
But as Christians, trusting in God’s groundless grace that never runs out, rejoicing in his compassions that are new—not every year, but every morning!—each day offers new opportunities to start over. We can wake up each morning rejoicing that yesterday’s sins are forgiven! Today is a fresh start with fresh opportunities to live lives of thanks to Jesus!
And that perspective, as we live in God’s groundless grace, changes the way we view everything! It changes the way we view our struggles in 2009. We view them not as problems, but as opportunities—opportunities to grow in our faith, to share our faith, and to share God’s groundless grace with others.
Imagine what you could accomplish if you had an endless supply of money that would never run out no matter how much you spent or gave away. Friends, you have something even better: an endless supply of forgiveness that will never run out no matter how much you use or give away! You have an endless supply of power that comes from the gospel! No matter how much you use you can never exhaust it and have a black out! You have an endless supply of love shown to you from God that you can extend to everyone around you!
So what if 2009 brings an even worse economy?! So what if it brings pain? So what if it brings shame and disgrace and misery and suffering of every kind?! You have God’s groundless grace! And so you know that 2009 will be another great year no matter what happens!
And if trouble and hardship and pain should hit, you can put your trust in God and his grace to you. You can bear the yoke the Lord lays on you. You can wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. You can even offer your cheek to one who would strike you and be filled with disgrace. For “though [the Lord] brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love”—his groundless grace, that has no reason for it, that has no end to it. So you can say to yourself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." In Jesus, may God grant you all another year of his groundless grace. Amen!