God’s extravagant grace is one of the most amazing things that many people know about in their head, but far fewer truly grasp in their heart.
1. Grace goes against the way our minds are trained to think.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”
— Proverbs 14:12 (NKJV)
2. From the beginning religion has offered a substitute for grace
Religion is about seeking peace with God based on our righteousness; grace is about a relationship with God based on Christ’s righteousness.
Religion is about our attainment; grace is based on Christ’s atonement.
Religion is about our efforts to pursue God; grace is about recognizing His pursuit of us.
Religion is about something we might be able to accomplish and earn; grace is about something that is already finished.
Religion is based on expecting God to bless us based on what we deserve; grace is expecting God to bless us based on what Christ deserves.
In Jesus’ day, the Pharisee’s represented religion. They were the ones most opposed to Jesus and the ones Jesus was most opposed to. They distorted God’s truth by:
1. Putting heavy yokes of rules and false expectations on people.
2. Judging and despising people who didn’t line up with their beliefs and traditions.
3. Being people who appeared righteous on the outside, but were corrupt on the inside. Religion can make people look holy, but only Jesus can make a heart that is holy.
The difference between religion and grace (Luke 15:11-32)
A. Some things this story tells us about religion.
1. There are two ways to be separated from God. One is by being a rebel, the other is by being a person who thinks you can be right with God based on your works or religion.
2. The thing that makes us capable of receiving God’s love is not by deserving it but by realizing how much we don’t deserve it. We find grace when we move from seeing ourselves as someone entitled to God’s blessing to becoming someone who is humbled by the awareness of how much we don’t deserve it.
“For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
— Luke 18:14b (NIV)
3. What separates us from God is not our bad performance, but our pride. You will never find grace by trying to prove your right, but by how much you can see your wrong. The root of all sin is trying to be your own lord and savior.
Those who find the kingdom of God discover that it is not a beauty contest for saints, but a hospital for sinners.
B. The story shows that God’s way of saving us and changing us is His extravagant grace and unconditional love.
1. The story shows what Heaven celebrates.
2. The story is about the Father’s pursuit. Nothing the sons did made Him love them more or love them less.
3. What changed the younger son was not religion but discovering a relationship.
We do not change from the outside in by rules or disciplines but from the inside out because of love. When you truly respond to God’s love, His rules get naturally written on your heart. You serve God because you want to not because you have to.
C. It is our ignorance of God’s love or our inability or unwillingness to receive God’s love on His terms that keeps us trapped in our brokenness.
Some characteristics of broken people:
1. They put their emotional health in the hands of others.
2. They never really know or believe their sins are forgiven or their regrets are resolved; they have skeletons they keep hidden in their spiritual closet.
3. They are on an unwinnable journey to prove their worth, and find some outside source of validation or security.
4. They try to drown out the “you’re not enough” voice by their performance or mask it with some other idol such as pleasure or escape.
5. They become obsessed with comparison.
6. Like the elder brother, they are angry, joyless, critical, and self-absorbed.
Steps to receiving God’s extravagant grace
A. Recognize the longing of your heart is to be home with the Father.
Home is the place of perfect rest in the knowledge of God’s love, knowing and sensing His divine favor on your life. It is the mission of the Holy Spirit to empower all who will come home to experience.
“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ...”
— Romans 8:15-17a (NIV)
B. Make the choice to believe and receive God’s extravagant grace.
Notice, you don’t repent, so you can receive; you receive, so you can repent.
“The just shall live by faith.”
— Romans (1:17)
C. Bring the secret, broken, shameful things in your heart to God in open and honest confession.
Don’t be afraid to let your weaknesses and failures be known to others you can trust. God wants us to bring the places of our inner heart that we’re most ashamed of, so he can transform those places with grace. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us… and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness"
D. Put off the heavy yokes of religion and performance.
Replace the lies of guilt and performance with the robe, shoes, and ring of grace. It requires a daily choice to walk in the light of grace.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me, and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me, and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
— Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)