Have you ever been in a predicament where you need God’s favor? Have you ever fallen flat on your face and yet God lifted you up? Have you ever been amongst others that show a lack of grace? In the Japanese culture, for example, grace is difficult for some to experience. In their culture, it is more about saving face and not embarrassing family members. In Japan, for example, those who are in prison very seldom will get visitors from family (especially in comparison to the United States culture). Those who leave prison in Japan may never see family and friends when they are released. The shame of separation in their culture is overwhelming.
Our discussion about grace reflects how we are to emulate the love of Jesus Christ and reflect grace to others as He would have us to do. Grace is centered in the righteousness of God and His love for us.
What is this grace? It is truly amazing grace. Often, we miss it because we don’t understand it. Did you, for example, receive His grace the moment you got saved, or was it extended to you before that, or even before you were born?
1 Corinthians 15:10
But by God’s grace I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not ineffective. However, I worked more than any of them, yet not I, but God’s grace that was with me.
The words “I am” used her are not the same words “I AM” that God uses in Exodus 3:14 and in Revelation 21:13. We cannot even begin to understand who God is. In this situation, Paul refers to himself as being who he is because of God’s grace.
17 Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning. 18 By His own choice, He gave us a new birth by the message of truth so that we would be the firstfruits of His creatures.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
You cannot talk about your present without considering your past.
1 Corinthians 15:9
For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
Paul recognized God’s grace in where he was and also recognized that he did not deserve such an honor because of what he did in the past. He saw that his existence depended upon God alone.
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this dying body?
1 Timothy 1:15
This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them.
The more that we see God through His grace and mercy, the greater the ability we have to see God for who He is and for who we are. God’s grace is about His hand being upon you. Don’t mistake this with God’s approval of sin in your life. It is God’s grace that allows you to have the ability to recognize who He is and to come to a saving knowledge of Him. Please understand that His grace was extended to you even before you were born through your preservation and in your sin to come to where you are today. God’s grace has kept you. You will learn over time, as you live in His righteousness and with obedience to Him, who you are in Him. It is then that you can say “only by the grace of God, I am here.”
God’s grace is not extended only as a condition of salvation. It is extended the moment you were conceived.
My bones were not hidden from You
when I was made in secret,
when I was formed in the depths of the earth.
Your very existence is because of God’s grace and favor.
But when God, who from my birth set me apart and called me by His grace, was pleased.
Paul describes his history to others. Look at how he talks about his life to others:
When Paul realized that one part of them were Sadducees and the other part were Pharisees, he cried out in the Sanhedrin, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees! I am being judged because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead!”
25 As they stretched him out for the lash, Paul said to the centurion standing by, “Is it legal for you to scourge a man who is a Roman citizen and is uncondemned?”
26 When the centurion heard this, he went and reported to the commander, saying, “What are you going to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.”
27 The commander came and said to him, “Tell me—are you a Roman citizen?”
“Yes,” he said.
28 The commander replied, “I bought this citizenship for a large amount of money.”
“But I was born a citizen,” Paul said.
He continued, “I am a Jewish man, born in Tarsus of Cilicia but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel and educated according to the strict view of our patriarchal law. Being zealous for God, just as all of you are today,
God does a work in each of us that we can’t explain. God orders our life and our steps in where we grow up. God knew that Paul would use his discussions as a Roman citizen, and even as a Pharisee, to his advantage for the sake of proclaiming the gospel to those who would hear it. He places us where He wants us. In Paul’s situation, God had to form a Saul into a Paul, the servant of the living God.
God’s grace has an amazing effect on each of us (1 Corinthians 15:10)
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.
Don’t miss the word “overflow,” which means an abundance of His grace that is far beyond our human expectation.
But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says:
God resists the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.
Grace has a positive result for the person who recognizes it for what it is. Do you recognize the grace that God has given you?
Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of the Messiah’s gift.
God’s grace is not a license to take advantage of it as an excuse for sin.
For some men, who were designated for this judgment long ago, have come in by stealth; they are ungodly, turning the grace of our God into promiscuity and denying Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord.
God’s grace allows you to do more than just exist. He wants each of us to grow and change within His grace. It takes His grace to trust God, to come under His authority, and to have a desire to seek Him.
Are you taking advantage of His grace for your benefit? Do you have a desire to seek Him and serve Him in a greater capacity? This is the essence of living the abundant life for Jesus Christ. It has taken His abundant grace for each us to make the commitment to live for Him.
2 Peter 3:18
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.