Sermons

Getting Grace

Sun, Dec 06, 2020
Teacher: Mark Hull
Duration:28 mins 58 secs

Message text

Getting Grace
Ephesians 2: 1 – 9

A story is told about Fiorello LaGuardia, when he was mayor of New York City during the worst days of the Great Depression and all of WWII.
A tattered old woman was brought before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread to feed her two grandchildren were starving. But the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, refused to drop the charges. He told the mayor that "It's a real bad neighborhood, AND She's got to be punished to teach other people around here a lesson."
LaGuardia sighed. He turned to the woman and said "I've got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions--ten dollars or ten days in jail." But even as he pronounced sentence, the mayor was already reaching into his pocket. He extracted a bill and tossed it into his famous sombrero saying: "Here is the ten dollar fine which I now remit; and furthermore I am going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Baliff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant."
So the following day the New York City newspapers reported that $47.50 was turned over to a bewildered old lady who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her starving grandchildren, fifty cents of that amount being contributed by the red-faced grocery store owner.
Please turn with me to verses 1 – 3 of Ephesians Chapter 2
2 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
After pointing out how dark our past had been, Paul wrote in Ephesians 2: 4 – 5 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by GRACE you have been saved.”
Paul was telling the Ephesians: you WERE in a bad place, but while you were in that bad place God saved you by His grace. He offered you his forgiveness even though you didn’t deserve it. And that’s the beauty of God’s Amazing Grace - you didn’t deserve it... but you got it anyway.
Jesus said, "Healthy people don't need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call NOT those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners" (Mark 2:17, NLT).
The first verse of the song Amazing Grace describes that Grace. “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found. I was blind but now I see.”
I was wretched, I was lost and I was blind - and it was then that God gave His amazing grace.
Someone once noted that the song “Amazing Grace” has been recorded more often by more musicians than any other song. When sung at even the most secular event or pagan concert, a hush seems to fall over the audience. And eyes tear up. And not just the eyes of Christians. Grace is what people long for, even those who don’t know Jesus. Especially those who don’t know Jesus.
Acts 20:24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace.
ILLUS: A clinical psychologist and a professor named Dr. Jordan Peterson noted that most people don’t often think of themselves as valuable. “They certainly don’t think they are valuable - when they’re depressed.
They certainly don’t think that - when they’re suicidal. They really don’t think that - when they’re ashamed, or guilty, or frustrated, or disappointed or angry.
Peterson’s observation was – that many people are often disappointed and uncomfortable with who they are. They are people in need of grace.
So, some feel the need for grace, but (PAUSE) there are others who don’t ...
unless there’s a heavy weight of shame in their lives
OR a fear of facing judgment
lots of folks just ignore God.
That’s why the 2nd verse of Amazing Grace says what it says. “T’was grace that taught my heart TO FEAR, and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.”
Grace taught his heart to fear. Grace STARTS with fear – the fear of judgment or shame. And there are many people who reject God’s grace for that very reason. They don’t like the idea that the are wrong and that they might be condemned for their choices in life.
ILLUS: For example, several years ago Ted Turner (the man who founded TBS and CNN) spoke at the National Press Club. “Heaven is going to be a mighty slender place. And most of the people I know in life aren't going to be there. Remember, heaven is going to be perfect. And I don't really want to be there... Those of us that go to hell, which will be most of us in this room when we get there we'll have a chance to make things... better, because hell is supposed to be a mess. And heaven is perfect. Who wants to go to a place that is perfect? Boring, boring.”
Ephesians describes men like Turner as “darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” (Ephesians 4:18) So you’d expect folks like Turner to reject God’s grace.
But what’s really surprising is when regular church folks don’t see the need. You see, what happens for too many church goers, is that they tend to believe that they’re OK just as they are. They don’t NEED God’s forgiveness/ they don’t NEED God’s grace, because they’re nice people – just ask them!
They believe they deserve heaven just as they are because they’re nice people, they’ve done nice things. In fact, they believe they’ve done more GOOD than BAD in life, and so they’ve bought their ticket to heaven. They’ve banked so many “righteous deeds” that God has to let them into heaven because they’ve earned it. In fact, He couldn’t keep them out if He wanted to. They deserve Heaven.
None of us deserves to go to heaven. The only way we’re getting into heaven is by the GRACE of God. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us “by GRACE you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Without God’s Grace... none of us getting into heaven!
Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace.
The beauty of computers is that I can use the search function to find any word. All I have to do is type in a word like “grace” and every Word document that has that word pops: grace... grace... grace... grace. As I was searching through my files for grace, I saw many quotes, stories, etc. involving “grace” (pause) but then I came across “dis...grace”.
Disgrace! I saw that word “disgrace” and it got me to thinking. Disgrace is when a person is made to feel ashamed. They’ve lost their reputation... and their position of trust. They got caught doing something they ought not to do.
And so – they’re disgraced. And the worst part of disgrace is losing your OWN self-respect. If you TRULY feel disgrace you can’t bear to look at yourself in the mirror. Your sin, my sin - is our disgrace.
Then I realized: When Jesus died on the cross, He died to take away our disgrace. And in the place of our disgrace He gave us His grace. Do you know why He did that? He did it because He LOVED us.
Ephesians 2:4-5 tells us “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the GREAT LOVE with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by GRACE you have been saved.”
Someone observed that Genesis never talks about God loving Adam & Eve. I looked it up... and he was right. God did plenty of things that showed love to Adam and Eve, but it never says He “loved” them. And that got me to thinking, and I did a search... and you know what I found? In the Old Testament, God never told anyone He loved them (except Jacob before he was born and Solomon when he was born)
BUT, the Old Testament speaks of God loving the nation of Israel, and of God loving someone who has obeyed Him. God loved the people who belonged to him, and he loved those who obeyed him. And that’s pretty much it!
But here in Ephesians we’re told that God loved SINNERS. The first few verses of Ephesians 2 tells us – before we became Christians we were objects of wrath, but “because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses” and He saved us by His grace.
Did you catch that? We were sinners - we were bound for hell - but He loved us! He loved you, and HE loved me even though we didn’t Belong to Him, and we didn’t Obey Him.
Why is that important? Well, many people won’t bother to become Christians because they’ve ... sinned. They believe they need to clean themselves up before they come to God. They believe God will ONLY love them if they get their act together. But Ephesians 2 says... that’s not true. God loved you when you were an object of wrath. He loved you BEFORE you cleaned up your act.
Someone once described God’s grace this way: GRACE is God loving us just as we are, but loving us too much to let us stay that way.
Watching a trapeze show is breathtaking. We wonder at the dexterity and timing. We gasp at near-misses. In most cases, there is a net underneath. When they fall, they jump up and bounce back to the trapeze. In Christ, we live on the trapeze. The whole world should be able to watch and say, "Look how they live, how they love one another. Look how well the husbands treat their wives. And aren't they the best workers in the factories and offices, the best neighbors, the best students?" That is to live on the trapeze, being a show to the world. What happens when we slip? The net is surely there. The blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ, has provided forgiveness for ALL our trespasses. Both the net and the ability to stay on the trapeze are works of God's grace. Of course, we cannot be continually sleeping on the net., If that is the case, I doubt whether that person is a trapezist.

2 Corinthians 8:7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.
CLOSE: The man who wrote Amazing Grace is an example of someone who understood that kind of grace. His name was John Newton... and he was not a nice man. Newton was such a nasty/immoral man, even other pagans weren’t comfortable with him. One time, in a terrible storm, the captain of the ship he was in said they needed to throw John overboard to save the ship... just as Jonah had been thrown overboard in the Bible.
He got drunk, got in fights, went to the red-light districts. And he cursed like a sailor... in fact, he was a sailor. And he was a slaver - he kidnapped and sold human flesh for price.
Years before, he’d turned his back on God... but a vicious storm at sea changed his mind.
Someone described the fearfulness of that storm: Waves crashed over the boat, ripping away whole timbers. Clothes and bedding were stuffed into holes and boards nailed over them. Newton joined those who worked at pumping water out of the ship, and eventually (when he was too weary to pump any longer) he was lashed to the wheel to try and steer it thru the storm.
One writer noted that “In his heart Newton believed Christianity to be true. But this brought him no consolation because (as John Newton later wrote) “I concluded my sins were too great to be forgiven. I waited with fear and impatience to receive my doom.” But as soon he heard the glad news that the ship was freed of water, "I began to pray... to think of that Jesus that I had so often derided; I recollected his death: a death for sins not his own, but, as I remembered, for the sake of those who should put their trust in him."
Did you catch that? He stayed away from Christ because he concluded his sins were too great to be forgiven. He didn’t think God could love him as he was. But that storm brought him face to face with judgment/ death, and it forced him to turn his eyes upon Jesus. AND THAT CHANGED HIS LIFE FOREVER
INVITATION... so how do you lay hold of the grace of God?
1. BELIEVE that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Acts 16:31)
2. REPENT of your sins. Admit your sin is too great for you to pay off (Acts 3:19)
3. CONFESS Jesus as your Lord and Master (Romans 10:9)
4. Be BURIED in the waters of Baptism for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38)
5. And LIVE for Christ (Revelation 2:10-11)

Sermon Contributor Jeff Strite

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