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Accepting Grace
Scripture: Exodus 3:1-4; Judges 16:21; Proverbs 5:2...
Track 11 of 11 in the The Freedom that Comes from Grace series
Running time: 1 hour, 03 minutes, 14 seconds.
When we started our lesson several weeks ago, I opened the class with the thought that grace is really amazing. The fact is, it really is amazing and it can impact a church tremendously if allowed to work with every person. But I want to bring this lesson to a close and I want to emphasize one more important thought; not only is grace amazing, it is also accepting. Grace not only gives with joyful generosity, it receives with grateful humility.

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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.

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Accepting Grace

When we started our lesson several weeks ago, I opened the class with the thought that grace is really amazing. The fact is, it really is amazing and it can impact a church tremendously if allowed to work with every person. But I want to bring this lesson to a close and I want to emphasize one more important thought; not only is grace amazing, it is also accepting. Grace not only gives with joyful generosity, it receives with grateful humility.

Now this sounds easy but I think receiving is a whole lot harder than giving is. When a person truly begins to understand and experience grace in their life, there is not only an amazing desire to extend encouragement, affirmation, support, reassurance to others, there is also an accepting attitude that allows other to reciprocate in like manner. This is really hard when one thinks about it. Our natural tendency is to be self-sufficient and secure. How are you with accepting from others?

Just how open and accepting are you when others extend unexpected and undeserved grace in your direction? Are you quick to reject the grace or are you someone who embraces it with joy and gratefulness?

How important is strong character? What does that mean? Who in scripture would you consider to be a person with string character? Can there be a downside to have a strong character?

Strength #1: A commitment to excellence
Downside: Can lead to intolerance

This is a strength I have tried to instill in my kids no matter what they decide to do in life. No matter what they decide to do, I emphasized that they do it to the very best of their ability and strive for excellence. Too many people today settle for second best or to just be average. Those who strive to be excellent also find there is little room for error. There is no such thing as ignoring a mistake. No flaw is too small to correct nor is there any accomplishment so well done that it can’t be improved. These people achieve great things because of their work ethic but this also leads to problems if not balanced.

2B: True or False: You wish to be excellent? Do not tolerate anything less.

This can be summed up in one of my most favorite quotes; it was spoken by my all time hero,
2C: Winning isn’t everything, it is the only thing

The downside to this strength, it can be interpreted as rejection by anyone who fails to measure up. Parents have to be very careful with this. Too often parents demand way too much from their kids, much more than they demand from themselves.

2D: Strength #2: A lifestyle of discipline
2E: Downside: Impatient and the tendency to judge

Unfortunately, both of these character traits come in the same package. If a person who works hard to maintain their weight and stays fit, it is difficult not to judge those who some consider slobs. SLIDE 3: Mr. Atlas is always looking down on the pleasantly plump person. But that is just the way we are in America. We seem so extreme at times.

• 45,000 Americans buy new cars and trucks every year yet we also smash up 87,000.
• SLIDE 4: We eat, 75 acres of pizza, 53 million hot dogs, 167 million eggs, 3 million gallons of ice cream and 3,000 tons of candy. We also jog 17 million miles and burn 1.7 billion calories while we’re at it
• SLIDE 5: Just over $2 million is spent on exercise equipment while spend $3.5 million on tortilla chips and $10.4 million on potato chips.
• SLIDE 6: 101.2 million Americans are on diets.

Here is my point: If you are a jogger who burns off hundreds of calories a day, you aren’t going to be patient with a guy who eats half an acre of pizza and 2 gallons of soda. 6A: Discipline and impatience tend to occupy the same body.

SLIDE 7: Strength #3: Educated in culture and the arts
7A: Downside: Develops exclusive sophistication

Cultural buffs stick together. Art lovers are in their own world. Good example of this, cross someone who loves foot-stompin bluegrass music or country and western music with someone who prefers Chopin, Brahms or the opera. So far, as long as Roger Edwards and I have attended the Theater (20+ years), we have not been invited to any cultural events in Quincy.

I have to opportunity to meet a lot of different people by belonging to some of the organizations especially NFIB. When I get to meet some of the elite in Washington, it is funny to watch the change happen when I explain where Quincy, IL is located. Most assume that I live in Chicago. But when I tell them Quincy is next to Hannibal, MO, the air changes.

7B: Strength #4: Independence and high production
7C: Downside: Pride

There are several “self-made” men. These people are usually the ones who make It big, dominate their markets and are independently wealthy. From sheer hard work and ingenuity, they made every dime the have. They take no handouts, got no breaks and refused all shortcuts to success. As a result, they made it ti the top and it is no secret, they are proud of it. Then someone comes along who desires to extend to them a little undeserved, unearned grace. Lots of luck.

How unfortunate it is for those of us who are able to produce a great deal and then struggle when it comes to accepting and receiving grace from others. It is strange, but there are many who are capable and frequent givers but find it next to impossible to be grateful and willing receivers. Why is that?

SLIDE 8: There are several examples of people in the Bible who were either resistant or accepting the offer of grace by God. The first example of is Moses. We studied Moses in detail last year and if you remember Moses lived to be 120 years old. The first 40 years of his life were remarkable. He was the perfect example of a man who accomplished great things. He was talented, smart, educated, brave and was a war hero. He was Pharaoh’s elect even though he wasn’t from the blood line. He basically was the pride of Egypt.
But due to some bad decisions, his pride got the best of him and overnight he went from the best in Egypt to a man on the run. His whole life went down the tubes. And before he knew it, he was by himself, in deep humiliation in the middle of the Midian Desert. For 40 years, Moses is in seclusion, a “nobody” to most of the world he once grew up in.

Then out of nowhere, God breaks his silence. A place where Moses probably went to hundreds of times, God chose to speak to Moses.

8A: Exodus 3:1-2 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.

QUESTION: How many of you have a real Christmas tree in your house? A day or two after New Year’s day, what is the one thing you don’t want to do with that tree? You don’t want it to be exposed to heat or fire because of its dryness, it will burn up instantly.

Why would this burning bush catch Moses’ attention? Bushes bursting into flames was common in the desert. This bush wasn’t consumed.

SLIDE 9: Exodus 3:3-4 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

QUESTION: Do you know what was in the voice that called out to Moses? It was the voice of Grace.

Why was that voice from God a voice of Grace? What makes it so?

For 40 years, Moses believed that he was all washed up, no good. He probably thought everyday that there was no chance of success again. But grace knows no such restrictions. Like the bush that kept burning, grace keeps reaching out to those who are not worthy, those who failed.

QUESTION: Moses probably thought he was finished forever. Do you know why?
Moses was being attacked by the twin grace killers, Guilt and Shame.

But through grace God reaches out to Moses and initiates an invitation. The invitation was for Moses to Go and bring His sons of Israel out of Egypt. Moses initially couldn’t accept the grace God was offering because of his shame and guilt. Moses was anxious and afraid. The questions he kept asking God proved he was resisting God’s grace. Excuse after excuse was given to God but God kept solving the problems. We use words like “maybe” or phrases like “what if” when we intend to resist God’s grace. But in Moses case, eventually he gave in and accepted the grace from God.

We resist grace when our guilt and shame have not been adequately dealt with. Grace nullifies guilt. It renders shame powerless.

QUESTION: Think about this a minute, how does grace do this? How does it nullify guilt? How does it remove the power from shame?

SLIDE 10: I want you to turn to Judges 16. There was no man that lived that had his coming announced better than Sampson. He had Godly parents who prayed for him daily. When it was time for Sampson to be born, it was Jesus himself who told Sampson’s mother that she would have a child and that he was to be a Nazarite. He was handsome, strong, full of charisma, a great leader and someone I believe could have been the first king of Israel. But he had problems. He was unable to control his lust.

For 20 years, Sampson judged Israel. Those 20 years Israel was safe because of the work of Sampson. But in Judges 16, we see the conclusion of all the mistakes Sampson made, the tragedy of a life full of potential wasted on earthly and selfish things.

10A: Judges 16:21 Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding in the prison.

SLIDE 11: Proverbs 5:22-23 The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast. He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly.

Now if you and I were allowed to vote as judges on the bench, we would probably say, Guilty!. Let him live there the rest of his life. Justice had her due; Sampson got what he deserved.

But not God, he never runs out of grace. SLIDE 12: Verse 22 is a very important verse, But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved. The apostle Paul writes it a different way.

12A: Romans 5:20 But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.

Isn’t it interesting but I bet if Christians had anything to say about Sampson’s situation, many of us would let Sampson go the rest of his life bald. But not with God; that is not how God operates.

QUESTION: Can you imagine what Sampson must have thought when he first put his hand up to his head and he felt some fuzz? Do you think he would check his head every morning from them on?

What is exciting to see in scripture is that with the additional hair came added strength. The longer his hair grew the more strength he had. When his strength returned also came a determination to fulfill the mandate given to him from God at his birth, to deliver Israel from the Philistines.

SLIDE 13: Judges 16:25-30 When they stood him among the pillars, Samson said to the servant who held his hand, “Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them.” Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform. Then Samson prayed to the LORD, “O Sovereign LORD, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.

SLIDE 14: What does it take to let grace into our lives, to be open to it, allowing it to occur just like Sampson did and not like Moses?

14A: First: It requires an admission of humanity: This means the person realizes that he is only human and he can’t walk on water so he quits trying to impress.

14B:Second: It takes an attitude of humility: Realizing that God is tops, He is number one. The person is willing to be cut down to size so God can be exalted and glorified. The person who is humble has learned the hard way that no person can operate in the flesh and produce anything good, so they quit trying.

Only when we accept grace can we begin to model amazing grace.