The Christ Church Wednesday Bible Study Group is studying grace. The title of the study is "What's So Amazing about Grace"
There could have been no grace whatsoever for us but for the fact that God the Son volunteered to take our place and redeem us: Grace... came through Jesus Christ.
Grace will bring the freedom to want the highest good for and expect the highest good from one another. It will make us want to obey and prompt us to love each other.
The greatest thing about grace is that it is free to you, but it is certainly not cheap. Jesus paid for it with His life.
Grace is free but it is also risky. Why is it risky? It can be taken to one of two extremes, the extreme of abusing it the other extreme is killing it by requiring that you work for it.
We will be 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 5
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.
There is nothing that we can do or not do to earn God's grace. As a matter of fact, the definition of God's grace is His unmerited favor - His goodness toward those who have no claim on, nor reason to expect, divine favor. The principal manifestation of God's grace has been in the form of a gift.
Ephesians 2:8-9 CEV You were saved by faith in God, who treats us much better than we deserve. This is God's gift to you, and not anything you have done on your own. It isn't something you have earned, so there is nothing you can brag about.Dictionary definition. (in Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. (dictionary.com)
Definition of grace in relation to God. Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more—no amount of spiritual calisthenics and renunciations, no amount of knowledge gained from seminaries and divinity schools, no amount of crusading on behalf of righteous causes. And grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less—no amount of racism, pride, pornography, or adultery or even murder. Grace means that God already loves us as much as an infinite
Grace is free but it is also risky.
Why is it risky? If there is nothing we can do to get it isn’t it possible that we can abuse it.
Romans 5:20-21 NIV The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 6:1-2 NIV What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
Some people will take advantage of it. They will misrepresent it. They will go to such an extreme that they will promote the erroneous idea that you can go on sinning as much as you like.
God Chose You Before All Else
By Rick Warren
“Jesus treated us much better than we deserve. He made us acceptable to God and gave us the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:7 (CEV)
God likes you. It may seem others don’t like you. Or maybe you don’t like you. But God likes you and completely accepts you. In fact, God more than likes you. He loves you!
God’s acceptance is not based on your performance. In fact, it's not based on anything you do. It’s based on who he is and what Jesus did. In a sense, God says to you: “You are acceptable because I created you, love you, and sent my Son to die for you.”
Titus 3:7 says, “Jesus treated us much better than we deserve. He made us acceptable to God and gave us the hope of eternal life” (CEV).
God’s acceptance is important to understand—because the deepest wounds in life often come from rejection. We’ve all experienced rejection. That’s why we spend much of our lives trying to earn acceptance from our parents, peers, and friends—from those we respect and from those we envy. This drive to be accepted influences the kinds of clothes we wear, cars we drive, houses we buy, and careers we choose.
Maybe, as a kid, you experienced rejection when people were being picked for a team, and you thought, “Dear God, please don't let me be the last one chosen.” Or you felt this way when you weren’t chosen for an award or a promotion, and it affected your self-worth.
Here’s some good news: The Bible says in Ephesians 1:4, “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes” (NLT).
You have been chosen by God himself. What an incredible truth! Before he chose to make the sun, the oceans, the birds, and everything else, he chose you. That’s how acceptable you are to God.
The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of karma, the Jewish covenant, and Muslim code of law—each of these offers a way to earn approval. Only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional.
Some people, even Christians who have accepted the love of Christ, still don't understand grace. When something bad happens in their lives, they think, “God's getting even with me.” But does God really treat his children that way? Does he get even with his kids? No, he doesn’t. That kind of response wouldn’t be grace.
Here are two reasons you can be confident that God totally and completely forgives you:
God’s nature is to forgive. Have you ever thought, "I wonder if God gets tired of me coming back to him and asking for forgiveness over and over”? God has answered that question: “I am the God who forgives your sins, and I do this because of who I am. I will not hold your sins against you” (Isaiah 43:25 GNT). He forgives because of who he is—wow!
Jesus has already paid for all your sins. Ephesians 1:7 says, “For by the blood of Christ we are set free” (GNT). God forgives you—not because you’ve somehow earned forgiveness—but because Jesus has already done the work to make forgiveness possible. Jesus’ death on the cross paid for every sin you’ve ever committed—and ever will commit.
Alternatives to Grace
What are the alternatives to grace?
1. I can emphasize works over grace.
I can tell you that as a sinner you need to have a stronger commitment to Christ, demonstrated by the work you do in His behalf, before you can say that you truly believe.
The problem in doing so is this: A sinner cannot commit to anything. He or she is spiritually dead, remember? There is no capacity for commitment in an unregenerate heart. Becoming an obedient, submissive disciple of Christ follows believing in Christ. Works follow faith. Behavior follows belief. Fruit comes after the tree is well rooted.
2. I can give you a list of dos and don’ts.
If I do that then it becomes my responsibility to tell you what to do or not to do and why. I then set up the conditions by which you begin to earn God’s acceptance through me. You do what I tell you to do . you don’t do what I tell you not to do, and you’re “in.” You fail to keep the list, you’re “out.” This legalistic style of strong-arm teaching is one of the most prevalent methods employed in evangelical circles. Grace killer.
3. I can leave no room for any gray areas.
Everything is either black or white, right or wrong. This can be tricky because sin is sin. So, we must rely on what God says is sin and not our interpretation of sin. In the instance where there is no room for any gray areas I am talking about the leader maintaining strict control over the followers. Fellowship is based on whether there is full agreement. This can become a self-righteous, rigid standard that is more important than relationships with individuals. The bottom line is this: We want to be right (as we see it, of course) more than we want to love others. At that point our personal preferences eclipse any evidence of love.
Galatians 5:13-15 NIV You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
4. I can cultivate a judgmental attitude toward those who may not agree or cooperate with my plan.
Grace killers are notorious for a judgmental attitude. It is perhaps the single most un-Christlike characteristic in evangelical circles today.
I said earlier that grace frees you up.
John 8:30-36 NIV Even as he spoke, many believed in him. To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Free from what?
Free from oneself. Free from guilt and shame. Free from the impulses you couldn’t stop when I was in bondage to sin. Free from the tyranny of others’ opinions, expectations, demands.
And free to what?
Free to obey. Free to love. Free to forgive others as well as myself. Free to allow others to be who they are—different from me! Free to live beyond the limitations of human effort. Free to serve and glorify Christ.
The truth about grace is able to liberate them from every needless restriction.
Romans 6:6-15 NIV For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!
Grace gives us the freedom to say no to the sin that used to master us.
Romans 6:2-7 NIV By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
Why are people who have accepted God’s grace dead to sin? What happened that has freed us from being slaves to sin?
If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, how can knowing that you have been freed from the power of sin affect your daily life?
Romans 6:8-11 NIV Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
When we were set free from sin through belief in Christ, our old selves (our former natures) died, never to return. We now live with the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, guiding and enabling us to live more like Christ. How did Christ live?
As a believer, how does the fact that you are free and fully able to say no to sin and yes to God make you want to live?
Romans 6:12-15 NIV Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!
If you are a believer in Jesus, you have the ability to say no to sin, but you still have the choice of whether you’ll let sin reign in your life. Even with this freedom to choose to live for God, why is it so tempting to let sin continue to reign?
Before conversion, all of us were in bondage to sin. After conversion, we were set free . . . free to obey. That is grace.
THE INESCAPABLE TENSION
Because of grace we have been freed from sin, from its slavery, its bondage in our attitude, in our urges, and in our actions. But having been freed and now living by grace, we can actually go too far, set aside all self-control, and take our liberty to such an extreme that we again serve sin. But that isn’t liberty at all; that’s license. And knowing of that possibility, many opt for legalism lest they be tempted to live irresponsibly.
There are people who want to be told what to do and when . . . how to believe and why. And the result is tragic—perpetual adolescence. Without being trusted, without being freed, maturity never happens. You never learn to think on your own.
When you really embrace the grace of God
• no longer helplessly bound by impulse and desires.
• you are free to make your own choices.
• able to think independently without the tyranny of comparison or the need to control.
• able to grow more rapidly toward greater maturity and flexibility, becoming the person you were meant to be.
PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS FOR GUARDING AGAINST EXTREMES
First, guard against extremes if you want to enjoy the freedom grace provides.
Try your best to keep balanced, then enjoy it. No reason to feel guilty. No reason to be afraid. Simply give yourself permission to be free. Don’t go crazy . . . but neither should you spend time looking over your shoulder, worrying about those who “spy out your liberty” and wondering what they will think and say.
Second, treat grace as an undeserved privilege rather than an exclusive right.
This will also help you keep a balance. Live gratefully, not arrogantly. Have fun, but don’t flaunt. It is all in one’s attitude. It has nothing to do with financial status or where you live or what clothes you prefer or which car you drive.
Third, remember that while grace came to you freely, it cost the Savior His life.
It may seem free, but it was terribly expensive when He purchased it for us.
Undeserving, Yet Unconditionally Loved
REAFFIRMING THE TRUTH OF GRACE
1 Corinthians 15:9-11 NIV For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
We can reduce the truth of grace to three statements
First statement: God does what He does by His grace.
Paul deserved the severest kind of judgment, but God gave the man His grace instead. Humanly speaking, Paul should have been made to endure incredible suffering for all the pain and heartache he had caused others. But he didn’t, because God exhibited His grace.
second statement: I am what I am by the grace of God. It is as if he was admitting, “If there is any goodness now found in me, I deserve none of the glory; grace gets the credit.”
third statement, which seems to be implied in Paul’s closing remark: I let you be what you are by the grace of God. Grace is not something simply to be claimed; it is meant to be demonstrated. It isto be shared, used as a basis for friendships, and drawn upon for sustained relationships.
Jesus spoke of an abundant life that we enter into when we claim the freedom He provided by His grace. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people cooperated with His game plan? There is nothing to be compared to grace when it comes to freeing others from bondage.
Grace focuses on who God is and what He has done, and takes the focus off us. And yet it’s so easy to think we need to do something to earn God’s favor, as though grace is too good to be true. Grace provides the environment that makes growth possible—in human relationships and in our relationships with God. In fact, the degree to which we experience God’s grace usually governs the degree to which we extend grace to others and to ourselves.
Grace killers are suspicious by nature and negative in style, they are determined to find any flaw, failure, or subtle weakness in your life and to point it out.
There may be twenty things they could affirm; instead, they have one main goal: to make sure you never forget your weaknesses. Grace killers are big on the “shoulds” and “oughts” in their advice. Instead of praising, they pounce!
Ponder this: If the Father is satisfied with His Son’s full payment for sin, and we are in His Son, by grace through faith, then He is satisfied with you and me.
Growth-stunting grace killers will always try to give you lists on how you should live your life. They will use guilt to manipulate you until you feel that you’re about to go mad. Don’t let them have the keys to your mind! Remember that God never uses guilt to shame or manipulate us. Others might, but He doesn’t. We are who we are by the grace of God.
In your workbook there is the story of Sam Whittle and Davis
This real life modern story is very similar to the one about King David and Johathan’s son Mephibosheth. In the Sam Whittle and Davis Dawnsby story Sam’s father was Davis’ best friend, just like Johathan and David were best friends. Davis promised Sam’s father that he was always care for his family. Just like the situation with David and Johathan.
1 Samuel 20:12-17 NIV Then Jonathan said to David, “I swear by the Lord, the God of Israel, that I will surely sound out my father by this time the day after tomorrow! If he is favorably disposed toward you, will I not send you word and let you know? But if my father intends to harm you, may the Lord deal with Jonathan, be it ever so severely, if I do not let you know and send you away in peace. May the Lord be with you as he has been with my father. But show me unfailing kindness like the Lord’s kindness as long as I live, so that I may not be killed, and do not ever cut off your kindness from my family—not even when the Lord has cut off every one of David’s enemies from the face of the earth.” So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the Lord call David’s enemies to account.” And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.
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