Let me share with you an illustration I heard years ago. A woman was married to a man she didn't really love. The man was very demanding; so much so that he prepared a list of rules and regulations for his wife to follow. He insisted that she read them over every day and obey them to the letter. Among other things, his do's and don'ts indicated such details as when his breakfast should be served, how his shirts should be ironed, and how the housework should be done. After several long years, the husband died. As time passed, the woman fell in love with another man. Soon they were married. This husband did everything he could to make his new wife happy, continually showering her with tokens of his appreciation. One day as she was cleaning house, she found tucked away in a drawer the list of commands her first husband had drawn up for her. As she looked it over, it dawned on her that even though her present husband hadn't given her any kind of list, she was doing everything her first husband's list required anyway. She realized she was so devoted to this man that her deepest desire was to please him out of love, not obligation.
I'm afraid that many look at the Bible as a long list of do's and don'ts. They feel burdened by Scripture, as if God was overbearing and unreasonable. In truth, God is neither of these things! He has given us so many blessings, particularly the life of His Son. To comprehend the depth of His love and sacrifice will enable us to obey Him because of love, and not merely because of duty. There is a big difference. "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (I John 5:3). Immature Christians may obey God out of fear (cf. I John 4:18). Christians who think too highly of themselves (and not enough of God's grace) may obey God out of duty (cf. Rom. 12:3). Mature, faithful, and humble Christians obey God simply because they love Him! They want to serve Him. Divine grace should motivate us to stop sinning and to live righteously.
God is so good; our God is gracious! I cannot speak for you all, but I know the graciousness of God in my life. Here I am at the age of 35, and God has shown His kindness, love, and favor to me in innumerable ways! I could talk about the fact that He first gave me physical life and pulled me through a bout of jaundice that doctors feared could leave me with brain damage. I could talk about the fact that he blessed me to be born into a Christian family in America (the greatest country the world has ever known--even with all its problems today). I could talk about His favor in allowing me to meet an amazing girl when I was 16 at church camp who would one day become my wife. I could talk about the blessing of growing up in a small church where the young men were challenged and presented opportunities to serve. I could talk about God's grace in allowing me to go to college and also study to be a gospel preacher. I could talk about God's loving-kindness in enabling me to serve the Clinton congregation for over 13 years now and establish some wonderful friendships and working relationships. I could talk about His favoring me with children--five beautiful sons. I could talk about all of these things and many more, but ultimately, when I think about our gracious God, the most important aspect of His loving-kindness and favor that I don't deserve is the hope of heaven--the forgiveness of sins through the sacrifice of Christ. I don't deserve eternal life, but praise be to God for His grace!
Yes, our God is gracious! Think about His loving-kindness and favor in your life. Some might say: "Preacher, my life hasn't been so wonderful like yours." Friends, even if that is the case, the central aspect of God's grace is available to you. He wants to save you by His grace. That is a point not to be taken lightly! "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (II Pet. 3:9). Respond with an obedient faith. Obey the gospel and walk in the light. If we can assist you in any way, please contact us.