Grace to You
August 5, 2018
Many people believe that you should get what you deserve. And this belief is everywhere. A man comes home from work tired and thinks to himself, “I deserve a raise.” A woman shakes her head at the news story and says, “That guy deserves to go to jail.” A teen gives boyfriend advice and says, “Girl, you deserve better.” A sports radio host argues, “He deserves to be the MVP.” A political activist shouts, “We deserve an answer!” A writer argues, “She deserves a second chance.” A food website says, “Here are seven restaurants that deserve your attention.” A movie website says, “Here are seven Marvel characters that deserve to have their own movie.” This belief is everywhere. And it is profound. You should get what you deserve.
But the salvation of sinners does not quite work like this.
Paul ends the greeting or salutation of his letter to the Ephesians with these words: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” This morning, I would like to do one thing. I would like to explain to you the meaning of the word “grace.” I would like to talk to you about the grace of God.
The grace of God can be defined like this. It is unmerited favor. It is love that is not deserved. It is approval that is not fair. Unmerited favor. This is the meaning of the grace of God.
When it comes to salvation, there are so many curses that God does not give to us - so many curses that we deserve. We deserve eternal death in hell. We deserve God’s judgment and wrath. We deserve justice and war. We deserve hate. We deserve rejection and abandonment. We deserve silence and hopelessness. We deserve all of this. This is merited disfavor. This is what we deserve.
When it comes to salvation, there are so many blessings that God gives to us - so many blessings that we do not deserve. We get repentance and faith. We get the forgiveness of our sins. We get the righteousness of Christ. We get eternal life. We get a new heart and a new mind and a new name. We get reconciliation and peace. We get election and adoption and inheritance. We get God’s word and we get to talk to him in praise and prayer. We get the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. We get the church. We get Fatherly patience and wisdom and discipline. We get intercession. We get future exaltation and glory. We get the new heavens and the new earth. We get a place prepared for us and a seat at a banqueting table. We get true joy. We get love. And we get the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We do not deserve him. And we do not deserve any of these blessings of salvation. But we have Christ. And we have everything that comes with him. This is unmerited favor. This is what we do not deserve.
This is the grace of God. This is what Paul introduces in his greeting to the Ephesians.
Praise be to our God! We have God’s unmerited favor. We have a love that is not deserved. We have an approval that is not fair. We have the grace of God. Praise be to our God!
It is important to remember this. We need to be reminded of God’s grace all the time.
Shortly after ten o’clock every Sunday morning, I stand up and walk over to this wooden podium and I greet our church. I say a few words of my own: “Good morning and welcome to Highland Prebsyterian Church.” And then I say a few words from the Bible: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
This is very intentional and very beautiful. It is very intentional because each and every one of Paul’s letters begin with it. All of his greetings and salutations speak about the grace and peace of God. And it is my intention to greet you all in the same way as we begin each and every worship service on Sunday.
But this is also very beautiful. It is beautiful to begin each and every week with God’s words of grace. No matter what your previous week looked like, no matter how you might be thinking or feeling at ten o’clock, no matter what, you are reminded of the beautiful fact that you have grace from God, that you will receive grace from God, and that you can always enjoy grace from God.
We need to remember the grace of God all the time. We often forget that we were once undeserving sinners. We often lose the joy of our salvation. And as we go through trials and temptations in life as pilgrims and sojourners who are waiting for the return of Christ, we can often lose sight of God’s grace as we go through suffering and persecution. But when we remember God’s grace toward us, when we remember who he is and what he did for us in Christ, then we are led to worship and trust and obey. We need to remember that we do not deserve Jesus.
God has given the church two things to remind us about his gracious salvation. He has given us his word. And he has given us the sacraments. Through the ministry of his word and sacrament, God communicates his love to us. When we read the Bible individually and corporately, God speaks to us through his written word about his salvation in Christ, and God works in our hearts to have joy and comfort because of our salvation in Christ. When we see baptism and when we observe the bread and the cup, God shows to us that he loves us and that he promises to love us now and forever. When we are ministered to by God’s word and sacrament, we understand more and more of what unmerited favor is. Thank God for the ministry of his word and sacrament.
We can be assured that we are in a state of grace before God. The assurance of God’s grace and salvation is so important to the Christian life. It is one thing to be saved. It is another thing to have the assurance that you are saved. So many believers in Christ struggle with this. They are not sure if they are in a state of grace before God. They are not sure if they have God’s favor. But they can be sure of it. In our order of worship, we take the time to read words of assurance. We need to hear assurances of God’s grace and salvation. We are frail and weak. We need the Good Shepherd’s strong words to strengthen our faith in him. Thank God that he not only saves us, but that he assures us that he has saved us.
Brothers and sisters, if God is gracious toward us, then we ought to be gracious toward others. You may be right. There may be people in your life - people who do not deserve you. But when that thought crosses your mind, please remember who you do not deserve. And let the grace of God in Christ change the way that you are before others. God’s grace ought to make us humble. This kind of humility can go a long way in the church. And this kind of humility can go a long way in capturing the world’s attention. Undeservedness is a hallmark of the Christian life. When we rightly know what we deserve and what we do not deserve, then it is much easier to be thankful and joyful in the Lord. When we rightly know that we do not deserve Christ, then we can better love others and be more gracious toward others. Let us be a church that is all about the grace of God.