What is the Gospel of Grace?

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

If you were to compare all the religions in this world, there are actually only 2 types:

1) Those that teach that Salvation comes by works, or

2) those that teach that Salvation is by grace.

Salvation by works means you get to heaven by your own merit. You discipline yourself by meditation, philosophy, yoga or other restrictions imposed by some human teaching. You do good works such as charity, financial contributions and other things that make you feel you can be accepted.

The reality is this…., if heaven can be attained by such means, I suggest to you that it is not worth going. Because you are going to find a lot of people there who are so proud of their achievements. Some of us may already feel embarrassed because we don’t even have the possessions that our neighbour has.

On the other hand, there is salvation by the free grace of God. Heaven is such a wonderful place because Jesus Christ – the God-Man who is without sin is there! And none of us sinful creatures deserve to be there! And if we ever get there, it is because God has graciously opened our eyes to see how unworthy we are. And in spite of our unworthiness, He paid the price required to bring us there. Jesus gave His life to pay for the sins that we have committed. (Check out this sermon to understand the required redemption for our sins). And He lived a sinless life – which is the requirement for anyone to get into heaven. And all these are accorded to us when we believe in Jesus Christ…..That’s grace – totally unmerited salvation! You can’t do anything to achieve it – it is totally a gift from God! This is the gospel of grace!

Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

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Neh 10:30 – Be not unequally yoked…

We would not give our daughters as wives to the peoples of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons. Neh 10:30

2 Cor 6:14 exhorts us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. This reinforces the principle of Pro 13:20 – “..he who walks with wise men will be wise…“. Whoever we associate ourselves with will have their values influence ours. If our inner circle of friends are unbelievers, unwittingly, our minds will be influenced by their values, priorities, words & actions without our realisation.

Here in Neh 10:30, the principle is extended to marriage. The people of God should not be united in marriage with unbelievers. Who you choose as your life partner will determine the course of your life. Take heed!

What should you look for when seeking a life partner?

1 Pet 3:3-4 exhorts wives – “Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”

If this is what scriptural wives ought to be like, it means that the scriptures are directing us not to seek the external appearances, but the inner traits of character & grace in a prospective life partner. Why? Because external appearances will fade away. But character & grace are what pleases God & will last for life. These are the traits that you must find compatibility in when you seek your prospective spouse. Do read this short article from Desiring God on the 6 traits to look out for in a spouse!

John 4:23-24 – What does it mean to worship Him in spirit & truth?

‘But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”’ John 4:23-24  

What does it mean to worship God in spirit and truth? 

In spirit – because God is is spirit. He is omnipresent & omniscient. You need not be at Jerusalem or any specific place on earth in order to worship Him. You call out to Him in your spirit and He is right there. God is also not to be worshiped in any shape or form of an object. In fact, He specifically reminded us about this in the 2nd commandment – “You shall not make any image of God or bow down to it.” God is spirit. He is to be worshiped in spirit.

In truth – the truth as He has reviewed Himself in His word, the Bible. I was once acquainted with  a follower of the cult group called the Moonies. I heard this friend pray – “my father, hallowed be your name“. Was he praying and addressing the same Father of my Lord Jesus Christ whom I believe? Obviously not! But what differentiated our prayers? It was the body of truth that we individually believed in. The body of truth that he held to was based on the teachings of Sun Myung Moon. This was totally different from the truths that I believed and understood from the bible. Hence, the body of truth that we believed in our spirit distinguished whom we were addressing our prayers to. And if the body of spiritual doctrines that you hold to is different from the essential ones in the bible, you are probably worshiping a different person altogether.  This is a reminder to us that we should never belittle the importance of doctrines.

The bible teaches us that Jesus laid down His life for His sheep so that through Him, His redeemed people may approach God. If you believe this truth, your prayers are “directed” to the God of the Bible. It is this truth that distinguishes us as His children even as we obey Him to worship God in spirit and truth. May God help us worship Him in the way He prescribed.

1 Kings 21:25 – stirred to do evil by his wife

1 Kings 21:25 “But there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do wickedness in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife stirred him up.” 

Ahab was an evil king. The bible says he “sold himself to do wickedness..”. And he did this because “Jezebel his wife stirred him up”. There is no excuse for Ahab. He had to take ownership for his evil actions. He cannot blame his sins on Jezebel. We may be enticed to sin, but we are all responsible for our own sins. Eze 18:4 reminds us that “..the soul who sins shall die.” 

But notice the influence that Ahab’s wife Jezebel had on him. The verse tells us that Ahab was “stirred up” by Jezebel to do evil. How could this happen? Isn’t the husband suppose to lead and rule? Was it simply because Jezebel had a domineering character? Let’s consider other parts of the bible that may give us clues to this matter.

Gen 3:16 says of the women “…your desire shall be for your husband,..” – NKJV. The innate meaning of this phrase is brought out in the NLT version which translates it as – “..you will desire to control your husband..“. In other words, while the husband is to rule & lead the relationship, there will be a desire by the wife to prescribe how she likes things to be. We see this manifested in the relationship between Abraham & Sarah. While Sarah was hailed as a submissive wife in 1 Pet 3:6, there were instances where this desire to “control” Abraham played up.

God had specifically promised that Abraham will have as many descendants as the stars in the sky. Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 but they still did not have any children. Perhaps Sarah was getting impatient. Perhaps she was simply feeling insecure. She probably didn’t like the feeling of being the cause of Abraham not having any children. Hence, she suggested that Abraham have a child with her maidservant Hagar (Gen 16:2). Why would any woman ever make such a suggestion? Some historians suggested that this was the practice & culture at that point in time. But this was clearly against the revealed will of God. I am inclined to think that it was because she felt insecure and wanted to maintain control of the situation. She wanted her family to appear complete – with children as God had promised. And there was no way she could make that happened. Hence, she directed her husband Abraham to have a child with Hagar.

And as in all situations when we fail to obey God’s revealed will, there were consequences. So, after Hagar conceived, she despised Sarah. And in reaction to this, Sarah blamed everything on Abraham – Gen 16:5 “Then Sarai said to Abram, “My wrong be upon you! I gave my maid into your embrace; and when she saw that she had conceived, I became despised in her eyes. The LORD judge between you and me.” And we were told in Gen 16:6 that Sarai dealt harshly with Hagar – who was pregnant. How evil of Sarai and how very unreasonable! Wasn’t she the one who suggested this plan in the first place? What could have invoked such cruel behaviour from her? Once again, I am inclined to believe that it was because she felt she was losing control. When a woman goes into such frenzy, we are reminded of the truths in Prov 21:9; 21:19; 25:24 – that it is “better to dwell in the corner of a housetop or wilderness than in a house with a contentious woman“.

When we read of such things in the scriptures, we are sad and reminded of how terrible a state sin has brought about in us. There are important lessons we can learn here:

1) As partners in life, a wife can be a blessing or a curse to husbands. John Wesley had a wife known to be unhelpful to his ministry. She was apparently suspicious of every woman he spoke to, thereby limiting his ministry in so many ways. Why did she do that? I can only think of the truth conveyed in Gen 3:16 that she felt insecure and wanted absolute control of her husband. Hence, it is important that young men do not seek wives based on their appearances or capabilities. These may become snares to them later in their life and relationship. Character & grace should be the most important criteria for what young men seek in their prospective life partners. These are the traits that will last. Similarly, young women should seek such traits in their prospective life partners. Otherwise, they will lack the spiritual leadership that they desire.

2) The challenge laid out for the husband is a tough one. He is to love his wife sacrificially, just like how Christ loved the Church and gave Himself to redeem her. The husband is not to submit to the wife. Instead, he is to lovingly influence her and stir up in her love and good works. This can only be done with great wisdom in handling the various situations that will be encountered in the life together. And this wisdom can only come about with much prayer and devotion to God.

3) When made aware of this truth conveyed in Gen 3:16, a couple ought to prayerfully submit themselves to God for protection. Wives in particular ought to resist the temptation of desiring to “control” their husbands. Husbands ought to protect their wives by not letting them feel any sense of “losing” control, lest they get tempted to manifest irrational behaviour.

We should note that in spite of what Sarah had done, she was hailed as an example of faith in Heb 11:11. She was also commended for her submission to Abraham in 1 Pet 3:6. How can this be for all the apparent evil she committed in the saga with Hagar? Unless her sins are erased by a Saviour who gave Himself to redeem her. And this is the hope that all of us have when we confess our sins to Jesus – the promised Seed in Gen 3:15 who bruised the serpent’s head.

Let us be instructed by the lesson of the scriptures here.

 

Judges 16:28 – Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God…

“Then Samson called to the LORD, saying, “O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, …””  ‭‭Judges‬ ‭16:28‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

This was Samson’s prayer when he was humiliated by the Philistines. He had lost his eyes. He had lost his great strength. But in the depth of such helplessness, he prayed. Lo and behold, the LORD heard him. And the LORD answered his prayer! Here are 2 lessons I see amongst many in this verse:

Firstly, Jesus taught us to ask, even when it seems ridiculously “out of our mind” to do so. He told us the parable of the friend who came at midnight seeking for some food to entertain his visitor. It was simply unthinkable to make such a request. Yet, the request was granted because of the persistence of the one who asked.

The lesson for us is simply this: we may be brought to a humbled state due to our own folly and we feel “too embarrassed” to ask for God’s mercies. Yet, we ought to ask. Samson did just that and God answered his prayer.

Secondly, God’s grace is amazing & supernatural. God is not obligated to grant sinners any pardon or privilege. Unfortunately, many people only realise this when they are in circumstances similar to what Samson was experiencing. But God’s grace is amazing and supernatural. He did not need to answer Samson’s cry for help. Yet, He did.

This passage exists in the scriptures to help us appreciate the fact that God’s grace was extended to a sinner who called out for help. It was a sinner who ought to be ashamed of all the wrong he had done, all the misuse of gifts and privileges bestowed to him. And this prayer of a totally unworthy sinner was heard by a God who is gracious and merciful. And this God could extend His pardon to sinners was possible because He earned their pardon by His own Son’s  death on the cross.

 

Judges 16:20 – He did not know that the lord had departed from him…

“And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” So he awoke from his sleep, and said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!” But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him.” ‭‭Judges‬ ‭16:20‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Samson did not realise that the LORD had departed from him. Let us ask several questions related to this matter:

Is Samson a believer, a Christian in the Old Testament?

Heb 11:32 named Samson as one of the heroes of faith. This confirms that he was a believer, an Old Testament saint. The scriptures tell us that his life does not reflect well of a believer. Yet, God used him to bless Israel. But God also heavily chastised him to bring him back to the right path. This is a key sign of a believer – he will repent of his sins because God will work is us to do so.

What does it mean that God “departed” from him?

If we believe that Samson was a believer, how could it be that the LORD departed from him? Would the Holy Spirit ever leave a believer? No! But a believer can be living in sin and grieving the Holy Spirit. In this case, his sense of the presence of God in His life can be so weak that it could feel as if God was not with Him at all. The Holy Spirit could be grieved and withhold His grace in influencing us. How sad a situation! Samson did not even realise that the LORD was not with him. May God help us that we do not decline to such a state.

How can we avoid this experience of Samson?

“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” ‭‭James‬ ‭4:7-8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬.

JuJThe bible teaches us to “put off” our old ways and “put on” Godly practices. We are not to “put off” and be left with a void. We are to actively “put on” that which is good. The Apostle James teaches us to “resist and flee from the devil”. He did not stop there. He exhorted us to “draw near to God”. This is the simple prescription to avoid the sad state that Samson fell into.

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By Grace through Faith…..Eph 2:8-9