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Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace

If we were to stop a person on the street and ask, “My friend, do you know anything about grace?” what do you think the most common response would be? I imagine it would be “Grace who?”

Unfortunately, some people in the Church don’t much know about grace either. They think it has something to do with God, but they aren’t sure what it means. In reality, it has a whole lot to do with God, because He is the God of all grace! And He is a gracious God!

1 Peter 5:10-11 “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

So what is grace? In reference to God, grace is the absolutely free expression of His loving-kindness to mankind. Grace is God’s unearned and unmerited favor. Vital to this definition, is the understanding that such grace is wholly based upon the atonement for sins made by the blood and death of Christ Jesus. Therefore, grace is the favorable disposition of God toward sinners on account of Christ. Grace goes beyond mercy and forgiveness, because grace gives us what we can never earn.

We did nothing for God’s eternal love, nothing for Jesus Christ, nothing for the Holy Spirit, and nothing for our eternal rest in Heaven. What an astonishing thing it is to realize: the extreme difference between what we deserve and what we receive.

The new covenant between God and man was ratified by the Blood of Jesus Christ and it is not founded on man’s works at all. It is a covenant of pure unmingled grace.

Grace is not something which we improve, but which improves us, employs us, and works on us. For grace is not given because we have done good works, but in order that we may be able to do good works. Grace empowers us to perform the tasks God has given us on earth, and to enjoy what He has called us to do.

Two pastors were on their way to Atlanta, Ga. for a large Christian men’s gathering. One of them had never been in the south before. After staying in a motel overnight, they stopped at a nearby restaurant for breakfast. When their meal was delivered, the pastor who had never been south before saw this white, mushy looking stuff on his plate. When the waitress came by again, he asked her what it was. "Grits", she replied with a smile.

The pastor said, "Ma’am I didn't order it and I'm not paying for it".

"Well, Honey, said the smiling waitress, “down here y’all don't order it and y’all don't pay for it, ya just get it."

Now that describes how we get the grace of God—we can’t earn it and we don’t pay for it; we just get it!

In fact, we can only have a relationship with God by sheer grace. The fact that we are Christians says nothing good about our natures or us. We are Christians and the children of God only by His grace, because our natures are entirely too prone to evil and rebellion. Our moral efforts are too feeble and falsely motivated to ever merit salvation and a relationship with God.

Ephesians 2:4-10 But because of his great love for us, 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. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Can a corpse DO anything? Of course not, it is a dead body. Thus, our corpse, a sin-riddled body (we were dead in our transgressions), couldn’t do anything to bring us hope and salvation. So, in other words: grace was given because God loves us so much that He touched our corpse and He personally gave us a new life.

If God hadn’t freely offered to save you and me, we could believe all day long, we could repent till we were blue in the face, we could lie prostrate before God for weeks, and we could be baptized a 100 times, and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference—if weren’t for the grace of God.

WHY? Because it was what God DID that saved us. It was what God did on the cross that is the work of our salvation. Everything else (faith, repentance, confession, baptism, etc.) is just our way of receiving God’s grace. We can’t do anything to earn our salvation, because it’s a free gift. And so the Bible says: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast.

Indeed, to receive this free gift, we need faith. Fortunately, the grace of God also gives us conviction and faith to 1. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior on the cross 2. Repent of our sins 3. Confess Jesus as Lord of our life 4. And be buried in the waters of baptism to rise up to a new life. All of these are acts of our faith, but none of these things actually save us! We are saved by God’s grace! Our redemption and salvation was accomplished when Jesus became our substitute on the cross. When our faith is in Jesus and His work, we will believe, repent, confess, get baptized, follow Him, and endure till the end.

Romans 3:21-24 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

You see, the wages of sin is death. Every sin called for the death of something or someone. When Jesus died on the cross, He took our punishment for the sins we commit; thereby, saving us. Then He broke the power of death by rising from the dead. Therefore, we will rise again and be with the Lord forever.

That’s the image God places in our minds when we are baptized. We die to this sinful life, we are buried, but we don’t stay in that watery grave. We rise up, born again with a new life—eternal life, the life of God in us, the Holy Spirit.

Jesus, the Son of God, stepped down from Heaven, and became one of us. Then as the Son of Man, Jesus took our place on the cross, died in our place, and saved us. Therefore, we can sing:

"He paid a debt He did not owe; I owed a debt I could not pay. I needed someone to wash my sins away. And now I sing a brand new song; ’Amazing Grace!’ Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay."

Why would He do that?  Titus 3:4-7 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

God’s grace is motivated by His love and His mercy. God is not seeking to condemn us, but to rescue us.

John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Again, God’s grace has been extended to us through a single means – Jesus Christ on the cross. Jesus is God’s only means of forgiveness and redemption.

Is. 53:5-6 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

No one else has been sent from Heaven by God to rescue man from his condemnation except Jesus! No one else has endured the pain of the cross and paid the price of sin! Jesus is the only way, truth, and life! It doesn’t matter how religious or moral you are—no one comes to the Father except by Jesus!

When we receive God’s grace, forgiveness, and mercy by faith in Jesus Christ (which is expressed by getting baptized), we who were dead are brought to life. Jesus makes us ALIVE. He breathes the Holy Spirit into our spirit.

2 Cor. 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

It is an act of cruelty to animals, but when you see a turtle on a fence post, you know he didn’t get their on his own. It is obvious someone put him there. Christians are like turtles sitting atop a fence post of salvation – they were put there by God’s grace.

Furthermore, Jesus wants to do more than just give us life – He also wants to give us liberty. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, Jesus didn’t just bring him to life, He set him free from his grave clothes to experience life abundantly. Jesus said, “Loose him and let him go.” They took those grave clothes off and suddenly, Lazarus could move and enjoy life again.

Likewise, if you’ve been born again, you don’t have to remain bound by the old grave clothes of your past. God wants to raise you up, give you liberty, and free you up, so you can experience life abundantly and be who Jesus wants you to be.

After all, He has a job for us. We just read, For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. This means He has a prepared purpose for our lives. Therefore, our focus and activity should always be to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. The grace of God will lead us and guide us by the Holy Spirit and His Word.

Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Notice in that passage, three things the grace of God does for us. The grace of God brings us salvation, teaches us how to live, and gives us hope.

Ephesians 1:7-8 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

Because God is love, He is gracious enough to save us from our sins, which separate us from Him. His grace is in the person of Jesus, who became sin for us on the cross, so that in Him, we might be saved from our sins and become righteous in God’s eyes. IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS. He is the personification of God’s salvation and God’s grace.

Salvation has been made for all mankind. He desires all to be saved and receive eternal life. This grace is offered to us. The question remains for each person: Will you receive His gift?

To receive God’s grace and salvation, there must be a recognition of sin. Because of sin, we are separated from God and on our way to an eternal Hell. People need to be broken over their sin before they will ever look up, bow down, repent, confess Christ as their Savior, and surrender their lives to Him.

But many people don’t think they’ve sinned. Why? Because they compare themselves to one another instead of Jesus Christ, and consider themselves as good as anyone else.

Also, they’ve never been taught. One of our problems today is that we don’t label “sin” as sin. We try to make it sound like it’s not so bad, just an alternate lifestyle. It’s happened in our schools, in the movies and TV where sin is acceptable, and many times it has happened in our churches. We have not called sin by its real name! And that’s one reason why people don’t fear God, and don’t recognize sin, and don’t fear what it can do to them.

Furthermore, people don’t hear about sin from preachers, whose emphasis is building a large church by trying to make people “feel good.” The only way people can really feel good about themselves is when they believe in Jesus Christ, repent of their sin, get baptized, and are filled with the Holy Spirit! Then they can experience love, peace, and joy.

After salvation, God continues to offer His grace by teaching us how to live. We just read in Titus, It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.

Did your mom or dad ever say “No” to you when you were young? Of course, we were taught that certain things were dangerous for us and we were told, “NO!” Don’t touch—hot! You’ll get burned!”

Or there were times when mom took us shopping and we wanted this or that and we were told, “No, you can’t have that!” or “No, you don’t need that!” A loving parent will say “no" at times to their children. And a loving parent will also discipline a child for disobedience. Likewise, our heavenly Father, says “no” at times and He disciplines us as well.

Proverbs 3:11-12 My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.

God clearly says “No” to certain things in life or to the way of the world. Sadly, many people, including many Christians, go the way of the world, thinking it doesn’t matter what they do in life. But it does matter. We need to allow the grace of God to teach us how to live, and a part of that living is leaving certain things alone.

Too often, we learn the hard way by suffering the consequences of sin, but why don’t we just learn from God’s grace by listening to His Word and His Holy Spirit? God’s grace in Scripture and the still, small voice of His Spirit tells us what to do and what not to do. By His grace, He tells us what is good and what is evil.

Lastly, the grace of God give us hope. We read, while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

What’s so glorious about the return of Jesus? We get to go home where there is no pain, no sorrow, no crying, no death; only peace, comfort, love, and eternal joy! This grace gives us hope in this evil world.

John Newton, on being asked his opinion on some subject, replied, “When I was young I was sure of many things; there are only two things of which I am sure now: one is, that I am a miserable sinner; and the other, that Jesus Christ is an all-sufficient Savior.”

When John Newton was younger, he was the captain of a British ship that transported slaves from Africa to the British colonies in America. Later in life, he received the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ and became a preacher. However, He never erased the cries of the prisoner slaves from his mind and always felt extremely responsible for his sinful part in the slave trade. With cataracts blinding his eyes, John Newton wrote the song, “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.”

Did Newton see something that we don’t? There is nothing we can do to erase our sin. However, there is no sin so great that the grace of God cannot forgive. Grace is free to us, but let us never forget it cost our Lord everything. Grace is hard to understand and grasp, because grace does not belong to our sinful nature, but grace is what God gives every day. When we were depraved, devilish, and destitute, God gave us grace. And His grace will lead us home.

It’s been said that GRACE stands for God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. I like this description. God gives us what we don’t deserve – His love, favor, and eternal life. And God withholds what we do deserve – death, hell, and eternal punishment – all because of Jesus.

Remember: It’s by grace you have been saved, through faith in Christ Jesus. You cannot earn salvation, nor will you ever deserve it, but you can receive it by putting your faith in Jesus and accepting God’s grace. Your punishment has been taken. Confess to God that you are a sinner in need of salvation. Give Him your life by confessing that Jesus is your Lord and follow Him in baptism. You can receive God’s grace and Holy Spirit today.