It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.
(Eph 2:3-8 HCSB) We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and by nature we were children under wrath, as the others were also. But God, who is abundant in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. By grace you are saved! He also raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavens, in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is
We start with a very pointed question, directed at supposed believers in Christ. By examining the missing pieces we can by filling in the missing parts find if we are missing the main ingredient GRACE.
What has God done for you? 1- Not much 10-More than can be described.
In looking at the rhetorical nature of this question we can see how much of the wonder of God’s grace is still evident on our lives. Are we behaving in a debilitating sense of self-entitlement, and self centered quest for personal happiness? That somehow we have moved from the rancidness of our sin to some sort of self entitlement that God exists for our pleasure as some sort of cosmic grandpa? Our generation especially in America may be one of the most self centered in history. I doubt we will be called the greatest generation like that of our grand-parents and the WW2 era. Have we become the paradox of graceless Christianity? Obviously the Bible speaks to this in several areas and stories.
(1Co 2:9-16 HCSB) But as it is written: What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, and what has never come into a man’s heart, is what God has prepared for those who love Him. Now God has revealed them to us by the Spirit, for the Spirit searches everything, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the concerns of a man except the spirit of the man that is in him? In the same way, no one knows the concerns of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, in order to know what has been freely given to us by God. We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. But the natural man does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to know it since it is evaluated spiritually. The spiritual person, however, can evaluate everything, yet he himself cannot be evaluated by anyone. For: who has known the Lord’s mind, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.
Consider the behavior of believers that offer condemnation instead of love to those who are less “spiritual” than they are. When we try to justify ourselves horizontally instead of vertically we tend to elevate our status based on others around us. When we see ourselves vertically and in comparison to the demands of scripture we see our filthy sin filled lives and how much grace we need to survive another day. Have we known those or even ourselves drifted from a grace based faith to a behavior based faith! That somehow our behavior will earn God’s approval. The only action that pleases God is faith.
(Hebrews 11:6 HCSB) Now without faith it is impossible to please God,
I know right now there are some who want to apply some sort of standard of behavior to gain God’s acceptance because somehow if people’s behavior isn’t controlled then they will run headlong into paganism. Think for a moment when others don’t act like we think they should in areas of church life our tendency is to puff up and seek God’s will for others in error. The question that arises from this tends to be “Who made you Holy Ghost for me?” If God is who he claims then we probably need to spend 2 times more energy seeking His grace than seeking control of others behavior. We as believers can trust that God is in charge and has the means available to control anything that has his name associated with it. Remember we have enjoyed a generous outpouring of God’s grace, yet we can become stingy about sharing grace with others. He will reward the righteous and punish the guilty.
(Exodus 34:6-7 HCSB) Then the LORD passed in front of him and proclaimed: Yahweh–Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving wrongdoing, rebellion, and sin. But He will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ wrongdoing on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.
We also see his plea for us to use His grace not to waste!
(2 Corinthians 6:1 HCSB) Working together with Him, we also appeal to you: “Don’t receive God’s grace in vain.”
(2 Corinthians 6:1 CEV) We work together with God, and we beg you to make good use of God’s kindness to you.
(2 Corinthians 6:1 LITV) But working together, we also call on you not to receive the grace of God in vain.
(2 Corinthians 6:1 BBE) We then, working together with God, make our request to you not to take the grace of God to no purpose.
2 Corinthians 6 (Amplified Bible)
1LABORING TOGETHER [as God's fellow workers] with Him then, we beg of you not to receive the grace of God in vain [that [a]merciful kindness by which God exerts His holy influence on souls and turns them to Christ, keeping and strengthening them–do not receive it to no purpose].
Christ’s followers of all people have known mercy and grace firsthand yet we have characterized by judge-mentalism, and intolerance rather than mercy and compassion. As an example:
Two Christians refuse to forgive one another
- Members angrily leave the church because the changed the format of the service
- People complain they “got nothing out of the service” because the music wasn’t to their liking.
- Church leaders are slandered by people who have been “overlooked” for prominent positions
- The preacher is picking on them in his sermons
In Luke 7 we see the level of religious intolerance and judge-mentalism:
(Luke 7:36-50 HCSB) Then one of the Pharisees invited Him to eat with him. He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And a woman in the town who was a sinner found out that Jesus was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house. She brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil and stood behind Him at His feet, weeping, and began to wash His feet with her tears. She wiped His feet with the hair of her head, kissing them and anointing them with the fragrant oil. When the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching Him–she’s a sinner!” Jesus replied to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he said, “say it.” “A creditor had two debtors. One owed 500 denarii, and the other 50. Since they could not pay it back, he graciously forgave them both. So, which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one he forgave more.” “You have judged correctly,” He told him. Turning to the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she, with her tears, has washed My feet and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss, but she hasn’t stopped kissing My feet since I came in. You didn’t anoint My head with oil, but she has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little.” Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Those who were at the table with Him began to say among themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
As Henry Blackaby has stated in his book “Putting a Face on Grace”,
Principle 1: The more aware you are of your need for God’s grace, the more generous you will be towards others.
In the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee we see the outward working of religion and the inwards working of grace. We should also keep in mind the Pharisee’s were the kind of people most churches would be glad to have as members. They were very moral sounding, giving of their money, highly respected in their communities and attended church regularly. The versus listed below show a contrast in Christianity and Religion.
(Luke 18:9-14 HCSB) He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else: “Two men went up to the temple complex to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: ‘God, I thank You that I’m not like other people–greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’ “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, turn Your wrath from me–a sinner!’ I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Jesus said the one who truly sees himself as a sinner before God and seeks His Mercy is the one who finds forgiveness. The one who thinks himself in no need of grace goes away unforgiven.
Principle 2: (Blackaby) A true understanding of your daily dependence on God’s mercy causes you to be humble toward God and others.
(1 Peter 5:5-6 HCSB) , because God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you in due time,
As we see in the scripture Peter had some questions concerning forgiveness and quite possibly he was struggling with forgiving someone who had wronged him. Middle Eastern codes of honor dating back to the time of Christ and beyond demanded a just recompense for every offense committed. The Jewish religion specified a traditional number of times a person was to be forgiven-three times. Peter being who at the time wanted to gain Jesus’ favor and proposed a number as possible as seven times to forgive a person the same offense. Jesus had a different number and clearly different way of thinking he established not only for them but for us.
(Matthew 18:21-22 HCSB) Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” “I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus said to him, “but 70 times seven.
Then Jesus imminently gives us the parable of the slave who owed 10,000 talents to the master who forgave him. Then the servant chokes a man and puts him in prison for a few pennies worth of debt. As the story goes the King hears of this terrible behavior and punishes the unforgiving servant with torture until he paid his debt in full. Unwillingness to forgive led this man into bondage. Much like ourselves the more graceless and unforgiving we are the more we torture ourselves and those around us till we truly repent. We willingly put ourselves into bondage and have a religion that is not only graceless but useless.
Quoting Blackaby from his book Putting a Face on Grace “Our behavior clearly communicates our understanding of God’s grace in our lives.”
Principle 3: If you are truly grateful for God’s forgiveness, you will be quick to forgive others.
There is nothing anyone can do to me that can compare with what Christ has forgiven me for doing. As Matthew 6 says if we understand it correctly Forgive us in and how we forgive others!
(Matthew 6:14 HCSB) “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.
(Matthew 6:14 CEV) If you forgive others for the wrongs they do to you, your Father in heaven will forgive you.
(Matthew 6:14 BBE) For if you let men have forgiveness for their sins, you will have forgiveness from your Father in heaven.
It has been said we are most like Christ when we forgive others who have hurt us deeply.
- If we grasp the enormity of God’s extravagant grace toward us, we will gladly give generously to others
- If we are truly broken and humbled by own sinfulness, we will not focus on the sins of others. Rather we will be motivated to humbly serve them.
- We will forgive others- wither they deserve it or not-to show our gratitude to God. After all, that’s what he did for us.
“Being forgiven does not automatically free us from being self centered.” Think of all the name it claim it types, the doing good for God type, the earning God’s favor type, the keeping my salvation by doing good works tyranny and we see the contrast. God’s grace is given not earned we don’t deserve it but we can have it. That is amazing that God would give that to me a filthy, undeserving, worthless sinner. Who even if I could give him my best 5 minutes of my life for his gift would only insult him and bring disgrace to His Kingdom has sought me, bought me, sealed me, redeemed me, and given me far more than I could ever repay. Thank you Lord for giving me eternity with You!
For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—
(Romans 10:8-13 HCSB) On the contrary, what does it say? The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. This is the message of faith that we proclaim: if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. With the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation. Now the Scripture says, No one who believes on Him will be put to shame, for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
In closing may you: (2 Peter 3:18 HCSB) But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.