This morning I want to talk about one word. One of the most exciting words which we find in the Bible more than a hundred times. That word is grace.
A few years ago we marked 200 years from the abolition of slavery in the British Colonies. And one Sunday was designated “Amazing Grace Sunday” – a day for very many churches to sing that marvellous hymn by the converted slave trader, John Newton.
AMAZING GRACE! how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me;
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
’Tis grace that brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
Amazing grace! The word grace is at the heart of the gospel message. It occurs 124 times in the Bible. But what is grace?
Grace is the mercy and active love of God, God’s undeserved favour;
Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues. John R. W. Stott (1921– )
Grace is the good pleasure of God that inclines him to bestow benefits upon the undeserving. It is a self-existent principle inherent in the divine nature and appears to us as a self-caused inclination to pity the wretched, spare the guilty, welcome the outcast, and bring into favor those who were before under just condemnation. Its use to us sinful men is to save us and make us sit together in heavenly places to demonstrate to the ages the exceeding riches of God’s kindness to us in Christ Jesus. A. W. Tozer
Eph 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 objects 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 you are 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!!!
Eph 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!! All 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 doesn’t treat this wasteful son as he deserves for squandering the family estate, but instead welcomes him home. The Father who is always on the lookout ready to welcome the wanderer home.
20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, `Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.
24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Grace that welcomes back that wasteful prodigal son. Grace that welcomes a slave trader like John Newton, and 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.
That’s how much God loves us! THAT is grace – God’s undeserved favour!
“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.”
When a person becomes a Christian God pours down so many blessings on them!
Forgiveness of sins
Life instead of death
Freedom instead of slavery to sin
Life in all its fullness here and now
The Happy Certainty of Heaven
The Holy Spirit living inside us
Being God’s children
Being part of God’s family
Access to God through prayer
And all of these blessings are God’s FREE GIFT to us as Christians. We know we don’t deserve any of those blessings. In our hearts we confess that “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God – there is none who is righteous, no not one!”
Pretty amazing grace is what You showed me
pretty amazing grace is who You are
I was an empty vessel You filled me up inside
and with amazing grace restored my pride
Pretty amazing grace is how You saved me
and with amazing grace reclaimed my heart
love in the midst of chaos calm in the heat of war
showed with amazing grace what love was for
You forgave my insensitivity and my attempt to then mislead You
You stood beside a wretch like me
Your pretty amazing grace was all I needed.
Came to You with empty pockets first
when I returned I was rich man
didn’t believe love could quench my thirst
but with amazing grace You showed me that it can
You overcame my loss of hope and faith
gave me a truth I could believe in
You led me to a higher place
showed Your amazing grace when grace was what I needed
Pretty amazing grace!
Grace is all those blessings we could NEVER earn or deserve, lavished upon us by our loving heavenly Father!
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 an eight-hour day and receives a fair day’s pay for his time, that is a wage. When a person competes with an opponent and receives a trophy for his performance, that is a prize. When a person receives appropriate recognition for his long service or high achievements, that is an award. But when a person is not capable of earning a wage, can win no prize, and deserves no award–yet despite that he 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 be good enough for God. We could never earn or deserve our salvation – it’s all of grace! Praise God!
John Newton said that when we get to heaven, there will be three amazing things:
(1) who is there
(2) who is not there, and
(3) the fact that I am there!
So many blessings! “Grace is everything for nothing for those who don’t deserve anything.”!
Grace – God;s undeserved favour. And that grace carries on throughout our lives.
Eph 2:10 For we are God’s workmanship, 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 – 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!
When we think we haven’t the strength to continue, God’s grace is there for us! Whether it’s in our church life together or in any part of our lives, home, work, family, if ever we are weary and discouraged and want to give up, God’s grace is there for us! When we are dragged down by illness or discouragement or grief, God’s grace is sufficient for us!
A Minister (and this isn’t a personal story) once had to make a very long and urgent journey, but wasn’t sure he would have the money for the whole trip. One of the elders of his church who was very wealthy came to his home to offer a word of comfort and encouragement. As he left, the elder slipped a piece of paper into the minster’s hand. He looked at it and was surprised to find that it was a check made out to him and signed by this rich friend. But the figures to indicate the amount of the gift were missing. “Did you really mean to give me a signed blank cheque?” he asked. “Yes,” the elder replied. “I didn’t know how much you’d need, and I wanted to be sure you would have enough.”
Grace means that God has given us a signed spiritual blank cheque to provide for every genuine need that arises in our lives. With God there is always ENOUGH when we need it – “my grace is sufficient for you!”
And none of it earned, or deserved. God’s undeserved favour. God’s love that cares and stoops and rescues!
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.
THROUGH MANY DANGERS TOILS AND SNARES WE HAVE ALREADY COME
TIS GRACE HAS BROUGHT US SAFE THUS FAR AND GRACE WILL LEAD US HOME