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The Gift of Grace: Believe it, Receive it, Respond to it, and Pass it On

This week's gift is something that once we understand and receive it, we spend the rest of our lives trying to respond to it and pass it on. Recounting the story of the unforgiving servant - the one who was absolved of a huge, unpayable debt only to withhold grace from his debtor - Todd explains that until we understand our need for grace before a holy God and the enormity of our debt to Him, we will be unable to forgive others, resolve conflict, or pass along this gift to those who need it as well.

Todd WagnerOct 21, 2007
Matthew 18:23-35

Messages In This Series (11)
A God-Sized Dream, a Servant's Heart and a Warrior's Passion: The Pursuit of a Heroic and Humble Life
Todd WagnerDec 2, 2007
The Grateful Heart: A Real Simple Way to Avoid Being Seduced
Todd WagnerNov 25, 2007
The Gift of Community: An Artery of Grace that Must Never Get Clogged
Todd WagnerNov 18, 2007
Serving all Men without Shorting any Truth: The Gift of Relevance
Todd WagnerNov 11, 2007
A Passion for Prayer: It's Not What You Think
Todd WagnerNov 4, 2007
The Gift of Authenticity: The Freedom to Show Our Scars
Todd WagnerOct 28, 2007
The Gift of Grace: Believe it, Receive it, Respond to it, and Pass it On
Todd WagnerOct 21, 2007
We Must Work it Out: Learning to Deal with Conflict
Todd WagnerOct 14, 2007
A Love for Those Who do not Love God: Commitment to the Uncommitted
Todd WagnerSep 30, 2007
God's Authoritative Word: A Product That Can't be Beat
Todd WagnerSep 23, 2007
Living a Life of Full Devotion to Christ: Out of the "Limbo Line" and into the Party
Todd WagnerSep 16, 2007

This is a fun Sunday for me get to do what I get to do because I get to talk about one of the easiest topics to talk about, although it's offensives to some. In fact, the topic I'm going to talk about this morning, it says it's a stumbling block to religiously-minded people, and it's offensive and a joke to people who count themselves as wise. I love to talk about that. You may stumble over it, or you may think I'm a simpleton, but I want to tell you I'm going to talk about the most amazing, wonderful truth in all of God's Word this morning.

We're in the middle of a little series called Gifts I'd Give My Children. I love and need my children. I want my children to have this as a component of their life, and I need them to be aware of their need for this provision, and if we're going to be close, I need them to exhibit this attribute in their life.

The same goes with me and you. I am desperate for us to get our arms around this incredible idea, this concept. I'm going to need it from you if we're going to get along. The concept is a concept of grace. We can never earn what we truly want, and we can never deserve what we truly need. Unless there was an economy of grace, we are in a world of hurt.

I just reread one of the most startling verses in all of Scripture recently. One of the ones I marvel at and laugh at, it bothers me in some ways, and most of all in humbles me and makes me go, "I am so glad this is my God." Are you ready? It comes in a strange place. Those of you who have been working through the Scripture with us in this little thing called Join the Journey have just read it yourself.

It comes in 1 Kings 15:5. He's rebuking the kings in Northern Israel because they didn't walk with God. He says, "You're nothing like David, and you're going to have a really hard go of it because you're not like David." This is what it says. "…because David did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life…" David did the right thing. "…except in the case of Uriah the Hittite."

The reason I love that passage is because of the way it ends. We all know that David was a man after God's own heart, but this is what it says about David. "David was my man. David is what I want every man to be. David never did anything wrong. He did everything I commanded him, except for the case of Uriah the Hittite."

If you don't know the Bible, you might go, "That seems odd. What did he do? Not pay Uriah back for some money he borrowed for milk one day at lunch?" No, that wasn't the issue. Let me paraphrase what it could say there at the end. "He did not turn aside from anything that I, the Lord, commanded him all the days of his life except for the most infamous sin in the Bible apart from eating the apple. Except for the greatest display of self-indulgence, the grandest abuse of power, and the greatest conspiracy in the Scripture, David did everything I asked him to do."

Can you imagine if somebody called and said, "We have an opportunity for somebody to lead this new work of God that's going to be used of God like no other work of God has been used in the last generation"? They called, and they said, "We'd like to consider Todd for this job," and they asked the elders and the community of faith at Watermark, and said, "What do you think about Todd?"

They go, "Todd has been a great pastor for us. He has sought God with a great deal of passion. We have loved him. We have watched him lead us extremely effectively. I think he's been the perfect pastor, except there was one member of the body, one gal who he used his position and power to seduce her and slept with her.

Then to cover that up, he murdered her husband, and then he actually obligated and intimidated the rest of his staff to help him cover up this mistake and never acknowledged it personally until he was absolutely confronted in a way that he could not escape from. But other than that, he has been one of the finest godly men that we've ever really had and could think of having. So we heartedly recommend him to you. In fact, we think he should be the example that you hold up to other pastors."

What? Are you kidding me? Such is the God of grace. It is offensive. It really is. It is offensive grace. It is a grace that I am desperate to understand. I will tell you this is a truth that you just have to believe. Until you see yourself as you really are, in light of who God is, you will never, ever believe you have a need for grace. You will never respond to that grace in the way you should once you receive it. Because of that, it will be impossible for you to pass that grace onto others.

As I thought about really what I want to tell you about grace, I want to tell you that you have to believe you need it. Not just believe you need it, you have to pursue how you receive it according to God's Word. Then you have to respond to it with all your heart, and then you have to pass it on every day.

There is one great story in Scripture that captures this as much as any other, and we're going to spend most of our time hanging out there today. It comes perfectly on the heels of where we focused last week. Where did we focus last week? We focused on what God says is one of the major things that will mark you as his people. That which will allow you to be known as sons of God."

In other words, "people will know that I'm your Father when you are a peacemaker," when you're an individual who is diligent to preserve unity, when you're an individual who will pursue oneness with other people, even people sometimes who hurt you. When you pursue people like that, reconcile as much as you're able to be at peace with other men, then the people will say, "These people have a divine compassion and characteristic about them that speaks of their relationship with a loving, divine, compassionate, slow-to-anger God.

In that little passage in Matthew 18 (starting in verse 15) where he walks you through how you're to live and how you're to interact with one another, right after that, there was a guy there who we love because Peter asked the questions that we would ask if we were there. I am so grateful for Peter, because Peter was not into church.

What I mean by that is he did not fall into the peer pressure of what most of us do when we would like to raise our hands and go, "I have a problem with that if nobody else does. Can somebody please ask him this? Did you just hear him say he's God and King of the world, he's come to be the redeemer of Israel, and then did you hear him say he's going to go die on a cross? That's nuts. Jesus, you're whacked."

Right after he got through saying, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," Jesus said to Peter, "Blessed are you, Simon, because that's not something you figured out. God allowed the scales to fall off your eyes and for you to see it. I want to tell the rest of you guys that I am exactly who Peter said I was, but I'm going to be handed over to the Scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the leaders of the Gentiles. They're going to torture me. They're going to beat me. They're going to hang me on a cross and crucify me."

Peter goes, "Stop. Time out. God forbid it, Lord." That's a hilarious statement. "God, you don't know what you're talking about it. Let me intervene and tell you how this thing should work out." There's another time right after Peter hears about how we're to work through conflict, and Peter goes, "That's all good, Lord. We're all very motivated by your speech there on unity. Nice job. That was very impressive. Now, back to reality. How many times are we supposed to do that?"

Peter knew that religious people, externally righteous people, did it three times. If you're hanging with somebody, the old saying in America… In fact, we've dumbed it down to this. "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me," which means, "First time you make a mistake, okay. That hurt. That was bad, but you're never going to do it again because I'm done with you." Do you see where we've dumbed it down? Once and done.

Religious people, really mature people, in their culture did it three times. So Peter steps up and goes, "Nice speech, Master. You've enlarged my view of conciliation. Let's just say I forgive people seven times. Then what? Is that enough?" Jesus looks at him and goes, "Hey bro, not 7 times, but 7 times 70," which is his way of saying, "You live like this all the time." Matthew 18. We'll start in verse 23.

He says, "For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves." The first rule in the world is you owe, you pay. That's why it's called the loan shark, not the loan bunny. If you owe, you're going to pay. There's a king, and he's going to settle accounts with his slaves. Watch who he's going to settle accounts with. His slaves.

"When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents…" That doesn't mean very much to do us, but I want to explain that to you. A talent, depending on which scholar you talked to, weighed between 58 to 70 pounds of gold. Really what Jesus was doing when he said he owed 10,000 talents was that Jesus grabbed the highest number that really was in the language of the day. He took this extravagantly huge number and said, "This slave owed the master 10,000 talents."

I was just on the web a little bit ago, and gold today is selling for $763 an ounce, which comes out to $12,208 per pound which, at 70 pounds, which is right in the middle of the 58 to 80 range where scholars think a talent was weighed out during that time. That comes to a grand total of $854,560 per talent, which for 10,000 talents comes to $8,545,600,000. That's what this guy owed.

A couple things come to mind when you hear this. The first question you ask is this. How can a slave ever get this much of an advance? The answer to the first question is that this is an incredibly generous king. He lavishly provides for his people. The second question you're going to come across is this. What kind of idiot takes this much money without considering that there will be a day of reckoning?

The answer to that is, an idiot. That's who takes money and doesn't think about, "I'm going to have to pay this back one day. I'm going to have to give an account. There is one I am culpable to when I take from them what they give me." If you don't ever take into account that this life that you've given, this giftedness that you've been given, the blessings in this world that you've been given, the time you've been given, every beat of your heart that you've been given, there is an accounting for that that is coming. This is a God of settled accounts. You're going to see that very clearly.

Now watch what happens in this little moment. He goes onto say this. "When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold…" In other words, "Get what you can for them. We're never going to get back the billions of dollars he owes us, so just get what you can."

"…along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made." He's saying,"If he can't give me what he owes me, his very life will be required of him." Verse 26. "So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.'" Really? Everything? I'll think about that. Either this slave does not have his arms around reality, or he's still scamming. He's a con artist. He tried to avoid you, but now that you found him, he's going to try going for the Hail Mary. He's going to throw himself down before you. He's going to cry. He's going to look earnest. He's going to say, "Forgive me."

"…I will repay you everything." What an arrogant statement. A slave. Do you see what Jesus is doing? He is trying to infinitely separate these two. He's taking the largest number known in the society of the day, and he's saying, "A slave said he's going to repay it. Really? Really?

A long time ago, what I did is I went back and looked. I came up at the time (based on the price of gold, which was way down) that we're talking about $18 million. By the way, a slave, if he was compensated, would make about $0.16 a day. Let's just say this man earned as much as $30 a day, and let's say all he owed was $18 million. If he gave everything he worked for every day back to the king, he could repay the king in 1,800 years. How many of us have 1,800 years to go to work? None of us.

Just to have fun with this. If you were charged 12 percent interest that was compounded annually, and he continued to pay 100 percent of his income ($10,000 a year at $30 a day every year), then at the end of 100 years, he would owe $46,981,835. At the end of 500 years, he would owe over $2 billion. At the end of 1,000 years, he would owe $356 billion. At the end of 1,500 years, he would owe $139 trillion. At the end of the 1,800 years, he would owe over $1,020,755,600,000,000.

What Jesus is doing is he's talking in such hyperbole here that people are going, "What are you even talking about?" What he's trying to say in the midst of this story is it is crazy to ever think that you could repay the debt that you, as a slave, owe the king. Let me say what I said at the very beginning. Until you understand who you are in light of who God is, you'll never believe grace is necessary. You'll never receive grace with gladness. You'll never respond to it the way that God's Word says you should respond to it, and you will not pass it on to others.

If you think, "I'll repay you, I'll be good enough long enough that you'll be impressed." This is why what Jesus did earlier in his ministry is he grabbed the individuals who looked the most righteous externally. When you don't understand what real holiness is, we always externalize righteousness. God doesn't want us to externalize righteousness. We call it somebody who is pompous, somebody who is pharisaical, somebody who has all the trappings of religion, but God doesn't care about trappings. He cares about the heart. You get the heart right, and the hands will take care of themselves.

There's an old church in Europe that has a clock that is in the back that broke a long time ago, and they left it broken. So even a clock that is broken tells the correct time two times a day. This clock has a little sign they left underneath there that said, "Don't be frustrated with the hands. The problem lies much, much deeper."

That's the deal with our life. Sometimes, we look and we judge righteousness by external behavior, and God says, "That's not the way I judge righteousness. I want you to internalize what is righteous." When I was working with kids 20-some-odd years ago, the way I taught this lesson to them is when I was talking about what God really cares about…what you ought to really care about…I would get up there two cups that I had.

One I would cake the outside with grease and mud and all kinds of nasty, obviously very fifthly, dirty stuff. I put the glass up here. I put another glass up here that was perfectly clean on the outside. Then I got their favorite drink, whatever it was for the day (Mountain Dew, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, or whatever they wanted), and I'd put some ice in both cups. On a hot day, I'd pour it in there. I'd pour it both of them, and I'd go, "You can have whatever cup you want. Which cup do you want to drink from?"

Immediately, everybody goes, "Give me that one. Give me the clean one on the outside." What they didn't know is on the inside, I'd let it sit in vinegar all night long, and other components like that to where it had attached itself to the inside of that glass, so when you put something in there, even though it looked empty, there was all kind of fifth and junk and nasty tasting stuff in there. Some granules of things in the bottom that wouldn't allow that drink to maintain its flavor.

On the cup that was dirty on the outside, it was completely pristine on the inside. Then I let them come up here, and they went at it with a vengeance. I got some brave soul to drink from the dirty outside cup, and he pounded it and had no problem. This person spit it out after the second swallow. I go, "What really matters is what's on the inside."

Obviously, we want to do all that we can to have our outside be clean in a way that's consistent with our inside, but again, I just showed them. "Don't worry about the external if your inside is corrupt. That's called being hypocritical. That's what the world doesn't like about us when they see us act certain ways at certain times, but we never deal with the real problem which is in our heart.

God is saying, "I am concerned about your heart and where it is in relationship to me." That's why Jesus came and said, "Some of you guys took these 10 commandants I gave you, and you said you're all proud of yourself because you don't commit adultery, but when you look at a woman, and you want to possess her in your mind, and you run towards exploiting her for your own selfish passions, that's adultery.

You've heard me say you shouldn't murder like Uriah the Hittite was murdered, but I'm telling you guys those of you who have slandered each other and have called an idiot, who have tried to bring other people down, you've committed murder." On and on and on, he went. He just ratcheted the bar way up. Then he said this amazing thing in Matthew 5:22.

He said, "Unless your righteousness surpasses that of those who look more righteous than anybody else who lives today, you're not going to enter the kingdom of heaven. Unless you are more righteous than the Pharisees, you're not going to heaven." At which point everybody went, "Well, then who can go to heaven?"

He said, "Not people who were doing all these religious things, but people who realized the corruption of their heart." What Jesus did is he created an infinite chasm between his nature and man's nature. If you think there is an extravagant difference between $1 quadrillion and my ability to repay it in a lifetime, what is the distance between perfection and imperfection? It is infinite, even when off by one grade.

People who don't understand their need for grace are folks who make one of two mistakes every time, and usually some combination of both. They have too low a view of God or too high a view of themselves. God is somebody who can be impressed and appeased like a coach. That if you have enough athletic talent, there's no way he's not going to want you on his team. Most of us overestimate our righteous athletic ability. We don't think the gap is that big, so we think we can make the team.

God says, "I don't have anybody on my team who ever turns the ball over, who ever throws one interception, who ever throws one incompletion, who ever looks the wrong way, who doesn't execute right every time, who isn't going, 'Hut,' when it's 'Hut,' doesn't make an arm tackle but makes a strong blow that every time he tackles, the ball is coughed up from the opponent, and you recover it, and you run it back for a touchdown every time. That's my team."

At which point, we'd go, "Well, why try out? No one can play football like that." He goes, "Exactly. That's who I am, though, in my nature. I will not allow your corrupt nature to be joined in oneness to my infinite nature. If you combine imperfection with perfection, what happens? The imperfect makes the perfect imperfect."

So God says, "We can't be one unless something happens to the nature of the imperfect. Unless, by grace, a creative force comes and makes that which is unacceptable, acceptable, that which is imperfect, perfect, that which could never pay the debt, have the debt paid." Watch what happens in the story. After the slave fell to the ground, it says, "And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt." There is a new paradigm. You owe; I pay. The unpayable debt I'll take care of.

There was a time in the Scripture where Moses was crying out, "I want to know you, God. Reveal yourself to me. Show me who you are." In Exodus 34, it says he revealed himself to him. He went, and he said, "Here's who I am. I am compassionate, I am gracious, I am slow to anger, I am abounding in lovingkindness and truth. Do you want to know who I am, Moses? This is who I am. But don't take that lightly. I keep lovingkindness for thousands. I forgive iniquity, transgressions, and sin. But, get this right, Mo. I, by no means, will let the guilty go unpunished."

So you go, "How's God going to solve this conundrum? What's he going to do? He's holy and we're not, and he loves us, but he can't have any to do with us because we're not like him?" There's a new economy in town. Watch. The Lord forgave him his debt. The Lord covered it because of his kindness.

How do you respond to that if you're that kind of person? You get done crying, and you look up. You go, "Really? Really? Did you just say I'm forgiven? Do you mean that I get to go back and tell my wife and kids, through no merit of their dad that we're free, that we're even, that we're not going to be sold and departed from one another? Do you mean that?"

What would you do if that was you? One of two options. I think what this slave did is he went back and goes, "Sweetie, I did it again. I did it again. I got it. I cried. It was kind of humbling, but for $4 quadrillion, who wouldn't do that little gig? I did my best. I got up there. I cried. I mean, I was compelling, and he was moved, and he said clean." She goes, "Clean?"

"Clean. Can your man do it or can your man do it?" I think that's what this guy did. Do you know what people who really get grace do? They stay on their face until the master comes and picks up their head and says, "You're free. I meant what I said. Go. Just live and love with me, live wisely. Here's how I'd like you to live. In a way that will bless you, and it'll honor me. It'll make peace in the kingdom, but I don't want to hurt you. What you've been doing has been hurting yourself. The guilt, the shame, the darkness, the depression that you've been living in, the fear. I want that gone.So I'm going to take care of it."

I think what you'd do is if you didn't know how to sing, you'd go learn how to sing. If you didn't know how to learn to write songs, you'd find somebody who did. You'd say, "Let's write songs about this king. Let's go everywhere we can and talk about this king. Let's do everything we can to become like that king." That's not what he did. This is what he did.

He gave his wife a high-five, figured he had made it, and moved on. Then that slave went right out of that little room, and he went out and found, in verse 28, one of his fellow slaves who owed him 100 denarii. That's a silver coin worth $0.16. It's what you get for a day's wages. The other slave owed him what he (a slave) could pay back in 100 days. See if this looks familiar.

"So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you.' But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. So when his fellow slaves [everybody else] saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened."

So his lord said, "Come here, you wicked slave." Notice he didn't call him wicked earlier because he was an idiot. He called him wicked now because he didn't respond to the nature of the king. "I forgave you all the debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave? Let me tell you how we're going to do business now. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave? Let me tell you how we're going to do business now. In the same way that I had mercy on you, you should've had it, but you didn't."

"And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him." What is implied there? When could he have repaid him? Never. Not in this lifetime. So once this lifetime is over, there's no opportunity to repay it, so you'll pay in the next lifetime. Verse 35. "My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart."

There's a great little story that Jesus also tells in Scripture. It comes in Luke 7 about a gal who really lavished love on Jesus Christ, and others were offended at the way she loved him. They said, "How can you let her do that?" He says, "Do you know why she's doing that? Because she knows who I am, and she knows how much she's been forgiven. If you knew who you were, you'd do that.

The one who has been forgiven much loves me. You don't love me, you hate me because I'm exposing that your external righteousness is really no righteousness at all, and you hate me for that." I'm not here to expose your external righteousness to make you look small. I'm here to expose your external righteousness so you'll throw yourself down before God asks for mercy, and he'll make you great. But God's opposed to the proud, just like you, but he gives grace to the humble.

Grace. The word in Greek is charis. We bring that word over into our English, and it's called charity. What's charity? You give to somebody what they cannot get what they need by themselves. My God, am I ever a charity case. "Hey Todd, be perfect like your heavenly Father is perfect." Oh, that was your first statement? Can I tell you something? It's too late for me.

"New economy. You owe. I pay. By the way, it'll be a good thing because I'm an infinite God, so when you offend me, you infinitely offend me. So I'm going send an infinite one. Who has no beginning or end. One who always has been and always will be. He will become like you. He'll walk. He'll do no wrong where he walks like you. I'll allow him to die, and that infinitely perfect sacrifice will appease my infinitely perfect justice. I will then be both just and the justifier of those who love him."

Get this. This is no God of sloppy accounting. This is no grandfather loan that God winks at you eventually and says, "Okay. There is a debt that is paid. It's infinitely more than quadrillion," and God says, "I'll cover it." Why? Because he is abundant in loving kindness. Can I tell you something?

What you see in the Scripture is there is often a second chance, but there is always a last chance. I love the statement that one guy said, literally, 1,700 years ago. He said, "God has promised us forgiveness to our repentance, but he has not promised tomorrow to our procrastination."

Do you know who God is? Have you seen yourself in light of who he is? Do you know how totally depraved you are? Do you know how you're filled with selfishness and lust and disgust and covertness and anger and self-righteousness? Do you know how your external acts of goodness, maybe your philanthropy, maybe your attendance, maybe your study, don't impress a God who expects perfection?

Until you see who you are in light of who God is, you're never going to celebrate grace. You're never going to say, "Lord, how do I receive that?" He says, "Here's how you receive it. You acknowledge you need it. Not in some outward show of repentance, but with a heart that is broken. I don't want 1,000 bulls. I own all the bulls on all the hills. What I want is a broken and contrite spirit."

That's why David was a man after God's own heart. Because even when he messed around with Bathsheba, even when he intimidated his people to join his conspiracy, even when he killed Uriah and he finally, by the grace of God, came to his senses for God sent a Spirit of truth to him in the form of a prophet. He said, "David, you're that man." David immediately hit his knees, and he said, "O God. What can I do?"

He had the kingdom. He could have sacrificed the kingdom, but he didn't. He said, "God, you don't want the kingdom. You want me to acknowledge who I am. A broken and contrite heart." Even in his sin and the way he responded to it, David honored God. That's what the Lord is after. When you understand, and you receive grace the way David did, the way Todd Wagner has, you spend the rest of your life trying to respond to it.

I have a good friend. Maybe many of you know him. He pastored a great church, affected a lot of college kids not far from here. He just made a tough decision. He made a Bathsheba-type decision. But by the grace of God, he's come back around. He's come back around. One of the things he said was this.

"Do you know what I've learned about this? I have learned that gratitude is not important. It is absolutely critical for you to stay faithful to God. I just got ungrateful for who God was. I started to look at all the things I didn't have, and I forgot to count the multitude and myriad of blessings I did have. I thought I was entitled, even though I was a king, to get that little princess."

He said, "Gratitude is not important. It's absolutely critical and essential. When you forget all of your benefits…" That's why in Psalm 103, it says this. "Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits…" Do you know how much your debt was? Do you know how far imperfection is separated from perfection? Do you know the character and nature of God? Do you think too highly of yourself and too little of him? Then grace does not amaze you. It offends you. You're going to meet this God who settles accounts.

Do you know what's really amazing about this story? I don't think I ever noticed this until this week when I was looking at it again. This story comes right on the heels of, "We're supposed to resolve conflict with each other? How many times?" What would this story suggest? "Until I bring you home and you're free from conflict everywhere."

Do you know what follows this? This is what I never noticed before. I noticed what was before it. I never noticed what comes next in Scripture. What comes next is people said, "Are we allowed to divorce each other?" Wow. Do you know why Jesus says we can't get along and we end up divorcing in the most intimate of covenant human relationships? Because of our hard hearts, and because we don't live like the King.

Let me make this really clear to you. This is really important. Grace runs towards those who recognize they need it, but it does not enable those who run away from the one who is offering it. In other words, grace will let you see the truth, but it runs to you the second you see it. I love this passage. Luke 15:18-20. This is what it says.

It's the story of the prodigal son. He realizes that he has not been responding to the goodness of the father, and he says, "I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against [you and] heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.' So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off…"

His father had been looking for him. He wants to give him grace. He finally acknowledges that he needed that grace. "his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him." That is your God. Your God is a God of lavish provision, ridiculous generosity who runs to those who, in authenticity, go, "I have nothing to offer you except I am a jerk."

What he will not do is let you continue to live a life as if you don't know his goodness and you run away from him. If you run away from the one who is offering grace, he's not going to enable you. He's going to let you continue to feel the sting of that, the death of that, and eventually, if you don't want to go to him and seek mercy and grace, he'll let you have nothing to do with the God of grace and compassion, and you will see his nature of wrath.

If you don't want him to pay your debt, he'll let you pay your debt or do you best with your eternity to acknowledge how eternally different from God you are. That's his deal, gang. This is what Psalm 103 says a little bit later in verses 8-14.

"The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever." Don't miss that. There is often a second chance. There is always a last chance. God has offered forgiveness to our repentance, but he has not promised tomorrow to our procrastination. How are we doing?

Here's what I want to share with you guys. As I wanted to think a little bit back about last week, and as I thought about what comes after… This little story in Matthew 18, celebrating the goodness of our God, and how to respond to it. I started to think, "I want to share with the body what is the best practice in my marriage." I'm going to tell you the number one thing that allows my marriage to have biblical oneness. This is the best practice.

When Alex and I get sideways with each other because we're indebted to each other through selfishness, moodiness, anger, whatever it might be (insert your favorite Uriah incident), when we get that way with each other, and we realize we're not making headway to each other and all we're doing is escalating or withdrawing or not getting along, one of us comes to us and says, "Time out. This is not being productive. Let's both retreat. Let's both get alone."

Then we go, and we get alone, and we ask God, "Show me what my log is in this incident." The deal is I can't go watch TV. I can't go play golf. I can't go exercise. I don't go lose myself on some athletic event. I don't go study to prepare for something. She doesn't go out with some girlfriends. She doesn't get busy with housework. We both go, and we sit still until God does a work in our individual hearts.

When I'm ready to acknowledge my need for grace, and when I am ready to extend grace, then I can go, and I can knock gently on that door and say, "I'm ready when you are." She might go, "Well, I'm not ready yet." I go, "Okay. When you are, you tell me." Or often, she'll come to me, and she'll go, "Okay. I'm ready when you are." I might go, "Good. You should've been ready faster than me because your sin was five times what mine was." She'll go, "Okay. Take some more time."

Then she's free to go on about her day. If I'm ready, and she's not, I'm free to go about my day. If we can't get over this in a day, we call others in to help our hard hearts. But often (every time so far in our marriage) that we've done this, when one person knocks, someone says, "I just need a few more minutes here."

Sometimes, we've even left the house, and then the phone call comes. "I'm ready," and we stop what we're doing. We go back. We sit down. We start with the log in our eye, and we talk it through. We ask for forgiveness, and we extend forgiveness. In the midst of this, again and again, God heals our relationship.

Until you're ready to acknowledge your need for grace, and extend the grace that's needed to others, you can't have those kinds of relationships. This is the number one key to my friendships. This is the number one key to my marriage. This is going to be the number one key for us to be a God-exalting body.

We're going to be a group of people who acknowledge our need for grace, and we are going to extend the grace that is needed to each other. It doesn't mean we enable each other in sin. It means be with the Lord. That's why, by the way, at the end of the whole conflict thing, if somebody's not ready to acknowledge their need for grace, it says, "Don't let them confuse themselves with God's people. God's people all know their need for grace, but the second they come to their senses, you run to them and embrace them."

I have some friends right now that it is painful that they're not on the ranch. But I am standing with my toes on the edge of the ranch. When I can't find them where they are, I go and have interactions with them, and I am ready to run to them. I'm not going to say, "You hurt me for X number of months. You have X number of months coming back at you." I can't wait to embrace them.

That's who people of God are. That's who God wants us to be. Believe you need grace. Receive grace by asking for it, acknowledging that grace comes only through Jesus Christ, his perfect provision on a cross, his blood shed for your sin. You respond to grace. How would you respond to that kind of debt being paid? Answer: everything you have every day. That's worship. And then you extend it to others and pass it on.

Oh, man. May my kids know their need for grace because they're not perfect. May my kids be people who extend grace to their dad and to their friends. May this body of Jesus Christ be that. If you're here today, and you've never cried out to God for grace, will you? This is a God who settles accounts. He wants to pay the debt for you, but you have to acknowledge, not through some external behavior, but through a broken and contrite heart, "I am infinitely separated from perfection."

Scripture says, "He who's kept the whole law and yet offends in one point is a lawbreaker." So you don't have a Uriah the Hittite incident of that magnitude in your life, but it doesn't matter what you've done. If is it isn't perfect every time in word, thought, and deed, you are no friend of God until you ask God to be your friend by grace. Will you? If you've received that grace, will you pass it on, forever grateful that Jesus paid it all? That's worship.

Father, I thank you for this morning. What a privilege to stand here and talk about your grace. What a privilege to sing. Sing with my life. Sing with my friends. Sing with the way I live. Sing with the way I ask for forgiveness. Sing with the way I think. Sing with the way I study. Sing with the way I repent. Sing with the way I ask you, God, to take more ground in my heart and say, "I must decrease. You must increase," and then sing corporately with friends who remind me of the goodness it is to be inside the community of people who have acknowledged their need for grace and who eagerly extend the grace that's needed to others.

Oh, Jesus, we're thankful you've paid it all. God, we're thankful that you've sent your Son. May we sing. May my life sing that every day in every way I live. When I don't, may I go, "O Lord, there I go again. Will you forgive me"? Thank you for surrounding me with people of grace who accept me as I am, who say, "It's okay to be who you are, it's just not okay to stay that way. Come to Christ. Walk with him. Yield to him."

If you've never, ever asked Jesus to pay it all, let us know. We'll be here. We'll be in either room. To the left or right, it doesn't matter. Just go. Just say, "I want to know this Jesus." If you know that Jesus, will you sing with me? Will you worship him this week by saying, "I owe you everything"?

Worship is a continual expression of my love for you. That's the way I seek people who don't know it yet. I use all my relational credibility to get them in these seats so they can hear about this King. I do everything I can for my life to reflect that responding to that King is worth everything. Will you do that? Will you sing with me in worship? If you've never sung about the greatness of God before personally and individually, come. Come. And if you have, will you go and worship him? God bless you.


About 'Gifts I'd Give My Children'

What?s the best gift you?ve ever received? What present is so special that you?ll never forget the moment or the person who shared it with you?In this series, Todd Wagner overviews 11 gifts that the Lord desires for us to have. This collection of gifts forms the foundation that any pastor would want for a church and any parent would want for their child. In short, these gifts represent 11 non-negotiables in a life that is committed to full devotion to Christ.