Tony Evans — Living Under Grace
It is unfortunate today that many of us as believers live in spiritual poverty, when the grace of God offers spiritual riches. I like the way he concluded verse 8 of our Scripture. He called it the unfathomable riches of Christ. The fundamental feature of grace that you need to understand is that grace is always free. Grace is always free. Today, I want you to make sure you have relocated to the grace location from your old address.
Indeed, you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace. The Greek word for stewardship is 'oikonomia'. Oikonomia meant to manage a household. 'Oikos' meant a house. 'Oikonomia' meant how you manage the operation of that house. It's quoted here as stewardship in one version. You may have another version that called it a dispensation. Another version I'll show you in a minute calls it an administration. It is administering a house. That's what the word meant. God's house, his creation, is called his kingdom, and he administers his house, but he administers his house in stages. We call them dispensations or stewardships. In this administration of his house, depending upon the stage, he had different types of administration.
For example, with Adam and Eve, he administered his house via the trees. "Every tree of the garden you may freely eat, but not the tree in the midst of the garden". And that was his administrative mechanism. Under Moses he administrated his house by the law, the Ten Commandments. The way he runs his house, his kingdom now, is by an administration, and that administration is the administration, the oikonomia of grace. In other words, that's how he's operating now. That's how he's managing things in his kingdom. It is by grace. It is no longer by the old location.
Go back to chapter 1 of Ephesians. Verse 3 reads this way, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ". So, here is the first thing you need to know about your new location, your new management in this stage of salvation history. Everything God is ever gonna do for you, he's already done. Please notice the E-D on the word blessed. God has already done whatever he's going to do for you tomorrow, has already been deposited. He has blessed you with every spiritual blessing already, so the issue now is not getting your blessing, it is accessing it, 'cause it's already on deposit. In the old management you had to do stuff to get blessed. In the new management, in the new household stage, you have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
I love 2 Corinthians chapter 1, verses 19 and 20 because it says, "The promises of God are yea and amen in Christ". It's already yes in Christ. He says in verse 6 and 7 of chapter 1, "To the praise of the glory of his grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the beloved". So, here we go with the word free again. You can't earn grace. "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace".
Time will not allow me to go into all the idiosyncratic elements of the theology of these verses, but they are staggering, because, again, we hear... come up with this word rich. He says you've already been blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places, so what you need to know is that the bank that holds whatever God's favor is for you, for your life as a believer, is located in the spiritual realm. Heavenly places means the spiritual realm. It's not in the physical realm. It's applied in the physical realm, but it's on deposit in the spiritual realm, okay? Heavenly places. He says that this favor of God, grace, has been freely bestowed on you in the beloved.
When Jesus was being baptized, God said, "This is my beloved son, in whom I'm well pleased". So, Jesus, at his baptism, heaven opens. God speaks and says, "I love that boy. Mmm, he's my beloved son, in whom I'm well pleased. I have no complaint about him". Guess what God just said about you? Praise God for his grace, which he has freely bestowed in the beloved. "Beloved" means "I'm pleased with you". Now, let me tell you why that's good news: 'cause a lot of us are looking at the wrong place for acceptance. God has already okayed you. Now, he does not okay all we do. That's a different thing, but you don't have to earn his love, nor do you have to earn his acceptance. He is as pleased with you as he is with his son because he's bestowed his grace freely on you, because you are connected with his son in the beloved. So much favor, that God has already put everything for the rest of your life in your account.
The Bible says in 1 John 4:17, "As Christ is, so are we in the world". God views us in this world as he viewed Christ, when Christ was on Earth, which means that the most important thing in your life and my life for maximizing grace is understand who we are in Christ. "To the praise of the glory of his grace". He says if you really understood the spiritual riches, you'll be praising God all day. You'll be praising God not for what you want, but for what you already have that you haven't seen yet, because remember grace is free, and it starts with your recognition of your acceptance by God. You are accepted by the highest person in the universe, flaws and all. God never endorses our sin, but neither does he let our sin cause him to reject us as his family members.
By the way, let me read verse 10 with a view of Ephesians 1, "To an administration," That's our word, oikonomia. That's our word, managing a household, administration. "To the administration suitable to the fullness of time, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ Jesus in heaven and things on the earth".
Okay, don't miss this. God's philosophy of history in this stage is the summing up of all things in Christ Jesus. Let me say that in case you didn't get it. God's philosophy of history is to bring everything under the tutelage and to the attention and based on his son, Christ Jesus, the summing up of all things. Now, the reason you need to know that not only from a historical perspective, but from a personal perspective, is that the way you access grace is by summing up every aspect of your life in Christ Jesus, to bring all of life in connection with him. The reason why many of us are not experiencing more of God's grace is because we visit Christ Jesus. We pay him a visit on Sunday. In order to access grace, you have to access the beloved. You're in the beloved, fully accepted, but you must now attach everything to him.
That is, you must practice his presence. You must involve him in your decision making. You must involve him in your relationships. You must involve him in your finances. You must involve him in your career. You must involve him. You must involve him. That's why the Bible says pray without ceasing. It means just involve Christ in everything, and the more Christ Jesus is involved, since he is the one who dispenses grace, the more involved you make him, the more grace he's free to dispense, 'cause you've connected every area of life to him. It is the disconnect from Christ that stifles the flow of grace that's already been deposited. It is the summing up of all things in Christ.
You see, what the enemy has to do is trick you. He can't overpower you, because Jesus is greater than he is. "Greater is he that's in you than he that's in the world," so since he's not technically greater than you, he's gotta trick you, and the way he tricks you is by getting you to shift away from a Jesus focus. He says in verse 6, "To be specific, the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promises in Christ Jesus through the gospel". Wow. God made a promise in the Old Testament to Abraham before the law. It's called the Promise of Abraham. The Promise of Abraham had, "I'm gonna bless you, and through you I'm gonna make you a blessing".
That's why you always hear me say the way to experience your blessing is to be the blessing you want to experience, so that means the Abrahamic promise is good for you. He says and that they are fellow heirs. This is why you can't have racism in the church, 'cause he says, "In my family, everybody in here is a sinner saved by grace. Everybody in here is dependent upon the grace of Jesus Christ". There are no big Is and little yous in the kingdom of God. In the kingdom of God everybody bows a knee to Jesus Christ, and so there is no place for classicism, racism, culturalism, where there is illegitimate division, because once you have illegitimate division, you block grace, 'cause we are fellow heirs of the promise, equal recipients of the grace of God, and that's why the evil one wants to keep the church divided, so that it can't flow with grace.
I love chapter 2, verses 22 and 23, "And God, he put all things in subjection under his," Christ's, "feet, and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all". Everybody is worried about the White House. God is worried about the church house. That God will never do something in Washington if he can't do it in our house, and so we are to reflect the goodness of God and reflect the grace of God by giving grace, while utilizing it for ourselves, so the church is God's collective home. So, you have your own personal life where your heart is the home of God, you have your family, where your home is supposed to be the house of God, and then we call this the spiritual family, where the church is supposed to be the house of God, where the values of the kingdom of God are operating in the church, not the values of a secular society. Our obligation is not to bring their values in here, but to take these values out there.
By hearing what comes out of your mouth and the way it comes out of your mouth is a good indication of where you are with God. He says in chapter 4, verses 25 to 32, "Watch your mouth". Let's look at verse 29. "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it may give grace," watch that, "it may give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption". Now, the word unwholesome means rotten or decaying, so unwholesome meat would be meat decaying. Unwholesome food is food that is no longer edible. That's the Greek word for unwholesome.
He says don't let garbage come out of your mouth, because what the mouth does is it reflects the heart. If you are a constant gossiper, slanderer, if you are a confusion maker who rather than building things up, edification, you're regularly tearing things down, it is because you don't understand the grace of God you need to build you up, and so you reflect that in tearing others down. I like the way Colossians 4:6 says. It says, season your words with salt. That mean put a little flavor on 'em, that you might minister to somebody else. Your mouth is to be primarily a tool of ministry, not a tool of mess. Your mouth is to be primarily a tool of ministry to reflect the grace of God, but it just hit me.
The reason why so much of our mouth is a mess is because we've missed so much of grace, 'cause the more grace you receive, the more praise and help you're gonna give. But the less grace you are aware of, the more chaos you're going to contribute, because God's grace is so foreign to you. You just visit it, that it has little control over you, and the big control is in the mouth. The tongue is so dangerous. God put it in a cage called the mouth, behind bars called teeth.
You know, one of the biggest ways that our mouths don't edify is through constant complaining. You know why Israel didn't make it to the Promised Land? It said no matter what God did, they found fault with him. They complained, and they grumbled. They complained, and they grumbled. They complained. They didn't give thanks. They complained, and they grumbled. They complained, and they grumbled. Now, I'm not talking about a prayer request. I mean, I'm talking about a discontent with God's goodness because you don't have everything you want right now. And so it's like kids. They complained and they complained and they complained.
It's like the monk who was at the monastery, and he could only speak two words a year. And so, the first year he was there, he said, "Bed hard". Second year, his two words were, "Food bad". The third year his two words were, "I quit". The head of the monastery said, "Well, you should quit 'cause you just been complaining since you been here". So, it's just that spirit of only seeing what's wrong, because that means you're not seeing how much grace is right. You're not seeing all the favor of God, so Christians need spiritual mouthwash, but that comes because there is so much grace you can't help it. See, grace-filled people are praise-filled people.
It's like the girl who use the word darn. She said a sentence, and she said darn. And the father didn't like that word, darn. He said, "I don't want you using that kind of word, language, so I will give you ten cents if you don't use the word darn anymore". And she said, "I got a few words worth a dollar, if we're gonna do that". The right conditions we'll just say what we feel, but when you are full of grace, why is it matter? Because he says when you lose grace, reflected in the tongue, you lose the work of the Holy Spirit in your life.
Verse 30 of chapter 4, "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit". How do you grieve him? With your tongue. That's the context here. Wrong speech that tears down, instead of edify, build up, saddens the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is like a dove. He'll fly away quickly. That is, he won't engage when grace is being ruined by destructive speech and not building up edification speech. It doesn't mean you don't tell the truth. Grace only works with the truth, but you speak the truth in love, not speak the truth in hate and vengeance, and, "I'm going to ruin you with my tongue". It means you don't have enough grace. You're not under the waterfall of grace, and when this grace grows in you, because you're including Christ in everything — that's all you gotta do. You gotta practice his presence.
If you just include him now in every little thing, every big thing, every in-between thing, it's Jesus in the morning, Jesus at noontime, Jesus when the sun goes down — and I'm not somehow throwing the word Jesus. Jesus, Jesus. I'm talking about including him, summing up all things in Christ, when you do that, then now grace is gonna flow more, and you're gonna experience more of his favor even in the midst of stormy circumstances. And when you do that, praise will grow. That's why I love chapter 1, verse 6 and 7, "To the praise of the glory of his grace". You're gonna be a praiser, and you won't need...
See, some people praise 'cause there is somebody up here telling 'em to do it, you know? "Wave your hand in the air like you just don't care," you know? You know, somebody tells you to praise. The preacher tells you to praise, the song leader tells you to praise, and you praise. You may not wanna praise, you may not feel like praising, but you don't wanna look odd, so you get up, and you say the praise words, "Hallelujah. Praise the Lord, amen? I'm blessed and highly favored," you know? You go through the vocabulary 'cause you don't wanna seem like the odd man out, but here is how you know grace is flowing. You know grace is flowing when there is no song leader and there is nobody on the pulpit, and you're still praising him and giving him glory when you're by yourself.
That's what I love in a football game. In a football game, when the lineman makes attack on one of the other team, they'll often come and do this. They'll come and do this, and this means three words. It means give it up. It means give it up. You know what they're doing? They're calling on the audience to join them 'cause of what just happened. I just sacked the quarterback, and I feel so good about what I just did. I just don't wanna go through it by myself, so I'm just gonna raise my hand, and I want you to just give it up. So, I'm inviting you, oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let's exalt his name together. Just let's give it up. Now, if you don't wanna give it up, don't give it up, but if anybody, like me, wanna see all the grace you can get, give it up because God tackled Satan. God has accepted you. God has already blessed you, so you don't need anybody else to tell you to do this. You give it up because he is worthy to be praised. Praise God for his magnificent grace.