Click to hear our sermon on this value, recorded August 13, 2017:
Last February, Chick-fil-A ran a promotion where you could come in once a day for a free iced coffee. No purchase necessary. Completely free, no strings attached. This was one of the best months of my entire life. As soon as I heard about the promotion, I made my way to the drive-thru for my free coffee. When I pulled up to order, however, I felt an ache in my chest.
“I can’t just take a free coffee and drive away. I’ve got order something.”
Can anybody testify with me, here? I knew Chick-fil-A was sincere in saying No Purchase Necessary, but it still felt very necessary to me. You can’t just accept something for free without contributing to it! Honestly, even after my 14th (give or take) trip for a free coffee, I still felt guilty unless I bought something else to go with it.
Why am I telling this story? Because I treat God’s grace the same way.
Romans 3 couldn’t be any clearer when it tells us: all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Still, I have always felt uneasy about accepting God’s grace as a free gift. Surely I need to contribute something to it. Jesus died for me, yes, but doesn’t He require me to keep my nose clean if this salvation thing is really going to take?
This is the wonderful “problem” with grace. It flatly denies earning. It rejects contribution. It renounces religious duty. True grace is 100% a free gift provided entirely at God’s cost. He gave His own Son – the costliest sacrifice imaginable – so that our sins might be freely forgiven and we might be fully accepted. In fact, the biblical Greek word for grace actually means gift, and any sincere gift must be freely given and freely received.
The God of all grace saves us by faith in Jesus, but the good news doesn’t end there. He also transforms us. In salvation, Jesus gives us new hearts and inclines us to Himself. The Apostle Paul wrote, “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect” (1 Corinthians 15:10). What a perfect statement of the grace of God that redefines and transforms us!
The single most important value of Harvest Church is the centrality of God’s grace through the gospel of Jesus. No amount of religious activity is of any value unless we are first rooted in the transforming power of God’s grace. In fact, grace is what rescues us from the religious default of the human heart. Here is a very helpful resource from Dr. Tim Keller on some of the key differences between man-made religion and the Gospel:
So, in short, at Harvest Church we believe the grace of Jesus changes us entirely, and we daily devote ourselves to living out this new life in meaningful community with others.
Here are some helpful passages worthy of further study: Romans 3; Romans 12; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 2; Ephesians 2:1-12; Ephesians 4:11-24; Philippians 1:27; Colossians 3:1-3; 1 John 2:1-6