During a sermon delivered at Proclaim 17, the NRB International Christian Media Convention, Oak Cliff Bible Church pastor Dr. Tony Evans shared how a proper understanding of grace can bring true racial reconciliation to the American church.
On Wednesday, Dr. Evans addressed the audience made up of Christian broadcasters, pastors, and others gathered at the Orlando World Center Marriott in Orlando, Florida.
"At the heart of grace is unmerited favor," Dr. Evans began his sermon which focused on "Sola Gratia" - by grace alone. "Grace can be defined as the goodness of God to people who do not deserve it, could not have earned it, and could never pay back for it, for it is the God of grace that authors His goodness to undeserving mankind."
He continued: "Grace is all that God is free to do for us independent of us. Salvation can not be earned, bought, paid for, or merited. To appreciate grace and to understand it, we have to understand the backdrop of our need for it, which will lead to the implications of it."
Throughout the Bible, the reality of our sin and inability to save ourselves from death is clearly emphasized, said the "Proof of Heaven" author. However, in Ephesians 2:4-5, the apostle Paul introduces two simple, but incredibly hopeful words - "But God." These two words, the pastor said, change the entire narrative and tell us that we have been saved only by God's grace.
"These words can reverse any scenario...they can open up graves, unhook caskets, and dig out dirt and make dead things live again," said Dr. Evans.
Wrath and justice are inherent parts of God's nature, he said, but so are love and mercy. Therefore, for these vastly different attributes of His character to get along, God had to come up with a plan.
"The God of the Bible came up with a plan, and that plan ignited another attribute called grace," Dr. Evans asserted. "When wrath and justice met love and mercy, they created a plan of redemption expressing itself in the unmerited favor of God."
The Bible is clear that we are not only saved by grace, but that we are also sanctified and transformed by grace - and we receive this grace through the person of Jesus Christ.
"To experience more of grace, you must experience more of Him," the pastor emphasized. "We look to Jesus Christ, because He is the dispenser of grace...the more Jesus you have, the more grace you get. The less Jesus you have, the less grace you experience. So it is the relationship[ of a person that allows him to dispense the grace that he offers, that is his sufficiency for the life that has called us to live. Grace is like Niagra falls - it just keeps on rolling."
One cannot work to get grace, because grace cannot be earned. However, we are called to respond to this grace with our actions: "When you never forget where God brought you from, when you never forget where you were drowning in graveyard of sin and death, you can't help but become a spiritual lifeguard and delivering others through good works. Not to earn grace, because grace cannot be earned, but to respond to grace," Dr. Evans said.
"It's all about Him, because it's all about grace," he added. "When you understand grace and you respond to grace, you get more grace for God to do more in you, through you, for you. When you leave grace, even when you're doing ministry, you get cut off grace, and you are severed from Christ...while you can never earn grace, you can always access it."
A proper understanding of grace allows for racial reconciliation and healing within the church, Dr. Evans said: "Grace...makes the two into one," he explained. "The American church, in the divisions that we've had in history and we still have today, doesn't understand grace. Because if you understood grace and were doing good works, you wouldn't have division, because the cross brings peace."
He added, "Grace goes through the cross and reaches out the black guy, to the white guy, to the poor guy, to the rich guy. I know you all come from different backgrounds, different histories, but my cross...brings us back together again."
Dr. Evans was one of several pastors throughout the week to preach on the five "solas" of the Protestant Reformation as 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Theses. The "solas" (Latin for "alone") represent the five foundational principles of the Reformation, which was launched in 1517 when Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.
NRB's annual Convention is the largest nationally and internationally recognized event dedicated solely to assist those in the field of Christian communications.