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Living on the Edge of Grace
Scripture: Romans 5:20-21; Genesis 2:15-17; Romans ...
Track 4 of 11 in the The Freedom that Comes from Grace series
Running time: 1 hour, 04 minutes, 16 seconds.
Is grace risky You bet it is and in the minds of some people, grace can also be dangerous. Grace, Freedom in Christ is controversial. It was in the first century and it continues today. On one extreme there will be those who will go crazy with their Freedom in Christ and abuse it while others will misunderstand and charge that the church cares little about the holiness of God because it appears we give people the freedom to sin.

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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Living on the Edge of Grace

Are you by nature a person who is conservative, careful, a person who doesn’t like taking risks or are you a person who likes to be out there, trying new things, living on the edge, taking risks? Why are you that way?

We are studying the wonderful gift of Grace. Grace is such a beautiful thing to behold. There is nothing more awesome than to live under Grace and know that we have a God who loves us so much that His relationship with us starts with Grace. How else could a perfect God who has no sin and is totally perfect relate with beings like us who are so imperfect and sinful?

As I read scripture, both the Old and New Testaments, deep inside every story, inside every event lies the yearning to be free. Man in his imperfection struggles with the bondage that comes from the world. We were created to be free. When God placed Adam in the Garden, His intent was for man to experience the freedom that comes from being in relationship with God. Man was fully free to relate with God in the most extremes. There was no limit on what man could do. He was fully free to live the life God gave Him. Man was fully free to choose.

Genesis 2:15-17 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

When we read this scripture, was man really free? What good is freedom if we can’t do something?

Most people yearn to be free. They hate living under bondage. They want liberty, yet many have no idea where or how to find it. Many have a real misunderstanding of what freedom really is. Know and understanding God’s grace help’s to put in proper perspective what real freedom is all about.

For many, freedom is a scary thing. Churches struggle a lot with the concept of freedom. Freedom in Christ is hard for many Christians to grasp because the very idea seems un-Christian. Why are many churches uncomfortable with the concept of Freedom in Christ? To many churches, what does “Freedom in Christ” mean?

Isn’t freedom risky? Won’t some people take it to the extreme? Doesn’t a church take the risk that some in the flock may take unfair liberties if we promote the idea of liberty with a lot of passion? Doesn’t this lesson, doesn’t the teaching of freedom lead to an abuse of grace?

I want you to think very carefully on this matter. True or False: The Biblical teaching of Grace will cause some to believe that more sinning will cause grace to abound.

Romans 5: 20-21 The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

If you were a Jew hearing this statement by Paul, what would you think this statement meant? The Law pointed out sin, the more the Law, the more the sin was exposed. The more the sin, the more the Grace that was required. What would be the misunderstanding?

Romans 6:1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?

From this statement, do you think Paul heard the misunderstanding when he preached this sermon? Obviously yes.

Let’s look at some terms:

Justification: The believing sinner is declared “not guilty” by God while he is in his sinning state. It is a free gift of God. Man can’t earn this.

Justification by Works: If a man wants to go to heaven, he must stop committing sins, he must be good and work on reconciling himself to God. If you do this well, you will go to heaven.

Is this a belief that can be found in the church? What is wrong with it? Then why do many churches practice it? Does MPCC practice it?

True or False: If we are a church that really teaches and practices Grace and no one is taking advantage of it, maybe we are a church that doesn’t teach it hard enough.

I can assure you of this, Grace Killing churches will never have that charge brought against them. They make sure of that.

This brings me back to the reality of risk. Is grace risky? You bet it is and in the minds of some people, grace can also be dangerous. Grace, Freedom in Christ is controversial. It was in the first century and it continues today. On one extreme there will be those who will go crazy with their Freedom in Christ and abuse it while others will misunderstand and charge that the church cares little about the holiness of God because it appears we give people the freedom to sin.

Grace, when it is presented in the truth found in scripture with all of its charm and beauty is risky. It brings grace abusers as well as the grace killers.

Statement of Clarification:

Grace is a hard thing to really grasp because in reality, even though a church will teach grace, it really lives by works. Living in grace is really something foreign for many believers even though they think they know what grace is.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul makes a bold statement, in order for anyone to stand securely and be at peace before a holy and just God, that person must be righteous. Think about that statement a minute. At the time you die and are now placed before God Almighty, do you envision that moment terrifying or glorious? Paul declares that a person who has been justified is at peace when that time comes because by grace, we stand before God perfect.

True or False: Being justified means “just as if I never sinned’.

That statement is very false. That is not what justification means, in fact, justification means the exact opposite. Even though I sin periodically and have found myself unable to stop sinning on a permanent basis, God declared me righteous when I had faith and believed in him. And because I will sin from time to time, I find all the more reason to be grateful for grace. In the purest form, my only survival is grace.

Example: Your child is horribly murdered. The person who did it is caught. You basically have three choices at that moment:

1. You use every means in your power to get that person the death penalty for his crime. That is vengeance.

2. You could sit back and let the legal authorities take over and execute on him what is proper, a fair trial, a plea of guilty and then capital punishment. That is justice.

3. But if you should plead for the pardon of the killer, forgive him completely, invite him into your home and adopt him as your own son, that is grace.

Do you see why grace is so hard to grasp and accept? Very few people (if any) would happily and readily do that. But God does it every day for you and me. Let me repeat an earlier statement, to believe and practice grace to that extreme means some will take advantage of it. Count on it. How many churches today hold back helping those who are in tremendous need out of fear they will be taken advantage of? How many fail to express grace because they know there are those out there looking to prey on the “suckers” in life? People fear to be too gracious so they don’t show any grace.

Where is the first place a person should experience grace? In the home.
For kids who grow up in Christian homes, do they experience the true idea of grace?

What does it mean to have strict parents? Is it better for kids to have gracious parents? Can a parent be both?

Alternatives to Grace:

If we chose not to risk, if we chose to play it safe and not promote salvation by grace or live a lifestyle of grace, what are the alternatives? I can think of four:

1. We can emphasize work over grace. We can tell unbelievers that they need to have a stronger commitment to Christ demonstrated by the work they do on his behalf. Here is the problem; a dead person can’t grab the life preserver. An unbeliever won’t become obedient. A submissive disciple follows faith in Christ. Works follows faith. Behavior follows belief. Fruit comes after the tree is well-rooted, not before.

2. We opt for giving others a list of do’s and don’ts. Most often the list we give comes from our personal or traditional preferences. I t becomes our responsibility to tell you what to do or not to do and why. Then we set up the conditions by which you earn God’s acceptance. You fail to keep the list, you’re out. This is legalism. Jesus ran smack into this when He entered His ministry. Legalism has no room for Grace. Legalism is a Grace-Killer.

3. We leave no room for gray areas. Everything is either black or white, right or wrong. The result, the leader maintains a strict control over the followers. Fellowship is based on whether there is full agreement. The tragedy, self-righteousness becomes more important than relationships with individuals. We pick and choose who we want to be with. Most churches are a reflection of who they want to be with. Where grace exists, there also must be various shades of gray.

4. We cultivate a judgmental attitude toward those who may not agree or cooperate with our plan. Grace-Killers are notorious for being judgmental.

John 8:30-32 Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him. To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Jesus is standing in front of the Pharisees when he made this statement. Even though they were there, many weren’t intimidated by their presence and believed in Jesus anyway. When Jesus spoke about the truth and the freedom that comes from it, what were they set free from?

Oneself, impulses to sin, tyranny of others’ opinions, expectations and demands, free to obey, free to love, free to forgive others and ourselves, free to allow others to be who they are – different than me, free to live beyond human effort, free to serve God and free to glorify God any time I want and as often as I want.

John 8:36-38 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.

But many take this freedom too far and when we do and it causes us to again serve sin, it no longer is freedom, it is called license. Many are aware of this potential so instead of living a life of freedom anyway, many opt for a life of legalism. We do this to help prevent the temptation to live irresponsibly. That is a bad choice.

How many of you remember the first time you allowed your child to drive the car all on their own, without you in the car? What was it like?

One the day they received their license, how many of you tossed them the keys and said, congratulations, take the car, enjoy the next two hours all on your own. Have a good time? Why or why not? What was your concern? Is this risky? Is this dangerous? What message does it send?

There is no question; there is a lot of tension in letting go. It is difficult and there is risk involved. But I believe the reason there is such tension is because we have never spelled out for our kids their independence. Most of the time we communicate the legalism we want them to live under. Remember, legalism fans the flames for freedom and makes the heart yearn more for it. Instead, we need to give to our kids a declaration of Independence. Spell out for them exactly the freedom they have and how they can gain more of it over time. It basically says, I want you to know I trust you. My confidence is in God to guide you. I respect you to handle the freedom I give you. And when you mess up, I still love you even though I will discipline you. But live in freedom.

That is exactly how God deals with us. He wants us to be free and to be responsible with the freedoms we have. When we abuse the freedoms, he will discipline us yet he still wants us to be free.

To make grace work, balance is needed to guard against the “weaker brother”. Grace is risky, self imposed restrictions are important. We have to monitor the environment around us. We can’t be afraid of the heights if we are going to walk on the tightrope of grace but at the same time we have to watch out for the occasional wind that could blow us off the rope.