Faithlife Sermons

The Promise of Grace

What does it mean to believe?  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  53:32
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Grace means that God’s goodness picks up where we fall short. Every effort that we make does not save us, but what God does in response to our faith makes the difference.

Our theme for “2020” is “Seeing Spiritually.”
The world is a crazy place, unless you have spiritual vision and discernment, you might think evil is winning.
Two weeks ago we read that most of the world is in denial about the truth of God. We see that playing out today as the world is in chaos because they are following a secular world view.
Last week we talked about the purpose of law, that it is designed to teach us about right and wrong and to bring us to seeking God for help with our sinful human nature.
The person who knows they are guilty, broken and at the mercy of God knows that they live by God’s power and not their own.
Now it’s time to talk about grace.
As Protestant Evangelicals we may say that we are not under the law but under grace.
But I clarified that by saying that, as a Christian, you cannot really understand grace until you understand and fully appreciate the purpose of the Law.
My own experience is that even though I grew up in the church, I never really understood grace until I reached a place of personal brokenness.
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was asked to to a word study in the Bible on fear which completely changed my perspective. Well I did another one on grace which blew my mind and I have frequently assigned counselees to do the same.
Look up ever instance of the word grace in the Bible concordance and identify what it means in its context. Then look over all your notes to see what the common themes or threads are.
I found that grace has to do with favor. It is literally God’s pleasure. God extends favor to those who please Him.
I always though that grace was somehow about guilt. Look up grace in a Bible dictionary and it will say “unmerited favor.” I was noticing the unmerited part, but not understanding God’s favor.
After doing my study, my plain conclusion was that “God likes me!” Does that sound irreverent? I know that God loves me, but does He really like me?
And then it was like I understood the gospel in a way that I never understood it before. It was so simple and clear and for the first time in my life it was really good news!
"What does it mean to believe?"
Grace means that God’s goodness (favor) picks up where we fall short. Every effort that we make does not save us, but what God does in response to our faith makes the difference.
We are going to use some big words here: righteousness, redemption, salvation, justification, propitiation - but the concept is very simple. It’s all about God’s goodness -that’s grace.

The Promise of Redemption

Romans 3:21–25 ESV
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
Becoming righteous, does not mean you have done everything right.
Righteous is a word that is often misunderstood.
Outside of church you might have heard it in Bill and Ted’s most excellent adventure, “Ferris Buhler’s Day Off” or perhaps that turtle in “Finding Nemo”?
If someone is righteous, you might think that they have it all together. They’re perfect.
Unless of course a person is called self-righteous, then it means just the opposite. They only think they have it all together.
In the context of the Bible, righteousness means to be in right-standing with God.
So if you were to stand before God right now, would you be ok with that?
Would you be ready? Would you be scared? In a good way or in a bad way?
If you knew that was going to happen, would you change anything about your life? Why not make those changes anyway…without waiting?
The point is, do you cringe at the idea of standing before God or are you ready at any moment?
That’s what it means to be righteous! That you could be ready to stand before God at any moment because you are in right-standing with God.
A person who knows the law of God might assume their standing with God depends on how well they have kept the law.
But Paul says, that there is another way apart from keeping the whole law, or aside from it.
After all, we learned last week that none of us can keep the whole law and that the scriptures bear witness to this fact.
Redemption means that a price has been paid.
What do we redeem?
We redeem coupons! It says on the fine print that the actual value it 1/100th of a cent unless you redeem it.
We redeem gift certificates. Don’t know what to give somebody? Give them a gift card. Then they can go and have a nice dinner or buy something that they really want.
Gift cards only have value if you use it. I wonder how many gift cards expire without ever being used? That must be how they make their money.
The idea here is that in order for you to have right standing with God, and because it is not really you - you haven’t kept the whole law, someone else has paid that price for that benefit. It was a gift to you!
When we are enjoying a dinner out and using a gift card, Karie will ask me, “who gave us that card? I want to write them a thank-you note.”
When you stand before God, in the confidence of knowing who you are in Jesus Christ, don’t forget to say, “thank you Jesus, I’m enjoying the benefit of what you paid for me.”
Your confidence should be in God.
Romans 3:27–28 ESV
27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
Why does Paul talk about boasting? Isn’t that just for people who act like they have it all together?
A person who boasts is trying to act like they are confident.
In reality, many times they are simply trying to cover their own insecurity.
But what if you could have real confidence that is not an act?
Anyone who thinks that they deserve right-standing with God is in denial - they’re fooling themselves. Maybe they are fooling some other people and maybe not.
However there is another way to have right-standing with God and it has nothing to do with what we deserve because it’s a pre-paid gift - thanks to Jesus.
We access it by faith.
What is faith?
Faith is a dynamic living relationship with the God of the Universe that surpasses anything that we can think, know or do in our own strength.
So right-standing with God has to do with relationship. But how can I be in relationship with God unless I’m in right-standing.
The reasoning is circular, you can’t do it unless God intervenes.
That’s where grace comes in. God has intervened and you can know God.
For the Jewish mind who is used to thinking that everything revolves around the law and keeping the law, this is going to be a challenge.
But what about people who existed before Moses and the giving of the law at Sinai?
If you think it is only Jews who struggle with legalism, we have our own rules by which we judge people.
Take anything that people use today as a standard for righteousness and see how it compares to having a relationship with God:
Is reading the Bible your standard? What did people do for 1200 years until they had the Word of God in a language that they could read? How did they have faith?
Is going to church your standard? What did people do for hundreds of years when Christianity was illegal? Not to mention countries of the world today where churches, as we know them, are not possible? How do people who cannot attend church have faith?
Is sharing the gospel your standard? Perhaps all we really need is the preaching of the gospel? Is that what makes you a believer? If that were the case then many of us would fall short.
But what about believers in China and Iran where the number of believers is increasing exponentially?
They cannot share the gospel openly like we do, but they find a way to partner with the Holy Spirit to bring people to the knowledge of the truth.
Were there any people, after the fall and before the law, that had a relationship with God? How did they do that?
Yes. There was Abraham, an example of faith apart from the law.

The Promise to Abraham

Romans 4:1–5 ESV
1 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,
Abraham an example of faith.
Abraham is an example of a righteous man who walked with God which predates the giving of the law to Moses.
We often forget the context of Abraham’s story.
The place that Abraham was born is approximately where the tower of Babel was built - Northern Mesopotamia in the Shinar region.
God’s mandate at Eden was for mankind to multiply and to fill the earth. At Babel they did the opposite.
God sent Abraham out from his country. It was a renewed missional mandate.
God told Abraham to do something and he did it.
We could talk about how hard that must have been for Abraham.
Actually, it was Abraham’s father Terah who started the journey and came about half-way then died in Haran.
Then Abraham went down to Egypt before coming back to the place where God had appeared to him and promised to give him the land.
In fact, Abrahams story was a bit like a roller coaster. He didn’t do everything right.
He lied about his wife and got into trouble - twice!
Lot didn’t turn out so well. Abraham needed to rescue him on more than one occasion.
For all Abraham may have done wrong, what was the one thing that he did right?
Abraham believed God.
Genesis 15:1–6 ESV
1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
Abraham didn’t have a biological son and God told him that he was going to have a multitude of descendants. Abraham believed God.
In this context believing simply means that Abraham simply accepted God’s promise.
He didn’t have to do anything besides believing.
What happened next though was that Abraham entered into a covenant with God.
This may be a message for another time, but in the covenant that God made with Abraham, God made all of the promises. Abraham just received them.
Receive God’s promises.
What do we learn from Abraham? We learn that God delights to make promises and to give gifts. Our part is to receive them.
That is the thing about grace that most of us miss. We try to earn Gods grace as if deserving it somehow makes it better.
Let grace be grace. Show your gratitude by receiving all that God has for you.
At this point I want to acknowledge that there are teachings out there which we sometimes refer to as “hyper-grace.”
These make it sound like God is all love and grace and there is no law.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, writing from Nazi Germany, called the prevalent theology “cheap grace.”
We’re not talking cheap grace or hyper-grace, that’s why we had to first establish the purpose and importance of the law.
Some of our current teacher who are said to teach hyper-grace can be better understood when you look at their audience.
They are speaking to people in very strict cultures who know only law, but have not comprehended the goodness of God and His desire to bless.
Their teaching is imbalance because they are responding to an imbalanced culture.

The Promised Heirs

Romans 4:13–14 ESV
13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void.
If you believe God and partner with Him then you are a child of Abraham.
Paul goes into a little talk about circumcision. We talked about this last week.
Circumcision was supposed to be the sign of the covenant, a distinguishing mark for Abraham’s descendants.
Paul is arguing that the mark is not as important as what it represents - the covenant.
What Abraham did before he ever received the sign of the covenant was to simply believe God and agree to partner with Him.
Romans 4:11–12 ESV
11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
Paul is saying that the conditions are more important than the symbol.
If you believe God, like Abraham did, and if you are willing to partner with Him, then you are one of those many stars that God showed to Abraham. You are a heir to the promise.
Why is this important?
God is looking for a people through which He may bless the world.
What was God’s promise to Abraham? That He would bless him.
What was the purpose of that promise? That thorough Abraham’s descendants, all the families of the earth would be blessed.
Genesis 12:2–3 ESV
2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
God wants human representatives.
Some corporations have policies, employees are merely numbers.
Good companies, organizations and churches are more like families. They place value on getting to know their people and that their leaders personally embody the values of the group.
God wants a family, not a corporation.
If the law were ultimate, then you would just check of the boxes that you have kept the law.
God would then be an angry God who only cares if the boxes are checked.
But that’s not our God and it doesn’t account for grace.
God delights to show favor to those who please Him.
Pleasing God is not checking off the boxes, it is knowing Him and being known.
It is entering into a relationship with God like Abraham did.
It is covenant, we are bound together by an unbreakable bond.
It is receiving God’s promises as a gift and delighting in His goodness.
As we celebrate communion, let’s celebrate the goodness of God and our union with Him.


1 Corinthians 11:23–24 ESV
23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
Jesus gave His body as a gift to you.
Scripture says (Heb. 12:1) it was for the joy set before Him that Jesus endured the cross… you are that joy!
Have you understood grace as God’s favor?
Is your faith tinged with the bitterness of the law or is it the sweetness of God’s grace?
1 Corinthians 11:25–26 ESV
25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Jesus exchanged His life for yours.
He accepted death to give you life.
Have you received the gift of His life?
What are you doing with it?
You have been blessed to be a blessing?
How are you personally representing the originator of all blessing?
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