July 17, 2012 · Print This Article


The One/Two Punch Against Sin





BIBLE READING: Psalm 136:1-26

KEY BIBLE VERSE: Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1) 



Repeated throughout this psalm is the phrase, “His faithful love endures forever.” This psalm may have been a responsive reading, with the congregation saying these words in unison after each sentence. The repetition made this important lesson sink in. God’s love includes aspects of love, kindness, mercy, and faithfulness. We never have to worry that God will run out of love, because it flows from a well that will never run dry. 




BIBLE READING: Luke 15:1-7

KEY BIBLE VERSE: Heaven will be happier over one lost sinner who returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! (Luke 15:7) 



We may be able to understand a God who would forgive sinners who come to him for mercy. But a God who tenderly searches for sinners and then joyfully forgives them must possess an extraordinary love! This is the kind of love that prompted Jesus to come to earth to search for lost people and save them. This is the kind of extraordinary love that God has for you. If you feel far from God, don’t despair. He is searching for you.


BIBLE READING: John 3:1-21

KEY BIBLE VERSE: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16) 



The entire gospel comes to a focus in this verse. God’s love is not static or self-centered; it reaches out and draws others in. Here God sets the pattern of true love, the basis for all love relationships-when you love someone dearly, you are willing to pay dearly for that person’s responsive love. God paid dearly with the life of his Son, the highest price he could pay. Jesus accepted our punishment, paid the price for our sins, and then offered us the new life that he had bought for us. When we share the gospel with others, our love must be like Jesus’. We must be willing to give up our own comfort and security so that others might join us in receiving God’s love. 


BIBLE READING: Romans 8:28-39

KEY BIBLE VERSE: I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39) 



These words were written to a church that would soon undergo terrible persecution. In just a few years, Paul’s hypothetical situations would turn into painful realities. This passage reaffirms God’s profound love for his people. No matter what happens to us, no matter where we are, we can never be lost to his love. Suffering should not drive us away from God; it should help us to identify with him further and allow his love to reach us and heal us. 



These verses contain one of the most comforting promises in all Scripture. Believers have always had to face hardships in many forms: persecution, illness, imprisonment, even death. These could cause them to fear that they have been abandoned by Christ. But Paul exclaims that it is impossible to be separated from Christ. His death for us is proof of his unconquerable love. Nothing can stop Christ’s constant presence with us. God tells us how great his love is so that we will feel totally secure in him. If we believe these overwhelming assurances, we will not be afraid.




Grace is undeserved favor. It is mercy when we don’t expect it or deserve it. The Bible tells us how God has extended grace to us by offering us salvation-eternal life with him-for free! We don’t have to do anything to earn it. In fact, we can’t earn it or buy it. We simply accept it by believing that Jesus, God’s Son, died for our sins so we wouldn’t have to. God’s ultimate act of grace is an example of how we are to extend grace to others. We are to be quick to forgive, hasty in extending kindness, generous in love-even when others don’t deserve it. 




Psalm 84:11 . . . He gives us grace and glory. No good thing will the Lord withhold from those who do what is right. Grace begins with God and is given freely by God. His graciousness to us is our example for extending grace and mercy to others. Grace cannot be earned. It is freely given.  Ephesians 2:8-9 . . . God saved you by his special favor when you believed.  It is by God’s grace that he decided to offer us the gift of salvation. There is nothing we can do to earn it. We simply receive it with faith and in thanks.  John 1:16-17 . . . The law was given through Moses; God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. In Old Testament times, God gave a code of laws to show his people how to live for him until Jesus and the Holy Spirit came. Following these laws didn’t earn salvation, but simply illustrated what a life transformed by the Holy Spirit would be like. With the coming of Jesus, we no longer have to slavishly follow these laws because, by God’s grace, we have been transformed on the inside so that we want to live pure lives for him.


Hebrews 3:1-6: Jesus Is Greater Than Moses, 1 And so, dear brothers and sisters who belong to God and* are partners with those called to heaven, think carefully about this Jesus whom we declare to be God’s messenger* and High Priest. 2 For he was faithful to God, who appointed him, just as Moses served faithfully when he was entrusted with God’s entire* house. 3 But Jesus deserves far more glory than Moses, just as a person who builds a house deserves more praise than the house itself. 4 For every house has a builder, but the one who built everything is God.  5 Moses was certainly faithful in God’s house as a servant. His work was an illustration of the truths God would reveal later. 6 But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ.


Hebrews 4:16 . . . Let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.  When we arrive at God’s very throne through prayer, we must linger to receive his grace. Hebrews 10:19-31 A Call to Persevere, 19 And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20 By his death,  Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 21 And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him.  For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. 26 Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. 27 There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies. 28 For anyone who refused to obey the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us. 30 For we know the one who said:


 “I will take revenge. I will pay them back.” He also said: “The Lord will judge his own people.” 31 It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. 32 Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ.  Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. 33 Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. 34 You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever. 35 So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! 36 Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised: 37 “For in just a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. 38 And my righteous ones will live by faith. But I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away.” 39 But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved. 




2 Corinthians 8:9 . . . You know how full of love and kindness our Lord Jesus Christ was. Though he was very rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich. Grace involves self-sacrifice, giving something up in order to give it away. Daniel 9:18 . . . We do not ask because we deserve help, but because you are so merciful. Recognizing and requesting God’s grace takes humility, for we realize that we do not deserve it-which is exactly why we need it.




Psalm 103:8 . . . The Lord is merciful and gracious; he is slow to get angry and full of unfailing love. 


Philippians 1:6 . . . I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again.


God never stops working in us to bring us to maturity.




BIBLE READING: Nehemiah 9:1-38

KEY BIBLE VERSE: In your great mercy, you did not destroy them completely or abandon them forever. What a gracious and merciful God you are! (Nehemiah 9:31) 




Israel was devastated by times of intense rebellion and sin. Yet when the people repented and returned to God, he delivered them. God puts no limit on the number of times we can come to him to obtain mercy, but we must come in order to obtain it, recognizing our need and asking him for help. This miracle of grace should inspire us to say, “What a gracious and merciful God you are!” If there is a recurring problem or difficulty in your life, continue to ask God for help, and be willing and ready to make changes in your attitude and behavior that will correct that situation.


BIBLE READING: Ephesians 1:3-2:10

KEY BIBLE VERSE: He is so rich in kindness that he purchased our freedom through the blood of his Son, and our sins are forgiven. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:7-8)




Grace is God’s voluntary and loving favor given to those he saves. We can’t earn salvation, nor do we deserve it. No religious, intellectual, or moral effort can gain it, because it comes only from God’s mercy and love. Without God’s grace, no person can be saved. To receive it, we must acknowledge that we cannot save ourselves, that only God can save us, and that our only way to receive this loving favor is by faith in Christ.


BIBLE READING: Romans 2:1-16

KEY BIBLE VERSE: Don’t you realize how kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Or don’t you care? Can’t you see how kind he has been in giving you time to turn from your sin? (Romans 2:4) 




When Paul’s letter was read in the Roman church, no doubt many heads nodded as he condemned idol worshipers, homosexual practices, and violent people. But what surprise his listeners must have felt when he turned on them and said, “You are just as bad!” Paul was emphatically stressing that nobody is good enough to save himself or herself. If we want to avoid punishment and live eternally with Christ, all of us, whether we have been murderers and molesters or whether we have been honest, hardworking, solid citizens, must depend totally on God’s grace. Paul is not discussing whether some sins are worse than others. Any sin is enough to cause us to depend on Jesus Christ for salvation and eternal life. We have all sinned repeatedly, and there is no way apart from Christ to be saved from sin’s consequences.


New Testament Christianity is essentially response to the revelation of the Creator as a God of love. God is a tri-personal Being who so loves ungodly humans that the Father has given the Son, the Son has given his life, and Father and Son together now give the Spirit to save sinners from unimaginable misery and lead them into unimaginable glory. Believing in and being overwhelmed by this amazing reality of divine love generates and sustains the love to God and neighbor that Christ’s two great commandments require (Matt. 22:35-40). Our love is to express our gratitude for God’s gracious love to us, and to be modeled on it (Eph. 4:32–5:2; 1 John 3:16). 


The hallmark of Christian life is thus Christian love. The measure and test of love to God is wholehearted and unqualified obedience (1 John 5:3; John 14:15, 21, 23); the measure and test of love to our neighbors is laying down our lives for them (1 John 3:16; cf. John 15:12-13). This sacrificial love involves giving, spending, and impoverishing ourselves up to the limit for their well-being. Jesus’ story of the Samaritan’s kindness to the hated Jew stands as his model definition of neighbor-love (Luke 10:25-37). Neighbor-love is profiled in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Its total lack of self-concern is breathtaking. Neighbor-love seeks the neighbor’s good, and the true measure of it is how much it gives to that end.


Love is a principle of action rather than of emotion. It is a purpose of honoring and benefiting the other party. It is a matter of doing things for people out of compassion for their need, whether or not we feel personal affection for them. It is by their active love to one another that Jesus’ disciples are to be recognized (John 13:34-35)


Grace is the gift of God by which he extends mercy, loving-kindness, and salvation to people. God’s grace enables him to confront human indifference and rebellion with his unlimited capacity to forgive and to bless. God is gracious in action. The doctrine of divine grace underlies the thought of both the Old Testament and New Testament. However, the Old Testament merely anticipates and prepares for the full expression of grace that is revealed in the New Testament. 




Early in the narrative of the Old Testament, God reveals himself as a “God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6, RSV). As a result, it becomes possible for undeserving humans to approach him with the prayer, “If now I have found favor [or grace] in thy sight, O Lord …” (Exodus 34:9, RSV). Through his grace, God transforms our separation from him into a state of undeserved acceptance that opens the way for reconciliation and redemption. Divine grace was already at work in the Garden of Eden when God responded to the Fall of his Creation with the promise of redemption (Genesis 3:15) and care rather than with abandonment or destruction. God’s call to Abraham was an extension of grace to him. The blessings God offered to Abraham’s descendants would be instrumental in bringing about a universal blessing to “all the families of the earth” (Genesis 12:2-3). This blessing finds expression in a God-given covenant, the object of which is to extend God’s grace to the whole human race. In a solemn confirmation of the promise to Abraham, God affirmed, “My covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. . . . And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant” (Genesis 17:4, 7, RSV). Because of grace, this promise was applicable to all Abraham’s offspring-not only to his racial descendants, the Jews, but also to his spiritual descendants, believers from all nations (Romans 4:16). It was God’s plan for redeeming all believers, from all nations. In extending his grace to Abraham, God was establishing the beginnings of the church, the community of grace. 


The specific blessing of Abraham and his receiving of God’s grace provides a model for the selection of individuals used by God in the history of redemption. In the gracious dealings of God with Israel, God was laying the basis for his outreach of grace to the universal church. God’s gracious interventions in the old covenant (before Jesus) were intended to reveal the role of the church in his plan for redeeming the world. The prophets of the old covenant were not merely serving themselves, or their contemporaries, but the church (1 Peter 1:10-12).


The institutions of the old covenant held only a temporary form of God’s grace. The ultimate expression of that grace came in the new covenant when Jesus accomplished his work (Hebrews 8:6-7). Consequently, the old covenant became obsolete and was replaced by a new covenant that displayed the full manifestation of God’s grace. The tension between law and grace is obvious from this perspective. Like the election of the nation of Israel, the law was a temporary measure that prepared for the grace that was to come by faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:23-29; Hebrews 10:1). 




The concept of grace (God’s active involvement on behalf of his people) receives a sharper focus in the New Testament. Divine grace becomes embodied in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus demonstrates visibly the dynamic nature of God’s grace, and his ministry fulfills the promises of grace for everyone, found in the old covenant (John 1:14, 17). 


God’s grace revealed in Jesus Christ makes it possible for God to forgive sin and to gather sinners into the church, the new covenant community. During his ministry, Jesus repeatedly pronounced the words of forgiveness to a great number of sinners and ministered to a variety of desperate human needs. Through teachings such as the prodigal son and the search for the lost sheep, Jesus made it clear that he had come to seek and save those who were lost. Ultimately it was his death on the cross that enabled sinners who repent to access God’s forgiving and restorative grace. This simple truth is described as the doctrine of justification by faith through grace (Romans 3:23). According to this teaching, Jesus substituted himself for us by dying so that we could be declared “not guilty.” As a result, repentant believers enter into God’s eternal plan of grace, which enables them to participate in the purifying work of the Spirit of God. 


God’s grace bestows on believers undeserved benefits that enrich their lives and unite them together in the church, the body of Christ. Grace awards them a new status as children of God, members of the household of God, so that they relate to him as to their heavenly Father (Galatians 4:4-6). Because of this, they become members of a community where race, class, and gender distinctions are irrelevant. All have become equal inheritors of God’s long-ago promise to Abraham (Galatians 3:28-29). The Holy Spirit then graciously energizes believers with a variety of spiritual gifts that benefit the body of Christ, the church (Romans 12:6-8). In eternity the church will demonstrate, by its very existence, the immeasurable riches of God’s grace in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:6). 


Finally, God’s grace manifested in Jesus Christ makes it possible for God to cause believers to reflect his grace in their character and relationships. The condition for receiving God’s grace is humility (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). Such humility before God enables believers to practice humility with other people. From a position of grace, they can set aside selfishness and conceit in order to treat others with an attitude of servanthood (Ephesians 5:21), and in a spirit of forgiveness (Matthew 18:23-35), so that even their communication can demonstrate divine grace (Colossians 4:6). 


The essential meaning of grace in the Bible refers to the nature of God’s character to exercise goodwill toward his creatures. This nature finds its supreme expression in Jesus Christ. By its very definition, this grace is fully accessible to all humans with no other condition than a desire to repent and receive it (Titus 2:11-12). As a result, alienation from God becomes access to his otherwise unapproachable majesty. His grace becomes available to meet human need (Hebrews 4:16). The tragic alternative to receiving God’s grace is to remain in hopeless alienation or to pursue futile attempts to earn God’s favor (Romans 1:21). 


Christ represents the fulfillment, the embodiment, and the dispenser of divine grace. In fact, the early Christians freely referred to God’s grace as “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This grace was conceived as being so basic to their existence that they combined the traditional greeting of shalom (“peace”) with a reference to the grace of Jesus Christ. This is the reason for the basic greeting formula found in almost every book of the New Testament, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all” (2 Thessalonians 3:18).




We become Christians through God’s unmerited grace, not as the result of any effort, ability, intelligent choice, or act of service on our part. However, out of gratitude for this free gift, we will seek to help and serve others with kindness, charity, and goodness, and not merely to please ourself. While no action or work we do can help us obtain salvation, God’s intention is that our salvation will result in works of service. We are saved, not merely for our own benefit, but to serve him and build up the church (Ephesians 4:12).




BIBLE READING: Matthew 10:16-42

KEY BIBLE VERSE: And everyone will hate you because of your allegiance to me. But those who endure to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:22)




Jesus told the disciples that when arrested for preaching the gospel, they should not worry about what to say in their defense-God’s Spirit would speak through them. This promise was fulfilled in Acts 4:8-14 and elsewhere. Some mistakenly think this means we don’t have to prepare to present the gospel because God will take care of everything. Scripture teaches, however, that we are to make carefully prepared, thoughtful statements (Colossians 4:6). Jesus is not telling us to stop preparing, but to stop worrying. 




Jesus predicted that his followers would be severely persecuted by those who hated what he stood for. In the midst of terrible persecutions, however, they could have hope, knowing that salvation was theirs. Times of trial serve to sift true Christians from false or fair-weather Christians. When you are pressured to give up and turn your back on Christ, don’t do it. Remember the benefits of standing firm, and continue to live for Christ. Standing firm to the end is not a way to be saved but the evidence that a person is really committed to Jesus. Persistence is not a means to earn salvation; it is the by-product of a truly devoted life.


BIBLE READING: Hebrews 3:1-6

KEY BIBLE VERSE: But Christ, the faithful Son, was in charge of the entire household. And we are God’s household, if we keep up our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ. (Hebrews 3:6) 




Because Christ lives in us as believers, we can remain courageous and hopeful to the end. We are not saved by being steadfast and firm in our faith, but our courage and hope reveal that our faith is real. Without this enduring faithfulness, we could easily be blown away by the winds of temptation, false teaching, or persecution. (See also 3:14.) 


BIBLE READING: 2 Timothy 4:1-8

KEY BIBLE VERSE: But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at bringing others to Christ. Complete the ministry God has given you. (2 Timothy 4:5) 




To keep cool when you are jarred and jolted by people or circumstances, don’t react quickly. In any work of ministry that you undertake, keeping your head makes you morally alert to temptation, resistant to pressure, and vigilant when facing heavy responsibility.


As he neared the end of his life, Paul could confidently say he had been faithful to his call. Thus he faced death calmly, knowing that he would be rewarded by Christ. Is your life preparing you for death? Do you share Paul’s confident expectation of meeting Christ? The Good News is that the heavenly reward is not just for giants of the faith, like Paul, but for all who are eagerly looking forward to Jesus’ second coming. Paul gave these words to encourage Timothy, and us, to keep fighting-no matter how difficult the fight seems. When we are with Jesus Christ, we will discover that it was all worth it. 


BIBLE READING: Revelation 14:1-20

KEY BIBLE VERSE: Let this encourage God’s holy people to endure persecution patiently and remain firm to the end, obeying his commands and trusting in Jesus. (Revelation 14:12)




This news about God’s ultimate triumph should encourage God’s people to remain firm through every trial and persecution. They can do this, God promises, by trusting in Jesus and obeying the commands in his Word. The secret to enduring, therefore, is trust and obedience. Trust God to give you patience to endure even the small trials you face daily; obey him, even when obedience is unattractive or dangerous.


Suggested Hymn’s




By Julia Harriette Johnston (1849–1919)


GRACE is one of the hardest lessons for us to learn about God. Some show their ignorance of God’s grace by working hard to be good enough. They pay lip service to the idea of God’s grace but cannot stop trying to earn their own way. Others display their misunderstanding of God’s grace by concluding it’s inaccessible to them. They know they cannot be good enough for God, so they despair of ever having a relationship with Him.


It is this second group that Julia Johnston was writing for. She knew how important it was to understand and experience the simple, yet difficult, truth of God’s gracious forgiveness. Johnston was a Sunday school teacher herself and became a noted expert in Sunday school curriculum. Though she penned texts for more than five hundred hymns, this is the only one widely known. It powerfully teaches this essential Christian truth: You cannot out-sin God’s grace.



Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,

Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!

Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured—

There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.


Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that will pardon and cleanse within,

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that is greater than all our sin!


Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,

Threaten the soul with infinite loss;

Grace that is greater—yes, grace untold—

Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.


Dark is the stain that we cannot hide—

What can avail to wash it away?

Look! there is flowing a crimson tide—

Whiter than snow you may be today.


Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,

Freely bestowed on all who believe!

You that are longing to see His face,

Will you this moment His grace receive?



He giveth more grace when the burden grows greater;

He sendeth more strength when the labors increase.

To added affliction He addeth His mercy;

To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.


His love has no limit;

His grace has no measure;

His pow’r has no boundary known unto men.

For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,

He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!


When we have exhausted our store of endurance,

When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,

When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,

Our Father’s full giving is only begun.


(3) My Favorite: AMAZING GRACE

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.


‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,

And grace my fears relieved;

How precious did that grace appear

The hour I first believed!


The Lord has promised good to me,

His word my hope secures;

He will my shield and portion be

As long as life endures.


Through many dangers, toils and snares

I have already come;

‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,

And grace will lead me home.


When we’ve been there ten thousand years,

Bright shining as the sun,

We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise

Than when we’d first begun.





May the grace of Christ, our Savior,

And the Father’s boundless love,

With the Holy Spirit’s favor,

Rest upon us from above.


Thus may we abide in union

With each other and the Lord,

And possess, in sweet communion,

Joys which earth cannot afford.


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