Community Group Study Notes
Have someone in your group provide a brief, 2-minute summary of Sunday’s teaching.
Read Luke 23:34a. Jesus knew every motive behind every wrong decision committed against him, yet he prayed, “Father forgive them.” We don’t (in fact, we can’t) know every motive behind every wrong committed against us, yet we might find it difficult to pray like Jesus, “Father forgive them.” How can we gain a different perspective on the wrongs committed against us?
Read Luke 6:32-35. What does Jesus say will be the visible evidence that we are sons and daughters of the Most High? How can we look most like our heavenly Father?
Look at the last line of Luke 6:35 again. Before you and I knew Christ, we would rightly be labeled “the ungrateful and wicked.” But God was gracious to us, in spite of our condition. How can you look for ways to demonstrate the Graciousness of God to the people around you – even the ones who would fit that description?
What is one action step you can take in light of Sunday’s message and our discussion today?
So, my dad is a big fan of the band Chicago. Some of you, depending on your age, may be fans of the band Chicago, but he's the same generation, right? They're the same age, and like many, they have been a soundtrack for his life. Some of you have musicians, or songs, or bands that have done the same for you. Now, he's seen them probably, at this point, dozens of times in concert, and on multiple continents. He's a real fan. He really, really loves this group.
It was a really pleasant surprise to him when a number of years ago, and to be more specific, since he knows the actual date, it was February 24th, 1998, when he was on a flight from Atlanta to Las Vegas. Now, he flew a lot when he was working at the time. He's retired now. And because he flew so much, he would get upgraded, and as the airlines used to do, when that was a lot easier to do. Now, it's not so easy, but he would get upgraded.
And to his great surprise, on that flight with him, the band Chicago got on in his same section. And it just so happened that my dad found himself sitting right next to the manager of the band. And so, they talked a bit during the flight, and enjoyed the time talking. And then when they were getting off the flight in Vegas, the manager said to my dad, he said, "Hey, I'd love to introduce you to the band."
And, of course, my dad is like, "Yeah, I would love that. That would be fantastic." And so, sure enough, one by one they come by and they say hello to my dad. And they stop and talk, and he gets to tell them about how he saw them at Budokan Hall, in Tokyo, Japan. And one of the guys was like, "I remember that show, you know?" And then they started talking about it. My dad said, "Yeah, I've got a bootleg tape from that."
They started talking all about these things, and these guys were incredibly, incredibly gracious, in the words of my dad. That they were just super, super gracious. You know how it is, right? People that you've always admired from afar, and then you meet them, and you're really let down. Well, he was just like, "These guys were super gracious." Well, not only that, did they talk to him and just spend some time with him, just getting...
They got to know one another and shared a few remarks together, but they also said, "Hey, we've got a show tonight. We'd love for you to be able to come. Leave you tickets at Will Call." And he was like, "What?" And so, yeah, it was at one of these places in Vegas. And he had the opportunity that night to be able to be free enough to go, before he had to do what he had to do there on business.
And so, he went, not really sure if they would remember to actually leave him something at Will Call, but he went. And sure enough, he had tickets. And his tickets took him all the way to the very front. And while they were playing on stage, one of the original guys who plays sax, his name's Walt, actually caught eyes with my dad and said hello while performing on the stage. Like, how crazy is that? My dad was just blown away with how extraordinarily gracious they were to him.
Now, graciousness, it's an attractive and a magnetic kind of quality. It's an attribute that really draws people to us. When we use the term gracious, we're really using it to describe... If we were defining it, it's hard to define, but it talks about really showing favor, or demonstrating kindness. And in many ways, it's talking about doing that to those that are inferior, if you were using that in a military sense, or in an employment sense, right? People that don't owe you anything and you're still showing kindness, and gentleness in dealing with them.
And really, formally, it means to show favor. That's the idea behind the idea of graciousness. Now, I bet, if I'm guessing, I bet that you can recall someone in your life that has been extraordinarily gracious to you. Now, if you think about it, you probably can put that together. Maybe they have been unreasonably kind to you in your life, and you think about that. And every time that you think about them, it just comes to mind how gracious they've been.
Maybe that was a parent that was extraordinarily gracious to you. And maybe, by the way, it was in some of your worst moments that you experienced this graciousness from somebody. Maybe it was a spouse, or maybe it was a friend. Or maybe it was a boss, or a coworker, or a coach, or a teacher. You can probably, in your mind, think about somebody somewhere, and you can call it to mind right now. And when you do, what is it you feel? When you think about that person who's been so gracious to you, what is it you feel?
I think, probably, what you feel is gratitude. When they come to mind, you just feel grateful. You feel overwhelmed, and thankful, and grateful. And really, when they come to mind, a smile comes to your face. Because you're just like, "They're just so great. They've been so gracious to me." Let me ask you something. When you think of God, is that what comes to your mind? When you think about God, does that same thing happen where you are overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude? Because what you think of when you think of God is how gracious he is.
Well, I don't know if that's what you think of or not, but I hope that if not, that by the end of our time together, that that will be something among the many attributes of God that we can think of, to really think about God the way that God wants us to think about him. I'm hoping that this will be a part of that. For so many people, graciousness, or the graciousness of God has never been a part of the way that they conceptualize of God. When they think of God, they think of a million things, but what they don't think about is God being extraordinarily gracious.
You and I both know that gracious people are people that we are attracted to, that we want to be around them. They're not the people that when we see them coming, we want to duck out, right? When we see gracious people coming, we are drawn to them. Why don't we think about God in that way? Because God is, by his very nature, gracious. Now, what I'm going to do is I'm going to look in maybe what you would consider an odd place to find that demonstrated to us. It's not an odd place, and we'll see that soon.
But you may think, initially, that it is, because where I'm going to go is I'm going to go to the cross itself, where Jesus is actually crucified, to talk about God being gracious. And, in fact, I'm going to look at where Jesus was actually having a conversation with two men, and they were both crucified with Jesus. And you might think to yourself, this is a bit of an odd place to go to talk about the graciousness of God, but I'm hoping you won't think so when we arrive there.
Because what I want to actually look at is a one-line prayer from one of these men that's crucified with Jesus. It's just a one-line prayer. And what it does is it introduces to us the nature of a gracious God. So, let's take a look into Luke chapter 23. Luke's gospel. So, if you're looking in the new Testament, it's Matthew, Mark, and then Luke. And you can open your Bible to Luke 23, or you can pull your device up to Luke 23, whatever you would like.
This is where we're going to be spending our time this day, in Luke chapter 23, beginning in verse number 32. It says, "Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with Jesus to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals; one on his right, the other on his left. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him, 'Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us.' But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.' Then he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.'''"
What we find here is that Jesus is crucified with thieves, right? That this is something, by the way, that shouldn't be a surprise to us, because Jesus actually said that this was going to happen. That he was going to be crucified among the transgressors or thieves. In fact, in one chapter behind this one, in Luke chapter 22, listen to what Jesus said. He said, "It is written, 'And he was numbered with the transgressors.' And I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.'"
You see, what Jesus was doing there is he was actually prophesying about what was going to happen. And he was prophesying what Isaiah chapter 53 actually said about the Messiah. That the Messiah was going to be numbered among the transgressors. And so, here we see Jesus fulfilling the content of scripture relative to the Messiah, where he is being crucified between two thieves. Now, one of these thieves is insulting Jesus. He's yelling at Jesus, right?
Now, you might think that it was just one, but Mark's gospel actually tells us, if we were reading in a parallel gospel, that initially, both of them were hurling insults at Jesus. So, the one on his right and the one on his left were both hurling insults at Jesus. But one of them kept on doing it, and one of them had a change of heart, and had a change of mind.
Now, this one that had a change of heart or change of mind, he may or may not have known a whole lot about Jesus, and probably didn't know maybe a whole lot because of the circles that he ran in, and what he did. But he did come to a conclusion about some things that he believed. Right there on a cross, he made some deductions about what it was he believed, and he stated it in this one sentence prayer when he states these things to Jesus. In fact, I'm going to just click through a couple of these real quickly, about what we could see his belief in Jesus looked like, so that we can see how that came to be.
First of all, he believed that Jesus could save. And the reason that I know that is because in Luke chapter 23 verse number 42, in this one-word prayer, notice what he says, "Then he said, 'Jesus...'" Now, when he used the term Jesus, by the way, he may or may not have known, prior to this, what his name was. He may or may not have been familiar with who he was, but in saying the name Jesus, he's actually saying Jehovah saves.
That's what the name actually means, Jehovah saves. And part of the reason that he understood that Jesus could save is because other people, when they were insulting him, had acknowledged that he'd saved others in some way. In fact, look back into verse 35, and it says, "The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at Jesus. And they said, 'He saved others, let him save himself if he is God's Messiah, the Chosen One.'"
On the cross, this other thief decides that he believes that Jesus could save. To what degree? We don't know. Do we know that that's an eternal salvation that he's thinking of? We don't know. Does he understand all the aspects of what is said when it's talking about how Jesus can save? Probably not. But he did recognize, to some degree, that he could save, and he uses his name, Jesus, when he addresses him. And he's confessing with that name, God saves, Jehovah saves, and that he has saved others before. So, he believed he could save.
You know what else, so? He believed that he was guilty. Now, this isn't hard to figure out. Of course, when he says, in this one-word prayer, in verse number 42 he says this, "Jesus, remember me." Now, when he uses that phrase, remember me, it's almost an indication that he knows that his life and what he's done is not worth remembering except in a bad sense. But now he is saying to Jesus, "Remember me."
Now, he knew he was guilty, and we read it just a moment ago. Because in verse 39 we see this, "One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him, 'Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us.' But the other criminal rebuked him. 'Don't you fear God,' he said, 'since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly for we are getting what our deeds deserve.''"
He understood his guilt. He believed Jesus could save, but he also believed that he was guilty. But you know what else he believed? He believed Jesus was innocent. This is a beautiful reminder in the kind of the verse that proceeds this one word prayer. After he says, "We're getting what our deeds deserve," notice what he says, then, in verse 41, "But this man has done nothing wrong." You see, what he realized is Jesus could save, that he was guilty, and that Jesus was innocent. That he had done nothing wrong, yet here he is on a cross.
He also, you can deduce from this, he also believed in life after death. Notice what the text actually says, again, in his one-word prayer. He said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom." Now, Jesus was on a cross, never to come down again, right? He was there to die. That's why you were crucified. This was a a Roman instrument of death. This was the whole point.
He knew that Jesus was going to die, yet believed that Jesus was going to come into a Kingdom of sorts. His belief was actually that there was something beyond this life. Was it a really incomplete understanding? Absolutely. But he believed that there was something beyond this life because he was believing that Jesus was coming into something, even though he knew Jesus was going to die.
But lastly, he also believed that Jesus was a King. In fact, if you listen closely to his one-word prayer, it says this, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom." He was acknowledging that Jesus was a King. He said, "You're coming into your Kingdom." Now, where did he get the idea that Jesus was a King? Probably from the sign above his head. If you've glanced back a few verses, in verse 38 it says, "There was a written notice above Jesus, which read, This is the King of the Jews."
When you read that in a couple of other texts, you find out that he talks about Jesus from Nazareth, which probably was a great identifier for this criminal. Because people didn't think much of Nazareth, and maybe he thought he was a King for the common people, right? And this was translated into three different languages above Jesus' head, the sign was. And this criminal probably could read two of them, two of the three, potentially.
He had this idea that Jesus was a King, that he could save. He believed he was guilty, that this criminal was guilty. He believed Jesus was innocent. He believed in life after death, and he believed that Jesus was a King. Isn't it extraordinary that this one-line prayer, that this thief, he came to all of this belief, but here's my question. What prompted him to actually say that to Jesus? What prompted his one-word prayer to Jesus? Could it have been something that he saw? Could it have been something that he heard?
Well, of course, it was probably both of those things, but my guess is, and this is my best guess, would be what he heard Jesus say in one line. Jesus' one line prayer, listen to what it was, back in verse number 43, "Jesus said..." No, no, no, that's not it. Verse 34, is what I'm looking for. Verse 34. See if you can pull that one up. I've got it right here, so I'll just read it to you.
Here's what it says, "Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.'" That's extraordinary, isn't it? "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they are doing." Jesus was gracious. Think about this. He's being crucified, everybody is reviling him. Everybody is insulting him. By the way, both of the criminals were, to start out with, the entire crowd was, the soldiers were, the teachers of the law were, everybody is insulting and reviling Jesus, and did he do it back to them? He did not.
Did he plead for his life? He did not. Did he say this was a mistake? He did not. Do you know what he did? He was gracious, and he prayed, "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they are doing." Could you imagine the impact that had on this thief? Because, at some point, this thief's insults and reviling turned, and he realized a bunch of things. That, "Hey, this is a King. A King who could save. This is a King that maybe is going to do something after death itself." And, "Hey, by the way, I'm guilty and he's innocent." He realized all of these things.
Why? Because I think he saw graciousness. He saw one who was willing to forgive, one who was willing to condescend. One who, even though, listen to this, even though he didn't owe all of these people anything, was still willing to offer himself. He was selfless, and compassionate, and gracious. And do you know what's so remarkable about this? That this thief came to a place of what I would call magnetism, or attraction to Jesus because of his graciousness.
And he felt the confidence to be able to pray an audacious prayer, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom." What a bold thing to say from the position that he's in. That's extraordinary. And do you know what? He did that because he felt like he was talking to someone who was gracious. Now, here's what's beautiful. Jesus actually blows his mind by his response, and in verse 43, it tells us what the response was. "Jesus said, 'Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.'" What a response.
I mean, Jesus didn't say... When this guy said, "Remember me when you come into your Kingdom." And Jesus says, "You know, I know a lot of people, and I'll do my best. I'll try." He didn't say that. He didn't say, "We're both about to die, and we're going to be dead for a long, long time. I don't know what I'll remember when I wake up, if I even wake." He didn't say any of that. Do you know what he said? This guy said, "Remember me when you come into your Kingdom." And Jesus said, "You're coming with me today."
What? There is no mental category for that, for the thief. There is nothing that you can put into your mind that would have expected that kind of response. That Jesus, listen to this, has already demonstrated how gracious he is by praying, "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they're doing." And it's so impacted this thief that was next to him, that he actually prayed a bold prayer, "Jesus, remember when you come into your Kingdom." And maybe he didn't expect Jesus to say anything at all. Maybe he didn't know what Jesus would say. But what Jesus says is this, "I'm going to bring you with me today. Today." What?
That reminds us of something, and it's this, that God is more gracious than we can comprehend. God is more gracious than we even have the ability to comprehend. There are no mental categories for how gracious God actually is. I mean, if anybody did not deserve to ask anything from the King, it was this man who was rightly being crucified because of what he had done. Maybe that was murder, maybe it was theft. I don't know what it was, but it was something that was worthy under the law, because Romans did have a system of law. It was something worthy of death.
He knew Jesus didn't belong here, but he knew that he did. And he still asked this bold request, and Jesus not only granted his request, but said, "Today, I'm bringing you with me to paradise." That is something that we don't have mental categories for. Here's why, because God is more gracious than we can comprehend. Now, in thinking about that, I want to remind you of a few things. First of all, it's this is that God was gracious in eternity past.
Now, why I say that is because the attributes of God, listen to this, God is unchanging. God has always been who he is. And so, when we see an attribute of God, it doesn't just appear out of nowhere. It is a part of the nature of who God has always been. That means it would be fair for us to talk about the relationship that God has within himself in his Trinitarian personhood. God, the father, God, the son, God, the spirit. Three distinct identities, but one God in essence.
And the manner in which God actually engages the relationship of his life among himself as father, son, and spirit is that he's gracious. He's selfless, he's space giving, even among his own personhood as father, son, and spirit. So, we could describe the relationship of God in his own personhood as gracious. But we also know that any eternity past in the fore knowledge of God, God knew that in the creation of humanity, that humanity would choose rebellion against the King.
And God had already made plans to reconcile, and restore, and rescue human beings from the bondage of their sin so that they could know him. Do you know why? Because he's gracious. And from eternity past, before we were ever even created, God, in his graciousness, had already made provision for our reconciliation and salvation, because he is gracious. You see, God's graciousness precedes time as we know it. It goes back into eternity past, because this is the nature of who God is. God is gracious in his very being.
And we see that, because once we fall into sin as human beings, what we see graciousness now being just manifested as is grace. You see, that's what happens, right? When we are sinners, we are in need of grace. And where does that grace come from? Graciousness. You see, they're really functionally a part of the same content of the nature of God's character. It's just manifest slightly different, because prior to our sin, we see and talk about the graciousness of God in his personhood. But once we do sin, we talk about the idea of grace that is given to sinners, because of a gracious God.
God was gracious in eternity past, but I'd also remind you that God was gracious in the Old Testament. You see, this is where sometimes we get caught up, because in our minds we start to create these ideas of God, where we've got this angry old mean God in the Old Testament, and we can't wait to get to nice Jesus in the new Testament. But here's the deal, you can't set up the God of the Old Testament against Jesus of the New Testament, because this is one God. And he has demonstrated that from eternity past, in his very nature, he's gracious.
You see, in the Old Testament, we find that God, we see God's graciousness in the midst of creation. In the overflow and abundance of what God has created in earth, and sky, and sea, and birds, and people. And we see God's graciousness on display. And in Old Testament history, where they were talking about Adam and Eve, and God's graciousness to them. Or we're talking about God's graciousness to Abraham, and the promise that he makes to him through nothing that Abraham has done, but only because of God's graciousness in this. Or to Sarah, who couldn't conceive, but God, in his graciousness, allowed for that to be the case with Abraham and Sarah.
We could go on and on and on in the Old Testament, but there's one place that I want to remind us of. It's when God revealed himself to Moses on Mount Sinai. When he was giving the commandments to Israel, and was setting up Israel as a people. When God was revealing himself on Mount Sinai, do you know what he announced to Moses? Listen to this, it's in Exodus 34, "And he passed in front of Moses." He was revealing his glory to Moses. "He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, 'The Lord, the Lord. The compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.'"
Did you catch that? That he is compassionate and gracious. And do you know who said that? Not Moses. God. God. Listen to this, this is why it's so important. This is a self revelation of God. This isn't Nick saying what God is. This isn't Carrie saying what God is. This is God saying, "This is who I am. I am compassionate and gracious." It's one thing, ladies and gentlemen, friends, it's one thing when we describe God in certain ways, but it is something altogether different when God self reveals.
When God says, "This is my nature." And this was so important to the Jewish people, that through the course of the Old Testament, this quotation from Exodus was quoted no less than nine times in the Old Testament. Why? Because it was a self-revelation of God. So, in Exodus, in Numbers, in Nehemiah, in second Chronicles, in Psalms, three different times. In Joel, and in Jonah, this is quoted, verbatim, basically. Why? Because it is imperative for us to remember that God is the one who has revealed himself to us.
He has said who he is, and do you know what we find out? He's gracious. He said so himself. And God is not a man that he should lie. So, God was gracious in eternity past, because it's his very nature. And we see God is gracious in the Old Testament, because he reveals that about himself. But God's graciousness is seen most clearly in Jesus. This is where we see his graciousness most clearly.
In fact, when John's gospel, when John opened up his gospel and he talked, initially, about creation, "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God." Right? He used those terms in the beginning. He's given us this creation idea. And he's talking about Jesus, that he was there in creation. He was the agent of creation. And then notice what John says in chapter one, verse number 14, he says, "The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only son who came from the father," listen to this, "full of grace and truth."
That word is charis in the Greek language, and it does mean full of grace. That there is an overabundance, that to the uttermost, he is full of grace. So, it shouldn't surprise us that John said this is what he is. This is the revelation of the son, that he's full of grace and truth. And so, when Jesus begins his ministry, and he's teaching in Nazareth, in the synagogue, do you know what people are saying about what's coming out of his mouth?
Listen to it, it's in Luke chapter four verse 22, "All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious," that word is charis right there as well, 'the full of grace words that came from his lips. Isn't this Joseph's son? They asked." In other words, they were so dumbfounded by this. They were like, "These words that are coming out of his mouth are so full of grace." Why? Because he is full of grace. That's why when John chapter one goes on to talk about this, in verse number 16 it says, "Out of his fullness, we have all received grace in place of grace already given."
What we already know is, even prior to Jesus, that grace has been demonstrated. Why? Because the God of the Old Testament is gracious. And he has demonstrated grace upon grace. And now, in Jesus, we have grace in the place of grace already given. This is an extraordinary reminder. It's part of why Paul also reminds us, in Ephesians chapter one, that, "In Jesus we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with," listen to this, "the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us."
Do you know why God lavished his grace on us in Jesus? Because he's gracious. That's why. You see, this leads us back to the cross and the scene that we were studying here, with Jesus and these thieves that are on the cross. What is Jesus even doing there? Why is Jesus even there, from the very outset? What's he doing on a cross innocently? Listen to this, he's there because God is gracious. That's why. He's there because God is gracious to sinners.
And what makes the interaction with this thief so mind blowing to me is not that Jesus knew what his offense was, whatever it was, let's say it was murder. I don't know that to be the case, I wasn't there and I didn't see... But let's say it was murder. It's not that Jesus knew that he murdered and still, listen to this, and still offered him grace. That's not what's so mind blowing, even though that is mind blowing, right? What's mind blowing is that Jesus not only knew his offense, he knew every offense that he'd ever committed in mind. Indeed.
It wasn't just about the one thing that got him here, it was about the every thing. And Jesus, still in the midst of that, showed him grace. Why? Because he's gracious. He's extraordinarily gracious. You see, we show grace as human beings. We show it usually for one of two reasons. Maybe the first reason, for those of us that know Christ, is because we know that we need it too, right? So, we show grace to other people, or we extend forgiveness to other people. We show compassion to other people, because we know we need it too.
But do you know what another reason is, that we will forgive, or we will show grace to other people? It's because we don't actually know all that we're showing grace to. Because if we did, we're not sure if we'd be able to do it. Think about it. We know so-and-so did something to me and I've shown them grace, but what you don't know is the every thing that is wrong behind the one thing. We've shown grace because we can identify and we know the one thing, but we don't know the everything. Imagine if everybody's hearts were laid bare. Imagine if ours were.
When we've been shown grace by somebody else, imagine if they knew everything, not just the one thing. See, that's what's so remarkable, that Jesus knows all of it and still shows grace. That is what is hard for us to understand. That's why his graciousness is more than we can comprehend. Think about it this way. In Jesus' worst moment, he was gracious. In his worst moment, he was gracious to a man that was in his worst moment. That's extraordinary to think about, right?
This man, in his worst moment, having done what he did, acknowledged it, and now on a cross, never to come down again, because he's going to die. He's in that spot and Jesus, not deserving of the place where he is, not having done anything wrong. Feeling the physical and emotional and spiritual exhaustion, and abandonment that comes with this moment, in that very moment, do you know what we see in Jesus? He's gracious. That is extraordinary to me when I think about it.
And do you know what that says? What must that say about the authenticity and the quality of God's grace? That in his absolute worst moment, he is still showing grace. What does that say about the quality and authenticity of grace? What does that say about God's very nature? It says that God is gracious. Try to wrap your head and your mind around how gracious God has been to you. You can't even do it for just you. Let alone thinking about how gracious God has been to the world. You can't even wrap your mind, and I can't even wrap my mind around how gracious God has been just to me. But think about that when it comes to the entire world.
But see, what we have to understand, ladies and gentlemen, he's always been gracious in eternity past. Always. And in fact, what we want to do in these moments is that, we want to take a moment, and we want to pause and worship, and sing for just a moment. Now, I want you, maybe even if you don't know the song, I want you to let it rush over you. And here's why, because what we've been talking about is this, is that God is gracious and he always has been. In fact, God has been gracious from eternity past, because that's his very nature. That's exactly who he is.
In his fore knowledge, he knew that we were going to sin. In his fore knowledge, he had already made provision for our sin. And God, in the person of Jesus, willingly went to a cross to die for our sin, even when we had rebelled against the King. We see God's graciousness in the Old Testament, over and over and over and over again. God has self-revealed that he is gracious, and that he is compassionate. He said this about himself.
In fact, when God, listen to this, when God was actually saying, "I want my people, Israel, now that they are a people..." And by the way, God, through his graciousness, created this people through Abraham and Sarah, who couldn't even conceive. And he said, "Through you, I'm going to have a people for my name, to demonstrate my glory to the nations." And he had priest, priest like Aaron, by the way. And you know what he said to Aaron? He said, "This is how I want you to bless my people." And he gave him this blessing, and he said, "I want you to bless my people this way."
And do you know what part of the content of that was in Numbers chapter six? "The Lord be gracious to you." Do you know why? Because God had revealed himself as gracious, and now he wanted his people to experience the blessing of his graciousness. And we see this graciousness most clearly in the person of Jesus. Which means this, that when we are in Christ, we have been blessed with every blessing in the spiritual realm, according to Ephesians chapter one.
We've been blessed with every blessing in the spiritual realm, because we are in Christ. Because what it means is that God's face is ever going to be toward us in Jesus. That is a beautiful reminder. So, we just want to sing this blessing over you in these moments, and allow God to speak to you about the nature of his grace, and the nature of his graciousness. Let's take a moment and let this just be sung over our hearts.
God is more gracious than we can comprehend. We don't have mental categories for how gracious God is in his very nature, and how he has demonstrated that in Jesus. The one who went to a cross, died for us, rose from the dead, even when we had rebelled against the King. So, why don't you, if you're a believer, why don't you let God begin to reset your mind? And now, when your mind thinks of God, instead of maybe thinking of images that you have created from your own categories, why don't you let God define who he is and agree with him?
And here's what he said, "I'm gracious and compassionate. Slow to anger, and abounding in love." That's extraordinary. So, when you think of God, let God's graciousness be something that comes to mind. You know why? Because it will push you to run toward him, not away from him. It will draw you in, not push you away. That's what's so beautiful about this. And do you know what it means should happen in our hearts and in our lives? It means that we, as people of God, should become people of graciousness.
That's what we're trying to do as a church, even in very difficult seasons like we're in right now. In the midst of a pandemic, what does it look like to be gracious? What does it look like for a church to be gracious? Where we're trying to be good neighbors. That's why we're kept everything online and we're not gathering, because we want to make sure we're looking out for our community. That's the posture that we've chosen. Why? Because we want to be gracious because God is.
It's why we're doing things like the Armor Project. Why we're putting armor boxes in people's hands and homes, to be able to be a blessing to them and a help to them. It's why we're helping to do some of that stuff, right? Because we want to demonstrate God's graciousness. It's why we're going to be participating... And you'll hear more about this to come, why we're going to be participating in a Feed Buffalo Initiative.
It's going to be going on with the church of Western New York. Why? Because we want the world to see that we're gracious in the midst of this time. It's why we're encouraging people like that in our church, from Operation Overwatch, who are reaching out to specific people like the Buffalo Police Department. Because they're first responders and we want to be able to minister to them in times like this. Why? Because we want to be gracious.
It's why we're reaching out to medical professionals that are on the front lines, that are caring for people. Why? Because we want them to see the graciousness of God in action. See, as people of God, we ought to be a gracious people, because we recognize that God is gracious. And with his life in us, we would be a people that would be full of grace, gracious people.
But I also want to remind you, maybe you've never come to a place where you have received Jesus as Lord and savior. I want to remind you that presuming upon his graciousness is a very dangerous thing to do for all of us. Need I remind us, there were two criminals. Two, one on each side of Jesus. Both were shown grace, because Jesus, in front of both of them, said what he said, did what he did. Demonstrated what he demonstrated in front of the teachers of the law, in front of the crowds, in front of the soldiers, in front of them.
But maybe some of them presumed upon his graciousness. And that can be a very devastating thing to do, because Jesus longs to show grace to those, listen, to those who understand and repent and say, "Jesus, I believe." And so, if you've never come to a place where you've received Jesus, where you've surrendered your life to him, I hope today's your day.
Where you might, just by faith, put your trust in a gracious God who loved you so much that he gave his only son. Who went to a cross willingly to die in your place, to take your sin upon him. He didn't owe you, you owed him, yet he is the one who made provision for you to be reconciled to God through the gift of his son dying in your place. Dying the death that you and I deserved, even though he did not. And rising from the dead, conquering death, and sin, and hell, and the grave on our behalf. So that, now, by faith in him, we can be reconciled to God.
And if you want to learn more about what it means to enter into relationship with this gracious God, who's loved you so much that even while you were a sinner, Christ still died for you, so that you could be reconciled to him. If you want to learn more about that, I would encourage you to either go online to the chapel.com/knowingjesus. Or if you'd like to call someone, speak to somebody personally, we've had people doing that each week, we'd love to be able to speak to you. 631-2636, somebody's ready to be able to receive your call and talk to you about what it means to receive Jesus.
Father, I pray that you would do what only you can in our lives to help reshape our minds, to understand you, God, as a gracious. Because that is who you are. You have told us yourself that is who you are, and you have demonstrated it by how you have shown your grace to the world through Jesus. You've lavished your grace upon us that even while we were sinners, Christ still died for us. May that permeate our hearts and minds so that when we think of you, we think of how gracious you are and it makes us want to run to you. I ask you to do this in our hearts, in Jesus name. Amen.