September 16, 2007: The Nexus Between Unconditional Surrender And Unconditional Grace

Let us pray: Dear Savior, we know that following You is not easy. It demands that we sacrifice our pride to repentance, our anger to contrition, and our spirit of competition to humility. Today show us the importance of doing all that and more by holding before our eyes Your gift of grace. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR LOVING LORD

TEXT: Luke 14: 25-33

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

Sometimes people can shock you! I remember the first time my prim and proper pastor, who always wore a white shirt and tie took the mound to pitch softball for the youth group. We were all amazed that he even knew how. And more amazed that he was really good at it! I had a fastidious professor of Greek in college who always used very precise, perfect English syntax in his speech. One day we were amazed that he used the word: “ain’t”. Our faces showed our surprise. And then he added: “Got your attention, didn’t I?”

Now those two examples may sound rather quaint to your ears. And they are, unfortunately. For we live in an age where behavior, dress, and speech patterns are all sloppy and not precise. It’s the dumbing down of America. To help counteract that, I’ve taken to adopting a “word of the week.” That is, I pick one seldom-used word in the English language and try to employ it in order to enlarge the vocabulary of both myself and those with whom I interact. Today, my word for the week is: nexus. It comes from the Latin and means: a connection between two distinct things. And since our text outlines it, today I want to lay before you:

THE NEXUS BETWEEN UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER AND UNCONDITIONAL GRACE

I

Christ often uses paradoxes to describe Godly truths. That is, things that seem to run counter to each other, but that have a nexus, a connection. Here’s one from our lesson: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.”

The Bible says: “He who hates his brother is a murderer.” Likewise, the 5th commandment states in the original Hebrew: “You shall not commit murder.” So, do those words contradict Christ? Is He in error when He says this, and also, elsewhere in the Bible talks about how those who don’t provide for their families—wives and children—are worse than the heathen? Well, the nexus to all this, the explanation, is found in the point of comparison used here by our Lord. He’s not talking about literal hatred of others or of ourselves bordering on murder, no, He’s talking about how we must be willing to give everything up for Him. Our relationship with Him is paramount. It is all-important. Nothing can stand in the way of it. And it must be born of a willingness to surrender everything to Him and a willingness to trust in Him no matter what comes our way. That truth is revealed in His words: “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

A fellow pastor once told me, tongue-in-cheek, that perhaps we should start charging people a lot of money for communion! “Let’s make it $500 or $1000,” he said. Then he went on: “Since people attach value to things based on how much it costs, perhaps if they had to really give of themselves for communion, they would really value it and take it more seriously?” The same thing could be said of Sunday worship. Since it’s free, and the doors are always open, we tend to take it for granted and let all sorts of other events crowd out regular worship. But, that’s because we don’t really count the cost, not truly, not honestly. And that is where the nexus between unconditional surrender and unconditional grace meet!

II

Let’s turn the equation around 180 degrees. Let’s look at the cost of discipleship from God’s vantage point instead of our own. What did our salvation cost God? Was it free and easy? Not hardly. Before time began, before God created this world, before Adam and Eve walked on it, God knew that humans would pervert and subvert His goodness. He knew we would rebel against Him and fall away. And He knew that to save us He would have to send Christ into human flesh to bleed and die for us. And yet, God went ahead with His plan for creation because He loved us that much! He went ahead with the manger, the cross, and the empty tomb to buy us out of the slavery of sin and pride. God unconditionally surrendered His all, His heart to us in Christ and through that blessed gift freely and unconditionally gives us His grace—His undeserved love. It cost God the best He had to redeem our souls, didn’t it?

Being a disciple means being a true follower. It means being connected, having a nexus, with God Almighty. Faith in Christ forms that nexus. For in Him God and man met. In Him they were joined together. And since He surrendered Himself to and for us, thereby giving us God’s grace, we need to surrender ourselves entirely to Him to truly receive it and become genuine disciples.

III

The rest of our lesson speaks of human examples about counting the cost behind this nexus. The first example of the tower tells us to avoid any part-way, half-baked, take-it-then leave-it attempts at faith. It’s all or nothing with God. He’s in it for the long haul and we should be, too. The second example of the two armies tells us to avoid spur-of-the-moment, purely emotional Christianity. For when emotions turn because great enemies oppose us, we’re left with nothing but fear. And then comes the conclusion: “any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”

Is it really worth it? Is giving up your pride, your sense of self-esteem, your competitive value system, your very life worth discipleship? Well, it is if you recognize the nexus between unconditional surrender and unconditional grace. Imagine yourself as an old wreck of a car. God comes to salvage your from the junkyard—and to overhaul and repair you as well. At first, after you’ve been salvaged, you realize what He’s up to. He’s removing the rust, bumping out the dents and patching the holes. You knew all along that these jobs had to be done, and so you’re not at all surprised. But suddenly He starts to tinder around in a way that may not make sense. He puts in a new motor, installs a larger transmission, adds on bigger fenders, and slaps a lot of chrome on you. What on earth is He up to? Well, you thought you were going to be an ordinary compact. And instead God is making you into a luxury car. A car which the King Himself means to occupy! Folks, that’s the point of our lesson in a nutshell. You and Christ meet, discipleship meets, at the nexus of surrender and grace. Amen