In week one of advent, we discussed God's grace to us in Christmas. In week two, we talked about how to receive that grace. This week, we will see that from understanding and acceptance flows a lived experience of grace. Grace isn't just for salvation, but for our entire lives as God makes us more like Christ, shows grace to others through us, and continues to reveal the depths of His grace to us in all areas of life.
The Grace of Sanctification
The first place we see grace as part of our daily lives is in the process of sanctification. God's grace should change everything in our lives. Even the desire and ability to be transformed by grace is, itself, a grace. Under grace, sin will no longer be the dominant pattern of our lives. John reminds us that, in Christ, we have received grace upon grace from the one who was full of grace and truth. And when we receive Him, John tells us, we are able to "become children of God." By God's grace we become, in our lives and actions, what Christ has already made us in name: God's children.
The Grace of Loving One Another
We don't just receive grace for our own benefit. We receive grace to be people of grace. God wants us to be conduits of His grace, to lean toward others in love, just as Christ leaned toward us. And that can be easy to do when we are dealing with people we already like. But the real test of our Christ-likeness comes when we respond with grace toward those who have hurt or mistreated us. Christ's grace allows us to show grace as God does: to the undeserving! Sometimes, we may give grace, but then feel annoyed or slighted if the person we showed love to fails to thank us or acknowledge our gift. But God has grace on us regardless of our gratitude, and we are called to do the same. We've been forgiven much; therefore, we must forgive. This starts with our brothers and sisters in the church, and extends to those who have hurt us most deeply.
The Grace of the Prodigal
In order to extend God's grace to others we must have a strong understanding of God's grace and we must experience grace from others. We tend to treat others with the level of grace that we expect from others and from God, so understanding God's grace is crucial. God's grace is unreasonable. God runs toward the one who has hurt or offended him, just as the father in the parable of the prodigal son ran toward his wayward child. "Prodigal" means "wasteful," "extravagant" or "imprudent," and those words certainly apply to the son who squandered his inheritance and returned a pauper. But God's grace is also prodigal. God is extravagant with his grace. He withholds nothing, and in such extravagance, can appear wasteful or ridiculous. But once we understand our prodigal God, we can begin to lavish grace on others in turn.
If grace doesn't dominate your life, your religion will suck the life out of you and others. Does grace control your life?
We call ourselves followers of Jesus, but are we people of grace? Where can we extend grace this Christmas?
Let this Christmas season spark a new understanding of God's liberal grace toward us, that we may extend that grace to a needy world.
Check out the full sermon here.