Summary: Grace touches all aspects of our lives. Life is all by grace. God’s grace is always available to you. How can we access it and live by it?
Living in God’s Amazing Grace
2 Cor. 6:1-2 (NCV)
"So we beg you: DO NOT let the grace that you received from God be for nothing!"
This summer, we looked at God’s grace and this Fall we’ve learned about the Means of receiving God's grace throughout our lives which Methodists have practiced for centuries. Let’s review what we’ve learned. First, grace is God’s unmerited love and forgiveness. We're saved by grace. You can't earn grace, work for it, or buy it. It's a gift of God.
Grace touches all aspects of our lives. Life is all by grace. Everything that God does in you, for you, through you, He does by His grace. Robert Louis Stephenson said, "There's nothing but God's grace. We walk upon it. We breathe it. We live it and we die by it." Here’s the Good News: God’s grace is always available to you. All of grace is wrapped up in one person, Jesus. John 1:17 says, "The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." So how do you get it? It’s very simple: By trusting in Christ as your Lord and Savior. God made it so simple that everybody could understand and receive His grace. It's not 23 steps or 4 pathways or 8 rituals to go through. You don’t earn grace through your own efforts. All you have to do is put your faith in Christ. Grace comes through a personal relationship with Jesus. "Now we rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God, all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done in dying for our sins making us friends of God." That's what you call having friends in high places! You become a friend of God.
For the last 6 weeks, we discovered five practices of Means of Grace whereby we can receive grace in our lives daily. Wesley defined the means of grace as “outward signs, words or actions ordained by God,…to be….channels whereby He (God) might convey to men preventing, justifying or sanctifying grace.” These basic and essential practices are how Christians open themselves to God’s grace and allow the Holy Spirit to work within us, transform us and empower us to do the work of Jesus. The means of grace make us available to God, give us the power of grace to conquer sin, purify us, and make us whole. They empower us to attend to all his teachings, summarized in the Great Commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all of your strength … You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30-31). The Means of Grace are Worship and Holy Communion, daily prayer, daily Bible study, Accountability in a weekly small group Bible study and fasting. Finally, Wesley believed these practices lead us to live a holy life characterized by Works of Mercy or compassion and justice for the least, the last and the lost. These share the presence and love of Christ in tangible ways by ministering to other’s needs.
While grace is free, it's not cheap. It cost Jesus His life. Grace is the most expensive gift there is. Jesus died on the cross to pay for it. And He never wants us to forget the sacrifice that He made so that we could receive the grace of God. That’s why we celebrate communion every week and why Wesley believed that Methodists should celebrate communion every time that they can. Because we have fickle memories and we need to be regularly reminded of Jesus’ sacrifice for us so that our lives will be lived in response to God’s grace.
When Jesus died on the cross, He did three things. First, he paid the penalty for our sin. The punishment we should have received because of our willful rebellion against God’s will Jesus took upon himself in His death on the cross. He paid the price for my sin so I can be forgiven. Near the city of San Juan Campos in Brazil, there is a remarkable prison. Thirty years ago the Brazilian government turned it over to a band of Christians. They cleaned up the prison, renamed it Humanita and ran it according to the Christian faith. With the exception of two full time staff members, all the work there is done by inmates. Families outside the prison adopt an inmate to do work with during and after his term. When Chuck Colson visited this prison, he found the inmates smiling, particularly the murderer who held the keys, opened the gate and let him in. "When I walked in, I saw men who were at peace with themselves and with God. I saw clean living areas. I saw people working industriously. The walls were decorated with Biblical sayings from Psalms and Proverbs. My guide escorted me to the notorious prison cell that was once used for torture. Today, he told me that block houses only a single inmate. As we reached the end of a long concrete corridor and he put the key in the lock he paused and said, `Are you sure you want to go in?' `Of course,' I replied impatiently. `I've been in isolation cells all over the world.' Slowly he swung the massive door open and Church Colson saw the prisoner in that punishment cell. It was a beautiful crucifix carved by the Humanita inmates. The prisoner was Jesus hanging on the cross. ‘He's doing time for the rest of us,' my guide said softly." This is what the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is all about. Jesus has served your time. He paid your penalty. He died in your place. Jesus took the punishment that we should have taken.