By the grace of God

Curtis Shelburne

If I could somehow know that I had but one more opportunity to stand before Christ’s people and share God’s word, I would like to think that final sermon would be centered on the good news of God’s grace.

What grace?

The grace of God as expressed through Christ Jesus and his death on the cross.

Grace that is freely given.

Grace that is truly a gift and can only be accepted as such.

Grace that is free but far from cheap.

Grace that is freely available to you and to me but that cost the giver more dearly than mortal minds can fathom.

If mortals like us were big enough, strong enough, wise enough, to reach up into the night sky with a paper cup and scoop up a drink of the Milky Way’s liquid light, maybe we’d be big enough, strong enough, wise enough to catch with our minds some idea of the enormity of the sacrifice God’s son made to leave the right hand of the Father, to put on the poor garment of humanity, and finally to bear on his own now-human shoulders all the sin of the world.

But we’re not that big.

Small as we are we can barely begin to catch a glimpse of what Christ has really done for us all, but even that glimpse should be enough to make us fall down at his feet and worship.

If I had only one sermon left in me, one final opportunity to speak, with all my heart I hope it would be a message focused on the cross of Christ and centered on the good news of His grace. No other message is worth preaching.

After all, that is what it means to be a “minister of the law,” a “minister of the Gospel,” the “good news” of God’s grace.
It’s a sad, but telling commentary on our fallen natures that we humans tend to react to such good news with cynicism and mistrust and, even at times, hostility.

Stephen became the first Christian martyr because he preached the gospel of grace which holds that since the grace of God is a free gift-not wages that can be earned or a commodity that can be bought — all people, Gentiles and Jews, stand on level ground at the foot of Christ’s cross.
And what a tribute to God’s grace that Saul of Tarsus, who had held the garments of those who stoned Stephen, would later in one blinding instant find his passion for the law transformed into a passion for the Savior, and he would become the greatest minister of the gospel of God’s grace this world has ever known.

Focus on yourself and your attempts at “righteousness” and the end result is despair and death. Focus on the Savior and the end result is life and joy and hope.

The message of the Gospel — may that good news be ever on our lips and may its joy fill every corner of our lives.

Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at: