Starratt Road Christian Church has been around 21 years. If the church was a person, then the person would be in either their junior or senior year of college on the verge of graduating and moving into the real world and getting a job. Beginning to make a difference in the world we live in. As a church we have constantly been moving and changing. There is no reason for us as church to stop moving forward, stop changing and stop being relevant to the community we live in. This is the same call that all Christians have on their heart… or they should. Are we going to change the world around us? Are we going to let God move us forward to be used by him?
The key to being used by God is to be covered in his grace and live changed because of it. This is the key to making a difference around us… knowing where we have come from and how God has changed us.
What does the dictionary say about grace?
i. 1 a : unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification b : a virtue coming from God c : a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace
ii. 2 a : approval, favor <stayed in his good graces> b archaic : mercy, pardon c : a special favor : privilege <each in his place, by right, not grace, shall rule his heritage — Rudyard Kipling> d : disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency e : a temporary exemption : reprieve
iii. 3 a : a charming or attractive trait or characteristic b : a pleasing appearance or effect : charm <all the grace of youth — John Buchan> c : ease and suppleness of movement or bearing
iv. 4—used as a title of address or reference for a duke, a duchess, or an archbishop
v. 5 : a short prayer at a meal asking a blessing or giving thanks
vi. 6 plural capitalized : three sister goddesses in Greek mythology who are the givers of charm and beauty
vii. 7 : a musical trill, turn, or appoggiatura
viii. 8 a : sense of propriety or right <had the grace not to run for elective office — Calvin Trillin> b : the quality or state of being considerate or thoughtful
II. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Spends lots of time talking about what he calls, Cheap Grace – “cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”Cheap grace is justification of the sin without justification of the sinner. Cheap grace is a cheap covering for sins, with contrition is required, even less required is any real desire to be delivered from sin. The essence of cheap grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in full therefore everything can be had for nothing… since the cost (of our sin) is covered the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite… abusing grace. This mentality sounds strangely like: Romans 6:1-2, 1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or, even more clearly, it is to hear the gospel preached as follows: “Of course you have sinned, but now everything is forgiven, so you can stay as you are and enjoy the consolations of forgiveness.” The main defect of such a proclamation is that it contains no demand for discipleship. He contrasts this idea of “Cheap Grace” idea of grace that is costly or “Costly Grace.” Costly Grace – On the other hand costly grace: Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Costly Grace is costly b/c it calls us to follow and it is grace b/c it calls us to follow Christ. It is costly b/c it costs a person their life, & it is grace b/c it gives the only true life. It is costly b/c it condemns sin & it is grace b/c it justifies the sinner. Above all it is costly b/c it cost God his only son (1 Cor. 6:20, 20 you were bought at a price.), therefore it cannot be cheap for us, ever. And above all it is grace because God did not consider the price of his son too much to pay for our life, but delivered him for our sins. Costly Grace is the Incarnation of God… plain and simple.
Where does this leave us? A good place to start is with Romans 3:21-25, “21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference,23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.” We are justified by his grace, meaning we as the sinner and not sins are justified… Justified… Just as If I’d never sinned. We come to accept the grace of God through a broken and contrite heart. Psalm 51:17 says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Isa. 66:2, Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the Lord. “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word. The main difference between ‘cheap’ grace and ‘costly’ grace (or real grace) is that Real Grace actually demands that we:
Repent… which implies that we feel guilty for our sin. Acts 2:38 makes this clear
Confess… we admit and claim our mistakes. I Jn. 1:9, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Baptism… we die to ourselves and live for Christ. Again Acts 2:38, prime example…
All of this is a dying to ourselves, that Christ might live through us. Mt. 16:24-25, 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”
A story is told about Fiorello LaGuardia, who, when he was mayor of New York City during the worst days of the Great Depression and all of WWII, was called by adoring New Yorkers ‘the Little Flower’ because he was only five foot four and always wore a carnation in his lapel. He was a colorful character who used to ride the New York City fire trucks, raid speakeasies with the police department, take entire orphanages to baseball games, and whenever the New York newspapers were on strike, he would go on the radio and read the Sunday funnies to the kids. One bitterly cold night in January of 1935, the mayor turned up at a night court that served the poorest ward of the city. LaGuardia dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself.
Within a few minutes, a tattered old woman was brought before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. She told LaGuardia that her daughter’s husband had deserted her, her daughter was sick, and her two grandchildren were starving. But the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, refused to drop the charges. “It’s a real bad neighborhood, your Honor.” the man told the mayor. “She’s got to be punished to teach other people around here a lesson.” LaGuardia sighed. He turned to the woman and said “I’ve got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions–ten dollars or ten days in jail.” But even as he pronounced sentence, the mayor was already reaching into his pocket. He extracted a bill and tossed it into his famous sombrero saying: “Here is the ten dollar fine which I now remit; and furthermore I am going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Baliff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.” So the following day the New York City newspapers reported that $47.50 was turned over to a bewildered old lady who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her starving grandchildren, fifty cents of that amount being contributed by the red-faced grocery store owner, while some seventy petty criminals, people with traffic violations, and New York City policemen, each of whom had just paid fifty cents for the privilege of doing so, gave the mayor a standing ovation.
Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel, Multnomah, 1990, pp 91-2.
Are you ready to fully embrace grace as God intended it?
Accepting God’s grace means we can’t be the same… We have to change who we are. James tells us clearly Faith without Works is dead (James 2:26). If you accept God’s grace for what it truly is & accept it the God intended, you must change who you are…