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The Bible

3) Grace

Audience: Awana Scholarship Camp, grade 6-12 who know the Bible really well
Goal: They will understand that the attitude, "I'll do it alone" or "I don't need God" pushes Him away and they will turn to faith.
Props: 2x10 Plank, secured. Cardboard castle cutouts

Introduction and Review
Tomorrow night I am going to tell you about a time when I pushed God away but tonight we need to talk about why we do stuff like that. And I do not just mean when we were non-Christians but also how we push God away even now as Christians. What we will discover that it comes down to an attitude of "I'll do it myself" where really we should have an attitude of open arms that accepts God's grace - His undeserved gifts.

I have said that if we are going to grow spiritually then we need to be hungry for God and desperately want to know Him. So last night I sought to expand your view of God, to help you think of Him in a deeper way most importantly to see Him as a God who loves you passionately. Tonight I want to talk about how to enter into that deep relationship but there is something within us that pushes Him away.

For me I thought there was something else out there, that I might be missing something. As I talked about last night I had too small of a view of God and I had a hard time accepting that He loved me. So I tried to push Him away so I could live my life on my own. And it is that pushing away of God and trying to live our life on our own that I want to talk about tonight, but first, let us pray.

O God, there is something within us that pushes you away
Something that says, "I'll do it myself"
and "I don't need You"
But we do need You God,
that is why we are here tonight.
God forgive us for pushing you away
Forgive us for trying to live without you
Or putting You in the closet.

Rescue us, O God, from our stubborn self
Come save us Lord
Our hearts longing is for You

Pain in the world
Have you ever noticed how much pain there is in the world? I remember once for a class I had to go to the mall and sit for an hour and watch people go by as I looked for signs of suffering and the persistence of hope. I saw this lady walk by and she headed down to one end of the mall. Her head was hanging low and things just did not look right. Not long after she walked past me again, and then again. Sometimes she would stop and look at a new shirt on the rack, perhaps hoping it would make her feel better.

I saw a lot of people that day. In fact I've seen a lot of people in my life and I would guess you have to. I wonder when you walk down the isles of your school what do you see? Sometimes people come with their hair all crazy and their clothes in the lattest fad as if to say, "Someone please notice me, someone please care." There's that kid down the hall who is taking his first dose of drugs, desperately hoping his friends will accept him. There is the girl who is flirting with all the boys hoping they will love the skin she hates. Do you see that person hiding in the corner of the library, his parents just broke up, her friend just died. And in some schools people walk in with guns and they begin to shoot everyone. Why??

"My life is hell", she says with tears running down her eyes. And she is partly right

Hell on Earth, source of suffering
Some people struggle with the idea of hell. I just look around me and I do not have a problem believing in hell. Hell is a place without God. When a murderer chooses not to follow God and kills someone, that is hell. When a drunk gets in a car and drives down the road, that is hell. When a person comes home from 40 years of work and is left empty because it never filled the God shaped vacuum in their soul, it is hell. Whenever people choose not to have God in their life it is hell because hell is where God is absent.

Some people wonder why there is suffering on earth. Some say it is God's fault but over time I have come to see it is our fault. I don't mean that when I get sick that I did something to cause it what I mean is that all of us together have made this world what it is and since we all live in this world we get sick and go through all the rotten things that we keep adding to our world each day. It is because people have chosen not to follow God and that turns this world that God has said is good into a hell as we ever-increasingly cast Him out of our life. And good people suffer because they live in this world where we all make choices.

It is saying, "I don't need You!"
Whenever we raise our fist at God and say, "I don't need You! I am going to live my life on my own" we are creating a hell on Earth. That is what Adam and Eve did when they took the fruit in the garden. They were saying that they don't need to live under God's authority, that God was holding back on them, that they should do it on their own. And then look at all the pain that has caused in the Earth. It is not God's fault, it is our fault. We as humanity are the ones who walked away from God.

It is as if at one time we were walking close to God and we had that intimacy we now long for and then we said "I don't need You God, I'll do it on my own!" People still say that today. And a huge gap now separates us from God.

Fortunately, this is not the real hell for God is still present in our world today, there is still hope. In fact, God is actively involved in our world opposing the forces of darkness and bringing in His Kingdom of light. Not only is it partly true when people say, "I am going through hell" but it is also partly true when people say, "I am in heaven" because God is still involved in this world.

This world is neither heaven or hell
But this world is not heaven and neither is it truly hell. God is still present here with us and people still choose to follow God in some ways. Yet a day will come when God shall give us what we wanted. To those who wanted to follow God and believed in Jesus to forgive them for all their sins they shall have their wildest dream - an entire eternity to follow the God they love so much! To those who did not want God to be a part of their life, even the good people who just wanted to do it on their own, to those who never trusted God (even those who wanted Heaven but tried to earn it themselves) they shall get what they wanted, an eternity where they do not need God and they can have their own way. As we have already discussed, our own way apart from God results in pain and so our own way completely would result in complete pain, an eternal hell.

But notice what it is that causes hell and all this pain in the world. Hell is saying "No" to God. It is trying to it on one's own. Over here we had an awesome relationship with God and we lived in His Kingdom and under His reign. But we did not like that, we wanted to be our own boss and to live our own lives so we went away and tried to establish our own kingdom of rebellion, even though God owns all that land too. In this Kingdom of rebellion the national anthem is "I'll do it on my own" and the flag that flies says "ME"

Some people are really good but they just don't want God as a crutch, need a stretcher
And we are not just talking about the people we often consider to be bad but even people who are really quite nice are over here on this side. I tell you I have met the nicest people in this world who would give you the shirt off their back if you needed it and put the average Christian to shame but even still they want nothing to do with God. They are not even hostile to God and might even believe in a god but this idea of a one true God on whom they must depend they just do not like. They call it a crutch. No, it is not a crutch it is a full-out stretcher because with a crutch you are just saying you are weak but with a stretcher you are saying you are helpless and can do absolutely nothing to save yourself. And this is an incredible insult to everyone in the kingdom of rebellion because it goes against everything they stand for, "I can do it on my own"

Try to make themselves right with God "on their own" -> religions
So they stand on the edge of the cliff and say, "I'm going to get right with God." So they go to Church every week, they read the Bible every day, they help the poor and they do everything they can to earn God's approval. But this does not deal with the original problem. It is not a matter of balancing the scales and being more good then evil it is a matter of having absolutely nothing evil in you. That is why there are so many religions in the world. People have been trying to make a way to be made right with God. But it won't work. Why? Well heaven is a perfect place.

Like having muddy boots, need to get cleaned up first
When I was a boy I used to come in the house and start looking for my mom. I would come in and start yelling for her as loud as I could. Boy was she ever mad though when she saw me because do you know what I would do. I would be outside stomping through the mud in my big old gum boots and then trek right through her newly cleaned house right up to where she was.

Heaven is a perfect place, if you want to get there you gotta get rid of the mud not paint it so it makes nice patterns on the golden streets.

So you can't boast Eph 2:8,9
And so people stand on the edge and they want to be made right with God and they try to jump over on their own strength but they can't make it.

It is the same old problem, they are trying to do it on their own. Could you imagine if they actually succeeded. Could you hear them up there in heaven, "Oh look at me, I am so great I made it to heaven on my own!" Listen to what the Bible has to say about that, "For it is by grace [what is grace? It is an undeserved gift] you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast." (Eph 2:8,9 )

God is passionately in love with you so walked amongst us and died on the cross
But as we have already said, God is passionately in love with you. He wants you so incredibly bad that He did something no one else was able to do. God Himself came to us and He walked among us, right here amidst all the dirt and pain. He started driving out the kingdom of darkness and brought in His Kingdom of light. And we took Him and we beat Him and we nailed Him to a cross and we watched Him die.

But His death was not just an ordinary death because on the cross He took all the things we grieve over and say, "I wish I had never done that" those things that seperated us from Him. He takes them all and He puts them on the cross. He dies in our place. He takes off all our filthy rags and He gives us His own garment of righteousness. Now we can stand completely perfect because we are covered in His goodness and all the bad things are taken away and dealt with forever.

This forms a bridge which He can carry us over on
In doing this He forms a bridge and asks us to cross over. Now when I have done this in the past I ask people how to get across this bridge. Some have said, "Well you have to believe in God" This is true, but even the demons believe in God and they are still on the wrong side. "Well you have to believe that Jesus can carry you over" Okay so you believe Jesus can carry you over but you are still standing on the wrong side. Now what?

The only way to get over is to get on the back of Jesus and have Him carry us over. This means you are completely depending on Him. You can't walk over on your own. Your only hope is completely in Jesus. Now how do you do this? You have to say "Yes, I believe You can do it, carry me over now." And Jesus will pick you up and carry you across.

When you do so, your relying on God (faith) and leaving old life behind (repentance)
Now notice what is happening when you are being carried over. First of all you are leaving that old life behind. I mean that life of rebellion where you did everything on your own. You are now relying on God. This is what faith is. The whole purpose of you getting saved is so that you can live with God. It does not make any sense to me whatsoever how people can think that all salvation is about is getting fire insurance so they don't go to hell. How they think they can go on living their old life of rebellion. The reason you are getting saved is so you can be saved from something and so you can be saved to something. You are living your old life behind and you are entering into a relationship with God.

Which side are you on?
So here is the big question. Which side are you on? There are only three places you can be. The first place is way over there where a person does not even care about God and wants nothing to do with Him. Well maybe it is time to time home.

The second place is standing here right on the edge reading to get on the back of Jesus. Tonight is the night my friend.

The third is you have been picked up and carried to the other side.

Yet we still try to do it on our own
But you know what, old habits die hard. Deep within us we still have that tendency to try to do it on our own.

Over ten years ago I started a journey to live for God. When I first started out I was fighting hard against sin. I thought that if I gave it all I had that I would be able to gain some victory and beat the temptations I was faced with. Every day I read the Bible. I read through it so many times looking for the answers on how to overcome my sin. At first it was a battle, I figured if I fought hard enough I would be able to beat it. But that is really no different than standing on the other side of the gap and saying, "I'll do it on my own!"

In the end this led to legalism. I was trying to be a good Christian on my own strength. So I had a whole bunch of rules I had to keep. I became bogged down with so many expectations that I had of myself I could hardly be myself. For some reason I thought I had to be serious all the time but I am not a super serious person I like to joke around and have fun. I tried to read my Bible everyday but to be honest many days passed when I could hardly remember what I was reading. I was not seeking God I was seeking His approval, something I already had. I began to watch how I was using my time and found myself starting to judge others for wasting theirs. And that was the saddest part is that I started expecting the same from others and I forgot about grace. What is grace. Grace is that God loves me already and accepts me. When I blow it I don't have to prove it to God before He will forgive me. Romans 5:20 says, "But where sin increased, grace increased all the more."

This was the same time when I had a hard time accepting that God loved me. As I look back on it I wonder if I was trying to earn His acceptance. Perhaps I thought that if I was active enough in street evangelism, hospital ministry, prayer meetings, Sunday School and went to Church 6 times every Sunday that He would love me.

Over time something else began to happen. I began to fall in love with God. I found myself doing things not to earn His favor or to pay Him back or to show how sincere I was and how He really should forgive me but I started doing things simply because I love Him. In fact, over the years I have found my struggle is less against sin (not that I still don't fight it) but more for God. My heart used to cry out, "God help me overcome my sin" now it is "God, I want to know You". Interestingly, the more I get to know God the less I want to sin.

So this whole process of how we first got saved has to do with how we live out our entire life. Our struggle used to be in trying to live our lives in our own strength and saying, "I don't need God" Now our struggle is trying to live our lives in our strength and saying, "I can do it on my own". Friend you can't do it on your own. You can't make yourself more righteous, or more loved by God then you already are. The only thing you can do is accept that fact that in God's eyes you have already been made righteous through Christ and that you mean more than the world to Him. Right now, just as you are. Stop trying to earn God's love you already have it.

This is the most important thing that I can communicate with you this week. God loves you already, just the way You are. Stop trying to earn His approval, it is time to accept it.


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