Embracing Grace

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What do you think, when you think about God?  What posture does God assume toward you?
  • ANGRY?  Clenched fists, looking down on places like Haiti and Japan (post-earthquakes)? Little children that are suffering and disease wracked places?  A God who has the ability to intervene and do something, but doesn't?
  • DISTANT?  Yes, He's out there and He's powerful and mysterious, but very far away and not involved with where I live and breathe, raise my family, and go to work?
  • DISAPPOINTED?  Arms crossed, shaking His head, because He has given you all these chances, a good job and family, but wondering why you haven't come around decided to serve Him?
  • DESPERATE?  Wringing His hands over how badly the world is going? Full of love hoping we'll make the right decisions? Hoping we'll take better care of our planet and each other? The kind of God hoping we'll get this thing straight and desperate for our approval?
  • FATHER?  That's either positive or negative depending on the kind of father you had here on Earth.  If you had a good upbringing, a daddy who you loved, that means a whole different thing than if you had a dad that was abusive, distant, or difficult to live with.

What do you think, when you think about God?

I came across a quote from the old pastor and theologian A.W. Tozer and it stopped me in my tracks:
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.  The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and…no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God.  Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.  For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most (important) fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.”                                       
-A.W. Tozer

What you think, when you think of God…is the most important fact in your life right now.  It is impacting every single day: How you deal with your past. How you relate to your job, your money, your mate, your kids in. Things in the present and your hope in the future.

What is God like? 

(What posture does He assume toward us?)

If you ask this book we call the Bible that question, what is God like, all 66 books come back with the same answer:  GRACE.

If you go to the very beginning and you ask Adam and Eve what God is like, they would say grace.  If you ask Abraham, the beginning of the Jewish people, what he thought about God, he would say grace.  If you asked Noah (the Ark), a story a lot of people have pushed aside as untrue but the Bible says was literal, the Bible says Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

When you come to the New Testament, Paul (who wrote 3/4 of the Bible) 130 times talked about the grace of God.  He gave the summation of it all when he says, Ephesians 2:8-9   8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast  

We do we think of Jesus Christ?  Most anybody, whatever their view of Christ, think of Him as a good man, a powerful figure in history.  Jesus, though He never used the term "grace", the phrase he used more than any other was "fear not".  The Bible says in John 1 that Jesus was full of grace and truth:
John 1:14, 16-17   And the Word (CHRIST) was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

What is Grace?

We use words like that all the time: grace, faith, redemption, justification... Sometimes we get kind of "churchy" and don't explain our terms or talk about what we mean.  Let's be honest, we use "grace" all the time. When we pray before a meal we are saying grace.  When a ballet dancer does something amazing, we talk about how graceful they are.  Princess Diana was known for her grace; there's a book title called "Grace is Not a Blue-eyed Blond".  What do we mean when we talk about grace?  I could spend some time trying to tell you, but I want to spend our time showing you [in the Bible].

Grace can mean coordination of movement, it can mean a prayer, it can refer to dignity and elegance.  So when it comes to God…what is GRACE?

[Praying] God, open our minds today to Your truth.  Lord Jesus, give us what You want us to see.  What man says doesn't make a whole lot of difference.  What You say makes all the difference.  God every planet in our universe finds it's orbit based on what we think of You.  Every relationship, every struggle, are all determined by what we think when we think of You.  Show us what to think today.  It's in Christ's name we pray. Amen.

Our story takes place over 3,000 years ago in the palace of David, the King of the Jews, over all of Israel.  David was born to very humble beginnings; he was just a shepherd boy.  Nobody was that impressed or took notice of David.  No one said, "this kid's got an amazing future" and yet, God was watching David and had plans for him.  God uses a series of amazing circumstances as David grew up to introduce him to the King of Israel (at the time), a man by the name of Saul.  As David grows up he starts finding favor with Saul; fights in Saul's army winning battle after battle.  David is growing in prominence and becoming quite an extraordinary young man and King Saul becomes terribly jealous.  He starts to hate David as much as he ever loved him; Saul hates David with a passionate hatred, so much so that he curses David and tries to kill him on numerous occasions.  We find David in the early part of 1 Samuel running for his life from King Saul.  In a single battle, Saul is killed and God raises David all the way to the throne.  The picture I want you to get before we even open this chapter is David now doesn't need anything from any other human being.  David's the king!  He's got the robes, crown, palace, all the money he could need, all the favor and acclaim.  He doesn't need anything from anybody and that's where we pick up in our text...

2 Samuel 9:1 And David said, Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness (lit. GRACE) for Jonathan’s sake?

Already tremendously weird, unusual circumstances, because usually the new king would seek out the family of the former king and kill them.  They don't want any challengers coming after them to restore their father's kingdom.  That was the policy of the day, to wipe out [the former king's] descendants completely so they are no threat.  David wants to show the family kindness.  That word literally in Hebrew is GRACE.  David wants to show grace to one of Saul's descendants and do it for Jonathan's sake.

You see, there's part of the story I didn't tell you.  Though Saul hated David's guts with all of his being, Saul had a son named Jonathan.  Jonathan and David were best friends.  They loved each other with all their heart and at one point Jonathan came to David and said "I know God is setting you up and taking my Dad down.  When you get to your kingdom, when God gives all this to you, I don't want you to forget about me.  I want you to remember my house and not wipe us out.  Promise me David."  And David made that promise to Saul's son and now he wants to know if there is any of Saul's decedents he can show grace to for Jonathan's sake.

Now here's the answer to that question...
2 Samuel 9:2-5  And there was of the house of Saul a servant whose name was Ziba. And when they had called him unto David, the king said unto him, Art thou Ziba? And he said, Thy servant is he. 3And the king said, Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God unto him? And Ziba said unto the king, Jonathan hath yet a son, which is lame on his feet...

Before we go any further, why did Ziba say that?  David didn't ask that; what he looked like, what kind of background he had, what physical state he was in, if he was handicapped. Yet Ziba throws out "yeah, there's a guy. He has a descendant, but he's lame [he's crippled]." I think what Ziba is saying here is "I kinda get where you're going here David, you want a poster boy for Saul's kingdom and show everybody how good and gracious you are and parade him around.  Listen, this guy is not going to be your poster child.  You don't want to bring out this one to show your grace.  He's crippled...." and I think what Ziba doesn't tell David (and this is me talking not the Bible) is that this guy H.A.T.E.S. you.

...4And the king said unto him, Where is he? And Ziba said unto the king, Behold, he is in the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, in Lodebar. 5Then king David sent, and fetched him out of the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, from Lodebar.

Lodebar is an interesting word.  "Lo" literally means "no" and "debar" means "pasture"; what it's saying is "no pasture land".  This was a barren, nasty, outskirts type of place. David has this attitude of  'I want to show grace to Saul's decedents' and now we meet Mephibosheth, one of Saul's decedents, and the attitude he has.  Mephibosheth is living his life away from the present king; afraid of David.  A life of bitter anger toward the present king.  He's gotten as far away as he could go, as far as  he can, so David will never find him.  Mephibosheth doesn't want to be found or recognized because naturally this king will want to take his life if he ever found him.

Let me give you a reason why I believe this man by the name of Mephibosheth was angry toward David.  If you look a few chapters back, you find a unique little scene.  Whenever Saul and Jonathan died in battle, word got back to Mephibosheth's nurse (he was just a baby) that the king and his son were dead.  Naturally the nurse assumes they are coming to kill Mephibosheth because he is next in line and there will be no future for either of them.  The Bible says in her haste, she drops the baby and it cripples him.  Here's what you find, Mephibosheth has been running not only from David but the very thought of David all his life.  Every time he sees that crutch hanging up on the wall, "David's the one who made me like this."  "David's the reason I have to live out here."  "David's the reason I can't have any kind of life."  He's away, afraid, and angry; then one day the thing he's most scared of comes knocking.  Mephibosheth is out in Lodebar, a long way from the capital and the palace.  You may of thought you were hidden real well and you weren't; the king wants to see you.  The king knows you're here.  He told us to bring you to the palace.  All his fears about David and that fateful day have just come true and we believe this guy has a wife.  We know he's got a baby.  They pick Mephibosheth up, they grab his crutch, and they make the journey to the palace.  I don't even know how to tell you, my imagination is not keen enough, can you just imagine what Mephibosheth is feeling when those giant wood doors swing open, guards on either side, sharp swords and spears and shields, and Mephibosheth is walking down a long pathway to the throne room of the king.  The doors open and there's David seated on his throne.  As weak as Mephibosheth is, that's how strong David is. Mephibosheth is brought down all the way to the throne of the king and the one that he's had in mind all his life, he's never seen or talked to, but had his mind made up about, is seated on the throne.

Let's see what happens...
2 Samuel 9:6  Now when Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, was come unto David, he fell on his face, (slings out his crutch and falls flat on his face in front of the king) and did reverence...  
I don't think this guy was a coward. I think this guy has a wife and a baby, he knows there's not a shot in this world that he survives, but maybe he won't kill my wife and kid.  Maybe there's some kind of hope here if I beg him.

2 Samuel 9:6  Now when Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, was come unto David, he fell on his face, and did reverence And David said, Mephibosheth...  Mephibosheth can't even see David, his face is down to the ground.  He didn't know if David's arms were crossed, if his hands were in the pockets of his robe, Mephibosheth didn't know if David was distant, hateful

And David said, Mephibosheth And he answered, Behold thy servant! (Exclamation point, fear in those words).

I've read this a bunch of time and I still can't get over it...
2 Samuel 9:7  And David said unto him, Fear not: for I will surely show thee kindness for Jonathan thy father’s sake (and I'm not only going to spare you), and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually.

Then David stooped.  The king, all of his royalty, all of his power; he bends down to this man and takes him by the arm.  "What you thought I was like, I'm not like that.  The reason you thought I brought you here, I didn't bring you for that reason.  You’re mine.  I take you just as you are, crutches and hang-ups and liabilities and all.  I don't take you because I have to, I take you because I want to,  I take you for your daddy's sake."

Y'all, I was amazed by this.  Do you know what the word "grace" literally means in the Hebrew?
Grace –  (HEBR)“To bend, to stoop.” It carries with it this thought, "To extend favor or kindness to one who doesn’t deserve it and can never earn it.”  

What do you think when you think about God?  The Bible says God stoops.
You want to know His posture toward you?  His feeling toward you?  God stoops.

The story of every single one of us is a story of us being away, afraid, and in most cases us being angry.  This God took my Daddy two years ago with prostate cancer. I don't know why God lets some of these things happen.  For some of you, you suffered abuse growing up.  "I don't know why my life has turned out like this and this God if He's really a God of love, how could He do that?  Be like that?  Allow that?"

We spend our lives taking His gifts.  Every morning the gift of breath in your lungs.  The gift of a beating heart.  The gift of healthy kids in most cases. The gift of a roof over your head and a car in your garage.  The gift of a job.  The gift of America.  The list goes on and on but we take the gifts and reject the Giver.  We run like mad from God and we crash straight into Him at funerals when we can't think about anything else.  We crash into Him when life caves in and the bullets are flying. We cry out to God when most of the time we've spent our life thinking evil thoughts about God.  And all the while, God stoops.

You say, "Preacher, if you knew the stuff I've done, I've said, the people I've betrayed.  If you knew the way I've let my loved ones down; the sins I've committed and the lies I've told you'd know that God may stoop toward somebody else, but he can't stoop toward me.  He can't reach down to me.  The stuff I've done, I deserve hell.  I deserve to be cut off.  I don't deserve God."  Friend, listen to me.  David didn't take Mephibosheth for his sake; he took Mephibosheth  for Jonathan's sake.

God is stooping down to you this morning for Christ's sake.  

Two-thousand years ago, God sent His Son down to planet Earth.  He lived a perfect, flawless life.  He thanked God for every breath and every beat of his heart.  We all know he died on a Roman cross at the age of 33.  Don't let the culture steer you wrong on this; He wasn't just a good man, He wasn't just dying to make a point. The Bible says the penalty of God, his wrath and judgement, all the wrong stuff you've done and ever thought, all the filthy stuff I've ever done and thought, He has to punish that and he punished Jesus on the cross so that He could set you free.  Jesus took your place so that God could bend down to you and say "Listen, I will take you just like you are.  I'll take you with your crutches, hangups, problems, temptations, all your flaws, like you are for Jesus' sake!"  That, my friend, is what we mean when we talk about Grace.

Now Mephibosheth has a choice doesn't he?  How is he going to respond?

PRIDE?  I don't need you.  I don't need anything you can give me.  I don't need your kingdom or your table.  Give me my crutch and I'll make it out of here the same way  I came in here.  You're the one who made me like this and I don't need a thing from you.

UNEARNED?  David, let me do better first.  Let me extend some effort .  I haven't done anything for you; I can't accept a gift like this.  Let me go out and praise you and serve you a little bit.  David, let me earn this somehow.

SHAME? David, I'm too ashamed.  I can't sit at your table, it's too embarrassing.  It's too humiliating.  I don't deserve it.

Listen friends, you know why some of you have not yet bowed the knee to Christ or said "God if You're stooping down to me, I'll take it.  If you sent Jesus for me, I'll take it."  BECAUSE YOU HAVE TOO MUCH PRIDE.  "God, I don't need you.  You let that happen to my family, to me when I was a kid; You're the source of my problems and I don't want to have to bow a knee to You. I don't need You."

Some of you have tried to be religious to earn your way back to God.  You have tried to do good works, to please Him. You tried to somehow earn it and you've been so ashamed of yourself that you thought it wasn't for you.  Can you imagine how tremendously insulting it would have been if the king is stooping down to this man and this man for any reason says "I can't take it, I don't want it, you can't give it to me."  That's the one thing on the face of this Earth that could have sent him back out those palace doors EMPTY.

No problem, sin, struggle, flaw, or frailty could have kept him from the king, but pride and shame would have sent him away empty.  That's not what he did...
2 Samuel 9:8-13  8And he bowed himself, and said, What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am? Then the king called to Ziba, Saul’s servant, and said unto him, I have given unto thy master’s son all that pertained to Saul and to all his house. 10Thou therefore, and thy sons, and thy servants, shall till the land for him, and thou shalt bring in the fruits, that thy master’s son may have food to eat: but Mephibosheth thy master’s son shall eat bread alway at my table. Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. 11Then said Ziba unto the king, According to all that my lord the king hath commanded his servant, so shall thy servant do. As for Mephibosheth, said the king, he shall eat at my table, as one of the king’s sons. 12And Mephibosheth had a young son, whose name was Micha. And all that dwelt in the house of Ziba were servants unto Mephibosheth. 13So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem: for he did eat continually at the king’s table; and was lame on both his feet.

I want you to picture this for a minute.  David had some kids that were actually flesh children of the king. He had Absalom, this handsome, tall, good looking young man with long flowing hair.  He had Joab, his soldier, main general who was not doubt bronzed by the sun, muscular, handsome.  He had a daughter, Tamar, who  was absolutely gorgeous. He had his son Solomon who had been in the library studying all the while and was a genius. They're all sitting around the king's table looking beautiful, powerful, like they belong here and all of the sudden here he comes [crutch sounds]. Mephibosheth comes in and pulls a seat up at the table and the table cloth covers those broken legs.

I don't understand the thought of me sitting down with King David in heaven, men like Hudson Taylor (who we've been reading about as a church), Peter, Paul, and James, when I can be such a coward, flawed, when I don't feel like I've done much of anything for Jesus like I should.  That thought BOGGLES the mind until you realize they aren't there because of how good and beautiful they were.  The ONLY way you sit at that table is through Jesus; the blood of [God's] son.  God will pull up a seat for you at that table.  He will cover everything you have ever done. Everything you are struggling with, doubts you have.  Every pain from your past.

Am I saying God will make everything flawless?  There will be no pain, no trouble, no discipline?  Oh no my friend; good fathers will discipline you at times, but He will stoop to bring you back.

It was March 21, 1748, and a young slave-trader by the name of John Newton was on a ship caught in the midst of a terrible storm.  The story goes that in the middle of this storm he wakes up and goes up on deck. The Captain is screaming through the foam and sound of that storm and says "hand me a knife".  John Newton goes to hand him a knife and wave comes and the next second the Captain is gone.  John Newton knows he's just a step away from death and we know this is an accurate metaphor for his life in almost every way.

John Newton was raised by a godly mother until she died when he was seven.  Now he was left with a sea-faring father.  His childhood came straight out of a Charles Dickens novel; abuse, pain, and neglect.  At 17 he joined the navy, only to desert and be beaten within an inch of his life for it.  Eventually he winds up with a Portuguese slave trader who's making treks to Africa.  Binding men, women, and children together in shackles on ships in the most disgusting conditions you can imagine.  This Portuguese slave trader's wife so hated John Newton she made him eat the scraps that fell off her table like a dog.  He's living in the worst kind of conditions and would later write these words:
“My delight and habitual practice was wickedness and I neither feared God nor regarded men.  My daily life was a course of the most terrible blasphemy and profaneness.  I don’t believe that I have ever since met so daring a blasphemer as myself.  Not content with common profanities and cursing, I daily invented new ones…”

This guy would show up at their destination with 3/4 of the human beings making that journey dead from disease and cramped quarters.  He had seen barbarity and death and not only had he seen it but he was guilty of it.  If there's ever a guy that we should say deserves death, deserves hell, it was John Newton.

In the midst of the storm, Newton is bailing water from 3 in the morning until noon the next day, and something his mom had taught him way back clicked inside his heart. He runs down to the hold of the ship, and with it rocking on the waves, he found a Bible. He began to flip through it and landed in the Gospel of Luke...
Luke 11:13   If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

John Newton said "I'm evil but maybe God can take somebody even like me."  It didn't end there and over the next few years, God spoke and drew John Newton.  This filthy, vile, slave trader asked Jesus Christ to stoop down and save his wicked soul.  Later down the road, John Newton got sick, he went blind, his wife came within an inch of death; but through all that, God called him to be a preacher.  He became not just a preacher, but a powerful writer of songs.  He sat down one day to write a song he entitled “Faith’s Review and Expectation” and here's how the song went:

“Faith’s Review and Expectation”
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found.
Was Blind…but now I see."

If God can save John Newton, do you think God can save you?  Think God can stoop down to where you are and pull you out of all you've been involved in, all you've thought, all your shame and running, all your pain?

At lot of our folks here at Calvary have become familiar with what we do at the end of a service, but for our friends here today let me narrate it for you.  We believe that the power of anything is not in the guy standing up here, the song leader, or anything we can do but in the power of a Living God that the Bible says is not off in Heaven.  He's here, everywhere, closer than the air you breathe, right here in the room.

We pause at the end of every time we open [the Bible] to say what will we do with this truth? How will we take it?  What do you think when you think of God?  That's what we ponder right now.  Let's talk about the most important thing on the face of this Earth, the thing that changes everything; what you think when you think about God?


Pastor Brian Loveless Sermon "Embrace Grace" on March 27, 2011 at Calvary Baptist Church Grand Prairie, Texas on Friend Day.

Brian Loveless has been serving as Lead Pastor for Calvary Baptist Church in Grand Prairie, TX since November 2003. Brian shepherds, leads, feeds, and guides Calvary’s congregation, staff, and guests to spiritual growth and service for Jesus Christ. His main goals remain for folks to see God, share life, serve others, and stay connected.