Today is the second sermon in the series looking at a few of the foundational issues that drive our church's vision, and that make me passionate about what I am doing. Last week we looked at the hope that drives our vision. That hope (what I called postmillennialism) has been such a motivator in my life and such a faith builder for me, that when I came to understand this doctrine, it was like I had a second blessing. In fact, many of the doctrines are like third, and fourth and fifth blessings for me. Eschatology is a critically important doctrine. So we looked at our hope last week. And I trust that it has similarly given you motivation and faith building as well. Today I want to look at grace, then we will look at law, apologetics and the greatness of the Great Commission. Those are all things that uniquely drive us.
But this second issue of grace can never be taken for granted. Apart from grace, all that God calls us to do is impossible to accomplish. I think many times we assume we are operating by grace, when really, we are doing what anyone can do in their own fleshly power. Grace is God's Riches at Christ's Expense. It is God's undeserved favor and enabling and empowering in our lives. We teach on grace all the time, so you might wonder why we need another sermon devoted to this. And you might especially wonder that since I have spent several months covering Ephesians chapter 1 (in our communion meditations), and that is a chapter that is loaded with teaching on grace. Well, I'm not going to duplicate that today. My purpose this morning is two-fold. First, I want to fill out the picture of God's grace by comparing it to all God's other attributes. And so if anybody picks up a tape, they will only be getting one portion of what we believe on grace. But I think it is something needed to fill out the picture. And secondly, by doing it this way (by comparing it to all of the other attributes), it will help us to see what grace is not. And it is when you set doctrine in antithesis to what it is not that real understanding begins to develop. There is so much shallow and misleading talk about grace in America, that I think it is more critical than ever that we keep a clear focus on what it is, and what it is not. And then at the end I want to draw out some practical implications.
We Must Not Isolate Grace From Who God Is
Now the reason that it is important to link grace to all of God's other attributes is that many definitions of grace are impossible because they contradict who God is.
A Just Grace (Is. 30:18; Numb. 14:18; Rom. 3:24; 8:3-4; Tit. 3:7)
And so I want to spend a few minutes demonstrating that God's grace is consistent with God's justice. Or you might say that it is a just grace. The first half of Isaiah 30:18 says says, Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you; But the second half of the verse explains why the Lord can be gracious to us. It's not because He's tired of being a judge and giving justice, and He just says, "Oh forget about the sin. We'll just sweep it under a carpet." No. Here's the reason that is given in the second half of the verse: For the LORD is a God of justice. That verse says that His grace was based upon His justice. He is exercising perfect justice every time He exercises grace to a creature. That's Isaiah 30:18. We have misunderstood grace if we think that Jesus got God to set aside His justice and instead show His love. That is impossible. The way some people speak of God's grace, it is as if God swept all of our sins under the carpet and said, "Don't worry about it. We'll forget about it this time." One sermon given a few years ago said that grace is like a policeman who let's you off the hook when you got caught speeding with alcohol on your breath. That's not grace. That's ignoring state law. Scripture says that God would be sinning if He ever let a sinner escape justice. It's says that God Himself would be a sinner if He ever let a sinner escape justice. Though Numbers 14:18 says that God delights in forgiving our sins, It goes on to say, **He by no means clears the guilty****, See, that's the thing that puzzled the Reformers before they were saved. How can God be just and save anyone? We are all guilty.
It is impossible for God to violate His justice (Ex. 23:7; 34:7; Numb. 14:18; Prov. 17:15; 24:24; Nah. 1:3)
But let's dig a little further into this. Turn with me to Exodus 23:7 where we see that it is impossible for God to violate His justice. God instructs judges to be just because he is a just Judge. He says, Keep yourself far from a false matter; do not kill the innocent and righteous. For I will not justify the wicked. That should be a puzzle to you. Doesn't God justify us even though we are wicked? Yet God denies that He every justifies except on the basis of righteousness. Look at Exodus 34:7: Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty... How can he forgive sin if he doesn't clear the guilty? Can you see the puzzle? Look at Proverbs 17:15 to see how strongly God feels about this: He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD. You will never learn to appreciate the miracle of God's grace to sinners until you understand that God's grace and God's justice have to fit together. Flip over to Proverbs 24:23-24: These things also belong to the wise: It is not good to show partiality in judgment. He who says to the wicked, ‘You are righteous,' him the people will curse; nations will abhor him. but those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, and a good blessing will come upon them. Nahum 1:3 says, The LORD ...will not at all acquit the wicked. Not at all. If you are wicked, you will be condemned.
I don't think anything could be clearer than that God can never sweep sin under the carpet. God would cease to be God if He ceased to be just, and God's justice was fully met when He bestowed His grace upon you. And you know the old, old story. Jesus became a substitute to all who cast their sins upon Him. He took our name upon Himself, was judged for our sins, was declared guilty as our substitute, and was punished for our sins. Justice was met and since the law mandates that there can be no double jeopardy; in other words, since it mandates that you cannot be punished for the same sin twice, when God gives His grace to you, He is not letting you off the hook. His grace is a just grace. But the way, that's why Scripture says that you died with Christ and that your life is hidden with Christ; that your life is no longer your own. Dead men don't exist as far as the law is concerned. They can't marry, enter into contracts, buy things, apply for protection or anything else. If you are to receive any benefits from God, legally, it has to be done in Christ's name. That's why we pray in Christ's name, heal in Christ's name and do everything in His name. If you do things in your own name, you are declaring yourself to be alive again and under the condemnation of the law. God cannot bless you when you operate in the flesh. If you have escaped the judgment of hellfire by God's grace, your whole life is wrapped up in Jesus, and to live it selfishly is the antithesis of what grace is all about. But that's going down a rabbit trail. The main point here is that grace is not what most people think it is. Grace doesn't sweep your sins under a carpet or ignore them as unimportant. There is no such thing as cheap grace. Though it costs us nothing, it cost Christ everything to take our sin and to give us His righteousness. He can declare you just because He sees you as in Christ and wearing Christ's righteousness.
Justice and mercy could be exercised toward us only by union with Christ (Ps. 85:9-10; Rom. 3-5)
A Holy Grace (2 Tim. 1:9; Tit. 2:14; Rom. 6; Eph. 2:10; 1 John)
But let's look at another attribute. Secondly, it is a holy grace. God exercises His grace in holiness for the sake of holiness. And if He failed to, He would not be faithful to His character. Paul says in Romans 6:1 that we have totally misunderstood grace if we say, "let us sin that grace may abound." In verse 2 he says, Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Grace flows from a holy God in order to make us holy. Titus 2:14 says, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Are you zealous for good works? The whole purpose of grace is to save us from sin and make us holy.
And those who use the doctrine of grace to excuse their sin are not even believers. They are fakes. Why? Because Titus 2:14 says that wherever His grace is, it transforms us and makes us zealous for holiness. Ephesians 2:10 says that though we are not saved by works, we are His workmanship [there's God's grace working in us – "we are His workmanship], created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. The fact that we can never earn God's grace by our works is not the same thing as saying that God's grace does not produce good works in us. The book of 1 John makes the point that we have never tasted of God's grace if we do not walk in holiness. John says we are liars if we say that we are Christians and we never grow in holiness. The carnal Christian doctrine flows from the pit of hell. It makes people feel secure in their unsaved condition. The whole purpose of Christ's coming to earth was not just to save us from hell. In Matthew 1:21 Joseph is instructed to call Him Jesus. Why? The angel said, You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. If you are not progressively being saved from your sins, you are not tasting of God's grace. Any concept of grace that does not produce holiness is counterfeit. It is inconsistent with God's very nature and being. All of His attributes dovetail together. Hopefully I have said that enough times and in enough ways to make that clear: that God's grace is a holy grace, not a carnal grace. His grace is perfectly consistent with His holiness.
An Eternal Grace (Grace Before Time 2 Tim. 1:9; Rom. 11:5)
Thirdly, it is an eternal grace, since God is an eternal being. All God's attributes have to be eternal or not limited by time. My son is writing an essay refuting the Openness of God Theology which denies that God is above time. On their theology, time is an attribute of God, and time therefore limits God, and therefore God cannot know the future. In fact, they deny that eternity is being above time. There is only time on that view. But this point says that grace is not only given in time; it is given in eternity before time began. 2 Timothy 1:9 says, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. Did you get that last phrase? "grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began."
Now this gives some people real heartburn. They don't want grace given to them from eternity past because that means that God knows the future and the future is determined. That's why Openness of God Arminians like Clark Pinnock and Gregory Boyd deny that God can know the future. They are trying to escape from this idea that the present was determined by eternity. They want grace given after they have done something. Otherwise it feels like they are not in control. Well, guess what folks? We aren't in control. God's grace humbles man because it wasn't just given to us in time. It is eternal.
God's grace didn't come to you because you believed and repented. God committed His grace to you long before you were born, long before the world and time existed. This scares some people because it means that grace is based upon God's character alone, not anything that He saw in us. We call this aspect of grace unconditional election. When God chose us, He didn't condition our salvation on anything in us. Romans 9:11 says, says, So then, it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. (v. 16) Of Esau and Jacob it says, for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him who calls) it was said to her, "The older shall serve the younger." As it is written, "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated."
That scares some people to think that God's grace was determined in eternity, not in time. But you know, when you think about it, if God's grace was not given before time began, and if it was not eternal in its character – that would be scary. It would be scary to think that God's grace was time bounded. That would mean that God could be blindsided. And that's exactly what Openness of God theologians have been saying, that God is frustrated by events outside of His control. But that could mean that someone's coming to faith by grace could also accidentally be frustrated and our persevering in grace could be frustrated. The moment you make time an attribute of God you get yourself into enormous troubles, not just on the attribute of grace, but on all the other attributes. If God's grace depended upon my believing and persevering; if it depended upon what happens in time, I would never have confidence that God's grace could not be undone by my frailty or undone by chance. Maybe a thousand years from now I might worry about falling away. But, because it is based upon the solid rock of God before time, what Romans 11:5 speaks of as the election of grace, the doctrine is a tremendous comfort. It was grace that was given before time began (2 Timothy 1:9).
A Sovereign Grace (Rom. 9:6-33)
A related concept is point D, that God's grace is a sovereign grace. Sovereignty is one of God's characteristics, and therefore it is obvious that all of God's attributes are sovereign attributes. But many people believe in sovereignty for providence, but no sovereignty when it comes to salvation. The almighty free will of man takes the place of God's free will. And those are really the only two alternatives: either God is sovereign, or something in creation is sovereign. God's sovereignty means that God is in charge and He determines where, when and to whom He will exercise His grace or any other attribute for that matter. One sure sign of whether you are self-centered in your relationship with God is by your reaction to God's sovereignty. Romans 8 indicates that the Spirit causes us to rejoice in God's sovereignty and find comfort in it. Romans 9 shows how the same doctrine raises the hackles of those who are dominated by the flesh. If it brings forth joy and praise and peace, then the Spirit has done a great work of grace.
If you want a great chapter that deals with sovereign grace, it would be Romans 9. We've already read from there indicating that it is an eternal grace, but let me read a section showing that it is also a sovereign grace. God is not obligated to save anyone. He saves whom He desires. Let me read Romans 9:14-24.
Romans 9:14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!
Romans 9:15 For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion." [There is a succinct definition of sovereign grace. God can give it or withhold it as He pleases. He is sovereign in determining who He will save. Going on in verse 16]
Romans 9:16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. [He says, "It's not man's free will, but God's free will that counts in salvation.]
Romans 9:17 For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth."
Romans 9:18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.
Romans 9:19 You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?" [This is the favorite argument against sovereign grace. "Well if that's the case, nobody can be blamed, because nobody can resist God. But Paul catches this objector off guard by saying, "No. You've misunderstood. You are resisting God right now. You are replying against God.]
Romans 9:20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, "Why have you made me like this?" [Apart from grace, that's all that the unregenerate can do – resist God. And the more of God's restraining grace that He removes, the more they resist God.]
In Romans 1, Paul has already demonstrated that when God gives men up to their depraved natures, He has in effect hardened them, but God is not at fault.. And the illustration I have frequently used is that of a book and gravity. What keeps this book from falling to the ground is the power of my restraining hand. If I were to remove my hand, the book would fall to the ground of its own accord. I don't have to slam it to the ground for it to go to the ground. In the same way, all unbelievers are pulled into sin and rebellion by the gravity of their own nature. And all that is holding them up so that they are as good as they are is God's undeserved restraining grace. If He were to remove it or give them up unto sin at any moment, they would plummet into rebellion. Romans 1 speaks of God giving them up to a depraved mind. God determined that they would be hardened, but He didn't force them or slam them down. Did God harden Pharaoh's heart or did Pharaoh harden his own heart? Both are true. It mentions first that God hardened Pharaoh's heart. He withdrew His restraining grace knowing full well that Pharaoh would immediately plunge into rebellion. So God can be in control of all things without ever being the author of sin. God doesn't have to force anyone to fall. They want to sin, rebel and resist God. When He gives them up, they will.
But I find it interesting that Paul doesn't appeal to that earlier argument at this point. That would take him too far afield. What the objector is concerned about is that God isn't being fair. And Paul's argument is that if fairness were invoked, we would all be in hell right now. It's not an issue of our rights, but of God's rights that Paul is determined to protect. And so he says in verse 21:]
Romans 9:21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?
Romans 9:22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,
Romans 9:23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,
Romans 9:24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
Paul says that God has the right to bestow favor on unworthy clay to make it into a fine vessel, and He has the right to take the same dirty clay and make it a vessel for dishonor. His purpose is to humble man's pride, because until we are humble, we are not receptive to grace. That's why Christ preached on the sovereignty of God so much to unbelievers. Some Reformed people say that we shouldn't talk about this doctrine except to the mature. But Christ talked about the sovereignty of God in His preaching all the time. His goal too was to humble the pride of man, and I cannot think of a better way to humble us and to exalt the riches of God's grace than to preach sovereign grace.
A Free Grace (see God's attribute of Aseity)
But we have totally misinterpreted the sovereignty of God if we believe that it shows God to be selfish. One of the central attributes of God is the Aseity of God. That is spelled ASEITY. Exodus 3 is a marvelous chapter on the Aseity of God. I AM WHO I AM.. God say that He will provide for every need that we could have out of His self-sufficiency. Are you hungry, "I am the bread of life." Are you thirsty? "I am the living water." And so this speaks of the freeness of God's grace. He freely bestows His grace because of His aseity. His grace isn't dependent upon creation. Nor will it ever run out since God has no needs, but has an overflow of Grace because of His Aseity. But it also an objection to His sovereignty.
I have heard people think that God is unfair to save some and not save others. And this is where God's attribute of aseity helps give us a balance. God's aseity means that God is totally self-sufficient and in need of nothing. He didn't need creation, He didn't need our love, our fellowship or anything else. He didn't give grace because He was lonely and He needs. From eternity past God was fully satisfied with the Inter-Trinitarian love and fellowship. This means that everything God has done he has done for self-giving purposes, not self-serving purposes. Aseity means it is impossible for God to be selfish, even in the condemnation of sinners. It means that God doesn't get anything out of saving us or condemning us for that matter. His actions are actions of service to the undeserving.
Charles Spurgeon once said, "What amazes me is not that God does not choose everybody, but rather that he chose me." Why would He choose us when He doesn't need us? It's because of the self-sufficient generosity of God's grace that He gives as well as that He condemns. Everything flows from His generous, self-sufficient character.
A Wise Grace
God's grace is also a wise; a rational grace. God's wisdom is the sixth attribute that affects His grace. Some people accuse Calvinists of believing in fatalism. But fatalism has no plan. It's not wise. It is arbitrary. We believe grace was given according to an eternally wise plan. Michael Horton said:
Even though election means that salvation is determined by God, it is the antithesis of fatalism. Had God merely provided salvation for everybody and then stepped back to let the chips fall where they may, then you would have fatalism. In other words, if God does not determine the success of salvation, we are back to the meadows with Doris Day singing, Que sera, sera - whatever will be, will be. But precisely because God has determined what will be, we have a salvation based on God and not on fatalism.
He ironically points out that it is the Openness of God theology people who really believe in fatalism.
And it is precisely because the administration of God's grace is wise and perfect that we can take confidence day by day in our growth in grace. You may think that your problems are too tough for God's grace. But Christ said, I know My sheep. And the one who knows us inside and out has promised that His grace is sufficient for us. So it's rational. We can trust it. It has a plan. And His plan will succeed.
A Loving Grace
It is also a loving grace. 2Ths. 2:16 says, ... God our Father, who loved us ... by his grace and over and over God's love is said to be possible because God has a gracious heart, and likewise His grace is motivated by His love. Never think of God's grace as plugging in a credit card for your needs. You must interact with a living, personal being. And because He is love, He delights when we respond to His grace in love. And He delights to give more grace to those whom He loves.
A Generous Grace
Point H. It is a Generous Grace. Now this is related to the point on Aseity where it is a free grace, but this goes beyond it. God does not have to be manipulated into giving us grace. He is generous. He delights in giving His children grace. Turn with me to Romans 5 as one example of this. Often we only have faith to ask for a little when God's nature is to give to overflowing. Look at Romans 5:15. It says, But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man's offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. Just think of how much sin has come into the world. This verse says that God's grace will come in much more. It will abound. Look at verse 17: For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. Notice those words "much more," and "abundance of grace." Look at verse 20: Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more. It doesn't matter how great your needs are or how great your sin is, God's grace is generous - it abounds much more. Amen?
A Kind Grace
Furthermore, it is a kind grace. Ephesians 2:7 speaks of the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. If you have an image of God as a harsh task master who has given you $100 of grace and expects you to give back $1000 dollars in six months, then you have misunderstood the nature of God's grace. God doesn't sent Mafia men after you to take it out of your hide when you fall down. He gives you the $100 as it were, then when you realize you can't make payments, gives you more and more and more so that you can return in love. He is gentle, considerate, kind, loving. A bruised reed he will not crush. He does not extinguish a flickering flame. It is a kind grace.
A Powerful Grace
J says it is a powerful grace. Too many people are discouraged because they forget this fact. In his best-seller, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Rabbi Harold Kushner states, "Bad things do happen to good people in this world, but it is not God who wills it. God would like people to get what they deserve in life, but He cannot always arrange it. Even God has a hard time keeping chaos in check and limiting the damage evil can do." Now its understandable when an unbeliever like him say things like this, but for believers it is totally unnecessary. Any difficulties we face, God's grace is powerful enough to deal with it. God's grace is never frustrated. It is always backed up by power.
A Reliable Grace (Immutability)
I won't spend time on it, but the question of the perseverance of the saints rests on the fact that God is reliable. And His grace is a reliable grace. His nature is to change not. What He has begun, He will complete until the day of Jesus Christ Paul says in Philippians. And so this speaks of His immutability.
A Consistent Grace (The unity of the Godhead)
Point L is that God's grace is a consistent grace. There is a unity in the Godhead that means that what one person of the Godhead is involved in, the other two are involved in. They are united and consistent in their will, desire, purpose and plan. And this has huge implications against the Amyraldian conception of grace – that the Father only elected a certain number, but that Jesus intended to save everyone through His death. That divides the Godhead. We must remember that what the Father determines to do in grace, the Son and Spirit also choose to do. They work in perfect harmony. If God foreknows who will believe, can we really say that Christ attempted to provide a grace which the Father knew would never be applied? No. Can we honestly say that Jesus intended to die for Pharaoh and try to save him, when Pharaoh was already burning in hell? No. God's grace is consistent.
We could take more time, but I think this gives us plenty of meat to chew on. And I would encourage you to meditate in your devotions on each attribute of God by seeing how it would function in relation to all the other attributes. God's consistency applies not just to inter-trinitarian relations, but also to the fact that each person of the Godhead is consistent with Himself.
The Practical Results Of Knowing God As A God Of Grace
What difference does it make what we believe on these doctrines? Let me outline seven immediate differences that you will notice.
The first difference that I have already hinted at is that it will produce humility. It produced profound humility in king Nebuchadnezzar. It produced humility in David, and Paul who saw himself as the chief of sinners, no doubt because God's spotlight highlighted more of his depraved heart than it did of the hearts of others. One of the testimonies that you see from saints of old is that the more holy they have become, the more they realize how far they have to go. Their sins may be hidden from the eyes of others, but they are painfully aware of how sinful they are in their heart dispositions. So it produces a humility in terms of our view of self. But the nice thing about that is that we no longer feel like we have to try to impress people.
This also gives us humility in how we treat others. The more you understand of your own unworthiness, the less judgmental you will become of others. So that is the first benefit: humility.
The second benefit is appreciation of all that God has done for you. Appreciation for who He is. We know that He didn't love for what He could get out of it. He gave His grace because He wanted me to be a Christian and moved heaven and earth to achieve it. Ass we meditate on all that it cost God to give grace, on the eternal character of grace, its generosity, etc., it will draw our hearts out to God in appreciation.
A third benefit is that it will stir up our hearts to worship. Over and over in the Scriptures the discussion of God's grace leads the Scripture writer to praise and worship God. Have you ever wanted to grow in your ability to worship? Then you need to grow in your intellectual and experiential knowledge of grace. After discussing the riches of God's grace to Gentile and Jew in Romans 11 Paul just melts before God in a hymn of worship. Luther said that we cannot worship rightly until we understand our own depravity, the bondage of the will, and that grace from start to finish - from predestination to glorification is of God, to whom alone be glory and honor for ever and ever. Jesus said that God's purpose in seeking people by His grace was so that they might worship. He seeketh such to worship Him.
Holiness and Service
Another result that Scripture highlights is that it produces holiness and service. And I've already talked about that earlier, so I won't elaborate. But it was really when I began to experience the comfort of Calvinism that I was spurred to holiness and fearless service as never before.
Evangelism and Missions
Historically it has also been a tremendous impetus to evangelism and missions. This is point E. The Reformation, all of which was Calvinistic, led to one of the greatest outreaches ever. So did the Puritan movement. So did the Great Awakening under Whitefield. Spurgeon, William Carey, David Livingston and countless others were moved to missions because they had come face to face with God's sovereign grace in a personal way. It was no longer merely a doctrine.
Point F: Assurance. Certainly it gives us assurance of our standing with God. If we felt that our standing with God was always in jeopardy from our failings, we could have no assurance. But Paul assures us in Romans 8 that everyone who was predestined will be called, and everyone who is called will be justified, and everyone who is justified will be glorified. It's the golden chain of salvation which cannot be broken apart.
What is the basis for his assurance? It was that our salvation from start to finish rested on God alone. If Satan fights against us, don't worry: Paul says, If God is for us, who can be against us? If our conscience is terrified with the charges Satan brings against us, he says, Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. It's not based on what happens in history. It is based on God's elective purposes. If we are condemned as Luther was by the church, we are secure, because it wasn't the church that died for Luther. Christ did, and the Christ who died continues to intercede says verse 34. We may be separated from friends and family by persecution, but verses 35 and following say that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Assurance.
Prayer with Power
And finally it gives us power in prayer. The more we see God's grace in operation, the more we have confidence to ask of God. Horton says:
I'm always puzzled by the question, "Why pray for somebody's salvation if election is true?" After all, if election is not true and God is waiting on pins and needles hoping along with us that folks will use their free will properly, then surely that is reason enough to leave prayer out of it. We might expect God to say, "Look, I appreciate the attention, but there's nothing I can do. It's out of my hands. I gave the person a free will, and now we'll just have to see what happens."
On the other hand, if we realize that salvation is by God's grace alone, then we don't worry about the obstacles in the way. We go to the one who can change the obstacles, who can change the hardest heart. When we realize that God's grace is sufficient for the toughest things that we face, then we pray through to the one who has committed Himself to us.
Coming To Know Our God Of Grace
Going Down (humility, repentance)
I have only outlined two keys to knowing the God of grace: repentance and faith. We start our Christian life by going down and looking up, and we must continue our walk that way. Scripture says, God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.
J. I Packer once said that our view of God is like a pair of old fashioned scales. When God goes up in our estimation, we go down. Similarly, when we raise our sense of self-importance and self-esteem, our view of God must, to that same degree, be lowered. Michael Horton, in his book, Putting Amazing Back Into Grace, says, "Never before, not even in the medieval church, have Christians been so obsessed with themselves. Never before have people entertained such grandiose notions about humans and such puny views of God." We must go down in our estimate of self, and look up by faith to God's power and grace. The bigger our view of God, the more we will enter into the experiencing of His grace in our lives. Humility and faith are the keys, and as we go to the Lord's table, lets's keep those two keys in mind. It isn't what we do that makes us worthy. It is humbling ourselves before God and trusting what Christ has done that enables us to come to the table worthily. Let's pray.
Looking up (faith)
Father God, we humble ourselves before you and recognize that there is nothing we can bring to deserve your favor. But we thank and praise you for your grace. We thank and praise you that you have promised to abound toward us with much more grace than the sin we have experienced. Give us faith to trust your grace alone. Give us humility to credit our successes to your grace alone. As we come to the Lord's table we come desiring to meet with you in a special way. Lift up our hearts. Encourage us. Strengthen us. pour out your grace upon us that we might serve you in holiness all the days of our lives.
And Father, do not just bless us, but bless our nation. We see a nation that is so filled with sin and rebellion that change for the better seems hopeless. But we thank you that the word hopeless is not part of your vocabulary. You are the one who delights in bringing something out of nothing. Do a great work in our nation, casting down the proud and insolent and exalting the lowly and righteous. Bring revival and reformation to church and country.
Always remember this simple truth of Scripture that "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." And resolve to be one who walks humbly through life in utter dependence upon God and I promise you that your life will be transformed by the amazing grace of God.
Michael Horton, Putting Amazing Back into Grace: Embracing the Heart of the Gospel (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 80. ↩
Ibid., 76. ↩
Ibid., 45. ↩
"But when the works and power of God are unknown in this way, I cannot worship, praise, thank, and serve God, since I do not know how much I ought to attribute to myself and how much to God" (Horton, Putting Amazing Back into Grace, 94). ↩
Horton, 87-88. ↩
Ibid., 17. ↩