Robert Jeffress - The Grace Escape
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Few pastors can make it through a sermon without mentioning God's grace and for good reason. The doctrine of grace is absolutely central to Christianity. But for as much time as pastors spend talking about it, few Christians understand what grace really means. Well, today we're going to kick off a brand new series titled, "Grace Gone Wild" by getting a grasp on the Bible's definition of grace. My message is titled, "The Grace Escape" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Pastor Stu Weber relates a story about confronting a leader in his church who was suspected of engaging in an extramarital affair. To his surprise, Weber said, "The man didn't deny it. He admitted the affair and he also voiced his plan to continue with the affair". He said, "I have not abandoned my faith. Even though through all this cynicism, I will one day return. Not to church and probably not to my wife but I still love the Lord and deeply cannot abandon him. I am in sin and I am taking advantage of grace". For by grace, we have been saved through faith, we recite. Amazing grace how sweet the sound, we sing. We live under grace not under the law, we declare.
Grace is a part of the vocabulary of every Christian. Yet unfortunately, many Christians have taken this amazing gift of grace and they've perverted it. They've changed it into a license for immorality, for disobedience, for self indulgence and in the process, they are robbing themselves of the joy that comes from obedience to God. By the way, God's not the only one who has been victimized by this perversion of grace. Perhaps you too have been on the receiving end of what I call bad grace, a perversion of the truth of grace. A close friend perhaps has been talking about you behind your back and you confess to somebody your desire to confront him about doing that but you're reminded that grace means turning the other cheek. Or let's imagine that you find out your mate is engaged in an extramarital affair and you confront your mate and through many tears, they confess that affair and promise to break it off. But months later, you find out they're still engaged in that affair and you consider divorce.
And yet you're told grace means a willingness to forgive 70 times 7. Maybe you're on the leadership team of your church and you discover that another leader has stolen money from the church and you want to remove that person from their place of leadership but you're told that grace means an unwillingness to judge lest you also be judged. All of these examples represent a perversion of God's greatest gift to us, the gift of grace. And in the next few weeks, we're going to open the Bibles and see what the Bible says about this gift of grace. How to use it and how to keep from abusing it in every area of our life. But as we begin today, I think the starting place is to define what grace is, what is grace?
If you have your Bibles, turn to Ephesians 2. I imagine through the years you have heard a number of definitions of what grace is, some define grace as God's riches at Christ's expense, G-R-A-C-E, grace. Somebody else has defined it as God's unmerited favor. Others call it God giving us what we really don't deserve. Those are all descriptions of what grace is but frankly, grace, trying to define it is almost impossible especially for those who've never experienced it. Imagine you were trying to describe a rainbow to somebody who had been blind since birth. And what would you say? How would you define a rainbow? Well, it's particles of dust mixed with moisture in the atmosphere that are seen in the refracted light of the sun. That don't capture the brilliance of a rainbow, you really can't understand it until you see it and it's really the same way with grace.
One of my favorite stories that illustrates what grace really is was told by the late pastor James Montgomery Boice and he told the true story of a man named Henry Morehouse who lived generations ago in a poor section of London. And one day, Morehouse was walking down the street when he saw a little girl about nine years old carrying a picture of milk. The little girl tripped, the picture fell out of her arms and shattered on the pavement below and the milk spilled into the gutter and the girl began to cry and Morehouse began to try to comfort her and she said, "My mother's going to whip me, my mother will whip me". Henry Morehouse picked that girl up into his arms and they went down to the local crockery and there bought her a brand new picture. And then they went to the place where she had gotten the milk and filled that picture up with milk. Henry Morehouse said to the girl, "Do you think your mom is going to whip you now"? She said, "Oh, no Mr, because this picture is far more beautiful than the one we had".
That's a picture of what God has done for us. You and I were made in the image of God originally, but that image of God has been shattered because of sin and there is nothing you and I can do together to put that image of God back together. It has been ruined by sin forever, no effort on our part can fix it. Notice how desperate our condition is the moment we're born into this world. Ephesians 2:1, and you were dead in your trespasses and sins. Underline that word dead. When you are born into this world, you are born spiritually dead. You hear people say, "Well, you know mankind is flawed or mankind is defective". No, we're not flawed or defective, we are spiritually dead. We can't respond to anything spiritually. And look at what he says in verse three, among them, the spiritually dead, we too all formerly lived in the lust of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind and we were by nature... Underline that. By nature, children of wrath, even as the rest.
Now, think about this. Here we are born into this world, separated from God, deserving of God's eternal wrath and there is not one thing you or I could do to change that. We can't say, "I don't think I want to live this way anymore, I think I'd like to choose God". We are dead spiritually, we can't respond to anything on our own. What is the hope out of our predicament? We're children are wrath, we're separated from God, we're spiritually dead, what's our hope? Two words, verse four, but God, but God. God is the one who took the initiative in your salvation. But God, being rich in mercy because of his great love with which he loved us. It's not that God looked down on you and said, "Well, he's worth saving, this one is not worth saving, you're worth saving". No, there was no reason for God to choose to save you other than the great love with which he loved you
Verse five, "Even when we were dead in our transgressions, he has made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved". And to drive that point home in verse eight, "For by grace, you have been saved through faith. You're not saved by faith, you're saved by God's grace that you receive through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is a gift of God not of works lest anyone should boast. God's undeserved burst of generosity, grace". Go back to that little 9-year-old girl I told you about. Once Henry Morehouse gave her that new picture filled with milk, what do you think she did with it? Do you think on the way home she started tossing it in the air to see if she could catch it? Do you think she bounced it on her head thinking, "Well, if it falls, I know a man who can buy me another one". No, I imagine she clutched that close to her chest. She cared for it, she took care of it because it had been freely and unexpectedly given to her.
That's what grace is. Grace is truly amazing and yet, even though there are Christians who have received this amazing gift of grace, some have distorted it into something God never intended it. It's a gift that is subject to abuse either by those who would deny the existence of grace or those who would distort its meaning. And I'd like to spend a moment to look at the two enemies of God's gift of grace. People go to one of two extremes in perverting this gift of grace. The first enemy of grace is legalism, legalism. There are a lot of people who want to add a lot of extra baggage to God's wonderful gift of grace. And that's what a legalist is. He's somebody who wants to add to God's gift of grace.
The same thing was going on in the church at Galatia, remember the church there? Paul addressed the false teachers in the church, they were called judyicers. And they were saying to people, "Oh, you want to come to faith in Christ? Wonderful, trust in Christ. But here's some additional things, you need to be circumcised like the Jews are, you need to keep the dietary laws, you need to keep all the other laws of the Jewish people in order to be truly saved". Now, how did Paul respond to that? Did he say, "Well, that's just a difference of opinion in the body of Christ. We all believe a little bit differently and we need to tolerate other people's beliefs".
But listen to what he said in Galatians 1:8. He said, "If we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a Gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, let that person be accursed". He said, "Judyicers, if you are adding to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, if you are preaching a message contrary to what we have preached that salvation is by God's grace through faith alone, let that person be"... Now, the King James is mild here, it says, "Let that person be accursed". That word in Greek is anathema. Literally, Paul said, "Anybody who adds to the gift of salvation, let that person go to hell".
That's what the word anathema means, to go to hell. It is a serious thing to add to what God says you must do to be saved. The Bible says, believe, trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved. It doesn't say believe and be baptized and join the church, you may do all of those things and should do those things but not to be saved. It is faith in Christ alone that saves us. Now, I'm grateful that in the last 20 years, there have been some marvelous books that have helped release people from legalism. It's rescued grace from the hands of the legalist. But I'm afraid that in rescuing grace from the legalist, we have unwittingly handed it to other extremists on the opposite end of the spectrum.
The libertarians who say, "Grace means I am exempt from any kind of standard of behavior whatsoever". Grace and truth means that there's nothing we can do to add to God's love for us. There's nothing you and I can do to make God love us any more than he already does. But the libertarian changes that. He says, "There's nothing we need to do, period". In other words, if you're a Christian, there is no standard of behavior for you, that's libertarianism. The libertarian is the person who is always focused on God's job of forgiving and never our responsibility to live in obedience to God. And whenever you confront a libertarian with standards that God has for marriage, for giving, for service in the church, for not making your weaker brother stumble, whenever you confront him with standards of behavior, he says, "That's legalism, that's legalism". No, that's not legalism, that is obedience.
It is true there's nothing we can do to earn God's forgiveness, that's by grace but there are plenty of things we need to do to enjoy God's blessings after we're saved. That's obedience to God and throughout the Bible, the Bible speaks about our obligations if we are truly saved to live obediently. Here are some verses that you might want to jot down that emphasize that importance of obedience to God. John 3:36, Jesus said, "He who believes in the son has eternal life but he who does not obey the son shall not see life but the wrath of God abides on him". Or John 14:21, "He who has my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me and he who loves me will be loved by my father".
Romans 6:1-2. This is directly related to the libertarians, what shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace might increase? The libertarian says, "Well, I'm going to keep on sinning because after all, it's a way for God to show how gracious he really is by forgiving me". Is that supposed to be our attitude? Verse two, may it never be, how shall we who have died to sin still live in it? 1 John 2:4-5, the one who says, "I've come to know him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar. And the truth is not in him but whoever keeps God's word in him, the love of God has truly been perfected.
Romans 6, this is a key passage about what grace really means. For sin shall not be master over you for you are not under the law but under grace. What then, shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be. For do you not know, verse 16, that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves to the one you obey either of sin resulting in death or obedience and resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were once slaves of sin, you have now become obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed and having been freed from sin, you become slaves of righteousness.
In our series, "Grace Gone Wild", we're going to rescue this wonderful gift of grace from legalist who would deny it and the libertarians who would distort it. As I talk about this issue of good grace and bad grace, I imagine there's some of you right now listening to this thinking, "Oh, now I know what that pastor is up to. He's about to with one hand, take away this precious gift of grace and with the other hand, hand me a long list of things I have to do to earn God's approval or to enjoy his benefits". That fear is based on a lie that the enemy has tried to whisper into our ears since the beginning of time. And that lie is, obedience to God leads to misery. You say we have this idea that the freedom to do what we want to do, which is bad grace leads to happiness. But obeying God, which is good grace leads to unhappiness.
The reason God has given us certain restrictions even though we live under grace is not for his benefit, it's for ours and in essence, that's the difference between good grace and bad grace. Good grace recognizes that there are boundaries and behavior that are given for our benefit not for our detriment. Bad grace removes all barriers and standards for behavior. Good grace recognizes that we should establish boundaries toward other people's behavior toward us. Bad grace demands that we endure unlimited abuse from others. Good grace will always motivate a child of God to cling as closely to his Heavenly Father as possible. Bad grace will encourage a child of God to live as close to the edge of disobedience as possible. Good grace leads to life, bad grace leads to death.