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Archive for Salvation

Gospel Pie

by Danny Forrest

What’s your favorite pie?  Pecan, coconut cream, sweet potato, chocolate, lemon or maybe you would prefer a savory pie like chicken pot pie, or other meat pies. My mother made the best pecan pie that I have ever eaten.  I have her recipe that I follow meticulously, but my pecan pie still doesn’t seem to be as good as Mom’s.  I have learned that recipes are very important.  Every time I have ever veered off a good recipe to try and make it my own creation, it never seems to measure up to the original.

Good cooks oftentimes keep recipes in their head.  They follow that recipe so many times that it becomes entrenched in their memory.  My brother-in-law Joe was like that. He created dishes that I would travel from Texas to Alabama to partake in.   Joe recently passed away of a sudden and unexpected heart attack.  He was a good friend and will be missed by many.  His recipes will also be missed.  As I was preparing to deliver the eulogy at Joe’s “celebration of life” service, I thought of the very first time I met Joe almost 30 years ago.  He was dating my sister Mary, and since I was the first person from Mary’s family that he had met, he wanted to make a good impression on me.   He did what he did best, he cooked.  

The dish I remember most was Joe’s spaghetti and meat sauce.  He was meticulous with the ingredients.  My idea of spaghetti sauce usually comes from a jar but that would have been an insult to Joe.  He combined all the ingredients for the sauce and then he cooked it all day. Needless to say, Joe became my friend very quickly.  Joe and my Mom both taught me something about cooking and about life: put in the right ingredients and the outcome will be good, maybe even great.

I have discovered that God is the master at putting together the right ingredients.  Just look around at the beauty of creation.  God’s character, His eternal power, and His divine nature are seen and understood through what He has made (Romans 1:20).

When God put together the ingredients for the salvation of man, He did not get it from a jar or a can.  It wasn’t a list of impossible tasks for man to accomplish or a book of wrongs to avoid.  God’s ingredient for our salvation was Himself.  A very simple recipe, God became a man.  The only one who could satisfy a righteous, holy God was a righteous, holy God.  

The Apostle Paul called this recipe the “gospel.” Paul said in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”   The gospel is the “power of God” but the only ingredient is God Himself.   In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (15:3-4) he broke down the ingredients of the gospel:  “Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”  I reverently call this powerful recipe “gospel pie.”  

Sadly to say, not everyone likes gospel pie.  To those who reject it, the taste is bitter and just not satisfying.  Many try to improve on the recipe by adding their own ingredients.

No matter how hard I tried to improve on Mom’s pecan pie, I could not do it.  Less sugar, more sugar, more pecans, more or less Karo, it didn’t matter. I could not improve on the recipe.  Most of the time I just messed it up.  When we try to add to or take away ingredients of Gospel Pie, we just mess it up to the point that the new Gospel Pie that we create becomes ineffective with no power to save.  

How prideful we are to think that we improve on God’s Gospel by adding our pious religious rituals and traditions.  No matter how good the added ingredients are (church, baptism, service, giving), by adding anyone of them to the God’s Gospel we change the entire structure of the message.  I think many would agree that Blue Bell Butter Pecan ice cream is very good.  But what would it do to Joe’s spaghetti recipe if we dropped in a half gallon while he wasn’t looking?   It would ruin the spaghetti!  

Adding our favorite religious ingredient to God’s Gospel Pie does the same thing.  The Gospel of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is powerful and satisfying.  Most important is that God Himself is satisfied with His work.  There are just some things you cannot improve on — Mom’s pecan pie, Joe’s spaghetti, and God’s Gospel Pie to name a few.

Peter Shouts to Us

Every living thing came to be because of seed. God vividly illustrates this to us through the birds, the bees, the flowers and the trees, everyday things all around us. This is true also with the new birth. Without seed, there can be no new birth. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Unless you are born again you will not see the kingdom of God.” He was telling Nicodemus what he had to do in order to get into the kingdom of God.

The apostle Peter shed more light on what it means to be born again. He was encouraging believers to obey the truth of the Bible, love fellow believers, and keep themselves clean before God. Then he focused in on the one single act that made this possible – the new birth.

“Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the Word of God which lives and abides forever, because “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, But the word of the Lordendures forever.” And this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.”(1 Peter 1:23–25)

Let’s unpack the meaning of this passage one layer at a time.

Having been born again.

The Greek wordanagenao is a past participle of the verb “to be.”This means that Peter intended to make clear that he had made this new birth trip. What Jesus had told Nick he had to do, Peter had done.  He also assumed that his readers had been born again. Then he proceeded to explain how this birth actually happens.

Not of corruptible seed 

Peter explained first how this birth does not happen. This birth is not associated with physical human birth from our biological parents. This is what Nicodemus wrongly thought that Jesus was speaking of. The physical birthfrom Adam’s fallen seed, far from giving us life, brought death to us. Well, if this new birth does not happen from physical seed, then how does it happen?

But incorruptible(seed)

Peter plainly stated precisely how we are regenerated, or born again. We are born again with seed that has not been tarnished with death; it is living seed. What is this living seed? Recall that God allowed two seeds to pass through the Fall and not be corrupted. One was the amazing seed planted in the womb of the virgin Mary that led to the birth of our Savior, the God-Man. Jesus Christ missed the universal death seed from Adam because He was born in the spiritually sterile womb of the virgin with no human seed added. This meant that our Savoir came into the world of sinners, but He himself remained free from sin. He could then go to the cross and bear the sins of many as a free born man. The other seed is now explained.

Through the word of God

The other seed that God allowed to miss the sting of death through Adam the first was the Word of God. We are born again through the incorruptible (living) Word of Godplaced into the soil of our sinful minds. No seed, no birth!No seed, no regeneration! The seed that brings the new birth is the seed of God’s living Word.

Peter was careful to make abundantly clear the contrast between seed that is corruptible (physical and stained with death) and that which is incorruptible (spiritual and living). “Seed” is the Greek word spora,the fertilized and mature ovule of the flowering plant, which enables the species to perpetuate itself.

Now we understand why God gave us His Word. It is not the corruptible physical seed of Adam’s fallen race that produces this new birth. The Fall made this impossible. Corruptible physical seed is producing a fallen civilization that is destined to die and perish – after its kind. In contrast, God is using the imperishable seed of His Word to germinate new lives  – after its kind. What kind of seed is the Word of God? Peter was quick to add a most important component of this living seed.

Which lives and abides forever

God’s Word, like Himself, is eternal. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35).David wrote in the Psalms, “Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89-93). By the use of the words “settled in heaven,” David meant that God’s Word has been written in eternal stone; it can never change. David said that it was by God’s precepts that life came to Him. “For by them[God’s words] You have given me life”(Psalm 119:93). God’s living seed is like all seed. It produces “after its kind.” Because this seed is an eternal seed, what it germinates lasts forever. It results in a life that is eternal. Peter explained why this new birth is necessary. He quoted from Isaiah 40:6–8 to prove that this new birth is not optional, it is crucial.

All flesh is as grass

Every human being is like grass. Grass dies. Likewise, it is appointed unto man once to die and then the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

And the glory of man like the flower of grass

All that sheds light upon the human race’s amazing accomplishments in the tech world, art, medicine, military, etc. is like the flowers of grass. These achievements bring favorable attention to the genius of man and his scientific discoveries.

The grass withers and the flower fades

Both the grass and flowers will wither and die. James said that human life is like a vapor. It appears for a little while and then vanishes. All members of the human race birthed the old-fashioned way are like the grass. All are destined to wither and die. Both life and fame are fleeting. All of man’s accomplishments will wither and be gone.

But the word of God endures forever.

What a tremendous contrast! The Word of God lasts forever. Peter finally threw back the curtain, so we can view in all its amazing splendor, the very seed of God.

And this is the word which by the gospelwas preached to you.(1 Peter 1:23–25)

There can be no new birth without God’s living seed. The Word of God that gives life to the spiritually dead is God’s living seed packed as the gospel. The gospel is at the very heart of the Bible. Gospelmeans “good news.” The gospel is wonderful news beyond anything that our human minds can grasp. It is the gospel that gives life.

“Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures”(James 1:18).

 

 

Born into God’s Kingdom

There can be no birth without seed. God has given us a can’t miss over the top object lesson of the only way to get into His kingdom.  How does one get into this world after God’s creation of Adam and Eve?  One must be born into it. One cannot get into this world any other way. God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply – and fill the earth (Genesis 1:28). And they did and are continuing to do. So how does one get into God’s coming kingdom? As incredible as this may sound, one must be born into it. One must experience a new birth, a heavenly birth.   

Consider the now familiar conversation between an extremely religious and highly educated Pharisee named Nicodemus and a carpenter from Nazareth named Jesus.  It is true that familiarity may cause us to read over and miss the important meaning of some parts of this meeting. The scene opens with Nicodemus (from now on I will refer to him as Nick), a religious ruler of the Jews coming to visit Jesus for an evening chat.

Nick most likely chose to meet with this stranger at night, because as a ruler among the Jews he may have been more than just a little uncomfortable with the idea of meeting publicly with Jesus. What would people say if the two were seen together. What would Nick’s family, friends, and fellow Pharisees think?

After all, Jesus was from Nazareth, which was in this elite Pharisee’s thinking, a backwoods shanty area. Nick on the other hand was from Jerusalem, the capitol city of Judaism. Jesus was poor, a carpenter, the son of a carpenter. Nick was a wealthy aristocrat. Jesus had no religious pedigree or formal religious training of any kind. Nick was a highly decorated member of the religious establishment. To say that there was a social barrier separating them would be an understatement. It was more like a chasm.  Meeting under the cover of darkness away from any possible appearance of befriending and, perish the thought, supporting this strange character, appeared to be a wise move on Nick’s part. 

Nick broke the ice by flattering Jesus. “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher come from God, for man cannot do the signs that you do unless God is with Him” (John 3:1-2).

He called Jesus a rabbi, a teacher. It was as though Nick was conferring on Jesus some complimentary status. By his use of the words “we know,” he implied that his fellow Pharisees also recognized that Jesus was from God. The reason? No one could perform the miracles that Jesus was doing without God’s help.  This reveals that the religious establishment knew that Christ’s miracles were not fake. This was a good way to start this meeting. 

Jesus no doubt stunned the Pharisee with the very first words out of His mouth. “Most assuredly I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God”(John 3:3). To say it like many in the south, Jesus cut right to the chase. There was no recorded positive gesture on Jesus’ part to Nick’s compliment.  He did not thank Nick for his gracious words. This was not the time for politics. Jesus knew the value of this meeting – a meeting that would be reviewed and re-reviewed countless times down through history.

He knew that every word would be hashed over and over, again and again. Jesus told the very religious Pharisee that unless he experienced a new birth, he would not enter the kingdom of God. It appears at first that Jesus words were harsh and abrupt. His words were not abrupt if, in fact, Jesus knew that Nick had been thinking about God’s kingdom. How is this possible? John had just before written that Jesus had no need that anyone testify of man because He already knew what all were thinking(John 2: 24-25). Surely this included Nick. Jesus stepped right into Nick’s thoughts.

The Greek words for “born again,” are genesia anathen,or a birth that comes from above, or said another way, a heavenly birth. There may have been a sudden spike in Nick’s blood pressure. Not necessarily because of what Jesus said, but because of the fact that Jesus had read his mind.

Our Lord’s deep underlying point behind His born-again words is that a natural fleshly sinful person affected by the fall of Adam must be made a heavenly spiritual person in order to enter the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 2:14-15). 

One will never move from the realm of this human flesh and blood world into God’s spiritual unseen world without this birth. We are born into this world having a physical body.  Within our bodies God has placed an invisible soul and human spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23). The soul and spirit are the real “us” within our human frame. It is the part of us that no one can truly understand but us and God (1 Corinthians 2:11).

This human spirit is God’s image implanted within us. This invisible image remains locked in this earthly shell until we die.  One day we are destined to shed this earthly tent – this body – and be jettisoned from this earthly world to spend eternity in God’s kingdom or in hell – forever.  Our spiritual destination is determined by the truth unpacked by these powerful words of Jesus Christ. “Unless one is born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”  

Overwhelmingly implied is that one cannot earn his way to God’s kingdom by becoming a better person, or keeping God’s commands, or joining a particular religious group, or having a religious experience, or giving money to the poor, or saying prayers, or doing many wonderful works. I mention these things because being a Pharisee, keeping God’s law, was never far from Nick’s thinking. He probably loved God’s law and was depending upon that love to get him into God’s kingdom.  

Expanding further on what many have come to believe will get us into God’s kingdom are the teachings of Islam, or Buddha, or becoming a devout Hindu, or a Mormon, or a Jehovah’s Witness, or even following the example and teachings of Jesus Christ Himself.

Nor can a person get in by joining a Baptist church, a Presbyterian church, a Catholic church, a Lutheran church, an Episcopalian church, a Pentecostal church, or the Church of Christ, or any church.  One must be born of God. This is precisely what Jesus said. He never misspoke. He never said a word that He did not mean. Christians are people who become connected to Christ by a supernatural birth.

Jesus is telling this very religious person that all of his human achievements – no matter how great – will not get him into the kingdom of God. There is only one way to get in and that is through a new birth – whatever that means. 

Nick was obviously amazed by the fact that this strange man had read his thoughts, but while he was trying to mentally recover, he responded the only way he felt he could. “What, can I enter a second time into my mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4). He had no doubt heard the word’s born againloud and clear. He quickly retreated to the only birth that he knew anything about.

Our Lord, a master teacher, was not trying to confuse Nick (John 7:46). In fact, Jesus had mentioned a truth that should not have been foreign to Nick’s thinking. Jesus was challenging Nick to stop thinking earthly thoughts and to begin to think heavenly.  He said that unless one is born of water and the Spirit, one cannot see the kingdom of God. Jesus said, “Do not marvel (be amazed) that I said to you, ‘You must be born again. That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of spirit is spirit.” This should not have been incredible to Nick. He needed to leave his earthly fleshly thoughts and concentrate on heavenly spiritual things. And so must we, if we are to be born of God.  

 

 

Powerful Seed

Christians are physical people who have been made spiritual people by means of the Word of God, which lives and abides forever (1 Peter 1:23). To become a Christian, one needs neither reformation nor religion. One does not need to follow the teachings of Islam or Buddha, to become a devout Hindu, Mormon, or Jehovah’s Witness, or even to follow the example and teachings of Jesus Christ. A person does not need to become a Baptist, a Presbyterian, a Catholic, or an Episcopalian. One needs to be born of God by hearing and responding to the gospel. 

The gospel, guided by the Holy Spirit, is the only power on earth capable of infusing spiritual life into the spiritually dead. The only place on this earth where this message is found is in the Bible. This is why the Bible was given to man. This is why Paul was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ and why he called it “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

The Greek word for “power” is dunamis. It is where we get our English word “dynamite.” The gospel is the dynamite of God.

The gospel is God’s powerful seed planted by the Holy Spirit into the soil of the mind. When the Spirit germinates the seed, it results in faith in Christ and new life. The gospel has the power to break through every barrier, every objection, every human argument, and all the human rationalization that is thrown against it. The simplicity of the gospel insults both man’s intelligence and his pride. No amount of education, success, or wealth can give us a spiritual birth. Only the gospel wielded by the Holy Spirit of God can make it happen.

We have no control over God’s power to give the new birth. A great illustration of this is our human birth. God alone determined that we would have life and how and when and where this life would occur. He determined all of the various circumstances behind it. He made it happen.

The same is true with spiritual birth. The new birth involves hearing and believing the gospel. It also involves trusting in Jesus Christ, becoming connected to Christ by birth.The result is that the one believing in Christ becomes a child of God. But God does it all. God is in complete control of the whole process.

John was very clear on this. He wrote that all who receive the Lord Jesus Christ are given the authority to become children of God. He then quickly added that God’s children are born not from a physical genealogical line of human beings, as a result of human choice, or from the choice of any human father, but from the source of God alone (John 1:12–13). No power on earth or in heaven can cause God to give life or prevent Him from making it happen.

 

 

Grace in the Life of Mephibosheth

by John Howell, Jr.

2017 Glimpses of Grace Conference

This is the transcript of a message delivered by John Howell, Jr. at the 2017 Glimpses of Grace Conference.

 

 I. Introduction: How would you define “grace”?

We know from the Bible that, if you are a child of God, you are a beneficiary of something called “grace.” It is the word in our language associated with how God saves sinners, so it is a word of extreme significance. We use the word “grace” quite a bit, and we often sing out this word in our songs of praise.  Nevertheless, I am convinced we scarcely begin to understand how amazing is God’s grace. God issued forth His grace in order to save us sinners. Grace is what erupted from the cross, and flows mightily even now. Grace is what happened when God’s justice met God’s love in that sacrifice of the Lamb. “For by grace are ye saved through faith…” (Eph. 2:8).

I am quick to tell people that “grace” is my favorite word. But, I struggle to define grace in a way that describes this concept sufficiently. I know we can point to the acrostic G-R-A-C-E and say, “Grace is God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense.” We can also use the helpful word play: “Justice is getting what I deserve. Mercy is not getting what I deserve. Grace is getting what I do not deserve.” But, really, do these attempts to explain give me a rich, full definition of God’s grace.

How would you describe God’s saving grace?

There is some good news for those who truly want to understand the beauty and scope of God’s grace. In the Bible, grace is defined and “fleshed out” through real-life events and actions of real-life people (the Word of God is living and powerful! Heb. 4:12). So, to assist our limited mental reach, God has been “gracious” to show us what grace looks like, so that our hearts and minds can get a better grasp on His grace. As you study the Word, be looking for those living, breathing illustrations of this majestic attribute of God that we call “grace.”

 

II. Grace in the Life of Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9)

A pitiful existence

 Mephibosheth’s life was sad and painful until King David sought him and showered much grace into his life.

The grandson of Saul and son of Jonathan, Mephibosheth was born in a time of great conflict. King Saul lost his mind and was often on the offensive against David and men who were loyal to David. Saul was also on the defensive against Israel’s traditional enemies, the Philistines. After Saul and his son Jonathan were killed by the Philistines, a period of civil war ignited between Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Saul’s son Ish-boseth attempted to keep the throne but was assassinated. In this time of violence, Mephibosheth was a five year old boy. A nurse attempted to help the child flee the violence as Saul’s short-lived dynasty was crumbling, Mephibosheth suffered a fall which inflicted a serious injury that damaged both feet and crippled him for life.

As was prophesied, David ascended to the throne, eventually unifying Israel and Judah. Nothing is heard about Mephibosheth for many years. One can imagine that he had a bleak life, enduring a severe handicap as well as a realistic fear that he could be assassinated! In this time, descendants of a former king were usually eliminated by the new king to avoid any possibility of rebellion by those loyal to the former king. That was the code of conduct for this period. Mephibosheth, as the grandson of Saul, would never have been able to rest comfortably, and probably spent a lot of time looking over his shoulder, maybe even in hiding. As a crippled man, he was defenseless. As a descendant of Saul, Mephibosheth would also have no claim on any former property or wealth due to the downfall of the family.

So the man Mephibosheth was crippled and impoverished. As the last survivor of Saul’s family, he was always aware that he was operating on borrowed time.

Grace behind the scenes

Though Mephibosheth likely had little hope for joy and meaning in his life, there were some things that he did not know or fully understand—very important information about his daddy (Jonathan) and King David.

God in His sovereignty had knitted the hearts of David and Jonathan in a beautiful friendship when they were growing up. Despite Saul’s hatred for David, Saul’s own son, Jonathan, deeply loved David. What’s more, Jonathan respected the plan of God, which called for the leadership of Israel to shift from Saul to David. Jonathan’s loyalty to David on occasion saved David’s very life as Jonathan helped David avoid the insane violence of Saul. In return, Jonathan’s request to David was this: “If I continue to live, show me kindness from the LORD, but if I die, don’t ever withdraw your kindness from my household—not even when the LORD cuts off every one of David’s enemies from the face of the earth” (1 Samuel 20:14-15). Jonathan and David then made a covenant, centered around that request from Jonathan. Why did David do this? David made this covenant because he loved Jonathan “as he loved himself” (1 Sam. 20:17).

Years after that covenant was struck, this beautiful, godly friendship still lived in David’s heart. The kingdom had been established, and David’s enemies had indeed been “cut off” as Jonathan had prophesied. Reminiscing, David’s thoughts turned to Jonathan. “David asked, ‘Is there anyone remaining from the family of Saul I can show kindness to for Jonathan’s sake?” (2 Samuel 9:1). And then, learning that there was a remaining descendant, David turned those thoughts of love into actions of grace!

This is what grace looks like!

Through an elderly servant of Saul’s former estate (property now controlled by David, of course), David learned that Jonathan’s son Mephiboseth had survived the bloody years and now lived as an adult at Lo-Debar under the charity of a man named Machir. So David had Mephibosheth fetched from that location and brought to the king.

Don’t you know those were some anxious moments for Mephibosheth! Logically, he would have concluded that David perceived him as a potential threat. Mephibosheth probably thought that he was being summonsed to his imprisonment, or worse! Here is the scene when Mephibosheth finally arrived in Jerusalem and made his way into the very presence of the king: “Mephibosheth son of Jonathan son of Saul came to David, fell facedown, and paid homage. David said, ‘Mephibosheth!” ‘I am your servant,” he [Mephibosheth] replied” (2 Samuel 2:6).

What a scene! The poor, crippled descendent of an untrustworthy former king brought into the presence of the mighty King David. Mephibosheth’s life was in David’s hands. What was about to happen to him? This man was frightened and not hiding it. David’s first instructions to him: “Don’t be afraid.” Huh? What’s going on? David explains, “’Don’t be afraid,’” David said to him, ‘since I intend to show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan…’” (2 Sam. 9:7a).

So here is the message from David to the crippled man: “Mephibosheth, you are not in danger. You are not unwanted. Mephibosheth, I have brought you into my court to show you checed (an important Hebrew word for lovingkindness/grace) because of a covenant and a friendship I had with your father Jonathan.”

Whoa! Imagine Mephibosheth’s mind trying to process this development. But wait, there’s more! David continues, “I will restore to you all your grandfather Saul’s fields, and you will always eat meals at my table” (2 Sam. 9:7s).

Friends, this is grace. This is mind-blowing, inexplicable, beautiful grace. Mephibosheth is not hated. He is not in trouble. He is not in danger. He is now loved and protected. Mephibosheth is no longer poor and an outcast. He is now wealthy! Very wealthy! The estate and property of King Saul was now to be transferred to his ownership. Verses 9 and 10 reveal that David instructs a capable manager, Ziba (who formerly served Saul, and who also had 15 sons and 20 servants in his employ), to manage Saul’s fields on behalf of Mephibosheth,. This meant that Mephibosheth’s job would be to just pick up the check when the harvest was sold. And the icing on the cake: Mephibosheth would eat all of his meals from this point forward at the table of David and his family. David orders Ziba to carry out the work and tells him again how it all will work: “But Mephibosheth, your master’s grandson, is always to eat at my table” (2 Sam. 9:10).

This helps me to wrap my mind around the concept of grace. Grace brings off-the-charts blessings. Grace brings mysterious, humbling, unexpected outcomes. Grace actually is “getting what you don’t deserve.” If you and I can get in Mephibosheth’s mind at this point, as he digests David’s promises to him, we can get a glimpse of God’s grace. God’s grace is so amazing, so big, and so breathtaking that it takes scenes like this just to give us that glimpse.

The only proper response to grace

One key in the work of understanding God’s grace is to see just how unmerited it is and how unworthy are the recipients of His grace. Mephibosheth didn’t stick out his chest, take a big breath, and orate about the return of Saul’s glory. Mephibosheth didn’t let this stunned audience in David’s court know that it was about time that someone recognized Saul’s grandson as worthy of attention and honor. No, not all. Here is how he responded: “Mephibosheth paid homage and said, ‘What is your servant that you take an interest in a dead dog like me?” (2 Sam. 9:8).

Homage. Servant. Dead dog. Mephibosheth’s heart melted upon exposure to God’s grace. There was no response other than the proper response of brokenness and humility. There could be no label more humble or more crude than the label of a “dead dog,” especially in the culture of the Middle East.

At that moment, David didn’t respond by putting his boot on Mephibosheth’s prostrated body and say, “Boy, you got that right. I’m the grace-giver and you are nothing but a dead dog.” Instead, David just lavishes more grace as that is when he gives Ziba his instructions put his team to work for Mephibosheth’s business interests.

It’s just crazy beautiful to see grace flowing. But is also breathtakingly humiliating when God pours His grace into my life.

 

III. I am Mephibosheth

The parallels between Mephibosheth and me are spot-on. Look at this encounter in God’s Word again, and catch the truth of its application to me and to you.

A pitiful existence

Mephibosheth was in bad shape—crippled and a descendant of a disgraced dynasty. He was living a sad life and had a bleak future. Mephibosheth in this illustration from God’s Word represents me, and you. We are broken. As sinners, we are in bad shape. We come into this world spiritually dead to God. Romans 3 spells out just how bad our predicament is from the perspective of a holy God:

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one…for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:10-12, 23).

Because of our sin, we deserve death and eternal separation from the holy God who created us. As sinners, we are in bad, bad shape. You and I are Mephibosheth.

Grace behind the scenes

Thankfully, just as grace enters this chapter through the heart of King David, grace enters into our rebellious, messy world through the heart of God. Consider something very, very important that went on behind the scenes, long before we lived, before this universe was even created.

God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit put a plan into motion before the world was created whereby the Father covenanted to send the Son to come to this sinful world and to die on the cross for the sins of us all. God the Son convenanted to come, and to die this sacrificial death—the sinless lamb of God! God the Spirit covenanted to draw men, women, boys and girls to the Son. This mighty work of God is what is referred to in Hebrew 13:20 as the “blood of the everlasting covenant.” The result of this work of God is the mighty flow of something that the Word calls His grace!

This is what grace looks like

When King David saw Mephibosheth, he didn’t see a sad, crippled man from the lineage of a Saul (a guy who repeatedly tried to kill David!). Instead, when David saw Mephibosheth, he saw Jonathan, whom David dearly loved. Never once in this chapter do you hear David refer to Mephibosheth’s crippled condition. Instead, David said, “Fear not: for I will surely shew thee kindness for Jonathan thy father’s sake…” (2 Sam. 9:7a).

This is a picture of how God sees the person who is in Jesus Christ. When God looks at us, God sees His beloved Son. That is why the Bible tells us that the believer is clothed in “the garments of salvation” and covered with “the robes of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10). What a manifestation of grace! In Christ, we are not seen as sinners of the race of the first broken Adam; we are seen by God as being in the last Adam, the righteousness One, Jesus Christ.

And grace keeps getting bigger and more spellbinding the more I study the Bible. Mephibosheth sat at the king’s table, and was given possession of Saul’s important and valuable estate. Likewise, because I am in Christ, God considers me to be His adopted son. And being in Christ, I have a seat at God’s table! Always and continually! I am a child of the King! I am the recipients of spiritual blessings and power, even now. And I am the recipient of eternal blessings.

The only proper response to grace

When King David poured grace onto the life of Mephibosheth, we see Mephibosheth respond by accepting this outpouring of grace in great humility. We don’t see Mephibosheth manifest any pride. We don’t see him attempt to do any negotiations with David, or in any way proclaim his own worthiness. No, we see that Mephibosheth “fell on his face, and did reverence” (v. 6) Mephibosheth responded to David by saying, “Behold, thy servant!” (v. 6). Mephibosheth submitted to David’s gracious authority by bowing before David and saying, “What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am?” (v. 8).

Likewise, when the gospel is presented to a sinner, and the sinner learns that God provides forgiveness and eternal life through His Son, the sinner’s only proper and saving response is to bow down and show reverence, and say, “Behold, thy servant!” Who am I, Father, that thou shouldest look upon me, a dead dog of a sinner? The sinner accepts the grace that God has chosen to pour upon him, and he walks in newness of life, a saved man! A blessed man! A beneficiary of God’s amazing grace!

 

“For by grace are ye saved by faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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