Why Grace is a matter of freedom.

I remember seeing her wrestling with the ideas in her head.  Believing in Christ was supposed to set her free.  But she had been told so much that when she became a Christian she had to follow certain rules.  (The fact that the rules she was trying to uphold were arbitrarily selected from the whole Law of God never entered her mind as something to question.)  She was in a crisis of faith.

Most of us who believe in Christ face this.  Many of us would never say it, but most of us hold to some version of Christianity that says, “I came to Jesus and was saved by grace through faith and he forgave me of everything I did wrong in the past.  Now, I have to work hard to stay in good standing with Him.”  The problem with that view is this: It’s not Christian or Biblical.

If He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him, how do we determine that we are going to be able to add to that accomplishment?  Our sin is paid for.  It is gone.  Maybe we should say, “It is finished.”

Romans 8:1-2 says:

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. (NASB)

We live life as though Jesus gave us a great gift in our Salvation but now that it is in our hands it is like a priceless fabergé egg.  It is not.  It is the single most solid truth of all the universe.  It cannot be shaken or broken or lost.  You live free in Jesus because nothing can change who you are in Him.

Same chapter, Romans 8:38-39

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NASB)

Don’t be bound by what you were told to keep you in line as a kid.  The Gospel is rebellious and freeing.  Your standing with God is not based on your performance, but on Christ’s performance.  He has earned your place at the table.  Trust in Him and love Him.  Know that you belong to Him.  Because as a follower of Christ, you do.

The Law and Grace.

An excerpt from Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan:

“Now when I had climbed about halfway up, I looked behind and saw someone coming after me, swift as the wind.  Soon he overtook me just about the place where the arbor stands.”
“… as soon as the man overtook me, without saying a word, he struck me and knocked me down unconscious.  When I came to, I asked him why he had thus assaulted me.  He said it was because of my secret inclination to follow Adam the First, and with that he struck me with another deadly blow on the chest and beet me down backward, and I lay at his feed as if I were dead.  So when I came to, I cried to him for mercy.  But he said, ‘I do not know how to show mercy’ and with that knocked me down again.  He would have beaten me to death, except One came by and told him to stop.”

“Who was it that told him to stop?”

Faithful went on, “I did not recognize Him at first, but as He went by I saw the wounds in His hands and in HIs side.  Then I concluded that He was our Lord.  So I continued….”

Christian then explained, “The man who overtook you was Moses.  He spares no one, and he does not know how to show mercy to anyone who transgresses his law.”

This passage of this old book is something we struggle with to this day.  Christian and non-Christian… so many of us believe our judgement will be based on how good we are or were.  But not the case.  We are dependent upon the mercy of Christ.

Grace Turning Legalism on its Head

The Gospel says you have nothing good in you, and you are in need of a savior.  That simply is not compatible with legalism.  

  • The sad part is most of us try and make the two match up all the time.  
    Today we see how God took Legalism and turned it on its head.  (Acts 16:1-5)
    In this we see that Grace is greater than Legalism.  But How did Paul do it?  How did Paul overcome the Legalistic spirit of the day?   (How will we overcome legalism today.)
    To overcome legalism, Paul:  
    Made Disciples.  (vv.1-2)

    • Timothy was actually already a disciple of Christ.  
      • First things first, Paul made new friends.  
      • He accepted Timothy despite his different background.
      • He made a priority of developing the new leader.
    • We are always looking to reproduce.
      • Paul sought out a leader to take with him. – Timothy- 
      • Timothy would go on to pastor the church in Ephesus.
    • So here is the question for you.
      • What do you do for the kingdom of God?
      • Are you good at it?
      • Are you teaching someone else to do it?
    • We are always looking to reproduce.  The more of us who can do what we do, the better.

    (Paul shows us that) Motive Matters.  (v.3)

    • Why this outward obedience to the law when they had just gone through such an ordeal about the law and grace?
      • Because they knew their audience.
        • The Jews would not have given Timothy a hearing if he had not been circumcised.  
      • As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:22….
        • Our lesson is that we do what is needed to share the life and death message of the gospel.
    • This is not a matter of legalism, but a matter of the heart.
      • Timothy was circumcised to reach the Jews, not to earn his salvation nor to attain a better possession with God.
    • Your Motive Matters but motive does not excuse sin.
      • Motive does determine if you are seeking your kingdom of Gods’.  
      • In 1 Samuel 16:7 we are reminded that The Lord judges not the outward appearance, but the heart.  
      • What is in your heart?  What motivates you to do what you do?  What drives you?
        • Is it a love for God, or for your own recognition?
        • Most of us will answer that question correctly on the surface, but it takes an amazingly honest heart to look at your own life and admit the amount of time you spend seeking your own glory.  
    • It is a matter of true humility and amazement that the God of all creation loves you.  
      • None of us deserve His mercy or salvation.  But by His grace, he gives it anyway.
      • Motive matters, and God judges the Heart.
      • Timothy was circumcised as a grown man, in order to take the message of salvation by faith in Christ alone to others.  
      • That was a selfless act, a gracious act.
        • Do you act in His Grace?

    (delivers a) Powerful Message.  (vv.4-5)

    • We need to recognize that our actions can add to or take away from the obstacles that people have to the faith.
      • Paul and Timothy worked to remove obstacles.  Not add to them.
      • That is important to Jesus.  
        • Look how he reprimanded the Pharisees in Matthew 23:2-4
      • We are to help people follow Jesus, not make it harder.
    • The message of Grace makes the church stronger.
      • The church is stronger with Grace as its motivating factor than with Legalism as its motivating factor.
      • Each of us have a natural tendency to be legalistic.  We want to draw lines that are not real in grace or in our culture.  
      • We have a list of expectations.  Not a written list, but its that unwritten list of expectations. (note, this will hurt.  But we need to see our legalistic tendencies.  If you hear one that you relate with, understand, you may have a biblical point with your point of view.  But we are not called to enforce these things on one another. Rather we are called to love people and call them to Christ regardless.)
        • We can be legalistic about our clothes, about our music, about who teaches when, about our views on divorce and things outside the church involving alcohol, tattoos, and even things like our work load and work place.  
        • These things have the potential to be hurtful to God, but we serve a God who is gracious and forgiving and we need to reflect that grace in our own lives. 
    • The church grows when we practice grace.
      • This is not a call to a life with no principles, But a call to a life with a single principle.
        • Love the Lord your God with all your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.
      • When Grace gets inside you, it finds it’s way into all you say and do.  
      • When Jesus is in your life, He is your Joy.