This morning I want to talk about one word. Grace. The word occurs 124 times in the Bible and the idea of grace is at the heart of the gospel message. Grace is God’s mercy and his undeserved favour. God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.
John R. W. Stott defined grace as “love that cares and stoops and rescues.”
A.W. Tozer said, “Grace is the good pleasure of God that inclines him to bestow benefits upon the undeserving, … to pity the wretched, spare the guilty, welcome the outcast, and bring into favor those who were before under just condemnation.”
Ephesians 2:1 ¶ As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.
The Bible tells us what we know in our hearts to be true. Without God we are all dead in our sins, running away from God, led astray by the ways of the world and by the Evil One, the Tempter, the devil. This is true of ALL of us, living to satisfy our sinful nature and following its desires instead of pursuing God. Because of our sins we all face God’s judgement – we are all objects of (God’s) wrath. We are rightly judged to be guilty and deserving to pay the penalties for our sins.
Without God we are lost. Not just lost like you’ve missed your turning and you have to turn round and go back and take the right road. Not even lost like you’re up a mountain and you can’t find the way down, because usually when you are up a mountain most ways down will get you to the bottom. Lost like you’ve crash landed in the middle of the jungle and you don’t need to decide which path you want to take because there aren’t any paths – and those lions over there are looking rather hungry. That kind of lost.
Without God we are lost and we are doomed. Doomed! Up the creek without a paddle. Drifting in your canoe where there’s no point in trying to swim for the shore because if the crocodiles don’t get you the hippo’s will. And drifting faster and faster towards the edge of the waterfall crashing down over the cliff. That kind of doomed. Only much much worse.
But here’s the GOOD news!!!
Ephesians 2:4. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions- it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
We were dead because of sin. But Jesus has died for our sins on the cross. As we share in His death our sins are forgiven. But even more than that! We were dead– but God has brought us to life with Christ! We are raised up with Him and seated in heavenly places! We share Christ’s resurrection life, eternal life, life in all its fullness! That’s grace. Getting the punishment we deserve for our sins would be justice! Being spared that punishment which we deserve would be mercy. But sharing the benefits of Christ’s glorious resurrection, receiving blessing upon blessing, that’s grace!
If someone brutally murders your son and you take things into your own hands, that’s revenge. If you’re content to allow the law and the courts to arrest and punish the offender, that’s justice. But if you pardon the murderer, adopt him, and take him home to live with you as your son, that’s grace! And that’s what God has done for us!! The only thing we deserve from God is punishment for rejecting Him and running away from Him. But instead we are alive with Christ, raised up with him, seated in the heavenly realms with Him – THAT’s grace!!
It’s the kind of love shown by the father in Jesus’s parable of the prodigal son. the Father who is always on the lookout ready to welcome the wasteful wanderer home. Grace that welcomes tax collectors like Matthew and Zacchaeus, and thieves like the man who hung on his own cross alongside Jesus. Grace that welcomes sinners of all kinds, prostitutes and murderers and drunks, “scumbags, every one”. Even miserable sinners like you and me!
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.”
“If in my foolishness I stray, returning empty and ashamed,
I love the way you father me.
Exchanging for my wretchedness your radiant robes of righteousness,
I love the way you Father me.”
That’s how much God loves us! THAT is grace – God’s undeserved favour!
When a person becomes a Christian God pours down so many blessings on us! Forgiveness and Freedom. The Holy Spirit living inside us, giving us Christ’s resurrection eternal life and making us part of God’s family. Life in all its fullness now and the Happy Certainty of Heaven. All of these blessings are God’s FREE GIFT to us as Christians. And we all know we don’t deserve and could never earn any of those blessings.
Eph 2: 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.
When a person works hard and receives a fair day’s pay, that is a wage. When a person competes and wins, that is a prize. When a person is recognised for their service or their achievements, that is an award. But when a person who is not capable of earning a wage, could never win a prize, and deserves no award receives all these and much much more – that is God’s unmerited favor. This is what we mean when we talk about the grace of God. We could never earn or deserve our salvation – it’s all just grace!
“Grace is everything for nothing for those who don’t deserve anything.”!
And then God keeps on giving us his undeserved favour all through our lives.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Good works prepared in advance for us to do! Reminds me of Blue Peter – “Here’s one I prepared earlier!!” Or of ten-pin bowling with the skittles set up ready to be knocked down. God’s grace not only saves us! Grace also leads us on and equips us to serve God for the rest of our lives, doing those good works God has planned for us to do! In these strange times, with so many new challenges, it is so good to know that God is there for us and that he has promised to every one of us “my grace is sufficient for you!” Grace means that God has given us a spiritual blank cheque to provide for every need that arises in our lives. And none of this is earned, or deserved. Grace is God’s undeserved favour. God’s love that cares and stoops and rescues! Amazing grace!
Ephesians 2:8 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.