What Grace Looks Like
By Apostle Bank Akinmola
World Outreach Church for All Nations, Georgia, USA
Foundation Scripture: John 1:17
Sunday 18th October 2015
We have been discussing the subject of grace throughout this weekend, and we would wrap it up with this message, that I have titled ‘What Grace Looks Like’.
Our foundation scripture, John 1:17 reads: ‘For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ’. Moses the lawgiver, the man who God used in performing signs and wonders, delivering the Israelites from Egypt and leading them towards Canaan. Sadly, the law could not help him in reaching the Promised Land. Thankfully, Jesus arrived to make available the blessings of grace and truth.
In John 19:30, we read the three most powerful words in all scripture: ‘So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit’. Our suffering, pain, poverty, sicknesses, sins and indeed the law is finished. By this pronouncement, Jesus brought into focus the new covenant – the covenant of grace, which we are now enjoying as God’s children. We have begun our journey as God’s children right from the finish line. In other words, we are winners! The cross of Jesus Christ, where our covenant was ratified was the greatest demonstration of God’s love to the whole world. Beyond and above this, it is the greatest demonstration of His power, which is available to each of us, presently.
So what does grace look like? What are the benefits? Why is grace so powerful? And why are we so excited about it? Psalm 103 begins with some answers for us. It reads: ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits’. Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases. Each of us came into the world, sin-laden and crippled. Thank God that Jesus took our place on the cross, putting to rest the issue of our sins forever. As a result, God is no longer angry with us and we are at peace with Him. His wrath was poured out on Jesus as he hung on the cross. From the moment on, He smiles at us. Again, take a look at that phrase - ‘Who forgives all our iniquities’. It is a present continuous term. Our sins were taken care of by Jesus, once and for all, and this included the sins of the entire universe. However, there is a clause to this benefit, It is only available to those who believe in Him, as we read in John 1:12; ‘But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name’. A good illustration for this is withdrawing funds from an ATM machine, which can only be accessed using a bank card. In the same way, believing in Jesus is the access to God, by which our sins are forgiven.
Leviticus 16 describes the great Day of Atonement, a part of the Hebrew celebration that God gave the children of Israel. Psalm 89:15 put it this way: ‘Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! They walk, O Lord, in the light of Your countenance’. There were some celebrations given to the Israelites with significant spiritual importance for us today – Passover, Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles.
On the great Day of Atonement, there were certain instructions that had to be carried out. Here is Leviticus 16:6-10: “Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house. He shall take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat on which the Lord’s lot fell, and offer it as a sin offering. But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness”. Jesus, in being our sacrificial offering dealt with two things, namely: (a) He dealt with the nature that compels us to sin – the goat that represented the Lord had to be slaughtered. It was a foreshadow of our sinful nature that had to die. The second goat, called the scapegoat. By definition, a scapegoat is ‘a person, metaphorically that is blamed for the wrongdoing of someone else’. Here is Leviticus 16:21-22; ‘Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness’ (b) Besides the nature or power of sin that Jesus dealt with, the penalty of sin also had to dealt with, by a suitable person. The scapegoat in Leviticus 16, represents the forgiveness of our sins, including the ones today. The Vine’s Expository dictionary defines forgiveness as ‘to send away’.
God understood that as humans, living under grace, we still have the propensity to miss our way – hence the reason why the goat in Leviticus 16 was not killed but sent away into the wilderness. It was simply a foreshadow of what Jesus came to the world to do for us. Our sins – past, present and future were all laid on Jesus on the cross. Now he sits in glory to enforce all that He has already done. Our sins are no more a burden, once we believe in Jesus.
This begs the question. What should we do, if and when we sin in the future? Here are two ways to look at this – God’s part and man’s part. As far as God is concerned, our sins are forgiven, once and for all. It is easy to quote from 1 John 1:9 which reads: ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’. Here is the conundrum. Our sins had been forgiven, even before we committed those sins. Jesus echoed this on the cross, when he said ‘Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34 NLT).
In order to fully understand 1 John 1:9, it must be read in context. Here it is: ‘That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full'. When St. John was writing this epistle, he was addressing the letter with two audiences in mind. Note the ‘you’ and the ‘us’ in this passage. In speaking of forgiveness of sins, St John was specific about this – those who had not yet become part of the fellowship of God had the opportunity of doing so, by confessing their sins. Having said this, there is nothing wrong in speaking to God, if we want to, when we have made a poor wrong choice. Notwithstanding, our forgiveness was already ensured on the cross, right from the start. In speaking to God about our shortcomings, thank Him for your forgiveness that had been ensured two thousand years ago on the cross.
Now having understood this principle, we must not take the grace message for granted or as a liberty to offend and hurt our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. It breaks fellowship, relationships and God is not honoured or glorified as a result of this. Remember that Jesus had favour with God and men (Luke 2:52). So, when a fellow believer is wronged, not only must we amend our relationship with God, but this should also reflect in our relationship with our fellow brothers and sisters, bearing in mind that they were made in the image of God and represent Him, here on earth. Again, at the cross, our sins have been forgiven – both the power and the penalty of sin were obliterated.
So then, if the power of sin has been obliterated on the cross, when do we still find ourselves grappling with sin? Firstly, it must be understood that the moment we gave our lives to Christ, the old sinful self was crucified. Subsequently, the nature of God now resides within us. Our spirit-man belongs to God and cannot be corrupted with sin, ever again. This is why 2 Corinthians 5:17 reads: ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new’. Hence, the reason why a God-filled man is Heaven bound.
Now, in answering this conundrum regarding our sins, let’s look at this from the angle of a non-believer. A non-believer has a dead, Adamic nature. This is where sin is conceived and born. This drives a non-believer to sin. However, when become born again, this Adamic nature is eliminated. However, having lived a long time sinning, and even though the old nature has been obliterated on the cross, our flesh still holds some memory of the old behaviour, which was ignited by the old nature. So, old sinful habits like drinking and other forms of immorality may remain within our minds, being triggered by a ‘bully’. But we can obliterate this by constantly feeding our minds with the word of God. Now, it is God’s word that ensures harmony between our nature and what God desires for us. Once our minds come in alignment with the word, then our flesh inadvertently complies, and falls in line with the promptings of the Spirit of God within us.
Not only does God forgive our sins, He also heals all our diseases, He redeems our life from destruction, He crowns us with lovingkindness and tender mercies. Besides, He satisfies our mouths with good things, so that our youth is renewed like the eagle’s (Psalm 103:3-5 Paraphrased). In appreciation of all what God has done, let’s spread the good news of the Gospel to all those around us who have not yet understood His love.
I pray that the word of God will continually dwell within you, and may God continually pour His new wine into your new wine skins so that you can take on new heights, challenges, elevations, promotions, advancements in Jesus name! Remember, you are at the finishing line; you are finishing big, going higher from glory to glory, from faith to faith, from victory to victory in Jesus name! (Amen).
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