“Love’s Grace, Part 1” – Deuteronomy 9:1-6

August 6th, 2017  

Dt. 9:1-6

“Love’s Grace – Pt 1”

Aux Text: Luke 18:9-14

Call to Worship: Selected verses from Psalm 72

 

Service Orientation: We make a tragic and blasphemous error whenever we think God helps those who help themselves.  The truth is God helps those who are unable to help themselves and know it; and by faith look to God for help.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the WeekFor it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.  —Ephesians 2:8-9

 

Background Information:

  • Deuteronomy 9 contains the record and example of Moses as intercessor before God. Taking on a ministry that would suggest the heavenly work of Jesus, his descendant, Moses describes how he stood in the gap between God in his righteous anger and Israel in rebellion, and preserved the lives of God’s people.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 118)
  • “Why must such an extended period of deprivation be endured? Why should not Abraham himself possess the land of promise immediately?

Only God’s grace to sinful men provides an adequate response to this question.  The grace of God’s longsuffering expressed toward the current inhabitants of the land explains the delay.  Because “the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet full” (v. 16), the descendants of Abraham must endure 400 years of exile from the land of promise.”  (O. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Covenants, p. 129) (see also: 2 Pet 3:8-9)

  • (v. 2) Here in chapter 9, the text itself magnifies the difficulties, singling out for mention the Anakim, a pre-Israelite group in Canaan, who were renowned for their tall stature and fighting qualities (“a people great and tall”). The purpose was not of course to frighten the Israelites, but to remind them that the victory was only possible by God’s help.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 64)
  • (v. 2) For forty years these towering giants had stood as a taunting symbol of the national unbelief. So tall and formidable were they that Israel had coined an expression, “Who can stand before the descendants of Anak?” (Dt 9:2).  But Moses assured the Israelites that God specializes in Anakim!  He would go before His people to destroy the giants and give Israel the land.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 148)
  • (v. 3) This reminder of the enemies’ apparent invincibility sets the stage for Moses’ confident declaration in verse 3, namely, that the key to the Israelites’ future is not to be found in their own strength but in the strength of their divine Commander-in Chief. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 244)
  • (vss. 4-5) Here begins Deuteronomy’s great teaching about the basis on which the conquest will rest. Success will come, first of all, because the inhabitants of Canaan are “full up” with wickedness.  Abraham was told, when Yahweh made a covenant with him, that his descendants would not return to Canaan for four generations, because “the iniquity of the Amorites [was] not yet complete” (Gn 15:16).  Moses wants Israel to know that it is not being given the land because of its own righteousness, which he will document in vv. 6-24.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 363)
  • (v. 5) The Israelites would be right in their estimation of the Canaanites, but utterly wrong in their estimation of themselves. The wickedness of the Canaanites did not prove the righteousness of Israel.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 131)
  • (v. 6) The assertion that Israel has no claim to innocence is made into a thesis in v. 6 (“you are an obstinate people,” lit. “hard, stiff of neck”; cf. Ex 32:9; 33:3, 5; 34:9). The image implies a refusal to turn the head in order to listen (Weinfeld 1991, 407).  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 182)
  • (v. 6) The image is one of an obstinate, intractable animal, sufficiently strong to resist the yoke on the back of the neck (cf. Isa 48:4). “Breaking the yoke and tearing the straps” is language used in the OT to describe Israel’s breaking of the Horeb/Sinai covenant (Jer 2:20; 5:5), also any other rebellion against Yahweh (Ps 2:3).  In Dt 10:16 the people are told to “stiffen the neck” no more, i.e., be no longer stubborn.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 364)
  • (v. 6) Far from commending their own outstanding spirituality, God’s goodness in providing Israel a homeland would be seen in spite of the fact that Israel was a stiff-necked people. The last expression suggests an unwillingness to adjust to God’s yoke and is a figurative way of describing stubbornness.  It occurs eight times in Hebrew Scripture, in each case describing Israel corporately (cp. V. 13; 10:16; Ex 32:9; 33:3, 5; 34:9; 2 Chr 30:8).  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 121)
  • In place of the eagles’ wings by which they were carried unto God they confidently chose a covenant of works when they said: ‘All that the Lord hath spoken we will do.’  They were called upon to face a concrete choice between the mercy of God which had followed them, and a new and hopeless covenant of works.  They fell from grace.  The experience of the nation is true of every individual who falls from grace at the present time.  Every blessing from God that has ever been experienced came only from the loving mercy of God; yet with that same blasting self-trust, people are now turning to a dependence upon their works.  It is far more reasonable and honoring to God to fall helpless into His everlasting arms, and to acknowledge that we rely on His grace alone.”  (Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Grace, 110)

 

The question to be answered is . . . What does God through Moses want to make sure the Israelites (and us) know as we read these 6 verses?

 

Answer:  God does not bless us because we are righteous, good or deserving.  He blesses us because He loves us and wants what is best for us.  There is nothing you can do to earn God’s blessings.  The only thing you need to receive God’s blessing is to confess your need.

 

Law comes with grace into the renewed soul.  There is no such thing as grace without law.  Even in human relationships, graciousness must have an order if it is to be graciousness. (Dallas Willard; Renovation of the Heart, 215)

 

In sports you have to be good enough in your athletic skill to make the team.  In business you have to perform according to agreed-upon standards in order to keep your job.  In society you have to be a winner in order to merit recognition.  In Jesus Christ, you do not have to be good enough, you do not have to perform, you do not have to be a winner.  Ironically, to be in Christ means exactly the opposite—it is to admit that you are not good enough, that you cannot perform, that because of sin’s grip on your life you are a loser—and to admit, for that very reason, that you need a Savior, a Savior whose unconditional love transforms your life.  (Patrick Morley; Ten Secrets for the Man in the Mirror, 176)

 

We tend to think of grace as an attitude; and, of course, it is that.  We even define it that way.  We call grace “God’s unmerited favor toward the undeserving,” in fact, toward those who deserve the precise opposite.  But grace is more than an attitude.  It is also a power that reaches out to save those who, apart from the power of grace, would perish.  (James Montgomery Boice, An Expositional Commentary: Romans, Vol. 2, 634)

 

The Christian life is all of grace.  “From him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be glory forever” (Rom 11:36).  (John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, 53)

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Grace

 

Many years ago, the preacher Phillips Brooks explained G-R-A-C-E as God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.  (Bryan Chapell; Holiness by Grace, 9)

 

Justice- When you get what you deserve.

Mercy- When you don’t get what you deserve.

Grace- When you get what you don’t deserve

 

Mercy withholds the knife from the heart of Isaac – Grace provides a ram in the thicket.

Mercy runs to forgive the Prodigal Son – Grace throws a party with every extravagance.

Mercy bandages the wounds of the man beaten by the robbers – Grace covers the cost of his full recovery.

Mercy hears the cry of the thief on the cross – Grace promises paradise that very day.

Mercy pays the penalty for our sin at the cross – Grace substitutes the righteousness of Christ for our wickedness.

Mercy converts Paul on the road to Damascus – Grace calls him to be an apostle.

Mercy saves John Newton from a life of rebellion and sin – Grace makes him a pastor and author of a timeless hymn.

Mercy withholds what we have earned – Grace provides blessings we have not earned.

(David Jeremiah, Captured by Grace, 23)

 

The first and possibly most fundamental characteristic of divine grace is that it presupposes sin and guilt.  Grace has meaning only when men are seen as fallen, unworthy of salvation, and liable to eternal wrath…

Grace does not contemplate sinners merely as undeserving but as ill-deserving… It is simply that we do not deserve grace; we do deserve hell!  (Jerry Bridges; Transforming Grace; Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love, 32)

 

God doesn’t owe you mercy or grace.   That is to defy the very definition of mercy and grace.  For mercy and grace are voluntary, not obligatory.  —R. C. Sproul

 

Grace is described in Scripture as the foundation or the means of, among other things, our election (Rom 11:5), our regeneration (Eph 2:5; Ti 3:5-7), our redemption (2 Cor 8:9; Eph 1:7), our justification (Rom 3:24; Ti 3:5-7), indeed, the whole of our salvation (Eph 2:8).  (C. Samuel Storms, The Grandeur of God, 126)

 

Karl Barth said, “Only when grace is recognized to be incomprehensible is it grace.”  If we think we understand God’s love and grace, we are probably without it.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Romans, 19)

 

If it can be lost – it is not grace

If it has to be earned – it is not grace

 

If you are not making the devout nervous you are not preaching grace as you ought.  The message of grace is scandalous.    (Tullian Tevidgjian; Life Without God – Pt 7)

 

Mark Twain used to talk about people who were “good in the worst sense of the word,” a phrase that, for many, captures the reputation of Christians today.  Recently I have been asking a question of strangers—for example, seat mates on an airplane—when I strike up a conversation.  “When I say the words ‘evangelical Christian’ what comes to mind?”  In reply, mostly I hear political descriptions:  of strident pro-life activists, or gay-rights opponents, or proposals for censoring the Internet.  I hear references to the Moral Majority, an organization disbanded years ago.  Not once—not once—have I heard a description redolent of grace.  Apparently that is not the aroma Christians give off in the world.  (Philip Yancey;  What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 31)

 

What do we need to know about God’s grace?:

I-  God is so holy, righteous, perfect and pure that there is nothing we sinners can do to earn, merit or deserve God’s grace.  (Dt 9:4-6; see also: Ps 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Eccl 7:20; Jer 17:9; Rom 3:9-26; 2 Tm 1:9; Ti 3:5; Jam 4:6; 1 Pt 5:5)

 

In Deuteronomy 9, Moses continually emphasizes that any success they might enjoy in the Canaan conquest is not to be interpreted as a mark of approval of their own righteousness (9:1-6).  In fact, in many incidents (9:7-21, 22, 23), including the golden calf episode, Israel had shown herself to be not righteous, but stubborn and rebellious.  Only after Moses interceded was Israel saved from destruction.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 148)

 

I don’t mean to disparage any spiritual discipline, commitment, or sacrifice.  These all have their place in the realm of grace.  But they are never to be relied on as a meritorious cause for expecting God’s blessing or to answer prayer.  Martin Luther, in his exposition of Dt 8:17-18, spoke of “blessings that at times come to us through our labors and at times without our labors, but never because of our labors; for God always gives them because of His undeserved mercy” (emphasis added).  (Jerry Bridges; Transforming Grace; Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love, 72)

 

The theological conclusion of these verses, therefore, is similar to the argument and claim of Paul in Romans 1-3 that all are under the power of sin, Jew no less than Gentile (3:9).  Although he does not allude to this passage, Paul found basis for that conviction all through the OT.  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 121)

 

Grace has meaning only when we are seen as fallen, unworthy of salvation & liable to eternal wrath.  (Samuel Storms; The Grandeur of God,124)

 

The man who really knows most about the grace of God is the man who knows most about his own sinfulness.  The man who thinks that there is very little wrong with him believes also that it can easily be put right, and so has little if any understanding of grace.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 5, 295)

 

Grace ceases to be if God is compelled to bestow it in the presence of human merit… Grace ceases to be grace if God is Compelled to withdraw in it in the presence of Human demerit… [Grace] is treating a person without the slightest reference to desert whatsoever, but solely according to the infinite goodness and sovereign purpose of God.  (Jerry Bridges; Transforming Grace; Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love, 33)

 

If you want to know the blessings of God, the blessings of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the blessings of the Christian gospel, the first thing you must do is admit that you have no claim at all upon them, that you do not deserve them, that actually you deserve nothing but punishment and hell.  If you are still trying to defend yourself, if you still feel that God has not been fair to you, that God is unkind to you or that God has kept something back from you, you are not a Christian; you are still in the position of rebellious Adam and Eve; you are in the position of the Pharisees. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; God’s Way, Not Ours: Isaiah 1, 91)

 

To claim the Lord’s favor to the extent of a quick defeat of the much more powerful inhabitants of the land could lead to the assumption that Israel was especially deserving of that favor.  Indeed, one may assume that in the years Israel occupied the land before the writing of Deuteronomy such an assumption was present if not indeed widespread.  As it places the people of God once again on the boundary between promise and fulfillment, Deuteronomy seeks to shatter on the hard rocks of history any claim on Israel’s part to have won the Lord’s gift out of its own virtue.  Verses 4-6 clearly deny such an assumption, and in fact the rest of the chapter illustrates the opposite picture of Israel’s character.  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 119)

 

But conditional grace is not earned grace.  It is not merited.  “Earned grace” is an oxymoron.  Grace cannot be earned.  The very meaning of grace is that the one receiving the grace does not deserve it–has not earned it.  If a philanthropist pays $80,000 for your college education on the condition that you graduate from high school, you have not earned the gift, but you have met a condition.  It is possible to meet a condition for receiving grace and yet not earn the grace.  Conditional grace does not mean earned grace.  How can this be?  (John Piper, Future Grace, 78-9)

 

The Law is a divinely sent Hercules to attack and kill the monster of self-righteousness and to show us every day just how desperate we need God’s grace. (Martin Luther as quoted by Tullian Tevidgjian; Life Without God – Pt 7)

 

The Christian life isn’t about being perfect and deserving God’s favor.  It’s about taking a few steps, stumbling, getting back up, and taking a few more steps.  Hopefully, over time we won’t stumble as often or fall as hard.  But one thing is sure:  no matter how pure we may be, we’ll never be deserving of God’s favor.  And we’ll never be able to change ourselves.  Since that’s the case, we should devote ourselves to the One who loves us anyway and has the power to change us.  (Bill Perkins, When Good Men are Tempted, 105)

 

The true way to Christianity is this, that a man first acknowledges himself by the law to be a sinner, and that it is impossible for him to do any good work.  For the law says:  You are an evil tree, and therefore all that you think, speak, or do, is against God.  You cannot therefore deserve grace by your works:  which if you go about to do, you double your offense; for since you are an evil tree, you cannot but bring forth evil fruits, that is to say, sins.  “For whatsoever is not of faith, is sin” (Rom 14:23).  So he who would merit grace by works going before faith, goes about to please God with sins, which is nothing else but to heap sin upon sin, to mock God, and to provoke His wrath.   When a man is thus taught and instructed by the law, then is he terrified and humbled, then he sees indeed the greatness of his sin, and cannot find in himself one spark of love of God; therefore he justifies God in His Word, and confesses that he is guilty of death and eternal damnation.  The first part then of Christianity is the preaching of repentance and the knowledge of ourselves.”  (Martin Luther; Commentary on Galatians, 92)

 

Every other religion in the world can be condensed into “I”.  “I” have to do it.  I have to earn my own salvation and relationship with God.  Whereas Christianity crosses out the “I” with and by the cross.  It is all up to Jesus.  —James Kennedy

 

When Martin Luther was asked about the contribution of the human will in relation to his position of God’s grace in salvation, the questioner asked Luther, “Do you mean to say that man contributes nothing to his salvation?”

Luther responded, “Oh no, I did not mean to imply that.  Man contributes his own resistance to the Gospel.”

 

God save us also from self-righteous judgmentalism…There is a universe of difference between the motivations behind legalism and discipline.  Legalism says, “I will do this thing to gain merit with God,” while discipline says, “I will do this because I love God and want to please him.”  Legalism is man-centered; discipline is God-centered. (J. I. Packer; Rediscovering Holiness, 114)

 

Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace.  And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.  (Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace, 18)

 

No creature that deserved Redemption would need to be redeemed.  They that are whole need not the physician.  Christ died for men precisely because men are not worth dying for; to make them worth it.  (CS Lewis, The World’s Last Night, 86)

 

It is not that Pastors should preach grace only or that they should preach law only.   The problem (as I see it) is that pastors need to preach a more intense grace, a more unfathomable love of God, and a more forgiving and compassionate God; and at the same time God’s utter contempt, abhorrence and disgust with our sin.  We should more intensely preach God’s Law and the tragic consequence of our disobedience.  It is not Law and judgment only, or grace only that drives us to repentance; but a powerful understanding of both at the same time.   Our preaching has become anemic, narrow and superficial  because we preach only law or grace and not an extreme of both.  —Pastor Keith

 

That is the great NT doctrine on this matter; it is the thing that these people have to grasp above everything else, that we must not think in terms of particular sins but always in terms of relationship to God.  We all tend to go astray at that point.  That is why we tend to think that some conversions are more remarkable than others.  But they are not.  It takes the same grace of God to save the most respectable person in the world as the most lawless person in the world.  Nothing but the grace of God can save anybody, and it takes the same grace to save all.  But we do not think like that.  We think some conversions are more remarkable than others.  Because we are wrong in our doctrine, we differentiate between sin and sin, and think some to God; it is all a matter of belief or unbelief.  (D. Martyn Lloyd- Jones;  Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, 71)

 

Pride in his good deeds, rather than remorse over his bad deeds, was keeping the older son out of the feast of salvation.  The elder brother’s problem is his self-righteousness, the way he uses his moral record to put God and others in his debt to control them and get them to do what he wants.  His spiritual problem is the radical insecurity that comes from basing his self-image on achievements and performance, so he must endlessly prop up his sense of righteousness by putting others down and finding fault.  As one of my teachers in seminary put it, the main barrier between Pharisees and God is “not their sins, but their damnable good works.”  (Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, 77)

 

The Canaanites’ wickedness did not establish Israel’s righteousness.  Nor did God’s use of Israel as the agent of God’s judgment assume or confer righteousness on Israel’s part.  In later history, the same problem in reverse puzzled Habakkuk, who could not understand God’s use of nations as wicked as the Mesopotamian empires to punish Israel themselves.  And in the same way, the fact that God did use Assyria and Babylon as agents of judgment on Israel’s wickedness did not make those nations righteous or treat them as such.  Quite the opposite.  The paradox of providence, unpopularly taught by the prophets, was that God could use the most deeply unjust nations as the agents of achieving God’s own sovereign dispensing of historical justice in the international arena.  The “rod of God’s anger” (Isa 10:5) did not have to be straight.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 133)

 

Here as in Romans, the case is made that all peoples are guilty before the Lord, or, at least, that even the ones whom the Lord loves have no justification out of their own merit but only through the love and faithfulness of God.  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 122)

 

Israel had many advantages and blessings that were undeniable and based on God’s election, but when it comes to moral standing before God, to matters of relative guilt or innocence, then there is fundamentally no difference between Israel and the nations, Jews and Gentiles.  All alike stand under God’s judgment (cf. Miller, Deuteronomy, 121ff.).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 131-2)

 

The implicit definition of righteousness by which Israel is measured and found wanting is the insistent theme of this book:  The Lord of this people claims their full and exclusive devotion (5:7; 6:4-5).  The failure of Israel to put its full trust in the Lord alone was demonstrated time and again in the wilderness, but it was also apparent in the later history with which the Deuteronomist would have been very familiar.  This failure meant there was no possible justification for Israel to assume any righteousness on its part.  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 121)

 

When we rely on self, and when we trust in ourselves instead of God, then our natural default is going to be to look to ourselves to find our salvation and our righteousness.  And if we think we can achieve or merit God’s favor and blessing, then what do we need grace, forgiveness or mercy for?

Jesus spoke about this same subject when he told the parable of the two men who had come to pray.  To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself:  ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

     “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’”

     “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 18:9-14).

The first thing that we need to come to terms with, in order for us to be saved, in order to us to grow in Christ, in order for us to mature, in order for us to be effective in the Kingdom of God; is for us to understand that WE ARE THE PROBLEM!  And if we are the problem, we are not going to be the solution.  We must forget about “doing” or “being” something on our own to solve our own problems and to save us from our sins.

It is our sinful nature, our deceitfully wicked hearts that trick us into believing we are OK and that everything will be OK if we simply do our best.  That is where we go wrong.  And it is only when we come to repent of our sinful self, that we will ever have a chance of becoming all that God desires for us to be.  Likewise, the church must come to a point of corporate repenting of her sinful nature, if she is ever going to grow and mature in Christ.  Therefore, we desperately are in need of God’s grace, forgiveness and mercy if we are to be saved and mature as Christians.  — Pastor Keith

 

II-  We enjoy God’s grace because He loves us and keeps His promises.   (Dt 9:3, 5, 6; see also: Rom 4:16; Gal 3:18; 1 Pt 1:10-13)

 

The wickedness of the Canaanites was no doubt a sufficient reason for destroying them, but not for giving their land to the people of Israel, since they could lay no claim to it on account of their own righteousness.  The reason for giving Canaan to the Israelites was simply the promise of God, the word which the Lord had spoken to the patriarchs on oath (cf. 7:8), and therefore nothing but the free grace of God,–not any merit on the part of the Israelites who were then living, for they were a people “of a hard neck,” i.e. a stubborn, untractable generation.  (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT Vol 1, 336)

 

Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more.  (Philip Yancey;  What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 70)

 

No one really knows God’s grace until they really need it. —DeEtta Trainer (5-17-17)

 

Israel remembers that God was motivated to dispossess the nations, not because of her righteousness, but rather because of the wickedness of other nations and the promise to her forefathers (vv. 4-6).  Israel’s claim to have merited the inheritance of Canaan is now entirely undercut.  Later Moses points out that the Israelites actually deserved to be destroyed (9:13-14) rather than blessed with the gift of the land.  They certainly should never develop a self-righteous attitude because of their victories in the conquest.  These victories were won because of three things–the enemies’ wickedness, God’s promises, and God’s grace.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 149)

 

With the promise of Yahweh’s confirmation of the covenant to the fathers in the background (8:18), Moses speaks of Yahweh’s dispossessing the Canaanites and handing over their land to Israel.  This raises the question:  Why should Yahweh be interested in the Israelites at all?  Moses answers this question first by refuting any claim to merit as the basis for the divine favor, and then by highlighting the mercy of Yahweh in getting them to the Promised Land.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 244)

 

The law which itself reveals the pattern of good works should drive us to Christ.  Christ is the point of the law; Christ is the goal of the law; Christ is the meaning of the law.  So if you try to follow and obey the law, but avoid Christ, you have missed the whole point of the law.  (R. C. Sproul, The Gospel of God: Romans, 178)

 

III-  God’s blessing us in spite of our depravity is evidence of His amazing grace(Dt 9:1-6; see also: Acts 15:11; Rom 3:24; 5:15-21; 8:32; 11:5-6; 1 Cor 15:10; 2 Cor 8:9; 12:9; Gal 2:21; 5:4; Eph 1:6-7; 2:5-9; Ti 2:11; 3:7)

 

The thrust of verses 6, 7 is that it is not because of their righteousness but in spite of their stubbornness that God will give them victory.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 310)

 

Grace is God’s free and unmerited favor shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment.  It is the love of God shown to the unlovely.  It is God reaching downward to people who are in rebellion against him.  (Jerry Bridges; Transforming Grace; Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love, 21-2)

 

With his verdict of “stiff-necked” Moses pricks Israel’s balloon of inflated self-esteem and sets the stage for his portrayal of the Israelites’ fundamentally flawed character.  They have nothing to commend themselves to God:  no physical greatness (7:7), or power (8:17), or moral character.  Their election, occupation of the land, and prosperity within it are all gifts of divine grace, granted to them in spite of their lack of merit.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 246)

 

Israel could not claim credit for the promise itself, or for its fulfillment.  Additionally, far from the conquest being because of their righteousness, it was actually in spite of their stubborn provocations of divine wrath (v. 6b).  It was only by God’s grace (and the intercession of Moses, vv. 18-29) that Israel was not destroyed along with the rest of the nations.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 131)

 

The fact that the Israelites are warned here not to pat themselves on the back and pride themselves on their own righteousness, suggests that once in Palestine, many Israelites compared their own moral standards as a nation with those of the Canaanites, and felt very virtuous as a result.  We are all prone to the thought that other nations’ customs and modes of conduct are inferior to our own; it seems to be a universal human failing to despise those who are different in any way.  (It is a spirit which infects the Churches just as much, with one denomination despising the other.)  The biblical retort is a sharp one:  God’s gifts have nothing to do with his people’s uprightness or lack of it.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 64)

 

The first blood ever shed upon this planet was shed by God Almighty to provide covering for the man and woman who believed His word about the redemption that would be provided.  Grace was not withheld because of sin; grace was given in spite of sin.  (Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Grace, 123)

 

No one will listen to radical grace unless they know they are radical sinners.  (Steve Brown; The Sure Things of Life. The Book of Daniel part 3)

 

We creatures, we jolly beggars, give glory to God by our dependence.  Our wounds and defects are the very fissures through which grace might pass.  It is our human destiny on earth to be imperfect, incomplete, weak, and mortal, and only by accepting that destiny can we escape the force of gravity and receive grace.  Only then can we grow close to God.

Strangely, God is closer to sinners than to “saints.”  (By saints I mean those people renowned for their piety—true saints never lose sight of their sinfulness.)  As one lecturer in spirituality explains it, “God in heaven holds each person by a string.  When you sin, you cut the string.  Then God ties it up again, making a knot—and thereby bringing you a little closer to him.  Again and again your sins cut the string—and with each further knot God keeps drawing you closer and closer.”  (Philip Yancey;  What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 273)

 

Besides the more vulgar pride which entirely forgets God, and attributes success and prosperity to its own power and exertion, there is one of a more refined character, which very easily spreads–namely, pride which acknowledges the blessings of God; but instead of receiving them gratefully, as unmerited gifts of the grace of the Lord, sees in them nothing but proofs of its own righteousness and virtue.  Moses therefore warned the Israelites more particularly of this dangerous enemy of the soul, by first of all declaring without reserve, that the Lord was not about to give them Canaan because of their own righteousness, but that He would exterminate the Canaanites for their own wickedness (vv. 1-6); and then showing them for their humiliation, by proofs drawn from the immediate past, how they had brought upon themselves the anger of the Lord, by their apostasy and rebellion against their God, directly after the conclusion of the covenant at Sinai; and that in such a way, that it was only by his earnest intercession that he had been able to prevent the destruction of the people (vv. 7-24), and to secure a further renewal of the pledges of the covenant (v. 25-chap. 10:11).  (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT Vol 1, 334-5)

 

God will bring our enemies before us prepared to be conquered, but we must finish the work.  Moses does not want Israel to think that their “little part” brought the victory (vv. 4-5).  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 149)

 

At a primary theological level, these verses reinforce the point made already in many ways that Israel owed all they were and all they possessed to the grace and gift of God, and not in any way to their own merit.  They could stake no claim on divine favors in advance, nor could they retrospectively explain any success and prosperity that came their way as the due reward for their righteousness.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 131)

 

Since, then, they had been persuaded of their inferiority to their enemies, and utterly disheartened by the report they received, Moses convicts them on their own evidence, lest, perchance, they might hereafter assume to themselves the praise which was due to God alone.  But we are taught in these works, that such is the ingratitude of mankind, that they obscure, as much as they can, God’s bounties, and never yield, except when driven to conviction.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. II, 377)

 

He now more plainly warns the people not to exalt themselves in proud and foolish boasting.  If they had not been naturally so depraved and malignant, it would have been sufficient to point out God’s grace in a single word; but he could not induce them to gratitude except by correcting and destroying their pride.  He therefore takes away this stumbling block, in order that God’s generosity might be conspicuous among them.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. II, 377)

 

Moses does not forbid the people from thinking that they had themselves acquired the land without God’s aid; nay, he takes it for granted that they themselves will acknowledge that it was by God’s help that they were victorious; but he is not contented with this limited gratitude unless they at the same time acknowledge that they had deserved nothing of the kind, and therefore that it was a mere and gratuitous act of His bounty.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. II, 378)

 

According to Luther, evil comes upon the godless by merit, but we enjoy good things not because of our own righteousness, but because of divine goodness.  Actually, we deserve the very opposite.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 364)

 

Worship Point:  God is so loving He continues to keep His promises because we are “In Christ” in spite of our offending Him.

 

O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more.  I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace.  I am ashamed of my lack of desire.  O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still.  Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed.  Begin in mercy a new work of love within me.  Say to my soul, “Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.”  Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.  (A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God).

 

One part of repentance is to set the will against sinful behavior.  But in spiritual renewal, your eyes are opened to deeper forms of “flesh” in the heart from which sinful behavior springs—root attitudes and values that serve as forms of works-righteousness and self-will.  All Christians maintain ways to keep mastery of their own lives through residual schemes of self-salvation, ways of continuing to seek to earn our acceptance.  To do this, we fix our hearts on created things such as work, love, possessions, romance, acclaim, and so on . . . .  Revivals always require a relinquishment of idols (Jdg 10:10-16; Ex 33:1-6).  As this deeper work of repentance proceeds, the Christian begins to hunger for the love and presence of God.  —Tim Keller

 

Gospel Application:  It is because of our faith in Jesus and our being “In Christ” that God looks at us and sees Jesus and not our sinfulness.  God’s grace also empowers believers to become more and more like Jesus.  (Jn 1:14-17; Acts 15:11; Rom 3:24; 8:29; Eph 1:6-7; Phil 3:21; 2 Pt 1:4; 1 Jn 3:2)

 

God at His expense, a far greater expense, at an infinite expense, will take anyone.   And your record means nothing.  And your social-economic record means nothing.  And your standing means nothing.   You come into the feast of the Son not by being fit; but, by admitting you are not fit, and by letting the Lord clothe you.  (Tim Keller; Merit or Mercy,  sermon from Mt 22:1-14)

 

Think about your own righteousness and presenting it to God.  What a joke!  You have nothing to offer the God of the Universe.  Even your most pure righteous deeds fall far short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23, Isa 64:6).   The only thing that can please God is God.  Therefore the only thing you can offer the God of the Universe is Himself reflected in you by the work of the Holy Spirit in you.  That is what brings glory to God.  That is what pleases God.  That is what brings merit to us before God.  It is God and God alone.  — Pastor Keith

 

God cannot be approached by any legalistic means, anymore than the burning mountain of Sinai could be approached by the sinful people or even by the sanctified priests.  God is to be approached only by the new and living way which He has established in free and unmerited grace on Calvary.  (Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Grace, 114)

 

Legalists point to the law to show what they CAN do.   Christians who are saved by grace point to the Law to show what they cannot do and what drives them to Christ.

 

The good news of the Gospel is founded upon Who Christ is and what He has done.  Not upon who we are and what we have done.  If you find yourself depressed or discouraged because you do not feel you can keep up this Christian life, then this is an indication that you are a slave to self-righteousness and you are counting on what you are and what you have done instead of Christ.  Cheer up.  You are a whole lot more sinful than you think.  But cheer up!   God is much more forgiving, gracious, merciful, and loving than we ever dreamed or imagined.  — Pastor Keith

 

Heidelberg Catechism: Question number 60 Q. How are you right with God?

 

  1. Only by true faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:21-28; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8-9; Phil 3:8-11).

Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all of God’s commandments and of never having kept any of them (Rom 3:9-10), and even though I am still inclined towards all evil (Rom 7:23), nevertheless, without my deserving it at all (Ti 3:4-5), out of sheer grace (Rom 3:24; Eph 2:8), God grants and credits to me the perfect salvation, righteousness, and holiness of Christ (Rom 4:3-5; Gn 15:6; 2 Cor 5:17-19; 1 Jn 2:1-2), as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I had been perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me (Rom 4:24-25; 2 Cor 5:21).

All I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart (Jn 3:18; Acts 16:30-31).

 

As you stand with your sin before God, believe that He has declared your sin paid for in Christ Jesus, and application will flow in a miracle stream.  Christ alone.  Grace alone.  Grace overflowing.  Grace super-abounding.  Not grace plus works, but grace alone.   Not grace plus an ordinance or a sacrament, but grace alone.  Not grace plus repentance, but grace alone.  (Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Grace, 141)

 

Grace changes people as nothing else can do.  It cleanses the sins of the past.  It enables righteousness in the present.  And one thing it does for certain:  it constantly surprises us.  For the essence of grace is surprise.  There is nothing shocking about giving people exactly what they deserve.  Grace subverts the rules and gives people what they don’t deserve.  It is motivated by the warmth of love rather than by cold calculation.  Therefore, grace is always doing something we didn’t expect.  (David Jeremiah, Captured by Grace, 171)

 

Holy Scripture tells us that our progress in discipleship and spiritual maturity depends on the grace and will of God, not on our self-effort and strength.  This is why the apostle Paul praises God for the growth of Christians (2 Thes 1:3) and prays to God for continued growth (1 Thes 3:11-13; Col 1:10).  We are commanded to grow and to cultivate maturity and godliness (2 Pt 1:5-8; 3:18, for example), but all of our efforts are exercised in dependence upon God and with faith in him for the growth we seek.  (Thabiti M. Anyabwile, What is a Healthy Church Member?, 87-8)

 

Man is born broken.  He lives by mending.  The grace of God is glue.  (Eugene O’Neill; quoted by Philip Yancey;  What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 270)

 

Grace is the antithesis of sin.  It denotes God’s free act in Christ of overcoming sin and His free act of forgiving personal sin.  The sin that Christ overcomes is not only personal sinfulness, but sin as the prevailing power of the old age.  Sin manifests itself as a “law of sin and death” (Rom 8:2) and as such reigns over human life until Christ’s death and resurrection (Rom 5:21).  Since God’s victory in Christ, grace has become the dominant power (Rom 5:21).  Thus, grace and sin are in conflict as the ruling forces of the two hostile kingdoms, the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of grace.  We can, in the light of this antithesis, see how grace can be a synonym for Christ and the Spirit.  To be “in grace” (Rom 5:2; cf. 1 Pt 5:12) is the same as to be “in Christ” (Rom 8;1; 2 C or 5:17) and “in the Spirit” (Rom 8:9).  Christ is the Lord of the new age, and the Spirit is the Lord at work in the Church (2 Cor 3:17f.); and grace, as the typical way in which Christ rules, can be a synonym for Christ.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, 550)

 

As sin was a power in our lives, so grace becomes a power in our lives.  If it were not so, not a single person would ever be saved.  Grace acts, and acts as a king.  It reigns as a king.  It reigns in the Christian in exactly the same way as sin reigns in the unregenerate.  It is the power of grace, therefore, that matters; and the Apostle’s whole purpose is to shew that grace is supreme.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 5, 318)

 

Edmund P. Clowney, former president of Westminister Theological Seminary, has often said, “A great deal of preaching today is not preaching Christ and grace but mere moralizing.”

Too many of us preach messages of duty and responsibility without a foundation of grace through Christ.   In other cases, preachers do not show people how to draw by faith on a living Christ and His unlimited resources, but trivialize the gospel message by preaching primarily on felt needs.    (C. John Miller; Outgrowing the Ingrown Church, 131)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Realize: you enjoy what you enjoy by the grace of God.  Not by your intelligence, strength, cunning, power, attractiveness, or savvy.  (Hos 1:7; Zech 4:6; 1 Cor 15:10; 2 Cor 8:9; 12:9;  Heb 4:16; Jam 4:6; 1 Pt 5:5)

 

Here is a spiritual principle regarding the grace of God; To the extent you are clinging to any vestiges of self-righteousness or are putting any confidence in your own spiritual attainments, to that degree you are not living by the grace of God in your life.  (Jerry Bridges; Transforming Grace; Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love, 33)

 

We need the poor to teach us the value of dependence, for unless we learn dependence we will never experience grace. (Philip Yancey; Finding God in Unexpected Places, 164)

 

Believers who are the most desperate about themselves are the ones who express most forcefully their confidence in grace….Those who are the most pessimistic about man are the most optimistic about God; those who are the most severe with themselves are the ones who have the most serene confidence in divine forgiveness….By degrees the awareness of our guilt and of God’s love increase side by side.  (Paul Tournier, quoted by Don Matzat, Christ Esteem, 42)

 

If you look at your past and are depressed, it means that you are listening to the devil.  But if you look at the past and say:  “Unfortunately it is true I was blinded by the god of this world, but thank God His grace was more abundant, He was more than sufficient and His love and mercy came upon me in such a way that it is all forgiven, I am a new man’, then all is well.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, 75)

 

Although God’s people find many successes in the world, they must not fall prey to a spirit of pride.  We succeed not because of our moral superiority but because of the faithfulness of our divine intercessor and because of the great mercy of God.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 120)

 

What happened within Abram?  How did his faith come?  Certainly it was not because he suddenly felt potent or that his expectations were raised.  He simply rested on God’s promise.  In this moment God’s word was not a theory about how things would turn out, but “the voice around which his life is organized” (Brueggemann).  We know that Abram must also have repented.  But ultimately his fresh faith can only be attributed to God.  His faith was not a human achievement or the result of his moral will.  It came from God, like Peter’s later confirmation of Christ:  “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16).  How had Peter come to this?  “And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah!  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven’” (v. 17).  In the same way Abram moved from protest to confession by the power of God.  As the Apostle Paul said, “For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8, 9).  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Genesis, 224-5)

 

Both the individual and the church are the dwelling place of God through the Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 3:16; 12:11, 13; Eph 1:12; 2:22; etc.).  In this connection note must be taken of the association between “grace” and “power.”  God’s special “favor” and God’s diversified “favors” are alike the result of divine grace (cf. Rom 1:5; 12:3; 15:15; 2 Cor 8:9; Eph 4:7; etc.), it is therefore natural to conceive of the relation between them in terms of “power” (1 Cor 15:10).  This association between “grace” and “power” is given special emphasis in 2 Cor 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (cf. 2 Tm 2:11; 1 Pt 4:10).  By referring to charis as the active power of God, “grace” may be thought of as the presence of the Holy Spirit.  For the presence of the Holy Spirit is “power” (cf. Lk 4:14; 24:49; Acts 1:8; 8:10; 10:38; etc.).  Between “grace” as divine “power” and “power” as the presence of the Holy Spirit there is, then, a vital kinship.  The experience of being “full of the holy spirit” and being “full of grace and power” is hardly to be distinguished (cf. Acts 6:5-8; 1 Cor 12:4-11; Eph 4:7-13).  (Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 2, 801-2)

 

If you cannot bear to really look at all the stupidity of your life, if you cannot bear to see what is wrong with you, if you cannot bear to really see your flaws, if you can’t just take criticism, you just go to pieces, cause you know it is true; it is because you really do not have the strength from knowing the grace of God.  It is the grace of God that helps me not feel, “Oh I must be OK” but gives me the freedom to admit what is wrong with me without being devastated.  And therefore, Jesus Christ is saying, “Do you know that unless you know the depth of your sin and the height of God’s grace:  When things go well you are going to be smug instead of happy and grateful or when things go poorly you are going to be devastated instead of hopeful and enduring.  Unless you see both of those you are going to move back and forth from being a proud Pharisee or being a cynical sceptic and you’re going to not be able to handle the suffering and troubles of life. (Tim Keller; The Falling Tower message from Luke 13)

 

Grace is a renewing power as well as the free gift of pardon and acceptance.  Grace present within the life of the Church is shown in the Church’s overflow of generosity toward others (2 Cor 8).  In Ti 2:11-13, Paul speaks of grace disciplining life unto sobriety, righteousness, and piety.  Paul seems to be speaking of the power of grace within him when he says that what he is, he is by the grace of God; he works very hard, he says, but then is quick to credit his own achievements to “the grace of God which is with me” (1 Cor 15:10).  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, 550)

 

I would say that the greatest sinners in the world are the self-satisfied, self-contained, good moral people, who believe that, as they are, they are fit to stand in the presence of God.  Moreover, they are in reality telling God that He need never have died upon the Cross.  There is no greater insult to God than that; but it is precisely what they are guilty of.  There is no greater sinner in the universe than the man who has never seen his need of the blood of Christ.  There is no sin greater than that–murder and adultery and fornication are nothing in comparison with it.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 5, 291)

 

 

So What?Humble yourself before the Lord by recognizing you enjoy what you enjoy by God’s grace in providing what He promises.  Then, it may very well be that God can trust you with even more than you can dream, imagine or conceive.  (Isa 64:4; 1 Cor 2:9; Eph 3:14-21; Jam 4:6; 2 Pt 1:2; 3:18)

 

Grace always flows downhill.

 

St. Augustine wrapped a powerful thought in vivid imagery when he said, “God always pours His grace into empty hands.”  The hands of John Newton could not have been emptier.  (David Jeremiah, Captured by Grace, 17)

 

The higher a man is in grace, the lower he will be in his own esteem.  —C. H. Spurgeon

 

The prouder a man is, the more he thinks he deserves; and the more he thinks he deserves, the less he really does.  —Henry Ward Beecher

 

It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self:  to Jesus:  but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ.  He insinuates, “Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of his children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.”  All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within.  But, the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self:  he tells us that we are nothing, but that “Christ is all in all.”  Remember, therefore, it is not your hold of Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not your joy in Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to your hand with which you art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to your hope, but to Jesus, the source of your hope; look not to your faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith.  We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul.  If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “Looking unto Jesus.”   Keep your eye simply on him; let his death, his sufferings, his merits, his glories, his intercession, be fresh upon your mind; when you wake in the morning look to him; when you lie down at night look to him.  Do not let your hopes or fears come between you and Jesus; follow hard after him, and he will never fail you.  —Charles. H. Spurgeon

 

The man who is seriously convinced that he deserves to go to hell is not likely to go there, while the man who believes that he is worthy of heaven will certainly never enter that blessed place.  (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 15)

 

Grace like water always flows to the lowest place.  GO LOW!   Live at the foot of the cross.  Live in the gutter of the realization of your own sinfulness and the need for Christ.  Live a life realizing your need for Grace and life in God alone who gives it as He wills.

 

God gives grace to the humble and opposes the proud.

 

For those established churches, who have experienced revival and who had a large number of long-time Christians in their congregation . . . “ they had Christ discovered to them anew as an all-sufficient Saviour, and in the glories of his grace, and in a far more clear manner than before; and with greater humility, self-emptiness, and brokenness of heart, and a purer, a higher joy, and greater desires after holiness of life; but with greater self-diffidence and distrust of their treacherous hearts.”  (Jonathan Edwards; Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Holy Spirit; 152)

 

Some years ago I met a woman who began coming to Redeemer, the church where I am a minister.  She said that she had gone to a church growing up and she had always heard that God accepts us only if we are sufficiently good and ethical.  She had never heard the message she was now hearing, that we can be accepted by God by sheer grace through the work of Christ regardless of anything we do or have done.  She said, “That is a scary idea!  Oh, it’s good scary, but still scary.”

I was intrigued.  I asked her what was so scary about unmerited free grace?  She replied something like this:  “If I was saved by my good works then there would be a limit to what God could ask of me or put me through.  I would be like a taxpayer with rights.  I would have done my duty and now I would deserve a certain quality of life.  But if it is really true that I am a sinner saved by sheer grace at God’s infinite cost then there’s nothing he cannot ask of me.”  (Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, 120-1)

 

Most of us, I think, genuinely want humility.  But who of us is willing to be humiliated in order to get it?  Yet it was the humiliation of this woman’s moral failures that put her in a place to receive grace.  (Ken Gire; The Reflective Life, 59)

 

I know of only two alternatives to hypocrisy:  perfection or honesty.  Since I have never met a person who loves the Lord our God with all her heart, mind, and soul, and loves her neighbor as herself, I do not view perfection as a realistic alternative.  Our only option, then, is honesty that leads to repentance.  As the Bible shows, Gods’ grace can cover any sin, including murder, infidelity, or betrayal.  Yet by definition grace must be received, and hypocrisy disguises our need to receive grace.  When the masks fall, hypocrisy is exposed as an elaborate ruse to avoid grace.  (Philip Yancey;  What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 204)

 

Here the life of faith in future grace is pictured as a light burden and an easy yoke.  Can it be both hard and easy?

Yes.  Faith in future grace is intrinsically easy.  What could be easier than trusting God to work of you (Isa 64:4), and take care of you (1 Pt 5:7), and give you all you need (Phil 4:19; Heb 13;6), and strengthen you for every challenge (Isa 41:10).  In one sense, faith is the opposite of straining.  It is ceasing from the effort to earn God’s approval or demonstrate your worth or merit.  It is resting in the gracious promises of God to pursue us with goodness and mercy all our days.  Faith is intrinsically easy.

But this ease of faith assumes that our hearts are humble enough to renounce all self-reliance and self-direction and self-exaltation.  It assumes a heart that is spiritual enough to taste and delight in the beauty and worth of God.  It assumes that the world and the devil have lost their power to lure us away from satisfaction in God.  If these assumptions are not true, then living by faith in future grace will not be as easy as we might have thought, but will involve a lifetime of struggle.

It’s like the monkey with his hand caught in the jar.  It would be easy for him to slip his hand out of the opening except that he has his fist clenched around a nut.  If he loves the nut more than he loves freedom from the jar, then getting his hand out of the jar will be hard, even impossible (as Jesus said in Mk 10:27 about the young man who had his fist clenched around his wealth).  But what could be easier than dropping a nut?  The battle that Paul and Jesus are talking about is the battle to love the freedom of faith more than the nut of sin.  (John Piper, Future Grace, 313)

 

An idol is something that we look to for things that only God can give.  Idolatry functions widely inside religious communities when doctrinal truth is elevated to the position of a false god.  This occurs when people rely on the rightness of their doctrine for their standing with God rather than on God himself and his grace.  It is a subtle but deadly mistake.  The sign that you have slipped into this form of self-justification is that you become what the book of Proverbs calls a “scoffer.”  Scoffers always show contempt and disdain for opponents rather than graciousness.  This is a sign that they do not see themselves as sinners saved by grace.  Instead, their trust in the rightness of their views makes them feel superior.  (Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, 131)

 

JESUS:

GRACE INCARNATE

 

 

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