Last week I was not here. I was up in Cicero, Indiana and several of you were too. I think we sat in the same row. I was at the fortieth anniversary of my graduating from Indiana Academy as a senior. 1960. I guess that tells you how old I am. I'm fifty eight in case you wondered. Dr. Bartlett was the principal when I was there and now he's a member of our church. His fine wife and Verlyne Star, his daughter. So we all graduated from Indiana Academy. At my class, I recognized everybody except two people. They had changed so much, and of course I have changed so gradually that I haven't noticed it, I guess.
But, on the way home, I was driving on I-75 on our way back to good old Tennessee and as I came over a hill, I was doing the speed limit, and I saw a police car parked beside the freeway. Unconsciously I slowed down. I thought, why should I slow down. I was driving the speed limit and have never had to pay a speeding ticket in my whole life. I noticed everybody else also slowed down, too, as we crept by the patrol car. Why? After we got by we all sped back up to seventy miles per hour. Why did we do that? The speed limit was seventy. We crept by him at about fifty eight miles per hour. What's the matter with us? I think somehow we believe that they are lying in wait to get us. And that's not true, is it?
In fact I wonder if most students feel that their teacher's foremost objective in looking their papers over is to find mistakes instead of discovering qualifications for brilliance. That's what they should be doing, but sometimes they don't. Sometimes I think teenagers feel their parents are SNOOPER-vising too much -- out to get them. They don't trust them. Do you think God also like that?
Some people say yes. Some feel like God is the ultimate Big Brother, that ds His angels are constantly taking records ans they re snooper-vising on what you are doing, like the patrol car, they're lying in wait for you, they record all that you do in a book of knowledge so they can get you and that He may condemn you to oblivion. Do you think God is like that? Radio preachers even rail on God's super red- hot hell that is anxiously waiting for all who slip and fall.
I want to tell you that God's behavior is amazingly different. It's wonderful. It exceedes our wildest expectations. God is not a faultfinder. He is not lying in wait to get you but to help you and save you. He is not always zeroing in on things to condemn you, but He estimates you at your best. He takes you and believes in you, not at your worst. God assumes we are precious from the onset. What do we call this strange behavior? - Grace! I love grace.
The word Grace appears 170 times in the Bible. The first use is back here in Genesis 6:8 (KJV) But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. Isn't that beautiful? He found grace there. I'm so glad that he did. Grace is not a New Testament odessy. So, what is grace? What did Noah find in God?
Let me define grace. This is my definition: Grace is the self imposed bias that God places upon Himself that inclines Him to bestow benefits upon the unworthy, to pity the underdog, to excuse the guilty, to accept the outcast and forgive the sinner. God's grace gives eternal life to all of those who deserve eternal death. God's grace give righteousnes to people that are unrighteous. He loves those who hurt Him. God's grace is what saves us sinners and will soon give us a home in His home where we may eternally proclaim His exceeding kindness to us in Christ Jesus. That's what it is.
And so I want to talk about grace this morning.
1) - God's grace is abundant.
Romans 5:15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Now, here the word, "overflow" is used in connection with grace. Now, what does that mean? Has God's grace overflowed onto your broken shore?
The word Overflow means there is an excess beyond our capacity to consume. If your cup overflows, you've gone beyond the capacity of the cup. When water overflows there is a Flood. A flood is simply more water than there is capacity to receive it. God has an Oversupply of Grace. What this means is when you have an overflow of grace, that simply means that God has an oversupply more abundant than anybody could ever exhaust. That's how much grace God has. You can never use it up
II Corinthians 8:19 and 20 (KJV) says that God's grace is abundant: And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind: Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us: It is an abundant grace. Grace is super abundant.
Now, I sit down each month, unlike you, and pay bills with a tin check book. In fact sometime when I look at the big pile of bills and I look at the measely amount in the check book, I think this isn't going to work. How would it be to have a fat check book? Wouldn't that be neat? Wouldn't it be nice to administer a super abundance? That's just what pastors do. That's exactly what the apostle, Paul, did. He said, "I am adminstering and abundance of grace." So, we are co-dispensors of grace. Wow! That's beautiful. That's the job description of a pastor. That's a job description of God: to administer His grace. And we approach God as if He has a little tiny thin, almost depleted check book. We come to God, we crawl across the desolate landscape of our life to God with a little cup begging for a little drop of joy when, actually if you knew God you would have come running to Him with two buckets, one in each hand, because that's what He wants to give to us. He wants to load us up.
God's grace is generous. Romans 5:17 - For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
Let me tell you a story: A man got off the train at a Pennsylvania depot and for a year begged on the streets for a living. He said: "One day I touched a man on the shoulder and said, 'Hey, mister, can you give me a dime for a cup of coffe?' The man turned around and as soon as I saw his face I was shocked to see that it was my own father. I said, 'Father, Father, do you know me?' Throwing his arms around me and with tears in his eyes, he said, 'Oh my son, at last I've found you! I've found you. You want a dime? Everything I have is yours.' The man continued: "Think of it. I was a tramp. I stood begging my own father for ten cents, when for eighteen years he had been looking for me to give me all that he had." That's grace. That's exactly what God does. That's what God want to give to you. You may say, "Well, you know, God's grace is not abundant enough for me because my sins are so deep, my sins are so black, my life, my past... You just don't understand my life." I understand God's grace a little bit. And what little bit I do understand, I know that it is more than abundant to blot out your deepest and darkest sin.
What a wonderful illustration of the abundance that God longs to give us, if we will only let Him. Psalm 84:11 ...no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. He doesn't want to withold any good thing from you. He wants to give all good things to you. John 16:15 - Jesus said: "All that belongs to the Father is mine." Everything that God has belongs to Jesus. In other words, Jesus' wallet, Jesus' check book is stuffed. He is more than able to take care of our needs.
Look at Ephesians 1:7-8 (NIV) In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
You know, we approach God asking for ten cents and here He stands with a full check book, a full wallet, ready to dispence to us all the riches of the universe that He owns. What a wonderful God we have. So, come to God asking forgiveness of your biggest and blackest sins. He is more than able to pay for them and firgive you for them, and also to give you the power to overcome them. He can give you strength to quit marijuana. He can give you strength to stop swearing, to stop alcohol, whatever the problem is.
Jesus is full of Grace. John 1:14 (NIV) 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. That's the kind of Savior that we have. We can not exhaust His grace. His grace is super abundant.
They have the Hubble telescope in orbit and it is pointed way out there in the universe. Do you know what they found? They have researched so far athat they see even more. You can't come to the end of it. And if you did come to the end of the universe, what would you find? Would you find a wall? or a chain-link fence? And what is on the other side of that wall? There is still more, you can't come to the end of it. And you can't exhaust the grace of God.
And if you focus your microscope clear down at the bottom, and on the smallest things of life. You might say that the atom is the smallest thing. No, that's not. Maybe the electron is the smallest thing. No, that not the smallest thing. Maybe it's the quark that's the smallest thing. No, they've found smaller and smaller. In fact, some of the elements are so small, these little particles (neutrinos) that they could pass through the entire earth without even touching one other thing. Can you imagine that? And what's even smaller than that? It has to be discovered yet.
We can't come to the end of these things, neither can you come to the end of God's grace.
2) - God's Grace is Powerful
It's powerful. It's transforming grace. It can help you. It can strenghten you. It can give you power to to accomplish the will of God in your life. Grace is God's undeserved mercy that prompts us to transformation and growth, and then gives us the power to accomplish His will. Grace is a celestial energy; not a mere thought of the Almighty; not even a word of the Almighty. "It is as real an energy as the energy of electricity. It is the energy of the divine affection rolling in pleasant plenteousness toward the broken shores of human need." - (Benjamin Jowett)
3) - God's Grace is Always Available.
You can't get beyond it. You can't reach a point where it's not available to you. Hebrews 13:25 (NLT) May God's grace be with you all. To everybody. Be with all. It is available. Universally offered. It is obtainable whenever we need it. In fact Grace, like a plant, grows best in the cold dark winter. When our need is the greatest; when life is the darkest, grace is the nearest and shines the brightest.
What should be our response to God's grace?
1) - ACCEPT IT GRACIOUSLY. (First response) Acts 15:11 (NIV) ...We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are. 100% of those who will be saved in Heaven will be there courtesy of the grace of our Lord Jesus. You must accept His free kindness to be saved. Romans 3:24 (NIV) says grace Justifies us. and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Grace can only justify those who accept it. Have you accepted God's grace? Once you do, then what?
2) - HONOR THE GRACE GIVER! (Second response) Once you have truly discovered how wonderful God's benevolence is you cannot remain unchanged. You will want to quickly respond to God's great grace. You're going to hate sin. You're going to want to become like the person you love. It just works that way.
"Grace is more than forgiveness. The law tells me how crooked I am. Then Grace comes along and straightens me out." - D.L. Moody. Grace has power. It's not just an ink-blotter. But it's a powerful motivation. It's like electricity. Grace will guide you into God's perfect will with far stronger motivation than the law.
Once you accept God's free Grace you find yourself being drawn to the Giver. Grace will make you gracious. Mercy will make you merciful. Grace will change you into His image. Grace will install new software in your heart and make you more like Jesus the Grace Giver.
Ephesians 2:8 (NIV) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- Indeed the best things in life are free!
Peter said in Matthew that we do well when we forgive seven times. Notice how Jesus' grace amplifies that presupposition: Matthew 18:22 (NIV) Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." Grace will bring about a change in our behavior to where we will begin honoring not only the grace giver but...
3) - Be graceful to others. (Third response) Forgive others as you have been forgiven. Matthew 6:12 (NIV) "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." Be graceful to the needs, pains and mistakes of others.
My wife and I went to a ball game the other day. Somehow we did not realize what time the game started and did not get in our seats until the bottom of the ninth inning. But the score was tied at zero to zero and there were two outs already. So we would get some excitement. It was the Lord s team against the Devils team. (This is a parable in case you are wondering).
The Lord's team was up to bat. A batter stepped up to the plate whose name was LOVE. And the devil was pitching. Love swung at the first fast-ball pitch and hit a single, because Love never fails. The next batter was Faith who also got a single because Faith works with love.
The next batter was Godly Wisdom. Satan wound up and threw the first pitch. Godly wisdom looked it over and let it pass. Ball one. Three more pitches and Godly Wisdom walked, because Godly Wisdom never swings at what Satan throws. The bases were now loaded.
The next batter the Lord brought in was named Grace. Satan's whole team relaxed when they saw her step up to the plate. Thinking he had won the game, Satan wound up and fired his first pitch. It was a fast ball at over a hundred forty miles per hour. Grace connected and hit a high ball. But satan was not worried, his center fielder was very good. He went for the ball and stood there as it came down. But it went right through his glove and hit him on the head and bounced over the fence for a grand slam! The Lord's team won four to nothing!
We asked the Lord why Love, Faith and Godly wisdom could get on base but could not win the game. He said: If your love, your faith and your wisdom had won the game you would think you had done it all by yourself. Love, faith and wisdom will get you on base, but only My Grace can get you home.
Prayer of Petition: #229, All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name Scripture: Ephesians 2:4-8. Hymn of Response: #108 Amazing Grace 001021Gettys#485
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last updated 10/24/2000 by Bob Beckett.