Grace Talk: Grace In Relationships | 11-14-2021

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 3/20/2022

Going from a heavily knowledge based message on the Holy Spirit to then go on to teach a heavily heart based message on relationships was quite the jump in sermon prep approaches. In week 8 of the Grace Talk series from Reunion Church, this message was aimed at explaining how God’s grace impacts relationships. In retrospect, I didn’t jump far enough and through insecurity made a sermon from the wrong angle.

Sermon Prep

It was the right time to share this message, but not the right way. I took a head-knowledge approach to something that should’ve come from the heart. But at this time, I didn’t have it in me to do that so this was the ultimate result.

Whereas in the previous message in week 5 of Grace Talk, I spent a lot of time really trying to figure things out. This time, I waited until Saturday night to start preparing this one. Was it pride that I could just wing it? Was it compensating for the fact that I just started therapy and was resisting the topic of emotional intimacy? Laziness as I made other things keep me busy? I think it was all of those and more.

The bottom line: I just didn’t want to talk about this topic. I was avoiding it like Jonah avoiding God. But when duty calls, you can’t just not prepare a sermon you’re teaching the next day. So I did some research and found some semi-interesting ideas from a collection of articles and smashed them together like a Frankenstein mishmash of uncooked concepts.

If you couldn’t tell by now, I’m not a fan of how this turned out. Some good stuff here and there, but not my best and that bothers me today. When I’m not obedient to God in sharing his message, the people of God suffer because of it. That’s on me. This wasn’t a good sermon, yet there’s something to be learned from every message. Either way, here’s what I had in my sermon journal the night of the message:

Sermon Notes

Intro

  • 3 married pastors joke
  • Most of us navigate the faith-space a lot like romantic relationships.

Relationship Research

  • If you Google relationship studies, there’s tons about people having difficulty with commitment.
  • For instance, one study showed

“that cellphone snooping partially mediates the significant relationship between emotional instability, intention to break up, and conflicts.”

Influence of Lack of Trust on Romantic Relationship Problems by Abdulgaffar O. Arikewuyo, Kayode K. Eluwole; Bahire Özad
  • They also concluded that “lack of trust is a significant predictor of romantic relationship problems.”
  • Then again, other studies may have a solution for us.
  • In the study called “Who are “We?”,” they introduced a construct named couple identity clarity.
  • Basically, “an individual… believes that the two of them know who they are as a couple.”
  • The study concluded that this construct is directly associated with:
    • higher commitment above and beyond agreement
    • reduced likelihood of relationship dissolution
    • successful conflict resolution
  • Bottom-line: when people trust they know where things are at and that leads to relationships persisting.

Relating To God

  • Do we have couple identity clarity in our relationship with God?
  • Let’s see what Scripture says.

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself to me.”

Galatians 2:20 (NLT)
  • Paul shows how relating to God is like a romantic relationship in that there is this desire to give as a sign of love.
  • Again, in reference to Adam and Eve (i.e. marriage), Paul writes

“man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way of Christ and the church are one.”

Ephesians 5:31-32 (NLT)
  • For us as believers, this couple identity clarity construct can help us in our own relationships with God.
  • A few takeaways: be one, be open, and be optimistic.

Outro

  • To be one is to remain with God.
  • To be open is to communicate with God.
  • To be optimistic is to have joy with God.
  • The grace process all boils down to trust.
    • How do we trust God?
  • In faith and humility, we can trust God in the grace process.

Final Thoughts

This wasn’t even close to my best messages. It’s odd how I see my own arrogance now that I’m dating someone (who’s amazing) and how even just a matter of months ago I wrestled with relational intimacy, which slanted my view of relationships. How bent my perspective was and off I was sharing this message.

There’s nuggets of good here, but this was a great example of what not to do. For my next sermon, I took a more subdued approach and that eventually led to me adopting the standard Reunion Church method of preaching. Here I learned 2 main things: I needed a heart check and my sermon structure sucked.

In the coming months, I have worked on those things with what I think has been very successful. I mean, I’ve got a girlfriend now and my sermons don’t suck. What more could an up and coming pastor want? With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/

Grace Talk: Who is the Holy Spirit? | 10-17-2021

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 12/23/2021

For a guy like me who is wired to love those heady knowledge-based sermons, this was a tough one to crack and figure out. As a part of the Grace Talk series from Reunion Church, this message was geared towards the role of the Holy Spirit in the grace process itself. How is the Holy Spirit himself involved in how we access grace? What does that relationship look like? This sermon was meant to answer those sorts of questions before we went into our hour of small groups.

Although from that premise, it should’ve been straight forward and yet when it comes to the topic of the Holy Spirit it’s never straight forward. In hindsight, it was good that I taught this one because I’ve done a lot of digging into this subject several times on this blog. Like one of my more popular posts on the Christian Essentials from a while back. Either way, over the years I’ve chipped away at the mystery that is God and all encompasses that reality.

Sermon Prep

For this sermon and for the sake of my audience, I had to take the most complicated idea in Christian thought which is the nature of God and break it down into a 15min message. Ha, no pressure. It’s not like making a mistake mid-message could lead the congregation to believing in blasphemy or heresy if I messed up. No big deal, right?

So how did I pull this off? Well, I flipped and paged through several super useful resources. A few of those being multiple key books:

  1. Forgotten God by Francis Chan
  2. Systematic Theology 2nd Edition by Wayne Grudem
  3. Know What You Believe by Paul E. Little
  4. Biblical Doctrine by John MacArthur & Richard Mayhue
  5. Christian Theology 6th Edition by Alistair McGrath
  6. The Mystery of the Trinity by Vern S. Poythress
  7. Essential Truths of the Christian Faith by R. C. Sproul
  8. The Forgotten Trinity by James White

Now that’s not even mentioning my online research either, but we don’t have time to discuss every footnote in my sermon. The point is I binged on understanding the Holy Spirit, so that my audience could get some key soundbites about him for the Sunday night discussion. My aim was to condense hours of prayer and study into key truths that could be shared in seconds.

I think I did fairly well, but the outcome is always up to God and his audience. I’m just the temporary bridge between both when I’m up there. Regardless of all of that background, here’s what I eventually came up with that night jotted down in my sermon journal:

Sermon Notes

Intro

  • Recap last week
  • Focus on who is the Holy Spirit and how he initiates grace.

Fax Machine Story

  • New job at Staples
  • Fax bank info to boss
  • Sandy prints floor plans for Texas Longhorns
  • Jake faxes info for me.
  • No matter how much I tried, I just couldn’t get it.

The Trinity Explained

  • God’s nature is similar to a fax machine.
    • If you think you know everything about God, then you probably don’t know much.
  • Here’s what we know (2):

1) God is three persons.

2) Each person is fully God.

3) There is one God.

  • God is greater than us in every way.
    • Here’s a quote of God describing himself:

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (3).”

  • Even though God is beyond us in scope, the Spirit of God is the soul of the church.

“The fact that the Spirit indwells all believers, and provides the ground of our supernatural unity, results in true Christian fellowship-a sharing that knows no bounds (4).” – James White

  • God’s triune nature is the mystery of unity. Likewise, the church is the same.

Car Story

  • When it comes to money, I’m a hard-core saver and hate spending money.
  • Ben knows how to do the work, so that the car runs smoothly.
  • Like Ben when it comes to cars, God the Spirit does the work because he knows best and we just enjoy the benefits of grace.

The Holy Spirit Powers Grace

  • To understand the Holy Spirit, it’s best to know what he does.
  • In the grace process God the Father compels us to fascination (i.e. Head + Wonder), God the Son compels us to compassion (i.e. Heart + Will), and God the Spirit compels us to action (i.e. Hands + Works).
  • Grace is powered by the Spirit of God and leads to spiritual formation in our lives.

“Through the Holy Spirit we come to know Christ, and by the Holy Spirit’s power we live and grow in Christ, in the service of the king and in the fellowship of his church (5).” – Paul E. Little

  • Unlike the law where people hide behind veils of shame, God the Spirit gives us all of his grace all the time.
  • Because God does the work, he cares more about who we are and where we are in relation to his grace.

“We focus on what God wants us to do and forget the kind of people he wants us to be (6).” – Francis Chan

  • For Christians, where we are in relation to God’s grace matters most.
  • For Non-Christians, who you are matters most to God because he doesn’t know you yet.

Outro

  • All it takes is faith and humility to access all of the Spirit of God’s grace.
  • All it takes is humility and faith to know God and be known by him.

Final Thoughts

Given what had to be covered and the extensive work put into this one, I’m quite proud of the results. For more of my thoughts on this message, make sure to check out the Reunion Church Podcast on YouTube. With that said, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. Systematic Theology 2nd Edition, P. 273
  3. Isaiah 55:9 (ESV)
  4. The Forgotten Trinity, P. 151
  5. Know What You Believe, P. 128
  6. Forgotten God, P. 148