“Because of God’s Grace, the Past isn’t Present.” by Dr. John Seay

May 4, 2015 by  
Filed under Sermons

John Seay is the pastor of Frederick Baptist Church in Frederick, Maryland.

Early in his ministry, Dr. Harry Ironside was living in the San Francisco Bay area. One evening
as he was walking through the city, he came upon a group of workers, holding a street meeting on the
corner of Market and Grand Avenues. When they recognized Ironside, they asked if he would give
his testimony. So he did, telling how God had saved him, through faith, and the bodily death, burial
and literal resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As he spoke, Ironside noticed that on the edge of the crowd there was a well-dressed man
who had taken a card from his pocket and written something on it. As Ironside finished, the man
came forward, lifted his hat and very politely handed Ironside the card.
On one side was his name, which Ironside immediately recognized as one of the early socialists
who had made a name for himself lecturing, not only for socialism, but also against Christianity.

On the other side he read, “Sir, I challenge you to debate with me, ‘Agnosticism vs. Christianity’ in the
Academy of Science Hall, next Sunday afternoon at 4 o’clock. I will pay all expenses.” Agnosticism
is a philosophy that no one can know whether there is truth, or not. There’s no way anyone can know
whether there is a God. They would be self-proclaimed infidels. They don’t believe you can know
one way or another.

Ironside read the card aloud and then replied, “I’m very much interested in this challenge.
Frankly, I am already scheduled for another meeting next Lord’s Day afternoon at 3 o’clock, but I think
it will be possible for me to get through with that in time to reach the Academy of Science Hall by 4.
Or, if necessary, I would arrange to have another speaker to substitute for me at the meeting already
advertised. Therefore, I will be glad to agree to this debate on the following conditions. Namely that,
in order to prove that this gentleman has something worth debating about, he will promise to bring
with him to the lecture hall, next Sunday, two people, whose qualifications I will give in a moment, as
proof that agnosticism is of real value in changing human lives and building true character.”

“First, he must promise to bring with him one man who was for years, what we commonly call,
“a down and outer.” I am not particular as to the exact nature of the sins that had wrecked his life and
made him an outcast from society. Whether a drunkard, or criminal of some kind, or a victim of his
sensual appetite, but a man who, for years, was under the power of evil habit from which he could not
deliver himself, but who on some occasion entered one of this man’s meetings and heard his glorification
of agnosticism and his denunciations of the Bible and Christianity and whose heart and mind,
as he listened to such an address, were so deeply stirred that he went away from that meeting, saying,
‘Henceforth, I, too, am an agnostic!’ and as a result of believing that particular philosophy, found
that a new power had come into his life. The sins he once loved, now he now hates. Righteousness
and goodness are now the ideals of his life. He is now an entirely new man, a credit to himself, and
an asset to society, all because he is an agnostic.”

“Secondly,” he said, “I would like my opponent to promise to bring with him one woman. I think
he may have more difficulty in finding the woman than the man, who was once a poor, wretched,
characterless outcast. The slave of evil passions, and the victim of man’s corrupt living. Perhaps one
who had lived for years in some evil resort, utterly lost, ruined and wretched because of her life of sin.
But this woman also entered a hall where this man was loudly proclaiming his agnosticism and ridiculing
the message of the Holy Scriptures and as she listened, hope was born in her heart and she said,
‘This is just what I need to deliver me from the slavery of sin.’ She followed the teaching and became
an intelligent agnostic, or infidel. As a result, her whole being revolted against the degradation of the
life that she had been living. She fled from the den of iniquity where she had been held captive for so
long. Today, rehabilitated, she has won her way back to an honored position in society, and is living a
clean, virtuous, happy life, all because she is an agnostic.”

“Now,” he said, addressing the man who had presented him with his card and the challenge, “if
you will promise to bring these two people with you as examples of what agnosticism can do, I will
promise to meet you at the Academy of Science Hall at 4 o’clock next Sunday. I will bring with me, at
the very least, 100 men and women who for years lived in just such sinful degradation as I have tried
to depict, but who have been gloriously saved through believing the Gospel which you ridicule. I will
have these men and women with me on the platform as witnesses to the miraculous saving power of
Jesus Christ, and as present-day proof of the truth of the Bible.”

Dr. Ironside then turned to the Salvation Army Captain, a girl, and asked her if she could find a
few people like he had instructed the agnostic to find. She exclaimed with enthusiasm, “We could
give you 40, at least, just from this one group, and we will give you a brass band to lead the procession!”

Dr. Ironside then turned to the agnostic and told him, “Now, sir! I will have no difficulty picking
up 60 others from the various missions, gospel halls and evangelical churches of the city. So, if you
will promise to bring two, just two such exhibits as I described, I will come marching in at head of such
a procession, with the band playing, ‘Onward Christian Soldiers,’ with 100 people behind me and I will
be ready for the debate!”

Apparently the man who had made the challenge had some sense of humor, for he smiled
wryly, waved his hand in a deprecating kind of way as if to say, “Nothing doing!” and then edged out
of the crowd while the bystanders applauded Ironside and the others.

Of course I give that story as an illustration of what the Mercy and Grace of our Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ is all about. How He can take people from the farthest reaches of sin, and the farthest
depravity of sin, and the farthest depths of sin and rescue them, and save them and salvage
them! But not only that, by His grace He can restore them and lift them up to positions of such unbelievable
honor that you almost forget completely, what they used to be because of what they became.

I say all this as we give you Part two of a message I began last Sunday on “Christ’s Ancestry
of Grace.” As you read through the book of Matthew, chapter one, aren’t we a little surprised that we
start out with a genealogy? Now for those of us who like to try to read through the Bible every year, if
we’re being honest, we kind of get bogged down a little bit when we come to the Chronicles, because
of all the ‘begats,’ and ‘begottens,’ and we’re thinking, “Why in the world is this in the Bible?” You
know, it’s one thing to read the Psalms and the Proverbs, and another to read the book of Chronicles,
with all of the ‘begats,’ and these names of people.

Without going into great depth, the genealogies, of course, were very important to the Jewish
culture because the Old Testament to the Jews was not only a religious book, but it was a civic book.
The Old Testament was a law that governed the land. The genealogies were important to them for
several reasons. One, of course, was that they wanted to be able to properly identify their tribe, especially
when they were taken captive and brought back, to be able to know who their ancestors
were, to know what tribe they belonged to was very important. Also for an inheritance, in who would
inherit land, it was important to know what family and tribe you belonged to. So, the Chronicles, the
genealogy, besides being hard for us to read today and think, “How can I apply that to my life?” was
important to them for those reasons.

But now, we come to the book of Matthew. This is the beginning of the Gospel. This is the first
thing we turn to when we begin to study the life of Christ. It doesn’t start out with a manger or the angels.
It starts out with begats and begottens. Now understand, Jesus claimed to be the Messiah.
From what tribe did the Messiah have to come from? Was it not the Tribe of Judah? From what specific
descendant of the Tribe of Judah did God promise He would raise up a Messiah to sit on the
throne of? Was it not King David? So, whoever the Messiah was had to legally be able to prove,
without a shadow of a doubt, that he could trace his lineage all the way back to King David.

Now, Jesus, in the book of Matthew, is presenting Himself to the Jewish audience as the King
of the Jews, the Messiah. Unfortunately, the Jews were not really ready for the Messiah, as they
should have been. But they were not looking for the Messiah in Biblical terms. The Jews, still today,
unfortunately, are in darkness. They’re so close, yet so far. They are seeking a Messiah, but they’re
not seeking forgiveness of their sins through the Messiah. They’re looking for military deliverance.
They’re looking for political deliverance. They’re looking for supremacy in the world through the Messiah
from a political standpoint. Now, one glorious day, Jesus Christ is coming again. Amen? He is
going to set His foot down on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. He is going to establish a Millennial
Kingdom which will last 1000 years. However, before He could become the King of the Jews, He
must first become the Savior of all mankind.

So, as He begins His genealogy in Matthew, chapter one, proving without a shadow of a doubt
that He is, indeed, a Son of David and has a right through His genealogy to be able to sit on the
throne as the Messiah. He also reminds us of the real reason why He came to begin with, through
His genealogy.

Now, I’m not trying to bore you with all of this background stuff, but it’ll give you a little bit of understanding.
The Jewish culture is Oriental, and Oriental cultures pay more attention to ancestors.
They keep up with ancestors and they stay a little more pure in their family lines. It’s just a big part of
the culture, especially in this time.

So, they would trace their genealogies back through the man. Very seldom was a woman ever
listed. If a woman was ever listed, there was something special about her. Whenever a woman was
listed or recognized, that was because there was something unique and noteworthy that would cause
someone to pause and say, “I wonder why she’s listed?” Maybe to do a little more research and
background check to see, why is she listed? Why is she singled out? But you very seldom will find a
lady’s name in any of the genealogies of the Eastern world. When you did, it was something very significant.

Now, when you look about this genealogy of Christ, He starts from Abraham, but He doesn’t
mention Sarah. He talks about Isaac, but He doesn’t mention Rebekah. He talks about Jacob, but
He doesn’t mention Leah. On, and on we can go. The women that you would probably expect to be
mentioned, that we would want to remember in His genealogy, were the very ones He did not. If
there were four ladies in the genealogy of Christ that you and I would think, ‘Please don’t mention
them!’ Those are the very four that He refers to.

The Bible refers to Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, in verse number 6. He refers to the wife of David, the
mother of Solomon, which was who? Bathsheba. Only four ladies are singled out in Christ’s genealogy,
here in Matthew, chapter one, the beginning of the Gospel. Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba.
Ladies and gentlemen again, we’re talking about the sinless, perfect Son of God. You would think,
when He’s presenting His genealogy, He’d want to present it in a majestic manner because He is the
King of the Jews. He’d want to polish it up.

If you and I were putting together a resume to put in for a job, I doubt that we’re going to put on
there, ‘I got fired for being lazy.’ I doubt we’re going to put in there that, ‘I got caught stealing from the
company.’ I think we’d probably lie about some things, or at least, not include some things because
we don’t want it to show up against us. In the same way, you would think that the Messiah Himself
would not want these four women to be included in the list — unless it had something to do with the
reason why He came to begin with.

Each of these women had something checkered or negatively tainted about their background.
These four ladies, being uniquely mentioned in Christ’s genealogy, are reminders of why a Perfect,
Holy, Sinless Messiah would be needed to be born among us to begin with. Do I need to remind us
of Luke19:10, where the Bible says, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which
was lost.” Mark 2:16-17, “And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and
sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and
sinners? When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the
physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but…” what? “…sinners to
repentance.”

So, from the very beginning, Jesus was making it clear. His mission was, not to be King first,
or to be Messiah first. He came to be our Savior first. “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou
shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) What
is involved with that? Mercy and Grace. Mercy, me not getting what I do deserve, because I am a
sinner. Grace, God giving to me that which I do not deserve, as I’m now His forgiven child.

We talked about Tamar last week, how her life was so disappointing. She experienced disappointment
from so many people in her life. Tamar was someone whose life almost was ruined by
other people, and then by herself. We talked about the thought that, by God’s Grace, disappointment
isn’t permanent defeat.

Today I want us to focus on another person, Rahab. I want us to realize this idea from her life,
“Because of God’s Grace, the past isn’t present.”

What do we know about Rahab? We know, number one, that she wasn’t a Jew. So, here is a
non-Jew, a Gentile, in the lineage of the Messiah. Rahab was a citizen of what city? Jericho. What
did Rahab do for an occupation? She was a harlot. That’s what she’s called in the book of Joshua.
In fact, that’s what she’s called every time she’s referred to. That’s how she made her livelihood and
what she was known for. Since God’s grace singles her out, I tend to think that maybe she was
trapped in a lifestyle and occupation that may not have been her own choosing. Perhaps she was
even crying out to the God of Israel for deliverance and mercy, seeing and hearing of his mighty displays
of miraculous power.

Well, it was time for the children of Israel to go into the Promised Land and they come across
the Jordan River. It was soon time for them to take the city of Jericho. Undoubtedly, God had been
preparing… Now, the Jews were not people of military prowess at this time. They had no trained soldiers,
few weapons to give them advantage. They’d been wandering for all of these years. They
were not men who were in shape to do battle. They were not soldiers trained to go against a fortified
city like Jericho. It was, in fact, going to require the Mighty Hand of God to deliver them.

So unbeknownst to the Jews, God had already been working behind the scenes, and paralyzing
fear had set into the hearts of the citizens of Jericho. They’d heard that the Jewish people were
on their way. The same people that God had brought out of Egypt 40 years earlier by a Mighty Hand.
The same God who sent all of the plagues, and dried up the Red Sea so they could cross over on dry
land. Then, He had the waters to recede back upon Pharaoh’s army, drowning the most powerful military
in the known world at the time. For all those years, He had been feeding and sustaining and
protecting these Jews. Now they were on their way!

You see, the people of Jericho were not afraid of the children to Israel. They were afraid of
their God! News had gotten around. They didn’t know this, but Joshua sent two spies into the land of
Jericho to spy it out and see what was going on. As they entered the city of Jericho, they began to
hear these murmurings and hear of the fears that the people had concerning the God of the children
of Israel, and that they were all going to die. Evidently, the leadership of Jericho heard that some
spies had been nosing around asking questions. So, a group of Secret Service Jericho military people
were on the lookout, trying to capture and kill them.

Now, Rahab’s life had been nothing but immorality, disgrace, shame and vileness. She was no
doubt a woman who was not respected in the community. She would probably have been someone
that most of the ladies would have been uncomfortable sitting with or having around their husband. A
woman of ill-repute, as they said in years gone by.

But we don’t know her real background. We don’t know why she got into that lifestyle. We
don’t know what happened to her as a little girl or all the details of why she chose to go into that life of
sin. Maybe it wasn’t a choice, but something she was forced into. Maybe she, as a young girl, was
put out on the streets, we don’t know. Maybe she was a young girl was going to starve to death if she
did not find a way to take care of herself. We can’t just assume that she was wicked and vile through
and through. We do not know what circumstances brought her to this point. Maybe she was abandoned
by her parents or grew up in home where there was open immorality and just became a part of
what they did. We don’t know!

But here’s what we do know by inference. She was tired of living in sin. She believed in the
miracle-working power of the God of Israel. But how could she change? She was known throughout
the community for being a harlot. Who was going to give her a second chance? If she wanted to
change, to have forgiveness and cleansing and a new start in life, who would help her? If she wanted
to turn things around, who would forgive her? Would she ever have a chance in Jericho to live a new
life, to quit living the way she was living, and find a husband who would love her for who she was, and
raise a family together, and be able to build a future together without her past being brought up constantly,
to her and to her husband and children? What hope did she have in Jericho that things would
ever be different than they now were?

Maybe years earlier, she had wanted to give up. I’m just supposing. But maybe 10 years prior
to this, she was already at the bottom, tired of sin, she didn’t know how to get out of that lifestyle.
Ladies and gentlemen, can I tell you? It’s not always as easy as it sounds to stop living those sinful
lifestyles. For a sinner without a Savior, it’s probably nigh onto impossible. Sometimes we need to
be reminded, as Christians, that not everybody that goes to those depths get there because they’re
choosing to live there. Then, they don’t always stay there because they’re enjoying it. Sometimes,
they don’t know how to escape. Then they’ve got people that are around them that’ll keep reminding
them of their failures. So they’re thinking, “What hope is there?”

Let’s just suppose that years earlier, Rahab was just tired of her lifestyle, ashamed of herself.
Every day, every week, every month and every year, maybe she’s even contemplating suicide, thinking,
“My life’s not worth living! I have no future! This is all I’ll ever be, because this is all I’ve ever
done, and, no one will ever give me a second chance.”

All of a sudden, she hears word that God’s people are coming to town, and destruction is going
to follow. Now, she really is fearful for her life. She hears about these two spies that are around and,
just by God’s Providence, she crosses paths with the spies and invites them to hide in her house. So
they take refuge in her home.

Of course, she was putting her life on the line. If she was caught giving refuge to these men,
she would be killed. Not only would she have died, but her whole family would have been wiped out
too. Many times, these places would not just punish the criminals, they’d punish their whole family as
a reminder to everyone else, don’t mess with our Law! So this was a dangerous move.

But I wonder if she was just thinking, “I wonder… I wonder if their God could love me? I wonder
if their God could forgive me? I wonder, if their God is so Powerful, if He could give me favor?”
So, she hid the two spies, and indeed, she knew what was going on. She said, “I know that your God
is going to destroy Jericho. Promise me when you come back here with the rest of Israel, that you
will spare my house, spare me and my family. Please promise you’ll not destroy us with everyone
else!”

These two spies gave their word that, “Yes, if you help us escape, when we come in, we’ll
spare you.” They said, “But we need you to leave a sign in your window to let us know it’s your home
and that’s with a scarlet thread.” They said, “Make sure all your family is inside your home, because
when we come in, anyone that’s out and about is going to be destroyed! But anyone that’s inside
your home, hiding behind that scarlet thread, will be saved.”

Listen. That sounds pretty good. Let’s get behind the scarlet thread of the Blood of Christ!
That’s the main job we have. Rahab illustrated the importance of making sure that our families are
behind the scarlet thread of the Blood of Christ.

We know the story. The children of Israel came in, proceeded to wipe out the whole city of
Jericho, saw the scarlet thread and were reminded of the promise. Joshua even heard about this.
They spared Rahab and her family. They were adopted into the children to Israel!

Now she was no longer, Rahab, the harlot. She was, Rahab, the deliverer, and the delivered.
She had a chance from this point forward to redefine her life, and to serve the true and living God.

Rahab was not only helping the spies to escape with their lives, but she was trusting their God
to help her escape her current life. Rahab would end up causing everyone to forget about what she
used to be by what she would become. See, her personal faith in God allowed her an opportunity to
outlive her failures! There are times where we need to be reminded that, when it comes to the Mercy
and Grace of God, the Lord can take us from where we were and make us into what He wants us to
be. God, in His mercy, will forgive. God, in His grace, will restore. God in His mercy will love. God in
His grace will honor.

Sometimes what happens is that the devil won’t let us forget about our past. Sometimes people
won’t let us forget about out past. Sometimes scars won’t let us forget about our past. But I think
Jesus was saying, through Rahab, that ‘He’s coming to seek and save that which is lost!’

You’ve heard me say many times at this church: A church is not a museum of the righteous.
It’s not a collection of the refined. A church ought to be a spiritual hospital that’s going out to the highways
and the hedges and compelling them to come in!

Sometimes I think we clean ourselves up and we can get ourselves polished up so much that
we forget where we came from and what God rescued us from. Please know I’m 100% for clean living.
I’m 100% for repentance from sin and living a holy life for God’s glory. But I’m telling you, sometimes
we can get to a point where we forget from whence God rescued and changed us. If not for the
Grace of God, we would still be in that sin and ruin!

But isn’t it interesting? The second woman named in the genealogy of Christ was someone
who once had been something so bad. But see the Grace of God in who He chooses and uses! It’s
not how He destroys that which is wicked, it’s how He can redeem that which is wicked! “Know ye
not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators,
nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom
of God. And such were some of you: be ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are
justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” (I Corinthians 6:9-11)

Our past may be filled with sin. Our past may even limit us. Consequences, scars, regrets
and time. These may even cause us to forfeit some opportunities, maybe some times it does. But
may I remind you? Our pasts never limit God. Let God decide how far we will go and how much He
will allow us to do for Him.

You say, “I don’t know if God can ever use me, because of what I used to be! I don’t know if
God could ever use me when I’ve done this wrong, been guilty of that sin. I don’t know if God could
ever use me, thinking about all of my failures, and my past and all of my shortcomings.” You know.
That’s not for you and me to decide. That’s for God to decide. What we need to understand is that, if
God has forgiven us, it’s forgiven! It’s washed, cleansed, gone! We need to just keep moving forward
as fast as we can and let God stop us where He wants to stop us, and serve Him right there.

Sometimes I think that we, as Christians, forget what mercy is. Turn with me to 1 Timothy,
chapter number one. I do believe that this is a problem in our churches, today, as we’re being taught
by our culture and society that man is basically good. Humanism says we’re basically good, and we
start out good and you just keep improving our external environment, and then, we’ll live up into that.
But the Bible doesn’t say that. It says, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.”
(Romans 3:10) The Bible says, “…in me… dwelleth no good thing.” (Romans 7:18) The Bible
says that we’re all sinners. I think even in our churches sometimes, the self-righteous, pious attitude
can develop if we’re not careful, where, all of a sudden, we become something special because we’ve
cleaned up. We’re something special because we now live a moral and holy life. Thank God, we live
moral and holy lives! But that doesn’t make me special. That makes me forgiven.

Do you know that the only difference between you and I, and a bum who’s waking up from a
hangover on the streets is just the Grace of God! That’s it! If it were not for the Grace of God in your
life and the Mercy of God in your life, do you and I honestly think that we pulled ourselves up by our
own bootstraps? Do we honestly think that we have the right desires inborn in us to serve God and to
please God and to love God? Have we not been keeping track of how many times we’ve had to tell
God, “I’m sorry, I won’t do it again?”

Now, let me say this to any that might be hearing this, who are struggling in sin. This church
needs to always be a place where people who are struggling in sin can come to, and be loved, and
be welcome and be helped. This is not a gathering of perfect people. One day in Heaven, there will
be a gathering of perfect or ‘perfected’ people. But church is not a gathering of perfect people! “But
by the grace of God…” Paul said, “…I am what I am:” (1 Corinthians 15:10)

But say you’re here, and you come into church every week and you feel so low and so lonely
because you know the life that you’re living and you’re trying to escape it and do better and you’re trying
to climb out of that pit. You’re not proud of everything you’ve been doing. You’re not proud of
every decision you’re making and you know better! You’ve said, “I’m sorry.” and you keep saying,
“I’m sorry.” But here you are and you’re still struggling! You wonder, “Is there any use for me in life?
Is there any future for me?” I want to say, “Yes, but let me tell you step number one, you’ve got to get
to the bottom, where you’re so sick and tired of being sick and tired!”

You’ve got to realize that you’ll never be able to get out of that lifestyle on your own. Whether
it’s alcohol. Whether it’s lust, or pornography. Whether it’s drugs. Whether it’s immorality and illicit
relationships, anything else. Nobody can ever escape any kind of addictive, sinful lifestyle on their
own. You can’t! You’ll never be able to. You can reform yourself for a week. You might be able to reform
yourself for a month. But in due time, you’ll be back to where you were, if you’re doing it on your
own. But you’ve got to get sick and tired and realize the hopelessness of it before you will ever make
a clean break and a lasting change with God’s grace.

Dear friend, please listen to me. You’ve got to come to the cross, broken and humble. No excuses.
No backdoors. No plan B’s. Just give yourself completely to the Mercy of God! Because nobody
loves you like Jesus loves you. He loves you as is! You don’t need to do one more thing
positive to gain His favor. He loves you as you are, where you are. He knows what you’re going
through. He knows what you’re battling. He knows what you’re thinking, and He loves you. He loves
you, today. Come to Him as you are and you’ll find forgiveness and mercy. Then, trust in Him! One
step at a time. You’ll experience His Grace!

Think about Rahab. People that knew her in Israel would not have believed the report of what
she used to be. She became such a godly woman. I mean, she’s in the genealogy of Jesus! She’s
in Hebrews, chapter 11, the Hall of Faith. C’mon. If I could say which two chapters of Bible would I
like to appear in? Give me Matthew 1 and Hebrews 11! I mean, Hebrews 11 is the Hall of Faith! All
the great, greats of Christianity and God’s people are listed in Hebrews 11 and guess who’s in there?
Rahab!!

You see, God isn’t interested in what you can make of yourself. He’s interested in what He can
make of you. But He needs us to be broken. Do you know why Rahab was such good material? Because
she was a nothing and she knew it. She was a sinner and she knew it. She was broken and
she knew it! She was completely broken, in 1000 pieces and the world would say that her life was
over. Jesus would say, “I’m just getting started with this one!” Because He knows how to put it back
together.

You’ve got to remember that Jesus Christ has the puzzle box top for all of our lives. Did you
ever try to put together a big puzzle without the puzzle box top? You can’t do it! The pieces don’t fit
right. You think it’s the sky on the left side. It’s supposed to be on the right side, so that you have
clouds and grass and field. You need the puzzle box top! You need the master picture. Otherwise,
you’ll be forcing pieces together that don’t belong and it won’t be a perfect rectangle. It might look
okay to you, but if it’s not the right piece in the right place, it’s being forced and it’s wrong.

Do you know Who owns the puzzle box top to Rahab’s life and Who has a puzzle box top to
Tamar’s life? It’s the same God with a puzzle box top to your life and mine. But He needs us to be in
broken pieces, and allow Him to put the pieces together according to His wisdom. Now, we don’t
have to be in that kind of sin and living that kind of life to be in broken pieces. It is better if don’t allow
myself to go so deep in despair before I give Him the pieces.

But in 1 Timothy 1:12, this is Paul the apostle, the great church leader. He said, “And I thank
Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me…” That’s grace. He enabled me. He helped me.
Oh, He gave me strength when I didn’t have any strength, He gave me His strength. When I had no
hope, He gave me His Hope. When I had run out of dreams, He gave me dreams! “…who hath enabled
me, for that he counted me…” What does it say? Spectacular? He counted me, dynamic?
He counted me, better than everyone else around me? No. Look at the simple qualification, “…faithful…”
Who cannot be faithful? “…putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer,
and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained…” here’s that beautiful word in the Bible. “…I obtained
mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding
abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of
all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world…” This is why we start out in Matthew,
chapter 1 with those four ladies in the first six verses, “…came into the world to save…” who? “…
sinners;” Now, notice what Paul says here, not, “…of who I used to be the best of.” Not, “…who I
used to be the leader of.” He never forgot what Christ found when He got him. “…of whom I am
chief.” “I am chief.” Paul identifies himself as the chief of sinners.

My first challenge is to those here today that might feel like you are unworthy. Don’t ever lose
that, because you’re not, nor am I. We’re not worthy. But God’s blessings are never dependent upon
our worthiness, but our faithfulness to be broken and humble before Him. He can then take you from
where you are and take you to where you need to be if you’ll just simply come to the Cross as you are
and trust in the Lord to accept you for who you are. But He’ll take you to where He wants you to be.
His mercy and His grace are enough.

But here’s my last challenge. Where does the shout go after being saved for 10 years?
Where do the tears go after being saved for 15 years? Where does the brokenness go after being
saved and cleaned up after a while?

Now, it’s not supposed to be this way, and it shouldn’t be, but in my experience, unfortunately,
the most fervent Christians that typically I have come across are those who have been rescued from
a life of sin. The Christians who shout the loudest, that smile the most, that can shed a tear the
quickest, that can use the altar, who are the most sensitive to the Holy Spirit, that have a heart for
souls that’s unquenchable, who have a desire to sacrifice and be used and serve God, more times
than not they are going to be those who have been rescued from a life of wicked sin! When I’m saying
sin, I’m talking about way out there!

I can’t tell you how many Christians that I know that are being used of God to win souls to
Christ every week who once were into drugs, and alcohol, and immorality. They’re now the front row
people in their churches. They’re the first to go soulwinning. They’re the first to be at the prayer
meeting. They’re the ones that cry as they sing “Amazing Grace.” They’re the ones that say amen
when something is worth saying amen to. They’re the ones that bring joy and gladness and they
bring the sacrifice of their service.

What about those who were raised in church, whose parents protected them from wickedness
and taught them the Gospel and how to be saved at a young age? Why does it seem that many
times they aren’t thankful and sold out to God?

Now, it’s a shame that it’s this way, but most of the time, those who have the most outward joy
for the Lord are those who come from the most broken background! Typically the most critical Christians
that I know, the most hardened in their disposition that I know, the most pious in their actions
that I know are those that don’t ever really feel like they’ve been rescued from anything.

How do you live a new life when you think your old life isn’t bad? I’ve wondered that. I’ve
been burdened for our children, as we’ve been raising them. My upbringing is so different than theirs.
I was rescued from a different type of life, from the other side of the tracks, in my upbringing. I wasn’t
raised in church. I know what it’s like to be in a tavern at 3 o’clock in the morning, sleeping on the
floor with another kid because my stepdad and my other parent are drunk. We have been taken
home by neighbors and piled into the house. I know what it’s like for people to laugh at us because of
who my stepdad was. He was the area drunk, and I remember what that was like. I know what it’s
like to always be on the other side of the tracks.

I’m not seeking pity, but I know what that’s like. I know what it’s like to not have a life of restraints,
to be able to do anything I want to do, when I want to do it, how I want to do it. I know what
it’s like to have a home where Jesus is never mentioned, unless it’s a cussword. Where God’s Name
is never mentioned, unless it’s a curse word. I know what that’s like. I know what it’s like to never
have prayer at our table. Never one time, growing up, did we ever have family prayer. Never once.
We never had Bible studies in our home. The phrase, “I love you” was hardly ever mentioned in our
home. Hollering, yelling, fighting and carrying on is all I can remember from much of my childhood.

The church that I was going to didn’t care for us very much because we didn’t fit in. There was
only one church in the community and it was pretty much a church where people dressed pretty nice
for church. I didn’t have any dress clothes. I got my first pair of dress shoes when I was 18 years
old. I got my first tie when I was 18. I remember feeling ashamed of myself many times, going to
church, because everybody else looked so nice and we always looked so bad.

But I remember when I was twelve, hearing that Jesus loved me. I remember hearing that He
loved me as much as He loved those other kids that I was going to church with. I remember my aunt
and uncle came and told us about the Gospel and I got to wondering, “Does He love me as much as
He loves Lance, whose mom and dad bring him to church and they sit together as a family? Does he
love me as much as He loves Holly whose mom and dad bring her to church every week?”

For the first time, it was the news I needed to hear and it was Good News! That Jesus loved
me for where I was and who I was! Oh! I heard about Mercy and I heard about Grace and it sounded
too good to be true. Do you mean that I could have Heaven as my Home? God will love me for who I
am. I mean, He will love me this way?

I remember, as a 12 year old boy, when I trusted Jesus Christ as my Savior. I was not joining
a church or getting religion. I was not doing it to be accepted. I needed to have Heaven as my
Home. I found out that Jesus loved me and, as a 12 year old boy, I trusted Jesus Christ as my Savior
and He became my God! Oh, I was so happy. Bells began to go off in my life as I began to feel love
like I’ve never been loved before. I couldn’t believe it, that God would love me, as somebody who felt
so unworthy to be loved that way.

I remember, all of a sudden, I dug out my Bible. It wasn’t the Bible that I have today, but it was
the only Bible that I had. I remember, as a teenager in that home, without having a Bible-believing
church to go to, reading my Bible every day. As a teenager, without a mom and dad who were saved,
without a Bible-believing church to go to, but because I knew Jesus loved me, I read through my Bible
two whole times as a teenager.

Boy, I remember when I went to a Bible-believing church for the first time in my life six years
later. For six years I was saved, but without a Bible-believing church anywhere nearby. You wonder
why your pastor is so big on the Bus Ministry. I know what a lot of those kids go through every night.
Oh, I would have loved to have a bus or a van to come by my house and bring me to church. Oh,
how I would have needed that.

I remember when I gave my life to the Lord and God called me to preach. There were other
young men in that church with parents who were deacons and were well-established. I mean, I was
still rough on the edges. I was not the who’s who of our church. I was not the most likely to become
a pastor in our church. It wasn’t a big church, but I was definitely not the most likely. I couldn’t believe
it. I didn’t know any doctrine. I didn’t know how to put together an outline. I mean, God had
called me to preach and I didn’t have any idea how to preach! I didn’t know what a Seminary was.
People would ask when I’d tell them I was called to preach, “Are you going to Seminary?” I thought,
“Is that like a bakery or something?” I didn’t know what that was!

The first time I preached, I didn’t use an outline. I just got up there and just ‘wung it!’ That’s a
Seay-word, so put that in your dictionary. I didn’t know. I failed, miserably, my first time.

I remember having a key member of that church go to the pastor and try to talk me out of being
in the ministry. I heard about that and my heart broke, because I wasn’t worthy. I remember being
shunned by others in the church because I still was rough on the edges. I had to get to a point where
it was, “God, You called me to do this thing. I think You made a mistake, personally, God. There are
a lot of people in this church that think You made a mistake, too. You’re going to have to help me.”

This last July I completed my 24th year in full-time ministry. Twenty-four years in full-time ministry.
Oh! I don’t ever want to forget where I came from! I don’t care how big our church gets. I don’t
care how many people start coming. Listen, it’s not about the size of our ministry. It’s not about who
knows us and who we know. It’s about the Grace of God! It’s about the Mercy of God! I don’t ever
want to forget where He brought me from. I don’t ever want to forget the days where I didn’t even
know what an outline was. I don’t ever want to forget the days where I had to pray, and pray, and
pray and pray just for a 15 minute message.

You know, sometimes we can forget what God got when He got us and we can miss seeing the
mercy that we experienced. How do you live a new life when the old life doesn’t seem so bad? Just
be thankful to God, number one, that it never got that bad! The same Power of God that will pull
somebody up out of that pit will prevent somebody from going into that. It’s still the Mercy of God.
The same love that reaches down and pulls someone out of something so bad is the same love that
keeps somebody from getting there in the first place. The same love. In both cases, it’s the Mercy of
God.

Now, as we finish in Luke, chapter 7, look at verse number 36. “And one of the Pharisees
desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down
to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat
at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet
behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs
of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.” (Luke 7:36-38)

This is Jesus, the Son of God. Oh, to be able to be her. Oh, aren’t you jealous of that privilege
to show love and honor to Jesus and be close to Him? Oh, how I’d love to have been that lady. That
alabaster box full of ointment which she put on him cost about a year’s worth her wages. “Now
when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying…” The Pharisee
said this, “…This Man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of
woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. And Jesus answering said unto him,
Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. There was a certain
creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And
when they had nothing to pay…” (Luke 7:39-42)

Notice, neither of them have anything to pay. They’re both broke. One’s a little more broke
and owes more than the other, but they’re both broke! Guess where both of them are going to go if
they don’t pay their debt. Both of them are going to jail. Even though one owes 500 and one owes
50, they both were broke, and they both owed a debt they could not pay! In the eyes of their creditor
they were both equally guilty of owing money, though one owed more, but they both owed more than
they could pay. “…and when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both.” (Luke
7:42)

It didn’t take any less forgiveness for the man who owed 50 than it did for the 500. It didn’t
take more for the 500 than it did for the 50! The same amount of forgiveness was required for the
debt of 500 as was required for the debt of 50.

Now, here’s the sad part. “…Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?” Now,
this is not the way it should be, but this is, unfortunately, the way it is. “Simon answered and said, I
suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.
And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into
thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and
wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the
time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but his
woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are
many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven…” Isn’t it sad? This is not
the way it’s supposed to be. He’s describing, unfortunately, what is, most times, the case. “…the
same loveth little.” (Luke 7:42-47)

I think Jesus is reminding us, even in His genealogy, of this truth. Those who are forgiven of
the most are usually the ones who love Him the most. I mean, He starts out with Tamar, then Rahab,
Ruth and Bathsheba! They’re four ladies who don’t seem to belong, and someone would say, “No,
don’t put them in Christ’s Genealogy!” Why? “They’re sinners!”

Christ says, “Oh, no, no, no, no. Put them in My genealogy because they all got saved and
forgiven and became people of honor! I want the world to know what I can do with people who are
way over here in sin, if they will trust in Me, and allow My Mercy and My Grace in their life. I want
people to know, not what they once were, but what, by the Grace of God, they can become.” Thus,
right off the bat, in Matthew, chapter one, we have Christ’s Ancestry of Grace.

Where are you at? Has it been so long since we’ve been saved that we’ve forgotten what He
found when He got us? Has it been so long since we really understood how much Grace and Mercy
we required? Has it been so long since we stopped to understand what the Grace of God is doing in
our lives right now? Let us appreciate God’s Mercy. Let us appreciate God’s Grace. Because of His
grace, the past is not the present.

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