Summary: There is a huge difference between receiving grace and embracing it.
EMBRACING GRACE – Part One – Introduction to Grace
This morning I am beginning a sermon series entitled Embracing Grace.
I have given it that title because most of us in this room have a mental comprehension of what grace is.
We understand we would be nothing without grace.
But while most of understand grace, it is quite another thing to “embrace” grace.
Many of us have been the beneficiaries of God’s grace, but perhaps have not embraced grace. To embrace grace is to allow it to change your life. This sermon series will be about doing just that…allowing the grace of God to transform you!
Ephesians 2:3-9 “…(we) were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.”
What is Grace?
Some of you here may not understand the concept of grace. It may be a brand new word to you, or one that you have heard used but never heard explained. So I will lay out the basic definition of grace as well as try to show you how God works in and through grace.
Grace is the undeserved, unmerited, and unearned favor of God.
Grace is the manner in which God has consistently treated mankind.
In its most simple terms, Grace is getting something you don’t deserve from God. But it is also much more than that.
Allow me to illustrate it in terms of my grandmother during the time of the Great Depression: Unemployed men would come to my grandparent’s door during the Depression looking for food. She would fix them a plate of food and ask nothing in return from them. Now while some of us would call that grace, it is a far cry from it. It is simply charity. However, if instead, that unemployed man approached her door and she recognized him as the man who had stolen her silver from her home the week before…and then, instead of calling the police, serves him a plate of food, with no questions asked or anything in return…then you might be able to categorize that as “grace.”
God’s grace is more than simply something you don’t deserve, although it certainly is that. It is broader, including the concept of negative merit (or demerit) as opposed to something un-merited.
In our relationship with God, there is either merit for obedience or demerit for disobedience, but there is no such thing as "unmerit." There is either merit or demerit but no unmerit.
V3 lays the groundwork for this: “we were by nature, children (or objects) of wrath”
This contrast of what we were is being made to demonstrate the nature of God’s grace.
Our nature, our very core of who we were was in rebellion toward God. We deserved nothing, in fact, we deserved to be punished.
So if you are walking in rebellion toward God and God answers your prayer for a better job, food on your table, etc., that is God acting graciously toward you.
You didn’t deserve it, you did nothing to cause God to act graciously toward you, in fact, you did the opposite of acting positively toward God and yet God was gracious toward you.
The bible is filled with examples (some of which we will cover in the weeks ahead) of God’s graciousness toward people who didn’t deserve His kindness.
Jesus never used the word himself (but he certainly taught it and lived it).
To understand grace, we need to go back to an old Hebrew term that meant: "To bend, to stoop." The term came to mean offering condescending favor.
Writer Donald Barnhouse defines grace with love: “Love that goes upward is worship. Love that goes outward is affection. Love that stoops is grace.”
This is what God has done for us. He has stooped, way down to our level, to where we are. He became man in Jesus Christ and then stooped even further, taking our sin and its punishment upon Himself onto the Cross where He died in our place.
This is why so many people call grace AMAZING!
V4 tells us WHY God has made us alive with Christ… “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us”