Why can’t we fully experience God’s grace? Because we make our sin and failure a bigger deal than God’s grace. And until we make God’s grace a bigger deal than our sin and failure, we will struggle to fully experience God’s grace. This is important because experiencing God’s grace is the foundation to being redeemed and forgiven. That was Sam’s point last week and it was so well done.
Let’s get practical. There are basically two parts to Christianity. Part 1: I would call, ‘God’s grace.’ This part is about God sending Jesus to die for our sins. If we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, scripture says, He will transform us spiritually. Part 2: I would call, ‘Your will.’ This part is about us submitting our will to God’s will. It’s about us responding to Jesus by making choices to stop sinning.
Let’s read about it in Colossians. Scripture explains Part 1: ‘God’s grace.’
3 Since you were raised from the dead with Christ, aim at what is in heaven, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Think only about the things in heaven, not the things on earth. 3 Your old sinful self has died, and your new life is kept with Christ in God. 4 Christ is your life, and when he comes again, you will share in his glory. NCV Colossians 3:3-10
That is Part 1: God’s grace. We have a new life with Christ. Your sinful life is dead and you are spiritually alive. That’s what Sam talked about last week. Remember what Sam said? He said grace leads us to new life. Why do we struggle to experience new life of joy and courage? Because we make a bigger deal about our sins and failures than God’s grace. We become our own worst enemy. We look in the mirror and see our junk but God doesn’t see our junk. God looks at us and sees the righteousness of Jesus in us.
That’s why Sam shared Paul’s prayer for us.
I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. NIV Ephesians 3:16-19
Did you see that? Paul prayed that we would have power from God to be able to grasp the love of Christ. Why would he pray that? Because God’s grace is unbelievable. I have sat across the table from grown men, who with tears in their eyes, tell me, “Ken, I wish I could believe that God loves and accepts all of me.” God’s grace is like nothing we have ever experienced in our relationships so it can be hard to fully grasp.
Let’s keep reading in Colossians. We just read about Part 1: ‘God’s grace.’ Now let’s read about Part 2: ‘Your will.’ Ready, next verse.
5 So put all evil things out of your life: sexual sinning, doing evil, letting evil thoughts control you, wanting things that are evil, and greed. This is really serving a false god. 6 These things make God angry. 7 In your past, evil life you also did these things. 8 But now also put these things out of your life: anger, bad temper, doing or saying things to hurt others, and using evil words when you talk. 9 Do not lie to each other. You have left your old sinful life and the things you did before. 10 You have begun to live the new life, in which you are being made new and are becoming like the One who made you. NCV Colossians 3:3-10
Do you see it? Because of God’s grace, you have something to do. Colossians tells us ‘…put all evil things out of your life…’ That means you and I need to make a decision of our will to make changes. Because Jesus broke the power of sin over our lives, we have the power from God to make changes. Those are the two basic parts of Christianity, ‘God’s grace’ and ‘Our will.’
These two parts explain so much about people who call themselves Christians. For example, have you met someone who goes to church? They get involved with church things and they talk about God’s love? However, when you are around this person it can be confusing because they seem to live lives that are a mess. Maybe no boundaries. Maybe relationship drama. Maybe harmful habits they had before they met Jesus are still there. You might think someone who attends church might have it more together, but they don’t. What is happening? Simple. They probably focus more on Part 1: ‘God’s grace,’ and chances are they aren’t aggressively dealing with Part 2: ‘Our will.’
The opposite example. Have you ever met someone who goes to church and they have a great deal of knowledge about God, knowledge about the Bible and how Church is supposed to act? And when you are around this person, they can make you feel like less of a Christian because they seem to have it together and you don’t. They seem to know the rules, live out the rules and are comfortable letting you know you aren’t living up to the rules. You would think someone who attends church would make you feel better but they don’t, they seem very critical. What is happening? Simple. They probably focus on Part 2: ‘Our will.’ They tend to focus on the rules and knowledge more than grace and relationship. Chances are they aren’t aggressively dealing with Part 1: ‘God’s grace.’
Do you see how important both parts are? One part without the other part makes Christianity wonky. That is exactly what Paul was saying in Colossians. You need both parts. Today, I continue to talk about Part 1: ‘God’s grace.’ Why do we spend so much time talking and reading scripture about God’s grace? Because it is by far the most important and most misunderstand part of Christianity.
Let’s start with this. God’s grace is God’s power that transforms us. That’s why Jesus said:
Take care to live in me, and let me live in you. For a branch can’t produce fruit when severed from the vine. Nor can you be fruitful apart from me. TLB John 15:4
Our connection to Jesus is the foundation to us following Christ. Our connection with Jesus gives us grace, God’s power to transform us. As dependent as fruit is to the vine for nutrients, is as dependent we are to Jesus for grace.
Now prepare yourself for what I’m about to say. Please understand I am not trying to be edgy or punchy. I want to address a serious subject. I am comfortable saying, in general, many Christians who attend church don’t fully grasp God’s grace and they aren’t being transformed by it. That doesn’t make us bad people, it shows us how desperate we are for God’s grace. It shows why Paul prayed for us to be able to grasp God’s grace. And I think it shows us that it takes a conscious effort to engage God.
What often times happens is Christians experience grace and move on. It’s like we check off the, ‘experience God’s grace’ box and move on. We get busy, we pay bills, watch our kids grow up and our grace moment with God is in our rear-view mirror. The moment we had with God is now years ago.
The problem we have is, grace, God’s transformational power, has slowly leaked out and we are now running on fumes. Did you know that? Grace leaks. It’s like we were connected with Jesus at one time, then over the years we slowly have become disconnected. With less and less grace, we have less and less transformational power. With less power, we are running on fumes. We get tired, real tired. We try to muscle through life on our own strength. To find that joy we used to have with Jesus, we can get busy doing Christian activity [which isn’t bad]. We look for more Christian knowledge [which can be helpful]. However, the one thing we need is to be connected again to Jesus and it’s the one thing we don’t do.
Isaiah the prophet talked about this:
God, the Master, The Holy of Israel, has this solemn counsel: “Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me – The very thing you’ve been unwilling to do.” MSG Isaiah 30:15
When disconnected from Jesus, when we are running on fumes, we can settle to live out what we think are the religious expectations to be good people. We go through the motions. We go to church, we volunteer, we set up, we mow the lawn. When we get tired, we can begin to think that Christianity isn’t working. When we feel fear, stress, anxiety and guilt, we assume we are doing something wrong. As we rush through life at speeds we can’t sustain, we tend to look in the mirror and see our sin and failures and conclude we will never add up.
Stop and think about this. Imagine, Jesus was crucified and resurrected to be in a personal relationship with us. Do you remember the story? The moment Jesus died the temple curtain ripped in two. That was symbolic. The curtain was extremely thick, and it ripped into two to show us, God is no longer contained in one room, God now lives in us.
Jesus was beaten, whipped and humiliated because he took on our punishment. He did all this to offer you the gift of grace. Believe in Jesus and there is no punishment for your sin, that’s grace. Believe in Jesus and have your sins washed away, that’s grace. Believe in Jesus and be filled with the righteousness of God, that’s grace. Believe in Jesus and be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, that’s grace. Put all that together and we should have this shocking and unapologetic courage to walk through life.
Please hear me. God’s grace is God’s power to transform us. We must be connected to Jesus. We can never settle to be disconnected from Jesus to live out religious expectations and go through the motions. I believe the problem we have today is, too few Christians are fully experiencing and being transformed by God’s grace. Too few are walking in an unapologetic God courage.
Please don’t allow your God experience to be in your rearview mirror. Don’t allow that experience to become a history lesson. You need God’s grace today as much, if not more, than the first time you met Him.
I want us to think through a couple things. Real quickly, remember, we are talking about Part 1: ‘God’s grace.’ We will be talking about Part 2: ‘Our will’ later. But for today, if God’s grace is God’s power to transform us, that means a couple of things.
First, do you watch the news? There is an evil in our world that is growing. As it grows, people are losing their ability to love. What does our world, our country, our town need? God’s grace. God’s transformational power. Where does it start? With you. What your family needs, what your church needs, what your friends need, is for you to be transformed by God’s power. That’s where it starts. You need to daily be reminded who you are and what God as done for you and walk in that.
Secondly, imagine if church was about God’s grace and His transformational power. When people visit and are searching for hope, we need to be ready. So, what has church become to you? I remember when we started MRC Dillsburg and everyone was ready to set up with passion because someone might visit. Through the years, that passion, if we aren’t careful, is replaced with not caring about visitors looking for hope. We just want a Sunday off, a Sunday to not deal with life. Don’t get me wrong, days off are necessary. I am talking about the privilege it is to introduce people to God’s grace.
Can I share something with you that seems offensive at first but is actually the most loving and caring thing I could share? What if church wasn’t about us? What if it was about us taking our eyes off of ourselves, our comfort, our likes and dislikes and focused on others? The reason I say this is simple. If God’s grace is God’s power to transform us, wouldn’t it be logical to build churches that focused on people experiencing that? Maybe great Sundays aren’t about us and what we get out of church. Maybe the greatest Sundays are the Sundays when you show up, worship and make someone else feel like they have a friend.
Lastly, the greatest thing you could do in your Christianity, is be a friend with no strings attached and share that grace with someone who doesn’t know about it. Maybe Christianity and church isn’t about who you know, how big it grows, how many programs we have, a leadership title, how much knowledge we have and keeping busy with Christian activity. Maybe the Christian life is as simple as Jesus explained it and we make it more complicated. Jesus said,
Do to others as you would have them do to you. NIV Luke 6:31
God’s grace is God’s power that transforms us. If we have been transformed by God’s grace, it changes how we live. It changes how we view church. It changes what we think is important.
Let’s close with a few questions. When was the last time you have been impacted by God’s grace? When was the last time grace brought tears to your eyes? When was the last time grace brought you to church early to pray for visitors? When was the last time grace impacted you so much you had to tell a friend about it? When was the last time grace washed your guilt and fear and stress away? When was the last time grace lead you to forgive or stop an ongoing sin? When was the last time grace reminded you that you are a daughter or son of God?