Service Video Message Video Message Audio The service video is unavailable at this time. The sermon video is unavailable at this time. The sermon audio is unavailable at this time. Scripture Verses Hebrews 10:19-39, 1 John 2:3-4, Romans 10:9-10 Downloads & Resources The Nature of Grace Dr. Jon Morrissette - 5/4/2003 In What's So Amazing About Grace Philip Yancy tells a story about C.S. Lewis. During a British conference on comparative religions experts from around the world debated what, if any belief was unique to the Christian faith. They began eliminating possibilities. One person suggested the incarnation. But other religions speak of God coming to earth in human form. Someone said the resurrection of Christ was unique. But other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead. The debate continued for quite some time until C.S. Lewis entered the room. When he learned that they were debating Christianity's unique contribution among world religions Lewis responded, "Oh, that's easy. It's grace." After some discussion the conferees had to agree. The Buddhists have their eight-fold path. The Hindus have their doctrine of karma. The Jewish people have the covenant. The Muslims have their code of law. Each of these religions offers a way to earn approval before God and in each case that way is spelled the exactly the same: D-O. Only in Christianity does God suffer and die for our sins, offer us eternal forgiveness, and become our perfect righteousness. Christianity is spelled D-O-N-E. Our standing before God is based on the work that Christ has done. We do earn God's approval by what we do. We are accepted on the basis of God's grace. Confidence! Hebrews 10:19-20 (NIV) tells us, "we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body...." Jesus opened the door to heaven for us. He unlocked the most holy place of God. Hebrews 10:21-22 says that Jesus is our great high priest over the house of God. Through him we can have confidence to draw near to God. This is where we reach a real distinction between Christianity and all other religions. No other religion provides as adequate a basis for having confidence before God. The total focus of every other religion is human endeavor. There is no forgiveness. There is no sacrifice for sin. There is no great high priest in heaven interceding on our behalf. There is no definite assurance of salvation. There is no guarantee. There is no hope. There is only judgment. And so you spend your entire life not knowing what the afterlife will be like. You do not know whether you will face rewards or punishment, whether your good karma will outweigh your bad karma, or whether you obeyed enough of God's laws to get in. In contrast, grace establishes peace with God. The conflict, the struggle, the guilt, the weight, the pressure, and the stress gets lifted. Grace allows us some rest and peace of mind because we know that God has forgiven our sin. God is forgiving our sin and God will continue to forgive our sin. With grace we can go to sleep at night knowing that we are loved by God and that we have an eternal dwelling place in heaven. Despite the reality of God's grace and forgiveness, most Christians mistakenly fall into one of three different camps. The have no fear camp. A good number of Christians see grace as an insurance policy of sorts. They reason that because they have fire insurance it doesn't matter if they play with matches and gasoline in their closets. They think, "I can keep on living disobediently and recklessly because guess what? It doesn't matter! I'm forgiven and saved whether I live or die." They think, "I can keep on sinning because God's grace will increase. I'll eat, drink, and be merry because I can always fall back on God's forgiveness! God will keep on loving me the same, regardless of what I do." An unbelievably high percentage, eighty percent plus of Americans claim to be Christians. Yet a comparably low percentage are actively attempting to live the Christian life in a meaningful way. Even fewer remain connected to a Christian fellowship. When you talk to your average American Christian so many of them are confident that God loves them, forgives them, and that they will go to heaven. They often tell you, "I took care of salvation when I was kid. I've been baptized. I've made my confession. I'm born again. I said my prayer." For them, God's grace is permissive. They believe that God's grace sets them free to live as they please. For the have no fear camp, repentance has very little meaning. They use God's grace as an excuse to turn back to the sins they were supposedly saved from. They believe, "once saved, always saved." "Once God gives me the gift of salvation, he will never take it back. I can never fall away from grace. I'm safe and secure." The are you sure? camp. There are those who are continually casting doubt on their salvation. They are making a meaningful attempt to live the Christian life, but they see every sin and failure as just one more evidence that they may not truly be saved. These individuals are haunted by passages like 1 John 2:3-4 (NIV). "We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, 'I know him,' but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him." Such passages cause them to rehearse all their past week's sin and conclude, "I haven't been obeying as I should. I must be a liar. I must not know the truth. I must be still dead in my sins. I must not be forgiven. I must not be saved." These individuals sometimes cannot bring themselves to take communion. They feel so rejected by God and are so filled with guilt because of their shortcomings that they give up on themselves and on God. They are just the opposite of the no fear camp. They live the Christian life fearing the worst, fearing God's judgment, hanging their heads in shame. These individuals don't know the meaning of peace, joy, and hope. They don't know what spiritual freedom in Christ means. They carry the yoke of their shortcomings day after day. They've missed the grace of God altogether. The just do it! camp. These individuals are a lot like the are you sure? camp, but instead of being filled with fear and shame they are instead filled with pride. On the one hand they may verbalize their appreciation for God's grace. But deep down they're not fully convinced they even need Christ's sacrifice. They see themselves as good, religious people. They know the Bible. They share their faith. They give sacrificially to the church. They're involved. They serve people selflessly. They attend church faithfully and have done so their entire lives. They have been baptized. They do not swear, smoke, drink, chew, gossip, lie, covet, bear false witness, watch bad movies, go to bars, or gamble. But this is also part of their problem. They have convinced themselves that they are so morally good they no longer believe they need Christ's forgiveness. They are full of pride. Their noses are slightly pitched in the air. They are always working, working, working, trying to prove their goodness to you, to themselves, to the world, and to God. They look at their grace insurance plan differently. They believe the grace insurance plan is only there if they fail, not when they fail. Most all of us have trekked in and out of these camps most of our lives. With devastating results we misunderstand and misapply the grace of God to our lives. This morning I would ask that you consider three principles out of Hebrews 10. The principle of confidence. Hebrews 10:19-22 (NIV) reads, "Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." Notice the basis for our confidence. It is the blood of Jesus Christ and it is Jesus Christ's body that was broken for us on the cross. Jesus is the new and living way. As we saw last week, Jesus is our righteousness. He makes us perfect in God's sight. Only God can wash us clean and forgive us our sins. Isaiah the prophet tells us that our acts of righteousness are like filthy rags before God. So much for pride. So much for human endeavor. So much for going it alone. So much for all those religions that are spelled do. The principle of sincerity. Look at Hebrews 10:22 (NIV) again. "..let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." If God is not impressed by our works, then what does he pay attention to? How does he decide who gets saved and who does not get saved? I believe that God looks at the heart above all else. A sincere heart of faith has no trouble drawing near to God and is self-evident! But a hardened heart, a heart set on doing sin and evil, cannot draw near to God. Passages like Romans 10:9-10 (NIV) drive at this idea, "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." Notice that the heart, and not merely some external action is in view here. People sing that Jesus is Lord every single week. But just because they sing it doesn't mean they sincerely believe it in their hearts. As Christians one of our primary responsibilities is to evaluate our hearts. When we sin our job is to keep coming back to God. It is to keep confessing our sins, asking for forgiveness, asking for strength, and inviting accountability. A sincere heart will always come back to God. The fact that you want to get right with God and you keep getting on your knees in prayer after you sin is cause for celebration. It shows where your heart is. We should be alarmed when our hearts grow cold and hard. We should be alarmed when we cannot find anything to praise or thank God for, when we will not come to worship, pray, read our Bibles, or listen to Christian music. We should become alarmed when we will not acknowledge our sins before God, when we stop caring, or become ashamed of Jesus Christ. We should become alarmed when we start blaming God for all our problems and curse him. We will all have ups and downs. But when we're down it's time for some serious reflection and personal inventory. No one sin can cause us to lose our salvation, but a growing pattern of sin left unchecked has the potential to derail us for eternity. The principle of perseverance. Consider Hebrews 10:23-39 (NIV). Perhaps it speaks for itself. "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another— and all the more as you see the Day approaching." "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' and again, 'The Lord will judge his people.' It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." "Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions." "So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while, 'He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back ,I will not be pleased with him.' But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved." These verses annihilate the notion that God's grace can be abused. Positively, we are encouraged to keep meeting together, to spur one another on toward love and good deeds, to let iron sharpen iron, and to feed off of one another's enthusiasm and love for Jesus Christ. We are encouraged to stand strong in the faith, to hold unswervingly to our hope, to never throw away our confidence in Christ's blood, to persevere to the very end, and to never shrink back. We are encouraged to trust in Christ's promised return and to continue serving, loving, and obeying. But there is an unmistakable note of warning in these verses that those who abuse God's grace will ultimately pay a huge price for their sins. Did you catch the language? "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God." Or, "How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?" And, "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." God's grace is not something to be flippantly irreverent about. When the Bible tells us that Jesus Christ had to die on a cross for our sins, this should be a wake-up call to us. Sin is no laughing matter. It cost God his very life. There isn't any place in heaven for people who mock Christ's death by deliberately embracing a life of sin. There isn't any place in heaven for people who repeatedly harden their hearts, insult the Spirit of grace, and test the outer limits of God's unconditional love and Christ's forgiveness. There isn't any place in heaven for people who trample the Son of God underfoot and who arrogantly shrug their shoulders at God's covenant. Such people have every reason to fear. The funny thing about grace is that it is different from God's love. God's love is unconditional. It is universal. For God so loved the world. God is going to keep on loving you and me no matter what we do. But when it comes to God's grace, things are quite a bit different. God's grace isn't universal. He doesn't forgive everyone. God's grace is for those who draw near to God with a sincere heart. It is for those who genuinely repent and continually turn away from sin. It is for those who choose to be washed in the waters of baptism. It is for those who confess with their hearts and tongues that Jesus Christ is Lord. It is for those who honor the shed blood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ each and every day of their lives and who refuse to cheapen it with sin. God's grace is for those who trust and put confidence in Jesus Christ's work on the cross and who acknowledge their personal inadequacy to please a holy and perfect God.