2016-2-28 The Grace of God

EPHESIANS 2:1-10                                                                                   February 28, 2016

“THE GRACE OF GOD”

As I look back over my life I have often experienced how difficult it can be to understand some new idea or teaching. Most of us like things to stay the same as change can be difficult. Yet we live in a world that is constantly changing. The world I grew up in no longer exists. I grew up in the sixties in the state of Alabama. There are many things which have changed for the better. There are also some things which have changed that are much worse. Many people today would argue that there is no such thing as absolute truth. What is true may not be true for someone else because truth is based on experience. For Christians we must hold on to the truth of scripture. It is true because the Word of God is truth and the source of all that is true. This is why I will at time push people to base their beliefs on scripture, not on the way it was or based on one’s experience.

I have also come to understand that many Christians have a very shallow understanding of what the Bible teaches. Many believers are comfortable with their limited knowledge and do not seek to learn more about the doctrines of the faith. This is why it is important for us to take a closer look at the scriptures so we can have a better understanding of the nature of God. Today we will look at the grace of God.

I think it is wise to look at misperceptions that hinder us from having a biblical understanding of the grace of God. J. I. Packer says that “the root of the problem is that people do not understand the basic relationship between a person and God”. Most individuals look at God from the human perspective, instead of looking to the scriptures to understand our relationship.

The first misperception of reality is that most people today think they are morally superior in every way when compared to people in the past. People in North America and Europe think that we have become so enlightened in the sciences and the humanities that we are at the top of the chart in being “good people”. One can always look at other people and see their faults, which results in one feeling good about themselves. Most people, including Christians, tend to overlook or minimize any faults we may have. If we are ever bothered by a bad conscience we tend to dismiss these thoughts when we compare ourselves with other people. However, scripture is very clear about how God sees us. I am going to change the word “their” to “our”. Romans 3:9-18 (NIV) 9 What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. 10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” 13 Our throats are open graves; our tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on our lips.” 14 Our mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” 15 Our feet are swift to shed blood; 16 ruin and misery mark our ways, 17 and the way of peace we do not know.” 18 “There is no fear of God before our eyes.” When we compare ourselves with a holy God we are very immoral and impure.  Until we understand how bad we truly are we will have a weak view of grace.

The second misperception we have is that because we make excuses for our sins, we think that God also tolerates wrongdoing. We tolerate sin in ourselves and others. We hesitate to speak out against any wrong behavior as we don’t want to be called a hypocrite. Yet, because of our hesitation to speak up for doing what is right; and our being silent when we should speak out against the evils of this world we are failing to honor our Father. From the Message, Proverbs 24:11-12 “Rescue the perishing; don’t hesitate to step in and help. If you say, ‘Hey, that’s none of my business,” will that get you off the hook? Someone is watching you closely, you know—Someone not impressed with weak excuses.” God is watching us to see how we react.

We all fail at times to do what is right- but that is no excuse to give up. We are in danger of adapting to an easy going attitude toward sin and fail to see the danger of becoming more corrupt. Listen to the warning of Jude! Jude 1:3-4 (NIV) 3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. 4 For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” We are in constant danger of becoming desensitized to sin. We are in danger of becoming complacent with sin. We remain silent in the face of sin, instead of speaking out against it. Sin is the root problem of all humanity. God is not true to himself unless he punishes sin. (J. I. Packer) We will never truly understand the grace of God until we accept the truth that God must punish all sin.

 

The third misunderstanding of reality is that humans think that we are saved (or at least helped by the good things we do) if we do more good things than bad things. Most people, and many Christians, think that God holds up a cosmic scale weighing out all of our actions and then separates them into good and bad piles. If our good outweighs or outnumbers our bad pile, then we go to heaven. The truth of the matter is that we are completely unable to help ourselves get out of this predicament. Ephesians 2:1-5 (NIV) 1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.” When a person is dead you can’t do anything to help yourself. Duh!!!

The fourth misunderstanding is that people think God is obligated to forgive them.  People say that God is love, so he must love me! God is not obligated to do anything but render justice. Do you begin to see why we must have a clearer understanding of God? Romans 9:16 (NIV) 16 It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”

Thanks be to God that God has chosen to show me mercy! Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV) 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” I have done nothing to earn my salvation. What I deserve is judgment. What I have received is mercy and grace!

When we cry out to God saying, God save me from myself, I am a sinner. God hears us. May we be led to pray. Lord Jesus, I need you. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive you as my Savior and Lord. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me the gift of eternal life. Take control of my life, and make me the person you want me to be. Amen. Grace is what God does for us. May we praise him for such marvelous grace.
Let us pray.

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