“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:” 2 Corinthians 9:8
According to the Popular Hymns Chart, the best loved amongst both traditional and contemporary Hymns is “Amazing Grace” by John Newton; and while many can sing it, and love it,
few of us fully understand what Amazing Grace really is?
John Newton’s mother died when he was just seven years old. Four years later, at age 11, with only two years of schooling and only a rudimentary knowledge of Latin, John went to sea with his father. His life at sea was filled with wonderful escapades, vivid dreams, and a sailor’s recklessness. Sadly, He grew into a godless and abandoned man. He was once flogged as a deserter from the Navy, and for 15 months lived, half starved and ill treated, as a slave in Africa.
A chance reading of Thomas à Kempis sowed the seed of his conversion. It was accelerated by a night spent steering a waterlogged ship in the face of apparent death. He was then
just 23 years of age. Over the next six years, during which he commanded a slave ship, his faith matured. He spent the next nine years mostly living in Liverpool, studying Hebrew and Greek and mingling with George Whitefield, and Charles Wesley and the Nonconformists. He was eventually ordained to the Anglican Ministry, and became curate at Olney, in Buckinghamshire, in 1764. It was at Olney that he formed a life long friendship with William Cowper the Hymn writer
and it was there that they produced the Olney Hymn Book.
A marble plaque at St. Mary’s Church Woolnoth carries the epitaph which Newton himself wrote:
“JOHN NEWTON, Clerk
Once an infidel and libertine A servant of slaves in Africa,
Was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour JESUS CHRIST, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach
the Gospel which he had long laboured to destroy”.
We can thank God for men like John Newton, and as I mentioned earlier, all of today’s Service Hymns were
written by Newton.
My sermon today also entitled AMAZING GRACE is an attempt to help us all grasp the truth and the treasure
that is Gods Grace.
In 2 Corinthians 9 verse 8, Paul writes: “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.”
Here in this verse the word “is” is not in the original, changing the tense from the future to the present. This “all grace” is not something that will eventually become ours, this “all grace” is already our present abounding and abundant possession. ALL grace means grace sufficient for all, for our salvation, sufficient for our forgiveness, sufficient for our healing, sufficient for our material needs, sufficient for our financial crisis, sufficient for our struggling relationships, or sufficient for our broken marriages. In fact Gods grace is an abounding amazing, abundant and remarkable grace; and every single “gift”
given us, is a grace gift,- given because of Divine grace.
Grace has been described as “unmerited favour”, and in fact the words Grace and Favour are interchangeable in the Greek.
In order to help us understand it better, we shall return today to a story that I have preached on before, the familiar story of
The Prodigal Son.
Luke records for us the story in Chapter 15:v11-32
(11) And he said, A certain man had two sons:
(12) And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.
(13) And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
(14) And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
Here we see a young man apparently tired of home and family life, tired of the work and duties on the farm, tired of parental influence and control and eager to see the world, eager to live, eager to spend and eager to enjoy life for a change. He recons that half the farm belongs to him, and so is bold enough to ask for his share of things sooner instead of later, (after his Fathers death). Not willing to be an “ogre” the boys Father agrees and I suppose reluctantly allows the lad his freedom, and hands over his share of the family farm, not in kind but in cash.
One might say that the boy soon runs out of luck, runs out of friends, runs out of funds and runs out of food. Having spent it all, he finds himself in a far country in the midst of famine,
and at verse 15 we see that…
(15) … he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
(16) And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
Here he is, sitting amongst the pigs, who are eating more than he is, and better housed than he is, and verse 17 continues:
(17) … when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
(18) I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
(19) And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
So this is his plan, – he will go home, apologise to his Father, and ask if he could become a Servant instead of a Son, for his Fathers Servants were indeed faring better than he was.
It is important to recognise here that although he had been extremely foolish, and extremely careless with his inheritance,
there was a genuine sorrow and regret in his heart over what he himself knew was his sin. And he was indeed turning away from that kind of life and turning back to his Father and his Home. This is what the Bible calls repentance!
Verse 20 says:
(20) And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
(21) And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
(22) But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
(23) And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
(24) For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
He has asked for mercy and asked to be re-positioned as a Servant, but it seems that his Father heard none of that, nor was he seemingly angry with his wasted substance and riotous lifestyle. Immediately, the best clothes in the house were found for him, a new pair of shoes, a Sons Ring was placed on his finger and the Fatted Calf was made ready for his “Welcome Home” party? And I’m saying to myself “What was his Father thinking, what was he doing”? and God says:
“This is Grace”
There are TWO things I want you to grasp at this point in the story, and both of them are in relation to the Father figure.
Verse 20 says that “when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him,” I like that, for it tells me that although many are still far from grace, far from forgiveness, far from mercy, far from loving the Saviour, far from being what they should be, far from giving God even a single thought, they are not too far beyond the vision of the Father, the sight of God. God sees you when you are still “far off” and like this boys Father, God also is waiting and watching every moment for the children to come home.
God too has many wayward children. Those who are calling themselves Christian but away from the Fathers care and comfort, backslidden and walking in the ways of “death” and not in newness of life. God is longing for them to come home, back to his loving embrace and back to his care and keeping. Then there are those who God is waiting to “Adopt” as his children, those who are lost, dead in trespasses and sins, more children of the Devil than children of God. God is waiting for these also, and he sees them “far off” and has called you and
me to go after them and to bring them home.
Now let me say something which some of you will not want to hear. God does not look for lost souls in your Church, Chapel or Cathedral building, it is wonderful when they DO venture in through the doors and search for God themselves. God has called us to go OUT into the world, into the pubs, into the night-clubs, into the brothels and into every dark and cruel place to “rescue the perishing, to care for the dying and snatch them in pity from sin and the grave, to weep over the erring ones and to lift up the fallen ones and to tell them all, tell them of Jesus the mighty to save”.
Yet if you were to see me this week coming out of the Pub, or the Betting Shop, you’d throw stones at me, long before you would ever stop to ask why I was there. And that’s because you yourself may be lacking courage or faith to take up the commission of Jesus and go yourself into ALL the world, into ALL places, up ALL the dark alleys, or down ALL the dark and dangerous lanes; Into all the world, the nice and not so nice places. May God move us out of our comfort zones and our warm and cosy Church pews to get the job done. These young people (and some of them are not so young) are dead and dying, they will end up in Hell if we do nothing about it. And if that thought does not bring us to tears, then our real commitment to Jesus lies in doubt?
Listen to what the Father said in verse 24 …”this my son was dead, and is alive again” and yet you may say “that’s not true, he was down, but he was not out”!
Let me tell you that he was DEAD alright, for you see
“For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace”. Romans 8:6 Everything that the world offers is “death” every thrill that the world advertises as life is “death” wrapped up in rose petals. Every trick and trinket that the world serves up on a plate, is Death. To feel it, is to touch death, to feed from it is to eat a poison, to live in it, is to die to God the Father. This wayward boy, this prodigal son was indeed dead, and some would say living a “hell” of his own creation, as many are doing right now even as I speak. We have got to go into their hell and their death and bring them out, we have got to get them to the place where the Lord Jesus can resurrect them, and lift them out of that.
We don’t have to love what they do, but were it not for Gods Grace, Gods Favour – we, might be there amongst them.
Many of them are truly afraid of God, they have only heard from us, heard from the Church that God is their Judge, and while he
will Judge a fallen world, those who will put their trust in Jesus are no longer under any condemnation. We need to Preach
about a “Gracious, Merciful Saviour, and a Loving God”
who like the Father in this story, is waiting for them. Not waiting to beat them up, but waiting to bless them and put his arms of love around them. This Father showed only grace and mercy, undeserved love and favour was showered on the wayward son …, and Gods grace and mercy will outshine any human Father.
Now remember that his man has TWO sons, and verse 25 says:
(25) “Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing.
(26) And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.
(27) And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.
(28) And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him.
(29) And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:
(30) But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.”
This speech by the Older Brother seems on a first hearing to be fair enough, reasonable, true, … he was telling it like it was … surely? Most would agree that he had every right to feel aggrieved – to feel belittled – even passed-over. Yet the truth of the matter lies in the boys words, for there we see for real, the relationship that he had with his father at home. He says
“neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment”
This boys ideology was based on legalism and performance.
He had not been disobedient, never disgraced his father, never stepped out of line, never strayed from the straight and narrow,
and was always performing as expected. Yet his “waster” brother was being shown all kinds of unfair attention grace and favour? But what seems clear to me, is that the youngest boy (in spite of his wayward bent) had a much more clear picture of what “Family” was all about. Family is about Love – loving warts and all. Its about acceptance even when you mess up, its about Grace when you don’t deserve it, and its about showing mercy and kindness at all times. A willingness to bail one another out, to go that extra mile … its about an amazing God Given Gift, for God has put us in “families” to help us to understand Him, and see him as our Father in Heaven.
Verse 31 shows us the extent to which grace will go, we read:
(31) “And the Father said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
(32) It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found”.
The reason why God shows us amazing and remarkable grace, undeserved and unmerited favour is because God has remarkable resources and wants to share them. He says to us “All that I have is yours”, and if you can believe it, your life will never be the same. Sometimes God wants to give us things that we don’t want, and that too is the measure of His grace. The apostle Paul speaks of “a thorn in his flesh” 2 Cor 12:7 and says that three times he asked God to remove it, but Gods response to Paul was NO – here is “my grace” instead.
God may not give you what you want, he may not heal your body, open your blind eyes, remove that cancerous tumour, but he says “here is my grace” in the mean time. Sometimes God wants to lead his children to a place of such intimacy with him, that problems and pains no longer matter, the only thing that
matters is knowing and resting in his amazing grace. You see GRACE is really a “reflection of Gods nature” a mirror image of the Divine. The prodigals Father treated his boys just like God would, he imitated God, and that’s what we need to learn. You show me a Man or Woman imitating God, and I’ll guarantee you that you have found Graciousness, true Grace.
NOW THIS FINAL WORD
Years ago, I spent some time with Trans World Radio in
Monte Carlo, Monaco, and had the privilege of meeting
broadcaster and author Mrs Nora Freed who gave me
this little poem about Grace, and with it, I will conclude
Grace when the sun is shining Lord,
Grace when the sky is black,
Grace when I get the unkind word,
Grace on the too-smooth track,
Grace when I’m elbowed into a nook,
Grace when I get my turn,
Grace when the dinner will not cook,
Grace when the fire won’t burn.
Grace when my duties all go wrong,
Grace when they all go right,
Grace when it’s gladness, praise and song,
Grace when I have to fight,
Grace when my clothes are fresh and new,
Grace when they’re worn and old,
Grace when my purse is empty too,
Grace when its full of gold.
Grace when the saved ones don’t act saved,
Grace when they all blame me,
Grace when denied the good I’ve craved,
Grace when I get my plea,
Grace when the midnight hours I tell,
Grace when the morn is nigh,
Grace when I’m healthy, strong and well,
Grace when I come to die.
Lord Jesus, hear and grant the grace:
My need to Thy store I bring,
That, with the proper one in the proper place,
I may glorify Thee, my King.
Grace is a Person, and his name is Jesus.
we must reflect and imitate him.
God Bless You … Amen.