I’m totally excited about this series! Probably more excited about this series than anything else that we have talked about in the past. This series is called the Grace Effect. I call it this because, when we start to understand the grace of God amazing things starts to happen in our lives, because there is an effect to grace. But I really fear that we have an extremely low understanding of grace.
Maybe you come from a situation where grace is not the norm, yelling is. Maybe you come from a situation where grace is companied by a works base. Maybe you come from a situation where grace was given, but very quickly taken back the next time you did something wrong.
I have a quick illustration about our lack of grace…
How many of you have ever watched the TV show “American Idol?”
If you don’t know, the show features four popular TV personalities as judges and normal people auditioning to be the next top singer. The singers go through a grueling audition over several months; at each stage one singer is voted off of the show. The object of the show is for one person to be left as the best singer and given the title of the next American Idol. This person thereafter is given a recording deal and brought into main stream music as a professional artist.
I absolutely love American Idol, in fact Rachel and I watch the show every Tuesday and Wednesday night. When we leave here tonight we will be going home to watch American Idol! Can’t wait to see who gets voted off tonight.
To tell you the truth the only reason I watch the show is to see if anyone makes a fool of themselves on national television. I prefer it when one the judges make a mistake, but I still enjoy it when singers mess up as well.
I mean, mess ups are funny on national television. I was searching on YouTube yesterday and found all sorts of people making really dumb mistakes on national television. I couldn’t help but laugh… let me share one of those with you.
If you have ever seen someone mess up, definitely if it is on Live TV, I’m willing to bet you pointed at the TV and laughed. I willing to bet that when you see someone walking in the store, on the street, or at school fall over their own feet you have this overwhelming sense of “that’s funny” rise up inside of you.
But my question for us tonight is “Why do we laugh at the mistakes of others?”
I think the answer to this question lies in our understanding of biblical grace.
Personally, I believe we live in a society that very severely lacks an understanding of grace. American Idol is just one example…
Our Lack of Grace
Imagine for a second, you’re the one who’s done a mistake. Imagine what it feels like to know that you messed up big time, that everyone just saw you, and that you are now the laughing stock of everyone around you.
Imagine the laughter now that is given at your expense. The pain rising in your heart at those around you point fingers.
It hurts to be made fun of. It hurts to be left behind. It hurts to be cast aside. It hurts to not be given grace.
How many of you have gotten in big trouble either at home, church, or school? I mean big trouble! You don’t have to share, but what did it feel like?
I’m guessing not too good…
We don’t like to do wrong, but we love it when someone else does. We desire forgiveness when we mess up, but find it hard to give when someone else has messed up.
For this reason, I believe that we don’t understand grace. We don’t know what it looks like, mainly because we haven’t really seen grace in a tangible way from people that we can articulate it into a functional way in our lives. Meaning, we don’t understand it, therefore can’t express it.
I know what many of you come from; I’ve been in many of your shoes myself. I’ve had the hardest time understanding what grace is. I’ve shared some of my past with you before, with school, with home… the people that we interact with the most. We expect to see grace from the people that love us the most, but sometimes they fail to give it.
Grace is really hard to give. It’s really hard to define. In fact, we call some things grace when they’re really not.
Let me share with you a story of a little girl who experienced the kind of grace that I believe many of us have experienced at some point:
“Margaret frantically raced into her classroom after recess, late again. Ms. Garner was furious. “Margaret!” she shouted, “we have been waiting for you! Get up here to the front of the class, right now!”
Margaret walked slowly to the teacher’s desk, was told to face the class, and then the nightmare began.
Ms. Garner ranted, “Boys and girls, Margaret has been a bad girl. I have tried to help her to be responsible. But, apparently, she doesn’t want to learn. So we must teach her a lesson. We must force her to face what a selfish person she has become. I want each of you to come to the front of the room, take a piece of chalk, and write something bad about Margaret on the blackboard. Maybe this experience will motivate her to become a better person!”
Margaret stood frozen next to Ms. Garner. One by one the students began a silent procession to the blackboard. One by one, the students wrote their life-smothering words, slowly extinguishing the light in Margaret’s soul. “Margaret is stupid! Margaret is selfish! Margaret is fat! Margaret is a dummy!” On and on they went, until twenty-five terrible scribbling of Margaret’s “badness” screamed from the blackboard.
The venomous sentences taunted Margaret in what felt like the longest day of her life. After walking home with each caustic word indelibly written on her soul, she crawled into her bed, claiming sickness, and tried to cry the pain away, but the pain never left, and forty years later, she slumped in the waiting room of a psychologist’s office, still cringing in the shadow of those twenty-five sentences. To her horror, Margaret had slowly become what the students had written.”
By Mike Yaconelli, an excerpt from “Messy Spirituality”
This teacher, trying to “better” this little girl scared her for life. This little girls understanding of grace was shattered forever. How could she ever understand the kind of grace that God gives?
Undeniably, our words have an effect on the lives of others; our actions have an effect on the lives of others, but so does grace!
God has freely given us forgiveness of our sins. The grace given was under no circumstance. The grace given was under no mandate. The grace given is to be shared.
I want us to look at two small passages of Scripture. I believe it sums up everything for us.
“Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 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.”
Because of one man’s sin there is death, but by the death of another man, we have life.
Verse 16 tells us …”but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.” Justification simply means forgiveness or right standing. By the death of Jesus we now have life and forgiveness for our sins. Jesus took the place of our punishment. We no longer have to pay the price for what we did. Jesus already paid it.
Now, John 1:16-17
“From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
John tells us that because of God’s grace through Christ, we have received the fullness of His grace and receive one blessing after another. How amazing is that.
I want you to take a moment to look back at your life, to notice all of the blessings that you have received. Maybe a save from a wreck, or the healing of a loved one, or the friendship in a time of loneliness, or a reuniting with a parent or loved one you haven’t seen for a long time, or maybe the simple fact that you have food to eat and cloths on your back.
God has given us many blessings… one after another!
That is the grace shown to us through Christ. Christ has given us the example of grace to live by.
Grace and truth came through Christ. He came for us and loves us so!
Remember Margaret? I want to finish her story for you:
“After decades of depression and anxiety, she had finally sought help and was having the last meeting with her psychologist. Two long years of weekly counseling helped Margaret to finally extricate herself from her past. It had been a long and difficult road, but she smiled at her counselor (how long it had been since she’d smiled!) as they talked about her readiness to move on.
“Well, Margaret,” the counselor said softly, “I guess it’s graduation day for you. How are you feeling?”
After a long silence, Margaret spoke: “I…I’m okay.”
The counselor hesitated. “Margaret, I know this will be difficult, but just to make sure you’re ready to move on, I am going to ask you to do something. I want to go back to your schoolroom and detail the event of the day. Take your time. Describe each of the children as they approach the blackboard, remember what they wrote and how you felt- all twenty-five students.”
In a way, this would be easy for Margaret. For forty years she had remembered every detail. And yet, to go through the nightmare one more time would take every bit of strength she had. After a long silence, she began the painful description. One by one, she described each of the students vividly, as though she had just seen them, stopping periodically to regain her composure, forcing herself to face each of those students one more time.
Finally, she was done, and the tears would not stop, could not stop. Margaret cried a long time before she realized someone was whispering her name. “Margaret. Margaret. Margaret.” She looked up to see her counselor staring into her eyes, saying her name over and over again. Margaret stopped crying for a moment.
“Margaret. You… you left our one person.”
“I certainly did not! I have lived with this story for forty years. I know every student by heart.”
No, Margaret, you did forget someone. See, he’s sitting in the back of the classroom. He’s standing up, walking toward your teacher, Ms. Garner. She is handing him a piece of chalk and he’s taking it, Margaret, he’s taking it! Now he’s walking over to the blackboard and picking up an eraser. He is erasing every one of the sentences the students wrote. They are gone! Margaret, they are gone! Now he’s turning and looking at you, Margaret. Do you recognize him yet? Yes, his name is Jesus. Look, he’s writing new sentences on the board. ‘Margaret is loved. Margaret is beautiful. Margaret is gentle and kind. Margaret is strong. Margaret has great courage.’”
And Margaret began to weep. But very quickly, the weeping turned into a smile, and then into laughter, and then into tears of joy.
After forty dark years, Margaret was no longer condemned, no longer alone, and no longer rejected. The blindness of her past horror was removed. Margaret and a certain blind man- and maybe even you and me- can shout with confidence, “Once I was blind, but now I see!”
By Mike Yaconelli, an excerpt from “Messy Spirituality”
This is exactly what Christ has done for us. He has wiped away every pain and stain that was ever said or done towards us. We are not who people say we are, we belong to the Almighty!
We need this grace! We need the understanding of this grace! This grace has an effect on our lives! It has an effect on how we live. It has an effect on how we interact with other people.
Jesus had grace upon us when we deserved death. One author defines grace as “God’s unmerited favor towards man.”
So what is grace? This is what we will look at next week…