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Aug2FriAugust 2, 2019 Captain Joyce Downer - Divisional Secretary for Candidates
In 1779, John Newton penned the words to the timeless hymn, “Amazing Grace.” The words remind us of God’s goodness, that His grace is both amazing and sweet. Today we still sing those lyrics of how it is that grace that saves wretches like John Newton, captain of a slave ship. But I wonder, as we sing those words, are we also reminded that it is God’s amazing grace that also saves wretches like us? The apostle, Paul, writes to the church in Ephesus:
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our fleshand following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath”
We deserve wrath, Scripture tells us we were dead in our sin and transgressions. The picture *should* look bleak for all of us. However, thanks to this thing we call ‘grace’; death is not where the story ends.
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved”
Thank the Lord for that massive disclaimer, “BUT because of his great love for us…,” we are offered grace.
Though I doubt few of us are slave ship captains, I wonder if that means we don’t view ourselves as people with that same desperate need for the grace of God? Do we compare ourselves with other ‘sinners’ who’s sins we perceive as being worse than our own, almost as a means of excusing our own failings? Our passage goes on to speak of grace being a gift. Yet, in our own lives, have we recognized the marvelousness of this gift; that it is something that we cannot earn, and something that we cannot live without?
I have a friend who has no profession of faith, but who has always been intrigued by Christianity. One day she told me that she would listen to a Christian radio station as she daily commuted to her job. She would often hear reference to this concept of grace – whether sung about, preached about, spoken in conversation. Yet, she still had no real sense of what ‘grace’ actually meant and wondered if I could define it for her.
I can’t recall what my response was, though my guess is it wasn’t good. Yet this interaction has stuck with me for years, because of the significance of what she was saying through her question. She should see grace in me – in how I live, in how I interact with her, in how I respond in times of challenge and difficulty. Friends, sure it might be helpful to have the words to articulate a definition of grace on demand, but that isn’t the real challenge for those of us who claim to be followers of Christ. Is it evident in your daily living that you have experienced the life-altering grace of God? Do you live as one who carries the grace of the Lord with you? Do people who have not yet accepted this free gift of salvation want it and know it by how we live? Not that we live perfectly, but that we live like those who are alive and secure in the perfect grace of God!
The words of the song “Amazing Grace” are so powerful because John Newton had personally experienced the transformation of God’s amazing grace. The apostle Paul could speak eloquently of grace since he knew deeply the significance of what being a recipient of that grace meant for him. We are today invited to being living evidence of the grace of God – to be ‘messengers of grace’ to the world who needs to hear and see what that means. As the accepted candidates of the ‘Messengers of Grace’ session prepare to commence their training at CFOT, may we all be reminded that we are called to be messengers of God’s grace where we are.