Ah, God's amazing grace! We've heard the song, but do we know what it means? The video posted above is not quite the familiar "Amazing Grace" that everyone is familiar with. It is a newer song based on the old, called "Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)". I love the old familiar version, but I also love that little tag-on:
My chains are gone, I've been set free.
My God, my Savior, has ransomed me.
And like a flood, His mercy reigns.
Unending love, Amazing Grace.
I don't know if I've ever heard a sermon based entirely on the grace of God before. It is one of those words that Christians use a lot, but do we really know what it means?
The passage that Rev. Singleton chose to preach from today was Titus 2:11-14.
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 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 appearing of the glory 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.
This passage doesn't quite define the word grace, but it does tell us what it's purpose and function are in our lives. First of all, it "offers salvation to all people." Grace is something that God does for us. It is offered by him. We have no part in making it happen. As Rev. Singleton put it, "it started with the mercy of God, not the merit of men." There is nothing that we can do that will give us God's grace. Because of his justice, we deserve to be punished for our sin. But because of his mercy, he has provided a way for us to be forgiven, and to escape that punishment. This is very good news, as scripture is very clear that "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
Notice that the passage in Paul's letter to Titus says that it is offered to all people! So why are all people not saved? Well, there is more to that scripture in Romans that is less-often quoted. Verses 22-24 read:
This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
Look! All are justified freely by his grace! But it is given through faith in Jesus Christ. Why? Why can God not just clear everyone, no matter what? I think it is because after we choose to have faith in Jesus, we are redeemed, and start the purification process. The English definition of "redeem" is "to buy back." So, through Jesus, we are bought back from our life of slavery to sin. Our chains are gone! We are free to live the life that God intended for us to have. It is easy to look at yourself and think "I'm a pretty good person." Most people, if we're honest, don't go out of their way to be evil. But are we always good? I know that I am not always loving and kind, even if I try to be. I have those days when things are going wrong, or I'm not feeling well, and honestly I can be selfish. If we are really honest, even some of our "good works" are selfish in nature - we are helping someone else for our own merit. So, even though we did something good, it was not with a pure motive.
The middle part of the Titus passage says that God's grace teaches us how to live godly lives in the present age. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised in John 14:26 that God would send him to help us: But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. This advocate comes to us as a result of Jesus' death and ascension to Heaven. Jesus said in John 16:7 "it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." How do you get this advocate to help you, and teach you? You have to accept the grace of God.
You can't work your way into the knowledge of the Lord. You can't make yourself good, but you can be good because of what Jesus has already done for you. Jesus said "I am the way and the truth and the life." (John 14:6). Without accepting the grace of God, we live with our feelings of guilt. But when we accept grace, the Holy Spirit will remind us of who we are. We are children of God. We were sold as slaves by our sinful nature, but we have been bought back by our elder brother, Jesus, and returned to our Father. And once we are returned, we can never be sold again. Our sins are gone, meaning that our sinful nature has been dealt with and is now the one in bondage. The end of the Titus passage says that Jesus gave himself to purify us. To redeem us from all wickedness. Don't keep trying to do it for yourself, when it's already been done for you!
If you read last week's post on John 10:1-16, you will remember that Jesus called himself "the Good Shepherd," and came to lead us back to the Father. If you read just a little farther in John 10, to verses 27-29, you will find that "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand."
You are a precious child of the Most High God. The only one keeping you from realizing this great blessing is...you. God offers salvation to all. All of humankind has been redeemed by Jesus Christ. But you can walk away, just like you can win a prize and refuse to collect it. It is your choice. If you didn't watch the video at the beginning of the post, I encourage you to go back and watch it now. It tells about John Newton, the writer of the song "Amazing Grace." When the song talks about a "wretch like me," Mr. Newton was talking about himself. He changed from being a slave-trader to being a preacher who helped to end the slave trade in England. God's grace can save anyone, no matter what their background. You can be set free. God's saving grace allows you to be different. It allows you to walk in purity, and to stand up for what is right and just.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I'm found.
Was blind, but now, I see.