Category Archives: Grace

Why study the Bible?

readThere are many reasons to read and study the Bible but one of those reasons is so that you can live your life the way God wants you to, not just the way you think you should.

Good ideas are a dime a dozen but God’s word often directs us in ways that we, ourselves, would not think of.  Even more important, some of those things that we think of as good ideas are not just bad ideas, they are offensive to God and His holiness.  They are also ultimately harmful to us: There is a way that seems right to a man but the end is way to death. (prov 14:12) The Bible is filled with passages that show us the problems of doing what we think is a good idea.

Abraham and Sarah thought it was a good idea to bring about God’s promised son through Hagar.

Saul thought that holding onto some of the Amalekite animals for sacrifice to God was a good idea.

David thought it was a good idea to take a census of the people.

People during Jeremiah’s day thought it was a good idea to go to Egypt.

The leaders of Israel thought it was a good idea to crucify Jesus.

Ananias and Sapphira thought it was a good idea to lie to God.

The list can go on and on but each of these people could have avoided the problems, curses,  and consequences if they had simply combined a desire to serve God with a knowledge of His will.  Paul wrote of his people:  For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. (Rom 10:2)

God warned through Hosea that His people were destroy by a lack of knowledge; they did not know His word. He warned Timothy to study to show himself approved.

Often the zeal to do so is not the problem but the knowledge is. Of course, you could also argue that if one knew what God wanted of them, the zeal might diminish.  In other words, we believe we are serving God when all we are doing is serving God according to our desires, not according to His. We don’t know His will and so we are unable to do so and yet, if we did know, would we be willing to serve?

I think a desire to serve God that is based on the recognition of our having sinned against Him and His Grace by sending His son to save us is a good foundation to build on. One may never know everything, nor is knowledge itself the goal, but it is part of our growth. We learn about Jesus by the preached Gospel, we are baptized in His name, and then we are taught the things he wants us to do (Matt 28:19-20) That last part is important too.

Paul wrote to Timothy so that “one may know how to behave himself in the household of God which is the church of God” (I tim 3:15)

Do you know how to behave in the household of God? If you do not read your Bible quite often, you may be as surprised as Josiah (2 Kings 22:1-13) to find out that you don’t!

God gives Grace!

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (Jas 4:6-7)

God gives grace. Grace is a word that should not be so mysterious. A recent sermon that I did talked about this topic. Grace is favor, it is granted and not earned. Did you hear? God gives grace!

This positive statement stands opposed to statement of those who push God toward jealousy with their friendship of the world. It should be known that ‘world’ in this context is not the people (as in “God so loved the world”) but rather the principles of the world which are against God’s principles. Those who are proud and prideful stand against God and wish to do things their way.

God will give favor but only to those who are humble. Consider these examples:

Two thieves on the cross. One repented the other continued his tirade. One went to Paradise, the other did not.

Two apostles: One betrayed Him, the other denied Him. Judas was sorrowful but in his sorrow did not see a way to get back to God; he hung himself. Peter was sorrowful and wept bitterly, God raised him up to preach the Gospel. Judas was, of course, wrong. God would have forgiven and restored him. Paul, is a clear example of that fact, being called from his persecuting ways to preach the Gospel. Paul humbled himself and repented. Did you hear? God gives Grace!

That grace is given the humble and not the proud is so often taught in the Scriptures, you almost don’t need book, chapter, verse but still one of my favorite passages is Matthew 18 where Jesus talks about the need for us to humble ourselves like children in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

One of the characteristics of children is their humility. They trust authority and will yield to its call. One of the characteristics of young adults is that they tend to rebel against authority and exert their own will. Later, adults (but still young) may realize that their parents were right and understood a thing or two.  The newer relationship is a better one when that happens.

In a way, we all go through a phase like that spiritually speaking. As children, we trust God and can sing songs like “Jesus loves me” at the top of our little lungs, loving God with everything we understand to be love.  Sometimes we grow to think, we are self-sufficient and that God, our Father, doesn’t know what He is talking about. What we fail to realize is that, to God, we will always be children. Also, there will never be a time in our existence where we are not His children. The fact is, we need God more as adults than we ever did as toddlers or young children.

The Good news is that when we submit ourselves to God, Satan runs the other way. He is not stronger than God, our humility and willingness to choose God is something that he cannot fight. Jesus did that when he responded “It is written…” to each of Satan’s temptations. We can do it too, if we will only say “it is written…God gives Grace to the humble!”

Grace and Forgiveness

To me the word Grace has had a kind of mysterious flavor. Something that belongs in the ‘better felt than told’ category. However, the Bible, at least the New Testament, uses the word many times. There is a lot to be said on the topic of Grace and this morning’s sermon does not touch on everything ( how could it?) but it does make a start into an area that I think many Christians do not understand.

Using Matthew 18:21-25 and the parable of the unforgiving servant, we will see at least three things that we should note about Grace. One is God’s grace for us, its enormity and magnitude. Trying to understand that will give you a headache and send goosebumps up and down your spine like standing in a glass floored elevator on the 98th floor. Second is our reaction to God’s grace and how we let it affect our lifes–or don’t, as the case may be. Third is the grace that we show to others.

Grace is a word that, in most cases, can be translated ‘favor’;  “unmerited favor’ is a favorite substitute also. It appears about 123 times in the Bible (depending on versions) and about 117 of those are in the NT. Grace is not always called grace in the scriptures but the concept of it is found in things like mercy, forgiveness, compassion, leniency and the like.

Paul uses it in every one of his epistles (unless you include Hebrews in that list) at the beginning, he wishes God’s grace and at the end he does the same. Amazing!

The point of the parable, if you don’t want to take the 30 minutes for the sermon, is that when we are forgiven so very much by a Holy God, the small offenses that our brother give to us should be easily and gladly overlooked.

I think it is worth noting that the text seems to imply this is for our brothers. However, the concept of this being for our brothers should not lead us to the extreme of being cruel with those who are not. It should, instead, emphasize the absolute idea that in relationship to fellow Christians, forgiveness is an over riding principle and must be practiced.

In other words, we too must show Grace if we wish to have Grace shown to us.

the lesson is linked here

 

 

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