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Jack Graham - What's So Amazing About Grace


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    Jack Graham - What's So Amazing About Grace
TOPICS: Not Ashamed, Grace

I have a wonderful friend, a man that I love and respect very much, and he was sharing a bit of his story with me recently. At midlife he was going through a very difficult season and, in fact, a divorce. And at 37 years of age, though he had grown up in church, he said it was such a low time in my life, he said, "I never felt that low, and such a failure. I felt like such a failure, that I had failed in my faith, that I had failed my family, my wife and my children. And I was just so deep into this failure".

He went to a pastor for Christian counseling and guidance and as my friend was sharing his story and just all the guilt that he was heaping on himself, and just the failure that he felt that he was, the counselor looked at him with a quizzical, baffled look on his face. My friend, seeing the look and the question mark on the counselor's face, said, "What? What"? Though I'd been raised in church, though I was a Christian, this man looked at me and said, "You don't know much about grace, do you"? He said, "He nailed it! He was right on! I really didn't know much about the grace of God". Maybe that's you today. You've heard of grace, you've sung Amazing Grace, and grace is a nice thing but maybe you don't think it's truly an amazing thing in your life. If you're wondering what's all the talk? What's all the song аbout: "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I'm found; was blind but now I see". What's the point of grace?

Again, maybe you know about grace, but have you experienced, do you understand grace? The Apostle Paul wants us to understand the amazing grace of God. Paul was a man of grace. He had experienced grace. He's known as the apostle of grace. In fact, in all of his writings in the New Testament-and as we learned last time we were together, two-thirds of the New Testament was penned by the Apostle Paul, in all of his writings, all of the letters given to us by Paul speak of this grace over one hundred times! It's grace and grace and more grace. He greeted people with grace and peace. He closed these letters with the grace of God. He was amazed by God's grace! Amazed that God would save him, for after all, he would later describe himself as the chief of sinners. Top of the list! Number one sinner! He said, "I'm that man". He would call himself a blasphemer, formerly a persecutor, a hater, and even a murderer!

And the fact that God's grace met him through Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus captured his heart, changed his life. He could never get over that incredible grace! Years and years later a slave trader by the name of John Newton, a debauched and despicable man really, trafficking in the souls of human beings, vile in every way that you could possible imagine. This slave trader was gripped by the grace of God, changed by the power of that grace, and he is the one who gave us the song sung through the centuries, sung again and again, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound". Grace was amazing to this man. Is it amazing to you?

Now grace is the unmerited, undeserved favor of God. Grace is the lavish love of Jesus poured out for us at the cross. This grace that is greater than all of our sin; God's abundant grace for abundant sinners. What's so amazing? Well, first, we are saved by grace. God's grace saves us. In Ephesians chapter 2, the first ten verses, you have the clearest most expressive summary of the gospel of grace that we see in all of the Bible. What it means to truly be saved. The word salvation or to be saved shows up in this verse on several occasions.

Look, beginning at verse 1: "And you were dead in trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air", that's the devil, "the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience", that's the world, "among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind", all of us, "But God", that's a significant conjunction, intervention, "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace have you been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, and we should walk in them".

We are saved by grace! This is a walk through a graveyard, if you will, because it covers our past, our present and our future. It's the spiritual biography of every believer-someone who has received grace. It's speaks of our past guilt; it speaks of our present grace; and it speaks of our future glory. Salvation covers it all, past, present and future. The Apostle Paul would often speak of salvation in three tenses. We were saved (past tense), we are being saved (present tense) and we will be saved (future tense). So you may wonder, "Well, what is it? Was I saved? Am I saved? Will I be saved"? Well, it's all encompassing, this salvation. We have been saved from the penalty of sin, and the wrath of judgment. We are being saved from the power of sin's sway, sin's shadow, sin's power over us. We are being saved as we grow in grace and develop in our Christian walk. We are being saved; made more and more like Christ. And then one day we will be saved, when we stand complete before God; that's the glory. When we all get to heaven, who know the grace of God, and we will say, I am now saved! I have been saved, I am being saved, I will be saved. It is this wonderful grace of God!

Now if someone asks you, "Are you saved"? you might respond with something like this. From what? Saved from what? That's why Paul took the time to remind of us of what we are apart from grace; that we are saved from sin and spiritual death and Satan and judgment and hell and flesh and the world. He says that we were dead! Not just sick, or stumbling, but dead in trespasses and sin, for the Scripture says in Romans 6:23 that "the wages of sin is death". God is life. Jesus is the way and the truth and the life! And if you don't know Christ, if you don't know God's grace and experience God's love in your life, than you are disconnected from the love of God, and therefore the life of God!

And that's why there seems to be no purpose and no direction in your life, for you are just following after the direction of this world, walking deeper and deeper and deeper into sin and selfishness, into darkness, and into death. You're like a spiritual zombie. Yeah, you are a dead man walking, the walking dead! You say, "Well, that's pretty extreme! I don't know that it's that bad". Yes, it's that bad! You say, "Well, I'm not as bad as some people. I don't do the things that some people do". I know I have neighbors that are good neighbors, who are nonbelievers, I know friends who are good family people, good dads, good moms, they're good people and they're good parents. And yet the Bible comes with this extreme spiritual analysis of not just some, but all. We were all dead in our trespasses and sin! We were all depraved.

A quote from John MacArthur, Bible teacher, helps me at this point. He says, "Throughout history people have varied greatly in their levels of human goodness and wickedness, but in relation to achieving God's holiness (i.e. salvation, eternal life) they are equal failures! That is why the good, helpful, kind, considerate, self-giving person needs salvation as much as the multiple murderer on death row. The person who is a good parent, a loving spouse, honest worker, and civic humanitarian needs Jesus Christ to save him from the eternal condemnation of hell as much as the Skid Row drunk or the heartless terrorist! They do not lead equally sinful lives, but they are equally in a state of sin, equally separated from God and from spiritual life".

All have sinned! All of us were born with our backs toward God, and we're following after the pleasures of this world, we're following after our own desires, we're in cahoots with Satan himself in his kingdom, apart from God. But when we come to experience grace, God's gift of eternal life, we repent and receive this grace which means we turn around, and now we have our face towards God and our back towards the world, and we're living in this brand new life empowered by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ! And this all comes, not because of anything that we have done, but only because of what God has done in Christ. This is what so many people don't understand about grace. That somehow human achievement or good works or good deeds will enable us to know and follow Christ, or live the Christian life.

There are really just two forms of religion in the world. There are the world religions of human achievement, and frankly, if you put them all in the same bucket, every religion in the world is a system of human achievement. Even quote "the Christian religion", apart from the grace of God. Trying to prove ourselves through our performance, to please God, to do those things which would gain the acceptance of God! It could be baptism, church membership, it could be ritual; it could be a faith-system, a belief, but it's all about me; doing what I can do to gain the grace of God, or the goodness of God. And human achievement fails. Paul realized that. He was a Hebrew of the Hebrews; he was a religionist; he was a man who kept the Law. And yet his heart was a raging fire, full of bitterness, full of anger, full of rage because his human achievement, the best that he could do, was not enough. The only other kind of faith in the world is the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is a divine accomplishment. Not what we have done, but only what He has done!

Grace is unique to the Christian faith. The grace of God, the undeserved, unmerited favor of God upon us! And it is Jesus that makes this grace possible. The riches of His grace, the riches of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ! That's why grace is amazing. We are saved by grace. We spell grace; it's a five letter word. G-R-A-C-E. But I can give you another five letter word that spells grace: it's J-E-S-U-S. Many of us learned as students or children years ago the acrostic on grace. God's riches at Christ's expense. It is a gift paid in full by Jesus who gave His life on the cross for us. Paul is so clear on this! That it's Jesus plus nothing that equals everything. Jesus plus nothing equals everything! You cannot save yourself.

You can never earn or deserve eternal life! It's all because of what He has done. Even our good enough, even our best in the eyes of a holy God is filthy rags! Not enough! This gift is received. This gift is offered; it is given, it is received by faith. F-A-I-T-H: Forsaking All, I Trust Him. Surrendering our lives to Him and responding to His grace. But not only are we saved by grace, but we are secured by grace. Look again in Ephesians 2, verses 6 through 7. It says, "and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places". We now have a relationship with God. We are alive in Christ; we are seated with Christ positionally. Spiritually we are in heaven already. We are as good for heaven as if we were already there! "that in the coming ages (In other words in eternity, from now on, forever and ever) he would show the exceeding kindness and richness of His grace toward us".

This all speaks of our security in Christ; that what Christ has done in us in giving us His grace is for now, but it's also forever. And the same grace that saves us, keeps us! You can't go in and out, in and out, in and out of grace. You can't fall out of grace, in back to grace, in and out of grace! In fact, every time I see someone falling in the Bible, I never see them falling out of grace; I see them always falling onto grace. Because what God has done in grace can't be undone! It's forever! Therefore, we are secure. We are in His grip, His gracious grip! So when you come to Christ, when you receive God's grace, it's not as though God puts you on probation to see if you're going to make it. It's not a probation period between grace and heaven to see if you can hang on, hold on to the end. No! God's grace covers it all! Every sin is forgiven! All sin, past, present and future.

If there's one half of one sin held against my account or your, that sin would be enough to condemn us. The blood of Jesus, God's Son, cleanses from all our sin! And that means that we are all saved in the grace of God, and kept saved. We are secure in Christ. This is the perseverance of grace! This is the perseverance and persistence of God in us. Paul would write in Philippians 1:6: "He who began the good work in you will perform it, carry it out until the day of Jesus Christ". Our position is in Christ. One of Paul's favorite descriptions of our relationship with God: "We are now in Christ and Christ is in us"! The first use of the word grace in the Bible is in the book of Genesis when "Noah found grace", chapter 6 of Genesis, "in the eyes of the Lord".

God graced him, chose him, called him to build the boat, the ark. And the day came when the rains were about to burst on the earth to send judgment upon the entire human race, and the words came to Noah, Genesis 7:1 "Noah, come into the boat". Not "Noah, go get in the boat". "Noah, come, you and your family, and get in the boat". And it says God shut the door. What does that mean? That means that God was in that boat. And as long as God was in that boat, that boat wasn't going down. And as long as Noah was in the ark and his family, they weren't going down either. They were in the ark. Did you know the New Testament tells us that the ark is a picture of Christ? Christ is our ark, our salvation. And when we are in Christ, we are secure against any storm in our lives! We are saved through every storm, through every sin, through every struggle!

"What about my sin"? Well, yes, we sin, but God's grace is greater than all of our sin. Romans 5:20, "Where sin abounds, grace much more abounds"! And therefore, Noah may have fallen down, slipped and fallen in the ark, along with his family, on numerous occasions as the storm rattled their cages, but they never fell out of the ark. God didn't build a ladder on the outside of the ark and say, "Okay, Noah, hold onto the ladder. And if you hold on to the end, you'll be saved"! He said, "Get in the ark! Get into Me and you'll be saved". And that's what Christ is saying to us about the grace that is our in Jesus. We are in this ark! We are in His grip! We are kept by the power of God! This is God's grace!

Romans 8:38-39: "For I am sure that neither", these are words of Paul again, "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor principalities, nor things present, things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ our Lord". That's grace. Say it! "It's grace"! Well, and it's amazing grace. We're secured by this grace. Every sin, every failure, every thought. And this what my friend that I spoke to you about earlier, and some of you have never understood. You think that the Christian life is a new start and now it's up to you to do the best you can. No! You're secured in His grace.

You say, "Well, if I thought like that, if I believed that than that's a dangerous thing because you know I, just means I can go live anyway I want to live. I'll party and have fun because God's grace got all of that"! If that's what you think, if that's what you say, you don't know the first thing about grace, because God's grace changes us and calls us to a brand new life. Paul dealt with that question. He presumed that people would say, "Well, you know, should I therefore sin so that grace could abound"? He said, "May it never be so"! He used the hardest terms he could figure out. He said, "No, never, never, no, may it never be so"! But at the same time this outrageous, scandalous grace is available to all of us who are in Christ. And there's no sin or shame in your life but that the grace of God is greater still. Grace really is amazing.

You say, "Well, how do I get it? How do I get this grace"? The Bible says, James 4:6, "God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble". Some people don't think they need grace. Either they think they're too good, or just don't need it because of their own egos or arrogance. E-G-O: Edging-Grace-Out, which edges God out. God will just hold you off if you think you don't need it. But if you will humble yourself and say anything that I am, all that I hope to be is because of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. If you humble yourself, you will have grace upon grace upon grace through your life.
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