How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost
But Now I’m found
T’was blind but now I see
We have probably sung this song hundreds of times through the years. It is in just about every hymnal of churches throughout the world. Most of us know the song by heart without having to read the words. We have come to know the song “Amazing Grace” but do we really know what it means? What’s so amazing about grace anyway? And just how sweet is that sound?
The next phrase in the song gives us a clue. The verse continues by saying: “to save a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found.” Over 2,000 years ago, God made a way for us to be reconciled to Him through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. Christ was the perfect sacrifice for the sins of mankind. From the time Adam and Eve sinned and brought the curse upon us all, God had a plan to redeem us back to Him. Although it has been over 2,000 years since Jesus died upon the Cross, the effects of what was done still touch us today in the 21st Century.
When Moses led God’s people out of Egypt through God’s power, He went up into the mountain and received the Ten Commandments. Of course, we hear a lot of debate about the Ten Commandments in the news today. You would think that the Ten Commandments would have been easy to live by right in the days of the Bible? No. In the years that followed, religious leaders added to those commandments and continued to do so until they had so many laws and religious rules that it was impossible to keep them all. When religious men get into the lawgiving program, it is going to really mess things up. God saw that man had totally complicated the law to the point that it was impossible to keep – according to the religious rulers of that time. God implemented a new plan through Jesus and that’s where we get grace.
So how does grace free us from sin?
The law reveals God’s standard but it does not provide the spiritual ability to measure up to the law. Grace cancels out our sin and lets us start over with a clean slate. Grace brings us into a relationship with God and permits us to look to Him for the strength needed to live the life that God had intended for us. Knowing God personally helps us to overcome sin.
GRACE VS. THE LAW
Unfortunately churches and denominations still get things out of balance when they focus on works over grace. There is an importance in being obedient to Christ and fulfilling your call to do His will in this life but none of this can be done absent of grace. Some teach that you must do a certain formula before you will be acceptable to God. The forgotten part to all of this is that there is no formula for us to create holiness. God has already provided a way for us. Somewhere along the way we’ve confused holiness for perfection. Not so. We aren’t perfect – nor will we be in this body – but we are forgiven. That’s the important revelation that we all should have.
Even in my own denominational background, we became burdened down with additional rules and laws that made us think that by keeping these things it would translate into holy living. I think well-meaning, God fearing men were doing what they felt needed to be done but it was extremely out of balance.
To give you an example, we had something which was called “Advice To Members” which, in its title was advice but it was taken way more serious than that. These were additional holiness guidelines for our church members. Certain portions such as “not wearing shorts in public” or “wearing finger rings” were strictly taught; however, other parts of this same “advice” talked about “taking part in the singing”. I never saw any member reprimanded for not taking part in the singing yet we would disfellowship people for wearing shorts or jewelry. That was out-of-balance. Something that was given as advice had turned into another law.
On the other side of the balance scale, some go to the other extreme and think that under grace, we can be okay with sinning everyday. In Romans 6:15, Paul is dealing with this issue and makes the statement: “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” (NIV) We don’t have a blank check to willfully sin and then at the end of the day cash it in for God’s grace.
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH GRACE
Several years ago, I was in a difficult place in my life. I had made some wrong decisions and my life was a mess. I had reached the point where I was at the end of myself. I had no power to fix the situation on my own. After a day at work where I had put on a happy face, I went to my hotel room carrying the weight of my world on my shoulders. None of my co-workers knew the turmoil that was going on inside of me. I went into my room and just stood in the middle of the room looking toward the ceiling. I didn’t turn on the television and I didn’t turn on any of the lights. I just stood and looked up as if I could possibly see God more clearly in the ceiling tiles of my room.
Do you remember the scared feeling you would get in the pit of your stomach when you knew you were in trouble as a child? I had that feeling. As I looked up, I told the Lord: “I have nothing to bargain with. All I can do is ask for your grace to cover me. I don’t deserve it but I am at your mercy in this situation.”
At that moment, there were no works I could do or laws I could have kept that would have rescued me in that situation. I did what all of us have to do in the end - I had to accept responsibility for my sins and accept God’s grace to restore me.
In the years I grew up in the church and going to church faithfully and working in the church, sadly I had become desensitized to what grace really meant. But my plea in a hotel room during this dark place in my life restored my soul. I was transformed by a renewed mind (Romans 12:2-3) and a new spirit was created in me (Psalms 51:10). No, my situation wasn’t changed instantly in that one night but I was changed. That change sustained me and I could see the grace of God as He began restoring my life.
ACCEPTANCE OF RESPONSIBLITY
We all make mistakes. This isn’t something that is immune to Christians. Even after that life changing moment for me, I have still made some mistakes and I have sinned but there is no giving up or turning back now! Admit the mistakes and confess the sins to a God who has made the way. Grace is no license to sin but when we do; we have an advocate (Jesus) with the Father who continues to redeem us today. (1 John 2:1-2)
God wants a relationship with us. He has taken the steps necessary to make the relationship right. In Jesus Christ, He does for us what we could never do for ourselves. At the cross, He fulfilled all that righteousness requires. His life was given in exchange for ours and His blood paid the price for our sins. In our life’s race, let us not forget His amazing grace!
Read more articles by Milton Hooper or search for articles on the same topic or others.