We were vacuuming up the dog hair (that gets all over your carpet when you have two dogs), when the vacuum stopped picking up the dog hair. It was just collecting it into a nice pile and not picking it up.
Then, it made a loud noise.
Then, it stopped making noise.
It was dead.
So, I went to the file folders that we have in our guest closet – and began looking for the warranty. Perhaps the company would fix it? Maybe they’d send a new one? Maybe we wouldn’t have to go out shopping?
I read the warranty.
Expired. About a month and a half ago.
Has something like that ever happened to you? Again – it’s not any good to never get coverage, yet it’s almost worse to have coverage and then lose coverage because the time has run out!
But what about God’s grace? We learned last week that it completely covers even the worst of sinners…
But for how long?
What are the terms?
Will it cover you 10 years from now?
Will it cover you 20 years from now?
Will it cover you…even after you die?
Today we are continuing our sermon series called Surprising Grace. Our goal is to examine the duration of God’s grace. We want to see: (1) How long his grace lasts (2) How long its benefits last (3) If you need to go looking for a replacement coverage anytime soon. Before we do that, let’s say a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Duration of God’s Coverage
To learn about the duration of God’s grace – we’re going to turn to a man who had been under God’s grace for quite some time: The Apostle John. John is interesting, because he is one of the first disciples to learn about God’s grace. He is one of the first disciples that Jesus recruits while John is busy fishing. John gets to follow Jesus and see his grace throughout his ministry on earth. He seems him graciously cause the blind to see, the lame to walk, to deaf to hear – and the guilty to hear about God’s forgiveness.
It’s later on in life, after he’s known about God’s grace for years, that the Apostle John writes the letter known as 1 John. It’s a letter written to Christians everywhere and in chapter 2 he writes about the duration of God’s grace:
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the father, but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God the Father lives forever. (v.15-17)
I suppose the biggest problem with believing the long-lasting endurance of God’s grace is that nothing on earth lasts for that long of a time.
It’s true about neutral things.
A tree may last hundreds of years but eventually it falls down.
A flower may last for a season then winter comes and it dies.
A bag of Doritos is delicious, but lasts all about 3 minutes.
But it’s also true about sinful, worldly things. That’s essentially what John is referring to when he talks about the world and its desires in this section. “Things of the world” means “things born from the mind of the sinful world.”
What’s interesting is that we turn to these things for relief – for comfort.
A momentary high from that illegal drug.
A few hours of relaxation from drinking too much.
A few minutes rush from screaming obscenities at your family.
A few minutes rush from typing obscenities at that other political party on Twitter.
A few moments of private excitement with that person you aren’t married to.
These things offer moments of happiness…
…and a lifetime of regret.
A headache that lasts all morning.
An argument that lasts for hours.
An addiction that lasts for years.
A friendship spoiled for the rest of your life.
A guilty feeling that stays with you whenever you look at your spouse – for the rest of your life.
But should we be surprised? Look at where these highs are coming from. John writes, “These things do not come from the father, but from the world.”
Do any of you remember Oakley sunglasses? They were all the rage growing up. They had awesome aviator shades. They had a deep jet black frame. They were very durable and very cool.
But they also cost $250.
So -- many kids got imitation Oakleys. The ones from Walmart for $15 bucks. Problem is? You could tell they were phony. You could tell they were fake when they came apart at the hinges the first time you dropped them.
Should we be surprised that earthly things only last for a moment? They come from an earth that (in the grand scheme of eternity) will only last for a moment.
But God’s grace isn’t like that.
God’s grace isn’t from the world.
God’s grace is from God.
The world and its desires pass away, but the one who does the will of the Father lives forever.
What’s the will of the Father?
To believe in Jesus Christ.
To put your faith in the one who died, hit his expiration date, and then came back to life again.
To trust in the one who is indestructible, because his grace is indestructible – so that you too will be indestructible.
John knew this. He had seen it happen.
Lazarus was a friend of John’s. He was a friend of the entire family of disciples. He had sung hymns with them, said prayers with them, and told jokes with them.
Lazarus was also human.
Because he was a human he was susceptible to germs.
Because he was susceptible to germs, he got sick.
Because he was sick, he grew weak.
Because he grew weak, he started to die!
His body was from the earth which meant it was going to pass away.
And it died.
And he died.
They wrapped his body up in linens.
They placed him in a grave.
His family mourned their loss.
Then, Jesus came.
And Jesus spoke.
And Lazarus went right back to living.
It’s interesting, right before that happens Jesus explains why. He says this, “I am the Resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies; whoever lives and believes in me will never die!” (John 11:25-26)
Because God’s grace comes from God.
And God lasts forever.
So, his grace – lasts forever!
Another passage repeated throughout the old Testament says this, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good and his love endures forever!” Of course it does! God is eternal. He isn’t on the timeline. He doesn’t have an end and set time. His grace doesn’t have an end time. “His love endures forever,” is a phrase that lasts “forever!”
And this is comforting.
Because I heard about God’s grace a long time ago. I believed. God’s grace was mine.
But here’s a secret: I’ve sinned since then. I’ve even sinned since we talked about it last week.
Is God’s grace still enough?
Think of a jump rope. Maybe about 12 feet long? I want you to imagine for a minute that this jump rope covers all of eternity. That’s a long time. You and I exist on this tiny half centimeter right here.
God’s grace lasts longer than you.
It lasts longer than me.
What do you think? Can you outlast God’s grace?
God’s grace is forever.
But Pastor! People still die and miss out on God’s grace.
You’re right. That’s hell. But the problem isn’t with God’s grace. It's with people. People who throw away God's’ grace because they figure they can last on their own that’s like throwing away your insurance plan because you think you don’t need it. The problem isn’t the insurance plan. It's you.
And if you throw out God’s grace because you don’t think you need it anymore…The problem isn’t God’s grace. That’s on you.
But John continues, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us all our sins.” Even if that sin has been going on for a while – for your whole life – listen to God’s Word right now.
And be confident.
His grace is there.
II. The Duration of God’s Blessings
And its blessings are forever.
Take a look with me at a Bible book that was written even after 1 John. In fact, it’s the last book of the Bible to be written. It was written by the same John but at the end of his life. It’s a book called Revelation. It’s called Revelation because in the book, God gives John a revelation of what will happen in the future. Things that are easy for God to see, since He is beyond this whole timeline thing.
He writes this about heaven:
Believers are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
This is eternity. It mentions a few awesome things about the blessings that God has in store for us in heaven. Blessings that will endure forever:
(1) God’s Presence
That’s the first thing that pops out. The people are serving God day and night. They are with him. He’s at the center of the throne. You always know that he’s there.
Which isn’t always the case on earth.
We get nervous.
We get frightened.
We think: God, you left me! I’m all alone.
That’s never the case in heaven. Not that God has left us on this earth, he’s always there; but that we don’t always believe it. In heaven, that doubt is gone and God’s presence is completely obvious in a new, incredible way – as we serve him day and night.
Which sounds like work – except – notice – God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
It isn’t sad in heaven.
People don’t lose their jobs.
Finances aren’t difficult.
Friends don’t fight about politics.
Kids don’t tell parents that they hate them.
Parents don’t abandon kids.
People don’t call each other awful, racist names.
Because they are too joyful!
In fact, right before this section John writes down what those believers in heaven are saying. It’s isn’t complaining. It isn’t fighting. It isn’t arguing about who should get to take a break. It’s this: “Honor and glory and praise and thank be to our God and to the Lamb forever and ever! Amen!”
Do you have arthritis? Arthritis is something that kinda sorta can get the best of you. It’s this dull, achy, constant pain that affects your joints. So…how do you handle it? You take a pill. You have an Advil and water and you’re pain free! For about 4 hours. Then, you better take another pill before the pain comes back. And at the very best you can fall asleep and escape pain for 6 hours! Until it’s time to wake up and then the pain is even worse because the joint has been stiff all night long.
Heaven is final relief.
God’s grace brings forever relief. Revelation said, The sun won’t beat down on them nor any scorching heat. It won’t hurt. There won’t be any sunburn in heaven. That’s because there is no pain in heaven and that will last forever!
Think about it:
No hangnails ever.
No headaches ever.
No scraped knees ever.
No allergies ever.
No cancer ever.
No getting old…ever.
And no death.
John writes, “The Lamb will lead them…to springs of living water.” Springs that give eternal life. Springs that outlast death. Springs that allow us to say “that person is in a better place.”
Which is key.
Because death stinks.
This past Friday I went to Elmcroft Retirement home. It’s a place where I go to do a Bible study. I’ve been doing it for the past five and half years. And just about every one of those last five and a half years – an older woman by the name of Ms. Fannie has been there. It hurt her to get there. She had pain in her knees and she had struggles seeing. But she’d always be there.
Until this past Friday.
Because she couldn’t.
Because she passed away.
And it hurt. I was sad. This dear friend of mine had passed so quickly, so effortlessly, and life just moved on.
But then…I got to thinking – that’s why she always made sure she was there for Bible study. Because Ms. Fannie knew that life was short. Because Ms. Fannie knew that arthritis was temporary. Because Ms. Fannie knew that her momentary pain was just that – momentary.
And that Bible study? It contained the only thing that lasts:
Brothers and sisters, may we have that same attitude and do everything to hold until the truth that lasts forever. Amen.