A Legacy of Grace!
Oh Lord, our precious God and Savior, as we begin a New Year may we be led to bless and to praise Your holy name. Sanctify us by Your presence and instill within us a deep humility which recognizes both our personal unworthiness and Your overwhelming grace. Keep us steadfast in our faith, fervent in our love, and constant in our hope of obtaining the gift of eternal life. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
The LORD’s name is precious for it bespeaks His mercy and grace. He commanded Moses to tell Aaron to bless the people with a three-fold repetition of His name!
On the eighth day, Jesus was circumcised and given His name which means "Savior."
Text: Romans 1:1-7
Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints.
In Christ Jesus, through whom we receive both grace and peace, dear fellow redeemed:
There is a program being promoted in Mankato and throughout our state of Minnesota, known as “Leave a Legacy.” Perhaps you have read about the program in the Mankato Free Press. Perhaps you have seen one of their billboards around town. The purpose of the program is to encourage people to support the charity or cause of their choice, especially through estate planning, and so to improve the quality of life for all citizens of our city and state. Representatives of Immanuel have attended some of the local informational meetings to gain helpful information as we set up and now begin to promote our Immanuel (Mankato) Lutheran School Endowment Fund and encourage contributions to our CLC Endowment Fund. These programs encourage us to practice good stewardship—to recognize what is most important to us, and to use that which God has entrusted to us in the best possible way.
We have the power to leave a legacy, if we so choose, and so, we pray, bring blessings to many around us. Our God, however, would have us live a legacy—His legacy of grace! My dear friends, as we begin this new year, there is absolutely nothing that would be better for us and bring more blessing into our lives than to focus on the grace of our God and to live our lives in and under that grace! Let us, therefore, consider this morning A LEGACY OF GRACE! We will see from our text its source, its object, and its purpose!
First of all, let us consider the source of this LEGACY OF GRACE! That source of grace is the heart of our God. Grace is "undeserved love," and it was just such love, which moved God to declare in the face of man’s rebellion, that He would send forth a Savior to deliver man from the terrible consequences of his own mistakes. This message of undeserved salvation is the essence of the “gospel” of which St. Paul speaks as he opens our text, “Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.”
While the source of grace is the heart of God, that grace would be imperceptible to us were it not for the Holy Scriptures in which God has chosen to reveal it. St. Paul had earlier written the Corinthians and stated, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). We cannot know God, or His grace, or His gospel apart from His Word. It is in that Word that we heard about our Savior—“Jesus Christ our Lord!” We have only recently heard our children speak of His birth. In six weeks we will begin a review His sacrificial death, and then on March 31, we will celebrate His “resurrection,” by which He was “declared (to be) the Son of God with power!” We need to know, love, and place our trust in Jesus. We need to understand, accept, and rejoice in His grace. That is why it is so important that we make hearing, meditating upon, and learning from that Word a priority during the upcoming year.
It is important for us to join together regularly for Bible Study and public worship. Not only does God command it in Scripture (cf. Hebrews 10:25), but by hearing, learning about and trust in Jesus, we will receive that one thing He says is most needful (cf. Luke 10:42)—the assurance of God’s love, forgiveness, and guidance for our lives. We need all three of those treasures! We live in a world that can be brutal at times. Despite our best intentions, we do continue to fall into sin, and even though we try our best to do all that God desires, we can be misled by Satan into thinking that what we are doing is right, even when it is wrong!
I would be remiss, however, if I were to allow anyone to assume that all the Bible study we need could be obtained by attending a single Bible study and worship service each week. If a medical doctor were to tell a patient to go on a diet, which consisted of one meal per week, he would be labeled a quack. No, we need contact with God’s Word on a daily basis. Make personal daily devotions and daily family devotions a priority this year. You will grow in grace through such daily contact. You will find a suggested schedule of daily readings and hymns each week in your bulletin. You may pick up a pamphlet in the narthex this morning entitled “Through the Bible in a Year.” There are numerous devotional books in the church library. Our God would have us live HIS LEGACY OF GRACE. We can do that when we go regularly to its source!
We can do that, as well, when we understand and experience its object! St. Paul identifies the object of God’s legacy of grace when he writes, “Through Him (that is, Jesus) we have received grace and apostleship.” While we cannot claim the “apostleship” as did St. Paul, we can and do by faith claim God’s “grace” as His free gift. We are the object of God’s grace—we, who by nature were “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1); we, who stand beside the tax collector in the temple and state with him, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13), are the object of God’s grace. When Jesus said, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16) He includes each and every one of us, for we are part of that world God so loved! When St. Paul wrote, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them,” (2 Corinthians 5:19), he was talking about us. God does not charge us with our sins in view of Jesus Christ’s work of redemption. While we are sinful and deserve God’s eternal damnation, He has reconciled us to Himself through Christ!
This past Sunday morning in Bible class we undertook a study of portions of the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matthew 5-7). In that sermon Jesus identifies us as “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-14). He does not say that you can be such “salt” or that you have the option of being a “light,” if only you will try hard enough. No, because of God’s grace, we are what God has made us. The only question is, "Having been the objects of God’s grace, and having been renewed by that grace through faith, will we live out that legacy of grace, as we have been called to do?" St. Peter says, “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Dear friends, we can live HIS LEGACY OF GRACE, when we recognize and rejoice each and every day in the fact that we are its objects!
As we consider A LEGACY OF GRACE, we need also consider its purpose! Why does God bestow His grace upon us? St. Paul says, “We have received grace…for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name.” In this brief phrase, St. Paul’s reveals God’s intended three-fold purpose of grace. First of all, God is calling us back into a perfect relationship with Him, in which we who are the objects of His love will live in obedience to His holy will and in accordance with His revealed faith. This is not something that is burdensome or loathsome to the child of God. The Psalmist expresses the attitude of true believers, when he writes, “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD! Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart!” (Psalm 119:1-2) Jesus suggests, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed” (John 8:31). St. John writes so simply and yet so directly to our situation when he says, “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). How do we love Him? Jesus tells us directly, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Martin Luther picked up this theme in his explanation to the 2nd Article in which He wrote, “He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sin, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. He did this that I should be His very own, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in eternal righteousness, innocence, and joy.” We cannot, dear friends, claim the name of Christ and yet “walk in darkness” (cf. 1 John 1:6). No, the purpose of our God’s legacy of grace is our obedience to the faith that is revealed through the gospel.
Secondly, our God calls upon us to proclaim that faith “among the nations!” We are privileged to carry on the work of angels by proclaiming the precious gospel message of salvation. We do that in part through our support of missions. By God’s grace we were able to reach our mission goal this past year, and in faith we will be setting our mission goal for this year at our Annual Meeting. Through this work we support missionaries, seminaries, and gospel outreach on three continents. Yet, ours is not a calling simply to contribute money, but to share our joy in knowing the one true God and in sharing as His ambassadors His gospel of grace whenever and wherever He gives us opportunity.
Finally, our God urges us to live His legacy of grace to the glory of His name. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Our lives are to be lived not in pursuit of our own glory, but rather to seek the glory of our heavenly Father. “It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture” (Psalm 100:3). So says the Psalmist, and so we are to live.
My dear friends, as we enter a New Year, may we be led both to consider and then to live GOD’S LEGACY OF GRACE! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting