God’s Great Grace Gospel

Genesis 1:1-Revelation 22:21

A boy watched as the pastor took off his watch and set it on the pulpit in front of him.
“What does that mean?” he asked his mother.
“Absolutely nothing,” she answered.

That little ditty serves as a warning that I intend on preaching through the entire Bible from the first verse of the Bible in Genesis through the last verses in the book Revelation. For the two most important verses in the Bible are the first verse and the last verse. Everything sandwiched between those two verses explain the first verse and the last verse. You get the first verse and the last verse and you’ve got it all!

And who can recite for us the first verse of the Bible? “In the beginning God.” And the last? “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1); the stars, the planets, this planet, the oceans, the fishes, the animals, women and men and everything that men and women can hear, see, smell, taste, and touch.

But this morning, I’m talking about something else He created that cannot be discerned with the five senses. “In the beginning, God created,” that is, He placed within the man and the woman an instinctive seed of belief in Himself.

Travel to the far reaches of this planet, to any time period that you wish to research and you will discover every society, every culture, every civilization worshipping that which they believe is God.

I’ve heard people say they were atheists, but I don’t believe there’s any such thing. I believe people like to proclaim themselves atheists so they can get away with any kind of behavior without feeling guilty.

In my days at Ohio State, I took a philosophy class with a professor who was at that time the editor of and still writes for American Atheist Magazine. I couldn’t understand why he spends so much time and energy thinking about, talking about, and writing about something he doesn’t believe in. One day he came to class and told us that as he sat down to dinner with his wife and 10-year-old son, his boy asks, “Dad, do you think God knows we don’t believe in Him?”

I don’t believe that he was an atheist any more than I think any of us are atheists because God built into him and into us that instinctive seed of belief that God is.

Fox News has the story of Professor Antony Flew, who for most of his career taught of Philosophy of Religion at Oxford and who was a strong advocate of atheism, claiming he would only believe what science would reveal. Then at age 81, he shocked his colleagues by announcing that science had led him to believe in God. In his book, There is a God: How a Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, he wrote:

I have been persuaded that it is simply out of the question that the first living matter evolved out of dead matter and then developed into an extraordinarily complicated creature. The unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce life must have involved intelligence.” 1

One might say that Professor Flew flew the coop of atheism!

A man went to a barbershop to have his hair and his beard cut as always. As they conversed, this man brought up his faith. The barber said: “Look, man, I don’t believe that God exists.”
“Why do you say that?” asked the client.
“Well, it’s easy, if God existed, would there be so many sick people? Would there be abandoned children? If God existed, there would be no suffering nor pain. I can’t think of loving a God who permits all of these things.”
The client didn’t want to respond so as to cause an argument.
After he left the barber shop he saw a man in the street with a long hair and beard. He again entered the barber shop and he said to the barber: “You know what? Barbers do not exist.”
“How can you say they don’t exist?” asked the barber. “I am here, and I am a barber.”
“No!” the client exclaimed. “They don’t exist because if they did there would be no people with long hair and a beard like that man.”
“Ah, barbers do exist, what happens is that people do not come to me.”
“Exactly!” affirmed the client. “That’s the point; God does exist; what happens is people don’t go to Him and that is why there’s so much pain and suffering in the world.” 2

I believe that there are practical atheists. They believe in the existence of God, they just don’t believe that God really matters or that God can really make a difference in their lives. And thus they live out their lives within that kind of framework, ignoring the fact that they know deep down in their hearts that “In the beginning God!”

And the whole purpose of this book is to reveal the person of God, to tell us what God is like. And the grand climax of the whole thing is, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all” (Revelation 22:21). There is no reason to write anything else beyond that for as we see the GRACE of God supremely revealed in His Son, Jesus, we discover the revealed character of the Creator. So let’s spend a few minutes thinking about three kinds of grace.

First and most important here is ‘saving grace’ “By grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:8).

The classic definition of grace is ‘undeserved favor,’ unmerited mercy; it’s the loving-kindness of God “in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

There are two important truths about grace to be noted that flow out of Ephesians 2.

First, grace is always undeserved. There is nothing in you or I that deserves God’s grace. On the contrary, we are tainted with sin; the very thing God abhors.

I know there are those critics who say that this Biblical perspective of humanity is so negative, so cynical and pessimistic. That we humans are full of light and love and kindness. Oh really? If that were true, would we have the headlines we have?

It may be a pessimistic view, but it is also realistic.

One wise sage wrote: 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.

Second, grace cannot be earned. But because we live in a performance-oriented society where we earn everything we get it is natural for us to allow that ideology to bleed over into the spiritual realm. Ask the average person on the street what they must do to get to heaven and the vast majority reply, “Be good.” But Paul is clear about this: “Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done” (Ephesians 2:9). It is a gift of God.

A pastor was having an argument with one of his flock over what the Bible has to say about how to go to heaven. “Do you mean to tell me you really believe this monkey business Paul preached about being saved by grace and not good works?”
“You bet I do,” said the minister, and I can’t wait to ask Paul more about it when I get to heaven.”
“And what if Paul isn’t in heaven?” says the parishioner.
The pastor thought for a moment and said, “Then you ask him.”

When Billy Graham was driving through a small southern town, he was stopped by a policeman and charged with speeding. Graham admitted his guilt but was told by the officer that he would have to appear in court. The judge asked, “Guilty, or not guilty?” When Graham pleaded guilty, the judge replied, “That’ll be ten dollars — a dollar for every mile you went over the limit.” Suddenly the judge recognized the famous minister.

“You have violated the law,” he said. “The fine must be paid–but I am going to pay it for you.” He took a ten dollar bill from his own wallet, attached it to the ticket, and then took Graham out and bought him a steak dinner!
“That,” said Billy Graham, “is how God treats repentant sinners!”

We can sum up the entire Bible in 3 words. We don’t need to write a book about it; GOD LOVES YOU! That’s what the world needs to hear. The message of grace is GOD LOVES YOU!

That’s what we need to hear . . . that’s what the world needs to hear! For grace is the ultimate expression of the love of God; that love that is always seeking, constantly searching. Grace that describes that activity of God as He relentlessly pursues you and me.
Grace described by that hymn writer George Matheson, “Oh the love that will not let me go.”

“In the beginning God . . . the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”

A while back, businessmen and Christian leaders in Charlotte, North Carolina, invited Graham, to a luncheon in honor of his upcoming birthday. He initially hesitated to accept because of his struggles with Parkinson’s disease. However, the Charlotte leaders said, ‘We don’t expect a major address; just come and let us honor you.’

After wonderful things were said about him, Dr. Graham stepped to the rostrum, looked at the crowd, and said: “I’m reminded today of Albert Einstein, the great physicist who was honored by Time magazine as the Man of the Century. Einstein was once traveling from Princeton on a train, when the conductor came down the aisle, punching tickets of every passenger. When he came to Einstein, Einstein reached in his vest pocket. He couldn’t find his ticket, so he reached in his trouser pockets. It wasn’t there; he looked in his briefcase but couldn’t find it. Then he looked in the seat beside him and he still couldn’t find it. The conductor said, ‘Dr. Einstein, I know who you are. We all know who you are. I’m sure you bought a ticket; don’t worry about it.’

Einstein nodded appreciatively. The conductor continued down the aisle punching tickets. As he was ready to move to the next car, he turned around and saw the great physicist down on his hands and knees looking under his seat for his ticket. The conductor rushed back and said, ‘Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein, don’t worry, I know who you are; no problem. I’m sure you bought a ticket.’

Einstein looked at him and said, ‘Young man, I too, know who I am. What I don’t know is where I’m going.’

Having said that, Graham continued to his Charlotte crowd, ‘See the suit I’m wearing? It’s a brand new suit. My children and my grandchildren are telling me I’ve gotten a little slovenly in my old age. I used to be a bit more fastidious. So I went out and bought a new suit for this luncheon and one more occasion. You know what that occasion is? This is the suit in which I’ll be buried. But when you hear I’m dead, I don’t want you to immediately remember the suit I’m wearing. I want you to remember this: ‘I not only know who I am. I also know where I’m going.”

When we make a decision to accept for ourselves saving grace then we are in-line to receive what we call sustaining grace.

Paul had what he called a thorn in the flesh; what we would call a physical ailment.

We don’t know what it was. But we know from his writing that it was painful. He tells us that he prayed three times that it might be taken away. And then he writes in his second letter to the church at Corinth that “God didn’t remove the thorn, but He said, ‘My grace is sufficient for you.’”

Many times in life, we have thorns, don’t we? Troubles, burdens, heartaches, grief. They come in all different shapes and sizes. Sometimes we wonder why a good God would allow such things to happen. And sometimes we feel resentment, don’t we?

I don’t know what your thorn is. If I did, I wouldn’t claim to understand it. But I do know this: Somehow, we can keep going.

The infamous atheist, Bertrand Russell, once said that “no one can sit at the bedside of a dying child and believe in God.” Well I beg to differ. I have sat with several people over the years who had to say good-bye to children who were taking their leave of this world. And each and every one of them have held-fast to their faith in God. And although they grieved, the “did not grieve as those who have no hope” (I Thessalonians 4:13).

He doesn’t always remove the thorn, but Paul says, but He gives us the grace to see it through. One writer put it this way: “Sometimes God doesn’t save us from the storm, but God does save us in the storm.”

“In the beginning God . . . the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”

Lastly, in describing the early Christians Luke in his Book of Acts says that “great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:33).

Alliteration helps us remember so I thought we needed a ‘s’ substitute for ‘great’ to accompany saving and sustaining grace. I came up with six possibilities; you pick the one you like; scintillating, sparkling, shining, sensational, spectacular, supernatural.

There was something wonderfully attractive about those early Christians. Something that radiated the love of God to others so much that early painters pictured those saints with halos around their heads. It was the supernatural grace that was upon them all.

Even though the Apostle Paul was known to have been a short, homely-looking man, who had a hunched shoulder, strange looking eyes, a large nose and a balding head, the Bible tells us that he was so winsome that the elders at Ephesus fell upon him hugging and kissing him when it came time to say good-bye. Great grace was upon the Apostle Paul because his faith in Christ made a new man of him.

It was customary in the Roman Empire after a major victory in a battle to celebrate before the citizens of Rome with magnificent parades at which they would parade captives and burn incense and other fragrances to provide the sweet aroma of victory. Even those that did not attend the parade could smell the sweet aroma and they knew that Rome had been victorious.

This is the imagery Paul has in mind when he writes in II Corinthians: “Thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God” (2:14-15). There is a fragrance of grace that permeates the air around us as we live victoriously in Christ.

What a privilege and an honor to give off a sweet aroma of God great grace as Christ lives in us and through us.

I was sitting on a barstool at the Village Inn this past Wednesday and got into a conversation with Bubby who among other things said, “You guys are doing something right, your church is being talked about all over town.”

It is the great, the supernatural grace that is upon us all!

Pastor and author Gordon McDonald writes, “The world can do almost anything as well as or even better than the church. You need not be a Christian to build houses, feed the hungry or heal the sick. There is only one thing that the world cannot do. It cannot offer grace; only the church can do that. 3

And as we continue to do just that great grace will continue to fall upon the community of Chippewa Lake.

In the beginning God! And what is God like? God is a God who showers us with His marvelous saving, sustaining and supernatural GRACE!


1 www.foxnews.com/…/leading-atheist-philosopher-concludes-god-real.html

2 Thomas, Juanica. Reflections: Is That Me? Volume1. [Norfolk, Virginia: Streethittas Publishing Group, LLC. © 2012] page 126.

3 Yancey, Philip. What’s So Amazing About Grace. [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, © 1997]. Page 15.

Randy K'Meyer

Leave a Reply Text