The Grace That Teaches Us
Living grace is discussed in Titus 2:12 “Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.”
Those who have accepted the grace of God that brings salvation become a part of a group called “us.” This, of course, is referring to Christians, who have received the second type of grace, quickening grace, the grace that immediately brings salvation and the new birth.
Then living grace takes over. This grace is a teacher of righteousness and sanctification. Living grace teaches us to separate ourselves from the evils and lusts of the world. For the rest of our lives, we will continue to learn to reject ungodliness and lust.
Not a License to Sin
Some people think having grace means they can live an ungodly life and do anything they want. This is simply not true! Grace is never a license to sin; it’s a license to serve. In fact, grace teaches us not to sin. Grace teaches us to reject the world’s viewpoint and to live sober, righteous, and godly lives.
Prepared Unto Good Works
Ephesians 2:8 and 9 says, “For by grace are you saved through faith, that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Then verse 10 says, “We are his workmanship, prepared unto good works.” It’s not our good works that prepare us, but grace that prepares us unto good works. Once we are prepared in the Lord Jesus—given the new birth, given His righteousness—then out of thanksgiving He wants us to worship Him and to work for Him.
I once heard grace defined this way: “Grace is not the absence of works; it’s the absence of struggle.” That’s what God is telling us. He wants us to work for Him, but He wants it to be without struggle.
The sad thing is, so many Christians today are struggling, trying to serve God. They are working so hard to please Him. It’s like children working to earn their parent’s approval. The parent keeps trying to tell them, “You’ve already got my approval. I love you. Now work.”
It makes such a difference when you realize “God loves me, and there’s nothing I can do to make God more pleased with me. God was happy with me the moment Jesus died. God loves me for Jesus’ sake.” Once you understand that, then you desire to work for Him. That is the whole essence of grace.
Perhaps the best-known passages on living grace are found in Psalm 23. Although this is a familiar passage of Scripture, it is one we never want to take for granted.
Many of us memorized Psalm 23 when we were young. Like John 3:16 and the Lord’s Prayer, we often end up reciting it and don’t think about what we are saying. Yet it is so important that we don’t just say these verses from memory, but say them from our hearts, thinking about every word.
The Bible is nothing new. It’s been around for centuries. The same words are here that were found 1,000 years ago. If God were in the business of changing things just because we knew it by heart, then we would find the Bible changing. But the fact is, truth cannot change. It’s up to us to continually approach the truth with a fresh attitude, giving our full attention to it.
A Look at Living Grace
Let’s take a look at this familiar psalm of David. In verse 1 he proclaims, “The Lord is my shepherd.”
Notice, this verse doesn’t say, “The Lord was my shepherd” or “The Lord will be my shepherd.” It says, “He is my shepherd.”
David was a shepherd, yet in this psalm, David takes the perspective of a sheep. He says, “I am a shepherd, but also I understand what it’s like to be under a shepherd. The Lord is my shepherd.”
We don’t know exactly when this Psalm was written, whether David wrote it as a young man or later when he was king. But most scholars agree that David was thinking of the time when, after he slew Goliath, he went back home to watch his father’s sheep.
Most people today, after slaying Goliath, would have run for mayor of Jerusalem. David’s popularity was high and people were singing his praise. It would have been a good time to take advantage of the opportunity. But David didn’t. David kept his perspective clear. He went right back home and watched the sheep.
He continued to keep a clear perspective all the days of his life. When David was King of Israel, anyone who went in to talk with him walked out saying, “He’s just a shepherd with a crown. He has never changed. After all these years, he’s still a shepherd.” In other words, fame and position didn’t change David.
Yet many Christians I know claim their identity by their position. If they ever lose their position, they feel they’ve lost their identity. This is not scriptural. According to the Bible, you are who you are by the grace of God and by the blood of Jesus Christ. All the things you own and possess were given to you by Jesus Christ. If you have a position, fine. If you lose that position, fine. You don’t change, because Jesus doesn’t change, and your identity is based on Him.
Jesus gave up everything in heaven, yet it didn’t affect Him. He didn’t come to earth and brag about all the things He’d left behind, nor did He come and complain about the lifestyle He now had to live, because Jesus’ heart didn’t change. He knew He was still the Son of God.
Thank God our identity is based on the One who never changes!
A Life of Rest & Peace
Because David realized that the Lord was his shepherd, he would write, “I shall not want.” Sheep don’t come and ask the shepherd for things all the time. The shepherd knows what his sheep need and he provides it:
He makes me to lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters. Psalm 23:2
I wish more Christians understood that verse 2 is saying, “The Christian life is not difficult.” We are so used to people telling us, “You’ve got to work hard and do all these things. The Christian life is difficult.” Yes, there are attacks on the Christian life, but I want you to understand that God has prepared a believer’s life as a life of rest, a life of peace. Jesus told us what the Christian life is. He said:
So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep, and rise night and day and the seed should spring and grow up, he knows not how. Mark 4:26,27
That’s what we are to do: study the Word of God, meditate on it, pray about it, and go to bed. Yet many believers think standing in faith for some need to be met means staying up half the night praying about it. They think, somehow, all their prayers are going to add to it. Listen, once you’ve planted the Word, once you’ve prayed over it, once you’ve thanked God for it, go to bed. Will it produce? Yes, but like the farmer, we won’t know how it works.
The farmer goes to bed, gets up, goes to bed, gets up, and does what he’s supposed to do, while the seed takes care of itself. We serve a kingdom that can take care of itself, so we can lay down in green pastures, go by the still waters, and know that our faith is producing, the Word is producing, and the Holy Spirit is producing. We may not know how it works, but who cares! It just works!
In verse 3 David writes, “He restores my soul.” When there’s sin in my life, I ask God to forgive it and the Lord restores my soul. He brings me back.
There is a verse in Scripture which has the power to instantly restore us back to fellowship with God. Whether you have sinned for one minute, one hour, one month, or one year, this verse promises that God will forgive all of those sins in one split second.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
The Greek word for confess means “to say the same things.” It could better be translated “admit’’ or “acknowledge.” There are times when you know God says you have sinned, the Word says you have sinned, and your own heart is telling you that you have sinned. So just admit it. Say the same thing: “I have sinned.”
Once we have admitted our sins, God is faithful to forgive us our sins. God has never changed. His faithfulness to us is the same as it was to Abraham, Elijah, and David. Since God is no respecter of persons, He cannot and will not single us out for our sins and refuse to forgive us.
Satan may tell us our sins are different or unique. He will try to make us still feel guilty after God has forgiven us. But God’s forgiveness is greater than Satan’s accusations. No sin you can commit is greater than God’s faithfulness.
When we admit what we’ve done, God does more than forgive us, He also cleanses us from all unrighteousness. If there are any unknown sins surrounding the sins we confess, God takes advantage of our confession to cleanse us from all sins of ignorance. The grace of God is greater than anything we could possibly imagine!
He Leads Me
Next David writes, “He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Notice God does not lead you into evil. He does not tempt you with evil but leads you in paths of righteousness. When you follow the Holy Spirit and attend to the Word, you will be on the right path. Jesus, speaking of Himself as the Good Shepherd, said,
The sheep hear his voice: and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out... and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow. John 10:3-5
The Holy Spirit has been sent to lead us and guide us into all truth. Therefore, if you’re being tempted toward evil, that is not God; it is Satan. God always leads us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
A Life Without Fear
David goes on to say in verse 4,
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death: I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
We are sometimes surprised to find that, even as Christians, there can be circumstances in our lives that bring us extremely close to death, yet God watches over us. All of us face such circumstances. In fact, we may not know how close to death we have actually come during our lives-until we get to heaven and the angels inform us! Yet each time, God took care of us, so we need not fear.
Brother Hagin once commented on the fact he doesn’t worry. He was ministering on the scripture “Take no thought for your life...’’ (Matthew 6:25.) He said, “I just don’t worry, because “Take no thought’ actually means ‘Don’t worry.’’’ He went on to say, “It’s been so long since I’ve worried, that Oretha got mad at me one day for not worrying. She told me, ‘You never worry about anything. The kids get in trouble, but you don’t worry about it. Things have happened financially, but you don’t worry about it.’”
Brother Hagin replied, “Well, why worry about it? God said He would take care of it.”
Oretha said, “I think if I came home one day and dropped dead on the front porch, you wouldn’t worry about it.”
He said, “Why worry? You’d be in heaven!’’
It becomes so clear: God has ordained our whole life to make us winners. Even if we come to the point of death, we’re still winners. That’s why we can say, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will have no fear: for the Lord Jesus Christ is with me. His rod and His staff they comfort me.”
Under Satan’s Nose
David says in verse 5, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.” God delights in blessing us—right under Satan’s nose. This is Satan’s world—there is no way around it. The Bible confirms repeatedly that Satan is the god over this world’s system. However, we are in the world but not of the world (John 17:16). On the day we accepted Jesus, we changed our citizenship. Philippians 3:20 says, “For our citizenship is in heaven.” We are no longer citizens of this earth, we are now part of heaven’s kingdom. Although we still occupy this earth, God has every legal right to bless us—right under Satan’s nose. As heaven’s ambassadors in this earth, all we have to do is claim diplomatic immunity!
Jesus has prepared us a table in the midst of our enemies; a table with all the blessings of heaven and Satan can only watch. The devil can’t sit down at the table; it’s just for you and me and the Body of Christ. Glory to God!
My Cup Runs Over
David goes on to say, “You anoint my head with oil. My cup runs over.” God pours out His grace; the cup is our faith. God is the One who pours, but we’re the one who holds the cup. We receive God’s grace by faith. Faith doesn’t manufacture anything. In fact, faith came from grace. The very faith we have is a gift of God’s grace. As we hold our cup out before the Lord, He begins to pour blessings into that cup until it overflows.
He always pours until it’s overflowing, but His plan is for us to come back with a bigger cup. He wants us to grow in faith. He wants our faith to multiply and grow exceedingly. He wants us to keep coming back able to hold more and more. As we get into God’s Word, we trust His promises, and our faith begins to grow. Then God can pour more grace into our lives.
You might have started out with a small teacup, had a mug along the way, and then finally come back with a tankard. Your cup keeps getting bigger and bigger and every time it expands, God fills it to overflowing. Every time your cup grows, God pours out more grace on you than ever before, and your cup runs over.
God pours out grace throughout your lifetime, but He has the capacity to pour out even more. In fact, there is an unlimited supply. If you’ll keep expanding your cup, God will freely pour more and more grace into your life.
All the Days of My Life
Verse 8 says, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” Not most of the days, not ninety-nine percent of the days, but all the days of my life, goodness and mercy will follow me.
“Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” is a beautiful description of living grace. The second part of this verse describes dying grace: “And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” After we come to the end of our life, when it’s time to step over into the kingdom of God in heaven, it is grace that carries us over.
It’s Grace from Start to Finish
There’s no such thing as getting born again and never facing a problem. Jesus told us, “If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:12, “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.’’ Persecution is just part of our lives because we are in Satan’s world. But God has given us the ability to overcome those trials and circumstances and to come through them. In fact, we get stronger in the midst of them through using the faith and the weapons God has given us.
In Romans 8:31 Paul writes, “What shall we then say to these things?” “These things” are the trials, afflictions, circumstances, and persecutions of life that every Christian goes through. “If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”
Notice the words “with Him.” There was a time when we were without the Lord. But while we were without Him, He offered His Son on the cross for our redemption. Through the shed blood and the broken body of Jesus, we have remission of sins as well as healing and deliverance in our natural lives. The material things of life have all been provided through the work of the Cross of Jesus Christ.
When I was without Him, God freely offered Jesus. Salvation started out free and everything since that time has been free. Now that I have Him and I am with Him, He still offers everything for free. Things have not changed since I was born again: I started with faith, and I remain with faith all the way until the day I go home to be with the Lord, whether in the Rapture or through death. Nothing has changed.
Sometimes people get saved and then suddenly change horses. They start approaching God differently. They now think it’s their many good works that are going to please God. This is not the case. Our works are important, but it’s not our works that please God. It’s Jesus that pleases God. it’s simple faith that pleases God. So, if we don’t work for the Lord to please Him, then why do we work? We work for the Lord because we love Him and He loves us and because He has blessed us. He freely gives us all things.
The simple plan of the Christian life is grace from start to finish Living grace is no different from the convicting grace that opened our hearts to God or the quickening grace that gave us new birth. All grace is ministered by the Holy Spirit. Once we are born again, the Spirit of God ministers living grace to us every day of our lives. And one day, when we step over from this side to the other side, the Holy Spirit will escort us into the presence of God.
Isn’t that good to know the Holy Spirit is always there? Jesus said, “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever’’ (John 14:15).
The Spirit of Grace will abide with you forever. He will carry you all the way through into eternity.