Seeing the Power of God Among Us, Part 2
About the Guest
How should we view God and our service to Him? On today’s broadcast, seminary president Bryan Chapell shares a powerful and probing message about the God we love and serve, and why we should serve Him.
Bryan ChapellDr. Bryan Chapell is highly regarded in the evangelical community as a preacher, teacher, and author. He began his ministry pastoring in churches that include Glen Ridge Presbyterian Church in St. Louis (1976), Woodburn Presbyterian Church in Woodburn, Ill. (1976-80), and Bethel Reformed Presbyterian Church in Sparta, Ill. (1980-1986). Bryan then joined the Covenant faculty fulltime in 1986 and has since served as a professor, Department Chair, Seminary Dean, and Executive Vice President. Fro...more
How should we view God and our service to Him?
Seeing the Power of God Among Us, Part 2
Bob: What’s your motivation for serving God? Here’s Bryan Chapell.
Bryan: Many people serve God to keep the ogre in the sky off their backs. But now listen, if the reason that you serve God is to keep the ogre in the sky off your back, whom are you really serving? Now there’s another reason lots of Christians serve God. They serve God to get more good stuff. But if the reason that you’re serving God is to get more good stuff, whom are you serving? Just yourself.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, November 27th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll hear today about serving God from a heart of thanksgiving and gratitude acknowledging his great love for us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. I’ve got a joke. Do you want to hear a joke?
Dennis: You’re kidding. You’re going to begin the broadcast with a joke?
Bob: This is a great joke, okay? This guy … this is one of these guy-dies-and-goes-to-heaven jokes.
Dennis: We need … we need a little sound effects on this, Keith. Give us a little sound effects behind this.
Bob: There’s the angel choir singing in the background.
Bob: Guy dies and he winds up at the pearly gates, and Peter says, “Why should I let you in?” And actually he’s got his little computer there, and he punches it in and he says, “Well, this is unusual. This has never happened before, but your file is blank. There’s nothing here. There’s no good stuff you did, there’s no bad stuff you did. There’s nothing.”
He said, “That’s never happened. I don’t know what to do.” The guy goes, “Well, I don’t know what either.” And Peter scratches his head. He said, “Okay, I’ll tell you what. If you can tell me one really good thing you did in your life, I’ll let you in because I don’t have any record of any bad stuff. I’ll just let you in if you tell me one really good thing.” And the guy said, “Well, I was driving down the street one day and I saw this woman and she was being attacked by these motorcycle guys. There was this gang of motorcycle guys all around her and they’d formed a circle and they had chains and they were going to hurt her. I pulled my car over to the side of the road and I didn’t know what to do, but I grabbed my tire iron and I got out of the car and I walked over and I said, ‘Hey, you motorcycle guys. Leave that lady alone, or you’ll have to deal with me.’” And Peter looked at him and said, “Did that really happen?” And the guy said, “Yeah.” And Peter said, “If that happened, that should be in your permanent record.” He said, “I’m amazed that it’s not here. When did that happen?” And the guy said, “About five minutes ago.” So there you go. How he wound up at the gate.
Dennis: Send your St. Peter jokes on to Bob Lepine. Just address them to FamilyLife.
Bob: Now the truth is … the truth is, when you get to the gate and St. Peter is there, it doesn’t matter how much good stuff you did or how much bad stuff you did. That’s not what gets you in.
Dennis: And, you know, Bob, as you were telling that joke, I couldn’t help but think how many of those St. Peter jokes I’ve heard.
Dennis: Almost all of them have to do with us working our way into heaven, or our good deeds outweighing the bad or some god who grades on the curve.
Dennis: But the reality is, God doesn’t grade on the curve. 71 percent, you pass; 69 percent, you flunk …
Dennis: … you fail, you’re out of here.
Dennis: No. In fact, with God, it’s not 85 percent. It’s not 95 percent. It’s not even 99 percent. What He requires is perfection.
Dennis: He requires 100 percent, and, of course, at that point the Law teaches us that we’ve failed.
Dennis: And at that point, we’re in need of a Savior.
Dennis: And that’s what we’re going to hear about on the broadcast today. In fact, our guest on the broadcast today, Dr. Bryan Chapell, he is the President of Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri.
Dennis: And not too many months ago, we had the privilege of hearing him address our team here at FamilyLife. In fact, on yesterday’s broadcast, we heard the beginning of his message from Luke chapter 17 about the ten lepers.
Bob: That’s right.
Dennis: And today we’re going to hear the rest of that message. And he begins today with answering a question. “If God is not moved by our deeds, then what in the world moves Him?” Let’s listen to Dr. Bryan Chapell.
Bryan: If God is not moved by the deeds that we do, what does move Him? Well, He says. Verse 11, “On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled on the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, master, have pity on us.’” Why did they call out in a loud voice? Do you remember? If you were a leper in that culture, what did you have to do? You had to stand at a distance. You had to leave your home. You had to leave your family. And if anybody got close to you, you had to shout out, “Unclean, unclean. Stay away from me lest this contagion catch you, too.”
So these lepers who cannot know the touch of a loved one or the face of God in worship or even the face of a neighbor in their desperation call out to Jesus. “Jesus, master, have pity on us.” And what does He do? What does He do? He does have pity on them. The message is simply, God is not moved by the deeds that we do. He is moved by the desperation that we own, that we claim as our own … not the cry of our goodness, but the cry of our desperation moves the heart of God to act in our behalf.
I think how much we understand this, even from our human relationships. My wife and I have friends. He’s a pastor. And though their child early in his life would have affirmed faith in Jesus Christ, in his mid and late teens it’s been a very different story as he has rebelled against the family and against his faith. You know, time and again, he has caused this family embarrassment and heartache, great pain. So many times when he does it, you know, he’ll protest, “Oh, it wasn’t really that bad. You know, other kids were doing it. I was just … you know, it wasn’t really that bad.” Or he will promise to do better the next time. “I’ll do better. I won’t do it again.” But there has been so much pain that his mother confided to my wife sometime ago that she wasn’t even sure she could love her own son anymore.
He came back from one time of rebellion … came into the house and promised to do better again. And his mother said she just couldn’t take any more. She just turned and walked out of the room. She just couldn’t take it. And the son sat there in the living room on the sofa and maybe like some of us began to pick up that picture album that was on the coffee table and just began to thumb through his own life in picture. And he came across a picture of himself with his mother. And when he saw it, he called to his mother, and he said, “Mom, when I look at this picture, I realize why you can’t love me anymore, because in this picture you look down at me as a little boy and your eyes are filled with such hope for me. But, Mom, I have dashed all your hopes. I know it. I have dashed all your hopes.” And when he said that, not promising to do better, not claiming to have been not so bad. It was when it was just absolute desperation, “I have dashed every hope you had for me,” what happened to his mother? Her heart broke. Her resistance melted. It was just the pouring out of her affection, her love for that child again because it was his desperation that so moved her.
When I recognize God is saying to you and to me it is our cry of desperation … if we’re really saying, “God, act in my behalf, look how good I have been.” I just think God has to, for our own good, turn his back on that. “You think that’s what makes me operate in your behalf?” What really does it’s when I’m willing before God to say, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner. I don’t come before you trophying my goodness. I recognize that my best works are filthy rags before you. There is too much of my humanity mixed in the best things that I would offer you. Please, God, don’t listen to my goodness. Please just act on the basis of your goodness, your mercy, your pity in my behalf.”
If God is really responding to desperation more than to good deeds, what that means is that when I watch the TV and I see a man dying of AIDS and he says, “Some people will condemn for my lifestyle and say it’s my lust that drove me. I will tell you honestly, I would have loved anything that loved me back.” That a man speaking in such desperation may be closer to heaven than I am on the days that I’m so proud of my preaching and my position and my reputation before others. What really moves the heart of God? The cry of desperation “Please, Lord, have mercy.”
You know, one of the most honest catechism questions you’ll see across all the church tradition comes out of the Heidelberg catechism. It’s a question so honest, you’d be amazed that theologians wrote it. It’s just this candid. Listen. “Since we are saved by grace through faith without any merit of our own …” Hear that? Since we’re saved by grace through faith without any merit of our own … “ … why should we do good works?” Isn’t that a great question? Since we’re saved by grace, why do good? You know what the answer is? So that with our whole life, we may show ourselves grateful to God and give Him praise.
What’s motivating us? Gain? No, it’s not gain. It’s gratitude. It’s love for God. It’s what moves this leper now. I mean maybe you don’t see it until you just recognize how precise the language. Verse 14, When one of these lepers goes to the command, ”Go show yourselves to the priest,” we are told “as they went, they were cleansed.” Verse 15, “One of them when he saw he was healed, came back.” Very precise Greek term saying “as he was going to the temple where a man is there who will declare him clean … as he’s going, he’s healed, and in that moment he turns back.” Now think of this. He’ll just go another few blocks. There is a man in that synagogue who will say, “You’re cleansed.” He can go back into town. He can go back to the fellowship of believers. He can go back into the arms of his spouse. He can have all these, if he’ll just go another few feet. Such great gain for him, but he’s got to do something more important. He returns. He turns back and goes to give praise to Jesus. There has been a priority in his life now, greater than his own gain, has been the need to give praise to God. Think of that. He’s turning from his own gain.
You know that when you recognize what he risks. He risks a change in his health. Think of that. What’s changed so quickly as he’s going there to the synagogue could change back just as quickly. He also risks a change in Jesus. After all, the one who was healed and came back was of what nationality? He was a Samaritan, and he’s coming back to thank a Jew. How’d they get along? Not well at all. He’s coming back to a cultural enemy. For all he knows, Jesus will look at him and say, “Oh, a Samaritan in the group. Well, I didn’t know there was a Samaritan. Well, forget you. You’re not cleansed.” I mean there’s risk in going back to Jesus. But look, he’s willing to risk this change in his health. He’s willing to risk a change in his … in Christ’s demeanor, because he’s going to give thanks.
You have to recognize how different this is from what motivates so many of us, even in the church. I mean if you say why … why do many people serve God? Many people serve God to keep the ogre in the sky off their backs. God’s gonna getcha for that, you know. But now, listen. If the reason that you serve God is to keep the ogre in the sky off your back, whom are you really serving? Yourself. It’s just self-protection.
Now there’s another reason lots of Christians serve God. They serve God to get more good stuff, either in this life or the life to come. Bigger mansions up there, you know. But if the reason that you’re serving God is to get more good stuff, whom are you serving? Just yourself. It’s just sanctified selfishness.
So what’s the other motive? Remember what the leper does, just as he has called out in his desperation in a loud voice, “Jesus, master, have pity on us,” what does he do? Verse 15, “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a …” what? “…in a loud voice.” The degree of desperation now marks the degree of his appreciation. He has got to praise God. That’s what’s driving him, not a desire for gain. It’s a delight and gratitude. “I’ve just got to give Him praise and thanks. That’s what’s driving me now.” I’m not saying that there’s no priority and blessing to us. But the greatest priority, the thing that must motivate us above all other things is love, a great desire to praise God with our whole life. Since we are saved by grace through faith without any merit of our own, why should we do good works? So that with our whole lives we may show ourselves grateful to God and give Him praise.
Steven Andrews is a pastor whose name some of you may know. He’s really a wonderful man, raised in Memphis, now pasturing on the outskirts of Detroit. And he tells the account of one day, a daughter coming home from school where there’d been some gift exchange. I don’t know if it was Valentine’s Day or Christmas or what it was. But the kids at school had exchanged gifts, and the little girl brought home from school, among other things, a chocolate teddy bear.
The next day she went off to school, and as her mother went into her room the next day, the mother found a younger brother, a preschooler, in the room, who when mom entered the room, the little boy backed against the wall like a cornered criminal. The evidence of his crime all over his face. “Oh, mom, I’m so sorry.” Well, mom was not about to be put off by the guilt of having been caught, and so she said to the little preschooler, “You are going to tell your sister when she gets home what you did, that you ate her teddy bear.” Well, you can just imagine the preschooler. Every minute, you know, like an hour, waiting for this sister to get home. What is she going to do? You know, how awful it will be.
So much anxiety had built up in him through the day that when his sister came through the door, he just ran to her and just kind of burst in front of her with tears flowing down, saying, “Oh, Sally, I’m so sorry I ate your chocolate teddy bear,” and he just began to bawl in front of her, sobbing. But this was the kind of sister who was just always looking for an opportunity to love up this little brother, so as he was crying, she just picked him up in her arms, and she said, “It’s okay, Johnny. I will love you anyway and always.” And he just began to giggle. I mean his tears still coming down his cheeks, and he just laughed. And he threw his arms around her and he just hugged her for all he was worth.
It’s a beautiful picture of the Christian life, that we have recognized even our best works are filthy rags to God. We come before God truly torn, repentant for the things that characterize our lives. Not trophying our goodness, but saying to God with the sobbing of a heart in repentance, “Oh, God, forgive me. I weep for the awfulness of the sin in my own life. I acknowledge it to you.” But then we recognize by the work of His Son which has cleansed us and made us right by His work and not our own that He says, “My child, I will love you, knowing all of this. I will love you anyway and always.”
Bob: Well, we’ve been listening today to a second day of a message from Dr. Bryan Chapell, looking at Luke chapter 17 and helping us better understand that, as the Bible says, “It’s not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to His mercy that we are saved.” I think that’s Titus chapter 3.
Dennis: Well, let me read 3:5. If that’s not exactly it, it’s close. “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds, which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit…”
Dennis: “…whom He poured out upon us, richly, through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace, we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Bob: I like the way that Bryan stated that. Everything that’s right about me, He did it.
Dennis: You know, as I talk to people on the beach, on airplanes, shared Christ with businessmen in different meetings, invariably people’s hope is placed somewhere, either in number one, their Christian heritage …
Dennis: … that they came from a Christian family, like maybe that would rub off on them and that makes them perfect. Number two, they place their hope in their religion, their practice of spiritual disciplines and rituals.
Bob: I go to church …
Dennis: Right. I attend three times a week. Or third, their hope was in good deeds, good works. You know, I’m basically a good person, Dennis… my good outweighs my bad. Well, I’m not sure you can ever be certain of that. And even if you could be certain that your good outweighed the bad, what are you going to do with the bad?
Dennis: I mean you’re still in need of forgiveness and still in need of a Savior. And as Bryan mentioned on yesterday’s broadcast, Bob, our good deeds don’t amount to anything.
Bob: That’s right. Kent Hughes was talking about his brother, and I remember him saying that his brother got to a point where he thought he was so bad …
Bob: … that there was no way God could save him. And it may be that someone listening to the program today feels, “I’m not worthy of the grace of God. I’ve lived a terrible life. I’ve done some horrible things. I can’t believe that God would accept me.”
Dennis: You know, it may be that the person who’s feeling that, Bob, may be closer to Jesus Christ and to the Kingdom than the religious person who feels like his goodness makes him worthy …
Dennis: … of God’s acceptance.
Dennis: And I would say to that person who’s feeling that that they’ve done the unthinkable or maybe the sin that is beyond pardon of the cross is a picture of God’s grace. It is mercy that is beyond our wildness imaginations, and there is nothing you have done, there is nothing you can do, that is beyond God’s grace, that He will not stand ready to forgive you and offer you complete cleansing and forgiveness, and, as a result, give you eternal life.
Bob: All you have to do is cry out to God and say, “Be merciful to me. God, I want to surrender my life to you, and I want to give it over into your hands. And God will respond to that prayer, will adopt you into His family, will pour out His grace in your life, and He will make you as one of His own children.
Dennis: You know, it’s a little bit like a marriage ceremony. The groom makes an initiative of a covenant, and your response by faith is, “I do.”
Dennis: “I accept your initiation. I bond myself to you.” And that commitment, I believe, is what Jesus talked about in the New Testament as the New Birth. It brings about a new creation in Christ.
Bob: And a listener can respond to that initiation today right now right where you are. You can just pause and say, “I recognize that when I follow me and am in charge of my life I make a mess of things. I sinned and have been in rebellion against God. I’ve wanted to do things my way and I acknowledge that that doesn’t work and isn’t working and not only is it not working it’s wrong. It’s wrong to rebel like that against the Creator of the universe the one who created me.
So you confess that sin and then you acknowledge that going forward you are going to follow Christ. You are going to respond to his leadership and his initiation and his lordship over your life.
We have on our website a link to something that is called “Two Ways to Live” and I think it does a great job of presenting the difference between living as a Christian and living as a non Christian. What are those two ways to live? What do they look like? I’d encourage our listeners to go to FamilyLife Today.com and click through that presentation and ask yourself which way am I living. Am I living as the way that’s presented here as the way a Christian lives? Have I been living a different way in my life.
Then let me also encourage you if today if you do respond to the invitation that God is making would you let us know. Would you get in touch with us? Again on the website send us an e-mail and just connect with us in some way. Say I want you to know I heard what you were talking about and I responded and trusted Christ. We would be so encouraged to get that news and we’d love to hear from you.
For most of us Thanksgiving is a four day holiday that kicks off on the actual Thanksgiving Day but most people have the day off from work today I guess unless they work retail where they are flooded with shoppers today on black Friday.
While we are still thinking about Thanksgiving I want to mention one more time the devotional book that Barbara Rainey has put together for families on the subject of gratitude. It’s a book called Growing Together in Gratitude and we have emphasized that this month here on FamilyLife Today. We want to see families cultivating an attitude of thankfulness of gratefulness in our own hearts and in our children’s hearts as well.
This is a seven day devotional guide for families that Barbara has written and we’d like to send you a copy so that you can use it any time of the year. You can request it when you support FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount. Go online and type the word “GRATITUDE” in the key code box on the online donation form.
Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY make your donation over the phone and ask for the family devotional Growing Together in Gratitude. We are happy to send it out to you and we do appreciate your partnership with us here at FamilyLife Today. Thanks for supporting this ministry.
We hope you have a great weekend. We hope you and your family are able to worship this weekend and we hope you can join us back on Monday when Ace Collins is going to join us. We are going to talk about what we can do as families to orient our thinking toward a more Christ-centered Christmas celebration.
I want to thank our engineer on today’s broadcast, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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