Foundation for Living
October 30, 2005
And this is the record that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that has the Son has life; and he that has not the Son of God has not life. 18He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. For there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
Father, again we thank you that you have provided a place for us to meet, Father, due to your grace, we have the resources to do this and we express our gratitude. That gives us information on how to live our lives, that you might be honored and glorified in time and eternity. Challenged by the things that we study we pray this in Christ's name. Amen
Open your Bibles to 2 Corinthians, Chapter 12. We are going through the Foundation for Living which is focusing on the skills for the spiritual life. This is the 2nd part of a 2 part series that dealt first of all with the Foundation for Life, which had a focus more on salvation oriented issues, and basic doctrines related to God, and Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ's work on the cross. In this series we are looking at things that pertain more to your spiritual growth and spiritual advance, and that which provides a foundation for our spiritual lives. As such, we are looking at the foundational spiritual skills in these first 5 lessons. These foundational spiritual skills must be mastered as we grow out of spiritual infancy, and through spiritual childhood. The first is confession of sin, recognizing that every time we sin it breaks fellowship with God. The Scripture says, if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear. Therefore, we must have a solution to post salvation sin, and that is confession. We admit or acknowledge our sins to God. At that instant we are restored to fellowship. God the Holy Spirit's sanctifying ministry can continue. It is stifled, or squelched, or quenched during our time of carnality. And so we can begin to walk by means of the Holy Spirit, and His filling ministry is again operational as He uses His word to fill us, to fill our thinking, and to strengthen us in our spiritual advance. This works together with our faith, such that we not only walk by means of the Holy Spirit, we walk by means of faith, and not by sight. We looked at the faith rest drill last time and what is involved in mixing our faith with the promises, principles and procedures that are outlined in the word of God. And that takes us to the next basic spiritual skill, which is grace orientation. What you see is, as we look at walking by the Spirit, we talked about walking by means of the Spirit, then we looked at the faith rest drill, that we walk by means of faith, so obviously these work together with one another. Then when we get to grace orientation in some our opening verses, you will see that there is a connection between recognizing the sufficiency of God's grace in providing everything we need to handle any circumstance in life, and what He has provided for the faith rest drill in terms of His promises. So all of these basic skills overlap and are interconnected. As I thought through how we could take these basic skills, and my approach in this study, is to try to take these skills, and rather than to teach them in simply abstract form, focusing on basic principles, or basic definitions, I want to put some flesh on these spiritual skills so we can see how they work in real time situations in individuals lives. And perhaps the clearest passage that deals with this is in 2 Corinthians 12. This is a passage that is familiar to many people, because this is where Paul talks about the thorn in the flesh and how he responded to it. So we have to look at this passage because it gives us an idea of how the apostle Paul dealt with a particular kind of adversity which he identifies as a thorn in the flesh. And in that adversity we see how he uses the grace of God to handle the external pressures of adversity that he faced in his life. This section begins in verse 7, Paul says, 7 and lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure." Now let's take a minute just to focus on the context. In this context, Paul has been talking about the fact that he was caught up into Paradise, that is heaven. Paradise, prior to Christ's work on the cross was not located in heaven, but it is now. Jesus Christ took captivity captive, took the Old Testament saints into heaven. So the location of Paradise is now in the third heaven. And there he received certain revelations. God disclosed certain truths to Paul that he was to reveal in his teaching and in his writings in the New Testament. And of course, this would be quite a heady experience. And it is likely that someone who had gone through that kind of experience, who was given the kind of gifts Paul was given, had the kind of talents and education that the Apostle Paul had could easily succumb to arrogance. And you have numerous references in this passage to boasting. If you just look back at the last Chapter, he talks about boasting in the verses from 16 to 21, he mentions boasting 2 or 3 times, he mentions boasting in verse 30, in Chapter 12 verse 1, he mentions boasting twice in 12:5, he mentions boasting again in 12: 6, he mentions boasting again in 12:11. So obviously, there is a context here of dealing with arrogance because of who he was and what he had in natural abilities. So in the context of teaching him not to rely upon his own talents, his own abilities, his own strengths, his own intellectual skills, which were powerful, the apostle Paul was one of the most brilliant men in history. Just in terms of his native intellect, he was one of the most educated men in his generation. It would be very easy for someone of his talents and abilities to try to live the Christian life, to try to execute the ministry that God gave him, just on the basis of his own education, ability and talents. So God sent him a particular test which is classified in verse 7 as a thorn in the flesh. People have tried to identify this thorn all kinds of different ways over the years. Some have said it was his health, others have said it was his eye sight, because in Galatians he talks about "see with what large letters I write" that he obviously had some sort of eye problem. Whatever it may be, I think that many people ignore the context of Chapters 11 and 12 where he talks about this thorn in the flesh. It seems to me that the thorn in the flesh that he mentions in verse 7, contextually, has to do with the constant antagonism, the constant persecution, the constant rejection that the apostle Paul faced. Think about it, here is a man who has been taken into the Paradise of God, into heaven, and who has received direct revelation; who knew more about God and His plan and purposes for human history, had a better grasp on the dynamics of the cross, than any other human being in history. That would be something that would give him tremendous pride and arrogance. But every where he went, knowing he had the truth, he was persecuted in incredible ways. In the immediate context of verses 7-10 in Chapter 12, he concludes by saying, after he recognizes the principle of grace, he concludes by saying in verse 10, 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." That is his conclusion; that is the lesson he learns from understanding grace orientation. That comes at the end of this little paragraph that focuses on being a thorn in the flesh. But if we look at the overall context, go back to the last paragraph in Chapter 11. And there, he also outlines these persecutions and this rejection that he encountered. In verse 22 of Chapter 11 he says, 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. (He is talking about the rejection he has received at the hands of his fellow Jews.) 23 Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, (this is where he starts to outline the adversities he has encountered and gone through as a minister of the gospel, as an apostle.) He says: in labors more abundant, (he has had to labor; he has labored as a common laborer in his tent making business, as well as one who is involved in the sale and promotion of those tents.) In stripes above measure, in stripes, he is talking about being whipped, being beaten) in prisons more frequently, (more frequently than any of the other apostles) in deaths often. (In other words, he was threatened with death more frequently.) 24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. The Jews did not believe they should give 40 lashes, they thought that would kill somebody, so they stopped at 39, instead of going to forty, just in case somebody miscounted. That was at least one of the benefits of legalism, you did not have to go to 40, the rabbis were afraid if you went to 40 it would break the Mosaic Law, so just to make sure they did not miscount, they only gave 39 lashes.) 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; (beaten with sticks, canes, bats, whatever.) once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; (in other words, he was stranded at sea, floating along in the water for a day and a night.) 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen,(where his life was threatened) in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, (and that is not a self imposed fast, he was with out resources, he went without food, he missed a few meals) in cold and nakedness— 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. So all this went beyond all the normal travails of life, the normal struggles we have just living in the devil's world and dealing with the normal adversities and discomforts of life. And he says, 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? " He enumerates here, and several times throughout 2nd Corinthians, he makes reference to the fact of how many times he goes through different adversities. This is the most detailed list. And it is the middle of these two statements about this adversity that he talks about how God was using this to limit his arrogance and to teach him complete dependence upon God. In verse 7, he says, 7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, and his responsibilities in everything that God gave him a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, literally, that word for messenger is the Greek word aggelos. Which could be translated an angel of Satan, and I believe that what he is referencing here is that all these persecutions that were stirred up against him were ultimately energized by demons in the angelic conflict. The solution is not to go try to cast out the demon, or claim dominion over the demon; if you'll notice that is never mentioned in that passage. There are many Christians who try to take that approach. But that was not the biblical approach that was not Paul's approach. He recognized that we are in a spiritual battle, spiritual warfare, and many times there are dynamics going on in the immaterial angelic, demonic realm, that are having a cause and effect relationship on the opposition to us, and it is not just people, it is ultimately a spiritual battle. In verse 8 he says, 8 Concerning this thing (the thorn in the flesh, which I believe contextually, refers to all of this opposition and adversity, persecution and rejection that he faced) I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. The idea there is that he went into intense prayer on three different occasions pleading and begging with God, building a case for why God should take this away so that he would be able to preach the gospel, proclaim the truth of God's word with out the distraction of the rejection and persecutions. And this was God's response, verse 9. This is the heart of understanding grace orientation. 9 And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." What God was teaching Paul was that, despite all of our natural enhancements, despite our high IQ, education, strengths, whatever our strengths might be, whatever it may be what we think gives us some value, and some edge in the Christian life, God is teaching us that you cannot rely on that. Because that is just the work of the flesh, wood, hay and straw with no eternal value. We have to learn to rely exclusively on the sufficiency of God's grace. Because it is only when we are utilizing God's grace and in dependence upon God's grace that God's strength is made perfect in weakness. Now what does that mean? First of all, when the text says, My grace is sufficient, this is the Greek word arkeo, which means, it is enough. It is all that is needed. God gives us everything we need to fit the particular situation, no matter how overwhelming it may be. No matter how many times we may be facing these things, His grace is always enough. It has always provided everything we need to handle the situation, the circumstances, whatever it may be. It is enough. It is sufficient; it is adequate to the task. It, that is God's grace and God's grace alone, is all that we need. So we see that God's grace is sufficient for us, "for My strength (that is God's omnipotence) is made perfect in weakness." The next key word we see in this statement is the word for 'make perfect' and it is the word teleo, a word familiar to us, and it means to bring something to completion. Not perfection in the sense of flawlessness, but to bring its intended end, to bring it to completion, to bring it to maturity. This is from the same word group that we saw in over in Galatians 3:3 and Galatians 5:16 that we are to walk by means of the Spirit, and we will not bring to completion the deeds of the flesh. In Galatians 3:3 Paul said, 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being completed, or matured, by means of the flesh? No, of course not. Then we looked at James Chapter 1, talking about how tests and trials are used to perfect us, or mature us. And it the same word group. So this is a crucial word group for understanding the dynamics of Christian growth. It is gods grace that provides some
it is God's grace that provides something for us. It is almost presented here as if it is a power in itself. It is not a power, it is presented that way, it is God's grace that stands behind everything He delivers to us in our Christian walk to enable us to handle all the adversities that come our way. Once Paul understood God's grace he concludes: Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest in me. So now, rather than emphasizing his own strength, his own education, his own skills, his own training, his own intellect, and the focus is on what god has provided for him rather than his own ability. He understands the principle that the Christian life is a supernatural way of life and can only be completed on the basis of supernatural powers. We cannot do it on our own; we cannot pull ourselves up by our own spiritual boot straps. Therefore in verse 10 …..he concludes, he takes pleasure in the adversity he faces. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. That is, when I recognize that it is not up to me, that God's solution is the only solution, then I am strong. That is grace orientation. Let's take it apart in about 12 points to understand what grace orientation is.
First of all, what is grace? We need to define it. We have two key word here, grace and orientation.
Grace has to do with undeserved favor or unmerited kindness. It is gods plan for dealing with fallen man. He is going to supply what man needs. Not on the basis of who we are, what we have done, what our talents are, what our strengths are, but on the basis of His character and on the basis of the work that Jesus Christ did on the cross. It is undeserved. It is not based on who we are at all. We have to learn to get that notion behind us. It is not dependent on who we are. It is dependent on who He is. So the first thing we understand is that grace orientation relates to underserved favor and unmerited kindness. To understand grace, we have to begin at salvation. It is by grace that we have been saved, through faith. It is God's love that provides the solution for our salvation. So we understand grace a t salvation. And that begins to attack our arrogance. Because the opposite of grace orientation at salvation is arrogant dependence on our abilities. That some how, we can do something. We can engage in some ritual, we can go to church enough, o enough good deeds, somehow that impressed god. so we begin to see that arrogance, and emphasis on self is the opposite of grace orientation. As we get beyond salvation, we begin to understand that the Christian life is based on understanding the sufficiency of gods provision. This is a verse we look at last week for the promises of God. But it is also part of grace that God's divine power has granted to us and it is that word, granted to us, that giving to us, everything that is the focus of grace. In the post salvation Christian life, God's power has given us, not some things, not most things, but everything related to life and godliness. And those two words, life and godliness, incorporate everything. Life is bios, which is the Greek word from which we get biology, and it refers to physical life issues. So that is basic logistical grace. god is going to take care of our physical needs. It doesn't mean you won't go hungry at times. It doesn't mean you may not be thirsty at times. There is room within the plan of God that includes testing in those areas. But, God is going to provide for us; overall he is going to provide for us He is going to take care of those needs. There will be enough to keep us alive. There will be enough to take care of all those physical needs. There may not be as much as we would like. Remember, the Exodus generation went through the desert for 40 years and they wore the same clothes they left Egypt with. Now, if right before you left Egypt, you went to Target instead of Neiman's, well, you had to spend 40 years wearing those same old shoes that you got at Target, but they did not wear out. But you got stuck wearing those shoes from Target. God provided everything they needed. He did not give them a second, third or fourth wardrobe, He made what they had last, it never wore out. Their shoes did not wear out, their pants did not wear out, nothing wore out. It lasted the whole time.
The second category here is godliness, which is the Greek word eusebeia, which refers to our spiritual life. The totality here is that gods has given to you at the instant of salvation everything you need. The potential to handle every situation in life. Primarily that comes through the Spirit of God and the word of God.
And we have that. It is up to our volition to learn the word of God, to walk by the Holy Spirit and that turns the potential of what we have spiritually to actual spiritual growth. And part of this, of course, starting in verse 4 has to do with the promises, and that relates to the faith rest drill. Another passage that describes the sufficiency of what God has given us is in Ephesians 1:3 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with most spiritual blessings, some spiritual blessing, no, every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
In 2Peter He has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness and here he has given us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. God is not a tightwad; God has given us everything we need. He has been is generous. This is based on His grace and his goodness. He is generous with us He gives us everything and what we have to do is to learn to align our thinking with what God ahs given us. and that is what orientation is. For those of you who spent some time in the military, you remember back before they had satellites and GPS, and all the fancy technology they have today, we used to have to learn how to take a basic compass and a topographical map and figure out how to do the calculations with the deviation between true north and magnetic north, and we had to learn how to navigate our way through an area of land which was called land navigation, or orienteering. And you had to learn to orient a topographical map to the lay of that land around you and then move form point A to point B by simply using your map and a compass. One of the first things you would have to do is lay the map down and orient it with the compass towards true north. Once you had it oriented towards north, you would look at the vario0us topographical features and try to figure out where you were on the map in relation to topographical features. What you were doing was aligning the map with reality. You had to orient it. If you had it off center, or if you had some large piece of metal near the compass so the needle was off a few degrees, then you were not aligned according to reality. You were not properly oriented. Any decisions you made would be wrong because you lacked proper orientation. That is what happens in life when we operate on arrogance. Our thinking is not oriented to the reality of God's grace, which is His fundamental principle in operating in human history. He deals with us on the basis of grace. As church age believers, He has given us everything related to life and godliness. So we take the concept of grace, which is God's unmerited favor, and we link it with this idea of orientation, which is aligning our thinking to ultimate reality, which is defined by His word. And that ultimate reality is characterized by grace, all that comes from the kindness and benevolence of God. And we come to understand that nothing in this life is really dependent on my skills, my abilities, my talents, and my efforts. It is deceiving sometimes, because there are things that make it look as if, if I work hard, if I am diligent, and if I study hard, then I am going to advance and have success and go forward. There is an element of truth to that. And there are many people we can point to and say they applied themselves well, they worked hard, they studied hard, made good grades, and they were successful in life. But there are many other people out there who work very diligently, and for whatever reason, they don't get the opportunities, they don't become a Bill Gates, or a Donald Trump, or some one like that. But they work forty, fifty, sixty hours a week, and they are diligent, and they are smart, but God just does not give them those opportunities. So that ultimately, it is God's grace and God's plan that brings those efforts to fruition. We have to learn that ultimately, it is not our works, our efforts, but it is God's grace, and God's plan. It is not that we just sit back and wait for it to it happen, that is mysticism and irresponsibility. But ultimately it is not dependent upon us. We can also point to people who are lazy, good for nothing, and irresponsible, and somehow everything they touch turns to gold. That is just the grace of God. So we have to recognize that it is always God's grace, it is not us. When there is success, it is due to God's grace and when there is failure it is due to our poor volition. We have to realize that the air we breath, the food we eat, the health we enjoy, the jobs that pay our bills, the cars we drive , our friends, our family, our homes, our parents, that we have, children that we have, everything comes from God. He is the one who has provided all of that. So when we look at grace orientation, it is fundamentally the idea of orienting our thinking to God. Aligning our thinking and actions with God's policy of grace. All that we are and have in this life comes from the kindness and the benevolence of God, and that nothing is due to our own inherent abilities, talents, or efforts. That is our understanding, it is grace orientation. That is what Paul had to learn. That God's grace was sufficient, and his success as an apostle had nothing to do with his rabbinical training, his education, his tremendous writing skills, and native logic. It had to do with God's grace. But once he was oriented to God's grace, then God could use his education, training, background, his natural skills, in the ministry and in his service to God. But first he had to have that arrogance knocked out of him. He had to be oriented to God's grace.
The second thing we note is that God's grace is His policy toward His creatures, which is based on the principle of non meritious blessing. Faith is non meritorious. Faith is a transitive verb; it always takes a direct object, grammatically it always focuses on something. And what faith focuses on is that which has merit. And the focus in the faith rest drill is the promise of God, the provision of God, the power of God. That is where our strength lies. Not in our own abilities. So we have to knock that arrogance out of us. And it relates to how we relate to other people. It relates to how we deal with other people, especially in people tests, where we have tendencies to want to strike back or have revenge, anger, resentment, or whatever it may be. Ephesians 4:31, 32, strikes at the heart of the people relationships. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. That is the essence of grace orientation. And it is aligning our thinking with God's grace, as exemplified at the cross. Just as God, in Christ, forgave you. So, on the one hand we have to reject the bitterness, anger, resentment, the vindictiveness, and on the other hand be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving, just as Jesus Christ was toward us.
Third point: the opposite of grace orientation is self reliance and self dependence and arrogance. The opposite of grace is dependence upon the creature. It is creaturely orientation, and not the Creator orientation. We have to maintain that Creator, creature distinction. So we think that we have basic and inherent rights to health, to prosperity, to our talents and abilities. At the core of arrogance, is an orientation to entitlement. We think we are entitled to salvation, to God treating us well, because, look at what I have to offer Him. And we have tog get that entitlement mentality of arrogance knocked out of us and orient to grace.
Fourth thing about grace orientation is it's foundational to further advance in the spiritual life. If you do not understand grace at salvation, you cannot orient to doctrine at the next level. If you do not understand grace, then when it comes to love, personal love for God the Father, and impersonal love for all mankind, you will always have trouble, because you are not thinking in terms of unmerited kindness, and that is the core of grace orientation. Grace orientation is foundational to advance in the spiritual life. Failure to grasp this will stifle your spiritual momentum.
Fifth point: Grace orientation is measured ultimately by gratitude. It is measured by gratitude; whereas failure to orient to grace is measured by arrogance. If you notice, there are some people who have no grace orientation, they are never grateful for anything, they always want more. They think they ought to have more, think they are entitled to this and that. Frankly, because of the curse of sin, because of the penalty of sin, there is one thing we are all entitled to, and that is a rapid orientation to the grave. We are not entitled to anything else, because as fallen creatures, we deserve one and only one thing. But God, in His grace keeps us alive. God, in His grace, has a plan for mankind. God, in His grace provides salvation. And the more you think about that, the more we orient our thinking to grace. And your gratitude for every breath we have. For every meal we have, for every gallon of gas we can afford to buy today. It is all due to the grace of God.
Sixth point: Let's look at some basic characteristics that we find in grace orientation. We start with orientation of grace toward salvation. Thinking about all that means for us. As we move out of that, one of the first things we should develop is a genuine humility. Recognizing that it is not about us, it is about God, and His plan, and His purposes. Humility actually develops in a couple of different ways. First of all we have enforced humility, which applies to believer and unbeliever alike. It is where we learn authority orientation. We learn discipline from our parents, from teachers, coaches, dance instructors, music instructors. As we learn that basic humility, it allows us to learn the skills of those disciplines. Without humility you cannot learn anything. You cannot be taught. Without authority orientation, you won't ever learn a thing. So we have to have that orientation to authority and this moves from genuine humility to teachability. It is amazing how many believers are not teachable. They pick a church because it is going to reinforce their own prejudices. And when the pastor says something they do not agree with, rather than going to the word of God as the source, and say well, maybe that is what the bible says, and it is God that is stomping on my toes and not the pastor, they just leave and go to the next church. They just want some body to confirm, validate, their own arrogance. They are not teachable at all. To be truly teachable, sometimes, is very painful. Because we have to take an honest look at who we are, at our own life, our habits, the way we try to deal with adversity and recognize that we may have been trying to make everything work on our own terms. For 20 or 30 years and it is really a miserable failure. To look into the mirror of God's word, and to face it with honesty and true humility, is so threatening to some people that they will never do it. They do not have the spiritual courage to be honest with themselves, and with the word of God. They are just not teachable. As we advance in grace orientation, we develop a relaxed mental attitude about life. We recognize that we are just as sinful as the person sitting across the church from us. Their sins may be shocking to us, but then our sins may be shocking to them. Their sins may be more overt and hang out there a little more, whereas ours are mental attitude sins, so people just think we have it all together, and we are just as carnal as the person down the street who is involved in drugs and alcoholism, or whatever else that the culture offers. But if we have a relaxed mental attitude, we are not judgmental. We realize that God is dealing individually with each one of us, so we can relax and let the supreme court of heaven deal with other peoples problems and their spiritual lives. We are not going to gossip or malign. We are not going to get involved in trying to solve everybody else's problems. We are just going to relax about life. We are going to learn to let God's power work in our lives.
This develops into a mastery of the details of life. We begin to realize that, because God is going to supply everything we need to accomplish His will for our life, it is not about going out and getting all the status symbols or friends or whatever it may are, in life. There are all kinds of details from money to things, education, achievements, promotion, status symbols, and sex whatever it is. These are al the details of life. And people, who start pursuing the details of life for happiness, get in to a frantic search for happiness, and it always ends up in frustration. Because the details of life will never provide stability, they will never provide happiness. They may provide a pseudo happiness for a while, and a pseudo stability, but as soon as adversity comes and takes it away, the person just collapses. Grace orientation makes us recognize that God provides everything we need to accomplish what He wants us to accomplish. If we do not have it, then it is not necessary to accomplish God's plan and God's will. So that leads to gratitude. We develop a gratefulness for all that God has provided for us. So that we are focused on Him, focused on everything He gives us, in order to go forward. So these are the characteristics of grace orientation. God is demonstrating that His power is what counts, not ours. The Old Testament story that really brings this home is in the book of Judges. I'm not going to take the time to go through every detail of this great story in Judges 7, where God has chosen Gideon to be the judge to deliver the people from the onslaught of the Indianite. So Gideon pulls together an army of the Jews that is going to go against this massive army of the Midianites, and try to gain victory, because God has called him to do this. But God has to teach Gideon grace orientation. He pulls together an army of some 10, 000, and the Lord's response to that is, Gideon, that is too many. Well wait a minute, we are already outnumbered about 6 to 1. The Midianites had around 125-130, 000 and all Gideon had was about 10, 000. So God says, no, that is way too many. He is trying to teach us that it is not about our talents, it is about grace orientation. So God said, 'Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead.'" Twenty-two thousand of the people returned, and ten thousand remained. So he started off with 32, 000, 22, 000 left and 10, 000 remained. That is 10, 000 against about 125, 000. Still pretty overwhelmed, Gideon said, well, I don't know. But the Lord in verse 4 said, you still have too many. Wait a minute Lord; we are outnumbered 12 to 1. The Lord said, well, you still have too many. We have to make it clear that it is about My power and My strength, and not about your power and your strength. So we'll have a little test. Take them down to the creek and as they cross over the water, the ones that bend over and lap the water up into their mouth; those are the ones who go with you. The ones that stop and bend down, and get down on their knees, they are not ready to go to battle. The number of those who lapped, in verse 6, putting their hand to their mouth, was 300 men. But all of the rest of the 10, 000, 9700, stopped and took a good long drink. God said, well you are not focused, go home, and now I've got the right size. I've got 300 to go against 125, 000. God was going to demonstrate that His power was sufficient in weakness. This is the same principle that we see the apostle Paul had to learn, and it is the principle we have to learn. It is that God's power is brought to completion in our weakness. We have to be dependent upon Him and in His grace. You know the story, that God gave Gideon instructions: very subtle, crafty trickery. He said to give every man a clay pot, put a light inside the pot. When I give the command to break the clay post, everyone is to shout and break the pot, and then these 300 lights will appear. The way the armies worked in that day, you would have about one light per company of men. So rather than thinking there were only 300 men up there, the enemy thought there were 300 companies. So the Midianites panicked, it was a nice surprise night attack, and in their panic and fear, they started killing each other. After they slaughtered each other in a panic, the small Jewish army of 300 moved in and wiped them out. God's grace is sufficient. His way of doing it, may not appear to be our way of doing it. It may not fit our preconceived notions, our arrogance, our emphasis on our own capabilities and abilities to solve the problem on our own. But He is going to demonstrate that His way is the only way, and the divine solution is the only solution. And we have to be oriented to grace. So this gets us through our fourth basic skill. Next time we will look at doctrinal orientation.
With our heads bowed and our eyes closed. Father, we thank You for the opportunity to understand Your grace and to focus on it, to learn that we must live and think within the framework of Your grace. That this is foundational to forward advance. It starts at the cross. We pray, if there is any one here this evening that is unsure of their salvation, or uncertain of their eternal destination, that they would take this opportunity to make it sure and certain. All you need to do is put your trust in Christ for salvation. It is not about what you have done or haven't done. It is not about ritual, it is not about bargaining with God, or buying your way into heaven. It is simply trusting in Christ's finished work on the cross. And the instant you put your faith in Jesus Christ, God the Father justifies you, regenerates you, you have eternal life, which can never be taken away from you. Now Father, we pray that You would help us to understand, in each of our lives, how to orient our thinking to grace through the ministry of God the Holy Spirit, as we walk by Him and are filled by Him. We pray this in Christ's name. Amen