Since 9/11 (and probably before), the most familiar religious song has been 'Amazing Grace'. It was written by John Newton of England whose mother died when he was 6 yrs. of age. He went to sea with his father when he was 11 and at age 17, he joined the British Royal Navy. An atheist, he later engaged in transporting slaves from Africa to ports to sell them. In 1748 during a terrible storm at sea and facing death, he had a genuine spiritual experience. Six years later, he quit the sea and started working in Liverpool, England. When he was 40 yrs. of age, he became an ordained minister and served over 30 yrs. as a pastor. He preached almost to the end of his 82 years.
The first verse of the song says, "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now am found...was blind, but now I see."
I hope that you can identify with this kind of Amazing Grace!
In my last two papers on 'Priceless Privileges That We Enjoy From God', I listed many of the privileges that we enjoy by God's grace.
These come to us through Christ's Cross, the Resurrection, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Let's look further at Grace:
II Corinthians 8:9 "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes, He became poor, that we through His poverty might be rich."
II Corinthians 9:8 "God is able to make all grace overflow toward you, that you always, having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work."
II Corinthians 12:9 "God's grace is sufficient for you, for God's strength is made perfect in our weakness."
To define grace is not enough, but start with this....Grace is self-giving on God's part, expecting us to give ourselves to God in a life of trust and love. The usual definition that he hear for grace, is: 'God's unmerited favor toward us'.
Following are some thoughts on Grace:
1) GOD'S GRACE SAVES....(Ephesians 2:8-9)
"By grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God...not of works, lest any man should boast. We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." I Corinthians 15:1-4 also emphasizes that we are 'saved by the gospel, which is the gospel of grace'.
It says that Christ died for our sins and He was buried and rose the third day. This gospel must be received, for John 1:11-13 says, "He came unto His own, but they received Him not, but as many as received Him, to them gave He power, to become the sons of God, even to them who believed on His name. These were born not of blood (heredity) nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of men, but by the will of God."
God is the Author of Salvation,
Righteousness is it's focus,
Christ's Atonement is it's channel,
and Eternity is it's duration.
While being interviewed on national TV, Dr. Hershel H. Hobbs was given one minute to 'sum up' the meaning of salvation. He said, "I won't need a minute! " Then he quoted John 3:16...
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have Everlasting life."
2) GOD'S GRACE SHAPES US....(I Cor. 15:10)
Paul says, "It is by the grace of God, I am what I am and the grace that God showered upon me, has not been in vain."
The question is: Has it been in vain in your life?
A gracious person is shaped by receiving all that God gives and by giving all that God asks. In fact, the Bible says that we are God's 'workmanship'......the Greek word for 'workmanship' is 'poema'. We are to be His poem!
Therefore, we are saved and shaped by God to become inspirations like good poetry to those who see and read our lives.
Notice: You are a work of grace BEFORE you do good works. Keep in mind, God is the potter and we are the clay....and God is not through with us yet, nor does he throw the clay away. (See Jeremiah 18:1-6)
Throughout the years, I have handed out printed sermons notes, etc. and one that seems to be the favorite of most, has been the story of "The Teacup".
The story (author unknown) speaks to this:
'If I could talk, this would be my story. I haven't always been a teacup.
One day, my Master took some red clay and began to pat me.
"Leave me alone", I said and He said, "I'm not through yet!"
He placed me on a spinning wheel and I got very dizzy and asked Him
to take me off. He said, "Not yet!"
Then He placed me in an oven and I yelled and could see Him through
the window in the door. He said, "Not yet!"
He took me out and placed me on the shelf and the coolness felt good.
But then He began to brush me and paint me.
"Stop it!" I said, but He only nodded and said, "Not yet!"
Then back into the oven, twice as hot as before, and I begged and pleaded,
but He only shook His head, "No".
When there seemed to be no hope and I was ready to give up,
He took me and placed me on the shelf again.
One hour later, I looked in the mirror and said,
"That's not me, it can't be me! I'm beautiful".
My Master said, "Remember I said that it would hurt?
I patted you...or you would have dried up. If I had stopped the
wheel, you would have crumbled. Without the heat of the oven,
you would crack. The flame was necessary to give you color.....
the second oven was necessary for hardness. Now, you are a
finished product, you are what I planned when I started."
3) GOD'S GRACE SECURES US.....(Jude 24, 25)
"Now unto Him Who is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of His Glory with exceeding Joy, to the only wise God, our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever."
This is often used as a benediction at the end of worship services. However, it needs to be the theme of our life, not the benediction of our life.
I will never forget how lonely I was during the first months of basic training while I was in the Army. This continued until I met the love of my life, La Moyne, now my wife of 52 years. We met in church and after each Sunday evening service, the youth met for a time of Singspiration Fellowship. One young man could play the piano like I had never heard and the young people really got into the singing! The song I liked the best was, "Wonderful Grace of Jesus".
The chorus goes like this:
"Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus...Deeper than the mighty rolling sea.
Higher than the mountains, sparkling like a fountain, all sufficient grace for even me.
Broader than the scope of my transgressions, greater far than all my sin and shame.
Oh magnify the precious name of Jesus, Praise His Name!"
Years later while I was pastoring in the Bay Area of California, a young member of our church, Vince Mok, said to me, "Pastor, what we need is 'Ministers of Grace'."
May we ALL be 'Ministers of God's Grace' wherever we are!
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