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December 22, 2019, 11:03 PM

The Message of Christmas: Love


What if Beauty had never come?

 

Go ahead, let your mind remember the story. He was cursed because of his bad choices. Doomed to a lifestyle of darkness and loneliness. No hope of fixing his problem himself. Secluded in his castle, he was left alone. Hairy and defiant.

 

But it all changed when she came.

 

What if she did not? What if she didn’t come? What if she didn’t care? She, so beautiful and stunning. He, so disgusting and angry. Yet she came and it changed everything.

 

Hers is the story of our redemption. Doomed to a life of sin and pain we had no hope of our own. But then our beautiful Savior came. He stepped into the brokenness. He walked into the darkness and changed everything.


He chose to come among us. He determined to walk in the filthy, sin sick world and it changed everything. He who had lived on a throne came to rest on a manger. He who had a royal court surrounded by angels, was serenaded by cattle and sheep.

 

Jesus. He came to be Jesus. A common name in a common world. And it changed everything.

 

He was the ultimate bridge builder. Society has tried to build bridges to God. We attempted to fix the human problem. But, we cannot. Our efforts merely filthy rags. We simply cannot build a bridge to reach God.


But Jesus came to build a bridge to God. He reached across time by coming into our world. He lived among us so He could save us. Beauty came into our world and it changed everything.

 

He did it for a simple reason. He loved us.

 

What does this word “love” mean? A short answer is also incredibly deep. God! God is love. It is who He is and what He does. The words used in Greek are incredibly rich in meaning. The verb agapao includes multiple meaning. One of them is a love that does not demand a response. He doesn’t love us with a love that expects anything in exchange.

 

The Noun Agape speaks of affection, benevolent, unselfish, and sacrificial love. Benevolent love is a love that acts on behalf of someone else. Sacrificial love gives itself for another. This is the love God gives us through the birth of His Son, our Savior.

 

God’s word is replete with verses powerfully proclaiming the love God has for us. Several deserve our attention. Consider these promises:

 

  • He promises to love with an EVERLASTING love. (Jer 31:3)

“I have loved you with an everlasting love”

 

God has ALWAYS loved you. ALWAYS. He planned for your salvation by sending His Son. Every detail of the plan was laid out in advance including where He would be born was known in advance. Beauty has loved every beast forever and always will.

 

  • Nothing can SEPARATE us from His love (Rom. 8:37-39)

“But in all these things we have full victory through God who showed his love for us. Yes, I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor ruling spirits, nothing now, nothing in the future, no powers, nothing above us, nothing below us, nor anything else in the whole world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

Nothing can separate you from the love of God. NOTHING. Not anything in this life. No power. There is absolutely nothing that could cause God to stop loving you. You did not cause God to start loving you and you cannot do anything that would make Him stop. That love is secure.

 

  • You can RELAX in His love (Zephaniah 3:17)

The Lord your God is with you; the mighty One will save you. He will rejoice over you. You will rest in his love; he will sing and be joyful about you. (Zeph. 3:17)

 

Would you read that verse over again? How does He respond to you? He sings over you in joy. God Himself sings over you. He is filled with joy and surrounds you with love.

 

How do you respond to that love of God? You rest. You will be able to relax knowing that His love is all around you. No straining to be good enough. No trying to measure up. He loves you because He chose you. He chooses you now. He chooses you tomorrow. He will NEVER stop. Trust Him in that. Breathe.

 

  • How can you know His love is secure? See it demonstrated primarily in JESUS. (1 John 4:9-10)
  1. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

 

Jesus redefined love. Love is defined by Jesus giving Himself as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. The basic facts of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection are either the most awesome truths ever revealed or else they are the most outrageous pack of lies ever uttered.

 

Nothing prompted His love. He chose you. The coming of Jesus celebrated this season proves the love of Jesus. It is impossible to conceive of any greater gift. It is unspeakable. Our Emmanuel is Beauty and He chose to love you.

 

All of this was no accident. God sent Jesus on our behalf. “Sent” is a perfect tense word. That means that the world is continuous. He was sent. He is still sent. The coming of Jesus into broken humanity is still truth. Beauty came to humanity then. He comes today.

 

One last thought from this passage. At the center of the story of Jesus coming, even in the manger scene we should put the cross. It is the forefront of our faith.

 

Observe the story of the birth from God’s perspective and you see the cross in the middle of the plan. I propose we start a movement. Amid every manager scent put a cross.

 

Jesus paid the price to provide forgiveness and eternal life for lost sinners, even though they don’t deserve it. God’s love was sent to make eternal life possible. Beauty took the initiative and came to you.

 

  • Christ’s love is shown for us in CHRIST’S DEATH (Romans 5:6, 8).

“When we were unable to help ourselves, at the moment of our need, Christ died for us, although we were living against God.… God shows
his great love for us in this way: Christ died for us while we were still sinners.”

 

At the critical moment of human history God determined that the only way to reach us was to sacrifice His son. Love demanded that sacrifice and God gave it. God said, “look at this, I love you. See! I will show you what love is. I am giving you my Son.”

 

Respond to the message of love today. It is simple really. You either accept that love or you reject it. There is no middle ground. How do you respond to it? Say a prayer like this:

 

Dear Jesus. I see today that you loved me with a love beyond my understanding. You have always loved me. I know that I could not build a bridge to you, but I believe you came to me. I have sinned and I cannot fix it. I believe that you died for me and rose from the dead. I accept your love and ask you to come into my life now.

 

If you have prayed that prayer today, please reach out to me and let me know of your decision. I would treasure the opportunity to celebrate with you.

 

If you previously have a relationship with Jesus, you can rest in His love. Let God love all over you today. Extend His love to others. Love them so they can see His love in you. Beauty came to you. If you know Him help introduce Him to others.




December 15, 2019, 9:38 PM

The Message of Christmas: Joy


Chippie the parakeet never saw it coming. One second he was peacefully perched in his cage. The next he was sucked in, washed up, and blown over.

 

The problems began when Chippie’s owner decided to clean Chippie’s cage with a vacuum cleaner. She removed the attachment from the end of the hose and stuck it in the cage. The phone rang, and she turned to pick it up. She’d barely said “hello” when “sssopp!” Chippie got sucked in.

 

The bird owner gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum, and opened the bag. There was Chippie—still alive but stunned.

 

Since the bird was covered with dust and soot, she grabbed him and raced to the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and held Chippie under the running water.

 

Then, realizing that Chippie was soaked and shivering, she did what any compassionate bird owner would do … she reached for the hair dryer and blasted the pet with hot air.

 

Poor Chippie never knew what hit him.

 

A few days after the trauma, the reporter who’d initially written about the event contacted Chippie’s owner to see how the bird was recovering. “Well,” she replied, “Chippie doesn’t sing much anymore—he just sits and stares.”

It’s hard not to see why. Sucked in, washed up, and blown over … that’s enough to steal the song from the stoutest heart.

 

We can all relate to Chippie. We are cruising along and then sssoooppp. We are sucked in, washed up and blown over.

 

This season of joy is one of the most difficult for some people. Seasonal depression is a real thing. Pain is amplified by the happiness demanded by the season. The loss of our loved ones is especially painful.

 

The good news is that God is speaking today extending to you a message of joy. It is a message that resonates throughout the Scripture, containing both a command and a promise.

 

The word for joy in the New Testament is “chara.” It speaks of a positive attitude or pleasant emotion. It is distinguished from happiness. Happiness is related to the feelings driven by an experience in our lives. Joy is a state of being. Joy calms our heart. It arises from our response no matter the circumstances.

 

Joy is a common theme throughout the Bible. I’ve picked out only two references from the Old Testament and three from the birth narrative in Luke’s gospel. There are many, many more I could mention.

Psalm 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. 3 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. 4 One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. 5 For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. 6 Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.

 

Notice first thing the Psalm outlines. Verses 1-3 tell us what joy does. It causes us to be unafraid. God’s presence allows us to stand victoriously over the forces standing against us.

 

How do we stand victorious? Verse four give us three clues.

  • Dwell. We are blessed to know that we don’t have to ask God to allow us to dwell in His presence. Because of the work of Jesus’ whose birth we celebrate, we are assured that we will always be in God’s presence. Wherever we are, whatever is happening around us we are assured that we are in God’s presence.
  • Gaze. Embrace the beauty of the Lord. Stare at the love he bestows. Understand and keep your eyes on the wonderful plan he unfolds for us. He planned for you, longing for the day that you would become one of His precious children. Gaze at Him. It dims the struggles of this world.
  • Seek. Seek Him. Look for Him in everything. He is there lifting you out of your Chippie days.

 

What are the results of being filled with joy? Verses 5 and 6 give us three results:

  • God Keeps Us Safely
  • God Lifts Us
  • God Fills Us with Worship

 

David writes often of joy. Psalm 30:5 holds out a great promise.

His anger lasts only a moment, but his kindness lasts for a lifetime. Crying may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

 

What a promise. Notice that the verse does not discount pain we feel. We cry and the psalm says it lasts for a night. BUT JOY COMES in the morning. Joy does come! That is the promise of God.

 

Of all the New Testament verses on joy I call your attention to three from the birth narrative.

 

Luke 1:14 “He will bring you joy and gladness, and many people will be happy because of his birth.”

Before he was born the angel predicted that Jesus birth would bring joy to people.

 

Luke 1:44 “When I heard your voice, the baby inside me jumped with joy.”

As we know Mary accepted the divine assignment and began the arduous process of carrying the baby to be named Jesus. Shortly after that she visited her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with Jesus’ cousin John who is called, “The Baptist.”

 

Elizabeth records that when the preborn John heard the voice of Mary he jumped for joy. What a scene. A quiet, subtle statement about when life begins. John leaped for joy. This reaction will characterize life in the kingdom the one inside of Mary would bring.

 

Luke 2:10 “And the angel said to them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”

 

Fear not. Of course. This is the common greeting when confronted with the spiritual world. People were always terrified for obvious reasons. The first message God always gives is, “Fear not.” This is Scripture’s most common command.

 

The angels also declare good news. world then and the world now needs some great news. This is news available to everyone.

 

He came to give us great joy. Not a small helping of joy. He wants to pour out great joy into your world. Allow Him to bring us that joy.

 

How do we respond to that joy? Allow me to make give statements:

 

  • Joy is COMMANDED (Psalm 47:1, Phil 4:4) It is a DECISION
    • Psalm 47:1 “For the director of music. A psalm of the sons of Korah. Clap your hands, all you people. Shout to God with joy.”
    • Philippians 4:4 “Be full of joy in the Lord always. I will say again, be full of joy.”
  • Jesus wants to give you His joy (John 15:11)

John 15:11 “I have told you these things so that you can have the same joy I have and so that your joy will be the fullest possible joy.”

 

We need to watch out for joy stealers. Because Jesus came to bring us His joy, He wants us to walk in it. If any of these joy stealers are present in your life you can be sure that God does not intend for you to walk in them.

    • Guilt. When our sin is confessed it is gone! He does not remember it anymore. Romans 8:1 says that there is NO condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.
    • Fear. Fear robs us of joy. We do not need to live in fear because we have our eyes on Him.
    • Anger. We cannot live in anger and have joy at the same time. Anger clouds our eyes and keeps us from seeing God.
    • Discontent. Lift your eyes to the Lord and he give you joy. We realize that the things in our lives are from here.
    • Despair. We give up because we have taken our eyes of the all-sufficient God.
    • Suffering. Suffering robs us of joy when we take our eyes off Him. Be reminded that you are His and He sees you seated with Him in heaven.
  • Joy comes in the EVERYDAY. Catch a glimpse of Him. See every detail as full of God’s goodness. He will fill you with joy.
  • Joy comes in the great times but also in the DIFFICULT SEASONS. He gives you one last promise that He will get you through the difficult season and take you into His kingdom. “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:18).
  • Joy modeled in HEAVEN. (Luke 15:10) Look at ETERNITY

Scripture tells us only one thing that causes heaven to rejoice. That is when a sinner finds their way to God. Luke 15:10 “In the same way, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God when one sinner changes his heart and life.”

 

Put your eyes on the heavenly realm and you will have joy. If Heaven rejoices over a lost soul being saved so should we. If wayward believers returning to Him causes a heavenly party, it should cause us to rejoice to. Considering the spiritual world will fill us with joy. Put your eyes there.




December 8, 2019, 8:54 PM

The Message of Christmas: Peace


THE MESSAGE OF CHRISTMAS: PEACE

Trouble comes in this world. Travel from outside ourselves and from within. We are attacked by those around us, a cascade of problems comes unexpectedly. People around us attack without provocation. That doesn’t even count the irritants of a broken world.

 

More insidious than the attacks from without are the attacks from within. Our minds convince us that because of past failures we’ll never measure up. Our flaws stand out while are strengths are buried deep in our minds.

 

Calm turns into chaos quickly. Like a raging volcano spewing its molten ash we find our lives covered in the soot of an angry, out of control world. Into the madness comes the message of Christmas: Peace!

 

I pray for all who hear these words. May you know the peace of God. May He calm your spirit with the message of this season, speaking calm into the chaos. He is whispering tranquility into the tragedy.

 

The Biblical words for peace are so meaningful they demand attention. The Hebrew word is still heard today, “Shalom.” It was the favorite greeting carried even into the New Testament. It is found at the beginning or end of each NT letters except James and 1 John.

 

The New Testament, Greek, word is Eirene. From that word we get the word serene. Peace is the presence of serenity. It is NOT the absence of trials, but the comfort of God.

Together the words mean uninjured, safe, whole, and sound. It includes the concept of completeness. We are sound and whole.

 

We need peace because we live in a troubled world.

Jesus said as much when He gathered the disciples in that upper room before His crucifixion. He warned them that the world would hate them. He didn’t say if but that in this world we would have tribulation. (See John 14-16)

 

Expecting this world to be our friend is more than merely unrealistic. It is the opposite of what Jesus taught us.

 

Despite the presence of struggle, we can have peace. Jesus said he would give us his peace. His peace is so different from that which is offered by the world. It is unbound by the situation. It is a peace inside our hearts that expels our fears, strengthens our hearts and changes our outlooks.

 

We have peace because of who Jesus is.

We have peace because Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

Isaiah predicts the titles of the Messiah in the well-known passage

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 emphasis mine)

 

Peace is one of His titles. He is bound by His name to bring peace into our lives. In the Old Testament His name is “Yahweh Shalom,” God our healer. Jesus bears the name peace in His title.

 

The problem is that there Their peace was conditional. They had peace so long as they maintained a right relationship with the Lord.

 

God brought peace into that troubled situation. Jesus came to change it. Isaiah continues:

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

 

Peace because of what Jesus DID

The first message delivered announcing the arrival of the King was the message of peace. The shepherds heard:

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:14)

 

We have peace through Christ’s blood on the Cross

      • Colossians 1:20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
      • Romans 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

These passages show us that the work of bringing peace with God has been done! It is accomplished once and for all time. He took the initiative to bring peace with God to us.

 

The word of God does not say peace will be made. No! It says we have peace with God now. It doesn’t say we might have peace! God’s word says we have peace, right now! It is accomplished and paid for by Jesus’ work.

 

 

Jesus made peace with the world.

“That God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:19)

 

Take a moment and consider your list. Make a list of all the times you have failed. List all the sins, all the flaws. What would that list look like? Overwhelming? Depressing?

 

Did you see that? The great news of peace. Shalom says that God does not count your sin against you. God reconciled the account. He put His righteousness on the side opposite your sins and declared the sheet paid off.

 

He makes us RIGHT with God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

 

Paul continued the discussion by telling how Jesus made the reconciling possible. He took your list and put it on Jesus, thereby wiping your column out. He took your sin and put it on Jesus. That is how peace is made.

 

Did you also see what happens to your sin? It doesn’t count.

 

My son, Josiah, is currently playing a basketball game on his tablet. It’s a three-inning game. He has an undefeated season going. Today I learned how it has happened. With one out left he was losing the game. So instead of finishing the game he stops it. Game stopped, no entry in the loss column. All the negatives of the game are wiped away.

 

While his method may be questionable, it is a beautiful illustration of the spiritual truth. God wipes out the game, erasing all the negatives. And he does it again and again. He allows for you to have a perfect record!

 

RESPONDING TO THE PROMISE-BECAUSE OF PEACE:

  • Let peace GUARD your heart (Phil 4:7, Colossians 3:15)

“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:7)

Peace stands guard over your heart, protecting you and allowing you to stand even when it does not make sense.

 

  • Let Peace HEAL your relationships (Col 3:13-14)

Christians should live in peace. To live in peace does not mean that suddenly all differences in opinion are eliminated, but it does require that loving Christians work together despite their differences. To live in love leads to peace between individuals and among the members of the body of believers.

 

  • Let Peace CALM your spirit

“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” (Colossians 3:15)

God’s peace will rule in our hearts. It is in control.

 

This season, when the busyness of the world presses all around us may you know peace. May His peace settle on your heart amidst the chaos. Listen to His still small voice. Allow it to calm your spirit and soothe your anxiety. He is there right now.

 

Know His peace today. Receive it. Your alternative is to try to make peace yourself. It won’t work. Accept what He did for you. Say this prayer:

 

Dear Jesus, I need you now. My list is really long. I cannot fix all of it. I believe you died for me moving my sin to your account and your righteousness to mine. I believe that you became sin so that I could be clean. I also believe that you rose from the dead. Please come into my life right now. Take me sin away. I receive your gift.

 

If you prayed that prayer, please know that you have been completely washed by the blood of Jesus. You have been adopted into His family. Please share your decision with me. Blessings on you!




December 1, 2019, 8:12 PM

The Message of Christmas: Hope


This morning my congregation and I embarked on a four-week season of advent. This season concludes on Christmas eve with a celebration of Christ’s arrival. The word advent means “coming” and remembers the hundreds of years the people waited for the coming of the Messiah since the end of the Old Testament prophecies. Indeed, people waited for 4,000 years for the promise to unfold.

 

We will unfold the beautiful news that Jesus has come as we explore four themes: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. These messages echo through time, filling our hearts with good news. Jesus’ coming was the fulfillment of each one of these promises. Jesus fulfilled them in us.

 

Our first message is the Christmas message of Hope.

 

THE CHRISTMAS MESSAGE OF HOPE

Every parent knows the worst phrase of every trip. Say it with me, “ARE WE THERE YET?” It’s a message that we are tired of the waiting. We want to be there already. That heart beats for hope. It still does.

 

Hope is a powerful force in our lives.

 

Consider hope denied. One of the most negative things to say about a person is to say that they are hopeless. To say that is to give up on any chance of redemption. To view a situation as hopeless is to have not prospect of improvement. The word is vastly overused today but still very, very powerful.

 

We also know the pain of hope deferred. This is the belief in hope that is out there in the distant future. We believe change can come but it is so far removed from today. It is difficult to wait for hope out there.

 

The word “hope” is a powerful word. The Greek verb elpizo calls for people to exercise trust and hope. The noun elpis speaks of expectation and confidence. Together the words mean: To trust in, wait for, look for, or desire something or someone; or to expect something beneficial in the future.

 

Scripture is full of the message of hope. It is from cover to cover. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden there were inevitable consequences, but also a promise. God gave hope for deliverance when the Savior would wound the serpent. We will live in that hope.

 

The end of the story contains hope as well. After telling about our home to come John cries with all of us “Maranatha” which means “Come Lord Jesus.” We have hope for the day that Jesus comes for us.

 

From beginning to end hope fills the pages of scripture. Over and over we hear the message. It echoes from each corner of Scripture. The pages are full of hope. For this morning’s message I will mention four verses.

 

 

  • We have a LIVING hope. 1 Peter 1:3

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,”

 

God has given you new birth. It is a birth not into a system of works and self-righteousness. No, our new birth is into a living hope. It is sealed by the power of the resurrection of Jesus.

 

  • The LORD is MINE. Lamentations 3:22-25

“The Lord’s love never ends; his mercies never stop. They are new every morning; Lord, your loyalty is great. I say to myself, “The Lord is mine, so I hope in him. The Lord is good to those who hope in him, to those who seek him.”

 

The Lord gives us mercy every day, filling us with the strength we need for the day because He is ours and we are His. He is ALWAYS good to those who put their hope in Him. He strengthens those who seek Him.


The author continues by saying it is good or us to wait in hope. 3:26it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

 

  • Jesus living in us is the Hope of GLORY. Col 1:27

“To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory”

 

The hope we have is the hope of glory. We are assured of our spot in glory. This mystery is possible in us only because of Christ living in us. He lives in you and lives in me. That is our hope and our assurance of glory to come.

 

  • He Overflows You with Hope-Romans 15:13

“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”

Hope gives us

 

PROMISE-BECAUSE OF HOPE:

  • FAILURE is not ULTIMATE

Yes, you failed. You didn’t measure up to what you were supposed to do. But that failure is not the end of the story. Hope says Jesus is in you and you start over. You can experience forgiveness.

 

  • CIRCUMSTANCES are not PERMANENT

Today may look dark. The struggle is real. But today is not the end of the story. There is another chapter. There is another day, a bright day. Hope looks for God’s tomorrow.

 

  • We can Hope in times of CRISIS

No matter what struggle tomorrow brings there is hope. God is greater than our struggle. Christ in you is enough to face every pain, every difficulty.

 

  • We have ULTIMATE hope for the PROMISE

The hope Jesus came to bring is a hope finding its fulfillment in the day when the clouds break open and the trumpet sounds. We will see Jesus face to face. While this hope is coming, it is not a deferred hope filled with doubt. It is a certainty based on the shed blood of Jesus.




November 24, 2019, 9:34 PM

God is Grace and Mercy


GOD IS: GRACE AND MERCY

 

In January of this year we started a journey together, exploring the names and nature of God. Our goal then and now was to experience God in new ways as we understand Him better. I prayed over you as you studied and listened to these words.

 

Now we climb to the summit and finish our journey with two words that set what we believe about God on the pinnacle. There are doubtless many more sermons and studies we could do, but today we complete our look at God. At least for now we will move forward.

 

I’d like to ask you to answer one simple question. If you could sum up all that we have talked about what one word would you use? If you could summarize God our Father with one word, name it. Law? Faith? Salvation? Love? The choices are myriad.

 

Try this one: GRACE.

 

Boil all of humanity’s beliefs about God and you have two choices. Every religion, every belief system comes down to these two options. Faith either points to God’s response to us based on something we do or based on NOTHING we do.

 

Any system that has even a small percentage of earning God’s favor by our conduct leaves us with a salvation based on works. These thoughts leave us with a God who responds to us based on something or many somethings that we do to earn that favor. Grace is negated by any works built into the system. We minimize mercy when we have any combination of “God loves us or receives us because of my doing ….”

 

If a man is saved in any way based on his own works, then he is not saved at all by grace. The two thoughts are mutually exclusive. The good news is that grace is real. It sets us free. We are released from the endless list of legalistic do’s and don’ts. We are redeemed from the worry of being good enough. The shackles of works drop as we understand grace and mercy.

 

Two interrelated words wrap up our study. Grace and Mercy are powerful truths that describe God. These are not mere characteristics of God. God IS grace and mercy. Examine each term with me.

 

GRACE

Definitions for grace vary greatly but contains important words. Grace is an outrageous blessing that is unmerited. It involves no compensation on our part because it is a free bestowal.

 

The Greek word for grace is Charis. One author defined it this way, “Grace is an outrageous blessing bestowed freely on a totally undeserving recipient.”[1] It is something totally undeserved and is always free. You can not earn it and you could NEVER pay it back.

 

Examine a few scriptures about grace.

  • God’s overwhelming message is GRACE. (Ex 34:6)

“And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness”

  • He wants to POUR grace on you. (Ephesians 1:5-8)

“He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will- 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.”

 

He chose you as a recipient of His grace. He picked you from before time began. He doesn’t give you a little bit of grace. He wants to lavish, or pour out, His grace on you. He loves you and longs to show it to you.

 

  • SALVATION can only come because of grace (Ephesians 2:8-9)

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.”

 

  • His grace is enough for every weakness (2 Cor 12:9)

“But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.”

 

Paul struggled with his thorn in the flesh, crying out to God for relief. Each of three requests for the thorn to be removed was met with a firm “no.” Instead Jesus said that His grace would be enough. His grace is always enough, no matter what struggle we face.

 

  • Grace is ETERNAL (2 Timothy 1:9)

“Who has saved us and called us to a holy life-not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.”

 

When did God start planning for you to receive grace? BEFORE the beginning of time. Grace started at the very beginning and will continue through the end.

 

Grace is THE central characteristics of God. He has always responded with. Consider the alternative-having to work and earn salvation. Grace stands in complete opposition to working to please God. You don’t have to earn God’s favor. He has given it to you freely.

 

MERCY

Mercy is God’s response to man’s hurt. It is always motivated by compassion. It is His reaction to the offender. God is tender hearted, showing compassion to the miserable needy people. He chooses not to bring fallen people what they deserve.

 

Mercy presupposes that man is a sinner, in need of a Savior. Mercy is his tenderhearted, loving compassion for fallen creatures. His response to us is driven by mercy, always.

 

Jesus modeled this tenderness of heart. “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)

 

This attribute assumes the need on the part of him who receives it. His resources are adequate to meet the need on the part of him who shows it.

 

Mercy differs slightly from grace. Grace is not getting what we do deserve, and mercy is getting what we do not deserve. In grace God forgives us our sin, and in His mercy, He gives us eternal life. (Titus 3:5)

 

  • Mercy refuses punishment (Nehemiah 9:31)

“But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.”

 

  • He DELIGHTS to show mercy (Micah 7:18)

“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.”

 

  • He is RICH in mercy (Ephesians 2:4-5)

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved.”

 

  • He SAVES through mercy (Titus 3:5)

“He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit”

 

Mercy comes at a high cost! The holiness of God demands satisfaction and sin demands judgment. On the cross God literally reached down and paid the price for my sins and your sins. He doesn’t give us what we deserve. If he gave us what we deserve we would be end in hell.

 

THREE WAYS OF WALKING IN GOD’S GRACE AND MERCY

  • I will accept God’s gracious offer of SALVATION

You are free from walking the tightrope of fear of death and punishment. Step into the realm of His outrageous love. You can only be saved by His grace. Accept His offer of grace.

Would you rather accept grace or continue to try to earn salvation? Say this prayer now,

 

“God, I hear your message of outrageous grace. I admit that I have a great need for you. I have sinned so often and cannot fix it. I believe that in mercy, you, Jesus, died for me and rose from the dead. I accept your message of grace and ask you to live in my life right now.”

 

In God’s eternal plan you have read these words. If you said that prayer you have just been washed in His abundant grace. I rejoice with you now, celebrating God’s work. Please reach out to me and share your decision. I will celebrate with the angels in heaven as God has welcomed you into His family.

 

  • I will stand in the continuous BLESSING of grace and mercy. (Mercy gives us HOPE and keeps us HUMBLE).

God not only gave you grace when you accepted His gift of salvation, but He gives grace for the daily struggles of life. Grace is the soothing balm that gives comfort to the downtrodden.

 

Grace and mercy are for the broken, for the criminals, for those who are spiritually bankrupt. Once we realize that we need them, He provides all the grace and mercy we need. We experience God as He showers us with these traits that reflect His character.

 

Grace and mercy keep us humble. As we realize all we have is a product of both grace and mercy we cannot possible live in pride. A deep awareness of our great need and God’s provision make pride impossible.

 

  • I will extend grace and mercy to those around me.

The grace of God is the answer to our spiritual struggles. The world around us crying for that same grace. You can offer them the same grace you have received. You can show the same mercy you are desperate for. Spend less time criticizing and more showing grace. Operate in the realm of freedom.

 

[1] Hybels, 113.


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