A small background intro into the leading text of todays sermon is that Pharisees were part of the ruling class of Jews in Israel. They were also a political movement but also a religious authority. However, the Pharisees believed in resurrection but not in Jesus. They made their own money through fishing, tent making (like Saul of Tarsus), scribes etc. and then would also be in charge of the temple and political matters i.e. the parliament of that day and time. The tax collectors, in that day and time, conducted only one trade. Charged taxes as they deemed fit and paid themselves as they deemed fit before submitting ‘tax returns’ to the ruling Roman authority.
Why was Zaccheus such a wealthy dude? Ever wonder.
The leading text shows us that one of the two had seen and accepted the light, and it is definitely not the legal and religious expert. In light of that, maybe just maybe, it should be said the burden and the conviction of a Christian is the acceptance of grace and nothing more and it can be further qualified as grace being the light of God.
When Christ says that My burden is light, He doesn’t mean light weight but being light, the opposite of dark. Light in terms of truth, thought, perception, agility, swiftness in movement, adjusting to new contexts and situations etc.
So, I submit to you that grace is light and our burden as followers of Christ is to carry His burden of bringing truth, understanding, flexibility etc. into each context and redirecting everything back to His purpose. Why?
Because carrying Christ’s ‘light’ burden is basically being in step with what Christ is doing. Look at Psalms 18. He makes my feet as swift as a deer. That means that if we are in step with Christ, His grace allows us to move quickly and even analyze situations in our favor. That is grace.
When the tax collector said Have mercy on me a sinner and David the Psalmist said I love you O Lord my strength in Psalms 18:1, I dare submit to you this day that they both were telling God that it is only the grace that they have each received that will get them through their respective situations i.e. a tax collector was branded the worst of sinners because he openly stole and manipulated records. You see, unlike the Pharisees who were making their earning from their trade and then came to serve in the temple, tax collectors would determine their own pay by themselves before submitting taxes to the Roman authorities. As it is human nature, you can guess who always got the bigger share. However, for this particular case, God had caught up with this taxpayer and the grace he had accepted, or the light that he had seen, led him to pray this way. For David, his life was at stake when he wrote this Psalm because King Saul was after his life for no tangible reason and he was deathly afraid of the King’s wrath and had gone into hiding.
Question: What does acceptance of grace really mean? Answer: Should we continue sinning so that grace may abound? No! rather the extension of grace is doing what is right in the Lord’s eyes and not just fulfilling righteousness. Romans 5:20 & 21 upto Romans 6:1 & 2 reminds us clearly that the purpose of grace is light i.e., where sin reigned, darkness reigned and this is equated to death but God provides a solution but providing light such that in the presence of heavy darkness, God does not abandon us there rather He conducts barter trade with us. Focus on his grace which is the light that will show you the way out of sin, situations etc. no matter how grave the matter is because grace has been apportioned to each one of us who has been given a new life (Romans 6:2).
But still, what is grace? Is it the cliché churchfolk statement kama sio neema ya Mungu, hata mimi sijui ingekuwaje/If it were not God’s grace, I don’t know how things would have panned out. For one who is young in the faith, that is a starting point.
For those who have been in the journey of faith will bear me witness and say that grace is actually the fuel that keeps you focused on God even when it means that you have to stand alone to be counted. The fuel that allows you to say just like Christ, who was a man of sorrows, I too will redirect my sorrows and make God my confidence and my confidant. Grace allows you to have candid prayers & conversations with God like Christ at the Garden of Gethsemane in John 17. Christ mentioned His dying wishes because He knew what was coming but also asked God to take away the cup if possible. That is grace that says I know Your will Lord. I know this is You Lord. I will make it coz I know that You are with me but if You are not with me, then show me a sign so that I do not walk out of the path that You have designed for me or even I may not like it here but I know Your light/enablement/purpose/help will make a way for me.
So, what is grace?
- It is a word overused and under-defined.
- Some say it is the favor and kindness of God toward us. John 3:16
- Others say it is the gift of salvation. – …and all are justified freely by his grace through redemption that came by Christ Jesus Romans 3:24 & the most common one is Be still and know that I am God Psalms 46:10
- Forgiveness. – Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing
- The ability to start again – Galatians 5: 22-23 the fruits of the Spirit
- Freedom from shackles of before – We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are Acts 15:11
- Assurance of the future – He has overcome of the world John 16:33
- Walking in humility – God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble James 4:6
- How we speak – Let your speech be seasoned with grace and salt i.e. salt and light
These are all but manifestations of grace. Grace is the fuel that keeps you going in good, bad and in between.
Grace enables us to;
- Invite God in everything and every place we go
- Inquire before we involve ourselves
- Involve God in everything we do
Partake it and you will realize that the grace apportioned to each one of us operates differently yet will result in 3 things in each of our lives;
- Creativity in your expectation
- Sacrificial in your worship
- Consistent in your fellowship with God
Psalms 18 is a great guide to see all these.
What does the acceptance of grace make us do;
- Grace makes a sinner aware of his shortcomings and asks God to shed light on the way out of the sin, situations etc. through mercy, patience, better opportunities, wisdom, forbearance etc.
- Grace teaches you the right way to pray and to talk.
- Grace gives us the consciousness of God’s presence, His desire and His pleasure.
- Grace is the glue that keeps our partnership with God going. The most interesting fact is that it is God who has given it freely.
So when we say the grace at the end of every meeting, let it be with a profound new meaning and a deep appreciation that all these is for free so long as one believes.
The audio version of the sermon is here.