Saved By Grace?
Pastor Tim addressed the difficult topic of gender confusion in our culture in his sermon last week on 1 Corinthians 11. Transgenderism has come to dominate much of our political and cultural conversations in recent years no matter what side of the political spectrum you find yourself. Yet, Pastor Tim challenged us all to look at ourselves to see if we do not struggle with many of the same underlying sins of seeking to control our environment and circumstances in order to fulfill our own selfish desires. Though our sin may be less visible, it still rears its ugly head every time we seek control rather than joyfully submit to the good sovereign hand of God from whom all things come.
When we see so much of our culture being destroyed by transgender ideology leaving children and other numerous victims in its wake, it is easy to label those of the LGBTQ+ community as the enemy and view ourselves as the righteous defenders of all that is good. However, the Bible would not have us think in such terms. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil (Eph. 6:12). We have an enemy to fight, but we ought to have compassion on the people made in God’s image who are dead in their trespasses and sins. Why? Because we too were God’s enemies apart from the grace of God! Do you believe you are saved by grace alone? Really?
Following the sermon, we sang the worship song Yet not I, but through Christ in Me. It begins with the line, “What gift of grace is Jesus my Redeemer.” That is the foundation of the Christian life – a gift of grace in the person of Jesus Christ! You are not any more worthy than any other sinner on planet earth. All that you have and all that you are as a Christian is a result of Christ for you and in you by the Holy Spirit. That truth ought to work itself out in love and compassion toward our kids even when they disobey for the hundredth time, our co-workers even when they annoy us, our opponents even when they disagree with us, and yes, even toward our enemies when they attack all that we hold dear. It does no good to be hostile toward a blind man for not seeing the light nor a dead man for not walking in truth. Yet, we will only have this power to love our enemies if we truly believe we ourselves are saved by grace alone. If we truly die to self. If we are truly crucified with Christ so that it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me (Gal. 2:20). God’s grace given to you in Jesus Christ is the only difference between you and your greatest enemies.
To illustrate let me tell you the story of two men…
In 1926 a boy was born into a Christian family in Chicago, Illinois. He was the 8th great-grandson of William Bradford, Mayflower passenger, devout Christian, and governor of the Plymouth colony. He later described his family as “conservative, Midwestern, and Methodist,” and he bragged often throughout his life that his mother had always wanted him to become a missionary. This boy showed great promise as a young man. He briefly served as a journalist in the military in the years following WWII and then graduated in just 2 ½ years from the University of Illinois in 1949. From there this young man would go on to transform an entire culture and change the worldview of millions of people for generations to come.
A second promising young man was born just one year after our first. He, likewise, was born into a Christian home. He too showed great talent as a young man primarily for his speaking abilities and gifts of persuasion and likewise served as a journalist for his school newspaper. Like the first, he graduated from college in 1949 in the state of Illinois. He also would go on to be an inspiration for generations to come.
These two young men had parallel lives in so many ways - certainly in all the ways that seem most discernable from a worldly perspective. But that is where the similarities end for these two young men. You see, our second young man died tragically at the age of 28 leaving behind a 10 month old daughter and a Jesus loving wife. He had forsaken the comforts of this life to live in the jungles of Ecuador seeking to bring the gospel to unreached people, well-known for their violence. However, he never had that opportunity, he and four of his missionary friends were murdered by the very tribesmen they had come to share the good news of Jesus with before they even had the opportunity. Jim Elliot’s promising life was cut tragically short.
In stark contrast, our first young man went on to live 91 years on this earth. His life was filled with hedonistic pleasures rivaled perhaps only by the most powerful kings throughout the ages. You see, our first young man had a dream that was far different than his mother’s desire for him to be a missionary. He had a different message to proclaim. After college he raised enough money to publish his first magazine with Marilyn Monroe on the cover. It was a huge success and the Playboy empire was born. Hugh Hefner’s exploitation and objectification of women was rewarded under the sun with treasures and pleasures and long life that generations of young men would come to idolize.
Saved By Grace!
So, how can we account for the differences between these two men? God’s grace! God’s grace is the only reason that Jim Elliot chose the narrow path of sacrificial suffering rather than the broad path of hedonistic pleasure. And it is only God’s grace that makes sense of that choice. Only God’s grace allows you or me to read the stories of these two young men and praise Jesus for the life of Jim Elliot, while simultaneously mourning the tragedy of Hugh Hefner’s wasted life. Only the gospel frees us to see loss as gain and gain as loss. For Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?” (Matthew 16:24-26)
Hugh Hefner gained the world, but he forfeited his eternal life in glory with Christ. Hugh Hefner’s final wish was to be buried next to Marilyn Monroe, the woman who launched his career but who, ironically, he had never even met. There, lying together, yet tragically alone, their stories come to an end – their bodies rotting – their beauty and all their accomplishments lost.
But what of Jim Elliot? By God’s grace Jim Elliot was given the gift of salvation before he died and so gained life in Christ. That gift of grace is what empowered him to go to his enemies to share the same good news of life and forgiveness in Jesus Christ - enemies who took away his life on earth but could never touch his true life in Jesus. Likewise, the gift of God’s grace is the only thing that will empower us to love our enemies and share the good news of Jesus Christ in our hostile culture. In mercy, God gave this gift of grace even to the men who murdered Jim Elliot and his co-laborers with Christ. May God have mercy on our kids, coworkers, opponents, and enemies too! And may our love and compassion be a small glimpse for them into the heart of Jesus toward sinners as he lives in us!
Jim Elliot may have died young. He sacrificed his life for the sake of Jesus and in so doing left behind many wonderful gifts but he gained the greatest gift of all. So, was it worth it? I will leave you with Jim Elliot’s own answer to that question: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
To this I hold, my hope is only Jesus All the glory evermore to Him When the race is complete, still my lips shall repeat Yet not I, but through Christ in me