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Only By Grace2 months ago
In this week's ReSource Blog the Revd Canon Michael Adams reminds us of the beauty and importance of God's amazing grace!
Some years ago, I remember taking a Wedding for a young couple who chose as their first hymn, John Newton’s “Amazing Grace”. Thinking they might have a Christian faith I asked the groom to be, why they had chosen it.
That’s easy, said the young man: “my mother’s called Grace and she’s an amazing woman!” Still, it gave me the opportunity to try and explain the Good News about God’s grace in the Gospel Story.
“Living His Story”
Just recently I have been reading Hannah Steele’s excellent book, “Living His Story”,
(Justin Welby’s 2021 Lent book) revealing the transformational power of the extraordinary love of God in ordinary ways. She writes in there of hearing a talk by a famous evangelist on how to disciple a new believer in the Christian faith. The evangelist was asked what he thought was the key to making sure those new to the faith became strong in their walk as Christians. Hannah expected his answer to include reading the Bible and prayer, but he simply said: “Grace, grace…and more grace.”
So what is so amazing about Grace?
So, what is so amazing about grace? Interestingly the word “grace” is very much an epistle word, mainly included in his letters by Paul who discovered that it was by grace he had been saved!
In the Gospels, the word “grace” is only mentioned a dozen times, primarily in John 1 where we read that Jesus came from the Father full of grace and truth. But Jesus lived in that grace; he personified “grace”; he demonstrated grace in all his dealings with everyone, even when handling the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, or the lack of understanding of the disciples or the betrayal by a follower in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Love Peace, the Holy Spirit and Grace
Jesus spoke a lot about love: “Love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another”. He spoke often about peace: “My peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you”. He promised the Holy Spirit: “You will receive power when the Holy spirit has come upon you.” But Jesus himself never used the word “grace”, but he was grace-full, full of grace, and we ask for His grace in the prayer we use so often, “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all”.
Paul and Grace
It was Paul who used the word grace most often, a word that appears ten times more in the letters than it does in the Gospels. Paul discovered that the grace of Jesus Christ was sufficient, that he was saved by grace, justified by grace, it was grace that enabled him, and therefore us too, to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.
John Newton and Amazing Grace
And through the centuries grace has become a prominent word and sentiment in the Christian vocabulary. But it perhaps reached its zenith in the life of John Newton, the converted slave trader who wrote the famous hymn “Amazing Grace” and who saw that grace transform his own life from a lost sea captain to a faithful minister, hymn writer, abolitionist, and mentor to William Wilberforce himself, and who as a very elderly saint preached a sermon full of grace at his own wife’s funeral service. Apparently, his famous hymn is sung or played some ten million times a year!
God’s Grace and Mercy to me
But I am only able to write this blog because the grace of God transformed my life from a young atheist into a minister of the Gospel and this year, I can look back on forty years in the ordained ministry. God took me from a depressed and despairing young man and gave me a work to do which in his mercy and grace continues even today. Grace has given me a wife, children and now grandchildren. And my calling to the Anglican ministry by God’s grace alone, is still as vivid now as it was in a North Wales woodland 45 years ago!
I have so often been a dis-grace to my Lord but only his grace and mercy, his love and joy and peace have sustained me though over forty years of ups and downs. His grace sustained us when our daughter’s friend was murdered whilst they were together on holiday in Thailand. His grace has sustained us through the years of illness my wife has experienced; His grace alone enabled us through both joy and difficulty to build a thriving church. His grace still sustains us day by day and so, with Paul I can say: “His grace is sufficient for me his power has been made perfect in my weakness.”