GRACE ALONE (part 4 of 5)

by Sean Foster on October 6, 2013

John 8:1-11
While Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’

Romans 3:23-24
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 2:1-10
You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

A-men.

We have been working our way through a series looking at the five sola’s that came out of the Reformation. They are the five alones, or five only’s.

We started the series a few weeks ago, and we have looked at:
• The glory of God alone, soli Deo Gloria.
• Then we looked at Christ alone, sola Christus.
• And last week, we looked at Scripture alone, Sola Scriptura.

We have two left, so week we will look at faith alone, sola fide. But this week we look at Grace alone, sola gratia.

John Stott writes, Grace is God loving, God stooping, God coming to the rescue, God giving himself generously in and through Jesus Christ.

Well, let’s look at this Grace.

It is early in the morning. A small group of men walk with purpose. They barge into a home in the midst of a row of houses.
Get up harlot, the leader of the group yells.

The priests grab the woman and pull her out of the bed in the corner of the room on the floor.

Thought you’d get away with it did you? Shouts one of the other priests.

You’re pathetic and disgusting, shouts another.

She is dragged out of the house, down the streets. The priests make such a commotion that her neighbors peer out doors to see what is happening. It only adds to the shame and humiliation that she feels.

Some even start to follow the priests to watch for what happens next.

Now, let me read a few verses from John’s Gospel chapter 8.

Jesus was back at the Temple again. Swarms of people came to him. He sat down and taught them.

As he was speaking, the religious scholars and Pharisees lead a woman who has been caught in adultery. They stood her plain in the sight of everyone and said, Teacher, this woman was caught red handed in the act of adultery. Moses in the law gives order to stone such a person, what do you say?

Jesus looks at the woman. Her eyes remained fixed on the ground where she believes she will die. There is no use denying the charge. She was literally dragged from the man she slept with. She will die.

What do you say Jesus?

In the passage that Tom read to us from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, it reads: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not of works, so that no one can boast.

Grace alone. Grace is the very center. It is the very heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Grace alone is the most important piece for understanding what God has done for us.

We are saved, accepted, forgiven, embraced, loved, brought into God’s family, declared to be right and in relationship with God, by Grace…. Alone.

Grace alone.

Paul makes it clear, that it is not by works. A protestant distinction, it is not by our works, our good deeds, our good actions, our good lives, it is not by our good works, it is by grace, so that no one can boast.

Grace alone is the very centerpiece of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Grace alone is the pinnacle for understanding what God has done for us through Christ.
• We are saved,
• accepted,
• forgiven,
• embraced,
• loved,
• brought into God’s family,
• declared to be right
• and in relationship with God,
• by grace
• … alone.
Grace alone.

It is not by works.
• It is not by our works,
• Our good deeds,
• Our good actions,
• Our good living,
• Our good lives,
It is not by works, so that no one can boast.

The traditional definition of grace is unmerited favor. And it’s a really good way to describe what grace is, but I recognize that it is not a definition that most people embrace with ease.

We live in a world and society that is full of pride. We boast of our accomplishments. And we love our independence. But grace…, unmerited favor means that we must be dependent. We don’t like to be dependent, we like to be independent. Dependence makes us feel guilty – like we owe something back.

The ancient Greeks would use χάρις (charis) to describe someone who was weak or needy, dependent and needing a strong person to give to them. And they would help these weak, needy, people for no particular reason. They people did nothing to deserve the help that was given to them. But that’s grace. Grace is God’s choice to love, forgive, accept, help and save us, when we, have done nothing, to deserve it, or earn it.

We live in interesting times within and interesting culture. I often wonder how long we will be able to sustain the way that we currently live.

We like to believe that we are poor, or at least not well off. We certainly don’t consider ourselves as being rich.

But what would it mean, what would it require for us to consider ourselves as being rich? How much more do we need to consider ourselves as being rich? You see that’s how messed up our society has become. We define being rich as having excess in everything. And the problem with that kind of definition is that – it is never enough. We always want more. We are a greedy people. We are a sick society, and don’t even realize it.
• No matter how much we have in our bank.
• No matter how many cars in our driveway.
• No matter how many square feet we have in our homes.
• No matter how many garments in our closets.
• No matter how often we eat out.
• No matter how many gadgets or electronics we own.
• No matter how many clubs or memberships.
I could go on and on, but my point is that we never seem to be satisfied.

How much more do you need to have before you would be able to say that you are rich?

We are rich. We don’t think we are, but the rest of the world can see it. And I mean, it is more than just money in the bank, it is the quality of life that we enjoy. We are rich.

I mean, honestly, is there anything more that we really need? The truth is, we could all survive with much, much less. And here’s the bigger irony that we would have trouble getting our minds around; we would be happier.

We are a society that has come to expect things to be immediate. And things need to be done our way. We are in control. We are in charge. And it is because of these things that Grace is so difficult for us.

Sola Gratia. Grace. It really is a difficult concept for us. I mean, first of all, we don’t believe that anything is for free. There’s always a catch.

In our greedy society we have so many idols. Do we recognize them as idols? We hunger for stuff, success, to be the best and to have the most. It’s idolatry. To have things our own way.

If you ask people this question: When you die, do you think you will go to heaven? Most times, the response that I get is something like this:
I hope so.
I have tried to live a good life.
I’ve tried to be a good person?
I sure hope I go to heaven.
You see, what I encounter is uncertainty. And this is among Christians. There’s hope, but there’s not security. They don’t understand grace.

Now, of course, the alternative to Grace, is a salvation by works. Salvation by works is the old way. It is about earning our way into heaven with good deeds; good works; trying please and appease God. To work our way into heaven.

I mean, we may say that we believe in grace, but we still hold tenaciously to the idea, that we still better be good. But understand, that Grace is not about running faster, or trying harder, or being better. Those things will happen naturally as we embrace grace. But the first thing to learn about grace is that Grace accepts us just as we are.

I mean, let’s face it, God needs nothing from us. And there is nothing that we can do to please God. Grace is such that God loves us just the way we are.

Under the old covenant, it was a salvation by works. Through Christ, the covenant is by grace. Grace say’s you are loved, accepted, forgiven and made right, brought into the family of God, and your home in heaven made sure – and it doesn’t cost a thing. It’s a gift.

It’s like going shopping at a grocery store. Your cart is heaped with groceries. You place them on the conveyer belt to the cashier. Your groceries are bagged and placed back in your cart, and the cashier say’s – no charge. We can’t believe it.

We have trouble with this idea of Grace, because it doesn’t make sense to us.

What I encourage you to do is to open your hearts up to this Grace that God offers. We are so reluctant to open ourselves up to God and His love for us, and His grace for us. And I think the reason why we are so reluctant is because we know it will change us and not having control over that change, it scares us, and we resist.

And it’s true, if you open your self up to God and allow God into your life more, God will change you. You see, salvation is about giving ourselves up to God. And if we resist and don’t allow God in, and don’t give ourselves up to God, we wont know the salvation that comes from God.

Paul the Apostle said it this way, It is not longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. In other words, Jesus is in charge of my life. I have given my life to Christ. It is Christ who is now in control.

Grace deals with our sin. And it absolutely changes who we are. As we allow God into our hearts and lives, we begin to strive less for the things of this world. Our hearts, our lives, they become content with God, and we discover, we don’t need anything else. As God becomes the center of our hearts and lives, we come to know and understand those words in the Scriptures: That God supplies our every need. As Grace permeates our lives, the greed of our hearts will disappear.

The human condition is this: we are sinful. And because it is part of who we are, it is part of everyone of us, we sort of get used to our sin and accept it. It becomes normal. We even justify it.

But God is Holy. Holy and sin, they don’t mix. Like oil and water, they separate. But Grace deals with the sin. It deals with the sin so that we are forgiven. And God invites us to embrace this Grace. You see, the goal of the Christian life as Paul explains it is to become more and more like Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. It is Grace that makes this transition for us.

Now, I know that I have been talking a lot about sin today, but Grace deals with our sin. In the other passage that Tom read to us from Romans 3, Paul writes: all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Grace deals with the sin that is killing us.
• Pride
• Ego
• Hard hearts
• Judgmentalism
• Our apathy towards the poor
• Our greed
• Our envy
• And lust
• Our unfaithfulness
• Our insistence of superiority
• Entitlement
• Stubbornness
• Failure to serve
• Failure to care
• Failure to forgive
• Our failure to give
• Joylessness
• A complaining heart
• Lovelessness
God’s grace deals with our sin.

I want to go back to the story I started with today.

A woman is caught in adultery. Pharisees and Teachers of the Law drag her to the Temple with the intention of having her stoned for her sin. Their intentions are not wrong. The law clearly stated that a woman caught in adultery was to be stoned.

What do you say Jesus? Who was teaching outside of the Temple.

Jesus stoops down to the ground and starts to write with his finger in the dirt.

And after a time of writing, Jesus stands and say’s to them: If any one of you is without sin, let them be first to throw a stone at her. All sin deserves death.

John Stott say’s: Grace is God loving, God stooping, God coming to the rescue, God giving himself generously in and through Jesus Christ.

God stoops and writes on the ground with his finger.

God stooped down lower than anyone else.
• Beneath the preists
• Beneath the people.
• Beneath the woman caught in adultery.

As the people who are gathered look down at the woman, they have to look down even further to see Jesus as he stoops to write on the ground.

Our God stoops down to us.
To wash his disciples feet.
To embrace the little children.
To pull Peter out of the sea.
To pray in the garden.
He stoops and submits himself to the cross. Out of His great love for us, he lavishes his Grace upon us.

Sola Gratia. Grace Alone.

One by one, the stones drop to the ground.

One by one, everyone leaves.

Until, it is just Jesus and the woman.

Finally Jesus speaks to her. Has everyone left, he asks? Where are they? Has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you. Go, and leave your life of sin.

Grace gives this woman life.
Grace saves this woman from her sin.

Inside of your bulletins today, you will find a red page with a heart. Let me go back to that verse that I read from Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But you really can’t stop there. You have to continue to read the next verse. It reads: and are justified, freely by his grace through the redemption that came through Christ Jesus.

Grace, deals, … with our sin.

So this morning, I invite you to think about what it means to give our hearts to God.

And what it means is this: it means, acknowledging our sin. This morning, I will invite you and help you to give your heart and life to God and receive the Grace that God is ready to give.

Jesus dealt with our sin on the cross. His forgiveness and love are His gift of Grace to us.

So, if you have never given your heart and life to Christ, or if you would like to ensure that you have, you can do that this morning. I will lead you in a prayer that you can pray quietly to God now.

Let us pray.

Dear God,

I confess my sin to you. I know I need to be forgiven. And I know there is nothing that I can do to earn it. Forgive me O’God through your Son Jesus Christ and wrap your arms of love around me.

As best as I can Lord, I surrender my heart and life to you. I ask you to come into my heart and life, and take over. Help me O’God to walk by your Grace. Help me to sin no more.

Lord, I thank you for the gift of life that you have given me. Thank you for your forgiveness, your salvation, and the gift of eternal life.

My life is yours.

In Jesus name, I pray,

Amen.

Sola Gratia. Grace Alone.

A-men.

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