What is one thing the church has to offer that the world cannot get anywhere else? It’s grace! We can say to people with confidence, “You were dead, but now you’re alive. You were lost, but now you’re found. You were guilty, but now you’re set free.” Join us Sunday as we learn to realize God’s grace.Read More
- I will come home to the father.
- I will stop abusing God’s grace.
- I will end something that needs to be ended.
- I will spend time in prayer and reading the Gospels to learn about grace.
- I will write the word grace wherever I need to be reminded of it.
- I will spend time with grace-providing people.
- I will extend grace to the people around me.
Full Sermon Script:
What comes to your mind when I say the word grace? What’s the first thing you think of when I say the word grace? ||
Maybe you think of undeserved favor. That’s a good definition.
Maybe you think of the movie Christmas Vacation — when they’re sitting at the dinner table and they ask the grandmother to say grace? She says, “Grace, she past away 2 years ago.” And grandpa says, “The Blessing.” And then grandma says, “I pledge allegiance to the flag.”
Maybe you think of the acronym: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. That’s what grace is.
I’ll tell you what I think of — dance lessons.
When Kathy and I first got married, one of the two of us wanted us to take dance lessons together. I’ll let you guess which one that was.
The other one said yes, because that one is a gracious person.
And because it was a way of earning points, kind of like husband frequent flyer miles that you can cash in at later date.
So we went to these dance lessons in the evening. And I studied as hard as I could. I counted out the rhythm. I memorized the diagrams of where my feet were supposed to go. I knew the right thing and, pretty much, I did the right thing. But I was counting out loud the whole time and staring at my feet with my tongue hanging out of my mouth like Michael Jordan.
I felt stiff and awkward, and the instructor told me something was lacking.
Anyone want to guess what it was? It was grace.
Actually she said, “Balance, coordination, and the ability to make gross motor movements without endangering the people around me” — pretty much the same thing. ||
Then she paired us up. Before this we were kind of working on our own. So now I began to dance with Kathy; and Kathy has a lot of grace on the dance floor.
The strangest thing started to happen — a little of her grace began to transfer over to me. I began to move my hips a little bit. My body started to loosen up. Kathy’s grace affected the way I danced. ||
Now, here’s the deal — I’ve danced without grace, and I’ve danced with grace, and if I get to choose, I want grace. ||
You know, we can know the right thing. We can even do the right thing, but people are tired of Christians who proclaim they know the right thing and do the right thing but they don’t have grace — because without grace, not much of what we proclaim makes sense. Without grace, people get hurt. Without grace, there’s no life. ||
Think about this today — what’s the one thing God has to offer that people can’t get anywhere else?
You don’t have to be a Christian to build homes for the homeless or feed the poor or donate to charity, although, all Christians should be doing those kinds of things.
You don’t have to be a Christian to have high moral standards or affect political change.
There are other traditions and other teachers that offer wise, moral instructions and have moral absolutes.
What’s the one thing God offers that people can’t get anywhere else? It’s grace.
Where can people go to find grace besides God? …because this is not a grace-filled world. In this world you get what you pay for. We say, “You reap what you sow. There’s no free lunch. It’s an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” >>>>>
Philip Yancey writes in his book, What’s so Amazing about Grace, “The one thing the world cannot do is it cannot offer grace. It cannot say to human beings, ‘You were lost, but now you’re found. You were guilty, but now you’ve been pardoned. You were dead, but now you’ve been made alive.’” ||
> In the text we’ll look at in a moment, the apostle Paul writes to the Colossian church and he’s very concerned about them living in grace… as I am very concerned about you living in grace… today, and tomorrow, and in the weeks and months ahead as we return from shelter in place to a world that desperately needs grace. ||
Paul describes the ultimate expression of grace — the one that human minds for over 2,000 years have been trying to comprehend — which is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, nailed to the cross.
And it’s so overpowering to Paul that he uses a series of pictures in this text.
Let’s look at Colossians 2, starting at verse 11. And I’d like to ask you, as we walk through what Paul says here, to just make it real personal. Put yourself in this passage today — imagine that Paul is addressing you and you alone.
Try to remember back to the time when you first tasted grace. Remember what it was like when you came to grips with your own sinfulness? When you got a glimpse of your own capacity to mess up your one and only life.
And I’d like you to allow God to speak directly to you from these words of Paul, because that’s what he wants to do. >>>>>
Colossians 2:11 (I’m reading this from the New Living Translation)
When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature.
> Now, a little bit of background on this — part of what was going on in the Colossian church was there were some legalistic people who were trying to convince people that they had to be more legalistic — they had to be circumcised.
Paul goes on to say: >>>>>
For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. ||
> He talks here about circumcision and baptism. These were the rites of initiation into the community of God’s people.
We know that in the Old Testament, God told Abraham he was going to be the father of a nation, the nation of Israel, and the sign God gave him and all of his descendants was circumcision. Unlucky sign if you asked me… but that was the sign.
What Paul is trying to communicate here by referring to circumcision, to these Gentile outsiders is, “You used to be excluded. Now you’re part of the people of God. Now you belong.”
And that same grace extends to you and me.
I’m sure every one of you has known the pain of being on the outside.
We know what it’s like when teams were chosen and no one wants us.
We know what it’s like to be shunned by someone we want to give our hearts to.
We know the pain of being forgotten by someone who we thought were friends.
We know what it’s like to be judged by someone in our church.
We know the pain of a family member who doesn’t forgive or accept us.
And now God says, “You are chosen. You’ve been baptized. You belong. You’re wanted. You’re desired by God. You’re part of the family that will last forever.” That’s grace. ||
Paul gives another picture in verse 13: >>>>>
You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. ||
> God made us alive in Christ, or together with Christ. The picture here is that we were dead. We were dead to God… and every one of us has been there.
We had guilt that we suffered over, but no one to forgive us.
We had a desire for purpose and significance, but no one to serve.
We had fear, but no source of hope.
Then one day we were made alive. We are now alive in Christ, and we have strength to endure and power to serve and a reason for hope, and death itself has no hold over us. That’s grace.
Then Paul goes on: >>>>>
He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.
> Now, when he says, “the record of charges,” he’s using a financial metaphor. That term is for a certificate of indebtedness. It’s like what we would refer to as an IOU. There was this moral debt between us and God. ||
This is grace for anyone who’s ever despaired over sin. ||
I was talking to someone about this recently. If you ever feel pain over that gap between who God has called you to be and the reality of who you are, if you’ve ever felt that pain, if you’ve ever been discouraged or felt tempted to quit or wondered if you’ll ever make it… then you need to hear that God took your indebtedness, your guilt, and nailed it to the cross. You didn’t even begin to exhaust his grace. You didn’t even make a dent in it. “He has canceled the charges,” Paul says.
The picture is that they used to write sometimes on papyrus or vellum with material that wouldn’t penetrate beyond the surface, and it could be sponged off and it was like it had never been there. That’s the picture Paul uses.
Paul is saying, “God not only has cancelled your indebtedness, he’s destroyed the IOU — “he took it away” — so you’re free. ||
And here’s the deal: you can live where you are today as a free person. That’s the grace of God. ||
Then in verse 15 – this is one of the more mysterious verses. I don’t know that I fully understand verse 15. Paul says: >>>>>
In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.
> In the first century, when a Roman general was victorious over an opposing army, the Roman general would be allowed to have a parade through the streets of Rome, a huge celebration.
Here’s part of what would happen, this is part of the tradition: The Roman generals would take the generals of the opposing army — whatever country they had defeated — they would take the officers of that army and they would strip them of their weapons. Paul uses the military word there to strip or to disarm.
They were disarmed. And then those generals of the opposing army would be made to march at the end of the victory parade. They weren’t real happy about it, but even in their defeat they were now paying tribute to the greatness of the general that had conquered them.
That’s the picture Paul is using here. He’s saying somehow in ways that we don’t fully understand… this is something that’s already happened. That’s the thing to notice here. Somehow at the crucifixion and then the resurrection, when the power of God raised Jesus from the dead, something happened. And powers that have arranged themselves against human beings since the fall — death, guilt, evil — Paul doesn’t spell them out — financial powers, political powers, structural evil, they have been disarmed, stripped of the power to cause ultimate harm.
That’s why Paul says, “What can separate us from the love of God?” He just runs all the way through all of the powers. They have all been disarmed and the resurrection of Jesus was the beginning of a parade. Now, it hasn’t gotten all the way past our block yet, but it’s coming.
Therefore, because Jesus has stripped the powers and disarmed them and made a public spectacle of them, you can live with great joy. You can have unshakable confidence about tomorrow and the next day and the next day and every day through all eternity. That’s the wonder of grace. ||
For Paul, the church is simply the caretaker of God’s grace — the vehicle for which grace is extended to the world. That’s what the church is.
He starts this letter to the Colossians and it’s the very first word. He says: >>>>>
Grace and peace to you from God our Father. Colossians 1:2
> That’s how he starts the letter.
Normally Greek letters started with the word “chairo” which meant “greetings.”
It was kind of cliche. Just like we would say, “Dear so-and-so,” whether they’re dear to us or not, we just start letters that way. “Chairo” was a word that was used in the same way.
But Paul doesn’t use “chairo,” he changes it to “charis” – which is grace. “Grace to you.” That’s how he always started his letters.
Then if you look at the end of Colossians, chapter 4 verse 18, he says:
Grace be with you. Colossians 4:18
Grace is his greeting, grace is his benediction and grace is everything in between.
Grace is what knocked Paul to the ground on the road to Damascus.
And grace is what brought him to his knees over his sin.
And grace is what took his sin away.
Grace was the light that blinded Paul’s eyes.
And grace was the power that caused the scales to fall from them.
Grace gave Paul a thorn in the flesh to keep him from being destroyed by his own arrogance.
And grace made Paul’s weakness the very home of God’s strength — “My grace is sufficient for you,” God said to Paul.
And so for Paul — grace is the first word and the last word and all the words in between. Paul never recovered from the wonder of grace.
What is there like grace?
Which brings us to a real serious question, and the question is this: if grace is the one thing that God has to offer that we can’t get anywhere else, then why do we leave it so easily?
Why is it that churches can be filled with people who say they have been saved by grace, and yet become ungracious people?
Why is it that if you ask someone outside the church what they associate with the word “Christian,” they will generally mention some political agenda or judgmentalism or self-righteousness, but not grace?
Why do we have such a hard time living in grace?
Why is every church not a community that’s just immersed in grace? ||
I think it has to do with pride. The writer of Scripture says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
I think when we’re desperate and we know our need — when we’ve fallen to our knees — then we’re open to grace.
I think it’s just human nature that when we’re not desperate anymore, once we start to think of ourselves as having accomplished something, we want the credit for it. We want to feel like we earned it. It’s a pride thing that begins to happen. ||
Which reminds me of my favorite story about pride.
There was a CEO of a Fortune 500 company who drove into a gas station with his wife. He pumped the gas while she went in to the store.
He watched her in the store and noticed she was in a deep conversation with the gas station attendant. So he asked her about it as they drove away.
It turned out she knew the gas station attendant, and used to date him back in high school.
So as they’re driving away this CEO is feeling pretty good about himself.
He finally says to his wife, “I bet I know what you were thinking. I bet you’re thinking you’re glad you married me, Fortune 500 CEO, and not a gas station attendant.”
His wife said, “No, actually, I was thinking if I married him instead of you, he’d be a Fortune 500 CEO and you’d be a gas station attendant.” ||
This is kind of human nature for us. The farther we go down any particular road, we don’t want to think that part of who we are is because of someone else. We want the credit.
So little by little by little, grace just gets choked out of those who are saved by grace. ||
So I want to talk about how we can prevent that from happening. ||
But before we do, I have one warning, and it’s a real serious warning. We need to talk about how we live in grace without abusing it.
How do we make sure in the church that we don’t make God’s grace, a license for sin? Because this happens sometimes.
This is often warned about in Scripture. Jude 1:4 says: >>>>>
For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality. Jude 1:4
> People say, “Well, there’s grace, so it really doesn’t matter what I do.” ||
Well, the main point here, I believe, is to understand real clearly what grace is and what it is not.
Grace is not a promise that God will give people whatever they want. Grace does not mean that God is soft.
If you think about the story of the prodigal son — when the prodigal son came to his senses he went to his father, fell on his knees, repented.
Then the father raised him up, forgave him, put the robe, ring and sandals on him, killed the fatted calf — that was grace.
When the prodigal son was far from home, he was distracted from his distance from the father. He didn’t think much about the fact that he was far away from his father because he had money, and he had friends, and he engaged in what Jesus called “self-indulgent living.”
But then something happened. And that something was one day he woke up and his money was gone, and his so-called friends had deserted him, and a famine hit the land. Then he lived in filth eating slop that was fed to the pigs. And that something that happened drove him to his knees, and it brought him to his senses, and it was pretty painful. And that something was grace. ||
Do you know the words to Amazing Grace — Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, ||
Think about that for a moment. It was grace that taught my heart to fear.
Imagine someone who lies, cheats, lusts, betrays friends, and does it all in the spirit of defiance and mockery.
Then one day that person looks in the mirror and gets his first glimpse of the horror that he has become and trembles at his capacity for evil.
That conviction, that trembling pain is the beginning of salvation. That’s grace teaching a human heart to fear.
Then the song says — and grace my fears relieved. ||
There’s another version of this story of the prodigal son that Jesus doesn’t tell. He doesn’t tell it like this: He doesn’t say, “The father tracked down his prodigal son while he was far off and while the son was still spending money and living self-indulgently.”
The father doesn’t go to the son and say, “Please, son, take this robe and put this ring on, have the fatted calf at one of your parties.”
No, first things first, the son must want to come home — not because he has to earn the father’s grace — but because grace is simply that which will help someone come home to the father.
Grace is simply that which helps someone come home to the father.
So if you don’t want to come home to the father, you don’t really want grace. ||
I knew a guy who was cheating on his wife. He had been in the church for a long time. He just decided, he just said this straight out, “I’m going to do this. It maybe wrong, but God has to give me grace.”
Let me tell you — grace is exactly what this guy did not want.
What he didn’t want was to come to his senses and repent, which is what grace would have brought him to do.
He just wanted pain avoidance.
Grace is not pain avoidance. It’s something much better and richer and deeper than that. It’s what brings children home to the father. ||
So I want to ask you to do an honest assessment today because there’s a kind of grace abuse going on in a lot of people these days.
People in the misunderstood name of grace sometimes:
Let anger fly with no regard for consequences.
Allow sinful habits to continue with no accountability.
Let relational patterns that are destructive continue.
Refuse to live as a steward with the time and the money God has given them.
We do all these things with the misguided notion that grace means we have God waiting to help us… because we’ve clearly taken advantage of the gospel.
That’s not God, that’s not sin or the gospel understood rightly. ||
For some of us, if we’ve been involved in this kind of misunderstanding or abuse of grace, I don’t know how else to say it, but you need to stop… now. Make the resolve, whatever you need to do.
If you need to make a phone call, if you need to put an end to something, if you need to confess to another person, if you need to spend some time in prayer with God, just make the resolve now that you’re going to do it today. You’re going to come home to the father. ||
Okay, now in the moments that remain: How do we live in grace? Having been saved by it, how do we live in it?
And maybe something that will help those of you who are visual people, is just write the word “grace” — just the word grace — and put it someplace where you need to be reminded of grace.
Maybe on the mirror in the bathroom, just that word grace. When you see it, you’re reminded of your need for grace.
Maybe in your purse, in your wallet. Ask for grace in your financial life.
Maybe on your computer.
Maybe on your calendar so that you live the whole day in it. ||
Another thing you can do to stay real close to grace is, stay close to grace-providing people. You need some people, and so do I, who accept you and welcome you and just love you no matter what. They’re like grace providers.
You need them because you have other kinds of people in your life who are like grace-impaired people and they judge you and compare themselves to you.
Do you have grace-providing people in your life?
If you do, let them know what they mean to you. Spend time with them. Let them see more and more of you so that you can receive more and more grace through them.
If you don’t have someone like that, pray and ask God to send them to you. ||
Alright, last thing, and I hope so much that this becomes like a burning fire inside of us because this is what we’re about. It’s why we started this church.
Get around people who need grace and extend it to them.
There are so many people who desperately need to receive forgiveness and grace and experience freedom from all kinds of sins and struggles in life. Get around people who are not Christians, people who don’t know God, people who don’t attend church.
Get real close to sinful, messed-up people who need grace and extend it to them and love them and share your life and your heart and your faith with them. ||
This is what Jesus loved to do most, to extend grace to people — especially people who knew they didn’t deserve it — and it got him into trouble all the time. ||
You know, there is nothing like extending grace to a human being that desperately needs it, seeing someone who is filled with fear find hope, someone who is dying come alive. Who is that for you? ||
Someone in your little world is just waiting for you to extend grace to them.
Someone in your neighborhood is just waiting for you to say something.
Someone from work is just waiting for one significant spiritual conversation.
Someone is feeling like an outsider, is dead in guilt and sin, is just one relationship away from finding grace.
You have the one thing in this world to offer people that they can’t get anywhere else — it’s grace. ||
Alright, let’s pray and then Michaela is going to lead us in a song that has the lyrics that probably more people in the world know and cherish than any other lyrics.