Amazing Grace ~ A Hope and A Deep Challenge

1374033_79721327This Sunday we talked about grace. Grace is a tricky and a challenging thing. It’s a tricky thing because true grace is so difficult to actually practice, but it is absolutely necessary, because grace changes people.

We looked at the parable of the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18. And in this parable there are two really important principles or truths for us. The first, a deep deep encouragement. And it is this: that God is a God of grace. We see the King as a metaphor of God, forgiving a deep debt. A debt so big it couldn’t be payed off. This is grace, unmerited favor, forgiveness, and who our God is. God is a God who forgives impossible debts, because of the surplus of his love.

The second thing we see though is a challenge and a warning. We see the man who has the debt payed off, not changed by the grace that is given, and he goes and strangles a man for a minor debt. The king in the story is enraged and throws the man into prison until he can pay off the debt. And Jesus ends with the saying, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.

Now Jesus is not saying that the Father is unwilling to forgive to the unmerciful servant. This is a shallow reading that contradicts the first part. The King is willing, able, and actually does forgive the debt the man owes. The change in response of the King is because of the lack of response from the unmerciful servant. It is as if Jesus is saying as long as you seek to live according to the law, ledger books, and counting of sins and slights you will not be able to experience the grace of God. This isn’t because God isn’t willing to give it, he is. The first part of the parable is clear about that, but you will be unable to receive it because you will be living counter to God’s kingdom.

The point is that to really receive grace, we have to also be willing to give grace. Giving grace to others around us is a demonstration that we have been transformed by  God’s grace. Giving and receiving go hand in hand. The challenge then for us as Christians is to give grace, and not trying to earn it or track the sins for and against us.

So we ended up with both an encouragement and a challenge. An encouragement that God is a God of grace. And a challenge, that to truly enter into a relationship with this God at a deep place, we have to be willing to let his grace change us and flow through us. So we ended with this challenge: give grace. Give grace. And I think that’s a good challenge for us all.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: We can live with ledger books or we can live with grace

Take Aways…

  • Grace is central to theology and the Christian faith
  • If you don’t live by grace, you run the risk of not receiving grace.
  • The debt was so large it could never be paid off, only forgiven.
  • For each and everyone of us, there is grace available for us
  • This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart. – Jesus
  • God is a God of grace
  • No matter how much you owe to him, big or small today you can owe nothing at all.
  • How unutterably sweet is the knowledge that our Heavenly Father knows us completely. No tale bearer can inform on us, no enemy can make an accusation stick; no forgotten skeleton can come tumbling out of some hidden closet to abash us and expose our past; no unsuspected weakness in our character can come to light to turn God away from us, since He know us utterly before we knew Him and called us to Himself in the full knowledge of everything that was against us. A.W. Tozer
  • God knows you completely, so he can accept you completely
  • That if we seek to live by the law, we will die by the law.
  • An unwillingness to give grace, Often shows a heart that grace hasn’t touched
  • We can live with ledger books or we can live with grace
  • Its okay there is grace
  • We need to give grace to keep our hearts soft
  • Give grace this week

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? Why do you think grace is so hard to give? Why might it be incredibly important to actually give? As you think about grace, who do you need to give grace too? Take time to look at the last post that includes a quote from Jay Bakker. What parts of it challenged you, did you disagree with, did you agree with? What parts do you think you need to put into practice?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Rather than discussing the sermon with your kids this week, find a way to practice it. This week when your kids make a mistake or screw up – instead give grace and talk about it. Maybe you take their punishment for them, you clean up the mess, or you let them off the hook. Just make sure you share with them why you are doing it and why it matters.

Challenge for this Week: Give grace this week


The Challenge of Grace

968281_45652240This week we are going to be looking at a really important but a challenging topic. We are going to be looking at grace. We are specifically going to be looking at the parable of the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 28 and how it should shape our lives.

So to get us started on thinking about grace, I want to post a rather lengthy, but very thought provoking passage on grace. It’s written by Jay Bakker and I want to post it to get us thinking about grace, and what it means. And then we’ll come back to this quote on Sunday.

So here it is and I hope it gets not only your mind but your heart thinking about what grace really is (p.s. I highlighted two of my favorite lines):

We cheapen grace when we make it temporary, a ticket to an afterlife; when we say grace gets you into heaven, but holiness is what is required of you now. If grace isn’t about ‘right now’, but instead about ‘in the future’ then we are tempted to make it something we can earn in the time between. We might not have earned gracebefore we received, but we think we have to continually earn it again now that it’s ours. We do this because we desperately want to have some control over grace. We want even the smallest ability to claim that we somehow earned this grace, that we’ve got it. Which in turn allows us to say that other people don’t have it. If we’ve earned grace, other people can fail to earn it. …But that’s not how grace works. It’s a pull on us that we surrender to. We have nothing to do with it… Christians are always looking for someone or something grace can’t cover. So we end up putting restrictions on grace…in order for grace to truly be grace, it has to extend to absolutely everyone, no matter what, no questions, no expectations. Otherwise we think that somehow by living a moral life, or giving to the poor or voting a certain way or dedicating our lives to a certain thing, we’ve deserved it… We never let grace overwhelm us…Rather than being humbled and baffled by grace, we draw lines around who is in and who is out and pretend we’ve done something to earn grace. Our fear that we are accepted no matter what leads us to restrict grace, to redefine it, as if somehow we could possibly understand or control grace… People will live untransformed by grace. Some will use it as an excuse to be uncaring. Others will use it as a license to sin. But none of them will ever be transformed through legalism…when they are transformed they will be transformed by grace… When we really understand it, we will always find grace offensive. And that’s exactly the way it should be. If we start to feel comfortable with grace, then we’ve lost what it really means.

What do you think? What lines do you like or wonder about?