Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace

If we were to stop a person on the street and ask, “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!

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? First, it is not the same as mercy and forgiveness. God hates sin. Sinners are His enemies. We are all sinners. God would be just to destroy all of us and send us to Hell. However, He shows us mercy by forgiving us wholly upon the atonement for sin made by the blood and death of His Son, Jesus Christ. That atonement is God’s grace that saves us.

Now, this message is not about semantics or word definitions. God’s grace is critical to our life, especially for our salvation, justification, restoration, transformation, empowerment, and perseverance during suffering. I know big theological terms don’t help us understand, but it is important that we do not miss the grace of God in order to avoid destruction.

Hebrews 12:15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

Grace goes beyond mercy and forgiveness. Grace is the power and gifts of God, given to us to do what we can never do for ourselves. By God’s grace, He gives us salvation, adoption, justification, transformation, the Holy Spirit, eternal life, etc. 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. Grace is not something which we improve upon, but which improves us, employs us, and works in us.

To help us understand how we get grace, I’ll tell you about two preachers who were in 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 served, the preacher 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 preacher said, "Well, 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."

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

Ephesians 2:4-10 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, [This is why He did it. Next is what He did] made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace [power of God] 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 dead person DO anything? Of course not. Thus, our sin-riddled body (we were dead in transgressions), couldn’t do anything to bring us hope and salvation. Fortunately, because of this great love for us, God had mercy on us and did what we could not do for ourselves.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world [His mercy], that he gave [a gift of grace] his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

It was what Jesus did on the cross that is the work of our salvation. We can’t do anything to earn our salvation, because it’s a free gift. Everything else (faith, repentance, confession, baptism, etc.) is just the result of our receiving God’s grace to believe.

Matthew 16:15-17 He [Jesus] said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

Peter had received grace (a revelation) from the Father to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

Likewise, the grace of God gives us conviction and faith to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Furthermore, God gives us grace to repent of our sins, to confess Jesus as Lord, to die to self and be buried in the waters of baptism, and to rise up—born again of the Holy Spirit.

All of these are acts of our faith, but none of these things actually save us! We are saved by God’s grace—His power, His work! Our redemption and salvation was accomplished when Jesus became our substitute on the cross. By His grace (His work), we have been justified—made righteous by the Blood of Jesus Christ. Thus, we are no longer separated from God. We are adopted—made co-heirs with Jesus in the Kingdom of God, and gradually transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ. These are things we cannot do, nor earn by good works, nor gain by following the Law.

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 calls for the death of something or someone. When Jesus died on the cross, He atoned for the sins we commit. We are justified by what Jesus did. That is grace. Jesus also broke the power of death by rising from the dead. Therefore, those who believe in Him will rise again and be with the Lord forever—that is more grace.

Therefore, we can sing, "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. ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed!"

Titus 3:4-7 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared [Jesus], 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 [His work], we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

No one else has been sent from Heaven by the Father to rescue man from his condemnation except Jesus, the Son! 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 we are—no one comes to the Father except by Jesus!

Isaiah 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.

This is the work—the grace that saves us. Therefore, when God gives us faith (a revelation) to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, who was crucified for our sin and rose from the dead, we express the faith given to us by dying to our sinful life through baptism. Then we, who were dead in our sin, are saved by His grace and born again of the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, Jesus does more than just give us a new life. He also gives us liberty. If you’ve been born again, Jesus doesn’t want you to remain bound by your past. Jesus wants to free you to experience life abundantly, and be who God created you to be. After all, He has a job for us. We just read (Eph 2:10), For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Therefore, the grace of God will lead us and guide us by His Word and by the Holy Spirit to do good works that fulfill God’s purpose.

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, the grace of God brings us salvation, teaches us how to live, and gives us hope. We cannot do these things ourselves. They require grace, God the Holy Spirit, working in us.

Why do people not believe the Gospel? Because they don’t have God’s grace (gift, power) to believe. They compare themselves to one another instead of Jesus Christ, and consider themselves as good as anyone else. They take their moral standards from our schools, the movies, and TV where sin is acceptable. In fact, it is not even called sin; it is called something good! That’s one reason why people don’t fear God and don’t fear what sin can do to them.

Furthermore, people don’t hear about sin from preachers, whose goal is building a large church by trying to make people feel good about themselves. However, the only way people can really feel good about themselves is when they have grace to believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior, repent of their sin, are born again, and are filled with the Holy Spirit! Then they can experience the love, peace, joy, and eternal life that salvation gives us.

After salvation, God continues to give us His grace, from the Holy Spirit, 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 parents ever say “No” to you when you were young? Of course they did. They taught that certain things were dangerous for us and we were told, “NO!” Don’t touch—it’s hot! You’ll get burned!” Loving parents will say “no" at times to their children. And a loving parent will also discipline a child for disobedience.

Likewise, the grace of God clearly says “No” to certain things in life and disciplines us when we turn to the way of the world. The grace of God teaches us how to live, and a part of life is leaving certain things alone.

By God’s grace, we don’t have to sin. God’s voice in Scripture and the voice of His Spirit are His grace telling us what to do and what not to do. By His grace, He tells us what is good and what is evil. We have been set free from sin’s power to live God-controlled lives in this evil world.

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

This is our hope. It is not a mental imagination. By God’s grace, we know it is a future event. We look forward to it! We look forward to an eternal home with Christ where there is no pain, no sorrow, no crying, and no death; only peace, comfort, love, and joy!

God’s grace also gives us hope in spite of all the evil we have done. For example, John Newton 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 could never erase 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.”

There is nothing we can do to erase our sin. However, there is no sin so great that the Blood of Jesus Christ cannot cover it. God’s grace to believe in Jesus Christ is given to us, but let us never forget that grace cost our Lord Jesus everything. Because of His love and mercy, He gave His life so we could have grace to be saved. This should cause us to worship Jesus with all our spirit, soul, and body.

Grace, the power and gift of God, is hard to understand and grasp, because grace does not belong to our sinful nature. That is why many of you feel that God can’t forgive you. You don’t understand God’s grace. You cannot earn it. Grace is what Jesus did for you. Grace is what the Holy Spirit gives you every day to live for Him. And His grace will take you home.

Jude 24-25 To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy, to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power, and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

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 through faith in Jesus and what He has done for you. He took your punishment to save you from the wrath of God.

Also, you need to remember, there are things you cannot do without God’s grace and you need to quit trying to do them in your own strength. If you are struggling with sin, or if you can’t forgive someone, or you find it difficult to witness, or hard to do anything else commanded by God, you need God’s grace. Don’t fail to go to the Father to find it!

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.

Therefore, go to God for grace to meet all your needs and help you every day.

If you need to be saved, ask the Father for grace to believe in what Jesus has done for you on the cross. When He gives you faith, then confess to God that you are a sinner in need of His grace to repent of all sin. You can’t change yourself. So, give Him your life by publicly testifying that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and follow Him in baptism. Then you will be born again by the grace of the Holy Spirit. He will come and live in you, teaching you to say “No” to all ungodliness, and conforming you to the character and image of Jesus Christ.