Trust you all had a Merry Christmas, celebrating the birth of Jesus and enjoying time with the blessing of your families. Today, we’re continuing with our message series Extravagant Grace with the message Saved by Grace. We’re going to be talking about the incredible transformation that happens in everyone who is saved by grace.
As an example of the transformation that grace can make in a person’s life, I’d like to tell you the story of John Newton. John was born in London in 1725. John’s mother was a Christian and taught him from the Bible until she died prematurely of tuberculosis when John was only 6. John grew up too fast after that and began sailing on merchant ships at the age of 11. As he grew into his teens, he began working on slave ships that carried goods to Africa and returned with slaves.
John began to drink heavily and got into all kinds of trouble. He was described by those who knew him as having the most profane mouth of anyone they’d ever heard. He mocked believers, went through public floggings for misdeeds, was captured and held as a slave himself in Africa, suffered bouts of depression and miraculously escaped death on a number of occasions.
In 1748, at the ages of 23, John’s ship encountered a very severe storm. All of the livestock on board were washed into the sea. The crew tied themselves to the ship to keep themselves aboard. The ship was heavily damaged by the storm and began to leak badly. The crew worked feverishly to keep pumping out the water to keep the ship afloat for four weeks, but were running out of food. In despair, John called out to God to save them. Miraculously the ship finally made it to port.
In response, John began to read the Bible, remembering what his mother had taught him. He knew that he was a sinner and couldn’t save himself from his sin. He believed that Jesus paid for his sins by dying on the cross and trusted Jesus to forgive him. John began to study for the ministry and became one of the most influential pastors in England. He worked with William Wilberforce to get slavery banned in England.
He wrote hundreds of hymns, the most famous was Amazing Grace which captured the story of God’s grace in his life. Being transformed from a profane wretch blind to the Gospel to a saved child of God who now led others to Christ. Today, we’re going to talk about how sinners like John Newton, like you and me and those around us can be saved by God’s extravagant grace.
God’s law is God’s revealed Word, particularly the Old Testament, that exposes sin in our lives. Every human being minimizes or is in denial over their sin. Often, people even rationalize the sin that they commit as being good or right.
In the garden of Eden, God was the one who defined sin as not eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God defined what was good and what was evil. When Adam and Eve ate of the tree, they chose to make their own definition of good and evil. They decided, after listening to the temptation of Satan, that eating of the tree was good, not evil as God had told them. They were very wrong and the consequences of their fatal choice reverberate to our day. God’s law exposes sin by …
Romans 3:19-20 (ESV) Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
In the Old Testament, God expands His revelation of His law through the first five books, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. God defines what is right and what is wrong. The most familiar summary of that law is the ten commandments. We are all held accountable to God for our sin of breaking God’s law. These verses in Romans show us that the law gives us the knowledge of what sin is, the knowledge of evil. Yet, these verses tell us that we can’t be justified in God’s eyes by keeping the law. Why not? Because no one ever has or could ever keep the law perfectly. We all break God’s law and …
Romans 7:9-11 (ESV) I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.
Adam and Eve were alive spiritually in the garden until the commandment came regarding the tree. Then sin came alive, tempted them, they disobeyed and died spiritually and ultimately physically. In the same way children, before they understand right and wrong are alive spiritually. The age at which they understand right and wrong is often called the age of accountability. The commands of what we’re not supposed to do and what we’re supposed to do, subtly entice us into disobedience and bring death into our lives.
In Romans 7, Paul gives the example of the law that says you shall not covet. He says that learning about that command caused him to desire to do the very thing the law warned against. And so, sin turned the law around, rather than keeping him from coveting, it was used as a temptation to covet. It’s the same thing that happened in the garden of Eden.
Just a silly illustration is if I tell all of you, don’t think about a pink elephant. Of course, you all are picturing a pink elephant in your mind. The prohibition actually achieved the opposite effect it intended. The OT law is very lengthy in both the things God commands us to do and the things we’re commanded not to do. Besides the ten commandments, we have moral laws, social laws, food laws, purity laws, feasts to be observed and sacrifices and offerings to be made. Could anyone have any hope of keeping all these laws, even if they tried their hardest? The answer is no. So, the law exposes sin in every human being and no one can be justified or made righteous by keeping the law, that is by doing good works. On the other hand …
Romans 3:21-22 (ESV) But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.
The now in this verse speaks of what Jesus has accomplished in the New Testament. The Law spoke of the coming Messiah, but did not bring the righteousness of God. Righteousness comes to those who believe and put their faith in Jesus Christ.
What is righteousness? Righteousness is being forgiven of your sins, being cleansed of evil and having a right relationship with God. Righteousness does not come by keeping the law, but through faith in Jesus. It comes through the grace of God to those who don’t deserve it.
Romans 3:23-24 (ESV) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
Circle the word all in these verses. All, everyone, has sinned. To sin is to fall short of God’s glory. God created you to show His glory to everyone and sin causes us to miss out. What is the solution to sin? God offers His grace as gift to every sinner. When we receive that gift we are justified. Justified means just as if we’ve never sinned in God’s eyes. We are forgiven. That’s what redemption means. Jesus has redeemed us, He has paid the price through His death that we might be set free from our sins.
Romans 3:27-28 (ESV) Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
These verses speak of two kinds of laws. The first is the law of works. The law of works says that if you are good enough, if you do enough good works, then God will accept you. But the law of works doesn’t save anyone, for good works cannot forgive your sins. And we all are sinners. Doesn’t matter if some are greater or lesser sinners. If we were saved by what we did, we could boast about it. But we are only saved by the law of faith, which says if you believe in Jesus, your sins will be forgiven and you will be justified. Grace provides righteousness and a relationship with God which the law could never do.
These truths are very important, because every other religion in the world teaches that you are made right with God by works, doing good things and avoiding bad things. Even many people who call themselves Christians, believe that they are saved because of the good things that they do. The Bible teaches in many places, including the verses we studied today, that no one can be saved by being good enough.
Why? Because all have sinned and even one sin brings death, separation from God in this life and the next. We receive God’s grace through faith, believing in Jesus to forgive our sins. Now, let’s look at the results of God’s grace in a believer’s life.
Romans 8:1-2 (ESV) There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
When you believe in Jesus, the Bible says that you are now in Christ. That means that when God looks at you, He sees Jesus. God no longer sees your sin, for it is forgiven by Jesus who never sinned. The law of faith is here described as the law of the Spirit of life. Sin brings death, but faith brings life. This life is eternal life that lasts forever. It sets us free from the law of sin and death. So, how does grace produce life in the believer?
Galatians 2:20-21 (ESV) I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
As Christ was crucified on the cross, so we as believers who are in Christ, have been crucified as well. What that means is that the old us, the sinner that we once were is dead. We have been born again, given new life, just as Christ was raised from the dead, for Christ lives in us. Since Jesus lives inside of us, His life empowers, guides and directs us. We live this new life in Christ, the same way that we were saved, through faith. And as we do that …
1 Timothy 1:14-15 (ESV) and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
These verses were written by Paul. Before he was saved, Paul or Saul was a zealous Jew. In fact, he was so jealous that he actively persecuted Christians. Saul was directly involved in imprisoning and killing Christians for their faith. He thought that he was doing God a service by this persecution. But Jesus reached down, appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus and God’s grace completely transformed Saul’s life. He considered himself as being the greatest sinner in his past life. But Jesus came to save him through grace appropriated by faith. Rather than persecuting Christians, Paul’s life changed to being a powerful witness for Jesus to the Gentiles and planting many churches. His life changed from being a persecutor to being persecuted for Christ.
Once we are saved by grace, that grace transforms us from the inside out so that we do keep God’s law, because it is written in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Grace produces the life of Christ in us, so that we think, act and talk more and more like Jesus. Grace produces life.
Let’s think a little more about how grace produces life in us. How does Christ live inside of us? He lives inside of us through His Spirit, the Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit lives inside of us, He speaks to us and we can speak to Him. The more that we are filled with the Spirit, the more that He can work in and through our lives. The Spirit can transform our thoughts, our desires, our physical bodies, and our actions as we submit to Him. We’ll talk more about his is a couple of Sundays, but the Spirit breaks bondage to sin and sinful habits in our lives as we cooperate with Him. The Spirit causes us to desire to live for God each and every day.
How can you share God’s grace with others? Two simple questions. Ask – Do you believe that you are going to heaven? If they answer not sure or don’t know, they’re not saved and probably trying to be good enough. To confirm, ask the second question – Why do you think God would accept you into heaven? If the answer is anything other than faith in Jesus, you have an opportunity to share God’s grace with them through faith in Jesus Christ.
Let’s summarize what God has taught us today. The purpose of God’s law is to expose sin in people’s lives. Neither the law of keeping the law can save us. We can’t be good enough to be accepted by a holy God, because everyone is a sinner, everyone breaks God’s laws. That would leave us in a hopeless situation, except for Jesus, who died on the cross to take the punishment for our sin. He lived a perfect life and so was able to pay the just penalty for our sin, death. God raised Jesus from the dead, accepting His sacrifice, so that we could be forgiven.
When we put our faith and trust in Jesus to forgive our sin, God’s grace forgives us. Grace provides righteousness to us and restores our relationship with God. Once we’ve received the free gift of God’s grace, it produces life in us. Christ lives inside of us by His Spirit and God’s grace transforms us being more and more like Jesus.