Saturday, April 29, 2017

Grow in Grace

Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord
Photo by Francesco Gallarotti on Unsplash
Jesus Christ. 

Paul used this greeting quite often in his epistles, sometimes adding mercy along with grace and peace. John used it in second John and he uses a form of it in his greeting to the seven churches in Revelation. Peter uses a form of it in both first and second Peter. 

Let’s take a look at the one in 2nd Peter.
2Pe 1:2 KJV  Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,

In this case, he asks that grace and peace be “multiplied”, may it be increased. The Greek word implies a fullness. May you be full of grace and peace.

Jesus was full of grace.

Joh 1:14 KJV  And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Joh 1:16 KJV  And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.
Joh 1:16 NASB  For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.

Grace builds upon grace. As grace is given it grows.

Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. (Gen 6:8) Moses found grace in God’s sight and God knew him by name. (Exo 33:17)

 Exo 33:12-19 KJV  And Moses said unto the LORD, See, thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people: and thou hast not let me know whom thou wilt send with me. Yet thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight.  (13)  Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people.  

Knowing God and his way is a prerequisite to finding grace in his sight. A relationship with him such that he knows us by name.

(14)  And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.  (15)  And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.  (16)  For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.  (17)  And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name.  (18)  And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.  

Now notice what God says he will pass before him -

(19)  And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.

Exo 34:6 KJV  And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,  

God’s glory is connected with goodness and truth, mercy, longsuffering, and grace.

It is by his grace that we are saved. 

Eph 2:4-10 KJV  But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,  (5)  Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)  (6)  And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:  (7)  That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.  (8)  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  (9)  Not of works, lest any man should boast.  (10)  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Grace brings to mind peace, and knowledge of God and Jesus Christ, a relationship with them where they know us by name; glory and goodness, truth and mercy, love and kindness, and faith, and it’s all from God.

Both the Hebrew and the Greek dictionaries tell us that grace is God’s divine favor, his kindness, his mercy. It implies to bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior, to have pity upon, to grant mercy upon, to be gracious.

It is God's gift. It is His blessing in our lives. His mercy. God has given us his grace. His exceeding grace is in each of us. Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. (2Cor 9:14-15)

It is a gift beyond words. What are we to do with this unspeakable gift?

That is the subject of the message today. Our core passage is – 2 Peter 3
These are Peter’s final words and admonition. 

2Pe 3:14-18 KJV  Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.  (15)  And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;  (16)  As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.  (17)  Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.  (18)  But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

We see in verse 15 that grace is also associated with longsuffering. If by grace, we are saved, and the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation then by simple logic, grace is linked to longsuffering, patience, forebearance. 

What does it mean to grow in grace and how do we do it?

Two aspects of growing in grace – One is from God toward us, growing in His divine favor and the other is from us toward our fellow man as we grow in our capacity to extend grace to others

1.     We are to grow (increase) in grace (that is, in God's favor) that God gives us by living His Way of life, a new and living way. (Heb 10:20) We want to develop a relationship with Him such that he knows us by name. We want to grow in his favor that he might think of us as he did of Jesus when he said in (Matt 3:17) “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased” when Jesus was baptized by John and again in (Matt 17:5) at the transfiguration. We want to keep his commandments, (they’re not burdensome) and to do those things that are pleasing in his sight (1John 3:22) not to earn his favor but with a thankful and grateful heart because he first loved us (1John 4:19) that while we were yet sinners he sent Christ to die for us. (Rom 5:8) We didn’t earn it and we certainly didn’t deserve it.

2.    We are to grow in grace, as it has been so freely given to us, grace upon grace, and increase in our ability and capacity to extend that grace to our fellow man. To reach a fuller sense of grace. To become more gracious. To be a good steward of that grace. Much like being a good steward of the physical blessings God has given us. To be good stewards of the gift of grace God has himself so graciously given to us.

How do we grow in the grace that God gives us?

James, Peter, and Paul outline 7 ways by which we can grow in God’s favor, his grace.

Let’s look at James first –

Jas 4:6-10 KJV  But he [that is, God] giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.  (7)  Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  (8)  Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.  (9)  Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.  (10)  Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

Now Peter – 
1Pe 5:5-11 KJV  Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.  (6)  Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:  (7)  Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.  (8)  Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:  (9)  Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.  (10)  But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.  (11)  To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

Paul tells us we can grow in grace by simply asking God for it in the name of our high priest, Jesus Christ, who sits at God’s right hand ever living to make intercession for us. (Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25)

Heb 4:14-16 KJV  Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.  (15)  For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.  (16)  Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

From these passages, we learn 7 ways to grow in God’s grace:

1.     Humble ourselves before him and not be proud
2.    Submit ourselves to God, meaning we submit our will to his, resisting the devil and the lusts of this world
3.    Draw near to God, diligently seeking him and his will for our lives
4.    Cleanse our hands, our actions are free from evil
5.    Purify our hearts. Putting God’s words into our hearts thus washing them by the water of the word. (Eph 5:26)
6.    Be afflicted, mourn, and weep for the abominations we see around us; sigh and cry as it says in (Eze 9:4) recognizing we are to be separate from it, sanctified by God for his purpose
7.    Ask God for it. Go to God in the confidence of Christ and ask God for his mercy and help

There’s a BONUS 8th way that I’ll reveal at the end so pay attention!

The second aspect of growing in grace has to do with how we extend grace towards others –

We Are to be Good Stewards of God’s Grace

It’s not easy being gracious. We live in a world that demands we be hard. That demands we stridently go about our business pursuing our goals with little time for anything else. People are too busy being busy to take time out to be kind to someone else or to help another along their way. People are absorbed in their own interests consuming their energies on the lusts of this world accumulating whatever resources they can to be spent on their own desires and provide for their families. In the process, they might step on a few toes, they might be offensive. They might be a bit rude, or treat their fellow man with indifference or disdain.

Take a look at this Peanuts cartoon from Charles Schulz. For many of us we grew up with these characters. We know them like they were kids we grew up with in our neighborhood.

Lucy is speaking to Linus and she says –

You a doctor? Ha! That’s a big laugh!”

She continues –

“You could never be a doctor! You know why?”
“Because you don’t love mankind. That’s why!”

Linus finally gets to respond and he says -

I love mankind… It’s people I can’t stand!!”

Ever feel that way? Generally speaking, we all love mankind. Of course, we feel compassion towards their suffering. Our heart aches for the tragedy and trauma we see around us that some people have to endure.

Let’s take another look at this cartoon. Only this time, replace the word “doctor” with the word “Christian”.

You a Christian? Ha! That’s a big laugh!
You could never be a Christian! You know why?
Because you don’t love mankind. That’s why!
I love mankind… It’s people I can’t stand!!

Is that how we feel? It’s people I can’t stand. People!

It’s easy to feel compassion for the suffering of mankind as we watch it on TV from the comfort of our own living rooms. We love mankind and we are deeply moved by man’s inhumanity to his fellow man, by the pain and suffering we see when others are denied even the very basic necessities of food and water.

We are outraged and angered by the constant erosion of our national morality and the affect that has on society. We who have been given God’s grace “sigh and cry” when see the devastating effects that not living God’s way of life exacts on this world. We know we can’t fix it. It’s overwhelming. We feel so helpless. “What impact can one person have?”, we ask.

“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” ~President Ronald Reagan

Most people we encounter, we interact with one at a time. How do we act in those situations where we can have an impact? How do we respond on a day to day basis when we encounter individuals who have not received the gift of God’s grace?

I’ve got to tell you. What prompted the study that led to this sermon was my own frustration in dealing with the people around me when I go out among the masses to run errands, go shopping, or just being around people in a public setting, a restaurant, or the mall.

It wears me out! I come home irritable and with a bad attitude and just exhausted. It’s gone beyond just “sighing and crying”. (Eze 9:4) It’s full-on vexation of the soul! (2Pet 2:7-8)

 I’ll give you an example. It just happened this week.

My wife and I went out one evening this week to try out a new ice cream shop we’d heard about called, “Sub-Zero Ice Cream”. It’s a unique concept we’d heard about and wanted to try it. Similar to other ice cream or frozen yogurt places you choose what flavor ice cream you want and then pick the ingredients, you know, the sprinkles or whatever you want added to it. Except in this case the ice cream isn’t frozen yet, it’s just the cream, just the milk. They pour it in a big metal bowl along with your chocolate chips, your Oreo crumbles, or whatever else you want. Then they stir it all together while they hold it under this nozzle where nitrogen gas comes out and that’s what freezes it. That’s when it becomes ice cream. Way cool!

Anyway, in just 15 minutes or so I went from being excited about trying this place out to being frustrated, to being annoyed, to being disgusted with the whole experience and wishing we hadn’t even gone.

The music in the place was blaring so loudly we couldn’t hear the kid explain the ordering process. The price for two small bowls of ice cream was $12.97, nearly $13.00 for two small bowls of ice cream!

I handed the cashier a twenty and three ones to pay for our $12.97 ticket. He didn’t know what to do with it and tried to hand me back the three ones. I had to tell him to just give me back a ten! Afterwards, he gave me a look like I had just violated his safe space and just turned and walked away. No thank you for coming. Nothing.

So now, in addition to feeling like I’d been overcharged, I’m annoyed, and I have this dialogue going on in my head about our educational system and the downfall of America.

The point of telling you this story is to illustrate how easy it is to allow ourselves to be annoyed by people and to pass judgment on them. Yet we should know better. I should know better.

God’s word, his holy Bible tells us we should know better.

We have been so blessed to have been called by God out of darkness into his marvelous light, to be given his Holy Spirit, to be given his truth and to learn his way of life, and to look forward to the Kingdom.

Once God has been so gracious towards us though, what do we do with the grace we’ve been given? Despite having done absolutely nothing to deserve it, absolutely nothing to earn it, do we keep it all to ourselves, rich and in need of nothing, to be bestowed only upon those closest to us, in our inner circle? Or do we spread it abroad, far and wide on all we come to meet?

Not realizing it, have we become like the Pharisee in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector who went up to the Temple to pray yet trusted in himself that he was righteous, and despised others? (Luke 18:9)

Do we ever find ourselves despising others because of the way they act though they are ignorant of God’s truth? Do we despise others because they haven’t yet received God’s grace like we have even it was a gift we did nothing to deserve? Do we despise them because they act like infidels who have no clue about God or how he expects us to act?

Or do we extend that grace to them and tell them of the gift that we’ve received and how much that pearl of great price really means to us? Are we gracious in word and deed that our light so shines before men that they ask the reason we’re so joyous?

The answer is obvious. No, we shouldn’t be like the Pharisee. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves not despise them or look down our noses at them. We are to have compassion on others who haven’t been given the understanding we have been given, who haven’t been given God’s grace. 

There’s a saying you’ve probably heard before.

It goes, “There but for the grace of God, go I”.

If it weren’t for the grace of God, we would be just like them, dancing to the tune of the prince of the power of the air. As hard as that may be to believe now, we were once exactly like them. Not that we’re so righteous now. Not at all. We have a long way to go. I know each and every one of us struggles every single day to be more like Christ, to strive to be perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect.

But let’s not forget we were once like them. These people we can’t stand.
God’s grace wasn’t given to us so that we could lord it over others or so that we could roll our eyes and walk away shaking our heads, disgusted with them. Holding it against them asking, “How they could be like that? Why don’t they get it?” God’s grace doesn’t give us the right to condemn them.

Instead, we are to recognize that we were there once too before God called us into his marvelous light, and to have compassion on them, mercy instead of judgment. We are to remember what it was like, the struggles, the trouble and strife we experienced, the bad habits and addictions we developed as a result, as we tried to fill the God-shaped void in our hearts with the lusts of this life. As we tried to cope with how hard this life is and to do it without God.

Imagine what it must be like to have to experience all the strife and turmoil of this life but to do it without God to help us. Without God to pour out our hearts to. Without God to comfort us.

As you can see, this is still a struggle for me. I mean, this just happened this week. I was already putting this sermon to paper and it still got to me.

We are to be fishers of men. Putting the gospel message before them in word and deed, people who desperately need it, some even seeking it out, peradventure that God will grant them repentance and call them to the Truth. (2Ti 2:24-26) Not condemning them and leaving them to wallow in their ignorance but revealing to them Jesus Christ and God the Father through our kind words and thoughtful actions. They may not be ready to hear the message but they can see the message. We can be the message.

Show us the Father

One of the reasons Jesus came was to reveal the Father. (Mat 11:27; Luk 10:22)

Joh 14:6-11 KJV  Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.  (7)  If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.  

[We know that know man has seen the Father, (John 1:18) and so did Philip]

(8)  Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.  (9)  Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?  (10)  Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.  (11)  Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.

What Jesus is telling them here is that he is the fleshly manifestation of the Father. The Holy Spirit of God the Father dwells in him and the actions he takes reflect God’s Holy Spirit at work in him. Since you can’t see it because God is Spirit, (John 4:24) then at least believe it because of his actions.

Now watch how this translates to us. Drop down to verse 20.

Joh 14:20 KJV  At that day [what day? That day when the Comforter comes. When the Holy Spirit come and dwells in you] ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.
Joh 14:22-23 KJV  Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?  (23)  Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

He just told us that when he was in the flesh God dwells in him (vs. 10 above) and now he tells us that the Father will dwell in us while we are still flesh if we love him and keep his words. The same God the Father that gave Jesus his words to speak and guided his actions.

Joh 17:18-23 KJV  As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. [How was Jesus sent into the world? In the flesh to preach the good news of the Kingdom of God and to reveal the Father! And so are we.]  (19)  And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.  (20)  Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; [that includes us] (21)  That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.  (22)  And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:  (23)  I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

So, Christ is in the Father and the Father is in Christ and they are one. They both are in us making their abode with us through God’s Holy Spirit, that we may all be one together with them. Likeminded, of one accord spiritually speaking. For what reason? “That the world may know and believe that Christ was sent by God the Father”.

This was right after Christ prayed that we not be taken out of this world. (John 17:15) Why not? So that we can be witnesses of him. Even as God sent him into the world, so sends he us into the world!

We may be the only evidence of Jesus Christ that a person in the world may ever see. When they see us, do they see Christ? Do they see the Father?

So, what are we to do?

Rom 12:9-18 NASB  Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.  (10)  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;  (11)  not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;  (12)  rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,  (13)  contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.  (14)  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  (15)  Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.  (16)  Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.  (17)  Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.  (18)  If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

2Co 1:12 KJV  For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.

This is not difficult. It’s simple, Paul says. Christ said it is the Father that does the work. By yielding to God and Christ. By yielding to the will of God our conduct in the world will be with godly sincerity by the grace of God!

2Co 9:6-8 KJV  But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.  (7)  Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.  (8)  And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:

This passage is speaking of the collection being taken up for the saints in Jerusalem at the time but the law of sowing and reaping applies to grace as well. Giving grace to others does not diminish the grace we have received from God.  As we extend grace toward others, God is able to make grace abound all the more toward us. Here’s how Luke puts it –

Luk 6:37-38 KJV  Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:  (38)  Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

So here is the BONUS! As we give grace, we receive grace. In accordance to the measure of grace we show others, grace is multiplied, grace upon grace, pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing!

Peter puts it this way. We are to be good stewards of God’s grace.

1Pe 4:10-11 KJV  As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.  (11)  If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

Christ freely gave of his grace when he of all people could have held people to account. But he didn't. He was gracious. Always.

Col 4:5-6 KJV  Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.  (6)  Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. (Rev 22:21)

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I strive to be as the Bereans spoken of in Acts 17:10-11 receiving the word with all readiness of mind, and searching the scriptures daily, whether those things are so. Check up on me in your own bible. Should you find me in error please let me know immediately. We must prove all things (1Thes 5:21) and rightly divide the word of truth (2Tim 2:15) together lest we be deceived. (Matt 24:24)

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Micah 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

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