After twenty years of shaving himself every morning, a man in a small Southern town decided he had had enough. He told his wife that he intended to let the local barber shave him each day. He put on his hat and coat and went to the barber shop, which was owned by the pastor of the town’s Baptist Church. The barber’s wife, Grace, was working that day, so she performed the task. Grace shaved him and sprayed him with lilac water, and said, “That will be $20.” The man thought the price was a bit high, but he paid the bill and went to work. The next morning the man looked in the mirror, and his face was as smooth as it had been when he left the barber shop the day before. Not bad, he thought. At least I don’t need to get a shave every day. The next morning, the man’s face was still smooth. Two weeks later, the man was still unable to find any trace of whiskers on his face. It was more than he could take, so he returned to the barber shop. “I thought $20 was high for a shave”, he told the barber’s wife, “But you must have done a great job. It’s been two weeks and my whiskers still haven’t started growing back.” Expecting his comment, the expression on her face didn’t even change. She responded, “You were shaved by Grace. Once shaved, always shaved.”
An Englishman went abroad leaving his much loved dog and servant home.
While away, the man received a cablegram from the servant with the message, “Your dog died.” The man was most distraught both at the news and the abrupt manner it was sent. Upon returning home he upbraided the servant for not breaking the news to him more gently. Confused, the servant asked his master how such news could have been delivered more gently. The man said he could have sent a first cable saying, “Your dog is stuck on the roof.” This could be followed the next day with the message, “Your dog fell from the roof and is doing poorly.” Later a third message could have said, “Your beloved dog has gone to his eternal reward.” Some time afterwards, the man went abroad again. While there, he received a cable from his servant, “Your mother is stuck on the roof.”
Grace was not just flowery words, grace was God’s action on our behalf. God’s love is an action toward us, not a reaction to us. God does not love us because we are so valuable; rather we are valuable because God loves us. The church is the one organization that refuses to accept qualification for membership, except one: I am in need of grace, and that grace through Jesus Christ. But there are a number of expectations once you are here. No qualifications, but expectations.
The truth is, most of us do not know how to handle God’s grace. We talk a great deal about being free, but freedom bothers us. A great deal of the fundamentalist movement today is a reaction to freedom. When the Israelites came out of Egypt they didn’t know how to handle the freedom they had been given. We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost–also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. (Numbers 11:5) When Moses spent time on the mountain top, they built the calf to enslave themselves. After Jesus’ departure the Church had difficult understanding this grace. Does one have to become a Jew in order to be a Christian? Do they have to keep all the Laws? Do they have to be circumcised? The Church’s conclusion? 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.
We are uncomfortable with free gifts and feel we have to pay someone back for the gift. Ever receive an unexpected gift at Christmas time? If you are like most people, you will run out a buy a gift to give them back. Why? Because you feel beholding. We are appreciative of what God has done for us and we want to “pay God back.” How does one pay God back? Our way is usually to be good, obey the Laws and even be churchly.
The better we get acquainted with the grace of God, the less we are concerned about our authority in our home, and the less threatened we feel. The more we become acquainted with the grace of God, the more we want to model servanthood, the more we desire to affirm and release our wives–the less we want to dominate and control them. Grace loves and serves, it gives and forgives. Grace does not keep a record of wrongs and then dangle them over the one who has wronged us. Grace gives room–room to grow and to be, to discover and to create. Then we understand how we can love others as we love ourselves.
Grace is the favor or kindness shown without regard to the worth or merit of the one who receives it and in spite of what that same person deserves. It is thus apparent that God’s grace is to be distinguished from His mercy and love (Eph 2:4-5), But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved. Mercy is therefore the compassion of God that moved Him to provide a Savior for the unsaved. Divine love is the motivating plan behind all that God does in saving a soul. But since God is holy and righteous, and sin is a complete offense to Him, His love or His mercy cannot operate in grace until there is a sufficient satisfaction for sin. Grace thus rules out all human merit. It requires only faith in the Savior.
Although the grace of God is always free and undeserved, it must not be taken for granted. Grace is only enjoyed within the COVENANT-the gift is given by God, and the gift is received by man through repentance and faith. The greatest battle that Paul had was helping the Church to understand God’s grace. It is easy to get caught up in the Law. It is easy to be literalistic and miss the grace of Heaven. Jesus said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices-mint, dill and cummin.
But you have neglected the more important matters of the law-justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. When Titus was converted to Christianity, the Jewish Church wanted him to be circumcised. Paul’s argument was clear, the gift of God was not in obeying a set of Laws this couldn’t save us. God’s grace was the gift that needed embracing.
Grace is to be humbly sought through the prayer of faith. People who cannot handle grace retreat into legalism. The grace of God was supremely revealed and given in the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is the Pearl of great price that is worth selling everything to obtain.
This is a story about Aaron the tailor, who was rushing down the street, when he passed Moishe the banker, who calls out to him: “Aaron, where are you rushing!” “Moishe,” he says, “I’m going to the synagogue, to see the rabbi!” “Why?” Moishe asks, “it’s not Saturday!” “Moishe,” says Aaron, “a terrible thing has happened — my son’s become a Christian!” Moishe says, “Let me tell you a very funny thing: my son’s become a Christian!” “Oh no!” says Aaron, “then come with me to the rabbi!” So down the street they go, until they pass Sol, who owns the laundromat. Sol says, “Moishe, Aaron, what’s going on? Where are you going?” Aaron says, “Sol, we’re going to see the rabbi — our two sons have become Christians!” Sol says, “Come over here… let me tell you a very funny thing… my son is a Christian!” Aaron says, “Sol — come with us to see the rabbi!” They finally arrive at the synagogue, pounding on the door. The rabbi opens the door, and says, “Aaron, Moishe, Sol — why are you here? Go home… leave me alone… don’t bother me!” Aaron says, “Rabbi… we got a catastrophe in our families… our three sons have become Christians!” The rabbi says, “Come into my office!” He locks the door, goes behind his desk, and says, “Sit…” He buries his head in his hands, and after a long pause, he says, “Let me tell you a very funny thing — my son is a Christian!” “What are we going to do?” says Aaron, “we are lost!” Moishe says, “What are we going to do? Rabbi, you were our last chance! We are lost!” “No, we aren’t,” says the Rabbi. “Follow me!” They march into the synagogue, into the sanctuary, and the rabbi says, “Kneel!” They all kneel down, and the rabbi begins to pray: “Yahweh… God of Abraham; God of Isaac; God of Israel… What is going on? Orthodox Judaism is going down the tubes! Everybody’s becoming a Christian! Yahweh… give us a word… Yahweh… speak a word to us!” There was a LONG PAUSE……. and finally, God answers, “LET ME TELL YOU A VERY FUNNY THING!”
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)