Thursday, October 23, 2014

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, c. 1790

Who but a former slave ship captain could pen such words, words that endure and still live with us nearly 250 years after they were first writ? (sorry, had to use the verbiage of the era there).

Christian or non-Christian, it would be hard to find many people even today that don't know at least the first verse of this classic hymn.  It is perhaps the most well known and most beloved hymn of all time.  And thanks to Chris Tomlin's recording and rewrite, a whole new generation of believers now loves it.

But do we truly understand the concept of grace?  I confess, I don't.  At times I think I do.  At my best (or worst) I look at my life and wonder how a holy God could love someone like me.  I wonder how an all-knowing God who knows ALL I've ever done and thought would even give me the time of day, let alone send His Son to die be executed so that I might have a relationship with Him forever.  But at my worst (truly my worst) I sanctimoniously see myself as somehow deserving of this grace, or at least more deserving than this person is or that person is.  I see the faces of those with whom I disagree on any number of issues on TV and I feel the anger well up inside.

Grace. Amazing grace.

Charis: God's Scandalous Grace for Us by Preston Sprinkle (David C. Cook, 2014) thus far has been an amazing journey through Scripture, showing the vital thread of grace weaved throughout.  I find few books hard to put down, but with this one I find myself continually either reading it or considering it in light of my life or the life I witness around me.  (You know you're in for a "scandalous" adventure in grace when the first page begins with the story of Jeffery Dahmer!)

Yesterday I posted this quote of Sprinkle's on my Facebook page.  It hit me square between the eyes the moment I read it.
"Our word grace has been overused and abused. It has lost its luster, its richness, its … charis. Perhaps through overuse, grace has become another nice term dumped into our worn-out bag of Christian lingo. We say grace before meals, include grace in gospel presentations, and slap the word grace on the names of churches. But if we never hug a harlot, befriend a beggar, or forgive our enemy seventy times seven, then we confess grace with our lips but mock it with our lives. First Church of Grace or Grace Fellowship or Grace Community— or whatever— should be an otherworldly safe haven where enemies are loved and porn stars are forgiven. That’s charis."
NOTE: Charis is the English transliteration of the Greek word χάρις, which we translate as "grace."

Though no man or woman is 100% without something likeable, can any of us really say the harlot, beggar, enemy, or porn star has something "loveable" that makes them eligible to be called a son or daughter of God?  And yet some become so, as God's grace showers down on them, opening their eyes to faith, and radically destroying their old selves that they may become new creations.

Grace.  Amazing grace. It's by grace that we've saved through faith. God's Grace. Grace that is greater than all our sin.

Grace. Amazing grace!

"When we've been there, 10000 years
bright shining as the sun;
We've no less days to sing God's praise,
than when we've first begun!"

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