What is GRACE? and how does it differ from the JUSTICE we deserve and the MERCY we sometimes get?

“I want to challenge you… to not only ACCEPT God’s grace, but to SHOW IT TO SOMEONE. If you’re a parent and have a child, the next time they mess up… PUT YOURSELF IN TIME OUT. When you get out of time out take them and go get them an ice cream cone… I mean NOT ALL THE TIME… but I’m just saying… cause here’s the thing… We’re telling our kids and the world about GRACE and they’ve NEVER SEEN IT. It’s no wonder so many people can’t really grasp it in their life.

GRACE by definition is un_earned… it’s un_merited favor. So the moment that you try to infuse anything else into your Salvation, you nullify GRACE… the moment you try to just say to yourself, “If I just do some more GOOD things, THEN it’ll work out for me…” or, “If I can just stop doing all these BAD THINGS, then it’ll work out for me..”  As soon as you start down that road you nullify Grace because Grace by its definition is unearned, it’s unmerited, and it can’t be mixed with anything else.  It needs to stand ALONE.

PLUS… at the end, you will experience a superb segue to the Holy Table of Communion –

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Pastor Dan Borgelt
Kirkmont Presbyterian Church
Beavercreek, Ohio

Listen to Sermon AUDIO (26:45) as you read TRANSCRIPTION below

Pastor Dan: “Thank you guys.  Well as we continue on our sermon series… we’re talking about this idea of the Seven Essential of the Faith… and that is the 7 things that are most important to believe for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church that is… an 8 week series on the most important stuff that we believe.

In the past we discussed the idea of God and the idea that God reveals Himself to us in Three Persons: The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit… a couple weeks ago we talked about the 2nd person of that Trinity, JESUS and we talked about the idea that Jesus came and He was on a mission to die on the Cross for our sins… to forgive us for our sins.

And then last week we discussed the role of the Holy Spirit and all the things that the Holy Spirit does in regards to our RELATIONSHIP with God the Father. And now we come to the topic of GRACE.

Ya know, ahm… when I was trying to illustrate the topic of GRACE in my head I thought, “Well, the best way to do that would be to come up with a story where I really messed up bad and then you could kind of work from there.  And you know sometimes when I’m trying to think of a story to illustrate for my life I have a really hard time coming up with one… this wasn’t one of them (Laughter).. Ya know… there’s like this whole repertoire of childhood memories of things I thought I could build off of, but I’m going to go back to just last summer.

Last Summer I had taken an unchurched friend of mine to a Christian Concert a couple hours away from our house… and we went to the concert and on the way back we were talking… and we were having this pretty good sort of faith-based conversation… we were talking, it was like 11:30 at night and I sort of just lost track of what was happening with my driving and all of the sudden I see the dreaded “Police Lights”…

So I pulled over and the cop pulled in behind me and you know the cop said, “Do you know why I’m pulling you over?” And I said, “No, ya know I don’t”… and he said, “You were speeding… do you have any idea of how fast you were going?”

And from point on I about did everything wrong that I thought I could do.  I said to him, “No, I really wasn’t paying attention” (Laughter)… I thought I was trying to get off the hook… and apparently they don’t like it when you say that. DO WE HAVE ANY POLICE OFFICERS IN THE… (Laughter)…ok, because I’ve got another story I could tell if… (Laughter)… alright we don’t… good.

OK so anyway he says, “You were going 74 miles per hour in a 55 miles per hour zone”… and I said, “I’m really sorry about that”… and he says, “I need your Driver’s License and your Insurance Card”… and so I gave him my Driver’s License and I keep my Insurance Card in my Glove Box.  About 5 minutes later I found my insurance card in the Glove Box… ya know… I handed it to him and he said, “Sir, your insurance card is outdated… it’s expired”… and I said, “I promise you, I promise you, I really do have insurance”… and he kinda gives me that look and he goes back to his car and he comes back a few minutes later and he says, “Did you know your tags were expired?” (LAUGHTER).

And so at this point in time I’m thinking, you know, I’m just in big trouble.

Now I just want to ask you… to talk about GRACE, we need to talk about JUSTICE and MERCY first. At this point in time, based on your definition of JUSTICE, what would have been the JUST thing for the cop to do? (LAUGHTER)… someone at First Service said, “Handcuff you” (laughter)… and so, write me some kind of expensive ticket for all this kind of stuff…

And now what would the MERCIFUL thing have been to do?

Well, MERCY is withholding punishment… JUSTICE is getting what you deserve, mercy is withholding punishment, so the merciful thing would’ve been for the police officer to just not give me a ticket and then send me on my way.

Now what would the GRACIOUS thing have been to do?  GRACE is defined by “unmerited favor”… meaning you get something really good that you didn’t deserve. So let’s just imagine what GRACE would’ve looked like. Grace is like the police saying, “No only do you not get a ticket (mercy), but in fact let me give YOU $200… Ok? (Laughter).

Anybody have that happen before? … Any gracious police officers out there?  No… There’re some merciful ones but not any gracious ones… so by the way, just to wrap up the story… I was shown… JUSTICE that day, and I deserved it (LAUGHTER)… that’s right.

See, when it comes to the topic of GRACE, so few people have actually SEEN grace… unmerited favor… Church people, unchurched people, it doesn’t matter. Some of us roll in circles where we TALK ABOUT GRACE–it gets mentioned, BUT SO FEW PEOPLE HAVE ACTUALLY SEEN LIVING, BREATHING GRACE IN THEIR LIFE–unmerited favor.

And it’s sad... because it’s so important. It’s GRACE that gets us to God… it’s the Grace that gets us to God and yet so many of us have not seen it ever, at all in our lives.


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Well, let’s look at this essential… ESSENTIAL #4. Would you join me in pulling out this insert. On the backside you’ll see Essential #4 singled out… let’s read it together… join me,

Being estranged from God and condemned by our sinfulness, our salvation is wholly dependent upon the work of God’s free grace. God credits His righteousness to those who put their faith in Christ alone for their salvation, and thereby justifies them in His sight. Only such as are born of the Holy Spirit and receive Jesus Christ become children of God and heirs of eternal life.

If we’re ever going to understand GRACE we need to understand the first part of this Essential… before we get into Grace-talk in this essential it first begins by saying something sounding very ungracious… “Being estranged from God and condemned by our sinfulness,” is what this essential says.

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Now I want to SHOW YOU this state and the character of God’s Grace, not by just telling you the Scripture that says, “God is gracious”, but I want you to see it unfold in a Biblical story of sorts.

[This is cool; it will take till the end… so focus and buckle your seatbelts]

The passage we’re gonna look at in a second involves JESUS, but it also involves a man named PETER. And for those of you who aren’t as familiar with the Bible and Church, Peter is at this time has become one of Jesus’ BEST FRIENDS.

Jesus called Peter into a relationship with Him and Peter TRUSTED in Jesus and looked up to Jesus and he has seen Jesus do all kinds of amazing things in his life…  they were close friends.

But the passage we’re going to look at picks up with when Jesus was in one of the most difficult times in His whole life… he’s been arrested, he’s being mocked, he’s being beaten and he’s in the middle of sort of a false trial… if you will.. and we read about how Peter handles that situation.

The Scripture tells us in Matthew 26 verse 69 through 75 this happened (Jesus has been arrested),

Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Ya know, this passage, it shows us that not only does Peter DENY Him… I mean just think about what it means to deny someone. Very few of us have ever had someone even deny that they know us, or are in a relationship with us… I mean I suppose if you’ve ever raised teenagers you’ve gotten pretty close to having them deny that you’re their parent at times.. you know, but for the most part, most of us haven’t experienced that.

But His BEST FRIEND comes along and denies Him, blatantly denies Him and he doesn’t deny Him once, he doesn’t deny Him twice, he denies Him THREE TIMES.  And not only does he deny Him but he denies Him in the middle one of the most crucial points in His life… He’s being arrested.  If there was ever a time to have a loyal, faithful friend this would have been ‘it’.

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If I were to ask you, “How many of you think that the Bible says that Jesus and Peter actually LOOKED at each other during this time…”, how many of you would say you think that actually happened? And how many of you would say, “No, I don’t think that had happened?”  How many of you think that Jesus and Peter were so close to each other that while Peter was denying Him they were able to make eye contact with each other?

That’s right… that’s exactly how I thought of the passage as well… that Peter was out somewhere else and Jesus was in the confines of some building… and maybe Jesus didn’t even KNOW that Peter actually went through with the denial… but the Scripture tells us in Luke 22:60, this is Luke’s account of Peter’s 3rd denial here,

Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. (And then in 61)… The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.

The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.  I remember when I first read that a couple years ago… I’d like to think I’d read it many years before that but it just didn’t register.  WOW… Peter’s not just denying Jesus, but they had this interaction… this eye contact.

I want to make that clear… just so when we see how Jesus responds to Peter’s actions there’s no doubt that He knows what Peter had done.

And when you read passages like this are you tempted like me to say, “How could he… man if I WAS THERE…“… ya know, but the truth of the matter is that the Scripture and this Essential tells us WE REALLY AREN’T ANY DIFFERENT THAN PETER… are we?

The Essential says that we are “estranged from God and condemned by our sinfulness“… it says that we are essentially SINNERS, the Scripture says that we are ALL sinners. In Romans, chapter 23 that’s exactly what the Scripture says,

For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God

And in Isaiah 53:6 the Scripture says,

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray,”

And it not only calls us “sinners” but it also says that we are ENEMIES of God… it goes so far as that in Romans, chapter 5… it tells us in 5:10

For when we were God’s enemies…”

So it tells us not only are we sinners, but because of our SIN… we are such BAD sinners, if you will, we are at one point in time ENEMIES of God… and then it goes on even further to make it’s point, the Scripture does and describes us as being “Spiritually dead”… we might be physically alive, but Spiritually we are dead, the Scripture says. In Colossians 2:13 the Scripture says this,

 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ.

And then in Ephesians, chapter 2, verse 1 the Scripture says,

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,

You see, our natural disposition is to be estranged from God and condemned by our sinfulness. WHO WE ARE APART FROM GOD is Spiritually DEAD.  Let me be clear, this is talking about EVERYONE… it doesn’t matter if you were BORN in the Church, RAISED in the Christian family, BAPTISED, CONFIRMED, faithful attendance, great Sunday School attendance… you know, all those types of things… it doesn’t matter if you came here this morning and you’re here on a regular basis and you’re one of the top givers to the church… and you were here EARLY or you were DRESSED UP nicer than anybody else… it doesn’t matter what resume you have.. the Scripture is telling us that apart from God’s GRACE… you are considered Spiritually dead.  And that’s who we are before we come to Jesus Christ.

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And once we embrace this reality… we begin to understand GRACE.

You see, everything in us… who we are naturally, who other people have told us we ought to be, and who “Religion” has taught us to be… have taught us that we ought to ADD SOMETHING… that we are supposed to add something to the equation of us getting into heaven… that yeah maybe Jesus did a whole lot of work but we’re supposed to DO SOMETHING to add to what He did to get us into heaven.


GRACE by definition is un_earned… it’s un_merited favor. So the moment that you try to infuse anything else into your Salvation, you nullify GRACE… the moment you try to just say to yourself, “If I just do some more GOOD things, THEN it’ll work out for me…” or, “If I can just stop doing all these BAD THINGS, then it’ll work out for me..”  As soon as you start down that road you nullify Grace because Grace by its definition is unearned, it’s unmerited, and it can’t be mixed with anything else.  It needs to stand ALONE.

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Ya know, in Minnesota… as some of you know I was called from a church in Minnesota a few months ago… we were there for about seven years… and every winter you would hear on the news, a story of someone who’d fallen through the ice… usually multiple stories.  And often, very tragic stories as well.

And it usually happened in the Spring… you wouldn’t think the Spring, but that’s usually when it happened because people who were into ice fishing, when the ice was safe, they would take these Ice Fishing Houses out onto the Lake… and they would take them so far out, they would DRIVE them out… they would pull them out there with their car.

And then what would happen though, many of them would leave them there too long… to the point where the ice was safe to walk on… but not necessarily safe to drive on. But they didn’t wanna have to drag the Ice House all the way back by foot, so they would push it a little bit and drive their car out and drive their car out on the ice and hook up the ice house; and sure enough, every Spring you would hear about someone who’d fallen through the ice.

This is like… JUNE, ya know (I’m kidding)… but Spring comes late there (Laughter).

But I just want you to imagine that you’re all of the sudden put in “Rescue Mode” there… and whether it’s someone you know, or you’re a “First Responder” or you just show up on the scene in rescue mode and you look for some kind of long rope, or you have a long rope, and you strap some kind of safety floating device onto it… and what you want to do is you run out there but before you get to the ice you STOP… right, because the last thing you want to do is walk out onto the ice also where someone else has just fallen through.  So you stop there and you throw the rope out… right?

And the point of throwing that out is you’re hoping that the person will grab onto it, and then you could pull them back to safety.

And the thing is that many people have sort of described THE CHRISTIAN STORY in that way… like we’re out there struggling on the ice and what God did with Jesus… is He’s like a “Life Line”… like He THREW JESUS OUT THERE and all we have to do is take ahold of Him… and some of us take ahold of Him and some of us don’t… we don’t know why but… either way, that’s the story.

But the Scripture doesn’t say that we’re struggling on the ice does it?  What’s the Scripture say?  Where are we?

I want you to imagine now you show up on the scene and there’s not someone flapping and wailing and screaming for you on the ice… they are in their car unconscious.  How many of you walk up to the edge and throw a Life Device… what good is that gonna do?  

The only chance for them being rescued is for you to go ALL THE WAY and `to “SAVE THEM” … they have no ability to offer ANYthing to their rescue… you’re going to have to do ALL OF IT.

And the Scripture says “we are Spiritually DEAD in our transgressions”… do you see why this is vital to understanding GRACE… because we’re there completely helpless, we have NO ability to offer ANY_thing to our rescue… Jesus on a Cross has to go all_the_way and save us. IT’S_ALL_BY_GRACE.

People say to me, “Yeah but Pastor I mean, we have to have FAITH… that’s the one thing we gotta have, we’ve gotta have faith… that’s the truth, Scripture says we’ve gotta have faith”.

BUT, that’s why the Scripture makes it clear that even “faith” in the Book of Ephesians, chapter 2, verses 8 and 9 tells us that even FAITH is a GIFT from GOD:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—

Why? … let’s keep that up there… why?… because if FAITH even was from ourselves we might still be here this morning with this smidgen of an attitude that says, “WE ARE THE ONES WHO PLACED OUR FAITH IN JESUS… AND I DON’T KNOW WHY THE REST OF THE WORLD DOESN’T?”… but He says (back to verse 9),”We can’t boast about because it’s 

—not by works, so that no one can boast.

And so even FAITH… the thing that we often want to THINK we provide is a GIFT FROM GOD… so that we can embrace the idea that we are Spiritually dead and God had to rescue us all the way… we are totally dependent upon His FREE GRACE. ‘

That’s really sort of repetitive if you think about it — FREE GRACE… it has to be free to be Grace; but nonetheless we are dependent upon His Free Grace…

He gives us everything. Ya know what I wanted to do to illustrate this was… I wanted to put a note in some of your Pew Bibles that said, “This Coupon is Redeemable for a $10 bill”… and then those of you who had it would bring it up and I’d give you a $10 bill… but I couldn’t find what budget item I’d reimburse that out of so we left it out (laughter)… but just imagine that was the case.

So it’s true, yes, that you need to bring the piece of paper up to me, you need to possess it, you need to have it, and then you’d get the money.  Like you need to have FAITH to get SALVATION… umm, BUT… look at the situation… you see that I’m the one who put the certificates out there… I gave it to you; you didn’t even produce that… you had to have it, but you didn’t produce it.

And that’s what the Bible says about FAITH… that God gives faith to those whom He chooses and YES they CASH it in and access His Grace as a result.  But even the faith comes from Him… totally dependent upon God’s Grace.

Let’s see this happen in Peter’s life. Peter has denied Jesus three times… how would a gracious God respond to that?  Does He respond to Peter in a gracious way? Let’s see it in Mark, chapter 16, verses 6 and 7, the Scripture tells us this,

 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. (now this is a Resurrection scene) “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go (there’s an angel telling the women at the tomb who to tell about the resurrection of Jesus), But go tell his disciples and Peter,

Have you ever wondered why the “and_Peter”? … I mean Peter was a disciple; He could’ve just stopped, “…go tell the disciples”… go tell the apostles. This is I think one of the most hidden sort of, ‘Acts of Grace’ of the character of God.

Not to make Peter feel like, “I told you so Peter”… but this is just, “I haven’t forgotten about you… you’re still in my good graces.”  … I want to make sure that Peter knows about this wonderful thing that has happened.

And the thing is that you like I have denied Christ in a way far greater than Peter… and if you’re wondering how God feels about you, here it is… GO TELL THE PEOPLE RIGHT HERE IN THIS ROOM… each and every one of you, CHRIST IS RISEN… THERE’S HOPE AND LIFE IN HIM… there’s GRACE and FORGIVENESS IN HIM… that’s the character and the heart of God.

Grace is so difficult to grasp because so few of us have ever seen it.

– – – – – – – – –
Let’s end with another “car” illustration:

I shared this with our New Member’s class, let’s just imagine that your 15 year old teenager while you were gone and in your absence decided to take your car without a driver’s license and to drive it. And some of you are looking around like… that happened (laughter).

But before the get down to the end of the road they crash the car and it’s damaged… they’re OK but we’ve got a damaged car here.

JUSTICE? … justice is hey, you’re grounded, you’re punished and you’re going to have to work to pay off the car… that sounds like justice to me.

MERCY is you’re not grounded at all, you don’t have to pay off the car; you’re off the hook, let’s just leave this thing in the past.

GRACE?  Grace is… not only do you not have to pay for vehicle… but let’s go get you that car you wanted for your 16th birthday.  It’s unheard of… we can’t even imagine it.  It’s considered BAD PARENTING to show grace (laughter).

But I want to challenge you… to not only ACCEPT God’s grace this morning, but to SHOW IT TO SOMEONE. If you’re a parent and have a child, the next time they mess up… PUT YOURSELF IN TIME OUT. When you get out of timeout take them and go get them an ice cream cone.

I mean NOT ALL THE TIME… but I’m just saying… cause here’s the thing… We’re telling our kids and the world about GRACE and they’ve NEVER SEEN IT. It’s no wonder so many people can’t really grasp it in their life.

The Character of God frees you to show others GRACE, and I want you to grasp HIS as we come to this table (communion). Are those aspects of God’s character found in this table? … ya know, the justice, and the mercy and the grace?

Ya know when we parent we have to choose between being one or the other… but God, He doesn’t do that… He can’t put an attribute of His on hold… He’s all things at all times. And so when Jesus was crucified on the Cross there was JUSTICE… the punishment that we deserve for our sin was taken out, He didn’t just ignore our sin, He took it out upon His Son — JUSTICE WAS SERVED.

But there was also MERCY for He withheld our punishment… but there was also GRACE… the last part of this Essential tells us that He “credited Christ’s righteousness to us”… you think it’s cool to get an ice cream cone when you’ve misbehaved, or a new car when you’ve wrecked one, or a free $10 bill when you didn’t deserve it? Here’s the GRACE OF GOD–HE CREDITS CHRIST’S RIGHTEOUSNESS TO US WHEN WE DON’T DESERVE IT.

That’s what makes this Table so Joyous.  

I want to invite our Elders who are serving to come forward at this time… (we took communion).

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All Pastor Dan’s sermons:


One thought on “Week 5: THE WORK OF GOD’S FREE GRACE”

  1. Larry – very thought-provoking post. I love reading these posts from you – and I look forward to seeing this blog grow!


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