GRACE: The Value of Values Sermon Series, Week 2

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Wed, 09/26/2018 - 11:30am

“Grace: The Value of Values” sermon series, week 2

Readings:

Romans 3:21-26

But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, (22) the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, (23) since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; (24) they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, (25) whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; (26) it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.

Ephesians 2:1-10

You were dead through the trespasses and sins (2) in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. (3) All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. (4) But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us (5) even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved-- (6) and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, (7) so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (8) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God-- (9) not the result of works, so that no one may boast. (10) For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life --

 

 

Message:

We’ve all heard it said: “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”…. But is there?...  Is there ever a time or occasion for giving or receiving something from another without any expectation of reward or return? Well, If there is such a thing, the Bible calls it grace. Simply put, grace is the unmerited favor of the Lord, a gift freely given by God to us, something neither earned nor deserved. God's grace to His children is completely unmerited love and forgiveness. It is an extravagant love that defies our human understanding. We are told that by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God-- (9) not the result of works (of anything that we have done), so that no one may boast.

Remember Shel Silverstein’s book , The Giving Tree?  The tree invited the boy to play in its shade, burn its branches for a fire to keep warm, cut down its truck for lumber to build a house, and sit down on its stump when he was tired as an old man. That’s grace; it gives and gives and keeps on giving, no matter what.

Grace means both love and acceptance. God desires relationship with us. The Divine presence wants to draw us near with all of our warts, and faults, and flaw and foibles. To receive us without reservation or restraint. That’s grace.

While our soul longs for grace, we are confounded that it could actually be extended to us. But even more difficult to comprehend, is that it is also extended to those who offend us. Grace is a gift, and it cannot be earned, simply received. In his book, "What's So Amazing About Grace," Philip Yancy said, "None of us gets paid according to merit, for none of us comes close to satisfying God's requirements for a perfect life."

We are imperfect people surrounded by imperfect people, and only the perfect grace of God can supply us with what we need to love and accept those around us.

Grace is one of the most radical principles of life. It means giving people more than they deserve irrespective of the cause of their need and without regard to national, cultural or religious boundaries. Those who live by grace know themselves as forgiven and act out of the humility that comes from that knowledge. Grace is far more than the vague notion of tolerance. It means living joyfully according to a possibility rather than a demand or an obligation. When the Christian concept of grace is applied to the way a society lives it becomes one of the most radical and subversive principles of life. It is the idea that we are prepared to give to others what they really do not deserve. In other words there is such a thing as a free lunch! And a lot more besides!

This concept begins with the totally undeserved gift that God gave to the world in Jesus of Nazareth. In his life and death Christians see God at work. Jesus told stories about grace that have a powerful message. There was the father who welcomed the wayward son home again and the employer who made sure that even the late-coming workers got a full day’s pay. In answer to the question about how often someone should be forgiven the answer was ‘not seven times but seventy times seven.’ In other words, don’t bother counting!

So along came Jesus and He introduced the world to a different way, God's way. He tells parables about a shepherd who would leave 99 sheep alone to search for one lost one? About How a few coins given by a widow can be of more value than the donation of a rich man?

All this is grace. It means you care for those in need irrespective of the cause of their distress and that you don’t just love your family and friends but your enemies as well! Taken seriously - personally, socially and politically - grace is radical! Grace is not stopped by national, cultural or religious boundaries. It will change the way we relate to people and the way we live in our society. Because grace is, by definition, an undeserved gift offered to someone who is need it means that in social relationships there is going to be a bias towards those in need. The gospels present Jesus as one who brought good news to all who would listen (the crowds) but especially to those who lived on the periphery of society: lepers, slaves, the demon-possessed, a paralytic, a tax collector, a young girl, and the blind. A life of grace means a life lived with those usually ignored or rejected by others.

Grace doesn’t pretend that there is no such thing as sin or wrong-doing. Instead, it forgives the sin, and it loves the sinner.

 Living by grace means promoting and encouraging everything that promotes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. God’s grace is freely offered to all, but it also invites a response of worship, gratitude and obedience. The responsibility of the Christian in living graciously is to make clear that God is the ultimate source of grace and to offer grace in such a way as to encourage a response to God. The only ones that can be truly gracious are those who have been shown grace. People of grace know themselves as forgiven and act out of the humility which comes from that knowledge. Self-righteousness is not compatible with grace. Those who know the grace of God and who are being transformed by it will also be the most willing to acknowledge that same grace at work in the lives of others. The gracious person does not believe that God is only at work in their life. They will affirm grace wherever it is found.[i] They will affirm others, no matter what.

Grace is a foreign concept to the world. We learn early that we are graded and judged on our performance. There is no free lunch. We must earn our own way. And it's every person for them self. No! the truth is that free lunch comes from the Lord in the form of grace.

This truth can transform our relationships. You see, as God offers grace to us, so we in turn offer grace to others. As we represent Jesus to a broken world, we can best reflect His character by extending grace in terms of  unmerited love and forgiveness.

Because Christ represents the fulfillment, the embodiment, and the dispenser of divine grace, the early Christians freely referred to God’s grace as “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This grace was conceived as being so basic and so pervasive to their individual lives and to the existence of their communities of faith that they naturally coupled the traditional greeting of shalom (“peace”) with a reference to the grace of Jesus Christ. This is the reason for the ubiquitous repetition of numerous variations on the basic greeting formula found in almost every book of the NT, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all” (2 Thes 3:18).[ii]

Grace and Shalom to you.

Imagine the police knocking on your door one day, accompanied by a scruffy ex-convict, whom only yesterday you befriended. As thanks for your generosity, the ex-con has stolen most of your silver. What do you do?

This is the opening question of of "Les Miserables," the magnificent Victor Hugo classic that has been made once again into a movie and great theater as well.

The convict's name is Jean Valjean and the man he has stolen from is a bishop. But this is no ordinary bishop. He's a radical believer who takes the words of Jesus literally. So when Valjean is dragged before him holding the stolen silver, the bishop informs the startled police that the silver was a gift. He turns the other cheek by giving Valjean a pair of silver candlesticks as well, and then sets him free.

Later we learn that Valjean had spent nineteen years in prison merely for stealing a loaf of bread out of hunger, an injustice that left him deeply embittered. The bishop's act of generosity and grace breaks the cycle of anger and sin.

This is Valjean's first taste of grace, and it transforms him. The ex-convict later shows the same extraordinary forgiveness and grace to someone who wrongs him.

We read in scripture that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; (24) but are now justified by his grace as a gift

Judge Kaufman presided at the famous trial of the Russian spies, the Rosenbergs. They were charged with and convicted of treason against the United States and sentenced to death.

In his summation at the end of the long and bitter trial, the lawyer for the Rosenbergs said animatedly, “Your Honor, what my clients ask for is justice.”

Judge Kaufman replied calmly, “The court has given what you ask for—justice! What you really want is mercy. But that is something this court has no right to give.”[1]

There are many things that secular organizations can do just as well as the church. They can build homes, feed the hungry and clothe the poor. And the church should be doing these things as well. But there's one area the church should excel in, and that's extending grace. Courts can’t give it, Governments can’t provide, institutions don’t have enough of it. But the church of Jesus Christ can supply this in abundance:

God’s supply of Grace is abundant, inexhaustible.

The philosophic Hammerton tells us the story of a woman who worked in a cotton factory in one of the great manufacturing towns in Lancashire, and who on an excursion went for the first time to the coast. When she caught the earliest glimpse of the Irish Sea, the expanse lying out before her eyes looking like the limitlessness of the ocean in its rush and roll of billows, she exclaimed, as she drew one boundless breath of freshness and glory, "At last here comes something there is enough of!" Friends, every time you look beyond the shores of this island that we live on to the open sea, let it remind you of God’s grace, of something there is always enough of.

(10) For we are what God has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

For follower’s of Christ, grace can become our way of life. As people who have experienced the riches of the Lord’s grace personally and first hand, we are uniquely equipped to extend grace to others. Not because they have earned it or deserve it, but simply because God wants for all of his children to have it, unconditionally, and in abundance. May God give us the humility of spirit to extend the free gift of grace to others each day, Amen.

Meditation:

Where or When have I seen evidence of God’s grace in my life?

Can I think of something good in my life that I received but did not deserve?

 

[1] Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 530). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.

 

[i] Brian Edgar, Director of Theology and Public policy for the Evangelical Alliance

[ii]Bilezikian, G. (1988). Grace. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 1, p. 900). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

 

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