Sunday Sermons

Sunday Sermons

Grace in an Era of Demanded Rights


The Bible makes it clear that God’s grace is unmerited and undeserved and the following passages are well known on this point:


  • “ For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

  • But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8)

  • But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:4-5).


Grace and First Century Sinners


As I read the New Testament I am impressed with the attitude on the behalf of the harlots, tax-gatherers and sinners who came to Jesus and found His teaching convicting and refreshing.


  • Luke 15:1 “Now all the tax-collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him”


The sinful attitude of the Pharisees and scribes is expressed by the older son in the above parable (15:2; 28ff). Yet I want in this lesson to focus on the attitude of the sinners who found Jesus so inviting. Their attitude is revealed in what the younger son says, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (15:21).


  • I am no longer worthy to be called your son”


These people had actually written themselves off as having any hope of salvation; the Pharisees and scribes had equally written them off. They were drawn to Jesus’ teaching because Jesus offered them something completely unexpected—a real chance to be forgiven. They also viewed themselves as being completely unworthy of forgiveness. In addition, the prodigal did not see himself as deserving a “second chance” in God’s family.


  • Luke 18:14 “But the tax-collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner’”


What impresses me about the tax-collector is that he realizes that his only chance for forgiveness is undeserved mercy, and all he can do is beg to be forgiven. He is convicted by his sins (beating his breast), and at this moment is completely unaware of anyone else. He is “the sinner” which means that he knew and accepted the fact that he was 100 percent responsible for the choices he had made in life and the man he had become. He is not comforted by the fact that there were many other sinners on the planet, or even that most men were sinners like himself. In both of these examples, neither man felt that God owed them forgiveness, rather these sinners were convicted by the fact that God was even willing to forgive them.


Modern Attitudes and Grace


I find today that various attitudes get in the way of appreciating God’s grace.


  • I demand another chance”


There is no demanding in the voice of the prodigal or in the prayer of the publican, by contrast I find that in our modern society people demanding all sorts of things, including instant gratification, that someone else cover the consequences of their sinful choices or actions, and that an infinite number of second chances be available.


  • It is God’s job to forgive me”


The publicans and sinners were drawn to Jesus because they were amazed that God was willing to forgive them. Yet I find many people unmoved by the sacrifice of Christ, as if it was simply His job to die for them. The attitude seems to be, “Well God created mankind with freewill and allowed us to be tempted, therefore it is His fault that man sinned and it is His job to fix the problem”. Yet the meaning of grace is that God does not owe us forgiveness, and it is not His job or responsibility to forgive. We sinned, and God is under no legal obligation to offer grace, yet He does. Paul made it clear that Christ died for the “ungodly” which means the responsibility for our sins cannot be laid at His feet.


  • It is not my fault!”


I find that many people today refuse to accept responsibility for their own sins and excuse their bad attitudes or actions by pointing to:


  • Supposed or real parental failure.

  • Lack of advantages growing up.

  • Specific people who have let them down.

  • Society as a whole has failed them.

  • Genetics.

  • Religious hypocrites. A number of individuals today seem preoccupied with people they perceive as having Pharisaical attitudes, and blame them for their current choice of not coming to God. Yet the sinners that actually dealt with and lived among the Pharisees seem completely unconcerned with religious hypocrites. The publican in Luke 18 does not even mention the Pharisee and says nothing about him to God. The prodigal son equally says nothing about the arrogance of his older brother (who represents the scribes and Pharisees in the parable).


Consider the example of the prodigal son. He did not come home with the attitude:


  • I would never have left if you had been a better father”.

  • I know that I messed up but I don’t want to be lectured about my choices”.

  • I messed up—but so has everyone else—and you are not so perfect yourself”.

  • I made mistakes, I’ve learned from them, so get off my back”.

  • The trip to the far country was something that I just had to do for my own personal growth and it was a necessary life lesson. I know it was wrong, but it was something I had to do to be true to myself”.

  • My trip into the far country was inevitable. Even if I had to do it all over again, I would do the same thing”.

  • I’m not asking for your forgiveness but only your acceptance”.


  • No regrets for past actions”


Even people who acknowledge they have failed in many important areas, such as morality or relationally, often gloss over such failures by saying, “If given the chance to do it all over again, I probably would not change anything”. The feeling seems to be that no matter what they would have done or tried, their life would have become about the same. This seems to be an attempt to avoid owning up to sinful choices, painful memories, the God one has offended, and the people hurt in the process of living for self. There are many passages that make it clear that fate does not determine our lives, rather we determine what we become and what blessings we actually receive (Deuteronomy 30:11-14; Ezekiel 18:4ff). Every passage that mentions sowing and reaping (Galatians 6:7) is stating the truth that our lives could have been very different if we had been a sinner instead of a saint or a believer instead of an unbeliever.


  • No longer any stigma associated with sin”


It is very hard to appreciate God’s unmerited favor or to be completely convicted by grace when there is no longer any stigma associated with our sins. Or when keeping God’s law is downplayed.


  • If our sins are really no big deal, then neither is their forgiveness.

  • In fact, if our sins are no big deal, then not only will we fail to appreciate grace, but we will even be offended that we need to be forgiven. We will view God as being picky, overbearing, cruel or obsessive with minor details.

  • Instead of being convicted by the gospel message, I find that a good number of people today are insulted by the message of the cross (1 Corinthians 1:21). They are offended when the morality of their choices or present lifestyle is questioned (1 Corinthians 6:9-11), and they feel they are being slandered by passages that condemn their behavior.


  • I deserve a second chance”


We live in a society where “rights” are viewed as sacred and something that I deserve and am entitled. Yet nothing in Scripture says that “I deserve” this or that. The fact that I have sinned makes me only deserving of wrath and judgment (Romans 6:23 “the wages (what has been deserved or earned) of sin is death”). In addition, the concept of a “second chance” also needs to be addressed. By the time I hear the gospel the reality is that I am not receiving a second chance, but probably chance 1000 or maybe 10000. If you could add up the sins you committed prior to baptism, the number of sins you committed are the number of “chances” that God has graciously given you. Use the rest of your life to express to God how thankful you are for His priceless grace!