What do you do to receive God’s grace? The answer is nothing; stop trying to do. Grace is not found in anything you can do; just receive it because of what Jesus has done for you. Stop trying to earn God’s grace and yield yourself without reservation to Jesus.
It’s good to be with you again. In my talk yesterday I explained the one essential requirement for receiving God’s grace. That is, humbling ourselves. You’ll remember that we read two passages together from the New Testament, one from James and one from Peter. Each of them quoted the same verse from the Old Testament from the book of Proverbs, that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. And then, the obligation is placed upon us to humble ourselves. We have no right to ask God to make us humble for God says humble yourself. Then he says as soon as we humble ourselves his grace is made available to us. The example that we looked at in closing yesterday was the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee was full of his own righteousness, his own good works, he didn’t see his need of God’s grace. On the other hand, the tax collector made no claims of righteousness, he just cried out for mercy and he opened himself to God’s grace.
Today I’m going to share with you what follows after we have humbled ourselves, the actual transaction that opens up our lives to the fullness of God’s grace. This is of vital importance for everyone. There are two aspects to this transaction. The first is negative and the second is positive. We look first at the negative. It’s summed up in two simple words that are very surprising. What’s the first thing you have to do actually to receive God’s grace? The answer is stop doing anything. Stop working, stop trying to earn. As long as you are trying to earn the grace of God you cannot receive it. God cannot give you his grace on that basis because God is a God of absolute truth and it’s a false basis. You can never earn God’s grace. Therefore, as long as you are trying to earn it you can never receive it because if God gave it to you on that basis it would be a false basis and you’d have a false picture of yourself and of God and of everything that’s involved. So, the first requirement and a very, very difficult one for religious people is stop working. Stop trying to earn.
This is very clearly stated by Paul in Romans 4:4-5:
“Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.”
Those are vitally important words. To the man who does not work. The first thing you have to do is stop working. Then you simply trust God who justifies the wicked. And, of course, that’s very humbling because it means you’re putting yourself in the category of those who need to be justified because you’re wicked. And, of course, that’s very, very difficult for religious people to see.
But to the one who trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. From then on you’re living on credit, you’re not living on the produce of your own labor. You’re living on God’s credit. That’s God’s grace. Your faith is credited to you as righteousness. You are not reckoned righteous because of what you’ve done but because you believe in God who justifies the unrighteous.
That’s the negative aspect. Now we’ll turn to the positive. Once you’ve stopped working, what do you have to do then? The answer very simply is you have to receive Jesus, you have to yield yourself without reservation to Jesus. You remember the scripture that we’ve looked at several times, John 1:17:
“The law was given by Moses: but grace and truth came by [or through] Jesus Christ.”
All God’s grace is in Jesus Christ. There is no other channel of God’s grace but Jesus. So, if you want God’s grace you have to receive him. When you receive him, all the grace of God is made available to you. We’ll look at this now more fully stated in John 1:11-17.
“He [that is Jesus] came to his own, and those who were his own did not receive him. But as many as received him...”
Notice, that’s the crucial transaction, receiving him.
“...to them he gave the right to become children of God...”
He gave it, it was a gift, they didn’t earn it.
“...even to those who believe in his name.”
Now, what’s the result of receiving him? Verse 13:
“Who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
They were born anew, they experienced a new inner spiritual transformation, renewal, rebirth.
And then, this is directly linked up with the grace of God manifested in Jesus. John goes on in the next verse:
“And the Word [capital W, the word of God, the eternal word Jesus] became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Notice now the emphasis on grace and on truth.
“John [the Baptist] bore witness of him, and cried out, saying, ‘This is he of whom I said, He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for he existed before me.’”
And then John, the writer of the gospel, goes on:
“For of his fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.”
In other words, when we receive Jesus then all God’s fullness in him is made available to us. And for every grace there is in Jesus, a corresponding grace is made available to us. Then John sums it up in that verse I’ve quoted so many times but you never can quote it too often:
“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized [or made available] through Jesus Christ.” (NASB)
You see, the emphasis there is on grace. Full of grace and truth. Grace upon grace. Grace and truth. And all the emphasis is on receiving Jesus. So, the decisive, positive aspect of this transaction is receiving Jesus, yielding to him. It’s not being religious, it’s not saying prayers, not going to church. All that can be very good in its own place but the key decisive transaction is yielding yourself to Jesus, handing yourself over without reservation, opening yourself up to him and all that he has to bring and all that he has to do in your life. The results are twofold. I’ll just summarize them briefly. First of all, there’s a new birth, a completely new kind of life starts within us. It’s not physical life, it’s spiritual life. Although, ultimately it even affects our physical life.
And then, out of Jesus in us we receive of his fullness grace for grace. For every grace in Christ the new birth opens the way for the corresponding grace to be manifested in us. It’s all contained in Jesus. So, when we receive Jesus then every grace that’s in Jesus becomes available to us. Jesus is like a beautiful diamond with enumerable facets, all of which glitter and sparkle with beauty and with grace. Every facet of that diamond is a particular grace. When we take that diamond in, then the way is open for that grace in all its facets to shine out of our lives.
Let me give you some practical examples of how this works. I’ve proved this in my own experience time and time again. You have a problem with timidity. All right. You yield to Jesus and the grace of his courage is made available to you. So, your weakness of timidity is replaced by his grace of courage.
Or, you have a problem of anger. That was my greatest personal problem many years ago. But, you yield to Jesus and your problem of anger is replaced by his grace and gentleness. I can really say that’s worked in my life over the years. People that have only known me in the last years of my life would never believe that I had this problem with anger because it’s been replaced by the grace of God. I take no credit for it, it’s grace. I didn’t earn it, I didn’t work for it; I just believed.
You have a problem with lust. What’s the solution? Let the grace of the purity of Jesus be manifested in you.
Let me say never focus on the negative. Don’t spend all your time worrying about your problem because that doesn’t get you any further. Just turn away from the problem and yield to the corresponding grace of Jesus. If your problem is lust, accept his purity.
Or, you have a problem with foolishness. What’s the solution? Accept the grace of wisdom that is in Jesus. Let his wisdom begin to operate through you. You’ll be amazed at the results. You’ll be able to answer somebody you could never answer and you’ll think, “Where did I get that answer from?” The answer is from the grace of God.
Let me give one more example, it’s so common. You have the problem of worrying. I’m sure there are many of you that have that problem. What are you going to do about it? Don’t worry about worrying, just yield to Jesus and let the grace of his peace take the place of the problem of your worrying.
Our time is up for today. I’ll be back with you again tomorrow at this time. Tomorrow I’ll speak on learning to rely on God’s grace.