#realtalk The Beauty of Grace
This week, we are continuing our series called #realtalk, and we are discussing having real experiences with God. Last week, Bill talked about the feeling of having a crisis of faith, and the beauty of finding that God is still there in the midst of it. This week, we are going to be talking about the beauty of grace, and we will learn several truths about grace, including how letting go of anger, bitterness, and hatred can actually lead us to freedom.
Before we dig into our message, I wanted to give a little bit of background on why we are doing this series, and why we feel so strongly that these things need to be talked about. All of us in this ministry have been affected by some sort of tragedy. As a matter of fact, I would be willing to bet that almost everyone who reads this has dealt with some sort of tragedy in their lives. In the midst of that tragedy, we all have a choice to make. Some turn to drugs, alcohol, sex, or any number of other addictions as their way of coping. We will touch on a lot of those things in this series. Another option you have, though, is to turn to God. You see, it seems like God is most real to us in our most desperate of situations, and the beautiful thing about that is, when God is all you have, you realize that God is all you need. Each of us here have reached that point at some time in our lives, and in sharing these stories with you, our hope is that you will turn to God instead of going down a path that will lead to destruction.
As a child, my mother was extremely abusive. When I was still a toddler, she beat me with a wooden rod to the point that my leg was completely black, and I still have damage in my left leg that prevents even children from being able to sit on the left side of my lap. As I got older, the beatings got worse. I won’t go into the details of every single one, but there was one particular instance that stood out above the rest. When I was in high school, I had gone to live with her. On New Years morning, I woke up to her choking me with my own necklace. I got up and ran out the door in nothing but the pajama pants I had slept in, and ran down to the local police station, which was less than a mile away. From there, I called my grandparents, and they came to get me. We had to have one of the police officers stand in the doorway so that I could get my things packed and loaded up to move back to my dad’s house. Many of my memories as a child are of hiding in my closet watching Star Trek on a black and white tv, because it was the only place I could go that I didn’t hear my mother screaming at my dad. It wasn’t just the physical abuse, either. She was every bit as verbally and emotionally abusive as she was physically. I tell you this not to say how bad my childhood was, but how great grace is.
There are several great examples of Jesus showing grace to people in the Bible, but today, we’re going to look at the woman who was caught in the act of adultery. If you have a Bible, we’re in John 8:1-11 (NLT).
“Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. ‘Teacher,’ they said to Jesus, ‘this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say’ They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger.”
Now, we don’t know what Jesus wrote in the sand, but I’ve heard many theories. One says that Jesus was writing the sins and/or the names of the men who were accusing this woman of adultery. One says that He was actually writing the word grace. We really don’t know what He wrote, but ever since I heard this story, it has fascinated me. I guess that’s a question we will have to ask Him when we get to Heaven.
V. 7 picks up
“They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said ‘All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!’ Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman ‘Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?’ ‘No, Lord,’ she said. And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
My first point is this:
1. The Beauty of Grace Is That It Is A Gift That We Do Not Deserve
The woman in the story was accused of adultery, and the law stated that she was to be stoned to death, but Jesus still showed her grace. About two years ago, I was in a bad place. I had been hurt by yet another disastrous relationship with a woman who was verbally abusive, lost my job, and had been in a car accident where I had broken my hand. On top of that, I was still carrying around the bitterness and hatred for my mother for subjecting me to an abusive childhood. I was hurt, and as a result, I was hurting others. I had spent most of my adult life lashing out at family, friends, and loved ones, and I didn’t want to be in that place anymore. See, being desperate for God is a hard place to get, but it’s a great place to be. I talked in a previous message about a book called Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman that was given to me by a friend. After reading that book, I did some research and found out that Kyle was the teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY (which I still hope to visit someday).
When I discovered his church, Kyle was in the middle of preaching a series called Getting Over It, and it talked about letting go of our hurts. It talked about giving grace to those who had hurt us. It was a beautiful conviction, because it forced me to begin the difficult process of forgiving my mother for all that she had done to me. You see, that’s what God has done for us. We do not deserve grace any more than the woman who was accused of adultery. Romans 6:23(NIV) says “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Jesus took our payment for sin, and we have grace because of that gift. Because of the grace we have received, we have been asked to extend grace to others as well. I know that this isn’t an easy thing to do, but as it says in Colossians 3:13 (NIV), “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” As difficult as it was, I knew I had to forgive my mother, or it would continue to destroy any chance I had at having a real relationship. The second truth is this:
2. The Beauty of Grace Is That It Offers Us A Second Chance
If you have accepted Christ as your savior, you were given a new life. That’s why we call it being born again. That new life was purchased by the blood of Jesus, and it comes to us through God’s grace. That was not an easy sacrifice, nor was it one that was taken lightly. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV) says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” The Good News Translation says “A new being.” We are given a completely new life. Showing that same grace to others is not always an easy thing, but it is what we are called to do as Christians. Ephesians 4:32 (NIV) says “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” For years, I was angry with my mother. In all honesty, I hated her for what she had done to me. The more I thought about it, the angrier I would become. Some of you may have heard the phrase “Hurt people hurt people.” That was me. I lashed out at everyone in my life, even though I never meant to. My anger and hatred towards my mother was destroying every relationship I had. It even affected the way I treated women I dated. I was not a physically abusive person, but I was constantly angry with them. For years, I treated women just as objects to be used for sex. I never truly loved anyone, and it was because I had grown so bitter that I couldn’t even love myself. When I forgave my mother for the things she had done, it gave me a deep sense of peace. It did not come immediately. It took a lot of work, and it still does. I wish I could say that my mother has changed, but she hasn’t. That’s the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Reconciliation requires both forgiveness from the offended and repentance from the offender. See, reconciliation requires two people, but forgiveness only requires one, and that is the beauty of it.
3. The Beauty of Grace Is That It Starts With God
Matthew 6:14-15 (NLT) says “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” It is not just a suggestion, but a command. We are told several times in the Bible to give grace and forgiveness to those who sin against us. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, said “The love of Jesus Christ covers your sins, and it also gives you the power to let other people off the hook. You’ve been forgiven, and you can forgive others.” We are able to extend grace to people who have hurt us because Christ first extended His grace to us. The healing will not be immediate, and it does not lessen the offense, but it is what we are commanded to do. Ephesians 4:26-27 (NIV) says “In your anger, do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Paul is not saying that you shouldn’t get angry. We should always be angry at sin, but we should never let that anger control us. Ephesians 4:31 (NIV) says “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, and every form of malice.” When we let that emotion control our lives, it can destroy us from the inside out. My last point is this:
4. The Beauty of Grace Is That It Changes Everything
Kyle Idleman said “God’s grace is compelling when explained but irresistible when experienced.” If it wasn’t for God’s grace being shown to us, we would not know how to show grace to others. There are many ways to show grace to people, even those who have hurt you. I’m not saying it will be easy, but it will change your life. Knowing that we have been shown grace even changes the way we look at things. We can have a joy that is not dependent on our circumstances, or on how people around us feel. Think about it this way; some of the richest environments on earth are found around volcanoes. The lava clears out all debris and gives the soil new life. In the same way, grace takes what was once dead, and gives it a bright new future. When you experience that grace, you can’t help but look at things differently. In our story in John, Jesus not only showed grace to the woman, but he also commanded her to repent. In the last part of John 8:11 (NLT), Jesus says “Go and sin no more.” The NIV translates it as “Go and leave your life of sin.” There is a change that almost always occurs when we are shown such amazing, beautiful grace. We should no longer desire to live our old lives, but should long for our lives to look more and more like that of Christ.
We thank You for Your beautiful, amazing grace. We thank You that we no longer have to live with the bitterness, anger, resentment, and hatred, but that we can let go of those things and show grace to those who have hurt us because You first showed grace to us, even when we didn’t deserve it. We pray for the strength to let go of the things that cause us to be angry and negative, and that we would lean on You for that strength. Thank You for sending Your Son to die so that we could experience that grace. I pray that we all have opportunities to extend that same grace to others in our daily lives.
In Your Name we pray
As always, if you have any questions, comments, or prayer requests, feel free to message us. We would love the opportunity to pray both with and for you. Also, if these messages are touching your life in any way, please feel free to tell us your story. Have a blessed week!!!!!