The Face of Grace

January 11, 2009 ()

Bible Text: John 1:1-2


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The Face of Grace. Text. John 1:1-2, 14.
Jesus is the Word, Co-Equal and Co-Eternal with God the Father. ("Word," - God's own self-expression.) Jesus is eternal. There has never been a time when he did not exist. He was not created; he in fact created all things (v3). He is before all things. Francis Shaeffer referred to this as the "always wasness" of Jesus. In verse 14, John says that this Word, this creating, revealing, saving self-expression of God, became flesh. He did not cease to be the Word that was from the beginning. The eternal, omnipotent, creator, God the Son, took on skin, took on full humanity without relinquishing his deity. This is mystery. He took on all aspects of creaturely existence - our weakness and vulnerability to temptation, suffering, sorrow, betrayal, loneliness, and death. He donned our humanity with the exception of sin. Full deity being united with full-humanity so that the man Jesus, who in the Gospels gets hungry and tired and sad and angry and injured, and tastes death is also the eternal God. This is what makes Christianity unique. We do not believe that Jesus was merely a great prophet, spiritual sage, the most enlightened human being - we believe He is the eternal God, in the flesh. Mystery. This is what makes Christianity unique. We do not believe that Jesus was merely a great prophet, spiritual sage, the most enlightened human being - we believe He is the eternal God, in the flesh. Mystery. 

John makes the point even stronger when he says that he "dwelt among us." The word literally translated, "he tabernacled among us." The tabernacle was the place where God made his presence known among the people, where he dwelt among them. The bright cloud of God's presence, his glory, would settle among the people and fill the tabernacle. John is saying that now God has come to dwell among us in a new tabernacle, the very person of Jesus. Jesus is the very presence of God among people on this planet.

In his coming, Jesus fully revealed to us what God is like. He put a face on God. God is just like Jesus; Jesus shows us God's features clearly and visibly. He is a "Portrait of God." Toward the end of Jesus' time with his Disciples he has a conversation recorded for us in John's Gospel. John 14.8-9 "Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." 9) Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father'?" Jesus is the Total Revelation of God, showing us perfectly and clearly what God is like so that there need not be any confusion when we say the word "God."

What does he show us about this God? That He is Grace and Truth. Jesus has revealed God to be a God of Grace.

Grace is the loving-kindness of God freely extended to the undeserving. Most would acknowledge that God is loving. But the question, is why does God love us? Grace seen in Jesus shows us that God loves us not because of who we are, but because of who He is. He does not love us because of anything in us, but because it is his nature (not his job) to love. We are the Undeserving: We are not qualified to be objects of God's love. We are not as good as we would like everyone to think we are. We are full of lies and lust, greed and envy, pride and anger, covetousness and discontent - worshipers of self and lovers of money. Everyone of us has skeletons in the closet we desperately try to keep hidden, and if the secret things of our hearts were ever revealed, we would be mortified. We are sinners and deserve God's just displeasure and judgment. Grace says that God withholds from us what we deserve and freely extends to us something we could never earn - his love and full acceptance. Grace is freely extended. Grace is God releasing us from the sin debt by actually paying the debt himself. This is why Jesus fully shows us the Grace of God. He has come to pay the debt. Grace does not negate justice, it absorbs it...We see this grace in Jesus. We see it in one scene in particular - the criminal on the cross  Luke 23:32-33, 39-43. This criminal could do nothing to make up for the past, prove his worth in the future. His only hope was not his merit, but God's mercy in Jesus. Jesus is paying the debt of his sins so he would not have to pay the ultimate debt to God. The thief makes no promises, only a plea. When we come to God, we must come as he did, we must come empty handed, begging not bargaining. And when we do, we find a God ready to pardon us and fully accept us as his sons and daughters. No matter how great our sins may seem, grace is greater.

The world is thirsty for this. Ernest Hemingway, in the opening of his short story "Capital of the World" references the Spanish story of a Father who put an add in the El Liberal Newspaper - "PACO MEET ME AT HOTEL MONTANA NOON TUESDAY ALL IS FORGIVEN." Paco is a common name in Spain so when the Father shows up he finds 800 young men waiting for their fathers. We are all thirsty for this - free pardon and full acceptance. Philip Yancey: "I must admit that Jesus has revised in flesh many of my harsh and unpalatable notions about God. 'Why am I a Christian?' I sometimes ask myself, and to be perfectly honest the reasons reduce to two: (1) the lack of good alternatives, and (2) Jesus. Brilliant, untamed, tender, creative, slippery, irreducible, paradoxically humble - Jesus stands up to scrutiny. He is who I want my God to be." This is who God is; Jesus has revealed him to be a God of grace, a God who extends his lovingkindness, to those who do not deserve it and who could never earn it.

Two things about Grace. We must receive grace. Our invitation is not to earn but to respond.  We must live in grace. Living is grace means "my deepest awareness about myself is that I am fully loved and fully accepted by God because of Jesus Christ, and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it and therefore cannot do anything to lose it. Christ has won this for me. When I rest in that, I can embrace my inadequacies, be honest about my failures, sin, insecurities and imperfections instead of tying to cover them up or compensate for them. I can stop pretending. John Newton: I am a great sinner, and Christ is a Great Savior. Grace frees of pretense.

Jesus, God incarnate, put a face on the grace of God for us. But after his resurrection and ascension he calls the church to be his presence upon the earth. 1 Corinthians 12:27 "Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it." We are the presence of Jesus upon the earth, and we are called to reveal to this world what our God is like. We are called to be a community of Grace. To be a counter-community in this world who stand in stark contrast to the world. D. L. Moody once said, "Of one hundred men, one will read the bible; the other ninety-nine will read the Christian." Will they read a story of Grace?

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Sermon Speaker:

JR Vassar

Former Lead Pastor, Apostles NYC