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RESTORING GRACE

MESSAGE TRANSCRIPTION: 

This morning I want to talk to you about what happens when a Christian falls away. When a Christian stumbles, when a Christian fumbles, when a Christian has blown it, or when a Christian has stubbed his or her toe. Now, you know that many Christians used to come to Eastside, used to go to Church, whether Eastside or some other Church that was on fire for Jesus. Their heart was burning brightly for God. And they’re nowhere to be found. They are nowhere to be seen.

Now, I don’t say that as a judgmental statement. I say it as a statement of hope because today, I want to talk to you about the restorative Grace of God. We’re talking about Grace in this sermon series, and we’re looking at the different aspects of Grace. And one of the aspects of Grace that you and I need to understand is that when we have blown it when we have fumbled when we have stumbled, when we have stubbed our toes, there is the Grace of God waiting for you and me to restore us back and to provide us the joy of our Salvation. In fact, we can pray this prayer from limitations, chapter five, verse 21. And the author says, Restore us, O Lord, and bring us back to you again. Give us back the joys we once had. And the reality is that many of us are here today, and we’ve been Christians for years or even decades. And somehow or another, our faith, our faith in God, can grow stale, as Shane just spoke about. And we can lose the joy of our Salvation.

Now here’s the question I want to begin with what causes believers to fall away, drift, fumble, stumble, stub their toe? We don’t lose our Salvation. We lose the joy of our Salvation. Have you ever thought about that? In Mark, chapter 14, we have a beautiful scene between Peter and Jesus. Now, we have time to read all of that, but you can go back and read that yourself. On March 14, Peter and the disciples and Peter are in his exchange on that story. We discover four common causes of why Christians can stub their toe, fall away, blow it, or fumble or stumble towards the end zone. There are multiple other reasons, but just out of this particular passage, we find four of them. Now, you remember the scene, Jesus and his disciples, they’re in the upper room. Their Passover is being observed, which Jesus turns into the Lord’s supper.

And then Jesus, all of a sudden, makes this profound statement. He says, one of you is going to do what? Deny me and remember what the disciples do. They go, Is it I? Is it me? Is it me, O Lord? Is it me, O Lord? Is it me, O Lord? And they just continue to go around the room, and Peter suddenly, in his typical foot and mouth fashion, says this in Mark, chapter 14, verse 29. Peter said, Everyone else may stumble in their faith, but I will not; o Lord, you can count on me. I’m the man. Who am I? Me monster, right? This is what Peter was doing. And the very first cause of falling away is overconfident.

You can have overconfidence in the fact that Peter could just hear him saying, Lord, all of those peons, all of those immature disciples of yours, they will fall away. They’re going to cop-out. But Lord, not me. My monster is alive in me. And here’s the thing, folks. And it makes so much sense. When you begin to bless yourself, when you start to think that it will not happen to you, it will happen to you. When you think that you can handle everything on your own and that you’re too strong for sin to touch you, it’s never going to happen to you. You better Mark your bottom dollar that it’s going to happen to you. Because, folks, here’s what one pastor said to me.

He said, See, folks, sin constructed us. Given any situation, at any moment, sin can come knocking at our door. And a pastor friend told me one time, Virgil, we’re all one step away from stupidity, right? Every single one of us is only one step away from foolishness. And the Bible says that the heart is deceitful. And whenever you say, I could never fall for that, it is a trap because you’re being overconfident, and your ego is playing a role in your heart and mind.

Well, what does the word ego actually means? I love this definition of ego. It is edging God out of your life. And folks, whenever you make it about you, then you’re going to fall, you’re going to stumble. And that’s what ego is.

You’re going to fumble. The second cause of falling out on March 14 is the more common for us. And that is laziness. We see this in the story of Peter’s denial. We get lethargic. We slack off all of the good things that we used to do. You think about this while I’m reading my Bible. I’m praying. I’m going to the life group I’m serving. And all these things that we faithfully do week after week and day after day, suddenly there’s a thought that comes to her mind. And what is the thought? Well, I probably don’t need to serve this season because it’s too busy in my life.

And I just say something to you: if you’re too busy to serve or too busy to go to life group, you’re busier than God wants you to be. And we just become lazy in the essential things. And whenever we start to drift in prayer, Bible study, attending life group, or serving. It should be a warning life that’s going off inside our souls that something is wrong. Now, you have to remember this happened to Peter, right? Remember, Jesus is getting ready to be executed. He’s getting ready to be arrested. He’s getting ready to go to the cross. And what does he do?

He takes Peter, James, and John. And where do they go to? Somebody tell me. He takes the three of them and goes into the garden, right? And they go there. And why do they go there? It’s because Jesus wants them to pray with him and for him. And so what does Jesus do? Jesus goes, hey, guys, the point of time is coming. I’m going to be executed. I’m going to be tortured. I’m going to be beaten. I just want you to pray with me. Can you hang out here? And Jesus goes over a few more steps, and what does he do? He starts to pray. He comes back. And what are Peter, James, and Andrew? What are they doing? Somebody tell me.

They’re what? They’re sound asleep. And Jesus says, can you not just pray with me for 1 hour? And he goes back, and he prays again, and he comes back. And what are Peter, James, and Andrew doing again? They’re sound asleep. And Jesus says in Mark, chapter 14, verse 37, he says, Couldn’t you stay awake for at least 1 hour and pray with me? See, folks, listen to me. When fatigue sets in, it is a warning light that you’re vulnerable to temptation, that you’re vulnerable to drift. You’re vulnerable to the temptations of Satan in your life.

You have to learn to fix yourself spiritually and emotionally in all of those areas of your life. And you have to learn how to restore yourself physically. Because if you’re not careful, fatigue will lead you to laziness, which will lead you to fall away. And so the first one is, what is being overconfident? Does it make sense? The second one is laziness? The third one is the fear of disapproval. We worry about what other people think. We think that other people will reject us. They will make fun of us. They will harass us, and that will put us down. They will make fun of us. And folks, listen to me. This is what happened to Peter. Look with me at Mark, chapter 14, verse 54. And Peter followed Jesus at a what. What does it say at a what? At a distance. Get the picture here. Jesus has been arrested. Peter decides that he’s going to follow Jesus. Still, he’s going to hang back far enough, so they don’t associate Peter with Jesus. And here’s the question that I have for you. Do you ever try to follow Jesus at a distance? We tell you how we do this is that, well, you know what? I’m a crash follower, but I’m not going to be fanatical about it.

I’m a crash follower, but I’m not going to be radical about it. I’m going to be a crash follower, but I’m not going to be red hot about it. I’m going to be a Christ-follower, but I’m just going to play at low key. I don’t want anybody to think that I’m a nutcase. I’m just going to follow him at a distance. And can I tell you a sure sign that you are somehow or another fearful of other people’s rejection of you when you begin to somehow or another, you start to become ashamed of Jesus. And what I mean by that is that you no longer leave your Bible on the desk at work. You fold it up, and you put it back because you’re afraid of what somebody will say to you. You’re afraid that when you’re out in public to bow your head and ask a prayer blessing over the food Because you’re thinking about what other people are going to think, you’re afraid to take that card that’s in your seat and an extended invitation to someone Because you’re afraid that they’re going to reject you. See, folks, you need to understand something.

Is that in Proverbs 29:25, this is an ancient problem that has been around for centuries, and fearing people is a dangerous trap. Don’t ever become ashamed of Jesus Christ. Don’t ever become ashamed of inviting someone to come to Church. Don’t ever be ashamed of sharing your testimony and what God has done for you. Because listen to me, my friends, there are no secret agents in the Kingdom of God. There are no secret agents in the army of God. Now, some of you are here today, and you’re what I would call Arctic River Christians; now, say that with me. Arctic River Christians say it with me. All of you want Arctic River Christians. Now, if everybody says that we’re not moving on, I can sit here longer than you, okay, so this is your fifth time.

So cooperation is a choice. Arctic River Christian, you know what that means? Do you know what that means? It means that you can talk about anything and everything. You can talk about Donald Trump. You can talk about Joe Biden. You can talk about politics. You can talk about Democrats and Republicans. You can talk about covet and the conspiracy theories surrounding COVID. You can talk about the mask and no mask. You can talk about vaccinations and no vaccinations. You could talk about every subject of Bitcoin cryptocurrency. You could talk about all the stock markets. You can talk about it all. But when it comes to Jesus Christ, your mouth is frozen like an Arctic River Christian. You cannot even open your mouth because you’re frozen when it comes to Jesus. And friends, don’t allow the fear of disapproval from mankind to keep you from standing up to Jesus.

The fourth reason is convenience. The fourth reason that we stumble is that we fumble. This is the reason why Christians begin to drift is because of convenience. We want to have faith, but we want to have a comfortable faith. We want to have faith as long as it fits our schedule. Sure, I want to follow Christ, but I do not want it to cramp my lifestyle. Look at what happens in Mark, chapter 14, verse 54, the last part of the verse. And Peter was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. Now, this is an amazing scene for me. Now think about what’s going on here, folks. Jesus Christ.

Remember the story Jesus spends the night in prayer all night. Why does he spend the night in prayer all night? He was seeking the Father’s face on the twelve that he should choose to be his Apostles, to be his disciples. Peter is one of the Apostles. Peter is one of the disciples, one of the foundations of the Church. Jesus has chosen him out of all the other disciples here. Jesus is getting ready to be tortured, getting ready to be arrested, getting ready to be executed. And what is Peter? One of the original twelve? What is he doing? He’s sitting around the campfire with the men who will execute and torture Jesus Christ. He’s hanging out with the thugs who will nail Jesus Christ to the cross because it was convenient. He was cold because he wanted to be one of the boys. He wanted to be a part of the group. He wanted to be a part of the good old game. He wanted to be there. He wanted to have convenience. He didn’t want anything to inconvenience him and his friends. When you want to follow Christ, when it’s convenient, forget it when it’s not convenient. Christianity is not designed to be suitable. It’s designed to be inconvenient. If you try to enjoy the world’s campfire, you’re going to get burned every single time.

And that’s what Peter was doing. He’s enjoying the warmth. He’s warming his hands around the campfire, and it’s gotten quiet in here. That’s good. That tells me I’m stepping on some toes. You know what? Let me say, Cynthia, I’ve been a pastor for 32 years. It’s the only Church I’ve pastored. In September, I will start my 33rd year here at one single Church. And you know what. I’ve seen a lot of people walk through those doors. They come in a chip, and they have a big talk. Have you ever seen anybody who had a big talk but never could back it up? They just talk about this, and then suddenly, those people have sidelined it. They’re on the sidelines. They’re out of the game. There’s a pattern for people who talk a big talk, and then they drift out. It’s the same pattern. I’ve seen it 100 times, probably 1000 times. People that are coming to the Church and they’re talking a big talk. They’re all in for Jesus, and next thing you know, they’re gone.

You know what happens. It happens the same way every single time. The first thing that happens is just Mark it down. There’s somebody in your life right now that you can identify following this pattern. There’s somebody right now in your life who has a complaint against the Church. The complaint is always the same. It’s that they don’t like the church’s approach to talking about generosity. It’s the same complaint every time. You know why they complain about generosity is because they have to blame someone. They don’t want to take personal responsibility for their own life. So they blame the Church. Like the way the pastor always talks about signing up for online giving and stepping into generosity.

It’s a sure sign, my friends, that they’re on their way out the door. Just Mark it down every single time. I’ve seen it thousands of times. They’re on their way out because you know why? Because they’re looking for something to blame, they don’t have to take personal responsibility for their own lives. They’re the victim because of the church’s approach to generosity. They should be thankful that I don’t take the biblical approach to generosity because generosity in the Bible is 10%, not $20 a week. And some people say, what’s 10%? What’s tithing? Tithing is where you give 10% of your income. That’s what my wife and I do. We don’t step into generosity. We step into charity and ask you to stop because we’re trying to get you on the journey.

Do you know what they do? Then they stop their giving, Chip. That’s what they do next. They complain, and then they stop. And then they stop praying. Then they stop going to Church. And then here’s what they want to do. Then they want to stay in their life group Ministry. They disagree with generosity. They disagree with the Church not wanting to go, but they want to visit and connect to their friends and their life group. It happens every single time. And I guarantee if I ask you to raise your hand, there’s probably 30 or 40 hands that will go up in this room because there’s somebody in our life group. There’s somebody in our realm of influence. This is the way that they’re talking. It happens every single time, and it’s all because of convenience.

Here’s the question I want to ask you. How does God respond to Christians when they fall? What happens to Christians when they stumble? And when they drift away? What is God’s response? God’s response is the same every single time. It is Grace. It is Grace. It is Grace. It is Grace. It’s all that he knows how to do. See, look what it says in Romans eight one. In Romans chapter eight, verse one, Paul says there is no condemnation circle. The world would know the word no. There’s the strongest negative double negative.

That’s what the word means. It means no, no, never, never in a million years in the Greek language. Now, this verse, this thing that says, no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. This is a promise only for Christ’s followers. And if you are a Christ-follower, there’s no condemnation for your sin. There’s no punishment for your sin. There’s no condemnation. That doesn’t mean that there are no consequences because there are consequences. But what it does mean is that you cannot lose your Salvation when you sin. You cannot lose it because just think about this If you lose your salvation every time you sin, you will lose your salvation every day. Because why? We sinned every minute of every day. And the great thing is that we don’t lose your Salvation. But what happens is when we ignore the will of God, when we disobey the will of God, when we put our own will over the will of God, there are consequences. What are some of the consequences? We hurt ourselves. We hurt other people. We lose the joy of our Salvation. We lose effectiveness. And their witness is that somehow or another, we lose fellowship with God. See, folks, my kids, they can do nothing to be my children any longer, but they can do things that would break fellowship between us. But it doesn’t mean they are no longer my children. It just means that the fellowship is broken at the moment. Folks, there are a lot of consequences of having sin in your life.

But the one thing is that you never lose your Salvation. And the question is, why doesn’t God reject me as a Christian when I sin? Why is it that I don’t lose my Salvation? Why is it that God loves me? Why is it that God continues to accept me? Well, this is what Grace is all about. And just very quickly, there are four things why God accepts believers when we sin. Number one is that his love is unconditional. Friends, his passion is unconditional. You did nothing to earn the love of God. You can do nothing to unlearn the love of God. Father, there’s nothing that you can do to cause God to love you. And there’s nothing that you can do to cause God to reject you once you’re a Christian. And friends, listen to me. God’s love is unconditional.

Look with me at Roman 22. The faithful love of the Lord circles the word never. It never ends. It has no beginning and no end. It’s ongoing. The second reason God doesn’t reject us is that my Salvation is not based on my performance. Folks, the Salvation that I have received from God is by Grace and Grace alone. And can I just say something to you? If you’re not saved by the Grace of God, you’re not going to make it into heaven. You cannot earn your way. You cannot buy your way. You cannot Bluff your way. You cannot earn your practice or work your way into heaven. It can only come by the Grace of God. And if you don’t receive Salvation by the Grace of God, you’re not going to make it to heaven.

This is what Titus Three five tells us. Five says that God saved us not because of the righteous or good things we have done but because of what it said. What does it say of his? What someone says it with me, of his mercy. Now, what does his mercy do for us? He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and a new life through the Holy Spirit. It is all by Grace, my friends. So why is it that God accepts us because of his unconditional love? Because my Salvation isn’t based upon my performance. But number three, Jesus has already taken my punishment. Jesus has already taken the hit. So why doesn’t God reject me? Because the price has already been paid. Now, in America, there is a concept called the law of double jeopardy. Now, what is the law of double jeopardy?

The law of double jeopardy says that you cannot be tried for the same crime twice, that you cannot be punished for the same crime twice, and you cannot be convicted for the same crime twice. Now it is the same with God. Over 2022 years ago, Jesus stretched out his arms on the cross, and he took the punishment for my sin and for your sins. He paid the price for you. He served your term. He served the death penalty for you. He died for you. And what sins did he die for? He died for all of your sins, every single one of them. Because on the cross, what did he say? It is finished. And what was finished? The payment for your sin and for my sin. And folks, here’s the thing that you need to understand when Jesus Christ died, he died for all of your sins. There’s no longer condemnation. There’s no punishment.

But here’s the thing you need to understand: there are consequences for your sins, and God doesn’t eradicate them. God doesn’t wipe them out. And so, you need to realize that even though God doesn’t punish you, there are natural consequences that take place. And the fourth thing very quickly as we come to an end is that God doesn’t hold on to grudges. Is that good news? This is the reason why God accepts us. This is why God doesn’t throw the towel on us when we have sinned when we’ve blown it, fumbled and stumbled, and stubborn toes are because God doesn’t hold grudges. Look what it says in Psalm 103 9:13. He will not constantly accuse us nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all of our sins.

He does not deal harshly with us as we deserve. The Lord is like a father to his children. He is tender and compassionate to those who fear him. See, folks, God’s response is he doesn’t hold grudges. God’s response to those who love him is part of his family.

My Salvation isn’t based on my performance. He doesn’t hold on to grudges. He doesn’t carry forth the punishment. See, some of you here’s what you’re going through your mind. But Pastor, understand everything you’re saying, that God’s love is unconditional. It’s that Jesus has already taken my punishment. God doesn’t hold on to grudges. But you don’t know what I’ve done. You don’t know where I’ve been at. You don’t know how far I have drifted away from God.

See, folks, it doesn’t matter. So some of you, you did it in one giant step. You had an affair, and boom, everything came tumbling down. For others of you, it was a bunch of little small things, small steps that caused you to drift. See, the point is, God doesn’t care about why you drifted. God doesn’t hold that against you. Here’s what God wants you to see. According to Jeremiah. And it says in Jeremiah, chapter three, I believe, verse 22, God says, Come back to me, you unfaithful children. And the truth of the matter is that we’re all unfaithful. God wants to extend forgiveness to you. And I will forgive you for being unfaithful. So what should I do when I sin? What should I do when I blow it? What should I do when I drift? What should I do when I stumble? What should I do when I fumble the ball? What should I do when we stub our toes? The Bible says very simply, God says, Return. Just return to him, just come back to Christ.

It is that simple. Just come back to him and see. Look with me at Jeremiah 15:19. The following couple of verses tells us this. This is how the Lord responds to us. Who sin, who falls short, who stub our toll. You return to him. He will restore you. If you return to me, I will restore you so you can continue to serve me. Isn’t that good news? Restorative, Grace. I love Isaiah, chapter one, verse 18. It says this in Isaiah one, verse 18. Notice what it says. The stain that you’ve experienced that you’ve brought in here with you this morning. No matter how deeply the stain of your sins, no matter how far you’ve gone, no matter what you’ve done, it doesn’t matter.

God says I can take it out and make you as clean as freshly fallen snow is that God can restore you and your friends. That’s why God has brought you here this morning. It’s to restore you, have you return, and welcome you back home. I just want to ask you to do me a favor this morning. I’m just going to ask you to bow your head. And as you bow your head, no one’s looking around. No one’s moving. All the cameras focus up here. So none of the cameras are focused on you just to have peace of mind that the cameras do not concentrate on you. Here’s what I want to ask you to do this morning. Some of you need to return home. Some of you need to come home. Some of you just need to confess that you’ve stumbled, that you fumble, that you’ve blown it, and you need to go home. There’s this distance between you and God, and you really don’t know how to handle the distance. You really didn’t know what God’s response would be to you.

What God’s response is is to come home. Come back to me so I can restore you so I can use you. And I believe that there are many people in this room this morning that needs to return home, and what’s going to happen is in the first service, I had people raise their hand. Many people, 30 or 40, raised their hands that says I’ve just become stealth in my walk with the Lord. I’ve lost the joy of my Salvation. I just need to return. This morning, we’re going to have some people down front that’s willing to pray with you. If you want someone to pray with you, they’re down here. But as they’re making their way, here’s what I want to ask you. If you’re here this morning and you’ve lost the joy of your Salvation, you have blown it. The truth of the matter is that we’ve all sinned. We all drift some of you you may just want to solidify the fact that you’ve returned and that you’ve come back home by having one of these fine people to pray with you, so Lord, as we enter into this time of worship and time of returning, will you come right now and will you just move in the hearts the people and restore the joy of our Salvation in Jesus name? Amen.