Scripture:

Psalm 13

Romans 6:12-23

Matthew 10:40-42

 

“Live under grace.”

 

The Apostle Paul spends a considerable amount of time emphasizing ---- and driving the point home --- that to follow Jesus is to live under grace.

 

For Paul ----- God is all about grace.

 

For Paul --- to follow Jesus is to take the path of grace.

 

And as our reading from Romans today bears witness to we are either fundamentally ruled by the law --- or we are fundamentally ruled by grace.

 

And he argues that grace is the way of Christ.

 

That without grace we can never truly follow Christ and be or do all that God desires of us.

 

He argues --- that yes --- maybe just maybe you can become a master of fulfilling the law --- following the rules --- doing what is right and true and just ---- but that without grace you will never even approximate all that God desires --- including all that God desires through the law.

 

And Paul is an expert in the law --- indeed Paul is THE expert --- when it comes to the law.

 

In Philippians 3 picking it up mid way through verse 4 --- Paul speaks about himself saying ---

“If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.”

 

In other words Paul has all the credentials one could ever want.

 

He’s is the preeminent example of perfect pedigree ---- all the very bust family history --- upbringing --- ----- teaching ---- schooling --- connections and so on ---- you could ever imagine.

 

Listen again to how he outlines his credentials ---

“If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.”

 

And of course he says all this knowing that without also Christ ---- means nothing.

 

And the last verse here is crucial --- “as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.”

 

He was a Pharisee --- he knew all the minute details of the law by heart ---- he was faultless when it came to knowing and doing the law --- following the rules --- doing what was expected and mandated.

 

But of course he also knows that this means very little without also grace.

 

In order to drive the point home that law is secondary he reminds folks that he is the greatest of all law abiders ---- and yet he still doesn’t cut it without also the grace of God in the person of Jesus Christ.

 

Paul knows that law is something we do --- we follow.

 

He knows that the Jewish laws were based on human effort and accomplishment ---- but grace that is entirely different --- and of far greater value.

 

Grace is a gift from God --- a disposition ----- an ability --- a gift that only God can give and generate and bring into being.

 

And of course Jesus is the supreme example of grace --- all grace starts and ends with Christ.

 

Without grace our faith is just another human expression or human effort --- us trying to be get it right and be good or perhaps even great.

 

Without grace our faith is empty and left wanting.

 

The truth is there are 2 kinds of sin.

 

Sin as in poor behaviour --- poor choices.

 

And then in addition to this ----- there is sin that is deep within us ---- part of our very being --- the sin that is deep in our DNA.

 

The law helps us with poor choices kind of sin --- the law helps us to make the right --- and best ---- and most true and faithful choices.

 

The law ----- the 10 Commandments for example ---- are helpful with category 1 sin ----- sin that evolves around choices we make --- and behaviours.

 

But category 2 sin --- innate sin ----- sin that dwells deep within us --- in our very DNA ---- sin that has nothing to do with choices and behaviours and instead is about something in our very nature --- is sin that we cannot change on our own.

 

This category 2 sin cannot be conquered or even altered by us alone --- there is nothing we can do to change it on our own --- we need help.

 

That’s why we have Christ --- that’s why God sent Jesus --- only Jesus can save us and free us from category 2 sin --- sin that is innate within us --- deep within us --- embedded in our DNA --- part of our very nature.

 

Only Jesus --- only God’s grace --- can free us from that kind of deep embedded within us sin.

 

And that is precisely why grace is so crucial.

 

The law --- following the rules --- always trying to do and act and say and behave perfectly --- even if it were possible --- which it isn’t --- but even if it were possible to always do what is right --- say what is right ---- choose what is right --- even if we could do that we would still be permeated --- infiltrated --- marred by sin.

 

Only Jesus can save us --- only God’s grace in Jesus Christ can save us and free us from the sin that is imbedded deep within us.

 

And Paul comes to this realization ----- and so he desperately wants to share it with everyone.

 

See Paul was brought up --- taught to follow the law perfectly --- always follow the law --- the rules --- without exception ---- and he was taught that if you did this all would be well and God would be pleased with you.

 

But in light of Christ --- this all becomes secondary.

 

In light of Christ ---- grace becomes supreme --- and law --- following the rules becomes secondary.

 

In light of Christ --- accepting grace --- living out grace ---- living out of a disposition of grace --- are primary.

 

He --- or she ---- who follows the law perfectly --- or at least extremely closely and well ---- but begrudges it --- wines and complains about it --- hates it all the while ---- is far less faithful  and true to the way of Christ than he or she --- who slips up from time to time --- but is driven by grace.

 

What drives our behaviour ---- is often as important ---- if not also more important ----- than our behaviour itself.

 

“For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” --- Romans 6:14.

 

“For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.”

 

Under grace --- everything changes --- under grace --- grace and mercy drive us.

 

Under the law sin drives us.

 

The law is a series of decrees devised to help us avoid sin --- sin as in actions ---- thoughts ---- dispositions that are less than faithful.

 

The law --- on its own --- without also grace --- is driven by negativity and fear --- sin is its master.

 

“For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.”

 

When we turn away from just the law and turn to grace --- so we also turn away from sin as our prime focus.

 

Grace is a fundamental disposition away from sin.

 

Grace is a fundamental disposition away from negativity.

 

And the law and negativity are inseparably linked.

 

He ---- or she --- who is only and forever always focused on the law --- doing and being right ---- is ultimately only ever a negative person ----- lacking grace.

 

And of course God is all about grace --- much more than just law --- rules ---- doing and being right.

 

Jesus coming --- ministering ---- dying --- and resurrecting --- is the supreme example of grace ---- God’s grace ---- the only kind of grace that matters.

 

Our 3 short verses from Matthew’s gospel today are all about grace ---

“Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

 

There is no law in ---

“Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

---- it’s all grace.

 

And it’s all grace a little later on in Matthew’s gospel as well --- chapter 25 picking it up at verse 35 ---

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’”

 

And Hebrews 12 verse 3 --- is another great example of grace and not law ---

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

 

And the list goes on --- the message of Christ is grace must trump judgment and the strict adherence to rules for the sake of rules.

 

Grace ---God’s love as shown to us in Jesus Christ --- is what drives our behaviours --- our actions our thoughts --- our whole lives.

 

And grace is a gift given to us --- not something we earn --- or generate on our own.

 

It’s not by mistake that Paul talks about living under grace.

 

We are not above grace --- or beside it ---- or even just below it --- we are under it.

 

It has dominion over us we are under it --- under its influence.

 

Just as we can live under sin --- under the dominion --- under the power of sin ---- be a slave to sin --- have sin as our master.

 

So it is with grace --- it becomes our master --- that which drives and inspires us.

 

“For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.”

 

We live under grace --- under God ---- under Christ --- at the foot of the cross.

 

Paul goes to extensive lengths to drive the point home about grace.

 

He had spent his entire life under the law --- following the law ----- studying the law ---- living out the law --- he was an expert on the law ---- he was THE expert on the law.

 

And he wants everyone to know that following the law without also grace will never cut it.

 

When --- after so many years ---- his heart is suddenly opened up to grace --- by an encounter with the Risen Christ ---- see Acts chapter 9 --- the road to Damascus.

 

When after so many years Paul’s heart is finally opened up to grace ----on the road to Damascus ----- he knows he has to share with everyone that the law is secondary and grace is primary.

 

There is no way around it -----

 

When someone treats you badly ---- it’s grace --- not retribution or checks and balances --- the law --- or rules on retribution and repayment.

 

When someone hurts you ---- it’s grace --- not retaliation ----not what’s right or fair --- but grace.

 

When something happens that isn’t fair --- it’s grace.

 

When there is only 1 item of clothing or 1 piece of food or 1 seat left and 2 people need them --- it’s grace.

 

Why?

 

Because when we had messed things up so badly that there was no hope of us ever getting out of it ourselves --- God sent Jesus ---- grace.

 

The cross is grace --- and our faith is all about what happened at the cross.

 

 

Christ on the cross --- for us --- for us ---- is grace in all of its power and glory and beauty.

 

Yes Jesus drew a line in the sand --- and overturned tables --- and took a whip in his hand driving them out of the temple.

 

But this was after grace ---- after multiple ----- many many many many attempts at grace.

 

Prayer and grace ---- are the Christian first responders.

 

Prayer and grace ---- are the Christian first responders.

 

Unfortunately for many prayer and grace are the last resorts.

 

Every person --- every situation --- has a great back story ----- showing grace --- living out grace ----- is a clear and profound way of showing that we understand the reality of the back story.

 

Grace is the fundamental recognition that there is more going on than meets the eye.

 

The cross --- taken as a stand alone moment is nothing much more than a grotesque wipe you off the face of the earth ---- kind of killing.

 

But there is far more going on than just a crucifixion at the cross of Christ.

 

There is also --- salvation --- reconciliation --- atonement ---- redemption --- and so on.

 

Communion ----- taken as a stand alone moment ---- without also consideration of the back story and full meaning --- looks like nothing more than just a tiny bit of bread and tiny cup of juice --- how can that sustain a full grown human being?

 

Grace is the fundamental recognition that there is more going on than meets the eye.

 

Grace recognizes and celebrates intent --- disposition --- and core meaning in a way law --- just following the rules ---- never will.

 

Laws are necessary and helpful and we must have them --- the Jews had at least 613 --- not just 10 but 613 Mitzvot ----- but it is grace that changes the world --- makes it beautiful and true and worthy of all that God wants for us.

 

Brennan Manning ---- best known for his book “Ragamuffin Gospel”
 ------ completed his biography just before he died --- and the title of the book is --- “All is Grace”.

 

“All is grace.”

 

In it he talks about the relentless grace of God --- and how his whole life was all about God’s relentless grace towards him --- and how without the grace of God nothing would have ever become of him or his life --- All is Grace.

 

All IS grace.

 

When it comes to all of our lives ---- all IS grace.

 

When it comes to all that happens in life --- all IS grace.

 

To live under Christ ---- is to live under grace.

 

To be a Christian is to be a person of grace.

 

In Christ we are no longer under the law --- instead we are under grace.

 

“For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.”

 

Too often we still live under the law.

 

Under the mistaken idea that if we just try hard enough are good enough --- make enough of the right decisions --- avoid mistakes ---- avoid sin --- poor choices --- bad choices more often than not --- that is what God wants for us.

 

God doesn’t want us to try harder ----- He wants us to give over more passionately.

 

Category 1 sin ----- behaviours --- choices --- decisions we make is not primarily God’s focus.

 

Category 2 sin is.

 

Category 2 sin ---- that sin that we cannot escape or avoid or make better ---- that sin that we need Jesus for --- that’s God’s desire for us.

 

To come to that place where we realize that we cannot help ourselves or think or act or behave our way out of sin ---- and that we need Jesus --- is where life truly begins.

 

When we are driven by the law --- we think we can behave our way out of sin --- be good --- do good --- avoid bad --- we are doomed.

 

When we are driven by grace ----- when we know that we need Jesus --- and that we can’t act or think or behave our way out of sin --- then we’re on to something.

 

Paul puts it perfectly in Ephesians 2 verses 8 and 9 ----- 

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith --- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God --- not by works, so that no one can boast.”

 

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith --- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God --- not by works, so that no one can boast.”

 

If we live under Christ we live under grace.

 

When we come to that place where we realize that we cannot behave our way out of sin ---- and that we need grace --- God’s grace in Jesus Christ ----- that’s where life truly begins.

 

Because it is then that we stop trying so hard ---- and give ourselves over.

 

Until then we are only ever drinking salt water --- forever more thirsty the more we drink.

 

Until then we are only ever swimming against the tide --- swimming our arms and legs off and gaining little to no ground.

 

Until then we are only ever pushing a rock up a hill only to have it roll down a hill starting the whole pushing up and rolling down process over again --- endlessly.

 

Prayer and grace ---- are the Christian first responders ---- not more effort or greater ingenuity.

 

“For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.”

 

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith --- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God --- not by works, so that no one can boast.”

 

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith --- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God --- not by works, so that no one can boast.”

 

Amen.