"When Grace Ends"

Preached by on September 9, 2018
— From the series,

On July 8, 1741, in Enfield, Connecticut, a preacher stood up to deliver a sermon that has lived on for over 275 years. His name was Jonathan Edwards and his sermon is called, “Sinner in the hands of an angry God.” How much of it was accurate?

When Grace Ends

(Heb. 20:26-39)

 

Intro:

A.  On July 8, 1741 in Enfield, Connecticut, Jonathan Edwards delivered a sermon called, “Sinner in the hands of an angry God.”

B.  In that sermon Edwards said, “There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.”   He would tell his congregation that “Yea, God is a great deal more angry with great numbers that are now on earth: yea, doubtless, with many that are now in this congregation, who it may be are at ease, than he is with many of those who are now in the flames of hell.”

C.  In that sermon he called anyone who lives in sin a wicked man who deserves the fire of hell for his unrepentant life.  He would say, “You have nothing to stand upon, nor any thing to take hold of, there is nothing between you and hell but the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.”

D.  In that sermon Edwards paints one of the most graphic portraits of Hell ever preached.  He let no one walk away from that service no knowing what Hell would be like for the wicked.  Sinners in the hands of an angry God would meet an end they could not fathom, but would feel for all eternity.  Only repentance and obedience could change their fate.

 

I.  Does Grace End?

A.  Many people can quote John 3:16.  There is no doubt that the debt of sin has been paid and no further debt can be paid for sin.  But the truth is also clear that not everyone will be in heaven.  Just as real as John 3:16 so is  John 3:18

B.  Sadly, even Jesus made that clear in his Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 7:13-14, 21-23).  So if all sin has been paid for, but not everyone will be saved, that only leaves one conclusion.  Unless you and I respond to God’s love the way God tells us, we leave ourselves outside of the grace of God.

C.  Hell is just a real as Heaven.  Yet it is that second set of verses were a little scary.  “Not everyone who says Lord, Lord…?”  Is it possible that a person who has once come to know God could find themselves no longer cleansed by the blood of Jesus?

D.  The Hebrew writer paints a picture to Christian people that we don’t like to hear and don’t fully understand.  The text that was read to us is as frightening as what the writer already said in Heb. 6.

E.  Being saved is God’s gift of grace, but God calls us to a covenant relationship.  Just as the Jews of old broke their covenant with God and a new covenant was given to all mankind, so we too must live faithfully in our covenant relationship through Jesus.

F.  John would confirm the words we heard in Hebrews by saying, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:6).

G.  So we come to our text, soberly, hearing a message that wants to wake us from our spiritual slumber and help us to realize that our sin not only grieves the Holy Spirit but can extinguish His flame within us.

 

II.  The Great Warning

A.  Read Heb. 10:26-27.  The phrase “go on sinning” means a continuation in something, in this case, sin.  We are not talking about a person who is struggle in a sin and striving to repent.  We are not talking about an addict who falls.  We are talking about a Christian who leads a life of continual and deliberate sin.

B.  What does that mean?  Look at verse 29.  What you find is a person who was once saved but now has chosen to live in cognitive defiance – they “spurn” Jesus, they “profane” the blood of the covenant and “outrage” the Spirit of grace.  That’s a thought out and intentional lifestyle, not a Christian who is struggling, failing, and wandering off into the far country.  Be honest to the text when dealing with this issue.

C.  I want you to also understand how difficult it is for you, or an entire congregation, to determine exactly when that happens.  The great thing is we don’t have to.  The writer makes it clear that vengeance, spiritual retribution, belongs solely with God.  You can arrogantly tell people where to go in your anger, but you have no power to send anyone there.  You are not God, be careful about taking the role of judge.

D.  As Jonathan Edwards so eloquently stated, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

 

Conclusion:

A.  All this begs the question, “Why this warning?”  The writer is not telling these specific readers they are lost.  In fact, I listen to hear the remainder of this text. (vs. 32-39)

B.  Isn’t verse 39 worth underlining in your Bible?  It may be time to step up your spiritual relationship God.  I believe the writer is calling all of us to take hold of the grace of God and live lives that are wrapped in worship and community.  We have seen the calling to live by faith and next week we will look at example of those have.

C.  So where are you today?  The fact that you are here tells me you are not one who desires to live in defiance of God’s love and mercy.  But maybe you do need to make some changes.  Repentance isn’t just something that brings us to Jesus; it is something we do throughout our Christian journey.  We change as the Spirit of God reveals to us more and more truth.  I hope you continue to grow in your faith.

D.  If you are need of God’s saving grace or this community of faith’s love and prayer, then come as we stand and sing.