Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Believers get their strength from God, given to them because of abundant grace, His unmerited favor towards them through Christ. And the grace that none of us deserves is our focus on today's broadcast.
Please stay with us. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. We're in a series on how you can be sure that you will spend eternity with God. Pastor Lutzer, I believe you're listing the many characteristics of grace. And you know, Dave, I have to say that I never become weary of listing the characteristics of grace because no matter how often I preach about grace, I'm always renewed in my own spirit and it is such a message of great hope. I hope that everyone listens very carefully today to this message. It has to do, of course, with the grace of God. And I've written a book entitled How You Can Be Sure That You Will Spend Eternity With God, and it contains this material. For a gift of any amount, it can be yours.
You can go to rtwoffer.com, or if you prefer, you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. Now I'm going to be giving you this contact info after the message. For now, I just want you to listen carefully to the wonder of the grace of God. Only the people with the gold coin of grace can enter.
Everything else is irrelevant. Grace is unaffected by the degree of our sin. That's why grace is so amazing. Just a third characteristic, and that is it takes us all the way to heaven. Now notice what the Apostle Paul says, by grace you have been saved, and, verse 6, and God raised us up with him and acceded us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. It's a verse that I can only read today, but I have to skip. If you remember the first message in this series, I talked about the ladder that some people want to climb to heaven and the futility of the whole thing. Well, you know, when God raised us up from the dead, from the cemetery, he not only helped us halfway to heaven, the Bible says he took us the whole way and we are seated there already. Now if you think that that creates legal problems for a holy God, and it does, legal problems that he had to solve, I want you to come back next week because that's what we're going to be talking about. And the absolute implications of what grace does and why God can do such wondrous things for sinners.
So we must hurry on. It is a gift that takes us all the way to heaven. Number four, let me emphasize, it is a gift of God.
Let's continue to read. By the way, it says in verse 7 that in order that in the ages to come he might show the surpassing riches of his grace and kindness toward us in Jesus Christ. And then those famous verses. For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. And it is a reference to God saving grace and even the faith that we appropriated with is a gift of God, not the result of works. I told you a moment ago, God took human works and set it aside and said unusable lest any man should boast. You can't boast when you receive a free gift that is so incredibly undeserved.
It is a free gift. Back on the farm where I grew up, we used to listen to the radio and we used to listen to certain evangelists that came on and they always wanted an appeal at the end asking for money or for something and they had something that they were giving away. I remember one man whom you would never know because he's not on the radio anymore, but I used to impersonate him. And I'd hate to do that for you this morning, but with a little coaxing I guess I could. He used to say, now my dear friend, if you will send me five dollars, I will send you absolutely free, this new book.
And I used to sit there at the age of 10 and say, this doesn't compute. I mean what do you mean send you five dollars, which in those days by the way when I was 10 years old was an awful lot of money. What do you mean send you five dollars? If it's absolutely free, you not only should send the book, but you ought to pay for the postage that is used to write and ask you for it because that's what God does. He pays the whole freight the whole way. It's not like salvation. It is a free gift.
Do you know what that means? You will never ever repay it, ever ever ever. If you could repay it even in the smallest amount, God would have to regard it and God would have to acknowledge the payment, but the Bible says it is of grace and it is not of works lest no man should boast so that nobody ever stands before God and says well God you did this for me, but after all I did pay you a bit back.
Listen to this very carefully. God owns so much. Do you ever think that God would have to buy anything? Does God ever have to go shopping and say well you know I'm running out of supplies, much less use a credit card to have to do it? No, but the Bible does say God purchased one thing. It says that he purchased his church with his own blood. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, that was redemption.
God purchased us and it is insulting to think that we could ever pay him back. There was an Indian Hindu who became the friend of a Christian missionary and they spent many hours talking about salvation and the Hindu could never understand how Christians can believe that salvation is a free gift and that it does not have to be paid back. The Hindu said that he was going to attain to salvation by going to Delhi on his knees, but before he left he wanted to give a gift to his missionary friend whom he had come to love and he gave a beautiful pearl very delicately formed and he said I want you to have this pearl and I want you to know that my son died while capturing it and now it's yours. The missionary received it and then said but I need to pay you for it, let me pay you for it and the man was insulted. He said how can you pay for something that was purchased by my son's death?
Ah, then it began to dawn on him. How can we pay to God that which was a free gift given by his precious son's death? We will never pay. Never. Now there are some people who say, oh I'm so unworthy of grace. Well my dear friend joined the club, would you?
Would you? We're all unworthy of it, that's the whole point. Grace is God's unmerited favor, undeserved, unearned, and never recompensed. That's the whole point of grace. Some people say well I have to make myself ready to receive grace by a proper amount of sorrow. There is a sorrow that leads to repentance, no doubt about that but how do you know when you have enough sorrow finally? Somebody else like an alcoholic said to me well you know I hope to receive Christ sometime but I need to know that I will be able to hold out so I'm going to wait until I know I can get off the bottle.
Forget it. You're going to wait until you know that you can hold out? You're going to wait forever my friend because you're never going to know that. Grace is a free gift and you come as you are. Notice number one, it sets aside all human effort. Secondly it is unaffected by the degree of our sin. Thirdly it takes us all the way to heaven.
Fourthly it is a gift of God and finally it is very difficult to accept, very difficult to accept. Somebody listening to this says well you know what they do there at the Moody Church, they just preach this business of cheap grace. I want you to know today that to accept the grace of God is difficult though it is a free gift. Let me tell you two categories of people that find it difficult to accept God's grace. Luther said that the natural man is on a pendulum and he swings between pride and despair. So first of all we're going to talk about those who are in despair.
The drug addict, the child molester, the murderer, the practicing homosexual, the adulterer, the alcoholic. All of these people find it difficult to accept God's grace frequently because what they're saying in themselves is if you only knew God is so mad at me there's no way that I'm going to talk to him about this. He's just waiting in heaven ready to spew me out of his mouth.
He's so angry. Oh what a wretch I am. And so they look at other people and they revise their estimation of themselves downward because they say I'm unworthy. They find it hard to receive God's grace.
Then there's another category those goody two shoes religious types. Somebody was asked one time what is the greatest sin you've ever committed? He said well, he said I was out on a golf course and I got real mad and hit the ball real far. Oh how could you do something that terrible? I can't believe it.
First of all let me say that I think he did other things that were far worse than that if he were honest. The religious types find it very hard to be honest. But number two, those who say well you know as people have told me on the plane I've heard it so often they say well you know I think I have just as good a shot at heaven as anybody else. And they look at other people and they revise their estimation of themselves upward because they can tell you a hundred people who are worse off than they are. And so they say I got a good shot.
Listen to me very carefully. Those people are farther from the kingdom of heaven than the other category that I have listed and that is why Jesus said to the religious types of his day the prostitutes will go into the kingdom of heaven ahead of you folks because you still think that somehow works are involved. And as a result of your thinking that works are involved why you look to yourself and do not understand that you are as wretched before me as all the folks whom you think are so much worse than you are. You see these folks are insulted when they are told that as far as God is concerned they are in the same category as all the other sinners. They are insulted when they are told that what they need is not divine help they need a resurrection. Let me be very clear to you today and say this that when you come to Christ it is not to give it is to receive. You know the idea of works is so ingrained within us that even in the terminology which many people who should know better use we find works. For example I hear people say now what I'm going to do is to challenge my friends to commit themselves to Christ.
Well I want to think about that a little bit. What do you mean to commit yourself to Christ? It's true that we as Christians commit ourselves to Christ. Paul says he is able to keep that which I've committed unto him against that day but what are you expecting these people exactly to commit? I had a friend who used to witness this way he says I challenge people to pledge their allegiance to Jesus Christ. Pledge allegiance to Jesus Christ. There's a famous evangelist whom I frequently admired and some of you might know who he is but he gave an invitation one time and he said I'm going to invite you to come forward and those of you are coming forward he says you are making a promise to follow Christ. I thought oh oh oh there's some of us who have lived the Christian life for decades and we still are struggling to follow Christ and now you're asking all those people to come and to follow Christ? What if they make their promise to follow Christ and then go home and break it an hour later? Now what? Will you listen to me very carefully? When you come to Christ to be saved you come to receive you do not come to give you do not come to receive help you come to be rescued you do not come to be made better though that happens thank God but you come to be resurrected you come helplessly but you come to the only God who can speak to a graveyard and can cause a corpse to live and you can never take care of your problem just by getting real serious about it. Many years ago and it is many years ago I was pastor of the Edgewater Baptist Church I came there with my wife in 1971 was very new in the ministry still feel new in the ministry as a matter of fact but there were some evangelistic services that had already been planned and we had them and there was this couple that came and I didn't know who they were I had never seen them before but they came to this meeting and afterwards they came to talk to me here was their story they belong to a wife swapping club and the wife had newly come to saving faith in Jesus Christ and I got the impression though it was not explicitly said that she had kind of dragged her husband to church that evening I got the feeling that he wanted to be there about as much as a counterfeit coin enjoys being put on an offering plate personally but as I talked with them this man said you know my wife is now a Christian but he said I want you to know something he says there's no way that I can stop being immoral he said if you believe that I'm going to come to Christ and I'm going to clean up my act he says I'm going to tell you in advance I am too weak to do that he said I have lived in immorality all of my life and he said there's no way that I can stop what I'm doing but he said I do know that I am a sinner and I desperately do need help I thought well I hadn't recalled that seminary had prepared me for this exactly but I said I'll tell you what why don't you hear trust Christ as your savior acknowledging your helplessness your bondage to immorality come as you are believe receive by faith Christ knowing that even the faith that you come to tonight is God's gift and then I said regarding your lifestyle you and God will work that out after you become one of his children tonight so he did because they were not part of Edgewater Baptist Church I never saw them and weeks went by and I thought to myself oh you know this business of cheap grace the guy comes here and prays a prayer and now he probably thinks he's saved because he prayed a prayer and he's probably living the way he's always lived about six weeks later he made an appointment to see me and he came to the church and after a few pleasantries he sat down and said you know I think I'm called to the ministry he said what do you think of my attending moody Bible Institute well I appeared and not to look shocked I picked myself up off the floor and dusted myself we talked about moody Bible Institute and other possibilities we prayed together he was on his way out and I asked him the question you would have asked if you had been me I said what about that wife swapping club oh he said he said I want you to know that God took that out of my life entirely after I became a Christian six weeks ago my dear friend do you realize why grace is amazing grace is amazing because when we come to Christ we bring nothing to the table except our own sin we don't come to Christ saying now if I really got serious about this I could take care of this I need your help that's not the way you come to Christ you come to Christ helplessly you come to be made alive you come because you are blind and you invite Christ to make you see you come because you're deaf and he has to create ears for you to hear and that's how you come the words of the song just as I am without one plea but that thy blood was shed for me and Augustus top lady got it so right when he said not the labors of my hands can fulfill thy laws demands could my tears forever flow could my zeal no respite no all for sin could not atone thou must save and thou alone nothing in my hands I bring but simply to thy cross I cling naked come to thee for dress helpless look to thee for grace foul light to the fountain fly wash me save your air I die and that's why grace is so so amazing let us pray Father, we pray today for those who are on one end of the pendulum in despair with secret lives of immorality and impurity feeling that they are undeserving of your grace we thank you that they feel that way but we pray that you might show them that though they are undeserving it is for sinners the Christ came we pray for those who are on the other end of the pendulum the prideful those who think that surely they've got a good shot at it strip it all away today father and show them that there is no commonality between human goodness and divine holiness and they stand just as desperately in need as a savior as all the criminals do and today we pray that you might show your grace to both and that you might wondrously grant to these the gift of faith that they might believe now before I close I want you to talk to God those of you who do not know Christ as savior you can pray this prayer after me it is a prayer that will simply tell God that you're finished you come to the table with nothing at last but you come to receive you can say dear God I know that I'm a sinner I desperately need you to save me at this moment I received Christ's grace I cast myself upon his mercy and thank you that you shall do in me the miracle I need thank you well my friend this is Pastor Lutzer I hope that your heart has been touched by God whether you are a believer I trust that your faith in Jesus Christ will be renewed and strengthened as a result of what you have just heard if you're an unbeliever or if you are not sure if you are filled with doubt come to Christ with those doubts as we sometimes sing though tossed about with many a conflict many a doubt fightings within and fears without oh lamb of God I come we all come as sinners we all come to receive what we don't deserve God's grace I've written a book entitled how you can be sure that you will spend eternity with God it contains the messages that you are listening to on running to win as well as additional material for a gift of any amount it can be yours here's what you can do go to RTW offer.com that's RTW offer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337 perhaps you have heard me say before what I like to repeat namely that the question of your eternal destiny is the most important issue that you and I will ever face and only the grace of God can rescue us ask for the book how you can be sure that you will spend eternity with God go to RTW offer.com that's RTW offer.com or if you prefer call us at 1-888-218-9337 you can write to us at running to win 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard Chicago Illinois 60614 in the race of the Christian life there is one gift of God that believers cannot live without we dare not die without it either since this gift opens the doors of heaven making us acceptable in God's sight it's not automatic it's a gift we must receive want to know what this gift is tune in for our next running to win to find out running to win is all about helping you understand God's road map for your race of life thanks for listening for doctor Erwin Lutzer this is Dave McAllister running to win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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