The Amazing Grace Of Jesus Christ

“We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.” – Acts 15:11. 

John Newton, the man who penned Amazing Grace, said that when we get to heaven, there will be three wonders: (1) who is there (2) who is not there, and (3) the fact that I’m there. Basically John Newton was saying grace is everything for nothing to those who don’t deserve anything. And that grace came through Jesus Christ.  

God’s grace is not an abstract concept or a thing. The Bible is very clear that saving grace comes through Jesus Christ alone. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17 ESV). Acts 15:11 adds, “We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”And Titus 2:11 says, “For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.” Jesus is the only source of saving grace. “ Acts 4: 12 (ESV) says “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12 ESV). Through Jesus, “…we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:16) 

It is obvious that Jesus was full of grace. You can’t read about the life of Jesus and not come to that conclusion. There are many examples of that fact in the Bible. A woman is caught in in adultery (John 8). Others wanted to stone her, but Jesus cleared her. The woman washing His feet. Others wanted to cast her out but Jesus offered entrance. The woman at the well. Others wanted to avoid her and He detoured to get to her. Peter denies Jesus 3 times but Jesus gives him a mulligan.  And the thief on the cross. Stop and think about the pain Jesus was in. Jesus is hanging there as an innocent man being asked for grace by a man who deserves what he is getting. When we are hurt it is so easy to justify hurting others. And yet in His pain, Jesus offered grace. Jesus’ entire life and ministry was marked by grace. It seems Jesus always went out of His way to give grace. No one Jesus offered grace to deserved it. He gave it anyway. This was Grace undeserved but also unreserved.  

Hebrews 2:9 says, “What we do see is Jesus, who for a little while was given a position “a little lower than the angels”; and because he suffered death for us, he is now “crowned with glory and honor.” Yes, by God’s grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone.” And Romans 5:21 says “So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. How did you become aware of the grace that God has shown you? 
  2. How is that grace of Jesus Christ manifested in your life today? 

What Is Grace?

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” – Hebrews 4:16. 

The search for the perfect gift can be a maddening one. There’s always at least one person who either seems to have everything or doesn’t want anything. And a gift card just won’t do. But in spite of the difficulties there is still that one expression of our love and creativity that will earn us a nomination as gift giver of the year. It is especially gratifying to find that one special gift when the person we are buying the gift for deserves our time and commitment. We are fortunate that God did not measure our worthiness before giving us the gift of His Son. “Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!” (2 Corinthians 9:15) The NIV says, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” The ESV calls it an “inexpressible” gift. 

It is all of those things. The gifts we receive at Christmas or our birthday, even the most creative ones are describable. Some may seem too wonderful for words, but only the gift of Jesus Christ is one that couldn’t be truly put into words. How does one describe that which is indescribable?

In Psalm 103, there’s a laundry list of just some of the things God does in our lives by grace. The psalmist says, “may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things…The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins;” Is that grace? It certainly is. 

It is grace and grace alone that God doesn’t give us what we deserve, but rather gives us what we need. We should be eternally grateful for the grace of God. We were basically in pretty bad shape before we met the Savior. We will never be able to answer what we did to deserve a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Before grace our life had little meaning and little hope. We were headed for an eternity separated from God. There was nothing we could do about it. We would never be good enough to earn our salvation. But God changed all that when He died on the cross for you and me. And although the song Amazing Grace is an amazing song, it cannot fully capture the infinite inexhaustible grace of God.  

God’s grace is truly indescribable. I hope that each day we see, understand and are overwhelmed by His grace as we were when we accepted Him into our life as Savior. And I hope we not only understand God’s grace, but live it and give it to others.  

Discussion Questions: 

  1. How can grace be summarized?
  2. How can God’s overcoming, or irresistible grace be part of our lives this week?

Amazing Grace. Saving Grace.

“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound. That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.” ― John Newton, Amazing Grace.

Why is “Amazing Grace” the most-performed hymn in the English language? It just is. This song has the enduring power that has carried it to continents and through time. It is the most recorded song in history. But how many people know, as Paul Harvey would say, “the rest of the story?” 

The boat had been thrashing about in the north Atlantic storm and was in pretty bad shape as a result of the pounding it had taken. The sailors had little hope of survival, but made every effort to keep the boat afloat. John Newton was one of those sailors. As the situation turned even more bleak and hope was quickly dissipating, Newton reflected on his life. His life was in a bad way.  His life has been taking on water for some time and like the boat he was in, there was little hope of being able to turn it around. But his thoughts turned to Christ and the Lord delivered him out of deep waters. 

Newton became a slave ship master, bringing slaves from Africa to England over multiple trips. He admitted that he sometimes treated the slaves badly. In 1754, Newton abandoned the slave trade, and his life on the sea and devoted his life to God’s service. He was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1764 and gained some popularity as a preacher and hymn writer, penning some 280 hymns, including Amazing Grace in 1779.  Amazing Grace was written by John Newton in 1779, some 240 years ago. Amazing Grace is a song about one man’s real and ugly sin — the sin of slavery. At the same time it is a song about the power of forgiveness, a song about looking into the depths of very real evil and, even there, especially there, finding grace that is bigger than all the hate. When you know the back story the lyrics make sense: 

 I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.

and

Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come.
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home.

Newton would most assuredly not have written “Amazing Grace” if not for his past. And many of us would then be without these lovely words that so aptly describe our own relationship with Christ and our reliance on God’s grace in our lives:

Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Discussion Questions:

  1. About what percentage of the song Amazing Grace do you think you could recite from memory? Look up the lyrics to the song Amazing Grace. Which parts of the song do you especially identify with? Why? 

A Change Of Direction

“The Lord said, “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now. I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again…. So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him …Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized.” – Acts 10:11-12, 17-18. 

The year is about AD 33. Christians are in constant danger. Saul is systematically hunting them to either execute or jail them. But Saul is about to undergo a dramatic conversion, a name change and a complete u-turn. We may not experience such a dramatic turnaround, yet there will be times in our life when we may need to change direction. And in some cases do an about face. Fortunately, God allows U-turns.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “We all want progress. Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turn, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road.” If you feel like you are on the wrong path, keep your eyes on the prize. Don’t get distracted. Keep moving forward on the road He’s set before you. “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.” (Proverbs 4:25-27)

It is an absolute fact that you can’t drive in two directions or focus on two different destinations. So as we develop our vision, it is important that we not get distracted and find ourselves on an off ramp. We need change of direction when we take our eyes off the road leading to Christ. That means we avoid looking at what everyone else is doing, being, and saying – and to instead see Him. That means we keep our eyes on Jesus who finished the journey we are on. We need to study how He did it because He never lost sight of where He was headed. “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” (Hebrews 12:2)

 When we are focused on God it will change the way you live your life. It would change the way you drive. It would change the way you react to how other people drive. It will change the relationship you have with your spouse. It would change the checks you write. It would change the websites you visit. And it will change the number of times you need to change direction. 

Discussion Questions

  1. How do we eliminate u-turns, changes in direction? 
  2. How can we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus?  

Vision Change

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” – Hebrew 13:8

Changing the things we can change requires not only courage, but also vision. We need to have a sense not only of where we are, but also of where we are going if we are to make the changes we need to grow spiritually.

Changing things about ourselves or the world in which we live requires a vision, an idea of what we are looking for. When Michelangelo, one of the greatest sculptors of all time, stood before a huge block of marble, he didn’t just start chipping away with his chisel to see what would happen. He first would form an idea in his mind of what he wanted the sculpture to look like. He always had in his mind’s eye the final result he was looking for. There is an obvious analogy to us today. We can’t simply start hacking away without a vision of the end product.  

The Christian life is fundamentally a changed life. And it is never too late or too early to make changes. Regardless of what season of life you are in or how long you have been a Christian, you can change.  Jesus equipped you to experience the abundant life of glorifying God in all you do. It sounds easy but then there is that uncomfortable space in between, the desire to make a change and moments of second guessing and questioning of whether making the change is the right thing to do. If God is nudging us to make a change, we pause and ask God a question: “Am I hearing you right?”

I know people who are not intimidated by change, in fact they embrace it. But there are others who run from change as if it is the worst possible outcome. They find comfort in the familiar and in the predictable. They like to know what’s coming and how it will turn out. But it is these moments of uncertainty that God can teach us about change and in fact change us. It is in these times that we realize that change is not so bad.

Warren Wiersbe said, “Nothing paralyzes our lives like the attitude that things can never change. We need to remind ourselves that God can change things. Outlook determines outcome. If we see only the problems, we will be defeated; but if we see the possibilities in the problems, we can have victory.”

So don’t fear change. Embrace change. It is helpful to remind ourselves that change is God’s idea, He orchestrates it, and it never takes Him by surprise. Since He doesn’t fear it, neither should we.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What changes would you like to make in your life?  What are the obstacles to making those changes? 
  2. What changes would you make as a result of this week’s sermon vision?

Are You Prepared?

“But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.”Daniel 6:10. 

One of the greatest challenges in understanding God’s vision and plan for our lives is reconciling the relationship between God’s part and our part in that vision. But even if we don’t fully understand the balance, we can certainly focus on doing what God has instructed us to do in His Word. There is something that every one of us can do in 2019. 

Each one of us should ask this question: do you believe that God has things that He would like to do in/through you in 2019? And secondly,  do you also believe that you have to be prepared if you want God to do those things in/through you in 2019? 

A quick read of the Bible will reveal examples where the Lord chose to do something significant in/through the lives of one of His servants.  God continues to use people today. The question is are we prepared for what God choose to do in/through us this year. Look. at the example of Daniel. 

A powerful king is so impacted by the life of one of his servants that he makes a proclamation throughout the entire empire that the God of Israel is the Living God whose kingdom will not be destroyed and whose dominion will be forever. Daniel actually served several different kings, but the one who made this incredible proclamation was Darius. This proclamation was made because of what happened the night before in the lion’s den. What if God wanted to do something like that in your life this year? What if God put you right in the middle of a difficult trial just so that He could put His power on display in a way that cause the people around you to make a decision in their hearts to trust the Lord? 

God was able to use Daniel in this way because of the way Daniel had chosen to previously live.The king was about to appoint Daniel to be the leader of the entire nation, so the other politicians tried to find a way to discredit Daniel. But they couldn’t

Remember Daniel 6:10: Daniel had no idea when this particular year that all these events would unfold. All he knew was to be faithful and to be prepared spiritually for what might happen. he needed to be prepared to do his part and then trust God to do His. So here is the $64,000 question: what would “being prepared spiritually” for what God may choose to do in/through you this year look like?And what do we need to do to ensure we are prepared? 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does being prepared spiritually mean to you? 
  2. What can we do this week to prepare for what God may want to so in/through us this year?

An Unbelievable Belief

“So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” – 1 Corinthians 15:58. 

We all want to know who we are. We try numerous ways including personality tests and other assessments to “find ourselves.” We learn that we are like a certain animal, or that we are an overachiever, or a skeptic, a competitor or an academic. But as helpful as those tests can be, we should stop and ask ourselves, “What does God think about me? Who does He say that I am?”

One of the most unbelievable things that I believe is that Almighty God believes in us. He has faith in us. He trusts us. He gives us the freedom to choose, encourages us to “choose life:” “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20) We have a choice.  God lets us decide.  

C.S. Lewis said, “Reality is something you couldn’t have guessed.” So true.  Who could have guessed that God would love us even though the Old Testament prophet Isaiah points out, our righteousness is about as good as a “snot rag.” (Isaiah 64:6). Fortunately, God’s grace is greater than our filthy rags. We can look at nature and marvel at what we see. We can see technology advancements that are simply mind boggling; but nothing compares or rises to the level of the fact that each one of us is a dearly-loved child of God. If He didn’t love us, He never would have sent His only Son into the world to die for us. But Jesus Christ did come into the world, and He did die on the cross for our sins. The only possible explanation for enduring the cross is because God loves us. The Bible says, “This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (1 John 4:10).

Everything that God has ever done testifies to His love for us. He did it all because He loves us and believes in us and is not willing that any of us should perish. His enduring hope is that we will stop doubting His intentions and trust Him back.

All of us can remember someone who believed in us. Whether it was a person to talk, spend time with or do life with. The people who have believe in us and support us give us a gift and the hope for a better future. God believes in us – we need to learn to embrace and depend on Him. To accomplish our vision, to have the future we all long for, we need a champion in our corner. And the ultimate champion is Jesus Christ. 

Discussion Questions: 

  1. What would you say is your life’s mission? How do your actions reflect in the things you believe in?
  2. What do you believe would happen if your actions reflected your belief in the next generation?

The Power Of Vision

“A common vision can unite people of very different temperaments.” – Tim Keller

Each of us is faced daily with the potential to “plateau” in our lives…to stop progressing, maturing and growing. The same is true for churches, businesses, and organizations.

In the first part of Proverbs 29:18, we find a familiar portion of Scripture. Most Christians are familiar with the quote from the KJV: “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” The translation in the NLT gives us insight as to why people with no vision perish: “When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild…” In other words, where there is no vision, no direction from God, people will “do their own thing” and “go their own way,” which in many cases ends up badly.  

Vision requires some introspection, it requires asking some tough questions: Do we as Christians have a sense of vision? Do we have a God-given dream? De we believe God is directing us? Leading us? We need the answers to those questions because God is in the people business. And the more we are in lock step with God’s direction for our lives the more we will have a direct impact on people’s lives.

The idea of having a plan for the future makes perfect sense. But developing that plan sounds like the province of a corporate think tank.  But is it really that complicated? We can simplify it by looking at our lives and asking what changes do we need to make going forward that we live our life so radically different that we are seen as people who are living their life “on mission” for Jesus Christ. What can we do to impact the people around us as David did? “…David had done the will of God in his own generation…” (Acts 13:36) 

Think about it this way: what would your life be like if you were not afraid to believe God and your faith reflected that? What if you believed God’s promises? How different would you view your vision of the future? Would you dare to dream bigger dreams? Dreaming big, casting a large vision, does not cost anything. The Bible says,  “God . . . is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of — infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes” (Ephesians 3:20 TLB). So no matter how big we think in our life, in our ministry, in our church, God can do it and so much more.  It starts with a vision.  

Ask God, “What do you want me to do? How do you want me to do it? And when do you want me to do it?” Pray and ask God to bless what you are doing. Pray and ask God to do some exciting things in your life today and ask that you play a part in some of them.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. How long has it been, if ever, since you asked God, “How am I doing?” What might be some of the ways God would use in your life to answer that question?

The Power of God

Although he was crucified in weakness, he now lives by the power of God. We, too, are weak, just as Christ was, but when we deal with you we will be alive with him and will have God’s power.” – 2 Corinthians 13:4. 

We live in a culture that admires and promotes the powerful. The business world is built upon the premise that more power is better and the one with the most power wins. While the world caters to the powerful, for many of us much of life involves trying to cope with the times when we are powerless, overwhelmed and looking for answers. 

That was the position King Jehoshaphat found himself in and it is sometimes the reality for each of us as well. It is tough to have a problem without a solution. No one wants to be weak, at least not if they have a choice. We all want to be physically and emotionally strong, rich and competent. And good looking wouldn’t hurt either.

But like King Jehoshaphat, we often find ourselves lacking the ability to deal with our circumstances when we get overwhelmed. We often find ourselves powerless. Though the world looks at these times of being powerless as the ultimate failure, scripture sees it as an opportunity to receive a blessing from God. “That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

God is our strength. There are days when I am overwhelmed. He empowers me to handle it. There are days when I wonder if the money will be there when the bills come. Somehow He provides a way and the bills are paid. There are days when I doubt His presence. But then He is there. There are days when temptations seem too strong for me to resist. Somehow He provides a way of escape or strength to resist. There are days when I feel almost worthless. Somehow He reminds me of the price that has been paid for me. There are days when when I am weak. Somehow He makes me strong.

Chances are good that sometime in your life you will find yourself faced with a situation that you cannot control. It may be a business deal, it may be a relationship, or it may be a family crisis. You are totally and absolutely powerless to fix it, change it, undo it, or improve it. It may be the result of your own actions, or it may not be. Regardless, you are powerless.

Being powerless may feel wrong and unfair at the time, but you may be in the best situation of your life to experience the grace and power of God. Though it appears hopeless, you can recover if you will allow God to come to you in your powerless state and do what only He can do: “My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are the things only God can do? What are the things only you can do? Do you find yourself trying to do the things only God can do? 
  2. In what ways do you need God to be strong in your weakness at this time in your life?

Trust God No Matter What

“ Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.”  –  Habakkuk 3:17-19.

As followers of Jesus we are often told to trust in God at all times, but especially when we have experienced difficulties that were quite devastating to us at the time. And not only are these difficulties causing us to be envious or worried, they make little sense to us. Trusting in God does not entitle Christians to a problem-free life. Nor does it mean that if a believer has problems that must mean they don’t have enough faith.

The Bible paints a pretty clear picture on this. Jesus said in John 16:33, “…you will have many trials and sorrows.“ The Bible is replete with stories of Godly people who suffered trials and sorrows.  We are not immune from trials either. When hard times come, the true nature of our trust in God, our faith will be revealed.

True trust begins by acknowledging God, His wisdom, and His ways, and then choosing to act on what we’ve acknowledged. Trusting in God means that no matter what happens, we will turn to Him rather than away from Him. That in a nutshell is it. There are no conditions, requirements, expectations, minimum acceptable standards or escape clauses. Even if life hurts real bad and nothing you asked God for worked out the way you were hoping it would. Trusting means you continue to turn to Him. Trusting God means to respond as Job did: “…The LORD gave me what I had, and the LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD!” (Job 1:21)  

Trust is not an easy issue. Real trust assumes that the one whom we trust demonstrates the character of honesty, fairness, truthfulness, justice, morality, ethics, and consistency. When reading that list most people would be sighing and saying, “that leaves out everyone I know.”  But that defense mechanism of not trusting others is completely irrelevant when it comes to God.  His character is one of honesty, fairness, faithfulness, truthfulness, and justice. He is the ultimate example of one who is moral, ethical, and consistent. He is unfaltering. He is dependable. He has earned our trust. He is worthy of our trust. And by trusting Him, we can find the freedom, joy, rest, and peace that comes only from God. .  

Discussion Questions

  1. Read Proverbs 3:5-6. This passage instructs us to fully trust in God, not on our own understanding. How do we know if God is trustworthy? What are some specific ways we can trust in Him?
  2. What is one thing you can completely give to God now?