Summary: When we encounter God’s grace, it changes everything because we die to our old way of live, are introduced to a new way of life, and find a new master.
In his book "What’s So Amazing About Grace," Christian author Philip Yancey writes about a friend who invited him out for a cup of coffee one night (Yancey 179-80). This friend, it turns out, is contemplating leaving his wife after 15 years of marriage because he’s found someone younger and prettier, someone he says makes him feel alive. As a Christian, Yancey’s friend knows his decision will devastate his wife and permanently damage his three kids. He also knows that his relationship with God will never be the same again. Even so, the force pulling him toward this other woman was like a powerful magnet. So finally he asks Philip Yancey, "Do you think God can forgive something as awful as I’m about to do?’
Yancey’s friend was looking for assurance that he’d still be accepted by God, still under the cover of God’s grace. I’ve had lots of people ask me the very same question as they contemplate doing things that are clearly wrong and destructive.
Because of this way of thinking, many people have been critical of the Christian idea of God’s grace. Somehow we’ve domesticated the idea of grace into a generic prayer we pray before a meal, but when you really think about it the Bible’s concept of grace is very radical. Grace of course means that we can’t earn or merit acceptance with God no matter how hard we might try. Grace means that God offers restoration with God on the basis of a free, undeserved gift, that there’s nothing we can do to earn it, buy it, perform for it, or merit it. Grace means no amount of trying will make God love us more and no amount of sinning will make God love us less (Yancey).
Every other religion of the world rejects the idea of grace, and insists that we must contribute something to our salvation. We must try harder, we must be better, we must live morally, and so forth. All the various religions of the world offer a self-help way to merit restoration with God, whether it’s the eightfold path of Buddhism, the karma and reincarnation cycle of Hinduism, the laws and ordinances of the Mormon church, or the four pillars of Islam. Only the Christian faith dares to suggest that God offers a relationship to people on the basis of pure grace.
Because of this scandalous idea of grace, many people through the years have felt that if the Christian faith actually encourages people to live sinful, immoral lives. That’s exactly what Philip Yancey’s friend was looking for. The reasoning goes like this: Why try to be good if you already know in advance you will be forgiven? Why not live like the devil, enjoying every minute of it, and then ask for forgiveness in the eleventh hour? The French philosopher Voltaire captured this idea when he said, "God will always forgive…that’s his job." The idea of grace is scandalous to common sense.
Today we’re going to talk about how grace changes everything. We’re going to see that grace actually changes us for the better. We’re going to address this objection about grace head on, and we’re going to see that Philip Yancey’s friend has misunderstood what grace truly is. We’ve been in a series through the New Testament book of Romans called GOOD NEWS FOR OUR TIMES. Today we’re going to look at the difference grace makes in our lives. Specifically we’re going to discover a fact, a realization, and a decision we make when we encounter God’s grace so we can avoid misunderstanding grace like Philip Yancey’s friend did.
1. A Fact (Romans 6:1-7)
Let’s first look at the fact we need to know for grace to make a difference in our lives in vv. 1-7. There’s no section of the New Testament more significant for how to live the Christian life than this one, so let’s look at it very carefully.
Last week we saw in Romans chapter 5 that when Adam sinned back at the beginning of human history, somehow the entire human race shared in that sin. Every person born since Adam has been born spiritually dead, deeply in need of restoration with God. Since Adam, the entire human race exists in a state of rebellion against God, alienated from the life God intended, captive to the power of sin, and right on the heels of sin, the power of death. Yet we saw last week that where sin abounded in Adam’s sin, God’s grace abounded even more when Jesus Christ came as the second Adam to overturn the effects of Adam’s failure. God’s strategy to overcome sin and death was to drown them in a waterfall of grace. So here in chapter 6, Paul anticipates a misunderstanding of grace here, namely the misunderstanding that I should continue in sin in order to magnify God’s grace more.