Bible Basics (5th edition): A study manual revealing the joy and peace of true Christianity

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Belief In Practice 2: The Grace Of God

John Parkes

"However , I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace" (Acts 20:24).

These are the sentiments about the gospel from the apostle Paul as he shares the things that are very deepest and dearest to his heart. The thing that he was so passionate about was the grace of God. He was so eager to tell people about it, and share it with everyone he came across, hoping that they too would respond to Gods kindness, Gods undeserved kindness to them, and share in a life of peace with their Creator, having been forgiven of their wrong, sinful, rebellious ways. For trying to pass on this amazing message he was beaten and outcast, by those who even used to be his friends; ultimately he was killed for trying to share his gospel of grace.
Not only was forgiveness and reconciliation on offer, through grace, but also the hope of Eternal Life. God is prepared to forgive our wicked ways, which truly deserve death, according to the law, and give us the gift of eternal Life which we did not deserve (Rom 6:23). This is indeed grace. Not only do sinners not deserve Life, but unfortunately no matter how hard we work at it there is really no way to escape from the fact that we will end up dead. Scientists are trying to dream up ways to stop us from dying, and many, many religious people have even come to the conclusion that death is really a release from some physical jail, (our bodies), and that on death, we are released to a life of bliss in eternity with God. Tragically they have made death equal life. Although there are a variety of thoughts and convictions on the matter we all really and truly end up as dust, dead, as the Bible so plainly describes in lots of places.

If I were God and people treated me like we treat our heavenly Father, I would leave them dead and be glad they were gone. Fortunately I’m not God, but I am trying to be more like him and his son Jesus and follow the command to “love your enemies”.

Unlike me, being gracious is a part of God's character. Back in Exodus when the name of our heavenly father was proclaimed to Moses in chapter 34 verse 6, it went like this: "The Lord, The Lord ,the compassionate and GRACIOUS God, slow to anger abounding in love….etc. In 2 Chron 30:9 we are told: “The Lord your God is graciousness and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to Him", and again in Neh 9:17 : "But you are a forgiving God, GRACIOIUS and compassionate , slow to anger and abounding in Love. Therefore you did not desert them.”
You may notice at the end of the last quote, it says “therefore you did not desert them”. The point is, they very much deserved to be deserted. The context is in regard to the people that Moses brought out of Egypt; not far out of Egypt the people “became arrogant, stiff necked, and did not obey your commands. They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them”. In fact they were so rebellious that they wanted to throw Moses out of the leadership and set a new leader over them to take them back to slavery in Egypt, but as it says , “you did not desert them” , even though they deserved to be. That equals Grace. Legally and justly God could have left their carcases to rot in the desert, after all, “the law came through Moses”, and under the law their rebellion should be dealt with by death. But not our God, thankfully he showed his love by being gracious beyond measure to them, as we are reminded in Ps. 103:10 “he does not treat us as our sins deserve, or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him. Indeed, “The lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made" (Ps. 145:8,9).

God knew that we still were not convinced of how gracious and loving he is, he knew that from the moment we were created, but he was determined that he would not stop until the full measure of his grace was poured out to us. This grace of God was revealed through the Lord Jesus Christ. In John 1:17 we are to told, “ the law ( Justice) was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”.

And what a challenging revelation this grace that the Lord put into practice proved to be, and still proves to be up to this very day. In Luke 1:40 we are told of Jesus: “ the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom and the GRACE of God was upon him”. In Luke 4:22 again: “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the GRACIOUS words that came from his lips”.

Jesus came proclaiming a God that the people hadn’t even imagined, having a heart of compassion and grace for those who were not acceptable by the religious or secular standards of the day, mixing it with even the ones who were thought to be under the curse of God, and even touching the supremely unclean, the lepers, and allowing himself to be touched by the wicked in Luke 7:37-50.

In his stories Jesus shared his insights of the forgiving, loving, compassionate, gracious and joyful God that our Heavenly father is. One of the most challenging and memorable would surely have to be the parable of the merciful father in Luke 15. You can read the full story in Lk 15:11 - 31, think about it and see where you fit into the picture.

It is a story about the truly gracious, loving heart of our heavenly Father. Jesus tells the story of a son who wants to go his own way, leave the family home, and the family, take his share of the inheritance and go and do his own thing. The son ends up squandering all the inheritance in wild living, in the end not even being able to afford enough food to feed himself. Who wouldn’t say 'Serves him right!'. I have certainly felt like that, and I can feel justified in harbouring this attitude. We can even find lots of Bible verses to support our attitude, eg. Prov 5:23; Prov 10:4; and also the popular verse that says, “A person will reap what they sow”.

Not so with the Father, we don’t find dad sitting down inside the house, sulking in his self righteousness, thinking up ideas of confession for the son to go through, making plans to ensure that this will never happen again, being ready to mete out justice, pouring over the thought of how much money the son has wasted and how it will have to be repaid for him to find favour with the family again. We find a dad who is not being reasonable at all. At the father's response I can imagine that many would be horrified: “What are you doing, don’t you know what this wicked boy has done, he deserves to be punished , to pay for his wrongdoing!”. Instead dad is up there pouring out grace and love on this undeserving wayward lad. I love dad's response, in Lk 15:20 “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him (He had to be looking for him, surely) and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.. The father said to the servants, Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf, lets have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again: he was lost and is found”. So they began to celebrate”. I can imagine that the listeners were shocked and dumbfounded, Jesus was telling the listeners, and us, the readers, what God is like, a God of such love compassion and grace. You had better believe it, because we are all, to some extent, greater or lesser, just like the wild living son who has rejected the father.

The reason I love the dad's response is because I too need our Heavenly Father and Jesus to respond to me, just like the father in Jesus' story responded to his son. In fact we all need the grace of God to reach out and touch us. We all have been like sheep that have strayed out of the way, our sins have separated us from our God. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, we all have the heart that is described in Jeremiah as being deceitful and beyond cure, and it would seem that most of us have done things that we would not like everyone to know about. But God is there, he knows our lives inside out, there is nothing that is hidden from him, he actually knows us better than we know ourselves, which is a very humbling awareness to have.
Although God knows us and our weaknesses and wickedness, our father is always wanting us to return to him, ready to throw an incredible celebration, and have rejoicing (Lk 15:6,10,32) in heaven when we repent of our ways, and determine in our hearts to follow Jesus.

That is typical of God's grace and love, he has taken the initiative in reaching out to us in a very clear and unmistakable way. By raising up for us his own special Holy one, his dear sinless son, Jesus, to be our saviour from sin and death. As has been quoted previously from Acts 24, that it was the apostle Paul’s life’s labour, it was the thing that drove him, that he might complete his task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace. He had experienced the wonder of God's undeserved kindness, his grace, being richly poured out on him- and wanted to let everybody else know how great it was. In 1 Tim 1:13, 14 he tells us of the wonder of his conversion: “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord Jesus was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and the love that are in Christ Jesus”. Under God's justice Paul was worthy of death, under God's grace, that is found only in Jesus, Paul was given a new start, and he knew this new start, this freedom, this peace with God, is on offer to all, as is stated in Titus 3:7: "So that having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life”. In Romans 3:23 we are told: “for all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God... [we] are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus “. In 1Tim. 2:4 it says that God "wants all men saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth”. The extent of God's desire to have us become part of his family and share in his grace and the blessings that flow from it is described in Rom 5:8: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners , Christ died for us”. God had his son treated like the sinner deserves,
so that the sinner can share with Christ in the eternal life that Christ deserves, by having faith in what was done for us- Isaiah 53; 1Pet 2:24; 2Cor 5:21; 2Cor 8:9.

"Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see". Such is the truth for all who come to understand the gospel, the good news of Gods grace in all its' marvellous truth . For now we can but wait, but not be idle. We are encouraged by Peter in his first letter, “to prepare our minds for action; be self controlled; set our hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed from heaven”.

Bible Basics: Contents

Part 1: "The things concerning the Kingdom of God" Study 1: God 1.1  The Existence Of God || 1.2  The Personality Of God || Belief In Practice 1: Knowing God || 1.3  God's Name And Character || Belief In Practice 2: Grace (John Parkes) || Belief In Practice 3: The All Seeing God || Belief In Practice 4: God Is Omnipotent || Belief In Practice 5: Responding To The One God || 1.4     The Angels || Belief In Practice 6: God As Creator || Digression 1: God Manifestation || Digression 2:  Why The Trinity Was Accepted || Study 1: Questions Study 2: The Spirit Of God 2.1  Definition || 2.2  Inspiration || 2.3  Gifts Of The Holy Spirit || 2.4  The Withdrawal Of The Gifts || 2.5  The Bible The Only Authority || Digression 3: Is The Holy Spirit A Person? || Digression 4: The Principle Of Personification || Belief In Practice 7: The Implications Of Inspiration || Study 2: Questions Study 3: The Promises Of God 3.1  Introduction || 3.2  The Promise In Eden || 3.3  The Promise To Noah || 3.4  The Promise To Abraham || 3.5  The Promise To David || Belief In Practice 8: Covenant Relationship With God || Study 3: Questions Study 4: God And Death 4.1  The Nature Of Man || 4.2  The Soul || 4.3  The Spirit || 4.4  Death Is Unconsciousness || 4.5  The Resurrection || 4.6  The Judgment || Belief In Practice 9: Judgment Now || 4.7  The Place Of Reward: Heaven Or Earth?|| 4.8  Responsibility To God || 4.9  Hell || Digression 5: Purgatory || Digression 6: Ghosts And Reincarnation || Digression 7: The 'Rapture' || Belief In Practice 10: The Motivational Power Of Understanding Death || Study 4: Questions Study 5: The Kingdom Of God 5.1  Defining The Kingdom || 5.2  The Kingdom Is Not Now Established || 5.3  The Kingdom Of God In The Past || 5.4  The Kingdom Of God In The Future || 5.5  The Millennium || Digression 8: The Kingdom Of God Now (Graham Bacon) || Belief In Practice 11: What The Kingdom Of God Means Today || Study 5: QuestionsStudy 6: God And Evil 6.1  God And Evil || 6.2  The Devil And Satan || 6.3  Demons || Digression 9: The Implications And Origin Of The Belief In A Personal Satan || Digression 10: Witchcraft || Digression 11: What Happened In Eden? || Digression 12: Lucifer || Belief In Practice 12: Battle For The Mind || Study 6: Questions

Part 2: "The things concerning...the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 8:12) Study 7: The Origin Of Jesus. 7.1  Old Testament Prophecies Of Jesus || 7.2  The Virgin Birth || 7.3  Christ's Place In God's Plan || 7.4  "In the beginning was the word" || Digression 13: Jesus The Son Of God (Michael Gates) || Digression 14: Did Jesus Create The Earth? || Belief In Practice 13: Jesus Didn’t Pre-exist: And So What? || Study 7: Questions Study 8: The Nature Of Jesus 8.1  Introduction || 8.2  Differences Between God And Jesus || 8.3  The Nature Of Jesus || 8.4  The Humanity Of Jesus || 8.5  The Relationship Of God With Jesus || Belief In Practice 14: The Real Christ || Digression 15: How The Real Christ Was Lost || Digression 16: The Divine Side Of Jesus || Study 8: Questions Study 9: The Work Of Jesus 9.1  The Victory Of Jesus || 9.2  The Blood Of Jesus || 9.3  Jesus As Our Representative || 9.4  Jesus And The Law Of Moses || 9.5  The Sabbath || Digression 17 The Crucifix || Digression 18: Was Jesus Born On Dec. 25th? || Belief In Practice 15: The Meaning Of Christ’s Resurrection For Us || Belief In Practice 16: Christ Died For Me- So What Should I Do? || Belief In Practice 17: The Real Cross || Belief In Practice 18: The Inspiration Of The Cross || Study 9: Questions || Study 10: Baptism Into Jesus 10.1  The Vital Importance Of Baptism || 10.2  How Should We Be Baptized? || 10.3  The Meaning Of Baptism || 10.4  Baptism And Salvation || Digression 19: Re-baptism || Digression 20 The Thief On The Cross || Belief In Practice 19: The Certainty Of Salvation || Study 10: Questions Study 11: Life In Christ 11.1  Introduction || 11.2  Holiness || 11.2.1  The Use Of Force || 11.2.2  Politics || 11.2.3  Worldly Pleasures || 11.3  Practical Christian Life || 11.3.1  Bible Study || 11.3.2  Prayer || 11.3.3  Preaching || 11.3.4  Ecclesial Life || 11.3.5  The Breaking Of Bread || 11.4  Marriage || 11.5  Fellowship || Study 11: Questions ||