“Motivated By His Grace” Galatians 2:15-21
A little girl was drawing a picture of God. Her mother told her that nobody knew what God looks like. The girl replied that they would when she finished drawing His picture! We all have a picture of God in our minds, don’t we? For most of us we see our Heavenly Father the same way that we see our earthly father.
For some of us, this means that we see God as some sort of a cruel tyrant; someone to be feared much more than someone to be loved. We remember abusive times when we were made to feel very small and insignificant. The memories of our fathers are hurtful and as a result we are not free emotionally to worship God fully and we are not free personally to receive the full extent of God’s love for us.
For others, the connection between our earthly and Heavenly Fathers means that we see God as distant and completely unavailable. Our earthly fathers were so busy working to provide for our physical needs that they had little time left over for hugs or walks with us.
For a privileged few this means that we see God as a wonderful friend, loving teacher, and eternal encourager. We recollect warm memories of our fathers pushing us in a backyard swing. We fondly bring to mind memories of being pressed round and round at a local park on a merry-go-round.
This morning, whatever type of earthly father that you recall, I want to talk to you about what our Heavenly Father really looks like. 1 Timothy 1:17 says, “To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (ESV)
Though our Heavenly Father is in a sense invisible, He is nonetheless perceived. Ezekiel 10:5 says, “And the sound of the wings of the cherubim was heard as far as the outer court, like the voice of God Almighty when he speaks.” (ESV)
God is speaking to us today, but we must be willing to listen. A man went inside a telephone booth and dialed the number of a friend. When the connection was made, the friend kept saying, “I can’t hear you; speak louder; I can’t hear you.” All he could hear was the roar of traffic in the background. “Shut the door so I can hear,” he said to the caller.
In order to hear God’s voice speaking to us, we’ve got to shut the door to the outside world so that it won’t distract us from hearing the voice of God. This morning, as you listen to the words of this message, Allow me to persuade you to close the door to distracting thoughts… close the door to the preconceived image you have of God in your mind… and listen carefully to what God really looks like…
Galatians 2:15-21 says, “We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” (ESV)
I encourage you to learn to live a life motivated, not by guilt or duty, but by the overwhelming grace of a loving God. How often do we find ourselves going through the motions of this life? We get up out of bed and make the coffee, feed the dog, get dressed, go to work…
So often we live as though we are only living to live… Have you ever found yourself feeling like a robot walking around town with your hands stretched out in front of you? How often do find ourselves living as though duty and obligation is what this life boils down to.
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Morality or duty...never yet made a man happy in himself or dear to others.” Morality is good. Duty is noble. But grace is satisfying, freeing, liberating, invigorating… grace is the central theme of the Bible and the main message of the Christian faith.
The central theme of the Bible is that God has revealed Himself to us as a loving and merciful Father. He has revealed His loving character in nature, He has revealed His personality in the pages of the Bible, and He has revealed Himself most fully in the person of Jesus Christ.
In John 14:9 Jesus said, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (ESV) The life of Christ teaches us what God looks like.
The Gospel is the good news of God’s mercy to undeserving humanity. The symbol of the Christian religion of Jesus is the cross of mercy, not the scales of justice. In the life of Christ we see God laying aside His rightful judgment of our sins in favor of mercy and grace.
A new law on drunken driving in Louisiana is now one of the toughest in the nation. There is a mandatory prison sentence for anyone convicted of driving while intoxicated.
Getting it passed was a major victory for various groups against drunk driving, and they could not have gotten it passed if it wasn’t for the help of one particular state legislator who sponsored the bill.
It wasn’t long after the new law took effect that the first person to be arrested for driving under the influence was brought before the judge and found guilty and was sentenced to his prison term.
Who was he? The same legislator who sponsored the bill! “For the way you judge, you will be judged, and by your standard of measure it shall be measured to you.”
We stand guilty before God. We have at times been selfish, self-centered, and sinful. God in His holiness would be fully justified in judging us according to our works. But rather than judge us… the judge sent His own son to the cross… clothed in our sin… and pay our penalty for us.
That’s what the forgiveness of God is all about. It isn’t that God simply chooses to forget our sins. It’s that He loves us so much He accounted for our sins in the person of Jesus Christ at the Cross of mercy… so that we would gain access to the throne of Grace…
In John 15:13 Jesus says “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.” (ESV) The love of our Heavenly Father is perfect. 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
Fear of punishment is a very effective motivator. I remember when I was a young Marine in basic training. There was no one that I feared more than my drill instructor. He held my entire life in his hands.
Teachers use fear to motivate and discipline their students. A couple of years ago I spent a few months substituting at a Christian Academy. I taught grades 3rd through 8th as needed. The younger kids at this school were disciplined using color coded cards.
Every day they had to go past the teacher’s desk and get a little colored dot in their book to take home and show their parents. Green meant that you had been good all day. If you accumulated a whole month of green dots you got to have ice cream with the principal at the end of the month. Red dots were the worst. If you accumulated more than two days of them you got to have a different sort of lunch with the principal!
To my knowledge, I haven’t broken a law in several years, yet any time a police officer follows me on the road… I get nervous! Fear is a good motivator. But God has not chosen to use fear as a motivator. Often religious people use guilt and fear of punishment to motivate people… but God never does…
God wants something far greater than frightened obedience. Our Heavenly Father is looking for authentic love. He wants to come into our hearts and fill us with the power of His overwhelming love for us. God is not an angry judge on a bench. He is our kindhearted father who loves us unconditionally.
We have been conditioned for so long by so many to believe that God is angry at us that the message of His unconditional love and grace is difficult for us even to receive. An angry earthly father filled our minds with pictures of a God of vengeance and wrath.
A distant workaholic father convinced us that we are not worthy of God’s love and that God is far off and unavailable. For a select few… a loving and attentive earthly father has filled our minds with a more accurate view of God.
One warm summer afternoon, a bird flew through the open door into a chapel, where service was being conducted. Full of fear it flew backward and forward near the ceiling and against the windows, vainly seeking a way out into the sunshine. In one of the pews sat a lady, who observed the bird, while thinking how foolish it was, not to fly out through the open door into liberty.
At last the bird’s strength being gone; it rested a moment on one of the rafters. Then seeing the open door, it flew out into the sunshine, venting its joy in a song.
Then the lady who had been watching the little bird thought to herself: “Am I not acting as foolish as I thought the bird was? How long have I been struggling under the burden of my sin in the vain endeavor to get free and all the while the door of God’s grace has been wide open?”
Today, I encourage you to let go of counterfeit was of thinking about God. Whether your earthly father filled you with love or he filled you with discouragement… your Heavenly Father loves you unconditionally.
The reality of His grace motivating you in life has the power to set you free from the bondage of doubt, fear, and discouragement. Oswald Chambers wrote, “God is no faultfinder, always looking for things to condemn in us. He estimates us at our best, not our worst.”
Let us pray.
Father, we know that often we have misunderstood your love for us. We were under the impression that your love for us has limits. Help us to see the truth that you love us much more than any earthly father! Your love is limitless. Your grace is sufficient for us. Today we cry out Aba… Daddy… we praise you for your goodness and honor you for your mercy. Amen.