Learning and Living the God-centered life

One Biblical Doctrine at a time…

Review for June 5

This morning I finished teaching on the Doctrine of Salvation. In the last several weeks I have focused on faith but today was about GRACE. The grace we see in the gospel is counter-intuitive and as one writer says it is the kind of grace that messes up your hair. God's grace offends our deepest sensibilities. We are seasoned do it yourselfers. We are desperate to do something, as Americans we live by the phrase “if if’s to be then it is up to me.” Grace scares us to death because it absolutely has nothing to do with us and our efforts. We love self glory.

Grace wrestles control out of our hands. We love formula's and strategies because again they give us a sense of control. All one has to do is look at the best selling Christian books such as: The prayer of Jabez, The purpose driven life and Your Best Life Now, 7 Steps to fulfill your potential. These books talk about strategies of “HOW” we can do it. But grace talks about “HOW” God does it!

The culture we live in is very conditional. I do certain things for you and in return I expect certain things from you. We here about the unconditional grace of God but we live very conditionally in our personal lives. So if you succeed, accomplish, become involved to the point of achievement then you will be applauded and thought well of by those around you. But God’s grace is not based on any condition in us and therefore we refer to it as unconditional. Do you see why this doesn’t make sense to us? If I have been taught that who I am is based on what I do, then I will become very performance based in my living. And part of the problem we deal with in the church today is having people more focused on what they need to do rather than learning to rest in what has been done. Can you hear people in the church saying what are you talking about? If these people just rest in the finished work of Christ then they will become theological egg heads that just sit around and do nothing. It may help to remember one of the great quotes form Martin Luther who said that we are justified by faith alone but that faith is never alone. In other words when people understand, embrace and learn what has been done by Christ via His death and resurrection that becomes the foundation that motivates them to love and good deeds. As grace falls and joy rises the natural behavior for the Christian is to be active and involved in the body of Christ.

Again we are so scared of grace being taught and lived out because we love control and we love credit This is why grace frustrates us because we can control it we can only receive it. It takes lots of time, effort and energy to maintain a world we you can have your plan and maintain your control on all the things in your life. Because we breathe the air of a performance based culture it is very easy to think what we do is who we are. But the gospel doesn’t focus on who we are but rather whose we are. One view comes from a man-centered perspective and the other view is a very God-centered perspective.
Please know that in the last 50 years we have moved in such a man centered direction that many of the essential doctrines we have held as precious and dear are now being given up. Doctrines like the Trinity, the virgin birth and the substitutionary atonement of Christ for our sins are just a few and it doesn’t stop there.

Therefore I love studying the doctrines of grace because in these doctrines we have such a God-centered focus. And this morning I wanted to bring your attention to 4 sections of the gospel where we can see the grace of God.

Our lesson today included;
  • A Laborer - Matthew 20:1-16
  • A Leper - Luke 17:11-21
  • A Prodigal - Luke 15:11-32
  • A Prostitute - Luke 7:36-50

Point regarding grace this morning in Matthew 20:1-16
The laborers that work 9 hours are unhappy because they got up early, worked harder, longer and concluded they should receive more money and a bigger pat on the back. However we learn that those that worked only one hour got the same pay. Do you see how that hits our sense of fairness? We scream that isn’t right because if you do more then you should receive more. However the lesson to be learned here is Matthew 20:15 - “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?” God distributes grace as He desires in a way that brings glory to His name. We didn’t work, earn or merit our salvation it was God alone in His grace that rescued us in Christ. Again we can’t demand grace we can only receive it. Do you see how in a society of make it happen people that is very difficult for us to do?

Point regarding grace this morning in Luke 17:11-21
Two things in this parable
1. Grace does not depend on our Gratitude - "it is not conditional"
2. Those who understand grace will be grateful

First grace does not depend on gratitude.
  • A leper was shunned.
  • They were social outcast.
  • They had to live on their own in a leper colony.
  • It was a very painful disease.
  • They had to be declared clean by the priest so they could re enter society.
  • Healing them gave them their lives back.
  • In essence they were being brought back from the dead.
  • They get to wake up the next morning with dignity and get to join their families and go back to work.

The most surprising thing in the story is that Jesus would heal all 10 and know that only 1 would come back and express gratitude and thanksgiving. And yet the Lord Jesus heals all 10 of them.

Take Jesus out of this story and put yourself in this situation and you will be upset with the 9 that did not come back home. Do you see how we are very conditional in our relationships with other people? But when we start to understand this amazing and radical grace that Jesus shows us through the gospels it becomes life transforming!

Point regarding grace this morning in Luke 15:11-32
For a Jewish son to ask for his inheritance was for him to say to the father I wish you were dead. But we see in this parable that the father gives the inheritance to the son and sure enough the son blows it on parties and prostitutes. And while he is eating with the pigs he comes to his senses. The father who apparently everyday is watching for the sons return sees him and runs to greet him and forgive him completely. Did you notice that he did not require a full list of what he had done and demanded that he be compensated for what the son lost in disobedient living? Instead he puts on the robe and ring and orders the calf to be prepared for a celebration.

Do we understand that kind of grace? Instead we are very conditional in extending forgiveness to others who have offended us. The son did everything wrong and the father received him, loved him and was reconciled to him. Each of us are like prodigals aren’t we? We have squandered the gifts of God and we have lived in disobedience to Him. And we read this in Romans 5:8-10 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. This is the kind of grace that we learn to meditate on and saturate ourselves in vertically so that it can flow out from our lives horizontally.

Point regarding grace this morning in Luke 7:36-50
There is a double rescue taking place in this section of Scripture.
1. The rescue of the moral person (Pharisee)
2. The rescue of the immoral person (Prostitute)

Both people want to be happy and free to enjoy life.

The moral person thinks that can only happen as they keep the rules
The immoral person thinks that happens as a result of breaking the rules.

Both are self salvation projects.
One type of person is lost in their bad behavior
The other type of person is lost in their good behavior

When we think of the person that needs God's rescue the most we naturally think of the immoral person. But in the Bible it seems that it is the immoral person that gets the message of grace prior to the moral person.

There is a lot in the cultural context of the story that we might not be aware of:
A married woman walking into a home like this with her hair down would justify divorce
An unclean person to touch a clean person would render the person unclean to the point that they could not go to the temple

The Pharisee carries a mindset that he thinks God is for the competent and the moral. And we know this because of how the story reads. If Jesus only knew what kind of person this was He would not let her touch Him.

The Pharisee thinks that God is for the clean and the competent but Jesus shows him that God is for the unclean and in the incompetent.
And Jesus is going to make the point to the Pharisee that he is not any better off than the prostitute.

The Pharisee a key religious leader in the community and one who was admired and respected. And Jesus comes in and says to him about the prostitute you learn from her when he had spent his life persuading others to learn from Him.
The Pharisee had been telling people become like me and Jesus says NO-NO- NO you become like her.

This is the kind of grace that is totally radical and turns our world upside down.

When we read these stories in the gospel do we get amazed by the grace of God? Unfortunately we get new converts in the church and then after a few years we turn them into the Pharisee in this story. In other words we church them about doing, performing and church work so that they will be able to earn God’s favor. Instead of continuously reminding them that at the cross they already have God’s favor.

I want to challenge you as you continue through the Scriptures to pay attention and make special notes along the way of God’s grace. It will shock you as to how little we understand, embrace, and live out this truth that we desperately need to see within the church.