Grace - Part 4
What’s so Amazing about Grace
Grace: more than we deserve and more than we can Imagine
Grace: The Thief on the Cross
People have been trying to steal from me almost all my life. Thieves are many and thievery common place. In fact, internet and phone scams are so common we get used to these thieving attempts against us. Those people who attempt to deceive through scams are thieves!
Thieves have stolen from me batteries, fishing equipment, time (employee who lied about his hours worked is a thief) and most annoying of all are the daily attempts to entice to press the button on a scam email.
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The punish for thieves vary from country to country and across history as well.
A person convicted of theft under $5,000 as a summary offence can be fined up to $2,000 or imprisoned for up to six months or both. These are maximum penalties, however, and the penalties for a first offender would likely be much less severe.
In Israel today
An extended period of imprisonment of seven years will be imposed on persons who steal, destroy, or harm items of high monetary value (those valued above an amount approximately equivalent to US$133,000).
In the OT Law.
Exodus 22:1 “Whoever steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep. -If you can’t pay you are put into slavery until the debt is paid
In Saudia Arabia
Theft (stealing in secret) is punished by the amputation of the offender's right hand, and armed or highway robbery may be punished by execution, crucifixion, or amputation of hands and feet from opposite sides of the body, depending on the severity of the offense.
In Jesus time in Israel
27 And with him (Jesus on the cross) they crucify two thieves: the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.
-if the theft was severe enough like a highway robbery, as in the good Samaritan story, then the punishment was crucifixion.
Question - what does one dying thief being crucified have to do with dying Jesus?
Yes, unearned, unmerited grace, more than that thief deserved and more than he could have ever imagined -in a moment he would be in paradise,
Grace: The Thief on the Cross
Now watch the dying Jesus extend grace to one dying thief. Listen to the story from Mark 15 and Luke 27:
Mark Now it was the third hour when they crucified Him. 26 The inscription of the charge against Him read, “THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
Luke And they crucified two thieves (robbers) with Him, one on His right and one on His left. 29 Those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, shaking their heads and saying, “Ha! You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save Yourself by coming down from the cross!” (catch that Jesus was dying and this death was the ultimate display of grace, and they mocked). 31 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes, were mocking Him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself! 32 Let this Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, so that we may see and believe!” (religious leaders mocked Him -He still displays grace)
Luke 15 reads on: 39 One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” (even sinners mocked Him -He still displays grace)
40 But the other (Thief) responded, and rebuking him, said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our crimes; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” (the request for grace) 43 And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (grace given).
The paradise thief had lived a life of sin and wickedness, he had deliberately harmed others for self-gain, his life of malice, mischief and evilness had landed him pinned to a cross. Soon they would break his legs to speed the onset of his final breath. There was no time to do good deeds or to apologize or to repay those he stole from. No time, no good deeds, no earning merit badges, no, no time.
Simply, the thief looked to Jesus and asked for grace, he asked for His favor.
Grace asked for à grace given. That’s our God -the grace giver.
If the thief had not asked for grace he would be in hell today. Separated from Christ. For all of us, we asked for God’s grace when we like the thief who looked at himself and saw wickedness and just punishment and we see ourselves in the same way. We look to Jesus Christ and ask Lord have mercy on me, Lord your grace on me!!
Grace asked for à grace given. That’s our God -the grace giver.
Maybe if we describe the complete opposite of Grace, God’s grace, we will see the stark contrast and appreciate God’s grace all the more.
Let me read Charles Dickinson’s description of Scrooge from his book A Christmas Carol. Imagine Grace filled God on 1 hand and ungracious Scrooge on the other hand.
“Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn't thaw it one degree at Christmas. Bah humbug.”
Isn’t that a great description of Ebenezer Scrooge? Can’t you just picture him walking down the street . . . everyone moves out of his way, nobody looks at him, nobody acknowledges him, babies stop crying, youth run, and old people shake. As Dickens wrote, “Even the blindmen’s dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming, would tug their owners into doorways.”
He was a hard-hearted, stingy, tight-fisted, angry, selfish, ready to bite your head off, mad at the world and Christmas — old man. Can’t you just see old Ebenezer Scrooge? Can you see him? Well, that’s not God. No, the opposite is God, extremely gracious. Extremely gracious to you.
God’s grace is over the top, extravagant, excessive, unwarranted and unearned. Even creation paints a picture of God graciously over doing creation with extravagance.
He didn’t just put a few fish in the sea, He filled the sea with fish. Would Adam and Eve be able to see all the fish? No, but God did it anyways. What about all the stars in the universe. We can’t count them all, yet God placed them there. If we can’t see all of them, then why create them? A few hundred would have been enough, but God created a sky which glimmers with stars we can’t even see.
God’s grace is so vast, so deep, so wide, so great and has been described in Scriptures as:
+ Rich in kindness, tolerance and patience (Romans 2:4).
+ His grace has been described as exceedingly abundant (1 Timothy 1:14);
+ Indescribable (2 Corinthians 9:15).
+ God doesn’t just love us, God lavishes us with His love (1 John 3:1).
+ God doesn’t just give out wisdom, but He gives generously to all
without finding fault (James 1:5).
God’s grace maybe best described in 1 word GENEROUS.
God’s Grace is constantly generous.
Generous enough to give us goodness and mercy which will follow us . . all the days of our life. And where will we dwell? In the house of the Lord!! And for how long will we live there?! Forever!!
Generous enough to give rain to the just and the unjust.
Generous enough to overflow the prodigals table with a banquet;
to overflow Peter’s boat twice with fish.
Jesus is generous enough to forgive all who asked and all who asked to receive salvation, received it.
This grace is yours for the asking and asking for God’s grace hinges upon your sincerity of heart, you know God and you know His grace is what u need
your sincere commitment to follow God,
your sincere trust and faith in a God who is full of grace.
You can’t get any more direct than that. Here’s another way to say it ~
GRACE CREATES MORE GRACE! Or maybe GRACE RECEIVED CREATES MORE GRACE!
Just in case you missed it, we are the person with the billion dollar debt. God’s grace is immeasurable. We can never pay it back, because His grace covers it and it’s a gift. God has poured out his grace into our lives in such abundance that we can’t ever quantify it.
God doesn’t give us grace through an eye dropper. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine if it was that slow and minimal. No, God pours His grace upon us, and we celebrate it.
Your heart is like a dixie cup, and God’s grace is like Niagra Falls being poured into that dixie cup. You cannot contain it all. We might try, but we can’t, it will overflow; and that is the point and the hope. That God’s love will overflow from our hearts into the lives of others.
You see, God is a contagiously generous God. Jesus said, “Freely you have received, freely give” Matthew 10:8. You see, when God’s grace happens to us, we become a people who are very gifted. We are saved by His abundant and generous grace and God calls us to do the same. We are to give generously, because we have received generously. It should be a natural outflow of grace. When grace happens, generosity happens.
When you experience God’s grace you might find yourself wanting to forgive some people you didn’t want to forgive; you may find yourself performing some extravagant acts of kindness; you may find yourself doing some things that 10 years ago, or maybe last month you never would have considered, and now you’re doing it. All because of grace. When grace happens, generosity happens.
When you meet those extravagant givers, you know they’ve experienced the grace of God. And when you meet those cold, unforgiving, tight-fisted Scrooges, you also know they’ve never received God’s grace. It was poured over them, but never received in them.
Some final questions as we close ...
Is there anyone in your life whom you refuse to forgive? The question is not what did they do to you; the question is do you know what God has given to you?
Jesus said, “If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal” Luke 7:47 (message). If you have not accepted God’s forgiveness, you will not be able to release His forgiveness. Holding unto unforgiveness and bitterness is a weight on you, that you can easily get rid of, if you’re willing.
Do you resent God’s kindness to others? Think about it, you’ve been working since 6 am, you’ve kept your nose clean, you’ve fulfilled everything you’re supposed to do, you’re the model Christian — — then you see this other jerk, who at the final hour, after living a life which was a total embarrassment, a total disgrace, is going to end up in the same heaven as you?
You ever resent the goodness that God has for His people? Remember grace is His business. He will do it in His ways, all the time.
How long has it been since you gave a gift which prompted a response such as, “wait, this is just too much, this is too generous!” This is even too controversially generous. I’m not talking about being irresponsible, but just stretching yourself. What if you were known in your neighborhood for being the one who is controversially generous. Or at work you were lavishly generous? They are always doing those things.
It happens when we follow the psalmist who wrote, 2 Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits — 3 who forgives all your sins. Psalm 103:2-3
As you think of all the benefits from God, His forgiveness of all of your sins. He’s not tight-fisted with grace, His love is abundant. His sacrifice is constant. And our Lord gives grace the way His Son died on the cross . . . with open arms. He’s not a Scrooge and we shouldn’t be a Scrooge. Maybe this is the season for some of you to be UnScrooged. May we give grace the same way as God.
July 23, 2023