Are You Paralyzed by Grace?
CCCAG July 28th, 2019
Week Two: “God’s Grace: Are You Paralyzed By Grace?”
Scriptures: Matthew 11:28–30; Hebrews 10:1–3
The second week in our four-week series on God’s grace.
Last week, we discovered that God’s grace means so much more than forgiveness.
Grace isn’t just a slate wiped clean- grace can teach us a new way to live.
We also learned that often we can have a limited view of God’s grace.
We want to explore that point a little bit more today.
In many church’s and denominations Grace has been limited in our day; it’s been captured and domesticated for weekly use.
The grace of God, a grace capable of reaching across every culture, every gender, and every generation, has been reduced to mean simply, forgiveness for everyone.
We have turned this idea of grace to our uses, instead of everything that it means and is intended for.
Grace has been reduced to something we experience when we walk through the doors of the church, but then we leave it there when the services are over.
One of the ways we know this is that people use grace to excuse various sins in their life. How many people hear this today-“God made me this way, and He loves me just the way I am.”
Most people are comfortable with that statement. They use it as a “Get out of Jail Free” card whenever they get confronted with biblical truth that calls into question one of their beliefs or actions.
This idea that God made you that way and likes you just the way you are is a LIE of the enemy.
The bible teaches us truth- a truth that is the opposite of the worldly wisdom tossed around today is this-
“God loves you too much to let you stay the way you are”
Last week, we learned from Titus 2:11–14 that first his grace saves, then it teaches. Most of us are OK with receiving forgiveness. We revel and love the forgivenss and grace of God seen at the cross of Jesus Christ.
But often we stop there.
Richard Foster, a man who has spent his adult life encouraging Christians to grow in the grace of God, points out that the message of grace is something more than merely a means for gaining forgiveness. F
oster says that, in most pulpits, there is a disconnect between the good news of Jesus’ sacrifice and our calling to become the light of the world.
“Having been saved by gracem these people have been paralyzed by it.”
If we remain stuck at the notion that God’s grace is only another way to describe forgiveness, we will never discover that there this grace is also for everyday living, relationships, and ministry to others.
In the New Testament alone, grace is tied together with other vitally important truths such as:
grace and truth,
grace and power,
grace and spiritual gifts,
grace and thanksgiving,
grace and generosity,
grace and provision,
grace and suffering,
grace and destiny,
and this list is not complete!
If our view of grace is limited to only receiving forgiveness, Jesus cannot be our model for how to receive grace, live in grace, and depend upon grace.
If you have been around church for awhile, you have heard that that grace has been defined as
“not getting what we deserve,”
or “God’s unmerited favor,”
or the acronym “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.”
All of these ideas about grace are true, but they tell only part of the truth. These partial truths can actually harm our spiritual formation.
God’s grace has given us a rope to pull us out of sins slimy pit, but it also gives us a hose to wash all that slime off of us. Grace wants us out of the pit, AND give us a way to clean up our lives.
How many of you have heard the following statements-
“I’m just a sinner saved by grace,” we say.
“There’s nothing good inside of me. I’ll always be a sinner, because that’s what I always do.”
Some people have sung the same song for 40 years. When they agreed with the sin diagnosis, they apparently thought it described a permanent condition.
I knew a guy that was a dedicated follower of Jesus, and every time I heard him prayer he would end his prayer like this- “Forgive us for the many ways we’ve failed you. In Your name we pray, Amen.”
It doesn’t matter if he’s blessing the food before a meal or asking for wisdom in an important decision.
I’m sure he’s sincere every time he prays it, but I wonder if Jesus ever gets tired of hearing it. No friendship on earth could survive if one partner constantly affirmed, “I’m no good.” What kind of relationship requires a constant, constant, rehashing of our inadequacy?
I’d like to suggest an answer: an Old Testament relationship and understanding of grace.
Picture this scene for a moment- you’re somewhere with the person you love. The sun is setting, the breeze is refreshing, the birds are signing, and that person you love looks deep into your eyes and says, “Honey, I’m sorry I’m such a failure to you, but thank you for loving me”
That’s exactly what we are doing when we exist in a state of constantly using grace only to seek forgiveness.
This begs the question- How does grace apply to everyday life in a manner that we are conscious of the supply and know how to use it?
The book of Hebrews discusses the practice of forgiveness before Jesus came:
Heb 10:1-3 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. (Heb. 10:1–3)
Note the final phrase: the people of Old Testament experienced an annual reminder of their sins. Those Christians I described earlier remind themselves of their sin every time they pray. The unspoken message is that they are powerless against sin before he came to Jesus, and the grace Jesus gives us is apparently is powerless against it after they get saved.
Dallas Willard refers to this as “miserable sinner theology.” Simply put, if we are told often enough that we are miserable sinners who are unable to overcome our shortcomings in God’s eyes, sooner or later we will begin to see ourselves in that light, even though we have turned to Christ!
For such people, “following” Jesus does not include the possibility of being formed into his likeness.
They are paralyzed by a misunderstanding of the completeness of God’s Grace.
It’s not just a problem with our understanding of grace, it’s also our understanding of Jesus: his message, his sacrifice, his kingdom, and his mission for us.
To see the work of Jesus as nothing but an endless offering for sin is to consign him to the Old Testament priesthood.
Surely his is a greater priesthood, capable of altering us at the very core.
I’m grateful that Jesus paid the price for my sin, eternally grateful.
But we should also be grateful for his resurrection empowerment, which is capable of changing us from the inside out.
Perhaps this morning we can usher Jesus out of the Old Testament Temple that we have placed Him in with our bad thinking and bad theology and once and for all receive him, not only as the source of forgiveness, but also the master teacher, the Master empowerer, and the loving changer of our lives.
This is the full work of grace.
Grace not only wipes away sin, grace teaches us how to avoid sin.
There’s a cure, not just a treatment. Our challenge is how we see Jesus, and for many of us, he is only a treatment. When we limit the work of Jesus to nothing but forgiveness, we lose sight of the possibilities of experiencing a new kind life with him here and now.
That would be a shame, because the grace’s cure really does work, not only in the next life, but right here in this one as well.
Let me share with you a illustrative story:
Once there were two high school students who each received scholarships to Harvard University. Full rides, every possible expense paid. Both were bright kids, and both felt intimidated by the reputation of such a great college.
They each thought, “I don’t deserve to be here.”
One student studied day and night. She gave it all she had.
The other student began to enjoy the thrill of college life: parties, the big city nearby, and the freedom of being on his own for the first time in his life.
By midterm, the first student was still working hard. She started off earning C’s but then through her effort go them up to B’s but she was adjusting to her new life and growing more confident the longer the semester went.
The other was failing every class and placed on academic probation.
By Christmas, the first student had earned worked their way up to an A average, but the second had flunked out of Harvard.
Which of these two students laid hold of the opportunity given to them?
Of course the answer is the first student, humble and hardworking.
The second student was the subject of gossip in his hometown. “How could he throw away an opportunity like that?” people asked.
Imagine for a moment that the grace of God is like a full ride to Harvard:
beyond expectation, every expense paid, a life-changing opportunity. Anyone watching these two students would conclude that the student who flunked out had thrown away a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The scholarship to Harvard was a gift of grace,
but the truth was that the work was just beginning.
God’s grace is something like this parable. He does for us what we could not possibly do for ourselves- get us in the front door of the exclusive eternity reserved for God’s elect.
What is beyond our reach is joyfully paid in full by Jesus Christ, but His work is just beginning.
Why would we squander the possibilities of new birth in Christ? Like the student who received a full ride to Harvard, we need to receive the grace of God for what it is, a calling to a new kind of life right now.
Remember we talked about grace is the rope that was thrown to us to life us out of the slimy pit. Grace is indeed like that, but grace is also a fence to keep us from falling back into the pit.
Grace is protective that helps us to work out our salvation.
Some people might object to the close association between the word, “grace” and the word, “work.” You might ask, “God’s grace comes with no strings attached, doesn’t it?”
And we should be clear about this: no amount of effort on our part could win God’s pardon. This is true enough, it’s just not the whole story.
This is demonstrated for us in the life of the apostle Paul. In the earliest days of his conversion to Christ, he knew immediately that Jesus had laid hold of him for a purpose. Paul was filled with gratitude for God’s grace and forgiveness, and he was eager to get on with God’s work.
He began to call himself “God’s fellow worker” (1 Cor. 3:9). In his calling as an apostle, he considered the church in Corinth to be God’s field, and he considered himself privileged to join the workforce.
But remember who and what Paul was to the early church-
Before Christ got ahold of Paul, he was known as Saul of Tarsus- the imprisoner and executioner of Christians.
He was the Pharisee’s enforcer and often their hit man.
Paul was well aware that he had no moral standing to plant, preach, or pastor God’s new church in Corinth; after all, he had persecuted Christians for years!
Thank goodness he was also aware that his “qualifications” were not the issue:
Paul wrote in 1 Cor 15:10- a verse that means a great deal to me as I really identify with Paul and his words here-
“by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1 Cor. 15:10).
To many of us, this is a strange combination of words Paul puts together here.
He uses “grace” and “worked harder” all in one sentence!
What was true for Paul is also true for us. When we are born into God’s family, we are also born into the “family business.” God’s grace doesn’t just wipe away our sin; God’s grace asks us to join in the work of the kingdom!
The apostle Paul understood this side of grace as well.
The famous apostle is the same one who described his life’s mission as one of “great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger” (2 Cor. 6:4–10), all in order to share what he himself had been given.
Paul had no trouble seeing the connection between grace and effort.
Richard Foster helps us understand the ongoing work of grace.
“Grace saves us from life without God–even more it empowers us for life with God."
The grace we receive at the new birth is only the introduction. As students of Jesus, we need grace for growth as well. Grace opens up the startling possibility that we do not have to yo-yo between sin and forgiveness, sin and forgiveness. Instead, grace shows us the destiny we have in Christ.
What is this deeper side of grace?
The deeper side of grace is the discovery that our new birth should be followed by growth into the image of Jesus. The deeper side of grace is that when we begin to join in the family business, we will also begin to take on the family likeness.
Here’s another way to think of it: co-laboring with Christ is the very activity that begins to grow the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. As we joyfully work side-by-side with Jesus, we begin to become conformed to his image. Romans 8:29 tells us that this is our destiny, not only will we live with him forever, he wants us to be changed into his likeness!
Matthew 11:28–30 points to an important revelation: Jesus invites anyone who would follow him to come under his instruction and learn his way of life:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matt. 11:28–30)
Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” This image was common enough in his day. A yoke is a large collar, which places the strength of an ox or horse at the disposal of someone else. Grace calls us to God’s work.
Grace is God putting His strength at our disposal.
One of the greatest modern examples of grace in action is a movement called XXX Church. This church is located in Pasadena near the heart of Hollywood where most of the pornography in the United States is produced.
This church was founded to reach the people involved in the pornographic industry, and they have lead dozens to a new life in Jesus through their outreaches.
One of the woman saved from this life had this testimonial
In December of 2012, I was broken-hearted, depressed, addicted to drugs, in the adult film industry, and desperate for help. I knew the life I was living wasn’t designed for me, because if it was, then why did I want to end it so badly? I knew there had to be something greater out there for me, but I just didn’t know what.
I am so grateful that my internal knowing that there was something greater out there for me led me to Christ. I had finally come to the end of myself and in doing so, I encountered my Savior. Without telling my agent, co-workers, nor my hundreds of thousands of fans, I made the radical decision to quit the porn industry once and for all.
I started going to church, yes I was high on drugs, but I didn’t let that stop me.
I was so hungry for God that I found myself at church five days a week. I also sought Him every single morning. I got down on my knees to worship Him, prayed, and read the Bible. Fasting also became apart of my routine.
By the end of January 2013, God set me free from my addiction to drugs. It was the first time in seven years of using that I did not get dope sick (means having serious withdrawls).
God truly performed a miracle for me.
God also began to gracefully convict me. Because of God’s graceful convictions, I decided to stop dating for one year because men were my weakness and I didn’t need the distraction. I needed to grow in God and finally become all that He had designed me to be. I also decided to stop having sex until marriage.
This testimony continues for 5 more page describing God’s incredible grace working in the life of this woman to change her from a hardened, drug abusing, addict who sold her body to make money to an incredible example of God’s grace forgiving AND changing what many in the church might consider a lost cause.
By the way, this woman is the senior pastor’s wife and has her own incredibly affective ministry is saving others from this lifestyle.
That’s the whole work of Grace in action.
Don’t be paralyzed by only expecting grace for forgiveness, let God release his grace change to change every single fiber of your being.
Ending this morning in worship