God’s Amazing Grace
79th Annual Lectureship Southwestern Christian College
By James A. Maxwell | November 21, 2016
To President Dr. Gibbs, President Emeritus Dr. Evans, Vice President Dr. Maxwell & Dr. Foster Faculty and staff thank you for the opportunity to share in this 79th Annual Lectureship of SWCC. It's good to be home again during this historic occasion. We are praying for and with Southwestern during this time of reset. Dr. Evans we applaud you for 49 years of dedicated service to this school. I believe that there is an air of positivity sweeping this campus as we sense success in dark times. Deep down within Southwestern’s Leadership there must remain a solid knowingness that that the worst times will pass, Better days, are around the corner. Remember the storm is not eternal, clouds have a limited lifespan; Uncertain times will give way to bright days and the downturn eventually turns upward.
What I’m learning is that when exceptional things happen they often come after some form of unusual challenge. Great leaders come from bad times, greatness comes out of weakness and strength out of tribulation. Advantage doesn’t make you great, Adversity does. Resistence training develops muscles. The more life resists you the stronger you get.
I was asked to speak on in concert with the theme above me. My subject is “God’s Amazing Grace.” It exceeds our ability to measure it accurately. We cannot fully define its height nor can we with precision determine its depth. Paul in Romans 5:17 speaks of the “abundance” of grace. How much is that? Do we just get enough to get by or just enough to save us? When it says abundance, What does that mean? We know it’s more than we can determine and It’s given without strings attached; Grace is a gift that keeps on giving.
In Acts 13:43 there was meeting of the synagogue that had dismissed. Many of the Jews and God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabus, who speaking to them were urging them to continue in the grace of God. Acts 20:32 “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” There are two instrinsic Characteristics of grace that are noteworthy.
It Is favor: When we trace this word down and study it we find that it is undeserved and unmerited favor. To give this word more body, it is literally God stooping and bending to us without our having done anything to merit his doing this.The Bible says Noah found grace, he didn't earn it. It wasn’t' because he was great builder or a great worshiper, no scripture tells us that Noah found grace in the eyes of God. Abraham was called out of the land of the Chaldees, he was a worshiper of other Gods, and God stooped over to Him in favor. And when it came to us Eph. 2 tells us that even Christ found us we were dead, in trespasses and sins. “While we were dead in sins Christ died for the ungodly.”
It Is Free: Not just favor, it’s free favor. He’s loyal to us when we haven’t been loyal to Him. You can’t buy grace. Most everything we receive comes with a price, but when we received grace the tab had already been paid. When it comes to the salvation of our souls our money is worthless.
It’s difficult to internalize this because of a system that we have learned to operate in. At Southwestern if a student fails a test. The student can't go up to the teacher at the end of term and say Dr. Foster I failed my N.T. Survey Test; or Dr. Maxwell I failed my Debate Final. I know I didn’t study, and I know I performed poorly & I’m sorry, but I would like you to reverse my grade. That's the system we know, you get what you earn, But when I fail the tests, as a Child of God, I can fall on my knees and tell the Lord I know I failed the test. I messed up in your system of righteousness, But Lord forgive me and let me start over anew. God wipes the slate clean and says go and sin no more.
The Purveyor of Grace: Grace Is Possible Because Of Christ
Romans 5 contrasts the first Adam with the Last Adam (Christ) Paul says, “Just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (v.12) in other words, “In Adam all die” (I Cor. 15:22). We die because Adam sinned. We were “In Adam” when he sinned. Adam was our representative. You may say that I didn’t choose Adam to represent me. I represent myself, but if you represent yourself, you’ve still got a problem. You’ve sinned too; just like Adam you haven’t done any better than he did. If Adam hadn’t done it, you would have done it or somebody else would have done it. “All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God”-Rom. 3:23. We don’t read v.24 much, “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption (that is in Christ Jesus. We were brought back from the market place of sin".
God’s Grace Brings Mercy
God’s grace doesn’t show up by itself, Grace shows up with a complimentary friend named mercy. When Satan, Sin & Shame forced us into hiding, our friend grace visits us and strengthenes our hand in God. I thank Him for His mercy for when I come before God I don't say, “Your honor I want to throw myself on the justice of your court; I throw myself on the mercy of your court". Therefore our representative Jesus forged a path which he paved a new highway that we walk; that takes us to God. Hebrews 10:20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say His flesh.”
To the original readers, the last few words were explosive. You see that veil in the temple separated them from the presence of God. Only high priest had access to it. According to the Hebrew writer, the veil equals Christ. It meant stay back until Christ flesh was torn by whips, by nails, torn by thorns. 27:50-51 “Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. V.51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent.”
When His Body tore so did the curtain. I Kings 6:2 says Solomon’s temple was about 30 cubits high that’s 45 ft. high & Herod extended temple it to 40 cubits high that’s 60 ft. high. The curtain was 4 inches thick. 3 times higher than this curtain behind me. Torn from the top down and not the bottom up which meant it wasn’t torn by man but by God. The Curtain is symbolic of Christ who stood between God and man allowing us to enter the new and living way. Vincent I just saw this when reading Job cried from the depths of his spirit saying (Job 9:33), “if only there was a mediator to bring us together.” He sees all the trouble that he is going through as punishment by God, and he does not understand it. Job wants to talk to God about it, but feels he cannot stand before God, and so he desires to have someone be a mediator between the two of them. At the time Job walked on the earth, men did not have direct access to God. There was no true mediator to stand in for him and fight his case. But because of God’s Amazing Grace, every Christian has a mediator (Umpire), (Referee) between us and God. A man in the middle who hung in the middle between two thieves, our curtain between us and God.
“There is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ.” (I Tim. 2:5). One great day after His mission of Grace. Jesus stepped on a cloud and the gifter of grace returned to Glory. He Sent us the Holy Spirit to comfort us when we are distressed, Teach us when we are confused, and empower us when we are weak. He Left us with us two amazing partners One called grace and the Other called mercy. They are like two sides of a coin. Different with respect to their inscription and image, but similar in sharing the metal that compromises that coin.
Mercy and Grace are Different. In His Mercy: God does not punish as we deserve In His Grace: God rewards though we don’t deserve it. Both are essential in God’s plan of Salvation. Neither one can be earned but are both received by faith in Christ. They are like both sides of a coin. Remember What we have received freely we should spend liberally on others.
God is free to deal with us in our pain, walk with us in our struggle, & help us when are hurt. Grace will put a thorn in your life so that you don’t get High-minded. Stay close to Him We are used to grace giving us all the things we like and we look at all the benefits and think that these are the only ways God has graced us. Sometimes grace will give you trouble. It will put you in a position when things don’t work right and it will bring you to your knees to make you seek God in a way you many not ordinarily seek God. Grace will teach you order and process. Grace will make you Keep your mouth shut and hold your peace. The grace in what I’m saying is the fact that it causes us to thank God for what is working while you are waiting on him to fix what is not working.
Let me explain further; Grace does not give us things we like all the time. You see somebody says, "I have grace because I have a job in a bad economy, God touched me and blessed me and the grace of the Lord is over my life" Their right, another person sitting next to you that says, “I know that amazing grace of the Lord is over my life because I haven’t found a job and I don’t see one on the horizon and God kept me." Neither one of them is lying, there is just a different aspect of Grace.
One lady says, “Oh Lord you’ve been good to me. I have three fine children and a good husband, nice job and a lovely home You’ve been so gracious.” And they are right but there’s another lady that says, “I’ve been waiting on a husband all my life I’m living by myself I don’t have any children but look at your grace you still have opened up doors for me you made ways for me and have fulfilled my life in other ways.” Both of them are talking about grace but there are different aspects of grace. Is there anybody walking in Amazing Grace tonight?
Some of are saying amen about the grace that kept them through the things they don’t have and others are saying yes and shaking their head about the grace that opened a door of abundance for them and it’s the same God dispensing Grace wherever you are in life. Listen, when you step from one aspect of it to the next ,when you get over into the part of grace you’ve been asking for and part you like make sure that you don’t take all the credit for yourself, leave some room for God to get the glory and praise.
You seen when Southwestern gets back on her feet again like we know she will everybody who have taken time to go the extra mile for the school in time, treasure and talent those who have not given up on SWCC when it’s time for the accolades to be given and the most valuable players take the stage, before you lace your nikes up for a victory lap, pause and thank for His Amazing graced. Tell Him The Glory Goes To You!! Somebody ought to pray, "Lord if you allow Southwestern to grow abound from this point and give us students in our care, all that we have to give in terms of knowledge, and instruction and experience and quality, wisdom. If you give it we will turn around and give it back."
Our vision for Southwestern should be greater than just reporting that we have kept the doors open. When God levels things out and I believe by His Grace He will; let’s go to the level let’s not snatch the blessing run and hide but rather sow what is received take the present harvest of grace to prepare for next harvest of grace so that Southwestern can step into the next harvest so the school just keeps going “all the way up”. Up in resources, Up in attendance, Up in Accreditation, Up in Faculty and Staff, Up in Facilities, & Infrastructure Up in Awareness, Up in Recognition.
To request a full copy of the entire speech, e-mail James Maxwell at the address below.
Peace & Blessings!