After reading "Growing up Amish" I got to thinking about grace and what it really is. I went back to a chapter on the grace of God, in a book I've been slowly reading called "Knowing God" by J.I. Packer. He says here:
"God is not true to himself unless he punishes sin. And unless one knows and feels the truth of this fact, that wrongdoers have no natural hope of anything from God but retributive judgment, one can never share the biblical faith in divine grace."
"No one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law," declares Paul (Romans 3:20). To mend our own relationship with God, regaining God's favor after having once lost it, is beyond the power of any one of us. And one must see and bow to this before one can share the biblical faith in God's grace."
Wow...pretty heavy stuff. But I've come to realize how true this is. Charles Spurgeon wrote in his book 'All of Grace':
"You will never value pardon unless you feel repentance, and you will never taste the deepest droughts of repentance until you know that you are pardoned."
In other words until you come to terms with your sinful nature (that you are a sinner) and repent, you can never receive or understand God's grace. But when you do you will be overwhelmed with gratitude for what He has done for you.
I love the way Paul in 1 Timothy describes God's grace to him:
"Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus." 1 Timothy 1: 13-14
J.I. Packer goes on to talk about how grace is not earned or deserved:
"The grace of God is love freely shown towards guilty sinners, contrary to their merit and indeed in defiance of their demerit. It is God showing goodness to persons who deserve only severity and had no reason to expect anything but severity...It is surely clear that, once a person is convinced that his state and need are as described, the New Testament gospel of grace cannot but sweep him off his feet with wonder and joy. For it tells how our Judge has become our Savior."
In Titus 3:3-8 Paul writes:
"At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying."
I love that God pours his grace out on us abundantly and generously, when He really doesn't have to. He owes us nothing and doesn't need us at all. But He wants to, because he loves us.
From being a sinner, deserving punishment and death, to being made an heir of God! Amazing!
I have found that many authors I have read through the years have this one thing in common, they all understood the grace of God. Authors such as John Newton, Charles Spurgeon, John Bunyan, St. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Hus, and so on. They all struggled with their sinful nature and admitted to being in need of a Savior. They lived humbly and in gratitude for their lives in Christ. Many of us Christians have lived in fear of death and punishment, but these men by their faith in God have shown me there is a better way to live. To live in gratitude and peace of mind that God will do what he says he will. We can rejoice in God's promises and live in His grace.
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him." Romans 15:13
Most of us have heard this song many times, but I encourage you to really listen to what John Newton (1725-1807) is saying here and what grace really meant to him.
I thought this was such a pretty version of the song. It's missing the last 3 verses of the song though, so be sure to read them below. They are so beautiful. I especially love the line: "The Lord has promised good to me. His word my hope secures."
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.
T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
When we've been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun.