Pastor David B. Curtis

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Grace - Part 8:
Appropriating Grace

Selected Scriptures

05/23/1999

For the past couple of months, we have been talking about the grace of God. Hopefully, you understand now, if you didn't before, 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?

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.

To live by grace is to live solely by the merit of Jesus Christ. To live by grace is to base my entire relationship with God, including my acceptance and standing with Him, on my union with Christ. To live by grace is to recognize that in myself I bring nothing of worth to my relationship with God, because even my righteous acts are like filthy rags in His sight. To live by grace means that we understand that God's love is not conditioned by our obedience or disobedience but by the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 1:6 (NKJV) to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.

It is out of a grateful response to the grace of God that we seek to understand His commands and obey them. Not to be loved, but because we are loved.

We saw in our last study that "grace" is not only used in the Scripture of: "Free and unmerited favor shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment," but it is also used in the aspect of: "God's power that enables us to deal with life's circumstances." This is how Paul uses "grace" in:

2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV) And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

So, Paul uses "grace" as: "God's power that enables us to deal with life's circumstances."

In Philippians 4:13, Paul said, "13 I can do all things THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME." He is saying that whatever circumstance he finds himself in, he can handle it through God's enabling power. The words "by His grace" could be substituted for "through Christ who strengthens me." The idea is the same. Verse 13 could be read, "I can do all things by His grace." "By His grace" and "through Christ who strengthens me" express an identical thought.

I want you to understand this morning is that the Bible teaches that believers are to appropriate God's grace for their daily lives.

2 Timothy 2:1 (NKJV) You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

The verb "be strong" is in the imperative mood; that is, it expresses a command. Paul wanted Timothy to do something; he wanted Timothy to appropriate God's grace and be strong in it. Now, the million dollar question is; How do believers appropriate God's grace -- His enabling power?

Let me answer that question in one word and then expound upon that word-- humility! We appropriate the grace of God by humility.

What we must understand is that pride stands in direct opposition to grace.

1 Peter 5:5 (NKJV) Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "GOD RESISTS THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE."

Please notice that this verse is both a warning to the proud and a promise to the humble. Pride is an attitude of self-sufficiency toward God. Humility is an acknowledgment that we are weak, unworthy, and inadequate. To the humble, God promises grace.

This principle runs all through Scripture-- God brings the proud low, but he exalts the humble.Jesus taught this:

Matthew 23:12 (NKJV) "And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

It is one principle with two sides. It is a promise of being brought low to those who exalt themselves, and it is a promise of exaltation to those who humble themselves. We also see the principle in:

Luke 14:11 (NKJV) "For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

We see this principle stated in:

Luke 18:14 (NKJV) 14 "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

James gives us the principle in:

James 4:10 (NKJV) Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

Jesus, Peter, James, Luke, and Paul all said it. It is a biblical law-- exaltation follows humiliation. Just as sure as the law of gravity, is the law that those who humble themselves will be exalted, and the one who exalts himself will be humbled.

We see the negative side of this principle in the life of king Nebuchadnezzar. He exalted himself, and God humbled him:

Daniel 4:29-33 (NKJV) At the end of the twelve months he was walking about the royal palace of Babylon. 30 The king spoke, saying, "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?" 31 While the word was still in the king's mouth, a voice fell from heaven: "King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you! 32 And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses." 33 That very hour the word was fulfilled concerning Nebuchadnezzar; he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles' feathers and his nails like birds' claws.

Nebuchadnezzar exalted himself, and God humbled him. Here we see the mighty king of Babylon wandering around eating grass like an animal. But when he humbled himself, God exalted him.

Daniel 4:37 (NKJV) Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.

Joseph is an example on the positive side, he humbled himself, and God exalted him:

Psalms 105:17-21 (NKJV) He sent a man before them; Joseph; who was sold as a slave. 18 They hurt his feet with fetters, He was laid in irons. 19 Until the time that his word came to pass, The word of the LORD tested him. 20 The king sent and released him, The ruler of the people let him go free. 21 He made him lord of his house, And ruler of all his possessions,

I wonder if we really understand humility? Could you give a definition of humility? We can't humble ourselves if we don't know what humility is. Humility is not a downcast attitude of one who is unable to look someone in the eyes, and says, "Gosh, I'm really nothing." Biblically, humility is dependence upon God and submission to His will. A humble person realizes that he is dependent upon God for all he is, has, and does.

How do we humble ourselves before God? We need to know this. If the humble receive grace, we must know how to be humble. We need grace, enabling power to live our lives. The idea of "appropriating the grace of God" may be a new concept to you. By "appropriating God's grace," I mean to take possession of the divine strength He has made available to us in Christ. God uses means to bring us His grace. We appropriate grace through humility and do it through the means of: Bible study, prayer, and submission to God's providence.

BIBLE STUDY:

Why is it important for us as Christians to read and study the Bible? It is important because the Bible is a means of appropriating God's grace-- His enabling power.
Acts 20:32 (NKJV) "So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

The reference here is to the ongoing use of Scripture in our daily lives to build us up in the Christian faith. Paul calls it, "the word of His grace," the word through which we come to understand and appropriate God's grace in our daily lives.

The Bible is the only source of truth we have about God.

2 Timothy 3:16 (NKJV) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,

Paul is saying to Timothy that the Bible comes from God. He is its ultimate author. The Bible provides information that is not available anywhere else. The Bible is divine self-disclosure. In it, the mind of God is revealed on many matters. With a knowledge of Scripture, we do not have to rely on secondhand information or bare speculation to learn who God is and what he values. In the Bible, God reveals himself.

If we are to appropriate the grace of God, then, we must spend time in our Bibles. We must seek to know and understand the great truths of Scripture.

The Bible is more than just a book of objective truth; it is actually life-giving and life-sustaining.

John 6:63 (NKJV) "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.

Growth in the grace of God requires time spent in the word of God. God works in our lives through His word:

1 Thessalonians 2:13 (NKJV) For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.

How do we know that God's grace is sufficient for our particular trials? How do we learn the importance of humility and the destruction of pride? Where do we learn about the grace of God? The answer to all of these questions is the Scriptures. That is why Scripture is called the word of His grace. God uses Scripture to mediate His grace to us. R.C.H. Lenski said, "God and the Word of his grace always go together; God lets his grace flow out through that Word."

The close connection between God and the word of His grace is illustrated in:

Romans 15:4-5 (NKJV) For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. 5 Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus,

verse 4 tells us that we receive patience and comfort from the Scripture. Yet verse 5 says God gives patience and consolation. Patience and consolation are provisions of God's grace to help in time of need. He usually provides these provisions through His word.

If we are to appropriate the grace of God, then, we must regularly expose ourselves directly to the word of God. We don't earn God's blessing by reading His word. But a regular intake of God's word is necessary to sustain a healthy spiritual life and to appropriate His grace.

How does spending time in God's word equate to being humble? The humble person, the one dependent upon God, come to God's word on a regular basis to learn from God. But the proud person spends no time in the word; he doesn't need to learn, he doesn't need God's counsel, he is independent. I think that a lack of time spent in Scripture is a manifestation of pride:

Jeremiah 13:15 (NKJV) Hear and give ear: Do not be proud, For the LORD has spoken.
Psalms 119:21 (NKJV) You rebuke the proud; the cursed, Who stray from Your commandments.
Psalms 119:51 (NKJV) The proud have me in great derision, Yet I do not turn aside from Your law.

I'm sure that those of you who regularly spend time in God's word understand that it is a means of grace. It is through His word that he strengthens us, encourages us, comforts us. Truly God's word is a means of grace. If we are going to appropriate God's grace, we must spend time in His word.

PRAYER:

Prayer is another means of grace. Please look at:
Hebrews 4:15-16 (NKJV) For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

This is a call to prayer. We obtain grace to help in time of need, that is God's enabling power, through prayer. We are to ask for grace, that is the power to deal with life's circumstances. The disciples went to God's throne of grace in prayer when they had been commanded by the Jewish rulers not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus:

Acts 4:29 (NKJV) "Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word,

The NIV puts it this way:

Acts 4:29 (NIV) Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.

They went to God in prayer for the enabling power, grace, to be able to speak boldly for Christ in the midst of great opposition. Remember, we said that grace was; "God's power that enables us to deal with life's circumstances." Their circumstances were more than they could handle, so, they went to God in prayer for grace. They appropriated God's grace through prayer.

How does going to God in prayer equate to being humble? Let me give you a definition of prayer: Prayer is a declaration of our dependence. Every time I pray, I am saying, "God I need you!" Humility is dependence! We ask God's forgiveness because we know we are dependent upon Him to forgive. We thank Him in prayer because we know that whatever we are, or have, has come from Him. We petition Him because only He can give us what we need. We know that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble, and prayer is humility in action. It is saying, "God I can't do this, so, I come to you acknowledging my need."

Abraham Lincoln said, "I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom, and that of all about me, seemed insufficient for the day."

Prayer is humility in action. The proud have no need of God's help. Prayerlessness is a declaration of self-sufficiency, which is pride! The humble person goes to God in prayer, and receives His grace. Prayer is a means of appropriating God's grace.

2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV) "if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

When we humble ourselves in prayer, we will hear from heaven-- receive His grace.

SUBMISSION:

God also uses our submission to His providential working in our lives as a means of grace. We already looked at:
1 Peter 5:5-6 (NKJV) Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,

God gives grace to those who humble themselves under his mighty hand of providence. Our natural tendency is not to humble ourselves, but to resist His working in our lives. We fret, murmur, and worry even as we go to Him for deliverance. Often believers can become angry or even rebellious against God. This is pride! And God opposes the proud.

If we are gong to appropriate God's grace, we must humble ourselves, we must submit to His providential working in our lives. To do this, we must first see His mighty hand behind all the immediate causes of our adversities and heartaches. We must believe the biblical teaching that God is in sovereign control of all of our circumstances. We can only know these things if we spend time in his word.

Job and Joseph are examples of those who saw the hand of God in all of their circumstances. Job's response to several disasters in his life was:

Job 1:21 (NKJV) And he said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD."
Job 2:10 (NKJV) But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Please notice that Job ascribed his troubles to the hand of God. So did Joseph. He said to his brothers:

Genesis 45:8 (NKJV) "So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.

Just like Job and Joseph, we also must see His sovereignty ultimately ruling in all the circumstances of our lives, if we are to appropriate His grace in our time of need. And when our circumstances are difficult, or disappointing, or humiliating, we must humble ourselves under His might hand. In order to do this, we must believe that God loves us and is working all things for our good.

Romans 8:28 (NKJV) And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

And often we have to pray for the grace to be able to accept God's providential will for our lives, and grace to be able to submit ourselves to it.

I talked last week about our plane crash. I knew that God was in control, I know that he controls everything. I also know that he loves me and works all things together for my good. So as our plane was going down, I wasn't mad at God, I wasn't afraid, I calmly submitted to his providence for me. If it was God's will that I die that day, I was ready. And in my submission to His will, he gave me grace to deal with the situation.

The humbling of ourselves under God's mighty hand always leads to grace. This grace may consist in the removal of whatever affliction God has brought into our lives and the restoration of peaceful circumstances, but more often it results in God giving us the strength to deal with our circumstances, whatever they are.

So, as you can see, humility is the key in all of these means. It is the humble person who spends time in the Word of God, prays, and submits to God's sovereign will. As we read the word, pray, and submit to our circumstances, we are given grace, the power to enable us to deal with life's circumstances.

James 4:6 (NKJV) But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."

Let me share with you one more means of grace before we close this morning. Anyone care to guess what it is? Other than the word, prayer, and submission to circumstances, what else does God use as a means of grace?

Ephesians 4:29 (NKJV) Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

What is the means of grace here? The ministry of other believers. God uses us, as ministers of grace.

OTHERS:

Have you ever been in the pit of despair, being overcome by your circumstances? I have. And in those times, God uses His word to strengthen me; He uses prayer and my submission to His providential will. But He also uses "my friends." When I think of times of trial, I remember the comfort that I received from my friends. Friends who gave me encouraging words, words of support, words of comfort. My friends reminded me of what I knew the scripture said, and reminded me of God's faithfulness. My friends ministered grace to me. They were used of God as a means of grace. And my best friend is my wife. God often uses her to minister grace to me. Ministering to one another in time of need is an important means by which the Lord mediates His grace to us.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NKJV) Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up.

When you're proud and you don't think that you need anyone, you cut off a means of the grace of God. How sad it is for the person who has no one to minister grace to them in their time of need.

During the time David was hiding from Saul, who was trying to kill him, he fled to the cave Adullam. While in that cave, he wrote Psalm 142, a cry of distress to God. Notice verse 4:

Psalms 142:4 (NKJV) Look on my right hand and see, For there is no one who acknowledges me; Refuge has failed me; No one cares for my soul.

How sad to think that no one cares for your soul. The proud person is self-sufficient, he needs no one. But the humble person knows he is dependent upon God and others for his every need. Believers, we need each other. Do you realize this? When you are in need let other know, don't be proud, so they can be used to minister grace to you.

Grace is available to meet our every need, to get us through every circumstance, to empower us for every task. But we must appropriate it. We must humble ourselves and read God's Word, pray, submit to His providential dealings in our life, and allow others to minister to us.

May we understand and believe the words of Paul in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things by His grace." Whatever circumstance we are in, grace is available to the humble.

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