God is Gracious

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Introduce self...
Heavenly father,
I praise you that you are great. I praise you that you were before all things and that by you all things hold together.
I praise you that you are good. I praise you that all your ways are righteous and just. There is no imperfection in you.
Thank you for coming down from heaven in likeness of sinful men, to make a way for rebels like me to return to you.
I confess that I fall short of your righteous standard of thought and life, I trust your steadfast love and mercy.
Grant me words to speak today; my lips belong to you.
I ask that you would glorify yourself and make your own name great in all the earth.
For those listening this morning, I pray that the Holy Spirit would speak.
I pray that each person here would hear and learn from you through my words.
I pray that we would be a congregation that is thoughtful and reflective when you speak, God.
I pray for renewal for myself and for this congregation.
Renewal to remember and embrace the truth about who you are - to be refreshed by the truth of your gospel.
I pray for equipping for myself and for this congregation.
I pray for practical equipping in the fight of faith - for sanctification - that you would continue to close the gap between what we say we believe, (what we know to be true), and how we actually live our lives.
And finally I pray for salvation.
I pray that the hearts of those here this morning that don’t know you would be softened.
I pray that repentance would be granted.
I pray that lost souls would be united to you.
All these things I pray in Jesus name,
For advent this year, we have been going through the 4 G’s.
These are four simple truths, that if we fight to believe them will transform our behavior and thus our lives.
These four simple truths are:
God is GREAT - so we don’t have to be in control
God is GOOD - so we don’t have to look elsewhere
God is GLORIOUS - so we don’t have to fear others
God is GRACIOUS - so we don’t have to prove ourselves
Underlying assumptions for this series:

Every sin is a result of believing a lie

When we sin, it is true that we are DOING something bad...
But in every case, the reason we are DOING something bad is because we are BELIEVING something wrong.
That is, we are believing a lie.
Romans 1:24–25 ESV
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Belief is root. Behavior is fruit.

What you deeply hold to be true will flow out of you as be behaviors and emotions.

Real faith is head, heart, and hands.

Few Christians would read the 4 G’s and have any issue with them intellectually…
But those things which we believe in our head,
Must transfer to our heart,
And must flow out of our hands...
Three weeks ago we talked about:

God is GREAT - so we don’t have to be in control

Psalm 19:1 ESV
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
1 Peter 5:6–7 ESV
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Two week we talked about:

God is GOOD - so we don’t have to look elsewhere

Psalm 34:8 ESV
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
Last week we talked about:

God is GLORIOUS - so we don’t have to fear others

To say that “God is glorious” is simply to say that God’s being and character express worth, value, significance, and power.
Psalm 29:2 ESV
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.
(also, so we don’t have to look elsewhere for significance)
Who or what “defines” you?
This is the same as asking who or what do you fear in life the most? Revere? Respect?
Who’s “voice” weighs heaviest on your mind and heart?
Today we are going to cover:

God is GRACIOUS - so we don’t have to prove ourselves

A thought experiment:
As God thinks of you right now, what is the look on his face?
And as a follow-up, what is the reason you think God sees you that way?
Have to address at least 3 audiences:
I believe I have proven myself, I deserve God’s favor...
I have yet to prove myself, but I will eventually deserve God’s favor...
I haven’t proven myself, and I’m not worthy of God’s favor...

I believe I have proven myself, I deserve God’s favor

This would happen when you have your life together and you take credit for it.

I have yet to prove myself, but I will eventually deserve God’s favor

I will work harder mentality. I will do better. If only I stop doing x or start doing y.

I haven’t proven myself, and I’m not worthy of God’s favor

God is GRACIOUS - so we don’t have to prove ourselves

Who do we not have to prove ourselves to?

You don’t have to prove yourself to God

This is at the heart of Christianity...
Romans 4:4–5 ESV
Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,
Ephesians 2:8–9 ESV
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
The Protestant reformation, that is, Martin Luther’s separation from the Catholic church in the 1500s, was primarily over this issue.
But as Christians, we are prone to forget this!
Or we accept our salvation by faith, but then stop trusting in God’s grace to continue for us after we are saved.
Galatians 3:1–3 ESV
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
We have to preach this to ourselves constantly!
God is gracious, so I don’t have to prove myself.
Have you ever felt like God was distant or angry with you because of how you behave?
Have you ever felt unworthy to come to church or read the bible because of your shortcomings?
Have you ever felt depressed or like a complete looser because of a mess up? How does God view you?
We have to preach this to other believers constantly!
God is gracious, so you don’t have to prove yourself.
Even inside the leadership of this church, for myself and others, we need this constantly.
We want others to think highly of us. We want others to think we’re “godly” and that we are highly spiritual.
We have to preach this to a lost and dying world constantly!
God is gracious, so you don’t have to prove yourself.
To a depressed world trying to get right with God, trying to prove themself before the almighty, this is the best news they will ever hear.

You don’t have to prove yourself to others

Who’s opinion matters most?
This ties into “God is glorious - so you don’t have to fear others”
We loose the desire to prove ourselves to others when we have a more “real” perspective
Like being in high school....
Ephesians 1:3–10 ESV
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

You don’t have to prove yourself to yourself

This is identity.
The world responds, “You don’t have to prove yourself to others, you just have to feel good about yourself”
Who am I?
If I view myself as forgiven, son or daughter of God, I have nothing left to prove to myself.
I’ve heard people say, “Maybe God forgives me, but I just can’t forgive myself.”
This, while it may seem humble and spiritual at first glance, is actually one of the most arrogant things a person can say.
Story of Peter...
Set up story:
Who was peter?
What was happening?
John 13:36–38 ESV
Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.
Four chapters are used to share what Jesus said to Peter and his disciples on that final night of his life…
We have famous verses like:
John 14:1–2 ESV
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
John 14:27 ESV
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
John 15:3–5 ESV
Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
John 16:33 ESV
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Chapter 17 is Jesus’ high priestly prayer and he prays for his disciples and for you and I...
Then we get to chapter 18...
We covered part of this story last week as well...
John 18:1–3 ESV
When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons.
John 18:4–7 ESV
Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
John 18:8–11 ESV
Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
John 18:12–13 ESV
So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year.
Now I want to jump to Mark’s account...
Mark 14:54 ESV
And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire.
Mark 14:66–69 ESV
And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.”
Mark 14:70–72 ESV
But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
Let me read the tail end of this story from Luke’s account:
Luke 22:60–62 ESV
But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
Jesus is crucified, that was Peter’s last encounter, or so he thought...
Mark 16:1–4 ESV
When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large.
Mark 16:5–7 ESV
And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”
Jesus concern was for peter. His heart was for Peter. Jesus cares for us even when we fail to pray with him, take ministry into our own hands, and deny Jesus.
Why? Because God is gracious, so we don’t have to prove ourselves.
Lamentations 3:22–24 ESV
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

What is the fruit of NOT believing that God is gracious?

Overwhelming and crushing stress and pressure
Pride in performance
Pride in comparisons
Shame in comparisons
Fear (of failure, of not being good enough)
Anger (shouldn’t my life be going better)
Joyless duty

What is the FRUIT of believing God is gracious?

You find rest and peace
You’re deeply joyful
You’re grateful
You can have confidence (in Christ)
You are and feel safe
You feel free to repent
You are free to do good out of love
You extend grace to others
“Without this unique understanding of grace-salvation, religions have to paint God as either a demanding, holy God who is placated by back-breaking moral effort, or as what C.S. Lewis calls ‘a senile, old benevolence’ who tolerates everyone no matter how they live. The problem is that if I think I have a relationship with God because I am living morally according to his standards, it does not move me to the depths to think of my salvation. I earned it. There is no joy, amazement, or tears. I am not galvanized and transformed from the inside.”
“On the other hand, if I think I have a relationship with God because the Divine just embraces us all, no matter what how we live— that also does not move me to the depths. I simply have the attitude of Voltaire, who, on his deathbed famously said, “Of course God forgives—that’s his job.” Any effort to take away the idea of Christ’s substitutionary atonement and replace it with a moralism (i.e., being moral, working for others, imitating Jesus) robs the gospel of its power to change us from the inside out.”
Tim Keller
Grace didn’t come cheap...
Someone had to die...
In closing:
“We are more flawed and sinful than we ever dared believe, yet we are more loved and accepted than we ever dared hope at the same time.”
Tim Keller
2 Corinthians 8:9 ESV
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
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