Lesson on grace
Grace…When I say the word, many ideas may come to your mind. What does it mean after all? What does grace even mean? We talk about it like we know. When people carry themselves well, we say they are graceful. When we sit down to a meal, we say grace. But, what does it mean for you and for me?
We can begin to explore what it actually does mean by looking in Ephesians 2:1-9. This scripture says we were dead in sin…walking according to the powers of this world in disobedience…conducting ourselves according to the desires of our flesh…That sounds like we were doomed – and we were. Our condition was one of destruction. But, in verse 4, it changes. God, because of His GREAT love and full of mercy, loved us and even while we were in that condition, made us alive with Christ because of grace. He gave us a new life. We are saved by the grace of God, not by anything that we have done. This is a free gift of God…which means that we did not earn it…we do not deserve it…we didn’t get it because we were good or because we came to church enough. We received grace because God loved us just that much. We received grace because He loved us despite the filth that we were in and He didn’t leave us there. We received grace out of the abundant love of our God…the Creator God who didn’t forget us when we went our own way, but brought us back. This isn’t one of those things we take lightly. This is something that we celebrate. We have received the gift of a new life…washed clean, made new…There is nothing like it – it is an infinite, matchless grace. Praise the Lord He has given us a new life in Him through grace.
Our sin/His gift
We are sinners. There is nothing that we on our own can do about that. We can try. We can try our best to do good things that will outweigh our bad. We do that with our spouses sometimes, right? We make them mad, so we buy them flowers. We upset them so we cook their favorite dinner. We spend too much but we make sure we bring them something back. This exchange system is learned early in life. Mom didn’t like what I did today, but she did like what I did yesterday, so I will remember what made her happy. We automatically file back to what makes someone happy so we can use that later on when they are mad. We even do that with grades. I know that if I do horribly on a test, I can make it up if I do well on the next test and my homework. This exchange system is engrained in us, so we carry that over to our spiritual lives. If I miss church today, it will be okay because I read my Bible extra last week. Or, I forgot to pray yesterday, but it’s okay because I helped someone out that was in need last week. So, we play this game.
Unfortunately, we will never win the game of sin. We can never do enough good to outweigh our sins. Romans 3:23 reminds us that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. But Romans 6:14 reminds us “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” John 1:17 says, “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”. There is nothing you can do to earn your way out of the mess you are in. You will always be negative in the checks and balances system of sin versus good deeds.
Paul was reminded by the Lord when he had the thorn in the flesh that “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness”. We are doomed without sin. What you need to understand is that grace is about God. We are given this gift because we serve an amazing God who loves us just that much. He is greatly to be praised. If you realize where you were without Him, you will realize how much you can praise Him for with Him. You will want to praise the powerful, loving God who has overcome death and sin. You will want to lift your voices in thanksgiving. You will realize that there is no one like God and will get excited about praising His name. Worship with us as we praise our God who is greatly to be praised.
The great exchange
For just a moment, I want to take you back to the Easter story. Remember the events that led up to the crucifixion of Jesus. Turn to Matthew 27:11-26. As we read that, thoughts of anger and/or disappointment may rise towards the people. How could they sell Jesus out? But, put yourself in the shoes of Barabbas this morning. He is a notorious prisoner…the other gospels call him a murderer, was known for rebellion, and a robber. In other words, he had quite a reputation and quite a list of offenses. He was well known for what he had done wrong. Imagine as he sits in the jail, knowing that his time is coming to be killed. He deserves it. He earned his way to be crucified. He did the wrong and should suffer the punishment. I’m sure that he realized his time had come to an end and it wouldn’t be long before he would be no more. Can you begin to imagine what it must have been like as the people shouted his name? They weren’t shouting it in disgust any more. They weren’t upset with him for all that he had done. They wanted him released in exchange for this man named Jesus. Jesus, who hadn’t done anything wrong was set to take his place. How could that be? How is it that Jesus, who had come to save His people was now being crucified for nothing? How could he possibly take the place of this rotten thief, murderer?
Now, consider that we are all Barabbas. In our sin, we are guilty. We have done wrong. We don’t deserve eternal life. We don’t deserve the love of God. We don’t deserve anything except death. But, just like Jesus took the place of Barabbas that day…He takes the place of you and me today. He died for the world…He died for you and me. That is powerful. Grace is for you. In Christ, we are no longer orphans, we are adopted, freed and loved. We are daughters and we are sons. What a sweet exchange indeed.
Today is the opportunity to receive this grace if you haven’t already. If you have, remember it. Take a few moments to consider what Christ has done for you. Praise Him for His amazing love. Serve Him with all that you are. Follow Him because He has a plan for you.