March 18, 2012: Musical Chairs In Reverse

Let us pray: Dear Savior, today we come to You with joy in our hearts. We’re joyful that You have given each of us the gift of the Holy Spirit and wrapped us in Your loving arms when we were baptized. And we’re joyful that such baptismal grace lives on, and on, and on until You take us to heaven. Today cause us to not only appreciate that fact, but to put it into active use in our lives. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHO WANTS ALL PEOPLE TO BE SAVED AND TO COME TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIS TRUTH!

TEXT: Ephesians 2: 4-10

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

Remember that childhood game called: Musical Chairs? Remember how you danced around that circle of chairs just waiting to grab one before someone else did? Remember how you felt when you got eliminated because someone else sat down quicker than you did? Life often feels like musical chairs, doesn’t it? I recall back in the mid 90’s when a friend of mine who was very into the stock market foresaw the coming bull market. My friend didn’t have any money to invest at the time. He told me he felt like Willie Wonka without a pail to fill with the chocolate overflow. Or how about those of you who bought property when it was high a few years back, and then lost all your equity in the crash? Again, it felt like musical chairs—with you left out—didn’t it? The round robin of job layoffs and company restructurings has been but another form of adult musical chairs, too.

The fact of life is that none of us likes to be left behind. None of us likes to be left holding that proverbial “bag.” But, as the cynic would say: “That’s life.” Well, I’m here today to tell you that God has a better idea! A revolutionary idea! He doesn’t want anyone left outside of His love. And that’s why He offers all of us His grace, which is:

MUSICAL CHAIRS IN REVERSE!

I

Many people view life as a lottery. They say: “I got my ticket at birth, and if chance smiles on me, I’ll be a winner instead of a loser.” To such people happiness and joy in life is based on where you were born, how rich your parents were, what kind of school you attended, and how many strings were pulled in order to insure you a lucrative career. Likewise, some people view heaven as a lottery, too. That is, you play your number on this earth and hope that when your number is up God will call it out someday in heaven. These same people usually think of God as running a gigantic musical chairs game. They view God’s commandments as obstacles that He places before us. And if we’re not quick enough to react to them, God withdraws another chair and leaves us out in the cold. So, like hamsters, such folks scurry through life always trying for more and more. They don’t worry about those they push aside in order to get ahead. Their whole purpose in life is to look out for number one. That modern motto: “He who dies with the most toys wins” is their creed. They think that if they leave this earth with a lot of friends, a family well provided for financially, and with people saying: “He was a good person” at their funeral; well, that will insure God calling out their number in heaven.

Of course, the problem with all this is: God doesn’t play the “how do you get into heaven game” that way. He has established a whole different set of rules. He has given us His grace, Musical Chairs in Reverse!

II

One of the primary truths of Christianity is that all of us are sinners. That is, no matter how hard we try to be a good person, a successful person, all our efforts fall short of what God expects and demands of us. He says: “Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” He says: “Whoever offends, or violates My commandments, in just one point is guilty of breaking them all.” He says that every thought, word, and action you engage in must never be tainted or influenced by a lack of love. So, does this mean we’re all left “holding the bag?” Does this mean that in the eternal game of musical chairs none of us will ever get to sit down and relax because all the chairs are gone? No! Not if we embrace His grace! Not if we put aside our pride and let His love move us and take control of our lives.

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”

Well, there you have it. God’s idea of musical chairs was to add extra chairs instead of subtract them! In love He sent Jesus to purchase those extra chairs for us with His blood. Christ was perfect for us. Christ was holy for us. Christ was always loving for us. And when Christ died on the cross, this whole idea of: “my having to save myself” died with Him. And in its place God instituted musical chairs in reverse. He made us rich in Christ by giving us His Son’s heavenly inheritance. That’s what grace means: God’s riches at Christ’s expense!

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Simply by believing in Christ’s riches—they are all transferred to you! And even here, our ability to believe is a gift, a working, of God the Holy Spirit. He put faith into our hearts when we were baptized or when we simply heard of this glorious message of God’s undeserved love for us in Christ. He worked confidence within us so that we could embrace our Savior. And He did this so that we would no longer boast about ourselves or look inward for strength and comfort, but so that we would boast only of Him and look to Him alone for all help and guidance, thereby giving Him all the glory!

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” If you subscribe to the “life’s a lottery” viewpoint you’re going to end up being rather fatalistic. That is, everything in your life from your marriage to your kids to your job to your health is all based on chance. And as we all know chance is a fickle mistress who can turn on a dime. What’s up today can be down tomorrow. What you have today can be gone tomorrow. However, the Christian worldview is totally different! Our lives have purpose and meaning—we’re rich!– because we give glory to God and don’t try to hog it all. Our lives are controlled by God’s loving hand, which grace thereby insures will never leave us alone or forgotten. Yes, grace is God’s musical chairs in reverse! So, no matter what happens in your life, rest assured that when you embrace Christ He’ll always make sure there’s a chair at His heavenly banquet table—for you! Amen