- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 6, 2007

The following is an excerpt of a sermon given recently at Capital City Church by Dennis Pisani, the church’s pastor.

In today’s society, we hear the word “grace” used in many ways or in different situations. We pray it over our food when we eat. We name children after it. We sing about “Amazing Grace.” We even name sitcoms after grace. But do we really grasp the depth of what the word really means?

We need to understand grace because this one word can revolutionize our lives. If we fully comprehend its implications and applications, then we will be able to appropriate it to the fullest and apply it in our lives each day. Grace simply means that it is a gift of unmerited, undeserved favor of God. It’s God’s love in action. God freely giving us His forgiveness, His acceptance and His favor.

This gift from God isn’t motivated by our worthiness or somehow by our works. It is not based on whether we deserve it, but solely on God’s passionate love for us. That’s it. Nothing less and nothing more.

As we read the New Testament, Ephesians 2:8 states that grace and grace alone is, and always will be, the basis for our relationship with God. It says, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”

To understand it more, here are three things we need to understand about grace. Number one, grace is totally undeserved. We did nothing to deserve grace. Grace has nothing to do with merit, demerit, our sinfulness or our worthiness. God loves people because of who He is, not because of who we are. Listen to what Romans 11:6 says, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise, grace would no longer be grace.” Most people think that they must do something to be accepted by God. The fact remains that the only way to miss out on God’s mercy is by trying to deserve it.

This is the good news: There is nothing we can do to make God love us any more, and there is nothing we can do to make God love us any less. Grace means that God already loves us as much as an infinite God can possibly love.

Number two, you can not earn grace. You can’t possibly pay for it. This is a foreign idea because we live in a society based on earning and rewards. You do this, and you get this. You work this much, and you get paid this much. It has already been paid for in full. It’s all about John 3:16. Think about how this Scripture is abused and ridiculed by so many folks today as being so religious. But I can’t help to think that if they really understood the depth of this Scripture and all the incredible benefits it brings them, would they still think the same about it? Listen to what it is saying, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” It says it all right there.

Number three, grace is entirely unconditional. You can’t qualify for it. What that means is that God’s love doesn’t depend on what we are, but on what He is. He loves us because He is love. We can refuse God’s love, and many do, but we can’t stop God from loving us. God never says, “I love you because, I love you since, I will love you if, or I will love you when.” Adding any of those phrases in front of God’s love makes it conditional. I agree that it’s hard to imagine love without strings attached because that is all most of us have ever experienced. But, that’s the kind of love that God offers.

That’s what God’s grace is all about. It simply makes no difference if we are moral do-gooders who keep all the commandments, or people like you and me, who seem to blow it all the time. God, in his love, has provided a new basis for a right relationship with Him: free, undeserved, unmerited, unrepayable favor. Now that’s grace.

During the Napoleonic Wars, a young, battle-weary, French soldier fell asleep while on guard duty. He was court-martialed, found guilty and sentenced to death. His widowed mother somehow arranged to see Emperor Napoleon himself. Falling prostrate at his feet, she begged for her son’s life to be spared, explaining that he was her only means of support. Napoleon grew weary of her pleas and coldly said, “Madam, your son does not deserve mercy. He deserves to die.” The mother immediately replied, “Of course, sire, you are right. That’s why I’m asking you to show him mercy. If he were deserving, it wouldn’t be mercy.” Her logical statement so touched Napoleon that he pardoned the soldier. The same applies to us. If we were deserving, it wouldn’t be grace.

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