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Summary: You can't understand the Christian faith or God unless you first understand grace. This is the foundational characteristic of God because it is rooted in His love. It is also the foundation of our faith and at the heart of our relationship to God. You hav

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G.R.A.C.E.

Psalm 145:8 (NIV)

Complete these common American phrases for me:

If it sounds too good to be true... it is.

There is no gain without ... pain.

You get what you…deserve

There's no such thing as a free ... lunch.

We are taught these things and apply them both to life and faith. The only problem is God doesn't operate this way. Rather "God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love." The Bible says God is a gracious God and He loves to be gracious to you. God loves to bless people who don't deserve it. You can't understand the Christian faith or God unless you first understand grace. This is the foundational characteristic of God because it is rooted in His love. It is also the foundation of our faith and at the heart of our relationship to God. You have to understand grace before anything else. The more you understand grace, the more you're going to be drawn to God, the more you're going to love God, the ore you’re going to trust God and the more you're going to be grateful to God. It is through grace that God brings us to Himself.

One of the most interesting findings of our Reveal survey is that a lot of our people in the congregation don’t understand grace and the role it plays in our life and faith. As a result, we're beginning a new series called, “Great News About Grace". The hope is that this series will help you understand grace clearly so that you will experience it, feel it and live in the grace of God for the rest of your life. We are a recipients of grace. What is grace? There is no single definition of grace. One definition is "God's love in action." Another is “God’s unmerited favor.” A third is "God giving me what I need, not what I deserve." Another definition is, “The face God wears when He looks at my failures." Professor Bill Power had a friend and his wife driving through Dallas on vacation who called and asked if they could have dinner together. Bill explained that their granddaughter was staying with them that weekend and so she would be coming to dinner too. Whent hey got to the restaurant, Bill’s friend pulled in the parking lot at the same time. When they got out of their cars they waved at each other and walked toward one another when all of a sudden Bill’s four year old granddaughter brke away and ran toward his friend. When she got to him, she threw her arms around the legs of Bill’s friend. And Bill’s friend bent down and embraced this little girl with a big hug. And Bill says, in all of my years of teaching and reading about grace, that was the best definition through example of what grace is. His grandaughter had never met his friend but because she saw that Bill knew him she broke free and embraced him with the love that only a 4 year old heart can give. That's grace. What we know and see in Scripture is that God always responds in a gracious way.

We’re saved by grace. But even though many Christians know they're saved by grace, they sure don't act like it. In fact, they spend most of their life thinking and acting like they're saved by works. They spend their life trying to please God and making up for their sins by doing good things. They think they have to earn God's love and approval. The rationale is if you do a certain number of good works then God will love you, bless you and grant you eternal life. You're saved by grace but you're actually living by works. So grace not only saves us from this faulty belief that we can earn salvation but it also saves us from our sin.

Today I want us to look at five aspects of Saving Grace using the acrostic -- G.R.A.C.E.

G stands for God’s gift to me. Romans 3:24 says, "All of us need to be made right with God by His grace, which is a free gift through Jesus Christ." Grace is free. Many people think they have to earn it by the way they live. But God says that salvation is absolutely free. You can't earn it, you can't buy it, and you can't work for it. This is the fundamental difference between Christianity and every other religion. Every other faith, including Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam is summarized in one word: DO. It is based on works and what you can do to attain salvation and God's approval. And what’s curious is that each faith says different things in order to gain bliss, heaven and God's approval. Christianity, on the other hand, is summarized by the word: DONE. It’s about what God has done for you and that's grace. You can't do anything to earn it. It’s all about what’s already been done for you on the cross by Jesus Christ. He paid the price for your sins on the cross and now offers it freely to you as a gift. That's why Jesus Christ, said on the cross, "It is finished." He didn't say, "I am finished" because He wasn't. He's still alive today. He said, "It is finished." What's the "it"? Your salvation. Jesus’ death was God’s plan to provide grace for every person. There isn't anything you can do to save yourself. You just accept God's free gift of grace. That's the greatest gift you're ever going to be offered. If you really understand grace, you will accept it because it is a priceless gift . It's God's gift to me.

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