Monday, October 13, 2014

Sunday's Sermon "Amazing Grace"

(Sermon preached on Oct 12, 2014)

Amazing Grace                                                                      
Ephesians 2:1-7 (NLT)
I. Grace Defined
            Grace!  Just exactly what is the definition of grace?  It’s unmerited favor from God.  It’s His abundant love and forgiveness given as a gift to us who are incapable of doing anything to deserve it.  It’s love.  It’s forgiveness.  It’s free.  And it’s available for you and me. 
(Read Ephesians 2:1-7)
·      Paul tells us that there’s a diff between then and now for those of us who’ve accepted Christ.  We’re changed.  If we’re not changed then that means we don’t have Jesus in us. 
·      Vs. 1 – Dead because of disobedience (separated from the life of God)
o   Dead – living verses Zoe living
·      Vs. 2 – Do we literally obey the devil? Yes, when we disobey God – He is real.  He is here on this earth.  And his one sole purpose is to do whatever is needed to take bring you away from God.  He is a very jealous being and will do whatever he can to accomplish his goals.
·      Vs. 3 – Sinful nature
·      Vs. 4 & 5 – God’s grace leads to life (Zoe life now / eternal Zoe life later)

II. Why God loves us

            If you read the Psalms that David wrote, you will find a man who is desperate for God.  And if you read 1 John 4:19 you we see that we love because God first loved us. 
            But why is He so desperate for us?  It’s because as 1 John also says, “God is Love”.  It’s in His nature to love us and there’s proof of this ever since our existence. 
            He showed His love through the very act of creation.  He created the Garden and everything in it perfectly for us.  Then He created us out of love with freedom instead of into slavery.  Over and over in the OT He comes to His children’s rescue even though they continually turn their backs on Him.
            And then the ultimate show of love came in the person of Jesus Christ.   He sacrificed His one and only Son for us to show us just how great His love was.

III. The three-in-one Grace
            God’s love, or grace, is always given to us and is always the same.  But we speak of it in three different ways.  There’s prevenient grace, which is God’s love that comes to us before we even know God.  It woos us into a relationship with Him through His Son Jesus.  Then there’s His justifying grace, which is God’s love as we come to that know God.  You could call it the grace that brings about salvation in our lives.  And then there’s sanctifying grace that leads us towards sanctification, or perfection after we’ve been saved.

            So no matter where we are in our spiritual journey…or even if we don’t even know we’re on a spiritual journey…God’s everlasting grace (His love and forgiveness) is always with us…always readily available for us.

IV. Amazing Grace
            The hard part for people of our culture today is the fact that on the whole we’re taught that we deserve certain things.  We’re a privileged nation with many freedoms who’ve taken them for granted.  We’re taught from childhood that we can do anything that we set out minds too.
This leads to many people that they be good enough for salvation.  They feel that they’re not all that bad.  Christians time and again will say that they’re going to Heaven because they’re good people. 
And we can shirk at the fact that we actually deserve punishment for our sins instead of forgiveness.  Paul makes it clear that before we choose Christ it doesn’t matter how good or bad we are, we’re still dead in our sins.  (Read verse 1)

There is a way of believing called total depravity that teaches us that we are totally bad.  Nothing about our physical selves is good.  And since I’ve taught you before that David spoke of being born a sinner and that we are basically sinful since birth, I want to make sure that today I place this in perspective so that we don’t go down that road of total depravity. 
You see, we were created in the image of God.  We were created with the capacity to do great and wonderful things.  But we also have free will, which means that we are continually choosing between what the Holy Spirit leads us to and what our sinful (human) nature leads us to. 
All you have to do is read your bible and you will see where people so often choose the road of their sinful nature.  As a matter of fact, all you would have to do is look back at your own life and if you are honest you will see where you, yourself have chosen the road of your sinful nature over and over.  We all have.  It IS human nature.

            Then there’s God’s Grace.  It’s a gift given to us that we don’t deserve.  It’d be like us losing our jobs and the bank telling us not to worry, that they’d just write our house notes off.  It’d be like gas stations putting out a sign saying that since the cost of living had gone up so much, they’d give us our gas for free.

            Our God does even more than that though.  He says that we’ve turned our backs on Him and been selfish and overindulgent and at times pretty ugly.  In truth, the wickedness of this world (including our own selves who’ve sinned against God) is deserving of the punishment of hell, whether we want to admit it or not. 
But in spite of this God is willing to give us His love and forgiveness (and a ton of second chances). 

(John Newton)           
One such person that surely came to understand this is the man who wrote the song Amazing Grace.  His name was John Newton. 
From his late teens until around the age of 30 Newton had been a man who spit in the face of God.  He was a sailor that got kicked off of many boats because he couldn’t deal with authority.  He was spoiled and had been gotten out of trouble many times by his father.
He caused riots aboard his ships and taught others to disrespect the captain and God.  He became a slave trader and was a blasphemer and a true foul mouth devil. 

That was until one stormy day when his ship was coming back from the African Coast.  A storm came up that basically did the ship in.  More than once John Newton and the rest of the crew thought that their lives were over.  And something happened to John.  He later wrote in his journal regarding this event.

“about six in the evening (I heard) that the ship was freed from water, there rose a gleam of hope. I thought I saw the hand of God displayed in our favour; I began to pray.”

            And this began a process that changed John Newton’s life forever.  This change is written about in his most famous hymn entitled Amazing Grace.             

Amazing 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 realized what a wretch he’d been as he remembered the days that he was involved in the slave trade.  John Wesley understood how much of a wretch that he’d been before God’s mercy was shone to him.  Your pastor stands before you admitting how much of a failure he was before he gave control of his life over to Christ.
            What about you?  When you sing this song for possibly the millionth time, does it remind you of what a wretch you’d still be without Jesus?           
            As John Newton was nearing the end of his lifetime he got to where he could barely see his hands before his face.  Ironically, even though he couldn’t see physically, he still sang this song and believed that he could see better then than ever.  He saw how the grace of God had literally saved his life over and over.  There were times in his life where for all intense purposes he should’ve died.  Even though Newton didn’t see at the time…he eventually did.
What is it that God might be trying to get you to see in your life?

V. Closing
            Just as God’s amazing grace called out to John Newton while he was still a heathen, saved him at just that right time, and worked in him perfecting him until the day he went to be with the Lord, it can do the same for each of us. 
            Some of us may be being called by God’s prevenient grace to come into a relationship with Him through His Son today.  Others of us might have experienced his justifying grace and have assurance of our salvation and are being urged by His sanctifying grace. 
            It’s up to us to choose though.  Will we allow God’s grace to cover our sins and change us?  Will we allow our eyes to be opened to our sinfulness so that we will see a better way in our Lord Jesus?


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