Lesson 6 Grace and Discipleship

Video 6 Grace and Discipleship

In his excellent book Gospel-Centered Discipleship, Jonathan Dodson rightly stresses the relationship between grace and discipleship: The wonderful news of the gospel is that Jesus frees us from trying to impress God or others because he has impressed God on our behalf. Gospel-centered discipleship is not about how we perform but who we are—imperfect people, clinging to a perfect Christ, being perfected by the Spirit.

Discipleship is not about impressing God or others, and it’s not about performing well. Discipleship is primarily about Jesus and his continual work in us through the Holy Spirit. Rather than asking, “How well are you doing spiritually?” let’s put it differently: How is God making you more like Christ?

I’m on an imperfect journey of becoming like Christ. When I was a sinner, the Father set his affection on me and sent his Son to die for me. Even though I wasn’t delightful, God delighted in me; even though I was running from God, God was running to me—and he’s faster than I am.

God looks upon me as a beautiful work of art, even though I have so much ugliness in my life. I often feel valueless, but God paid the highest price to purchase me. I am prized and honored in the eyes of my Creator.

I am redeemed, forgiven, adopted, and beloved. I am known, pursued, and the object of God’s infinite affection. When I’m apathetic toward God, he’s never apathetic toward me. Though I’m prone to wander, he’s prone to pursue. I am the crown, the jewel, the apex of God’s majestic creation.

And I am never alone. My Savior is with me even to the end of the age. He’s with me because he wants to be with me. When I sin, God forgives. When I fail, Christ succeeds. Though I have no strength to obey, God strengthens me through his Holy Spirit who lives in me.

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. God is working in me, giving me the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Father. Son. Holy Spirit. Our spiritual lives are cradled and enabled by his powerful presence.

Most Christians don’t think of their spiritual lives like this. Again, 68 percent of born-again Christians think that the expression “God helps those who help themselves” comes from the mouth of God. And it shows. According to another Barna study, three out of five churchgoing Christians “equate Christianity with a list of moral rules to be followed.” That is roughly the same percentage as unchurched people.

Another recent study looked at whether churchgoing Christians more resemble the attitudes and actions of Christ or the Pharisees. Christians were asked questions such as the following:

  • Do you regularly choose to have meals with people with very different faith or morals from yourself?
  • Do you see God-given value in every person, regardless of their past or present condition?
  • Do you feel compassion for people who are not following God and are doing immoral things? You know, the things Jesus thought and did on a regular basis.

The survey also asked questions that reflect the attitudes and actions of the Pharisees:

  • Do you tell others that the most important thing in my life is following God’s rules?
  • Do you think that people who follow God’s rules are better than those who do not?
  • Do you believe that it’s not your responsibility to help people who won’t help themselves?

The results were quite disappointing. Fifty-one percent of self-identified Christians are primarily pharisaical in attitude and action. Only 14 percent tended to be Christlike in attitude and action.

To be sure, surveys and statistics aren’t inerrant. They can’t give us a perfect window into the heart of every person. But I do believe they can give us a decent ballpark view of how people actually think and act.

As I reflect on the different Christians I’ve interacted with over the years, the results of this survey aren’t too shocking. Christians often talk about grace and say they’ve been saved by grace alone. But when you dig into how they live, they appear to rely much more on their own performance than on Christ’s finished work on the cross. And they project this performance-driven version of the gospel onto others, then back onto themselves. And down we tumble down the rabbit hole of legalism. At the bottom lie piles of Christians who are trying to become moral without clinging to and celebrating the finished work of Christ.

One of the reasons our discipleship is failing is that we’ve left the gospel out of it. Intuitively, many Christians think that the gospel saves us but has little ongoing relevance for our discipleship. But discipleship, or becoming more like Christ, is all about diving deeper and deeper into his unconditional favor for us. You cannot become more like Christ and not become more and more addicted to his grace.

I love how Jonathan Dodson puts it: It is continual trust in his death and life for my sin and righteousness that matures me, drawing me deeper and deeper into an ever-present hope of acceptance before God. This hope is Jesus Christ as my Lord and Redeemer, not a better moral track record. When we absorb the radical gospel focus of the Gospel Commission, it compels the mission of making disciples who, in turn, preach and teach the gospel of grace to others.

Or more succinctly: “The gospel that makes disciples is the very same gospel that matures disciples.”

We live in a country that’s obsessed with performance. From the time we are kids, we try to outperform our classmates in school or our fellow athletes on the field. If we’re going to make the all-star team, we must perform better than the rest. If we want to get a girlfriend or boyfriend, we have to look better than the competition. And we never outgrow our performance-driven culture. We advance in life by performing well in college. We’ll get a raise at our jobs if we perform well. We’ll have a better chance at getting married if we can make ourselves look better than we are. Your Facebook “you” is much prettier, much happier, and has many more friends than the real “you.” Our entire lives are shaped by performance and by making a good impression.

Enter Jesus: “Come to me, all of you who are weary from performance, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, author’s rendering). Our performance comes to a screeching halt when we meet Jesus. He’s not impressed with our moral track record, and he yawns at our laundry list of sins. He meets us where we are and walks with us through thick and thin.

Just think of how Jesus rolled with his first disciples. Peter is a prime example of a disciple whose spiritual walk was upheld by grace. Quick to speak and slow to think, Peter’s fragile character makes my sad prayer life look a little less embarrassing. On one occasion, he tells Jesus that he won’t let him get crucified. Jesus rebukes him: “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:23). Wow! Have you been accused of speaking the very words of Satan? Peter has. He was accused by Jesus himself.

On the night Jesus was betrayed, he washed his disciples’ feet. Peter tried to stop him, but then Jesus told him that if he didn’t let Jesus wash his feet, Peter would “have no share with” Jesus (John 13:8). Peter’s response is a bit uncomfortable: “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” (John 13:9). Give me a sponge bath, Jesus! Talk about awkward. And what about that time when Peter denied Jesus three times (Matthew 26:69-75)? This is truly unbelievable and encouraging all at the same time. Peter has been hanging out with Jesus for three years. When asked whether he is a follower of Jesus, Peter says that he doesn’t even know the guy.

“Hey, weren’t you hanging out with this man from Nazareth?”

“No sir, I wasn’t. I don’t even know the man.”

Imagine if your pastor got up next Sunday and told the entire congregation: “I don’t even know who Jesus is.” He’d be fired on the spot and rushed out of church. But Jesus is far less threatened. He’s less threatened by our doubts than we are. He knows how fragile our faith actually is—even if we try to spackle over our weakness with good Christian performance. Just before Peter denied Jesus, Jesus told him that he would never let him go: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail” (Luke 22:31-32).

Peter’s faith was created and upheld by Jesus himself. Were it not for Christ, Peter would have continued to deny that he knew Jesus. Like that old hymn “Come Thou Fount”: Let thy goodness like a fetter bind my wandering heart to thee. Prone to wander—Lord, I feel it—prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.

Peter is a perfect example of what discipleship looks like. We are zealous yet apathetic, full of faith and doubt, obedient one day and disobedient the next. We are on an imperfect journey toward a perfect Savior who upholds us by his grace and promises to never let us go. We all, like Peter, are prone to wander, prone to leave the God we love. But God’s goodness binds our wandering hearts to him. Discipleship will never get off the ground until we cling to this basic point.

Lesson 4 All Christians are Disciples

Video 4 All Christians are Disciples

In the next few classes we’re going to interact with Barna’s The State of Discipleship study and other studies that have analyzed Christian discipleship in the United States. I won’t merely list a bunch of statistics, but I will examine the statistics and data to figure out what the church has been doing to disciple its people well and how the church can do a better job at making disciples who make disciples, who go on and—you guessed it—make disciples.

I will also interact with other relevant studies and authorities in addition to the Barna study:

  • pastors and scholars who have been thinking and writing about discipleship;
  • Christians and leaders who have thought through discipleship on a less public level;
  • various books and studies on Millennials and the church; and
  • personal friends, acquaintances, churchgoing Christians, and Christian “dropouts” whom I’ve met over the years.

My last source deserves some explanation. I’ve never been a full-time pastor, yet I’ve been heavily involved in church life as a deacon, elder, lay leader, teacher, or preacher in many different churches in my twenty-plus years as a Christian. I’m also a writer and a speaker, which means I get to visit and speak at many different churches around the United States (and the world). I’ve been exposed to the different ways in which Christians are “doing church” and discipling their people, which has been incredibly informative and eye-opening.

I used to think that not being a full-time pastor would disqualify me from writing a book on discipleship. But this way of thinking—that only pastors are qualified to talk about discipleship—is actually a big part of the problem. All Christians are disciples and disciplers. We all are missionaries and ministers who are called to serve God in his kingdom. But I’m getting ahead of myself. We’ll unpack all of this in the following lessons.

So here’s a quick teaser of what’s to come in this course:

  • We’re going talk about grace. If we don’t have a firm understanding of grace, our discipleship rocket will never get off the ground.
  • We’ll show why relationships are far more necessary than programs for discipleship. Programs aren’t bad. But programs without relationships have proven ineffective in helping people become more like Christ.
  • We’ll affirm the claim—and some will dispute this, but trust me, it’s biblical—that Christians can’t adequately become more like Christ on their own. We need other people. We need community.
  • We’ll try to blow the doors off church so that our faith can permeate our entire lives, not just our Sunday mornings. Christian discipleship should be holistic, not compartmentalized.
  • We’ll argue that biblical literacy among Christians is a serious discipleship issue. People are dropping like flies from the church, partly because Christians appear to have their heads buried in the sand—ignoring the tough intellectual issues of the day.
  • We’ll reveal that biblical discipleship includes mission, not just morality. You can be porn-free, drug-free,
  • sex-free, alcohol-free, and never even watch movies on Netflix—and you could still be a terrible disciple. Morality is good. But without mission, it’s merely religion.
  • We’ll expose the fact that our churches are not very diverse, and this lack of diversity (in ethnicity, age, and socioeconomic status) is an unforeseen hindrance to discipleship.
  • We’ll challenge the very structure of how we do church. Many churches (not all) have inherited a way of doing church that’s way too expensive and complicated. And this can be a massive roadblock on our journey of becoming more like the Son of God, who was born in a feeding trough.
  • Finally we’ll talk through how to implement some of the changes we’ve discussed.

Whether you’re a pastor, a lay leader, or a Christian who’s not in any formal leadership role, you’re called to be a disciple who makes disciples. We all must go. For some, the call to go will launch them overseas or across the border. For most, however, going will involve staying because the mission is all around us. We must all follow Jesus in the marketplace and in the streets, in our neighborhoods and at our schools, through our relationships with both Christians and non-Christians. We are all called to go—and make disciples who make disciples.

So let’s dive in and talk about that aggressive and scandalous and offensive thing called grace—God’s stubborn delight in his enemies.

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Lesson 5 A Correct View of God

MAIN IDEA: True worship requires that we understand who God is and who we are in comparison.

So far in our study together we have developed two basic points: 1. Worship is our response to God’s revelation of who He is and what He has done. 2. Our worship provides a place of meeting, a habitation for God’s presence.

Worship is really fairly simple: God initiates and we respond. Yet as we respond, it is crucial that we understand who God is, who we are in relation to Him, how we should respond, and what we can expect. The prophet Isaiah provided us with a clear understanding of each of these points.

Isaiah’s Revelation
Isaiah was called by God to prophesy to the nation of Israel from 739–686 B.C. It was a very dark period for Israel. Although Isaiah knew from the beginning that his ministry would be one of fruitless warning and exhortation, he responded. However, Isaiah’s words burned brightly for the early church, which is evidenced by the fact that Isaiah is quoted over 65 different times in the New Testament.

Isaiah’s words provide clear understanding for believers today as well. His vision of the throne of God, in particular, clarifies who God is, who we are, how we should respond, and what we can expect. Isaiah recorded:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and His robe filled the temple. Seraphim were standing above Him; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another: Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Hosts; His glory fills the whole earth. The foundations of the doorways shook at the sound of their voices, and the temple was filled with smoke. Then I said: “Woe is me, for I am ruined, because I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips, and because my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of Hosts.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, and in his hand was a glowing coal that he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, and your sin is atoned for.” Isaiah 6:1-7 1

What is your immediate response to this passage? Do you identify with Isaiah’s feelings of being unclean?

Isaiah’s view is indeed the correct view of God. He alone is high and lifted up. He alone is worthy, and the whole earth is filled with His glory — even when it doesn’t look that way to us. That is who God is, no matter what circumstances we may face. Unclean — apart from the grace of God in Jesus Christ — that is who we are. When we understand exactly what God accomplished for us when Jesus paid the price of our sin, worship is our only reasonable response. And as we worship, we can expect His presence.

Grace — Our Only Hope
No matter how holy or righteous we may think we are, we are not worthy of God’s presence in our own power and strength. The only hope we have is that mercy will descend from God’s throne and, by grace, touch our “unclean lips.” Only then will we be able to stand in God’s presence and present our praise.

The Father we worship is the same God Abraham worshiped. He is the One who provided the lamb of sacrifice on Mount Moriah. He is the same God who met with Jacob and the same God who revealed Himself to Moses and delivered the Israelites from slavery. He is the same God who chose Mary and Joseph and the One the apostle Paul honored, worshiped, and served.

As we have seen, Jesus is the express image of God. He is the incarnation of Truth, and thus anything that contradicts who He is (His character) or what He has said is not truth.

Love came down to us in Christ Jesus. We didn’t deserve that kind of grace. We are indeed recipients of God’s unmerited favor — grace that is everlasting. God’s grace is not dependent upon ritual or tradition, performance or precision. It is always dependent, however, upon our submission to the Truth, Jesus — the revelation of who God really is. As we believe in the revelation of God expressed through His Son, we receive the gift of His grace: life!

“God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. Anyone who believes in Him is not judged, but anyone who does not believe is already judged, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.” John 3:16-18

How do you “see” God? Think about the ways you have “seen” God in your own life:

• Your peace
• Lord/Master
• Savior/Redeemer
• Counselor
• Friend
• Healer
• Protector
• Father

How do you “see” yourself?
• Sinner
• Forgiven
• Worthless
• Worthy
• Forgotten/Overlooked
• Chosen
• Unwanted
• Adopted

How many positive attributes do you “see” for yourself? This is how God sees you: forgiven, worthy, chosen, and adopted — just to name a few.

Grace determines how God “sees” His children. Without grace, we could never worship God. Entering His presence would surely condemn us to death. But, praise His holy name, His grace is sufficient! God so loved the world that He gave and He gave and He gave … and He continues to give today. The word of worship in this class was “grace.” Write a prayer to God thanking Him for His grace in your life.

Points to Ponder
• Entering God’s presence requires grace that only He can provide.
• God’s grace comes to us through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
• Salvation is a matter of accepting God’s gift of grace by faith.
• True worship is expressed through spirit and truth—our spirit surrendered to God’s truth.
• True worship requires that we understand who God is and who we are in comparison.

• What statement or Scripture you read in this lesson was most meaningful?
• Reword the statement or Scripture into a prayer of response.
• What does God want you to do in response to this lesson?

Resources used for this class:
• Chad Brand, Charles Draper, Archie England, eds., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 678–79.
• John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), 1449.
• “Amazing Grace.” Words by John Newton. Public domain.
• “implant.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, 2008, Merriam-Webster Online (accessed 21 August 2008). Available from the Internet: www.merriam-webster.com.

Lesson 3 Accepting God’s Gift of Grace

MAIN IDEA: Salvation is a matter of accepting God’s gift of grace by faith.

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.

After spending my whole adult life in church leadership, I know firsthand just how easy it is to sing this hymn yet not be convinced that the message is completely true on a personal level. The Bible is filled with standards, principles, and challenges that call believers like you and me to live a godly life — and we often fall short of perfection. As a result, there are many in the church today who carry an unspoken concern that maybe, just maybe, there is something else they must do to be fully His.

Believe … Belong … Become
Often the unstated message of the church today goes like this: If you believe, and if you behave, then you can belong. The Bible, however, presents a different message: If you believe, then you belong to Christ; and you can become the person God created you to be.

As we make a conscious decision to embrace God’s Word by faith — to believe what it says about Jesus and receive Him as our Lord and Savior — we truly belong to Him! Then as we put our faith into action and begin to follow the instructions God provides in His written Word, we really can become the persons we were designed to be, as the following verses affirm:

All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Ridding yourselves of all moral filth and evil excess, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save you. James 1:21

Once we believe, we really do belong. And in order to become, we simply must walk in the light we have been given through God’s Word, fellowshipping with one another, confessing our sins, and setting our minds on things of the Spirit rather than on things of the flesh. As we read in the Book of Hebrews, we must …

Hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:23-25, NKJV

Today Is the Day
If there is any doubt in your mind that you have received God’s ultimate gift of grace by accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior of your own life, today is the day to settle the matter once and for all. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth in order to make a way for you to be reconciled to God. It doesn’t matter what you have done or where you have been. Jesus is waiting to receive you right now.

The first question you must answer is this: Do I need a Savior, or is my life sufficient to obtain eternal life with God by its own merit? In other words, is there any other way to get to God?

Jesus made it clear that He is the only way to the Father, the only way to living an abundant life and spending eternity in the presence of Almighty God:

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6

Your salvation truly is a matter of life and death. If you agree that you need a Savior today, He is available. Jesus is ready right now to welcome you into His glorious kingdom. And the Bible is very clear about how this happens:

“The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.” This is the message of faith that we proclaim: if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:8-9

If you have any doubt about your salvation, you can be born of the Spirit right now, and you will never have to wonder again. You will be a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17-18). Jesus not only made it clear that no one comes to the Father except through Him; He also told us that no one comes to Him unless the Father draws that person to Him (John 14:6; 6:43-44). And the fact that you are drawn to Jesus is a clear indication that the Father has determined this is the day you are to repent of your sins — turn from them — and receive Jesus as Lord.

You can exchange your life of sin and failure for His life of righteousness and favor with God and man right now! Please read and repeat aloud the prayer of salvation at the end of this lesson. Be sure to tell someone you know who is a Christian about your decision so that he or she may help you walk out the next steps of your life in Christ.

Your Salvation Is Secure
If you have already accepted Jesus yet continue to have doubts about your salvation, He wants to give you unshakable confidence and peace in knowing that your salvation is secure. You don’t have to be a criminal or trapped in some sin pattern to doubt your position in Christ. In fact, many Christians carry around a nagging concern about their salvation, wondering if they “measure up.” But as we have seen, there is no way to work your way to salvation. Salvation is a matter of grace and faith alone. It is available by the grace of God and is received by your expression of faith in Jesus as Lord of your life.

By grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

With the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation. Romans 10:10

Don’t throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised. Hebrews 10:35-3

[God] Himself has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

If you are one who continues to struggle with doubts about your salvation, read Romans 8:38-39: For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord! Which of the illustrations that Paul uses best demonstrates the permanence of God’s commitment to you?

Romans 10:17 tells us that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (NKJV). As you declare the Word of God aloud, it will enter your heart and your faith will be strengthened. Once Jesus is Lord of your life, you can have confidence that you are always saved. And as Romans 8:38-39 assures us, nothing can ever separate us from the love of God!

Now that is revelation! Jesus is indeed Lord of your life, and He will never, ever “leave you or forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). As you meditate for a few minutes on who He is and what He has already done, worship will be your only reasonable and adequate response!

Prayer of Salvation
Heavenly Father, I come to You in the name of Jesus. Your Word says that if I confess with my mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in my heart that God has raised Him from the dead, I will be saved. I take You at Your word, Lord God. I confess that Jesus is Lord, and I believe in my heart that You raised Him from the dead. I invite You to be Lord of my life, and I thank You for coming into my heart and giving me Your Holy Spirit as You promised. I believe in You and Your Son, Jesus, and I commit my life to You this day. Amen.

• What statement or Scripture you read in this lesson was most meaningful?
• Reword the statement or Scripture into a prayer of response.
• What does God want you to do in response to this lesson?

Lesson 2 God’s Ultimate Expression of Grace

MAIN IDEA: God’s grace comes to us through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

As we explored in Class 1, Lesson 3, God’s amazing grace comes through the shed blood of Jesus Christ and is available to all who receive Him as Lord and Savior. Our personal relationship with Jesus allows us to encounter His presence with faith and confidence and, as a result, to experience God in worship. The writer of the Book of Hebrews expressed it this way:

Since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:19-22, NIV

We have seen that the only access God’s people had to the holy of holies, where God’s presence dwelt and where the highest form of worship took place, was through the high priest. But when Jesus, our High Priest, came, He entered the most holy place once and for all by His own blood, obtaining our eternal redemption:

How much more will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to serve [worship] the living God? Hebrews 9:14

We just can’t miss this truth: All of us who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior are received into God’s presence through the One who purchased us with His blood. No amount of ritualistic cleansing or devoted actions could prepare us for God’s presence — and none is needed!

God came down to us in Christ Jesus. He is the spotless Lamb of God who was slain for our sins and our inequities. There is no further need for sacrifice; the price of sin has been paid in full. We are no longer separated from the presence of God. We read in Matthew 27:

Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked and the rocks were split. Matthew 27:51

The commentary on this verse in the MacArthur Study Bible offers this explanation: “The tearing of the veil signified that the way into God’s presence was now open to all through a new and living way. … The fact that it tore ‘from top to bottom’ showed that no man had split the veil. God did it.”

Here’s a statement that will help you grasp this truth once and forever: Jesus broke down the barrier so you could have a breakthrough in order for Him to break into the broken places in your life.

This is pure grace! We deserved to die in our sins, but God made a way: a way for us to experience His very presence in our lives, a way to join Him in the Most Holy Place. Our only reasonable response is worship. And as we worship — as we break through traditions, doubts, and fears that have restricted our worship expression — God Himself has promised to break into our circumstances and repair what is broken. And when the King is present, all things are possible.

We Are Worthy of His Presence
Most of us have read what the Bible clearly says about who we are in Christ, yet many of us have missed the reality of what is being said. The Bible makes it clear: if you have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you are saved by grace!

You might have been a sinner, but you aren’t any longer. By grace and grace alone, you are a new creation, fully righteous in God’s eyes. To believe and say anything else simply contradicts what God has proclaimed in His Word about you. Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary really did tear apart any barrier between you and God. You are free to enter God’s presence and worship Him freely!

If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

There are undoubtedly many good things one could say about you. Which attributes in the following list apply to your life:
• Friendly (and a faithful friend to others)
• Kind
• Generous (freely give your time and resources to others)
• Temperate (not given to anger)
• Forgiving
• Devoted (to friends and family)
• Successful (at work, at home, etc.)
• Well-to-do (plentiful financial resources)
• Honest
• Humble
• Good character
• Servant (in church, community, elsewhere)

Now go back and ask yourself if any of these attributes are necessary to grant you entrance into the presence of Holy God.

God, who is abundant in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. By grace you are saved! He also raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavens, in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are His creation — created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:4-10

All the attributes in the preceding list are simply “good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that [you] should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10), but they are completely insufficient to grant you access to God! Of course, God is very serious about good works. In fact, the entire Bible is designed to “thoroughly equip” us for every good work:

All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

It is absolutely crucial that we settle the issue of worth once and for all: If you have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, no further qualification is necessary for you to enter the presence of Holy God. There is no amount of work you can do to improve the fact that salvation comes by grace and grace alone. To further settle this truth in your mind, take a moment to remember any major failures in your life, but don’t dwell on them. Now, compare the list of “good” and “bad” for a brief moment. Can your good works ever really overcome the weight of your sin? Of course not! Grace is our only means to worship our holy God, and aren’t we glad!

• What statement or Scripture you read in this lesson was most meaningful?
• Reword the statement or Scripture into a prayer of response.
• What does God want you to do in response to this lesson?

Lesson 1 Amazing Grace

MAIN IDEA: Entering God’s presence requires grace that only He can provide.

God is very serious about having a relationship with us and being our first priority in life. As we have seen, He continually told the Israelites, “I am the LORD your God.” He brought them out of bondage in Egypt, kept them fed and clothed for 40 years, and led them into a land that He had set aside for them. And they responded to God’s grace with great love, appreciation, obedience, and worship … well, not exactly!

In fact, they didn’t respond well at all. They grumbled and complained and worshiped other gods. Even while Moses was on Mount Sinai interceding with God on their behalf, they were creating a golden calf to worship. Yet God would not forsake His people — then or now. God was determined to show His grace and the holiness of His great name through His people, and He intends to do the same in our generation.

Becoming Aware of God’s Grace
The Israelites weren’t all that different from us today. Many times God is demonstrating His great grace in our lives and, frankly, we just don’t get it! I vividly remember when Teresa and I encountered God’s grace in that way. God’s grace was flowing with power toward us, but we just couldn’t see it at first.

The doctors later called it a medical fluke, but we knew better. Teresa had noticed something that later would be diagnosed as breast cancer. As you can imagine, it really was a shock and very frightening to both of us, but our doctor wasn’t concerned in the least. He didn’t even think a biopsy was needed.

Initially, I agreed with the doctor and tried to calm Teresa’s concerns. I just didn’t want to put my wife — the treasure of my life — and cancer in the same sentence, much less the same physical body.

It wasn’t an easy time. To make matters worse, once Teresa began to agree with the doctor and me that there really was no need for a biopsy, I began to argue that she really did need one! We went back and forth, back and forth, and finally the doctor agreed to perform the procedure as one of those necessary precautions to give us peace of mind.

As it turned out, the biopsy was necessary! And the decision we made to have the biopsy most likely saved her life. It was a life and death decision, and the intervention of the Holy Spirit led us to make the right decision.

Teresa is living proof that God’s grace is sufficient and that He actively pursues His people. God knows exactly what we need for every situation we encounter, and He wants to direct our steps, showering us with His grace all along the way. But first we must become aware of God’s grace and then choose to respond.

Read More About It
• “I am the LORD your God”: Ex. 16:12; 20:2; Deut. 5:6
• Deliverance from Egypt: Acts 7:35-36
• Forty years in the desert: Deut. 2:7; 8:2-4; 29:5
• Clothed and fed in the wilderness: Ex. 15:22-27; 16–17:7
• Claiming the promised land: Num. 33:50-53; Josh. 1:1-5

As noted in the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, the Hebrew words used for “grace” in the Old Testament are chen (n.) and chanan (vb.). Chen means “grace” or “favor”; and chanan is translated “to be favorable or merciful.”

These words express a divine/human relationship whereby the lesser human receives undeserved or unmerited favor at the hands of the superior God.

Grace forms the basis for all of God’s relationship with man and His activity on behalf of man. The Bible is filled with example after example. Just consider this short list from the Old Testament alone:
• Grace delivered Noah and his family from the flood (Gen. 6:5-8).
• Grace delivered Lot from destruction at Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:15-19).
• Grace gave Moses a personal knowledge of God and His ways (Ex. 33:12-13).
• Grace assured Moses of God’s presence with Israel and His forgiveness of their sin (Ex. 33:17; 34:9).
• Grace caused Moses to see the glory of God (Ex. 33:18-23).
• Grace chose Israel for God’s inheritance (Ex. 33:16).
• Grace preserved the remnant from captivity (Ezra 9:8).

God did all this and so much more for the Israelites, but often they just didn’t get it. We in the church today are often in danger of missing it as well. Though we know of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, we fail to grasp or truly appreciate the depth of God’s amazing grace. Pause just a moment and give this statement some serious thought: The sovereign God of the universe reached down from His holy throne and took on real flesh and blood in order to redeem sinners like you and me. That is indeed unmerited favor and an act of overwhelming kindness on His part. God really has made you and me alive — alive forever! Is there a time you feel like grace worked in your life but you failed to recognize it at the time?

We all, with unveiled faces, are reflecting the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Grace: The Transforming Power of God
But God doesn’t leave us there at the moment of salvation to work out the rest of life on our own. Instead, He provides grace, which is His transforming power to grow us into His likeness, to bring us to the fullness of His glory, day by day, as we submit our lives to Him.

In the New Testament, particularly in the apostle Paul’s letters to the churches, grace is defined by the Greek word charis. In the Book of Acts, charis is used to refer to the grace-filled power that flowed from God or the exalted Christ to both unbelievers and believers. It was God’s charis, God’s grace, that gave unbelievers the power to believe, believers the ability to be built up or transformed, and the apostles the capability to be successful in their mission.

Paul was so aware of the grace of God in his own life that he refers to it at the beginning and end of every one of his letters. The grace of God in Paul’s life was something that was always with him, producing labor, humility, and goodness and sustaining him in times of difficulty. For him, the Christian life was summed up in the grace of God — unmerited favor and transforming power for every believer.

God’s grace always has been sufficient, always is sufficient, and always will be sufficient for everything we face in this life. And He is worthy of our worship — always! Grace is indeed the unmerited favor that only God can provide and the transforming power of God for every person and every issue of life. But, just like the Israelites, it is always our decision to respond.

Read More about It
• Grace reveals Christ and gives faith (condition of salvation): Acts 18:27; Gal. 1:6; Eph. 2:8-9; Phil. 1:29
• Grace calls and equips believers for Christian service: Acts 4:33; 11:23; 13:43; 14:26; 20:32; Rom. 15:15-16; 1 Cor. 3:10
• God’s grace in Paul’s life: 1 Cor. 15:10; 2 Cor. 1:12; 12:7-10

Preparing to Worship
As we have seen, God was present throughout the Israelites’ journey. He made it clear: “I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God” (Ex. 29:45, NIV). God even commanded Moses to build a place where He could be with His people:

“They are to make a sanctuary for Me so that I may dwell among them.” Exodus 25:8

Still, the people could not enter God’s presence. Although they were created to enjoy intimate relationship with God, their rebellion made it impossible for them to have direct contact with God.

In the first class we discovered that only very well-prepared priests could approach God and come into His presence, and they could do so only once a year. These priests prepared extensively for their encounter with the Holy One of Israel. They knew that they were not worthy of God’s presence, and that every detail of cleansing and sacrifice was crucial if they were to survive their trip inside the holy of holies. Do you recall some of the purification tasks and rituals the priests had to carry out? Try to imagine yourself fulfilling even this brief list of practices they had to endure.

All this and so much more were required for them to enter the presence of the same God who makes Himself readily available to every believer today. Entering the presence of God is still a very serious matter — and grace makes it all possible! Do you do anything special to prepare for worship — whether it is a private time of worship or a worship service at your church?

If you answered no, you are not alone. Many times overcoming the distractions and difficulties of actually having a private time of worship or simply getting to church crowd out our focus on the actual worship opportunity we are about to encounter. Here is a list of ways that could potentially help you prepare for worship:
• Pray before every worship experience. When worshiping privately, make prayer the first thing you do. When preparing for a corporate worship service, pray as you’re getting ready for the service, traveling to the service, and/or waiting for the service to begin.
• Play worship music throughout your home while getting ready for church and in the car on the way. Make music part of your private worship times as well.
• Keep a journal of what God has done in your life and reference it often. Remember, worship is our response to who God is and what He has done! So write down the ways that God reveals Himself and His activity in your life, and review the impact of God’s grace in your life often.
• As you prepare for private worship or a church service, begin to expect that you will encounter God in a personal way. Allow expectation to grow in your heart!

• What statement or Scripture you read in this lesson was most meaningful?
• Reword the statement or Scripture into a prayer of response.
• What does God want you to do in response to this lesson?