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The Greatness of Grace

October 10th, 2017

The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20-21 NIV)

“But where sin increased, grace increased all the more” – these words teach us that when God saves us He does not do so in a half-hearted manner. He does not take us to heaven to shame us for eternity about what lousy sinners we are. He covers us with the righteousness of Christ so that our sinful past is completely obliterated, and He adopts us into His family so that we reconciled to Him, and He transforms us into the spiritual image of Jesus Christ, so that we are different in our character.

His grace super abounds over our sin.

Yesterday we examined the issue of God’s anger toward sinful humanity. But in Christ Jesus His anger is turned away and now we are objects of His favor and blessing. “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5 NLT).

I was in a Bible study several years ago where one of the men there kept hammering on this matter of our sinfulness. It was clear that he really thought that we ought to go around shaming people about how bad they were. He was so insistent on this issue that he went too far in this area. I finally said that the way he was describing God and God’s grace is that when we get to heaven God will say, “You lousy sinner, I should have sent you to hell, but for some reason I have decided not to, so welcome to heaven. I hope you have a terrible eternity thinking all the time about how you don’t deserve any of this.”

If that is what God says to repentant sinners, then heaven will be a terrible experience. But the Bible teaches us otherwise, that God assures us of His love and of our acceptance in Christ. Though we have failed, He lifts us up in love and assures us of His faithfulness. We are now overwhelmed with how greatly He has forgiven us and restored us to Himself.

Calvin described this teaching like this: “that while sin is overflowing, [grace] pours itself forth so exuberantly, that it not only overcomes the flood of sin, but wholly absorbs it.” The impact is that we are completely assured of God’s love and acceptance. Even the pain of shame is removed and all tears are wiped from our eyes, even tears of shame (Rev. 21:4). Calvin added that Christ is “sent to be a physician to the sick, a deliverer to the captives, a comforter to the afflicted, a defender to the oppressed.”

Grace is not only the receiving of forgiveness, but also the receiving of the assurance of forgiveness. Grace is more than just not being punished. It is the “super-abounding” entrance into an entirely different frame of mind – one in which we love God and are confident of His love for us. There is the basis for new sense of self-respect, one that is divinely bestowed. If God loves us so greatly, then, on that basis alone, we should respect ourselves. His redemption is all encompassing, saving us that we might know Him, that He might reveal His character in us and through us, and that we might be filled with joy and peace.

Is it easy to love God’ asks an old author. ‘It is easy,’ he replies, ‘to those who do it.’ … [God] can awake in man, towards Himself, a supernatural Appreciative love. This is of all gifts the most to be desired. Here, not in our natural loves, nor even in ethics, lies the true centre of all human and angelic life. With this all things are possible. (C.S. Lewis)

I heard a Christian author and speaker once say that what he thought the human heart truly longs for is Someone to whom we can be truly grateful. This is the miracle of God’s super-abounding grace.

This is why, by the way, the down-playing of our sinfulness is so dangerous to our spiritual health, in that it tries to resolve our feelings on this issue of forgiveness merely through human logic, and not through the power of God. But those who rejoice in their salvation, who are confident in their acceptance in Christ, possess this assurance through the divine power of God, and not through faulty human logic.

In fact, I am convinced that there is no logic that can explain God’s choice to redeem us. He has chosen to do so for His own purposes, out of His own heart of love, and true love always defies logic.

Doctrinal Studies ,

Extreme Grace, Part 1

September 1st, 2014

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.

Ephesians 2:4-5

If someone does not accuse us of going too far with the doctrine of grace, we have probably not preached it strongly enough. Grace by its very nature is extreme. It is the ultimate opposite of salvation by self-effort. Its concepts rest upon the biblical teachings of God’s mercy, of the sacrificial death of Christ for sinners, of our total moral depravity, of our helplessness before Holy God, and of our election by grace. God bestows upon the undeserving His forgiveness, His blessings, the reconciliation between God and man, and a thousand inner benefits to the soul. The biblical doctrine of grace proclaims the love of God, that His love motivated Him to send the Son into the world to save sinners (John 3:16), that while we were still sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8), and that we are helpless, spiritually dead, without Him accomplishing this work of grace in our lives (Eph. 2:4-5).

Christ proclaimed this doctrine in the first line of His Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:3).  Jesus’ meaning is clear enough, that those who still claim to have some personal spiritual richness are in a state of deception and denial. He came to heal the sick, or more specifically, those who know they are sick. It is only those who understand their spiritual poverty who are motivated to seek the solution that is offered solely by grace, that He saves, and in that search by faith they inherit the kingdom of heaven. Martin Luther wrote, “A man must completely despair of himself in order to become fit to obtain the grace of Christ.”

A.W. Tozer wrote:

Grace is the good pleasure of God that inclines him to bestow benefits upon the undeserving. It is a self-existent principle inherent in the divine nature and appears to us as a self-caused propensity to pity the wretched, spare the guilty, welcome the outcast, and bring into favor those who were before under just disapprobation. Its use to us sinful men is to save us and make us sit together in heavenly places to demonstrate to the ages the exceeding riches of God’s kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

We as a race are in great need of something we cannot achieve for ourselves. The Christian faith sees humanity as created in the image of God, but this image is marred by sin, mangled by our moral fall, and cannot save itself. Grace proclaims both God’s love and our helplessness. We turn to Him without any capacity within us to bring anything to the relationship except our need. All of our potential is dependent on Him doing His work of grace.

We are tempted to come and try to spend the currency of future promises for our salvation. We will promise to do better, to sin less, to try and obey, but that currency will not spend with God. We may only come through the currency of grace, that says, “It is already paid.” We cannot save ourselves.

But God is able to save us – and His salvation means not only forgiveness but the bestowal of life. He has “made us alive together with Christ.” Our potential is now dependent on Him and what He will accomplish in us and through us. Grace means we stand in His power and not in our own. The journey that began with our poverty and His riches, continues this way. And in grace we can live each day by faith with divine power and victorious strength. We can live by the principle espoused in Galatians 2:20: “Not I but Christ lives in me.”

So, have you come to Christ this way? If so, thank God for His salvation. If not yet, you may come to Him right now by faith by praying, “Lord, I need Your forgiveness. Save me through the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus.” The old hymn says, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.” This is the invitation of grace, to come and receive. The last chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22:17, expresses this invitation:

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

Extreme Grace