Its Free, But It Ain't Cheap!
A Sermon by Pastor John (© Aug. 1999 updated 8-5-2006)
Grace: What is it?
- God's Grace can be considered in two forms, the first is what is known as "Common Grace," the Second is "Saving Grace."
Common Grace"Common Grace" is that Grace which God bestows freely upon the planet and all its inhabitants. It is this divine Grace that enables plants to grow, the sun to shine, rivers to flow and so on. Common Grace is completely free to everyone. There is nothing we need do to enjoy its full benefits. As we read at Romans 1:20:"For the invisible things of God since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even God's everlasting power and divinity; so that everyone is without excuse."
- People sometimes ask how we as Believers can be so sure that God exists. It is due, in part, to Common Grace. God's existence is clearly presented through Common Grace by the diversity and splendor of the world itself. This building in which we meet did not just come into existence of its own accord. There was an architect, a carpenter, an electrician, a plumber, and so on. Random chance could not possibly have resulted in this building. To believe that would require far more faith than believing that the building was made by intelligent and intentional design. I may not know who these people were, but that they existed is without question. Likewise, nothing that you can point to simply came into existence on its own, there must have been a creator of some kind at work.
- Even those who believe in one of the theories of evolution must agree that in the beginning there was some First Cause for the so-called "Big Bang." Otherwise, what banged? There had to be something to explode and seed the universes, and so there must have been a Creator. The Bible gives the only logical answer to this question when it says, "In the beginning God..."
- Never was there a time when God did not exist nor will the Holy One ever cease to be. Hence our Creator is known as the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. This is only logical. One can question who this God is, but that there was an intelligent agency at the outset is obvious. Nothing comes from nothing and yet God created the universes ex nihilo, from nothing.
Saving GraceGod bestows Saving Grace to enable us to believe in and accept the free gift of salvation. God's Grace both brings us to God and is the goal and destination of that journey. The journey and the goal are one.
- Ephesians 2:9, 10 tells us that:2:9 "For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest anyone should boast.
2:10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them."
So what's the deal with salvation? Why do we need it?
- We're currently focusing on the role of God's Grace and why we need it. Grace itself is based upon need. If we had no need, Grace would be meaningless. Just as we could not physically survive without God's Common Grace, in order to survive and thrive spiritually we need God's Saving Grace. The Gospel, or "Good News," is that God wants to bestow this Grace upon us.
- John 3:16, probably best-known verse in the Bible, assures us that:For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."
- Since the very beginning of human history it has been proven time and time again that try as we might we frequently make mistakes and fall short of our own goals and desires, not to mention Gods. Virtually everyone wants to do what's right and good, we want to be loving and just people, and yet we fail to meet this goal time and time again.
- History is replete with accounts of warfare, violence, hatred, discrimination, religious bigotry, racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and so on. And yes, sometimes these social evils were and are performed in God's name, as though God supported them.
- You see, there's a word that most people are not very comfortable with but that we need to understand. That word is "Sin."
- What is sin? Surprisingly, "sin" is a technical term coined for archery. When one shoots an arrow at a target and misses the mark, its called a "sin." Likewise, when we miss the mark of Christian perfection, which we all do frequently, we commit sin. Hatred, anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, classism, sexism: such things are all sins because when we practice or engage in them we miss the mark of Christian perfection, which is love. God is love and love is the defining mark of Christian life:"But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him" (I John 2:5
- Yes, love is the mark or bull's eye we're commanded to aim for. Love is the goal by which our actions are to be judged. This confirmed at Mark 12:29-31:And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is this: Hear, O Israel; Yahveh our God is one God:
And you must love Yahveh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength; this is the first commandment.
And the second is like it, namely this, You must love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.
- This then is the mark to which we are to aim our life's "arrows," so to speak:1. Love God with everything within usThese two things.
and 2. love our neighbors are we love ourselves.
- So then, when we fail to demonstrate this kind of love, we sin... We sin a lot! And yet, God's Saving Grace calls us back to the basics, back to Jesus.
- How does Saving Grace work?
- God has given each of us free will. By utilizing our free will, the vast majority of people throughout history have sought to do the right thing: to be good people. Every religion, in one way or another, is devoted to helping its practitioners hit this mark. And yet we still find that no matter where we look sin, the missing of the mark of perfection in love, is present. And this is just as true for we Christians as it is for anyone else!"If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us" (I John 10).
- In the Hebrew Scriptures we find a great many laws governing human actions. These all have as their intent the empowering of people to "hit the mark" of perfect love. For those who seek to follow these laws and mitzvah life is strictly controlled and regulated. The Law or Hallakhah addresses meal preparation, clothing, hygiene, sexuality, taxes, social interaction, politics, religious observances, foods, prayer life: the list is endless. So many instructions were given! It was all very clear: In order to achieve perfection all one had to do was obey these various commandments, practice the required good works (mitzvah), and thereby one was assured of success. But does it work?
- Well, there was one little problem! Deuteronomy 27:26:"Accursed is the person that does not fulfill all the words of this law to do them...."
- In other words, under the Law of Moses there are no degrees of compliance. If one was to be successful under the Law, if one wished to "hit the mark," then there was no room for error.
- What made the Law doable in ancient times was that the worshipper could make the various Temple sacrifices to atone for these shortcomings. Since 70 CE however, when Titus destroyed the Jerusalem Temple, this option has not existed and hence all sacrifices have ceased.
- Despite all the pious observances one might perform, a single point of aberration could wipe out the effects of all the good works. Sin would still be present in the sincerest worshipper and such a person would remain under the power of sin and death.
- So what is one to do?
- Who can fulfill such piously rigid requirements? Only one person in history ever did. That person was Jesus. Even the great Hebrew patriarchs and prophets were unable to meet the awesome requirements. They looked forward to the day when Messiah would come and forgive them. In the final analysis, every must trust solely in God's Grace and not in the works of their hands.
- Galatians 3:24 tells us that the Law was given to be our school master. Through the Torah and our inability to keep its righteous commands, we can understand that our very best efforts to live righteously are not and never could have been good enough to merit divine favor. Only through God's Grace is it possible.
- Way back at Genesis 3:16 God, knowing that we would not be able to achieve perfection on our own, arranged for Jesus to come into the world as the Universal Deliverer, the Messiah. He came to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. Scripture says at I John 2:1,2:My little children, these things I write to you, that you sin not. But if anyone does sin, he has an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our's only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
- The ultimate in Grace is this: Jesus Christ paid the debt of the entire world:
John 3:16. 17:"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."
- The entire world. Through what Yeshua, Jesus, accomplished on the cross, the world has been reconciled to God.
- John 1:17 tells us that:"For the Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."
- God's Saving Grace, like God's Common Grace, is available to absolutely everyone. It matters not who you are: "Whosoever means Whosoever"!
Grace and Free Will.
- Remember however that God has also given us free will. We are not robots or zombies, but individuals empowered with self determination. Therefore, while God's Saving Grace is available to everyone, unlike the Common Grace, Saving Grace requires that one personally choose to accept it. Think of it like this: If in my hand I hold out to you a hundred dollar bill, it still isn't yours until and unless you reach out your hand, having faith in my willingness to give it, and take it. Then its yours. All we have to do is reach out and accept God's free gift of salvation. Scripture says at Romans 10:9-11:"That if you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and will believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
For with the heart people believe unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
For the scripture says, Whoever believes on him shall not be ashamed."
- So then, how can you receive God's Saving Grace? Whoever you are, it matters not, YOU are invited to place your faith in Jesus right now, just as you are.
- One of the truly amazing aspects of this Saving Grace is found in John:17"For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
- The payment has already been made! The world, all of us, already stand uncondemned before God! Our choice is simply to act on it.
May God bless you!
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