5. THE AMAZING GRACE OF GOD
Psalm 86: 15
We are pros at performance and we know very little about grace. Our work ethic says, "You get what you pay for. You get what you deserve." That makes it very hard to relate to the fact that God is a gracious God. "You, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God." What does grace mean? God gives me what I need, not what I deserve. It is God's nature to bless undeserving people. He loves to do it. Isaiah 30:16 "The Lord longs to be gracious to you." It's His pleasure.
This morning I want us to look at 3 ways that God's grace makes a difference in your life. There are many amazing blessings we could look at but for the benefit of time we'll look at just 3 ways God's amazing grace makes a difference.
1. GOD'S SAVING GRACE REMOVES MY GUILT.
Nobody is perfect - we all have guilt - "all have sinned". Ephesians 1: 7, 8 (GN) "By the death of Christ we are set free, that is, our sins are forgiven. How great is the grace of God which He gave to us in such large measure!" This is the most basic truth of Christianity. Jesus Christ has already paid for your sins. We are now free - Free from condemnation, free from guilt, free from worry, free from death. Even if there were no heaven, it would be worth it to become a Christian just to have a clear conscience. He wipes it out. There is no reason to live in regret. There's no reason to live in guilt. That is such good news. God's saving grace removes my guilt.
If you've experienced that you know what real freedom is. Jesus said, I came to set you free. The saving grace removes the guilt in our lives and He forgives it.
Ephesians 2: 8, 9 "For it is by God's grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not your own doing but God's gift. There is nothing to boast of, since it is not the result of your own efforts." The point is that salvation is based on God's mercy not my merit. Salvation is based on God's promise not my performance - you don't earn it.
It's almost comical the way some people try to earn their salvation, to prove themselves worthy to God, try to earn His forgiveness.
Salvation by Sincerity - It doesn't matter what you believe as long as you're sincere. The only problem with that is you can be sincerely wrong.
Salvation by Subtraction - You don't do this, don't do that, stop doing this and that... and maybe God will forgive your sins.
Salvation by Service - Do good. Be nice. Take the Lord's Supper. Get baptized. Help little old ladies across the street.
Salvation by Comparison - "I don't need to become a Christian because I'm better than ..." The fact is you may be better than so and so, better than me, probably are. But God doesn't judge you according to me. I'm not the standard and neither is the other guy. God Himself is the standard. We all fall short. But God's saving grace removes my guilt. If you could save yourself the cross is a waste. There's no reason for Jesus Christ to die.
The most important decision you'll ever make is to receive God's saving grace. If you haven't done it, do it today. But it doesn't stop at that point. God's saving grace removes my guilt. Then comes...
2. GOD'S STRENGTHENING GRACE RESHAPES MY LIFE
Helps me to become the person I really want to be, that God wants me to be. It moulds me and reshapes me. This is sanctification. God loves you just the way you are but He loves you too much to let you stay that way. The Bible says, in Jeremiah, that God is the potter, we are the clay. He's got us on the potter's wheel. He's making us and molding us and shaping our lives.
Hebrews 13: 9 "Your spiritual strength comes as a gift from God, not from ceremonial rules."
One of the problems in Christianity is people start with relationship and revert to rules. They start with just being in love with God and then fall back into religious rituals and regulations. A brand new Christian is excited and happy and rejoicing how great it is to be in love with the Lord. Then all of a sudden he makes the fatal mistake of beginning to watch other Christians, how they dress, how they act, the spiritual sounding phrases. Revert back to a religious thing trying to earn God's pleasure by trying to keep certain rules and regulations. Paul says that was the problem with the Galatians. They started one way and ended up going back to a religion.
If that's not the way to live a Christian life, how do you? Colossians 2:6 "Just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live in him." The way you became a Christian is the way you continue as a Christian. How did you become a Christian? By promising to do good? By promising to be perfect? No.
How do you live the Christian life? By promising to do good? No. Simply by receiving God's grace and letting it come into your life. Point - The Bible says "Grow in grace." The Bible says "God is working in your life". The more you trust in God - the more you let Him work through you - the faster you're going to grow. God's saving grace removes my guilt and God’s strengthening grace reshapes my life.
3. GOD'S SUSTAINING GRACE RELIEVES MY HURT
Helps me keep going when I'm in pain, when I want to give up. Paul had a problem that was constant pain. 3 times he said, "Lord, take this pain out of my life" and God didn't do it. Instead God said, 2 Cor. 12: 9, "My grace is all you need for my power is strongest when you are weak." God says, I'm going to give you grace. Grace is what you need to keep on keeping on.
If Paul prayed and didn't get an answer should I pray about my problem? Of course. The Bible tells us to pray about our problems. "Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence so we may receive grace to help us in our time of need."
When you have a problem, a crisis, going through stress and tension and you pray for God's strength in your life, 1 of 2 things is going to happen. 1. God may remove the pain. But if He doesn't - 2. He may leave the pain in your life and He gives you grace to handle it, to take you through the problem so you can learn something through the problem.
We'd never learn anything if all of our problems were instantly removed. We learn much more through pain than we do through pleasure. Sometimes God has to leave the pain there. But whenever He leaves the problem in our lives He gives us the grace to see it through.
What happens if I don't depend on God's grace? What happens if I just rely on myself and try to work out the problem? "I can handle it on my own." What happens when I face a hurt or a problem, crisis or stress I don't depend on God's grace?
Hebrews 12: 15 (Phillips) "Be careful that none of you fails to respond to the grace of God for if you do there can spring up in you a bitter spirit which can poison the lives of many others."
When you try to handle a hurt on your own, you're going to get bitter. Resentment is the result of trying to handle all of your problems in your own power. You become cynical, critical and you allow bitterness. You raise your hand to God in an angry fist and say, "Why me?" "Poor me! Look at this problem in my life!" You're not relying on the grace of God.
As a pastor, I meet hurting people all the time. How is it that you see some people that you know have problems that are overwhelming, are under increased pressure, unusual pain in their lives that is not even their own fault and they maintain a sweet, sweet spirit? How is that possible? It's possible because those people are relying on the sustaining grace of God.
Some of you have been hurt very deeply in the past. You still remember it and it hurts. Some of you ladies were hurt by your fathers or by a brother or a husband. Some of you men have been hurt at work or in your home. When you think about that hurt it still brings tears to your eye. How do you get rid of a hurtful memory like that? There is only one way. The only antidote to a painful memory is the grace of God. You receive God's grace into your life and then you offer it to that offending person and let them go. You don't hold on to hurt. The person in your past that hurt you can no longer hurt you unless you let them. Let them go! Receive God's grace into your life and then be gracious and offer forgiveness to that person and let them go, for your own sake. It's the only antidote. Grace can pull you through tough times.
Some of you say "That's sounds like a good deal. I'd love to have God's grace, to walk out of here with a clear conscience." Others need God's strengthening grace - things in your life you'd like to change, weaknesses, habits and you don't have the strength or power to make those changes. You need God's strengthening grace. Some of you are saying "I've been holding on to a hurt. I've got pain in my life - physical, emotional, relational. How in the world do I get God's grace in my life?"
There is only 1 single thing you need to do to get God's grace in your life. The key to receiving God's grace, James 4:7 "God resists the proud but He gives grace to the humble."
The key to receiving God's grace in my life is I admit that I need it. Pride prevents God's grace. As long as I'm self-dependent -- "I can handle it. I don't need anybody to tell me what it's all about." As long as you've got that kind of attitude, you don't have it under control and that's why you've still got the problem. You need God's grace to see it through, to make the changes, to get the forgiveness. All you've got to do is admit it.
This is the value of confession. Some of you have a bad habit you'd like to break. The first step to breaking a bad habit is tell God. When you tell God, He's not shocked; He already knows. He just wants you to admit it.
Some of you have very severe marriage problems in your life and you're hiding it. Some of you are parents and you have rebellious children and it's killing you. Maybe they're on drugs, maybe they've been in jail, or maybe they're pregnant, or maybe involved in sex and not pregnant. You're saying, "I don't want anybody to know what's going on in our family."
I don't consider myself a very humble person but I've discovered that the more I live dependent upon God and the more honest and open I am about my own faults, weaknesses, failures and fears the more God pours His grace into my life, which gives me the power to make the changes I need to make.
Once you've received grace, what do you do? The Bible says you do 2 things after you've humbled yourself and God pours His grace into your life.
1. God wants you to be gracious to other people. 1 Peter 4 - God's given everybody a spiritual gift and ability by grace and He wants you to use that to serve other people. Phillips - God wants you to be a dispenser of grace. Are you a gracious person?
2. God wants you to share His grace with other people. Tell them the best news in the world. You don't have to live under a cloud of resentment and regret. You can be forgiven. What a gracious God we have!
2 Cor. 8: 8"God is able to make ALL GRACE abound to you, so that in ALL things at ALL times, having ALL that you need, you will abound in EVERY good work." Grace is the answer to all your needs. God says I will take care of all your needs by grace. The verse before this one says God wants you to be gracious, generous, a giver. What you sow you reap. The more generous you are with others, the more you feel God's grace in your life.
The most important question I can ask you today is - Which of these 3 kinds of grace do you need most in your life right now? Some of you need God's saving grace. You need to have your sins forgiven. Some of you need God's strengthening grace which reshapes your life. You're a Christian but you're off track. You're just not as close to God as you used to be. You have fallen away. Some of you need God sustaining grace to relieve your hurt. God's grace is available to you right here and right now.
Prayer: “Dear God, I know I need You. I need Your saving grace to remove all my guilt. I ask You to forgive me, not because I deserve it but because You are a gracious God. God, I need Your strengthening grace. There are things in my life I want to change, I want to be different, but I can't do it all on my own. I need Your power to make the changes. I need Your grace to reshape my life. Lord I need Your sustaining grace. I need the power to keep on keeping on. Please remove the hurt in my life or give me the grace to handle it.”
Father, I want to thank You for the good news of Your grace - the gospel. I pray that today many people here would experience it in their heart and in their lives. Thank you. In Jesus' name. Amen.