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Amazing Grace

Read I John 3:1; 4:7-18

He left school at age 11. He made his living on the ocean. In time, he became the captain of his own ship. He earned profit by engaging in the practice of kidnapping West African slaves for slave trade.

One day, while in a fierce storm and fearing a shipwreck, this young captain was driven toward God in prayer and study. While being tossed about by the ocean waves, he read the classic devotion piece The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A. Kempis. In his reading and through his prayers, this young captain discerned the presence of God’s love and grace in his life. He was converted to the Christian faith.

The work of God’s grace did not end with the young man’s conversion. It never does! Instead, God continued to convict the man of his sins while calling him into His service. Under the influence of George Whitefield and John Wesley, this young captain left the ocean and the business of slave trading to study for the ministry.

After his formal education, at the ages of 39, he became the pastor of a small Anglican Church in England. Though never known as a powerful preacher, people still flocked to his church each week for worship. They came, in part, because he had replaced the chants of the Anglican tradition with more simple hymns – including some that he had written himself. By now, many of you know the man’s name: He is John Newton. From him, we received the words: “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.”

Prior to his death at age 82, Newton is quoted to have said in a sermon, “My memory is nearly gone but I remember two things: That I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior!” (Kenneth Osbeck, Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotion, Kregal Publication, 1998).

This is a story about God’s love and amazing grace.

Grace has been defined as unmerited love – love that is given yet undeserved. Grace is God loving us not because of who we are or what we do, but because of who God is and what God has done.

God’s amazing and loving grace makes Christianity about relationship with God rather than about ritualistic attempts to impress God by obeying certain rules or observing certain regulations.

The word “grace” is never used in these verses but its definition is seen throughout this passage. The writer speaks about the love God “lavishes upon us that we should be called the Children of God,” (I John 3:1). He teaches us that “love comes from God,” (I John 4:7) and that “God is love,” (I John 4:8). He says that we can know that God loves us because God “sent his Son…as an atoning sacrifice for our sins,” (I John 4:9-10).

Each of these verses teaches that God’s love is not something we earn or deserve but something God gives because it is the very nature of God to do so because the core (DNA) of God is love.

What is Christianity? It is a lifestyle lived in response to God for His amazing grace. We don’t pray to get closer to God but to enjoy a relationship with the God who has drawn near to us. We don’t tithe to buy our way into God’s favor, we give with a cheerful heart because we realize, with gratitude, how much God has given us. We don’t read the bible to make God happy but in order to learn and experience more of God’s loving grace. We don’t worship because of ritualistic requirements but rather as a joyful expression of our praise for God who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing through his Son, Jesus.

In other words, Christianity is not a religion of checklists, regulations and traditions. Instead it is a relationship with God that prompts us to love God because we have experienced God’s love (I John 4:11).

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