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MORE ABOUT GRACE, FAITH, AND OUR BEHAVIOR
A. Introduction: We have been talking about Christian behavior, or what God wants from us.
1. Many Christians try to relate to God through their behavior or what they do.
a. By relate to God, we mean try to have a relationship with God.
b. Their behavior or what they do is an effort to earn or deserve something from God or an effort to pay Him back.
1. Martha--I've done all the work, Lord! Don't you care? Luke 10:40
2. The Prodigal's elder brother--I've never broken one of your rules, father, and I never got a party! Luke 15:29
3. Lord, I've worked in the nursery for a year and I still don't have a husband.
2. Our behavior is supposed to be a response to what we know about God and what He has done for us = relate to Him based on what He has done.
a. We love Him because He first loved us. I John 4:19
1. Our obedience is supposed to be an expression of love. John 14:21
2. Our gratefulness over what He has done for us through Jesus is an expression of our love. Luke 7:41,42;47
b. We trust Him, believe Him, because we know what He is like. Ps 9:10
3. God doesn't want you to be good because you are trying to earn or deserve something from Him. He wants you to be good because:
a. You love Him and want to please Him.
b. You're grateful for what He's done for you and you want to express it.
c. You want to fulfill your calling, your created, eternal purpose. Eph 1:4,5
4. We want to continue to look at the connection between grace, faith, and behavior.
B. It is a human tendency to try to relate to God through our behavior, or what we do.
1. When a man was healed at the Gate Beautiful in Jerusalem, the spectators attributed it to the power and holiness of Peter and John. The spectators were relating to God on the basis of works. Acts 3:12
a. Peter and John explained it was faith in the Name of Jesus (His character and power) that made the man whole. v16
b. They understood it was not by their power or holiness, but God's grace.
2. Grace and faith work together. God works in our lives by grace through faith.
a. Grace = someone superior to you does something to you or for you. What they do is good. You don't / can't earn or deserve it. It's given because of the character of the one doing the giving.
b. Faith believes what God has given before it see it because God has said it.
3. Jesus told Peter and John they could pray for people for healing in His name and it would happen. Mark 16:18
4. They believed it. That's God's grace through faith.
5. We do the same thing those spectators did. We attribute God's help to our holiness and power. We believe He helps us or doesn't help us because of something about us.We try to relate to Him through our works.
6. Here's how you know if you are relating to God on the basis of your works.
a. If you ever struggle with thoughts such as this: God won't help me (hear my prayer, bless me) because of what I have / have not done.
b. If you find yourself angry at God when you don't get what you feel you deserve.
c. If you find yourself jealous of others who get blessed when you know you have worked harder than them?
7. It would have been very easy for Peter and John to relate to the Lord on the basis of their works. They abandoned the Lord the night He was arrested.
a. And, Peter actually denied he knew the Lord after Jesus had warned him about it. Matt 26:31-35;56;69-75
b. Both could have thought: Jesus won't help us after what we did.
8. Yet, their failures as followers of Christ did not stop them from believing God's promises (Mark 16:18), nor did it stop God's power from coming to them.
a. They understood it was not by their power or holiness that God moves.
b. They were relating to God, not on the basis of their works, but on the basis of His grace. Matt 10:8; Acts 3:6; John 1:16
C. How did Peter and John, how do we, get to the point where their / our faith was / is strong enough to receive God's promises despite what they / we've done?
1. We must understand how grace and faith work together. All God's blessings come to us by grace through faith before we are saved and after we are saved.
a. Grace: God gives us what we don't deserve because He wants to.
b. Faith believes what grace has provided and expects to have it.
c. Faith understands: "I don't deserve it, but God, in His grace has offered it, so I'll take it."
2. There are only two legal ways to get something from someone.
a. By works = you deserve it because you earned it, worked for it, paid for it.
b. By grace = It is freely given to you.
c. God doesn't "give things out" on the basis of what we earn and deserve.
d. God "gives things out" on the basis of grace through faith.
3. Works and grace are mutually exclusive. Rom 4:16
4. The Bible records some stunning examples of grace through faith.
a. The Centurion and the Syrophenecian woman came to Jesus asking for healing, both knowing they didn't deserve Jesus's help -- but they asked anyway, expecting to receive. Matt 8:5-13; Matt 15:21-28; Mark 7:26
1. They knew they had no claim to the blessing of God in them.
2. But that didn't stop them from asking. They knew it didn't depend on them and their worthiness, but on God and His grace.
3. In both cases, Jesus commended their faith.
b. Both had key elements of strong faith -- knowledge of the Lord, boldness to ask, determination to receive, expectation that they would get what they asked for.
c. The two knew they didn't deserve anything from God, so they didn't even attempt to come to the Lord on that basis.
1. They came to the Lord on the basis of His character -- what they had heard and seen of Him. That knowledge produced faith in them.
2. And, the awareness that it didn't depend on them but on Him, gave them freedom to boldly come to Him expecting to receive. Heb 4:16
D. Not only do you have to understand that God works by grace through faith, you have to strengthen your faith by using it.
1. Since faith and works are mutually exclusive, the stronger your faith is, the less likely it is that you will try to relate to God through / by your works.
2. Faith has to grow strong enough that it doesn't matter what challenges your faith. You continue to believe what God has said about you.
a. Peter and John had the same flesh we have and the same devil to deal with -- they had the same kinds of challenges we have.
b. What happened when Peter walked by the spot where he denied Jesus?
1. He had to believe his sins were forever forgiven and forgotten.
2. He had to believe he was saved from his sins by grace through faith.
3. He had to believe that as a Christian, he stood in God's grace and related to God through grace. I Pet 1:2; II Pet 1:2; II Pet 3:18
3. For most Christians, it's not that they don't believe in God's help, care, provision, and forgiveness, it's that they don't use the faith they have, and, as a result, it is weak.
4. If you ask Christians: "Do you believe God loves you? Or works things for good for you? Or has forgiven your sins?", most do believe it at least somewhat.
a. It's in the Bible -- they really have no choice. But, their emotions and / or circumstances are much stronger than their little or weak faith.
b. When the challenges to faith arise, they have more confidence in what they see and feel than in what God says.
c. Little faith believes in God's help, but doesn't expect Him to help me now!
5. The number one way we use our faith is by saying what God says. Heb 10:23
a. The disciples asked Jesus for more faith and He told them to use what they had. Luke 17:5,6
b. The first expression of faith we can make in anything God says is to say it ourselves. Heb 13:5,6E. Let's look at an example of this in I Sam 17 when David defeated Goliath.
1. The Philistines took up positions against Israel. v1-3
2. Every day, one of their champions, Goliath, issued a challenge to Israel -- send out a man to fight me. His challenge terrified Israel. v8-11
3. But, when David came on the scene, he took the challenge.
a. He said he would defeat Goliath in the name of, by the power of God. v45
b. He said the same God who helped him in the field when he watched his sheep would help him now. v36,37
4. Anyone in Israel could have done what David did.
a. David didn't defeat Goliath because he was David, he defeated Goliath because God is God.
b. God, in His grace, made a covenant (a guaranteed agreement, a promise) of victory over enemies with David -- all David had to do was believe.
c. God made that covenant not with David the individual, but with all of Israel -- all were covenant people with the promise of victory over enemies.
5. Why didn't someone kill Goliath before David got there? All were covenant men. Goliath had challenged them for forty days. v16
a. Did they not believe in God? Of course they did! That's their identity!
b. Did they not know they had a covenant? All of them were circumcised!
c. Did they not know what the covenant included? It's hard to imagine.
6. Surely the rest of Israel believed they were covenant people, so they had some faith, but it was little, weak.
a. Little faith believes in God but doesn't expect God to help. Little faith talks about what it sees, feels rather than about what God says. Matt 6:30
b. Faith without corresponding actions is dead (same as no faith). James 2:19
7. Faith is an action. Strong faith is expressed by actions demonstrating belief.
a. David believed he'd kill Goliath by the power of God before it happened.
b. We know that is so by the way he talked and acted before Goliath was killed. I Sam 17:37;46,47
8. How did David develop his faith? He used his faith by speaking out what God said and what he believed. David was a master as this.
a. The Psalms are filled with examples of him speaking his faith in God.
1. Ps 8--David's mastery didn't depend on him and his ability, but on God's grace.
2. Ps 3--David's victory couldn't be stopped despite how things looked, despite the accusations of circumstances.
3. Ps 23--Because of what God is and does, here is what is true about me.
c. How do you suppose David reacted when the lion and the bear came after his flock? Like he did in these Psalms, like he did with Goliath.
d. He had been practicing. He used the faith he had and it grew stronger.
F. Conclusion: Our behavior is connected to our understanding of grace and faith.
1. You cannot earn anything from God before or after you are saved.
a. You can only believe what He has done and provided for you and live in the light of it.
b. It will give you a love for God, gratefulness to the Lord, and the freedom to come expectantly to Him for help.
c. You'll be relating to Him based on what He has done for you -- not on what you have done for Him.
2. Faith does not come out of what you know about you -- I'm no good; I'm a sinner; I fall short; I pray 10 hours at a time; I'm in church every time the door is open; I work in the nursery; I always give to the Salvation Army.
3. Faith comes from what you know about God and what He has done for you through Jesus Christ.
a. I'm not worthy to have you in my house, Lord, but that doesn't matter.
b. You are dealing with me on the basis of what you have done -- and I believe it.
c. You are dealing with me on the basis of your grace expressed through your promise -- and I believe it.
4. Thank you Father!!