Bible Basics

Grace

“THE GOD OF ALL GRACE”   1 Peter 5:10

 

INTRODUCTION.

Grace – a Christian jargon word that we use so often and so glibly.

Most Bible-believing Christians can quote Ephesians 2:8-9 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. (NIV)

We might even be able to give a concise theological definition of Grace “It is a gift of God’s unmerited favour”

We can trot out the difference between Grace and mercy.

Grace – receiving what you don’t deserve.

Mercy – not receiving what you do deserve.

These are helpful definitions and verses to know but they can so easily become familiar and commonplace.

We are coming to celebrate the communion and to remember the death of Jesus on the cross – this above all is the pinnacle / the ultimate demonstration of God’s grace.

I want us to not simply have a better intellectual definition of God’s grace at the end of the service. BUT my prayer is that we will experience in our inner being the grace of God.

Maybe you feel that you need to prove yourself to God to gain his approval. Maybe you feel unloved, a failure, you keep making the same mistakes / committing the same sins over and over again… “Surely God must be getting fed up with me I can’t keep on coming to him for forgiveness!!”

The Bible assures us that the God we worship is “… the God of ALL Grace …” [1Peter 5:10]

  1. 1.     A WORLD OF UNGRACE.

 

The difficulty that we face is that we live is a world of UNGRACE – a term used by Philip Yancey in his book “What’s so amazing about Grace?” – A book I highly recommend to all.

  • [NB – much of what I want to share with you tonight comes from that book. I make no apology for that as very little of what we have to share is original to us. Most – if not all of what we have learned comes from someone else!]

The world we live in is not a gracious place – we get nothing for nothing.

From the time we are born we begin to learn that we don’t get much for nothing and we begin to learn how to operate in a world of Ungrace.

  • The early bird gets the worm.
  • No pain, no gain.
  • There is no such thing as a free lunch.
  • You get what you pay for
  • You made your bed now lie in it. …………..

We could say much more about the gracelessness of our world but you get the picture..

  1. 2.     A CHURCH OF UNGRACE.

 

We must be honest and say that this ‘ungrace’ of the world is also found in the Church.

ILLUS. Story of a prostitute who rented out her two year old daughter to men for kinky sex. When asked if she had ever been to the church for help she responded, with a look of pure naive shock, “Church! Why would I ever go there? I was already feeling terrible about myself. They’d just make me feel worse.”

Maybe an extreme story – but was it not such people who were attracted to Jesus because they saw in him a refuge? Has the church lost that gift?

ILLUS. Example of ungrace – Sam [not his real name] study with me at Theological college. A difficult character. Not in Church work. He has attended my brother’s Church in SA for 5 years and I all that time has never once offered one word of thanks or appreciation for Leigh’s ministry. BUT any little thing he doesn’t like he is quick to write to the Church leadership expressing his disapproval.

A recent straw poll asking what the words ‘Evangelical Christian’ brought to mind the responses included the following …. *strident pro-life activists … *opponents of gay-rights … * proposer for censorship … * references to the Moral Majority … *BUT not one mention of grace/graciousness.

What message are we giving to the World? Apparently the gospel of grace is not being heard by the World!!

Is it that our attitudes of ungrace drown out the message of grace?

{Am I being too negative? probably!! I’ll come to the positives in a moment!!}

3. A SELF OF UNGRACE.

I have picked on the Church BUT there is ungrace in every religion and system of belief.

If I am honest with myself and before God there is plenty of ungrace in my own life. It is a constant battle against some of the legalistic teaching I received as a child … don’t go to movies or parties, don’t smoke, drink, if you are a girl don’t wear make up or trousers …. It is fighting against the feeling that I must somehow earn God’s approval. — It is a daily battle against pride and judgmentalism.

So I must realise that the long tentacles of ungrace are in ME, in the CHURCH and in the WORLD.

4. A CRY FOR GRACE.

It is hard for our human nature to accept Grace. Grace goes against the grain of all we feel. People must get what they deserve. You must get what you work for and if you do wrong then you must get what is coming to you!!

And yet grace is the very thing that our human hearts cry out for!

ILLUS. A Story by Earnest Hemingway reveals this truth. “A Spanish Father decides to reconcile with his son who had run away to Madrid. Now remorseful, the father takes out this ad in the El Liberal newspaper: ‘Paco meet me at Hotel Montana noon Tuesday all is forgiven. Papa.’ Paco is a common name in Spain and when the father goes to the square he finds 800 young men named Paco waiting for their fathers.”

5. A GOD OF ALL GRACE.

Grace is difficult for us to explain – especially to someone who has never known it.

There are hundreds of verses in Scripture that tell of the Grace of God….

John 1:16-17 16 From the fulness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 9:8 8 And 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.

Ephesians 2:8 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God —

1 Timothy 1:2       2 To Timothy my true son in the faith:

Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 Peter 5:10          10 And the God of all grace  ……………….., will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

When Jesus came he embodied the grace of God BUT to communicate the extent of that Grace he told stories.

I want to tell four brief stories in modern form that show something of the lavishness and extent of God’s grace.

STORY #1

A tramp lives under Waterloo Railway Bridge in a cardboard box. The noise of the trains and the traffic and the damp cold get to him BUT he has found a quiet spot where no-one hassles him. In the early mornings he scratches in the bins behind the restaurants and finds some uneaten garlic bread (cold and greasy) a half nibbled pizza, and few chips, and a half-eaten, half-squashed cream cake. He eats what he can and stuffs the rest into a supermarket bag for latter. As he stumbles through the rubbish bins he spots a lottery ticket – force of habit make him pick it up and stuff it in his pocket.

Later that day he remembers the ticket and compares it to the numbers in the newspaper he picked up. Three numbers match, four, five, six!! he can’t believe it. Tramps don’t win lotteries.

Later in the day a tramp in badly fitting clothes is being interviewed by a TV journalist in designer Clothes. “How do you feel?” No one has asked him that for years. He has just won £4million!!

He has been to the edge of starvation and back BUT will never be hungry again!!

STORY #2

An entrepreneur decides to cash in on the boom in the travel business. He does a lot of work putting together a package for the elite/ exotic traveller. A large part of the package includes travel in the Gulf. He secure a £million loan from a Venture Capitalist. One thing he didn’t bank on … The week before the first trip Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait. How will he pay back the loan???

He agonizes for weeks – puts together a repayment plan of £5000 a month! It looks pathetic BUT he visits his backer in the City – He is nervous and apologetic!

The venture Capitalist holds up his hands to interrupt. “Wait. What nonsense are you talking about? Repayment?” He laughes “Don’t be silly. I am a spectulator. I win some, I loose some. I knew your plan had risks. Its not your fault the war started. Forget it!”

He tears up the contact and put it through the paper shredder!!

STORY #3

From the Boston Globe June 1990 – A Most Unusual Banquet.  READ ..{summary-Wedding reception at top hotel – fiancée ditch bride after arrangements had been made – she went ahead with the banquet and invited all the Down-and-outs}

STORY #4

In a small conservative country town a 15 year old girl has just had another argument with her parents – her nose-rings, music, length of her skirts the issues.

“I hate you !” she screams at her father through the bedroom door. That night she does what she has planned many nights  – she runs away. Off to the city

She meets a man who says he will look after her – a few pills to make her feel better – a flat to live in. She was right all along she decides: her parents were keeping her from all the fun.

The man – she calls Boss – makes sure she has all the money, clothes, food she wants — she is under age so men will pay a premium for her!!

After a year the first signs of illness appear — she is amazed at how quickly the ‘Boss’ turns mean.

She is thrown onto the street – she can’t earn as much on the street to feed her habit — she ends up cold and living in a box.

‘Why did I leave home — My dog at home eats better than me!’

Three phone calls – three times the answering machine – “Dad! Mom! It’s me. I was wondering about maybe coming home. I am catching a bus up your way tomorrow. It gets in around midnight. If you are not there I guess I will just keep on going!’

The bus journey seems eternal – “What if they are away and didn’t get the message? What will I say? Dad I am sorry/ Please forgive me!” She hasn’t apologised to anyone in years.

The bus pulls into to the bus-station. Fifteen minutes the driver announces. Fifteen minutes to decide the rest of her life!

As she walks into the terminal none of the thousands scenes that had played out in her mind prepares her for what she sees. Amidst the plastic chairs and table stands a group of 40 people – brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents all in crazy party hats and big “WELCOME HOME  banner. Out of the crowd of well-wishers breaks her Dad.

With tears streaming down her face she starts the speech she memorized “Dad, I am sorry. I know …”

“Hush Child! We haven’t got time for that. You’ll be late for the party. There is a Banquet waiting for you at home!”

 

God’s grace is extravagant!!

We are the spiritual Tramps! We are the debtors in over our heads! We are the ones invited to the wedding banquet! We are the ones who the father longs to welcome home!

When a sinner repents and comes to God he throws a party. He rejoices — not because all the world’s problems are solved — not because all human pain and suffering has come to an end — not because 1000s are convert. He rejoices when ONE comes.

ILLUS. the Love sick Father – Yancey p.56

God’s grace is extravagant!!

 

 

 

6. CHURCH: THE PLACE OF GRACE.

We said earlier that there was ungrace in the church – that is true because the Church is made up of people. BUT it is also true that the Church is made up of people who have been the recipients of God’s grace. Just as there is evidence of ungrace / criticism and selfishness there is also plenty of evidence of people unselfishly serving others/ giving sacrificial / loving each other / caring for the unlovely.

ILLUS. At conference in Britain many years ago delegates were debating what if anything was unique to Christianity.  C S Lewis happened to wander into the room “What is the rumpus all about?” When told he responded. “That is easy. It is GRACE!”

The notion of God’s love coming free to human beings, no strings attached seems to go against the grain of every human instinct. No other faith has this

Buddhism has its eight-fold path, the Hindus have the Karma, the Jews the covenant Law, the Muslims the Sharia (Code of law) — each offers a way to gain approval — only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional!!

Christians are called to demonstrate that love and grace. Times when we feel the we have been walked all over by others (Christians) with hob-nailed boots on. Our natural desire is to retaliate or withdraw because we are not appreciated BUT it is at that point that we are called upon to respond with grace.

The Church is the Custodian of this message – the gospel of Grace!

ILLUS. A book called “Growing up Fundamentalist” – a story of a reunion of student from a missionary school in Japan. “With one or to exception all had left the faith and come back!” one of the students reported. “And those of us who had come back had one thing in common: we had all discovered grace …” It is nowhere else to be found.

On the occasion when many of the crowd were turning away from Jesus…

John 6:66-68 66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.   67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.             68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

The Church  – God’s people are the ones who have received God’s grace and they are the ones who are to communicate that grace to the world in attitude, word and deed!

The story of the Bible / of human history is of people turning away from God and breaking his father-heart. YET in spite of his anger and threats of judgement we see his love shine through.

Hosea – a wonderful and dramatic acted-out parable in the OT – God tells Hosea to marry a woman names Gomer. She bears three children .. abandons him and the children and lives with another man and works as a prostitute.

Listen to God instructions to Hosea ..   Hosea 3:1 1 The LORD said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods ….” (NIV)

Hosea’s emotions were probably like a roller-coaster .. he wants to murder and forgive ..to divorce and to reconcile .. against all the odds the irresistible power of love wins the day … he welcomes his wife back home.

Gomer didn’t get fairness, or even justice. She got Grace!.

Listen to what God says to Israel….

Hosea 11:6-9       6 Swords will flash in their cities, …….

….8 “How can I give you up, Ephraim?

How can I hand you over, Israel?  …..

…..My heart is changed within me;

all my compassion is aroused.

9 ……              For I am God, and not man —

the Holy One among you.

I will not come in wrath. (NIV)

He begins in anger and sternness and dissolves in tears. He allows himself to be humiliated and to come back for more. ….8 “How can I give you up, Ephraim?       How can I hand you over, Israel?

Put your name in there. “How can I give you up, Gray? How can I hand you over, Tanya?

Grace is hard to understand because our experience in human relationships is often smothered with ungrace. We get hurt, criticized, used and abused.

Grace is hard for us to understand because in the face of injustice a price must be paid. A murderer can’t just go free. A lair/gossip/cheat can’t go unpunished. The NT anticipated this and stresses that a price has been paid – by God himself. God gave up his own son rather than give up on humanity.

Grace means that there is nothing I can do to make God love me more.

Grace means that there is nothing I can do to make God love me less.

God loves me as much as a infinite God can possibly love.  THAT’S GRACE

The God of ALL Grace1 Peter 5:10

1.        A World of ‘Ungrace’

  • The world we live in is not a gracious place – we don’t get much for nothing.
  • The World’s philosophy is …

       .. ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch’

 2.        A Church of ‘Ungrace’

  • The ‘ungrace of the world is also found in the church. Not surprising since it comprises humans.

 3.        A self of ‘Ungrace’

  • A constant struggle against pride, judgmentalism and selfishness.

 4.        A Cry for Grace

  • The cry of the human heart is to be forgiven and accepted.

 5.        A God of ALL Grace

John 1:16 “From the fulness of his GRACE we have

                    all received”

       2 Corinthians 9:8 “God is able to make all GRACE

      bound to you”

       Ephesians 2:8 “For it is by GRACE you have been saved”

       1 Peter 5:10 “The God of ALL GRACE”

 6.        Church: the Place of Grace

  • Grace distinguishes the Church from all other Faiths.
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