Robert Morris - I'm in the Chair
So, here's the title of this one and I'll show you at the end of the message a true story, and the title is, "I'm in the Chair". And you won't understand that until we get to the end of the message, but then you will, and you'll probably never forget it. "I'm in the Chair," and we're gonna talk about one of God's attributes today, and that is grace. It is not just that God has grace, it is God is grace, and that's all of His attributes. In other words, He doesn't just have mercy, He is mercy. If He just had it, He might run out. But, He'll never run out because He is love, He is mercy, He is grace. You see what I'm saying?
So, we're gonna talk about grace. So in order to do that, let me remind you of the working definitions. These are working definitions, or practical definitions, I should say, of justice and mercy, and then I'll tell you that working definition of grace. So, justice is giving us what we deserve - giving us what we deserve, and we've already talked about justice and mercy. Mercy is not giving us what we deserve. And if you missed that message, it's called, "I'll Arrange It". It was a few weeks ago, and I showed how God is fully just and fully merciful at the same time. So, justice is giving us what we deserve. Mercy is not giving us what we deserve. Grace is giving us what we don't deserve.
So, let me give you some practical... what I mean by that. Justice is sending us to hell. That would be just. Mercy is not sending us to hell, and grace is sending us to heaven. I want you to get that - not letting us go, making us go. When you pass away, if you're a believer in Jesus, you have no choice, you have to go to heaven. You just have to go to heaven. So, but there's a lot of misunderstanding about grace, and here's the problem. If you add, in your mind, maybe not even consciously, but subconsciously - if you add 1% works to grace, it's not grace. It is not grace plus works that gets us to heaven. It actually breaks my heart.
Paul said it this way. I'm paraphrasing it and when I was telling Debbie this, I started crying this week as I was explaining it to her. Here's is what Paul says - then Christ died in vain. In other words, if we can get there by our own merit, Christ died in vain. And, I promise you... let me say it another way. Even your righteousness is as filthy rags. The best thing about you looks like your garage rags in the sight of God's righteousness. So, it's 100% grace.
But, there's a popular teaching going around now that grace is divine enablement. In other words, grace enables you to live the right way, and you'd better live the right way or you'll be in trouble. You know, I was actually talking to one of my sons about this. He said, "This is a big thing now, Dad, grace is divine enablement". I said, "Yeah, it was a big thing 35 years ago, when I was in college," or 38, or whenever it was - sometime long ago, okay? And it was a big thing in the 50s. There was a big movement in the 19, right at the turn of the century. I can go through it. Matter of fact, in the first century it was big, and it's basically what Paul had to combat in nearly all of his letters, that you can't add anything. Let me say it this way. Jesus plus nothing, Jesus minus nothing, equals salvation. It's Jesus. It's all Jesus.
So, I have a friend of mine who is a good friend and a good Bible teacher - good Bible teacher. But, he and I don't see eye to eye on grace, but that doesn't mean we can't still be friends. You don't have to agree with everyone in the body of Christ. Let's have unity in the body of Christ, even though, you know, he's wrong and I'm right. But it's okay, you can still be friends, okay? But, we were talking about it and I told him, "I can't endorse your teaching on grace, because it's just not correct". And the reason I couldn't endorse it was because he wrote, and he wanted me to endorse this, that grace is like the oars of a boat. And we're in this little boat, and there's a current that's pulling us toward hell, and God gives us these oars and if we row hard enough, then we'll beat the current and get to heaven. But if we ever stop rowing, then we'll just drift to hell. That was his definition of grace. And I said, "I can't endorse that, I can't agree with that".
So, we got together to talk and he said, "Well," I said, "Share with me everything you believe about grace, and then we'll talk". So he said, "Well, I think we've missed it in the church". And he said, "I sent out a survey to 100 pastors. All of them answered. And I said, 'What is grace?' 99% of them said something like unmerited favor," which is the classical definition and the correct definition, by the way. "But only one of them said divine enablement," and he said, "so I think we're missing it". And then he went through why he believed that, and then you know how when someone's trying to convince you, then they kind of go through it again? And again, this is a good guy. He's a great guy, a great husband, a great father. He's a great Bible teacher, except this one area. He doesn't understand grace.
And so, he kind of goes through it again, and then said to me, "Okay," and he said, "Dr. Morris," and I only use that when we graduate students, you know. But anyway, he said, "It's okay, Dr. Morris, am I wrong"? And I said, "100%. Not even 99% wrong, you're 100% wrong". And I said, "Let's just start with your survey. You asked what grace is. You didn't ask what grace does. Now, let me say that again. You asked what grace is. It is unmerited favor. If you had asked what does grace do, one of the things that grace does is divinely enable us to walk a new life in Christ". Are you all following this?
So, yes, that is something grace does, and although we'll never be perfect, it does enable us to walk a new life in Christ, but that's not what it is. What it is, is the unmerited favor of God, and the unmerited, unearned, undeserved, unlimited favor of God is what causes you to want to walk that new life in Christ. See? So, that's what it is. So, we're gonna go through three things. We're gonna talk about unmerited, unearned, and unlimited, all right? So, here's number one. Unmerited - unmerited favor is what we're talking about. What is grace? Unmerited. Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves". These verses are so clear. I wish you'd memorize them and say them 40 times a day to yourself. "By grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast". Isn't that clear?
Let me tell you this. You may boast on this earth, but the moment you see the nail prints in His hands, you will never brag again. You will never boast that you got there by rowing harder than someone else. You won't be walking around heaven saying, "I rowed and I got myself here". You know, basically what you're saying is, "For by me, I was saved". If you believe in works, you're the one that got saved. And you know, "Amazing Grace," written by John Newton, a former slave ship owner, totally repentant for his sins, understood the atrocity of his sins, wrote the hymn, the amazing hymn, "Amazing Grace".
Listen, if you believe that rowing gets you to heaven, then grace isn't amazing, you're amazing. Well, this is good preaching. If you all don't know how to recognize good preaching, this is good preaching. Grace is amazing! You are not amazing! Grace is amazing. For people who have sinned and fallen short of God to be forgiven of all of their sins and get to go to heaven because of a gift from Jesus Christ, that's what's amazing! So, don't put your works in it. It is "not of works, lest anyone should boast". There will be no boasting in heaven. It is completely, totally unmerited. And I just want you to know, grace covers even stupid sins.
Now I could ask you, how many of you have done something stupid? I could ask you, and I could ask you to raise your hands, but I'm not going to, because we all know. But let me tell you something else grace covers that some people don't think it covers. It covers intentional sin. I don't have time to go through all of the verses to show that it does, but listen to me, and there's one verse that's totally misinterpreted, totally taken out of context in this area. But I just ask you, have you ever intentionally sinned? Have you ever known it was wrong and done it anyway? You better hope grace covers it, otherwise you're going to hell. Hey, don't make me make you raise your hands! And by the way, if I said how many of you have intentionally sinned and you didn't raise your hand, you're intentionally lying.
So, grace is unmerited. Here's number two - it's unearned. It's unearned. We don't earn it. Romans 11:6, "And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. And if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work". Do you understand what he's saying here? He's saying there's no way it can be both, because grace is unearned and works is when you earn it. Grace is a gift, it's free, and works is when you earn it. So, he says if it's free, it can't be earned, and if it's earned, it can't be free. You cannot have it, not even 99% and 1%. It's either free or it's earned. It's one or the other.
You've never had someone give you a gift and you say, "Oh, thank you," and they say, "That'll be $86, please". Well then, it's not a gift, you know? All of my kids, when they were in college, they all had one of my credit cards for emergencies, gas, things like that, you know. And I remember one Christmas I opened up this present from Elaine and I said, "Elaine, this is beautiful"! She said, "I put it on your card".
So, let me give you just a little Greek here. The Greek word for grace is actually pronounced "har-rece," but you've seen it spelled "charis," right? We've seen "charis". Some parents name their daughters "Charis," it means grace. It's good. That's our English pronunciation. I actually have a friend of mine, he said to me, "We're thinking about naming our daughter 'Charis'". And I said, "Personally, I wouldn't do that if I were you all". And he said, "Why"? I said, "Well, because your last name is Maddox". Charis Maddox. Okay. That's one of those it takes a while to, you know. Oh, charismatics. Okay, all right. So, but the point is it's the Greek word "charis".
Now, let me explain something to you about this Greek word. This was a cultural Greek word, like most Greek words that were in the culture hundreds of years before they were ever in the Bible. So, I'm gonna tell you where "charis" came from. "Charis" comes from it's a gift given to an inferior from a superior. That's what it means, a gift given to an inferior from a superior. But, there's one major difference. It involves three persons, three people, not two. There is a Greek word that involves a gift being given to a person and it involves only two people, and it's where we get our word, our English word, "benevolence". Okay?
And so, if you took these three people now in Greek... I'm not saying these are great English words, but if you took them in Greek and you translated them, they would be the "patron," the "client," and the "broker". Those are the three that make up the action of "har-rece," or charis, or grace, okay - the patron, the client, and the broker.
Now, here's what I mean by that. Let's say the patron has a shoe company, and there's someone who needs shoes. And so, if the patron, the guy that owns the shoe company, gives the shoes directly to the family, that would be the word we call "benevolence". That's benevolent. But, that is not the word that the Holy Spirit uses to describe grace. He uses this word, which here's what would happen.
There was a broker. The broker was a person of great wealth himself, had great means, but he chose to live among the poor people. And he would find the needs that they had, and then he would go to the patrons, the people who had the shoes, or the clothing, or the food, or the housing materials, whatever the need was, but here's the difference. He didn't ask them to donate it, he paid for it himself. I hope you're getting this. This is the word used for grace, because Jesus chose to come and live among us, and pay for what we got from the Father. He paid for it Himself. He became our broker or our advocate between God.
And then, here's the third word, unlimited. Unlimited. John 1:16 says, "For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace". Many people have no clue what this phrase means, "grace upon grace". "Grace upon grace," some say "grace for grace". Well, how do you receive grace for grace? Okay, again you have to go to the original language. This word, "upon," which is translated "for" in some translations, literally means over and over again. So it says, "Of His fullness".
Now remember, God is infinite. So, "Of His fullness of grace," because the context here is that Jesus came full of grace and truth. That's the verse right before this. And of His fullness we have all received, grace over and over and over and over again. That's what this actually means, and let me just ask you a question, again to help prove this to you. Can you count the number of times you've been forgiven? Even for the same thing? It's unlimited. It's grace. See, because God is grace and because God is infinite, His grace is unlimited. It'll never run out. This is what Paul had to fight over and over again. They kept trying to add things to grace. Paul wrote 13 epistles, 13 letters. He begins every epistle with "Grace," and he ends every epistle with "Grace". And I'm gonna do it quickly, and I'm gonna kind of keep shortening them, because the sentences, the first sentence is almost the same and the last sentence is almost the same as we get into this.
- Romans 1, first chapter of Romans. "Through Him we receive grace".
- Last chapter of Romans, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all".
- First chapter of 1 Corinthians 1, "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ".
- Last chapter of 1 Corinthians, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you".
- 2 Corinthians, "Grace to you," and then he goes on, "and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ".
- The last chapter of 2 Corinthians, "Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all".
- First chapter of Galatians, "Grace to you".
- The last chapter of Galatians, "Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit".
- First of Ephesians, "Grace to you".
- Last of Ephesians, "Grace be with those who love our Lord Jesus".
- First of Philippians, "Grace to you".
- Last of Philippians, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all".
- First of Colossians, "Grace to you".
- Last of Colossians, "Grace be with you".
- First of Thessalonians, "Grace to you".
- Last of 1 Thessalonians, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you".
- First of 2 Thessalonians, "Grace to you".
- Last of 2 Thessalonians, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all".
- First of 1 Timothy, "Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior".
- Last verse in 1 Timothy 6, "Grace be with you".
- First of 2 Timothy, "Grace, mercy, and peace".
- Last of 2 Timothy, "Grace be with you".
- First of Titus, "Grace, mercy, and peace".
- Last of Titus, "Grace be with you all".
- First of Philemon, "Grace to you".
- Last of Philemon, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit".
You start with grace and you end with grace. I'm confident. I'm confident of this one thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it. You got saved by grace, and you're gonna stay saved by grace. It's completely and totally of His grace.
Now, I want to show you a picture of grace, and in a moment it'll make sense, the title of the message. Dick and Judy Hoyt had a son named Rick Hoyt. When Rick was born, the umbilical cord was around his neck and his oxygen supply was cut off for an extended time. And the doctors told them, "He will never walk or talk, and you should institutionalize him," but they decided not to. When he was 10 years old, some engineers developed... and this was, by the way, in 1973, so think about the technology back then. They developed a computer, because they found out that Rick was extremely intelligent, and Judy, his mother, taught him how to read, then taught him the alphabet, and he could do it with his eyes by looking at letters, but he couldn't walk or talk.
So, then they developed a computer where he could look at a letter and bump, like a big mouse thing, and click that letter, and he could learn to spell and write sentences, and then the computer would actually talk. That technology now is all over the world helping handicapped people, but they invented it for this young man, and it's been advanced many times. When he was 15 years old, one of his classmates was in an accident and paralyzed, and they were going to run a 5K to raise money for him, and he, through the computer, said to his father, "I want to run in that race".
So, his father, who was not a runner, who served as a lieutenant colonel in our armed forces, decided to train so he could push his son in a wheelchair. He got a 100-pound sack of concrete and put it in a wheelchair, and would run every day while his son was at school. By the way, once they developed that computer, Rick was able to go to public school, graduate from high school, and then graduate from college as well. So, his father pushed him in that race, and after the race, through the computer, he told his father, "When I'm running, it's the only time I don't feel handicapped".
So, his father kept doing this. Now they have run in 72 marathons and 257 triathlons. A triathlon is 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of cycling, and 26.2 miles, which is a marathon, at the end of that of running. When Rick, the son, swims, he's in a little raft, and Dick, his father, is pulling him, swimming in the water. When Rick rides the cycle, he's in a chair specially designed for him on the front of the bicycle while his father pedals. When Rick runs, he's in a chair that his father pushes.
I'm in the chair, and so are you. Every finish line that we cross, our Father is pulling us, pushing us, and carrying us. That's grace. Grace is completely unearned, unmerited, but it's also unlimited. So, I want you to hear that. If you've messed up, God's grace is still there, and all God is asking you to do today - today - is get in the chair. You know, really He's asking you to let Him put you in the chair, because you can't even get in the chair on your own. So, I just want you to take a moment and just tell the Lord, "Lord, put me in the chair. I can't walk spiritually on my own. I can't talk spiritually on my own. I can't do anything. I can't run marathons on my own. But Lord, I'll get in the chair and I'll let You push me. I'll let You take me across the finish line".
That's God's grace. Just take a moment, just in your heart right now, and just give control of your life to the Lord. Or, maybe you're a believer and there's a situation or a circumstance that you're going through right now that you need to say, "Lord, this is too big for me. I need You to carry me across this finish line". And what's great about grace is that it is completely unlimited, because our God is unlimited. Hey, I love you guys so much. I love that you love the Word, and I love this series as we talk about the attributes of God and how these attributes apply to our everyday lives. I'm gonna continue next time. I'll see you next time.