Grace 101

Our society has many uses for the word grace. But what is it?
We make mention of grace with sayings like “that dancer was so graceful”. Or, the King & Queen “graced” us with their presence. We say “grace” before dinner.

We use it commonly in religious, mystic, or general terms without considering what grace really is.

Grace is first “of God”. Grace existed before we did. There was a perfect graceful fellowship in our perfect Triune God before our creation.

We know grace because God grants it to us. It is an act of common grace to be created in his image. We are able to enjoy food, drink, nature, etc. simply because of his common grace. His special grace is that of the cross. Jesus died for sinners who would respond to salvation in faith by grace.

Grace is intended to be a recycled commodity in the pulse of the church. We receive grace from God. We give grace to each other. The people are knitted together in grace and share grace with the world.

Let’s look at an excerpt from Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology:
“The grace of God. The significant word “grace” is a translation of the Hebrew “chanan” and of the Greek “charis”. According to Scripture, it is manifested not only by God, but also by men, and then denotes the favor which one man shows another… The Bible generally uses the word to denote the unmerited goodness or love of God to those who have forfeited it, and are by nature under a sentence of condemnation. The grace of God is the source of all spiritual blessings that are bestowed upon sinners.”

Grace is the “unmerited goodness” given to those undeserving or especially of those who have “forfeited”.

Paul proclaims that we are saved by grace through faith. Paul takes painstaking efforts to explain to churches the desperate need to have grace with one another.

Why?

Paul knows that we have an entitled and spoiled nature. This is not an American 21st-century problem. The churches of Galatia wanted to add rituals to the gospel, nullifying grace. The Corinthian church trampled on grace allowing heinous sins. The Thessalonian church was more captivated with end times than with grace.

Grace is tricky not because of itself but because of our treatment of it. It is our error to add to grace, to take away from it, or to altogether forget. We must constantly consume the grace of God and extend it to one another.

Grace is both a delicate matter and a combustible fuel for gospel mission. Grace is worth spending a lifetime of study on and yet never completely definable. Grace is most often not explained in a classroom as it is modeled in a hospital or on a couch. Grace is most often not spat on in a public forum but around a shared corner.

A person without grace is both always the offended and always the offending. A person with grace has a default to forgive when wronged and is cautious to not wrong others.

A church without grace is like a car without any fuel. It will eventually become so stagnant that it begins to rust and its moving parts will seize. A church with grace will be as attractive as water to the thirsty.

It is clear Paul had his heart-ache for people and churches who had a misconception of grace. Paul was deeply concerned about the health of those who hoarded grace and he was attacked by revilers who did not value grace.

The value of grace is determined by its cost, not by our experience. We cling to grace and give grace because we see the cost paid for by Jesus. We are humbled by Jesus picking up the tab. We share a gratefulness of the gospel and a graciousness with each other because of the cost.

The cost of grace is the blood of God. Jesus, full of grace and truth, died on the cross to remove our sins and make us white as snow. Grace is free to us but that does not mean that grace is not costly.

If we neglect the gracious gospel or do not have grace in gospel community it is to cheapen grace. It is to not remember the cost of grace.

Jesus considered the cost. It was worth it.

I pray that we would be overwhelmed with the worth of grace.

I wander?

What is your coffee? Is it a hot cup of black coffee? Or iced caramel macchiato Frappuccino with extra whipped cream?
I don’t hate on either one. But NOBODY likes a cup of coffee that has been sitting on the table for 4 hours.

God tells the Church in Laodicea:
Revelation 3:15 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth.

Let’s be clear: this is speaking to believers. This scripture is not wishing non-believers to be cold. This scripture is addressing the danger of a believer who has dead religion.

The lukewarm are those with “faith” in Jesus but resists change to actions, patterns, lifestyle, etc.

Lukewarm-ness just tends to drift into space and time of decay where there is nothing beneficial.

What has changed in your life due to your relationship with Christ?

The past two weeks, Mark Hamilton preached “The Prodigal Son” and last week I preached covering “The Lost Sheep”. Both of these sermons dealt with situations of wandering. One story had the subject of a wayward son and the other parable was about a sheep that was unintentionally wandering.

Are we wandering?

How to tell:

1) Where are we going?
The son in Luke 15 wanted to go live the lavish party lifestyle. The sheep probably just got distracted. Neither of them had any ambition or fear and both ended up lost.

You are heading in a direction of life whether you want to admit it or not. Are you going to like where you are in 5 months? In 5 years?

2) Who is with me?
The son in Luke 15 spent his inheritance partying with friends and prostitutes, living the sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. Who is in your life? Who knows you and who do you celebrate with?

3) Who is leading me?
What!? I lead myself! If you’re a Christian and thinking this, you need to repent. Christ leads us. Pastors lead us. Family and friends lead us. Leadership is an effect. Who has an effect on us? Who do we want to be like?

What to do when we find ourselves wandering?

1) Trust Jesus.
Jesus is our good savior that died for your sins past, present, and future. Jesus provides grace. We need to trust him and trust that he is better. He is better than whatever is causing your wandering. Jesus is not just the “right thing to do”. He is more enjoyable. His ways are more enjoyable.

2) Trust His people.
Hopefully, you have a pastor, leader, or mature Christian that you are personally close to, you need to have a sincere conversation. If you see the gospel in their life, they will want to help while being loving, honest, and patient. Good conversations in the Christian community are a means of grace. It can be awkward and also a blessing. We have been trained socially and individually to resist this type of conversation. Remember the parables, being alone or with the wrong people is never healthy.

3) Stop doing what you are doing.
That may seem simplistic or even legalistic. Let’s face it, when we are wandering we are not making good decisions. In a life of wandering, there is at best, things that are not necessary and at worst a lot of sin. This is not saying, “we clean ourselves up” this is to say “stop quenching the Spirit”.

For referenced sermons go to Grace Church Sermons

Below is a link to Prodigal God, a must read. And a link to a soon to be released book that is worth a look.

 

Hearing from Jesus

Joy Behar criticized Vice President Mike Pence’s faith a few weeks ago on an episode of the View. Behar said, “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you….that’s called mental illness.”

That brings up an interesting discussion.

Is obeying commandments apart of the Christian life? Sure, there is a matter of holiness and obedience.
Is Christianity about faith in things you cannot see. Yes, absolutely. The Bible says that we live by faith not by sight.

So what is Christianity? How do we explain Christianity? Where do we start? Is it with the commandments or the spiritual aspect?

Neither.

Christianity is not a discipline or a philosophy.
We do not start with a step but we start with a person. This person did not bring a set of rules or a way of life. He brought a solution.

People are natural rebels, giving them more rules only provides more rules to break or shows them to be greater rebels.

People are natural hypocrites, giving them a worldview only provides one more worldview to put into our kaleidoscope of trending philosophies.

The answer is Jesus who fulfills the law for rebels and sends his Spirit to the hypocrites.

The Bible contains stories, songs, rules, prophecy, etc., but all point to Jesus Christ. Like Paul says to the Corinthians, “For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

Did you notice the multiple mentions of “according to the Scriptures”? Jesus would also say that all the Law and Prophets spoke of me.

Jesus is what separates Christianity from other religions. The leaders of Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, etc., will say that “I can show you the way.” Jesus says, “that I am the Way.” – John 14:6.

Christianity is the following of Jesus. So, how do you follow Jesus?

First, we do so by the word. By “word” I mean, we consume the Word of God. The Bible. It is his primary revelation to us.
In short, everything we need to know to walk with God is found in Scripture.

Prayer is the other primary means.

And now the hot topic. Do we alone talk to God or does God speak to us? This is what Joy Behar criticized Mike Pence for, hearing from God.

Are we crazy, or in Behar’s terms, “mentally ill” to hear from Jesus?

Full discretion, I have never heard an audible voice from God. I have never spoken in tongues.

However, I have had moments, brief encounters, with God where I was either encouraged or in awe because of communication between God and myself.

When I say encouraged, I do not mean that I needed a little pat on the back, I mean that as a Husband or Father at a point in life I did not know how to move forward and before I could even blink, God “told” me that everything was going to be alright.

When I say I was in “awe”, I mean that I felt God’s presence so mightily I was scared not only that his holiness would engulf me but that its might would bring the building down.

It can be just as simple as when I go to my devotional time, a truth is so stunning that I can’t continue reading for something has overwhelmed my mind and heart. God is revealing a truth about himself.

Other times, God uses other people to confirm something in my life. God is “telling” me to push forward.

The surest times I know God is “speaking” to me is when He is telling me to do something that I do not want to do. Just this past week I was told to do something that was uncomfortable. God’s word was preached to me, the opportunity was given to be faithful, and I wanted to say no.

The surefire way of testing if God is telling us something: Is it confirmed by His word? Is what someone is saying to you found in scripture? Does the “voice in your head” line up with the word of God?

Pastors have said, “Do you want to hear from God? Read your Bible out loud.”

It takes adoration of God and devotion to his word to be obedient. If we know what to do, but do not love Jesus, we will sin. If we believe we love Jesus but do not know his word, we can stumble into sin.

In our sermon from Sunday, Sam Poynor was preaching over the calling of Moses in Exodus.

At first, Moses was given a staff by God. God turned this staff into a serpent, Moses ran, and God called him back to show Moses how to turn it back into a staff and use it. Moses then after a tremendous journey of dealing with the Pharaoh of Egypt, the plagues, etc., Moses led God’s people out of Egypt and crossed the Red Sea with that same staff.

The question for us, for growing Christians, are we going to see what God is giving us or run away from it?

I think it depends on how much you are “hearing from God.”

Sam’s message was around how we deal with difficulties in the Christian life. The world will give us stones and serpents, but God can change stones to bread or use them as weights to strengthen us until we can cast them off.

Sam showed us what Moses had seen as a serpent was a weapon of God. Moses began afraid of it, but then it was used to lead God’s people.

A charge of the sermon was to sharpen our gaze on Christ, do not be so shortsighted. In doing so we only produce self-inflicted stones.

Sam preached, “When we are being in the fast lane of following Christ the stones of suffering seem like small road bumps.”

Sam closed with a recent commitment to a mission that God was calling him to. The journey will be hard, there will be some difficulties and dangers, it will be out of the safety and comfort of his home where his wife and child are, but ultimately there will be joy and fruit.

It has been said that Christianity is too mystical for the academic and too grounded in truth for the mystic.

Our personalities tend to drive one way or the other. We are either control-freaks who like our worship to be nice and structured along with our theology or we are emotionally and experience-driven?

In Tim Keller’s book Prayer, he quotes John Murray, “It is necessary for us to recognize that there is an intelligent mysticism in the life of faith…of living union and communion with the exalted and everpresent Redeemer…He communes with his people and his people commune with him in conscious reciprocal love…The life of true faith cannot be that of cold metallic assent. It must have the passion and warmth of love and communion because communion with God is the crown and apex of true religion.”

In closing, I hope to “hear” from God more and I hope to say yes as often.

You can listen to Sam Poynor’s sermon here: Grace Church Sermon Page – Sam Poynor

 

Recommendations for this part of Christian life:

And I have not read this yet because it is recently published but I hear good things about this book and the writer is excellent: