For the past several weeks, we have been talking about the grace of God. Hopefully, you understand that we are saved by grace, and grace alone. The word "grace" means: "free and unmerited favor shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment." Human merit plays no part in man's salvation. I think you understand that, but do you understand that, as Christians, we are to live by grace?
I think that most Christians tend to base their personal relationship with God on their performance, instead of on His grace. Most Christians are legalistic in their walk with God. We need to understand that all of the Christian life is a matter of grace. We are brought into God's eternal kingdom by grace, we are positionally and practically sanctified by grace; we are motivated to obedience by grace, we receive strength to live the Christian life by grace, and we receive both temporal and spiritual blessings by grace. The entire Christian life is lived by grace. Living by grace means that you are free from the performance treadmill. It means that you do not have to try to earn God's approval.
Nothing you ever do will cause Him to love you any more or any less. You are loved and accepted through the merit of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ rendered perfect obedience to God and you have received His righteousness by grace through faith.
How does all this talk of grace make you feel? Does it make you kind of nervous? Do you get the feeling that if people hear all this grace teaching that they will lose their motivation for obedience and holy living? Does grace scare you? The Scriptures teach us that grace can be misunderstood and abused.
Jude 1:4 (NKJV) For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Galatians 5:13 (NKJV) For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
The biblical teaching of grace always has and always will be abused. Sinful man's response to grace is:
Romans 6:1 (NKJV) What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?
"What shall we say then" about what? About what he has just said in chapter 5, about grace. In verses 12-21 of chapter 5, Paul introduces the theme of our union with Jesus Christ. The key idea in these verses is our identification with Adam and with Christ. Paul saw two men--Adam and Christ--each of them reigning over a kingdom.
In short, this section is a contrast of Adam and Christ. Adam was given dominion over the old creation, he sinned, and he lost his kingdom. Because of Adam's sin, all mankind is under condemnation and death.
Romans 5:12 (NKJV) Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned;
That was the position of every one of us, but now all of us who put our trust in Jesus Christ, by grace through faith, are joined to Jesus Christ. He is our federal head and his righteousness is imputed to us.
Romans 5:15-16 (NKJV) But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man's offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. 16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification.
Because we are in Christ, all that belongs to Jesus Christ belongs to us.
Romans 5:17 (NKJV) For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)
Do you see the stress on grace in these verses? Christ came as the King over a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). By His obedience on the cross, He brought in righteousness and justification. Christ not only undid all the damage that Adam's sin affected, but He accomplished "much more" by making us the very sons of God. Note the phrase "much more" it is repeated in this section five times. This means that in Jesus Christ we have gained much more than we ever lost in Adam!
Romans 5: 18-19 (NKJV) Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous.
Your salvation and mine depends only, entirely and exclusively, upon the obedience of Jesus Christ and our faith in Him.
Now, the question that arises here is this, "If everything depends on what God has done, then what does it matter how we live?" Or, "Isn't all this teaching about grace going to encourage people to sin?" Have these questions crossed your mind during this series? There have always been people to insist that this is the logical corollary of Paul's teaching on grace. Paul ran into this argument frequently from his opponents.
Romans 3:8 (NKJV) And why not say, "Let us do evil that good may come"?; as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.
Many in the professing church feared that the proclamation of a totally free salvation would lead to lawlessness and sin so they added works to the gospel. The opponents of grace are afraid of not being able to control people.
Paul puts forth the question that many will be asking in response to all he has said about grace, "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" The late Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said this in response to that question:
The true preaching of the gospel of salvation by grace alone always leads to the possibility of this charge being brought against it. There is no better test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace it does not matter at all what you do; you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace. (Romans: An Exposition of Chapter 6, The New Man, page 8.)
The preaching of grace will always bring opposition from the legalists.
As Christians, we must understand that the grace of God that brought salvation to us is the same grace by which we live the Christian life.
Romans 5:1-2 (NKJV) Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
We are not only saved by grace through faith, we stand every day in this same grace. Just as preaching salvation by grace alone is misunderstood, so is this teaching of living by grace.
The solution is not to add a bunch of rules to grace. The solution is to teach the magnificent boundless generosity of God's grace so that men and women would live for God out of gratitude rather than out of a sense of duty. Too many today are teaching duty and obligation instead of gratitude.
Please listen, I think it is very important to live a committed Christian life in obedience to God's Word. A Christian ought to seek to love the Lord with all his heart, soul, mind and strength and to love his neighbor as himself. He should seek to live a life that brings glory and honor to God in all that he does. But he should live this way out of a grateful response to God's grace, not out of fear of judgment, or to try to earn God's blessing. Paul called the Roman Christians to live for God out of gratitude for all that he had done for them.
Romans 12:1 (NKJV) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
Paul was writing this letter to Christians.
Romans 1:7-8 (NKJV) To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
The recipients of this letter were "saints" and their faith was being spoken of throughout the whole world. Paul is calling these Christians to a life of total commitment.
A hen and a pig were walking by a church. A sign on the church said, "How can we help the poor?" So the hen and pig began to discus ways in which they could help the poor. The hen said, "We could offer them a ham and egg breakfast." The pig responded, "That would require a contribution on your part but total commitment on mine."
Well, Romans 12:1 is a call for total commitment. I believe that most Christians never come to this point of total commitment, most believers just make a contribution.
Please notice what Paul uses here for a motivation for them to come to a total commitment. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God." His motivation is gratitude! In view of all that God has done for you, you are to live for Him. There are no threats here, just a call for a response of gratitude. Many today teach that man will not live as God desires him to live unless he is threatened. As popular as that notion is, it is false. Gratitude is a much stronger motivation than fear.
Luke 7:40-47 (NKJV) And Jesus answered and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." So he said, "Teacher, say it." 41 "There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 "And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?" 43 Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more." And He said to him, "You have rightly judged." 44 Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45 "You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 "You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 "Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little."
When you truly understand the depth of your sin and the totality of God's forgiveness, your response will be gratitude.
Now, we clearly have a duty and obligation to God. He is the Sovereign Ruler of the universe, and in that capacity, He has laid down precepts that are to be obeyed. But our motivation for obedience is to be gratitude for all that he has given us in Christ Jesus. Our motivation for obedience is as important to God as our performance. David said to his son Solomon:
1 Chronicles 28:9 (NKJV) "As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever.
Motivation is why you do the things you do. What is it that impels you into action? A motive is any thought which determines a choice or induces an action.
Our good works are not truly good unless they are motivated by a love for God and a desire to glorify Him. But we cannot have such a God-ward motivation if we think we must earn God's favor by our obedience, or if we fear we may forfeit God's favor by our disobedience. Such a works-oriented motivation is essentially self-serving; it is prompted more by what we think we can gain or lose from God than by a grateful response to the grace He has already given us through Jesus Christ.
A real understanding of God's grace will not create an indifferent or careless attitude in us but it will actually provide the only motivation that is pleasing to Him -- gratitude.
Many of us are motivated more by a fear that God will either punish us or withhold some blessing from us than we are from the love of God. Why do you do what you do in the Christian life? Motives are everything in Christian service.
Let's look at some scriptures that show us the importance of motive.
Matthew 6:1 (NKJV) "Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
Jesus is speaking here of motives. The phrase, "to be seen of them," indicates in the Greek; "purpose of design." You aren't to do righteous deeds to be seen of men. You are to do righteous deeds for the glory of God. Back up one verse.
Matthew 5:48 (NKJV) "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Be perfect, but be careful (6:1). We hear high injunctions and glimpse just a little the genuine beauty of perfect holiness, and then prostitute the vision by dreaming about the way others would hold us in high esteem if we were like that. The goal of pleasing the Father is traded for its pygmy cousin, the goal of pleasing men. It almost seems as if the greater the demand for holiness, the greater the opportunity for hypocrisy. We are truly depraved!
Matthew 5:16 (NKJV) "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Does this verse contradict:
Matthew 6:1 (NKJV) "Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
No, there is no contradiction here. The subject is motive. The motives are different. In 5:16, you're doing good deeds so people will look at your life and glorify God. But in 6:1, the motive is so men will see your good works and praise you.
The heart of the issue is the issue of the heart. Two people can give, pray, or fast with totally different motives and you and I would never know the difference between them. Yet to God, one is a source of joy, a sweet smelling savor, and the other one is smoke in His eyes, hypocrisy.
Not all people witness , or study, or pray for the same reason. Some do it out of a legalistic duty in order to earn God's favor. But some do it out of love and gratitude for all that God has done for them. Some people give for the wrong motives. Can you believe that? The organized church works very hard to falsely motivate people to give. Instead of encouraging people to give out of gratitude, the church often motivates them by fear and threats. It is not the amount of money that you give, it is your heart attitude that matters.
2 Corinthians 8:12 (NKJV) For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.
"A willing mind"-- they give out of gratitude and a desire to honor God. Motive is the key. This is one of the reasons we don't pass an offering plate at BBC. I think it causes some to give out of a false motive. We don't need to motivate people falsely to give, because BBC is not dependent upon you to give. We are dependent upon God. If God wants this ministry to go on, He will provide for it.
Why do you do what you do? Do you do it out of a love for God? And let me add that motive has nothing to do with feelings or inclination; rather, it refers to the reason why we do, or don't do, something. For the person living by grace, that reason should be a loving response to the abundant grace of God already manifested in Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (NKJV) For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.
It is the love of Christ that compels us to no longer live for our selves but for Him. The word "compels" here is the Greek word sunecho, which means: "to hold together, i.e. to compress, constrain, hold, keep in." "Compel" is a strong word as seen in its use in:
Luke 19:43 (NKJV) "For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side,
Luke 22:63 (NKJV) Now the men who held Jesus mocked Him and beat Him.
Do you know of any Christian that was more committed to Christ than Paul? I sure don't. And Paul said the thing that motivated him was Christ's love for him. He was motivated by gratitude to live for the one who died for him.
I think that people who truly understand the grace of God will not abuse grace by living irresponsibly.
Romans 4:7-8 (NKJV) "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin."
Do you understand what these verses are saying? Look at them in the translation called, "God's Word":
Romans 4:7-8 (GWT) "Blessed are those whose disobedience is forgiven and whose sins are pardoned. 8 Blessed is the person whom the Lord never considers sinful."
"Blessed is the person whom the Lord never considers sinful" Do you understand that to be true of yourself? If you have trusted the Lord Jesus Christ, God has given you the righteousness of Christ. When God looks at you, He sees Christ.
You know, as well as I do, that you still sin and that apart from the restraining influences of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we are capable of any sin. We all struggle daily with the sins of pride, selfishness, self-sufficiency, and greed. They are sins that, apart from the grace of God given to me because of Christ atoning work, would send me to the Lake of Fire. And if God operated on the basis of merit instead of grace in this life, they are sins that would forfeit all blessings from Him.
So, when we understand the grace that God has given us, the only normal, logical, and right response is to live a life of obedience and submission to Him out of heart felt gratitude.
Hebrews 12:28 (NNAS) Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe;
Believers, we have received a kingdom which cannot be shaken. By faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work on Calvary, we have entered the eternal Kingdom of God.
Colossians 1:13 (NKJV) He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,
What is our response to this grace? The writer of Hebrews says, "Let us show gratitude." How do we do that? "By which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe." Out of a deep sense of gratitude for all the Lord has given us, let us serve Him with reverence and awe.
A preacher was giving the children's sermon one Sunday and he said to the children: "When I say a word, I want you to say the first word that comes into your mind." So the pastor said "Frog." A little boy blurted out "Jesus!" That confused the pastor so he asked, "Why did you say "Jesus" when I said "frog"?" And the little boy answered, "Because I knew you didn't call us down here to talk about frogs."
We're not here to talk about frogs or politics, or sports or anything else that may come up in casual conversation. We're here -- or at least we ought to be here -- because Jesus died for us, and out of our gratitude for his mercy, we want to live in obedience to Him.
Sir John Templeton, the billionaire investor, was once asked, "What is the secret of wealth." Without hesitation, Templeton said, "Gratitude." He went on to say, "If you're not grateful, you're not rich-no matter how much you have."
Let me say in closing that if you are not motivated to live in obedience to God's Word out of a deep sense of gratitude, then you don't understand how wonderful God's grace really is.
2 Corinthians 9:15 (NKJV) Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
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