Last week we began looking at the subject of God’s GRACE by trying to understand what grace is and why it’s so important – vital. Then we took a brief look at Prevenient Grace – that grace that goes before us… drawing us to God before we’re even aware of God or aware of our need for him.
Well, this morning we’re going to study a second understanding of GRACE, called Justifying or Converting or Saving Grace. One thing to remember this morning, as I said last week: These are not three different kinds of grace starting and stopping at distinct points in our lives. Remember the quote I shared with you: “Grace is Grace.” These fancy words that we’re using just help us to get a handle on how God works his grace in our lives.
[Read Luke 18:9-14]
Back in the early 1960’s, the U.S. Bureau of the Census came out with what they called the “Index of Leading Economic Indicators.” They chose 11 indicators of the American economy and used them to interpret current business developments and to predict future economic trends.
In 1993, William Bennett came out with what he called the “Index of Leading Cultural Indicators.” His goal was to examine the moral, social and behavioral conditions of modern America. It showed, for example, that in 1960 there were 288,000 violent crimes committed. And in 1991, there were 1,900,000 violent crimes committed. He showed that the average SAT score in 1960 was 975, and in 1992, the average score was 899. Those are just a couple of things he looked at.
Well, back in 1996, another index came out. This one was done by George Barna, who is the “Gallop Poll” of religious statistics. His little book was called: “The Index of Leading Spiritual Indicators.” In fact, he still puts out an email once or twice a month that helps to give us an idea of where America is spiritually.
Here were some of Barna’s findings 13 years ago:
But perhaps one of the most disturbing statistics was this: Barna said,
“that most Americans believe that …salvation is an outcome to be earned through their good character or behavior. …Six out of ten people (57%) believe that ‘if a person is generally good, or does enough good things for others during their lives, they will earn a place in heaven.'”
He then said that, “this perspective has remained constant throughout the 90’s.” His present research is telling us that this statistic hasn’t changed much. This statistic means that at least 57% of Americans are relying on “themselves” for their eternal life. And yet, as staggering as that figure is, it’s really not new. It really isn’t all that different from what Jesus experienced in his day. In fact, it was because of this kind of mindset that Jesus told the parable in our Scripture lesson for today.
Next time we’ll dig into the text and discover what Jesus taught about this.
From a sermon I preached on July 19, 2009