“The Grace of God”
Welcome to the “Key to the Kingdom.” My name is Bret McCasland. If there is one thing you need from the Lord more than anything else, what would it be? Perhaps it would be to experience greater amounts of His love, His patience or maybe His forgiveness. You might need answers to some major things going on in your life, which you have been praying about for a long time. Oh, there will always be something we need from the Lord. The one thing we all need is to experience more of God's grace. His grace sustains us when we feel all alone, when health problems arise, and when we cannot seem to find our way in this world. God's grace is sufficient for all of our needs. It is abundantly poured out when we are out of emotional strength and spiritual hope. Yes, God's grace never runs out, and it is indeed amazing. For our lesson today, on “Key to the Kingdom,” we will look at some Bible passages which remind us of the grace of God. We will think about how it flows from His love for all people and how He willingly gives it to those who are His children. God's grace blesses us in times of great need and it sustains us as we make our way through life. Oh, there is not enough time to study everything we need to know about grace. We will, however, look at one primary passage that reminds us of how we are special in God's sight. I hope you will stay tuned to this station for a few minutes as we open up our Bibles and study together.
Have you ever found yourself turning off the sound on your television set whenever the commercials are aired? Or perhaps you have the ability to simply fast forward through those commercials and not only eliminate the sound, but also the picture. You know, I suppose we have all done that at one time or another; and the question comes, why is that? Well, we really don't like them. We may not be interested in what is being offered. We might even think the advertisement is not truthful. Oh, there are various reasons why people are not interested in television commercials. And yet, on the other hand, they do serve a purpose. Basically, commercials want us to believe that in some way or another our life can be better than what it is right now. They offer what we might call a before and after contrast. And when I think about that before and after contrast, I'm reminded of our relationship with the Lord. In several places, the Bible presents a contrast between one's life outside of Jesus Christ and one's life with Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We see that especially in the letter called Ephesians. The apostle Paul describes it very well in chapter 2. Let’s begin with a reading of verse 1 through verse 3. <As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.> In these three verses, Paul describes the before condition of a person's spiritual life. He describes those who have not received God's salvation. Let's notice again the four things which Paul identifies. He begins by saying you are dead in your transgressions, which means you are dead in your sins. Oh, he's not talking about being dead physically, rather spiritually. These people, here in Ephesus and all of us even today, have a sin problem. And yet the people that Paul is writing to, they have not, at this time, taken advantage of the solution to that problem. And that's the way it is with us. We need a solution, we need an answer to come up with to deal with the sin in our life, and the Ephesians found that in Jesus Christ; and that is where we find it as well. Well, in addition to being dead in their sins, they were also following the ways of Satan. They may not be thinking we're intentionally following Satan, but they were, because they were giving in to his temptations. Satan's whole purpose was to draw people away from God and closer to himself. And so they followed Satan, the prince of the air, the ruler of the world, as he is identified. And by doing so, they were disobedient; that's the third point Paul makes. They were disobedient toward God. They were rebellious toward Him. They did not obey His commands. They did not receive that message of salvation concerning Jesus Christ. Instead of doing that, they, finally, number four, they satisfied their own cravings. They pursued their own interests and their own desires. And as they pursued those desires, they, in their own minds were thinking, we know better than God. We believe that we have a better plan and a better way to go than God can offer to us. And as a result of that, they became arrogant and sought to do their own thing. And that is what Paul describes here, in verses 1 through 3. This is what your life looked like before you became a child of God. Well, they were probably not doing some of those things in an intentional way, but yet that was the overview of their life. That was the consequences of rejecting the Lord. And as such, Paul ends that section by saying you are deserving of God's wrath. Well, that's a powerful statement, isn't it? To be dead in your sins and disobedient and following Satan, well, you deserve the wrath of God. And that can be defined as His displeasure or His anger toward sin. And that wrath would be displayed in His punishment or His judgment. You know, the Bible tells us that God is holy and He cannot associate with that which is not holy. But through Jesus Christ we are made holy in His sight, and therein lies the beginning of that relationship. Well, that's the bad news (verses 1 through 3), all of the negative things of being outside of Christ, all of the ‘before’ matters in a spiritual condition with the Lord. But now here is the good news. God sent His Son, Jesus, to set us free from that ‘before’ condition. He provided us a way to avoid God's wrath and instead of being dead in our sins and pursuing our own desires we now have the opportunity to enter into that relationship with the Lord. And so no longer are we dead in our sins, and living a disobedient life, but now, through Jesus, we move to the ‘after’ condition. And that is what Paul addresses in the next section here, beginning with verse 4 of the 2nd chapter. <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 our transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.> Well, that is what happens when a person receives the salvation of Jesus Christ. It is the other side of the contrast that Paul is making here in the 2nd chapter, and it all revolves around God's great love for people. A great theologian was asked one time the question, “What is the greatest thought that has ever crossed your mind?” Without hesitation, he replied, “God loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Indeed, that is true. The Bible tells us that God's love is great, it is immeasurable, it is never ending. And that is who God is; God is a God of immeasurable love. We see that in several places throughout Scripture. One that comes to mind is 1st John chapter 4 and verse 9. <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.> And then, verse 16, <And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him.> Isn't that a beautiful thought! God is love! We are in God and God is in us because of the great sacrifice His Son, Jesus Christ, made on our behalf. You know, when I think about the passage we just read here, in verses 4 through 7, there's a phrase that catches my attention, there at the very beginning. God is rich in mercy. When we receive God's mercy, we escape God's wrath. And isn't that a beautiful thought! We go from being dead in our sins to receiving His mercy; and that is what makes us alive. That is what changes our eternal destiny. Well, Paul makes that point several other times in Scripture, and one of them is found in the letter of Romans chapter 5. Notice these words in verses 8 and 9. <But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we now have been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!> Well, there it is! Jesus' death on the cross demonstrated God's love in the greatest way. In the midst of our sin, or as Paul wrote there in Ephesians 2, verse 1, while we were dead in our sins, Christ did the unthinkable: He died for us. And so no longer are we dead in our sins, but we are alive in Jesus Christ. And what does verse 9 say; when that happens, we escape God's wrath. And so through His blood, the blood of Jesus Christ, we now receive a full measure of God's love and God's mercy. Everything that Paul writes here, in Ephesians 2 and also Romans 5, takes place because of God's grace. It all revolves around God. Nothing revolves around us. We do not have anything to offer, yet God offers everything. And if God's love and His mercy and His grace were not present, then we continually would live in that ‘before’ condition that Paul described in verses 1 through 3. But as we experience the grace of God, we receive something we do not deserve. We remember Jesus showed up at just the right time, in the midst of our sinful lives. And because He did, our loving Heavenly Father looks favorably upon us through the blood of Jesus Christ, that He shed upon the cross, and through our connection to Jesus through that sacrifice. And now, He sees us as one of His children and not as one who follows Satan, the prince of this world. And again, that is not based upon anything we have done. It is all because of God and His great love for people. Once we receive His salvation, we experience a variety of the measures of His love and His grace and His mercy. We know that we are continually forgiven and loved. That love never runs out on us. And through the blood of Jesus we are cleansed of the sin in our life. We were also given that full measure of the Holy Spirit, and we know that the Spirit is God's presence in us. And the Spirit reminds us, on a daily basis, we belong to God and God belongs to us. The Spirit guides our thoughts and guides us in the way we are to go. And there are many other measures of God's grace and love that are extended to those who are His children. Well, that's emphasized in the next verses that we read here in Ephesians; lets notice verses 8 through 10 of the 2nd chapter. <For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -now this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.> We can never overestimate and we can never understate, let me say that in a different way, we can never underestimate and we can never overstate the amazing grace of God. That is what saves us. And as we noticed, Paul mentions that three times in verses 4 through 10; it is the grace of God that saves us. We are not saved by our own works. We are not saved by our own efforts. Never can we say to God that we deserve that grace or salvation. It just does not work that way. It is only by the amazing grace of God that we receive the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ. You know, sometimes the temptation is for us to create a list of things that we are to say or not say, or to do or not do, that helps us and that secures our salvation with the Lord. Well, have we ever given that much thought? How does God feel about that? We might even be saying to God, “Well, I know that your grace is good and it saves many people, but we need to help you just a little bit. We need to come up with these lists of do's and don'ts to make sure that we do our part.” I wonder how God would feel about that? Is that not saying, “God, your grace is not sufficient for me. Your grace is not enough and we need to help you just a little bit to make it a little bit better.” Well, certainly we don't read anything like that in Scripture, and that is not what God would have us to do or to think. Yes, it makes no difference where we live in this world. It makes no difference what our social standing might be or whether we are rich or poor or male or female; the fact remains, the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all people (Titus chapter 2, verse 11). Oh, there is nothing about God's grace about which we can boast or brag. We cannot take credit for it, at all. We cannot add anything to it. We only receive it because of the sacrifice Jesus Christ, God’s Son, made on our behalf. And so with that in mind, we naturally ask the question, “Well, why is it that we do good works? Why is it that we do good deeds?” Well, the simple answer is, ones good deeds flow from the grace which has already been given to us. We do good deeds because we have already received God's full measure of love and grace and mercy; and we do them, not in order to get it, but, because we already have it. We do good deeds as we express our thankfulness to God. We express our love and appreciation for His goodness in our lives. In Ephesians chapter 1, Paul, identifies some blessings that come to those who are already part of God's family. We notice in that first chapter, His children are adopted as His sons and daughters, and they are holy, they are blameless in His sight, and there are many other blessings. But notice these words in verses 7 and 8. <In Him (speaking of Christ) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that He lavished upon us.> Oh, I love that last phrase. God does not give us just a small amount of His grace, God gives the full measure. He doesn't give us just a little bit over here for today and a little bit more over there for tomorrow, but He lavishes His grace upon us. In other words, it is overflowing into our lives. It is never ending. It is much more than we will ever need, and there is no end to it. Once we receive the Lord's salvation, we are redeemed, we are forgiven; we just read that. We are made alive in Him and we are placed in an exalted position in God's kingdom. In fact, we are seated in those heavenly realms. And all of those blessings, all of those promises are because of the amazing grace of God. In Ephesians chapter 2, Paul reminds us of our spiritual condition before we came to know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. And that wasn't a very pretty picture, was it? But he also reminds us how things change when we enter into a relationship with God's one and only Son. We might say it this way; once we were lost, but now we are found. And in His infinite love and mercy, God found us in the midst of our sin and when we had no hope. When we had no way to get right with God on our own, it was Jesus who provided the answer. Jesus came to receive us, to rescue us from sin and to bring us into that right relationship with our Father. You know, even though we have received that relationship with God, there might be times in your life, I know there's times in mine, when I mess up. I make mistakes. I slip here and there. And at times, we might even feel like we're going back into that ‘before’ condition. But I want us to never forget, God's grace is still sufficient. He knows that we are mortal human beings and we have trouble from time to time. But the good news is, God's grace never goes away. And that is the message that we find throughout the entire Bible. His mercy is always available. Because of the blood of Jesus Christ, God's grace continually cleanses us from all sin. Yes, God gives us second chances to be right with Him, through His one and only Son, Jesus Christ; and that is what is called grace. And that is the Good News message of the Bible. That is the Gospel Story; God's love, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the grace that He makes available to all of those who respond to it. Yes, it is experiencing God's love and mercy when we do not deserve it and when there is absolutely no way to earn it. I have said on many occasions, and perhaps you have heard me say it, that God is the God of the second chance; and I know that firsthand. Perhaps you can say the same thing. You have received a second or third or fourth chance, whatever it might be. And it all becomes a part of our life because we belong to God and He belongs to us. My prayer for you today is that you are experiencing God's grace in your life because you have a relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ.
Many different qualities and characteristics of God are found in Scripture. We immediately think about God's love, His forgiveness, compassion and kindness. But have we given much consideration to God's grace? How has God's grace impacted your life and where would you be without it? You know, the word grace is a very common word today. Some children are named Grace. We extend grace to those who offend us. We talk about grace in our Bible classes and preach sermons on grace. Facilities and churches and outreach ministries have the word grace in their names. Yes, the word grace is very popular, and it reminds us, hopefully, about the grace of God. For example, where would you be without God's grace? We depend upon God's grace to take our next breath. We live and we survive every day through the grace of God. God's grace is greater than our sin. Oh, we could go on and on talking about the significance and the importance of grace in our life. We are even saved by God's grace. Yes, God's grace is important and we need it every day. I would encourage you to think about God's grace, today. As you go through the many and various activities of your life, today, think about His love and compassion and forgiveness and try to incorporate those things into your life. But I would encourage you to pause for a moment in a special way, and to give thought to God's amazing grace.
Thank you for watching today's broadcast on “Key to the Kingdom.” Oh, there is much more we could say about the grace of God. However, I hope this short message reminded us of God's incredible love for all people and how it is demonstrated through His amazing grace. You can find this lesson on our website if you would like to view it again. There is no cost to do so, and it can be downloaded in audio, written, and video formats. The same is true with the other lessons which are there. I hope you will find those which are of a specific interest. The website is keytothekingdom.com. Short, two minute video messages along with one minute devotional thoughts can be found on the website as well. They provide spiritual guidance for living in today's world. Other teaching materials and information are also available. If you have not already done so, I hope you will download our free app onto your smart-phone. It will take you directly to the website and to the various resources which are there. Facebook® is another means by which you can find us. On our page, you will receive weekly posts which offer spiritual insight and encouragement. Thank you again for being our guest today. I do trust this message about God's grace was beneficial. I invite you to join us again next time as we will continue to study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom.”