“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:9
The subject of salvation by grace is very special to me. I have preached many times on the subject, and it was the subject of the first sermon I preached after the deaths of my brother Marshall and his family. I hope to continue preaching about it in this world as long as the Lord gives me the breath to do so, and then, after Jesus comes, I want to go all over the universe and tell everyone about the grace that Jesus manifested to save us.
Why We Need Grace
Grace is especially necessary for people who are in the middle of difficult trials, or are suffering because of bereavement, sickness, sorrow, or some other kind of distress. Paul had a problem—he called it a thorn in the flesh—and “Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.” Sometimes when we are in trouble, we think that the Lord should just make that trouble go away. But God’s method is not always to take the trouble away. His answer to us might be the same as it was to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9, first part. Instead of making the trouble go away, God provides what is necessary for us to make our way through it.
Was Paul bitter because of the Lord’s response? Not at all. Listen to his praise of God’s will: “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Verses 9, last part, 10
Consider this: your heart is broken, your body in pain, your mind overwhelmed, and you think that you cannot bear any more; you recognize your weakness, but instead of asking the Lord to remove all the troubles, you simply turn everything over to Him, and trust that in His strength you will be made strong to bear the burdens of this life. Imagine the peace! Imagine the security of knowing that He is always with you, and that whatever you need, His grace will supply it.
“We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15, 16
God made Adam and Eve physically and mentally perfect for each other as husband and wife. Their temperaments were perfectly matched each with the other, so they did not need grace. This was the only perfect marriage ever in this world, because when sin came in, that perfect marriage was immediately destroyed. They were still married, but as soon as they sinned, they began to find fault with each other.
Eve blamed the serpent, Adam blamed Eve, and then they both blamed God. After all, He had made the serpent that deceived Eve, and He also had made Eve, the one for whom Adam’s love was so great that he had chosen her fate over obedience to God.
Listen to what they said: “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” Genesis 3:12. “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Verse 13, last part. Both justified their actions by blaming each other, a snake, and God.
From the time man was removed from the garden, he has indulged the spirit of self-justification and blaming others, and that is why we need grace. “The spirit of self-justification originated in the father of lies; it was indulged by our first parents as soon as they yielded to the influence of Satan, and has been exhibited by all the sons and daughters of Adam. Instead of humbly confessing their sins, they try to shield themselves by casting the blame upon others, upon circumstances, upon God—making even His blessing an occasion of murmuring against Him.” Patriarch and Prophets, 58
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestinated us to the adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. … That in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.” Ephesians 1:3–6, 10, 11
The Effects of Grace
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” Verse 7
Forgiveness is one of the most wonderful words in the English language. It is wonderful because we all have committed so many sins for which we need to be forgiven. Without forgiveness, a man is lost. I am so glad that when I go to the throne of grace, God never says, “Well, sorry, I’m all out of grace today, come back next month.”
Paul says that forgiveness for our sins is given according to the riches of His grace, and it is a bank that will never run out of currency. So, the first aspect of grace is that, when it comes into the human heart and life, guilt is gone. How wonderful! To men and women who have committed all manner of sin, God is saying that it doesn’t matter what they have done, or how bad they have been, if they come to the throne of grace, there is forgiveness.
The devil’s plan will lead man to blame someone else and justify his actions; grace leads you to forgive one another. Now here is how you can tell if you have received the spirit of grace in your heart. “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14, 15
When the human race followed the way of sin, God loved them so much that He made a way, through the blood of His Son, so that forgiveness would be available for all their sins. When we receive the spirit of grace in our hearts, rather than condemning our fellow man, we will forgive him.
Christ exhibited this grace while nailed to the cross. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Luke 23:34. They hammered the nails through His hands and feet, they had been and continued mocking and cursing Him, they pressed a crown of thorns deep into the flesh of His head, and still His only response was “Father, forgive them.” This is grace.
A love so strong that no matter how horrible a person may be, Jesus would have died just for him. He then was willing to forgive him and give him a heart filled with grace so that he might show the love of God by forgiving others. When the spirit of grace is able to break through the barriers of the cold, human heart, it will change the character. Forgiveness is the first effect of grace.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.” Titus 2:11, 12. If you have received the grace of God in your life, you will deny the ungodly things of this world and live a righteous and godly life. This is the second effect of grace on the human heart.
Some years ago, when I was teaching at Southwestern Adventist College, I was walking home. A car stopped and the driver asked, “Do you want a ride?” I said, “Yes, I’ll take a ride.”
I got into the car and looked at him, but I didn’t recognize him at all. He was smoking, so I thought he was just a local resident of the Cleburne, Texas, area.
He looked at me and said, “You are John Grosboll, aren’t you?”
I looked at him and said, “Yes. Who are you?”
He said, “I went to school with you at Campion Academy.”
I thought, Who is this? In the course of the conversation, I discovered that he had turned away from the gospel and he told me he had no interest in hearing anything I had to say about it, so I didn’t talk much, I just listened to what he said.
“I believe that you can do whatever you want to do and then, when Jesus comes, all in a flash, everything’s going to change.”
Paul is very clear about what it means to receive grace. If you have received grace, you will be living a righteous and godly life right now, not waiting for some miraculous change in the future.
Somehow the devil has convinced people to think that they can live like the devil in this world, and still be miraculously saved right at the end. But, friends, the gospel holds no such assurance for that kind of salvation. None whatsoever. There is not one text in the Bible to support it.
The Source of Grace
We have seen two effects of grace on the human heart, but what is the source of this marvelous grace? “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:16, 17. Jesus is the source of grace, and to receive grace in your life, you need to spend time with Jesus.
“It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones. As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His Spirit. If we would be saved at last, we must learn the lesson of penitence and humiliation at the foot of the cross.” The Desire of Ages, 83
The word of God is a living book. From it we can learn how to strengthen our faith, to understand grace, and to clearly see that Jesus Christ is the source of grace. And this grace that Jesus offers changes people’s lives.
Friends, I know that there are worldly things that often cause minor emergencies that can interfere with our plans to start the day with devotion and Bible study. But if we want the grace of God to come into our lives, we must do our very best to make these the top priorities in our day, not only for ourselves, but for our family members as well.
The Cost of Grace
Grace is the most expensive thing in the world, and you will never be anything more than a superficial Christian unless you realize the cost of grace. “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem.” Zechariah 12:10, 11, first part
Notice, these people are receiving grace from the Lord, but what affect is it having on them? They are mourning because they recognize that their sinfulness has killed the Son of God. To have grace in your life, God’s Son had to die for you.
God’s Grace is Sufficient
I was about 20 and already preaching when I was asked to preach in a small church on the eastern slope in Colorado. The rest of my family went up into the mountains for the weekend, and after church and a potluck lunch, I drove the good part of two hours to join them. My family had attended church in that area, and a visiting minister from out of state had come to spend Sabbath afternoon with them. After I arrived, we all headed out for a hike in the mountains.
We first drove as far as you could go, and then at the end of the road, we left the car and started walking up the trail. It was an engaging time as we took in the trees and flowers all along the trail, and we soon fell into conversation. As I said, I was still young and hadn’t studied nearly as much Spirit of Prophecy or even the Bible as I have today. In preparation for my sermon for that morning, I had read some statements that really got me thinking. For instance:
“No tears are shed that God does not notice.” Steps to Christ, 86
“Not a sigh is breathed, not a pain felt, not a grief pierces the soul, but the throb vibrates to the Father’s heart.” The Desire of Ages, 356
“He knows our difficulties, He understands our distresses. Not a sigh is heard, nor a throb of anguish felt, but the pang vibrates in the heart of Christ.” The Signs of the Times, August 1, 1900
With these statements in mind, I said to this minister, “It must be terrible to be God if that’s the case because if He sees everything, and if it hurts Him all the time, He would be hurting constantly all the time.” He nodded and said, “Yes. One of the greatest statements that Ellen White ever wrote is on this subject.” And this is what he shared.
“Those who think of the result of hastening or hindering the gospel think of it in relation to themselves and to the world. Few think of its relation to God. Few give thought to the suffering that sin has caused our Creator. All heaven suffered in Christ’s agony, but that suffering did not begin or end with His manifestation in humanity. The cross is a revelation to our dull senses of the pain that, from its very inception, sin has brought to the heart of God. Every departure from the right, every deed of cruelty, every failure of humanity to reach His ideal, brings grief to Him. When there came upon Israel the calamities that were the sure result of separation from God—subjugation by their enemies, cruelty, and death—it is said that ‘His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.’ ‘In their affliction, He was afflicted: … and He bare them, and carried them all the days of old.’ ” Education, 263
We will never understand what it means to be a Christian if we do not understand the cost of grace. It gives us hope and security for the future. Grace is expensive.
A Terrible Price
Many years ago, when the United States was still a young nation, a young man left his wife and son and headed to California to strike it rich in the California gold rush. He wanted to get rich and build a beautiful home for his family. But as often happens, it took longer than he expected.
However, he was ultimately successful, and the time came when he sent for his wife and son to come to him. In those days, you traveled by stagecoach. The terrain was rough and dangerous. A study of United States history will show that many people died in their efforts to reach California and Oregon.
Not wanting his wife and son to be in a dangerous situation, and because he could afford to do it, the man chose to have them come in what he felt would be the safest way, by ship. This was before the Panama Canal had been built, so ships sailed from New York, around the tip of South America, and sailed north up the California coast to San Francisco.
The mother and son boarded the ship and sailed for California. But on the way there, as they were sailing around the tip of South America, they encountered a violent storm, so violent that the ship was wrecked.
They tried to save everyone, but there wasn’t enough room in the lifeboats. The mother looked over the railing and saw that there was only one seat left. She quickly picked up her son and put him in the lifeboat. As the boy looked up into his mother’s face for the last time, she said to him, “Son, when you get to California, tell your father that your mother died for you.”
Friends, just as this young mother sacrificed her life to save her son, so Jesus sacrificed His life to save you and me. Grace is expensive, but Jesus’ love for His children has made it possible for you to have a heart filled with grace, to be forgiven, and made righteous. Don’t let His sacrifice for you be in vain.
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.