THE GIFT OF GRACE
TEXT: 2 COR. 6:1,2 “We, then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For He says: ‘In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
INTRODUCTION: God has began to teach me new things about grace – its power and its purpose. To be honest, grace has primarily existed in my mind as a basical abstract Christian theology. I believed that God had saved me “by grace, not of works lest any man should boast”. I could look back to January the 20th, 1988 and remember the day that God’s grace set me from a life of sin and gave me the right to become of child of God. Nevertheless, from that day forward, grace remained something that had happened to me in the past. I was trained in my early Christian walk to be disciplined, to work hard, and to maintain obedience to standard Christian duties. I developed a lifestyle that increasingly became more rigid. My prayer time had become longer. My fasts for sure had to extend over longer periods. Witnessing had to be done more often – any place I went I ‘must not’ miss an opportunity for God. As time passed this disciplined life transitioned into a Christian experience that was no longer joyful or fulfilling. The standards that I had set for myself were no longer obtainable. The Tony Colson who once believed he could conquer the world now walked around conquered by the world. I was miserable. I was becoming overwhelmed with temptations, failures, and fears. Where had this “life and life to the full” escaped to? My heart could have cried out, “Oh joyful salvation - you that preacher’s preached about and singer’s sang about – where have you hidden?”
As I continued on this course of fears and temptations I found myself falling into sin more often and more grave. This confident, zealous Christian was quickly becoming overwhelmed with defeat. Time doesn’t permit to share particulars concerning this journey. Nonetheless, at the moment when I had no where to look but upward this grace that had visited me on January 20th, 1988 came shining through the clouds of darkness that held me in such bondage. Presently, Grace is becoming much more than an abstract theology or a past experience with God. Therefore, my intention this morning is to share with you this revelation that is changing my personal relationship with Christ.
Let me encourage everyone in this building not to tune me out. The enemy would love to give you an excuse not to hear this message of grace and freedom. Some of you have already made a decision in your mind that you don’t need this message because you have already been saved. I challenge bring your mind to this time of confrontation with God’s Word. This message is especially for those of you who have already encountered the Christ and yet now your relationship for -whatever reason - seems strained, dull, or out of place. Some of you have been sidetracked in your pursuit after God – you have adopted some wrong theologies and a wrong understanding of proper Biblical standards. I believe that God is present to introduce a fresh, new relationship with Him that will be “life and life to the full”.
I. GRACE IS NOW!
2 COR. 6:1,2 “We, then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For He says: ‘In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
An important point to the context of this verse must be addressed. First of all, the Apostle Paul is writing to the church in Corinth. On several occasions throughout this work he addresses his readers as Christian believers. In 2 Corinthians 1:8 he calls them brethren and later acknowledges that is by faith that they stand. Then, in chapter three he states that clearly they are ‘an epistle of Christ’. The question that I bring to you this morning, “To whom is verses 1 and 2 in chapter 6 written?” Was it to the believers in the church of Corinth? Or was it to the sinners in the city of Corinth? I suggest to you that this is written to believers. It is true that this passage has been primarily used to influence the response of a non-believer during revivals and evangelistic services. Nevertheless, I believe that Paul is dealing with much more than attempting to inspire his readers to make a decision to believe on Christ. Both before and after this text, Paul addresses readers as his beloved. If this text was written to believers what does Paul mean when he says, “do not receive the grace of God in vain”? I admit I cannot prove that it is written to non-believers or to believers. But for today I would like for us to approach grace in its relationship to us who are believers.
Grace is much more than merely an event that takes place when an individual is ‘born again’ into the Kingdom of God. Grace is much more than an abstract idea that must be understood. Grace is more than a spiritual principle that can be learned and unlearned. Grace is a dynamic intervening work of God that is real and tangible. It is a true encounter between a supernatural God and frail humanity. Humanity in the presence of Divinity. Grace is power from above dispersed to meet the needs of our lives.
Is it possible that Paul was dealing with his readers who had found themselves no longer fulfilling the purpose of their calling. Paul desired for his ‘children’ to walk worthy of the calling of God. Paul desired for his ‘children’ to be complete in the One who had created them. Paul was desirous of much more than just making a convert. He wanted his hearers to ‘become the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ.” Therefore, he calls out in chapter five saying, “Be reconciled to God!” You who are not in right relationship with Christ. You who have experienced salvation and the grace of God in the past, “Come back into right relationship with your Lord”. He calls out again in chapter 6, “Don’t receive the grace of God in vain.” Paul admonished those in the church of Galatia to wake up because they had ‘fallen from grace’. He was warning those who had returned to a legalistic lifestyle and those attempting to achieve righteousness by their ability to fulfill the law. Paul adamantly declares that this type of lifestyle is vain and that Christ will profit those individuals nothing.
Grace is so much more than changing the eternal destiny of an individual. The work of grace in our lives purposes to do much than grant us access into heaven. God pours out His grace that we might become whole. Salvation consist of wholeness and fullness in this life. It is not only something that we inherit in the afterlife. We are saved. We are being saved. And we will be saved by grace through faith.
Are you here this morning frustrated with your failures. Have you become disgusted with your sins. Are you tired of falling short of what you is God’s purpose for your life? Let me challenge today that there is a grace that is sufficient for all your needs and it is present NOW. “Today is the day of salvation”. Now is the acceptable time for you to begin fulfilling your potential in Christ.
Let’s take a brief at a few verses on this subject. Please turn with me in your Bibles to John 1. Hebrews 1:3 declares that Jesus Christ was the ‘brightness of His glory and the express image of His person”. Jesus Christ came to reveal to us God in His fullness. John 1:1 states,
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things that were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
In verse 10, John says, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.
These verses are a powerful description of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He came to earth – the earth that He created. And yet, we who were created by Him did not receive Him. Humanity is terribly wicked in its sinful state. Nevertheless, I believe it is God’s will restore humanity to its God-given purpose.
Verse 12 introduces a powerful hope by stating, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His Name”. The word in this verse of Scripture is dealing with authority and position. Fallen humanity – through believing on Christ – are given a spiritual right to enter into a son or daughter relationship with God. When a person confess Jesus Christ as Lord and believes in their heart that Jesus rose from the dead they enter into a new relationship with God.
Now then, I want to go with me a little deeper into this text. For God is not merely desirous of changing people’s positions in relationship to eternity.
In verse 14, John continues his thought.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH.”
The Word that is in the beginning with God. The Word that created all things. The Word that was God. The Word became flesh and blood. The word dwelt among us in bodily form. Jesus was 100% human and 100% God in one person. John says – in this Jesus we saw the glory of God of which we had fallen short. In this Jesus –the very Son of God – dwelt all the fullness of grace and truth. What does this mean? It simply means that Jesus is the only Name whereby we must be saved. It simply means that there is NO NEED for any other way of fulfillment or salvation. The Scripture that He was FULL of grace and truth. It would be understandable for us to justify other means of fulfillment if he was partially full. If He was only 60% full than we would need to obtain 40% of our needs from another source. Maybe we would need to deaden some feelings of the past through drugs or alcohol. If He is was partially full maybe we would need to find peace with another ‘god’ like Buddha or Muhammed? If He was partially full maybe we would need to find satisfaction in extra-marital relationships? But the Scriptures says that He was full of grace and truth. We know that it is truth that sets us free and free indeed. But do we really understand grace? Do you understand the power of grace for us NOW.
Go with me two more verses in John 1, verse 16. It reads, “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.” It has also been translated as “grace upon grace”.
I propose to you this morning that we are not living a life of abundance because we are not properly using the fullness of God’s grace and truth. John says this Jesus who was with God and was God and was make like one of us. This Jesus was tempted in all points as we were and yet remained without sin. This Jesus who turned water into wine and later walked on water. This Jesus who opened the eyes of the blind and closed down the business of money changers in the temple. This Jesus who raised dead people from the grave and who laid down His life. It is this Jesus whom we – who have believed – have received of all His fullness.
Turn with me to Colossians 2:6-10
6 As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it F6 with thanksgiving. 8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.
Verse 6 – How have you received Christ Jesus the Lord according to John – of all His fullness – so walk in Him.
Verse 8 reveals the reason why we tend to not walk in His fullness –
Beware lest anyone cheat you through:
PHILOSOPHY AND EMPTY DECEIPT
TRADITIONS OF MEN
BASIC PRINCIPLES OF THIS WORLD
NOT ACCORDING TO CHRIST.
The reason why one of the most pharmaceutical drugs purchased in our society is depressants is because we have been cheated by philosophies and empty deceit.
The reason why individuals live their lives in fear and rage is because they have been cheated by traditions and basic principles of this world.
The reason why we have dysfunctional homes and broken lives is because we are living our lives NOT ACCORDING TO THE FULLNESS WE HAVE RECEIVED IN CHRIST.
Verse 9 says “In Him dwells ALL THE FULLNESS OF THE GODHEAD BODILY;
It is easy for us to accept this as truth. We can believe that this man Jesus was full of God. We believe this truth that Jesus was both man and God.
But we will not receive the grace that is offered in this next verse.
“AND YOU ARE COMPLETE IN HIM, WHO IS THE HEAD OF ALL PRINCIPALITY AND POWER”.
I challenge to take a sincere look at your life. What principles have you been living by that have cheated you?
What traditions of men have been following that have kept out of the fullness of God’s glory?
What powers have been submitted to that cheated you of your purpose and destiny in this earth?
Now is the acceptable time of God’s favor! Today is the day of salvation! Grace was given 2000 years ago in the person of Jesus Christ. TODAY grace is given to those who will believe on Him. The fullness of His grace doesn’t merely work at the altar of regeneration. It works TODAY. It works NOW. It is here to set you free from bondage. Grace is here to empower you to finally go after that dream that has been lodged in the depths of your heart. Grace is hear to enable you to fulfill your covenant of marriage. Grace is working even now to heal you of pains and scars of your past. Grace is to be received TODAY. Because God is here to give Grace NOW!.
Now it is important you do not leave this sanctuary will only a head knowledge of this truth.. The knowing that the Bible refers to when It says you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. Truth and Grace are more than just concepts to memorize. These two powerful dynamics are continually given by God to save, to heal, and to cleanse. The Bible says that we are sanctified by truth. The Bible says that the Word cleanses and heals. And grace is what Romans 5:1 says us power to stand. Paul tells Titus that grace teachese to say, No! to ungodliness. But it is important for you to understand to whom God gives this grace. There are two passages of Scripture that makes this clear.
1 Peter 5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."
James 4:4 “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."
In order to walk in the fullness of God’s grace and truth one must come to terms with the reality of their situation. What is your needs? Have you truly gotten real with God lately? We are cheated so many times because we live in a society that is anti-humility and anti-dependence upon any else but yourself. We live in a society of fast food restaurants, microwaves, instant emails, and videoconferencing over the Web. We have medicine cabinets stocked full. We are the sole super power of the world. We are a culture of affluence and independence. This ‘worldviews’ rob us of a true sense of need for God. Therefore, in order for us to truly receive from God’s grace – we must first humble ourselves under HIS MIGHTY HAND!
We should approach His Table of Grace in same attitude as the Syro-Phoenician lady did willing to eat of the crumbs that would fall to the ground. What ‘crumbs of grace’ do you need to scoop up today? You will not be filled by demanding a seat at the table. You will be full by humbling yourself at the Feet of the King.
Finally, this morning I would like to encourage on one more thought regarding your wholeness. God doesn’t pour out His grace simply to ‘bless our socks off’ or to fatten His babies. Grace is powerful with purpose. When He disperses His grace it is for the glory of His Kingdom. God desires to make us whole that we might truly fulfill our purpose. What is that purpose? To bring glory and honor to the Name of the Jesus.
I Peter 4:10 As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen
Some of you may be walking in depression, sickness, or discouragement because you are not properly administering the grace of God for His glory. The enemy desires to keep us bound, bruised, and broken so we can not fulfilled our purpose of bringing God to Jesus Christ with whom we will reign for a 1000 years.
Where are you in your wholeness today? Are you willing to humble yourself and receive God’s grace now? He has a tremendous purpose and potential for you – will you be real, be receptive, and be responsible with God’s Grace.