Grace Under Fire
Grace Under Fire (2) - The Man on the Inside
Welcome back to another Sunday celebrating the grace of God in the loving presence of Jesus. We are continuing the series we started last week, talking about how God forms us through the struggles, trials, and all that life brings our way.
Last week, we discussed how God’s grace helps us to get back up when we’ve fallen. We saw how David found himself captive to temptation, enslaved to his own scandalous behavior, and then broken because of the consequences of his sin. This week we’re going to take another step in our conversation about the grace of God as we look at the story of Joseph. And so, before we begin, I want to give you a little bit of background.
The story begins in Genesis chapter 37 where we discover that Joseph, one of the 12 sons of Jacob, had a very strained relationship with his brothers because of his father’s favoritism. In fact, the Bible says that his brothers hated him, and so much so, that they decided to sell him to some Midianite merchants passing by on their way to trade in Egypt. And so, Joseph ends up in Egypt, it seems as if his life was out of his control, but the grace of God was with him.
Joseph finds himself living in a foreign land, where he is sold to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard. And even though he has been sold into slavery the Bible says in Genesis chapter 39,
“The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master” (Genesis 39:2).
And so, God was working in Joseph’s life even in these difficult circumstances. It seemed like things were getting better, the quality of life was certainly improving, but before long Joseph is wrongfully imprisoned because he is falsely accused of treating Potiphar’s wife inappropriately.
Once again, Joseph found himself in a deep dark pit of his circumstances, but God’s grace was with him, because he was given the supernatural ability to interpret dreams. And so, after spending many years in prison, interpreting the dream of the Pharaoh’s cupbearer and then his chief baker, the Pharaoh heard about his ability and sent for Joseph to interpret his dreams. After 10 years being imprisoned for a crime that he didn’t commit, Joseph is finally released. He is promoted by the Pharaoh, moving up the ranks in Egypt, until he is second only to Pharaoh himself.
Now, in the Pharaoh’s dream Joseph saw a great famine coming over the land and advised the Pharaoh to make great stockpiles of grain. This famine came over the land and Jacob sent Joseph’s brothers in search of grain because he had heard of the Pharaoh’s great storehouses of grain. Through a chain of events Joseph was reunited with his brothers because the Pharaoh had given him oversight of the distribution of the grain.
You could imagine the response of his brothers when Joseph told them who he was. In fact, when he said, “I am Joseph!” they were speechless, they were unable to answer him,
“Because they were terrified at his presence” (Genesis 45:3).
But Joseph recognized that in spite of the trials and great difficulties he had experienced God’s hand had always been guiding and protecting him along the way. And so, he said to his brothers again,
“I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! Now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here…” (Genesis 45:4-5).
“God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance” (Genesis 45:7).
And so, Joseph told his brothers to hurry back to his father and tell him about all the honor given him in Egypt. He said,
“Bring my father down here quickly" (Genesis 45:13).
And so, they did, the family is reunited, and Joseph sought the favor of the Pharaoh to allow his father Jacob with all of his children and grandchildren, flocks and herds, to live in the region of Goshen. The Pharaoh graciously gave the land to his family, but Jacob was now very old, and knowing that his time had come the Bible says,
“He drew his feet up into the bed and breathed his last” (Genesis 49:33).
It was a solemn scene as he passed away with his sons standing around him, but he left behind a legacy of a great nation, and the testimony of what God can do with an imperfect man who sought to live by faith. However, for his sons a dark cloud remained, because for years they had lived under the cloud of guilt for what they had done to their brother. And now that their father was gone, they face the fear that Joseph would pay them back for all they had done to him.
Now, I know that was a long introduction, but this is the part of the story that I want to focus on, launching us into this message of Grace Under Fire. Here in Genesis chapter 50, verse 18 tells us, Joseph’s brothers came and threw themselves down before him saying,
"We are your slaves."
And so, once again, his brothers are bowed down, falling prostrate before Joseph, fulfilling his prophetic dream. And like the prodigal son, they offer to become servants, “make me like one of the hired men” they said, hoping to work their way back into his favor. But Joseph said to them,
"Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives" (Genesis 50:19-20).
Joseph understood that God had always been working for his good and for the good of those around him. And so, he recognized that in the good, the bad, and the ugly, that God’s grace was always for him. And that is true in our lives as well because…
“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Joseph understood the grace of God because he had experienced it at the deepest level in his own life. He recognized the favor that he had achieved was undeserved and therefore he was determined to share this grace with his brothers. He replied to them,
“Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? " (Genesis 50:19).
And he illustrates the grace of God, the undeserved favor of God, not only by the words themselves, but by the very fact that there was an offer of provision. He invites his brothers and their families into his life, promising to continue caring for them in verse 21,
“I will provide for you and your children” (Genesis 50:21).
And so, he reassured them and spoke kindly to them, because if God’s grace is truly for us, and if God’s grace is with us, then we must express that same grace to others. In fact, we see this in the New Testament where Paul says,
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).
And so, faith is not an individual personal thing, we must have a holistic view of God’s family, remembering that it’s only by his grace that all believers together make up the body of Christ. In other words, when we come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we are united with many brothers and sisters around the world, because we are adopted into the family of God.
That’s why the apostle Paul said,
“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father" (Romans 8:15, NKJV).
Just as Joseph said to his brothers, “So then, don't be afraid” we too have received grace, we’ve been born again, and adopted into God’s family. Not to be in bondage to fear, but welcomed as the children of God, and therefore we can cry out, Abba, Father.
That’s what’s so meaningful about this for us, because Christ has extended God’s grace not just to his brothers, but he extended God’s grace to those who were not God’s people. And that’s the amazing thing about our adoption, because the invitation of Jesus gives us all the legal rights of the family. It’s just as if you were an heir according to lineage and blood, but for those of us who are not Jews, those of us who are Gentiles, those outside of Jacob’s family, we have no right to the privileges of Jacob’s sons.
And so, today I want to go deeper into that, because I think that’s important for us to understand. The Bible tells us in Ephesians chapter 2,
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath” (Ephesians 2:1-3).
And so, at one point in your life you were excluded, you were separate from the family, because you were outside of the covenant. The Spirit of God says; therefore, you were by nature subject to the wrath of God. But because of his great love for us, the Bible says,
“God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7).
In other words, by adopting us into the family, God is showing off just how gracious he is, because we have no right to be in the family. But God raised us up with Christ, seated us with him in the heavens, so that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace expressed in his kindness to us. That’s what’s so amazing about his grace, we have been singled out, identified, selected by God, and brought into the family so that we might have an inheritance in the kingdom. And the truth is that we have absolutely no right to this grace, but it’s not up to what other people say or what they think, because this is something that God has done.
In fact, in Acts chapter 10, Peter was preaching to the Gentiles and the Bible says,
“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message” (Acts 10:44).
“The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God” (Acts 10:45-46).
And so, the Holy Spirit filled them while Peter was still speaking; he wasn’t praying for them, he didn’t lay hands on them, but he was still talking when God reached out and filled the Gentiles with the Holy Spirit. Peter recognized what had happened and said in verse 47,
“Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have." So, he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:47-48).
In other words, the Gentiles didn’t need to get permission, they didn’t need to go to the board room, they didn’t need to stand before the committee, because the Bible says,
“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children” (Romans 8:16).
And so, Peter and his missionary team took them in, they had to welcome them into the fellowship, because they had been adopted. The Holy Spirit had reached around their doctrine and their religious ideologies and filled them with the Holy Spirit even as Peter was still speaking.
In other words, they had the inner witness, the testimony of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness with their spirit that they were legitimately children of God.
Now, watch this, because this is where it gets really good, the Spirit of God said in verse 17,
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ…” (Romans 8:17).
In other words, having been adopted into the family means more than having a place at the table, or a bedroom in the house, it means that you are an heir of God, that God left you an inheritance.
You may remember a few months ago when we talked about the Canaanite woman who came to Jesus, crying out,
“Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession" (Matthew 15:22).
And this was a woman who was excluded from citizenship in Israel, a foreigner to the covenant of the promise, but she came begging Jesus for mercy. In verse 26 he replied,
“It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs" (Matthew 15:26).
And so, she is wanting mercy, she is wanting healing and deliverance for her daughter, and Jesus describes this as what? He says it’s the children’s bread, it’s the children’s provision, it’s the children’s privilege.
Now, let’s put that together, because we’ve been talking about grace and the adoption into the family, becoming an heir of God. And so, in Acts chapter 10, we have those who were foreigners, Gentiles, those outside of the covenant, those who were considered dogs now being brought near as the children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. And here we have Jesus telling this woman that he has prepared this bread for the children, and she replies,
"Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted" (Matthew 15:27-28).
Now, why would he say that? Because she said, “Let the children have the bread, I just need a crumb.” In other words, she had so much faith in what the children were eating that she knew if she could just have a crumb her daughter would be healed.
I wonder if there are some of you that are living in need, you have deep personal needs, and you’re living impoverished lives, because you haven’t partaken of what is yours. You’ve been adopted but you haven’t come to the table to share in the bread and experience what it’s like to be a child of God.
Look again at what the Spirit of God says in Romans chapter 8,
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ…” (Romans 8:17).
In other words, you’re not enjoying what was meant for you, because in Deuteronomy chapter 28, verse six, it says you will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out. And so, as an heir of God you have been blessed in your health, in your mind, in your finances, and in every area of life, but then he goes even deeper and says that you are co-heirs with Christ.
You see, it’s one thing to be an heir of God and another thing to be a co-heir with Christ. It’s two different things, to be a co-heir with Christ is to share everything he gets. And so, to be a co-heir with Christ means you are beloved, you are accepted, and you are exalted, because Ephesians chapter 2 says,
“God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6).
And God does that because we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. All of this is intricately connected together with our faith in Christ and living by the Holy Spirit. And so, as you begin to see some of the things that God has in store for you, things he has prepared for you, you must recognize that there is so much more. In fact, the Bible says,
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"— but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit…” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).
And so, the Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children, but even more he reveals by his Spirit that he has more for you than where you are right now. And when I say more, I don’t want to reduce that down to physical tangible things, but to speak of spiritual things in the sense that,
“God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
And as the children of God, heirs of God, and co-heirs with Christ, we have the expectation as those who in the coming ages would be shown the incomparable riches of his grace expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:7).
Therefore, when you start talking about the favor of God, you can’t minimize that down to tangible stuff, because his blessing is so much more than stuff. His peace belongs to you, his joy belongs to you, his contentment belongs to you, his healing belongs to you, because it is the children’s bread. It’s undeniable, you have a right to it, and so understanding what you have inherited is important because you’ve been adopted into the family, God has a plan for your life, and his plan exceeds anything that you have ever imagined. In fact, the Bible says in first Peter, chapter 1,
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4).
God has so much prepared for you, he has an inheritance kept in heaven for you, another translation says, it’s reserved in heaven for you. And so, Jesus taught us to ask, because if it is yours in heaven, it’s yours down here. He said to pray,
“Your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
And so, God has given you the word to build you up, it’s able to build you up, if you need to be built up, if your faith needs to be built up, if your confidence needs to be built up, or if your power needs to be built up. And so, we’ve got to come to the table and received the children’s bread. The apostle Paul said get in the word. He said,
"I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).
He said, the word of God is able to build you up, it is the word which gives you an inheritance in Christ, and it unlocks the inheritance for you. And so, the more serious you get into the word of God, the more you begin to find out what is yours. That’s why it’s important to come to the table, to daily feed on the word of God, because Jesus said,
“Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
It’s important because we are strengthened by it, and by it we move in the things of God, understanding who we are in Christ. And the truth is that too many of us spend more of our time wrestling with who we are than we do walking out who we are. In other words, we spend too much of our energy worrying and praying about what we did, where we were, because we were foreigners, without God in this world, but the Bible says,
“Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13).
And so, it’s the grace of God that brought you near, that adopted you into the family, and through which able you’re able to cry out Abba father. All the benefits and privileges of the children of God comes to you because of your relationship with him. The Canaanite woman said,
"Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table" (Matthew 15:27).
And in the same way, we need to come to the table, just as Joseph invited his brothers to join him at the table and they feasted and drank freely with him.
Maybe some of you are hearing this today, and you’re having a hard time believing that God is with you, that he is for you, but the fact is that he sees you more clearly than anyone else ever could. In fact, in the same way that Jacob’s sons had a brother on the inside and received favor from the Pharaoh, you’ve got a Savior on the inside. Jesus is your man on the inside, he is the one that is closer than a brother, and that’s the kind of confidence that God wants you to have. Because it is that confidence, that boldness that claims the crumbs that fall from the table, that is an expression of faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. And today as heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ you have access to a dimension of grace that you never would have without him.
Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Ministry Pass, PC Study Bible, Preaching Library, and Sermon Central. Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.