Summary: God’s grace
GOD OF GRACE
In his book ‘The Ragamuffin Gospel’, Brennan Manning tells the following true story. One night in January 1935 the mayor of New York, Fiorlla LaGuardia, turned up at one of the courts in a poorer area of the city. It was during the Great Depression and a woman was brought before the judge for stealing a loaf of bread. LaGuardia dismissed the judge and sat as judge in the case himself. He listened to all the evidence. At the end of the case he found the woman guilty and he said: a fine of $10 or 10 days in jail. As he was saying those words he was reaching into his own pocket to pay the fine. He then said this: ‘I am fining everyone in this courtroom 50cents for living in a town where a woman has to steal a loaf of bread to feed her grandchildren. The total came to $47.50, the last 50cents coming from the pocket of the baker who had brought the case in the first place.
What an extraordinary moment of grace. Everyone in that courtroom experienced grace that night. What would it take for you to experience grace? Or more importantly ‘What would it take for you to understand, believe and experience the grace of God today?’ Today I want us to consider the statement: Our God is a God of grace.
At the very beginning let me give you a definition of grace:
Grace is God’s favour freely given to those who do not deserve His favour. Or as someone else has put it more succinctly: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. You and I live in world today where there is not much ‘grace’ around. It is sad to say but sometimes the place where it is found the least is in the Christian community. Ghandi once said ‘I like your Jesus but I do not like your Christians.’ You only have to tune in to Talback some lunch times and you wonder if ‘grace’ was ever preached in the Christian church in Northern Ireland. We live in a world where ‘ungrace’ actually holds power and sway. Let me explain that for a moment. The world in which you and I live says that ‘everything in my life depends on what I do, who I am and where I am going.’ Grace says the very opposite. In fact grace says: ‘Everything depends not on you but on what God has done in and through Christ for you.’ Grace not only confronts this self-centred, selfish idea of self but actually shatters the illusion that I determine the ways of this world, and my life in particular.
I want to look at four areas of God’s Grace:
GRACE TO SAVE
GRACE TO SUSTAIN
GRACE TO SCHOOL
GRACE TO SERVE
Grace to Save.
I want you to imagine that this morning I have loaned you £1 million. The loan is to repaid at the rate of £10,000 per month, interest free. At the start of October an invoice arrives at your door for the first instalment of £10,000. The next letter you open is a cheque from me for £10,000 to repay the loan. Every month the same thing happens, an invoice for £10,000 and a cheque for the same. Friends that is grace. You don’t deserve it, you did not earn it and you did not solicit it – yet it is not only freely given but fully paid.
In the film The Last Emperor the child anointed as the last emperor of China leads a very magical and luxurious life. In one scene he asked the following question by his brother: ‘What happens when you do wrong?’
Child: ‘someone else is punished.’ As if to prove this he breaks a jar and a servant is beaten. With the grace of God the very opposite happens. The servant does wrong and the King is punished.
In our reading this morning from Paul’s letter the Romans that is what he seeks to explain, Grace. Look at Romans 5 verse 6 following. It was while we were dead in our sins, weak and unable to save ourselves that Christ died for us. In his letter to the Ephesians (2.8-10) Paul tells us that it ‘is by grace you have been saved, lest any man should boast.’ Paul tells us that grace is the very heartbeat of the gospel. You and I have nothing that we could contribute to merit God’s grace. There is nothing and there never will be anything in our lives which merit God’s grace being bestowed upon us.
Friends in the four gospels Jesus went to great lengths to teach grace. He taught it not only to his disciples but to everyone who would listen. He not only taught it in parables, the Prodigal, the Labourers in the vineyard for example, but he also demonstrated it in his dealing with others. Turn with me to John 8 – this familiar story of the woman caught in adultery. You remember the story. The religious leaders are trying to trap Jesus and they drag this woman before him and ask him what is to be done with her. Now note, only the woman is dragged before Jesus, the man has obviously been allowed to go free. Added to this some people, probably the same religious leaders, must have been skulking in through windows to be able to bring this accusation. Jesus kneels down and in the sand starts to draw with a stick in the dirt. He simply says ‘if you are without sin, cast the first stone.’ Maybe I am wrong but I wonder if in the dirt he started to write down the sins of the men who stood before him. When he looks up the crowd has gone. He then speaks words of grace to the woman – I do not condemn you but go and sin no more. Friends an example of the Grace of God. The Law stated death by stoning for adultery but Jesus knew that he had come to take that woman’s death. He sets her free from the punishment of death and calls her to leave the life of sin and live for him.