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Sunday, March 03, 2013

What Are You Doing with God’s Grace?

Grace is an amazing word to know for living today. Looking into my Nave’s Topical Bible, I found many verses that use the word, but I would like to share a parable that illustrates its meaning. The word has evolved in today’s language to mean forgiveness, blessing, or just to give someone a break. We use the word in our Church name, “Grace Harvest Church” and before this we were called, “Grace Chapel”. So we have always liked the name, mainly because we were in such need of it. When I looked up the verses from my Topical Bible in the Amplified Version, the word was translated as, “state of favor”. So to be in God’s grace or to have grace is to be in a state of favor with God.  This is where I want to be. We men spend a lot of time trying to gain the favor of our Fathers, but in the end we realize that favor from our Heavenly Father is the only favor we need.
Now I would like to share a little story that the lord Jesus used to illustrate forgiveness to Peter and the Disciples. But it also illustrates Grace in a way that amazes me. In Matthew 18:23-35 we read,
23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, 'Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. 28 But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, and ‘Pay me what you owe!' 29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' 30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?' 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35 So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses."
Now the first thing I wish to point out is that the servant owed the money to the King. It was not taxes, it was money loaned to him from the King. The servant at one time had received some money from the king with an agreement to pay it back. What did this servant do with this money? The same thing that we may do with the gifts and talents Christ gives us I afraid. Anyway, back to the servant and king. The servant owed the money. The amount could be figured out to today’s value but let’s just say it was an amount that neither the servant nor his family could pay it off in their lifetime (interest on sin is high priced, I guess). The King’s answer is to sell him and his family as slaves to payback the debt. This may shock some but that was what happens in those days. If you could not pay your debts, you and your family where sold as slaves to pay it off. But it was just until you paid it off or until the year of Jubilee when all slaves where set free and all land was returned to the family that had it. So the servant had a way out, but he was going to have to work for it. We find ourselves in this condition, a slave to debt. How many of us work to pay for that new car? Or it seems we work just to pay for those kids we left behind just because we wanted to be free. When they servant saw the reality of his folly and fell to the ground and begged the king to give him time. The servant probably already had a scheme worked out to try and pay the debt, enough to appease the king. But the king surprised him with compassion, mercy and yes, grace. He forgave the servant debt. He placed the servant in a state of favor. Boy how the other servants must have looked on in awe at this servant that the King showed such favor to.
            The servant left the king feeling pretty good and went straight to another servant who owed him a little bit of money which was nowhere near the amount he had owed the king. He grabbed him and tried to get the money out of him. His answer was to sell the man as a slave to cover the debt. Sounds familiar? The king heard of this and brought the servant back and gave him a real talking to. He had lost the favor of the king. Now if only the servant had received the grace of the king and let it change his heart to become a compassionate servant just as the King was compassionate, things would have been different. He stomped on the grace given him by the king. When the king forgave him his debt, someone was going to have to pay the debt, it was owed. Who paid? The King did. The servant’s grace was very expensive but he had made it cheap. This brings up a phrase coined by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Cheap Grace”.
This brings us to the Grace or favor that the Lord has bestowed on us. It is free, but it is not cheap. Christ paid a heavy price for the Grace we have. Can you look up at the cross and see the price He paid. So many people come to Him and the Church to get what they need and not appreciate the price He paid. What does this do to Grace? It’s like standing at the cross and stepping on His spilt blood and pushing it into the mud. It’s like standing there and spitting on that blood. I did not share this when I preached this in Church, but it’s like so many are pissing at the foot of the cross and taking His clothes. How are we doing this you may ask? We do it by living our lives without giving Him all of ourselves. How grievous is this sin of cheapening the Grace of God, of stepping out of His free favor to live our lives outside his grace. When I get up in the morning and I can feel His drawing me to commune with Him in prayer and the word, but instead I choose to settle down to a movie and wash the grace He has given me. Let us look up to the Cross and accept this Grace He purchased for us, the favor of a King. As the song goes, “We owed a debt we could not pay, He paid a debt He did not owe, and Christ Jesus paid a debt, a debt we could not pay.” When the loving Lord has given us so much, we indeed deserve Hell if we reject His Grace.