40 Days of Vision - 2 Grace vs Legalism
INTRO: Grace is central to the Christian Faith – most Christians kinow that, but get us to try and explain it????
We say things like:
What grace she has! (Do a ballerina move)
There but the grace of God go I! (What does that really mean)
We say “Grace” – kiwis especially before the coming BLEDISLOE CUP – “For what we are about to receive may the Lord make us truly thankful”!
As we move into our second message in our series of 40 Days of Vision over the campus’ – I want to bring to you an understanding of Grace as it relates to ELIM CHRISTIAN CENTRE.
ELIM NZ was well known in Pentecostal circles in NZ for it’s message on Grace. Where many Pentecostal churches and movements have heavily leaned on HOLINESS to the point of inventing new rules and regulations(that the Bible doesn’t even address) – ELIM focused strongly on the message of GRACE – (as you have seen in the drama today – receiving God’s blessing and favour on our lives – not through attaining a standard of worthiness – but through understanding the power of God’s unconditional love towards us).
What is Grace?
These are some common phrases:
If it sounds too good to be true... it is.
We make money the old fashion way, we ... earn it.
There's no such thing as a free ... lunch.
There is no gain without ... pain.
God helps those who ... help themselves.
Everything about our way of life teaches us that you get what you earn in life, that there is no free lunch.
We are very aware of the values of competition and winning and we know what it means to work hard and use elbow grease. We value effort and sweat.
We tell people, "You get what you deserve in life" and "If you want to make something of your life it's up to you."
This is called work ethic. The only problem with this work ethic is that in God’s dealings with us, He doesn't operate on our work ethic. And it makes it difficult many times for us to relate to God because we're in this driven work mentality.
Psalm 145 v 8. "God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love." Circle "gracious".
|God loves to bless people who don't deserve it. That's His nature. Aren't you glad for that? I'm glad that God blesses people who don't deserve it.|
The Bible says God is a gracious God. That means He loves to be gracious to you, KIND to you.
Ephesians 1:5-6 (NIV) 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-- 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
Ephesians 1:7 (NIV) In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace
You can't understand the Christian life at all unless you understand grace. It is the heart of our faith. It is the heart of our relationship to God. The more you understand grace the more you're going to be drawn to God, the more you're going to love God, the more you're going to be grateful to God.
Unfortunatley, many of us as Christians meet God through His matchless GRACE - then too often we try and live out our Christianity based on our performance and feeling like we are constantly falling short of the mark!
Definition: "God giving me what I need, not what I deserve."
Another definition: “God’s favour and kindness freely given to me”
One of my favorite definitions is, "Grace is the face God wears when He looks at my failures."
To ‘show grace’ is to extend favour or kindness to one who doesn’t deserve it and can never earn it.
WE need to understand the difference between grace and mercy.
Mercy is when God doesn't give us what we do deserve -- punishment.
Grace is when God gives us what we don't deserve – blessing & favour.
When Jesus came He brought a WHOLE NEW Dimension with Him
John Ch. 1
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.
17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
The Jewish religion (Pharisees & Saducees) became a harsh, judgmental religion, when Jesus came he brought a revolution.
I know many of us probably think we understand grace. We are saved by grace. We've known that for many years. But I've discovered that many Christians, although they know they're saved by grace sure don't act like it. In fact, they spend most of their life thinking and acting like we're saved by works.
· For many of you, even though you know you're saved by grace and you don't get into heaven by doing good, your entire life is built on pleasing God by trying to be perfect. And you think God is some unpleasable parent up there in the sky with a clipboard and pen watching your every move -- "That was good... that was bad" -- and you think you have to earn God's approval.
· You think if you do a certain number of good works God's going to say, "Good girl... good guy! You got it." And if you don't do those things, God says, "Forget it! You're worthless." You're saved by grace but you're actually living by works.
Too many Christians believe that God's love for them is conditional upon their own performance.
We get back to salvation by works not salvation that works.
3 Keys to Understanding Grace
1. The Power of Saving Grace
Romans 3 v 24
"All of us need to be made right with God by His grace, which is a free gift through Jesus Christ."
It's a free gift
If you were to ask a hundred people along the sidewalk "How do you get to heaven?" you'd get a lot of different answers. But basically they would all be summarized in, "You've got to earn your way to heaven.”
You'd hear things like, "The way you get to heaven is you try to be good and do your best" or "Work real hard at being good and just try to be a good, moral person" or "Do more good things in life than you do bad things in life and if your good pile is higher than you bad pile, God's going to say, `You're a good guy. Come on in.'" It's all based on works, not grace.
You need to understand that God says here that salvation is absolutely free. You don't work for a gift. It's a free gift. God says salvation is absolutely free. You can't earn it, you can't earn it, you can't buy it, you can't work for it.
This is the fundamental difference between Christianity and every other religion.
I don't care if it's Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, etc.
You can summarize every religion in one word. “Do.” There are certain things you do in order to gain God's approval. Rules, regulations, rituals, etc.
· Of all the other religions, Christianity is the only religion that's built on grace. That says God just gives you salvation. You don't do anything to earn it gain God's approval.
If you were to summarize Christianity in one word, it's the word "Done".
It's already been done for you. It was done on the cross by Jesus Christ. He paid for your salvation. He paid for your sins. It's already been done.
Of all the other religions, Christianity is the only religion that's built on grace. That says God just gives you salvation. You don't do anything to earn it. To gain God's approval.
There is one and only one password for entering heaven, and that is “Grace.”
Jesus Christ already did it. He paid for your salvation on the cross and now it's a free gift to you. That's why Jesus Christ, when He was hanging on the cross stretched out His arms and one of the things He said was "It is finished."
· He didn't say, "I am finished" because He wasn't. He's still alive today. He resurrected Himself. He said, "It is finished."
· What's the "it"? Your salvation. The plan to provide grace for every person who needs it. It's finished. God says, "Here it is. It's a free gift."
There isn't anything you can do to save yourself. You just accept God's free gift of grace.
That's the greatest gift you're ever going to be offered. You're never going to get a better deal than that. If you really understand grace, you will accept it because it is a priceless gift in your life. It's God's gift to me.
2. Unmasking the lie – ‘my performance = God’s favour’
"Supposed to be a conqueror."
John sits in the packed conference hall and listens intently to the Speaker. We are more than Conquerors through Him who loves us, the Speaker explains enthusiastically. Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphant procession in Christ! The father has called us to reign in life, that's in his word. Tremendous truths, aren't they?
All around the hall, the people not in verbalise their agreement. "Amen, praise the Lord, hallelujah." John sits quietly and thinks hard.
I'm supposed to be a conqueror, he says to himself sadly, so why do circumstances always seem to be on top of me? Why do I feel I'm only just coping? Why must such a loser? Why don't I experience complete victory over temptation, sins and condemnation? Why do I always seem to be letting God down? To John the idea of reining in life is like a far-off mountain peak, beautiful but totally unobtainable.
Pull up Your Socks.
He returns home feeling condemned, but convinced that of the Bible says he is a one and then it's time to start winning. To begin with, I'll write down all the things I should be doing, he says to himself. So he write down things like – pray 30 minutes in morning, 10 people a day, 5 chapters of bible reading, attend 3 services a week, etc.
After about a week of successful reigning, John over-sleeps and misses his prayer time. The following morning, he reads two portions of scripture and has daily notes. This means that he doesn't have time to pray for as many people as he had planned. Feels guilty about this but can't do anything except perhaps catch up later in the evening. By the end of about three weeks, he is six days behind on the notes, there are 27 people he has not regularly prayed for and has virtually given up on the whole reigning processes!
Six months later, John here's another preacher. We reign in life, he declares enthusiastically. John immediately feels very guilty and thoroughly wretched for having allowed himself to succumb to the temptation to stop reigning. Full of remorse, he goes home and reinstates the original spiritual target. Then he plunges himself into further activities by which he hopes to rid himself of the guilt associated with not trying hard enough. I wonder how long I can reign this time? He asks himself as he wearily glances over the nine chapters of Leviticus he has got to read before 7 a.m.
Although the concept is scriptural, being a winner would appear to be a day to day impossibility. The well-intentioned Christian is crippled by the activity he feels he needs to perform in order to be victorious. As time passes, the pattern of up-and-down ritual behaviour becomes familiar to him. Indeed, he comes to expect that, and he feels more like the miserable slave condemned to endure a long slow death than a joyful son and heir reigning triumphantly in eternal life.
If John came to you, what would you say to him?
Is this a picture of your life?
The striving to please God, story, strikes a chord in most of our hearts. Time and time again, we have resolved to try harder and reigning but have ended up tired, depressed, and resigned to failure. Why?
Have you ever wondered why striving to please God is the way to reign in life? Most of us never questioned. We have rather been taught in the early days of that question life that prayer, Bible study, fellowship and evangelism are what you ought to do if you want to be right with God. So we doggedly plough on through all the things we ought to do, believing that God will smile when we are faithful and frown when we are not.
We assume therefore, that once we have received salvation as a free gift, we then begin to reign by working hard at the evangelical laws. After all, how else could we reign?
Letter to Galatians unmasks this lie of LEGALISM and RULES
Galatians 3:1 (NIV) You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.
Strong words! What had they done wrong? They were being deceived and the Apostle wants to tell them why!
Galatians 3:2-3 (NIV) 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
Here is the lie unmasked for many in Christianity – we are no different to the Galatian Christians: PERFORMANCE = ACCEPTANCE WITH GOD! After receiving Salvation by GRACE they now were trying to live their Christian lives by pleasing God through HUMAN EFFORT!
The Galatians had been justified by faith and now they were trying to reign by serving the requirements of the law. No wonder the apostle Paul was indignant! You foolish Galatians! (Galatians 3: 1). He chided them.
There are two pathways:
Solution 1: doing your best for God.
Solution 2: receiving God's grace.
Few people have a problem with receiving God’s gift of Salvation.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV) 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
Question: what is the basis of our salvation?
By Grace you are saved through faith.
But what about after I am saved?
How can I then please God, and be righteous and holy?
We tend to revert to solution one, that is ‘doing our best for God’. We make a series of resolutions that will make us better Christians. Things like:
· Praying for an hour a day
· Reading the bible every day
· Witnessing to two friends a day
· praying in tongues
The trouble is that people think by doing these things or living a particular sort of lifestyle, and by keeping certain rules that it makes them righteous and acceptable to God.
The barometer of acceptance with God as how well they have done with their allotted tasks to perform. Do it well in God loves me; fail and we feel miserable and unloved.
This is not truth, it is legalism!
Question: if I am saved, what do I have to do to be righteous before God?
Nothing – it is cannot be earnt.
Why is that?
You cannot add to our salvation. It is a gift from God
We must realise that we are accepted by God totally and without reservation, and that this acceptance is never based upon any thing we can do. Our acceptance is based upon what Jesus has done on the cross 2000 years ago. You cannot add to what he has already done.
What sort of ideas work against that in our minds?
1. We are not good enough to be loved by God. So we feel we are here, by default.
2. We aren't really righteous, but we may become so if we do well enough.
3. The God only loves us if we continue to be and to do, and live in the way he wants. In other words, our concept of God's love is conditional.
3. We Reign and overcome in life through God’s Grace alone
“… how much more those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness REIGN in LIFE through one man Jesus Christ” Romans 5:17
The key to victorious Christian living is not found in DOING.
It's all to do with RECEIVING.
It is not a matter of your performance, but of your POSITION.
Ephesians 2:6 (NIV) And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
We are raised up together in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.
Prince Charles will become King of England, not because of his performance, but because of his position. He is son and heir.
The Bible is full of stories illustrating the principle of grace. There are many of them. One is in the Old Testament. 2 Samuel 9 is a story of a young disabled boy named Mephibosheth. How would you like to have that name? Mephibosheth was the son of Jonathan, the grandson of King Saul in the Old Testament.
· Remember the story of David and Saul. David was going to be the king. Saul was the current king and Saul was jealous of David. So most of David's life, Saul was trying to kill him. He chased him all over the countryside.
· David spent most of his time hiding from Saul, avoiding being killed out of jealousy. But David never retaliated. In fact, he became best friends with King Saul's son, named Jonathan. They made a secret covenant that if either of them ever died they would take care of each other's family.
· Later on both Saul and Jonathan were killed in battle. And David became the king. All of Saul's relatives immediately were in fear thinking, "David, who King Saul has been trying to kill all of his life, is now in control and he's going to kill all of us." They all tried to escape and hide.
One of them was the son of Jonathan named Mephibosheth. As the nurse was carrying the young boy out in the escape, she dropped him. His legs were broken and he became a paraplegic. So here was this young disabled boy living in fear, frightened for his life that the man who was now king would retaliate against him.
· One day David says, "Is there anybody still alive in Saul's household that I can show kindness to?" They said, "Yes, there is. There's one little boy. He's a disabled boy named Mephibosheth. He cannot walk." David said, "Bring him to me."
You can imagine the fear in Mephibosheth’s heart. Here's the king, inviting him to the court and he's thinking, "I'm going to be killed, executed. It's over. It's done."
· But to his surprise when he arrived, David said, "I'm going to take you in, Mephibosheth, and make you a part of my family. I want you to live here in the palace for the rest of my life. I'm going to pay all your bills. I'm going to meet all your needs. You are to sit at my table each night and dine with me and I'm going to treat you just like you're one of my own sons."
· That's grace.
The Bible says that God comes to us and we're broken, we're disabled in areas of our lives, crippled in some areas. Our emotions are crippled or other things are happening in our lives and God comes and says, "I'm going to bring you into My family. I want you to sit at My table. I'm going to treat you like royalty, one of My own, simply out of My grace."
Go and Sin no MORE
In the Bible there's the story of a woman who had numerous moral failures. Numerous. She'd slept around with anybody and everybody. She had what you'd call a reputation. A real reputation!
· In fact, one day some religious leaders actually caught her in the act, in bed with somebody, and brought her to Jesus and threw her on the ground in front of Christ expecting Him to condemn her. "What are you going to do about this woman who's violated all kinds of principles of God?"
· Jesus defended her dignity. He protected her. In front of the whole crowd He said, "All right. Anybody who's here without sin, you can cast the first stone." Of course since there was no one in the crowd who was perfect they all began to slowly walk away.
· Then in the privacy of that one on one encounter, Jesus looked at this woman who was filled with guilt and said, "Where are your condemners." She said, "They've all gone, Lord." Jesus said to her two very profound things, "Neither do I condemn you. Now go and sin no more."
That's all He said. No long lecture. No big lesson. He just said, "Neither do I condemn you. Now go and sin no more."
Jesus said, "I didn't come to condemn the world. I came to save it."
If you are expecting to come to Christ and be filled with a whole bunch of condemnation, you missed the boat. You haven't heard the story. You don't understand grace.
Does grace just mean that I can accept God's gift and keep on living any way that I want to? Thumbing my nose to God? Of course not.
There are two very profound statements. He said, "I don't condemn you." And then He says, "Now just stop doing it. Go and sin no more. Let Me help you change."
He's not saying, "Just keep on doing whatever's destroying your life, whatever's opposing the laws of God." He just said, "Go and sin no more."
GRACE Gives us access to the POWER of God to be OVERCOMERS
Tit 2: 11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,(NIV)
2 Co 12: 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.(NKJV)
GRACE IS THE FAVOUR OF GOD THAT GIVES YOU ACCESS TO THE POWER OF GOD FOR EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO LIVE FOR JESUS
Grace deals with favour for access, mercy deals with releasing us from judgment.
Grace is favour. That favour gives you access. Grace gives you the legal right to access the power of God for everything you need.
ACCESS – this year the ELIM National leadership team met in Adelaidee and attended BISHOP TD JAKES 3 nights of meetings in Adelaides INFLUENCERS conference. There were thousands present. On the 2nd day we were having lunch at a venue outside the conference when the Key organisers bought the conference guests to lunch. We met them and spoke with them and as a result we gained favour – This favour gave us VIP tickets that gave us access into the front rows of the huge auditorium. We were close up to BISHOP JAKES where all the action was – a new perspective – rather than being up the back rows where he was a speck on the platform! FAVOUR gave us ACCESS! Everybody else had to line up to try and get close to the front and we were wisked in the side door and escorted to front seats!
That is what GRACE does for us – God bestows his favour on us through His Son Jesus Christ – and this favour gives us access to the power of God for everything we need for LIFE(money, family, business, relationships) and GODLINESS(ability to stand against temptation, the devil, healing power, obedience).
If you are here today – and you’ve never received the GRACE of God for your life – you are living apart from this wonderful person called JESUS CHRIST – WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
Today is the day of SALVATION – now you can see why the GOSPEL is GOOD NEWS!
Today you may be struggling trying to make yourself a spiritually rich Christian, not realising that Jesus has already made you a world class wealthy Christian. You have been living like a spiritual pauper instead of a wealthy spiritual prince.
Maybe you’ve been coming from a position of trying to become someone in order to be accepted to others and you don’t realise today that you have been made accepted through what Jesus Christ has done for you.
Maybe today you’ve been carrying burdens of guilt and shame of past events in your life not understanding that Christ has already forgiven you, carried your sins away, forgotten about them.
Maybe today you feel isolated and lonely, not special at all – not understanding that you have been chosen by God, adopted into his family with full birth rights of a member of Heaven’s royal family.