What Is Grace?
A while go I was on a plane and was honoured to spend the flight listening
and talking with someone who hadn’t heard about grace…
She would never normally have spent a couple hours talking with a Lutheran pastor,
So I was honoured that she trusted me with her story.
She shared some of the highs and lows of life, career, hopes and beliefs.
And as we talked it became clear that she didn’t really trust the church.
Why would she?
She sees church people as ones who condemn and judge.
She sees the church as a place where people think they are better than others.
Where they are focussed on themselves and don’t want to know normal people like her.
The sad thing is that some of her ideas are true…
She felt that the church didn’t have much to offer because they’d make her feel worse.
So I shared “grace” with her,
And I used the words from Philip Yancey’s book “What’s So Amazing About Grace.”
The words I used were this:
“Listen, Jesus came to show us a different side of God,
You can sum Jesus up in two lines:
We are all bastards, but God loves us anyway.”
I spoke her language – and the message sunk in.
She looked as if a light suddenly turned on in her heart:
“Do you really mean that?”
“Yes” I said, “I’m no better than you,”
I’m weak and sometimes pathetic – we’re all broken a bit inside,
Jesus came to say that we’re all broken, but God loves us anyway.
That’s what he’s about.”
Tears filled her eyes.
And she said, “that’s the most beautiful thing I ever heard.”
I said, “it’s real.”
And she said, “that’s the most beautiful thing I ever heard. I will never forget these words.”
Then she remembered how she had been forced to sit next to me
because someone had mistakenly sat in her seat,
And she said,
“This is a miracle, isn’t it? I needed to hear about this today – and God placed me here.
“God placed me here with you to hear those words.”
She left having heard a message of grace.
She had discovered a core truth…
Most, if not all religions operate on the principle of LAW.
But Jesus reveals the radically different sphere of GRACE.
Grace is real.
Grace is the best thing in all the world.
Grace is what Jesus brings.
Grace is the only thing we have to offer here.
If you want to understand Jesus
And have a clear picture of the Bible,
You need to understand the difference between LAW and GRACE.
LAW = what we must do, conditional, we can never fulfil, leads to death.
GRACE= what has been done for us, unconditional gift, empowering!
Do you get the difference?
Law is conditional – do this, get loved, do that, get condemned.
Law is logical to us humans – obey and live, disobey and die.
Law is an expression of God’s perfect will, but none of us ever measure up to it,
Because we have rebelled and fallen.
Law leads to death – because no one can ever fully obey God’s law.
No matter how hard you try, the law will guide you,
But the law can never change your heart and make you new and give you peace.
Pretty much everyone has some idea of law.
But grace is unique.
It defies logic.
We are all fallen, broken, sinful, but God loves us anyway!
No “ifs”, no “buts”, no “conditions”, no payment required.
Just come before God in honesty and humility and give yourself over to grace.
Grace changes lives.
If someone quotes the Bible to you, but all they speak is LAW they have missed the point.
Even Donald Trump quotes the Bible – but he does not speak grace!
If someone claims to have faith in God, but their faith is based on “EARNING” God’s merit,
They haven’t heard Jesus Christ.
That’s why we need to know the difference.
The law came from Moses,
but GRACE and truth came from Jesus Christ. – John 1:17
Let’s do an exercise.
Both Law and Grace are from God.
Both are in the Bible.
But we need to understand the difference between the two to keep our eyes on Jesus.
Let’s put It Into Practice.
Take some time with me to classify the following passages as law or grace…
Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal.”
See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient… I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed.
Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
If your enemy is hungry, give them food to eat; if they are thirsty, give them water to drink.
Do not judge, or you too will be judged.
1 John 4:10
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
Exodus 20:12-15 (L)
Deuteronomy 30:15-18 (L)
Luke 15:8-10 (G)
Proverbs 25:21 (L)
Matthew 7:1 (L)
1 John 4:10 (G)
Romans 3:23-24 (G) or can be divided up into first verse 23 (L) and then verse 24 (G)
We are all broken, but God loves us anyway.
That’s the point.
Grace is our answer, our song, it saves, it’s amazing and sweet.
The other day I had another grace moment.
A beautiful young couple whose marriage I performed.
They recently had their first child and they attended worship for the first time,
And were excited by the message they heard – they came back for more…
At first we discussed the baptism of their child,
And I made it clear that this is all about God’s grace.
That God wants us all to know his love through Jesus,
That you don’t need to earn it – just receive it.
And it clicked…
So now we are baptising mum and daughter,
And confirming the father in Jesus.
Because grace is real and it comes from the cross of Jesus.
Remember the difference?
LAW: We are all sinners
GRACE: but God loves us anyway!
AND THE WHOLE POINT IS GOD’S WONDERFUL GRACE!
Grace cannot sit still, it cannot be chained, it cannot be boxed or tied down.
Grace cannot be tamed or domesticated to suit a lifestyle.
Grace never stops moving and changing things and transforming life.
See grace in action.
Get on your knees, admit your need, and receive it from Jesus right now!