Listen To: Shaped By His Grace (See additional resources below)
A lump of clay is put on the potter’s wheel and begins to spin. Left to itself it grows uneven, unformed, and unstable. It doesn’t begin to take shape until it is touched by the potter’s hands. The skill of the potter will determine the value of the vessel created. Unskilled or uncaring hands will create a marred pot which is easily broken, but the hands of an expert can take that same lump of clay and create a vessel fit for a king.
Our lives are like that lump of clay. Spinning through our day we are shaped by the things that touch our lives. Most people are shaped by ambition and reward, acceptance and pleasure, fear and responsibility. But disciples of Christ are shaped by something very different. We are shaped by God’s grace.
How stunning it is that God would choose to mold us by His grace. He could rightly exert His power and force us to act. He could justly exercise His authority and demand our allegiance. Yet God chooses to extend grace as the motive for our obedience.
God’s very first command to man begins with words of grace. God created a garden perfectly suited for man’s needs and said, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat!” Abundant grace! In view of such grace God says, “Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:16-17). The lavish provision of grace was to move man to joyful obedience.
Later when God spoke to Israel at Mount Sinai He gave them 10 Commandments, yet before God issued a single order He reminded them of His astonishing grace. He said, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Ex. 19:2). The awareness of God’s mighty grace deserved the nation’s grateful allegiance.
When David committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband what seemed to wound God most deeply was that David forgot God’s grace. God tells David, “I made you king over Israel, delivered you from your enemies, gave you lands, cattle and wives,” and in a bit of sarcasm God says, “If all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.” In view of the mountain of grace God then asks, “Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight?” (2 Sam. 12:7-9). God expects His grace will shape our faithfulness (Titus 2:11-14).
When it comes to grace, none have received more than us. We are sinners who deserve nothing less than the wrath of God. Even in our most religious moments we are only, “storing up for yourselves wrath in the day of wrath” (Rom. 2:5).
But then God did the most amazing, undeserved thing, “He demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Jesus didn’t have to walk this sin soaked earth and accept the righteous wrath of God in our place, but, as Glenda Schales has written, “Through Your beloved Son, there is grace so undeserved” (Healing In Its Wings).
To see God’s grace is to be stunned by how personal and complete it is. “Where sin abounded,” Paul wrote, “grace abounded much more” (Rom. 5:20). Oh, the joy! God’s grace is for the worst in all of us. So that now, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). We sin cast orphans can call God, “Abba Father.”
How do we respond to such extravagant grace? We begin by joining arms with the apostle Paul and saying, “By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect” (1 Cor. 15:10). God’s grace saves us to shape us. It is grace that puts strength in our hands and fire in our hearts to live for Him who died for us (2 Cor. 5:14-15). God’s grace shapes us into very different people.
We are all moved by the shocking massacre which took place at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown Connecticut. A lone gunman shot twenty children and six adults. The terrible evil those children and teachers witnessed is unimaginable. But, since that day we have also heard stories of courageous people who stood in the way of harm and sheltered the children in safety. We have seen a nation pour out love and compassion upon a community.
The people of Newtown will be shaped by the things that happened that day, and they are going to have to make a choice. Will they be shaped by the evil that happened, or will they be shaped by the good they experienced.
We all have that same choice. A lot of terrible things happen to us in life, and there are many evil things that surround us in this world. Will we allow the evil to ruin our eternal vessels, or will we be shaped by the greatest good we will ever know—the incomparable grace of God?
What will you do today that will be shaped by His grace?
“Let all that you do be done with love.” (1 Cor. 16:14)
A Song: “Healing In Its Wings” by Glenda B. Schales: Healing In Its Wings
Heartfelt worship from me and a few friends (Richard Morrison, Tim Berman; Vern and Shannon Walton)
A Sermon: Shaped By His Grace (Sermon Outline)
PowerPoint: Shaped By His Grace (PowerPoints)