Grace Giver or Forgetter? - 10/14/18

GRACE GIVER OR FORGETTER? 10 14 2018

1 Corinthians 3: 1-6

“Grace moments”; … if we think hard enough, we can remember some of them.
These are the times when we either received grace from some gracious person, …
known or unknown … or times when we extended grace to others.
I remember a grace moment when Karen had got a flat tire. … She couldn’t get a
hold of me (this has been a good while back when cell coverage wasn’t as good as
it is now); … money had been tight and her tires weren’t in the best of shape. …
She had started to struggle with the job of changing the tire herself when a
Hispanic gentleman stopped and handled the repair for her. … It took about 15
minutes of his time … but he extended grace to my wife … and I was grateful he
had been so handy. I’m sure Karen was grateful, also!
I also remember a grace moment when I helped an elderly man change a tire on his
car. … It only took about ten minutes but I was glad to help … and he and his wife
were glad that he, with a weak heart, didn’t have to wrestle with a tire.
Grace can come in so many ways, … helping the person in the grocery line pay for
groceries when they are short on cash, … the needed chore or fix-it job, …
baby-sitting for a couple that really needs a break, … helping someone to celebrate
a special event, … relieving a burden, … sharing grief or pain, … jump-starting a
car; … these are all ways that grace can be infused in to the mundane monotony of
life. … It always arrives like a breath of fresh air on a stifling hot day or like a cool
drink of water to parched lips.
Then there is … Lack of Grace:
On-the-other-hand, … As we all have, … I’ve also lived through graceless
moments … and I can testify that they have a way of sucking the life right out of
us. …These are times that put clamps on our spirits and make us feel like we are
suffocating. … Inconsiderate, disrespectful, out to hurt, Graceless events always
seem to come at the worst possible moment. … They attempt to snatch all sense of
faith, hope and love right out of us … and replace them with doubt, suspicion and
anger.
The apostle Paul knew about graceless moments. … Even though he was the
trailblazing pioneer of the Corinthian Church, … this particular group brought him
loads of heartache. … Despite the fact that he had been the first to bring the gospel
to Corinth, … the Christians, there, had fallen prey to more than one smooth-
talking critic during his absence. …

The Corinthian Christians frequently ran high on expectations and low on grace for
anything which concerned their founding pastor. …
In fact, … a closer look at Churches today … or even this congregation, …
reveals much about what happens when we choose to live without grace.
Without grace, … labels thrive: …
Oh how the Corinthians loved to label.
Strung hard around Paul’s neck were long-distance labels that read, “poor
speaker,” “Unpopular,” “Pushy letter writer,” “Bold in print - weak in presence.”
Let’s face it, … labels can be powerful … and powerfully painful.
We tend to place all kinds of labels on people every day; … even in Church.
Think about these labels: … “legalistic,” “liberal,” “conservative,” “stingy,”
“worldly,” “prideful,” “pushy.” … We hurriedly slap the tag “wild” on motivated
teens, … “selfish” on those who disagree with us, … “show-off” on people who
prosper … and “uncommitted” on those whose agendas differ from ours.
The younger people say the older ones are “stuck in their ways,” … while the
seasoned citizens say the “young-uns’” are “immature.” and lack experience.
And the real tragedy is that either side rarely takes the time to befriend and
honestly inquire enough to truly know the other side.
When we label a person, … we combine two devastating forces: …
In spirit, we judge and we measure according to our own set of scales and
balances! … Matthew 7:1-2: … “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.  2  For
with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it
will be measured to you”.
In addition to judging, … we give up on hope. … In effect, we say to the person
we label; … “This is the way you are and will always be. I have no hope for you to
change. I will view you through this label forever and always think of you in light
of it. … I have you all figured out. … Any questions?”
Without grace, … comparisons emerge: …
Early in the history of the Church, … her members drew lines in the sand and
began to choose sides. … Instead of being in awe of the person of Christ, …
they chose to be awestruck by the personalities who sought to represent Him.
Playing favorites, some said; … “I am on Paul’s side, He is our founder.” (Paul,
Paul, He’s our man ....).
Others cheered; … “Apollos is our man. He can really preach!”
Still others, seeking to out-awe them all, would moralize; …
“Well, I am of Christ!”

One of Paul’s written confrontations with the Corinthians was over this very
matter: … 1 Corinthians. 3:1-6: … “Brothers, I was not able to speak to you as
spiritual people but as people of the flesh, as babies in Christ.  2  I gave you milk to
drink, not solid food, because you were not yet ready for it. In fact, you are still not
ready,  3  because you are still fleshly. For since there is envy and strife among you,
are you not fleshly and living like unbelievers. 4  For whenever someone says, “I’m
with Paul,” and another, “I’m with Apollos,” are you not unspiritual people?”
Comparisons breed competition. … One competitive struggle most pastors face …
and yet are probably reluctant to acknowledge, … is fueled by our media-drenched
culture. … Not only do we feel responsible to have a fresh word from Heaven for
God’s people each week … but we often think we must be as engaging as Chuck
Swindoll, … as practical as Charles Stanley, … as authoritative as John
MacArthur, … as picturesque as Max Lucado, … and as evangelistic as Billy
Graham.
Comparisons, … whether imposed by ourselves or others, … create pressures God
never intended for us to bear. … Meanwhile, grace says; … “You are what you are
by the grace of God. I accept you completely. I thank God for who you and what
you are becoming.”
You see, … without grace, … we tend to see issues only on the surface.
Paul sees through the Corinthian’s shallowness … and in his second letter, offers
gracious counsel: … “For we don’t dare classify or compare ourselves with some
who commend themselves. But in measuring themselves by themselves and
comparing themselves to themselves, they lack understanding.”
(2 Corinthians 10:12)
Without grace, … expectations increase: …
The Corinthians lack of grace was saying to Paul; … “You don’t meet our
expectations! You fall short of what we had hoped for! We’re not sure you can
meet our needs!”
A primary cause of stress in our lives is unrealistic expectations, … both others
impose on us … and those we place on ourselves.
The chasm that exists between our realities and the expectations we expect, …
creates stress (a major cause of illness in our society, today).
I remember my first few months after assuming the pastorate in Tatum (my first
Church). … I had an image of what a “Senior Minister” should be like and should
do … that was so far beyond reality, … that it added to my sleepless nights!

It took a while to settle into facing the realities of my abilities … and my
limitations. … My extreme expectations for my new position were causing stress.
When all we give people are our expectations, … while withholding our
understanding and listening ear, … we achieve the opposite of grace.
Instead of encouraging and empowering those around us to reach their potential, …
we discourage them. … We put on their brakes, … so-to-speak.
Despite the Corinthians graceless treatment of Paul, … he refused to write them
off. … He would not label them … or ridicule them. … He would not fight fire
with fire … and refused to live out his anger. … Instead, he imparted grace and
love to their potential, … again and again.
The Presence of Grace: …
This brings us back to those “grace moments”. … We can’t live without them …
and when we extend grace to others, … despite our flaws and weaknesses, …
we reflect the very nature and character of Christ. … In fact, … we are never more
like Christ, … than when we extend grace to others.
With grace, … sin becomes the enemy, … not people!
What was it that enabled Paul to endure such sinful opposition and rotten attitudes
from a group of people he risked his life to reach for Christ? … What was it that
kept him coming back and writing, … instructing, … teaching; … even when it
seemed like nothing was sinking in?
Well, … this is precisely where grace comes in, … for grace believes the best of
people and draws it out of them. … There is nothing cowardly about a gracious
person. … Grace is the most courageous of virtues. … It enables a person to face
up to ridicule, … slander, … un-forgiveness, … hatred … and to do so much more
than just react to it.
Grace empowers a person to see beyond the sin of their enemy … and love the
person, … to look beyond an angry brother or sister’s faults … and see their needs.
Nicky Cruz (Evangelist, author and the subject of the movie; The Cross and the
Switchblade) …came face to face one day with the power of grace on the streets of
New York City, in the form of a skinny country preacher. … In the “60’s”, …
when Dave Wilkerson was responding to God’s call to reach out to drug addicts,
… he came in contact with Nicky. … Crazy with hate, … Nicky pulled a switch-
blade and said; … “I’m gonna’ cut you preacher man!” … and Wilkerson quickly
replied; … “Nicky, you can cut me into a thousand pieces … and each of them will
say, ‘I love you.’” … On that day, … grace gave anger something it couldn’t
penetrate … and the rest is history.

You see folks, … love is the fuel of grace. … The gracious person is one who is
convinced that love conquers all. … No wonder that Paul penned the classic love
chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 … and addressed it to the grace-deficient Corinthians.
The gracious person has a boundless tool at their disposal. … In the face of
conflicts and challenges, … they choose to overcome them, … instead of being
overcome by them. … Their way of working is the deep conviction that the
“storms” they face go deeper than the people who bring them grief.
The root cause is sin itself … and for this they know … and freely extend, …
a great remedy; … grace!
Understand, … giving grace doesn’t mean we excuse sin. … Graciousness is not
the same as mere tolerance. … The gracious person sees sin for what it is but
chooses not to repay kind-for-kind. … Instead, … in the face of bitterness, … they
exhibit thoughtfulness; … In the face of greed, … generosity; …. In the face of
anger, … calmness of spirit; … To words of wrath, … is offered affirmation …
and to hurt … is extended a listening ear … and a kind heart.
Rather than striking at the sinner in anger, … they confront the sin with the
antidote of grace.
With grace, … we give people space: …
What Paul wanted from the Corinthians had nothing to do with their graceless
suspicions of him. … His gracious heart and concern are easy to detect in a few of
his last words written to them; … “Now I am ready to come to you this third time. I
will not burden you, for I am not seeking what is yours, but you. For children are
not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.  15  I will
most gladly spend and be spent for you. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?”
(2 Corinthians 12:14-15)
The attitudes of these Corinthian believers would have drawn a sarcastic lecture
from many other leaders. … Paul chose, however, … to speak the truth in a spirit
of love … because the Christ he had come to know was full of …
“grace and truth.”
Therefore, … Paul extended to them what he had already received from God.
He gave them grace … and he also gave them space.
We all need grace, in virtually every relationship and event in life. … We need
grace for forgotten appointments, … broken promises, … thoughtless and abrupt
words, … missed deadlines. … We need great doses of grace to live for a perfect
God … in such an imperfect world.

The best part about grace is that we have been given a wonderful promise from
God about grace to live graciously. … The promise is found in 2 Corinthians 9:8
which reads; … “And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in
every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work”
Think of it, … God is able to supply enough grace to us so that in all things, …
at all times, … having all that we need, … we will overflow in grace toward others.
Now there is the power for ministry!
This is the reservoir for generosity! … This is how gracious people are able to be
gracious! … Remember, … we are never more like God … than when we give
grace to someone.
To Conclude: … How can we become grace givers like the apostle Paul? … we
can start by asking some problem-solving questions: …
*What am I living out of; … grace or anger?
*What fuels most of my actions or reactions toward people?
*What is behind the words I use or the tone in them?
*Do I believe the best about people … or expect the worst?
*Do I expect too much of the people in my life?
*Do I look beyond the obvious faults … to see the desperate needs within?
*Do I endeavor to make people comfortable … or uncomfortable?
*Do I know how to give grace?
It’s so easy as Christians to get caught up in the idea of a grace that makes a way
for us to enter Heaven … but there is another aspect to Christ’s work on the cross;
… something He wants us to see today. … Christ wants to use my life and yours to
bring some of Heaven to earth, … into the lives of people on this planet, … in the
spheres of our relationships … and in the form of a gift … called grace!
AMEN