Monday, April 2, 2007

What is so Amazing about Grace?

The song Amazing Grace is one song that is truly amazing!
It is probably the best known hymn in both secular and Christians circles. It has been played and sung in virtually every conceivable environment by saint and sinner alike.
What is it about this song that even though it clearly presents the gospel, it has been given such universal appeal and acceptance?
Today yet again, with the recent release of the movie “Amazing Grace”, it is propelled with even greater force into the public consciousness.
The popularity of the song is inconceivable unless you leave room for God’s hand using it as a vehicle that reverberates God’s salvation message into the darkest corners of society.

While God’s grace is freely spoken of, I sometimes wonder if we truly understand the full meaning of the word.
Sometimes words or phrases become so familiar and common place that they lose the original depth of meaning the word represents. For example a word we use every day , “Good-bye!” has lost its intended prayerful blessing since it has been shortened from the original “God be with ye”.

I took a look through scripture and was inspired afresh by God's amazing gift of grace.

There is a difference in the meaning of the word ‘grace’ when it is used in the old or the new testament.
In the Old Testament the Hebrew word translated grace means ‘kindness or favor’, and is most often linked with ‘found’.
While no man ‘deserves’ God’s grace , in the Old Testament God’s grace was not freely bestowed on men but was given in response to the righteous acts of a man, or based on his merit.
We see this clearly demonstrated when Abraham bargained with God to show mercy upon the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The bargaining position Abraham held was not that God should ‘freely bestow unmerited favor’ upon the people of the cities but that if there should be found a number of ‘righteous’ men then God would spare the cities. The required number were not found and God could not save the cities, but Lot , who is called ‘righteous’ in II Peter 2:8 did find ‘grace’ in God’s eyes (Gen.19:19) and was saved.
Other examples are –
“Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” (Gen.6:8),
“If now I have found grace in thy sight…”Gideon, (Judges 6:17),
“If I have found grace in thy sight”, Moses (Ex.33:13)

In the New Testament ‘grace’ takes on an added dimension of meaning.
The Greek word for ‘grace’ means “the divine influence upon the heart and it’s reflection in the life”
We all know that it is “through grace we are saved through faith , and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God..not of works lest any man should boast” ( Eph.2:8,9)
Salvation, resulting in our restored relationship with God, cannot be attained by any human effort, it is purely and completely God’s work. But there is still something required of man in order to receive the free gift of salvation God requires individual trust in Him, believing that Jesus has paid the full price for our pardon.

Grace not only gives us entrance into the kingdom of God but it is grace that enables us to ‘stand’ . ( Rom.5:2) In other words we need grace to be saved but we need grace to STAY saved. Here is where the New Testament meaning takes on such depth of meaning.
Grace is the ‘divine influence upon the heart’. God’s grace works to influence us , to give us the strength we need to live the Christian life.
Do you see how this is different from the Old Testament grace?
In the Old Testament God’s grace was given in response to man’s righteous acts.
In the New Testament God’s grace is extended to all His children to ‘enable’ them to live righteous.
In the Old Testament grace was with GOD , in the New Testament Grace is with US!

Here is the gulf fixed between law and grace.
Where the Law demands righteousness, grace enables righteousness.

Does that not bring Romans 6:14 into sharp focus? “For sin shall not have dominion over you ; for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”
Where the law had no power over sin, grace gives us the power we need to conquer the influence of sin in our lives.
Even Jesus needed this ‘divine influence’ as His enabling strength to offer Himself as our sacrifice. Heb.2:9 ..”that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man.”

We are commanded to ‘grow’ in grace in II Peter 3:16
If grace is understood as the enabling power given by God then growing in grace means that I need more and more of God’s influence working in my heart.
Heb. 4:13 invites us to come boldly to find the mercy and grace that we may need in any situation.
John 1:16 says that we are given ‘grace for grace’ – if we use the grace we have we will be given more grace. If you are feeling weak spiritually, .ask for more grace ! His grace is always sufficient for us. (II Cor.12:9)

But there are also warnings . In I Cor. 15:10 the apostle Paul acknowledges that it is by God’s enabling influence (grace) that he is what he is , but he is careful to emphasis how diligently he worked that God’s ‘grace’ would not be in vain, but that it would be evidenced in his life.
And also in II Cor. 6:1 Paul beseeches his fellow workers not to receive God’s grace in vain.

How is it received in vain?

If you fill up your car with fuel, it has received ‘grace’ or enabling power to move but if it is not driven anywhere it has received the fuel in vain.
If God’s grace is not evidenced in our life as Christ-likeness, if we do not use God’s enabling grace to be victorious over sin, if we do not use God’s grace to exercise the gifts He has given us for service in His vineyard, then we have received His grace in vain.
And Gal. 5:4 says that if we return to the law we have fallen from grace…. we have abandoned the power we need to live pleasing before the Lord.

God has put words to his ‘grace’ or enabling power. In Acts 20:32 it says that …”the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified…”
Reading and studying God’s word will give you more grace! It will build you up in strength.

The very last words of the bible are a prayerful wish for you and me… “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all! (Rev.22:21)
If we have His grace , then we have His enabling power to be like Him, and to serve Him from a pure heart.

"Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound...."

3 comments:

Lovella said...

. . . that saved a wretch like me. I was was lost but now I'm found . . was blind but now I see.

Praise the Lord.

Micky said...

About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staff was very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 1994, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages [England & Australia]. God LOVES me so much. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].

Peace Be With You
Micky

Julie said...

Thank you,Micky, for sharing your experience, and letting 'your light" shine. I am so happy that you found the Father who made you His own, and filled you with His Spririt.
"Perfect love casts out fear."
(I John 4:18)