Day Six: What do we do with grace?

by Arch Hoercher

Remember that grace is all-abundant, all-sufficient, exceeding, glorious, great, manifold, sovereign and eternal.  It is poured out upon us continually, not in cup full’s but in bucket full’s.  Grace is there to give us everything and all that we will ever need in our Christian walk or in our “race to the prize”.  It is always a free gift from God and Jesus Christ.  Ephesians 4:11-12: “It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”  Notice that the scripture says that it was He who “gave”.  If it is given it is a free gift, and if it is a free gift it is grace.  On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was given.  It too is a gift of grace.  The Fruit of the Spirit is also a gift.  All of these gifts are for the Christian to use in “works of service”.  Romans 12:6-8: We have different gifts, according to the GRACE given us.  If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.  If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadship, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

What do we do with the grace we have been given?  We share it.  Hebrews 12:15 (NIV) says: “See to it that no one misses the grace of God.”  How is the unsaved to know what grace is if they do not see it in our lives.  The unsaved should not have the impression that a Christian is quick to judge and condemn.  The Christian should be quick to love and forgive.  God has commanded, it is not a suggestion, to love each other and to love our enemies and to pray for our enemies and those that persecute us.  It says nowhere that we should judge and condemn.  It is not our job, condemnation and judgement is God’s job.  The Apostle Paul responds to a report of incest in the Corinthian church, 1 Corinthians 5: 12-13 (NIV) says:  “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?  Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.”  Our job is to live out grace.  We should share what grace that has been given to us with others.  We should see to it that no one misses out on the grace of God by letting them see it in action in our lives.  

There is a southern gospel song performed by the Mark Trammell Quartet that goes something like this:  “Your talk talks and your walk talks, but your walk talks much louder than your talk talks.”  How we walk and how those around us see us behave and go about our lives speaks much louder and has much more influence on other people’s lives than does what we say.  Other people should see grace acted out in our lives.  The only Jesus that many people will ever see is what they see in the Christian.  Max Lucado in his book “Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine” writes  “To accept grace is to accept the vow to give it.”  It is a statement that I am sure Jesus Christ would agree with.

I will close with this thought.  Share the life worth living, but you must live the live worth sharing.  We should live lives of grace so when people say to us, “I want some of that”.  We can point them to Jesus.

Day 5: What is sin?

by Arch Hoercher

We need to take a little side excursion right now.  We need to look at sin and what it is.  The short Biblical definition of sin is “to miss the mark.”  The “mark” in this case, is the standard of perfection established by God and evidenced by Jesus.  Viewed in that light, it is clear that we are all sinners.  The Apostle Paul in Romans 3:23 wrote: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  All means all.  

It does no good to compare ourselves to others.  We cannot escape our failure to be righteous in our own strength.  This is by God’s design, because only when we understand our weakness will we consider relying on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.

Sin is mentioned hundreds of times in the Bible, starting with the “original” sin when Adam and Eve ate of the tree of knowledge.  Often it seems as if sin is simply the violation of any of God’s laws, including the Ten Commandments.  Paul, however, puts this in perspective in Romans 3:20, when he says, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.”  God wanted us to recognize our sins.  Even those who have not murdered or committed adultery will find themselves convicted of lying, or having lustful thoughts, or of worshiping false idols like wealth or power ahead of God.  Tragically, sin in any amount or of any variety will distance us from God.

We must resist the temptation to act as if we are righteous, especially by leaning on our good works.  “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His Word has no place in our lives” (1 John 1:8-10).  The good news in all of this is that, once we recognize ourselves as sinners, we need only to repent and embrace Jesus to be forgiven.  Jesus can forgive us because He died and rose again in victory over sin and death.  And that, everyone, is grace.

For years, I have used and illustration of sin and how we look at it and how God looks at it.  We look at sin as if we are standing next to Mount Everest.  The “little” sins such as little white lies and gossip are down at the bottom of the mountain.  The “big” sins, such as murder and child molestation, are at the top of the mountain.  We graduate sin in terms of its implications.  God sees sin in a whole different way.  It is as if He were sitting on the moon and looking down on the earth.  As far as the eye can tell, Mount Everest is no different than the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  The earth looks as smooth as a cue ball.  So, to God, the little white lie or just a little gossip will separate you from God to the same degree as murder or child molestation.  What also needs to be understood is that every sin, no matter how “little” or how “big” carries with it a consequence.  The little white lie could hurt someone’s feelings or mislead a person.  Murder takes a person’s life and can greatly affect those who love and care about that person.  Earthly justice can also be a consequence to sin.  A little white lie will probably not land you in jail, but murder could put you there for life.  But God’s forgiving and all-encompassing grace can forgive both the little white lie and muder.

(reference: www.allaboutgod.com) 

Day Four: God’s Grace (How much is available?)

by Arch Hoercher

Is there a limit to God’s grace?  Can one’s sin be so great that God’s grace cannot cover it?  2 Corinthians 9:14 mentions God’s exceeding grace.  Ephesians 2:7 talks about the exceeding riches of His grace.  1 Timothy 1:14 states that the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant.  “Abundant grace” is mentioned in 2 Corinthians 4:15, Acts 4:33, James 4:6, 1 Corinthians 12:23, Romans 5:17, Ephesians 1:7 and Ephesians 2:7.  God’s grace is repeatedly spoken of as being exceeding and abundant.  Exceeding means that there is more of it than what it is covering.  Abundant means there is a lot of it and more than would ever be needed.  Romans 5:20-21: “The law was added so that the trespass might increase.  But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (NIV)  In other words, there is no sin that God’s grace cannot cover.  In the words of Corrie ten Boom, “There is no pit too deep that God’s grace isn’t deeper still.”  If you believe that God could never save you because your sin is too great, you would be wrong.  The grace that is a free gift from God is greater than any sin.  It is “exceeding abundant”.    God is in the business of forgiving sin, not because He has to, but because He wants to.  He wants a relationship with you.  He wants to be your Father.   One thing that can hinder us in our walk with the Lord, is a guilty conscience over our sin.  We should carry no guilt about the sin which we have confessed to God and has been forgiven us.  We can have remorse, but not guilt.  1 John 3:19-20 (NLT) states, “We will be confident when we stand before the Lord, even if our hearts condemn us.  For God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything. “   Hebrews 10:22 (NCV), “Let us come  near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, because we have been made free from a guilty conscience.”    All sin can be forgiven, no matter how horrible we may think that it is.  God’s grace is as big as He is and it will cover the most horrendous of sins.  

Grace is also eternal.  The Bible states in many different scriptures that grace gives eternal life.  So if life is eternal, the grace that gives it is also eternal.  2 Thessalonians 2:16 mentions that eternal consolation is given us in His grace.  If the consolation is eternal, the grace giving it must also be eternal.  The grace of God is as immortal as God is.

Day Three: God’s Grace (What is it?)

by Arch Hoercher

Grace – what is grace?  Such a simple word.  If one wanted to define the Old Testament with one word that word for me would be “Law”.   If I wanted to define the New Testament with one word, that word would be “Grace”.   Looking back to the short study of God’s Love and God’s Mercy, grace would have never happened if either God’s Love or God’s Mercy did not exist.

So, let’s first try to define grace then we will get into some Bible study of grace.  In the Greek text of the New Testament, “charis” occurs over 170 times which is translated to grace.  The reading is uncertain in places primarily because secular Greek has far more meanings for the word than can be represented by any one term in English.  We will stick with the English translation of the Greek texts as we see in our New Testaments of today.  One of the most frequent definitions of Grace that I learned growing up is: God’s unmerited favor.  Another that is common is: God’s undeserved and unearned pardon.  Both of these are correct, but both are also incorrect.  God’s grace is much bigger and more complex than that.  Most of us are familiar with the scripture, “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God”.  A pastor friend of mine said that to get a better understanding of what Grace is, was to substitute the word “Grace” for “Word” in this scripture.  When you do, you get: In the beginning was Grace, Grace was with God and Grace was God.  The idea he was trying to get across is that Grace is as big as God.  It is part of His very nature.  You can no more try to limit and define God and shove Him into a box than you can for Grace.

In the Bible, Grace is described as: All-abundant, all-sufficient, exceeding, glorious, great, manifold and sovereign.  It is the source of: consolation, election, faith, forgiveness of sins, hope, justification and salvation.  Grace is each one of these things and at the same time all of these things.  One thing a person does not want to do is narrow the meaning of Grace and force that meaning into all Biblical passages.  A rigid definition of Grace is hardly possible, but still a single conception is actually present in almost every case where “Grace” is found – the conception is that all a Christian has or is, is centered exclusively in God and Christ, and depends utterly on God through Christ.

Now for some Bible study.  First, look at Ephesians 2:4-9: “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”  (NIV) So there you have it, grace depends wholly upon God and Jesus Christ.  Salvation and eternal life in His presence is a gift.  A gift is not earned.  If it were earned it would be a wage.  Salvation and eternal life in His presence can never be obtained through works of any kind.  Works cannot earn salvation and works cannot maintain salvation once you have it.  Salvation is given and maintained by grace.  John Stott said that “Grace is God Loving, God stooping, God coming to the rescue, God giving himself generously in and through Jesus Christ.

Titus 3: 3-7: “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.  We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.  But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”(NIV)  Again, we are justified and have the hope of eternal life, not by anything we have done, but because of everything God has done through Jesus Christ.  We were saved because of His mercy, not because of how righteous we might think that we are.

Romans 11:6: “And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” (NIV)  Grace cannot be grace if works has anything to do with it.  What you have as a Christian is because of God’s grace.  Works has nothing to do with your position in God’s kingdom.  Grace is available to all believers no matter at what level.  Works leads to pride and feelings of superiority.  Wherever one is at in their spiritual walk is totally dependent upon God’s grace through Jesus Christ.  It has nothing to do with you but all to do with Him.  Without grace one would be dead in their transgressions.  Pride and a holier than thou attitude has no place in God’s kingdom or it’s people.  Everything that we are as a Christian is because of God through Jesus Christ, not because of any individual effort.

Day Two: God's Mercy

by Arch Hoercher

Because of God’s great love for mankind He had mercy upon us.  Because of His mercy He sent His son to die for all men’s transgressions and then to be resurrected from the dead.   1Peter1:3, “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.”  Because of God’s love he had mercy upon us.  Because of His mercy, He sent His Son.  God’s mercy, like His love, is available for all men no matter how bad or evil they may think they are.  
    

Paul was shown mercy.  He was a persecutor of the church and was responsible for the death and imprisonment of many believers.   1 Timothy 1:12-14, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength that He considered me faithful, appointing me to His service.  Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown MERCY because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.  The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”    Paul is saying that even as bad as Paul thought that he was, God showed him mercy.  God’s mercy is available to everyone, no matter how big of a sinner one might think that they are.  1 Timothy 1:15-16, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.  But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life.”

I, at times, dwell on my past sins and wonder if God could really forgive me.  I get down on myself and cannot believe that God could really forgive me and use me.  I sometimes have to remind myself that God uses the broken ones to show that He is the One in control and will show mercy to whom He wishes to show mercy to.  I am reminded that He used Moses who killed a man in anger.  He used David, an adulterer and knowingly sent a man to his death.  Jonah who disobeyed and ran away from God and was angry because God showed mercy.  Paul who was a persecutor and destroyer of the church.  Peter who was a boastful and angry man.  God uses the imperfect to manifest His perfection and will.  It is all because of His mercy.

The Bible tells us that mercy is an essential quality of God (Exodus 34:6-7 – Deuteronomy 4:31 – Psalm 62:12).  Mercy is God’s delight (Micah 7:18 – Psalm 52:8).  He is the Father of mercies (2 Corinthians 1:3).  God is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4).    His mercy is abundant (Psalm 86:5, 15 – Psalm 119:64 and is everlasting (1 Chronicles 16:34 – Ezra 3:11 – Psalm 100:5).  In the New Testament “mercy” is a distinctive word characterizing God as revealed to man.  

Mercy by definition: compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.  God definitely has the power to punish or harm, but instead has shown mercy and has awarded forgiveness to those who accept His gift of mercy, our Lord Jesus Christ.  And when we accept, Jesus Christ,  God’s love offering given in mercy we receive and have access to Grace – unending and all encompassing Grace.

Day One: God’s Love

By Arch Hoercher

The first thing one must look at in a study of Grace is God’s love.  God first loved man and because of His love offered mercy, and because of His mercy he granted man Grace.  The first and most familiar scripture that comes to mind pertaining to love is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV) God loves the world – that is every man, woman, and child that has ever lived or will ever live.  The “world” is all inclusive, it means everyone.  God’s love is unqualified.  It does not say only the Christian, or only the Jew, or only the Muslim.  His love includes all sinners, it does not isolate a particular sin, or life style, or people.  His love is equal for everyone (the world).  No one should ever think that God loves you more than anyone else.  There is absolutely nothing you can do to cause God to love you more and there is absolutely nothing you can do to cause God to love you less.  God’s love is perfect and complete.

Can anything separate you from the love of God?  Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NIV)  The answer is a resonding NO!  There is absolutely nothing in all of God’s creation which can separate you from His love – nothing.  His love for you is and will always be there.  He loves you no matter what you have done or what you have not done.  

Psalm 52:8 tells us that God’s love is unfailing and steadfast.  Our love will fail. God’s love will never fail.  Our love will weaken and fall away.  God’s love is steadfast.  It cannot and will not back off or change.  God’s love for us is eternal and indestructible.  It will “never fail” and is “steadfast”.

1 John 4:16 says that God is love.  Love is in God’s very nature.  As God is perfect so is His love perfect.  God is without fault and his love is without fault.  He loves us even when we do not want Him to.  1 John 4:16 also says, “Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.”  When we manifest love we manifest God.  If we claim the love of God which was made manifest among us by sending His only son into the world, so that we might live through him (1 John 4:9) – we are accepting the command to love.  We are to love our brothers and sisters as well as our enemies.  1John 4:20 states that whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother (or sister) is a liar.  Pretty strong words there.  But even a bigger problem is that He has commanded us to love our enemies.  Jesus also said, “Go, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.”  He sends us out into the world to love the wolves that want to devour us.  Not only are we to love them, we are to pray for them.  Not an easy task.  But through God’s love and the Grace He has given us, we are given the power to do the very same.  What a difference our witness in the world would be if we could love others as God loves us and share the gift of Grace rather than judgment and hatred.