WHAT IS LIVING “GRACEFULLY”
I believe the Lord wants us to talk about what GRACE really is - and, therefore, what it means to live GRACEFULLY. It is a very misunderstood subject but God wants us, His children, to have a clear picture of what it means so that we can get the real meaning of Scripture which refers to GRACE.
Now, if you asked somebody out on the street, what grace means, they might say that the word, ‘grace’ reminds them of their little granddaughter in a little ballet performance. She was so darling, and so ‘graceful’ - so beautiful, and on and on. To a lot of people, “GRACE” just means, sweet, lovely, etc.
However, the word, “GRACE,” really means “undeserved favor - it cannot be earned - is freely given.”
So - let’s start this off with these two verses - Eph. 2:8-9 - “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.” Now I know you’ve heard this verse before - but, in order to “Grow Older Gracefully,” (or “Live Gracefully”) you have to really understand what this means before you can walk in it yourself.
Every single person who has lived in this world since the creation of mankind in the garden of Eden has sinned because they have a sin nature - because of the sin of Adam and Eve - every person, except Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was ALL GOD AND ALL MAN. He was conceived in a physical woman, by the seed of God - not the seed of man. He did not have a sin nature. He came to this earth, in His unique being, in order to live as a man on this earth, without sin, so He could take the sin of mankind upon Himself and die and pay the price for man’s sins.
Therefore, the only way mankind can keep from paying the price for his own sins and be in Hell forever after he leaves this earth is to accept what Jesus has done personally. So - no matter what kind of sin has been done, Jesus paid the price, if the individual will accept what Jesus has done. Mankind must believe and receive. Absolutely no individual can ever make it to Heaven without accepting what Jesus has done. THAT IS “UNDESERVED FAVOR,”or GRACE.
Now - let’s get down to the nitty gritty of how that applies to us LIVING GRACEFULLY. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, all of His wonderful power, blessings, life-giving rewards, are all unloaded into our new born-again spirit. Therefore, we have the power in every way to live here on this earth, like Jesus did - actually like God the Father, God the Son, & God the Holy Spirit (the Triune God) wants us to - GRACEFULLY.
Now, the reason the Lord wants us to think about this is because, when we read verses in the Bible like ones I’ve just read, we tend to think, “Well, that’s just for the super saints - God knows I’m just not capable of that - and He loves me anyway.” Well, yes, He loves you - but it’s for all of us - and - really - that’s LIVING GRACEFULLY.
Now, I’m going to read some verses - these are written for every, single one of us - and it’s what graceful living is all about. Eph. 4:1-3 - “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Now, I know of many Christians, through the years, who just have read verses like these and others and have said, “It’s just too hard - I just can’t do it……”, and they just feel like God knows we can’t do it so why did He say to do it? The reason people feel that way is because they don’t really have a grasp on the fact that He’s already given us all the power to live that way - it’s in our new born again spirits - it’s HIS POWER and all we have to do is believe it and access it - the same way we got salvation. NOW LISTEN TO THIS - GOD HAS ALREADY GIVEN YOU AND ME HIS VERY OWN POWER TO DO EVERYTHING HE TOLD US TO DO - IT’S ALREADY IN OUR NEW SPIRIT. WE JUST HAVE TO BELIEVE IT AND TELL HIM THAT WE WANT TO LIVE HIS WAY - DO THINGS HIS WAY, LOVE PEOPLE HIS WAY, SEE OURSELVES AS HE SEES US.
Now I’m going to read some more verses from Ephesians 4. Eph 4:25 - 32 - “Therefore, putting away lying, Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole, steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
Man oh Man!!! that’s a lot of stuff - but brothers and sisters, that’s all a part of living gracefully. In other words, it’s loving other people the same way God loves you and treating them the way He treats you - BECAUSE HE’S PLACED IN YOU EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO LIVE THAT WAY.
Now, I just have to read two more verses - Eph. 5:1-2 -
“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”
There’s a lot more verses dealing with this and I’ll read a few others in a bit - but let’s talk about this ‘walking through life gracefully’. Many, many Christians just read these verses and figure that it’s just impossible for them to go through their lives like JESUS. If you read through the the Gospels, and see the way Jesus lived, and then you read through Acts, and then the Epistles and see the way the first century Christians lived - especially the stories that are right there before us of what Paul and many other Christians went through - even history (outside of the Bible) of 1st Century Christianity - you see that loving like Jesus loved, forgiving like Jesus did, caring for others like Jesus did, helping others, feeding others, going out of your way to walk the Jesus walk - THEY DID IT ALL. Did they have something that you don’t? NO!!!
When that earthquake happened in Philipi and the prison doors were opened, did all the people and Paul just run out? No! Did Paul and others just tell everybody how bad they were for keeping them in chains? No - they preached the Gospel to them.
Living a ‘Jesus-kind-of-life’ was not just for the early church - it is for ALL CHRISTIANS - THEN AND NOW. He gave us the power to do it.
Now I want to deal with something here that is very common among Christians. It has become very normal for Christians to act on the outside the way the Bible says to act toward others - but, on the inside, they’re still angry, hurt, frustrated, and on and on. In other words, the actions make them look good, but they’re not coming from the heart. When I have counseled with people through the years, they know they’re not doing it from their heart and they just think it’s not possible. They think by just acting right, they’re doing okay.
That kind of thinking comes from the fact that they don’t really understand that God’s power to live this Christian life the way Jesus did (and live it truly from the heart - rather than just for show) is possible because He has placed that power within the new born again spirit.
Listen to these 3 verses - Philippians 1:9-11 - “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
Wow! Your love abounds more and more as you gain more and more knowledge from the Word - and, therefore, access what is already yours in your spirit - as it flows into your soul. Along with that love, come all those fruits of righteousness, that we’ve talked about before. I have found, in my life, (and I haven’t done it perfectly - nobody has) that the more I focus on the love of God (coming from my spirit), the more those other fruits flow also into my day-to-day living - (like joy, peace, longsuffering, and on and on and on).
I’m going to read another portion of Scripture - several verses from Phillippians 2:1-11- Remember - we’re talking about living gracefully by accessing what’s in our born again spirit by faith - just the same way we got saved! “Therefore, if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore, God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that, at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Boy, there’s some powerful information in that portion of Scripture. He said, “Fulfill my joy by being like-minded!” Paul was saying when the people in the Body of Christ are like-minded, or getting along with and loving one another, it made him joyful - I personally believe that it makes the Lord joyful also. That’s powerful. Another powerful thing it said is that Jesus didn’t come down here to earth and act like He (being God) was too good to do the normal earthly things. He washed feet, He fed hungry people, He sat with His disciples and talked, He went to a wedding…………! In other words, He was humble, and connected with people - all kinds of people. He didn’t go around saying, “I AM GOD - WORSHIP ME!” The way He communicated and treated people is the way He wants us to also. Of course, He was operating in Agape - the God kind of Love - and He wants us to also. This portion of Scripture lets us know that He doesn’t want us doing the right things just to look good to the people around you. It has to be a heart attitude which is motivating your actions - not just to look good. I really suggest that you read those verses over and over again. I have been doing that. Ask yourself, “Is my motivation for my actions pure - from God?” Also, I suggest that you keep that checking of the motivator only for you - it’s not from God to start checking other people’s motivator! If something bothers you about the way someone else is handling things, it’s good to be praying for them - but not judging them.
Now - In this realm of “Living Gracefully,” I want to center in on one area that seems to be the biggest and most common hindrance for people. Get ready - you may not want to hear this - but God said to deal with it. It’s “FORGIVENESS!”
I have discovered, in my own life, and in the lives of lots and lots of people, through the years, forgiveness seems to be the most difficult thing to deal with. Each person is unique, our families and backgrounds are all different, schooling, siblings, parental problems such as divorce, alcoholic situations, abuse, sexual abuse, and on and on. Sometimes bullying, poverty, family hassles, and I could just keep going. Some people have faced such terrible things that it is almost impossible for them to talk about them to get help.
Others have faced difficulties with church people, and with close family relatives and feel like they have been deeply hurt by things which have been said or the way they have been treated - even by Christians. It almost seems like you are being mean to yourself to forgive someone who should have known better.
Now here’s the TRUTH regarding this whole thing of forgiveness. If we hang on to unforgiveness, we’re not really hurting the other person who hurt us - we are hindering ourselves from experiencing all the wonderful things that the Lord desires to do in our lives. Think of it this way. See UNFORGIVENESS as this big, huge concrete stone that is blocking everything from working like the Lord really desires for things to work for you. It’s not God blocking things for you - it’s unforgiveness.
Think of yourself in a car on the way to a wonderful gathering of people you love to be with, and, as you go around a curve, suddenly you see this huge, huge, huge stone rock - bigger than the road itself - and you can’t get around it. You’re blocked from all the good that you were looking forward to. That’s just kind of an imaginary picture of what unforgiveness is doing to your life. It’s hindering those blessings in your spirit from flowing through you and changing things. It’s hindering your prayer life. You can put on a good show and look like everything is alright but deep inside, you know that you haven’t been able to REALLY FORGIVE THE PERSON OR PERSONS WHO HURT YOU.
I got saved when I was 13 years old, and I remember sitting on my bed and forgiving those little kids who made fun of me with my crossed eye when I was about 5 or 6. I was so terribly hurt by that - but I forgave them. I remember, forgiving the woman at the Community Center, where I went to learn to swim, who hollered out for all of us to look at her - and she kept looking at me and yelling, “I said, ‘Look at me’” - because my crossed eye made it look like I wasn’t looking at her. All the kids were looking at me. I was so horribly embarrassed. Because of it, I never learned to swim. I, then, went with my friends each week to the Center, but I went to the library - not to the pool - and I never told my parents, because I didn’t want to hurt them. When I was an adult, one day I told them about it and they were shocked. BUT - I forgave that woman! As I tell you about it now, I honestly have no hurt or anger at all!
Those are just a couple of things from my young life and there have been other things along the way just like there are for everyone else. But, brothers and sisters, we can’t allow the words and attitudes of others to keep us from experiencing all the wonderful things the Lord wants for us. The Lord has shown me, through the years that unforgiveness is the biggest hindrance to Christians and their prayer life - even those who have been taught the truth about prayer - how to pray and what real prayer is.
We have to come to a place where we are willing to LET GO of the hurt, the pain, and all the other things connected to unforgiveness.
I want to read two verses - Colossians 3:12-13 - “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering: bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”
That can’t be put any more plain can it!!! Now that doesn’t mean that we necessarily trust them or give them authority in our lives. That’s not wisdom. Trust and authority have to be earned, not given. Sometimes, one must make decisions about their interaction or contact with the person you are forgiving. In other words, forgiving someone doesn’t mean that you continue to let them influence your life. Of course, each situation is unique and needs to be handled as God gives wisdom, which He always desires to do.
Sometimes there are family situations which you have to make decisions about and you must do something which is really best for the life of the family member that you love - but the decision isn’t what the family member wants - and it looks to them like it’s not love - but that’s because they don’t have a clue what AGAPE LOVE is. That’s when you spend time in intercession for that precious family member. I’ve seen God work miracles in families over the years - when it looked impossible. BUT GOD!!!!
I have learned in my life that forgiveness is a very powerful thing which breaks the bondage of hindrance in our lives. Much of the time, we’re looking for all kinds of ways to have more victory - and, as the Bible says, “Be more than conquerors!” And much of the time, it boils down to forgiving those who have hurt us - really from the heart - just like God has forgiven us. After all, that’s what GRACE is!
By the way, forgiveness isn’t saying what the person did was okay, that it wasn’t that bad, that they really didn’t mean to do it, and on and on. When the Lord forgave you of all your sins, He wasn’t saying that they really weren’t that bad - He was saying, “All those bad things you did - My Son has paid the price for all that bad stuff - You couldn’t pay it - but He could and He did. That’s undeserved favor - THAT’S GRACE!
SO-O-O-O-O - When you forgive, you’re not saying it wasn’t important - you’re doing things God’s way - you are giving them undeserved favor - you’re not holding the stuff against them any longer - you’re treating them like God has treated you!
Now, brothers and sisters - I want to read one more verse to you. It’s Philippians 4:8 - “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy---meditate on these things.”
To make that just as simple as can be - DON’T THINK ABOUT THE BAD STUFF - FIX YOUR ATTENTION ON THE GOOD STUFF! I have learned in my life that, if I keep the memory alive in me of the bad stuff, it will just get stronger and stronger in me. Remember, we talked about memory last week! Well, it’s very, very important in this realm of forgiving other people. And, let me just add something else to that. You also must not fix your attention (or meditate) on the bad stuff you have done in your past. God has wiped your slate clean. You must wallow in His Love for you and His forgiveness for you. It will be easier to let those old things that were wrong JUST BE GONE IN YOUR MIND. THEN - IT WILL ALSO BE EASIER FOR YOU TO LET GO OF THE BAD STUFF THAT HAS BEEN DONE TO YOU - BECAUSE YOU HAVE THE ABILITY TO FORGIVE OTHER PEOPLE JUST LIKE THE LORD HAS FORGIVEN YOU.
Brothers and Sisters - that is really LIVING GRACEFULLY!
Therefore, as we get older and older, if we get ahold of these truths, these latter years of ours can be good rather than more and more difficult. These truths concerning what grace really is, and what the Lord has done for us, can have a huge effect on everything in our lives if we will believe them and walk through our latter years GRACEFULLY. For many of us, we often just wish we had known some of this stuff a long time ago - it would have made life a lot different. BUT - we know it now. So - we can allow His GRACE to have an effect on us - rather than sitting around grumpy, or feeling sorry for ourselves, and being upset a lot of the time.
WE CAN LIVE GRACEFULLY - AND WE CAN, THEREFORE, GROW OLDER GRACEFULLY!
Scriptures used for this lesson