Summary: God’s grace is unmerited favor, an unearned gift of forgiveness in the midst of sin. God’s grace truly is like the professor’s offer. It may seem unbelievable, but if we accept it, then, we, too, will discover that, God’s grace truly is free. All we have
Amazing Grace: God the Son
Galatians 1:3-5a, 13-16a
Charles Stanley tells of one of his seminary professors who at the end of his evangelism course distributed the exam with the caution to read it all the way through before beginning to answer it. This caution was written on the exam as well. As we read the test, it became unquestionably clear to each of us that we had not studied nearly enough. The further we read, the worse it became. About halfway through reading it, audible groans could be heard through out the lecture hall. On the last page, however, was a note that read, "You have a choice. You can either complete the exam as given or sign your name at the bottom and in so doing receive an A for this assignment." Wow? We sat there stunned. "Was he serious? Just sign it and get an A?" Slowly, one by one we turned in our tests and silently filed out of the room. When I talked with the professor about it afterward, he shared some of the reactions he had received through the years. Some students began to take the exam without reading it all the way through, and they would sweat it out for the entire two hours of class time before reaching the last page. Others read the first two pages, became angry, turned the test in blank, and stormed out of the room without signing it. They never realized what was available, and as a result, they lost out totally. One fellow, however, read the entire test, including the note at the end, but decided to take the exam anyway. He did not want any gifts; he wanted to earn his grade. And he did. He made a C+, but he could easily have had an A.
This is how many people react to God’s solution to sin: grace. Some people look at God’s standard--moral and ethical perfection as contained in the law--and throw their hands up in surrender. Why even try? They tell themselves. I could never live up to all that stuff. Others are like the student who read the test through and was aware of the professor’s offer but took the test anyway. Unwilling to simply receive God’s gift of forgiveness, they set about to rack up enough points with God to earn it.
Last week, we learned that in God the Father is tough love which is moral boundaries. It is laws and without laws we have chaos. Tough love provides absolutes and discipline. Those who live by the law gain security by fulfilling the rules, regulations and procedures. They begin to feel justified and proud of their accomplishments. But it is a false sense of security. A person can never live up to God’s moral and ethical perfection as contained in the law, for we are human, and thus that leads to failure because you are always falling short of God’s will.
That’s why tough love always needs to be balanced with grace. It’s why we have God the Father but we also need the Son, who is grace. God’s grace is unmerited favor, an unearned gift of forgiveness in the midst of sin. God’s grace truly is like the professor’s offer. It may seem unbelievable, but if we accept it, then, we, too, will discover that, God’s grace truly is free. All we have to do is accept it. People living by grace are secure in the love and forgiveness of God. They are grateful and delight in the kindness of God instead of feeling proud of their own accomplishments. People living by grace realize that we can rejoice in our weaknesses knowing that this affords God a greater opportunity to show Himself in His grace. His grace shows up best in our weakness. And when we are weak, we grow in faith and dependence on Him. As Paul wrote, "Most gladly therefore will I boast in my weaknesses that the power of Christ may dwell in me. For when I am weak then I am strong. The less I have the more I depend on Him."
Today we are focusing on the second dimension of the Trinity, God the Son which is God’s gift of grace for a sin-filled world. Why is grace so important? First, grace helps us understand God’s love and will for us. If your understanding of the nature of God is wrong, then your attitudes and actions towards people are going to be wrong. In our Scripture today, Paul relates his experience as one who excelled in his understanding of the Jewish faith, better than all of his peers his own age. And he was intensely committed to the traditions of the faith. As a result, he hated all who contradicted the faith and its traditions. And so he began to persecute the followers of Jesus. He was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it. But then he had an encounter with Jesus himself, who revealed himself to Paul as the Savior. Paul believed he was doing God’s will because he was trying to protect Judaism. But instead he was persecuting Jesus and fighting against God’s new work of love and grace in the world. Suddenly, Paul was in need of grace. He needed grace. If your understanding of the nature of God is wrong, then your attitudes and actions towards people are going to be wrong. This is why we see suicide bombers killing people in the name of God. They don’t understand who God really is or His will. This is why we need to understand grace and God’s son Jesus, because without it, God is a God of law, justice, condemnation and punishment.