OK team, it’s time for a pre-practice review. We have been talking about having true peace in our lives which demonstrates that we are having victory in Christ. I believe that it is impossible to gain that peace until we can truly understand God’s amazing grace. Grace and peace are divinely linked together. The apostle Paul understood that, which is why he so often started his letters with the greeting” Grace and Peace to You”. The order is not by accident. Grace leads to peace. Without grace you cannot have true peace. So, let’s get started in our study of this great doctrine and then see how this plays out in our daily lives.
When you hear the word grace, what is your first thought? I imagine for most believers, the immediate connection would be to our salvation. Though there are many more applications of grace in our lives, it is absolutely imperative to grasp the fullness of God’s grace in our salvation. “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”(Eph 2:8) The word used for grace here is charis in Greek. It has several uses in the new testament (as we will examine later). It is described in this verse as a” gift”. Webster’s dictionary defines the English word as “divine unmerited favor leading to regeneration” Wow, what a perfect description! So right now you might be saying, “I already know this. It is basic Christianity”. Well, right you are. But do we live our lives in a way that demonstrates that we really believe and understand the magnitude of this grace? If not, why not?
Growing up, I loved playing sports and had a slightly competitive nature. OK, a pretty competitive nature. Alright already, I was extremely competitive! I hated to lose. I know, hard to believe, huh? (You are welcome to psychoanalyze me at this point if you want. Let me know if you figure it out) The drive to be the best I could be at each sport, made me want to work hard at them. Then as I got older and competed at higher levels, the coaches pushed that drive even further. I learned that the only way to succeed at what I wanted to do was to earn that success with hard work. This philosophy carried over into the other areas of my life. I am sure most of you can relate to this. In our democratic, capitalistic country, the principle of working hard to be successful is very important. We rightly encourage people to work hard to earn a diploma, earn a living, earn a good reputation. It is ingrained in us to earn what we get. All of a sudden we are told that salvation, our redemption from sin and our standing with the God of the Universe is a free gift? How can this be? If something is worth having, shouldn't I have to earn it like everything else. Why would God offer this as a gift instead of making us earn it? This can be difficult to accept. We tend to feel better about earning what we get. We want there to be something in us that says,” there must be something I can do that would make God want to save me”. Hit a nerve yet?
For me, this was a very difficult concept to accept as a young Christian. Even after I accepted Christ, I was continually trying to do something that would make me more acceptable to Him. This desire to earn brownie points with God makes it very hard to have peace. Do something wrong, maybe God is mad at me. Do something good, it is probably not good enough. Ever feel like that? I know many people have lived their whole lives this way and are still trying to earn their way to God. They may even go to a church that teaches a doctrine of earning salvation through good works. The problem is that it goes against the entire point of the Gospel . The Gospel (meaning Good News) is clear. There is nothing we can possibly do to earn salvation. We do not have the ability to save ourselves. Our sinful nature prevents us from reconciling ourselves to God. This is the realization that we all must come to in order to have God’s peace. Once we finally acknowledge our complete inability to make God love us any more than He already does, we can begin to experience the” peace that passes all understanding”. We have only one part to play in this relationship. We must accept God’s free gift of grace. Romans 3:24 says we are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ. Amen! If you sense that you have never really received this gift of grace and have been trying to earn God's favor, just take a few moments to pray and ask God's help in bringing you to that place of full surrender to Him. Thank Him for His love and grace. Ask Him show you how to live in the fullness of His never failing love. Then watch what He does in your life!
Game Plan: There are 123 references to grace in the New Testament. Before the next post, look up at least 20 of them. I promise this will help you as we begin to discuss the practical ways we appropriate God’s grace in our daily life.
Until next time, may you be filled with the joy of the Lord