What Grace Teaches Us
In my previous sermons, I've tried to preach a series on the topic of the topic of grace and what grace has produced in us. In the previous lessons, I've talked about the idea of grace and what it produces in us.
And I said, first of all, it produces graciousness in us. In other words, a change in our attitude to reflect God's mercy and love. Another thing that grace produces in us is gratitude. The greater our realization of sin, the greater our appreciation and gratitude for God's grace. This gratitude eventually is expressed as heartfelt appreciation or dependance on the source of that grace, which is God.
And also, we have a sense of peace and a sense of well-being. Why do we have that? Because we have money or because we have fame or because we have either no big house or we're strong physically? Is that why we have a sense of peace? Of course not, because those things can just wither away in a day. One day you're well, and the next day you're not well. Right now, it's the grace of God that gives us a sense of peace and and and assurance.
And then we also talked about the aroma of Christ. A gracious heart and attitude begins to be seen and felt by others as they see us being led by Christ. There's something about us that's different, not worldly. People can't seem to put a finger on it but it is that they are full of God's grace. It shows in their in their speech and in their attitude about various things.
I want to add one more thing. In today's lesson, grace also produces a certain maturity or growth as Christians in us. And so I want to discuss some of the things that we learn because of grace, some of the things that we learn because of God's grace in our experience.
1. Grace teaches us to value the church.
This is not only a personal observation, but in my experience I have noticed that the people who misunderstand or undervalue God's grace in their own lives also do not place a very high value on the church as well. For example, those who are self-reliant, those who are not in touch with their own sinfulness, rarely see their need for the church and rarely see the need for church life.
I'm good. I'm fine. What did I ever do to anybody? I'm okay with the big guy upstairs. I never killed anybody. I never stole.
These people don't see their own sinfulness and because of that, they don't have a lot of need for the church. The final result of grace, if you think about it for a moment, is the church. God's grace worked through Jesus Christ to ultimately produce what? Well, to produce the church. The ultimate valuable thing that's in this world (Acts 20:28-32). Christ, who is grace personified said I will build my church (Matthew 16:18). The Church Built by Christ. The Church Built by Grace. Jesus didn't build our church. He didn't build the church. He didn't build our church. He built His church. It belongs to Him. The church is valuable because it is His church and also because it is where our works of grace and our experience of grace are carried out.
I would not have known grace from watching National Geographic TV. I would not have known Grace had I read all the philosophers in the last 200 years. I would not have known about Grace if I would have watched every single movie made in Hollywood or Europe. None of those things would have taught me about God's grace. Only the preaching of the gospel usually done in a church, among the church or by in the church teaches me about grace. The more I understand the depth and the width and the meaning of God's grace, the more I appreciate and value what Grace's ultimate goal was. And what was Grace's ultimate goal? The church.
I'm very frustrated when I hear people say, usually younger people, "I don't need the church, Me and God were good." Someone who says they don't need the church really doesn't understand about God's grace because God's grace produced the church. The Church is the experience of grace in the lost world. If you want to experience God's grace in this lost world than live out your life in the church. Serve the church, give to the church, sacrifice for the church. Forgive those who offend you in the church. Teach somebody in the church. Go to a dying brother or sister his home and hold their hand and pray with them. If you do these things, you'll learn about the grace of God. It's the only place where you will learn about the grace of God.
2. Grace teaches me how to please God.
In the last words of his last epistle, the apostle Peter finishes with one last summary exhortation to the church.
but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
- II Peter 3:18
In his final words, he's an apostle of the church, and he's speaking to the church, and he's giving his final words to the church. First of all let's look at what Peter doesn't say:
A. Do more, work longer, try harder
He didn't say this, he could have but he didn't. Why? Because output creates religious pride. When we only focus on that. Activity in the absence of grace, it causes one to compare oneself to others. Activity alone is never satisfying because there is always more that you can do. The person I feel sorry for in the world is the one who is a perfectionist but does not know Christ. They're never satisfied and it's never good enough and they can never, ever please themselves or please someone else. They always see what could be better, but they have no sense of grace. Oh, I don't want that life. I feel sorry for that person.
What else doesn't Peter say?
B. Now, make sure you focus on yourself.
If you know, searching for the real you, the inner self, getting it together, searching for self without Jesus Christ is futile. Why? Because all you're going to find if you search for yourself without Christ is an imperfect human being. That's it. You want to find who you really are. Go to China, walk across Europe. Do whatever you want to find out who you are without Christ. You're going to find out who you are. You're imperfect.
C. judge yourself
Judging includes measurement. What do we measure ourselves and what would be good enough to pass the measurement? There can be no perfect ten score. No knowledge is perfect. No repentance isn't perfect. It's always in part to judge one's self is to find oneself guilty. Where do you go from there?
What does Peter say?
A. Grow in grace itself
The knowledge and the experience of God's grace grow in that. In other words, realize and understand how much God loves us. If there's one mistake that we make as Christians, and I'm generalizing here, it's that we usually underestimate God's love. In my experience in counseling fellow Christians who are having spiritual difficulties, rarely is it that the problem is the person has overestimated God's love. The problem is we underestimate his love. We say things like, How could God forgive me for that? or How could God be patient enough for me when I've once again done the thing I swore I would never do? or Why would God bless me if I continue to fail in the area where I so badly want to succeed, spiritually? We need to see the power of God's grace.
I want to put on my gravestone Romans 8:1: There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. If that's the last thing you think of before you go out of this world, that was a good thought. Peter says grow in that. Understand that idea that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Grow strong in that. Dwell on these things, rejoice in it, rely on it. Share the wonderful news of grace with other people. Live like a person who is in the power of God's grace. Don't be afraid to be joyful. Don't be afraid to be confident in death. Don't be afraid of anyone, one or anything. Don't allow anyone to take that knowledge and that confidence away from you.
B. Grow in the knowledge of grace itself
Not just grow in grace, grow in the knowledge of grace. People are hungry for the power of God's grace in their lives and we need to be able to teach others about this gift. When we talk about we need to evangelize and inside, usually there's a collective, "Oh, dear. Here we go. I got to talk to somebody about Jesus. It's not about talking to somebody about Jesus. It's about lifting the burden of guilt off of somebody's shoulders and giving them hope. Why? Because there's no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And if you talk to somebody long enough and honestly enough, they will eventually get around to the idea that, I'm not a I'm not a good person.
How many people have I talked to who said, there's no point in me coming to church because God has given up on me long time ago. I'm too bad. I'm gay. I'm a thief. I did time in jail. I killed somebody. I left my wife. I abandoned my children. How could God love me?
We've got good news for those people. It's not just the 1,2, 3 be baptized. Of course do that. But friend but daughter but son. There's no condemnation for for those who are in Christ Jesus. And they'll say, how can that possibly be? I couldn't forgive somebody who did the stuff that I did. Yeah, but you don't know my Jesus. You don't know God. You don't know Grace. Let me tell you about that. That's preaching the gospel. Grow in the ability to administer the gospel of grace, not the gospel of law.
C. Grow in the knowledge of Christ himself.
Do not merely grow in the knowledge, but grow in the dependance on Christ. When we say, I know Jesus, that's not just I know all the doctrines. I know Jesus means I depend on Jesus. It's the opposite of what we strive for in the world. In the world, what we strive for is to be independent. I don't need anybody. I want to have enough money so I don't have to depend on anybody. But in Christ, it's the complete opposite. The more mature I become in Christ, the more I depend on Him, the less I depend on me.
Many people know about Jesus. They know about the doctrine of grace. But real growth takes place when we begin to rely on the Lord and His grace more and more. And not just know the doctrines and the facts about Jesus, but to actually know Him. Believe me, I'm learning this myself as I grow older and I am less needed and I can do less, depending on Him is not only a lesson point in one of my sermons, it's becoming a daily reality for me. His grace is steady. Even if my service is declining, even if my strength and my ability is going down. His grace remains always steady, always there.
Grace teaches us to please God. But deepening our appreciation for His grace in our lives and sharing with others, and enabling us to draw closer into to a more personal relationship with Him. God wants a sincere relationship with someone who appreciates Him and depends on Him, not a slave who's afraid of Him. Knowing God's grace helps us to do that.
3. Grace teaches us to suffer.
Jesus answers Paul concerning his suffering, the thorn in his flesh and he says to him:
"My grace is sufficient for you...
- II Corinthians 12:9
Paul was a man of action, a man of results, when he opposed Christ he wanted to destroy every Christian on the earth. When he became a Christian, he wanted every soul on the earth to be so saved in Christ. That's the type of guy he was. He was all in. Here and many other times in his ministry, he was delayed, he was defeated, he was weakened, he was opposed and had his desired results watered down or totally denied. He wanted to go west, God wanted him to go east. God during this time provided the grace for Paul to enable him to suffer these setbacks and trials without losing faith or hope or love.
Grace doesn't mean you don't suffer.
Grace doesn't mean everything goes the way you want it to go. That's not Grace. Grace is what helps you get through stuff. When the roof caves in, when the rug gets pulled out, when you get abandoned. That's what Grace does, it enables us to suffer without losing our faith, our hope, our love. Unbelievers can suffer stoically, but they can't suffer maintaining faith, hope and love only grace does this.
In addition to teaching and enabling Him to suffer God also taught Paul that in the end, Grace would be enough for Him to please and come to God. I please God because I depend on His grace to save me, not because I've done this or that or whatever. Grace is enough to get you in.
It's difficult for a proud and active and task oriented guy like Paul to accept. It's hard for any works-oriented person to accept that grace is enough. But to those who seek to grow in grace, God will teach them this deep lesson.
4. Grace teaches us our Christian duty
As we study the epistles, you see that there is a flow of information in them. Take the epistle of Romans, for example. There's doctrine, then there's duty. In other words, in chapters 1 to 11, Paul explains the doctrine of universal sin, the doctrine of salvation by faith, the doctrine of sanctification and the doctrine of Jewish election. But then in chapters 12 to 16, you have the Christian duty in church and society. He teaches the reader what they need to be doing. Paul summarizes this concept:
11For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.
- Titus 2:11-12
Grace comes in the form of Christ offering salvation and justification by faith and reliance on Jesus expressed in repentance and baptism. Yes, this is the revelation, this is the doctrine, this is the gospel, this is the announcement, this is the good news. But notice, however, that grace goes on to teach us our duty, our responsibility as Christians.
If we were saved by the power of grace but that power could not enable us to live righteous lives, what good would it be? We would simply be cursed to return to the sinful and lost state that we once were. However, grace enables us to live righteously and provides us the information that we need to live that righteous life. In other words, grace enables us to deny ungodliness. Grace enables us to deny worldly lusts. Grace enables us to live soberly and righteously and godly. Grace not only instructs us to live this way, but it also provides us with the ability to do so.
When I was saved, I so badly wanted to do what God wanted me to do. Isn't that the point? I want to do what God wants me to do. Have you never prayed that God?
Just tell me what to do. Do I go right or do I go left? Just tell me I'm ready to do it. Do I take the job or do I not take the job? Do I marry this girl or do I not marry? Just show me!
Because we're like that, grace teaches us to obey because I want to but I don't always know how. Jesus himself says,
Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word;
- John 14:23a
You say you love Jesus but do you obey Him? Jesus said that if his disciples would obey Him, how could this be so? No one has ever been able to obey God. But grace teaches us to obey God. Someone will sa how does it do that?
How does grace teach us to obey?
A. It provides us an example of love (John 3:16).
My obedience is motivated not by fear or self-interest, but by a love so great that it overcomes my resistance. In other words, I'm tempted to do a thing and my conscience, which is influenced by grace, says to me, How could you, the person that God loves, the person that loves God, how could you do that?
B. Grace also provides the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:15).
As a true child of God, attested by the Holy Spirit within me, I am now calling on my true Father who has adopted me in Christ. When I say God, please help me do this right thing. Please help me resist it. I'm not just talking to the air. I'm talking to the true and living God. And I am now able to obey because I am now in the family of God, with the indwelling of the Spirit as proof of my Sonship. How do I know? Because the Bible tells me.
"Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
- Acts 2:38
That's how I know. I don't need a sign in the sky. I don't need the cloud formation to form a cross over my house. I don't need for my heart to beat faster. I don't need to see a vision. I just have to open my Bible and look at Acts 2:38 and remember November 1977 when I said, I believe that Jesus is the Son of God and Jim Meder immersed me in the waters of baptism. That's it. I just put those two together. That's all I need.
C. Grace teaches me by providing the will of the father.
Now I know the will of the Lord and what and where He directs me. I'm not blind. As the as the song says, I do see. Some don't like the mixing of the two ideas, grace and obedience, because they confuse obedience with the idea of works. Works is the effort to please God by giving Him something - good deeds. Obedience is the effort to please God because of what He has given to us, it's a big difference. Grace teaches me how to respond to the free and priceless gift of salvation God has given me in Christ Jesus. For those who truly want and need and understand this gift, it is natural to want to obey with all their heart.
It's easy to see Christianity as an endless round of meetings and duties and don't do this and don't do that. Because much of our experience of the Christian religion is tied up in public services and private acts of service or church matters. This is necessary in a congregation our size and living in the society that we do. But let's remember, however, to let the grace of God, which initially drew us to Christ, also teach us about the God that we love and serve and want to be with in the end.
- Grace teaches us to love and care for the precious body of Christ, the church.
- Grace teaches us to make pleasing God in our everyday lives a priority.
- Grace teaches us to bear patiently under our various trials and sufferings with success.
- Grace teaches us what we need to do and what we need to eliminate in our lives in order to please God.
- Grace teaches us to have our own obedient attitude, which is truly the mark of Jesus Christ.
If we allow grace to teach us these things, we will find great satisfaction in our spiritual lives despite the hectic pace we are faced to live with in this present world.
Brothers and sisters, grace rather leads us to Christ and these types of blessings. However, and I'll say it once again, only faith expressed in repentance in baptism puts us into Christ where these blessings are found, where grace is found, as Paul says
26For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
- Galatians 3;26-27
You may know Christ, but unless you've been buried with Him in baptism, you don't have access to His grace and all it can both produce in you and teach in you. And so I encourage you brothers and sisters, friends and visitors, stop putting it off any longer. Let this be the day that you respond to the Gospel if you need to, or perhaps return to the Lord if you have sinned or if you have been unfaithful or if you have rejected the grace that He so lovingly offers to every one of us.