Robert Jeffress - Good Grace Spirituality
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". God loved us so much that he sent his only son to die for our sins so that we might experience eternal life. And yet many Christians abuse this expression of divine grace, and they see God's grace as a license to keep on sinning. The truth is, when we become a recipient of God's grace, then it should compel us to obey God. Today, we're going to see how a true understanding of God's good grace impacts four components of our relationship with God. My message is titled "Good Grace Spirituality" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
Soren Kierkegaard tells this fairy tale. "Once upon a time there was a king who fell in love with a humble maiden. The king was unsurpassed in his power. Other rulers trembled at the mere mention of his name. No one dared to speak against him, for he had the ability to crush all of his opponents with a single command. And yet for some inexplicable reason, this towering monarch chose to love a peasant girl. But how could he ever communicate his love to her? Ironically his greatest asset was also his greatest liability. His power could be a formidable obstacle in winning her affection. If he ordered her brought to the palace, crowned her as his queen, and adorned her with robes and jewels, she would submit to his request, but would she do so out of fear or out of love? Would she feign joy over her new life while secretly longing for her old life that she left behind? How would the king ever know if the maiden truly loved him? Then the king had an idea. If he could not elevate the maiden without overpowering her, and if he could not travel to her home with all the pomp and circumstance that attended royal visits without scaring her, then he would meet her on her own level. The king assumed the appearance of a beggar, dressed in a frayed cloak and approached her cottage".
In Kierkegaard's version of this tale, the king was not simply wearing a disguise. Instead he actually changed identities. He renounced his throne in order to win the maiden's hand. That's a great story, but I've got an even better story for you, and it happens to be a true one. Paul explained the true story this way in Philippians 2, "Have this attitude in you which was in Christ Jesus, who, although he existed in the form of God, he did not regard his equality with God a thing to be grasped, but he emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross".
Think about it. The king of the universe loved you so much he wanted to establish a relationship with you, and so he renounced his rights as king of the universe. He came to earth taking the form of a human being and he became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. And why did he do that? Out of obligation? Monarchs don't have any obligations. Did he do it because he was lonely? Haven't you heard that? God was so lonely in heaven he needed to have a relationship with you. God wasn't lonely. He had all the angels in heaven to worship him. No, there's only one reason God renounced the throne to come and establish a relationship with you, and the one word that explains it is grace. Grace, God's undeserved burst of generosity.
Ephesians 2:4 says, "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us". And yet amazingly, we who have been the recipients of God's grace, his undeserved generosity, we have used that grace as a weapon against our king. Let me explain what I mean. Let's change the ending of Kierkegaard's fairy tale to this. Let's say that the end of the story, once the king announces his love for the peasant girl, then he decides to reveal his identity to her, and she says, "You're the king? The king? Well, before we enter into this marriage, I'd like a prenup agreement with you that guarantees that in case I'm unfaithful, I get half of the kingdom. And not only that," she says, "Once the ink is dried on the agreement," she says, "I'm going to start exchanging these rags I'm wearing for some Nieman Marcus dresses. And we're going to tear down this hut I've been living in and we're going to build a new palace. And not only that, I think I'll take a lover so I can occupy myself while you're away on your king business".
I mean, how could you imagine such a thing, and yet in a very real way, that's what we've done with God. Because we received his grace, because we have been assured of our inheritance in heaven, we use grace as an excuse to sin against the king. That is the essence of what bad grace is all about. You see, good grace always leads us toward God, but bad grace alienates us from God. In our series, "Grace Gone Wild," we're talking about this amazing gift of grace and how to use it rather than abuse it. And over the last few weeks we've talked about what grace is, what good grace is, and how it differs from bad grace. And now we're going to begin looking at the subject of grace and see how it should impact every part of our life. Our relationship to our friends, how it should impact our marriages, how it should impact our decision-making, how it should impact our relationship to the church. But today we're going to begin looking at how real grace should impact our most important relationship at all, our relationship with God. And to help us frame this, I want to look at how a true understanding of God's good grace impacts four components of our relationship with God.
First of all, grace impacts our understanding of sin. People who push bad grace, or some people call it cheap grace, some people who push bad grace have been duped by what Hebrews 3:13 calls "The deceitfulness of sin". First of all, they're deceived about the nature of God when it comes to sin. Bad grace says that God is really just a cosmic killjoy. The only reason he establishes all these rules and regulations is he's trying to keep something good from your life. Really, when the serpent told the Eve in the Garden in Genesis 3:4-5, he said, "The reason God doesn't want you to eat of this forbidden fruit is God knows that in the day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened and you'll be like God". In other words, Eve, the reason God didn't want you to have any fun is he's afraid if you do, you'll become like God, and God can't handle the competition.
You know, it was Martin Luther, I think, who said, "All sin is ultimately contempt for God". When you sin, it shows how little you think of God. All sin is contempt for God. It's literally a no confidence vote in God. People who practice bad grace are deceived about the nature of God. They're also deceived about the nature of sin. Again, they think God is keeping something wonderful and beautiful from our lives. "If you eat of this tree, you will not die," the serpent said. "Instead you will be more alive than you've ever been".
I think of Simone Weil's comment about the delusion of sin. He said, "Imaginary evil is romantic and varied. Really evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, and boring. Imaginary good is boring, but real good is always new, and marvelous, and intoxicating". I thought of that observation when I was counseling with a man who was addicted to internet pornography. After a while that grew boring to him and he decided to start frequenting upscale gentleman's clubs. He would go to those, but he felt disconnected from the performers, and he decided what he really needed was a real life relationship, an extramarital relationship. And oddly enough, he found a willing partner in the church that he attended.
When his wife discovered some poorly hidden email, she ordered him out of the house. He lived in a condominium, but that was okay. Even though his marriage of 10 years was dissolving, he had found the love of his life, until his lover decided to dump him for somebody else. And he talked to me about the deceitfulness of sin. It's not all that it's cracked up to be. I think about the words from Proverbs 5:3-4, Solomon said, "For the lips of an adulteress drip honey. Smoother than oil is her speech. But in the end," not immediately, "But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword". Those who pervade bad grace, first of all, have a distorted understanding about sin. A proper understanding of grace also impacts our understanding of repentance.
Again, here's a big difference between good grace and bad grace. When Jesus died, he didn't die for your little sins or the sins that occurred before you trusted in Christ. He forgave you of all your transgressions, but that doesn't mean we still don't need to confess our sins. And people who teach that, people who say repentance is not necessary for a Christian, fail to understand the difference between judicial and parental forgiveness. You see, judicial forgiveness is what happens to us when we become a Christian. Paul said in Romans 5:1, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ".
If you're watching this program today, you're here in our worship center, the moment you put your faith and trust in Jesus to save you, God declares you in the courtroom of heaven to be not guilty. You never have to suffer the eternal consequences of your sin. That's judicial forgiveness. You are never more forgiven than the day you trust Christ as your Savior. But there is also a parental forgiveness that we need every day from our Heavenly Father. No, we don't get thrown out of God's family, we don't lose our salvation when we sin, but there will always be a barrier between God and us if we refuse to acknowledge our sin. 1 John 1:8-10, "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness". He's talking about a Christians need for confession, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make God a liar and his word is not in us".
Good grace will lead us to repentance. Remember in the 95 theses that Martin Luther nailed to the church door at Wittenberg? You know what the first theses said? "Repentance is the habit of every believer". Every believer's life is one of repentance. Repentance is not just for non-Christians, it's for Christians. Well, pastor, what does it mean to repent? That word repent in Greek, metanoeo, comes from two words. It means to change one's mind. And in the Bible, repentance is simply a change of mind that leads to a change of direction. A change of mind or attitude that leads to a change of direction. You know, when you repent, it begins with a change of attitude. It begins by saying, God, I'm not going to argue with you any longer. You're right and I'm wrong. But it's not enough just to have a change of attitude. There has to be an actual change of direction in your life.
That's exactly what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6. Remember in 1 Corinthians 6, he's talking about the fact that you are not your own. You have been bought with a price. Listen to his words. "For do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? You have been bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body". The Bible says, if we really understand grace, it impacts our understanding of sin, it impacts our understanding of repentance. Thirdly, grace impacts our understanding of obedience. You know, everybody has their favorite verse in the Bible, don't they? For example, just consider a few of these verses that talk about the necessity of obedience and link faith to obedience.
John 3:36, "He who believes in the son," now, this is Jesus talking. "He who believes in the son has eternal life, but he who does not," what? "Obey the son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him". Or Acts 6:7, "The Word of God kept on spreading, and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming," what? "Obedient, obedient to the faith". Or Hebrews 5:9, "Having been made perfect, he," that is Jesus, "Became to all those who obey him the source of eternal salvation". You can't separate faith and obedience.
Well, what's the relationship between the two? Is obedience a requirement for faith? Do I have to obey God before he forgives me? What's the relationship between faith and obedience? In Matthew 3:8-10, "Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance. The ax is already laid at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire". You know, again, Martin Luther was talking about the relationship between faith and works, and this is what he said, he said, "Faith alone saves, but saving faith is never alone". Where there is genuine faith there'll be genuine fruit. Where there is no fruit, there is no faith. Good grace understands that. Good grace understands that obedience is not optional, it's essential. And finally, a proper understanding of grace impacts our understanding of rewards.
Let me ask you a true or false question. God treats all of his children the same? True or false? Do you treat all your children the same? I mean, the fact is, we are all more drawn as parents to a child who loves us, who wants to spend time with us, than a child who uses every opportunity to get away from us. As parents, we give more perks and privileges to children who are obedient or are trying to do the right thing than to those who don't. Why do we think God is different than that? The reason we do that is we're made in his image. That's the way God is. God doesn't treat all of his children the same. God rewards his obedient children, first of all, in this life.
I mean, did you know, for example, the Bible teaches that the prayers that God listens to are the prayers that come from his children who act obediently. And if you're not acting obediently toward God, you shouldn't expect him to answer your prayers. 1 Peter 3:12, "For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and his ears attend to their prayers. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil". Isn't that an interesting verse? One of the reasons God doesn't answer prayer is his disobedient children. Not only that, but you know the Bible teaches that God rewards financially those who invest in his work more than those who don't?
Now I know we have to be careful here, I'm not teaching the prosperity Gospel, but sometimes we go so far in renouncing the prosperity Gospel that we fail to understand just a simple truth: and that is that if you don't give to God don't expect his financial blessing in your life. There is a relationship between giving to God and being obedient, and experiencing his blessing. Not all the time is it financial, but some of the times it is. Now, here we've come to my favorite verse. You know I'd get it in here somewhere.
Malachi 3, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and test me now in this," says the Lord of hosts. Did you know, that's the only time in the scripture where God invites us to test him? He said, "Here's one thing you can test me in. You give to me like I've commanded you, and see if I will not open up for you windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows". My point is, God does reward obedience. You know, again, bad grace says, my actions have no consequences. Obedience doesn't matter. But the Bible says obedience results and rewards, not only in this life, but also in the next life. But listen to this. Paul says, if you're really a believer, your sole focus in life ought to be to be pleasing to God. When you wake up in the morning, how can I please God today? And what's the motivation for that focus?
Look at verse 10. Why? "For we must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, so that each one of us may be recompensed, rewarded, for deeds done in the body, according to what we have done, whether it be good or worthless". The motivation for wanting to please God is not just a sense of gratitude for what he's done for us in the past or what he did for us at Calvary. A primary legitimate motivation for wanting to please God is the belief that one day he will reward you for doing that. That's good grace. Good grace understands that obedience to God matters. Good grace understands that our actions do have consequences, both in this life and the life to come.