Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.

God’s Grace Has a Tough Side Not Often Preached

Summary:  The apostle Paul was entrusted by Jesus with “…the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24). In his ministry and in his epistles Paul placed great emphasis on this totally undeserved and unearned favor and blessing of God upon us. But Paul also taught a tougher side of grace, and that side of the coin, sad to say, is rarely preached in pulpits today. First let’s take a brief look at grace’s mainline message. Then the often-ignored flip side!

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Titus 2:11  For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.

• Research “grace” in theology books or online and you’ll come up with solid definitions like these:
• “Grace. Undeserved blessing freely bestowed on humankind by God” (The Concise Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, p. 210)
 
• “In the Christian sense, grace is God’s spontaneous, though unmerited, love for sinful man, supremely revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ” (Beacon Dictionary of Theology, p. 240).
 
• “Grace - Unmerited and free favor and mercy shown to sinners by a sovereign God with a view to salvation” (Nelson’s New Christian Dictionary, p. 338)
• These are good definitions of grace in its primary biblical emphasis. Preachers of various doctrinal persuasions deliver sermons on the grace of God and lead unregenerate sinners from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to salvation in Jesus Christ. Typically and rightly quoted are such life-changing verses as these:
Ephesians 2:8-9, KJV  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
 
Acts 15:11  We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved
• I was personally saved in 1969 when these and similar biblical messages of the grace of God broke through to my heart. I repented of my sins, came to Jesus Christ in simple faith, and have lived from that day to this as a grace-blessed, born-again child of God.
 
• But faithfulness to God and to His word the bible requires that we also embrace another side of His grace. In the Scripture portion below, notice (vs. 11) that the apostle Paul begins with the wonderful and widely-taught message of salvation by God’s grace. But in vss. 12-14 the great apostle adds some additional definition to the meaning of the true grace of God. And that is the fact that, now saved by His grace, we are instructed by that same grace to STOP SINNING! Don’t leave me now! If this offends you or doesn’t line up with your personal definition of grace, then you’ll consign yourself to a lifetime of living below God’s standards for His sons and daughters. Let’s read it.

Titus 2:11-14  For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope — the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

• Thank God! By His grace in Jesus Christ He offers salvation and eternal life to all (vs. 11). That should be one of the very central messages of our preaching and witnessing.
 
• But we suddenly see in the next verse a change of emphasis from the “unmerited favor” side of grace to grace’s clear commands to live a holy life. It is the “grace of God … [that] teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions” [11-12]. It is the “grace of God … [that] teaches us … to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives” [11-12].
 
• I see widespread loose living among many Christians today. There seems to be a terribly wrong attitude held by some believers that goes something like this: “Hey, I’m saved, I’m under grace. God ‘understands’ my sinful lifestyle, and He’s very forgiving. It’s all OK, because I’m covered by His grace.” I’m sure you’ve noticed how deeply that casual attitude violates Titus 2:11-14, which clearly declares that God’s grace “teaches us” to say “No” to ungodliness and to live upright, godly lives.
 
• Let’s take a look at two instances in Jesus’ ministry where we can see this two-sided application of grace — (1) His undeserved favor for things like salvation and physical healing; and (2) Jesus’ command that they stop sinning!  Both these truths are part of true, biblical “grace.”

John 5:5, 8-9, 14  One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years … [8] Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured … [14] Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”

Jesus graciously healed this man who had been an invalid for 38 years. The man did nothing to earn this healing; it was entirely and mercifully by Christ’s grace. But shortly thereafter Jesus spoke to the healed man again and told him, “Stop sinning!” This message — and we’ve seen that it’s part of the Lord’s “grace” — is tragically absent from many church pulpits today. Erroneous thinking has many Christians’ minds confused on this topic of holiness. They reply to this message by saying, “You’re trying to get me back ‘under the law’ and under bondage.”
 
• But they have missed the point entirely. It would not be “gracious” of the Lord to touch our lives with salvation, or healing (as here), or in some other merciful way and then leave us unchanged in our sinful life styles. How would that be grace! Jesus’ grace led Him to heal the man. Then His same grace led Him to warn the man to stop sinning, or something worse might happen to him. So grace is not just merciful; when needed, it is instructional, corrective, demanding of change for our good. The full breadth of God's grace includes some "tough love" — "I have healed you ... now stop sinning!"

John 8:1-11  [3] … a woman caught in adultery … [5] “In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” … [7] … “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” … [9] Those who heard began to go away one at at time … [10f] "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”  [KJV: “Go and sin no more.”]

• Grace (“Neither do I condemn you”) was followed by more grace (“Go now and leave your life of sin”). This was not grace-then-judgment, not grace-then-bondage, not grace-then-“works-mentality,” not “grace-then-under-the-law.” No! This was grace blessing her with forgiveness, then grace telling her to stop sinning. As we saw Paul tell Titus, “The grace of God teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions.” This is another example of tough-love grace: "I have forgiven you ... now stop sinning!"
 
• As you live out this twofold meaning of grace, your life will be changed for the better. In your determination to live a holy life, you begin to conquer temptation. You find that “sin shall not [any longer] exert dominion over you” (Romans 6:14, Amplified). The fruits of the Spirit begin to grow in your life (Galatians 5:22-23) as you “crucify [the] flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). You find yourself in a closer walk with the Lord.

Jude 1:4, The Living Bible  “…some godless teachers have wormed their way in among you, saying that after we become Christians we can do just as we like without fear of God’s punishment … they have turned against our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

• That type of loose-living Christianity has infiltrated many American churches. Many believers today, if you quoted Jesus’ exact words to them — “Stop sinning!” — would reply with the frequently-heard excuse: “That’s bondage and legalism!” Unfortunately, they are deeply in error. Far from being “bondage and legalism,” the command to live holy lives was apostolic teaching and was the commandment of Jesus Christ Himself to those upon whom He manifested His great grace.
 
• In sum, grace and holy living are both part of the Lord’s best plan for our lives. Let’s be diligent to allow His grace to “teach us” to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives, always eager to do what is good (Titus 2:11-14). Your life will be blessed!

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Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.