I remember as a youth singing this chorus:
“He paid a debt He did not owe
I owed a debt I could not pay
I needed someone to wash my sins away.
And now I sing a brand new song
Amazing grace (all day long)
Christ Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay.”
God had to bring me almost 3,000 miles away from what I’d know for more than 35 years to teach me what His grace is really all about. I read books about grace (some made me mad), I listened to messages about grace, and I even memorized Bible verses about grace. But I have to admit that I don’t think I “got it” until I moved to the wonderful Northwest that I now, with much tenderness, call home. I always have loved that Christ-follower of the Bible, Paul. His inspired words have always challenged me and his personality that comes out in his writings has made me feel comfortable. I guess I’ve always thought of him as the messenger of God’s truth and a true picture of the disciplined life one can have in Christ. I always have desired his boldness and courage to speak the Truth. It seemed like he was always talking about obedience to God and living a life “worthy” of the gospel. I had always been “good.” So I gladly posted verses everywhere and was so proud of my adherence to many of the commands about envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, disobedience to parents, faithlessness, etc. I even tried to obey those verses that I never found, but were somehow communicated to me early in my walk with Christ about dancing and drinking and hanging out with lost people. I indeed was “so very good” – the perfect preacher’s kid.
But as I began to look at some of his letters to the churches (Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, etc.), I discovered a great truth that I had somehow missed …. GRACE was all through those inspired passages. I had spent a great deal of my life seeing everything through my black and white spectacles. I missed the colors of grace for many years. I read and rehearsed the commands and condemnations with zeal, and tried to put them into practice in my life. I wanted an A+ on my spiritual report card. I proclaimed, much louder than I should have, THE TRUTH to friends and family and Bible study groups. “NO” you should not do that, and “YES” you should do that, if you’re a true Christ-follower. The sad reality was that I missed the most important point of Christ’s coming – GRACE. Ephesians 2:8-9 says it well. I even memorized the verses in college. But I didn’t really understand what they meant: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
As I have become friends with many people who are not yet Christ-followers, I’ve learned much about their lives and their journeys. They are hurting and searching for peace and grace in their lives. They search for love from someone… anyone. Most of them aren’t out to get the church or even to get Christians. They just “don’t get it” yet. They feel hurt by God or by the church, or someone in the church who went too far in making demands that weren’t scriptural or expecting perfection, of which no one can attain. My revelation came slowly, but harshly: I had been one of those very people.
God had poured so much grace and love into my life, but I was so demanding of myself and others to “perform” and “do what’s right.” I finally began to receive and give the grace freely offered. These days, I’m singing a brand new song, “Amazing Grace … all day long.” The following verses mean so much to me and I hope that Christ followers will truly receive God’s grace and extend God’s grace to others. No one is good enough for God’s mercy. No one is bad enough that they can’t receive it. God found us … while we were still sinners, and He washed us through the blood of His precious Son, Jesus.
Thank you, dear and precious Father in Heaven, for Your grace …
Grace mixed with faith and love poured over me and into me. And all because of Jesus. Here’s a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I’m proof- Public Sinner Number One! — of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy!(I Timothy 1:15, The Message)
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30, The New International Version)
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. . .
You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace . . . For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. . . You were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5)
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound …
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost (in my own goodness), but now I am found,
Was blind, but now I see!
My chains are gone …. I’ve been set free
My God, My Savior, has ransomed me.
And like a flood, His mercy reigns,
Undending love, amazing grace!