The Grace Effect_ “Grace Transferred”

Introduction

As everyone enters, the youth leaders are running around giving very awkward hugs, high-fives, and fist bumps… but the key word is very awkward!

So, tonight we are finishing our series entitled “The Grace Effect.” And the series is about the effect that experiencing grace has on our lives- that when we truly experience grace than we have no choice but share it with others.

Tonight as you guys entered the room, we did gave out a lot of hugs, high-fives, and fist bumps, which for some, maybe most of you was extremely awkward.

I mean, having some super excited person running up to you and welcoming you into the room with some crazy long hugs is kind of weird. And who, besides me, gives out high-fives and fist bumps all the time? It’s pretty awkward if you ask me.

Some you guys are people-people, this just means you love to interact with people. Others of you are not people-people, which means you just don’t like the idea of different people entering your space. I’m more a people-person. I love to interact with lots of people. In fact, my brain kind of shuts down when I’m not able to be around people for a long time. I’m the kind of person that loves being loud and excited and fun with lots of people. But some you in this room would be scared to death to be in a crowded room and the center of attention. It would terrify you to have to let tons of people into your personal space or interact with lots of people all the time. But there’s nothing wrong with either! Nothing more mature about liking lots of people and nothing lest mature about liking less.

Some of you have hundreds of friends on Facebook- I have like 482- others of you have closer to around 100. There’s nothing wrong with either. Being spiritually mature does not mean that you have to be extremely vocal or more of a people-person.

Tonight as we talk about grace we are not going to talk about accepting everyone into our personal space, or that being a more gracious person means being more of a people-person. What we are going to talk about tonight is when we decide to exclude people from our circles- when we decide not to accept people. A little different…

Illustration

Have you ever seen a little kid, maybe when you were in elementary school or maybe for those of you in junior high, that just tried so hard to be accepted by the crowd? This kid wants so badly to fit in with everyone else. You can watch them trying so hard to fit in, trying so hard to connect, trying so hard to join the rest, but for some reason they just aren’t cutting it. It’s hard to watch this kind of kid. It just breaks your heart.

Why do you think it so hard to watch these kind of people, or maybe this kid what you? But why is it so hard?

It’s hard because none of us were made to be excluded. We were never made to not like one another. We were never supposed to hold grudges against one another. We were never made to just not like one another. We were never made to hold bitterness or frustration against others because we refuse to share grace. We were never made to be alone.

In fact in Genesis 2:18, God says, “It’s not good for man to be alone, so I will make a helper suitable for him.” Adam was chilling with the animals, he liked the deer and the antelope, but they just didn’t cut it for him. He didn’t fit in with them. So God made him a helper- Eve. And Adam was like “Alright! I like that!”

When I read this verse, I’m not just talking about Adam having a wife, but the idea that was placed was that Adam needed help. Adam needed a friend. Adam needed another person. We are the same way- we need one another. The OT and the NT talks a lot about this idea of community- people needing each other.

In the OT book of Ruth, it talks about people gleaning from the fields. Gleaning in a way is reserving part of a crop or field to give to the poor. The farmers of this day would plow, plant, and harvest all of their crops but would section off a part to give to those who were poor. Also in the book of Ruth, every seven years all debts were forgiven. No matter how much you owed someone, after seven years they would always forgive the debtor. So we see them freely giving of themselves to the poor and forgiving the debts of those who owed them something. In fact, we see these two concepts all through the Bible- the free gift of grace and the forgiveness of debts.

Matthew 18

Jesus deals with this issue in Matthew 18, which will be where we spend the majority of our time tonight.

In this chapter verses 15-20, Jesus is teaching on how to forgive a brother who sins against you. We aren’t going to really talk about this tonight, but I suggest you take a look at it tonight when you get home or spend some time in it this week.

In verse 21, where we will be tonight, Peter asks, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven?” So Peter is asking, “When someone does wrong to me, how many times should I forgive them? Seven times?”

Now, to understand this question and the meaning of the “seven times” we need to understand the teaching of the day. The Rabbis of that day taught that you must forgive someone three times and after the third time, you’re done with the person.

So basically someone could do wrong to you 3 times and then you can write them off as a friend or disowned them as a family member. You no longer had to talk to this person again. They were threw! Finished! Done! Over! 3 strikes you’re out kind of policy, which seemed to work pretty well.

But Peter, understanding that Jesus was kind of an extremist when it comes to His teachings, guesses a little higher- seven times instead of three. I mean, seven seems like a good number to me; wouldn’t seem like a good number to you? Four extra times to the three original times seems pretty extreme to me!

Jesus answers Peter saying, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” When I read these words of Jesus to Peter, I’m asking myself, “77 times 7 equals…” I’m thinking, “Why is Jesus throwing math into His teachings?”

But the disciples understood exactly what Jesus was talking about. They understood exactly what Jesus meant.

You see, one of the ways a teacher of this day would teach his disciples was to make bold or exaggerated statements based upon OT passages. Jesus was doing this here. Jesus disciples knew Scripture and would automatically know what Jesus is referring to in the OT. If you have a pretty decent study Bible, sometimes you can see a word with a reference to another passage in the OT. It’s important most of the time to go and check those out to see what is really going on the story.

So Jesus was referencing a passage here in the OT, so let’s take a look! Turn to Genesis 4. Now, in this passage there’s this guy names Lamech. Lamech was a man’s-man. In my mind I think of Lamech as one of those ancient warrior types from one of those Lord of the Ring movies. Maybe he’s one of those guys who carries a big axe or a bow and is covered in animal skins and a long nasty manly beard.

Lamech says this in Genesis 4:23-24 [imagine a barbarian voice]

“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say: I have killed a man for wounding me and a young man for striking me. If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.”

Basically, Lamech is saying, “I am man! Hear me roar! I am a Barbarian, don’t mess with me!” This dude was like the most manly man you could ever imagine! Jk

Lamech is saying, “I will seek vengeance and I will go after vengeance like crazy- 77 times.”

Back to Jesus…

So Jesus referenced this story and I doing so is saying that as eager as Lamech was to seek vengeance, you are to be in seeking forgiveness. Lamech is this dude who was saying, “I am the man. I am going to seek vengeance to the fullest. I will not stop until vengeance is mine.” So, Jesus is telling us that He wants us to reach to the same lengths in forgiveness. Jesus is telling us that He wants us to do everything in our power to forgive, everything possible, to not give up until we can go no more.

Conclusion

In much of Jesus’ teachings, He doesn’t separate loving God and loving others. In Deuteronomy 6 there’s this passage called the Shemah. It was a Jewish prayer that was prayed every day before leaving the house; and it simply says, “The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

In the NT, Jesus teaches on this passage but adds one small thing to it. He says to love the Lord God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. In much of Jesus’ teaching, He doesn’t separate loving God and loving others. In fact, it seems as if He sees them as one command.

The Way of Scripture is often a way of forgiving and offering grace. A passionate pursuit for true love, if you will.

Hosea 6:6 says, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the remembrance of God rather than burnt offerings.”

In Colossians 3:12 it says, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.”

Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Do you see the pattern? We forgive because we were forgiven; we love because we were loved first. We take care of the poor and the widows because God takes care of us. We offer grace because it is pouring out for us.

Jesus, in Matthew 18, kind of hits for the fence when he tells the story of a servant. Let me read it to you.

Matt. 18:23-35

Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all they had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for him, the master of the servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, “Pay what you owe!” So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all the debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.

How could we say that we are followers of the ultimate Forgiver and not be willing to forgive others ourselves!? How could we say ever say that we love God and not be willing to love others as well? How dare we say “God accepted me as I am, but I will not accept you?”!

For Jesus, loving God and loving others was a single command. For Jesus, saying to love your neighbor as yourself was like saying prove your love for the Father by showing love to others.

So I leave you tonight, with a single thought: Do you have someone who you are unwilling to forgive? Do you have someone who you are not accepting, for whatever reason?

We were never made to be rejected but to be accepted by an all-forgiving Father!

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The Grace Effect_ Grace Experienced

Introduction

We are in our third week of this series, entitled “The Grace Effect.” The basis for this series is the fact that when grace is truly understood, it will have a drastic effect on our lives. So, grace has an effect…

Last week was the hardest week for me as a speaker. It was the hardest because I had tried to define grace for you. The definition that we came up with was from the OT picture of grace and the NT picture of grace. In the OT we see a picture of a God that was about keeping His promises and does not give up on His people; we learned from the OT that everything is about God. That everything is about how God held His end of the deal, how God pursued, and how God maintained the promise.

From the NT picture we saw that God will go to any lengths to keep His promise. We noticed how the NT picture of grace wasn’t logical or practical. That even though we failed in holding our end of the deal, God decided to keep it for us. We can see from the NT picture that God is good. God is good in the fact that we could not keep our end of the promise so He kept it for us by sending Jesus.

So for us to have a practical or working definition of grace we said that grace is the goodness of God.

But last week was still hard for me. Why was it hard? It was hard because I don’t believe that a definition in itself accurately tells us what grace is. In fact, I’m not even sure if we can really define grace.

You can read about grace in the dictionary, you can study about grace in a Sunday school class, you can talk about grace with your pastor, and you can read a book about grace, but the fact is, even after all of this you may still not have a more accurate understanding of grace than you did in the beginning.

Why is this? Because some things just can’t be explained; some things just have to be experienced; some things can’t be simply defined and we move on. Grace is one of those things, grace can’t just be explained, taught, or defined and then we completely understand it and move on. Grace is one of those things, even though we try, can’t be explained or completely understood- grace must be experienced.

Things on Grace

This week as I studied and prepared I came across some cool things on grace. I would like to share some of them with you.

A lot of people quote Bono and use a bunch of his stuff when trying to understand religion. Bono has a unique idea on religion and a unique understanding of Jesus. I do not believe that Bono is a believer, but what I found shocked me. Here is Bono’s interpretation of grace over Karma.

“It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between grace and Karma.”

There are a few things wrong with Bono’s quote here, but he apparently is amazed that the God of the universe loves people. But he goes on to discuss this concept of grace and Karma….

Bono says,

“You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics- in physical laws- every action is met by an equal or an opposite reaction. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff… it doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.”

If you don’t know, Karma is this idea that when you do good, by divine powers, you will receive good; and when you do bad, also by divine powers, you will receive bad.

So, Bono compares grace to Karma. Personally, I think most of us, if asked about it, would actually like this idea of Karma a little better than this idea of grace. Karma feels more just somehow.

That you reap what you sow, you get what you deserve, if you do this- you get this, and most of us like that idea. Most of us like this idea… you know why? Because most of us don’t think of ourselves as very bad, and we see the bad people in the world as deserving what they get.

So when grace enters the picture, there’s part of us that, we just don’t like it anymore, because here are these people doing all of this bad stuff. And if grace is grace then they aren’t going to get what they deserve and we just don’t like that too much.

When it comes to grace, I think it matters whether we are thinking of ourselves or thinking of others- because we want it, but don’t want other people to have it.

Here’s another story that I found this week:

There’s this book called “Everybody’s normal until you get to know them” by John Ortberg. And in the book he tells about this young man named John Gilbert, who at age 5 was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy. This is a genetic and progressive debilitating disease. What this means is that as John ages, his body gets a lot worse. John died at age 25 because of this disease.

The book tells about this kid. Every year John lost something. One year he lost the ability to run, so he couldn’t play sports with the other kids. Another year he lost the ability to walk straight, so all he could do was watch the others play. John lost the ability to do all of the outward things, and then eventually he even lost the ability to speak. John Gilbert suffered far more than any of us could imagine during those years.

Other students humiliated him because of his condition, a bully used to torture him in the lunchroom; no one ever stood up for him, or gave him a helping hand.

John Ortberg writes in his book, “What a silly species we are. We all need to feel accepted ourselves, but we are constantly rejecting others.”

But John Gilbert had other moments in his life too. In the book Ortberg writes of one of those moments.

John writes that once Gilbert was invited to a professional basketball league fundraising auction. And when it began one item in particular caught John Gilbert’s eye. It was a basketball signed by players of the Sacramento Kings Basketball team. John so desperately wanted the ball, that when it came up to bid, he felt his hand raise up in the air. Not having the funds to participate, John’s mother quickly pulled his hand back down. They watched as the bidding went up and up, until one man made a bid that no one else could possibly match and won the prize. The man then walked to the front to claim the basketball, but instead of going back to his seat, he walked straight across the room and placed the ball in the thin small hands of the boy who desired it so strongly.

John Ortberg writes, “It took me a minute to realize what just happened. I remember hearing gasps all around the room, then thunderous applause, and weeping eyes.”

John Gilbert a boy, who did nothing to earn the ball, would never bounce the ball, or shoot the ball from a foul line. Received the one thing that he desired the most.

Grace is hard to teach…

So, all of this goes back to my statement at the beginning of this time: Grace is not something that can be simply defined, grace is not something that can simply be taught, but grace is something that must be experienced.

Which as a speaker and teacher, is really hard to admit, because I want so desperately to give you something that grasp your mind, cause you to think and cause you to see God in a new and fresh way. But as I admit that grace cannot be simply taught on, I admit that I cannot teach you this absolute truth. I admit that I cannot “make” you understand grace. All I can do is pray that you will experience it yourself. Because when you experience grace and can define it yourself, then and only then, will the grace effect be seen.

So, as I teach you tonight, unless you experience it, you’re most-likely not going to get it. Think about it this way: Romance is one of those things that can’t be taught on but must be experienced.

When you’re a little kid, this concept of being attracted to someone of the opposite sex is foreign. I mean, girls have cuties! Girls are yucky!

Hopefully, someone sat you down and at least explained what this attraction thing is. Hopefully, you at least understood that boys are supposed to like girls and girls are supposed to like girls. But even in that understanding, you probably hadn’t really experienced this romance for yourself. It was still a head knowledge type of thing. Something that you knew would happen, or something that you knew was real; but you hadn’t tasted it for yourself. You hadn’t experienced it yet.

Then you see one of your friends liking someone at recess. You don’t understand it. I mean, they don’t want to play with you anymore and start dissing you for this girl or boy. You see it happening, but you just don’t understand.

Then that day comes, then that moment happens. You meet someone that is just so amazing, you start to feel this desire to hang with them and talk to them. And then all of a sudden, you understand. This romance thing makes sense.

Why? Because romance is not something that can be explained, but you must experience.

The Story and Grace

So, over the past few weeks I’ve been trying something new in my teaching. I’ve been trying to teach more with the use of stories. In the Bible, important concepts are taught in story form as well.

Story form is a wonderful way to teach a new concept. In college I took a class called Hermeneutics- How to Interpret the Bible. One of the things that I learned about the story is It’s not just “what” is said in the story, but “how” it’s said that you must pay attention to. So you don’t just pay attention to the writing, but you pay attention to the context as well.

In the Bible, I’ve discovered that more times than not, when the concept of grace is taught, it is taught through story. This use of the story tells me something about the writers of the day. It tells me that they felt the same frustration that I feel today about teaching grace. That grace is not merely something you can define and move on, but it is something that must be experienced. That the use of a story actually tells us more about grace than any simple definition could ever tell us. The story I just told about John Gilbert probably spoke to your heart in a more relative way than my simple definition did last week.

In fact, I discovered that our stories are very similar to those in Scripture. I found that no matter what your position in life, chances are you can find a story in Scripture that will accurately describe grace to you in a way that enlighten your heart. That you can find a story in Scripture that will teach you something about grace that fits your life experience.

Whether you’re a thief, liar, prostitute, murder, or drunk there is a story in Scripture that will teach you about grace, because the people is Scripture were all of these things. The people in Scripture were just like us and the people in Scripture all experienced grace on some level. All of these different kinds of people found out that grace can still cover a multitude of their sins.

In fact, God was gracious enough to even use these imperfect people in Scripture to do great things… watch this video.

It seems to me, a lot of people in scripture were unqualified to experience God grace and even more unqualified to be used by God to share His grace to others.

Stories of Grace in the Bible

I want to share with you a few very short lines from stories of grace in the Bible. As I read these tell me if you recognize them.

1)      Genesis 45:1-14                                                                                                        Joseph could stand it no longer… Then he broke down and wept. He wept so loudly the Egyptians could hear him, and word of it quickly carried to Pharaoh’s palace. “I am Joseph!” he said to his brothers… “Please, come closer,” he said to them. So they came closer. And again he said, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place…” Weeping for joy, he embraced Benjamin, and Benjamin did the same. Then Joseph kissed each of his brothers and wept over them, and after that they began talking freely with him.

2)     This is after David sinned with Bathsheba… 2 Samuel 12:13                                                 Then David confessed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replied, “Yes, but the Lord has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin…”

3)     In the story of the Paralytic, Jesus said, “You’re sins are forgiven you… Now get up take your mat and go home.”

4)     In the Parable of the Lost Son. Luke 15:20-24                                                                          So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.” But his father said to the servants, “Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.”

5)     Jesus on the cross to the thief. Luke 23:39-43                                                                         One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself- and us, too, while you’re at it!” But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

In Scripture, when grace is taught it is taught in stories; because grace is not something you can simply define, but something you must experience.

Conclusion

So, tonight I’m not going to teach you anymore. What I want to do in a time of reflection, with the room quiet, is just go around the room and let you guys share your experience with grace. Tell us of a time when God showed you his grace in a practical way. And as the leader of this time I’ll start…

Story Time…

How did this make you feel? Sharing your experiences of grace? What does this experience of grace compel you to do? Does your experience of grace stir your hearts?

Tonight we kind of looked at the inward effect that grace has- hopefully you experienced it tonight. Next week we are going to look at more of the outward effect that grace plays as we look at how to transfer grace to others.

Grace Defined_ Things to Think on…

  1. The OT picture of grace is a picture of a God who keeps His promises and doesn’t give up on His people. Read Genesis 17:4-8, where God makes His promise with Abraham.
  2. God made a promise to bless Abraham and because of God’s promise, we are here today. But the sad fact about this promise is that the people didn’t hold up to their end of the bargon. Have you ever promised to do something and not held up to that promise?
  3. Because God is a gracious and generous God, He gave the people a system of Laws and sacrifices to guide them along; but the people failed again and turned away from God. One of the most beautiful pictures of grace in the OT is found in the story of Hosea. Read Hosea 11:1-8 and discuss the picture with the group.
  4. In the NT the picture of grace given is a picture of a God who will go to any lengths to keep the promise that He has made with His people. God had been faithful to His promise but knew that His people couldn’t be faithful to it. So God decided to hold to both ends of the promise- His end and our end. Read Luke 22:20.
  5. Luke 22:20 tells us that Jesus’ blood is the New Covenant between God and man. This new promise doesn’t wipe away the old, but completes it. This new promise fulfills both ends of the old promise between Abraham and God. What do you think about this truth? How does it make you feel?
  6. Christian author C.S. Lewis was once asked, “What is the difference between Christianity and all other religions?” Lewis’ response was a short 4 letter word- Grace. Have you experienced grace? How does it feel?
  7. When we look at the whole Bible we can accurately see the picture of grace God intended. From the OT, we see that everything is about God. From the NT, we see that God is good. So, for us to have a functional definition of grace, we could say that grace is the goodness of God. Would you agree with this statement? Why or why not?

The Grace Effect_ Grace Defined

Introduction

We just wrapped up an awesome weekend talking about how God loves us, how we love Him, and how we can love others.

My prayer for this weekend and for this series that we are starting is that you would experience grace; and experience the freedom that it gives.

Kenny said something in the third session that I hope really stuck out to you. He said, “Loving others doesn’t mean coming up with some clever way to share the Gospel, but loving others is serving in practical ways.”

Kenny read from James chapter 2 in our second session, which I believe gives a good example of this “practical love.”

James 2:14-17

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

James tells us basically, if someone is hungry or in need of something, if we say we have faith, then we should do the practical thing and feed and clothe them.

When Jesus came for us, He did the practical thing. We sinned and death was upon us, so to eradicate the problem of death in our lives- the practical need; Jesus came and gave Himself for us, so that we could have life once again. Jesus did the practical thing. We were dead, so He gave us life.

For us this weekend, we got to see God do this in front of our very eyes. We had the awesome opportunity of watching God forgive and heal two of our very own. We got to watch God bring the spiritually dead to life!

I believe that this practical love demonstrated on the cross for us gives a very good idea of what Grace looks like.

So, tonight, what I want us to do is understand grace in a practical way; so that we can allow that grace to have an effect in our lives. Just like, I believe Jessica and Samantha experienced grace this weekend, I want for us to all understand the grace of God in a very personal way. In a way that is unique to us, to our sins, and to our giftedness.

Last week, I shared the story of a young girl who was scared by a lack of grace. A young girl who had no idea what grace truly is until very late in her life. I fear that for many of us as well, that we may miss out on the reality of God’s grace and not understand the love that the Father has for each and every one of us.

Tonight, I simply would like to give you a few pictures of what grace is; one picture from the OT and one picture from the NT.

In my studies over the past few days, God totally smacked me in the face with a beautiful picture in the OT. One, that for me and I believe so many others, is an extremely hard picture to grasp. This picture is the picture of the Levitical Law as a form of grace. A list of laws, that so many of us miss the beauty of, and because of this misunderstanding, actually feel overcome or oppressed by the laws themselves instead of feeling liberated and free.

So many times when we think of God’s grace and love, we only see the NT picture and tend to overlook the OT. I fear that many of us see the God of the OT as a God of wrath, anger, and judgment, instead of a God full of grace and mercy. Tonight, I hope to correct some of that among us, because the God of the OT is the same God that is in the NT. The God of the OT didn’t give up His rule at Jesus to His younger brother who is a little nicer and loving.

Also, I believe that if we only choose to look at God in the NT, we are failing to see God as He really is, we are failing to see the big picture, and we are failing to really know God in all of His character.

So, tonight is going to be pretty full and we are going to look through a few different texts and look at a pretty large portion of the Bible. So, I apologize for the length and I know that it will be hard for you to keep up. Please try your hardest to give me your attention as we dive into the texts for tonight.

The Old Testament Picture of Grace

The OT picture of grace is pretty simple. It’s a picture of a God who keeps His promises and doesn’t give up on His people.

In Genesis chapter 17:4-8, God made a covenant, or a promise, with Abraham. He said to Abraham,

“This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations! What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram. Instead, you will be called Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations. I will make you extremely fruitful. Your descendants will become many nations, and kings will be among them! I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you, from generation to generation. This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. And I will give the entire land of Canaan, where you now live as a foreigner, to you and your descendants. It will be their possession forever, and I will be their God.”

God is simply making a promise to His people. He’s coming to Abraham and saying, “I will make you the father of a great nation; I will make you fruitful; I going to give you good gifts; I am going to give you land.” God is good! He is showing us that in this passage. He is telling us that He wants to be our God and give us good gifts; and that we are going to be His people and He is going to take care of us and He’s going to do great things through us.

But there was a problem that happened. The problem was that the people of God couldn’t keep their end of the promise; they couldn’t keep their end of the deal. They were constantly disobeying, constantly turning to other gods. So God decided to give them this system of Laws, this system of rules, and this system of sacrifices.

And to be honest, this system of Laws is just nuts! If you read through the book of Leviticus and look at all of the rules, it really crazy! There are tons of them and it’s really cool to read.

Illustration “Summer Camp”

I’ve worked summer camp twice and both times I’ve been in a position where I had to interact with students. This past summer however, I had to interact with little students… like age 6-12. If you’ve ever had to work with that age group of kids, you will understand what I am about to say. They drove me insane!

These kids this summer were crazy! Every one of them! They did the most messed up stuff! They fought all the time, threw sharp objects, hit other kids with really large sticks, and cussed out us adults. And by cussed out, I mean, they used words I’m not even familiar with. These kids were crazy!

I remember one instance where there was this little kid named Gene. This kid was a total terror. So, here’s the situation: I was sitting under the popup tents playing UNO with some kids when I hear some screaming behind me. I looked and to my surprise, Gene was running around with a huge piece of tree in his hands trying to knock the cuties out of some little girls. So of course, I jumped up and ran over to stop all the craziness. I told Gene, “We don’t knock cuties out of little girls with really big logs. It is bad and can hurt someone.”

Have you ever heard someone do this with kids? Make up some really crazy rule about what “we’re not supposed to do?”

We had all sorts of rules like this over the summer:

“We don’t jump in the mud and wipe it on Cindy’s face like make up.”

“We don’t throw rocks at Chris’s head.”

“We don’t grab Rachel’s rear end.”

“We don’t climb really tall trees to get to outer space.”

“We don’t play with snacks, even if they look like fun toys.”

The list goes on! All summer, we made up all sorts of crazy little rules to keep these kids from killing each other and severely hurting one of us. And the whole time, I kept thinking: “Why do I have to do this? Why do I have to make up all these rules?” But the fact is, if I didn’t make up any rules, these kids would have killed each other!

Leviticus is the exact same thing! It’s God laying out all of these ridiculous laws to keep people from killing each other!

In Leviticus 19:14 it says, “You shall not curse the deaf and trip the blind…” Was that some sort of problem? Was there a bunch of people running around cursing at deaf people and tripping the blind!? Was the city full of drunken people?

Leviticus 19: 29 says, “Don’t make your daughter a prostitute.” It should be common sense… you don’t make your daughter a prostitute!

Another one says, “You shall do no injustice in court.” Duh! Cause they’ll throw the book at you! You already did something to get in court, so keep your mouth shut when you get there so you don’t get in more trouble!

It kind of like me and Rachel at camp last summer… “We don’t curse at deaf people. We don’t trip blind people. We don’t solicit our daughters. And we don’t run our mouths in court.”

But the System of Rules was not sufficient enough!

In Leviticus chapter 16 it talks about the Day of Atonement, and to make as simple as possible for you. It was a day that the whole city would gather to cast their sins into a goat. They would go through all sorts of rituals cast their sins into a goat and then release the goat into the desert. Then they would be forgiven. This is where we get our modern day term scapegoat.

This is all funny and interesting, but it’s still about rules and regulations.

Hosea

In my opinion, one of the best illustrations of grace in the OT is located in the book of Hosea. Hosea was this religion man in town. In my mind he was like the local pastor.

And God told Hosea to marry a prostitute named Gomer. The name Gomer just leaves me thinking that this woman must have been like extremely good looking… jk. But Gomer cheats on him with another man. And because of Hosea’s position in the city, everyone in the city knew this was going on. Everyone was watching what he did.

In the book, we see the story plays itself out; I think showing us a fantastic image of grace. So, Hosea goes to the house of the other man that Gomer is living with and asks for her to come home. He says, “Hey Gomer, I miss you, I need you, the kids need you, will you come home?” She refuses. So he goes to the door and knocks. The other man comes to the door and Hosea says, “Listen, I need my wife back, how about I pay you for her.” So Hosea buys his wife back and takes her home.

Hosea 11 says this:

1-4

“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and I called my son out of Egypt.
2 But the more I[
a] called to him,
the farther he moved from me,
offering sacrifices to the images of Baal
and burning incense to idols.
3 I myself taught Israel[
b] how to walk,
leading him along by the hand.
But he doesn’t know or even care
that it was I who took care of him.
4 I led Israel along
with my ropes of kindness and love.
I lifted the yoke from his neck,
and I myself stooped to feed him.”

Verse 7 tells us:

“For my people are determined to desert me.
They call me the Most High,
but they don’t truly honor me.

8 “Oh, how can I give you up, Israel?
How can I let you go?”

So, we see the picture of a wife who has given up on her husband, but a husband who will not give up on the promise of marriage. And then we get this picture of a nation who have cheated on their God, who have shamed Him and a picture of a God who will do anything to purchase them back. A God who will do anything to love them. A God who will do anything to keep His promise.

Amazing!

The NT Picture of Grace

The NT picture of Grace is of a God who will go to any lengths to keep the promise that He has made with His people. He has been faithful to His promise, but He knows that His people cannot live up to their end of the bargin.

Galatians 3:24 says, “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.” This verse knocked my socks off this week. The law was our guardian until Christ came.

So God sees that we are unable to keep our end of the bargin, so He decides to keep both sides of the promise. Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection then become the new promise, the new covenant.

In Luke 22:20 Jesus says, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

Jesus is saying, “Let’s make a new covenant a new promise. Where the old promise came short this new promise will never fail. No more need for a sacrifice, in fact my blood will pay the price; my blood will cover your sins; and God will keep both ends of this new promise to you.”

If you’ve grown up in church you’ve heard this all along, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.”

This grace is free, this grace is not earned, in fact this grace cannot be earned.

I would like to share with you one more story as an illustration of this grace as we seek tonight to define grace.

Jesus taught in stories called parables. One my favorite parables is in Matthew chapter 20. This is the story about the workers in the vineyard.

In the story there is a land owner who owns this large amount of land. And because of the size of the property he needs workers to help him address the fields. So early in the morning he hires laborers. About mid morning he notices that he needs more help so he hires more. Lunchtime comes and he needs more help so he hires more. The afternoon comes and he yet again needs more help, so he hires again. When the day is up and evening as come, the owner rounds all of the workers up to pay them. The workers become frustrated because the owner pays them all the exact same pay. For the ones who worked all day one denarius and the ones who worked only a few short hours the same. The ones who worked the whole day are angry and the ones who worked only a few hours are as happy as can be.

Luke 20:13 the owner says, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?”

This picture of grace is a picture that is not rational, not reasonable, and not conditional. Much of the early church conflict was about this. They grew in a system of all of these laws: don’t curse the deaf, don’t eat these foods, don’t trip the blind… all of these different things that they have grown up and learned; and Jesus came along and said no now there is a new promise- one that is built on grace. That’s why we see much of the NT letters battling these concepts of salvation by faith and salvation by works. It was hard for them to understand that salvation is freely given.

Can you imagine the effects of a God who says, “I will keep both ends of the bargin and I will go to any lengths to make sure I uphold this promise to you”?

When we look at both pictures together, we can start to understand the true effects of grace on our lives.

Definition of Grace

From the first picture, we see that it’s not about us, but it’s about God. We so many times want to make it about us, but it’s not about us. It’s not about how holy we are, or a set of rules, but about how good God is. It’s always been about how God has kept His end of the promise.

C.S. Lewis, one of most famous and brilliant Christian writers in the modern world, was once asked “What is the difference between all other religions and Christianity?” Lewis’ reply was one small word: Grace.

Because any other religion is about works. About us earning our way to being seen right with God.

From the second picture, we see that God is a good God. He always keeps his end of the bargin and even takes it up to keep our end as well.  A God who keeps both sides of the promise.

So for us to have a working definition of Grace we could say that grace is the goodness of God.

Conclusion

I believe that if this makes sense to us, it will have a huge effect on how we see life and how others see our lives. I believe that the effect will be much larger than anything else in our community. I believe that grace will run wild in our church, in our schools, and in our community.

So, over the next two weeks we will be looking at the effect that this kind of grace with have in our own life experience and the kind of effect this kind of grace will have through us on others.

Our Need of Grace_ Things to think on…

  1. Grace is probably one of the hardest truths in Scripture to see and understand in everyday life. Think of a time in your life when you experienced grace from a person other than Jesus Christ.
  2. Pointing fingers, playing the blame game, and poking fun of the misfortunate is easy to do, but forgiving the foully of others is extremely hard to do. Think of a time that you forgave someone for a wrong they had done toward you. How it made you feel to forgive them?
  3. Have you ever been poked fun at or harshly accused because of a mistake?
  4. The story shared about Margaret is a hard story. Margaret struggled for a long time because of the lack of grace of others. Because of Margaret’s pain, her understanding of grace was hindered. Would you agree that it is hard to understand grace, when people are sometime severely lacking grace? Why or Why not?
  5. Romans 5:16-17 tells us that Christ paid our sin dept that brought forgiveness. Before Christ’s death, our sin brought judgment followed by condemnation. Spend a few minutes thinking on the importance of Christ forgiveness in your life.
  6. John 1:16-17 says that because of Christ’s death, we have received the fullness of His grace and receive one blessing after another. Write down on a piece of paper some of the blessing that God has given you over your lifetime.

The Grace Effect_ Our Need of Grace

Introduction

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…

Illustration

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.

[Video]

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.

Romans 5:16-17

“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”

Conclusion

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…