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The Grace Of God

by Mike Sanders

(Presented as the keynote message at the Kentucky Indiana Christian Fellowship in Louisville in July 2017.)

(Other messages delivered at this event may be accessed in the September edition of the Word & Work.)

 

The occasion for this presentation was the 70th anniversary of an annual Bible conference that originated in Louisville, Kentucky. The teaching sessions highlighted three areas of doctrine that had been emphasized from the beginning. They are the grace of God, dispensational premillennialism, and freedom in Christ. This was the topic for the opening session.

The basic definition for grace is “unmerited favor.” Practically defined, God has shown His favor toward me and you that we do not deserve, nor could we ever have earned. The text for this session is Ephesians 2:1-10. All quotations are NASV/95.

Notice the PAST, PRESENT, and FUTURE as we proceed in this text. The PAST is in the very first words, “And you were.” Paul was talking to the Ephesian audience. Before we pursue that past, let’s review our own and the prior 70 years as a brotherhood.

In the very early group photos of this conference see pictures of men who were influential leaders. Remember some of these names: Jorgenson, Adams, Clark, Wilson, Crowder, Schreiner, Marsh, Mullins, Boyd, Overman, and there were others. With one exception, this leadership is dead.

These early leaders took advantage of whatever means available to preach and teach the Scriptures. Publishing included the Word & Word and The Exhorter. Radio included Sowing the Seed and Words of Life. Educational institutions included Kentucky Bible College, Southeastern Christian College, Portland Christian School, and Kentuckiana Bible College. Christian camps and mission efforts,  foreign  and domestic,  are numerous.  There were others.

The tradition in this segment of the Restoration Movement is doctrinally unique. Divided and fragmented as it is, many in the RM continue to teach the grace of God. Some advocate freedom in Christ. The literal, premillennial return of Christ is taught in some other RM congregations, too. However, to find all three of these doctrines within the one group is unique.

This 70th anniversary is a time to celebrate the blessings of the past. How many have been influenced by the ministry of this brotherhood?

While thinking about the PAST, let’s remember a specific time in Joshua’s leadership (Josh. 3-4). It was after the famous, towering leader had died. Joshua is the new leadership. God chose Joshua to lead Israel back to land of their fathers. Joshua obeyed God’s instruction to collect 12 stones from the middle of the Jordan river for a monument, and a man from each tribe carried one stone to build it. The monument was a message. In days to come your children will ask you about these monuments. Then you will have the opportunity to tell them of God’s blessing and provision. “All the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, so that you may fear the Lord your God forever (4:24).” Albeit, Israel was defeated at Ai. There was sin in the camp.

Similarly, our children have asked us about brotherhood monuments. Monuments are a message, a message to the living. What do these stones mean? Why have so many churches closed? Where did the college go? It is true that God provides and His hand is mighty. “I don’t understand, Dad.” “Explain these monuments to me, please.”

The text addresses the PAST standing of the Ephesian readers, as it does ours. They were dead in their sinful way of life. Their behavior and thinking was filled indulging themselves in lusts of the flesh. They and we faced the wrath of God (2:1-3). There was nothing hopeful for them.

“But God” signals the move from the former to the PRESENT (2:4-9). “But” is a conjunction that announces a change. “But God” is a dramatic conjunction announcing a change, and identifying the Cause for the change. This text clarifies our present and completed status, “For by grace have you been saved … ” The work to accomplish this change in status, from dead to saved, is past tense. All religions teach that salvation requires you to “DO something!” It is in Christ alone that, “It is DONE.”

The grace of God is better defined when you identify His attitude of God toward you. His attitude toward you is love. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us … ” made the way for us to be moved from death to life (2:4).

The grace of God is further defined when you learn of His action for you. Your guilt has been taken by another. Jesus accomplished this finished work. Legally, our sin debt has been paid. The judge has ruled your release from prison. You are free to go. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ … (Rom. 5:1; cf. 2 Cor. 5:21)” There remains no reason for angst. We can rest in the knowledge that our sin has been separated from us, never to be remembered. We have peace with God.

Martha had never been in an airplane. This was her first flight. The company  plane was being used  to take a few people to Daytona and Martha had been invited by company owner to go on the trip. When he introduced her to me, he explained  this was a first for her. I invited  Martha to sit in the  seat immediately outside the cockpit door so she could see and we could talk along the way. She accepted.

All were aboard. The door was closed and secured. Jet engines were started and we began the taxi to the active runway. Martha was uneasy. I told her what to expect when the tower cleared us for takeoff. She was very interested and watched closely as it all happened.

Once we were airborne, I told her about a few of the instruments and asked her to watch them as we climbed. She watched intently and asked a question. Martha was not as apprehensive and I asked if she would get the refreshments and snacks from the hospitality cabinet. She was pleased to pass the treats back to the others in the cabin. Martha had all but forgotten her earlier concerns.

The remainder of the 90-minute flight was uneventful. We landed, taxied to tie-down, and shut down the engines. The other passengers de-planed, but Martha stayed until last to express her gratitude for special attention.

Martha was gleeful. She told the others what she had seen and learned. She came to me, explained what a special experience she had  had  and  complimented  me  as  a  good  pilot.  The  whole  flight  had been comfortable and  safe. Then she said on her next flight  she would  do differently. “What  will be different, Martha,” I asked. She  said, “The next  time  I  fly, I  am going  to  put  down  my whole weight!”

You and I can likewise, put our whole weight down. God’s action for your,justification by faith, has changed our status from dead in our trespasses and sins to being the “righteousness of God.” We can trust the Captain of our souls. Enjoy the peace.

Grace is further realized by God’s action in you. Now that we are in Christ, a work of transformation in you has begun. Sanctification is like the process of a baby growing into a full-grown man. God’s Holy Spirit directs this metamorphosis that we come to be like Christ (2 Cor. 3:18).

Motivated by an increasing gratitude and appreciation, we avail ourselves of the disciplines for this spiritual formation. We are diligent to choose moral excellence, knowledge, and self-control. We determine to persevere in godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. These increasing attributes are evidence of the metamorphosis.

The increasing prominence of these changes in my life is dependent upon and coupled to my appreciation for God’s grace. Said differently, where there is little or no on-going change in the life of a “believer,” the cause is due to his having “forgotten his purification from his former sins (2 Pet. 1:9).”

When little to no growth is seen among “believers,” it is determined that the high ground of the grace of God has been vacated. Could it be said that “we” no longer see growth among us because we no longer treasure the “manifold [multi-faceted] grace of God (1 Pet. 4:10)?” Have I a lesser appreciation? How could I forget (1 Pet. 1:1-11)?

The grace of God is the gift from God. We have been saved by grace, through faith. Our efforts to earn peace with God could never suffice. “Being good enough, isn’t good enough (Jack Cottrell).”2 It is not my works, nor could it ever be.

Our new and present standing in Christ is a work of God. We are His workmanship. Our Lord has and is accomplishing a hands-on, detailed work in us. It is unique and personal. Like a poem, He is writing each line, choosing each word. My life, in Christ, is purposeful and will increasingly display meaning and the beauty He has determined.

The grace of God will be increasingly obvious as His good works prepared for us. What lies ahead? Note the FUTURE in the text. Our having been created [anew] in Christ is to accomplish “good works (2:10).” Embrace this unique plan of God. In the “long ago,” you and I were on His mind. You were conceived per His timing. You were placed in that family and setting per His wisdom. Your gift set was selected per His hand. Your place and purpose were assigned per His plan.

This was done “beforehand,” so that we would walk in them (2:1O).” A plan is in place. An individual good work awaits. There is a God-work just for you. There you/we will excel because it was made for you and you were made for it. In this God-work there will be gratification and fulfillment not to be realized elsewhere. The phrase, ”that we would walk in them,” signals choice. Accepting the God-work and God-placing is volitional.

Considered individually and as this unique brotherhood of believers, does introspection affirm that we are on site and on  task?

 

      Mike Sanders served as the minister of the Buechel Church of Christ. He is now a retired UPS pilot, and serves as an adjunct professor with Johnson University.

1 This session was supplemented with a PowerPoint presentation. That PPT is available to you as an attachment to an email. Send your email request to MichaelTSanders@me.com.

2 Jack Cottrell served on faculty at Cincinnati Christian  University.  He taught the Doctrine of Grace to almost two thousand seminary  students.  I was one of those students. Set Free is available from College Press, 2009. Much of  the  material  from his courses  is available in this book.




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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10