The Power of Grace
As I observe the workings of different religious organizations and church groups. Cause preachers, you know, pay attention to things and they pay attention to what other groups are doing.
You know, cause that's what they do, they work for churches. As I look at different groups, I notice that each of them seem to focus on one thing that gives power to their particular group. For example, our Baptist friends across the street.
They see the power of their movement resting in their tremendous organizational abilities. Especially, their Sunday school organizations. I mean, as a group, they've written countless books about the importance of this ministry to power the growth of many of their largest congregations.
We even used some of their instruction ideas for how to build a good bible school because they've done such a good job with it. So Sunday school is their number one tool in making them the largest evangelical group in the nation.
Roman Catholics, for example, they ascribe the power of their church to the person of the Pope. Having grown up as a Catholic, I can totally relate to that idea. The Pope is the catalyst for the faith of millions of Catholics around the world.
You don't believe me. Watch when the Pope goes to Spain or goes to South America or Brazil, you know, not hundreds, not thousands but hundreds of thousands of people gather, why? Because he epitomizes the power of the Catholic Church and so the power to move or to change the church is in his hands and the followers of this religion gladly recognize and promote his unique religious power.
We could go on and talk about Pentecostals. On the other hand, they see the power of their churches in the promotion of their ability to speak in tongues and perform healings. This not only sets them apart from others but it energizes their worship.
It provides the major appeal in reaching out to others, if you've ever been to a Pentecostal Church or you know individuals who are involved in that movement. You'll see that this is a very important factor in their religious make-up.
Speaking in tongues is absolutely at the center and it empowers their entire religious experience. Then we have examples, I could keep going here but just a few small examples. The Salvation Army, for example, and their charitable works.
How much charitable work have they done for the tornadoes? You know, the tornado recovery and help, they're right in there. The Mormon's, their focused on the ability to save the dead. Very unique to them, absolute power center.
Their recruiting ability, you know, Mormon missionaries young men that go out knock doors, you know, that lies at the power of their base and growth. Jehovah Witnesses, the promise of exclusive positions for a precious few in the hereafter.
So every church group has an idea or a human leader that servers as its power source and without it, it would seize to exist or at least seize to be unique. Think now, without the speaking in tongues feature that the Pentecostals have, well they wouldn't be much different than the Baptists across the street.
They pretty much hold a lot of the same ideas and Catholics without the Pope, what would they be? Well, Anglicans I guess, something like that. You take that element out of there and it takes away the uniqueness of their movement.
Now I'm saying all of this as a lead in to the question asked by my lesson this evening and that question is this. What is the power that is central to the New Testament Church? What is the power that is central to the New Testament Church? Put it another way, what does the Bible say concerning the central force.
The essential idea, the dominant factor that gives the Church of Christ its life, its uniqueness, its appeal, its divine right to be the true body of Christ. What's our power source? And quite simply the answer is this.
The Bible says that the true power of Christianity and the Christian Church is the power of grace. Why grace? Of course at this question. Why grace? Many of you may be disagreeing with me, you're being polite and your listening but inside your head you're like no, no it can't be, he's wrong.
Oh no, a heretic is preaching tonight and we've got it on film, imagine. Some would argue that Jesus is the power or the word or the gospel is the power. Paul even says in Romans 1:16, the power of god and salvation, the gospel right.
Some would say the Holy Spirits the power and in so arguing, you would have a good point. But listen to what I'm saying. I'm asking what is the power that draws and keeps people to Christ and his Church and keeps them there once that they have come in.
The answer is Christ you think? Some say, well it's got to be Jesus Christ. Of course, Jesus makes grace possible. He embodies it, He offers it but He Himself is not the grace. People come to Jesus not because He is the son of God.
They come to Him because He offers grace. Wow, that sounds like a terrible thing to say but think about it for a minute. His divinity assures us that He has the authority and the power to do so. But the initial attraction and the eternal relationship is based on the gift, not just the giver.
Think with me for a second. If Jesus would have come to earth and done miracles and raise people from the dead and did all kinds of things just to prove that He was divine and then turned around and went back to heaven.
I mean, we would say, well that's good for Him. It's nice to know that God can come in a human form. I'm glad to know that God has the power to, you know, inhabit a human body and talk to me. But is that it? No cross, no grace, no offer.
I don't know if Christianity would be a world religion. If that was all he did. His divinity, as I say, assures us that he has the power to offer us the grace, it's the grace that draws us. The power is not the word or the gospel of Christ either.
The word infallibly tells and announces the good news that the gift is now being offered. The gospel is powerful, remember I said Romans 1:16, the power of God in salvation. The gospel, it's powerful because it brings the news of grace but it is not the power itself.
It's not the words themselves that have the power. It's what they reveal that has the power and what do the words reveal? The words reveal God's offer of grace. And the Holy Spirit is not this power either.
He empowers people to preach accurately about the grace of God. He inspired the writers to record the message of grace accurately and preserve it throughout the century. He works all things together to bring the grace of Christ to men but He Himself is not the grace.
You know, Jesus is the head of the Church and the word is the guide of the Church and the Holy Spirit sustains the life of the Church and these three work together to provide the Church with its greatest treasure, its empowering feature and that is the grace of God.
Well by now, you may probably be saying to yourself, well what is this grace, what is he talking about? That we've been discussing so far, such a powerful thing. Let's talk a little bit about the grace itself and both the Old and New Testaments.
The words used and translated into the English word grace meant something or someone that was kind or favorable or beautiful or generous. So depending on the context, the word grace was used in, well maybe four different ways in the Bible.
For example, it was used at times to describe God's character. Now there are many words used to describe different facets of God's character, holy, righteous, gracious. Peter, the apostle, and speaking of God's character, say's the following in first Peter chapter two verse three.
He says, if you have tasted the graciousness of the Lord, his character, his generosity, his goodness, his kindness, if you've tasted the graciousness of the Lord. Describing the Lord Himself. Grace is the feature in God's nature that moves him to kind and generous acts on our behalf, especially how freely and spontaneously they are given.
So God in Christ is the epitome of that grace given by God. Another way that the Bible used the word is in describing a feeling of gratitude. Sometimes the word is used to describe the blessed state that a person is in, who has been touched by God's kind and generous acts.
For example, in Roman's chapter five verse two, Paul says, through Jesus Christ we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand. What does he mean? The grace in which we stand, how I feel.
This state of grace, a state of grace is a lot of things but its also a feeling, what does grace feel like? It feels secure, its a feeling of safety, its a feeling of hope, its a feeling of peace, its a feeling of confidence, its a feeling of acceptance.
All those feelings are part of the experience of grace. In Roman's 6:17, Paul says but grace or thanks be to God, so its used as a feeling of gratitude here, an expression of gratitude. What is it that we say before meals? We say, shall we say grace, right.
Another way of saying thanks. So God's character and gifts engender a thankful, beautiful, blessed state that is sometimes referred to as grace. We were in a state of grace. Thanksgiving and joy when our latest grandson was born.
You get the news and many of you share this. I'm not saying anything that is new to you, many of you who are grandparents and great grandparents and any great great grandparents maybe. You get that phone call from your daughter or your son-in-law, whatever and they announce to you that so and so.
Your latest grandchild is born and healthy. You can hear him or he or she crying in the background and that feeling that you have is grace. Feeling of thanksgiving for this life and how God has worked everything together so beautifully.
Grace. Another way that the Bible uses the word is in a greeting or a salutation, a lot of epistles begin and end with an offer of grace. Roman's one verse seven, Paul says grace and peace from God, our father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Again, depending on the context the word could be used to wish the very best of God's blessings or God's speed or rejoicing for God's blessings. All as a normal greeting between Christians, we don't say that very much but back in the day, you know, when Christianity was new.
Early Christians used that word grace, be with you. We just don't use it, we go hi, how are ya, nice to see you, whatever but in those days between Christians, it was a way of communicating their faith and their bond as members of God's body.
Then, the way that I'm really looking at it tonight. Also as God's gift of salvation, grace, the word grace. Also used to summarize all of the things that God has done from the beginning of time to accomplish our salvation.
I'll repeat that. Sometimes the word grace in the Bible is used to describe all of the things that God has done in order to accomplish our salvation. For example, He maintained the physical universe so the plan of salvation could be completed.
He could have destroyed everything or everything could have destroyed of itself but he didn't. He sustained it. Forming and preserving the Jewish nation through whom the savior would come. That's part of God's plan.
Choosing a plan to save us through a response of faith rather than a requirement of perfection. I could preach on that all night, are you kidding me? The God had us saying, how are we going to save these people here that are sinful, that are due for destruction.
What should we do with them? Well let's just give them a law and some rules, if they live up to that, they're good, they can come on in and if they break any of the rules, they're out of here. Is that the plan? No, God's plan was, I will go myself and bare their sins.
I will pay for their sins, I will suffer the consequence. That's the plan. So God choosing the plan to save us through a response of faith rather than an act of perfection. Sending Jesus to offer his perfect life in order to atone for our sins.
Resurrecting Jesus from the dead to confirm the message and the power and the person of Christ. Establishing and preserving the Church in order to communicate the good news of salvation to the world. Filling each believer with the Holy Spirit to guarantee the resurrection.
Some people say, why do we have the Holy Spirit? I can't speak tongues now, you had the Holy Spirit in you because that's your guarantee that after you dead by the power of the spirit, you will resurrect again.
That's the importance of it. That's part of the plan. Recording and preserving his word to provide a witness of his love and promises throughout history and putting an end to sin and to death when Jesus returns.
Now, doing all of these things that I just mentioned for the specific purpose of saving us from death and guaranteeing us eternal life. The Bible compresses all of these ideas many times and just compresses them all the way down to a single word, grace.
Grace. When Paul or the other apostles are talking about grace, it's a code word and it's like a tight bundle, you know. If you open it up, boom all these things pop out. It's short form for all of these wonderful things in God's plan.
It was nothing we did or said that provoked him to do this. It was his gracious character that moved him to action on our behalf. When we recognize what he has done, what does it do? It fills us with grace, thanksgiving, peace.
Those feelings I described before and when we want to say something good or bless someone else. The very best we could hope for them is that this grace be upon them. When our little baby, our latest grandson was born and Lise and I went over to see him.
Not very many minutes into the time we were there, we gathered together and I prayed for him. What a privilege that is, what a grace that is. That God keeps you alive long enough that you can hold your grand-baby in your hands.
And pray for him. And what was my prayer for him? My prayer for him was that God's grace be upon him like it has been upon us. I could not ask for anything better or anything more. And so the sum total of all these actions by God on our behalf.
This is the grace that the Bible says we are under or we have received and this grace is the central power, it's the dynamo that moves our spiritual lives in several ways. We get to the title now, the power of grace.
What does it do in our lives? Well first of all, it gives us the power to change. It gives us the power to change. Under the power of grace, a person goes from loving sin to loving righteousness. From loving this world, to loving the next world.
From loving himself exclusively to loving his enemy. From loving his idles to loving the true and living God. Jesus Christ. Most religious groups boast in the power of things that can be seen or heard or counted by human perception.
Grace, however, is the power that affects the hidden regions of the heart that can only be seen by God who judges the heart. That's what grace affects. That part of you only God can see and sometimes you can see.
Paul the apostle says it best when he describes the reason for the incredible change that took him from persecutor of the church to proclaimer of the gospel. If you have your Bibles in first Corinthians chapter 15 verse nine to 11, he says for I am not, excuse me.
He says for I am the least of the apostles and not fit to be called an apostles because I persecuted the Church of God. But listen, by the grace of God. One word, one word by the grace of God. That compacts everything I just talked about for ten minutes just a few moments ago.
By the grace of God, I am what I am and its grace toward me did not prove in vain but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I but the grace of God with me. Whether than it was I or they so we preached and so you believe.
You see, Paul learned the agonizing lesson that the law cannot change a person. All the law does is point out your sins and the consequences of your sins. That's all the law can do. It can't make you a better person.
No matter how well you know it, it can't make you a better person. It just shows you how your imperfect. The law modifies your behavior because you fear the consequences of the law. And will power doesn't change a person either, there's a limit to will power.
There's a threshold beyond which will power can be broken. Will power only works for a time. If you don't believe me, ask anyone whose addicted to something. Drugs, alcohol, food, carbs, pornography. What's the, there's one I'm thinking of.
What do they call that? Anyways, money, power. Ask anybody whose addicted to those things, how well their will power is working. There's a limit to will power. But God's grace puts a completely new heart into a person.
One under the grace of God is free from the law because he is no longer judged by the law Roman's 6:14. One under grace no longer uses will power to achieve a righteousness derived from the law because that person naturally desires to please God and her righteousness is given to her through faith and Christ.
I know it's a hard concept for many of us who like to keep rules. It's a kind of of a dangerous thing, isn't it? I should have called this the dangerous sermon. Because rule keeping is just so much more comfortable.
You know why, cause we can count the rules we're keeping and we also be able to count the rules that other people are keeping. That's why we like rules. There's nothing wrong with rules, but rules are not how we are saved.
The sum total of God's blessings referred to as grace transforms a person beyond what they could do by themselves through efforts at law keeping and exercising will power. Law keeping and will power, it'll get you far but it won't transform you.
It won't change you. It won't take you as a caterpillar and transform you into a butterfly. That kind of metamorphosis. You might be a bigger, fatter, stronger caterpillar with the law but you'll never become a butterfly.
Only grace can enable you to be a butterfly. The change brought about by God's grace begins slowly but it's natural end results in a person being resurrected, glorified, seated at the right hand of God with Jesus forever.
This power, this power of grace. This is the central power of Christianity because it's the only thing that can change us into what God has destined to become. No other power can do this. Oh, I so wish we got this.
The only way to become eternal, spiritual beings is through the power of grace, the only way. Grace also gives us the power to praise. You know, we spend a lot of time emphasizing the mode and the concept of worship, you know, only acapella singing, orderly and decent assemblies.
Good acoustics, good sound, so on and so forth. We are careful of the exterior components of proper worship but the scripture we use to prove our style of worship emphasizes the fact that it's the inside condition that counts the most.
What does the Bible say in Ephesians 5:19? Singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord and so we emphasize the word singing that it means without instruments and that's true. That's biblical but the passage itself does not emphasize the word singing.
We do, to prove a doctrinal point. But doctrinally, the point that the passage is making is that we sing with our heart. That's the point. The singing, the melody, the songs, the spiritual songs they need to be heartfelt, that's the point that Paul is making.
Yes, we should be singing but that's not what Paul is trying to prove to the people in those days because it wasn't an issue in those days. Your lips are singing without instruments. Yes, your music is spiritual in words and tones, yes.
But your heart must be the thing that is rejoicing, that is thankful, that is praising. Some people think that grace gives them the right to do what they want with worship. We're under grace, let's have a band, let's have flashing lights, let's have a, you know.
What is it dancing with the stars, disco ball, you know. Let's really spruce up our worship. They think well because we're under grace we can do all this stuff. But the Bible guides us in the proper mode of worship and we're bound to follow its instruction.
Some people however, think that if they are using the proper mode of worship they're okay. They can just phone it in. Watch me, I'm in the pew, am I not? I even come Sunday night, don't I? My lips are moving, no instruments are playing.
I must be okay. Wrong again. The Bible also tell us that the heart has to be properly involved as well. Why am I saying this? I'm saying this because this is where grace comes in. Grace motivates the heart to be grateful, joyful and happy.
What I'm saying here is that the right mode of worship is not what affects the heart. It isn't acapella singing that moves the heart to rejoice. It isn't. Have you ever been to a African American Pentecostal Church with a big band? Are those people not rejoicing? Well they're jumping up and down and happy and just having a good time.
I mean if we were judging worship by emotion. We would lose ten to nothing. Okay. They would beat us. But it isn't even big religious musical productions that inspire gratitude, that moves us to greater holiness.
Grace is what makes the heart sing. That's what I'm trying to get across. Grace is what moves the lips to find just the right words to express gratitude and joy. Grace is what powers our praise to God who has blessed us.
We can teach the music, we can organize orderly Bible worship services but it's grace that tunes the heart to sing. That's what I'm trying to get across. Whether we're five, 50 or 5000, it's grace that tunes the heart to sing in thankfulness.
And then maybe one other thing here, maybe I've blown the time. Grace gives us the power to die. You need guts to die. You know what I'm saying. You got to have courage to die. Those of you who are in the helping profession, nurses, doctors, you know, ministers, whatever, first responders, you're dealing with death all the time.
You see how some people die right. Clawing and scratching, you know, every breath. I want one more breath, I want one more breath. You know, there's a saying that says everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to, nobody wants to die.
Nobody wants to die because nobody wants to leave this place. Nobody wants to abandon this life or this body. If it weren't for grace, hanging on to what we have here for as long as we could, would be a good plan.
Why? It'd be our only plan. Because the wage of sin is death and all would face judgment and condemnation after death. So I mean, you know, if all we have to look forward to is being condemned, man I'm going to try and stay here for as long as I can.
But because of God's grace, we have been saved from judgment and condemnation through faith in Christ. We can listen for it, we can look forward to heaven. Paul says it in this way. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace.
Second Thessalonians 2:16. Because of God's gracious offer of life after death, we now have a new power. We have the power to die to ourselves. You get what I'm saying? Because we have grace, we have the power to die, how? We have the power to die to self.
In a thousand small ways, we already begin to disengage from our earthly bodies, putting to death our sins, our selfishness, our self-will, our self-centeredness. Grace also gives us the power to die to the world.
It transfers us into the kingdom of God. We no longer live by the values of this world but rather are controlled by the rules of the world to come. And it also enables us to die to this life. Grace moves us to promote the good news of the spiritual life in Jesus Christ.
The life we live in Christ eventually overtakes the one that we have here to the point that there is no interest in this life, only the one live through Jesus Christ. If I am here, I just want to be a Christian.
That used to be our slogan in the Church of Christ. I just want to be a Christian, that's all I want to be. But more than sinfully a denominational affiliation. Oh, you're the guys who only want to be a Christian.
It kind of became that. But the genesis of that idea was I just want to be a Christian. That's the life I want here. I don't want the life, the worldly life here and then my Christian life supposing to start when I get to heaven.
No, no, I want my Christian life to begin here. And I want to put to death this life and replace it with the Christian life. As I begin to make my way toward heaven. Grace allows us to know that our death is only the beginning of our new eternal life with God and Christ.
Without grace, this life is all there is but through grace, we begin to see through the looking glass of death. A wonderful life prepared from before the beginning of time for all who love Jesus Christ.
Do you realize that? From before the beginning of recorded time, God has planned for you and me to be with him forever. Boy. So as I close out my lesson, I want to ask one question. Where is the power of your religious experience? I'm not talking to you as a group now, I'm talking to you as individuals.
Old and young, male and female. Experienced Christian, less experienced Christian. Is it in your long standing membership? Is that where your power resides? Well I was here in 1924 and my grandfather was an elder and my great grandfather was a preacher.
Is that where your power is? Is it in a person? I follow this person, I read this person's books. Is it in your own conduct or your knowledge? I know half the Bible by heart and the other half I forgot.
I'm learning over again. Is that what it is? Is your power source things that can be touched or counted? If it is, it won't take you where you want to go. The power of the Christian faith is found in the grace that God bestows through faith in Jesus Christ because grace has the power to transform you.
That's where the power is, transformation. Grace quickens your heart to sincere praise. And I'll tell you something, if the only time your praising god is when there is a song leader, leading you, you have a ways to go here.
If you can't be mowing your lawn one night, or one morning or evening, whenever you mow and look and see the beautiful Oklahoma sky and stop and go, God you're so wonderful, the things that you've made.
Then grace is finding its way into your psyche, into your everyday life. You don't need a song leader to offer praise, just look up and look around. And grace enables you to leave this world for the next.
It allows you to live here as a pilgrim. Is this the power of your Christian life? If it isn't, you can receive this grace by coming to Jesus Christ by faith. And when we say this, we repeat over and over, we extent this invitation over and over, until Jesus comes.
Responding to Christ in faith, what is it? I repent of my sins, I acknowledge my faith in him and I am buried, I'll say it a different way. I am buried in a Baptism of grace. I am plunged, not just into water.
I am plunger into grace and I am resurrected as one powered by the grace of God in Christ Jesus. So if you've let that power in your life fade as a Christian and need it rekindled cause we all have those moments.
We ask you to come for prayer and become part of God's graciousness and that he will restore you to that time and to that feeling that you have. And if you need to respond by confessing Christ and being Baptized, the water is ready.
We're ready to hear your good confession of grace.