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Posted: March 20, 2011 12:00 a.m.

Grace Notes: This changes things! Part III

For the last two weeks now, we’ve been talking about the difference the Word of God makes in our hearts. It gives us the strength to face the storms of life, putting them all in the perspective of the eternity God has in store for us. Now, think about this. Those same promises are for everyone — and God wants to use you to share them.

Yes, the Word makes a difference in our hearts. The last words of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount make that clear. But as Jesus finished, we see that this Word makes a difference also in the hearts of our hearers. It did for those first hearers. This is Matthew 7:28-29: "When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law." They had never heard anything like this. And yet they could tell it was true — it was rock-solid — even though it went against everything they had been told and thought they were convinced of. Through the whole Sermon on the Mount Jesus was pointing that out, saying, "You have heard that it was said…" and then saying, "But I tell you…" — His teaching contradicted everything they had been taught. And yet they could tell it was true.

That’s why one of my favorite classes to teach is our Bible Information Class, a class designed for those who want to know what we’re all about, a class that covers 12 key teachings of Scriptures and studies what God says about them. Constantly people are amazed. As much as everyone likes to generalize that all these Christian denominations teach the same thing — actually looking at what Scripture says instead of just what the church you grew up in does or what momma always said is eye opening. And in this class, so much discussion comes from what people have always thought or what would seem to make sense verses what God says. Still one of my favorite lines from a student has to be when the man told me. "All my life I’ve heard and been taught something else, but the Bible is so clear. It’s hard to argue with the Word." This Word changes things.

So, in our text, for those in the crowd that day, it suddenly now made sense what Jesus was saying (Matthew 5-7) - how the poor in spirit were blessed; how the repentant, the ones hungering and thirsting for righteousness were the ones that had the solid foundation; how it could be a blessing to be persecuted because of righteousness — for "theirs is the kingdom of heaven." That promise in the Word made all the difference. And that Word is life-changing.

Right after our text, in fact, Matthew said it was as Jesus was coming down from the hill — we see that change spiritually first and then physically in a leper that approached him. The leper said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." He knew the power was there. He knew this was the Lord of lords and King of kings. He knew Jesus could — it was just a matter of whether Jesus felt it was best for him. Think of how much better our world would be if all of us approached our wants and even what we consider needs that way. "Lord — you have the power to do it all – so do it if you want — if it’s best for us." Living in that trust changes things. Look at what Jesus said: "I am willing… be clean."

And that man’s life was very different from that moment on. That’s cool to see. And if you’ve been sharing this Word for any length of time, I’m sure you’ve seen changes no less dramatic, from the alcoholic who’s now sober because this Word changes things to the porn addict who has replaced that habit with an addiction to God’s Word, God’s Word changes things.

Here’s just one of a long list of stories we could tell: There was the man in jail that someone coming to church asked me to go visit. And he was in jail for a lot of reasons, from gang involvement to drug dealing, and plenty more. So there I was sitting in that visiting room with him, honestly a little scared. And when I asked him about his eternity, his answer was pretty clear. He told me that if he died tonight — he’d be on his way to hell. But then, after several visits with God’s Word, I asked the question again, and this time, that macho man with the tear tattooed in his eye said, now with a real salt and water tear there, with a voice as innocent as a kindergartener, "I’ll be in heaven because Jesus died to pay for my sins and God really does love me." And shortly after that — he started leading a Bible study with his fellow inmates based on studies I was doing with him in our visits. This Word does change things.

May God bless you as you share it. In Christ, Amen.

 

Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.

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