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Grace Alone

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Introduction

500 words
Let me tell you a little story about a fellow named John. He was born in Kentucky in 1963. His family moved around a lot, eventually settling in Florida. He was an average kid, who’s parents split up when he was a teenager.
John was given a guitar as a teen, and he wanted to be a rock musician. He quit school to pursue his dream. He used to play in various garage bands. Eventually he moved to Los Angeles with his band to try to score a record deal. During the day he would work odd jobs to support himself and his wife, and at night he would play music, and well, he started to use drugs.
Then something unexpected happened.
He was hanging out with his mate Jackie one day. Jackie had a movie audition to go too, so John tagged along. Jackie did his audition, and John was asked to read for a part as well! Surprisingly, Johnny got the part! Probably much to Jackie's frustration! Johnny played his part in his first movie; “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. And from there he would go on to play a part in various other movies, then the TV show 21 Jump Street. Then Edward scissor hands. And then bigger and greater roles.
This is how Johnny Depp became the headline actor we know today.
You probably know him best from Pirates of the Caribbean where he plays Captain Jack Sparrow. John has also starred in other big budget movies and has become an huge celebrity. All because someone chose him to play a part he didn’t even know he wanted.
Now this young fellow Johnny was pursuing a completely different path in life. He was pursuing his own direction in life, but providence brought him to something greater and better than the life he had before.
He was headed down a spiral of drugs and likely dead end rock band. But in few moments, he was chosen by a director and put on a completely different trajectory.
Now I tell you this story because it reminds me of the topic we’re covering today. We’re talking about lives being turned around. We’re talking about the unexpected choices of another that dramatically alter everything. We’re talking about the external kindness that lifts us out of our darkness.
Today we’re looking at Grace alone. This is that external gift from God, that comes to us through Jesus that lifts us from sin and death and puts us in a position way greater than the stardom of big name celebrities. God’s Grace seats us in heavenly places, in the presence of God!
This Grace Alone topic is the fourth in our series where we have been looking at the battle cries of the Reformation 500 years ago. We have seen how in the time of Luther the Gospel was marginalized and hidden by the trappings of the Roman Church. But as we have looked at each topic we have seen that the problems of Luther are just as prevalent today, however it’s not about one particular institution, in fact we all are guilty in one way or another of trying to overshadow Gospel, and churches, even those that consider themselves descendants of the Reformation have forgotten these biblical ideas. We all need continual reforming to align with God’s Word.
Today and for many days to come, we need to be reminded again and again that our salvation comes through grace alone. We don’t contribute anything to our rescue or redemption. We didn’t do anything to deserve it, nor do we do anything to keep it. And seeing that is the case, we can find joy in receiving the gift! But there is also some hard questions to deal with in regard to Grace. Things that are uncomfortable and heavy, so we will hit some of the hard teachings the perplex us around God’s Grace today as well.
Lets step through 4 things that tells us about Grace Alone.
<PAUSE>

Death before Grace

Pre-Grace is Death

Without grace we are dead. Not just wayward or blind; dead.

v1-3
Death precedes Grace. Without grace we are dead. Not just wayward or blind; dead. You see, the natural condition of humankind is spiritually dead. This is inherited from our parents, and their parents, and their parents.
When we are born, we receive physical life from our parents. Unfortunately we don’t receive spiritual life from our parents. Instead, we need a second kind of birth to receive spiritual life.
John 3:3 ESV
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
When Paul wrote to the Ephesians to instruct them, he laid out for them the life before grace in vivid detail. Look with me at
When Paul wrote to the ephesians to instruct them, he laid out for them the life before grace in vivid detail. Look with me at
Without grace we are dead. Not just wayward or blind; dead.
Ephesians 2:1 ESV
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins
Eph 2
Ephesians 2:1–3 ESV
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Insert Image here
Before people are rescued by God, they are dead. Dead men walking. Sin brings death, and all are sinners.
Before people are rescued by God, they are dead. Dead men walking. Sin brings death, and all are sinners. In a pre-grace world we follow the course of our natural inclinations, we sin, and we follow after the greatest sinner of all; Satan, the prince of the power of the air.
Not only do we do it naturally, but we are confined to it. If you sin you are a slave to sin. And slaves don’t free themselves. Slaves are stuck, that is the nature of slavery!
SO, to be rescued death and slavery we need someone to save us. We need an external force to come into our deadness and make us alive. We need to be born again! Reborn out of spiritual death into spiritual life! Jesus said the same;
John 3:3 ESV
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
We are all of sinful stock - there’s no use denying it
Do you notice, with these metaphors of the life before Grace; Death, Slavery and the need for rebirth, these are all things do don’t have power over. The dead cannot raise themselves, the slave cannot free themselves and no one can birth them self!
If you’ve hung around Eastgate for long you will have heard this kind of stuff before about our radical corruption, our total depravity, our fallen humanity. But do you believe it?
You might hear this often here, but do you know it?
Do you know it ?
If you’re like me, you grew up with Disney movies. And that characteristic Disney perspective that we all have something great within ourselves, and if we would just open our hearts, or look within or realize our potential then we would be able to overcome any obstacle in our path. Are you are a product of this indoctrination? Do you have a Disneyfied faith where you think the power lies within you to reach up to God and claim your salvation if you want it bad enough?
Or do you have a Christian faith? Do you recognize your inability?
Do you echo Paul’s ideas? Can you say “yes, before grace I was a child of wrath”?
Do you have a Disneyfied faith?
Before grace you were dead. Before Grace you were enslaved. Before grace you are a servant of Satan.
I need you to hear this, otherwise the you will not understand either the depth of the problem, or the vastness of Jesus Redemption! If you don’t realize the depths of you depravity you will not see the lengths that Jesus went to to redeem you!
As you continue in your Christian walk, you will likley find that your sin with greater and greater clarity, but you will also see Jesus as a greater and greater savior.
We need to know that we are so utterly dead, we can only be saved by Grace Alone.
<PAUSE>

Grace is Life & Love

Now, if we accept our need we are ready to proceed.
Like the man who has received the diagnosis of his terminal illness, we are now ready to look for a treatment. If we ignore the diagnosis we don’t change the reality of our sickness, we just get a few more moments of bliss before the inevitable. But if we accept the diagnosis we’re now ready to receive the treatment.
Thankfully in our passage today, Paul gives us the treatment. He lays out for us what God does for dead people whom he wants to save.
He does the impossible. He makes the dead not-dead!
That might not seem crazy in the first instance to our modern ears. We’re used to comic books and TV shows where characters miraculously come back from the dead. We’re used to video games where “death” just means “have another go”. We’re used to hearing surprising stories of how Uncle Jim was dead on the operating table for ten minutes before he was revived. So when I say God makes the dead alive, don’t think of cardiopulmonary arrest or games or made-up stories - think a skeleton lying on the ground, bones scattered and dry. Before Grace, that is you!
There’s no flesh. No flicker of life. Nothing.
Now with that picture in mind, lets look at the next few verses in Ephesians;
Ephesians 2:4–7 ESV
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Eph 2:4
God, because of his Love and by his grace God takes the spiritually dead and revives them! He makes us spiritually alive with Christ! Not merely made alive but raised to positions of honor and joy! Why? So God can reveal his kindness, his grace to His own Glory.
He take
500 words
God’s love is expressed to his people through this Grace by making them alive. This is how we receive salvation, through this regeneration of our dead souls. He unshackles our chains of sin and releases us from the oppression of Satan. God through his Spirit causes us to be Born Again so that we might see and receive the Kingdom of Heaven.
Grace Alone revives our dead hearts. Grace alone is the way we receive the Love of God for his own people. Grace alone is how we are saved!!
God loved us
Hang on a sec. I thought we were saved by faith in Jesus? Isn’t that how you become a Christian; by believing in Jesus and repenting of sin? How can you say that we are saved by Grace, when you are clearly saved through Faith?
Going further, why bother evangelizing and asking people to trust in Jesus if it’s God’s Grace that does the saving?
God gave us life
Show Image
Let me show you a couple diagrams to help us think this through. We need to consider both the way we experience our salvation act, as well as the work God does in our lives to make it happen.
Usually when you first become a Christian, you are not thinking about the mechanics of salvation. Usually we get to a point where we recognize we do need God’s gracious salvation, and that the way to access that is through faith. We put our hope, trust, belief in Jesus. “Whosoever believes in Him will not perish but receive eternal life.” It’s simple. I don’t want to talk about Faith too much, because Steve will flesh it out for us next week. But Faith is the entry point to God’s Kingdom.
We understand that God is gracious to us by receiving us and granting us salvation, but it’s not until we look a little deeper that we begin to realize that God’s grace has actually already been applied to us by the time we believe!
By the time we call out to God for mercy and grace, He has already granted it to us!
His grace has been at work in us, reviving our spiritually dead souls to receive spiritual life! It wasn’t our inner drive or choice that turned our hearts toward Him, rather he has already made our souls alive, and as he reveals himself to us in all His Glory and Splendor we see that everything else pales in comparison. With a revived heart we turn to God as willing recipients of the Salvation life he has for us.
Insert Images here
Regeneration
So in the case of Evangelism we share this message with all who will listen, knowing that in some people God will already be at work, preparing them to receive the message and respond because of His Grace.
I don’t know about you, but I’m worried we don’t take this to heart. We haven’t seen any conversions here for a while, and God tells us the fields a ripe for a salvation harvest, so I can only assume that we’re not going out into the world with the Gospel. Now if you’re looking for someone to blame, you don’t need to look any further than me! I am weak and wasteful of Gospel opportunity. But I am sure, if we truly believe that God changes people by his Grace, then we should be unafraid to go out on mission in His name, expecting his work along the way.
We don’t know who will respond to the Good News, so we proclaim it to all knowing that “all who are appointed to eternal life will believe”.
Faith Experience vs Faith as outflow from Grace
We receive spiritual life and experience God’s love through Grace Alone.
<PAUSE>

Grace is a Gift

Grace is a Gift
500 words
Now as I have already been explaining, Grace comes to us in an act of love. It is an outward gift applied to us.
Ephesians 2:8–9 ESV
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Unlike Santa, who supposedly gives good presents to good children, and coal to bad children, God’s gift of Grace is given without prerequisite. There is nothing you can do to to earn the right of God’s grace. Especially because, as we have already seen, we are spiritually dead, so we can’t even begin to please God, let alone earn some right from him.
Unlike Santa, who supposedly gives good presents to good children, and coal to bad children, God’s gift of Grace is given without prerequsite. There is nothing you can do to to earn the right of God’s grace. Especially because, as we have already seen, we are spiritually dead, so we can’t even please God, let alone earn some right from him.
God gives his gift to whom he wills.
Ephesians 2:8–9 ESV
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Eph 2:8-9
It is a gift
God’s gift can feel indiscriminate sometimes, like people who win the lotto. People who don’t seem to deserve it seem to win big and squander it. Others look like they deserve it, or need it and miss out. But it is not ours to know the mind of God in all matters, only what he has told us in his Word. He has not told us why he bestows mercy on this person, and not that person other than to say it is his prerogative.
I want to make sure you hear this from Scripture and understand it is not my own teaching but the plain teaching of God. SO I’m going to read it to you strait out of the Bible. Brace yourself, this is a hard teaching of the Christian faith. This is not fun, but this is where the idea of Grace Alone ultimately leads; we have to ask “why grace for me and not my brother?” “Why grace for the poor man and not for the rich man?” “Why grace for the murderer and not his victims?”
Paul tells us in :
Romans 9:13–24 ESV
As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
Romans 9:10–24 ESV
And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
Romans 9:10-
You know, I have no desire to be in some special club of people who receive mercy. There are so many people who, if it were up to me, would get a bucket-load of God’s grace. But that’s the thing, it’s not up to me. It’s not up to you either.
Grace is something that God gives. This is the nature of grace it come to the undeserving. He gives it to whom he wills. And he doesn’t tell me why he gives it to some and not others except to say that it is part of his plan for his exultant Glory.
Not earned, this is the nature of Grace!!
Like the director handing out parts for a movie, he gives it to some and not others. While we sit here and say, “Hey! Jackie should of got the part, it was his audition!” The director says “Nope, I want Johnny to do this part for me.”
In the case of a movie director, he know what is best for his own movie, but in the case of God, he know what is best for his own plans in creation and redemption.
Knowing this, we don’t get to walk away and say “hey look at how good I am, I got the Love of God!” rather we walk away and say “Why on earth would God love me?” “We don’t deserve any of his mercy!” But sometimes we forget this.
It’s like being given a house. Imagine being given the house of your dreams. Everything you wanted, those extra rooms. That particular style. That good location. All the bells and whistles.
Initially you would be overcome! Such a massive and wonderful gift is undeserved! For days and weeks you would live in the house with a sense of disbelief, expecting someone to come take it away at any moment. You would treasure it, look after it with great care, you would want the Gift Giver to know that you appreciate such a gift!
But then as days turn into weeks, and weeks to months ans months years some of the scope of the generosity of the gift is lost on you. You take it for granted. You’re not so invested in it anymore. You look around at folks who don’t have their dream house and ask, “why don’t they have a house?” “why hasn’t the Giver given everyone a house?” or alternatively we look around and say, “it isn’t that hard, just go get a house of your own, look see I have one!”
We loose sight of the nature of grace and love. We loose sight of the magnitude of the Gift given to us. We loose sight of the external nature of the gift that we didn’t earn, or have any control over receiving!
Instead of being caught up in some sense of entitlement, or some feeling of inequality that not everyone receives the same blessings, we ought to humbly turn to God and say “I don’t deserve this gift. I don't know why you put you love on us as wretched people. I don’t know your mind Lord God, but I know you are good and that your ways are higher than our ways, your thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Your Grace transcends earthly understanding.”
What kindness and generosity that God would bestow on us a Gift such as this! He gave us Christ! He gave us himself! He gave the wretched ones holiness!
Like the overcome daughter whose father has returned unexpectedly from war, we ought to be lost in the loving arms of God’s embrace. Filled with joy and bewilderment that such a thing should happen when it seemed impossible.
<Short Gospel message>
It’s like being given a house. Imagine being given the house of your dreams. Everything you wanted, those extra rooms. That particular style. That good location. All the bells and whistles.
Initially you would be overcome!
Many of us scrimp and save and slave away for may years to save up a house deposit for a small house, and then we in debt ourselves to the bank to pay it off over decades!
There is no boasting for anything we have done. We did nothing. We were dead. Yet God gave us a generous gift so that we might be saved through Grace Alone.
No boasting
No boasting - A.k.a Glory to God Alone
<PAUSE>

Grace leads to Good Works

Grace may be a gift, that is free from any hint of working for it, but it is not free from Good Works. Don’t let anyone convince you that the Reformation idea of salvation nullifies Good Works. It’s important to note that Good Works must be seen in their proper place! As we see in the Ephesians passage we have been looking at!
500 words
After going on about the gift of Grace, Paul then turns to remind folks that our new creation, our regeneration, our new birth leads to Good works;
Ephesians 2:10 ESV
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
God has always intended that His people should walk in holiness, and pour our their lives in doing good for one another and outsiders. This is part of his plan! He prepared theses Good Works beforehand! Like Grace, God has already put everything in place ready for you as a Believer to dive headfirst into!
As Reformation Christians, sometimes it is easy to harp on about the Gospel so much that we forget some of it’s outcomes, namely that the love of God poured into us must spill out onto those around us in Good works.
Don’t use grace as an excuse to say “oh, I don’t want to earn my salvation”, rather grace drives you to work for God. Dive in head first. Use your spiritual gifts. Never grow weary of serving one another in love!
We must value good works, remembering they arise out of grace. Good works are necessary for the Christian, just not for salvation. Without Grace our Good works are just filthy nappies, Grace Alone will put us in a place to Good Works for God.
Good works are necessary for the Christian, just not for salvation.

Bringing it all together

200 words
Death before Grace
Grace is Life & Love
Grace is a Gift
Grace Leads to Good Work.
What do we do with this? Rest. Take Comfort. But work out your salvation.
Like Johnny Depp - we have one direction in life, but God, through grace picks us up and turns us around to a new and better way. We don’t do anything to call down this grace, nor do we contribute anything to is to make our salvation happen. It is the free gift of God.
Rest. Take Comfort. But work.
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