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GOD'S GRACE

Do you ever look at your life and think, “How could God ever do anything with a person like me?”
•    Maybe you have left a wake of heartache, trouble, and difficulties behind you.
•    Perhaps the world regards you as unimportant and unnecessary.
•    Because of your mistakes and failures, you don't see much hope for the future.

People are spiritually dead before they receive Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. Even those who became believers as children had sinful natures and needed God's transformation (Ephesians 2:1-3). God transforms lives and situations. The Holy Spirit can enable you to live in a Christlike manner. God's grace has the power to turn your life around.

•    Grace is God's undeserved and unearned favor, kindness and love toward us.

•    Motivated by love, the Father sent Jesus Christ to die for the sins of humanity.

Most religions teach that people have to earn the approval of their god or deity. Only Christianity asserts that our Maker accepts us because of what His Son has already done for us.

Paul, whose name was Saul before his conversion, is a prime example of the difference that grace makes. Humanly speaking, this Jew was an impressive man (Acts 22:2-21). He was highly religious but spiritually blind and separated from God. His one goal was to destroy the church.
•    He heartily approved of Stephen, the first martyr, being stoned to death  (Acts 7:54-8:1).
•    He invaded homes of believers and violently dragged people to prison  (Acts 8:3).
•    He voted for them to die  (Acts 26:10-11).

Paul held a respectable place in his culture and had been educated in studying and understanding Hebrew Scriptures by one of the leading rabbis. Paul states his impressive credentials.

He spoke to them in Aramaic.
‘I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city (Jerusalem). Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.’

(Acts 22:2-3)
 

If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. (Philippians 3:4-6)

After his conversion, he realized the pain he had caused and called himself "the chief of sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15) and   recognized that without grace, he was hopelessly wicked  (1 Timothy 1:13-14).

Do believers today focus on Paul's shameful past? No, we consider him a godly man, the leader of the early church whose letters are still invaluable resources for godly living. The apostle's life proves God’s willingness to transform anyone, no matter what he or she has done. Jesus appeared to Paul in a vision while he was going to Damascus to persecute Christians and rebuked Saul for persecuting Him and for tormenting the church, and then struck him blind (Acts 9:1-6).  Was this Pharisee seeking God? Not at all. The Lord chose to reveal Himself.

Paul was stoned, beaten, and imprisoned for the gospel.
•    Grace transformed Paul’s attitude and actions (2 Corinthians 5:17).
•    Grace filled Paul with compassion (Romans 9:3-4).
•    Grace motivated Paul to serve the Lord (1 Timothy 1:12).

By grace, we can be confident that we are God's righteous children. Yet no matter how we come to faith in Jesus, none of us can take credit for it. We are saved only by God's grace. Like Paul, we need to remember that we are dependent on the Lord for everything--our salvation, our forgiveness, and our lives. Not only should that prompt our gratitude, but it also should create in us an attitude of humility. Grace filled Paul with compassion (Romans 9:3-4). A church that has no compassion for the lost is not fulfilling one of its most important purposes: to take the message of grace to the world. Grace motivated Paul to serve the Lord (1 Timothy 1:12). When we experience the forgiveness and love of God, we naturally want to share it with others. That doesn't mean you must become a pastor or full-time missionary. As you go about your daily activities, simply take advantage of opportunities to reach out to hurting people. 

       
     

If you are not a Christian, do not attempt to please the Lord on your own. Instead, just as Saul did, confess your sins and turn your life over to His control. Don't believe the Devil's lie that you have done too much to ever be accepted by Him. If the Lord took Saul, the murderer and blasphemer, and made him into Paul, the apostle and missionary, He can transform your life as well.

When you ask for salvation, God gives you a fresh start the moment you ask. You become a new creature in Christ Jesus. On the outside, you might look the same, but inside you are changed. You think and act differently. The grace of God makes you fit to serve Him.

Do you feel disqualified because of your past? What would the Lord do in your life if you surrendered completely to Him? Paul never imagined that one day he would play such a pivotal role in leading the early church. God's grace still holds the same power. Are you willing to give Him control and see where He will lead you?

THE INVITATION
★    You can't depend on your own goodness to get to Heaven. We've all sinned  (Romans 3:23). Jesus paid the penalty for your sins with His death on the cross and His resurrection (John 3:16).
★    To be forgiven and be guaranteed a place in Heaven, you need to repent of sin, confess that you are a sinner, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ in your heart (Acts 2:21).
★    You can use the following prayer or your own words, but you must actually believe in your heart that your prayer is real:
              Lord Jesus, I believe You are the Son of God. I confess that I have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed. Please forgive all my wrongdoing and let me live in relationship with You from now on.
              I receive You as my Savior and recognize that the work You accomplished once and for all on the cross was done on my behalf.
              Thank You for saving me. Help me to live a life that is pleasing to You.
                     In Your name I pray, Amen.

    Rev. Dr. Nicholas J. Gray, Pastor   Broadway Baptist Church   Sedalia, Missouri   2015