We Need More Grace
Date: Oct. 11-12, 2014
Last week chapter one, Paul gave really one of the most powerful declarations about the Gospel. He said “I am not ashamed of the Gospel. Why should I be ashamed of the Gospel? It is the power of God unto salvation for those who believe.”
In other words, the Gospel is God’s answer. You know last week he was talking about the unrighteousness of men -- oh was he building a case; how unrighteous men are; how ungodly the world is. But God has an answer. God is doing something. It’s the Gospel, it’s the Good News. God’s Gospel, he said, I’m not ashamed of that. Then he said that, “God has made Himself known to all men.” Remember those verses? Since the creation of the world, His invisible attribute, His eternal power, and His divine nature have been clearly seen through what has been made so that no one has an excuse. Look around you. Open your eyes. You see these things? And though people, in their heart of hearts, know that there’s a God, many do not honor Him as God and they won’t give thanks, which of course is such an important part of our relationship to the Lord - giving thanks. They don’t give thanks, they don’t honor Him as God and so their hearts are darkened.
In other words, the result of rejecting God, though He has made Himself known, is a very imaginable and unrighteous thing in people’s lives. So that’s what we’re asking; what’s a sinner to do? How is an unrighteous sinner going to have any hope of having an eternal relationship with the holy, righteous God? What’s a sinner to do?
I was using the illustration of how dangerous sin is. Dangerous because it just grows stronger and greater and becomes the master, and I mentioned it’s like our daughter Victoria petting a bull. How do you stop petting a bull? That’s a good question. It becomes the master. What’s a sinner to do? The answer is that God can take a sinner and make a sinner righteous in one verse. I love that; that is the Gospel. He can take a sinner and make a sinner righteous in one verse. 2 Corinthians 5:21 “He made Him who knew no sin…” that’s Christ “to become sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” God can take a sinner and make him righteous in one verse.
In other words, Paul went on to say, “The righteous live by faith; it’s by faith and only by faith. It’s by grace and only by grace.” What’s grace? The unmerited, undeserved favor of God; that’s the Gospel. It’s when a sinner owns the fact that they are a sinner and then takes God at His word. Do we have that eternal hope of heaven? Several of you were at Harvest America last week. Greg Laurie used a great illustration, and I loved it because it makes the point so absolutely clear. The illustration went like this; okay a guy dies and he goes to the pearly gates and there’s Peter. Why Peter’s always there, I don’t know but it’s Peter. And so the guy dies and goes and there’s Peter and he says, “Okay, new system; it’s going to take a thousand points to get into Heaven. So you tell us all the good things that you’ve done and we’ll see if you have enough points to get into heaven,”
So the guy says, “Okay, I was married to the same wonderful woman for 40 years and was faithful the entire time, never even had a lustful thought.” He said “You know what, that is very good - three points.” “Three points? How many points do I need?” “You need a thousand points,” “A thousand points?” “Okay, I went to church every Sunday, and I even went to the mid-week service,” “Okay, that is really very good - one point.” “One point? Ah okay, hey I started a soup kitchen, and I volunteered in a homeless shelter for years,” “That’s really very good - two points.” “Two points? Man by this system it will take only the grace of God for me to get in!” He said “That’s a thousand points, come on in.” I love the conclusion.
Some people believe that they can pull themselves out of the mud one-step at a time. They’re like Martin Luther -- I described last week Martin Luther trying to climb the Holy Stairs in Rome on his knees; climbing one step at a time; knees getting bloody trying to pay penance; trying to win the approval of God. And they are able to get to a higher place than the mud by their own efforts. But the problem is that as soon as they get a few steps higher than the mud, their self-righteousness kicks in, and the problem with self-righteous pride is that it’s just as offensive to God. Instead of saying “What’s a sinner to do?” Now we have to ask “What’s a self-righteousness sinner to do?” The self-righteous sinner needs God’s grace just as much as anyone, but their self-righteousness keeps them from seeing God’s grace. It keeps them from understanding the depths of God’s grace. See, as soon as we can see it, as soon as we can recognize how much we need God’s grace, it would change how we relate to the people around us and we’ll be able to give more grace. Let’s read it; Romans 2, “Therefore, you are without excuse every one of you who passes judgement. For in that you judge another, you condemn yourself. For you who judge, practice the same things.”
“And we know that the judgement of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things and do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgement upon those who practice such things and then do the same things yourself, that you’ll skip the judgement of God or do you think lightly. . . ” Now verse four is famous, one of the most famous in the book, “Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness, and forbearance, and patience not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God who will render to every man according to his deeds to those who by perseverance and doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life. But to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for every man who does good to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
“For there is no partiality with God, there’s no favoritism with God. For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law and all who sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law. It’s not the hearers of the Law who are just before God but the doers of the Law will be justified, for when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, those not having the Law are a law to themselves. And that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing us or defending them on the day when according to my Gospel; God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.”
I. Don’t Look Down on Others
We’re going to look at more verses, but I want to look at these because there’s so much to apply to our lives. One of the things that I want us to see is this; don’t look down on others. Don’t look down. You know for some reason sin looks uglier on someone else than it does on us. Why is that? Sin looks ugly but when you point out how ugly it looks on someone else, you’re pointing the finger at yourself because you do the same kinds of things. Last week I mentioned that we are all born in to the condition of selfishness and self-centeredness, we’re all born in it. Every one of us is born into the condition of selfishness and self-centeredness and that translates into a tendency to always favor ourselves. Because we’re selfish and self-centered, we tend to favor ourselves. Let me give you an example to prove my point; irrefutably prove my point. All you have to do is go to a softball game.
All right you’re at a softball game. The batter is up, the pitch is pitched to him, he hits the ball; he hits a grounder to shortstop. Shortstop takes hold of the ball and fires it to first base; the first baseman catches the ball and it is about the same time that the runner arrives to the base. Is the runner safe, or is the runner out? That totally and completely depends on what team you’re on, isn’t this true? Because everybody on the team of the guy doing the batting, they’re all yelling, “He’s safe, he’s safe, he’s safe. He’s safe I say.” Interesting, every single person on the team. Yeah and everybody on the other team’s saying, “No, he’s out. He’s out and they all get upset. He’s out of the game.” Interesting. We favor ourselves because basically we’re born into selfishness and self-centeredness and therefore we’re not very good judges of others. We’re not very good judges of others because we favor ourselves and therefore we think more highly of ourselves than we should.
A. Be gracious when others fail
And here’s really God’s heart, God’s answer; “Be gracious when others fail.” Man if we could only understand how much grace we need. If we could see our need for grace, it would humble us. And then in that humility, we would be gracious towards others when they fail. Looking down on others when they fail, you know where that comes from? That comes from self-righteousness, thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought. See, here’s my point; if we can only see our sin in light of God’s grace, if we can see it in the light of His grace we could perhaps see other people’s sin in the light of God’s grace.
Let me give you an example from our own lives; many of you were at the memorial service for our daughter and heard her life story. We were very honest about her life story and therefore you’ve heard that there was a time in her life, this was her early 20’s, when she went in to worldliness. She went to the worldly side of life, of the world, and she became pregnant.
We took her in, we loved her, we supported her, we encouraged her faith and the church -- I’ll tell you the church was absolutely amazing. Oh did it bless us to see that love, that support. In fact, many ladies from the church gave her a baby shower, but someone wasn’t so pleased. One day after service, this lady took my wife aside in the parking lot and read her the riot act. And what a terrible example it is that we gave her a baby shower. Really? What do you expect? Should we take her over and drop her off the cliff? What did you expect? And then of course they left the church, which honestly didn’t bother me very much. Now without a show of hands, how many people -- even in this very room could have found themselves in that very same predicament? “Oh how sin looks ugly on someone else.”
You know Jesus actually has some fairly sharp words for those who become self-righteous and look down on others. Luke 6:41-42, “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that’s in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that’s in your own eye.”
B. Grace comes back to you
Here’s a great spiritual point, a powerful spiritual point; grace, it comes back to you. Grace returns to you. Now is there a place for judging in the Christian faith? Actually, yes there is -- absolutely there is. But the problem is that it is misunderstood. So some when they see that there is a place of judging in the Christian faith, they take that to mean that they become the self-appointed righteousness police. Do you know what I mean by this, the righteousness police? They start looking at other people’s lives to see what they can find on other people – self-appointed self-righteous police. But that only brings division and trouble. There’s no good fruit from that and in fact Jesus spoke to this very point. In Luke 6:36-38, Jesus said, “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful.” God is merciful. You be merciful. Be like your Father, have mercy. “Don’t judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Pardon, forgive and you will be pardoned. Give and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” God is merciful and He wants us to be merciful.
One of the most powerful examples of that in Scripture is the woman who is caught in the act of adultery. Remember the story? So the Jewish leaders, they catch this woman and they drag her out and bring her out in front of Jesus. Now I always find it interesting that they only bring the woman? If she was caught in the very act, there was a guy there, but they only bring the woman and they bring her in front of Jesus and say, “The Law says that this woman should be stoned, what say you?” It’s a trap of course. Jesus famously responded, “Let him who has no sin, then cast the first stone.” He then bent down and began to write something on the dirt. The Scripture says that they began to drop the stones, starting from the oldest down to the younger which is to say, they had stones in their hands. But when they had all gone, this is John 8:10-11; “Straightening up, Jesus said to her ‘Woman where are they? Did no one condemn you?’ she said, ‘No one Lord’ and Jesus said “And I do not condemn you either. Go and from now on, sin no more.” Now you all know John 3:16, it’s one of the most famous verses in the Bible, well here’s John 3:17; “God did not send his Son in to the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved.” That’s the heart of God, that’s why His Son was sent. See this is what Jesus was saying, Mercy comes back to you. Have mercy, be merciful and it’ll come back to you. Mathew 5:7 makes it absolutely clear, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.” Be merciful and it’ll come back to you, be gracious and grace comes back to you. But He also said that judging comes back to you.
II. His Kindness leads us to Repentance
Have you ever met someone who’s like that? That self-appointed righteousness police, that likes to point out what’s wrong in other people’s lives? Don’t you find yourself watching that person; let’s just see how you live. Don’t you find yourself doing that? Judging comes back to you if we can only understand the heart of God. He tells it to us in chapter 2:4; “It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance.” Verse four is one of my favorite verses, but it is commonly misunderstood. The person who is self-righteous and looks down on others, they’re not thinking about the kindness of God, they’re thinking about the judgement of God, “Let your judgement come down on them Lord.” They’re thinking lightly of the riches of His kindness because in reality they do the same kinds of things. See if they could think greatly of God’s patience and see it for what it is, how much they need the patience of God, they’d be more patient. If they could see the greatness of God’s grace they’d have more grace for others, but it’s a lesson for all of us because we’re the same. We tend to do it also.
Can I tell a story on myself? One day I was down at the beach. I was coming back and if you know the north end of Lincoln City, the two lanes you know they merge into one. Well it was really busy traffic-wise. It’s always stop and go and when two lanes merge into one the way that works is that we take turns. See that’s the way it works. This is not California my friends, this is Oregon, and we take turns in Oregon. So the guy on my left went, which is to say it’s my turn next. But the guy behind him, he puts his nose up and I thought, “Okay, well he just didn’t see me you know?” So I put my nose up which is to say, “Actually, it’s my turn,” and he put his nose up which is to say, “Actually I did see you and you’re not getting in.” But what next happened surprised me. I started to burn. I could feel it. I started to burn inside. It’s like, “Grrrr.” And of course I pulled in behind him and it was dark, so I could see with my headlights. I could see that his wife was giving him the “What for!” and my reaction, “Oh yeah you go, you go girl.” “Let the judgement of God fall through you, go!”
Now Lincoln City to home is about an hour and a half, and I had an hour and a half to think about that. Why did you burn? I mean God just convicted me; why did you burn in your heart? Where’s mercy; what about mercy? And don’t you do the same things? Well actually I do. I’ll tell you exactly where I was. I’m telling the story on myself; I’ll tell you exactly where I was. On Highway 26 when you’re heading into Portland, you know when you come out of the tunnel? If you’re in the middle lane, you’re supposed to exit into the middle exit, you know what I’m saying? If you are -- if you merged to the right you’re cutting somebody off and I’ve done it. And my wife, you know, points out and says, “You know what, why don’t you drive like your mother’s in the car?” Drive like my mother’s in the car? Of course I couldn’t let that go. So the next time I took my mom to lunch or something I said, “Mom, strap in we’re going for a ride.” Oh it was all good. She was safe.
A. God prefers repentance over judgement
Here’s the thing that we need to see; God prefers repentance over judgment. That’s His point; God prefers repentance. That’s why he’s talking about His kindness. God is patient and God is kind, leading people towards repentance. We read it earlier, “God did not send His Son to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him.” How about this one 2 Peter 3:9; “The Lord is not slow about His promise as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.”
Sometimes we look at the world and we say “God let your judgement fall.” Oh well wait a minute, God is patient. God is patient, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. Paul himself, Paul himself is one of the greatest examples of the patience and the mercy of God. You might know his story; number one enemy of the church. He was terrible. It was despicable what he did and he admits it. In fact, he wrote it in 1 Timothy 1:16-17. He was writing to his young son in the faith, Timothy, and he said, “Yet for this reason I felt mercy so that in me, the foremost of sinners,” see he calls it straight out, “I was the worst of sinners”, what I did was so bad. I was persecuting, I was dragging people out, bringing them to their death, I was the worst.
But God showed patience to me and says, “So that in me, the foremost of sinners, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who believe in Him for eternal life.” That you look at Paul and say, “Man, may God have mercy on that man and have mercy on me.” God had showed kindness to him, showed kindness to me. You know what’s interesting is that when Paul was writing that, he stops and goes in to worship. He writes out worship; “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever, amen.” Like it strikes him, like he’s convinced as he’s writing. God’s mercy -- I was the worst. He starts to think about it, “Oh, what I did! But God is merciful to me,” and then he just breaks in to worship, “Unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever, amen.”
It breaks him into worship; I’ve got to stop here. I’ve got to thank God for this. See God sent His Son because He loves the world. That is the Gospel, that is the good news. God’s doing something. He sent His Son with His love. He came to seek and to save that which was lost -- this is important to understand because many people are absolutely convinced that God is angry with them. Many, many people are convinced that God is angry with them, and so they’re trying to do some good things so that God will love them. That’s their view. God is angry with them because they’ve blown it, and now they’re trying to do some good things so that God might love them. It’s kind of like this -- let me give you an illustration.
It is kind of like when a husband forgets his wife’s birthday and then tries to do nice things to make up for it. It’s like, wait a minute you’re only doing those nice things because you blew it, and now you’re trying to make up for it. See there’s a difference between doing good things to make up for it, versus doing good things out of love. It’s a very different thing. Now, you might wonder how I know that particular thing? Because I counsel people that do that kind of stuff, that’s how I know.
You don’t need to do good things so that God will love you, He already loves you. That’s why He sent His Son. God loves the world so much. When you stand before God, He’s not going to ask you how many good things you did. He’s not going to say; “Did you recycle?” “Did you save the whales?” “Did you help old women cross the street?” He’s going to ask you this, “I sent My love, did you receive it?” “I loved you, did you receive My love?” “I sent My love to you through My Son, did you receive My Son?” “Did you? You see because if you received My love, you loved Me in return.”
B. We are judged by His deeds.
That’s the Gospel. That’s the Good News and then you see this; we are judged by His deeds. You know Paul points out -- you look at those verses and Paul points out; “God will render to every man according to his deeds”, verse 6. Then he says, “Jews and Gentiles will be judged either according to the Law or their conscience, but there will come a day when God will judge all things.” You want to talk about being judged by what you do? There -- right there it is. Is that the way you want it to be? It’s right there. In fact, he says in Acts 17:30-31, very powerfully said, “God is declaring that all people everywhere should repent because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a man whom He has appointed, Jesus Christ.” Get this, “Having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” You want proof? It’s right there He raised Him from the dead.
But here’s the great thing; here’s the Gospel. “But because of the kindness of God, because of the greatness of His mercy and grace, when you stand before God that day, you will not stand condemned. Our sins have been washed away. All of our sins placed on the cross of Jesus Christ in Calvary. He paid it all so that when you stand before God that day, before the throne of the Almighty, you are not standing condemned. You are standing in the righteousness of God, adopted as His son or as His daughter. Paul says, “I’m not ashamed of the Gospel, why should I be ashamed of the Gospel? There is the eternal power of it.” He can take a sinner and have him stand before the throne of God -- before the throne of God in the righteousness of God, not condemned. It has eternal consequence. He can take a sinner and make him righteous. Should I be ashamed of that? No way.
Romans 8:1-2, 4 says it so well, “Therefore there is now no condemnation.” Literally no damnation. “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus for the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the Law of sin and death”. So that the requirement of the Law, the obligation of the Law might be fulfilled in us who don’t walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. He says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” You received His love, you received His mercy and His grace and He places you in Christ Jesus so that you have that relationship to God, which we don’t deserve, by grace. You’re in Christ. You stand before the Almighty saved by grace, His righteousness is a gift. We read John 3:17 earlier, well here’s John 3:18; “He who believes in Him is not judged but he who does not believe has been judged already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
C. And it matters how we live
Now, having said that understanding the greatness of the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience and how we stand now by the grace of God, it’s also important to understand that it matters how we live -- how we live. Look at the next section starting in verse 17. Paul is confronting the self-righteous Jew; I’m just going to call it for what it is because that’s what he’s doing. He’s confronting the self-righteous Jew and this is how he says it, “If you bear the name Jew and then you rely upon the Law and then you boast in God and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, the light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of truth, you therefore who teach another, do you not teach yourself?”
All of that is summarized in verse 29 he says, “Listen, he is a Jew who is one inwardly.” You think God really cares about those outward things? No, it’s inward. A Jew is one who is one inwardly and circumcision which is a mark of being a Jew is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter and his praise is not from men but from God. Now that’s powerful and important because in a similar way a Christian is one who is one inwardly. What does it mean to be a Christian? Doing Christian things? No. Having the appearance of Christian outward things? No, not at all. When is a Christian one inwardly? It’s always about the heart and its praises from God. If we could be connected to God by the heart, the Holy Spirit of the living God is poured out and instructs us how to live, how to walk, how to honor Him with our life; the Spirit instructs us.
If we are Christian or Christian inwardly, it’s always been about the heart, then we will want to honor Him out of heart, out of our lives. Mathew 6:20 Jesus said, “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The heart, ah it’s about the heart; how you live, it’s about your heart. God, I’m connected to You by my heart. I want to honor You with how I live.
You know I want to speak something to you that I think many people are misunderstanding about because many people wonder, “Well, then is there like a judging of Christians? Is there a place where Christians are judged?” Actually there is and this is spoken about in 2 Corinthians 5:10. See here Paul writes, “We must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body according to what he’s done, whether good or bad. But then in 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 he gives this wonderful explanation which makes it so abundantly clear to us. He says it this way, “Each man’s work…” in other words how he lives his life, “Each man’s work will become evident for the day, will show it because it is to be revealed with fire and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains (or is eternal in other words) he’s laid out for himself treasures in heaven.” He will receive a reward. “If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved yet as though through fire.” How he lives matters and if your heart is connected to the Lord you want to do something, you want to honor Him with your heart, with your life. There is the understanding of how we respond to His kindness, His love and His grace.