Paul concluded his doctrinal masterpiece to the Romans with this simple prayer, ”The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” (Romans 16:24). To me, it states the obvious, that all the right doctrine in the world is worthless without the grace of Jesus Christ in our life. It also tells me that it is possible for Christians to miss out on the grace of Jesus Christ.
Over the next few weeks we will be discovering what I believe is the missing ingredient in most Christians, and thus, most churches. That missing ingredient is “GraceLife”. Too many Christians are trying to live their lives just close enough to Jesus to be “alright”. If we could really understand “GraceLife”, we would see how those ‘followers’ of Jesus are missing out on what Jesus is all about.
This writing will consider the following:
Obstacles to Experiencing GraceLife
Who Can Experience GraceLife?
Who Cannot Experience GraceLife?
Next week we will function as FBI behavioral profilers, building a profile of what “GraceLife” is all about, and how we can become GraceLife Christians and a GraceLife Church.
1. Grace Preconceptions
Most of us think of an acronym when we consider grace, “God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense”. Perhaps you think along the ideas of the Preachers Outline and Study Bible:
Grace; God’s special favor; a special expression of God’s divine presence. Grace (charis) means the undeserved favor and blessings of God.
As a result, we associate grace with salvation, as Ephesians 2: 8,9 indicate: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”
While these are all great beginnings for understanding “grace”, we need to see the depth of grace in order to understand “GraceLife.”
Let’s lay our preconceptions at the cross. Lay them before the Lord and confess that you do not really understand His grace. Confess that you have been lazy in seeking to know His grace. Ask God to reveal the reality and power of His grace to your hearts. Ask Him to open your eyes to the reality of GraceLife!
2. Experiencing GraceLife
GraceLife is an Abundant Life because Jesus supplies from His riches.
John 10:9-10 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
John 1:16 (Phillips) Indeed, every one of us has shared in his riches – there is a grace in our lives because of his grace.
John 1:16 (ESV) And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.
GraceLife is a Reigning Life, because Jesus reigns.
Romans 5:17 Since by the one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 2:4 But even though we were dead in our sins God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, gave us life together with Christ – it is, remember, by grace and not by achievement that you are saved – and has lifted us right out of the old life to take our place with him in Christ in the Heavens.
Paul Paints a Portrait of a troubled church being a GraceLife Church
1 Corinthians 1:4 I am always thankful to God for what the gift of his grace in Jesus Christ has meant to you – how, as the Christian message has become established among you, he has enriched your whole lives, from the words on your lips to the understanding in your hearts. And you have been eager to receive his gifts during this time of waiting for his final appearance. He will keep you steadfast in the faith to the end, so that when his day comes you need fear no condemnation. God is utterly dependable, and it is he who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ, our Lord. (Phillips)
GraceLife is an Overcoming Life, because Jesus is our Overcomer!
John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
So the obvious question is why don’t most Christians “Overcome” and experience an “Abundant Life” of “Reigning with Christ”? Because they fail to clear four obstacles to GraceLife.
3. Obstacles to Experiencing GraceLife
From George Barna and “Maximum Faith”
There are four major OBSTACLES to most Christians experiencing the “Overcoming Life” or as I describe it “GraceLife.”
Obstacle #1: Fear of Commitment
Only 18% of Christians claim to be totally committed to following Jesus Christ.
Only 22% claim to be “completely dependent upon God.”
Obstacle #2: Lack of Godly Repentance
64% of Christians state they have confessed their sins to God and asked for His forgiveness.
Only 12% state they are serious about abandoning the lure of sin and handing total control of their life to God.
Only 12% admitted that recognizing and grasping the significance of their sins had been so personally devastating that it caused them to crash emotionally.
Only about 3% of Christians in America have come to the place where they have surrendered control of their life to God, submitted to His will for their life, and devoted themselves to loving and serving God and other people.
Obstacle #3: Substituting Activity for Deeper Spirituality
Christians confuse religious activity with spiritual significance and depth.
39% participate in a combination of three “normal” religious activities in the past week (i.e., attending church services, praying, reading the Bible).
Only 8% engaged in another trio of deeper faith expressions: talked about their faith with a non-Christian, fasted for religious purposes, scriptural meditation or had an extended time of spiritual reflection during the past week.
Obstacle #4: Lack of True Spiritual Community
A majority said they feel comfortable and connected within their church. However, most do not consider their church as a place where they can be open and held to biblical principles.
Only 21% of Christians believe that spiritual maturity requires a vital connection to a community of faith.
Only 35% claim to have confessed their sins verbally to another believer at some point during the past year.
Church life can be an obstacle to GraceLife!
Instead of churches encouraging people to engage in increasing religious activity along the lines of “programs” such as worship, evangelism, discipleship, stewardship, service, and community, we need to focus on our living relationship with the Grace of Jesus Christ.
Emphasize the Need for continuous Life-Changing Relationship with Jesus Christ.
When activities are emphasized, people tend to focus on worldly accomplishments rather than developing the Character of Christ. God does not need us to achieve things on His behalf in order for us to become more acceptable or valuable to Him.
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in finishing church programs or producing specific religious results that we lose sight of the purpose of our faith, which is to have a life-changing relationship with Jesus.
It becomes easy to substitute significant religious activity for an intentional and simple relationship with Jesus Christ.
Recognize that sacrifice and suffering are essential for a Life-Changing Relationship with Jesus Christ.
Believers must realize there is beauty and power in brokenness. Surrender and submission only happen after a struggle with the flesh.
Brokenness is unappealing in a society based upon ego and bravado.
Until such brokenness occurs, though, people’s transformation is hindered.
The Church should raise those people up as champions, positioning such selflessness as victory rather than loss.
If broken individuals are not found in a congregation, then it is time to rethink the disciple-making process relied upon in our church.
Provide the experience of a vital support system in the pursuit of a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.
Studies show that most small groups and Sunday Schools produce a combination of knowledge and comfort more than commitment and application.
While knowledge is important, without transparency and accountability, the information rarely gets converted into personal, congregational, or cultural transformation.
4. Who Can Experience GraceLife?
(FICTIONAL, but based on actual families I know) – Before us is a man and woman in their late 30’s to early 40’s. They look succesful by all the worldly measures. Nice cars, nice house, good jobs. Nice vacations. They both grew up in conservative Baptist churches. They were active in the youth group, even going to youth camp where they both dedicated their lives to Jesus Christ. College happened, with all of the associated drinking and ‘hooking up’. Married in their later 20’s, they never found a church to connect with, going occasionally when a friend would ask. Now after 15 years of marriage, and three children, they are having discipline problems with their teenager. Their tweens are indifferent toward school, and one has gotten in trouble for stealing from another student. All the children nurse hurts from broken promises from parents who put their careers before their children. The wife feels no emotional connection with her husband, and because of past hurts, regards her husband with not so hidden contempt. She no longer respects her husband, and the children reflect that attitude. She barely manages to tolerate him. The husband feels unappreciated and longs for intimacy. He seeks the gratitude of women at work. In fact, he is in an emotional relationship with a grateful co-worker, and has toyed with the idea of taking their relationship to the “next step”.
Here is a family on the brink of disaster. Why? because they are nursing “wounded spirits”. They may have made a profession of faith in Christ, but never really experienced the power of Jesus. If they are Christians, they are defeated soldiers living behind enemy lines.
Is there any hope for this family? Is this the kind of family we want at our church? Would this family feel welcome in our church?
They would if we were a GraceLife church! GraceLife invites people and families with problems. GraceLife invites people who are wounded, hurt and even held captive by darkness and sin. GraceLife churches want broken people! GraceLife wants sinners! GraceLife grows and abounds in the face of hurt and brokenness! GraceLife overcomes impossible circumstances! GraceLife restores defeated soldiers and fallen saints.
Why is it our Responsibility to Reach out to the Wounded?
Proverbs 18:14 The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?
Because this is the foundation of Christ’s earthly ministry. As he quoted in Luke 4:
Isaiah 61:1-3 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.
If Christians are not focusing on the wounded and sick and hurting around us, we will not be on guard when our brothers and sisters are stricken with a wounded spirit.
Just as a wounded spirit can destroy any family, ruin any marriage, lead to an affair, or even result in juvenile delinquency, a wounded spirit can destroy or greatly diminish a Christians’ love for Jesus Christ. A wounded spirit can cause someone to stop going to church. A wounded spirit is infectious, and destruction is in its path. We must constantly be ministering to the wounded spirits around us, whether they are believers or not.
The only solution for a wounded spirit is to embrace “GraceLife”
Q: Why is a wounded spirit destructive to our relationship with Jesus Christ?
A: Grace (Jesus) grows from our spirit! If our spirit is wounded, grace will not be allowed to grow and empower us!
Galatians 6:18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.
Philippians 4:23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
2 Timothy 4:22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.
Philemon 1:25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
Consider the child Jesus. The Bible says the Grace of God was upon him because he grew strong in spirit! A wounded spirit is weak, and grace is blocked from having any effect!
Luke 2:40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.
The Grace of Jesus Christ is administered to our spirit, the same spirit that has been regenerated and ‘born again’ by God’s Holy Spirit! Grace isn’t for our brain, it isn’t for our emotions, it isn’t for our muscles, it is for our spirit. It originates there and then desires to flow over our mind, will, emotions and strength. It does not bypass our spirit, for it is from the Holy Spirit of Grace. If we are wounded in our spirit, if we are weak in our spirit, if we are walking in the flesh, we will miss out on the full benefit of the grace of Jesus Christ. Grace is applied to broken and hurting spirits that are given to Jesus in humility, not in pride.
I had one son who really like to test me. He was the one who after I disciplined him corporally, had a tendency to look at me as if he was saying, is that all you got? I had to spend extra time with him until I could sense he was broken over his disobedience. Once I sensed a brokenness, I could wrap my arms around him and tell him I loved him. But until that pride was laid aside, I wasn’t inclined to show him grace. On the other hand, I had a daughter with a soft heart. When she disobeyed, only one spanking was sufficient, sometimes all it took was a stern look.
God pours out His grace upon those who need help with their wounds, not upon those who look at him and say, “is that all you got?”
1 Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,
Our walk with Jesus Christ begins clothed in Grace! His grace consumes our spirit, and desires to encompass our life. However, in so many Christians, something happens that wounds our spirit, and grace is thwarted or dwarfed. The grace of God is applied in vain to one with a wounded spirit.
GraceLife can heal the lost, the broken, the wounded, because the Grace of Christ is healing, transformational and empowering. The Grace of Christ brings much more than salvation, it brings LIFE – overcoming life for everyday circumstances!
5. Who Cannot Experience GraceLife?
Sadly, there is one major obstacle to experiencing GraceLife. As I have already alluded, Grace is for the broken, for the hurting, for those who realize their need before God. Grace is never poured out on the proud, upon those who think they can handle their problems, or who think they are OK, or a ‘good Christian.’ Self-righteousness, pride, false sense of righteousness, contentment with who you are, are all things which will shut your spirit off from the Grace of God. They will keep you from walking in GRACELIFE. Gracelife is not for those who think they are ‘good people’. GraceLife is not for the judgmental, GRACELIFE is not for Christians who can’t get along with other people. GRACELIFE is all inclusive, for it is for the sinful, the hurting, the broken.
One way to tell if you are missing out on GRACELIFE can be found in a little sermon that Jerry Falwell preached. He called the sermon “Feudin’, Fussin’ and Frettin”. He preached it one stormy Sunday morning in 1972. The mood of the nearly 3,000 people that morning was sour. You could smell the pickle juice. Concern was written on every face. Normally the people shouted rousing “AMEN’s” & “Hallelujah’s” when Doug Oldham sang “The King is Coming”, but that morning there was silence. Jerry reflected, “I didn’t know if it was the weather, Vietnam, or if everyone had a lot of problems, but no one smiled.”
Something was blocking the Grace of God in the church that morning. So Jerry read from Psalm 37:1-9
Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither, as the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth (Psalm 37:1-9).
He began his sermon by saying:
“Life can be an adventure. Life can be a thrilling experience. Life can be one joy after another—or it can be a total and miserable failure.”
I believe the difference between life being a thrilling experience or a miserable failure is whether you are experiencing “GRACELIFE”
Whether you grow in Grace or Stumble Around in the Flesh is entirely up to you!
Everyone has problems. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has messed up, some of us more than others. Whether you grow or shrink in the face of your circumstances is entirely dependent upon whether or not you allow the Grace of God to abound in your life. Whether you grow in Grace or Stumble Around in the Flesh is entirely up to you! The Grace is there for all Christians, yet our decision and attitude determines whether it has any power in our life. (We will see this more fully when we build our profile).
We don’t like problems. In fact, we try to hide them, or pass them off as no big deal. Christians think problems are a sign of sin or weakness, but really, they are an opportunity for God’s Grace.
Christian, admit your, admit your weaknesses, admit your failings, and turn to God’s Grace. The problems are not the problem, our attitude toward our problems is!
God’s grace can never flow to the proud, arrogant and self-sufficient. God’s grace abounds for the humble, the weak, those that face heartbreak, disappointment and overwhelming burdens. Pressure and trials can be God’s design to keep us depending upon Him.
Too many Christians are guilty of what David called ‘fretting.’
What does it mean to fret?
The dictionary defines the word fret as “To give oneself up to feelings of irritation. Resentful discontent. Regret. Worry.” That pretty well describes many of God’s children, but it ought not to be so.
How to know you have given up to irritation.
We usually disguise our feelings with cute phrases (justifications).
“I got up on the wrong side of the bed.” That means we got up full of the devil, but we say we got up on the wrong side of the bed.
“I’m in a bad mood today.” That means the devil has gotten control of our lives and our attitudes.
“Things are going bad; nobody has it as bad as I do.” That’s simply saying that instead of being on top of my circumstances, I’m under them.
We are not supposed to be under the circumstances, but on top of them. We are not holding on for dear life, we are reigning with Christ! This is what James 1:2 means when he says to “COUNT”
James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
COUNT = hēgéomai: To be a leader, chief  We can ‘COUNT” it all joy becasue we are in the King, the Lord, the Leader! We can reign over our circumstances, because He reigns!
When things get tough so many people resort to fretting, fuming, and fussing, and they become typical Baptists. Most Baptists fuss when they shouldn’t. When you fuss and fret over your circumstances, you fail to see the abundance of God’s grace and your Christian walk becomes a flop. The adventure is gone. You are stuck in the mire of circumstance.
Why do Christians fret?
David tells us to quit fretting. Bad attitudes can keep you from enjoying life. They cut us off from God’s Grace. Your irritation can keep the people around you from enjoying life. No one likes to be around a sourpuss all the time. No one likes to be around a person who is always complaining—“nothing is ever right, everything is always wrong.”
Fretting is contagious. Negative attitudes attract positive attitudes and the negativity prevails. We become critical and judgmental in our attitudes. We don’t have to say anything, our expression says it all.
What causes a Christian to fret?
1. When you are determined to get your own way, and something goes wrong.
Christians can get so full of their self, that if we don’t get our way, no one will! Sometimes you’ll even hear “If I don’t get what I want, then I’m not going to do anything.” Ever hear “I’m my own boss, nobody’s going to make me do anything. I’ll do exactly as I please”?
When you start talking like that, the Lord is just about ready to cut you down. The very thing you say you will not do or the very thing you say you will do generally works in reverse, because God wants that old will broken and submissive to His will.
When you find a Christian fretting, you can mark it down, his plans are going wrong. He made some plans, he drew out a little blueprint of what he was going to do—and it did not work that way.
The world tells us to set goals, to “plan your work and work your plan”. But if you think that is the way God works, you don’t know God very well. When our plans come before God’s plans, we can expect problems.
Christian life is not plotting and scheming. It’s not “how to make a million before the age of 30.” The Christian life is surrendering and submitting. If you will learn the secret of surrender, as opposed to the futility of scheming, it will save you a lot of ulcers. It will keep you from being a sourpuss, a Christian weaned on a pickle. Surrendering to Christ will prevent you from being guilty of fretting, fuming, and fussing. When you think you have got to have your way, you are proving how immature you are. You can never experience GraceLife without surrendering and submitting.
No one plans to go to the hospital, and yet a lot of good people do.
No one plans to lose a loved one, and yet loved ones die.
No one plans to have an automobile accident, a financial reverse, or a disappointment.
No one plans to have some disastrous tragedy happen in his family.
No one plans those things, but they happen.
The Christian who would learn victory over fretting must learn the secret of God’s promise, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). When you surrender to God, you discover the power of Phil 2:13
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
We have no right to impose our desires on God’s will. God knows best. Some of you have a had a real rough week. Everything has gone against you. You think the world is sitting on your shoulders. You think nobody loves you. That is not true.
God loves you and a lot of Christians would love you if you gave them a chance. But, your problem is that you want your own way and God wants another way. So you are being like Elijah the Prophet, sitting under the juniper tree and pouting. Pout is another good Baptist word. Self centered Baptists are good at pouting. But pouting Baptists cannot experience GraceLife.
God has got to knock that pouting out of you before you can amount to something. When you pout, you cut yourself off from God’s Grace!
I’ve seen a lot of pouting Christians over the last 40 years. I’ve seen pouting wives, pouting husbands, and even pouting preachers. When someone gets to pouting because of their pride, because they didn’t get what they want, it’s hard to get them to stop pouting and look to the Lord. I think it is almost easier to get a drunk converted. You can easier get a drug addict off dope than you can get a pouter to stop pouting, because he enjoys it.
That is part of pride. That is the old selfish nature coming through. “I’m going to have my way. I’m going to do what I please, and if I can’t, I’m not going to do anything.” So we determine to have our way and as a result we fret.
2. When you life your live without God in view.
We make our plans and then we get on our knees and we say, “Lord, I want you to bless my plans.” God has to be taken into view. The Holy Spirit has to be a partner in your plans. God has to do the programming and computing. God has to give the direction. And if He does, you can be sure He will bless your work. God is not going to bless when you make the plan, you plot the course, you chart the way, and then invite Him in as an afterthought. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). But first seek God, seek His wisdom, seek His way, seek His purpose. Making plans without God in view will make us fret.
GraceLife is a Life TOTALLY dependent upon God and His leadership. I wonder how many of you have made some plans in the past week. You have plotted a course, you have made some decisions, but you have never prayed. You have never sought the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Too often we think the leadership of the Holy Spirit and God’s thoughts are only involved in a local church or soul-winning ministry. We have a false way of dividing the sacred and the secular.
We say, “Now, when it comes to my church work, I pray and I seek the face of God for teaching my class, but when it comes to running my business or working my job, I know what I’m doing.” You cannot be successful that way. God Almighty must be invited into your business, your home, your health, the raising of your family, your trips, your pleasure, your hunting, and your fishing. God Almighty must be invited into every area of your life or you need not expect the Grace of God to be actively at work in your life. God will not be relegated to a corner or a part of your activity. He is going to be Lord of all or He is not going to be Lord at all. GraceLife will bring us to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
We fret because we leave God out of our schemes and plans. Faith is living without scheming. If you invite God into the picture, you will not have to scheme. You will not have to throw a fit afterward, because if your plans do not go through, you were out of His plan and He had a purpose in the failure. When your plans are His plans, you don’t get frustrated if things fall into pieces. Then, the only time you will get frustrated and have your fits is when God had nothing to do with the plans and you failed, because your pride got hurt.
David says: Fret Not, fret not, fret not. Three times he said fret not.
Do you want to Experience GRACELIFE? Then you need to lay your frets at the altar. You need to admit what a sinner you are. You need to admit your are hurting. You need to admit you are wounded. You need to humble all that you are before God, and surrender everything you want, even this church, to Him. Then you need to say God, I submit my will and my wants to you and your will and your wants. Then follow Psalms 37:3-8
Trust (Be Confident) in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
Delight (be willing to bend) thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
Commit (Roll upon Him) thy way unto the LORD; trust (Continue to be confident) also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.
Rest (be silent, motionless) in the LORD, and wait patiently for him:
Cease (stop, desist) from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.
What kind of life do you want? Do you want to stumble along, fretting over your circumstances, rolling along out of control? Do you want to be confident in God’s control, in the Healing power of Jesus Christ? Roll your cares, roll your concerns, roll your life upon Him. Let His Grace fill your life!
To open the flood gates of God’s Grace upon your life, you must be willing to surrender and submit to God’s Word and God’s Will. You must be willing to wait upon Him. You must be willing to let Jesus Christ be Lord of all you are, all that you think, say and do.
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