Biblical Foundations 22: God’s Character 10; Why Is Grace Amazing? 1

navy seals rescue (6-2-16)

As we continue looking at the foundations of this local church, and specifically the cornerstone of knowing God as He has revealed Himself in the Bible, my thoughts this past week went back to two previous sermons in April on Lamentations 3 and Isaiah 51 where God teaches us how to make it through the difficult times that we face: holding onto HIM, His character, what He has done for us and what He promises to do for His people!

And so this past week I thought: “Well, how do we do that? How do we go from just knowing ABOUT the character of God to actually holding ONTO Him & His character?”

We survive our suffering first by knowing what He has done for us—rock climbers must first KNOW where the sturdy hand-holds & foot-holds are before they can grip them and put their weight on them to keep from falling.. So I started reading through the relatively short letter to the Colossians in the New Testament, reading through it specifically looking for descriptions of what God has done for His people through Jesus Christ, some of the acts of love & grace & Truth that ONLY GOD can do for us, those things that show us WHO WE ARE as Christians because of what GOD HAS DONE for us through the cross and empty tomb.

  • I had appendicitis about five years ago—oh the pain! God blessed me to go to a fantastic hospital with fantastic surgeons and nurses—I went into surgery in terrible pain and came out a few hours later no longer with appendicitis! I know THAT the cure happened, but I have no idea what the surgeons and nurses did! Well that describes many of us who have cried out to Jesus for salvation, forgiveness, new life—we may know THAT He has forgiven us, but we don’t know WHAT that means, what did the Father, Son and Holy Spirit do for us? In other words, we may know THAT His grace is amazing, but do we know WHY? WHAT specifically is so amazing about His grace?

And so for this post I want to share with you what God proclaims in the first two chapters of the book of Colossians and challenge you Christians to survive AND thrive in your trials by hanging on to these foundational Truths by thinking about them and celebrating them and living as if they are true (because they are!)—these unearnable benefits for all who have cried out to Jesus alone for grace alone through faith alone for the forgiveness of our terrible sins. For any non-Christians here, for anyone who HASN’T placed their faith in Jesus alone through grace alone through faith alone, please listen to these following benefits that are freely given by God the Father through Jesus to all who believe:

Colossians

Colossians 1:12: “giving joyful thanks to God the Father, who has qualified you [us] to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.”

His love & grace & Truth have qualified me, He has made us worthy who are deeply UNWORTHY of His love! Not my so-called good deeds! He truly does qualify the called instead of calling the qualified!!! He has an inheritance for me, along with all those who receive Jesus as Savior by faith, His people! God the Father wrote me into His will as one of His children, an inheritance that will never be lost, be stolen, or spoil/decay (1 Peter 1:3-7)—thus, because of this inheritance by the grace of God, we can also survive all the suffering that we face by the same grace of God! AMAZING GRACE!!!! Surviving our suffering is tied to knowing & clinging to what God has done for us through Jesus!!!

  • 1 Peter 1:3-7: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. [we are kept SAFE! It’s not that we’ll never suffer EVER, but we’re safe from suffering that lasts FOREVER] In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Colossians 1:13-14: “For he [the Father] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

He has rescued me & brought me into His Son’s kingdom! Surrendering to the Lord Jesus is less like when two companies merge: documents are calmly signed in a quiet/climate-controlled boardroom; This is more like a RESCUE, more like Navy Seals storming a compound to violently rescue hostages who cannot escape on their own! Jesus violently laid down His life on the cross to rescue us, to redeem us, to ransom us from being hostages to sin and death and judgment! He has redeemed us from the pit (Psalm 103), He has forgiven our sins through the death & resurrection of His Son Jesus!!! Paid in full!!!

What’s so amazing about God’s grace? He has qualified us; He has rescued us…

Colossians 1:21-22: “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he [the Father] has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation…”

I am no longer an enemy of God (verse 21), I am no longer alienated from Him by my evil desires & actions! I am legally forgiven (though not yet practically perfect, of course), and after the end of my earthly life God will present me to Himself as holy, without blemish and free from accusation! Through faith in Jesus, God the Father has taken me from being a fiend to being a friend, from a foe to family, from being antagonistic against God to being adopted as one of His children! And all this as the GIFT of grace! All this MUST be grace; there’s no way for us to clean our act up on our own! This is why trying to get to heaven through good deeds is so impossible: Stains cant be cleaned by what is less dirty—only by what is truly clean. Jesus’ Clean is cleaner than our dirt is dirty! Our good deeds are like filthy rags, like trying to clean off mud with a rag that is also muddy! No we must use a rag that is CLEAN, and the only cleanness in the universe is God Himself—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit…

Isaiah 1:18 (NIV)

18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,”

                says the Lord.

“Though your sins are like scarlet,

                they shall be as white as snow;

though they are red as crimson,

                they shall be like wool.

Hebrews 9:14 (NIV)

14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death,[a] so that we may serve the living God!

What’s so amazing about God’s grace? He has qualified us; He has rescued us; He has reconciled us…

Colossians 1:23: …“if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.”

We must note this condition, however—we must continue in our faith alone in Jesus alone through grace alone to the very end. But we have the sure Truth that God Himself will hold us and keep us from falling! We can confidently walk the narrow road because of the rock of grace & Truth firmly beneath our feet! You keep falling off the bike and skinning your soul as you follow Jesus? Keep getting back on the bike and following Him in His strength! His grace doesn’t give you permission to not ride the bike, His grace gives you forgiveness and power to KEEP getting back on the bike and following Him!!! More amazing grace!!! (Jude 1:24-25; John 10:28-29; 1 Corinthians 1:7-9)

  • Jude 1:24-25: 24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
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  • 1 Corinthians 1:7-9: Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

What’s so amazing about God’s grace? He has qualified us; He has rescued us; He has reconciled us (turned us from foes to family); He will keep us to the end…But wait, THERE’S MORE! 🙂

Colossians 1:27: “To them [the saints] God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

God chose to open my eyes and show me how true and beautiful His Son is, His Word is, His grace is! Even my FAITH in Jesus is a gift from Jesus! Amazing grace!!! (see also Matthew 11:25-27; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31)

  • Matthew 11:25-27: 25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. 27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
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  • 1 Corinthians 1:18-31: 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” 20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

What’s so amazing about God’s grace? He has qualified us; He has rescued us; He has reconciled us (turned us from foes to family); He will keep us to the end; He has chosen us…THERE’S MORE!

Colossians 2:11-12: “In him [Jesus Christ] you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him [Jesus Christ] from the dead.”

Jesus Himself has circumcised my heart, He Personally has made a mark on my soul—He has declared me as His own, He has set me apart (made me holy) through grace (not me deserving it)—and literally took off and buried my old sinful nature! I am made new because of what Jesus has done for me!!!! Whether I FEEL new or not, God’s Word SAYS and DECLARES that I am new!!! Though we will wrestle for the rest of our earthly lives with the residue of our old sinful nature,

  • 1 Peter 2:11: 11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.

Though we wrestle with the evil habits that our sinfulness was addicted to (2 Timothy 2:22; Ephesians 4:20-24), the Holy Spirit will transform and sanctify us—grow us to be more like Him!—the rest of our earthly lives to look and think and believe and act and respond and talk and desire more and more like Jesus!!!

  • 1 Peter 1:13-19: 13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (see also 1 Peter 4:1-2; 1 Peter 1:12-19; Romans 8:28-30…the rest of Romans 8, then, reveals that our faith & joy can survive & thrive in ALL suffering because of the grace of Jesus!!!).

Oh loved ones, we must be clear about this: Jesus experienced the pain of judgment/death on the cross (so we don’t have to!) to give us heaven; we WILL experience the pain of growth—being made holy—as He brings us to heaven. No way around this. Death has lost its sting; spiritual growth hasn’t. We must cry out to Jesus daily for His grace to keep following Him into the difficult situations that He leads us into in order to grow & mature us, in order to transform us to act like what/who we already are, in order for our activity to match up with our identity…

What’s so amazing about God’s grace? He has qualified us; He has rescued us; He has reconciled us (turned us from foes to family); He will keep us to the end; He has chosen us; He has circumcised our hearts (He has CLAIMED us! Made a mark on us to declare that we are HIS!)…THERE’S MORE!

Colossians 2:13: “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins…”

I WAS spiritually dead (not just a little mistaken or uneducated, not needing a little polish or improvement) but God made me alive with Christ and forgave ALL of my sins!!!! Receiving Jesus as Savior is not like upgrading your current life from cloth seats to leather—it is literally going from death to life! OH MY GOODNESS! AMAZING GRACE!!!! ALL A GIFT!!!

Colossians 2:19: “He [an unspiritual person who worships angels, has false humility, and constantly talks about his great visions (verse 18)] has lost connection with the Head [Jesus Christ], from whom the whole body [the Church, all reborn Christians], supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.”

God alone causes me to grow as a Christian in every way! My growth is up to God (though of course I am expected to put myself in a position to grow, to remain in Christ, planted deeply in His Word, watered through the Holy Spirit, basking in the Truth & grace of Jesus, reading Scripture, praying, meeting with other Christians, serving in and out of the local church, etc.)! Like with little kids who sometimes feel bad that their friends are all growing taller and bigger and faster and they are not—we tell them, “Don’t worry, your growth will come. Just keep eating your vegetables, drinking milk, getting sleep at night, stuff like that…and you will grow eventually!” God too will grow our faith as we humbly make the choice each day to put ourselves in a wise position to grow closer to Him.

What’s so amazing about God’s grace? He has qualified us; He has rescued us; He has reconciled us (turned us from foes to family); He has chosen us; He has circumcised our hearts (He has CLAIMED us! Made a mark on us to declare that we are HIS!)…He has made us alive when we were dead…ONLY God the Father, God the Son, & God the Holy Spirit can do this—NOTHING else on earth offers or delivers THIS…Have you received THIS from Jesus Christ?

Do you grip that Truth each day, loved ones? ARE YOU GRIPPED BY IT? Do you think about it, live life & make choices because of it, rest in it, sing because of it, tell others about it, stare at it like a gorgeous sunset? Are you amazed by this? Do you know the character of God as He has revealed Himself in the Bible?

Having set the table of some of the glorious acts that God has done for us and in us through His grace, chapters three and four of Colossians move to what WE are supposed to do as a result of what God has done for us and in us. God now works THROUGH us as we, reborn and empowered by His grace, make the choice each moment to follow Jesus, to learn from Him and live like Him and think like Him and talk like Him—TO OBEY HIM! We still do have choices to make each day, but now we have new life in Christ to be able to make choices of obedience to God that comes FROM our faith (Romans 1:5), not obeying God to try to earn faith. Oh the order there is so important! Identity MUST come before activity, activity (what we do) MUST flow from who we are, not vice versa. But many get their identity from what they do…not so with God and His people:

Even what God does flows from Who He is, not vice-versa. Before He “did” anything, He was still God. Identity before activity.

Psalm 90:2:

Lord, you have been our dwelling place

    throughout all generations.

Before the mountains were born

    or you brought forth the whole world,

    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Please read chapters 3 & 4 of Colossians this week—it won’t take long! In these chapters the Holy Spirit gives us many commands for practical, daily living, for living out our new identity in Jesus Christ!!!

I love what Robert Murray M’Cheyne wrote in his diary in 1833:

“Creeping defect here. Humble, purpose-like reading of the Word omitted. What plant can be unwatered and not wither!”

Let us close with this:

Colossians 4:3: “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.”

God alone can open doors for us to share His grace & Truth—the Gospel!—with nations, cultures, communities, and individuals. Our strategies, finances, intelligence alone cannot open doors; only the Father can (Zechariah 4:6; Revelation 3:7-8). May we pray that God gives us open opportunities to share this Good News with others!!!! As we are filled up with Who God is, what He has done for us and what He promises to do for us, we can then pour that grace & Truth of the LORD into the lives of others, locally and around the world…Oh the beautiful blessing & burden of representing Jesus in this broken world! What a privilege…what an undeserved honor. 🙂