The Gift of God's Amazing Grace
Published on 29 December 2020
Who of us—no matter our culture, ethnicity, age, background or faith— isn’t familiar with the old hymn, Amazing Grace?
Written in 1772, Amazing Grace has remained, throughout the centuries, a much beloved and familiar song—and not only for Christians. The beautiful and powerful words penned from the personal journey of Englishman, John Newton, have touched the hearts of countless men and women deeply, evoking a spark of hope in otherwise hopeless situations. I have stood at many grave sides and heard the familiar tune of this song pierce the grief-filled atmosphere like a shard of sunlight through cloudy skies. Though Newton’s particular life experiences were vastly removed from our own, there is something so familiar and relatable about his sentiment for all of our lives. What is that and why does it by-pass all of the usual barriers on its way to our hearts?
I have been a Christian most of my life yet I, like you, remain a fallible human being who makes mistakes, fails myself and others and falls short of pleasing God with my behaviour and attitudes on a daily basis. I’m sure that we can all relate to the Apostle Paul who bravely gave us insight into his own constant internal struggles, reassuring us that falling short of God’s standard is an expected part of life’s journey. Thankfully, he also confirms that there is an antidote to this torment, that is free and available to every person at any time:
For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
It is the moments of guilt and shame that inevitably follow our failures, that we are most acutely aware of our desperate need to find favour with God once again. Living in God’s favour is an incredibly fulfilling and peaceful place to be, and it is not until you step out from under it, that you truly appreciate what it brings to your life. This favour is best known as grace and the good news is that it is freely available to every one of us TODAY.
Grace Vs. Mercy
As we study Biblical grace, it is helpful to distinguish between grace and mercy. The Greek word used for mercy is most often, eleos, meaning, ‘pity and compassion’, while the Greek word for grace is charis, meaning, ‘favour’. Simply put, mercy is the act of withholding punishment when it is deserved, while grace is the act of conferring favour on a person when they don’t deserve it. This favour is unmerited and gifted at the discretion of the giver. Both generous and undeserved acts have a profound positive impact on the recipient and generally elicit great gratitude in return. While mercy pardons, grace equips and empowers. I’m sure most of us have had at least one encounter with unexpected mercy—being forgiven of something when we deserved punishment or offering our forgiveness to someone who has wounded us in some way. It is a difficult but healing experience for everyone. The receiving and giving of grace, however, is another thing altogether!
Grace—God’s unmerited favour
Many people see no need for God’s grace in their lives. When you do not know Him personally and have not experienced His tangible, daily transforming love, it is easier to imagine Him to be a myth or at best, removed from and apathetic to the needs of His own creation. Every walk with God must begin with an honest investigation of where we came from and where we are headed. It is in these open-hearted, open-minded moments that God begins to speak and reveal Himself to us, and the journey of salvation truly begins. To fully understand God’s amazing grace, we must first understand where we stood before our Creator before Jesus stepped in to rescue us.
Although we were not present when Adam and Eve sinned for the first time, we were by bloodline, ALL born sinners:
For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
As it is written:“There is no one righteous, not even one;
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
From the very beginning, we were ALL guilty of falling short of God’s Holy standard and rightfully deserved the penalty of eternal death:
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
For no person will be justified [freed of guilt and declared righteous] in His sight by [trying to do] the works of the Law. For through the Law we become conscious of sin [and the recognition of sin directs us toward repentance, but provides no remedy for sin].
Spiritually speaking, we were blind, doomed, hopeless, unclean and on our way to an eternity in Hell. Without grace, salvation was impossible.
Driven by love and knowing that He would be legally obligated to administer divine justice in the face of our sin, He devised a rescue plan so astounding and effective that we could not have ever imagined it up. He decided to send His only son, Jesus Christ, to the cross, to take the punishment of our sins —ALL of them—upon Himself so that if we received Him into our lives as Lord and Saviour, He would take up residence in our hearts. Looking through the lens of grace and absolute unconditional love, the Father would then be able to look at us and see only the perfection of ‘Christ in us’ and legally bypass the punishment that we deserve. God’s grace is amazing because it is an undeserved and free gift. Though it costs us NOTHING, it cost Jesus EVERYTHING!
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Yet through his powerful declaration of acquittal, God freely gives away his righteousness. His gift of love and favor now cascades over us, all because Jesus, the Anointed One, has liberated us from the guilt, punishment, and power of sin!
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.
The Gift that Keeps Giving
We see clearly God’s mercy and grace powerfully at work from the very beginning. By His mercy, we are now forgiven of all sin, and by His grace, we are given the gift of a full, rich and victorious life here on Earth and eternal life in Heaven with Him. All He asks in return, is RELATIONSHIP with Him through His Son, Jesus!
For every person who acknowledges Jesus and accepts Him into their life, profound promises were made by God Himself. Of the thousands recorded in the Bible, here are just a few:
FORGIVEN AND FORGOTTEN SIN—
I, yes I, am the One and Only, who completely erases your sins, never to be seen again.I will not remember them again. Freely I do this because of who I am!
MADE SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF GOD—
So as a gift of his love, and since we are faultless—innocent before his face— we can now become heirs of all things, all because of an overflowing hope of eternal life.
A FULL AND BLESSED LIFE—
A thief has only one thing in mind—he wants to steal, slaughter, and destroy. But I have come to give you everything in abundance, more than you expect —life in its fullness until you overflow!
Instead of shame and dishonor, you will enjoy a double share of honor. You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.
For I will restore health to you and heal you of your wounds,’ says the Lord.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
“I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”
I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.
And my God shall supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
My Father’s house has many dwelling places. If it were otherwise, I would tell you plainly, because I go to prepare a place for you to rest. And when everything is ready, I will come back and take you to myself so that you will be where I am.
The sacrifice of Jesus was the ultimate expression of grace and the foundation on which the Bible was written. Yet sadly, despite the unimaginable generosity of the gift, not everyone chooses to receive it.
Being undeserved or unmerited is what makes God’s grace so precious, powerful and amazing. Unlike “karma”— the principle of getting what you deserve—grace is the very opposite. Unfortunately, the karma mindset often makes it difficult for a person to accept God’s free gift of grace. We may accept that God loves us and wants to bless and favour our lives, but the deep and pervading feeling that we do not deserve His love can stop us from ever opening the gift and experiencing life lived under the favour of God. How it must grieve our Saviour, Jesus —having endured the ultimate level of unmerited shame so that we could live free of it—to find us voluntarily remaining tied to our mistakes and choosing not to access the grace that has been made freely available through His great sacrifice on the cross.
Others of us simply cannot accept the fact that God’s grace is a free gift and instead, work hard to earn it. Not having to earn the love and favour of God is what sets Christianity apart from all other religions. While other religions teach that we must earn our way to God, Christianity teaches that God instead came in search of us—His beloved. Knowing we could NEVER earn His love and favour apart from Jesus, He made a way where there was no other way!
For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation].
God saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.
But if it is by grace [God’s unmerited favor], it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace [it would not be a gift but a reward for works].
Feeling amazed yet?
When confronted with the illogical and unimaginable grace of God towards people who don’t deserve it and even reject it, It is difficult to imagine WHY the God of the universe would give it so willingly. The answer is always the same—so simple, yet so profound:
The fundamental truth about God is that He loves us and wants RELATIONSHIP with us. In fact, it is all that He has ever wanted from us. It might help to remember that He is a Father—first and foremost—and we, His adored and beloved (though sometimes ‘lost’ ) children. His love for us is unchanged or affected by our desire for Him, our achievements or the condition of our lives and hearts.
I the Lord do not change.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.
This is a fundamental aspect of who He is—His GLORY (His character and nature on display), and it is His love and kindness, and not judgement and condemnation, that draws us into relationship with Him.
Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?
The unchanging nature of God enables us to feel secure in His affection for us. No matter how badly we fail or fall short, whether we can ‘feel’ His Presence or not, or how far we drift away from Him, we can be assured that He will always be who He says He is and cannot love us any more or any less than He does right now. This consistent and dependable love is rare, yet available to us all. This alone, is an amazing gift and has the power to eradicate all fear from our lives—fear of failure, fear of abandonment, fear of rejection, fear of punishment...the list goes on and on!
Every good parent delights in blessing their children. If you are a parent like me, you will understand the sheer joy of watching your children unwrap their gifts at Christmas or squeal in delight when presented with their first car. It is never about what you will RECEIVE from them. The real joy is in the giving.
You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
This joy of giving that we discover in our nature, is evidence of God’s DNA flowing in our veins. He is a giver. He IS ‘grace personified’. Unphased by the rise of sin in our lives, He responds every time, with even MORE grace!
Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more!
How about now? Amazed yet?
As incredible as this grace is, it is in fact, even broader in scope than you may have realised. While it is defined as ‘undeserved favour’, many times in the Bible, it has a second prong that is equally powerful, generous and underserved. The additional definition of grace, described in many places throughout the Bible, is ‘supernatural empowerment’. Not only is grace a beautiful quality of God’s nature, it is also a type of empowerment that supernaturally increases our capacity to love God and others, serve God and people, endure suffering, obey God and fulfil His divine will—despite our significant human limitations.
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
Grace Equips and Empowers Us
With the gift of new life through Jesus Christ, we are promised the grace to live it supernaturally—defying all human reasoning. We have been empowered to overcome every natural obstacle to living a supernatural life that reflects Heaven and glorifies God: sickness, conflict, poverty, education, talent and the opinion of man, just to name a few. Most incredible of all, is the empowerment we have been given to overcome the devastating effects of sin in our lives.
For sin will no longer be a master over you, since you are not under Law [as slaves], but under [unmerited] grace [as recipients of God’s favor and mercy].
The fact is, God delights in demonstrating His power and glory in our weakness, defying all human logic. The Apostle Paul who was used powerfully by God in the Bible, describes how he pleaded to God to remove something that he called ‘a thorn in his side’. He did not tell us exactly what it was that tormented him daily, but he did give us God’s response:
He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.” Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ [may completely enfold me and] may dwell in me.
Sometimes God allows unwanted things in our lives to remain—temporarily or permanently—so that we live in humility and dependency on Him, and not self-sufficient. But He does not leave us to struggle alone; we are gifted His grace—supernatural empowerment—to cope with and overcome the effects of these challenges. Our complete trust in His character and constant hope in His deliverance speak volumes to any unbeliever struggling to understand our faith in the face of suffering. This is perhaps, our greatest testimony of the reality of God in our lives.
In addition to empowering us by grace to live in victory and freedom, God gifts us the grace to fulfil our unique divine calling, ordained for our lives before we were born.
For He delivered us and saved us and called us with a holy calling [a calling that leads to a consecrated life—a life set apart—a life of purpose], not because of our works [or because of any personal merit—we could do nothing to earn this], but because of His own purpose and grace [His amazing, undeserved favor] which was granted to us in Christ Jesus before the world began [eternal ages ago],
Very often, God’s call for our lives appears to contradict our natural abilities. Time after time in the Bible, we see God choose the most unlikely candidates to do great things for Him. Moses was called to deliver God’s people, but appeared to struggle with some sort of speech impediment. David was anointed King while just a lowly shepherd boy serving his father. Mary was an ordinary young girl, chosen to carry and birth the Messiah, and Paul— once a violent and relentless persecutor of Christians—was called to play an integral role in establishing the early church and penning significant amounts of the Bible! Clearly God loves to display His glory by using ordinary people in extraordinary ways when they trust Him and surrender to the call. How do they overcome their obvious limitations?—GRACE. God never calls us to do anything, without equipping us with all that we need.
And God is able to make all grace [every favor and earthly blessing] come in abundance to you, so that you may always [under all circumstances, regardless of the need] have complete sufficiency in everything [being completely self-sufficient in Him], and have an abundance for every good work and act of charity.
I hope you agree with me that God’s grace is indeed, truly AMAZING. But there is just one more question to answer: How do we access this gift of grace in our lives?
We have already discussed the need to receive Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. This is non-negotiable but something you will NEVER regret. The salvation experience is miraculous and life-changing, but it is still necessary to intentionally walk in God’s grace every single day.
The Enemy of Grace
The main enemy of grace is our PRIDE. Pride stops us from recognising our great need for God and His grace, and stands as an obstacle for walking in intimate relationship with Him. Humility, on the other hand, positions us to receive God’s favour and to steward that favour in ways that please and honour Him in our lives. To those who value humility, God pours out His grace without limitation:
But He gives us more and more grace [through the power of the Holy Spirit to defy sin and live an obedient life that reflects both our faith and our gratitude for our salvation]. Therefore, it says, “God is opposed to the proud and haughty, but [continually] gives [the gift of] grace to the humble [who turn away from self-righteousness].”
I don’t know about you, but when I meditate on the incredible kindness, forgiveness, generosity and empowerment that is extended towards me by God daily, even though I do not deserve it, there is only one appropriate response—authentic praise and worship, overflowing from a heart of deep gratitude. Without God, I would be lost and without hope. Instead, I am free, called, equipped, forgiven, hopeful, joyful, secure and loved. I can live with the liberating revelation that even if I fail, I will fall into His dependable arms.
It therefore goes without saying that because of His amazing gift of grace at work in my life, I am obligated to practise that same grace to those who surround me.
Tolerate the weaknesses of those in the family of faith, forgiving one another in the same way you have been graciously forgiven by Jesus Christ. If you find fault with someone, release this same gift of forgiveness to them.
Like the writer of Amazing Grace, who encountered God’s grace and immediately committed His life to extending that same grace to the slaves he had routinely taken advantage of, once exposed to the grace of God in our own lives, we too should feel compelled by gratitude, to ‘pay it forward’ at every opportunity.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound.
I leave you with these powerful words from our Saviour, Jesus Christ:
"Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold[a] was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[b] He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
- Mercy is the act of withholding punishment when it is deserved, while grace is the act of conferring favour on a person when they don’t deserve it. While mercy pardons, grace equips and empowers!
- In the same way that God and love cannot be separated because He is, by nature, love, so too grace is an essential part of His character and central to everything He does.
- God’s grace is amazing because it is an undeserved and free gift. Though it costs us NOTHING, it cost Jesus EVERYTHING! All that was required of us, was to acknowledge Jesus as our Lord and Saviour and receive Him into our hearts.
- The fundamental truth about God is that He loves us and wants RELATIONSHIP with us. In fact, it is all that He has ever wanted from us.
- Not only is grace a beautiful quality of God’s nature, it is also a type of empowerment that supernaturally increases our capacity to love God and others, serve God and people, endure suffering, obey God and fulfil His divine will—despite our significant human limitations.
- God loves to display His glory by using ordinary people in extraordinary ways when they trust Him and surrender to the call. How do they overcome their obvious limitations?—GRACE. God never calls us to do anything, without equipping us with all that we need.
- Humility positions us to receive God’s favour and to steward that favour in ways that please and honour Him in our lives. To those who value humility, God pours out His grace without limitation.
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