Grace For The Journey
The Bible tells an amazing story in 2 Kings 5:20-27 about Elisha’s servant, Gehazi; after seeing Elisha tell Naaman , commander of the army of the king of Syria, how to be cleansed and forgiven and then refuse to take anything from Naaman; Gehazi says, “Look, my master has spared Naaman this Syrian, while not receiving from his hands what he brought; but as the LORD lives, I will run after him and take something from him.” I want us to look at this passage of Scripture today
Before we get into the truths of this passage, let me introduce to you 4 men . . .
- Fritz Saukel – Nazi Head of Labor and Supply, described as the greatest and cruelest slave driver since Pharaoh, who worked millions of slave labourers to death without mercy; 2) Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel – Chief of the Supreme Command of the Armed forces. His unquestioning obedience to Hitler led to his being responsible for more deaths than anyone could count.
- Wilhelm Frick – Minister of the Interior, a vicious hard-line Nazi who title covered up his reign of terror.
- Joachim von Ribbentrop – Hitler’s Foreign Minister, who had greeted King George VI with a “Heil Hitler”.
Each man was on trial at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal. Each man was found guilty of the most horrendous crimes against mankind. Each man was sentenced to be hanged. As Ribbentrop was asked for his last words by the executioner, he said, “I place all my confidence in the Lamb who made atonement for my sins.” And he turned to the Christian who had been assigned to be chaplain to the condemned men and said, “I’ll see you again.”
Saukel the slave driver, and Keitel the head of armed forces made similar statements, and Frick the man who terrorized hundreds of thousands informed the chaplain that he too had come to faith in Christ.
The chaplain was a man called Henry Gerecke, who wrote, “I have had many years experience as a prison chaplain and I do not believe that I am easily deluded by phony reformations at the eleventh hour.”
It would seem that these conversions were genuine. And these men, despite their hands being red with the blood of millions are going to be in Heaven . . . and your very nice neighbor who would do anything to help you, and who is the picture of decency and moral integrity is going to Hell because he does not admit his sin and receive forgiveness and eternal life from “the Lamb who made atonement for (his) sins.”
That is the shocking nature of the gospel. It cuts both ways . . .
It is so wonderful and powerful that
If a mass murderer accepts it,
They will be saved.
But . . .
It is so important and precious
That the most decent person
Cannot get to Heaven without it.
The Gospel is a sword that cuts both ways. It cut Naaman free from his idolatry and pride, but it also cut Gehazi out of the people of God.
With Naaman we see
The transforming power
Of the gospel,
But now with Gehazi
We see the exposing power
Of the gospel.
It is amazing grace,
But it is dangerous amazing grace.
And from 2 Kings 5:20-25, we learn a great truth and two very important warnings.
The great truth is: God IS too easy on us!
Gehazi was right in verse 20. Let me remind you of the story… Naaman had his sins forgiven and his leprosy washed away, Elisha wouldn’t allow him to give him anything. Gehazi is outraged because it is outrageous! And although Gehazi is a wicked and greedy man he still makes a profound statement here. Of course, he doesn’t react in a right way to what he says, but nevertheless it is still true.
Think about it for a moment. God is far too easy on us. Every day for all of your life you have disappointed and disobeyed God. One sin is enough to see you cast out of His presence. But we haven’t just sinned once, we have sinned many times each day in what we have thought, in what we haven’t thought that we should have thought, in what we have said and what we haven’t said, in what we have done and what we haven’t done. So, there’s an absolute bear minimum of 6 sins per day. That’s over 2000 per year. Take your age and multiply it by 2 and add the word “Thousand” at the end. If you are 10 that’s 20,000 sins, if you’re 25 that’s 50,000, if you’re 40 that’s 80,000, if you’re 75 that’s 150,000. And those numbers are based on the ridiculous idea that we only sin once in each of these areas each day. They’re far too small. So . . . before the perfect holy God is the vast mountain of your personal sin.
And we need to remember that each sin is a personal offence against God. It is a personal insult to Him. And what does he do when you come seeking forgiveness for this vast mountain of wrong? What does he require of you?
To come and repent.
To admit your sin
And be sorry enough
To turn from it.
And to believe
What He says
And for that . . .
God removes all the guilt
And all the punishment
That was waiting for us.
Gehazi was right!
God is far
Too easy on us!
It was His complaint . . . It should be a source of unending wonder for us.
Think of what we get – we get eternal life. At most we follow Him for a few short years, and He gives us eternal life! The reward is vastly out of proportion to the service. And all the more, when we realize that those who turn to Christ at the end of their lives receive the same eternal life! So, it’s not as if we earn the eternal life by following.
We who are dust get to live in eternity forever – we who are an offence and a stench to the nostrils of God – that’s ridiculous, wonderfully ridiculous.
Gehazi spoke the truth,
He didn’t see
The wonder of it.
Those of us who are Christians need to take this opportunity and stop to wonder at the greatness of God’s grace. It is utterly amazing. God could ask the world of us, and it still wouldn’t be enough to pay for one sin. Yet, all He asks of us is that we repent and receive . . . Turn away from our sin, look to Him, and accept what He has done in Christ.
God has been far too easy on us.
It is a magnificent, wonderful,
And that explains what happens in this passage. But let’s consider the rest of the truth conveyed in this passage. Since His grace is such a magnificent and amazing act . . . there are two very important warnings to consider . . .
1) God will not tolerate his grace being distorted
That’s main thrust of this section.
Elisha has worked with Naaman
To make the point that
God’s salvation costs nothing.
It is just as free to Naaman
As it is to any Israelite.
That’s the whole point of him refusing Naaman grateful reward. He knows that when Naaman arrives in Damascus, people will ask . . .
The obvious questions,
“What happened to you?”
He wants Naaman’s answer to be,
“The God of Israel saved me,
He made me clean.”
“How much did it cost?”
The God of Israel
Saves people for free.”
Gehazi is livid that Elisha has taken nothing from Naaman. Gehazi is determined to make Naaman pay. It doesn’t matter to him that Elisha has been trying to teach Naaman a very important biblical truth.
So he goes off after Naaman with this made up story about two prophets arriving in great need. And of course Naaman gives him the money and the clothing . . .
Naaman is so thankful
For his new life,
And his new salvation
That he’d do anything for God,
And for God’s people.
And in a moment Gehazi undoes all that Elisha had taught in verse 16. In a moment he distorts the grace of God.
Now we may think that we would never do that. But . . . what was you first thought when you hear about the Nazi war criminals earlier in this blog? Did you not think? “That’s not fair, they should be made to pay.” If you did . . . you are in danger of making the mistake Gehazi made.
The grace that is amazing
Is also dangerous.
It is dangerous if we forget
That we didn’t deserve it either.
The simple truth is none of us deserves anything from God. The Gospel is monumentally unfair. It is unfair to God – in that He should have to pay for something He didn’t do so that we could get something that was never ours.
We distort God’s grace every time we add anything to the gospel.
- You’ve got to be a Christian and wear the right clothes.
- You’ve got to be a Christian and come from the same background as us.
- You’ve got to be a Christian and be the same color of skin as us.
- You’ve got to be a Christian and not done anything really terrible in your past.
Have you ever done that – assigned someone to a second class Christianity because you find out that they did something awful before they became a Christian? Or because they have been divorced? Or because they married someone who isn’t a Christian? Or because they don’t have the same theology as you? Or because they don’t have the same pedigree in the church that you have?
No matter what background a person has – all God requires is to recognize our sin, repent of that sin, and receive the pardon and life that God offers. When anyone does that, they are a child of God, equal with every other child of God. There are no second-class citizens of Heaven. And pride has no place in the believers life. The only thing a Christian can say is “That could have been me.”
But, here is another important truth to consider . . .
Just as we must not
Distort God’s grace
With regard to others,
So we must not distort
It with regard to ourselves.
There are some Christians who are immensely hard on themselves – they look at who they are and they feel that they couldn’t possibly be accepted by God. They feel that they are some sort of second-class Christian. We’re not to do that to ourselves. God has said that we are His children, and we must not distort that grace.
God’s grace is utterly amazing. We are all undeserving, and He makes any repentant sinner a son or daughter with all the rights and privileges of a child of God. We must not distort something so wonderful.
And the second warning is this:
2) God will not tolerate those who ignore His grace
In this chapter we see that you can be amongst the godly and be ungodly yourself. You can have experienced all sorts of blessings, like Gehazi –
- He had seen countless miracles,
- He had heard countless sermons,
- He had lived in close proximity to a very godly man.
- He had been a part of many blessing from God.
Yet he was far from God.
And that is a solemn truth. You can be far from God while at the same time being very close to God’s people. You can attend church; live in a home with other Christians; your closest friends can be Christians; and you still be far from God. You can have the opportunity to see and hear about God’s grace and ignore it.
And you may even fool many people. I ‘m sure the other prophets didn’t suspect Gehazi of being anything other than a full-bodied believer. I’m sure that the woman at Shunem, or the widow thought Gehazi was a was a believer.
But God was not fooled. And we see that He made it clear to Elisha that Gehazi was a deceiver (verse 26). It is important that we notice what Elisha said to him, “Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money, or to accept clothes, olive groves, vineyards, flocks, herds, or menservants and maidservants? Not only did God see what Gehazi had done when no-one was looking, but He knew exactly what he planned to spend the money on. And he revealed all of this to Elisha.
This is a great Bible warning – Look how close you can be to the kingdom of God and yet not be in it. Do you see what has happened in this chapter? We started with Naaman the Syrian, the leper, and Gehazi the Israelite. We end with Naaman, the true Israelite, and Gehazi with his heart set on the things of Syria, the leper. There has been a complete reversal. The Israelite receives the curse, and the pagan receives the blessing. And the story that started with an unconverted pagan and a professing believer, ends with the roles changed, and Naaman professing faith, and Gehazi condemned.
Some of us need to look into our hearts today and marvel that God has dealt so easy with us. Some of us need to repent of wrong attitudes and superior feelings. Some of us need to need repent of ignoring God’s grace. God’s grace is amazing, but the grace that is amazing is also dangerous if we distort or ignore it.
This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”