Ephesians 2:1-2:10 NIV
21As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful natureA and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. 
by Mack Phillips on March 26, 2006
Grace is a word used in a variety of ways. It is a word that has been used as an alternative term for prayer. Anybody that has ever been to a Methodist pot luck has heard this phrase, "Pastor, would you say mind saying Grace?" Here we are acknowledging our daily bread as a gift from God.
Grace is often used to describe the way a person moves. He is about as graceful as a buffalo on roller skates when he dances!
Many parents have named their daughters Grace.
Of course, none of these uses catch the true nature of what Grace is. They fall short of the true meaning. Grace has been defined as the free and unmerited favor of God.
This morning, I want to try and bring us closer to understanding God's Grace
and why it is important for believers to show grace in our lives. I will
use some stories that I hope will help us understand grace a little better.
Microsoft has a computer game called "Flight Simulator." In most versions of the game, you can choose a prop plane or a Lear jet, and you can also choose which of 180 airports around the country to take off and land.
One needs to master the skill of take offs and landings, rather important elements to having a successful flight, and once these skills are mastered you soon learn about other pitfalls. The game is very realistic. You can crash on take-off; your plane can break apart while breaking the sound barrier over Dallas. You can nose-dive into Lake Michigan at five hundred miles per hour. Neither of these occurrences are helpful if you want a successful outcome.
The greatest thing about "Flight Simulator" is should you crash and burn, the simulator always restores you. No matter what happens, you get to start all over again. You may crash and burn, your plane may fall apart; splash into the ocean, but the simulator always restores you and places you back on the runway ready to take off again.
That's the way it is with God. He's absolutely faithful to forgive us and to restore us when we mess up. We do have to repent of our sins and ask forgiveness for our daily crashes, but he will restore and get us back on the runway. Hopefully we will be a little wiser after our failures and bad decisions. More often than not, as in the simulator, we will crash and burn again and again because we do not turn from our sin.
Einstein said that a definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Bear in mind that to repent means to turn 180' from what you are doing. WE often do a 360' which puts us back where we started.
Paul tells us that God saved us by His grace when we believed; this is not something we can take credit for because it is a gift from God. But what should we do with this gift. Do we unwrap it and keep all to ourselves? Or do we take this gift of grace and then share with others this great gift we have been given?
We need to take a look at how the church is sometimes perceived to understand that, we, as the body of Christ's church, need to model God's grace. Phillip Yancy tells this story in his book "The Jesus I Never Knew." The following story was told to him by a social worker that he (Yancy) knew in Chicago. This is the story.
"This prostitute came to me in wretched straits, homeless, sick, unable to buy food for her two year old daughter. Through sobs and tears she told me that she had been renting out her two year old daughter to men interested in kinky sex. She told me that she made more by renting out her daughter for an hour than she could earn on her own in a night. "I had to do it", she said, "to support my drug habit." I could hardly bear hearing her sordid story, it made me legally liable – I am required to report cases of child abuse. I had no idea what to say to this woman.
At last I asked if she had ever thought of going to a church for help. I will never forget the look of pure, na´ve shock that crossed her face. "Church!" She cried. "Why would I ever go there? I am already feeling terrible about myself. They'd just make me feel worse."
How does this woman's story make you feel? Angry? Repulsed? Does it make you want to strike her? Would we welcome her here today? Would we condemn her? Would we show her God's grace? Can you show her your love, the love of another human being? Could we forgive her? Could we show her God's Grace? God can and would.
She felt that she could not find forgiveness at God's church. We are left to speculate why she felt this way. Was it because she had seen "the church" turn others away? Had she experienced ungrace by a church? Had a church somewhere along the way failed her?
Perhaps it was a pious, legalistic minister or church member that turned her heart from the church? We just don't know. But we do know that if she would believe that Jesus is God's Son, repents of her sins, asks for forgiveness she will be given God's grace in full measure. God loves her so must we. She is also our neighbor. This is grace!
We have all seen folks, in the name of Christianity spew hate toward their fellow man. Think how strange it must be for a non believer to witness a person, that professes to be Christian and whose faith requires him or her to love their neighbor as their self, advocate hate. There are some Christians that hate Jews, hate Muslims, and are willing to murder people all in the name of Christ. What a message we send. Where is the grace?
The following quote comes from What's Wrong With The World, written in 1910. "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." - Jesus told us to love one another. God saved us by his grace. Grace is that undeserved, all forgiving love of God. We must love others as ourselves. This is showing God's grace.
The parables of the prodigal son, the lost coin, and the lost sheep all make the same point. They all underscore the loser's sense of loss, the tell us the thrill of rediscovery and each parable ends with a scene of jubilation. God is joyous when we are restored to his grace.
Luke 15:7 tells us "there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven't strayed." When we accept Gods grace we cause much rejoicing in heaven.
Remember how thrilled the father was to see his prodigal son coming at a distance that he ran to greet him. In that culture a father didn't run to greet a child that was undignified. We also should take note that the father didn't give him the fatherly lecture when he reached him. "He said let's have a party! Let's rejoice!" If I may speak for all fathers' here this morning, let me tell you that we hate passing up the opportunity to give the "fatherly lecture."
In each story we see the same joy when the one sheep was found; the same joy when the woman found her lost coin; and the same joy when the son who was lost was found. God gave us his grace and he rejoices in it.
You can read about the lost coin, lost sheep and the lost son in Luke 15:3-22.
Let's revisit verses 4-6 of this morning's scripture.
God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God's grace that you have been saved). For He raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms, because we are united with Christ Jesus.
The word 'united' in the Greek carries the sense of 'grafted' and it gives us a picture of the life of Christ which is imparted to us through resurrection. Let me read the following which comes from "The Normal Christian Life", by Watchman Nee,
How can one tree bear the fruit of another? A poor tree can bear good fruit by grafting it into it the life of a good tree. But if a man can graft a branch of one tree into another, cannot God take of the life of His Son and, so to speak, graft it into us?
God has done everything. There is only one fruitful life in the world and that has been grafted into millions of other lives. We call this the 'new birth'. New birth is the reception of a life which I did not possess before. It is not that my natural life has been changed at all; it is that another life, a life altogether new, altogether Divine, has become my life...
God has cut off the old creation by the cross of His Son in order to bring in a new creation in Christ by resurrection. He has shut the door to that old kingdom of darkness and translated me into the kingdom of His dear Son. My glorying is in the fact that it has been done -- that, through the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, that old world has "been crucified unto me, and I unto the world"
We have been grafted into the life of Christ by God's Grace.
Remember when Tom Hanks in the movie, A League of Their Own, said; "There's no is not crying in baseball." Just as there is no crying in baseball , there is no patting ourselves on the back because we have been grafted into the life of Christ. Salvation comes by the clearly unmerited favor of God, boasting is altogether out of place. The only boasting we will do, is through our recognition of an incredibly patient, forgiving, merciful and gracious God.
Let me share one last story about what Grace. Have you ever been pulled over because you for going a "bit" over the speed limit? If not, here is the process. The officer approaches your car and asks for your license, registration and proof of insurance. More often than not the officer will go back to the patrol car and radio in your information. The officer then comes back to your car and gives you the ticket. This is not demonstrating grace, this is the penalty for speeding.
What if the officer had shown grace? What would it look like? Let's look at this scenario, the officer pulls you over, comes to your car and gets your information, goes back and radios it in. This time instead of giving you a ticket he tells you to slow it down and let's you go. That's not grace. That is just being charitable.
No, instead he approaches your car, informs you that you were speeding, writes out the ticket, with the fine being at the full amount, and then hands the ticket to you. Then he reaches out and takes the ticket back. He signs his own name in the guilty as charged spot, and then he turns the ticket in with his name on it and he pays the full amount of the fine with his own money. That is GRACE. He pays the fine and you reap the benefit.
This is what God has done through the Son Jesus. That is exactly what Jesus has done for each & every one of us. He has taken our sins upon Himself. He put himself in the guilty as charged spot
He paid the penalty for our sins by death on a cross. A death we deserved for our sins.
Why? John 3:16: For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.
God loves us! Let me say it again, God loves us. No matter what we have done, God loves us. No matter who we have hurt, God loves us. No matter how many times we have rejected God, God loves us. God doesn't want us to walk away from this place today without knowing that He loves us. Don't doubt, just believe and know that He loves us. He love you!
Do we deserve it? Do we deserve this incredible gift called grace? To quote a line from the Music Man, Not on your tin type! But God in His unconditional, unending love, has offered it to us that so we can dwell with Him for eternity.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.
Grace is ours simply by believing... Grace is ours, rejoice in it. Take this grace that has been given to you and share it, live it, so others can find it.
Excerpted from Compton's Interactive Bible NIV. Copyright (c) 1994, 1995, 1996 SoftKey Multimedia Inc. All Rights Reserved