September 21 – Grace – If it wasn’t for Grace…

Read 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

The focus of our current devotional series is on the wonderful, matchless grace of Jesus. It is, indeed, broader than the scope of your transgressions and far greater than all your sin and shame. As the song states, this amazing grace has a sweet sound to it!

So, how does our Scripture reading for today fit into such a study on grace? Among many, this chapter is known as the “resurrection chapter.” The specific portion you read focused on the essence of the gospel. It reminds us that Christ…

  • Died for sins
  • Was buried
  • Was raised on the third day
  • Was seen by many

Paul listed himself as one of the eyewitnesses of Christ’s resurrection. In fact, part of the outcome of that Damascus Road encounter (Acts 9:1-19) was his own commissioning as an apostle who would “proclaim [Christ’s] name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.” (Acts 9:15) Even though Paul was honored by his new title and responsibilities as a “sent one” (close to the literal meaning of “apostle”), he never forgot his past. He considered himself unworthy of his calling because of the way he had previously persecuted God’s people.

Although your story is different, the principles are the same. You, too, have a past that has made you unworthy, but you have a calling as one sent in the name of Jesus.

Verse 10 points to the grace that makes all of that possible.

“But by the grace of God I am what I am…” It was God’s grace that allowed Saul to become Paul, an antagonist, to become an apostle, one who used to persecute the people, to become one called to perpetuate the message. Don’t forget…it is God’s grace that prevents your past from defining you.

“…and his grace to me was not without effect.” Paul is saying that he took his new title and calling seriously. He did not accept the cleansing and reject the calling.  Don’t forget that God’s grace doesn’t just cleanse your past from sin. It also calls you to a present life characterized by mission and ministry.

“No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” Paul gave his all for the call. But even that was not to his credit. It was a mark of God’s grace. Don’t forget…even that which you offer in response to God is made possible by His grace.

Steve Kern

Taking it further

Check out the Grace Church Facebook page here for many people’s “Grace story” and how the Lord has changed their life with His grace.

September 20 – Grace – Amazing Grace

Read Titus 2:11-14

What is amazing grace?

“From His fullness we have received grace upon grace.” John 1:16

We sing about “amazing grace” in a number of worship songs. We talk about God’s grace in church. Do we really know what amazing grace is?

Read Ephesians 2:8.

Amazing grace is apart of the greatest redemption story of all time. Forgiveness is possible despite the sins we commit and the soul can be made new through the mercy of God. The love story of Jesus’ sacrifice through life, death, and resurrection is amazing grace. God gave up His son for our sins knowing we would sin against Him time and time again. He still chose us and continues to choose us.

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” Titus 2:11-12

“How precious did that grace appear…the hour I first believed.” Two powerful lines in the song, Amazing Grace. The truth is, we did not deserve salvation, but the moment we first experienced God’s amazing grace was so precious. The moment is sweet and surreal. You desire to surrender every ounce of your being to Him. You sacrifice pieces of yourself to live a self-controlled and righteous life for Him. This is a beautiful moment.

Next time you sing “Amazing Grace” in church, I challenge you to truly think about how amazing God’s grace is. Think about what your life might look like without God’s forgiveness and redemption. Thank and worship Him for saving you from the brokenness and emptiness you would experience without His absolutely amazing grace.

Monica Foutty

Taking it further

Here is a video on the story behind the famous song Amazing Grace!

September 19 – Grace – Abusing Grace

Read Romans 6:1-15

Have you ever had the opportunity to fly in first class? I had always peeked up there as I turned and went towards the very back of the plane (got to get those cheap seats, am I right?). Recently, a friend and I were upgraded to first class for an 18 hour international flight because of delays and a small plane crash (it’s a crazy story that I would love to tell you in person). So here we are, a couple of Joe Schmo’s, sitting among the elite class. I’m sitting next to a wealthy family who are all dressed to the nine and I’m sitting there with a t-shirt, athletic shorts and flip flops…not to mention I’m still sweating from running through the airport in Ethiopia to our missed flight’s gate. As my friend and I are soaking in the moment, I notice a menu that describes all these 5 course meals throughout the whole flight. “Yo, is this free?” I ask. “Jake,” my friend responds, “what you are about to experience for the next 18 hours is 100% free.”

It might as well have been Heaven.

We both ate so much that flight. I mean, if all of this is available, I may as well take advantage of it, right? I even wore the little first class socks they gave you for the whole flight because why now? The blanket they offered you to sleep with was one of the most comfortable blankets I have ever felt. “Sir, would you like a hot towel?” “Um, I didn’t know that was a thing but sure!” Refills, next courses, snacks and deserts…I had them all. I mean, it’s there so why not take advantage of it. After all, it’s free!

Grace doesn’t work like first class flying.

Grace is such an incredible gift that is nothing even remotely close to what we deserve. Forgiveness and grace was given to us through the life, death and resurrection of Christ. It isn’t something to be taken lightly.

We all know those people who are living the “first class life” when it comes to their faith. Sin is almost excused because they know that their sins have already been paid for. I think about this now and think, “How on earth could someone abuse grace like that?” and then I remember that I was once a grace abuser. There was a period of my life where, sure I didn’t deliberately sin, but I asked for forgiveness and moved on. It almost wasn’t a big deal for me. Romans 6 is my favorite chapter of the entire Bible. It contains so much incredible material that I don’t have the space to write.

Grace doesn’t work like first class flying.

Remember, we have been given an incredible gift. Don’t abuse it. It breaks God’s heart every time we choose our own way over His. We owe more than we could ever repay for the sacrifice that He made for us.

Jake Lawson

Taking it further

Grace to You article on abusing grace.

Christian Today article on abusing grace.

September 18 – Grace – Sufficient Grace

Read 2 Corinthians 12:1-10

“If the goal is dependence, weakness is a strength.”

That statement fits today’s reading about God’s grace. Let’s try to understand the context of the reading a little better.

Believers in Corinth had become critical of the apostle Paul. Other so-called “apostles” had recently cast doubt on Paul’s ministry. Consequently, Paul defended his apostleship in this letter by outlining some of his experiences. He “boasted” in the suffering he had received as an apostle. You name it…from flogging to the lack of food, from shipwreck on the Mediterranean to personal threats on his life…he had experienced it (11:21-33). But Paul also described a glorious experience of witnessing the sights and sounds of paradise (12:1-5). What an amazing experience that must have been!

To keep him from boasting in that experience, God allowed Paul to have a “thorn in the flesh.” Many theologians have hypothesized about what that thorn was. (Some believe it was a problem with his eyesight.) Still, he wasn’t specific about what that thorn was. The thorn wasn’t a sin, but it was definitely something that was uncomfortable and distracting.

Most people I know are like Paul in that they have a “thorn” that they would wish away if they could. Perhaps it is a health issue or another life reality that they cannot change by themselves. In fact, like Paul, they have probably even prayed repeatedly about it, asking God to remove it.

But just as Paul learned, we too must recognize that God doesn’t always swoop in to remove the thorns of our lives. If He doesn’t remove the painful thorns, though, He does provide sustaining grace. Paul described that grace as “sufficient.” In other words, it was adequate for the situation. He described it as “powerful” in the face of weakness. Paul went so far to say that weakness, adversity, and opposition were desired experiences that he could “delight in.” It was in the face of those difficulties, in fact, that he experienced the strength of Christ.

Indeed, weakness and adversity can be to our advantage. If we allow them to create within us a dependence on God and His grace, we will discover strength that we will not otherwise experience. In what ways do you need to express your dependence? In so doing, you will find His grace to be your strength.

Steve Kern

Taking it further

Here, John MacArther writes on God’s sufficient grace.

Here, Max Lucado also writes on God’s sufficient grace.

September 17 – Grace – Grace in the Old Testament

Read John 1:17

Is the old-testament only about law?

“He has saved us and called us to a holy life- not because of anything we have done, but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” 2 Timothy 1:9

People often think the old-testament is all about law and the new testament is all about grace. Does this mean the death and resurrection created a more gracious God? John 1:17, says “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” After reading this verse you would think it concludes the idea the old testament is law and the new testament is grace.

The truth of the gospel is God’s grace is the foundation. He didn’t become more gracious. Grace has always existed. Salvation is impossible without grace. The Bible simply focuses more on grace in the new testament.

God knew we would need saving from sin when He created us. He had life, death, and resurrection planned out from the beginning of time. All along God had a gracious plan to redeem each and every one of us through grace.

Throughout the old testament God’s gives undeserving Grace time and time again to a number of individuals.

Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:8). The world was so evil God regretted creating mankind. One man, Noah, was faithful to God. This alone was enough for God to save his family from destruction.

Moses was far from perfect, but God continued to choose to walk beside him and listen. God showed grace to a man, Moses, who killed another with his bare hands (Exodus 4:13). These are just two of many grace stories.

God chooses us every time. He never runs out of grace even when we feel like we have completely failed Him. Lean into God when you are in a deep valley or on the top of a mountain in life. God is the strength we need.

Where in your life do you need God’s grace and to ask for forgiveness?

Are there times you need to be more gracious like Christ?

Monica Foutty

Taking it further

Check out this resource here for more information on grace in the Old Testament.

September 16 – Grace – Saving Grace

Read Ephesians 2: 1-10

Some of the best stories I hear about include a rescue and victorious ending. That is what we read here in Ephesians. It is more than a story or an account of someone else. If we are followers of Jesus Christ, it is our story. It is a story where our despair and death is turned into a victorious redemption and resurrection.

In verse 1, Paul reminds individuals in the church in Ephesus that they lived in a dead state.  That sounds like a contradiction, but it’s so true. It is the same for us. We lived according to our cravings (v. 3) and fed them. What cravings and thoughts have you gratified? That kind of a life is a sad and empty existence, and yet we may have temporary happiness.

We were deserving of wrath (v.3). You may be taken back by this last sentence. Wrath is expressed by an angry judge or an authority that has the power to punish wrong. Our holy and sinless God has the authority to extend that to us. The God of the universe and our hearts is perfect! He desires to have a relationship with us. He created each one of us for that exact purpose.

He created us to have a healthy and fulfilling relationship with us.  We chose to follow the “ways of the world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” (v.2)

Now, the Victor enters with a triumphant message of redemption. This in true for each one who chooses to place their faith and trust in Jesus and His powerful love. Our gracious God knew what we needed and provided it through the death, burial, and resurrection of His only Son Jesus.

“But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in sin- it is by grace you have been saved.” V. 4-5

This all has a wonderful purpose. We have been rescued and brought to spiritual life. It is a gift! Have you received it? If not, ask for it by faith! If you have, are you seeing your life as a handiwork of God and engaged in good works that He has prepared for you? (8-10)

Each day and moment we can walk in His purpose and plan for our lives if we choose to and live out the Amazing Grace that was extended to us and covers our sin. Live it loud and share it boldly!

Celeste Kern

Taking it further

What is saving grace? Check out this GotQuestions response here!

Here is another great resource regarding saving grace!

September 15 – Grace – Getting what you don’t deserve

Read John 1:14-17

Grace.

If you’ve been around church for any amount of time, you have heard of the word “grace”. Growing up, my dad always told me that simply put, grace is getting something that you don’t deserve. More often than not, it was after I did something stupid and I would be forgiven or given another chance. There are many times in my life where something good has happened to me and I think to myself, “Man, I don’t deserve this.” There are so many times where I got something that I didn’t deserve.

Now when it comes to our relationship with the Lord, Romans 3 is very clear in telling us that none of us are immune to sin and a couple chapters later we learn that that sin brings about physical and spiritual death. God is very clear on what He calls us to do and what we are to avoid. No matter how much we may try, we will never match the standard of perfection God has for us.

“For the wages of sin is death…”

In a completely just world, we, as sinners, would be deserving of death and eternal separation from God. However, if we confess our sins, He is faithful and will forgive us of all our sins and restore us to good standing with God. In John 1, John speaks to the value of our relationship with God and the part that grace plays in it. Because of our relationship with God, we are in a position to benefit from grace.

Throughout this series, it is our prayer that, while we study different aspects of grace, you would realize the magnitude of the grace that God has for us. Seemingly all we can do is have a spirit of thanksgiving for what God did for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5).

Personally, I can agree with Paul’s statement in 1 Timothy 1:15 about being the worst of sinners. To some extent, I think it is healthy for all of us to share this view that we are in no way deserving of God’s grace. As you read through this series in the coming days, allow your appreciation for the Lord to grow as you read a little more about the length that He went to offer you salvation.

If you’re anything like me, all we can do in return for this great gift is to accept it and live our lives as a beacon of hope to a dark and unbelieving world.

Jake Lawson

Taking it further

Click here for another reading plan on Grace!

Check out this Andy Stanley article on Grace here!