The Gospel of Grace Changes Lives

The gospel of grace changes lives.

What causes you to take notice of things people tell you about: diets (especially vegans); crossfit programs; methods at work; who you should hire as a contractor; school your kids should be going to; restaurant recommendations and more?  Results.  Results make us take notice.  You’ve heard the phrase – “the proof is in the pudding.”  Former Minnesota governor Jesse “The Body” Ventura once said “You can talk the talk but can you walk the talk?  Results make us take notice.  The world was and is now watching the church – seeing if we’re for real.  Results matter today as much as they did 2 thousand years ago.

The Gospel of Grace Changes Lives.  It is the grace of God working in and through our lives that affects change in us that is manifest outwardly by our actions.  We don’t change ourselves it is the powerful work of the Holy Spirit in our lives – prompting and moving us to be more Christ-like. 

The Apostle Paul shares part of his spiritual journey with the Galatians presenting a striking comparison.  This is not an attempt to get them to pay attention to him or gain personal glory; rather to remind the Galatians that the Gospel of Grace is real and powerful in real time.

You might ask, where did he get this idea of grace from? 

Vs.11-12, Paul writes he received his message from God through the revelation of Jesus Christ.  In Acts 9, Luke records the powerful transforming moment in Paul’s life when he meets Jesus on the road to Damascus; Paul will never be the same again.

Paul states he wasn’t taught this Gospel by other men.  He didn’t receive it from the church.  As a matter of fact, he was too busy persecuting the church – imprisoning people, breaking up families and having people killed to be swayed by their teaching.  He was busy suppressing and destroying their message of grace.  God radically changed him. 

This idea of grace isn’t intuitive to the way people thought of religion.  Grace is all about the free gift of God – no exchange of goods or obligations on mankind’s part to make it work.  By simple faith it is received.  With the gospel comes new life, new eternal destination and purpose. 

To the skeptical Galatians Paul says, “Look at my life.” 

Vs 13-16… Paul went from terrorizing the destroying the church to defending and nurturing it.

vs. 13-14.You heard of me” – Saul of Tarsus, former life in Judaism persecuting the church beyond ,measure (Acts 8: 3, “ravaging” the church); all the while growing beyond his contemporaries and being more zealous than anyone for religious/ancestral traditions. (Acts, 8, 22 & 26)  The Galatians knew of Paul’s life – he reminds them that they once feared him and for good reason – he would have killed them just a few years before.

Paul was destroying the church while being extremely religious – ironically he was defending Judaism by killing people.  Christianity doesn’t advocate killing of dissenters or destroying people’s lives who don’t agree with us – we’re to love and minister to our enemies THIS IS THE GOSPEL IN ACTION. 

vs. 15-16.  God set Paul apart from the womb – God had a plan that included his whole life – even when he wasn’t aware of it; this is so encouraging to people of all ages.

·       Ever think there are seasons of your life that make no sense to you, but God uses them.

·       From the circumstances of our birth, where we are raised and choices we make – God uses them all (good or bad).

·       Paul sees himself as an Apostle to the Gentiles – in retrospect – he was uniquely prepared for such a mission from his birth – nothing wasted.

o   He is a diaspora Jew – born and raised in Tarsus – (SE Turkey)
o   He is a Roman citizen, has feet in various gentile cultures and is highly educated.

The Gospel of grace changes lives.

Nothing in Paul’s life is wasted – nothing in our lives is wasted = all used by God.  From setting it on fire to building up the church!

vs. 16B – 17,  Paul didn’t check in with others – went away to Arabia only to return to Damascus – the place he went to terrorize to preach Christ (Acts 9: 19-30 creating a panic among Christians).

vs. 18 – 3 years later he comes to Jerusalem (Acts 9: 26), escaping Damascus via basket over the wall at night!  He was a man in the middle.  On one hand the Christians feared him and on the other the Jews hated him.  He was their enforcer, their key player and suddenly he seems to have switched sides.  There was a plot to kill him from among the Jews!  Like the plot of a action movie he dramatically escapes!!!

vs. 21-24, Paul heads to Cilicia (Goes home to Roman Province in SE Turkey includes Tarsus, Acts 9:30).  His reputation was one of fear and wonder among Christians because of the change – the result?  Do they make Saul/Paul action figures, playing cards, elaborate mosaic murals?  No – God received the glory!

The Gospel of grace changes lives.

This week:  What to do?

1.     Paul took stock of his life – he withdrew to Arabia (3 years) – when was the last time you took stock of your story/life  I mean, really thought about your relationship with God and the impact of grace in your life – sins forgive and purpose for your life?  We get busy and forget OR we’ve grown up in church and never seriously given it personal thought and reflection.  For the person growing up in church it can be a real problem.  One can quickly take for granted the blessing of growing up in a Christian home.  Imagine, how things could be different in your home without the Gospel!   Imagine if your parents were not Christians and living out kindness, forgiveness, mercy and patience in your home?  Take stock, even if for a few moments.

2.     Paul shared his story (Acts 9, 22 and 23).  What’s your story?  Structure your story like this: 

A.     My life before Christ?

B.     How I met Christ (became a Christian)?

C.     My life after Christ?

Share your story with family and friends.  If you’ve never shared your story before – consider that we share stories all the time – marriage proposal, new job, sporting events = why is life with Jesus any different?!  You’re not competing for the most dramatic or heart rending story; this is about you and Jesus.  Every story regarding coming to faith in Jesus is a miracle and beautiful.  Look for the changes – how you have grown and matured in your faith. 

Side Note:  If you are don't know what to write in these spaces, contact myself and I would be glad to sit down over a cup of coffee with you and chat about it.

3.     Don’t break your arm (patting yourself on the back)!  Give all the glory to God!

Why is it important to share your story?  People you work with, go to school with and evening live with may think their life is a ship wreck, there is no hope – no point and no purpose; they’ve made mistake and bad choices that weigh heavy on them.  When you help them understand that God uses everything (Paul – murderer and terrorist to church builder) for His purposes and glory – you share hope. 

You have the message of the gospel that it’s more than simply going to heaven – it is new life and new future – new purpose and it’s all seasoned with grace – not performance management.

The Gospel of grace changes lives.  Be encouraged, go and share your story!