The Grace – Giver
What does the Christian Church have to offer that the world cannot offer?
What sets Christianity apart from any other religion, society or group?
Gordon MacDonald, a Christian author once said this, “The world can do almost anything as well as or even better than the church. You need not be a Christian to build houses, feed the hungry, or heal the sick. There is only one thing the world cannot do. It cannot offer grace.”
Grace is what sets us apart from the ways of the world. The gospel of Jesus Christ, is the gospel of GRACE. My favorite writer and theologian is C.S Lewis. He was once invited to a British conference on comparative religions, where experts around the world debated what, if any belief was unique to the Christian faith. I can imagine some of these philosophers and theologians sitting around a table for hours discussing such topics as the virgin birth or the Incarnation of Christ. As the story has been told in “What’s So Amazing About Grace” by Philip Yancey, C.S Lewis wanders into the room, and says in his very British accent, “What is all the rumpus about?” They reply, obviously saying that they are discussing the uniqueness of Christianity. Lewis quickly responds, “Oh, that’s easy, It is Grace.”
Unfortunately, many Christians have no idea what it means to live in Grace.
We need to make one thing clear before we continue any further. As Pastor Rick has led us through the first chapter of Galatians, we have seen that we are saved by grace, through faith. It is not grace plus something that brings salvation; It is by Grace alone, through faith in Jesus Christ.
So we are saved by grace, and so now the question is, how then do we live? Today we aren’t going to talk so much about saving grace, but living in Grace.
What does it mean to be a Grace- Giver?
Jesus has called to a life of grace. So we need to find out what GRACE is all about.
Here’s an example of the lack of grace that can quickly permeate our churches.
A columnist Erma Bombeck wrote this:
“In church the other Sunday I was intent on a small child who was turning around and smiling at everyone. He wasn’t gurgling, spitting, humming, kicking, tearing the hymnals, or rummaging through his mother’s handbag. HE WAS JUST SMILING. Finally his mother jerked him about and in a stage whisper that could be heard in a little theatre off Broadway said, “Stop that grinning! You’re in church!”
With that, she gave him a belt and as the tears rolled down his cheeks added, “That’s better,” and returned to her prayers…”
The author continues writing: “Suddenly I was angry. It occurred to me the entire world is in tears, and if you’re not, then you’d better get with it. I wanted to grab this child with the tear stained face close to me and tell him about my God. The happy God. The smiling God. The God who had to have a sense of humor to have created the likes of us…By tradition, one wears faith and solemnity of a mourner, the gravity of a mask of tragedy, and the dedication of a Rotary badge.
What a fool I thought. Here was a woman sitting next to the only light left in our civilization – the only hope, our only miracle – our only promise for infinity. If he couldn’t smile in church, where was he left to go?”
Now my intent of reading this column is not to suggest that all Christians have lost all sense of joy and excitement, because we know that’s not true, even of many here today, who are tremendously excited and who display that sense of joy and freedom in their lives, because of the Spirit of the Lord working in and through them. However, it is a reality that there are many Christians who have either forgotten what it means to live in Grace, or who have never truly experienced that reality. Jesus spoke more about living in Grace, then living with a bunch of rules, and Paul caught that fire. Paul was gripped with the gospel of GRACE. In Galatians 2:1-10, Paul gives us a glimpse of what a Grace-Giver looks like.
A. The Life of the Grace Giver (2:1-2)
“Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain.”
The first thing we see here is that Paul traveled a lot, for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. What we don’t see right away, is the life that he endured because he was a grace-giver. As I was preparing this sermon and asking the Lord to show me what I could share with you, I was impacted tremendously by life that Paul chose to live.
Overview of Acts 9- 15
Let’s take a quick look at the kind of life Paul lived after his conversion. Rick shared last week of Paul’s former life and how God completely turned his life around.
Acts 9 – Paul converted AD 33
- Acts 9:20-25 in Damascus
- Acts 9:29 in Jerusalem AD 35
- Acts 11:25-26 in Antioch
- Acts 13 – Paul’s first missionary journey
o Vs. 4 –Cyprus
o Vs.13 – Perga
o Vs.44 – in Pisidian Antioch
o Vs. 49 – expelled from P. Antioch
- Acts 14 – Iconium
o Vs. 5 – plot to kill them, go to Lystra and Derbe
o Vs. 8 – close to Lystra and Derbe (GALATIA)
Vs. 19- LEFT FOR DEAD
Vs. 19 – back to Derbe
Vs. 21 – preach good news
BACK TO LYSTRA AND ICONIUM – place where he was stoned
BACK TO ANTIOCH TO REST
As we look at this, we get a glimpse of the burden that Paul had for the lost. Jew or Gentile, male or female, he didn’t care. And what did he endure?? He endured constant persecution and resistance from the religious leaders.
What enabled Paul to not take everything personal?
I’ll tell you what, if you guys start hurling rocks at me while I’m standing up here, my first reaction would be to take that very personally and remove myself of that situation. Paul too, took himself out of those situations as best he could, but the crazy thing is that he went right back to the same environment and preached the gospel of grace.
How would you react in that situation?
The answer to that question tells you if you are a grace-giver. It shows that you understand grace. But some might say, but it’s not safe! You’re right. But if you’re a Grace-giver, you go back.
What does Jesus say in Luke 6:27-29?
“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, (WHAT) do good to those who hate you (WHAT), bless those who curse you (WHAT) , pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.”
This is BIZARRE
Paul could have said to his buddy, Barnabas, “Those jerks, We try to share salvation with them and they do this to us. They deserve to go to hell!”
If we were to respond that way, do you think we understand what it means to live in grace?
Paul is an example to us of a Grace-Giver. Jesus lived a life of grace. He calls us to do the same.
Anyways, back to the passage. Galatians 2:1-2. Paul had went up to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus, and sets before them (the leaders of Jerusalem) the gospel he has been preaching to the Gentiles (Takes place Acts 11:30).
Paul did something very intentional. He brought Titus. Titus was not a Jew. But he was a partner with Paul, administering the Gospel message. He brought Titus to prove a point. That salvation was also for the Gentiles and that Titus didn’t have to follow the Jewish laws in order to be a part of God’s chosen family.
This brings us to our second point….
B. Grace is Not Proper (2:3-5)
“Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give into them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.”
Paul is saying to the Galatians, “Look! I took Titus, a Gentile to the Jewish hot spot, to meet with the Christian leaders, and not even he, felt compelled to be circumcised! So DON’T GET CAUGHT UP WITH WHAT THESE FALSE BROTHERS ARE SAYING AND BECOME IN BONDAGE TO THE LAW!!!”
Who were these false brothers? They are known to us as Judaizers. More importantly, they were religious leaders and “church goers” who insisted that true conversion to Christianity included the observance and obedience to the Jewish Laws.
Paul says that they came to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. What Paul was dealing with here in this passage, is the same thing that Jesus spoke about and against so often during his life. For Paul, it was the Judaizers. For Jesus, it was the Pharisees. And for us today, it is legalism. It is the insistence of being obedient to anything that is set up that must be followed in order to fit in, that is not Biblically supported.
I’ve said here that Grace is not proper. What I mean by that is this.
A. Grace is not proper
Jesus was a friend of sinners. Matthew 9:10 says, “While Jesus was having dinner at Matthews house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and “sinners”? Verse 12 Jesus responds, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick…
Matthew 11:19, Jesus is talking with the Pharisees, about how they saw Jesus. “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’”
Now, Jesus was not a glutton or a drunkard, He was without sin. Obviously this was the Pharisee’s depiction of Him.
But would it be too much to say that He was a party animal? Would you agree that Jesus pushed the boundaries a little?
Some people might get offended by that, but who enjoyed his company? Most everyone except the Pharisees. He was a friend of sinners.
Grace is irresponsible
Let’s look at the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15.
READ THROUGH THE STORY.
Obviously, we see that this was probably not responsible parenting. Do you agree?
The Father could have come up with several other options for his son, even before he left the farm.
“Well son, you need to stay, earn your keep and save your own money…”
OR, when the son came back, he could have said,
“I hope you learned your lesson, Get to your room till I figure out what I’m gonna to with you.”
Who represents the Father in this story? GOD. The question then, is God irresponsible? Now immediately we say of course not, because God is perfect.
You’re Right, God is perfect, but that doesn’t mean that He is responsible by our definition. He might not be proper in the way we would like to think. He is full of grace. And I think that scares us because is hard to get a handle on.
Proper Legalism is clear-cut, easy to follow. But that’s not grace.
Another quick example. What was Jesus’ first miracle? He turned water into wine. Why did He do that? Do you realize that He made more wine, after they had all probably had enough already?!? It doesn’t sound very proper.
Do you want one more? Luke 7. Jesus is at the home of a Pharisee for supper, and at the shock of the Pharisee, who walks in? A prostitute. Before the Pharisee has time to react, she is down at Jesus’ feet weeping and the tears flow off her face onto His feet and she wipes His feet with her hair and puts perfume on his feet.
Do you realize how awkward that would have been? Jesus didn’t take that opportunity to condemn her sinful life. In fact, Jesus, knowing her heart said to her before she left, “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
You see, that is grace.
Grace is not proper.
Its not sinful, It doesn’t excuse sin. But it’s not always proper in the way that we might think it is.
So why do I say all this. Because in Galatians 2, Paul is challenging the belief that in order to be a “Good” Christian, the believer must jump through the proper hoops.
Paul was very stern in denying them of this legalistic view, because he knew that what was really at stake was FREEDOM IN CHRIST. Verse 5 says again, “We did not give into them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.”
C. Grace-giving is a Life Calling (2:6-10)
STARTING IN VERSE 7 -----
“They saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.”
Very quickly then, What was Paul’s life calling?
What was Peter’s and James and John’s life Calling?
It was the Gospel message to mankind. Paul to the Gentiles and the others to the Jews.
I think what’s important here is that sometimes we can think that are only life calling is to become a Christian. But becoming a Christian, being saved by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, is not our life-calling, it is a gift.
Our life calling is to be administers of the Gospel of GRACE.
GRACE THAT CAN ONLY BE FOUND IN JESUS CHRIST!!!!
If our life-calling is to be a Grace-Giver, then we need be with the people. We need to be a “friend of sinners”. We need to understand where the people are hurting, where their needs are. When Paul wrote this letter, there was a famine in the land, and there were many poor among them.
We have MCC Blankets.
We had a Food Drive on Thursday.
We have opportunities to go on Mission’s Trips.
We have neighbors who we haven’t taken the time to extend grace to them.
“But their sinners!” “They hate Christians”
The Gospel of Grace extends a hand to the needy. It extends a hand to those who may reject us, or shun us. But grace says we keep on going, we stay on task, we run our race not in vain.