Tuesday 5 August

Malcolm small
Malcolm Duncan

Malcolm Duncan returned to New Horizon as the speaker for the Evening Celebrations where he spoke on the Sermon on the Mount.  Here’s a taste of Tuesday evening’s message:

I want us to explore together the power of God’s grace in us; that grace which enables the passion for God’s kingdom to grow and flourish.

Jesus says, “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

These are remarkably challenging words. They should be deeply unsettling. They should dig into our hearts and minds and call us to ask serious questions.

When we look back over our own lives, the choices we have made, the things we have said and done, the things that we haven’t said and done… Is there a single person who has a righteousness exceeding that of the Pharisees?

Every follower of Jesus can answer, “Yes” but only if they have fully understood what it means to follow Him.  This is a sermon that challenges us to understand grace in a way we don’t normally understand it.  Grace has raised the bar of God’s expectation of our attitudes, our behaviour and our conduct.

Jesus says, “But I say to you…” With every “but” He lifts the expectations of those who are listening to Him. This bold re-statement of the law must have left His listeners baffled. They found the law of Moses difficult, how on earth way they to live this way?

It all hinges on how we understand grace and what Christ has done for us.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus deals with grace and our attitudes towards:

  • Hate
  • Sexual misconduct
  • Our use of words
  • Justice and revenge
  • Attitude

In Northern Ireland, we know the power of hate and the desire for justice or judgement. The reality is that none of us can stand before God’s judgement.  The only reason we can stand before God is because He is a God of mercy. Grace is receiving what we do not deserve. Mercy is NOT receiving what we do deserve.

Grace can enable us to rise above sin.

Grace can give us the power to change our hatred into love. Grace can give us the ability to control our sexual behaviour and live in purity. Grace can enable us to change our words. Grace can change how we respond when we are wronged. Grace can change the way we respond to our enemies.

Grace enables us to change.

The hate line runs through every single heart. As much as we hate to admit it, there is a murderer within all of us. How often has our anger erupted into angry words? Smouldering anger de-humanises us. Jesus is so serious about this that he says reconciliation should take precedence over worship.

He shows that those who are oppressed and mistreated can be empowered as they take control and choose servanthood, love and compassion.

Galatians 2: 15 – 22.  We have allowed ourselves to think that doctrine is boring. Theology should be on fire. It should cause us to erupt with praise and thanks. Having waded his way through the Himalayas of truth in Romans, Paul erupts in praise, “Oh the depths of the mercy of God!!”

This is exciting stuff: We are not justified by doing the works of the law. Through the law we become aware of our shortcomings. Only as we realise the depth of our brokenness are we able to be brought to life by God. When Christ died on the cross, we were crucified with Him. In His death, we die. In His resurrection, we live. We cannot do this on our own. He lives in us. Christ has done it all!

Our problem with the Gospel is not that we don’t believe it… it’s that we don’t belief it enough. We think the gospel is enough to get us into the Kingdom but then we try to continue by hard work.

From beginning to end, our Salvation is by GRACE. When God the Father looks at you, He sees the righteousness of His son. He sees us bought, justified and transformed by the power of the cross. We carry the righteousness of Jesus Christ – greater than any of the prophets or any of the Pharisees.

You will never make God love you more than He loves you at this moment. You will never make God love you less than He loves you at this moment.

Jesus has the power to change every aspect of my character. He can change me from the inside out – that’s the only way real change can happen.

The only thing that will set this province free is not politicians or community projects but a visitation of the love, grace and power of Jesus Christ poured out upon us.

Two things stop us from encountering God’s grace: self-righteousness (thinking we don’t need it) and the other is self-loathing (thinking we don’t deserve it). We need a fresh encounter with the grace and mercy of God.