The Christ Church Wednesday Bible Study Group is studying grace. The title of the study is "What's So Amazing about Grace"
Grace is the most important concept in the Bible, Christianity, and the world. It is most clearly expressed in the promises of God revealed in Scripture and embodied in Jesus Christ himself.
For more than four months we’ve been talking about grace and how we extend it to others by letting them be what God wants them to be. Grace gives other freedom and liberty in their relationship with Christ and others. However as we learned in Session 15, we often resist and don't refuse to accept grace. It is in accepting grace that we can begin to model amazing grace. Only then do we realize how good grace really is.
We are using the books, "The Grace Awakening: Believing In Grace Is One Thing. Living it is Another", and "The Grace Awakening Workbook" by Charles E. Swindoll. You can study along with us by clicking the above links or the images after the notes.
These are the notes to Session 16
It is in accepting grace that we can begin to model amazing grace. Only then do we realize how good grace really is.
Here is a list of grace killers
from without: legalism, expectations, traditionalism, manipulation, demands, negativism, control, comparison, perfectionism, competition, criticism, pettiness,
from within: pride, fear, resentment, bitterness, an unforgiving spirit, insecurity, fleshly effort, guilt, shame, gossip, hypocrisy, and so many more.
Grace not only gives with joyful generosity, it receives with grateful humility. When a person truly experiences a “grace awakening” and begins to understand and demonstrate kind of grace we have been talking about the last four months there is not only the amazing desire to extend encouragement, affirmation, support, and reassurance to others, there is also an accepting attitude that allows others to reciprocate.
That sounds easy but it goes against our natural tendency to be self-sufficient and invulnerable.
It is especially difficult for those of us who pursue excellence in our relationship with Christ. We are often intolerant and legalistic.
Many of us pride ourselves on discipline in our lifestyle. We make sure that we have a quiet time every day, or read the bible every day, or don’t drink or smoke or whatever. We are very disciplined. So sometimes we tend to judge.
Sometimes because we Christians think we are better than other people. We won’t admit it to others, but we do. We can develop an attitude of elitism or superiority.
Then when you combine these things there is pride.
Intolerance, impatience, elitism, and pride prevent us from accepting God’s grace and grace from others.
Let’s look at each of these roadblocks.
Intolerance - We may begin to judge others for not measuring up to our standards.
Romans 15:7 NIV Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
Disciplined Lifestyle -
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NIV Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Personal discipline is a great goal, but we want to be careful that we don’t become impatient or judge someone who is not as disciplined as you and refuse to accept grace from them in areas where you are not as disciplined. Be patient with them.
Think about how tolerant and patient God has been and still is toward us and demonstrate tolerance and patience toward people who have different gifts and struggles than you do? Remember that we are all one body and we need each other.
1 Corinthians 12:12-27 NIV Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it..
Elitism or superiority - The more knowledgeable we become, the more we’re tempted to look down on those who don’t know as much as we do, and we often try to manipulate them or look down on them and belittle them. We are killing their grace and we refuse to accept the grace they extend to us, because of course they are beneath us.
When we start feeling superior, think about this;
1 Corinthians 1:26-31 NIV Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 4:7 NIV For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
Pride - Proud people tend to resist God’s grace because they believe they have no needs, but remember
James 4:6-10 NIV But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
We pride ourselves on our individual accomplishments and can’t stand to share the glory with another. As a result, we face built-in obstacles to receiving God’s grace. Our culture is not a culture of grace; it’s a culture of merit.
But it takes us admitting that we are not God, and we are not perfect.
As long as we expect to do things perfectly, we are putting our confidence in the flesh. But God’s grace doesn’t operate that way.
2 Corinthians 4:1-7 NIV Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
When we admit that we’re imperfect clay pots, we exhibit the power and glory of God’s work.
It also takes an attitude of humility. It takes a willingness to play second fiddle to God and His work. Just like John the Baptist.
John 3:27-30 NIV To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.”
Our hearts must say to God, “I’m not here to make myself somebody. I’m here to point people to You.”
I want to end this study with something from your workbook
When we overcome intolerance, impatience, elitism, and pride and replace them with an acceptance of our humanity and an attitude of humility, we become conduits of God’s grace. We are then free to accept the grace God offers us—the grace to accept ourselves the way we are, the grace to love others, and the grace to enjoy God and bathe in His unconditional love. Why would anyone not want to receive the grace our heavenly Father, our Abba, so freely offers us?
Then this poem by MICHAEL YACONELLI
The grace of God says to you and to me, “I can make last place more significant than first place. I will use prostitutes to teach others about gratitude. I will use lepers as examples of cleanliness. I will take men who persecute the church and make them its pillars. I will take the dead and give them life. I will take uneducated fishermen and make them fishers of men.” God’s grace does not exist to make us successful. God’s grace exists to point people to a love like no other love they have ever known.