Gaudy Christmas - Gaudy Grace
This past Sunday, Pastor Matt kicked off a new series entitled “Gaudy Christmas” with a message dealing with God’s grace. You don’t have to have attended Heritage for very long to recognize that we talk A LOT about grace here. In fact, in the early days, we often referred to Heritage as a “Grace Place.” Matt made a statement early in his message that is so important to grasp. He said, “Everything that we receive from God is by grace, through faith, in Jesus.” The words “in Jesus” are used many times by the Apostle Paul in his writings as a qualifier. In other words, apart from Jesus, we have no claim to the promises of God for the Body of Christ, which includes His grace. Once, I heard grace defined as the “love of God shown to the unlovely.” That’s a pretty apt description, in my opinion.
God demonstrated his grace early on. Adam and Eve had one command, don’t eat from the Tree of the Knowledge Good and Evil, and they broke the command. (Genesis chapter 3) Because they chose to disobey God, He took an innocent animal, killed it, covered them with its hide, and sent them out of the garden. Then in another act of grace, He placed an angel to guard the entrance to the garden so they couldn’t return and eat from the Tree of Life, which would cause them to stay in a state of separation from God.
Later in the book of Genesis (chapter 22), God demonstrates His grace again when He instructed Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, as a burnt offering to Him. (You’ll need to read the preceding chapters for the back story. But in short, Isaac was the promised son through whom the nations were to be blessed.) When they were at the altar, Isaac asked where the lamb was, and Abraham replied, “God HIMSELF will provide.” Don’t miss that! And just as Abraham had drawn his knife, God stopped him and provided a ram.
Everything that we receive from God is by grace, through faith, in Jesus
Later on, God made a covenant with Moses (Exodus chapters 19-24) when He gave him the Law on Mt. Sinai. As you’ve heard often at Heritage, the Law was given to show Israel that apart from God, there is no redemption. In this Law were the instructions for Atonement (covering) that was to be carried out annually. The sacrifice of a perfect animal was required to atone for (cover) the sins of Israel for one year. As Pastor Matt pointed out, this went on for 1,200 years. All of this was a foreshadowing of what was to come. It was pointing towards Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. When God’s preordained time came for Jesus to come, He was sent to redeem those under the Law. (Galatians 4:4). What really blows my mind is what Paul tells us; “He hath chosen us in Him (there’s the qualifier again!) before the foundation of the world...” (Ephesians 1:4). So God, in His omniscience, prepared a way for us before Creation. My small mind has a hard time grasping this!
Further demonstration of His grace is shown when John The Baptist sees Jesus approaching him and announces, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). A seismic shift had just occurred. Notice John says He’s come to “take away” sins, not atone for (cover) sins. This was a brand new revelation. Once Jesus had fulfilled the prophecies, God would no longer accept the blood of animals to atone for our sin; the perfect blood of Christ was satisfactory to remove sin.
Our enemy knows this, which is why he always tries to keep past and present sin before us. When we come into union with Christ at salvation, all sin - past, present, and future are forgiven. (taken away) But, if he can keep this sin constantly in our mind, he can get us to constantly ask God to forgive us ...for what He has already forgiven us for. Don’t be tricked. The battle is in the mind, which is why Paul tells us not to conform (give in) to the powers of this world (our enemy) but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2)
We have a choice to be either “sin conscious” or “grace conscious.” The two can’t live in the same space. Paul tells us this; “Therefore, there is NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus (there it is again!), because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives you life has set you FREE from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2) Jesus came to take away our sin and give us freedom! Live your life with a Grace consciousness and rest in the completed work of Christ!