It is time to dive back into the sermon from this past Sunday. Before we get to Genesis though I just wanted to quote some of the song lyrics from the first two songs that we sang as a church. The first song was: Grace Greater Than Our Sin. Here are two lines from that song:
“Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;”
All of us are sinners, and our sin threatens our souls with infinite loss. We deserve nothing but the wrath of God. We deserve God’s wrath for all eternity. That is the ‘infinite loss’ that we deserve. John Bunyan gives us a list of what our sin has done: “Man by sin had shut himself out of an earthly paradise…Man by sin had made himself lighter than vanity,…Man by sin had made himself subject to death;…Man by sin had procured to himself the curse of God;…Man by sin had lost peace with God;…Man should have been mocked of God,…Man should have been scourged in hell;…Man should have been crowned with ignominy and shame…Man should have been pierced with the spear of God’s wrath;…Man should have been rejected of God.” These words from Bunyan help us feel the weight of our sin. They help us feel the weight of the infinite loss that we deserve. As R.C. Sproul reminds us: “No traitor to any king or nation has even approached the wickedness of our treason before God.”
The song that we sang Sunday though goes on and tells us about grace!
“Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.”
The chorus tells us:
“Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.”
Our sin is great, but God’s grace is ‘greater than all our sin.’ As the second song we sang says, this is: “The scandal of grace You died in my place” So, let me go back to that list from John Bunyan. I am just going to change some of the words to be plural. Bunyan said that: “We by sin shut ourselves out of an earthly paradise.” He goes on to tell us what Jesus has done: “Jesus Christ left his heavenly paradise to save us.” Next he says: “We by sin have made ourselves lighter than vanity.” However, “Jesus, made himself lower than the angels to redeem us. We by sin have made ourselves subject to death. Jesus Christ lost his life to save us.”
Bunyan continues: “We by sin have procured to ourselves the curse of God.” By our sin we have obtained God’s curse. Incomprehensibly though: “Jesus Christ bore that curse in his own body to save us. We by sin have lost peace with God.” Amazingly: “Jesus Christ also lost peace with God, to the end that man might be saved. We should have been mocked of God.” Christ however, “was mocked of men. We should have been scourged in hell; but, to hinder that, Jesus was scourged on earth. We should have been crowned with ignominy and shame, but, to prevent that, Jesus was crowned with thorns. We should have been pierced with the spear of God’s wrath; but, to prevent that, Jesus was pierced both by God and men.” Lastly, “We should have been rejected of God.” That again is what we deserve, the rejection of God. Astonishingly though: “to prevent our rejection of God, Jesus was forsaken of God, and denied, hated, and rejected of men.” This is the scandal of grace! As Mark said Sunday we are shocked by the wrong things. We should be stunned and shocked by the grace of God! John Bunyan rightly said when talking about the grace of God in Jesus Christ: “Here is grace indeed! Unsearchable riches of grace! Unthought-of riches of grace! Grace to make angels wonder, grace to make sinners happy,…” Let us all be continually stunned by the grace of God in our lives!
We spent a lot of time in Genesis 27 last Sunday. Genesis 27 tells the story of Isaac getting tricked into blessing Jacob. Mark did a great job of laying this story out to us last Sunday. I would encourage you to give his sermon another listen here. Let me see if I can just give a brief recap of this story. Isaac is old and blind and he calls Esau in and tells him to go out and: “hunt game for me, 4 and prepare for me delicious food, such as I love, and bring it to me so that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die.” Rebekah overhears this conversation and she goes and tells Jacob her plan: “Go to the flock and bring me two good young goats, so that I may prepare from them delicious food for your father, such as he loves. 10 And you shall bring it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies.” Jacob fears that his father Isaac will be able to tell the difference between him and Esau because Esau was a ‘hairy’ man and Jacob ‘smooth.’ Rebekah is undeterred by this and she “took the best garments of Esau her older son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. 16 And the skins of the young goats she put on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. 17 And she put the delicious food and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob.”
So, Jacob takes the food, wearing his ridiculous costume of Esau’s clothes and goat skins and heads in to see his father. Jacob proceeds to lie repeatedly and even blasphemes God in verse 20. He eventually receives the blessing from his father. Esau returns soon thereafter and finds out that the blessing is gone and that his brother has deceived his father and stolen his blessing. Esau plans to kill his brother after his father dies, but Rebekah hears of this plan and sends Jacob away to her hometown.
So, how do we apply this passage of scripture to our lives today? Mark mentioned how many Americans today believe in pragmatism. Tim Challies says: “Pragmatism is defined by Webster’s as “the doctrine that practical consequences are the criteria of knowledge and meaning and value.” In short, truth is determined by consequences. Whether something is right or wrong, good or bad is primarily dependent on results.”
Challies goes on to say that: “Pragmatism has reared its ugly head throughout the Christian world. It is found in statements about evangelistic techniques such as “if it only reaches one person it is worth it.” It is found in (a famous pastor’s book), where he writes “Never criticize any method that God is blessing.” He also says “We must be willing to adjust our worship practices when unbelievers are present. God tells us to be sensitive to the hang-ups of unbelievers in our services.” These ideas are not Biblical; they are rooted in the perceived consequences.” Mark told the story of another famous pastor who took $250,000 dollars of his churches money and hired a company to buy 11,000 copies of his book during the first week of the books release. The book became a New York Times bestseller and this pastor got to go on national television to speak about Jesus. The means used in this situation did not however justify the ends of being on national television talking about Jesus. Rebekah in Genesis 27 did a similar thing. Matthew Henry says that Rebekah’s end was: “good, for she was directed in this intention by the oracle of God,…God had said it should be so, that the elder should serve the younger and therefore Rebekah resolves it shall be so, and cannot bear to see her husband designing to thwart the oracle of God. But, the means were bad, and no way justifiable.”
Mark challenged us this past Sunday by asking us to examine ourselves to see where we may be cutting corners in this area of our lives. Where has pragmatism crept into our lives? Challies warns us about pragmatism when he says that he is: “convinced that one of the greatest but most subtle spiritual dangers Christians face is pragmatism.” Honestly, I have not spent that much time considering how dangerous and subtle pragmatism is for us as Christians. I am glad that Mark gave us this challenge though last week, to examine ourselves in this area. I began thinking of some questions we can ask ourselves. I came up with a few questions that may not be applicable for us all, but hopefully these questions will help us begin to see how pragmatism may have crept into our lives. For example are we telling small lies or using questionable language with non-believers in an effort to win them to Jesus? Are we driving recklessly in order to make it to church on time? Are we spending lots of time exercising in order to get in shape, but neglecting Bible reading in the process? Are we to quote John Piper: “sacrificing truth and holiness on the altar of what seems to work?” Are we gossiping about a friend when sharing what appears to be a prayer request? Are we exaggerating a story in order to encourage a friend?
Mark ended his sermon with a gospel application. I don’t know how many times I have read this story in Genesis 27 since I was a kid? Dozens and dozens of times I am sure. Never once had I made the gospel application from Jacob dressed in his brothers clothes. As Mark said Sunday: “We are supposed to go before God our Father dressed in someone else’s clothes also. We are supposed to come wearing the clothing of God’s favorite son Jesus Christ.” We are supposed to come as unworthy as we are, wearing the righteousness of Jesus. We then come before God and are blessed because we are clothed with the perfect spotless righteousness of King Jesus! Tim Keller says: “Have you heard God’s blessing in your inmost being? Are the words, “You are my beloved child, in whom I delight” an endless source of joy and strength? Have you sensed, through the Holy Spirit, God speaking to you? That blessing—the blessing through the Spirit that is ours through Christ—is what Jacob received, and it is the only remedy against idolatry. Only that blessing makes idols unnecessary.”
Keller reminds us that we can come before God wearing the clothes of Jesus, because Jesus came to earth and wore our sinful clothes on the cross before His Father. He became sin for us. As Charles Spurgeon said: “Jesus wore my dress, nay, rather, he wore my nakedness when he died upon the cross; I wear his robes, the royal robes of the King of kings.” Rebekah in Genesis 27 tells Jacob: “Let your curse be on me, my son…” Tim Keller says that Jesus is the true Rebekah who says to us: “I will take your curse on me, so that you will have the firstborn blessing.”