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29. Know Your Enemy
In Genesis, we read about a 17 year old named Joseph. His brothers sell him into slavery where he begins his life as a captive in Egypt. Throughout Joseph’s life, we discover he had many ups and downs. The one constant in his life, is that God was with him every step of the way. Now, 20 years later, we read the Joseph has risen to prominence and has become second in command to only Pharaoh himself. Joseph is now in charge of all of Egypt, which was the most powerful nation of the world at that time. He probably never expected to his see his brothers again, but here they come in need of food. There were no more resources in their land due to a severe famine. The last time the brothers saw Joseph, he was at the bottom of a well then pulled up to be sold as a slave. They had no idea that God had a plan for Joseph’s life all along. Now Joseph is sitting in this place of purpose and power. When the brothers walk in, Joseph recognizes them right away, but they don’t recognize him. Joseph throws the brothers in the dungeon for a few days while he figures out what he’s going to do.
Genesis 42:22-28 (NIV)
Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give accounting for his blood.” They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter.
He turned away from them and began to weep, but then came back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes.
Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, to put each man’s silver back in his sack, and to give them provisions for their journey. After this was done for them, they loaded their grain on their donkeys and left.
At the place where they stopped for the night one of them opened his sack to get feed for his donkey, and he saw his silver in the mouth of his sack. “My silver has been returned,” he said to his brother. “Here it is in my sack.”
Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, “What is this that God has done to us?”
When the brothers opened their sacks and realized they were given an undeserved gift, it scared them a little bit. It made them shake in fear. This is an example of the grace of God. See, Joseph is what’s called an archetype. In the Old Testament, he’s a picture of Jesus in the New Testament. You’re learning about what God is supposed to be like through Joseph. When we read the story of Joseph and his brothers, we aren’t supposed to imagine ourselves as Joseph. Instead, we are the brothers in the story. Were the ones that are receiving mercy from God, because we actually deserve to answer for the wrong things that we’ve done.
Romans 3:23 (NIV)
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
The Bible says, no one righteous has ever lived. None of us are perfect. Just as the brothers come to the realization that they deserve being punished; they receive mercy instead. They experience on top of mercy, God’s grace. It scares them a little bit when they realize they have received gifts, money and the food they came for. They were undeserving yet God blessed them anyway.
The opposite of grace would be expecting God to do something even though we don’t deserve it. Maybe something good happens to you and you think, “Well finally God is paying attention to me.”
If something good happens to you, and you think “About time!” Then your heart is in the wrong place. Salvation is the grace that we receive, not because of what we deserve, but because of what Christ has done for us. When we have an entitled attitude, or we think good things are supposed to be coming our way, we need to ask ourselves if we understand the gospel. When you know the truth, you realize how lost you’d be without Him. When you know the goodness of God, you realize how much grace you’re receiving. The brothers open up the sack and the amount of grace that they’re getting scares them a little bit.
Three dimensions of grace:
When we talk about grace, there is never going to be an adequate metaphor or illustration to explain God’s grace. The greatest example is that God saw you in your sin and still chose to love you. He loved us enough, to save us himself. He not only forgave us of everything we’ve ever done, but chose to fill us with the Holy Spirit and adopt us as His sons and daughters. The truth is, there’s a father that loves us so much that His grace should scare us a little bit. It’s not that we should be afraid of God, but we’re afraid of a God-sized grace like that. A love that shakes us in our boots. If God loves us that much, how much more seriously should we be taking the life that He’s given us? If God loves us that much, how much more faith should I be living in? How should my day and my choices and my character be different as a result of being a recipient of this grace? I’m learning about the love of God, because I realize I’m undeserving and yet He keeps being good to me.
I live in a world that there’s this constant messaging about how we deserve good things. I can’t take it another day. All I see on social media is how I should get the best because I deserve it. It breaks my heart, because it’s a broken and a contrite heart that pleases God. It’s the heart that realizes that we are sinners, that we don’t deserve crap, that actually honors God. When you realize that the only good things that we have is because God is good, that’s a good place to be. It’s a good place to live when you realize that we’re not getting what we deserve.
John 1:14 (NIV)
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
1. Grace- That saves you
John 1:16 (NIV)
Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.
The first version of grace is just being able to recognize that we need a Savior. That’s grace. Did you know that if it wasn’t for God, you wouldn’t even be able to recognize that you need God? It’s grace that God, in his goodness, would even give us the ability to recognize that we need Him. If it wasn’t for Him, we wouldn’t even be able to know that we needed Him to begin with. Remember, we’re made in the image of a God, so as creative beings, we recognize that we need a creator. That’s the first grace on top of grace, recognizing that you need a savior.
2. Grace- That keeps you
The second form of grace is the grace that keeps you. Scripture tells us that not only were you saved, you are being saved and you will be saved. Aren’t you grateful that nothing can separate you from the love of God? Not only were you saved, but you are saved, no matter what you do. God remains faithful, no matter how unfaithful I am to him. No matter how much I screw up, He continues to deliver me. There’s the grace that saves me, then there’s a grace that keeps me. I am in Christ, and He is in me. If this was something that I could control, I’d be screwed. But I know that Christ alone is the only one that can keep me.
Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV)
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Are you willing to admit that you’ve got a long way to go? You’re becoming more like Christ because He’s helping you. You are God’s handiwork created in Christ Jesus. There’s the grace that saves you, and there’s the grace that keeps you.
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we are born again. Once I’ve been born again, there’s a grace that keeps me since I can’t be unborn. Now I am secure and saved for eternity. I am forevermore born again and a new creation. You can’t uncreate me. “I’m here to stay Father. I am now your son and I cannot undo your son ever again.” Aren’t you grateful that you’re eternally secure in Christ Jesus?
3. Grace- That empowers you
All of us need grace that will empower and give us strength. When you feel like you need more endurance or direction, you might not realize you are actually asking for more grace. You need the grace on top of grace with an extra side of grace. The apostle Paul tells us that he had a “thorn in his flesh” and was asking God to remove it. Read God’s response to Paul:
2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (NIV)
I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
Nobody knows what the thorn in his flesh meant. It could mean that he had a physical ailment that he needed to be healed from. It could mean that he had people in his life that were driving him crazy. Nobody knows. But God’s answer was, “My grace is sufficient for you.” If God never blesses me another day in my life, everything he’s already done for me is more than enough. I don’t worship God because of what he’s going to do. I worship God because of what he’s already done. I respond to who he is. He’s been the grace that saves me, is keeping me and the grace that is giving me the strength for tomorrow.
In the Bible, there are a few instances where we might perceive God as playing favorites with some people. Here are two examples of people that seem to be God’s favorites:
But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.
God tells Noah that he has found favor. In the original Hebrew, the word for favor can also be translated as grace. “Noah found grace.” Do you know why Noah found/needed grace? God was calling him to save the world by building a gigantic boat in the middle of a dessert. Noah had faced years of ridicule beforehand and needed the grace of God to carry him into that assignment.
Luke 1:28, 30
The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
The angel said to her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.”
Mary was called “highly favored.” She would later give birth to Jesus, under the cloud of shame. Everybody would believe that she was a liar. No one would believe her when she said that it was an immaculate conception. Instead they just saw a conception that happened out of wedlock. So Mary would live a life of shame for her whole entire life. Yet God started her story by greeting her and calling her “highly favored.” This makes you look at favor a little bit different, doesn’t it?
If you want the favor of God on your life, it’s because you’re willing to step into the assignment of God on your life. Do you want to live a life just for yourself that keeps you comfortable? Or do you want to live a life for His glory and that worships Him? Living a life that brings God glory is one that others will look at and demands an explanation. Then you’re going to need God’s grace. Not just the grace that saves you. Not just the grace that keeps. But the grace that gives you strength and empowers you.
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