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"Grace" is one of most used words among Christians but possibly the least believed. In this session we want to try and explore the dimensions of grace. We have various definitions but our convictions and experience often fall short of definition. Many people honour the truth of grace with their lips but their hearts are far from it in experience.

[1] THE NATURE OF GRACE

a. The Old Testament word for 'grace' means mercy, goodness, lovingkindness - Psalm 51/1 is perhaps closest to the New Testament concept.

b. The New Testament word is "charis" and it means free gift, favour. The key truth here is the unworthiness of recipient. If the recipient is worthy of grace, then it's not grace.

c. Key verses - Romans 3/23,24; Eph. 1/7; Eph. 2/4,7-10.

d. Over the years there have been many definitions; all of them inadequate to a greater or lesser degrees. So let's watch grace in living colour - and learn.

Read Luke 15/11-32

e. We note the following from what may be an all too familiar story

*Setting - vs. 1-3 - the complaints of legalistic, self-righteous religious people

*Younger son was a self-centred rebel (v.12) - abused his life & dishonoured his father

*The father longingly waited for evidence/results of repentance. (vs.13-16)

*The son accurately described his unworthiness & prescribed his penance. (vs.17-19)

*The father lavished grace, mercy & kindness on his undeserving son. (Vs.22-24)

*The older son was a self-righteous legalist. He depended on works for a relationship with his Father (Vs. 28-30). Despite his protests to the contrary, his brother was part of that family.

*Grace cannot be given to a worthy person. Our only claim on grace is unworthiness & Guilt.

[2] THE PRE-SUPPOSITIONS OF GRACE

Jim Packer ("Knowing God") identifies 4 crucial truths if grace is to be understood

a. THE SINFULNESS OF HUMANITY

*The need for deep conviction of sinfulness, guilt, rebellion, loss and condemnation

* We so easily excuse/ignore our sin condition (cf. the opposite attitude with Lost son)

b.THE POWERLESSNESS OF HUMANITY

*We still want to offer our few remaining virtues as atonement & basis of acceptance.

*Reality is we are powerless to fulfil law - we are totally dependent on mercy & grace

c. THE JUSTICE OF GOD

* We assume God is like us in our dismissive complacency of sin - we overlook our guilt

*Only as we are gripped by God's justice/judgment will we realise enormity of grace

d. THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD

*God does not have to be gracious - He doesn't have to intervene in our eternal destiny

*That the riches of His grace are lavished on us ought to humble, amaze & liberate us.

[3] THE CONTINUITY OF GRACE

a. Having been saved by grace, we are now to live by GRACE!! - nothing changes

b. Could much Christian activity be motivated by the tyranny of legalism, not the freedom of grace?

c. This is the message of Galatians - see 2/21 - "I do not set aside the grace of Godů"

d. As we delight in the God who is gracious, we are able to extend that grace to others.

THINK ABOUT:

a. Have you found any help in this session?

b. If so, what one insight would you want this group to know?

c. How would our lives be different if we took this attribute of God seriously?

d. How do you respond to the following description of grace?

"'Grace'" is the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit to make us all that we are meant to be and to accomplish all that we are meant to do".

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