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Great Themes of the Bible
Recently we looked at the theme of God’s mercy, and saw the comparison between God’s mercy and His grace. And while both are often used side by side, they are different.
God in His mercy doesn’t give us what we deserve, death and His wrath because of our sin. And because of God’s mercy we are then able to receive His grace, that is, we receive from God what we don’t deserve, His loving-kindness and salvation.
Because of God’s mercy, we can partake of God’s grace.
Mercy and grace are at the heart of our faith in Jesus Christ.
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” (Ephesians 2:4-5 NKJV)
Just as it’s important not to misunderstand God’s mercy, we also need to be careful not to misunderstand His grace, not so much as in the definition as in application.
So many think that because of God’s grace they can continue to sin knowing that God will forgive them, but that’s a misuse and a misunderstanding of God’s grace. Paul said,
“Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,” (Romans 5:20 NKJV)
Paul’s referring to the wonderful sacrifice Jesus made for our sins, which is the good news of God’s grace for our lives. But Paul also goes on to say,
“Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:1-2 NKJV)
But when we rightly understand that God’s grace is His free gift of salvation, and apply it to our lives, then we’ll see a wonderful transformation, and our lives will never be the same.
Consider you’ve been working for a company a long time, and there’s only a year left before you retire. During this time your attitude changes and you begin to act as if you owned the place. You say bad things about the owner, and tick off your co-workers. You feel like you’re owed so you take things from the office, and you come in late and leave early.
One day the owner calls you into the office and tells you he knows what you’ve been up to, and according to the policy manual, a manual you signed when you were hired. And the boss shows you those sections you’ve violated that the manual says are fireable offenses.
And then he says, “You’re fired.”
You respond saying, “But I have a family to feed and bills to pay. I need this job.”
But the owner says, “Sorry, but according to our policy you’re fired. You’ve been taking advantage of your position and have taken the company and myself for granted. Please clean out your desk.”
You turn pale as you think about your family and friends. You also know you’re getting what you deserve. You’ve stolen, came in late and left early without permission, and you’ve spoken inappropriately to and about others.
As you’re cleaning out your desk the owner comes over and says, “I know your family will be devastated, because it’s their life you’ve destroyed as well as your own. So I am going to extend to you grace. I’m going to override the policy, because I can, so you still have your job, not because you deserve it, because you don’t, but rather because of my grace. From this time forward you’re under my grace.”
I bet you ten to one things are going to change with the way you now do things. You won’t go down the same path that got you fired. And I bet you’re not going to say, “Since I am under grace I’m going to continue like nothing ever happened.”
That’s actually going to be the furthest thing on your mind. You’ll be grateful that you still have your job and you will no doubt do your job differently, and that’s all because of grace.
With this in mind consider these words about God’s grace.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV)
What should we be doing now that we have a better understanding of God’s grace in giving us salvation when what we really deserve is His wrath?
First there needs to be an attitude of gratitude
If there were one person who I believe understood God’s great and amazing grace, it would be John Newton, author of hymn, “Amazing Grace.”
Newton wrote the song after taking advantage of God’s second chance for his life. He wasn’t a very good person. He captained a salve ship, but in a storm God changed the course of His life, from being a slave trader to becoming a minister.
He also had a tremendous influence upon William Wilberforce who eventually was able to abolish slavery in England.
In 1779 Newton wrote these words.
Years later another verse was added, replacing the 5th and sometimes the 6th verse.
John Newton really understood grace when he wrote these words, and his life dramatically changed. He left the slave trade and began studying Christian theology. In 1764 he was ordained in the Church of England.
Newton now knew God’s amazing grace and he lived with this overall sense of gratitude.
Because of God’s amazing grace, we’ve been given a second chance at life, and for most of us, if not all of us, a third, fourth, or even hundredth chance.
While we deserve death God has given to us His mercy so we can participate in His grace.
“And you, being dead in your trespasses … He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us … He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14 NKJV)
The law states: “You sin, you die, because the wages of sin is death.”
But then God said, “My Son paid the price for your sins upon the cross, therefore by My grace you have been saved through faith.”
The Apostle Paul said it like this
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 NKJV)
This word “gift” is the same Greek word used for “grace.” So the gift of God is His grace, giving to us life when we deserve death.
Now, how do you live your life with this understanding? Can I give a suggestion, with a little bit more gratitude for what we’ve been given.
Next, knowing about God’s wonderful amazing grace should lead to growth.
The Bible says we’re to take off the old man, the old way of life, that is, the life lived in and for this world, and then we are to put on the new clothes of God’s grace, because we’re no longer working for the same boss, Satan, but rather we’re now working for a new boss, the Lord.
Now think of the words the Apostle Paul said,
“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24 NKJV)
If we are then serving the Lord Jesus Christ, then let’s look at the example of His life.
“And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” (Luke 2:52 NKJV)
Jesus continued to increase in these four main areas of life, mentally (wisdom), physically (stature), spiritual (favor with God), and socially (favor with men).
Because of God’s grace we can likewise grow in these four areas. Notice something else, it wasn’t that Jesus grew in one area more than in another, but rather He grew in each. There was a balance in His life.
So how balanced are we?
God has called His church to be a grace-filled church so we can guide others. He’s called us to be examples of His grace.
Consider if you were to go on a trip to a foreign country, but you didn’t know either the language or the culture. So you hire a guide. But then they say, “Sorry, but I’m lost. I can’t understand a thing these people are saying, and I haven’t got a clue what these signs say.”
Guides are supposed to know the way. We are called to be light to this world, that we are to shine the light of Jesus upon the darkness, that we are to be God’s guiding light to those who are lost.
So we need to be growing, but nowhere more than in God’s grace. The Apostle Peter said,
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18 NKJV)
The question becomes, however, is “How do we grow in God’s grace?” And the answer is through God’s grace.
Growth in the Lord isn’t about how much we’re doing for God; rather it’s about how much is God doing within us. It isn’t about how many services or bible studies we attend, how many bible verses we know, or how many Christian books or devotionals we read.
Growing in God’s grace is about applying what we learn.
Let’s say you decide you want to get healthier and physically fit. So you determine to start eating healthier foods and join a health club.
For the next six months you go to a health club and read about healthy foods and watch people work out on the machines. After six months you may know all there is about healthy food and while you’ve been around those who are getting healthier, you haven’t grown one once healthier, maybe a couple of pounds heavier, but not healthier.
And so we need to have that attitude of gratitude and grow both in our knowledge of God, but just as much if not more so in God’s grace, that is, in the unmerited favor of God. And since it is a work of God, we can be confident of this very thing, that Jesus who has begun that good work will complete it.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study