Amazing Grace #1 -- What's So Great About Grace

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Good morning everyone. It is the Lord's day, the day that we can come together and and do the things that we've done this morning together and encourage one another. Our worship to God is always an encouragement to me because being with people of like precious faith, but it is a special day because it's the day that the Lord came forth from the grave. I sent a message to my children this morning, basically stating that same thing. But it is an encouragement because of that fact. Carl reminded us of the Lord in many different ways just by talking about the table itself this morning. But whether we realize it or not, that everything that brings us here today can be summed up in one word, grace. It was God's grace. We sang the song amazing grace before the lesson for this purpose. Today on this first Sunday of the month, and then next Sunday I'll have another lesson following up. And then the first Sunday of every month following that through the end of the year, we're going to be talking about God's amazing grace. And we think about that and think about the song amazing grace, how sweet the sound, when you think about that word (Grace), it is just that it is amazing. And so we're going to ask the question this morning. What's so amazing about grace? And I think when we think about grace in general and we start talking about grace in general, we immediately go into a word study. And I don't want to make this series a simple word study about grace. I want us to look at it and understand. I think we best understand grace when it's actually illustrated to us through scripture. When you looked at and read this morning in Luke chapter 15 two of the three lost and found stories, whether you realize it or not, grace is found within those verses.

And so when we think about grace and we discuss grace, we understand and think about how amazing it actually is and you think about it in general. It is a fascinating new Testament study. 114 times in the new Testament, the word grace is used. I was practicing reading this morning out loud. I'd mentioned something about reading through some of the epistles. I'm not going to do that tonight, but I was practicing reading in the book of Galatians and just in the first two chapters, I didn't even get to practice in chapter three, but through the first two chapters of the book of Galatians Paul repeats the word grace over and over and over again, especially the grace that was given to him.

And when we think about that, we tend to think of what he says in Ephesians chapter two in verse eight, don't we, when we think about grace, talking about grace. For by grace, you've been saved through faith. What is it? It's the free gift of God. But it's grace! And we think about that and consider it. I believe there's more to understanding grace even than just simply salvation. Even though grace is a huge major factor. Is that proper English? Probably not, but is a major factor in our salvation. Because when we start talking about grace, we realize when we talk about grace, grace is a study of sin. I botched up Romans chapter six the other night on Wednesday night, but when you think about it, it is a study about sin because Paul says there in Romans chapter six and we'll try and get it right, shall we continue in sin that Grace May abound and he says that twice and the same answer comes forth twice.

Certainly not! But the study of grace is a study about sin; and the reason it's a study about sin is because we have broken lives. Our lives are not perfect. We sin, we understand that through scripture and we see grace going all the way back to creation with Adam and Eve when they sinned in the garden. Grace is a study about God: and when we think about that in in those terms, he's the one that gives such a wonderful gift called grace. He's the one that had in the plan going back to Genesis chapter three after they sinned in the garden that set in motion, this plan of grace of sending his son into the world. And I hear Timothy, or Paul writing to Timothy, and say that that grace has been revealed in his son. I hear him right to, to Titus and I hear him say that that grace teaches us. And, when we study about grace, we understand that grace is a study of forgiveness. Because without forgiveness of sins, you see we can't earn salvation and without God's willingness to forgive us, when we repent and confess our sins to him, we understand then what true forgiveness is. An in forgiveness we understand that a debt has been paid for us that we could not pay for ourselves. That's grace.

And so when we start about grace, and a study of grace throughout the year, then we're going to realize that it's a study about us. It's a study about each and every one of us. The men and women in the scriptures, the apostles, those that they taught. It's a study about men and women. It's a study about people. So when we talk about grace, it's easy to simply give it a definition of unmerited favor, but it's much more to us than that and should be much more to that. Grace is a beautiful word. Think about it for just a moment. Seriously. Think about grace. How many times do you use a form of that word in your, in your vocabulary, maybe talked about someone being gracious.

Have you thought about someone that when they're gracious, what they're doing is they're being thankful for what they've been given? It is a one of the most beautiful words that you can find in scripture. You think about it. Have you ever heard someone, and this may be talking, showing my age a little bit, but I remember men talking about how gracefully a woman would glide across the floor, catch their attention. I think about that. We, you know, we offer grace sometimes. Don't say it that way much anymore, but usually before meals, what was offered grace a prayer before meals. Grace is a part of our vocabulary and it is a word that really has not changed. It's one of those rare words. I think, that really hasn't changed as much because you think about the English language, how words change over time and evolve into different meanings. Grace still means the same thing.

Well, what's important about grace is it is the essence of the gospel of the good news. In Acts chapter 11 verses 21 through 23 there we read it says, and the hand of the Lord was with them and a great number believed and turned to the Lord. The news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all with purpose of heart that they should continue in the Lord. In Acts chapter 20 verse 24 but none of these things move me, nor do I count my life dear as to myself. Think about the apostle Paul now for just a moment: where he came from to where he is and talking about the past and everything, but he says, none of these things move me, nor did I count my life dear to myself so that I may finish my race with joy and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus to testify of the gospel of the grace of God. When we preach, when we teach from God's word, what we are delivering to the hearer is a message of grace. It's an appeal to God's grace. It's revealing God's grace to them.

How important is grace? Well, again, I mentioned the apostle Paul and how he used it in the in the book of Galatians, but consider for just a moment (discounting the book of Hebrews, whether you think Hebrews is, is written by Paul or not), every single gospel letter that Paul writes starts out talking about grace and peace in his introduction. And we only have peace in our lives for what reason? We have peace in our lives because God has shown us love. He has shown us mercy, he has granted to us grace.

And so whether we realize it or not, grace is imprinted throughout the new Testament. And I will say this, it is also found within the Old Testament. Considering all the stories of faith, God's grace was delivered there too and shown there. But one thing that I realize when we talk about, when we define grace, we immediately jump to that definition of unmerited favor. Why? Because, I think, in reality we all realize just how undeserved it is, don't we? We think about Grace in terms of being so great and so wonderful and we need to be thankful for it, but we need, the reason we need to be thankful for it is we did not earn it. It was not something that was just simply, you know, God, give it to me because I've been such a good boy. No, that's not what is taking place.

See, grace is not deserved. That's why it's grace! And I look at this and see that grace is better illustrated, sometimes, by simply dissecting and trying to find the etymology of the word. Grace as a good word study. That's not really how we're going to approach it throughout this series. I want us to kind of understand that it's better understood when it's illustrated like Jesus did in Luke chapter 15: When you look at Luke chapter 15 and you see right there in the, in the instances of the lost sheep and the lost coin, you see Grace. But where do you really see grace? The prodigal son, in Luke chapter 15 don't you?

You see in the prodigal son, when you look at that, you know what took place there. You know how that the son ran off with asks for his inheritance, which he thought was due him, and his father gave it to him, and he ran off and spent it on prodigal living. He sunk so low that he was eating with the pigs and finally came to his senses. He said, you know, if I go home and just ask to be a servant in my father's house (the servants are taken well care of there), that would be just perfect. And you remember the story because the son is coming home and he's walking up the road and the father sees him.

Then the father runs back in the house, shuts the door, turns on all the, no, he doesn't do that, does he? Grace begins to unfold because the father runs out to him and they hug. And the son confesses to the father and everything. What does the father do? You know what the father doesn't do? He doesn't sit there wagging his finger at the son and say, you know, I don't know if I can forgive you. I don't know that if you, I don't know if you can be allowed back in my house after what you've done.

The father wanted reconciliation just as much as the son did. That's grace. The father today, when we illustrate grace with the prodigal son or illustrate grace with anyone, he wants reconciliation; but he wants us to come to him and he will show us the same type of grace that the father in Luke chapter 15 showed his prodigal son. See in each one of the instances in Luke chapter 15 the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. What do you see? You see rejoicing after it took place; But yes, forgiveness is there. What you see is that the person that's mentioned sought desperately, desired desperately, to find that which was lost. And that's what God wants from us. Our broken lives. He wants to mend them and make them whole. By grace, God demonstrated his love to us by sending his son into this world. By grace, He's given us his Holy word. Think about that. Yes, we talk about it being delivered by inspiration, but it was his grace that showed it to us so that we can have it today and so that we can believe. I think when you about these things, you think there's two facts about grace. I want us to understand this morning as we're looking at this that well, we understand that grace is free to those who do not deserve it, don't we?

It's free and then there is going to be two things here that I want us to consider: I'm one of those people who do not deserve grace. And you say, well, Brian, how horrible were you? I really wasn't that horrible of a child, when I was growing up. I usually did what mom and dad told me to do. There were instances where I, there was a little rebellion in my life. As I became a teenager, but not much. I got older and became an adult and and there were, there were times where my faith might have waned a little bit and, but you know what God did? When I confessed and repented to him? He showed me grace just like he did for Paul. See, I wasn't the scoundrel that Paul was. I wasn't the chief of sinners. At least in my mind, I didn't think like that way that Paul did. Maybe I should have.

The grace is something that humbles us because it's free. Every one in the world, no one in the world deserves it. The God has offered grace to all men and the fact of the matter is that because it's not deserved, you can't earn it. You cannot earn grace because you don't live a perfect life. What did Paul say in Romans chapter three in verse 23 all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The only way that grace would have been earned... well, let me put it this way, if grace could be earned, it wouldn't be grace! If you lived that sinless life, and there's not a man alive that has, save Jesus Christ himself, our savior, you would've had to live that perfect life to earn it and you cannot earn it. In fact, God paid us, if God paid us on what we deserved, the end would actually be tragic. Have you thought about that.

If we got what we deserved, we would have a tragic ending. In Titus chapter three verses three through seven, "For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lust and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God, our savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy, he saved us, through the washing of regeneration, the renewing of the Holy spirit, whom he poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our savior, that having been justified by his grace, we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Trying to understand how and why God would save us is a mystery to me. But he loved mankind and there's really only one true explanation. It's grace.

See, grace becomes very personal. Grace becomes personal because you consider those three lost and found stories in Luke chapter 15 again, why was there rejoicing as each account concludes? It wasn't because the problems of society had been solved. It wasn't because all human suffering had ended. It wasn't because great multitudes of people had been converted. It was personal... God rejoiced. The angels rejoiced. Why? Because one person repented is what the message is.

It's personal because that's makes it about us. It's personal because that makes it about us and our need to repent and you think about what stayed in Luke chapter 15 and verse seven and verse 10 and verse 24: "I say to you likewise, there would be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 just persons who need no repentance. Likewise, I say to you, there's joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." And think about Luke chapter 15 and verse 24 for this is my son was dead and is alive again. He was lost in is found and they began to be merry. See, the point is God wants you. He wants all of those who are lost to be found. He'll demonstrate grace and he will go to great links to find you. You might ask, well, how far will he go? Well, he went to the Hill called Golgotha. God gave his only begotten son as proof of his love and his desire for the world to be reconciled to him. That's grace,

When it comes to grace, sometimes we, we have some difficulties. We have some difficulties accepting that which is free. I watched an episode of Bonanza yesterday afternoon and then little Joe decided to buy a delivery stable there in town and start a business. Well, there was another livery stable in town and that as they put up their prices, that other stable undercut them and was going to run them out of business because they couldn't afford to do anything, so they decided to do something. They decided that they were going to run everything and it was going to be free of charge. All they did was set up a little bowl outside, said donations on it. That bowl filled up. Not a charge. Was that given to him? One man came up. Ask them how much is a little Joe said, that doesn't cost anything. Man. Saw the sign. Said donation says, what if? What if I don't want to give anything? He said, doesn't matter. There's the man turned around to walk off. Turn right back around through money and that's it. I don't get any. I don't take anything for free. Here's the thing. Sometimes we as individuals don't want to accept the free grace that God gives us. We think sometimes there's gotta be a catch to it. There's gotta be something about it that we've got to do something to earn it. We can't earn it because it is free, but God wants it and what's becomes the problem then the way we don't accept it is sometimes we become hoarders and holders of certain things.

You know, you've seen the TV show. You know what hoarder is, just come and look at my garage. You'll find out -- the beginning of hoarders is right there. There's just enough room to walk around my garage around the boxes that we've had in there now for six, well going on seven years. Think we haven't opened up since we moved there. What do we do when we hoard? We hang onto things that that really don't, don't, shouldn't be hung onto anymore. And here's the thing, we're not talking about physical hoarding here. We're talking about emotional hoarding, spiritual hoarding. What we do is we allow the past to clutter our lives. We look at our past sins and we think, "Oh, God would never forgive me. I'm too horrible an individual." But see, that's what makes grace so amazing. He will, but we have to let go. If he's willing to forgive us of our sins, we have to be willing to let go of those. And see, that's what God does. He, he's, he wants us. If he's willing to forgive us, then we have to be able to forgive ourselves. So why should we allow the past to block our path to God in his grace? If he wants us, if he wants to share that grace with us.

And second in our failure to forgive ourselves, those piles and piles of past sins. Who wants that to happen to you? See that? That's what Satan, he, he, he wants that to be your central thought, not have great and awesome God is, but how despicable you were. You hang on to that and you'll never fully experience the grace of God. Well what does God say? In Isaiah chapter 53 he sent his son to the cross. Surely he was born our griefs and carried our sorrows. Yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. Let Jesus Christ do what he was supposed to do on the cross. Let that have its proper place in our lives so that we can have forgiveness of sins, and know what the true grace of God is. But the second thing that we horde is our failure to forgive others. We hold onto things, don't we? We let anger clutter our lives. We hold onto resentment. Well, I remember all the way back in high school. He did this to me and folks, it's time to let go.

Sometimes you've always heard you can't live in the past. Forgive and let God be the one to take care of it for you. Grudges. Who's responsible for cluttering our hearts? Again, Satan,

I want to just think this for just a moment. We cannot earn these things if we're hoarders of forgiving ourselves and failure. Forgive others. Consider this. Why would we allow someone else's junk to block our path to God? Grudge holders are not grace receivers. Why?

Because the forgiven must be forgiving. Matthew chapter six verses 14 and 15: "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly father will also forgive you." But if you do not forgive men, if you want to hold onto those grudges, if you want to hold on to that anger and that resentment, "but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your father forgive you your trespasses." Matthew 18 verse 35 "...so my heavenly father also will do to you if each of you from his heart does not forgive his brother his trespasses." Ephesians chapter four and verse 32, "...be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another just as God in Christ forgave you."

See what Paul said right there is what I just said a minute ago. The forgiven must be a forgiving people. So what can we do?

Four things. First, recognize but recognize what? Recognize that God is the one who cleanses the heart. Recognize one, that God is the giver of grace, but he's the one that cleanses the heart. He's the one that cleanses us from that unrighteousness -- First John, chapter one. Remember that God wants us, wants you to forgive yourself because he has forgiven you. So quit dredging up the past. Take the trash out. Leave it at the dump. Don't bring it back home with you. Release, forgive others again, don't allow somebody else's junk to clutter up your life. Don't allow something that doesn't belong to you. Keep you separated from God.

Then reach out. Reach out to the one who has forgiven you. Reach out to God. Take the clutter of sin to the foot of the cross, leave it there and then reach out with the grace of God to others. That gospel, that good news, that gospel of grace. So, think about what the world teaches us. Think about living in a world without grace. It's still about the individual, isn't it? The early bird gets the worm. You know, it's about me, about what I'm willing to do, how far I'm wanting to go, how hard I'm wanting to work, how I want to get a headstart on everybody else. No pain, no gain. That's more than just talking about going to the gym and working out. Emotional pain. No gain. There is no such thing as a free lunch. We've been told that over and over again. Stand up for yourself. You get what you pay for. Every last time we hear something like that, we understand... those are not horrible principles to live by and there's, you know, we can't say that there's no benefit to them, then how far are we willing to take them. How far are we going to take them? Are we going to take them to the point that we become only self-reliant, boastful in what we have done? Proud and arrogant? Well, if I do that, then I sound an awful lot like the rich fool in Luke chapter 12 and what will happen is my soul will be required of me just like it was of him. See, the moment the pride enters the picture, I began to believe I deserve... that I deserve more.

And then think you for just a moment. You hear this soft whisper and it comes from the cross of Jesus. You didn't get what you deserve. See, the truth is we deserve punishment, but we've been shown mercy.

The truth is is we deserve heaven's wrath, but we've received this love instead. The truth is what we have received is not what we deserve, but we received an invitation. "All things are ready, come to the feast." Luke chapter 15 verses 20 through 24 and the lesson will be yours: "And he arose and he came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said, father, I have sinned against heaven and in your side and I'm no longer worthy to be called your son. But the father said to his servants, bring out the best robe and put it on him and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet and bring the fatted calf here and kill it and let us eat and be merry. For this, my son, who was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found and they began to be merry."

That's what's amazing about grace, God's forgiveness, God's love makes grace so amazing. And so just like I said, it's not what we deserve, but what we've received as an invitation and that invitation is yours this morning. Do you want to reconcile your life to God? Then please do that. Believing that God sent his son into this world to die for you. Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God? Act in that faith. Repent of your sins because when you repent, there's rejoicing in heaven. Confess him before men. He'll confess you before the father in heaven. Be baptized for the remission of your sins, to rise and walk in newness of life, so that you may know the grace of God, the eternal hope that comes from his love. Because all things are ready. Won't you come to the feast as together we stand and as we sing?