God’s Grace – Part 9

 

“Perhaps there is no word in the Bible more precious than Grace.”
~ Rick Countryman, Senior Pastor, Big Valley Grace Community Church
Modesto, Ca.

The Performance Trap – C

In my last two blogs, we have been looking at the issue of the performance trap that we can get ourselves into when we attempt to earn our way into Heaven. Today, I want us to look at the questions of “Do we deserve God’s Grace” and “How can we relax in God’s Grace?”

Do We Deserve God’s Grace?

The simplest answer is: NO!! However, that’s not what most of us believe.  We think that we deserve God’s grace because of our sacrificial service to the cause.  Let’s look at the story of the Roman centurion in Luke 7: 1-10.  The man sent some of the Jewish elders to Yeshua asking Him to come and heal his sick servant.  “The elders came to Yeshua and pleaded earnestly with Him, ‘He really deserves to have you do this, for he loves our people – in fact, he built the synagogue for us!” (verses 4-5).  Notice the Jewish elders’ emphasis on deserving.

The centurion surely was a remarkable, God-fearing man. He was an officer in the Roman occupation army, yet he served the occupied people by building a synagogue for them.  Think of an occupying army in today’s culture and ask yourself how many “enemy” officers would do such a thing.

But the centurion’s attitude about himself is even more remarkable than his deeds. Instead of thinking of what he should receive because of what he deserved, he freely confessed he didn’t deserve anything.  He sent word to Yeshua, saying, “Sir, don’t trouble yourself. I’m not worthy to have you come under my roof – this is why I didn’t presume to approach you myself.” (verses 6-7)  Because of this he not only experienced the joy of having his request granted, but also the added joy of knowing he had received what he did not deserve.

We Can Never Obligate God

We can never obligate God by our obedience or our sacrificial service. Even if we were perfectly obedient in all our Messianic duties, we would still be forced to say, “We’re just ordinary slaves, we have only done our duty.” (Luke 17:10)

Suppose you perfectly obey all the traffic laws of your state. You always stay within the speed limit, always come to a complete stop at stop signs, always drive in the proper lane, always use your turn signals – always obey every traffic rule.  Do you receive any reward?  Not at all, that is what you are supposed to do.  You have only done your duty.  You do not, by perfect obedience of the traffic laws, obligate the state to reward you in any manner.  All you can say is, “I have only done my duty.”

As the Sovereign Ruler of the universe, God has the right to require perfect obedience and faithful service from all of us without in the least obligating Himself. We owe Him such obedience and service.  If we were to perfectly obey every command God has given and faithfully perform every duty – which, of course, we never do – we still could only say, “I have merely done my duty.”  We cannot obligate God in any way.

God Himself asserted His freedom from any obligation when He said to Job, “Who has given me anything and made me pay it back? Everything belongs to me under all of heaven.” (Job 41:11).  God was not stating a mere abstract, theological principle.  He was rebuking an attitude of “I’m not getting what I deserve,” on Job’s part.

Through the inspired pen of Sha’ul, the Rauch again asserts His freedom from obligation to anyone when He says, “Who has given him anything and made him pay it back? (Romans 11:35) Regardless of how we understand his teaching about the Jews in Romans 9-11 (an issue on which many Believers disagree), the principle stated by the Ruach through him is crystal clear: God does not owe anyone anything.

There is a very high sense of entitlement within modern society. Older people feel entitled to certain benefits from the government.  Middle-aged people feel entitled to generous health and retirement benefits from their employers.  Younger adults feel entitled to immediately enjoy the same standard of living their parents took years to achieve.  And young people feel entitled to whatever material luxuries they desire.

For Believers, such a high sense of entitlement is especially detrimental to our spiritual lives. For one thing, God is the ultimate supplier of all our needs and desires.  Every good gift is from Him, regardless of the intermediate means through which that gift is supplied.  As James said, “Every good act of giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father who made the heavenly lights; with him there is neither variation nor darkness caused by turning.” (James 1:17).  However, God, through His providential workings, almost always uses some person or institution or other human instrumentality to meet our needs.  Ultimately, though, He is the One who provides or withholds what we desire or think we need.

Giving to God

We actually cannot give God anything that He has not first given to us. David recognized this fact when the leaders of Israel gave so generously for the building of the Temple.  In his prayer of praise to God he said, “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to give so willingly in this way? For all things come from you, so that we have given you what is already yours. … Adonai our God, all these supplies that we have prepared in order to build you a house for your holy name come from your own hand, all of it is already yours.”  (1 Chronicles 29:14,16)

David knew he and his people had not given anything to God that wasn’t His already. Even our service to God comes from His hand.  As the prophet Isaiah said, “Adonai,… all we have done, you have done for us.” (Isaiah 26:12).  Sha’ul summed up the whole question of what we have given to God rather conclusively when he said, “Nor is He served by human hands, as if He lacked something; since it is He Himself who gives life and breath and everything to everyone.” (Acts 17:25).  When every breath we breathe is a gift from God, there really is nothing left to give that hasn’t been first given to us.

So where does all this emphasis on the fact that God doesn’t owe us anything leave us? It leaves us in the blessed position of being eleventh-hour workers in God’s kingdom (see Matthew 20:12-15).   It leaves us going home at the end of the day from God’s vineyard profoundly grateful, knowing that the gracious landowner has been generous beyond all measure.  In a word it leaves us content, and “true religion does bring great riches, but only to those who are content with what they have.” (1 Timothy 6:6).

Contentment with what we have – whether it is possessions or station in life, or mental or physical abilities – is worth far, far more than all the things we don’t have.

The Promises of God

The fact is God is gracious and generous to all who are His children. The Bible is full of God’s promises to provide for us spiritually and materially, to never forsake us, to give us peace in times of difficult circumstances, to cause all circumstances to work together for our good, and finally to bring us safely home to glory. Not one of those promises is dependent upon our performance. They are all dependent on the grace of God given to us through Yeshua.

Sha’ul wrote,  “For however many promises God has made, they all find their ‘Yes’ in connection with Him; that is why it is through Him that we say the “Amen” when we give glory to God.” (2 Corinthians 1:20).  What did Sha’ul mean when he said all God’s promises are “Yes” in Yeshua?

First of all, Yeshua in His Messianic mission is the personal fulfillment of all the promises in the Tanakh regarding a Savior and coming King. Beyond the actual fulfillment of all the promises made about Him, Yeshua is also the meritorious basis upon which all of God’s other promises depend.

If only we will learn to rest our entire case on the merits of Yeshua, instead of our own, we will learn the joy of living by grace and not by sweat.

Five Ways to Relax in God’s Grace [1]

How do you learn to “R.E.L.A.X.” in the liberating grace of God?

  1. Realize nobody’s perfect. Psalm 119:96 says, “Nothing is perfect except your words” (LB). What society tells you isn’t perfect. What popular opinion tells you isn’t perfect. What you learned growing up isn’t perfect. But God’s Word is perfect. When you get in the Bible and build your life on it, you will have a perfect foundation.
  2. Enjoy God’s unconditional love. The Bible says, “See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for he allows us to be called his children – think of it – and we really are!” (1 John 3:1) When you become a follower of Yeshua, you’re not just a servant of God anymore. You are a child of the King. A servant is accepted on the basis of what he does; a child is accepted on the basis of who he is. A servant starts the day anxious and worried that his work will please his master; a child rests in the secure love of his family. A servant is accepted because of his workmanship; a child is accepted because of his relationship.
  3. Let God handle things. What do you do about the uncontrollable things in life? “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7 NIV). When you cast a line, there comes a point where you have to take your finger off the button and let it go. Just like the essence of casting is letting go, to overcome perfectionism, you have to let go and let God do his work.
  4. Act in faith, not fear. Remember how you got into God’s family in the first place. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith.” There’s no other way to get into Heaven except by God’s Grace. You’ll never be good enough, and you can’t buy your way in. It’s a free gift from God.
  5. Exchange your perfectionism for God’s peace. Perfectionism destroys peace. Yeshua says in Matthew 11:28-29, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest…. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace” (MSG). What a deal!

We’re going to fail a lot in life. But we don’t have to worry about it if we’ve received God’s Grace.  In fact, there’s only one failure you ever need to worry about:  “See to it that no one misses out on God’s grace” (Hebrews 12:15a).  Receive it right now, and then relax!

In my next post we will continue to explore the topic of God’s Grace by looking at “God’s Grace – It Really Is Amazing.”

 

Click here for PDF version.

 

[1] Taken from Rick Warren’s Daily Hope ~ Mach 25, 2014

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