The Failure To Obtain The Grace Of God
Key Text Hebrews 12: 15 (KJV)
– Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.
Our Father in Heaven is a Father and God of all Grace.
That means God has a tremendous reservoir of grace and He wants to lavish it upon His children. The words “Grace of God” mean “special favor; the benevolence, the clemency and the leniency of God.” God is prepared and able to lavish you with His special favor, benevolence, clemency and leniency as to make you precious (as according to the Hebrew word “chen” for grace). Christ paid the penalty for our sins and God is rich in mercy, rich in grace and He wants to expend it upon us. The problem is that many of us do not avail ourselves of His grace. You see, we are talking here about reality, something that you can go to God for and lay hold of it. That is the glory of it all and that is the message of this Hebrew epistle. Have you gone to Him today, my Christian friends? Have you talked to Him, yes, reverently but really talked to Him like He is your Father? Tell him about yourself. Tell Him you need grace. We all need grace and it is available, yet many of us fail to obtain it.
And this is the topic I would like to talk about this morning. The title of my message will therefore be – ‘THE FAILURE TO OBTAIN THE GRACE OF GOD’.
What does it mean to “fail to obtain the grace of God?” Or what does it mean to “miss the grace of God? (NIV)”
The words mean “failing to keep up with the grace of God.” The early Greek Commentator interprets this in terms of a journey of a band of travelers who every now and again check up, “Has anyone fallen out? Has anyone been left behind while the others have pressed on?” In Micah, there is a vivid text (4:6), “I will assemble the lame.” Moffatt translates it: “I will collect the stragglers.” It is easy to straggle away (fall behind/lag behind), to linger behind, to drift instead of to march and so to miss the grace of God.
There is no opportunity in this life which cannot be missed. The grace of God brings to us the opportunity to make ourselves and to make life what they are meant to be. A man may, in many ways, miss the chances which grace brings to him.
As I see the whole congregation here, I dare say there are two groups of Christians here. One group fails to obtain the grace of God, even though you may be many years in the Lord and have been coming to church every Sunday. On the other hand, there is another group, whose life is evident of the grace and favor of God. It is as if God is smiling upon them. Why the difference?
(II) Failure To Obtain The Grace of God
Why do we fail to obtain the grace of God?
1. Failure To Submit
More specifically- failure to submit to the terms of the Gospel.
There are some of us here today who fail to obtain the grace of God because of our failure to submit to the terms of the Gospel. The Gospel is not an unconditional Gospel. There are terms and conditions. There are costs of discipleship like obedience, sanctification, consecration, self-denial and renunciation. I just taught in the SCG that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to die and to lose and to give up. There is a cross in every Gospel.
These terms of the Gospel are repugnant to the natural man: they are distasteful to his carnal lust and they are humbling to his pride. The Gospel calls upon sinners and Christians alike to repent and they cannot do that with sincerity unless they throw down the weapons of their rebellion against God. Our Holy God will not pardon any man so long as he is determined to please himself and continue in a course of sinning.
Also, the Gospel calls on sinners as well as Christians to receive Christ Jesus as Lord: to give Him the throne of their hearts, to bow to his scepter. The grace of God cannot work on any one, whether sinner or Christian who is unwilling for Him to “rule over him” (Luke 19:14).
I was reading this portion of scripture and it points to this group of Christians who are engaged in DELIBERATE SIN. These are born-again Christians but who refuse to surrender their lives and sins to Lord Jesus.
Hebrews 6:4-8- For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt. For land which has drunk the rain that often falls upon it, and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed; its end is to be burned.
Hebrews 10:26-31- For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a FEARFUL PROSPECT OF JUDGMENT, and FURY OF FIRE which will consume the adversaries. A man who has violated the Law of Moses died without mercy at the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the man who has spurned the Son of God, and profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified and OUTRAGED THE SPIRIT OF GRACE? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
For those who have received a full knowledge of the truth of the gospel and yet reject Christ as Lord, the consequences are severe. For those who learn the truth and then deliberately continue sinning, no sacrifice is left.
Here we see that:
Deliberate Sin is a Trampling of Christ Under Foot
It is not mere rebelliousness against the gospel; it is the wounding of love. A man can stand almost any attack on his body; the thing that beats him is a broken heart. It is told that in the days of the Hitler terror there was a man in Germany who was arrested, tried, tortured and put into a concentration camp. He faced it all with gallantry and emerged erect and unbroken. Then by accident he discovered who it was who had laid information against him – it was his own son. The discovery broke him and he died. Attack by an enemy he could bear; attack by one who he loved killed him. When Caesar was murdered he faced his assassins with almost disdainful courage. But when he saw the hand of his friend Brutus raised to strike, he wrapped his head in his mantle and died. Once Christ had come, the awfulness of sin lay not in its breaking of the law but in its trampling of the love of Christ under foot.
Deliberate Sin is the Failure to see the Sacredness of Sacred Things
Nothing produces a shudder like sacrilege (irreverence/disrespect). The writer to the Hebrews says in effect: “Look at what has been done for you; look at the shed blood and the broken body of Christ; look at what your new relationship to God cost; can you treat it as if it did not matter? Don’t you see what a sacred thing it is?” Deliberate sin is the failure to realize the sacredness of that sacrifice upon the cross.
Deliberate Sin is an Insult to the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit speaks within us, telling us what is right and wrong, seeking to check us when we are on the way to sin and to spur us on when we are drifting into lethargy. To disregard these voices is to insult the Spirit and to grieve the heart of God. Hebrews calls it as OUTRAGING THE SPIRIT OF GRACE.
Deliberate sin is not just disobedience. It is wrecking of a personal relationship and the wounding of the heart of the God whose name is Father.
The writer to the Hebrew finishes his appeal with a threat, where the sternness of God is clearly seen. At the heart of Christianity there remains forever a threat. To remove that threat is to emasculate (to weaken) the faith. At the end of the day, it is not all one for the good and the bad man alike. No man can evade the fact that in the end judgment comes.
Application: Are you living in the grace of God or are you outraging the Spirit of grace? Could it be today you fail to obtain the grace of God because you deliberately sin against Christ, even though you know the truth? There are these two groups of young people. Both groups know it is wrong to drink and to smoke. The first group after being disciplined, defiantly left our church, even though much goodness in the form of financial aids have been accorded to their education and family from this church. They are like what Hebrews 6 says – land drinking rain of goodness from the Lord but instead of bearing fruits of righteousness, bear bad fruit. They refuse to submit to the demands of the gospel which is the surrendering of their vices and their lives to the Lord Jesus. They left and today are still gathering together as a group to drink and smoke. Another group heard about the discipline of the church upon the first group. Yet these two girls still went ahead deliberately to join text mates, who are strangers, in Villa to drink. The scariest thing is to hear one from the first group say in effect, “Yah, even if I have left church, I am still under the mercy of God.” Wrong! If you sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of truth, there remains a fearful prospect of judgment and a fury of fire which will consume them.
Another term of the gospel is FORGIVENESS. As long as we refuse to submit to this term of the gospel, we will fail to obtain the grace of God. Why? Because forgiveness is the very essence of the gospel. But how many of us today are cutting off the grace of God in our lives simply because of a root of bitterness which we have allowed to grow within our hearts?
Hebrews 12:15 mentions the root of bitterness and this refers to a spirit or attitude characterized by intense animosity and resentment. Here it may refer to an attitude of bitter resentment against God’s discipline instead of humble submission to his will for our lives. Bitterness can also be directed towards a person in the church. It results in defiling the person who is bitter, that is, making him unfit to approach God in prayer. Bitterness in the community of believers can spread and defile many, destroying the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
Two little brothers, Harry and James had finished supper and were playing until bedtime. Somehow, Harry hit James with a stick, and tears and bitter words followed. Charges and accusations were still being exchanged as mother prepared them for bed. The mother instructed, “Now James, before you go to bed you’re going to have to forgive your brother.” James was thoughtful for a few moments, and then he replied, “Well, OK, I’ll forgive him tonight, but if I don’t die before I wake up, he’d better look out in the morning.”
We love to nurse grudges against our offender. In fact, as I shared in the Bible Study all the words used for grudges pertain to a baby – bear a grudge, hold a grudge, carry a grudge, nurse a grudge till it grows into a tree of unrighteousness and then it defiles us and others and worse, it cuts us off from the grace of God.
So, brothers and sisters, don’t presume upon the grace of God. We short-circuit the grace of God when we refuse to submit to the terms of the gospel and continue in our deliberate sin and bitterness.
2. Failure To Be Contented
When there is failure in us to be contented with the real things of God, we will fail to obtain it.
Many of us are instead contented with a RELIGIOUS SUBSTITUTE. How many are deceived by a “form of godliness” who knows nothing of its “power” (2 Tim 3:5). How many mistake head knowledge of the Truth for a miracle of grace wrought in the heart? How many substitute outward forms and ceremonies for an experimental acquaintance with the substance of them. How many confuse an external reformation of life with real spiritual regeneration and transformation of the soul. Alas, of how very many does it have to be said, “He feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, “Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?” (Isa 44:20). O how few there are who know and understand the “grace of God in truth” (Col 1:6). Do you?
If you understand the grace of God in truth, you will aim for the substance, which is the real thing, than to pursue the shadow. A few Tuesday ago, I shared in the Bible Study a topic called “Shadow Mission.” I said, “You and I were created to have mission in life. We were made to make a difference. But if we do not pursue the mission for which God made us, we will find a substitute. We cannot live in the absence of purpose. If we do not live our God-assigned mission, we will live what might be called a shadow mission…….Shadow mission is defined as those patterns of thought and action that betray our deepest values, that lead to regret and guilt. It describes that sense of hiddenness, vagueness and confusion that our sin causes. Our shadow mission is what we will do with our life if we drift away from God. It consists of the activities toward which we will gravitate if we allow our natural temptations and selfishness to take over.” There is also such a thing as “shadow grace”. Shadow grace is cheap grace. Substance grace is the real thing. That involves your understanding of the grace of God according to the truth of the Bible, not according to your own definition. If you really know the real grace of God, you will understand that the grace of God is meant to lead us to repentance and not to use it to justify our continual sins. Your heart will really experience the real divine influence which will stir up gratitude within you and motivate you to love and serve God even more.
- We sing “Sweet Hour of Prayer” and are content with 5-10 minutes of quiet time.
- We sing “Onward Christian Soldiers” and wait to be drafted into His service.
- We sing “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” and don’t use the one we have.
- We sing “There Shall be Showers of Blessing” but do not come to church when it rains.
- We sing “Blest Be The Tie That Binds” and let the least little offense sever it.
- We sing “Serve The Lord With Gladness” and gripe about all we have to do.
- We sing “I Love To Tell The Story” and never mention it at all.
- We sing, “We’re Marching To Zion” but fail to march to worship or SCG.
- We sing “Cast Thy Burdens on The Lord” and worry ourselves into a nervous breakdown.
- We sing, “The Whole Wide World for Jesus” and never invite our next-door neighbor.
- We sing, “O Day of Rest and Gladness” and wear ourselves out traveling, working, cooking, doing laundry or playing golf on Sunday.
- We sing “Throw Out The Lifeline” and content ourselves with throwing out a fishing line.
We all have a propensity towards being contented with substitute than the real things of God.
Some have maintained an admirable character to all appearance all their lives, and yet have failed of the grace of God because of some secret sin. They persuaded even themselves that they were believers, and yet they were not truly so. They had no inward holiness; they allowed one sin to get the mastery; they indulged in an unsanctified passion and so, though they were laid in the grave like sheep, they died with a false hope, and missed eternal life. This is a most dreadful state to be in and perhaps some of us are in it.
May we pray, “Search me, O God and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Ask yourself this morning, “Do I have the real grace of God or do I fall short of it? Am I a piece of rock crystal which looks like diamond but is not or am I real diamond?”
3. Failure To Persevere
In other words, you are earnest and zealous at first but become careless and slothful.
There are some persons who for a time appear to possess the grace of God and for a while exhibit many outward evidences of being Christians, but at last the temptation comes at an opportune time to their depraved appetite and they are carried away with it. They fail of the grace of God. They appear to have attained it but they fail in the end. They fail of the grace of God – like an arrow shot from the bow, which goes straight towards the target for a time but having too little impetus, fails to reach the mark. There are some who did run well, what doth hinder them that they should not obey the truth?”
You were running well for a while but then something came and hindered you? What causes you to miss the grace? Slothfulness in your prayer life – no discipline for quiet time? For some, it is worldly cares like a newborn baby; a new job; a new wife; a new house or a new car.
4. Failure To Improve
There are some genuine Christians who fail to obtain the grace of God because they fail to improve upon that which God has already bestowed upon them.
Faith has been imparted to them but how little they exercise it. There is an infinite fullness in Christ for them but how little do they draw upon it. Wondrous privileges are theirs, but how little do they use them. Light has been communicated to them, but how little do they walk in it.
They fail to watch and pray and that is why they enter into temptation (Mark 14:38). They fail to cleanse themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. They fail to grow in the grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus (2 Peter 3:18). They fail to keep themselves from idols (1 John 5:21).
Do you know that idolatry is one of the potent factors to cause God to take His hand off you and leave you alone? I was shocked when I read an ominous verse, a verse that I used to overlook but then one day God showed me a revelation out of it: “Ephraim is joined to idols, leave him alone” (Hosea 4:17). I cannot think of anything worse than for God to leave me alone. It is said of those who rejected the knowledge of creation clearly revealed to the conscience, that God merely “gave them over” (Rom 1:24,26). Notice Paul didn’t say that God clubbed them or pushed them; He just gave them up. The Psalmist David dreaded God’s “HOT displeasure” (Psa 38:1 KJV) but C.H. Spurgeon implied that there was something worse than that – GOD’S COLD SHOULDER: “Who can stand before his cold?” (Psa 147:17 KJV). That is when God ceases to deal with a person. It is precisely what Hebrews 6:4-6 means by a person who cannot be renewed again to repentance.
Brothers and sisters, if today, you are harboring an idol, which Pas Toh Nee has shared in detail in his sermon called “Strange God”, you will fail to obtain the grace of God. God is a jealous God. He hates to share his love and throne with another rival. If your idol is your perverted lust for homosexuality; or your barcada; or pleasure – then God will leave you alone. You will get His cold shoulder.
Other examples of failure to improve could also include your failure to keep yourself in the love of God (Jude 21). And by so failing, your peace is disturbed, your joy is diminished, your testimony is marred and frequent chastenings are brought upon you.
“For of his fullness we all received; and grace for grace” (John 1:16). “Grace upon grace” is the literal translation – like the waves of the sea! As one comes, there is another close behind it. Dr Charles Spurgeon tells of a man to whom was entrusted a large sum of money for the benefit of a poor minister. He thought it would be best to distribute the gift, instead of sending it all at once. So he mailed the poor minister five pounds and inside the envelope, he placed a little slip of paper on which was written, “More to follow.” Thus, for ever so long, the old minister received regularly this little package of money, always with the “more to follow” note inside. Thus God deals with us. The grace we receive today is but a pledge of that which will be given tomorrow, that which we receive tomorrow will likewise be stamped, “More to follow.” But we can by our hands, stop the daily flow of God’s grace to our lives if we fail to:
- Submit to the terms of the Gospel
- Be contented with the real things of God
- Improve what God has already given us.
The grace of God is like an opportunity given to you on a daily basis. You can avail to it or you can miss it. If you have failed to obtain the grace of God and has been witnessing the severity of God’s dealing upon your life, you can put a stop to it- Get rid of the things that short-circuit the grace of God. Make the connection so that the grace of God can once flow in your life.
End of Sermon