Summary: We realize we are saved by grace, but often throw grace out the window when it comes to living our Christian life. We live by grace just as we are saved by grace.
God’s Amazing Gift
May 27, 2001
Think about whether or not these things apply to you - you needn’t raise your hand…
- I find myself wanting to correct people on minor points, or actually doing it
- I would feel guilty if I stayed home from a meeting or activity just because I was tired
- I tend to focus more on what I did wrong than on what I did right
- I have difficulty saying no when someone asks me to do something for them, or feel guilty when I do say no
- when I look at how consistent I am in the spiritual disciplines, I feel that God must be disappointed in me
If you can relate to these things because they’re true of you - you may be a performer, trying to earn God’s love.
To some degree, I think we can all understand these things, which is why we’re going to take a close look this morning at what I’m calling God’s Amazing Gift.
That’s the title of this morning’s message. Of course, God’s amazing gift to us is Grace.
As we begin, let’s ask the question - why don’t you give a fragile crystal glass to a two-year old.
- they can’t and don’t appreciate it - they don’t know how to use it properly - they’re likely to abuse such a wonderful, costly gift, and there’s a good chance they’ll break it.
We’ll look at the reasons grace seems to be a risky gift in a moment. Since my girls were old enough to understand what I was saying to them, I have consistently told them that they cannot earn my love. There’s nothing they can do to make me love them more. There’s nothing they can do to make me love them less. Trust may be earned or blown, but love is unconditional.
- it can’t be earned
- it can’t be eroded or spent
The same is true of God’s love, and His expression of that love through His grace. The very word grace, as used in the New Testament, has an understanding of being unearned. It’s free. Or the way we often use to describe God’s saving grace - it’s unmerited favor. One Bible dictionary says this:
"the New Testament writers use this word for grace pre-eminently of that kindness by which God bestows favor even upon the ill-deserving"
Another says this: GRACE Undeserved acceptance and love received from another, especially the characteristic attitude of God in providing salvation for sinners. For Christians, the word "grace" is virtually synonymous with the gospel of God’s gift of unmerited salvation in Jesus Christ.
We owe our distinctly Christian understanding of grace to the apostle Paul.
His epistles employ the word charis - Greek for grace, and its related forms, twice as frequently as the rest of the New Testament writings combined. Paul had a very profound sense of human sin - too much so to believe that a person could ever earn God’s acceptance (Romans 3:23). That’s at least in part because as a Pharisee, Paul had sought to earn God’s acceptance by fulfilling the divine law. After meeting the risen Christ on the Damascus road, he had come to see that it was not a matter of earning God’s acceptance, but rather of coming to accept God’s love for him through Jesus Christ.
Because of this, Paul came to see a sharp dividing line between law and grace. Law is the way of self-help, of earning one’s own salvation. Grace is God’s way of salvation, totally unearned (Romans 3:24; Romans 4:4; Romans 11:6; Ephes. 2:8).
Grace is accessed by faith in what God has done in Christ (Romans 4:16). God’s grace comes to sinners, not to those who merit God’s acceptance (Romans 5:20-21). It is through Christ’s atoning work on the cross that God’s grace comes to us, setting us free from the bondage of sin (Romans 3:24-31).
I found this helpful illustration: 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 receives such a gift anyway--that is a good picture of God’s unmerited favor. This is what we mean when we talk about the grace of God.
There are many passages of scripture which clearly speak to this issue - but we’ll look at just a few this morning, including this well known passage:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do