Noah, Abraham, Moses, Rahab, David, Ruth, Samson, Peter, The woman at Jacob’s well in Samaria, Paul, Mary Magdalene, and even Adam and Eve …
All of these people, along with many others who represent our rich and cherished Biblical history, have one central experience in common … they were all chosen by God. If nothing else points us to the central truth that God chooses and uses imperfect people, this list should.
Now I offer no excuse for sinful acts or bad behavior on the part of anyone. Rather what I offer today is the fact that God does not seem to close the door on relationships because someone makes a bad decision.
Today’s lesson is not aimed at getting you to forgive others, although that is always a good idea. Today’s lesson is aimed at you realizing that you have already been chosen to be forgiven and all you need do is receive it.
Last Sunday was a rare Sunday in which Brenda and I were left without any plans for lunch. Our Sunday lunches each week are usually planned out with others well in advance but something changed in someone else’s schedule and it left us by ourselves. We felt a little guilty having the free time all to ourselves on such a beautiful day but just went with it and decided to eat at a Chinese restaurant in Port Arthur.
While we were eating I noticed another local pastor and his family sitting across the room and against the wall with his back to me. And my back was to them as well so I supposed we had not seen one another, which can often be professionally merciful when family time is being enjoyed.
Being on TV several times each week and having 15 foot portraits of yourself on billboards for a quarter century along with the number of public speaking engagements and ceremonies attended in our communities for that amount of time can make a person recognizable. It’s not often that I go somewhere in public without someone I know or someone I don’t know recognizing me. At any rate, the lunch on Sunday had been relatively quiet and uninterrupted with only a few casual smiles and nods.
So, I felt the pastor was enjoying lunch with his family and I did not think I could add much to that experience. However I knew that this pastor had recently come through a difficult time with his church congregation and several families had left the church. This can be devastating to a good pastor who really loves people, especially his own flock, and I knew that he did. I imagined he was making the best of it as we all do.
As Brenda and I continued eating and talking I felt that I wanted to bless this pastor so when our waitress came to the table I told her that I wanted to pay the bill for that table against the wall. She said ok and went on about here business before going to the register and discussing it with the other attendants. I could see this process ongoing from where I was seated. Everything seemed ok until she returned to our table and reported that they had already paid out and that there was nothing that could be done.
I left it at that since I hadn’t heard the Lord tell me to pay for the check – I was just trying to show some kindness to a man who had reasons to imagine that not everyone in town appreciated him. Brenda let me know when they got up to leave and I called his name as he was about to exit the door. He turned and came to our table and warmly greeted us. What a gracious minister of the Gospel … I just love true shepherds.
After he had left with his family it came time for us to go and we asked for our check. The waitress left for the front and upon returning she informed us that someone else had already paid for our meals. No, it was not that pastor but rather a lady sitting behind us with her young child.
Now if you know me you know that I believe it is more blessed to give than to receive. Receiving has always been a harder thing for me than giving. The lady had left much earlier and so I could not thank her properly at that time but still I wished to tell her how much we appreciated it. I sent our waitress to the register to find her name from her credit card receipt if possible. While she was searching for the name I told Brenda that I wanted us to send the lady flowers this week for her show of kindness. Brenda look at me and said, now you’re going to cry aren’t you? I said no as I wiped the tears from my eyes and decided to act like a big boy in public so as not to embarrass my wife as I often do. However there was no name to be found since she paid in cash so we simply prayed for her.
I just had to humble myself and accept the fact that someone else had paid my bill. They didn’t just pay for my regular meal … oh no … you see I had ordered extra. I had ordered a second meal for myself and had also ordered all kinds of extra vegetables in my first meal.
We have and hold to a principle from the book of Proverbs, chapter 23, when we go out to eat with others. Not every time but much of the time our meals are our opportunities to spend time with others and breakfast, lunch or dinner is just a substitute for the word appointment. Not every time but many times. So the principle we have when eating with others who are more important that are we, and that’s everyone we serve, is that we are not there to eat. We are normally there to fellowship and listen and pay attention to and serve the others who are there. We always say that if we leave hungry it’s ok, we can grab something on the way home … we can’t always take the people and their needs home with us.
However, when we go to eat with family or friends who have no questions to pose or answers that need to be given, and especially when we just go by ourselves … it’s time to eat and believe me I do love to eat. So, here I was in the Chinese restaurant having ordered all I wanted and eaten whatever I wanted and as much I wanted and my meal had been completely about me and yet while I was unaware someone else whom I did not invite had so graciously and without my request paid my bill in full.
Now it is interesting to be in a position where someone else has paid for something you did. There are only a few things a person can do when they find themselves in that position. Of course:
1. I could have refused to believe another person had paid my bill
2. I could have gotten angry that someone else interfered
3. I could have demanded that I be allowed to pay for it myself
4. Or I could simply accept it as the blessing it was intended to be and receive it with thanksgiving.
I decided to simply be thankful and we both determined that if we ever identified that lady who paid for our lunch we would let her know how much we appreciated it. It meant so much to the both of us and we have told that story several times to several people this past week.
Interesting to note, if that precious lady, to whom I am so grateful and thankful, had not paid for our lunch last Sunday, we could have paid for it ourselves. We had what it took and many times over and yet we are still so thankful and have given multiple testimonies to her kindness and for her gift. If she had not have paid, we could … but … not so with another debt of mine that was paid for by someone else one time.
If I have been so thankful, and should have been, for a simple meal, how much more thankful should I be to the One who paid my eternal debt for all the sin I committed especially in the face of the fact that I could never have paid that debt myself even if I went to hell and languished in the fires of torment forever and ever.
Jesus paid my bill with His own life and He also paid yours. Without regard as to how much you ordered or enjoyed, Jesus paid your debt in full in a time when you did not even know Him.
The fact that your debt has been paid in full is not in question. The only question is will you accept it and receive it as the gift it was intended to be with the thanksgiving it deserves.
You have been chosen by God to receive salvation and the forgiveness of sins … not because of what you did … but because of what Jesus did.
Ephesians 1 NKJV
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,
5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,
6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.
7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.
v.3 Blessed – (Yoo-log-ay-tos’) – praise and favor
Blessed – (Yoo-log-eh’-o) – invoked favor and blessing
“has blessed” – ariost active participle – has, is and continues
Blessed – (Yoo-log-ee’- ah) – bountifulness and benefit
in – (en) – means in
in Christ – literally “In Christ” -
v.4 Chose – (ek-leg’-om-ahee) – picked out; made a choice; separated
in Him – again, “in Christ”
before – above or before
foundation – (kat-ab-ol-ay’) – conception; introduction of semen …
world – (kos’-mos) – the whole orderly arrangement of the universe
holy – (hag’-ee-os) – pure and clean and separated unto God
without blame – (am’-o-mos) – without blemish and without fault
before Him – in His presence
in love – (Ag-ah’-pay)- the love of God
v.5 predestined – (pro-or-id’-zo) – foreordained; predetermined; decreed
adoption as sons – (hwee-oth-es-ee’-ah) – full and complete sonship
good pleasure – to choose that which satisfies; intentional will/choice
will – (thel’-ay-mah) – determined pleasure; desired choice; will
v.6 grace – (khar’-ece) – unmerited favor; underserved blessing
accepted – (khar-ee-to’-o) – charming; lovely; agreeable; honored
beloved – (ag-ap-ah’-o) – those who are so highly esteemed in love
v.7 in Him – in Jesus Christ
redemption – (ap-ol-oo’-tro-sis) – release of a person due to payment of ransom by another; deliverance by those means; procurement of release by payment of debt.
through – means because of or by way of
His blood – (hah’-ee-mah) – blood – talking about the blood of Jesus
forgiveness – (af’-es-is) – release; pardon; remission; letting go of penalties and punishments of the debts of sins and the bondage of imprisonments.
according to the riches of His grace – not based on your merit
You have been chosen by God from the foundation of the world and your debt paid in full. You will be accepted into the family of God if you will but