"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God." Ephesians 2:8

 

"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me." ....A.W. Tozer tells the story of visiting a particular church one day and going to the classic John Newton hymn, "Amazing Grace" in their hymnal. He said that he found in the "modern, up do date hymnal," that the original words just given had been changed to "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a one like me." Remarking on this, Tozer said, "We are willing to say that we are not perfect, that we missed the mark, or that we are not really up to par. But we are not ready to say that in ourselves we are nothing more than a wretch. Until we come to the point of understanding what wretches we are, we will never understand the amazing grace of God. It takes a wretch like me to experience the amazing grace of God."

 

I still remember so vividly being a young preacher and attending a seminar where the leader bluntly said that we needed to change how we presented the gospel. He said we had to move away from what he considered a very negative message, one that clearly stated our lost condition, and the reason for it, our inbred sin, to a more user friendly (my words, not his) one. He considered the first to be hurtful. He said that the people would not respond to it, and that we needed to point them to the love of God in Christ, and what that love could do and mean for them. I also clearly remember leaving that seminar very much on board with what he said. After all, the church he represented was one of the largest in our region. Success seemed to mark everything they did. When I got home, I began crafting my upcoming sermon with that seminar's thoughts in mind. Yet, in the midst of that, and you just have to take my word on it, I sensed the overwhelming presence of His Spirit, and His grieving over what I was doing. There was no condemnation of either me, or the seminar I had just attended. I just had the deep sense that what I was doing was out of line with the purpose for which He had called me. That call was even more deeply impressed upon me just a year later when, upon my ordination, Dr. Charles Strickland, one of the most godly and anointed men I have ever known said to me, "There are strange winds blowing through the church today. Preach the Word!"  

If you have read anything I've written, or heard what I've preached, I think you know I don't believe in beating people up over their sin, or of laying condemnation upon them. But in my spirit arises the question, ever stronger in these days, "How can a person know they are saved, how can they truly be saved, if they have no concept of what it is they are saved from?" Is Jesus just an add on for our natural life? Someone who makes things better, brings along improvements for how we live, even act? Who, if we do Him the honor of accepting Him, makes everything better. If this is who He is, and if this is what His Word reveals and does in us, than the Bible is best found in the "self-help" section of our local bookstore. But He is none of that. He is a Savior and Son, sent by His Father to offer a way out of a sure and perpetual death. The only way. A way that leads to a sure and eternal life. An eternal life that begins  the moment we truly receive Him. And we can only receive Him when we've been confronted with our hopeless and helpless situation. And our desperate need for He who is our only hope and answer to it all. How can we be found if we do not know that we're lost? How can we come to life unless we realize that we're dead? Tozer said that the real definition of a Christian is "One who has come back from the dead." The one who has come back from the dead no longer looks like a dead person. And even those around them who remain dead can see it. This is real conversion. This is the real working of His amazing grace. This, is what His Kingdom love is and is all about. Has this amazing grace and love done its work in you, in us? Are they doing it now?

Amazing grace. It's free, but it will never be cheap. It cost the Father everything through the sacrifice of His Son to give it to us. We need not fear the fullness of it. It's His grace. It will accomplish His work and purpose. We don't need to make it politically correct. His grace is already Kingdom Perfect.

Blessings,
Pastor O

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