Thursday, 29 March 2018

What you get when you get Christ

I was reading a book entitled ‘Pardon and Assurance’ by a nineteenth-century Ulster Presbyterian minister called William Patton.  Patton spent a number of chapters detailing the awfulness of sin and its consequences.  That was not easy reading.  Our holy God cannot tolerate our wickedness.  We are helpless to work our way into his good books.  We deserve to be eternally separated from him and punished for our ongoing rebellion against his loving rule.
It is against this dark backdrop of human evil that the beauty of the gospel shines.  The good news of Jesus only speaks to those who see themselves as morally bankrupt, hell-deserving, helpless rebels.  We go to him when the Holy Spirit shows us our deepest need.  We go to him and sing, ‘nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling.’  When we are brought to him he delights to bless us.  Patton outlined twelve wonderful things that we get when we get Christ.  I don’t normally preach twelve point sermons, but I want to mention each of them and add a few thoughts.
1.      You get a full pardon of all your sins

The apostle Paul declared in a sermon, ‘Let it be known that through this man [Jesus] forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you and by him everyone who believes is free for everything from which you could not be freed by the Law of Moses’ (Acts 13:37-38).  Even if your trust in Christ is feeble, God says your sins are forgiven, no matter how awful you may feel about what you have done, and even if your struggle to feel it.  Pardon is yours through the person of Jesus, and God wants you to honour his Son by being glad that you are forgiven.  ‘To God be the glory, great things he has done, so loved he the world that he gave us his Son … the vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.’
2.     You are brought into God’s favour

God has blessed us in his beloved Son (Ephesians 1:6).  He not only forgives us, he accepts us.  ‘Though you were angry with me, your anger has been turned away, that you might comfort me.  Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid’ (Isaiah 12:1-2).  When you come to Jesus, his Father embraces you and brings you home.  You are now the apple of his eye, and a beloved one over whom he sings (Zeph. 3:17).
3.     You are a child of the Heavenly Father

Patton writes, ‘It is a good thing to get pardon, and still better to get God’s favour; but it is better still to become a child of God.’  ‘If you really trust Christ, even feebly, you are a child of God and God loves you, as he loves Christ.  And He is delighted to guide you and to protect you, and to provide for you, and to be everything that a loving father is to a child.’  Stop trying to make God love you!  He loves you.  You don’t need to try to win his love.  It flows out of him to all who are in Christ.  Honour that love by accepting and delighting in it.  When doubts about his love assail you, grasp his promises of love to all who believe.
4.     You are married to Christ

There is a poor girl who has nothing.  But a man who has everything loves her and she loves him.  The day she marries him she becomes rich.  You belong to Jesus (Romans 7:4).  He delights to care for you.  He will supply all your needs.  He will never leave you nor forsake you. 
5-6. The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in you and enable you to live a holy life and you get a new nature
‘I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh’ (Ezekiel 36:27).  The Holy Spirit dwells within the weakest believer.  A friend of mine used to say that the thing that held her back from becoming a Christian was that she felt that she wouldn’t have the strength to live the Christian life.  But the strength to follow Jesus comes through his gift of his indwelling Spirit.  We lean on him to cause us to will and to act according to his good purpose (Philippians 2:13).

7.  You get repentance and godly sorrow for sin
Jesus gives us repentance (Acts 5:31).  Before we may have felt ashamed when we were caught doing what we knew to be wrong.  We may have felt helpless when we gave in and did what we had resolved not to do.  But God was not at the centre of our thoughts.  We did not know what David meant when he prayed, ‘against you only have I sinned’ (Psalm 51).  But now our sorrow is saturated in love.  We grieve the fact that our rebellion is an act of treachery against one who has been infinitely kind to us.  We still sin (1 John 1:8), but we can no longer enjoy it the way we used to.  In fact our godly sorrow turns to joy as we realise that God is using it to turn us back to himself (2 Corinthians 7:10).

8.  You get power to love Christ
‘We love him because he first loved us’ (1 John 4:19).  The key to loving Jesus is to see something of how much he loves you.  Don’t focus on your lack of love for him, focus on his infinite love for you.  Think of what he has done for you.  ‘This is love, not that we first loved God, but that he first loved us and gave his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins’ (1 John 4:10).  ‘I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’ (Galatians 2:20). 

9.  You get power to pray in the name of Jesus
As a child of God you have a unique right to approach the Father in heaven and ask him for anything in the name of his Son, your older brother, Jesus Christ.  You came to the Father with confidence because he has dealt with your sins and accepted you as righteous.  You can come to God with as much confidence as if you had lived a perfectly righteous life.  You came to God with the confidence that Jesus himself approaches the Father.  Because you love him, you pray according to His will.  You say to the Father, ‘I know that you can do all things.  All power and glory are yours.  But I know that you are good to me and know what is best.  Take my prayers and answer them in a way that reflects your goodness and kindness.’

10.  You get the power to do good works and to please God
Isn’t it wonderful that we can please God?  The first way to please God is to say yes to Jesus and accept Him as your rescuer and leader.  Now you are a beloved child and he takes great joy in what you do.  I know that everything we do is stained by mixed motives.  We still struggle with a sinful nature that quickly draws attention away from God to self.  I know that we never do anything with an entirely pure motive.  We are incapable of doing anything with an absolutely pure heart.  Yet Jesus’ blood cleansing the sin from our most feeble attempts to please our Heavenly Father, and now the Father can rejoice in all that we do for him.

11.  You get the precious promises of the Bible
‘For all the promises of God find their Yes in him’ (2 Corinthians 1:20).  There are all these cheques signed with the name of Jesus.  We can cash them at any time and we can keep on cashing them.  There is a promise for every need.  When we feel insecure we hold Christ to his promise to be with us to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20).  When we think that we have strayed too far to be welcomes home we remember that Jesus promised, ‘I will never drive away anyone who comes to me’ (John 6:37).  

12.  We get everlasting life
‘Truly I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life’ (John 5:24).  ‘Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent’ (John 17:3).
Eternal life now: knowing Jesus, having meaning and purpose, experiencing love and security, and enjoying hope and peace.  Eternal life to come: when God will wipe away the tears from your eyes and accept you into the fullness of his loving presence forever.
The eighteenth-century evangelist, John Wesley, apparently said on his death-bed, ‘best of all, God is with us.’  He had also said at times, ‘the best is yet to come.’  Those are the great hopes of eternal life now and to come.
This morning God says, ‘look at all I have done for you.’  This morning we have only touched on the blessings there are for us in Christ.  We have highlighted some of the best, but there are many more.  He is good to every creature that he has given breath.  He is good especially good to humankind, who he invites to know his Fatherly love.  He is infinitely good to those who have being brought to him in faith, and he will be good to you for ever.  If you haven’t experienced Jesus, don’t miss out on all that he offers you.  If you believe him, even though your faith is weak, gladden your heart as you ponder his kind blessings.   

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