I grew up without a lot of church knowledge, or unique church language. When I came into the church, I found that there are a lot of terms that are used only in church. One word in particular has a completely different meaning inside the church. In my experience outside of church the term “grace” or “graceful” was a term for how a dancer performed or how a horse moved. When I would dine with some of the neighbors, they would often “say grace” before we would be allowed to eat. It wasn’t until I started attending church that I began to hear of “amazing grace.”
So what is it that makes grace so amazing?
When I lived in Arizona, I met a retired cowboy named Dave Long who said, “Once I got a lasso around that grace, I just climbed aboard and hung on!”
In his song “How He Loves”, John Mark McMillion describes God’s grace this way – “If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.”
I believe that grace is probably the most important term in the Bible. It surpasses all the rules and regulations. It is greater than all the parables and proverbs. Simply, without grace, there is no salvation.
The first time the word grace is used in the Bible, is to describe Noah (Genesis 6:8) “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.”
God was upset with all of creation after Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden. God wanted to completely start over, except for Noah and his family. If you read the 5th and 6th chapters of Genesis, you will see that Noah did not do anything special. He just got older and had three sons. But still, he “found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” It wasn’t until later that Noah was called on by God to build the ark and gather all the animals on board, and save the human race.
God spoke similar words to another man who had been raised up in the house of God’s enemy. He was a murderer, a fugitive of justice. Yet God told him (Exodus 33:17), “… you have found grace in my sight.” Who was this man? God spoke these words to Moses, just after Moses broke the two tablets on which God had written the 10 commandments. It wasn’t until later, that Moses showed his people the promised land.
To Paul, who was an enemy of all Christianity, who condoned the death of Stephen, who chased down believers and imprisoned them, God said (2 Corinthians 12:9) "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."
Imperfect people, living in an imperfect world, need God’s perfect grace. As I understand it, God’s grace is the measure of His love He gives and continues to give. But more than just love, grace is the gift of forgiveness wrapped in love.
It is by this grace we are pulled back to God. Ephesians 2:8 says “For by grace you have been saved…”
OK. Let’s get this straight. Noah did not do anything special and got grace. Moses did all kinds of bad things and got grace. Paul was an enemy of Christ and got grace. Can anyone receive grace? Since it says grace is what saves us, I think we all could use a heaping helping of it!
Ephesians 2:8 continues with two words, “For by grace you have been saved, THROUGH FAITH…”
Through faith? Faith in what? Faith in who?
Romans 10:9 if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
Simply, when you have faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Amazing Grace will be poured out upon you! Grace is God’s mercy. Grace is God’s undeserved favor.
Look at Ephesians 2:8 again: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God”
Grace is a gift from God, wrapped in love.
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
As I travel, I have a bad habit of driving by church buildings and commenting “that’s a pretty church,” “that’s a huge church, ”or “that’s a tiny church.” I say it’s a bad habit, because the brick and mortar building is not “the church.” The people who attend church services are the “living stones” that make up the house of worship.
Peter said, in 1 Peter 2:5 “you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house.”
As I let my imagination run wild, I wonder what I would see when I drive by a church if I could see the spiritual condition instead of the physical walls. I know Jesus had a similar experience in Matthew 23:27, when he shouted down the leaders of God’s Temple and called them clean on the outside but dead and filthy on the inside.
If I could see their spiritual condition, I wonder how many churches I drive by would have a smoking section, or a bar in the back.
I wonder how many would have choirs that sing about sleeping around, going fishing instead of working, and hanging around with their best drinking buddies.
I wonder how many would be spray painted with profanity, curse at the children in Sunday School, display pornography on their big screen projectors, or have extra-marital affairs portrayed on stage?
I wonder how many would have a library of romance novels and books with non-biblical, self-help teaching in their libraries?
I wonder how many would be paying for and playing cable television to run 24 hours a day in their nursery and children’s church and give the kids the remote?
I wonder how many would preach from the pulpit that they really don’t believe in God but that they are just there for the networking and business opportunities?
You may say my thinking is a bit off key, but do you ever wonder what God sees?
I think many churches would have to rename themselves “Ichabod,” meaning: “the glory has departed.” (1 Samuel 4:21)
YOU ARE GOD’S BUILDING!
1 Corinthians 3:9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.
When I look at a Christian walking or driving down the street, or working in a shop, I should be able to make my comments about the church being strong or not because the PEOPLE ARE THE CHURCH. “That church allows smoking.” “That church does not treat children fair.” “That church is not open on Sunday.” “That church does not use the Bible.” Would people want to attend you?
THE HOLY SPIRIT LIVES IN YOU!
1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
I consider the Holy Spirit to be a house guest, dwelling in me, who needs to be treated as royalty. I have been a guest in some houses where I have been welcomed, well cared for and loved. I am sorry to leave because of the love that is given and I feel better for having visited.
I have been in some houses, however, where the owners go about their lives as if I was not even there, choking me out with their bad habits, filthy environment, loud behavior, rude comments and un-holy entertainment. After awhile, I find an excuse to leave so I don’t have to endure the discomfort anymore.
I personally believe the Holy Spirit is the same way. I think a person may ask Him into his or her life, but if certain changes are not made, what the Bible calls “repentance,” the Spirit may choose to leave the house empty and the person is worse off than before (Matthew 12:43-45).
YOU NEED TO BE HOLY!
1 Corinthians 3:17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.
There are certain things we do not allow in church buildings: cursing, profane images, ungodly teaching, sexual temptation, smoking and drinking. We do this because, for at least one hour a week, people can come for a haven of rest.
Ephesians 5:18-20 - And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
We should to treat every hour of every day as “church service”
Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
Pastor Jay Merritt writes about God in every day observations.