Unwrapped: Grace

This morning, we’re continuing our message series entitled, “Unwrapped” where we are unwrapping some of the greatest Christmas gifts that God freely offers us. All too often, we unwrap a part of God’s gift of salvation and see the “get out of hell” and “forgiveness of sin” features and are satisfied enough there. However, God’s desire is that we spend our lifetime unwrapping and fully exploring all of the benefits of this gift of salvation!

God encourages us to check out all of the many features of His gift of salvation, not just the obvious ones. He doesn’t want us to miss out on anything that He has given us!

Psalm 103:2
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits

So far, we unwrapped God’s gifts of peace and joy. This morning, we’re unwrapping God’s gift of grace. Grace is something often misunderstood in our culture and if anyone begins to dive into what grace truly is, you quickly begin to see why this misunderstanding exists.

Merriam-Webster gives us 8 different definitions for the word grace, that’s right, 8 different definitions! These definitions include everything from saying a short prayer, like this one:

Christmas Vacation Grace Clip

The definitions of grace then go on from a short prayer to being charming and attractive to a sense of right to special favor to the three sister goddesses in Greek mythology. Of course, their first definition of grace is the one that we commonly refer to and the gift that we’re unwrapping today: unmerited divine assistance coming from God given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification. That’s right, Noah Webster who began the English dictionary that we use today was a Christian, himself, and even wrote his own translation of the Bible.

I wish that I could say that a word study helps clarify what God’s word means when we read the word grace, however, it isn’t much better. The Biblical usage and English translations are quite wide-spread as well. This same Greek word, charis, is translated into our English words grace (130x), favor (6x), thanks (11x), pleasure (2x), and seven other single instance words. This same Hebrew word, chen, is translated into our English words grace (40x), favor (26x), pleasant (1x), precious (1x), wellfavoured (1x).

Subjectively, grace is defined as
1. On the part of the bestower, the friendly disposition from which a kindly act proceeds, acceptance
2. On the part of the receiver, a sense of the favor bestowed, a feeling of gratitude

To the one giving it, grace is acting favorably toward someone and accepting them as they are. To the one receiving it, grace is the grateful acknowledgment of the favor which has being given and realization that it is undeserved. God’s grace is truly amazing!

God’s grace is usually contrasted in the word of God to His law. When we stand on the side of God’s law, we always fall short and always end up on the condemned and guilty side of God’s judgment. When we stand on the side of God’s grace, God looks upon the sacrifice made by Jesus and pardons us from all guilt and condemnation since Jesus fulfilled the law and also paid the price for breaking it!

God’s law requires Him to look upon us in condemnation since we’re all guilty of breaking it.
God’s grace enables Him to look upon us with favor even though we don’t deserve it.

God’s grace can be defined in a cute and memorable way:
G – God’s
R – Riches
A – At
C – Christ’s
E – Expense

Grace is what enables God to express to us His mercy, good-will, and loving-kindness. Grace is God’s favor freely given to us even though we don’t deserve it and did nothing to earn it. It is God’s grace that makes salvation even possible.

Ephesians 2:8-9
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Grace is one of the greatest gifts that God has ever given us! It is God’s grace that enables Him to give us every other gift. All of the gifts of the Spirit are grace-enabled gifts. Salvation is a grace-enabled gift. Even the gift of the Holy Spirit, God’s very presence within us, is a grace-enabled gift. Just like the jelly-of-the-month club, grace is the gift that just keeps on giving all year long!

The first time in the New Testament that this gift appears is when the angel appears to Mary in the first chapter of Luke and informs her that she has found favor with God. The next time is in the second chapter of Luke explaining how Jesus grew up and how the grace of God was on Him and how He grew in the favor of both God and man. If Jesus, God’s very Word in the flesh sinless and perfect in every way, needed His Father’s grace and to grow in it, then how much more do we desperately need the free gift of God’s grace? At Christmas time, we remember this very reality that Jesus was Immanuel, God with us, God wrapped in flesh.

John 1:14-17
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

I love knowing that the grace that we first received when we put our faith in Jesus is just the beginning. God desires us to continue growing deeper and deeper in grace. Just as Jesus grew in the grace of God, so we can also grow more and more going from grace to grace.

2 Peter 3:17-18
17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

I kind of envision a ladder or set a monkey bars where we journey with God higher and further on in His grace. Each step of the way, we exchange grace for even greater grace growing within it all the while. Listen to how a few other translations interpret these same verses for us:

John 1:16-17
KJV
And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
NLT
From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ.
MSG
We all live off his generous bounty, gift after gift after gift. We got the basics from Moses, and then this exuberant giving and receiving, This endless knowing and understanding— all this came through Jesus
AMP
For out of His fullness [the superabundance of His grace and truth] we have all received grace upon grace [spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing, favor upon favor, and gift heaped upon gift]. For the Law was given through Moses, but grace [the unearned, undeserved favor of God] and truth came through Jesus Christ.

What an incredible gift we’ve been given in the form of God’s grace! God’s grace forgives us, saves us, gifts us, and empowers us. God’s grace enables us to do what we can only do in God’s power and not our own ability. Where our own limitations end, God’s grace steps in to take us all the way through the finish line!

Jesus told Paul:
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Where our own limitations end, in other words our weaknesses, that very place is where the power of God is made perfect unleashed by His all sufficient grace. That is awesome news this morning! God is not ashamed of us because of our weaknesses! God wants to meet us in our weaknesses and be our strength!

Hebrews 4:14-16
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

What does God’s throne consist of? Grace! For time’s sake, we won’t dive into it this morning too far. However, what was the lid of the ark of the covenant where God’s very present rested called? The mercy seat! God intentionally chose this symbolic representation of His mercy and grace that enthrones Him, the place where He finds rest! No, God does not sit on a throne of lies. He is seated on a throne of grace and truth!

We often quote and speak about God inhabiting or being enthroned on our praises from Psalm 22:3. What causes us to praise God? Isn’t it His grace? Isn’t it us receiving His unmerited favor which causes us to overflow with praise and thanksgiving? Grace is truly the throne of God that causes Him to be lifted high and exalted by all of His creation!

Our God is not a god of superiority and arrogance. Our God is a god who is well familiar with our condition of weakness and need and temptation. Our God is a god who is well familiar with heartache and suffering and pain. Yet our God is the only God who is mighty to give us His mercy and grace in our time of need. Our God overcame everything so that we might also overcome. He made a way of reconciliation with Him where there was no other way! We do not approach our God meekly and timidly, our God wants to be approached with confidence and boldness especially in our weakness and need!

It is the gift of grace that makes all this possible. Sometimes we are so hard on ourselves. We often condemn ourselves and beat ourselves in our weaknesses while all the long, God is waiting there to meet us in our weakness and be our strength. We punish ourselves and condemn ourselves for our sin and all the while God is waiting there to forgive us and guide us out of our sin and away from it. It is the gift of grace that empowers us to rise up and overcome temptation and defeat sin in our lives.

It is the gift of grace that enables the gifts of the Spirit in our lives and the conduit through which the raw power of God can flow in and through our lives. It is the grace of God that enables us to stand up against all opposition and to overcome all odds.

Acts 14:1-3
1 At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed. 2 But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 3 So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders.

Though we may be opposed and though we may face hardships, God’s grace enables us to rise above them all overcoming everything! God got so excited about Paul and Barnabas boldly speaking about His grace that He enabled them to also perform signs and wonders to confirm the message of God’s grace. There is no greater display of God’s grace than when He chooses to work signs, wonders, and miracles for us.

2 Corinthians 6:1-10
1 As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 For he says,

“In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

3 We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. 4 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; 6 in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7 in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; 8 through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

How amazing is the grace of God? No matter our circumstances, no matter what anyone may choose to say about us, no matter what rises up against us, we are able to stand firmly and continue preparing the way for people to come to salvation in Jesus. God’s grace alone can do such a thing.

I love what Paul reminds the church in Corinth about the nature of God’s grace. NOW is always the time of His favor and TODAY the day of His salvation! Even the Old Testament reminds us in Lamentations 3 that God’s mercy, His love, His compassion, His love is new each morning and NEVER fail!

Why hang on to the past? Why long for the grace that we had yesterday? God’s grace is brand spanking new NOW! It is that grace that God is giving you NOW that you need. It is the grace that God is giving you NOW that will be sufficient for what you need now. It is the grace that God is giving us NOW that we need to grow and mature within so that we might go from grace to grace and glory to glory.

This morning, let’s unwrap God’s gift of grace. No, we don’t deserve it. Yes, it is too rich and great of a gift to give to broken people like you and I. However, God is choosing to freely give us this gift. Why not cast off our old mindsets and fully embrace this gift? Let’s not be like the people in Corinth who received God’s gift in vain. Let’s be ones who take God’s gift of grace and use up every ounce of it fully equipped and empowered, fully forgiven and free, like Paul and Barnabas with weapons of righteousness in our right hand and left not allowing any work of the enemy to continue in our lives nor in the lives of those around us!

God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense – may God’s grace flow richly in and through our lives this Christmas season!