Summary: This sermon is from an “Exchanged Life” perspective on the grace of God which describes that grace as Unimaginable Kindness, Unrestrained Affection and Unceasing Flow.
Years ago we went with Kathy’s parents to visit the Grand Canyon. It was beautiful and the sheer majesty of that sight took my breath away. So did the shortage of guardrails! Our young son wanted to race to the very edge and look over. My instinct was to hold him back safe from any danger of falling. I was only too glad to describe the beauty to him, if he would stay back ten yards or so. Somehow he didn’t like that. After all, to get the total impact or to fully appreciate the canyon’s awesome beauty, you have to go right to the edge.
Grace is like that! If it’s to take your breath away and significantly possess your life, you must go right to the edge where the overwhelming astonishment of grace and the potential abuse of grace linger side by side. All too often the church has erected safeguards and restrictions to keep people back from the danger of abusing grace and falling into license and lawlessness. But in so doing, you create an even greater danger – keeping people’s view of grace so distant that they fail to have a breathtaking appreciation for the real thing.
God is teaching me something new in my relationship with Himself. Having been a law bound, legalistic Christian for so many long years, God is teaching me anew about His grace. I don’t know – something’s been different for quite some time and I didn’t quite know how to understand it. Now I believe I’m coming to understand that God’s been relating to me in a whole new way and I beginning to get it. I’m now under grace! So let me share with you what I’m learning anew and afresh by taking “A Fresh Look At God’s Grace.” First of all:
I. God’s Grace Is Unimaginable Kindness verses 11-12
The father gave his son what he didn’t deserve. In our day that doesn’t make sense. But, if grace makes sense to you I doubt you’re close enough to really see it. The real thing defies comprehension, but not experience. Grace is God’s irrational, unimaginable kindness. Sometimes we use the word so often as believers that we’ve become callous to the intended impact of grace.
Now, virtually all faiths have justice as a primary tenet: Man gets what he deserves, as is particularly true in Islam and Hinduism. Many religions also add the concept of mercy, which is man not getting all the punishment he deserves. Christianity alone introduces the full concept of grace – of getting with no good reason, what we positively don’t deserve. Grace goes miles beyond mercy. Grace is the most unreasonable thing in the world. It’s also the most powerful. Nothing is more effective for transforming lives, though risky it is.
Dwight Edwards tells his first encounter with grace. He was five years old and the family was on vacation in California. One day at lunch he flatly refused to eat his soup, so his mother said he could have nothing else to eat before supper. Late that afternoon he and his father were running errands. They stopped in a drugstore where his dad ordered an ice cream cone then turned and asked if he’s like one as well. Dwight reminded dad of what mom had said at lunch. With a smile, Dwight still remembers his dad said he knew what mom had said, but he could still have an ice cream cone if he wanted it! He gladly placed his order. Now, that’s not particularly good parenting, but it was a marvelous experience of clearly getting something he didn’t deserve.
One year later his father died of cancer. Today he can’t remember even one spanking his dad gave him, thought his mom assures there were many. But burned deeply into a young boy’s spirit was not his father’s justice, but the precious commodity of grace. Nothing captures and transforms a person’s soul like the power of true grace – unimaginable kindness. Secondly:
II. God’s Grace Is Unrestrained Affection verse 20
One of the greatest portraits of grace is the father’s response to his prodigal son. In verse 20 we read that while the son “was still a great way off, his father saw him.” You can sense that amid his daily work the father had been continually scanning the horizon for his son. Likewise, God’s grace isn’t something we must search for, but something He’s on the lookout to offer. Perhaps, God is convicting you of having strayed from Him. Know for sure that He hasn’t given up on you. He’s in fact, craning His neck for your return.
We also see in this story the unrestrained passion of grace. “His father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.” In that culture an older man running toward someone was considered highly undignified. But God’s grace is so much more than dignified patience or enduring niceness. Have you ever pictured God running after you to hold you close and tell you how much He loves you? His grace can’t be tamed or kept in check when one of His beloved comes back to Him. Always He feels deeply for you. It’s an unbridled passion, the kind that can ignite your own passion toward Him in response.