Have you ever had to describe the taste of an Orange?
Now you can describe it’s texture, or juiciness, or the challenge to peel it and whether it has seeds or not, but how do you describe what an Orange tastes like?
And the only answer you can give, ‘Well, it tastes like an orange and until you taste an Orange you won’t know what the taste is like’
Now this week I am going to be speaking about Grace, but what is Grace?
Well describing what Grace is like, is like describing the taste of an Orange and until you have really tasted Grace, well….
But before we do let’s be reminded of what Jonathan spoke about last week
Jonathan introduced our series of sermons on Romans when he spoke on Chapter 5 where Paul assured that if we put our Trust in Jesus Christ to forgive our sins then we have a relationship with God through thick and thin that doesn’t end in death, but in eternal joy.
And this week we look at the gift of Grace that God gives to all who follow Him.
Well there’s our first answer to the question, ‘what is Grace?’
It is a free gift from God
A better definition might help here:
Grace is: the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not necessarily because of anything we have done to earn it”.
But let me give you living examples of two men whose lives were changed by Grace::
John Bradford, an old English Preacher, when looking at a group of Prisoners said: ‘there for the Grace of God, go I’
Or more famously, John Newton, an old slaver who after becoming a Christian wrote: ‘Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me’.
So Grace is the gift of Love and Mercy from God shown by forgiving us through Jesus Christ, of the wrong things we have done in our lives – or in other words Sin.
But we still make mistakes
We are not perfect
We still Sin – we still do wrong things
But as Paul tells us in Chapter 5 and verse 20:
“where sin multiplied, grace is multiplied even more” (5:20).
So, even if we do wrong things – if we Sin – God though Jesus Christ will forgive us if we say sorry for what we have done.
Now we turn to Chapter 6 where Paul speaks about Grace and about how easily it can be misunderstood.
For our God is a God of grace, but does God’s grace encourage us to sin?
There is a story about a man who visited Las Vegas and called the local Minister on Friday to inquire about the hours of the Sunday services.
The minister was very impressed, and complimented the caller, saying: “Most people don’t come to Las Vegas in order to go to church.”
The man replied, “Oh, I’m not coming for the church. I’m coming for the gambling and parties and wild women. If I have half as much fun as I intend to, I’ll need a church come Sunday morning.”
That man’s attitude and understanding about God’s grace is nothing new.
Since the apostle Paul first introduced the gospel of God’s grace, some people have attempted to abuse and exploit that grace.
And some people consider God’s grace to be like an instalment plan: sin now, pray later.
They think, “I’ll go right ahead and live it up now, and later on when I’ve made a mess of my life, I’ll let God clean it up, because God is a merciful and gracious God.”
But Paul addresses that faulty approach to God and His grace, Paul began chapter 6 with these words: “What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not!”
And as iv’e just said, Paul ends chapter 5 with these words “where sin is multiplied, grace is multiplied even more” (5:20).
And what wonderful thing this is – God’s grace is greater than our sin!
No wonder we call it “amazing grace”!
For there is no sin that is beyond the scope of God’s grace.
For as long as our hearts can still be touched by God’s gracious love, then grace ensures we can be forgiven, and we can begin again.
And it is the greatness of God’s grace that gives us that Christian hope, for we ought to be both the most realistic and the most optimistic people on earth, because we know two truths: sin is powerful, but grace is greater.
Nevertheless, this hope in God’s grace can be perverted, distorted, misunderstood!
And as I have already suggested, a main perversion of God’s grace is to believe that grace gives permission, license and encouragement to sin.
Therefore, Paul began chapter 6 saying: What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! (6:1-2a) Some translations say, “God Forbid!”
Once we have experienced the grace of God in our life, once we have been set free from the slavery of sin, then it ought to create a sense of relief, not an urge to sin even more!
For grace doesn’t give us a green light to be ungodly: on the contrary, the fact that Jesus had to pay with his own blood for our salvation ought to teach us to say “no” to ever going back into our old life.
And the power of grace not only leads to a new birth and a right standing with God, it also leads to victory over sin.
So grace is not permission to sin, but is the power to overcome sin and is a dynamic power which gives us the ability to deal with our struggles against our sinful tendencies.
God’s grace is a living and active force that strengthens us, helps us, and enables us to render the “body of sin” powerless.
The Hebrew writer has given us this wonderful and powerful promise: 14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens—Jesus the Son of God—let us hold fast to our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
Grace provides the power to resist sin, not a reason to wallow in it, for the knowledge that God welcomes us into His presence to receive the help we need is so comforting and confirming.
You see, there are two things that can keep us mired in the muddy ruts of sin.
The first, of course, is wilfulness: some people won’t change because they have no intention of giving up their sinful life.
The second thing that can keep us trapped in sin is hopelessness: some people don’t change because they believe they can’t change. After all, once we sin we’ve already failed, so we may just decide we are a failure, that we are worthless, that we can’t overcome our sin.
God’s grace cannot overcome our “won’t – we have to decide that we are willing to accept it – but grace can take care of our “can’t” – because a gospel of grace eradicates the guilt and the worthlessness that can keep us trapped in our ruts.
God’s grace is so powerful, it works for us, it works in us, and it works through us!
In fact, that is the ultimate purpose of God’s grace – it enables us to live for God!
And progress in the Christian life will come as we learn to live out the new relationship God has put us in.
The great Welsh Preacher Dr Martin Lloyd-Jones when preaching in London, thought back to his young days in South Wales and gives us an analogy to help us understand how this works in real life.
Imagine, He says, two fields separated by a rock wall were every person ends up in the field ruled over by Satan and sin.
We have no chance of scaling the walls and escaping the field on our own, but God, in His grace, reaches down and takes us out of that Satan-dominated field and sets us down in the adjacent field – the field ruled by Christ and His righteousness.
Now a decisive change in our position has taken place – we are in a whole new relationship to sin.
But Lloyd-Jones points out that we can still hear Satan calling across the wall from that old field where we used to live and out of long habit, we sometimes still obey Satan’s voice, even though we don’t have to.
And the amazing thing is, is that God knows.
He knows that despite the Power of the Holy Spirit running through our lives, we are not perfect, and that we face temptation to sin every day and at times we give in to that temptation.
But,God knows, and that is why He gives us Grace
That old slaver John Newton found God whilst onboard a ship in a stormy sea – he repented of his old wicked ways and served God as a vicar in some of the most toughest places in the UK.
We may consider ourselves nothing like this man, but the Bible reminds us that we have all sinned and that we have all fallen short of the glory of God. and yet, if we let Him, God through His Grace, will forgive us and through the work of the Holy Spirit He will make us more like Him. Amen
Chris Lawton. Trinity 2 Sunday 21st June 2020