Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘What Is ‘God’s Mercy and Grace?’
© January 17, 2016 by Steve Mickelson
Based on a Message shared with BLCF Church on Sunday July 11, 2010
Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #616 – Second Part Only (Living Psalms – Psalm 23 – Paraphrased); Prayer
Opening Hymn #286: Years I spent in Vanity and Pride
Tithing and Prayer; Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings; Choruses
Scriptures Verses: Psalm 23, Romans 5:20-21, Ephesians 1:3-9
Psalm 23 (ESV) The Lord Is My Shepherd
– A Psalm of David.
23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.[a]
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness[b]
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,[c]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely[d] goodness and mercy[e] shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell[f] in the house of the Lord
Footnotes: a. Psalm 23:2 Hebrew beside waters of rest b. Psalm 23:3 Or in right paths c. Psalm 23:4 Or the valley of deep darkness d. Psalm 23:6 Or Only e. Psalm 23:6 Or steadfast love f. Psalm 23:6 Or shall return to dwell g. Psalm 23:6 Hebrew for length of days
Let us pray…
For today’s lesson, we will be looking at ‘What is ‘God’s Mercy and Grace?’ Mercy and Grace, when referenced to God are usually used interchangeably by both believers and non-believers alike. We often speak of the God ‘s Mercy being involved when we avoid a catastrophe or disastrous circumstance in our lives. It is often used to describe a situation where we experience events that have good or positive outcome, when the anticipated outcome should be bad or negative, and no one can explain why this has occurred.
So what do we mean when we talk about grace? Let’s check our Wikibits:
Spiros Zodhiates, author of The Complete Word Study Dictionary:
New Testament defines Grace is the word most frequently used in modern Bible translations for the original Greek word charis. There is no simple English-language equivalent. Charis means “that which causes joy, pleasure, gratification, favor [and] acceptance, for a kindness granted or desired . . . [and] a favor done without expectation of return; the absolutely free expression of the loving kindness of God to men in the bounty and benevolence of the Giver Charis is also translated as “favor,” “thanks” and “pleasure.” It comes from the Greek verb chairo, which means “to rejoice” (same source). A simple way to define grace would be to think of it as God’s unearned, undeserved favor toward us—motivated by His love and concern for us, especially those of us who accept His invitation to enter into a relationship with Him. It encompasses all of the wonderful gifts God so graciously offers us.
Similar to the above scenario, when we see another who has fallen into circumstances, we use the expression, “There, but for the Grace of God, go I”
There is a problem in using the two terms, Grace and Mercy, interchangeably. For while God’s Grace and Mercy, in some ways are not used not mutually exclusive of each other, that does not mean one is synonymous to the other.
Mercy is what grace offers. The grace of God comes to us in our poor sinful condition and offers us the mercy of God when we deserve His wrath. So grace comes to us giving us mercy.
Grace is most commonly called “unmerited favor”. Grace is what God offers to fallen sinners through the salvation obtained by the atonement of Jesus Christ. We call it grace because it is undeserved.
The forgiveness we receive in Christ is through no work we ourselves do, it is for this reason we call it “unmerited favor”. (Romans 3:24, Ephesians 1:7, 2:8-10, Titus 2:11)
Rolfe Barnard defines the relationship of the two as:
“Mercy is God’s favor that holds back from us what we deserve. Grace is God’s favour that gives us what we do not deserve.”
Thomas Goodwin puts it this way:
” ‘Grace’ is more than mercy and love, it super adds to them. It denotes, not simply love, but the love of a sovereign, transcendently superior, one that may do what he will, that may wholly choose whether he will love or no. There may be love between equals, and an inferior may love a superior; but love in a superior, and so superior as he may do what he will, in such a one love is called grace: and therefore grace is attributed to princes; they are said to be gracious to their subjects, whereas subjects cannot be gracious to princes. Now God, who is an infinite Sovereign, who might have chosen whether ever He would love us or no, for Him to love us, this is grace.”
Another way of describing God’s grace is calling it Divine grace. is found in the Wikipedia Encyclopedia:
Devine Grace is a theological term which is present in many and varied spiritual traditions. It is God’s gift of salvation granted to sinners for their salvation. However, there are significant differences between the ways people of different traditions use the word.
Within Christianity, there are differing conceptions of grace. In particular, Catholics and Protestants use the word in substantially different ways. It has been termed “the watershed that divides Catholicism from Protestantism, Calvinism from Arminianism, and modern liberalism from conservatism”. Catholic doctrine teaches God may use the sacraments to facilitate the reception of His grace. Protestants generally do not hold that view.
Grace in this context is something that is God-given, made possible only by Jesus Christ and none other.
Romans 5:1-2 (King James Version) “1Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand…”
Galatians 5:4 (King James Version) “4Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.”
The view that Christians have on grace is that it is undeserved mercy that God gave to us by sending his son to die on a cross to give us a way to be with him in for the balance of eternity.
However, the Greek word used in the Bible is Charis pronounced khar’-ece, in which Strong’s Concordance gives this interesting definition:
“The divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.” The Greek word charis is related to two other Greek/English words, which are charisma (a special spiritual endowment or influence) and character (an engraving, stamp or mark indicating the genuineness of something) Therefore, grace is given by God in reference to developing characteristics in harmony with God’s character.
Non-Christians hold a markedly different definition of grace:
By contrast, Christian believers hold with the belief that grace comes from God, as an expression of His love, and is manifested by His mercy to those who confess their sins and accept Jesus Christ as savior and redeemer.
Grace reigns through righteousness. An excellent verse regarding God’s grace and which also addresses man’s role is Romans 5:20-21 (ESV):
Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
“That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The expression “grace reign though righteousness” (charis basileuon dia dikaiosunes) reveals the climate in which grace is successful. “Righteousness” is an atmosphere of the presence of God’s commandments and man’s humble acquiescence to all that God had required of him (Psalms 119: 172, Acts 10: 34, 35).
The apostle John summarizes God’s motivation and character in three simple words:
“God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16).
His dealings with us are motivated by His love—His care, His concern and even His correction—so we can receive His gift of eternal life as members of His family.
Several of the apostles summarize God’s attitude and approach of loving care and concern for us with the term grace. Paul, Peter and John use the word quite often. What do they mean by it, and how can it help us better understand our Creator?
Paul typically starts his letters to the churches with the phrase:
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
In doing so he wanted to impress upon his audience God’s favor toward those who accept His calling.
If you look on the back of today’s Bulletin, you will see a list of Scripture Verses giving the many ways as:
The Gospel of Jesus is the message of God’s plan to offer eternal life in the Kingdom of God to all who have ever lived and will yet live. This is made possible through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in taking on Himself the penalty for our sins.
And Jesus’ Gospel includes the wonderful news that God will intervene in human affairs to save us from ourselves and send Jesus to establish the Kingdom of God on earth.
So what is the lesson, we as believers in the risen Christ, need to take home from so many expressions of God’s mercy and grace?
Grace is when you receive a good reward that you do not deserve. Mercy is when you spared from a bad judgment that you do deserve. God expresses His love by being generous with both His Grace and Mercy.
The lesson to us should be that of tolerance, forgiveness and reconciliation.
We need to show tolerance to the words and actions of others which we find offensive to both God and to ourselves. If God is just to forgive us in spite of our sins, then who are we to condemn such behavior? Throughout His ministry on earth, Christ demonstrated tolerance to those who would commonly held in contempt by so called elders of the faith. Judge not lest ye be judged.
We need to forgive others who have wronged us. The Scripture passages found in both Matthew 6:9–13 and Luke 11:2–4 , commonly called the ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, where Jesus teaches how to pray, indicates that if we expect forgiveness from God, we need to forgive others first.
In the Bible we are asked the question: “How can we claim to love our Father in Heaven whom we do not know, when we hate our brother whom we do know? In other words, if we really know God, that is know Him in our heart, we would not have room there for contempt or resentment, to seek retribution or revenge.
I find it interesting that some people are more tolerant towards strangers, than they are to those whom they know.
Finally, we should not only just show tolerance and forgiveness, which are aspects of mercy; we need to demonstrate grace by reconciling ourselves to others by working to reestablish our relationships with those from whom we have distanced ourselves. For just as God has reconciled us through the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf at the cross at Calvary, we must be reconciled to those guilty of doing or saying the unforgiveable against us. It is an un-Godly self-indulgence to hold a grudge or express contempt towards those who have wronged us.
Grace should not be considered a form of mercy from God, but rather the state of tolerance, forgiveness and reconciliation, granted by God’s grace, an expression of love which gives us His mercy, in spite of our sins. It is manifest when we confess our sins to Him and accept Jesus as our personal Savior. We may not and should not assume that while God grants us grace freely by His own will, and because of His love for us; that we are automatically entitled the Lord’s grace. There is a prerequisite, which has been mentioned several times in this sermon, which I would like to repeat in a different way:
God does not grant us grace to make us faithful and believe in Him. God gives us grace because we do have faith and believe in Him.
And we demonstrate our faith by our words and deeds, particularly towards our enemies and those we do not hold in high regard. We show that we believe in Him, when we place our concerns in His hands and trust that He would grant us the grace to endure those challenges in life that we must endure and mercy and forgiveness for those things that we have done which are not of His liking.
For our closing prayer, let me read the third of today’s Scripture Verses, Ephesians 1:3-9 (ESV), which is entitled: Spiritual Blessings in Christ.
Let us pray…
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us[a] for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known[b] to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ .
Closing Hymn #49: Surely Goodness and Mercy
Benediction: O God in Heaven, we thank you for your Mercy and Grace. We thank you for your love. We confess our sins and pray that the Holy Spirit guide our hearts so that they may be only for Him; to accept Him, to believe in Him, to praise and to worship Him for Who He is, the One who redeemed us by the sacrifice of Himself, in the person of Jesus Christ who is God. – Amen