Sunday, July 22, 2007

Understanding Grace
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Understanding Grace


Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,

I once was lost, but now am found.

  1. It is one of the most well-known hymns in the church.

  2. This past spring, a film was in local theaters that ;focused on the lives of the men and women, including John Newton, who lived in late 18th century England, who fought to remove slavery from English culture.

  3. John Newton wrote the epitaph that eventually was put on his tombstone: John Newton, clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slavers in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had so long labored to destroy.

  4. At the age of 82, as he faced poor health and a fading memory, it was suggested that he retire. He responded, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior.”1

  5. John Newton experienced God's grace – his life was transformed.

  6. I want to look at three lessons we can learn from the Old Testament about grace.

Read: Psalm 45:1-2


  1. Grace effects our actions

(Ill.) It was three or four years ago at one of our Halloween parties. Jim cam dressed as Popeye the Sailor Man. It was great. But, I want to go back to the familiar cartoon that many of us probably watched on TV as grew up – you probably remember some or all of the theme song - “I'm Popeye the Sailor Man, toot – toot”. But do you remember Popeye's motto? It went something like this, “I yam what I yam.” Popeye was satisfied with the way he was and was not about to change.

    1. And too often we all fall into that trap. We want God to love us the way we are and leave us alone. I don't want to change! (Stamp foot!)

    2. But something does change when we finally meet the grace of God. He allows us to approach just as we are. But then he reaches out and begins to reshape us – so that when we walk away, we are not the same person. In God's presence we are changed.

    3. Solomon knew that God's grace would wear on us like a piece of jewelry:

My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment,

do not let them out of your sight;

they will be life for you,

an ornament to grace your neck.2

(Ill.) In the great iron foundries in making Bessemer steel, the process of purification is watched through a spectroscope, in which the changing colors of the flames show exactly when the metal is perfectly ready for its uses. When the flame becomes a certain precise shade of color then the great crucible is tilted and the metal poured into molds. So the great Divine Refiner, the loving Christ sits down by the crucible of our discipline and chastening, watches intently to see when the fire has done its work; and when this is reached, the metal is removed from the flames. Not a pang, a pain, or a sorrow that is not necessary to our purifying will He permit.3

    1. God continues to refine us.

  1. Grace effects our appearance

    1. But change is not only something that happens to us. It will also effect us around us.

    2. We are thinking a lot about weddings around here – my son in a week and Bob and Deb, the week after that. And we are all getting primed for those events. Hair is being cut, clothes are being cleaned, travel plans are being finalized. But when I say the “grace effects our appearance”, I am talking about all those outward things. Rather, what I am suggesting is that when God changes us on the inside, those around us will see the difference on the outside.

(Ill.) One way to think of this is as a regular table lamp. Inside that lamp is a small piece of glass. But it really is a rather large paper weight when it comes home from the store. In fact, some of them look rather dumb just sitting their on the edge of the buffet or the beside table. But once they are connected to a power source – it has the wonderful potential of effecting the world in which it finds itself. And when the power is turned on, something amazing happens – the whole world becomes alive. We can see what we are eating, we can read, we won't trip over the corners of the bed. In the same way, when we let God's power flow through us, those around us will see us differently.

(Ill.) I am reminded of that children's song that we have all sung:

This little light of mine

I'm gonna let it shine

This little light of mine

I'm gonna let it shine

This little light of mine

I'm gonna let it shine

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.4

    1. Where will you find yourselves this week? Work, shopping, at a wedding, your family. This is where your light can shine

  1. Grace effects our world

    1. Well, let's see: We started by saying that grace effects us

    2. And once we experience God's grace, then those around us will see us differently.

    3. But our story of grace goes one more step – not only will others see us differently, but we will also be influencing those around us as we live out our faith.

    4. It is our prayer that our faith will impact positively those around us; but, Isaiah 26:10 reminds us that we live in a world that can and does reject God's grace:

Though grace is shown to the wicked,

they do not learn righteousness;

even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil

and regard not the majesty of the Lord.

    1. But because some will reject the offering of God's grace, that is not any reason to stop sharing it. There will be those who will respond.

    2. We are left with three choices

      1. We can give up – after all there will be those who reject God's grace, why should we bother living it.

      2. We can live just as we have -

      3. Or we can allow God to take us to where He wants us, realizing the we owe it all to Him and we are ultimately only responsible to Him.

Conclusion: The choice is yours.


1Petersen, William J. and Peterson, Ardythe (2006). The Complete Book of Hymns: Inspiring Stories About 600 Hymns and Praise Songs. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

2The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Pr 3:21-22). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

3AMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.


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