Last week, Sam shared the seven ways we can mess up grace. It was such a helpful and redemptive talk. The reason I liked it so much, Sam gave us handles on how to keep grace simple. People and religion tend to make grace a lot more complicated than it really is. Do you remember how Sam did it? He asked us to describe our Christian faith in a sentence or a word. And he said, if our response isn’t about Jesus, a blood-stained cross, and an empty tomb, chances are, we are overcomplicating grace. How redemptive is that? Christianity simply is not about you, your sin, your failures, your successes, your knowledge or your accomplishments. Christianity is about God and what He has done for you.
Paul put it like this in scripture:
2 Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by trying to keep the Jewish laws? Of course not, for the Holy Spirit came upon you only after you heard about Christ and trusted him to save you. 3 Then have you gone completely crazy? For if trying to obey the Jewish laws never gave you spiritual life in the first place, why do you think that trying to obey them now will make you stronger Christians? TLB Galatians 3:2-3
I love how the last question is written in the Message Version.
If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? MSG Galatians 3:3b
Grace is about God and what He has done for you. It simply isn’t about you, your sin and your attempts to be a perfect person. I don’t know about you, but when I hear that, it brings me relief. Here is why. If grace was up to me and how I performed, I promise you, I would mess it up by lunch. It brings me relief to know, it’s about God; it’s on Him. And that is what Sam was doing last week. Helping us see how simple it is.
Today I want to remind you who you are because of what Jesus has done for you. Let’s start with what scripture says about anyone who believes in Jesus. To do this, I want to share three scriptures with you.
Now we are no longer slaves but God’s own sons. And since we are his sons, everything he has belongs to us, for that is the way God planned. TLB Galatians 4:7
That makes us children of God.
To all who received him, he gave the right to become children of God. All they needed to do was to trust him to save them. TLB John 1:12
That makes us children of God.
For now we are all children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. TLB Galatians 3:26
That makes us children of God.
Who are we? Scripture tells us, we are children of God. Why do we continue to share this with you? Because God’s grace is by far the most important and misunderstood part of Christianity. Imagine what would happen in your life if you believed to the core of who you are, you are a child of God. You would be transformed. Are you kidding me? God sees me as His son or daughter? God has removed my sin and guilt? God wants to walk with me into the day? You would walk into the day with an unapologetic and ferocious courage.
I want to share a story with you. Pretend with me that you are living hundreds of years ago. You are living in the days of kings and queens. One day, the king announces that prostitution is illegal all across the land. Now pretend with me that you are a prostitute in a distant far away town and you now live in fear because it’s illegal. Soon, the king’s solders come to town and have identified you as a criminal. They arrest and imprison you.
Your life as you know it is over. Now you are a convicted criminal and serving out your judgement. About a year later, the king walks through the dungeon. He sees you. He tells the jailer to release you and have you sent to his castle.
You stand before the king and he tells you, “You are beautiful, and I want to make you my wife. If you accept, as of today and forever more, you will be my queen. The queen of this country.”
Let’s stop the story and ask a few questions? Assuming you accept, when you become the queen, who are you? Are you a prostitute? Are you a convicted criminal? Are you the queen of the land? How will you live? Will you live everyday depressed and sad because you were at one time a criminal? Will you live out everyday with unapologetic and ferocious courage because you are the queen?
Here is what you must see. That is what God has done for you. He freed you. You are now a part of His family. Scripture actually talks about God being a groom and us being His bride. That’s who you are. Now let’s slow down and think about this. If that is true, how do you live? Do you walk through life depressed and sad because of your sin and failure? Or, do you walk through life with unapologetic and ferocious courage because you are a child of God? Do you walk into tomorrow with fear?
You have no idea the joy I have to be the one to tell you this. Grace is not about church, the rules and you striving through life trying to live up to religious standards. No, grace is about the temple curtain ripping into two and God is released to be in your life. It’s no longer about religion, it’s about relationship.
Okay. Remember when I told you, I think the greatest problem for the North American church is that people aren’t fully understanding or being transformed by God’s grace? Here is my follow up to that. One of the reasons we struggle to be transformed is we don’t live like we are children of God. We hear what the pastor says, we can read it in scripture so we know this. But for some reason, we don’t live like it. It’s information and knowledge that stays in our head. But for some reason, we don’t live like it.
We don’t remind ourselves, everyday, who we are. We struggle to live like we are the queen of the land. We struggle to live like we are a child of God. We struggle to live like God is in us and around us. It’s like we hear about our identity, “You are a child of God”, but we continue to live in fear. We are timid because we aren’t sure if God will come through for us.
And what is really weird, is we believe God has the ability to prepare heaven for us and get us there when we die but we aren’t sure if God will come through for us today. If we believe and have faith that God can get us to heaven, we should have the same faith that He is walking with us today.
By the way, that faith struggle doesn’t make us bad Christians. Christians have been wrestling to understand God’s grace all the way back into the bible days. Paul wrote a letter to a much younger Timothy. In this letter, he had to remind Timothy that God doesn’t give you a spirit of fear.
God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. NLT 2 Timothy 1:7
One of the reasons we struggle to be transformed is we don’t live like we are children of God. We would call that faith. Instead, we live in fear and timidity. Just so we are clear, you will experience moments of fear, but fear doesn’t have to define you. We all experience negative fear that makes us timid. Fear of starting a new job. Fear of meeting new people. Fear of taking chances. Fear of watching your kids do something new. Fear of a test you have to take. Fear of failure. Fear that no one likes you and on and on. That is a part of being human. However, because of God giving us grace, we don’t have to live in fear and allow it to control us and define who we are. Does that make sense?
For God’s grace and His transformational power to grow in you, you must act on it. We must act like what God said is true. Again, we call it faith. We see it all over scripture. Noah was told to build a boat; by faith he did. Peter was told to step out of the boat,\; by faith he did. Paul was told to plant churches for people who don’t go to church; by faith he did. None of those guys would have experienced God if they would have said, ‘No.’
I want to share four things with you to help you have handles on how to experience God’s grace and be transformed by it. It begins with us reminding ourselves that we are children of God.
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. MSG Romans 12:1-2
The best way to jump into the ordinariness of life is to fix your attention on God. Do you see that part where it says, ‘…embracing what God does for you…?’ What does that mean? The first thing you do is remind yourself what God did for you so that you could have a new identity. And remember, it has nothing to do with you, your sin or your failures or your successes. Your new identity is all about God because before you were born, God had a plan in mind to redeem you. It was all about what God did. This should humble you. This should give you peace. This should give us unapologetic and ferocious courage. This should overcome every negative emotion you experience like fear, guilt, stress, anxiety, and on and on.
The longer you go without reminding yourself what God has done and who you are, you will try to take on life by yourself. And instead of God being the center of your life, you will become the center of your life. If God isn’t the center of your life right now, I want to ask you a serious question. I’m not trying to be sassy, but how is it going for you? Maybe you need to embrace what God has done for you.
For us to experience God’s grace and be transformed by it, talk to God directly. We call it prayer. You walk right up to God and talk to Him.
12 Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence. 13 So please don’t lose heart because of my trials here. NLT Galatians 3:12-13
Are you kidding me? As a child of God, we get to walk right into God’s presence and talk to Him. If that is true, why in the world would you ever start the day without talking to God? Listen, you don’t avoid God because you are afraid that you aren’t good enough. You don’t have to go to a person who you think is holier than you to talk to God. You don’t have to go to someone who you think has a connection with God. You walk right up to God and talk. And when you do it, be bold and courageous. You pray and know God will never get tired of hearing from you. And when you pray, you know you have the same connection with God as everyone else.
One of the things that breaks my heart is when I hear people say things like, ‘I need you to pray because you have a connection with God.’ Even if it’s a joke, it makes me mad. When I hear that, I want to scream. No matter how much we read scripture about this, preach about this, sing songs about this, people continue to NOT believe that they are children of God with complete access to Him, all day. They continue to take the gift of standing in God’s presence and push it away. It breaks my heart.
With courage, you pray. And if you are new at prayer and think you will mess it up, you can’t. Prayer isn’t about the big perfect words, it’s about your heart. In my office, what is the most meaningful thing in my office? Every letter, picture or pottery my kids have made for me. And you know like I know, it’s awful to look at – right? Not to me. I see their hearts and their attempt to tell me they love me. I would rather have those things in my office than anything else.
With courage, you pray. If your kids are sick, get the family around and pray. Before you eat, pray. Before the kids leave for school, pray. When you are facing hard times, get the family together and stumble through an imperfect prayer and release God’s presence into your family and home.
Okay, I have a question for you. Do you like praying in front of people? Are you embarrassed? Are you afraid you are going to mess it up? Ya, that’s everyone. How did it go the first time you rode a bike? How did your first date go? Your first kiss? You messed it up, didn’t you? Here is the deal. Start praying today, right now because you cannot mess it up.
Never settle and avoid God because Jesus paid a dear price for you to have access to God.
For us to experience God’s grace and be transformed by it, you must know, your comfort zone, the rut and routine you live in, it may not be your friend. What did Jesus say to Peter?
29 Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” NIV Matthew 14:29-31
In the days we live in now, we would have to praise Peter for getting out of the boat and celebrate him. But instead, Jesus confronted Peter with his lack of faith. Jesus invites him out of a life that is secure and makes sense to do the unthinkable. Peter gets out of his comfort zone and experiences God. And when Peter stumbles, Jesus said, ‘You should not have stumbled, you should have had more faith.’ Please hear me on this. For us to experience God’s grace means we follow God even when it is out of our comfort zone.
If we are hurt and angry, we forgive. If you have an enemy, you serve them. If you are greedy, you become generous. If you are gossipy and negative, you build up and encourage. If you are stuck in negative emotions, you have faith and don’t allow them to define you. If you don’t give, you give. If you are rebellious, you submit. If you want to be great, you serve. If you are afraid of trying something new, do something new. Your comfort zone isn’t your friend. It will always make you the center of your life, not God. For us to experience God means we follow God even when it isn’t comfortable.
Let me ask you, are you following after God? When is the last time God lead you and you needed faith to follow Him? Are you in a rut? Are you finding that instead of being grateful you have become critical? What is your relationship with God like?
One last thing. Every time you mess up, and you will like I have, we run back to God to experience His grace. We remind ourselves that God is right there to love us, forgive us and continue to work through our lives. We again embrace what God has done for us. He will wash away all your sin, failure, guilt, fear, stress and anxiety.
Let’s close with this. God freed you from prison. God has forgiven you of your past. You are now a child of God. Now it’s time to live like it. So how are you living? Are you living in fear, reminded of your sin and failure? Are you regretting your past, fearful of tomorrow and stressed about today? Or, are you living everyday with unapologetic and ferocious courage?
It’s time to live like you are a child of God. Allow God’s grace to transform you. Have faith. Go to God with courage and remember, your comfort zone probably isn’t your friend.