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Where Do We Go From Here? God's Grace

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Where Do We Go From Here? God's Grace

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Where Do We Go From Here? God's Grace

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What is our proper response with regards to grace? What does grace mean?

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There is a question we ask after some big event in our lives, whether that event was good or maybe not so good. We ask the question maybe after the birth of a baby or we ask the question after being laid off from a job, we ask it after a high school graduation perhaps or after college graduation, maybe we ask this question after being diagnosed with some disease. We ask this question probably after marriage, we ask this question after some catastrophic event, maybe an earthquake or something. Maybe we ask this question after giving a big promotion or having some accomplishment at work. Most certainly, I’m sure parents ask this question after being faced with the empty nest syndrome for the first time when children have left the house. We ask this question after some inspiring event or maybe that we have lost someone who is near and dear, close to us, at death.

The question or the questions are - what do we do now and where do we go from here ? What do we do now or where do we go from here? Now I’m guessing it was a question that the disciples also asked after the death of Jesus Christ, based on their actions, I don’t think we actually have that recorded in scripture to the best of my knowledge, but based on their actions, they probably asked this question. If you would turn with me to John 21 and this was after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but some of the disciples were not yet aware of this and so in John 21:2 John 21:2There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.
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John 21:2-3 John 21:2-3 2 There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples. 3 Simon Peter said to them, I go a fishing. They say to him, We also go with you. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.
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- Simon Peter, Thomas called the twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples went together. And Simon Peter said to them …and here’s where I’m imagining you know the question came in just before this, he says… “I’m going fishing.” They said to him, “We are going with you as well.”

And they went out and started fishing and they didn’t catch anything but they went fishing. They probably faced the question, OK, what do we do now? All this has happened and Peter of course being the rather bold one, not always in the right direction necessarily, but the bold one, said, Well I know what I’m going to do, I’m going to go fishing! Of course Jesus Christ told them quite distinctly later what they should be doing.

Now for those of us who are baptized, we have partaken of the death and resurrection spiritually of Jesus Christ, through baptism and laying on of hands, maybe sometimes we have also that same question. We reviewed and reviewed that covenant during the Passover and we find ourselves in a similar situation, we are spiritually after these events. If we have acknowledged Christ’s sacrifice and our need for it, and we have come out of the water and had the laying on of hands. Turn with me if you would to Ephesians 2.

Ephesians 2:1 Ephesians 2:1And you has he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
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- And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of the world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit which now works in the sons of disobedience . So he says, that’s where you were.

V. 3 - Among whom we also once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh

V. 4-6 - But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ, for (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

V. 7 - That in the ages to come, He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us in Christ Jesus .

One of the great dilemmas in Christianity overall is the concept of grace and what does grace mean and in specific, what is the proper response to God’s grace? Now we have one extreme, basically nothing - I’m probably exaggerating with that just a bit, but it’s the attitude of once you have grace, you cannot lose grace. Another extreme is, someone must somehow keep earning that grace. I use the term “earning” carefully but in a sense, that we have to keep doing something to have that grace.

One issue the Church has often been confronted with that other denominations have accused us of, is that we teach a grace by works mentality, that we teach that grace is earned through keeping the Sabbath, keeping the holy days, whatever else you might want to add in there. Let’s notice verse 8&9 now of the same chapter:

V. 8-9 - For by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, and it is not of works, lest anybody should boast .

Now in James 2, so we see here, we are saved by grace, it is God’s gift to us, it is not by works, it is not somehow by earning it. And it is also through faith. Now in James 2 we are told though that faith without works is dead . Also in Philippians 2 we are told to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling but in the same breath Paul writes , God works in us to will and to do His good pleasure . So we’re saved by grace without works yet faith must be demonstrated through works. We are to work out our own salvation yet it is God who must work in us.

So the question I’d like to ask and to address today is, how do we biblically reconcile these concepts? What is our proper response with regards to grace? I would offer that part of the confusion is a lack of full understanding of what is meant when the bible uses the term grace. Does it mean mercy? Does it mean forgiveness? Does it mean being freed from the penalty of sin? Does it mean the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Does it mean unmerited pardon? It means all of these things but it means much more than these things. Let’s go to Titus 2:11 Titus 2:11For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,
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and it says here:

Titus 2:11 Titus 2:11For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,
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- For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men . Certainly has appeared in that sense by Jesus Christ but is also being made available to all men according to God’s plan. But what does the grace of God teach us?

V. 12-14 - Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, and looking for the blessed hope and the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

Now again, sometimes we’ve been accused of having a “grace by works” teaching, we don’t have that - but actually what the bible does teach is works by grace. Because of what God did, we have been enabled to do the works that He wants us to do. It is not grace by works, but it is works by grace. So if you want a title for today’s message, I just simply titled it, “Through Grace, Moving Forward.”

Now the first thing I’d like to do is take a look at how the bible uses this term “grace” because again, overall in Christianity it is typically used in the sense of forgiveness, mercy and salvation. Certainly all those belong in that but again, it is much more. In the Hebrew the word is “ kahme ” and the word is used as an adjective, it’s used as an adverb and it means “ favor ,” it means “precious ,” it means “ pleasant ,” it means “ pleasing ,” it means “ honor. ” And we won’t go to all these scriptures by any means, but a number of the patriarchs in the Old Testament, it’s written about them that they found grace. It’s not meant in the term of mercy or forgiveness. In Genesis 6 it is written that Noah found grace in God’s sight. It means he found favor in God’s sight, he was pleasing before God. In Genesis 33 it talks about that Jacob found grace in Esau’s sight, so it can be used in that sense, the word that is most often in the Hebrew translated as grace can be used in a, let’s say, non-religious context. Jacob found grace in Esau’s sight; it means he simply found favor.

Joseph found grace with Potiphar, an Egyptian, captain of the guard; Joseph found favor in that sense. And of course in Exodus 33 it is written that Moses found grace in God’s sight, he was pleasing before God, he found favor with God.

Now sometimes religious words sound abstract. One of my great challenges always when I see a word that seems religious is to find out, OK, but how does the bible use it? And often times words that we think are religious and very abstract, the bible uses in a rather practical sense and this word is one of those. It does not have to be complicated. It means that these people were welcomed, they were special in somebody’s eyes, they received special attention, they were well received, they were favored, it means a lot more than forgiveness and a lot more than mercy.

In the Greek the word is, “ charis, ” that’s one version of it at least, the version I could pronounce! This is a noun, although I believe other variations of this word can be adjectives or adverbs and it means “ a gift, a benefit, a favor, pleasure, a joy before the eyes , a blessing .” Let’s go to Luke 1 . We even have the saying, “a sight for sore eyes.” “Man, are you a sight for sore eyes!” It means that somebody we…it’s great to see that person; they are welcome in our sight. Luke 1:28 Luke 1:28And the angel came in to her, and said, Hail, you that are highly favored, the Lord is with you: blessed are you among women.
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- this is when the angel appeared to Mary:

Luke 1:28 Luke 1:28And the angel came in to her, and said, Hail, you that are highly favored, the Lord is with you: blessed are you among women.
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- And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored …the word favored here is charis , translated as favored… the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women!

V. 29 - When she saw him; she was troubled in his saying and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Another translation simply said, “ You have found grace with God .” You have found that grace, you have found that favor.

1 Corinthians 15:10 1 Corinthians 15:10But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed on me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
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- in the book of Acts on a couple of different occasions, it says about the early New Testament Church, that great grace was upon them, great favor was upon them. Great intervention if you will, we’ll get to that in a second. Paul writes:

1 Corinthians 15:10 1 Corinthians 15:10But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed on me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
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- But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; I labored more abundantly than all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. So we see what comes first, the grace comes first and Paul said then I labored to do what God expected me to do.

We know the scripture and we’ll get to it later in 2 Peter 3:18 2 Peter 3:18But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
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where we are told to “grow in the grace of God.” It is possible to grow in God’s grace, if we know how grace is used in the bible. Now our word “gracious,” we have parts of both the Hebrew and the Greek meanings and someone has shown us favor with kindness, somebody who is gracious to us, the person who was pleasant or have brought joy to us.

Now when we put these things together I think we come up with the following: God’s grace most certainly is His intervention in our lives and these days certainly picture that to a great degree, it is His gift and it is His blessing in our lives, certainly His mercy and His salvation but it is a whole lot more than that. It is also a gift, clearly, God does not have to give it, we cannot earn it and we do not deserve it. That’s about as much of a gift as you can possibly get, He does not have to give it, we cannot earn it and we do not deserve it.

Now we can also though increase in grace and that is, when our thoughts and our actions are a joy before God, when they are pleasing before God, when God wants to draw closer to us, when we are welcome in His presence as Noah was or as Moses was or as any number of the other, let’s say, patriarchs in the faith in both the Old and New Testament. We can then and must show, like Paul, that we are using that grace in the way God intended, that we are applying that and we are going forward with that.

In one sense our entire lives are because of God’s grace, everything we have is from Him, our existence, certainly our salvation through the sacrifice and life of Jesus Christ, the calling and the forgiveness that we have, the opportunity through eternal life through the holy spirit, both are gifts of course and certainly the help when we need to have that help.

Paul often opens his letters, “ Grace and peace to you from God ” - God’s favor and God’s peace be upon you. Everything is a gift because God does not owe us anything, He is not required to do anything for us except through His love and mercy He has committed Himself to us, but that is also a gift, that is His grace, that is His intervention in our lives.

Now on the one hand I suppose this could seem a little discouraging when we realize we cannot pull ourselves up by our own spiritual bootstraps. Have you ever tried that physically by the way? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps? It does not work! On the other hand, this should be incredibly encouraging because of all that God has given to us and that He is willing and wanting to give us even more, all through His grace and His favor.

Now I’m going to give to you…we basically have three areas to cover, the first one I just covered, and wanted to take a look at how grace is used a little bit in both the Old and New Testament, far more extensive than simply mercy.

The third point we’re going to discuss is about growing in grace. But there’s an important detail that we need to make sure that we are aware of, because I think sometimes, I’ve even noticed it from time to time in the Church of God that we may not have, not that we don’t have a good understanding of this, but maybe we forget it, we don’t have it really in the forefront of our minds and I think it’s illustrated best by an event that probably happened, at least according to Jewish tradition, on the seventh day of Unleavened Bread. So if you’ll turn with me to Exodus 14:10 Exodus 14:10And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD.
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, now of course the context here is that Israel has left Egypt but the Pharaoh is pursuing, the armies of Egypt are pursuing - just like sin pursues us, even when we have left sin to the baptism/laying on of hands, sin pursues us.

Exodus 14:10-12 Exodus 14:10-12 10 And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD. 11 And they said to Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? why have you dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? 12 Is not this the word that we did tell you in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.
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- And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. And they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness?” You have to feel sorry for Moses on this, I mean; my patience would have run out long before Moses did! Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, “Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?” You know, I don’t seem to remember them saying that, they were praying for hundreds of years to be released from bondage, but it sounded good, it made for good political rhetoric. “ For it would be better for us to serve the Egyptians than we should die in the wilderness.”

V. 13-14 - And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today you will see no more forever. The Lord will fight for you and you will hold your peace!” So be quiet already!

V. 15 - And the Lord said to Moses, “Now why are you crying to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward .” He said, go forward, I haven’t released you from bondage so you can stand around in the wilderness looking at yourselves, you need to go forward! You can think about that a little bit, that’s not my main point here.

V. 16 - “ Lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel will go on dry ground through the midst of the sea .”

And maybe some of you caught the Ten Commandments movie that was again on TV this week and had a pretty good depiction of that. So God said, you go forward and they’re going to go forward on dry land and everything is going to be fine.

Now - here’s my question for you - where at this moment was the cloud and the pillar of fire? God said He would lead them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, where was the cloud and pillar of fire? Now some of you have read ahead and already know the answer, so I’m not going to call on you! It was NOT in front of them, it was behind them.

Point two for today’s message is part of grace is that God has our back . When He tells us to move forward, we can do so with confidence, like He told Israel to move forward because He’s got our back covered, He’s protecting what we cannot protect - and that’s in verse 19:

V. 19 - And the angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them .

This is the ultimate; I’ve got your back. When God tells us to move forward, He is there to protect us from what we can’t see. Now much more than that though, it is much more than protection, God is there for us, He wants us to succeed, He wants us to keep moving forward, that is what living in grace, from the bible definition of grace, is all about. He is there to support us.

Now let’s go back to the discussion just for a moment - grace by works or works by grace. If we have the mentality of grace by works, we’re always going to be in the fear that we are not good enough, that we have not done enough to merit God’s favor - and you know what? You’ll be right! We haven’t done enough; we can never do enough to merit God’s favor from this perspective, of somehow earning His grace. No amount of righteous deeds can atone for sin; no amount of righteous deeds can earn God’s grace. With this attitude, we take on the mentality we think it’s all up to us and we actually, in some ways, deny what God is doing with us and doing for us, because somehow we think we have to do it all. If we have the mentality though, by God’s grace, we are going to do the works that He asks us to do, we’re going to go forward both in terms of our lives and in terms of serving His people. That means we acknowledge that God has already extended His favor to us in every sense, He has our back, we have His confidence, not because we’re some great mighty perfect people, we’re not - but the fact is is that He is there and we should go forward in confidence, laying hold of eternal life because God has our back. Just like when He told Israel to go forward, go across that sea, He was there to protect them. Let’s go to Romans 7:22 Romans 7:22For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
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, now Paul certainly struggled as well, we all do when we think about what kind of miserable condition am I in? But Paul said:

Romans 7:22 Romans 7:22For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
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- For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man, but I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members . O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? He says , I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. Notice chapter 8:1:

Romans 8:1 Romans 8:1There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
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- There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the spirit.

Now, this is not a once saved, always saved doctrine, by no means, we will see that from Paul himself a little bit later in Philippians, actually in the next verse . But what he is saying here is that go forward in faith, go forward in confidence, he says if you are walking according to the spirit, God is going to be there to do what you cannot do, or do what I cannot do, or we cannot do. He’s going to be there for us, because of His mercy and because of His favor towards us. He gives us a vote of confidence here; he says there is no condemnation if we are walking and moving forward. There would have been problems if Israel had turned around to try to face the Egyptians, they would have lost, but they kept moving forward God says and I had your back.

V. 14 - For as many as are led by the spirit of God, these are the sons of God, you do not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you have received the spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” That’s the confidence God wants us to have.

V. 29 - For whom He did foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

So again we see here that God has a plan for us, He is banking on the fact that there will be more than one Son for all eternity.

V. 30-31 - Moreover whom He predestined, those He called; those He called He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. What should we say then to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Why do we worry?

V. 38 - For I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any created thing …I wish he just would have used the word “etc.” here… should be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

To me what is very interesting is if you go from what Paul writes in Romans 7 to Romans 8 - in Romans 7 he is watching this war going on with himself and within himself and yet, still realizing that, he writes all the encouraging things that we just read, a lot more than what we just read but he writes all the encouraging things, despite the battles and trials and tribulations that we must wage, but we can do so with confidence, we can do so knowing God is there backing us up. Let’s go to Philippians 3 now please.

Philippians 3:10-12 Philippians 3:10-12 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death; 11 If by any means I might attain to the resurrection of the dead. 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
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- That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if by any means I might attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I’ve already attained …let’s make sure that that’s clear, Paul never assumed that he was already home free, he did not assume that it was a once saved-always saved doctrine, that’s nowhere taught in the bible and he says that here, he says… or that I’m already perfected; but I press on that I may hold of that to which Christ Jesus laid hold of me .

V. 13-14 - Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but here’s what I do …he says I don’t assume I’m there yet, but he also says I’m also not back here, I’m not there, but I’m not back here and I’m not even back where I was a couple days ago… forgetting those things which are behind and I reach forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal of the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus.

Israel had left Egypt, but they weren’t in the Promised Land yet and because of that God said, you just need to keep moving forward, but you can do so in confidence, you can do so in faith, you can do so in trust. Now let’s go to a parable in Matthew 25:14 Matthew 25:14For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered to them his goods.
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Matthew 25:14 Matthew 25:14For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered to them his goods.
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- “ For the kingdom of heaven is a like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents and to another two and another one, each according to his ability and immediately went on a journey.

And you know the story, so I’m not going to repeat the entire parable here, the one who had five he not only kept, he increased, he did something with the gift that he had been given, he increased it and likewise the two did that, but the one who had the one just simply buried it in the ground. He’d been given something but had done nothing with it. And of course:

V. 19 - “ After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with him.” And he said to the first two, “Well done, good and faithful servants ” and then V. 24:

V. 24 - “ Then the one who received one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you were a hard man reaping where you had not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed and I was afraid and went and hid your talent in the ground and look, you have what is yours.’”

And that’s all he had, he had done nothing with the favor and the trust that the master had imparted to him, he did nothing with it. But he had been given that and of course again he said, You wicked and lazy servant, you should have done something with it at least. But he did nothing. We want to be like the first two servants.

I’d like to go to a couple of examples in the Old Testament about God having our back. Let’s go to Joshua 9 . I’m going to give you the synopsis in Joshua 9 and 10:

When they entered the Promised Land, God said you shall make no alliances with the nations; you’re to drive out these nations. Well one nation, Gibeon, tricked Israel and basically fooled them into thinking that they had come from a faraway place, it was not within the territory God had promised them and tricked them into believing that, and tricked Joshua into making an alliance with Gibeon. And so Joshua, thinking, OK, they’ve come from far away, I don’t have to worry about violating God’s command, he made an alliance with Gibeon. Well they very soon found out that this was a trick and that Gibeon was actually within the territory and Gibeon had to become slaves for that. So they in a sense, disobeyed God’s commandment, they had made an alliance with a nation within the Promised Land. Later on Gibeon was attacked and we’re going to pick up that story beginning in chapter 10 of Joshua.

Joshua 10:4 Joshua 10:4Come up to me, and help me, that we may smite Gibeon: for it has made peace with Joshua and with the children of Israel.
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- “ Come up with me and help me that we may attack Gibeon for he has made peace with Joshua and with the children of Israel.” Therefore the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, of Jarmuth and of Lachish, and the king of Eglon, went up together and they and all their armies and camped before Gibeon and made war against it.

V. 6 - And the men of Gibeon sent to Joshua at the camp at Gilgal saying, “Do not forsake your servants; come up to us quickly and save us and help us, for all the kings of the Amorites who dwell in the mountains have gathered together against us .”

Now at this point, Joshua probably would have been in his rights to say, Listen, you fooled us once, shame on you, fool us twice, shame on me, you know, you caused this to happen, you take care of yourselves, he said we weren’t even supposed to make a treaty with you! But:

V. 7 - Joshua ascended from Gilgal, and he and all the people of war were with him, and all the mighty men of valor . Take a look at verse 8:

V. 8 - And the Lord said to Joshua, “Don’t fear them for I have delivered them into your hand, not one of them shall stand before you.”

God said, I know you didn’t cause this, I know you got tricked, but I’m going to back you up on this one. I’m going to be there, I’m going to back you up even though you shouldn’t have made the alliance with Gibeon, you should have done your homework maybe a little bit better but I’m going to back you up and I’m going to make sure that you defeat these armies. So despite the fact that it didn’t go overly well in terms of the treaty with Gibeon, it did go overly well in the fight, but in terms of the treaty with Gibeon, God backed up Israel.

Let’s go to another example, 2 Chronicles 30 - this one actually happened during the Days of Unleavened Bread. This was during the time of Hezekiah, he became aware of the Book of the Law and what they should be doing in terms of keeping the spring Feast days.

2 Chronicles 30:13 2 Chronicles 30:13And there assembled at Jerusalem much people to keep the feast of unleavened bread in the second month, a very great congregation.
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- Now many people, a very great assembly, gathered at Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the second month. They had already missed the first month, God had to give them direction back in the time of ancient Israel, that if you missed keeping the Passover in the first month, there was an allowance to keep it in the second month, so that’s what they were doing.

V. 14-15 - They arose and took away the altars that were in Jerusalem, and they took away the incense altars and cast them into the Brook Kidron. And they slaughtered the Passover lambs on the fourteenth day of the second month. And the priests and the Levites were ashamed and sanctified themselves and brought the burnt offerings to the house of the Lord .

V. 16 - They stood in their place according to the custom, according to the law of Moses a man of God; the priests sprinkled the blood received from the hand of the Levites .

V. 17-18 - And there were many in the assembly …now here is what the interesting part is… there were many in the assembly who had not sanctified themselves, therefore the Levites had charge of the slaughter of the Passover lambs for everyone who was not clean, to sanctify them to the Lord. For a multitude of the people, many from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the Passover contrary to what was written . So they really didn’t have all their ducks in a row, let’s say, yet in terms of being cleansed and being purified, ritually speaking, even though it was the second month. But notice what happened here:

V. 18-20 - But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the good Lord provide atonement for everyone who prepares his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though he is not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary.” And the Lord listened to Hezekiah and healed the people.

So even though they hadn’t done everything quite right yet, Hezekiah prayed and said, Listen, the hearts are right, we’re trying to recover from all the time of idolatry, please forgive us and honor what we’re trying to do - and that’s what God did. So God does have our back and that is a part of the grace that we are given.

It’s important to remember that sin, now I’m going to say this carefully, let me say my next two sentences before you jump to too many conclusions! Sin is not failure, sin is a failure but sin doesn’t have to be failure, a sin does not have to be failure if we’re walking the path that God asks us to walk and every once in a while we fall into the ditch. That’s where Christ says come boldly before the throne of grace and seek help in time of need. Sin is a failure, but even after baptism, when we sin and fall short, it doesn’t mean all of that is lost. God’s grace is bigger and God has our back.

Third and final point, growing in grace . Let’s go to Acts 24 . Clearly a huge part of God’s grace is His intervention where we can do nothing, we cannot save ourselves from our sins, we’ve discussed that. We’ve discussed the huge aspect of grace that God has our backs, He wants us to succeed and He will help us where we cannot help ourselves. He wants us to go forward with confidence, with strength, not because of ourselves but because of who He is.

Now let’s talk about growing in grace, as in growing in favor with God.

Acts 24:24 Acts 24:24And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ.
American King James Version×
- Now after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; at a convenient time I will call for you.”

Acts 13:43 Acts 13:43Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.
American King James Version×
, if you remember back in Titus it talks about that the grace of God should teach us self-control, it should teach us that we are to walk the narrow path and that’s what it means when it talks about growing in grace.

Acts 13:43 Acts 13:43Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.
American King James Version×
- Now when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God . He said continue in that which you have been given in all aspects.

Because of the first definition of grace, God’s gift, God’s mercy, it’s His intervention, His forgiveness, His love, kindness and compassion, we have the opportunity to grow in the second definition and that is favor with God, that we are welcome in His sight, that we are a joy to Him whenever He sees us.

So how do we grow in grace? Let’s go to James 4:6 James 4:6But he gives more grace. Why he said, God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
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. It says here:

James 4:6 James 4:6But he gives more grace. Why he said, God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
American King James Version×
- But He gives more grace …it is possible to receive more grace from God, the biblical definition of grace… Therefore He says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble .” Shows favor, shows kindness, not that we earn it, but He says that is what is extended to you.

V. 7-10 - 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. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

He will lift you up - that is the only attitude that we can approach God with. But humility will allow us to grow in grace and God will lift us up. Let’s go to I Peter 5 . Being humble though does not mean being fearful. If you think back to the servants with the talents, it does not mean being fearful, it does not mean we’re so paralyzed that we can do nothing, it just means that we have the correct perspective of us with God. But having that correct perspective not only means that we realize how much greater God is than us, that is most certainly true, but it also means that we realize how much God loves us and how much He wants us to succeed, and going forward with that and with that attitude. 1 Peter 5:5 1 Peter 5:5Likewise, you younger, submit yourselves to the elder. Yes, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble.
American King James Version×
- similar to what we just read in James.

1 Peter 5:5 1 Peter 5:5Likewise, you younger, submit yourselves to the elder. Yes, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble.
American King James Version×
- Likewise you younger, submit yourselves to your elders. Yea, all of you be submissive to one another and be clothed with humility …he says humility ought to be our clothing, that when people see us or think about us, the first thing they don’t think of is, you know, somebody with a rather elevated opinion of him or herself… clothed with humility …that ought to be what people see and realize… for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

V. 6 - Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him for He cares for you . And he goes on again to discuss about Satan and then verse 10:

V. 10 - But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered awhile, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you .

Let’s read that again - after you have suffered a little while , this is what God’s grace will bring, God’s favor, He will perfect, establish, strengthen and settle us . I think at any one time we could all use all of these traits that he just described, no question about it.

Grace also, in terms of growing in grace, we’ve already read actually back in Titus, talks about grace growing through righteousness. Let’s go to Romans 5:21 Romans 5:21That as sin has reigned to death, even so might grace reign through righteousness to eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
American King James Version×
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Romans 5:21 Romans 5:21That as sin has reigned to death, even so might grace reign through righteousness to eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
American King James Version×
- So that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord .

And in Psalm 84 , we’re not going to go there, but it talks about that God gives grace and glory to those who walk uprightly. We read also in Romans 8 that if we’re walking according to that spirit, if we’re walking and doing and walking the path of righteousness, then we don’t have to worry about condemnation. It doesn’t mean that we’re there yet, doesn’t mean that we’re home free, but it does mean that we can walk - or that we can have confidence in the walk that we are doing.

We don’t earn the grace that we have received, we cannot demonstrate that we somehow deserve it, let’s be clear on that, but what we can show is that we are using the grace that has been given to us in a productive manner. How are we using that? How many times does that go through our minds on a daily basis? How can I use God’s favor that He has extended towards me today? What can I do with that? With the wonderful blessings that He has given us at this time. We grow in God’s favor by showing that we want to be an active part of the solution and not of the problem.

The last point , in terms of growing in grace, is that we need to make sure that self-discipline is a part of our character , because that is the main thing that Titus wrote about when he talked about grace. We need to make sure that self-discipline is part of our character. You know, grace cannot express itself when every space, so to speak, in our spiritual nature is taken up by actions and thoughts, the opposite of grace. We need to make sure that we are thinking about what God’s favor means and actual practice and in our thoughts and our actions.

Let’s face it, most of us do not lead lives that require a great deal of self-discipline or self-control - we are not in the military, most of us are not training for some Olympic event, at least not that I know of. While we have schedules to keep, they are usually not precise to the minute, not even mine; we can basically say what we want without the fear of immediate retribution, we can for the most part buy what we want, although those days are quickly coming to an end. We have friends, we can have friends or not have friends that we want, we can basically eat and drink what we want, we have freedom to travel, we have numerous other freedoms in this country that do not require a great deal of self-control. We have a life that we can basically live the way that we want to live it, use self-control or not.

Yet spiritual warfare requires self-discipline, it requires self-control. Let’s go to I Corinthians 9:24. A part of fully acknowledging the favor and the blessings God has given us, both in specifics with regard to the meaning of these things and overall in general, is that we use that responsibly and that we are disciplining ourselves in order to grow in that grace and in that favor.

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 24 Know you not that they which run in a race run all, but one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain. 25 And every man that strives for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
American King James Version×
- Do you not know that those who run in a race all run but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. For everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things . In other words, they restrict themselves, you don’t see too many marathon runners, to the best of my knowledge, eating donuts during the week, sorry, that was a bad thing to bring up right now! Ice cream during the week, you don’t see them eating ice cream during the week when they’re training do you? No, they’re temperate. Now they do it to receive something that’s just a temporary crown, but we do it for an eternal crown .

V. 26-27 - Therefore …Paul says, this is how I run… I don’t run with uncertainty …he says, I know where I’m going, I know whose behind me . Thus I fight, not as one who is …just simply… beating the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others I might become disqualified . I might get off track, I might get off the course, Paul says.

It is possible to get off the course, if you’re on the course, we should go forward and can go forward with confidence, so it is possible to get off the course and Paul said discipline is required to make sure we don’t get off course. Let’s go to 2 Peter 1. We had a sermonette this past Sabbath in Cincinnati East PM about our spiritual training and we have to be in good spiritual training and condition…but that requires self-discipline that requires saying no to ourselves.

2 Peter 1:5-7 2 Peter 1:5-7 5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
American King James Version×
- But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness and to brotherly kindness love .

V. 8-9 - For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is short-sighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he is cleansed from his old sins .

We’re not moving down the road just like Israel, they forgot they were released after a time, they forgot they were released from bondage. They had gotten themselves so wrapped up in other things besides simply walking the way, that they forgot, we have to be careful we don’t forget.

V. 10-11 - Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly in the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ .

Living this way of life means we are focusing on the treasures in heaven and not the treasures on earth as we know we read in other places. Let’s go to 2 Timothy 2:3-4 2 Timothy 2:3-4 3 You therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No man that wars entangles himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who has chosen him to be a soldier.
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2 Timothy 2:3-4 2 Timothy 2:3-4 3 You therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No man that wars entangles himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who has chosen him to be a soldier.
American King James Version×
- You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one entangled in warfare entangles himself in the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier .

So if we’ve been called to a service, we’ve been called to be the servant as we heard in the sermonette today, we have been called to be God’s servant, that means we don’t get distracted by other things that take away from that good service that we are to be rendering to God. And that’s what he’s saying here, in terms of being a soldier of Jesus Christ, that’s one of our other identities, is that of being a soldier of Christ. No one engages in warfare and entangles himself in the affairs of this life that he may please Him who enlisted him as a solider . Let’s go to 2 Peter 3 and we’ll finish here. We certainly understand what God’s grace means and how it pervades our life in so many ways, we will go forward in confidence, but we will be going forward and making sure we’re going forward through humility and righteousness and self-control.

2 Peter 3:10-11 2 Peter 3:10-11 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conversation and godliness,
American King James Version×
- But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in them will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you …or ought… to be in holy conduct and godliness .

He says, since everything that is contrary to God is eventually going to have its end, what manner of persons ought we to be? Well we can be those type of people because of what God has done for us.

V. 12 - Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, of which the heavens will be dissolved being on fire and the elements, will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless, we, according to His promise, look for a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. And let’s finish with verse 17-18.

V. 17 - Therefore beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked …but he says… grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory now and forever. Amen .

God has given us His grace through His intervention in so many ways in our lives. We certainly don’t deserve it, we certainly do not earn it, He certainly wasn’t required in that sense, to give it to us. But let us be growing in His gracious favor, showing the depth of appreciation for His intervention, for what He has done for us and what He is doing with us, taking advantage of His grace in the right way, to be well pleasing to Him. Let’s make sure we do so with confidence, let us move forward in grace because not only is God leading us, let’s not forget, He also has our backs.