Help for Today — Hope for Tomorrow
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[Darris McNeely] God sees our mistakes. He still loves us, and He’s willing to forgive. But God wants to see a change.
There’s a song that everybody knows. You’ve heard it several times in your life. The song is called “Amazing Grace.” It’s a widely recognized song. “Amazing Grace” is one of those songs that have endured through the generations. It was originally written down by a man named John Newton.
John Newton was a slave ship captain back in the 1700s in the day when the slave trade between Africa and the new world, the Americas, and Europe was all going at its peak. And John Newton one time, one voyage, was actually caught in a big storm, and he didn’t know that they were going to make it. And so he cried out to God to save him during that violent storm. And afterwards he was eventually moved by being saved and also by the conviction of what he was doing to be totally wrong in the slave trade. And so he moved and left the slave trade.
And in an effort to atone or to redeem himself from what he had done and been, he wrote down the lyrics that we know as “Amazing Grace.” That was eventually put to music and the lyrics and the example have influenced so many people down through the generations. In fact, my own great-great-grandfather was named after John Newton. He was named John Newton McNeely.
I didn’t know of that at the beginning when I first discovered my great-great-grandfather John Newton years ago but then I finally put it all together that his father obviously must have been very, very moved by the original John Newton and what he did and what he wrote with the song “Amazing Grace” that he named his own son after him.
“Amazing Grace” has been sung by so many different people with different walks of life down through the generations. African American slaves working in cotton fields would sing “Amazing Grace.” Worshipers in church through the ages would sing “Amazing Grace.” Mourners at funerals. I’ve heard it sung and played many times at funerals that I have attended.
In 1969 at the famous Woodstock Music Festival “Amazing Grace” was sung as one of the songs by Arlo Guthrie, and it actually became an anthem of those who were protesting the Vietnam War during the 1960s. So it has quite a storied history. And there’s an interesting quote about the impact of the song made by the famous country artist Johnny Cash.
Johnny Cash said about the song “Amazing Grace.” He said, “For the three minutes that song is going on everybody is free. It just frees the spirit and frees the person.” Interesting comment. We all know probably the opening words. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.
When you look at those words there’s a reason that that song has resonated so long through the generations for so many people from so many different walks of life. It’s because every one of us, every human being, needs God’s grace. Every one of us, we need grace. We need real biblical grace. That’s why it has resonated with so many people.
We need to also understand what real biblical grace is because when we do it is something far more amazing than could ever be put to words by anyone at any time. There’s a lot of misconceptions about this topic of grace, biblical grace, what grace is. The witness to that and I think the proof of what I just said is in what we see around us.
As people sang that song as it transcends so much in our world, why does then injustice continue when we sing about grace? No matter how many times we sang that song there was still injustice in our world. Why does war and suffering continue when we sing about God’s amazing grace? Why does it continue? And why do we on the individual level continue to fail and then have to get back up and ask for God’s grace? Think about that.
There’s something yet that we don’t understand about “Amazing Grace,” about real biblical grace, the very thing that we all do need. So how would you define grace? Well a lot of people have defined it in many different ways. Turn to any list of theologians writing about grace, you’ll find quotes like this. “Grace,” one man says,” is free sovereign favor to the ill-deserving.” Free sovereign favor to the ill-deserving. No quarrel with that. Another, John Stott, well-known theologian, wrote, “Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.” Love that cares and stoops and rescues.
Jerry Bridges wrote, “Grace is God reaching downward to people who are in rebellion against Him.” That’s true as we’ll see. And then one other quote, “Grace is unconditional love toward a person who does not deserve it.” — Paul Zahl. All of these are true, but do they tell you the whole story about grace, biblical grace? Could there be something that we’re missing about this topic of grace that we desperately need to understand to move to another level of understanding about this topic of grace?
What we’re going to do today in this program is look at a few of the biblical facts about grace. When we look at the Bible that we find statements about grace, and there’s one in particular that so many people really do know and understand. In fact in any biblical or theological serious discussion about grace, you’re probably going to hear this particular quote out of the book of Ephesians the second chapter where the Apostle Paul writes, “For by grace you are saved.” And a lot of people just stop right there.
You’re saved by grace through faith, and that not of yourselves. It goes on to say, “For it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” That is a true statement. It’s a biblical statement. The Apostle Paul wrote that under the inspiration of God’s Spirit. But is that all that it says even in that section of Scripture? Many read that verse and then they stop right there but it really goes on because it goes on and it says, Paul writes, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, for good works beforehand.” He says that we should walk in them.
Now, that’s also a true statement. It’s just as true as the statement that by grace we are saved but that through faith and not of ourselves. It is a gift of God. There’s more to what God requires of us when He extends grace to us. That’s what Paul writes. We are given salvation freely through faith in Christ, the thing God begins to work with us like something that we can all identify with. If we’ve all watched people working at a potter’s stand and a piece of raw wet clay being shaped into a vase, a cup a bowl, a saucer, that’s how God works with us.
The Bible uses the term that we are like a piece of clay in God’s hands, and He’s the Potter. God is working us into a shape that He wants for us, and that’s where grace comes in. We are saved by grace but created then by His workmanship to good works. There’s something then that we are to go on to once we come under the very grace of God.
It is by grace that God takes our lives and makes them into something of great value by the working of His hands shaping and molding us into His very image. Which means this. That grace cannot be taken lightly. When God gives His grace it is a gift and it has to bear fruit. We should not take God’s amazing grace lightly. God’s amazing grace actually leads us to a new life, a life in which He is working and shaping us into His very image by the virtue of the way that we live.
Now what we have done for this program on grace is put together a booklet that really goes through a pretty exhaustive study of the Bible about grace. In fact the title of the booklet is “What Does the Bible Teach About Grace?” And it takes you through a complete scriptural study about this very vital and important topic.
There is no more important subject that we can help anyone in our audience to understand than grace, biblical grace. So we want everyone to have a copy of this, and we urge those of you watching this to be sure and get a free copy of what the Bible says about grace. You can call the toll-free number that is listed on your screen or you can go online to beyondtoday.tv and you can obtain there a free copy, whether it’s online or mailed to you we’ll be glad to give it to you without any charge.
Now let’s consider something else. The reason we sing “Amazing Grace” is because we’ve made so many mistakes, right? Sometimes we’ve made pretty serious mistakes. I mean look at John Newton who wrote the words. He traded in human flesh, human cargo. How do you get that off your mind, off your conscience? How do you wash that off your hands? Sometimes people do some pretty bad things and we all have to examine ourselves before God.
I know I’ve been guilty of mistakes in my life and at times really know I’ve messed up. But knowing that God forgives has been a great comfort to me. You know the Bible calls mistakes of human behavior by a word that a lot of people don’t like to hear. In fact when this word is pronounced people cover their ears. Do you know what that word is? What does the Bible call a mistake? Sin. Sin. I’ll say it again, sin. Don’t tune out. It’s what people don’t like to hear today in a modern setting.
But the Bible shows that sin is a deadly enemy of mankind. In fact it says that we have all sinned and fallen short of the grace of God. Now the Bible defines sin in a very interesting way. It says that sin is actually breaking the commandments of God. Now which commandments do I mean? There’s only one set you can go to and there’s 10 of them, right? Sin is breaking the Ten Commandments and every other teaching that follows from those Commandments. Our corrupted human nature has a difficult time obeying God and admitting that we may have made a mistake or we have sinned.
Now we can get into some pretty big problems from the nature that leads to sin rather than to godly behavior. The Apostle Paul also writes in the book of Romans scripture, in Romans 8:7, where he says that the sinful nature is always hostile to God. He’s really describing basic human nature. He calls it a sinful nature. He said, it “is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws,” he says, “and it never will.” It’s from the New Living Translation. Never did obey and it never will. By itself our mind will not do that.
That’s why we sing a song like “Amazing Grace” because there’s just enough of a conscience in our mind to prick us and say we need God’s help when we make certain mistakes. Believe me I’ve talked with people and worked with people through the years that know that, but they find it difficult. Remember the words of the song? Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.
We know we sin and make mistakes, and we long for mercy and forgiveness. It’s like a child. All of us who’ve had children know this and how it works. You know when a child gets in trouble, they know that they’ve messed up and mom and dad are upset and they have to discipline the child, correct the behavior. And there’s consequences for the mistakes we make in our families with our parents and child-rearing and all of this.
You know the parent still loves the children but they want to see change in the behavior. Every time that my wife and I had to discipline our children, well we took the actions. We sought to correct the problem. We wanted to see them change because we didn’t want them to go on like that. We wanted them to stop their bad behavior. A loving parent will do that, but they expect something in return for the grace that is given. Well that’s how God looks at us. God sees our mistakes. He still loves us and He’s willing to forgive. But God wants to see a change and that’s what the Bible calls repentance, repentance. There’s another big biblical word, repentance.
It’s change, change from habits, change from attitudes that separate us from God, the habits that create chaos and confusion in our life and we decide to change from the way we are to something different. There’s an old kind of a poem or a story that I used to tell about when you make a mistake and you keep falling into a hole. You walk down the street, you fall into a hole and you get out, then you walk down the street again, you walk around a hole but you fall in still. And eventually you learn to walk down another street. That’s the type of change God wants to see us make.
He wants to see us change from even the way we think about other people. God wants all people to turn to Him in repentance and demonstrate by their deeds that they have changed. In the book of Acts, Paul is writing and he’s talking about his work and his preaching. He said, “I preached to people in cities like Damascus and Jerusalem, throughout all of Judea and to the Gentiles,” he said, “that all,” he said, “must repent of their sins and turn to God and prove that they have changed by the good things they do.” This is Paul’s words and explaining his preaching.
The keyword in that passage that Paul writes is to prove we must show God proof of our change. That’s what repentance is all about. It’s not a familiar word for a modern ear, just like sin. Repentance, sin. People don’t even know what the word is much less understand it completely, but it’s a term that God uses in the Bible to describe a person who is turning their life right side up from upside down. Think about that.
The Bible describes a person turning their life right side up from upside down. Life gets upside-down sometimes. It’s a continual upside down for some people. They can’t get out of the rut. They can’t quit making mistakes. For a lot of people this life is trying to make sense of self-inflicted chaos or the confusion that may be forced upon them by a world that is cut off from a complete access to God, their world that they create for themselves and often is put upon them for circumstances beyond their control, and they don’t have access to God and to the good things that God provides in this life.
But when God by His grace chooses to reach into a human life and to reveal himself, there then begins a chance to change, an opportunity for God’s help to take that first step toward eternal life. And it is by the grace of God that that step even happens. There’s nothing that we can take credit for in our relationship with God. It’s by God’s grace that it happens. We’re challenged with that. The Apostle Paul writes, again, in the book of Romans, he says, “Do you despise the riches of God’s goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” It’s what it says.
The goodness of God which means His grace, leads us to repentance. We cannot even take credit for wanting to obey God or having any desire at some point in our life to begin to obey God because it all comes from God. His grace, His kindness leads us to something we cannot achieve by ourselves. And the conviction and the desire to change itself is from God by His grace.
God’s grace leads us to repentance. There’s a scripture that I used and there’s a benchmark scripture about people wanting to turn their life right side up from upside down. It’s in Acts 2:38 and it shows what we have to do to show that repentance. The Apostle Peter said to a group of people who were convicted of sin, wanted to change, “What can we do,” they said. Peter told them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit you see empowers us to a better life, and all of that points to something so important so vital. It’s this. Have you ever been one to wonder if you are worthy of God’s blessing? Lived the life of sin, done something may be so bad that you feel that God just cannot forgive you, that you’re not worthy? You see many people cannot break free of the crippling burden of guilt.
I want to show you that God wants to give you His grace and His blessing. There’s no one that is not able to receive God’s grace and forgiveness. The booklet that we’re making available on this all-important topic this program, “What Does the Bible Teach About Grace?” We really have put a lot of time and effort in putting this together.
We think it is a booklet, a study guide that can open your understanding to what God’s desire is to expand His love and His kindness to you. It’s a resource that will take you through a deep study of the Bible and the subject of God’s grace. And we want everyone to have a free copy by calling the number on your screen or by going online to beyondtoday.tv.
I was reading a magazine article recently. They were talking about an in-depth study into addictions and alcoholism and drug problems. They had actually gone to a location just a few miles from here where I’m standing today. They did a yearlong study and they studied people who were addicted to opioids and other problems. And one of the conclusions the author came to was that people’s addictions to drugs or alcohol most often begins with some other problem in their life and that the addiction is what comes later. But there’s something missing in their life.
They called it the throbbing soul, the throbbing soul, the empty hole inside that leads some people to destructive behavior and that begins first. The drugs come later. I’ve known some people in my years in counseling people in the ministry that felt they were just not good enough for a relationship or a blessing or amazing grace from God.
One time I sat with a man who had lived a pretty bad life in his earlier years. He’d cheated. He’d lied. He treated his family pretty bad, and no amount of confession would remove the complete pain and guilt that he felt and he really desperately sought redemption. What did I say to him? What do you think I talked to him about?
Well I talked to him about what Psalm 103 says. God does not treat us according to our iniquities. It says in Psalm 103, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so he removes our transgressions from us. As a father who has compassion on those who fear him. For he knows how we are formed, and he remembers that we are dust.” That’s God’s grace.
You see God does not remember. When God says that He gave His only begotten Son because He so loved the world that whoever would believe in Him, in His Son would not perish but have everlasting life. God meant that. He removes sin. We remember. God doesn’t. Our memory too often lingers on. But you know Christ’s death is so powerful. His atoning sacrifice is so powerful that it can cleanse a troubled conscience. And this is really what all of us need to understand as we talk about this subject of grace and come to understand how important it is.
In the book of Hebrews it says about this sacrifice of Christ, “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God.” That’s what the book of Hebrews says. It can cleanse our conscience.
To have a clean conscience is wonderful. We have to accept that in faith through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and when we do it cleans our conscience. And just like God who doesn’t remember our sins we won’t remember it either. We will not be burdened by guilt or anything that we have done.
Christ said Himself, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears My word and believes Him, meaning the Father, who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned. He has crossed over from death to life.” That’s what Jesus said. The Apostle John wrote, “This is the testimony, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life. He who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” But when we do, we have life.
Those were the scriptures that I used with one gentleman that I remember very well from years and in other cases of people who just couldn’t cleanse their hands of guilt, who wanted to, who were sincere, who had been baptized and were believers but being human still could not remove that last vestige of doubt or guilt. You see they had a throbbing soul, a throbbing soul that had not yet been completely healed because they had not understood fully the grace of God.
The throbbing soul can be healed. Yours can be healed. It happens by God’s grace, and you can experience that grace. Every one of us can. So before we go today I want to encourage all of you that are watching this program to get this booklet, the study guide that we have put together to really help you understand this amazing topic, “What Does the Bible Teach About Grace?”
We don’t make a profit on this and we truly want you to understand this amazing gift of grace that God has extended to you. He’s just waiting for you to take hold of it. So call the number on your screen or go to beyondtoday.tv to get your free copy.
“Amazing Grace” it’s more than a song. It’s what we all need and we can find it and receive it from God.
[Narrator] What does the Bible teach about grace? The concept of grace is woven throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, yet many Christians disagree on what exactly grace means and many more struggle to experience God’s grace actively working in their lives. What does the Bible say? Does your view of grace fit with God’s Word? Our free study aid, “What Does the Bible Teach About Grace?,” shows the vital importance of God’s grace in a world filled with problems, worries, and challenges. Find out how you can grow in grace. Order now. Call toll free 1-888-886-8632 or write to the address shown on your screen.
Some people have misunderstood God’s grace and mistakenly believe that grace does away with the need for Christians to keep God’s law. But is this consistent with both the Old and the New Testaments? Our informative and inspiring booklet brings the answers. When you order this free study aid we’ll also send you a complimentary one-year subscription to “Beyond Today Magazine.”
“Beyond Today” brings you understanding of today’s world and hope for the future. Six times a year you’ll read about current world events in the light of Bible prophecy as well as practical knowledge to improve your marriage and family. Call today to receive your free booklet, “What Does the Bible Teach About Grace?” And your free one-year subscription to “Beyond Today Magazine,” 1-888-886-8632 or go online to beyondtoday.tv.