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Evan Earwicker: The Evidence of Grace, Matthew 18:23-35

November 14, 2022

Audio Recording

Those who truly experience grace will also experience a transformation in the way they view others. If grace is the distinctive of the Christian faith, it ought to be extravagantly offered in our communities.

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Evan Earwicker: The Evidence of Grace, Matthew 18:23-35
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Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us. we are in a series on grace. this is the third part as we talk about really what I hope becomes our ethos, our, our driving value as a church, that we become a church of grace, a house of grace for all people. several years ago we went to a Blazers game for my birthday, and a group of guys had bought the tickets, and we headed up to Portland to go to see the Blazers play. And, we got to the stadium and we went in and, the directed us to the level where our seats were. And as we walked in, we, we entered into this space, where they were selling food. And so, kind of walked around a little bit and something struck me as odd.

00:51 Instead of the normal concession stands with lines, where people were ordering, you know, their food and drinks. It was a buffet. We're like, That's strange. And so, we walked, we walked around and, and there were candy dispensers on the walls, and it was all very strange to us. And so I, I turned to one of the attendants and I said, I'm sorry, how, how much does this cost? And he looks at me and he said, Well, look at your ticket. And I look at the ticket and I said, Club level. And he said, It's all included. Oh my God. I don't know if the Blazers won or lost that night. I can't remember , but I know they were serving roast duck. And that's amazing. Here's the thing about Grace. And here's the thing about this community. How amazing would it be if people come in maybe hoping that they have enough religious performance, goodness in themselves to get something from God?

01:53 And when they walk into this community, they say, How much does all this cost? How much does it cost to belong? How much does it cost for God to say, you're accepted that we would respond with a resounding, Let me see your ticket. It's all been paid, it's all included. Have at it. And people might miss the game because they're so enamored by the gracious grace feast that they experience, because you're here, and you also came in with a club level ticket, and you also didn't know exactly how good it was. But you've been here long enough. Come on, you've been here long enough to know that this should not be a secret anymore. And we'd throw open our doors and welcome people in to some duck. All right, , I don't even know, I don't think I ate the duck, but I was impressed by it.

02:43 You know, some, some foods are like that. You're like, I'm not gonna try it. But I like that it's here. , . You know, one of my favorite criticisms that we've ever received at the church, and we've received, you know, one or two criticisms over the years, , one of my favorite criticisms is that we talk too much about grace. I don't know if that's true, actually. we talk about a lot of things. I don't know if we talk too much about grace, but when I think about that criticism, I think, Oh, man, could we, could we get there? Could we focus too much on the core ethic of Jesus that he came to, release on the world through his, his ministry, through his body, through the cross, That that we would be so enamored with this work of grace that has brought us all in to rightness with God.

03:32 That that would be the thing that we wake up thinking about and the thing that we come here and we talk about, and the thing that, that we just can't get enough of. Can we, can we go too far into the grace of God? Please criticize all you want. I believe that God as Jesus portrayed him, and God as Paul talked about him, was not a God of religious performance, but he was the God of all grace. And it's that grace that brings us into rightness with God today. And we are all on the same level before the cross. We've all been brought here so far away from rightness with God and yet made right in spite of that, Lemme put it this way, here's an illustration. I hear NASA's going back to the moon soon. Isn't that cool? I mean, what's cooler than going to the moon?

04:23 What's cooler than astronauts? Come on. You think astronauts are cool too? All right. Anybody old enough that you watch you watch the moon landing on TV in real time? Come on. Where you at? Where you, okay? Yeah. Oh, you're, yeah, they're, they're old people that are raising their hands. , that's so mean. I don't, I'm not trying to alienate, you know, but you got something cool that we'll never get, we'll never be able to sit there and watch in real time as, as people first land on the moon. So, you got yours. And then, yeah. Okay, so we're going back to the moon. This is cool. Astronauts are cool. the moon is far away. Something like 244,000 miles away. It would be foolishness if we came into this place and we spent all our time discussing and arguing over who is closer to the moon in this room.

05:13 Well, the moon's gonna rise in the east tonight, so that means congratulations east side of the room, astronauts and training really over here, folks. And you, sorry people over here. You are just, you know, you'll never become astronauts. Why? Well, you're not close enough. Of course not. It's foolishness. Why? Because the actual distance is so astronomically, literally astronomically great. It really is insignificant which side of the room we go on that should take none of our time. Because to, for any of us to go through the process and, and become an astronaut and actually get on that, that rocket ship and go to the, it would take a miracle. And so it is with grace to get to God, to get with, to rightness with God, to find ourselves accepted by a perfect almighty God. It would take a miracle and enter Jesus onto the scene. Paul would say this about the work of grace. He would say somewhere in my notes,

06:20 It's by grace. You've been saved through faith. And this is not from yourselves. It is the gift of God, not by work so that no one can boast. The best you can do is not good enough. And before you walk out thinking, Well, I'm I, the church told me I'm not good enough. Here's what the church tells you today. By grace, you are welcomed in and accepted by God. In this moment, nothing you do will make God love you more. And nothing you can do will make God love you less. This is the work of grace. And when we embrace and accept the truth of what Jesus came to do, we find ourselves, as Paul would say in Romans chapter five, in the place we'd always hope we'd be in the wide open spaces of God's grace. Jesus got into a lot of trouble for the kind of grace that he showed.

07:13 And, grace filled Christians, I think get in trouble day two for the same reasons in Luke 15, two, Jesus is, is doing what he's doing. He's ministering to hurting people and, and showing God's acceptance to those who really have not gone through the process, the religious performance to deserve it. And this is what happened, the Pharisees and scribes murmured, and this is what they say. And I, I read this in King James version, cuz anytime you're talking about the Pharisees, you should read their words in the King James saying, this man receive its sinners and Edith with him, How dare Jesus? It's interesting. Jesus is indiscriminate in the way that he expresses God's grace. He was notorious for, for having dinner with those on the bottom rung of society, the poor and the sick, and prostitutes, those who are victims of an unjust economic system.

08:14 And so I would assume that as he's doing this, people are, are trying to put him in a certain political camp. Well, he, he, he's, he's a, he's fighting for the poor and the, the marginalized. Okay? So he is this, and then Jesus is walking through Jericho one day, and Luke, I believe it's chapter nine, and he looks up and he sees this very wealthy tax collector who is not a victim of an unjust economic system. He is a perpetrator of an unjust economic system. And he looks up and instead of condemning Zach Ks, what does he do? He says, Hey, Zach Ks, come on down, make a meal. We're going to your house. We're gonna be friends. And so Jesus is constantly frustrated the expectations that people put on him that he's this way or he's that way, or he is for team this or he is for team that.

09:02 And today it's the same when you embrace the scandalous, kind of indiscriminate grace that Jesus model for us, when grace flows out of us like a river, that, that, that, that saturates anyone that's in front of us, we will find as Jesus found, it will cause people all across the ideological spectrum to question your motives. And so this is not for the faint of heart folks to walk in the kind of grace that Jesus modeled in his life, his ministry, and even his death. We open ourselves up to questions, but at some point we will need to decide what is more important to appease the ideological tribe that you've joined, or to walk in the scandalous way of grace that welcomes the worst of sinners wherever you find them sinners, by the way, like me and like you, that we would come into this place and that we'd open our doors. And not just this place, but your homes and your lives and your hearts to those who were maybe seen as your opponents, your enemies, just acquaintances, that you would extend the grace of Jesus much as he did.

10:23 You know, when we talk about grace, these days, I think probably immediately somebody in the room's thinking finally he's speaking up against cancel culture. And there's, there's these three celebrities I think deserve a second chance. And you can go through the list and there's people on all sides, you know, of, of political issues that, that have have fallen out of grace. We would say in, in the, the media, I mentioned Mel Gibson for service, and a guy in the back just did two fist pumps like this big fan of Mel Gibson, you know, but there, there are so many, people that in this day and age, there's debates over, well, should they be canceled? Should they not be canceled? Should we, should we, you know, be okay with, what they've put out in years past all this stuff?

11:05 I'm actually not coming out, pro or against cancel culture. What today I'm coming out against is when we as people save by grace, spend all of our time theorizing over the nature of who deserves second chances. Somewhere out there, somewhere in the, the national media somewhere far removed from my neighborhood and my block and my relationships and my family and the people that I see face to face, I'm gonna concern myself mostly with theorizing over who deserves second chances and who doesn't deserve second chances in the culture. And in that way, I'm gonna feel good about my theory of grace while allowing myself off the hook to not actually express grace in relationships with one another. Thank you. Yeah, that was the same enthusiasm the guy shared for Mel Gibson. In the first service, we have a job to do Mel Gibson, or fill in the blank.

12:06 I I probably should mention one person over and over again. Fill in the blank with the person that, that you put energy and effort into. I hope he finds forgiveness in his second chance in Jesus. That's between him, his community, God, and those around him. There are people in your life that need to know that they have a second chance because Jesus love them. And they won't know that unless you say it, unless you speak up, unless you fight for them. Mel Gibson's got other people, but your neighbor has you. And there is such a desire for people even who are very opposed to everything that you see here, opposed to faith, opposed to Christianity, opposed to Jesus. Everybody, I believe this, everybody in the quietness of their soul and the deepest place is crying out for acceptance. They may not know it's acceptance from God that they desire, but they're wanting to know that they're accepted and acceptable and lovable and forgivable. And if the church cannot offer grace, then what are we offering? I I, I have no interest in a Christian faith or a church that gets stuff done but loses sight of the grace of God poured out into the community. I have no interest in a church that fails in its imitation of Jesus because other pressing matters got all our attention, we should imitate Christ or we should be nothing at all.

13:41 Let me say that again. We should imitate Christ or we should be nothing at all.

13:49 And it's through our posture towards our communities that we do this. Tuesday night was election night or the beginning of election night, still going I think. But I was watching, the election happen on tv. I had the TV on kind of in the background. I was studying for today's message on Grace. And we had just gotten back from this, prayer conference the week before. And so among my things, I had a print of an image that they gave us, the teacher gave us at this prayer conference. And it's striking this moment, almost like a split screen moment. I had as I'm, as I'm watching the election play out on one side and what all that represents. And I, I get it. The world has to work the way the world works. It just has to, people have to wrestle over power and control and that's how it works. But then I'm looking at this image that they gave us at the air conference. I dunno if you can see that. It's the posture of Jesus arms wide open, the ultimate act of self-sacrificing grace. And if you remember in the story of the crucifixion, Jesus is on the cross and with his dying breath. And this is the scandal of grace with his dying breath. Jesus looks down at his murderers in the process of dying. And with some of his final breaths, he whispers this prayer. Father, forgive them. They have no idea what they're doing.

15:31 And I thought about my posture towards people that are my enemies, my perceived opponents, those who don't think the way I do or share the worldview that I do. What is my posture? Arms crossed in judgment sometimes fingers pointed in accusation, head shaking in disgust. None of those postures look like Jesus. The posture of Jesus in all who would follow after him is one of arms wide open that says, Father forgive if this is outrageous grace. You know, we've talked about how grace is possibly CS Lewis said this, the, the great distinctive of Christian faith, it's grace. You can get pretty much everything else that Christianity offers elsewhere. If you're hungry, you can get fed. If you're, if you need help, you can find help. If you, if you need peace, you can find peace. But grace is unique to what Jesus came to bring to the world. It's unique to Christianity because it was unique to Jesus. Plenty of would be, you know, they came to conquer, they promised, you know, that Rome would be, would be done away with if people would just follow them. There was plenty that that offered religious, ascension, that if they would just listen to their teaching, that they would get closer to God. Plenty of people offered that. But there was nobody like Jesus,

17:12 Nobody who dare to pray that prayer. Father forgive them. You know, there's this fear that this will create a slippery slope if we operate in grace . That somehow the way that we give grace is gonna create environment of mushiness where just everything goes and people start taking advantage of that grace and I understand the concern, but for those who are following after Jesus, I, I want to say this. If you're, if you're really afraid that you might outdo Jesus in the way that you give grace, I would challenge you. Go for it . Just try it. You know, try it. Let's try to out grace Jesus when it comes to our neighbors. Let's try to show more extravagant grace than Jesus did on the cross to somebody that, that disagrees with us or we see as an enemy. Cuz here's the deal, you won't be able to. But in the process of living out this extravagant, ridiculous, over the top roast duck on a platter kind of grace, you're gonna find something out. You're gonna find that you become a conduit for the grace of God. That every person that receives grace from you is not emptying out the store of grace that's in you, but you are being filled like a river from the very heart of a gracious God

18:39 And the work of Jesus on the cross. That to give grace to those who we consider undeserving does not subtract from grace. It's a multiplier. It's a multiplier. once I was in Denver, Colorado, we were at a church and there's this, one of the members of the church, celebrity chef. The name was Kegan Gearhard. at the time he had been listed in several publications and magazines as one of the top 10 pastry chefs in America. I don't know a lot about chefs, but I know plenty about pastries, Speaker 3

19:24 .

19:26 And so he, he came up to us, the group of us that were there as guests and, and he said, Hey, I would love to invite you guys to my restaurant downtown, Denver, for dinner tonight. And if a celebrity chef that is hosting shows on food network invites you to eat his restaurant, you say, Okay, when, So we, we went to his restaurant and we sat down and he came out and, there's something about the chef uniform where you're like, I, whether I, whether I would choose this or not, the fact that you're wearing that hat makes me think this is gonna be really good, you know? So he came out and he, he, he begins to explain some of his technique and, and, and how he sources the ingredients and what he's gonna prepare for us. And he disappears into the back. And then for the next hour and a half, two hours, we sat there as these servers came out with plate after plate and we shared in some of the best food we'd ever had. And we ate and we ate and we ate and we ate. And how disappointing would it have been if after we sat and he came out and he began to explain all these recipes that he was gonna make us if he stopped there. And he said, And if you come back, maybe next time I can actually cook some of this stuff. But, you know, the kitchen's been closed for some time now. And we just like to talk about recipes here,

20:51 .

20:53 I would miss the whole point, man. We didn't, we didn't come to learn. I mean, it was nice. It really enriched the experience. We did not come to have food explained to us. We came to eat. And here is the, the pitfall that people like me fall into all the time. We come into places like this. And I'm gonna explain grace to you. Here's the 17 different ways that grace works itself out theologically and in these ways. And, and, and all that's true and all that's great, but how tragic if it stops there that we explain grace away and keep it on the shelf and never fire up the kitchen, my God, help us. That we'd never stop at explaining grace. That grace would be something not explained but conveyed and expressed and tasted after all the church. It, it, what else is it? If not a house with a table that serves heaping piles of grace, the best pastry you've ever had. Sorry my mind. I know I'm supposed to be appreciated. I'm just, we have these bacon wrap dates. Oh my gosh, that's the effect of grace guys, man, I would love it.

22:06 I would love this If you're in a community group or you're talking to a friend and your, your whole conversation gets derailed. Maybe you're talking about good things and, and you're talking about the truth of the Bible and all that. And if you would just get like, like so distracted because you're remembering how good grace is, I'd rather taste it than talk about Speaker 3

22:27 It.

22:29 And yeah, I'm gonna need the, the recipe. You know, my daughter, when she was four or five, she would just wing it. It tasted horrible, really bad. Cuz you need, you need a recipe. That's true. It's not just a a wishy-washy. Nobody cares about anything. No, no. We have a recipe. We look at the, the life of Jesus and he gives us a, a beautiful recipe for how we express and extend the acceptance of God. And we follow that recipe, but we don't stop at just reading it. We don't stop at just explaining it. We fire up the oven and we put the ingredients in a bowl and we mix in some hope and we mix in some patience as we together make something, we cook it up and we open up our doors and we invite people into this wonderful thing called grace. It's a feast. It's a feast. So as we close today, I want to ask, who would we turn away from this table for real? Who would we turn away? I have a list. I have a line, a threshold about people who, who qualify to receive God's grace and those that still have work to do before they can get in.

23:56 And I'm challenged today as, as we've been talking about the way that Jesus expressed his grace to throw out the list folks that at this table with the open doors that everybody qualifies to sit. Why? Because they need it. Because they need it. Pastor Bo last week talked about how she doesn't want to spend any time figuring out who should be excluded from God's grace and all of her time throwing open the doors and welcoming people and pulling up extra chairs to say, Come eat at this grace feast. What a scandal. This is my God. What a scandal. It is for people to receive the unwarranted grace of God. I wanna read as we close Romans five, I reference it earlier. Now, maybe would you close your eyes as I read this? I'm aware in this moment, you know, we're talking today about how grace is expressed and, and goes out from us to others like rivers. What a beautiful thing. But I understand, today at a place like this, there are plenty of of folks that as I'm talking to you when you're thinking, but I'm not acceptable, I don't deserve this.

25:31 I'm not adequate for this. Romans five, Paul said, by entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us, to set us right with him, make us fit for him, We have it all together with God because of our master Jesus. That's not all we throw. Open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand out in the wide open spaces of God's grace and his glory, standing and tall shouting our praise. And there's more. We continue to shout out praise even when we're hemmed in with troubles because we know how troubles can develop passionate patients. And how that patience turn in turn and forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for what God will do next. We can't round up enough containers to hold everything that God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit. Today you qualify for this grace. We all arrived on the same ticket. We all came here on the same train.

26:44 We're all in need of a touch of God's grace and his mercy in our lives. And today, whatever your background, whatever your history, whatever your pain, Jesus's response to that is grace. Grace for the broken. Grace for the sin. Grace for those who feel far from God and grace to those who feel near grace for the righteous and the unrighteous. Grace for those who have been abused, Grace for those who have been burned out, grace for those who have been chewed up, grace for those who have been come disillusioned. Grace for those who have walked away, grace for those who have not even come back yet. Grace, grace, grace, grace, grace, Lord Jesus, may this be a house of grace, A house that holds a table where the price has been paid and the food is good and the portions are extravagant. Maybe we walk in your grace, receiving it, giving it, letting it flow.