The Gift of Grace
(You may need more than one session together on this topic before moving on to other lessons. It’s important that each person understands what grace is all about.)
Listen to the audio Lesson that is used as an introduction when you meet together.
Have you heard the story about the merciful judge? It goes like this:
There once was a man who committed a very terrible crime. He brutally killed and murdered an innocent woman and he couldn’t believe that he had done it. He felt bad about it, but he couldn’t change the fact that he was guilty.
He went before the jury in the courtroom. They heard the evidence and found him guilty of the crime he had committed. He still pleaded for mercy. He begged the judge to have mercy on him, to give him life and freedom.
The judge said to the young man, “You have been found guilty of a very terrible crime. We cannot live in our society in freedom when crimes like this go unpunished. If I would let you free and allow no punishment, anyone in our society could commit a terrible crime like this and expect no penalty.”
Then the judge said something that astounded the man, “You have been found guilty of murder in the first degree and the punishment of the death penalty must be paid.”
The man began to weep uncontrollably because of his crime and the punishment he had to face.
“But,” the judge continued, “because of my great love for you as a fellow human being, I am going to take your punishment. I will die in your place and you will be set free.”
The man and the crowd could not believe their ears. You might think the man went out and committed another terrible crime, but because he realized the price that the judge paid for his life, he left the courtroom a new and changed person. He wanted to live a life that would give back to the world and help the family whose wife and mother he had killed. He was a changed man because he had seen the sacrifice of someone else giving his or her very own life for his.
This story is an example of grace. Jesus did the same thing for us. He died in our place because God required that our sin had to be punished and Jesus loved us so much that He suffered the pain of hell in our place even though He did not deserve the punishment, and we did not deserve the depth of His love.
- What is one of the most well-known Christian songs? (Amazing Grace) Did you know that many people who know the song can’t describe grace very well? What do you think grace is? (You might want to play the song during this lesson because understanding more about grace might bring new meaning to the song.)
- How much does grace cost?
- Who is grace for?
- What if I’m too bad for God’s grace?
- What does God want me to know about His love and His plans for me?
- What are some examples of grace in your life?
- What are some pictures of God’s grace for us?
Truths that Transform:
Understanding grace is a foundation for every believer. Grace is commonly defined as a gift we don’t deserve, or:
It’s too easy to just define grace and go on with life, and take grace for granted. God blesses us as we not only understand grace, but as we eat, sleep, breathe, think, feel, and share grace. Too often we can learn about grace and how to be a “good Christian” and then stay in our comfort zones and forget how utterly life-changing God expects grace to be in our lives. Unless we learn how to “show and tell” grace, our Christianity becomes lukewarm, like mushy toast—not worth a whole lot to a dying world.
1. The most amazing grace
Every day we turn our own way. We operate independently of God almost as if we shake our fist in God’s face and say, “I want to do this MY way.” And how does God respond? Right in the middle of our sin, Jesus comes and says, “I will take your punishment. I will die for you. I want to be in relationship with you.” It’s the most amazing thing in the world. Some people think they are too bad to follow Jesus. Jesus came to save sinners.
We will never be good enough to receive God’s grace. Romans 5:8 tells us that, “God demonstrates His love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
2. Grace is radical.
It’s like flying upside down—it’s crazy, it’s amazing, it is supernatural, it’s the way of true love.
a. Grace is turning the other cheek when someone hurts you.
“But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39).
This is not how people normally respond. Would you respond with grace or revenge if some purposely shoved you when they walked past you? God’s grace in our lives helps us change perspectives.
b. Grace is loving your enemies.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44).
c. Grace is feeding the poor, visiting the lonely, putting ourselves in serving mode and having the time of our lives doing it.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:31-46).
3. Grace is a FREE gift. (Who doesn’t like free gifts?)
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
We can’t earn grace. We can’t work for it, and that drives us crazy. It’s in our blood to make sure we work for something that is worth having so we can feel like we deserve it. What do we deserve? Hell! It’s hard to admit that we deserve hell. But instead we get Heaven by the grace of God because Jesus loved us so much to die and suffer the pains of hell in our place.
This is the key difference between true Christianity and religion. Religion does not have a Savior calling us to be in relationship. Instead, religion practices “dos and don’ts.” When we understand grace, we come into a relationship with the God of this universe and we follow the guidelines He gives us in the Word. We do this not just to get to Heaven, but because we know that obedience brings life and freedom. We obey Him from a thankful heart. We must always share about the importance of a relationship with Jesus because Satan wants us to make Christianity into a religion rather than a relationship.
4. God’s saving grace is the only way to Heaven.
Why is this true? Because God is a Holy God. When someone sins, someone has to pay. Heaven would not be Heaven if sinful people are there. No one is good enough for Heaven.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
So how can I get there? I get to Heaven by believing that Jesus is the one who gave His life for me—who paid for my sins on the cross—who suffered the pains of hell for me. He is my Savior and my Lord, my master. Sin does not control me anymore. I am set free to serve God. This is SAVING GRACE.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).
5. Grace is easy to take for granted.
Our parents and friends and family constantly give us grace; teachers give students grace; and God constantly gives us grace. Unless we really understand and appreciate the sacrifice of grace, we make it cheap and dirty. We complain and have an attitude, get bored, selfish or angry when something doesn’t go our way. The enemy loves for us to cheapen grace this way.
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (Romans 6:1-2).
God set us free from sin and bondage through His grace! Let’s celebrate and share the greatness of His gift!
Express It and Live It!
- Practice seeing grace all around you.
- Talk to someone about grace during the week. Ask God who He wants you to be discipling and praying for.
- Remind each other of grace often. Look at how often the books of the Bible start out extending God’s grace and peace.
- Watch for, enjoy, share and praise God for His grace that He showers around us: the good taste of food, the hug of a child or parent, answers to prayer, laughter, clothing, warmth, friends, family, shelter, His Spirit, a rain shower, a word of encouragement, music, forgiveness, etc.
- Extend grace by being gracious people.
- Learn how to illustrate and share grace:
- One description of grace is “God wants to bless us in every area of our lives even though we don’t deserve it.” Describe what that means.
- Native Americans might be able to relate grace to the symbol of corn. Corn is used as a symbol in many ways, showing the blessings of the gods. Maybe this symbol can be used to symbolize God’s showering of blessings upon us.
- Scripture often uses rivers and well-watered gardens as descriptions of God’s blessing on His people. (Isaiah 58; Psalm 1)
- What is grace?
- Where have you seen grace around you this week?