Amazing ‘Grace’

31 January 19

Les Misérables is an intertwining story of characters living in the turmoil of 19th-century France. It’s a story of poverty, affluence, broken dreams, reparative love, law, and ‘GRACE’.

As the story begins, Jean Valjean is being paroled from prison. Before prison, he was an ordinary man, who, like many during this time in France, was poor and starving. He stole a single loaf of bread to keep his sister’s son from dying. He was caught, and through a series of events, wound up serving 19 years of hard labor on a ‘chain gang’ for that one loaf of bread. Valjean lived in less-than-human conditions, and was treated like a hardened criminal.

Now, because he was on parole, he was given ‘papers’ to show what he had done. However, they ‘branded’ him a dangerous man, essentially restricting him in finding a good job to make a reasonable living for himself.

Just before leaving the docks, Valjean has an exchange with Inspector Javert, the ‘policeman’ responsible for making sure that Valjean abides by the requirements of his parole. Javert tells him that he will starve unless he learns the meaning of the law, to which Valjean replies that he had spent the last 19 years as “a slave to the law.”

Valjean harbors fierce anger and bitterness for all the years of servitude he had been forced to endure, for what he sees as a justifiable, understandable infraction of attempting to feed his starving family.

After not having any luck getting a job—because of his ‘papers’—as a last-ditch effort, he knocks on the door of a rectory to beg for some food. The Bishop Myriel welcomes him in, feeds him dinner, and gives him a room to sleep in for the night. On his way to the bedroom, Valjean notices the vast amount of silverware the priest had. While everyone else was sleeping, he steals the silverware and runs off into the night.

The next morning, Valjean is caught by the police, arrested, and brought to the church accusing him of stealing the silver. At this point, just one word from the Bishop and the wretched thief would be incarcerated for life. But Myriel instantly exclaims, “So here you are! I’m delighted to see you. Had you forgotten that I gave you the candlesticks as well? They’re silverware like the rest, and worth a good two-hundred francs. Did you forget to take them?”

The Bishop makes a powerful and unexpected decision. He welcomes Valjean back with sincerity and gladness, and defends Valjean in the face of the authorities by insisting that the stolen silverware were actually gifts. Valjean is utterly dumbstruck, and unable to fathom the undeserved clemency he has just received. Valjean has no framework for understanding the Bishop’s actions, much less his words: “But remember this, my brother. See in this some higher plan. You must use this precious silver to become an honest man. By the witness of the martyrs, by the Passion and the Blood, God has raised you out of darkness. I have bought your soul for God!”

 

The Bishop then tells Valjean to use all the silver to “become a new man”—to turn his life around, and be of service to others. Valjean says, “I promise.”

Valjean deserves judgment and condemnation, but instead, he is not only given forgiveness for his theft, but he is also given an abundant, over-the-top gift of ‘GRACE’. This act ‘transforms’ Valjean.

Valjean quickly realizes that he cannot simply walk away unchanged by the Bishop’s radical display of grace, and his life should thereafter bear evidence of a genuine transformation of his ‘heart’.

The Bishop’s costly grace inspires Valjean to change his ways and to extend to others the kind of mercy that was shown to him. Valjean ‘disappears’ from the world, breaking his parole, and creating a new identity as Monsieur Madeleine—and becomes a very successful factory owner and the mayor of his town. He has resolved to live a better life and to make a difference in the world, but he’s ‘haunted’ by his past, and ‘hunted’ by Inspector Javert, because he has violated his parole.

Javert, whose life is marked by a ruthless commitment to the law, has no intention of giving any grace to Valjean. He only wants to capture him and bring him to justice—and put him back into prison.

Many years later, Javert has been imprisoned by the revolutionaries and Valjean has the opportunity to kill Javert. But instead of an eye-for-an-eye retribution for all the lifelong struggles and pain Javert has inflicted on his life, Valjean shows him grace, cuts his bound hands loose, and sends his ‘archenemy’ off as a free man.

But, such grace sends Javert, the legalist, into a ‘tailspin’ from which he cannot recover. For him, grace proves to be an unsolvable problem, and he cannot accept the implications of this ‘gift’. Javert resists what he knows to be the inevitable conclusion: that there is no way he can freely receive Valjean’s grace and not be utterly transformed. Indeed, Javert cannot surrender his pride. He knows that it would cost him too much to change his life in light of the grace he has encountered, and he is unprepared and unwilling to make this change. In an all-consuming act of resistance, Javert commits suicide by throwing himself off a bridge and drowning in the river.

This is a ‘head-on crash’ between law and grace. Just as grace saved Valjean in the beginning, it is ultimately grace that he must also count on in the end. As Javert pursues him, we see the effects of grace on a sinner (Valjean), the oppressive power of both the law and someone’s past, and the incomprehensibility of grace to a life ‘ruled’ by the law (Javert).

The contrast of Javert and Valjean is deliberate and clear. Valjean is determined to live a life worthy of the grace he’s received, and his sense of ‘calling’ leads him to radical sacrifice for the sake of others. Javert, on the other hand, lives with unflinching loyalty to the law. His confidence in the law makes him utterly certain of both his own righteousness and also Valjean’s sinfulness—and it ‘destroys’ him!

 

THE ‘POWER’ OF GRACE
We should never underestimate the ‘power’ of grace to transform even the most ‘hardened’ individuals. Even though the story of Valjean was ‘inspired’, in part, by a true story, the real-life story of John Newton shows the real ‘transformation’ grace can have on a callous and cruel individual.

John Newton was the son of the commander of a merchant ship which sailed the Mediterranean. At age 11, John went to sea with his father. When his father retired, John continued to work as a common seaman. Soon he was forced to enlist in the British Navy, and became a midshipman. But when he attempted to desert, he was tied to the mast, flogged a dozen lashes, and was reduced back to the rank of a common seaman.

Eventually, he recovered from the disgrace and humiliation, got into the Merchant Marine, and transferred to the slave ship “Pegasus” carrying goods to Africa and trading them for slaves. In his memoirs, he wrote that when he went to Africa he went for one reason only: “That I might sin my fill.”

Newton proved to be a continual problem for the crew of the Pegasus, and they left him in Africa where he was made a slave to an African Duchess. She hated all white men and vented her hatred on poor Newton. He was beaten mercilessly, and had to eat with his face, like a dog, without using his hands.

Years later, he was ‘rescued’ by a sea captain of a British ship making its way up the coast to England. The captain said that he had been asked by Newton’s father to search for him.

However, knowing only a life at sea, Newton soon made his way back onto another trading ship. He continued to be so given to wickedness, that he was soon despised by his own crew. At one point, in drunken rage, he fell overboard into the sea, and instead of throwing him a rope, his crew hurled a whaling harpoon at him—striking him in the thigh—and they hauled him on board like a speared fish. (From that day, until his death, Newton walked with a limp).

So then, on a homeward voyage at the age of 22, Newton was awoken by a violent storm. His room began to flood with seawater, so he rushed toward the deck. On his way, the captain stopped him and sent him back to get a knife. The man who took his place on the deck was instantly washed overboard to his death.

Newton was assigned to the pumps in an effort to keep the boat from sinking. After getting that under control, he then would take his shift at the helm. While he was attempting to steer the ship through the violent storm, he experienced what he referred to later as his “great turning day.”

As Newton continued to do his part in steadying and steering the ship, his thoughts turned to his godly mother and what she had carefully taught him in the Bible. He prayed, “O God, if Thou wilt get me safely ashore, I will serve Thee forever.” He recorded in his journal that, when all seemed lost and the ship would surely sink, he cried out, “Lord, have mercy upon us!”

Later, when the storm abated, he reflected on what he had cried and began to believe that God really had saved him and the crew from the deadly storm. [ For the rest of his life, he observed the anniversary of that very day as the day of his ‘conversion’—a day of humiliation in which he subjected his will to God ].

He did continue in the slave trade for a time after his conversion, however, he saw to it that the slaves under his care were treated humanely (not normal for slave ships at that time).

A few years later, Newton gave up seafaring, and made good on his promise to God—and became a Christian minister. Ordained in the Church of England, Newton became curate of the church in Olney, Buckinghamshire, where he also began to write hymns with poet William Cowper.

Newton held not only a regular weekly church service, but also began a series of weekly prayer meetings for which his goal was to write a new hymn for each one.

The hymn Newton wrote to illustrate his New Year’s Day sermon for 1773 was “AMAZING GRACE.” It is unknown if there was any music accompanying the verses on that day—it may have simply been chanted by the congregation, as was normal for back then.

In that congregation, there so happened to be a man that was a member of Parliament, who became very close friends with Newton—William Wilberforce.

Wilberforce often came to Newton for guidance. Even though he was in Parliament, he felt that his life would be better lived if he were to serve God in the church, like Newton. However, Newton would convince Wilberforce to stay in Parliament to allow God to ‘use’ him there. Wilberforce took this advice to heart, and soon became the key ‘force’ in the fight against international slavery.

In addition to continually encouraging Wilberforce to continue the ‘fight’—which lasted for 46 years—Newton also published a pamphlet entitled “Thoughts Upon the African Slave Trade.” In it Newton gave horrific descriptions of the condition slaves were placed in during the Middle Passage, and confessed his own sin of having a hand in the industry. The pamphlet broke the silence for the long-overlooked topic of slave trading, and was the ‘nail in the coffin’ that Wilberforce needed to abolish the practice of slavery in England.

Newton was a great preacher of grace, for he had learned it personally as God ‘showed’ him many times throughout his life that “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” [ Romans 5:20 ].

As Newton approached death, his eyesight and memory began to fail. One by one, those who had loved him came to say their goodbyes. To one of these close friends, William Jay, Newton made his now-famous declaration: “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior.”

John Newton’s life was filled with hurdles, strife, and adversity. But all of this only served to embolden his faith and cause him to rely more and more on the ‘GRACE’ he had first received in the middle of a violent storm at sea, so that, one day, he could write the words of the hymn “AMAZING GRACE”—that would touch the lives of countless people around the world, to this day!

Newton is proof that the ‘GRACE’ OF GOD is sufficient to ‘SAVE’ ANYBODY—just as God did for another ‘vile’ man in Jesus’ time, Saul (who was ‘renamed’ the Apostle Paul) on the road to Damascus (Acts 9).

[ Note: “Amazing Grace” debuted in print in 1779 in Newton and Cowper’s book, “Olney Hymns,” but settled into relative obscurity in England. In the United States, however, “Amazing Grace” was used extensively during the Second Great Awakening in the early 19th century. It has been associated with more than 20 melodies, but in 1835 it was joined to a tune named “New Britain” to which it is most frequently sung today ].

“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.

’Twas 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 hath 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.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.”

 

WE ARE ALL ‘WRETCHED’
Sometimes, when we like the ‘tune’ of a song, the meaning of the words get lost. “Amazing Grace” has been performed so many times, by so many artists, that we can easily become ‘numbed’ to its profoundly ‘DISTURBING’ message!

I’ve got to believe that you know the first line of the song by heart: “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!” Well, you might say, “I guess Newton finally understood who he really was—a wretched person. That’s good for him to finally realize that!”

Well, the thing is, the Bible says that God ‘sees’ ALL OF US like that—we are all ‘WRETCHES’! God sees through all of our efforts to look like a ‘good’ person on the outside, and penetrates deep into our hearts where each of us is a DESPERATELY ‘LOST’ SINNER. No matter how ‘good’ you think you are, it’s not until we know that we are like condemned ‘criminals’ before God that we can begin to understand how “blind” we all are to this!

 

Now, you might say that it’s not nice for me to call you a “wretch,” especially since I really don’t know you. It’s very assuming and rude. Well, as they say, “Don’t shoot the messenger”—I’m just telling you what the Bible says. We are all ‘WRETCHED’ SINNERS!

Well, you (and I) might say, “I’m not as bad as most people.” “I didn’t do the bad things other people have done—especially what that John Newton guy did!”

You probably think of yourself as a fairly ‘nice’ person. Sure, you have sinned, but nothing that deserves the label “wretch.” However, the Bible comes with this ‘extreme’ spiritual analysis that we are all ‘DEPRAVED’ (Luke 18:13).

Reformed Bible teacher, John MacArthur, said it better than I can: “Throughout history, people have very greatly in their levels of human goodness and wickedness. But in relation to achieving God’s holiness—i.e. salvation eternal life—they are equal failures. That is why the good helpful kind considerate self-giving person needs salvation as much as the multiple murderers on death row. The person who is a good parent, a loving spouse, honest worker and civic humanitarian needs Jesus Christ to save him from the eternal condemnation of Hell as much as the skid row drunk or the heartless terrorist. They do not lead equally sinful lives, but they are equally in a state of sin, equally separated from God and from spiritual life.”

Jesus said, “If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For sinners do the same” [ Luke 6:33 ]. A person ‘apart’ from God can do humanly good things, but this does not change their ‘nature’, which is “corrupted by sin” (Romans 6:6).

During Jesus’ second farewell discourse to His disciples, He said, “He [ the Holy Spirit ], when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin” [ John 16:8 ] (which was the sin of disbelief in Jesus Christ). This sin reflects man’s alienation from God, and his spiritual ‘state’: “dead in your trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

 

Well, let me ask a question. What’s ‘good’ about a dead person? Can they do anything for themselves? No, they can not—because they’re totally lifeless!

Have you ever been at a funeral and when the pastor says “Amen” the person in the casket reaches up and pulls the lid down? Of course not. That just doesn’t happen. Because their body is ‘lifeless’—and when it comes to our spiritual state, a ‘lost’ person is in the same condition—totally lifeless, and there’s no ‘good’ in that!

 

All of us were born with our ‘backs’ toward God, and we are all following after the ‘pleasures’ of the is world—after our own desires. We are all spiritual ‘zombies’, “dead men walking.” You might say that’s extreme, but most of us don’t know how ‘bad’ we really are (especially in God’s ‘eyes’).

Our rejection of the term “wretch” and our adoption of the ‘doctrine’ of self-esteem has made it harder for us to really internalize and confess to our true ‘nature’. But that’s not all. The self-esteem philosophy teaches that we are “deserving,” and are basically ‘good’. We ‘deserve’ good things to happen to us. Then, since we are told we are ‘good’, we expect God to ‘reward’ us with a comfortable lifestyle, good health, and a fulfilling life. Because of what we ‘do’, we are entitled to these things—and suffering should only be for those who are ‘bad’ and ‘don’t do’ good things.

The thing is, the Bible says that even our good works are ‘besmirched’ by sin. The Apostle Paul tells us why: Nothing good dwells within you (Romans 7:18). You are wretched and poor and blind and naked (Revelation 3:17). “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me” [ Romans 7:18b-20 ]. Your good works are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” [ Romans 7:24 ].

 

Being called a sinful “wretch” probably ‘ruffles the feathers’ of most people, but hold on—THAT’S NOT ALL there is to this! God, being infinitely pure and holy, cannot have any sin in His presence—and since He is omnipresent—we cannot be in His presence! God is totally ‘committed’—with appropriate wrathful anger—to rid His presence of sin…and that means ALL OF US!

Granted, all of us have a hard time thinking or conceiving about God as wrathful—it makes us ‘squirm’, and it probably should! The problem is that we tend to think about God’s wrath in the same way that we think about our sin—that it’s not that big of a deal. We think: “Well, no one’s perfect”; “I do try to be a good person”; “I don’t believe I’m that bad of a person compared to most”; and “God says He’s forgiving.” Or, many people believe that this doesn’t matter at all since, when they die, they will just cease to exist.

Well, the Bible has a different view on all this: “[God] has set a day when He will judge the world” [ Acts 17:31 ], and all of us will ‘live’ eternally ‘somewhere’. The Bible calls these places “Heaven” and “Hell”—and for those who have not been “redeemed,” they will suffer the punishment for their sins consciously in a place separated from God and from everything that is good—in Hell forever!

[ Note: For more detailed info about this, read the “Misconceptions About Hell” section of this previous “Life’s Deep Thoughts” post:
https://markbesh.wordpress.com/house-of-horrors-v237/ ].

 

People also think that even though the God of the Old Testament was “mean” and “angry,” the God of the New Testament is “nice,” and “is loving and forgiving, no matter what.”

Well, maybe you have said (or thought) some of those things—or maybe you’ve just heard them said—and the concept of God’s wrath still makes you question His ‘goodness’, especially when He talks about eternal damnation. We think that God is being overly harsh and not being ‘fair’ about all this—since He knows we’re not perfect—so we tend to minimize or think very ‘lowly’ of the sin in our lives, and that sin only deserves a ‘slap on the wrist’. But the Bible says that God has much wrath prepared for those who ‘oppose’ Him (Romans 9:22).

 

God’s wrath against us is REALLY ‘BAD’ NEWS! But, bad news usually comes before the good news, doesn’t it? It’s kind of like going to the doctor and having him or her say to you, “I have bad news. You have a fatal illness that has killed many people. But, I have good news. A cure has been found, and I have it right here.” See, the good news means nothing without the bad news, right? You have to diagnose the disease before the cure means anything.

So, the bad news is that God ‘HATES’. BUT, the good news is that God LOVES!

The wrath of God is revealed against the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. Therefore, they have no capacity to justify themselves. Left to their own efforts, their ungodliness ‘leads’ to unrighteousness.

Puritan theologian, Thomas Watson said, “Sin is to the soul as rust is to gold, as stain is to beauty.”

 

God’s wrath is not directed ‘at’ people per se, rather it is directed against people’s sinful actions. Sin is the root cause of His anger. Sin, in all its forms, destroys. It also prevents people from realizing God’s purpose and plan for them (eternal life in Heaven with Him).

Some might ask why sin must be punished. Why can’t God let people do as they want without consequence? Well, it’s because He is perfectly holy and cannot tolerate sin.

While God allows sin to run rampant at present, there will be a day of reckoning to come, and none will be able to excuse themselves from their accountability to God. Sin destroys and holds no benefits. God gave Adam and Eve a free ‘will’ (rather than creating ‘robots’), so they had the choice to obey or disobey Him. As you probably know, they made the wrong choice, and are ‘responsible’ for sin in this world.

[ For more info on choice and consequences, visit this page of the “The Search For Meaning” website:
http://4vis.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q5_d4_3of10.html ].

 

Even though God’s nature is one of moral perfection (“Thou are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” – Habakkuk 1:13), He really doesn’t want to remove sinners from His presence, but rather wants to ‘restore’ them to a right relationship with Himself! However, those who persist in their rebellion against Him must endure His punishment!

Our human nature prompts us to try to excuse ourselves or to place blame on someone else for our actions, and on judgment day, there will be many who will try to convince God that He’s unfair or unjust in His sentence. Hmmm…really?!

God gets angry because disobedience always results in self-destruction. What kind of father sits by and watches his child hurt himself? What kind of God would do the same? God is rightfully angry and our sins are an affront to His holiness. God is angry at the evil that ‘RUINS’ His ‘children’.

The thing is, God’s anger does not resemble human anger or wrath which is most often associated with negative human emotions that lead to lack of self-control and losing one’s temper. So God, regrettably, allows us to have our own way—and their consequences. “Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, He abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done” [ Romans 1:28 ].

Many say, “Well that’s not so bad, that’s exactly what I want.” You think? Think again.

In the first book of the Bible, Genesis, when God observes the extent of human wickedness on the earth, He saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. The Lord was ‘sorry’ He had ever made them and putting them on the earth. It broke His ‘heart’. So, the Lord said, “I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth” (Genesis 6:5-7)—and He did just that, “blotting out” the human race with a world-wide flood—all except Noah and his family. WHOA!

BUT, then we read verse 8: “But Noah found favor with the Lord.” That little Hebrew word “favor” is the Greek word for GRACE, and this ‘points’ to Romans 3, where the Apostle Paul discusses sin and grace, and how we cannot really appreciate the grace of God without first coming to grips with His wrath. Paul states unequivocally that NONE OF US are righteous, and that ALL OF US are ‘in trouble’ and are under the wrath of God! He makes this abundantly clear in Romans 3:10-18, stringing together quotes from the Old Testament:

– “No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God.”
– “All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.”
– “Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are filled with lies.”
– “Snake venom drips from their lips.”
– “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
– “They rush to commit murder. Destruction and misery always follow them. They don’t know where to find peace.”
– “They have no fear of God at all.”

 

We all sin, and deep down, we all know it in our ‘hearts’ (our conscience). Those who acknowledge it, regret it, and feel the need to do something about it, but often fall into the trap of thinking that their good deeds will outweigh their bad. However, the Apostle Paul makes it clear that NO ONE is going to ‘escape’ God’s wrath by any kind of paltry attempt to come into ‘compliance’ with God’s moral law.

 

Because God is holy, He is separated from all sin and utterly opposed to every sinner. Because God is love, He delights in purity and must, of necessity, hate all that is unholy. Because God is righteous, He must punish the sin that violates His holiness.

So, God ‘hates’ the sinner, and His wrath rests on both the sin (Romans 1:18–23) and the sinner (Romans 1:24–32; 2:5; John 3:36).

God in His perfections must be wrathful against His rebel image-bearers, for they have DEEPLY offended Him. However, God in His perfections must be loving toward His rebel image-bearers, for He is that kind of God. YEAH!

In addition to this, God’s wrath is to be ‘feared’ because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), are justly condemned sinners apart from Christ (Romans 5:1), and because He promises eternal punishment apart from Him (Matthew 25:46). God’s wrath is to be feared because He is POWERFUL ENOUGH to do what He promises! (Jeremiah 32:17).

 

However, with all this being said, God’s wrath is His love in action against sin. What?!

Well, consider the wrath of God and the love of God are like two sides of the same ‘coin’—and if you ‘split’ the coin in two to separate the sides, it ceases to be ‘legal tender’.

So, without the wrath of God, the love of God is purposeless—because God’s love ‘rescues’ us from His wrath. Also, without the wrath of God, the love of God is hopelessness. We might as well “eat and be merry, for tomorrow we will die.”

God’s wrath is not a capricious, uncontrollable fury and emotional rage like humanity does with their own animosity laden with hurtful feelings toward someone. Rather, divine wrath is the reflection of a deliberate and measured reaction of a perfectly holy Being toward sin—a response that is entirely consistent with the righteous nature of a loving God. God’s wrath is declared upon ‘evil’ not necessarily the person. That’s MUCH DIFFERENT than what humans do!

 

God’s wrath, being His love in action against sin, sounds kind of counter-intuitive, but please ‘hear’ me out on this.

God is love, and God does all things for His glory (1 John 4:8; Romans 11:36). He loves His glory above all—and that is a GOOD THING! Therefore, God rules the world in such a way that brings Himself maximum glory. This means that God must act justly and judge sin—i.e. respond with wrath—otherwise, God would not be God. God’s love for His glory ‘motivates’ His wrath against sin.

Admittedly, God’s love for His own glory is a most sobering reality for many and not good news for sinners. It is, after all, “a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).

Proverbs 24:12 says, “If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this,’ does not He who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not He who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will He not repay man according to his work?”

Theologian J.I. Packer summarizes this by saying, “God’s wrath in the Bible is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, morally ignoble thing that human anger so often is. It is, instead, a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil.”

God’s wrath is also in ‘proportion’ to human sinfulness. “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” [ Romans 2:5 ].

 

NOW, THE ‘GOOD’ NEWS
Just when we realize the hopelessness of our situation, and are shaking in our ‘boots’ waiting for God to put the ‘hammer’ of His wrath down, the Apostle Paul pulls us out of the pit of despair, when he jubilantly writes that now God has shown us a way to be made right with Him without keeping the requirements of the law. As was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago, we are ‘MADE RIGHT’ with God by placing our faith in Jesus. God, in His grace, freely makes us right in His sight! (Romans 3:21-26a).

The Apostle Paul is giving you and I the ‘ANTIDOTE’ TO WRATH. He said that God is offering us a FREE “get out of jail card”! It’s called ‘GRACE’!

 

WAYS WE TRY TO ‘OVERCOME’ GOD’S WRATH
Now, every religion in the world offers some type of solution to the problem of man’s evil and how to make themselves ‘right’ with their god. The thing is, all of the other religions of the world, except for Christianity, offer salvation by ‘works’. They say if you become good enough you can work your way to god, or you must go through ‘procedures’, sufferings, and rituals to get to god. Some religions say that you can actually ‘become’ a god, appealing to man’s pride.

Well, during a British conference on comparative religions, eloquent experts from around the world debated what, if any, belief was unique to the Christian faith. They began eliminating possibilities. Incarnation? “No.” Other religions had different versions of god’s appearing in human form. Resurrection? Again, “No.” Other religions had accounts of returning from death. The debate went on for some time until C. S. Lewis wandered into the room. “What’s the rumpus about?” he asked. They said they were discussing what separated the Christian faith from all the other religions of the world, and asked him what he thought it is. Lewis responded, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”

After some discussion, the conferees had to agree. The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge, with no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of karma, the Jewish covenant, and the Muslim code of law—each of these offers a way to ‘earn’ approval. Only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional.

God is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:6–7). This grace is ‘DISTINCT’ to the Christian faith—NO OTHER religion emphasizes divine grace the way the Bible does.

 

SO, WHAT IS ‘GRACE’?
Well, in our culture, grace means a few different things. The credit card company offers a “grace period.” The ‘seedy’ politician “falls from grace.” Musicians talk about a “grace note.” People describe a ballet dancer as “graceful.” Before meals, some say “grace.”

But, at the heart of the term grace, biblically, is the idea of ‘DIVINE FAVOR’. In the Old Testament of the Bible, the Hebrew word for grace is “chanan,” which means “to show condescending favor or be gracious.” In the New Testament, the Greek word for grace is “charis,” meaning “gracefulness,” “favor,” or “gratitude.” Intrinsic to its meaning are the ideas of favor, goodness, and goodwill.

A popular acronym for GRACE is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. It has also been defined as God’s “UNMERITED FAVOR.” Well, grace is all that AND MORE! Grace is not merely unmerited favor; it is favor bestowed on sinners who deserve God’s wrath. The Bible talks about being “changed by grace,” “shaped by grace,” strengthened by grace,” and “softened by grace.” So, what is it specifically referring to? Well, God says that “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you” [ Ezekiel 36:26 ]. You might call it a spiritual ‘heart transplant’.

The Apostle Paul said it this way: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” [ Galatians 2:20 ]. God has ‘moved into’ us. When ‘grace’ happens, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” [ 1 John 5:15 ]. Grace is God as the ‘heart’ surgeon, cracking open your chest, removing your current ‘heart’—poisoned with pride and pain—and replacing it with His own!

 

Now, biblically, there are two kinds of grace: “common” and “special” (or saving) grace. Theologians use the term “common grace” to describe the goodness of God to all mankind universally. It sort of ‘restrains’ the effects of sin, and keeps humanity from descending into a morass of evil—the unimaginable horror humanity would be able to express if it was allowed free reign (i.e. before the ‘Flood’). Most call this our “conscience.”

The first of these aspects of common grace is God’s love of ‘BENEVOLENCE’. The term benevolence means simply “goodwill”—and God’s love for the human race may be defined in terms of His having a generally kind disposition to all of His creatures, fallen as they may be. This, of course, does not negate God’s stance of wrath and anger towards those who continue in disobedience, and in resisting the proper worship and gratitude that we owe to Him.

This disposition, or kindness, that God displays towards all creatures indiscriminately is linked to the second type of love that we use to define God’s character—that being His ‘BENEFICENCE’. Where benevolence has to do with God’s will, beneficence has to do with God’s actions—as they pertain to His activity on behalf of the whole created realm. We see that He not only has a divine kindness towards us, but He also acts with a loving provision for the whole human race. Jesus said that the “rain falls upon the just as well as the unjust” (Matthew 5:45), confirming that the whole world benefits from God’s grace to a certain degree. However, common grace does not ‘pardon’ sin or redeem sinners—that’s what “special” (saving) grace does.

 

Now, the grace that is MOST SIGNIFICANT for us is “SPECIAL” or “SAVING” (“salvific”) grace that God extends to those who become His ‘children’. Because we are evil, God-hating creatures, every measure of grace is entirely undeserved. This special love of God called His love of ‘COMPLACENCY’, which ‘emancipates’ us from His wrath.

So, specifically, how does God do this? Well, because He is an infinite God of infinite holiness, and all sins committed against Him are infinite in magnitude. Only a ‘gift’ of infinite value could turn away the infinite wrath of God—and only God Himself (in the Person of His Son, Jesus) could ‘be’ such an infinite gift.

That’s why our piddling efforts to turn aside God’s wrath are doomed to failure. We think that going to church or being baptized or going to Mass or saying our prayers or being good or stopping a bad habit or “trying hard to be better” will somehow turn away the infinite wrath of God. The wonder of propitiation is that the offended party (God), who has every right to be angry at sinners Himself, offers the gift (the death of Jesus) to turn away His own wrath, thus making it possible for guilty sinners to be forgiven.

 

GRACE IS NOT ‘DESERVED’
The fact is that we don’t deserve to be treated so well or dealt with so generously. We were born in sin (Psalm 51:5), and we were guilty of breaking God’s holy laws (Romans 3:9–20, 23; 1 John 1:8–10). We were enemies of God (Romans 5:6, 10; 8:7; Colossians 1:21), deserving of death (Romans 6:23a). We were unrighteous (Romans 3:10), and without the means of justifying ourselves (Romans 3:20). Spiritually, we were destitute, blind, unclean, and dead. Our souls were in peril of everlasting punishment. All of us are ‘WRETCHED’!

BUT, then ‘came’ GRACE. God extended His favor to us. Grace is what ‘saves’ us (Ephesians 2:8). Grace is the essence of the Gospel (Acts 20:24). Grace gives us victory over sin (James 4:6). Grace gives us “eternal encouragement and good hope” (2 Thessalonians 2:16). Paul repeatedly identified grace as the basis of his own ‘calling’ as an apostle (Romans 15:15; 1 Corinthians 3:10; Ephesians 3:2, 7). Jesus Christ is the ‘embodiment’ of grace, coupled with truth (John 1:14).

 

GRACE IS A ‘GIFT’
The Bible repeatedly calls grace a “gift” (Ephesians 4:7). This is an important analogy because it teaches us some key things about grace.

First, anyone who has ever received a gift understands that it is much different from a loan, which requires repayment or return by the recipient. The fact that grace is a ‘gift’ means that nothing is owed in return.

Second, there is no cost to the person who receives a gift. A gift is free to the recipient, although it is not free to the giver, who bears the expense. The ‘gift’ of salvation costs us sinners nothing—but the price of such an extravagant gift came at a great cost for Jesus, who died in our ‘place’.

Third, once a gift has been given, ownership of the gift has been ‘transferred’, and it is now ours to keep. There is a permanence in a gift that does not exist with loans or advances. When a gift changes hands, the giver permanently relinquishes all rights to renege or take back the gift in future. God’s grace is OURS FOREVER!

Fourth, in the giving of a gift, the giver voluntarily forfeits something he owns, willingly losing what belongs to him so that the recipient will profit from it. The giver becomes poorer so the recipient can become richer. This generous and voluntary exchange from the giver to the recipient is visible in 2 Corinthians 8:9: “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.”

 

NOT BECAUSE OF YOUR ‘POTENTIAL’
Let me go a step further. When God saves people, He doesn’t do it because of any ‘potential’ he sees in them. I think most of us secretly feel—though we would never say it—that there must have been something in us worth saving. The thing is, there isn’t—human ‘pride’ dies hard! Apart from the grace of God, the only potential you have is for eternal ‘damnation’!

Even though God’s gift of salvation costs us nothing, it cost Jesus everything! This is so hard for us to believe. We would prefer to ‘work’ for our salvation. But Jesus now says to us, “Take this ‘gift’ by faith! It’s yours. for free! I have paid the entire ‘cost’ for you!”

 

A SIMPLE ‘EQUATION’
The ‘basis’ of God’s grace is the sacrifice of Jesus. The grace that is extended to those who would believe could be considered to be a simple equation: GRACE = JUSTICE + MERCY. Our very natures tell us that a crime deserves punishment. We have committed an infinitely grave crime in forsaking our Creator and this is a crime that deserves an infinite punishment. God’s justice requires satisfaction. But thanks be to God, He, through His mercy, provided this satisfaction in His Son. So, He fulfills the requirements of justice and mercy so that we can receive grace. The lyric for the “Amazing Grace” song we considered earlier, then, takes into consideration the undeservedness of grace, “’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,” but then suggests an element of mercy by saying, “And grace my fears relieved.”

Reformed pastor and theologian, Charles Spurgeon, summarizes it this way: “Divine grace is the sovereign and saving favor of God exercised in bestowing blessings upon those who have no merit in them and for which no compensation is demanded. Nay, more; it is the favor of God to those who not only have no positive deserts of their own, but also who are thoroughly ill-deserving and hell-deserving. It is completely unmerited and unsought, and is altogether unattracted by anything in or from or by the objects upon which it is bestowed.”

The fullest exposition of the amazing grace of God is found in the epistles of the Apostle Paul. This is abundantly clear from Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” The absolute favor of God can no more consist of human merit than oil and water will fuse into one (see also Romans 4:4-5).

 

Consider that bitter and bloody persecutor, Saul, when he was breathing out threats, with an insatiable thirst to put to death all of the disciples of Jesus. But even the havoc he had committed was not sufficient to assuage his vengeful spirit.

What judge today, using just the principles of human judgment, would not have pronounced Saul a “vessel of wrath,” destined to unavoidable damnation? BUT, God in His inexhaustible grace, ‘transformed’ Saul into the ‘greatest’ Apostle, Paul!

So, God can ‘choose’ ANYONE—even people you think shouldn’t be chosen! (like you and me!).

 

THE HIGH ‘COST’ OF GOD’S GRACE
Now, although redeeming grace is free to us, its ‘cost’ to God is inestimable—His Son, Jesus.

Back in the Old Testament times, sacrificial animals were a ‘picture’ of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross. That is why John the Baptist called Jesus, “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” [ John 1:29 ].

The Old Testament sacrifices were necessary, but incomplete. Jesus’ sacrifice was perfect, complete, and once for all (Hebrews 10:10).

By His sacrifice, Jesus demonstrated not only God’s hatred of sin, but also His great love for sinners. You could never redeem yourself. However, Jesus willingly paid the price for your sin ‘penalty’ with His own precious blood. He “gave Himself up for [you], an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Ephesians 5:2). His sacrifice was acceptable to the Father; so your redemption was PAID IN FULL!

 

WRATH AND GRACE MEET AT THE ‘CROSS’
The ‘Cross’ is the place where WRATH AND GRACE MEET. When we ‘come’ to God through Jesus, we come to a friendly ‘Father’ and not to an angry ‘warden’. BUT, why would God put His own Son to death, especially to save people who had rebelled against Him?

Well, primarily because He IS LOVE, but also because He is perfectly holy, and He cannot allow sin to go unpunished. His justice demands that every sin be punished—no matter how small it may seem to us. If He were to forgive sin without proper punishment, He would cease to be holy and just. God would no longer be God because He would have denied His own character. That could not happen. All offenses against God must be punished. That’s why sinners can’t simply say, “I’m sorry” and instantly be forgiven. Someone has to ‘pay the price’ for the penalty of our sins.

We follow this same principle in our criminal justice system. Suppose a man is found guilty of embezzling six million dollars from his employer. Let us further suppose that just before sentencing, he stands before the judge, confesses his crime, begs for mercy, and promises never to embezzle money again. How would you react if the judge accepted his apology and released him with no punishment? How about another man that had been convicted of rape and then was set free by the judge, with no punishment simply because he apologized. Or what if another man apologized for murdering a father and mother in front of their children, and the judge set him free? What do you think should happen to that judge who set them all free—for not doing his job properly and not punishing ‘evil’ actions? Disbarment? Jail? See, being ‘fallen’ human beings we understand ‘appropriate’ justice—and God’s justice is ‘perfect’!

So, God’s ‘problem’ was to devise a plan of salvation whereby He would remain holy and just, and still provide a way of forgiveness for guilty sinners. Somewhere, somehow, there had to be a place where grace and wrath could meet. That place is the ‘CROSS’.

Think of it. In the death of Jesus, all the sins of the human race are fully paid for past, present, and future. As a result, those who believe in Jesus find that their sins are gone forever. This is the heart of the Gospel: God’s holiness demands that sin be punished. God’s grace provides the sacrifice. What God demands, He supplies. Thus salvation is a work of God from first to last. It is conceived by God, provided by God, and applied by God. WOO-HOO!!!

God saves us despite the fact that He can’t find a reason within us to save us. There is nothing in us that causes God to want to save us. No good works, no inner beauty, no great moral attainment, and no intellectual merit of any kind. When God saves us, He does so in despite the fact that we don’t deserve it. It’s PURELY BECAUSE OF HIS GRACE!

 

Imagine Jesus walking into God’s ‘courtroom’ and saying, “I will serve the guilty person’s sentence.” Jesus took ALL OF OUR SINS upon Himself—even though He never sinned. He took upon Himself sin to such an extent that “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” [ 2 Corinthians 5:21 ]. He became vile and detestable in God’s eyes—the vilest and detestable thing that ever existed—and God poured out the full measure of His wrath upon Him. He poured out His wrath upon Jesus until that wrath was absorbed and exhausted—until every bit of justice was satisfied!

Jesus served the complete sentence of God’s just wrath that you and I deserved. This is the ‘mercy of the ‘Cross’—the sinless One served the sentence of the sinner.

Jesus satisfies the demands of God’s justice. This is the ‘wonder’ of the Cross. Here we see the fullest measure of wrath and the fullest measure of mercy at the same time, in the same place, and all because of the same Savior. At the Cross, we see wrath and grace meet.

 

THE GREAT ‘EXCHANGE’
God has made a great ‘exchange’. We, who knew no righteousness, now have been given the righteousness of Jesus, because God ‘made’ Jesus to be the ‘propitiation’ for our sins. (similar to what the priest did in the Old Testament on the Day of Atonement, where one goat was slain as a sin offering and the other had all the sins ‘put upon’ it and was led into the wilderness without a prospect of return). Jesus experience both the judgment of God against sin, and the sense of divine ‘abandonment’. Jesus became both our ‘sacrifice’ and our ‘scapegoat’. This is how God does not count our sins against those who believe in Jesus as their Savior—He counts my sins against His Son.

 

GRACE DOESN’T ‘CANCEL’ GOD’S HOLINESS
Perhaps we have lost the fear of God because we take His grace for granted. At the very beginning, God said to Adam and Eve, “The day that you eat from [ the forbidden tree ] you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17). They ate from it, but they were not struck dead on the spot. Their physical lives did not end that very day. In fact, they lived for hundreds of years after that incident. God showed them grace.

Just like Adam and Eve, our hearts are so desperately wicked and corrupt that rather than receiving God’s mercy with thankfulness and fearful contrition over our sins, instead, we begin to take His grace for granted. Consequently, when God does punish sin, we think He’s unjust.

The question is not why God so dramatically judges some sinners, but rather why He lets ANY OF US live! God has every right to punish sin, since “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). However, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not” [ Lamentations 3:22 ].

 

In the book, “The Chronicles of Narnia,” Aslan, the golden Lion, represents Jesus. He is described as a “fierce” and “loving” lion—a remarkable understanding of Jesus’ character.

In one scene, some talking beavers are describing Aslan to Lucy, Susan, and Peter, who are newcomers to the realm of Narnia. In anticipation of meeting him, they ask questions that reveal their fears.

“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

Mrs. Beaver says, “That you will, dearie, and no mistake, if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ’Course He isn’t safe. But He’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

After the children met Aslan, Lucy observed that His paws were potentially very soft or very terrible. They could be as soft as velvet with his claws drawn in, or sharp as knives with His claws extended.

We, in ‘modern’ Christianity, have somehow missed this truth. While we are thankful for the reality of God’s grace, and while we want to enjoy the experience of His love, we have somehow neglected the truth of His holiness. That imbalance needs to be ‘rebalanced’, and we need to have a renewed sense of ‘fearing’ God!

God is a ‘holy’ being. Believers must come in the contrition, humility, and brokenness of sinners who see ourselves against the backdrop of God’s holiness—like a really bad ‘stain’ on a new, ‘perfectly pure’ white cloth.

 

‘EXPECTING’ GOD’S GRACE
It seems that somehow we get ‘accustomed’ to God’s grace. At first, we are amazed by it. Then the next time we are not quite so much surprised. By the third or fourth time, we begin to ‘expect’ it. Then we ‘assume’ it. Then, we ‘demand’ it—and we’re angry if we don’t get it! Because the greatest distortion in our thinking is that God ‘owes’ us grace and mercy. That God is somehow obligated to be gracious to us. But think about that the minute. The thing is grace, by its very definition, is voluntary and God is not required to give it. He reserves the right to be merciful to whom He will be merciful and to be gracious to whom He is gracious (Romans 9:15). You can PLEAD for grace. You can BEG for mercy. But you can never ever ‘demand’ it! Justice may be required, but never, ever mercy. It’s because God is holy, and anytime He withholds justice, He is giving grace!

Last month, when I was talking about God’s justice and His ‘fairness’, I presented a real-life situation that theologian R.C. Sproul told at one of his seminars about ‘grace’. I have yet to find another example that so succinctly describes grace, so here it is again:

“We become so accustomed to God’s normal patterns of grace and mercy that we not only begin to take it for granted, we begin to assume it. We begin to demand it. And then if we don’t get it, we are furious. We’re all like Rex Harrison: “We’ve grown accustomed to God’s grace.” We’ve presumed upon that grace. We assume that God will be as kind to us always as He is now, and that because He stays the hand of His justice, that He will stay it forever.

My favorite illustration about this took place in the early years of my teaching. I was taking a new teaching assignment at a place where I had not taught before, and I had the responsibility of teaching 250 freshmen a required course” “An Introduction to the Old Testament.”

And on the first day of class, I gave out the course syllabus and explained the requirements. I had already taught long enough to know that these kids are Philadelphia lawyers and they’ll find loopholes in your directions and so on. So, I said, “I want to make it very clear. Here’s the rules. You have three little papers—they were short papers—just three to five pages that you have to turn in over the course of the semester. And the first one is due the 30th of September at 12 o’clock noon. It has to be on my desk. And if it’s not there, you get a zero an ‘F’ for that assignment, unless you are physically confined in the hospital or an infirmary, or there’s a death in the immediate family (not your dog!).” I then asked, “Does everybody understand?” They all said, “Oh yes, we agree.” I then said, “The first one’s due September the 30th.”

On September the 30th, 225 students diligently came forward with their term paper. Twenty-five of the students failed to make the deadline and they were terrified—standing there shivering and shaking in fear. And they came to me begging, “Oh, Dr. Sproul we didn’t get our papers done. We didn’t make the transition from high school to college. We didn’t budget our time properly. Please don’t flunk us. Please, don’t give us an ‘F.’ Please, give us an extension. Please let us have a little more time.” They are begging! ‘Crocodile’ tears. So I said, “Okay, okay, okay. I’ll give you a couple more days to finish it—two more days extension. But don’t do this again!” They said, “Oh, thank you very much. You’re wonderful!” Two days later, they all turned their papers in, and everything was fine.

October 30th came. The second paper is due. This time, 200 students come with their papers, and 50 of them don’t have their term paper. So, I said, “Where’s your term papers?” They said, “Oh, professor this paper was through the same week and everybody else had papers due, and we had midterms, and besides that we had homecoming and we were all busy working on floats for homecoming.” They gave me all these excuses. There was ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’. They said, “Please, please, please! Give us one more chance.” I said, “Okay, but this is the last time! You better not do this again! I’m telling you if you do it again you’ll flunk. Is that clear?” They said, “Oh yes!” And spontaneously, the class began to sing: “We love you, Prof. Sproul, Oh, yes we do.” I was ‘Mr. Nice Guy’. And I enjoyed this wonderful rapport with the kids until November 30th, when the third paper came due.

Now, this time 150 kids come with their third paper 100 of them just breeze in that day and there’s not a concern in the world. I said “Hey, wait a minute! Whoa! Where’s your papers?” And one kid—I’ll never forget—he said, “Hey, hey Prof. Don’t sweat it. We’ll have it for you in a couple days.” I said, “What?” He said, Hey, look, don’t worry.” I said, “What’s your name?” He said, “Jamison.” I said, “Jamison, ‘F’. Martin, where’s your paper?” He said, “Don’t have it, sir.” I said, “‘F.’ Allen, ‘F’. Baumgartner, ‘F’.”

What do you suppose was their reaction? Unmitigated fury. Like one voice, they cried out—you can guess what they cried out—“That’s not fair!” I said, “Wilson, what did you say.” He said, “I said, that’s not fair!” I said, “Oh, it’s justice that you want! Seems to me, Wilson, that I remember that the last time you were late, too—isn’t that right?” And he said, “Yes.” I said, “Okay, I’ll give you justice. I’ll give you an ‘F’ for this one, and I’m gonna give you an ‘F’ for the last one.” So I took up my black book and I went back to his name and for the second paper I made an ‘F’. I said, “Who else wants justice?” And nobody said a word!

That’s how we are. We get mercy once and we’re thrilled. We praise God. We get it twice, and we tell how wonderful is His kindness. But by now we’re beginning to assume it, and to presume it. And without the twinkling of an eye, we begin to demand it. We begin to think that He owes it to us.

I said to my students two things. I said, “Look, don’t ever ask God for justice—you might get it!” The second was this: “That the basic difference between justice and grace is this: That grace has never, never, never, never due us! God is never obligated to be gracious. Grace by definition is voluntary. And the minute you think that God owes you mercy, let a bell go off in your head, and realize that you’re no longer thinking about mercy, you’re thinking about justice.”

 

A ‘LICENSE’ TO SIN
God’s grace also gets ‘distorted’ in another way—‘perverting’ it by mistaking it for licentiousness (Jude 4). Many professing Christians wrongly think that God’s grace means that they can “have their fill of sin” (i.e. John Newton) because they say, “If I am saved by grace and all my sins are forgiven, why not sin all I want? God will forgive me!”

That thinking is not the result of ‘true’ conversion because it yields a greater desire to obey, not a lesser one. God’s desire—and our desire when we are ‘regenerated’ by His Spirit—is that we STRIVE NOT TO SIN. Out of gratitude for His infinitely gracious gift in salvation through Jesus (John 3:16; Romans 5:8), we want to please Him—and that would be not sinning.

There is a term that theologians use to describe all this, it’s called “cheap grace.” Ultimately, the thinking is, God said He would forgive my sins, so I’m going to live like I want to live.

Yes, God is gracious, and will forgive a ‘PENITENT’ person—someone that is really TRYING NOT TO SIN. I would suggest that this kind of person be really ‘concerned’ whether or not they are ‘REALLY’ saved, and would question their salvation! Would I ‘spit’ into the face of One who gave everything for you such that you might have forgiveness and eternal life? I THINK NOT!

The Apostle Paul was explicit about this: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? Maybe it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” [ Romans 6:1-2 ]. Grace reigns through righteousness (Romans 5:21).

The thing is, grace does not nullify the moral demands of God’s ‘law’. Rather, it ‘fulfills’ the righteousness of the law (Romans 6:14-15). In a sense, grace is to ‘law’ what miracles are to nature. It rises above and accomplishes what the law cannot (Romans 8:3). Yet, it does not annul all the righteous demands of the law—it confirms and validates them (Romans 3:31).

Grace is NO ‘LICENSE’ to sin!

 

GRACE IS ’SCANDALOUS’
There is something ‘scandalous’ about God’s grace, and it is shown very well by the father in response to his “prodigal son” coming home after wonton living.

The parable tells of how the younger son ‘blows’ his entire inheritance in a “far country”—which he ‘forced’ his father to give him early—and is eating ‘pods’ from the pigsty to stay alive. He no longer has any friends, because they all left him when he wasn’t ‘footing the bill’ any longer.

He has a ‘eureka’ moment and realizes that his father’s servants eat better than he was at this time. So, he finally comes to his senses, understanding the ‘mess’ he was in, and decides to go back home and ask his father to be one of his hired servants. But, when he was yet a “great way off,” his father saw him and ran to him.

Now, it would have been an act of mercy on the part of the father to say when his son finished his little ‘confession’ that he had sinned against him, “You know, what you did to me was horrendous. But, I do have a little tent out back that you can live in while you are my servant.”

BUT, that’s not how the story goes! The father interrupts his son’s apology and starts barking orders to get a fattened calf and kill it; give him a ring; get him a robe; and give him some shoes! He says, “For this your brother was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” [ Luke 15:32b ].

In this parable, the father represents God, and His willingness to ‘take back’ and give immeasurable grace and mercy to any ‘rebel’ that wants come back ‘home’ (us).

In addition to the unbelievable grace in ‘restoring’ the son to ‘sonship’, the parable also presents another aspect of God’s character (via the father)—His incredible PATIENCE with us!

Anglican clergyman, William Gurnall, said it well way back in 1660: “When I consider how the goodness of God is abused by the greatest part of mankind, I cannot but be of his mind that said the greatest miracle in the world is God’s patience and bounty to an ungrateful world. If a prince has an enemy got into one of his towns, he doth not send them in provision but lays close siege to the place and doth what he can to starve them. But the great God that could wink all His enemies into destruction bears with them and is at daily cost to maintain them. Well may He command us to bless them that curse us who Himself does good to the evil and unthankful. But think not, sinners, that you shall escape thus. God’s mill goes slow but grinds small. The more admirable His patience and bounty now is the more dreadful and unsupportable will that fury be which ariseth out of His abused goodness. Nothing smoother than the sea yet when stirred into a tempest, nothing rageth more. Nothing so sweet as the patience and goodness of God and nothing so terrible as His wrath when it takes fire.”

 

So, with God’s mercy and grace being exhibited even more, how can people question His goodness? Well, I think that it’s because we see history from the wrong perspective. Consider what happened in the Old Testament: The flood; Destroying Sodom and Gomorrah; Killing all the firstborn in Egypt, then the army; A variety of plagues; and Uzzah for just touching the Ark.

So why are there, throughout the Old Testament and even into the New Testament (killing Ananias and Sapphira for just lying), illustrations of God’s instantaneous wrath? Well, they are to show us what SHOULD HAPPEN to all of us when we don’t have a ‘heart’ of thanksgiving for what God has DONE ‘FOR’ US (grace) and NOT DONE ‘TO’ US (mercy).

Every day, believers should say, “Thank You, God, for being so merciful and overlooking my sins today, that should have caused my death and eternal judgment.” The thing is, most parents would never tolerate this kind of ‘insubordination’ from their children that God tolerates from us! We tend to be more concerned about God’s actions in His justice than the ‘defiance’, ’insurrection’, and ‘wickedness’ of people’s actions.

Jesus actually answered this concern, after Pilate, unauthorized, came into the temple and sacrificed animals on the altar: “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” [ Luke 13:2-3 ]. Hmmm…they’re not asking about Pilate’s ‘barbarity’, but ‘concerned’ about God’s justice!

So, Jesus responds: “They aren’t any worse than you, and unless you repent, you’re going to get the same thing.” They were examples. They got justice as an illustration of what all the rest of them were going to get if they didn’t repent. They weren’t worse than anybody else.

Still ‘concerned’, they asked, “What about those 18 people upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them?” Can you imagine that?  It just fell on them and killed them, and they were just walking by on the street. They weren’t doing anything evil, but they were killed. Jesus responded, “Do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Notice the point Jesus is making? They’re just illustrations of what you all ought to be getting, RIGHT NOW, but you aren’t because GOD IS GRACIOUS AND MERCIFUL! (So, you’d better repent and be grateful to God).

History affirms God’s goodness, and He has warned all of us of our sin’s consequences that are just ‘piling up’ wrath against you now. Though you may be ‘surviving’ now, there will be a day when the fullness of God’s wrath will be revealed at the Great White Throne, and His righteous judgment is going to ‘bury’ you!

People think since God is merciful now, they’re going to be just fine later. However, instead of being driven to repentance because of God being so kind to them as sinners, they acquire “a hard and impenitent heart.” Hardening of the arteries or of the liver may take you to the grave, but the hardening of the ‘heart’ will take you to Hell!

The writer of Hebrews tells us (in chapters 3 and 4), not to become cold and indifferent, because all you’re doing is storing up wrath for yourself. In other words, you’re responsible and you’re doing it to yourself!

In Revelation 20, it tells us that God calls together all the wicked dead from everywhere to be judged by the ‘books’ (a record of their deeds), and they are “cast forever into the Lake of Fire with the devil and his angels” (Revelation 20:14).

 

So, you can tread on God’s grace and mercy now, but you will receive His ‘fury’ in the future—or you can be grateful, come with a repentant heart to God, and ‘turn’ to Jesus! Just to be clear, if you don’t, drop-by-drop, every sin you commit is filling up a ‘reservoir’ of God’s patience toward you, and someday it will overflow, and you will be ‘drowned’ in an eternal flood of your own sins!

BUT, you have an ALTERNATIVE! There in the midst of all of this is an ‘island of safety’ that was mentioned previously, the ‘Cross’, and “the Savior is waiting” for you ‘come’ to Him.

 

‘MEMORIES’ OF CHRISTMAS
According to the Christmas story, we all have incurred a ‘debt’ because of our sins that is impossible to repay. But, Jesus was born—by God’s grace—to become the ‘sacrifice’ to pay for all of them. (For more about this, see the “Parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18).

In Les Misérables, the Bishop represents God (so to speak), and all of us are Valjean. Despite what we owe, we find that our debt has already been forgiven (by Jesus).

Christmas also ‘dovetails’ with Easter. The Christmas story suggests that the baby Jesus is the very embodiment of God’s grace to humankind; Easter then ‘completes’ the picture as Jesus the adult who cancels everyone’s debt to God by paying for it Himself by dying on the ‘Cross’.

That’s why Christmas is so profoundly hopeful: it says that whatever our debts, Someone has already got them covered (Jesus). Like Valjean, everyone can ‘taste’ this grace, and then share in the promise of a new life with others (more on how grace affects our daily live next month).

Both Les Misérables and Christmas show that grace ‘wins’ not by abandoning the law that convicts us but by ‘fulfilling’ it in love.

Les Miserable answers those doubts with hope for redemption. There IS A WAY to start afresh! There is a grace that surpasses, that sets us free from the burdens of our past, and that leads us home to God.

Frankly, I first truly understood grace while reading the great novel by Victor Hugo, Les Misérables. When the kindly Bishop not only refused to punish Jean Valjean for his theft, but instead lavished gifts on him—in that scene I sensed the stirrings of God’s grace to me, who deserved just the opposite. There’s a good reason why that musical captured the attention of the world. It’s because WE ALL HUNGER FOR GRACE.

This is just like the first ‘Christmas’ which REAL ‘GRACE’ was introduced to the world so clearly! [ For more details of the first ‘Christmas’, see last month’s “Life’s Deep Thoughts” post:
https://markbesh.wordpress.com/the-first-christmas-v238/ ].

 

Many Christians understand grace only on the theological, abstract level but have not let it penetrate the soul.

 

ANYONE CAN ‘COME’!
The ‘GOOD NEWS’ of God’s grace is that NO SINNER IS BEYOND THE REACH of God’s grace! The Apostle Paul was a persecutor of the church. He called himself the “chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:13, 15). But he experienced God’s grace through the Cross. So, if the ‘chief of sinners’ found mercy and grace, so can you!

However, there is a major ‘hindrance’ that will keep you from experiencing God’s grace in salvation, namely, your propensity to self-righteousness.

As Jesus said (Luke 5:32), “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” By “the righteous,” Jesus meant, “the self-righteous.” The self-righteous Pharisees did not see their need for a Savior. Those who knew that they were sinners did (For more details on this, see the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:9-14).

 

To try to illustrate this, suppose that you were standing in a long line at the bank, waiting to deposit your paycheck. Suddenly, I grab you by the arm, jerk you out of line, and forcibly drag you out of the building. You probably wouldn’t be very happy with me. You’d say, “What do you think you’re doing? You hurt my arm, you tore my shirt, you made me lose my place in line, and you made me look like a fool in front of everyone in the bank!”

But, one simple fact would change your hostile attitude to one of complete gratitude for the rest of your life: the bank had just been taken over by terrorists that threatened to kill everyone inside. In the first scenario, you didn’t yet know the danger that you were in. In the second scenario, you had become aware of the danger and you knew that you were doomed unless someone rescued you.

 

Before you can appreciate God’s grace, you need to know that you are justly under His wrath and condemnation! You are headed for eternal judgment unless someone intervenes. To use Charles Spurgeon’s phrase, you know that the rope is around your neck, but God’s grace cuts the rope, even though you are guilty as charged and deserve to die:

“But if you sit still, young man—and you will do so, if left to your own free will—I can do no more for you than weep for you in secret…Alas for you, that you should sing and make merriment when the rope is around your neck and the fatal drop is about to be given to you!…Alas for you, that you should go your way and live joyfully and happily, and yet be lost! You remind me of the silly moth that dances round the flame, singeing itself for a while and then, at last, plunging to its death—such are you!… You are singing your way to damnation and promenading the road to destruction!… Oh, that you were wise, that you understood this, that you would consider your latter end! Oh, that you would flee from the wrath to come!”

 

As was mentioned previously, please understand that grace does not mean, “hang loose and live as sloppily as you please.” Rather, grace trains, disciplines, and instructs us in godly living. Paul mentions three ways that grace trains us by denying ungodliness and wordily desires (Titus 2:12; Luke 9:23; and 1 John 3:2-3), and to look to the supreme demonstration of God’s love and grace which redeemed us from sin and makes us His ‘children’ (Titus 2:14; and Galatians 1:14).

[ Note: More about how grace affects our lives after being saved next month ].

 

RECEIVE GOD’S GRACE
Grace began in the Garden of Eden when God killed an animal to cover the ‘sin’ of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). God could have killed the first humans right then and there for their disobedience. But rather than destroy them, He chose to make a way for them to be right with Him. That pattern of grace continued throughout the Old Testament when God instituted blood sacrifices as a means to atone for the sins of people. Sinful men showed their faith by offering the sacrifices that God required.

God shows us both mercy and grace, but they are not the same. Mercy withholds a punishment we deserve and grace gives a blessing we don’t deserve. In mercy, God chose to cancel our sin debt by sacrificing His perfect Son in our place (Titus 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21). But He goes even further than mercy and extends grace to His ‘enemies’—us! (Romans 5:10). He offers us forgiveness (Hebrews 8:12; Ephesians 1:7), reconciliation (Colossians 1:19-20), an abundant life (John 10:10), eternal treasure (Luke 12:33), His Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13), and a place in Heaven with Him someday (John 3:16-18) when we accept His offer and place our faith in His ‘propitiation’ for our sins—His Son, Jesus. Grace is God giving His greatest treasure (His Son, Jesus) to the least deserving (every one of us!).

 

For believers, they need not fear God’s wrath—“there is no condemnation for those that are found in Christ” (Romans 8:1). That doesn’t mean that there aren’t ‘consequences’ for sin. God does ‘correct’ those whom He loves (Hebrews 12:111) [ as does any good parent with their children ]. God corrects believers to show us the ‘dangerous’ nature of sin (bad consequences), but that isn’t God’s ‘wrath’. God’s fury is focused on ‘lost’, rebellious sinners—unbelievers.

 

Without God’s grace, it would mean Hell for all of us. God has freely wrought His grace to our forgiveness and to our inheritance of eternal life. God will freely give His grace to any repentant ‘transgressor’ who will avail themselves of His gracious provision of salvation.

The Apostle Paul emphasizes this again to the Ephesians that God’s promises riches of grace to the redeemed. “In order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” [ Ephesians 2:7 ].

Theologian Steven J. Lawson said it this way: “Grace is not amazing until you know the wrath of God.” I think he ‘nailed’ it!

The more you understand how much wrath God has prepared for you, how much trouble you are in, the more amazing you will understand His grace, forgiveness, and the ‘work’ of Jesus to be. BUT, the opposite is true, too. The more you think you deserve God’s grace, the less amazing you’ll think it is.

We hold in our minds, at the same time, the knowledge that we are dead, wretched, lost, blind enemies of God who have utterly rejected Him, with flesh that keeps pulling us towards sin, loving sin and self too much, and failing God every day, and the knowledge that somehow, for some reason that we will never understand, God loves us so much that He ‘traded’ His Son for us so that we could be with Him forever (Romans 11:28-36). Or as the Apostle Paul aptly said: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” [ Romans 5:6-8 ].

 

Therein lies the ‘scandal’ of the Gospel, the ‘scandal’ of grace—God having a ‘friendship’ with sinners. Jesus said, “I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.” The only people who can be received by God, be given salvation, and enter Heaven are NOT the people who ‘earn it’, but ARE the people who are self-defined ‘WRETCHES’! God justifies the ‘wicked’. Heaven will not be made up of people who have ‘achieved’ righteousness on their own, but made up of people who have ‘received’ righteousness from God as a gift.

 

One day God’s wrath will judge those who reject God’s ‘solution’ to rid themselves of the ‘penalty’ for their evil, sinful character. Meanwhile, here on earth, God will give us more of what we want—whether that be more of what God wants (righteousness – Matthew 5:6) or more of what we want (sinful pleasures – Ephesians 2:3). God ‘respects’ our wishes. Without God’s ‘infilling’ (the Holy Spirit), man becomes a wild ‘beast’ (Romans 1:22). Sometimes God allows us to experience the consequences of our choices, but He is still long-suffering and says: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” [ John 3:36 ].

As John Newton penned in the most famous hymn of all, Amazing Grace, “‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home,” God’s grace is the very thing that will make your life—and eternity—a ‘good news’ story! It is EVERYTHING to those who don’t deserve ANYTHING!

 

So, what would my STRONG SUGGESTION be for your response to this kind of love and grace? Well, first and most obvious…ACCEPT IT! For there is no middle ground…there is NO OTHER OPTION!

The Bible is clear: for each one of us, it’s EITHER wrath or grace! What I mean to say is, if you persist in wanting to live apart from God, He will let you have your way…FOREVER! The choice is yours! “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are” [ Romans 3:22 ]. Your sin ‘penalty’ has been justly and fully dealt with by Jesus.

Secondly, after you accept God’s ‘gift’ of salvation, you should avoid ‘trampling’ all over it with a “well if God accepts me as I am, then why not eat, drink and be merry” kind of attitude! Grace is not a ‘license’ to sin!

Then, THANK GOD for ‘SAVING’ you from eternal damnation, and live a life that shows you are GRATEFUL for it!

 

The thought that an all-present, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving, all-holy, God would give me ANY grace is staggering, mind-boggling, and something to marvel at. BUT…IT’S TRUE for all who believe in His Son, Jesus!

I ‘stand’ AMAZED! How MARVELOUS! How WONDERFUL! (prayerfully, you can be, too!

 

 

[ Excerpts from: Elias Aslaksen; Got Questions; Bible Study Tools; Michael Bradle; Jared Moore; Tim Challies; Cornelius R. Stam; Philip Yancey; John MacArthur; A.W. Pink; Erwin Lutzer; Alistair Begg; Max Lucado; Joe Stowell; Keith Drury; D.A. Carson; Justin Taylor; Charles Spurgeon ]

 

RELATED POSTS:

“The First ‘Christmas’”:
https://markbesh.wordpress.com/the-first-christmas-v238/

“‘House’ Of Horrors”:
https://markbesh.wordpress.com/house-of-horrors-v237/

“The Greatest ‘Gift’”:
https://markbesh.wordpress.com/the-greatest-gift-v226/

“Thanks For ‘Giving’”:
https://markbesh.wordpress.com/thanks-for-giving-v225/

“‘Saved’ From Death”:
https://markbesh.wordpress.com/saved-from-death-v219/

“‘Real’ Love”:
https://markbesh.wordpress.com/real-love-v216/

“Unredeemed ‘Gift’”:
https://markbesh.wordpress.com/unredeemed-gift-v215/

 

‘PRAYER’ OF REPENTANCE
In the Bible, there is a parable that Jesus told about a Pharisee and a tax collector praying in the Temple. He notes that the tax collector didn’t even dare to lift his eyes toward Heaven as he prayed. Instead he “beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner’”—and Jesus said that the tax collector “went home justified,” he had been “born again” and ‘reconciled’ by God. (Luke 18:9-14).

If you are ‘sensing’ something like that right now, let me strongly encourage you to HUMBLE YOURSELF, CRY OUT to God, and PLEAD for Him to mercifully ‘SAVE’ YOU! None of us have a ‘claim’ on our salvation, nor do we have any ‘works’ that would cause us to deserve it or earn it—it is purely a gift of Divine grace—and all any of us can do is ask. So, CONFESS YOUR SINS and acknowledge to God that you have no hope for Heaven apart from what He provides through Jesus.

There is no ‘formula’ or certain words for this. So just talk to God, in your own words—He knows your ‘heart’. If you are genuinely sincere, and God does respond to your plea, one will usually have a sense of joy and peace.

Jesus said, “He that comes to Me, I will not cast out” [ John 6:37 ].

[ NOTE: If you have ‘tasted the kindness of the Lord’, please e-mail me—I would love to CELEBRATE with you, and help you get started on your ‘journey’ with Jesus! ].

 

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RESOURCES:

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Les Misérables” (2012 movie)

Hugh Jackman (Actor), Russell Crowe (Actor), Tom Hooper (Director)

DVD:
https://www.amazon.com/Misérables-Hugh-Jackman/dp/B005S9EK5Y/

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Les Misérables” (1998 movie)

Liam Neeson (Actor), Geoffrey Rush (Actor), Bille August (Director)

DVD:
https://www.amazon.com/Miserables-Liam-Neeson/dp/076781505X/

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Les Misérables
By: Victor Hugo

Les Misérables is an epic novel by a French classic Victor Marie Hugo. A former convict Jean Valjean spent 19 years in jail for stealing bread in order not to die from hunger. Now he is “an outcast”, and the society is not in a hurry to accept him. Valjean pays back with the same coin – he hates those who consider themselves to be decent citizens. His rage is so inexhaustible that it can kill the ex-convict from inside. However, Valjean meets the Bishop of Digne, the first person who just felt sorry for him and it changes the former outcast miraculously…

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Amazing Grace” (2007 movie)

Ioan Gruffudd (Actor), Albert Finney (Actor), Michael Apted (Director)

DVD:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000VNMMQG/ref=atv_dp_mv_of_dp_0

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Newton’s Grace: The True Story of Amazing Grace” (2014 movie)
Erik Nelson (Actor), John Jackman (Director)

DVD:
https://www.amazon.com/Newtons-Grace-True-Story-Amazing/dp/B00IKN0HYI

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John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace
By: Jonathan Aitken (Philip Yancey – Foreword)

Most Christians know John Newton as the slave ship captain who famously converted to Christ on the high seas and then penned one of the greatest hymns of the faith: “Amazing Grace.” Less well-known is Newton’s significance in his own day as an evangelical icon, great preacher and theologian, and important influence on abolitionist William Wilberforce. In this fascinating biography, Jonathan Aitken explores many facets of Newton’s eventful life story, helping readers better understand his remarkable conversion and passionate fight to end the slave trade. The first modern account to draw on Newton’s unpublished diaries and correspondence, this colorful and historically significant portrait provides fresh insights into the life and legacy of one of the most important Christians of the 18th century. Now available in paperback

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How Sweet the Sound: The Story of Amazing Grace
By: Carole Boston Weatherford (Author), Frank Morrison (Illustrator)

An incredibly moving picture book biography of the man behind the hymn “Amazing Grace” and the living legacy of the song Caldecott Honor–winning author Carole Boston Weatherford and award-winning illustrator Frank Morrison.

One stormy night at sea, a wayward man named John Newton feared for his life. In his darkest hour he fell to his knees and prayed—and somehow the battered ship survived the storm.

Grateful, he changed his ways and became a minister, yet he still owned a slave ship. But in time, empathy touched his heart. A changed man, he used his powerful words to help end slavery in England.

Those words became the hymn “Amazing Grace,” a song that has lifted the spirit and given comfort across time and all over the world.

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Putting Amazing Back into Grace: Embracing the Heart of the Gospel
By: Michael Horton

What does it mean to be “saved by grace”? Now revised and updated, this classic reminds readers of the Reformation’s radical view of God and his saving grace, the liberating yet humbling truth that we contribute nothing to our salvation. It lays out the scriptural basis for this doctrine and its implications for a vibrant evangelical faith. Horton’s accessible treatment will inspire readers with a fresh amazement at God’s grace.

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What’s So Amazing About Grace?
By: Philip Yancey

In 1987, an IRA bomb buried Gordon Wilson and his twenty-year-old daughter beneath five feet of rubble. Gordon alone survived. And forgave. He said of the bombers, “I have lost my daughter, but I bear no grudge…I shall pray, tonight and every night, that God will forgive them.”His words caught the media’s ear—and out of one man’s grief, the world got a glimpse of grace.Grace is the church’s great distinctive. It’s the one thing the world cannot duplicate, and the one thing it craves above all else—for only grace can bring hope and transformation to a jaded world.In What’s So Amazing About Grace? award-winning author Philip Yancey explores grace at street level. If grace is God’s love for the undeserving, he asks, then what does it look like in action? And if Christians are its sole dispensers, then how are we doing at lavishing grace on a world that knows far more of cruelty and unforgiveness than it does of mercy? Yancey sets grace in the midst of life’s stark images, tests its mettle against horrific “ungrace.” Can grace survive in the midst of such atrocities as the Nazi holocaust? Can it triumph over the brutality of the Ku Klux Klan? Should any grace at all be shown to the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer, who killed and cannibalized seventeen young men? Grace does not excuse sin, says Yancey, but it treasures the sinner. True grace is shocking, scandalous. It shakes our conventions with its insistence on getting close to sinners and touching them with mercy and hope. It forgives the unfaithful spouse, the racist, the child abuser. It loves today’s AIDS-ridden addict as much as the tax collector of Jesus’ day.In his most personal and provocative book ever, Yancey offers compelling, true portraits of grace’s life-changing power. He searches for its presence in his own life and in the church. He asks, How can Christians contend graciously with moral issues that threaten all they hold dear? And he challenges us to become living answers to a world that desperately wants to know, What’s So Amazing About Grace?

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Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine
By: Max Lucado

Grace.
We talk as though we understand the term. The bank gives us a grace period. The seedy politician falls from grace. Musicians speak of a grace note. We describe an actress as gracious, a dancer as graceful. We use the word for hospitals, baby girls, kings, and premeal prayers. We talk as though we know what grace means.
But bestselling author Max Lucado says we’ve settled for a wimpy grace, a goldfish grace that sits in a bowl on the shelf and never causes trouble or demands a response.

Now available as a trade paperback, Lucado’s bestselling book reminds readers that there’s more to grace than we’ve ever imagined. In this cornerstone message of Lucado’s ministry, he challenges readers to not only receive grace but also to be changed by grace. Shaped by grace. Strengthened by grace. Emboldened by grace. Softened by grace. Snatched by the nape of their neck and shaken to their senses by grace.

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Grace Is Greater: God’s Plan to Overcome Your Past, Redeem Your Pain, and Rewrite Your Story
By: Kyle Idleman

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews said, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God.” Over the centuries much ink has been spilled on the subject of grace. Yet perhaps nothing is as hard to explain as God’s grace. It doesn’t make sense. It’s not fair. It can’t possibly cover over what I’ve done. The best way–perhaps the only real way–to understand it is to experience it. But too often in our churches we’re not getting grace across and grace is not experienced.

Bestselling author and pastor Kyle Idleman wants everyone to experience the grace of God. Through the powerful medium of story, Grace Is Greater leads readers past their hang-ups toward an understanding of grace that is bigger than our mistakes, our failures, our desire for revenge, and our seemingly impossible situations. No sin is so great, no bitterness so deep that God’s grace cannot transform the heart and rewrite the story.

Perfect for individuals and also for small groups and church-wide studies, Grace Is Greater will help readers truly grasp God’s grace, even if the Christians around them have failed to live it.

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Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners: A Brief Account of God’s Exceeding Mercy through Christ to His Poor Servant, John Bunyan
By: John Bunyan

“Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he has done unto my soul.” (Psalm 66:16)

This is a short and honest account of how God demonstrated His exceeding great mercy to His unworthy servant, John Bunyan.

This story specifically tells how Bunyan was converted. John Bunyan was a companion of sin and was troubled by sin. He fought temptation and sin in his own strength and lost, and in despair he gave up hope of ever finding God’s mercy; but the Lord Jesus Christ at last delivered him from the guilt and terror that so often and so viciously troubled him.

In addition to this, a short account of Bunyan’s call to the work of the ministry is told, along with the trials and trouble he encountered – including some of the difficulties he faced while in prison.

This is all taken from his writings and is now published for the encouragement and support of others who are weak and tempted and need strength and hope and victory in Jesus.

About the Author
John Bunyan was born in November 1628, in Elstow, England. A celebrated English minister and preacher, he wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678), the book that was the most characteristic expression of the Puritan religious outlook. His other works include doctrinal and controversial writings; a spiritual autobiography, Grace Abounding (1666); and the allegory, The Holy War (1682).

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The Grace Effect
By: Kyle Idleman

In this story-driven little book, readers discover how God’s grace is more forgiving than their guilt, more beautiful than their brokenness, and more redemptive than their regrets.

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The Case for Grace: A Journalist Explores the Evidence of Transformed Lives
By: Lee Strobel

The Case for a Creator explored the scientific evidence for God;
The Case for Christ investigated the historical evidence for Jesus;
The Case for Faith responded to eight major objections about Christianity;
The Case for The Real Jesus refuted the current challenges to the Bible and Christ…

Now, in The Case for Grace, Lee Strobel crafts a compelling and highly personal case for God, focusing on God’s transforming work in the lives of men and women today.
Writing with unusual candor, Lee draws upon his own journey from atheism to Christianity to explore the depth and breadth of God’s redeeming love for spiritually wayward people. He travels thousands of miles to capture the inspiring stories of everyday people whose values have been radically changed and who have discovered the “how” and “why” behind God’s amazing grace. You’ll encounter racists, addicts, and even murderers who have found new hope and purpose. You’ll meet once-bitter people who have received God’s power to forgive those who have harmed them—and, equally amazing, people mired in guilt who have discovered that they can even forgive themselves.

Through it all, you will be encouraged as you see how God’s grace can revolutionize your eternity and relationships…starting today.

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By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me
By: Sinclair B. Ferguson

Are you truly amazed by God’s grace? Or have you grown accustomed to it? Yes, we sing of God’s “Amazing Grace,” but do you truly understand what you as a Christian have experienced in receiving the grace of God? Or do you take divine grace for granted?

In By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me, Dr. Sinclair B. Ferguson laments that “we have lost the joy and energy that is experienced when grace seems truly ‘amazing.'” In an effort to restore the wonder of divine grace, he reflects on it from seven angles, each built around a stanza from a rich but little-known hymn, “O How the Grace of God Amazes Me,” written by Emmanuel T. Sibomana, a pastor in the African nation of Burundi.

This book poses probing questions for today’s believer: “If I am not amazed by God’s grace, can I really be living in it? Can I really be tasting, and savoring, and delighting in it?” But those willing to delve into God’s Word with Dr. Ferguson will come away with a deeper astonishment at the depths of God s grace.

Chapters:
One: My Chains Fell Off
Two: Unconditional Love
Three: At God’s Expense
Four: A Great Exchange
Five: Guarantee Security
Six: Delivered from Evil
Seven: True Freedom

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Captured By Grace: No One is Beyond the Reach of a Loving God
By: Dr. David Jeremiah

Timely and encouraging words to initiate a fresh experience of God’s grace.

By following the dramatic story of John Newton, the Amazing Grace hymn writer, and the apostle Paul’s own encounter with the God of grace, pastor and teacher Dr. David Jeremiah helps readers understand the freeing power of permanent forgiveness and mercy.

Dramatic stories and biblical insights highlight the very personal effects of grace and how grace:

– Wondrously spans all our differences
– Rescues us from our lostness
– Helps us overcome our weaknesses,
– Takes us from victims to victors

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All of Grace
By: Charles Spurgeon

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-92) was England’s best-known preacher for most of the second half of the nineteenth century. After a childhood in Essex, when he owed much to Christian parents and grandparents, he was converted in 1850 at the age of fifteen. He was then assisting at a school in Cambridge and it was in these Cambridge years that he came to Baptist principles and was called to the Baptist pastorate in the near-by village of Waterbeach. From there he moved to New Park Street, London in 1854 at the age of nineteen. Roughly speaking, Spurgeon’s public work can be divided up into four decades. Through the 1850s he was ‘The Youthful Prodigy’ who seemed to have stepped full-grown into the pulpit. At the age of twenty the largest halls in London were filled to hear him; at twenty-one the newspapers spoke of him as ‘incomparably the most popular preacher of the day’; when he was twenty-three, 23,654 people heard him at a service in the Crystal Palace. In the next decade, the 1860s, his work might best be described in terms of ‘The Advancement of Gospel Agencies’. The institutions which he founded, and for which he remained responsible, included a College to train pastors; a publications enterprise (with a weekly published sermon and a monthly magazine The Sword and the Trowel); an Orphanage; a Colportage Association to spread Christian literature; and above all the Metropolitan Tabernacle itself, opened for the church he served in 1861 and capable of holding about 6,000. The congregation which he pastored grew from 314 in 1854 to 5,311 in 1892. Onlookers often supposed that so many enterprises could never be maintained at the high level of usefulness with which they began, but they were, and the 1870s might well be described in terms of ‘Holding the Ground’. On every front the work was being blessed. Then came the 1880s and by far the most difficult period in Spurgeon’s life. In this last decade he was faced with increasing controversy and a title for his last years could well be his own words, ‘In Opposition to So Many’. By the time Spurgeon was fifty-seven in 1891 his health was utterly broken. When he left Herne Hill station, London, on 26 October 1891, for the south of France, he said to the friends who came to say good-bye, ‘The fight is killing me’. He died at Menton three months later.

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The Grace of God
By: Tony Evans

We may sing of “amazing grace,” but do we really understand it?

“If there is one overarching truth I want to get across to you, it is this: When you got saved, you were brought into a new regime. You have been liberated by God’s magnificent grace, and the old rules no longer apply.” — Tony Evans

In this easy-to-ready guide, pastor and Bible teacher Tony Evans shares wisdom from God’s Word on “the basics of grace.” Learn more about what it means to be:

– Saved
– Sanctified
– Set free

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The Reign of Grace
By: Abraham Booth

It will indeed be acknowledged that this doctrine may be held in licentiousness by those that profess it. But then it will be as confidently maintained, that whoever holds it in unrighteousness never received the love of that sacred truth, or experienced the power of it. For, to have a bare conviction of divine truth in the mind, and to experience its power on the heart, are very different things. The former may produce an outward profession; the latter will elevate the affections, turn the corrupt bias of the will, and influence the whole conduct. With the steadiest persuasion, therefore, of the holy nature and tendency of the doctrine of divine grace, as it is in itself, and as it operates on the minds and manners of all those who know it in truth; I proceed to give, not a full display, (that is infinitely too high for mortals,) but some brief hints concerning that grace which reigns; and of the way in which it is manifested, so as to demonstrate its power, glory, and majesty, in the salvation of sinners.

This I shall do by endeavoring to illustrate that import. ant and charming passage, recorded in Romans the fifth and twenty-first; EVEN SO MIGHT GRACE REIGN, THROUGH RIGHTEOUSNESS, UNTO ETERNAL LIFE, BY JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD. And while the author, conscious of his own insufficiency, looks up to the Spirit of wisdom for divine illumination, that he may write with all the precision and Sanctity of truth, in opening the noble subject of the ensuing treatise; he would entreat the reader to peruse, with candor and impartiality, the contents of the following pages.

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Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
By: Francis Chan

God is love. Crazy, relentless, all-powerful love. Have you ever wondered if we’re missing it?

It’s crazy, if you think about it. The God of the universe—the Creator of nitrogen and pine needles, galaxies and E-minor—loves us with a radical, unconditional, self-sacrificing love. And what is our typical response? We go to church, sing songs, and try not to cuss. Whether you’ve verbalized it yet or not, we all know something’s wrong.

Does something deep inside your heart long to break free from the status quo? Are you hungry for an authentic faith that addresses the problems of our world with tangible, even radical, solutions? God is calling you to a passionate love relationship with Himself. Because the answer to religious complacency isn’t working harder at a list of do’s and don’ts—it’s falling in love with God. And once you encounter His love, as Francis describes it, you will never be the same. Because when you’re wildly in love with someone, it changes everything.

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Captured By Grace: No One is Beyond the Reach of a Loving God
By: David Jeremiah

Timely and encouraging words to initiate a fresh experience of God’s grace.

By following the dramatic story of John Newton, the Amazing Grace hymn writer, and the apostle Paul’s own encounter with the God of grace, pastor and teacher Dr. David Jeremiah helps readers understand the freeing power of permanent forgiveness and mercy.

Dramatic stories and biblical insights highlight the very personal effects of grace and how grace:
– wondrously spans all our differences
– rescues us from our lostness
– helps us overcome our weaknesses,
– takes us from victims to victors

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Transforming Grace
By: Jerry Bridges

Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love
Grace is amazing because it is God’s provision for when we fall short of His standards. Unfortunately, too many of us embrace grace for our salvation but then leave it behind in our everyday lives. We base our relationship with God on our performance rather than on His love for us, even when we intuitively know that our performance cannot earn us the love we so desperately crave.

Isn’t it time to stop trying to measure up and begin accepting the transforming power of God’s grace? The product of more than ten years of Bible study, Navigator author Jerry Bridges’s Transforming Grace is a fountainhead of inspiration and renewal that will show you just how inexhaustible and generous God’s grace really is.

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“FRUITS OF THE BEATITUDES” WEB SITE
(The ATTITUDES of Jesus that produce the CHARACTER of Jesus)

CLICK ON THE LINK to view:
http://fruitsofthebeatitudes.org/

FACEBOOK PAGE:
https://www.facebook.com/FruitsOfTheBeatitudes/

[ Mark Besh ]

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[ P.S.: If you would like to investigate further about what God’s grace is all about, visit the following link:
http://www.4vis.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q10_d5_2of10.html ].

 

ARTICLES:

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Les Misérables” (2012 movie)

The official 2012 movie trailer for Les Misérables the movie starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Aaron Tveit, Samantha Barks, with Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen

Official Trailer:

International Trailer:

Movie Clips (in order):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8WSysB5vKM&index=1&list=PLKYUKQhWJ0QabeJfzqWR0pS1FQ6UOiPBB

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Silver Spoons: Les Misérables and the Power of Grace

Nineteen years of hard labor in prison, and now he was on the run again. Less than a week on parole and Jean Valjean was already fleeing into the countryside, consumed with paranoia as the bishop’s expensive silver jostled in his bag. While the bishop had welcomed Valjean into his home and treated him as an honored guest, Valjean had chosen to reciprocate by stealing the most valuable items in the bishop’s house.

Soon enough, however, Valjean is captured by the French authorities and brought back to the bishop. Here, we might expect the bishop to enact retribution. Perhaps scold the criminal for his wrongdoing, and then throw him back behind bars. After all, the silver was not simply a prized collector’s item; they wer e the last remnants of the bishop’s familial ties.

Instead, the bishop makes a powerful and unexpected decision. He welcomes Valjean back into his home with sincerity and gladness, and defends Valjean in the face of the authorities by insisting that the stolen candle holders were actually his free gifts to Valjean. The criminal is utterly dumbstruck, and unable to fathom the undeserved clemency he has just received. Valjean has no framework for understanding the bishop’s actions, much less his words, “I have ransomed your soul, and given it to God.”

Through the bishop’s actions, Valjean directly experiences the power of godly grace, and is confronted with a serious question: How am I to respond? Should I reap the rewards of this grace and move on with life? Or should I allow it to transform me—my thoughts, my actions, my very existence—as the bishop intended?

Valjean quickly realizes that he cannot simply walk away unchanged by the bishop’s radical display of grace, and his life thereafter bears evidence of a genuine transformation of the heart. Beyond adopting the orphaned Cosette and performing other numerous acts of charity, Valjean best displays the power of grace by the way he treats his enemies—namely Javert, the officer who has relentlessly pursued Valjean for violating parole. Confident that his legalism is the Lord’s work, Javert hunts for Valjean across the country, but eventually ends up a prisoner at the mercy of Valjean himself.

In setting Javert free, Valjean has given him new life, essentially paralleling the role of the bishop. The gift of godly grace shatters Javert’s legalism, as he has no way of comprehending the enormity and the sheer senselessness of what Valjean has done for him. Valjean’s grace has disarmed Javert, forcing him into a position that is entirely unfamiliar to him—a position of vulnerability. Here, Javert is confronted with the same question posed to Valjean in the face of grace: How is he to respond?

Unlike Valjean, Javert cannot accept the implications of this gift of grace. Javert resists what he knows to be the inevitable conclusion: that there is no way he can freely receive Valjean’s grace and not be utterly transformed. Indeed, Javert cannot surrender his pride. He knows that it would cost him too much to change his life in light of the grace he has encountered, and he is unprepared and unwilling to make this change. In an all-consuming act of resistance, Javert commits suicide by drowning himself in the river immediately after Valjean has allowed him to go free.

A tremendous dilemma arises for the one who is fortunate enough to experience godly grace—the grace of the bishop, for instance, or that of Valjean towards Javert. The dilemma, of course, is the same question that confronted both Valjean and Javert: How is one to respond?

Both Valjean and Javert are overwhelmed by the power of a grace that is wholly undeserved but freely given, and they offer us two viable but opposite ways to respond. One is to allow this grace to completely redefine our lives. The other is to reject it and try living with the knowledge that we have been loved but yet refuse to love, forgiven but yet refuse to forgive, graced but yet refuse to give grace.

We are put in the same position as Valjean and Javert. We were confronted with an ineffable grace, displayed by a God-man hanging on a cross for the redemption and restoration of all people. We are therefore posed with the same question every day of our lives: How will we respond?

The invitation of Christ is to experience the grace offered to broken people like you and me. While the gift of grace is freely given, it demands a response. It refuses to be dismissed or ignored, for it is of utmost importance to our lives however we decide to respond. We can either be fully renewed, like Valjean, or fully consumed, like Javert, in our attempt to deal with the dilemma posed by godly grace.

Our hope in emulating Valjean’s response to grace is not that our lives will be perfect, or that we will always make the right decisions. Rather, it is that in the midst of the brokenness and struggles of life, Christ is ever-present with us. Often in these difficult moments, Christ reveals himself to us through others, just as he had appeared to Valjean through the bishop.

The invitation has been made, the grace extended. Now, the response to accept or reject this gift is entirely on us. In Valjean we see the transformative power of grace and the new life that it brings, granted we are willing to accept it. In a very real sense, the grace of Christ puts us at a crossroads, and ultimately the decision is no one’s but our own.

[ Nigel Brady ]

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Embodying grace: Les Misérables and the meaning of Christmas

The film version of Les Misérables may be set for a Boxing Day release, but it could just as easily debut on Christmas Day, for the film shares with Christmas a story of the new life that can spring from a powerful – if costly – act of grace.

Victor Hugo’s classic is memorable for its vivid account of French life under revolution, where dramatic clashes between students and soldiers at the barricades occur amidst personal crises no less epic – especially the looming confrontation between reformed prisoner Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert, the policeman who can only see him as the lawbreaking Prisoner 24601.

So grand is the scale of Hugo’s story that it’s easy to gloss over the event that begins the tale: the grace shown to Valjean by a kindly bishop that goes on to change the rest of Valjean’s life. Welcomed into Bishop Myriel’s home soon after his release from prison, Valjean is touched by the man’s hospitality but so disillusioned by his past that he robs the bishop of his only wealth. When Valjean is brought back to face justice, Myriel surprisingly confirms Valjean’s lame story that the silverware was a gift and reminds Valjean that the expensive candlesticks were his to take as well.

The bishop’s unexpected response humbles Valjean, for not only does Myriel refrain from pressing charges but he adds further treasures to Valjean’s stolen booty. The bishop’s costly grace inspires Valjean to change his ways and to extend to others the kind of mercy shown to him. So he starts to help others though his good deeds attract unwanted attention from Javert whom Valjean is desperately trying to elude. Valjean saves from death an innocent man mistaken for him. He shows compassion to Fantine, a factory worker fallen on hard times, and goes above and beyond in adopting her daughter Cosette as his own after Fantine dies. He even spares Javert’s life, though such an act could mean ultimately returning to prison.

Such is the power of grace to change a person and the lives of those around them. But not everyone. Javert, for one, is confounded by Valjean’s act of mercy to him. For Javert, an exacting man of the law, debts must be repaid in kind and, were the tables turned, Javert would not hesitate to kill Valjean for relentlessly pursuing him. That Valjean should show grace rather than take revenge offends Javert because it leaves him in his enemy’s debt.

You can understand why Javert finds it so difficult to reconcile the contradiction between grace and law. Valjean’s mercy, like that of Bishop Myriel before him, freely forgives all debts that are rightly owed. But forgiving debt is not the same as cancelling it. Rather, those who offer mercy and forgiveness absorb the debt they have every reason not to pay: the bishop could have pressed charges; Valjean didn’t need to let Javert live.

Choosing to suffer someone else’s debt is counterintuitive – crazy, even. But it’s this kind of crazy that we also find at the heart of Christmas. In that story God is the bishop (so to speak) and all of us are Valjean – despite what we owe, we find that our debt has already been absorbed. It’s a vision that sees Christmas dovetail with Easter. The Christmas story suggests that the baby Jesus is the very embodiment of God’s grace to humankind; Easter completes the picture as Jesus the adult cancels everyone’s debt to God by paying it himself.

Of course, this story assumes that people are in God’s debt – a humbling, unappealing thought, and ridiculous if you don’t believe in God to begin with. But there is, of course, our debt to each other. We can at least recognise how difficult it is to love our neighbours as we often feel we should. Such failure is enough, according to the Christmas story, to incur a debt impossible to repay. And this is why Christmas is so profoundly hopeful: it wants us to believe that whatever our debts, someone’s got them covered. Like Valjean, everyone can taste grace and share in the promise of new life.

“It is either Valjean or Javert,” the embittered inspector soliloquises in the musical version of Hugo’s story, right after Valjean spares his life. For Javert, there can be no compromise. Either the law (which he represents) will prevail or grace (signified by Valjean) will reign. The tragedy of Javert is that he can’t see that the victory of grace is no loss for the law. Les Misérables and Christmas show, rather, that grace wins not by abandoning the law that convicts us but by fulfilling it in love.

Exchanging gifts in love and extending our friendship to those who have no hope of paying us back are a source of beauty and joy each Christmas. This year, we can also settle back to watch Hugh Jackman’s Valjean find redemption in Les Misérables. As we enjoy these delights of the season perhaps we are also celebrating, even without knowing it, the triumph of scandalous grace over what might instead be deserved.

[ Justine Toh ]

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Les Misérables: A Lesson In Grace

So I’ll start this post off with a confession… I have never read Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. I love reading and Les Misérables does seem to be a book that would be right up my ally, but at the time or writing this I my only experience with the story comes from the 2012 and 1998 films. Since it’s been forever since I saw the 1998 movie, this post will be almost entirely based on the 2012 version…. which is incredible!

I’ll go ahead and say that I am a sucker for musicals and I own more broadway soundtracks than I’d care to admit. I could go on and on about the music in this movie, but I’m going to hold back because that is not the reason I wrote this post. I’d much rather talk about what really made me fall in love with this movie. To my surprise this movie was easily (in my opinion) the best Christian movie to come out since End of the Spear in 2005. Now we have had plenty of Tyler Perry movies to come out with Christian themes and messages in them, and of course there were films like Facing the Giants and Fireproof that were so Christian it felt like a Sunday school lesson.

These films were fine for what they were, but I wouldn’t call any of them “great” and several of them I’d go so far as to call bad films. I love Tyler Perry, and even though he has a habit of turning up the drama to soap-opera levels, he at least manages not to beat around the bush and show the world as the messed up place it is. The Christian lessons he teaches are hard learned and a most of the time his films are not “family friendly” because of the issues they address. Despite the clownish nature of some of his characters and his extremely dramatic tendencies he at least isn’t afraid to deal with real issues and show that sometimes things don’t always come up rosy for everyone. That’s more than I can say for Facing the Giants, Flywheel, and Fireproof (I haven’t seen Courageous) that tried to be so family friendly that they forgot to use real people. I don’t want to come down too hard on these films because they were targeted at a Christian audience and a “Christian Family” audience at that, so they had to hold back a lot so as not to offend.

I say all this to point out that where these films struggled, Les Misérables succeeds. It manages to teach a lesson in redemption, grace, mercy, and selflessness that is unapologetically Christian in nature. I’m going to reveal some plot points from the film, so if you haven’t seen the film or aren’t familiar with the story and don’t want details spoiled, I’d suggest you stop reading right now and get your butt to a movie theatre.

The film’s two predominant figures from beginning to end are Jean Valjean and Javert. Played by Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe. Both actors do an amazing job (though at times it’s clear that Crowe is not a singer) and are great portrayals of two often conflicting concepts in Christianity. It’s pretty obvious from the beginning that Jean Valjean comes to represent mercy and grace, while Javert represents justice.

The film opens up with Jean Valjean enslaved to the state (as he has been for 19 years) because he stole bread. Even though his intent was nobel he was a law-breaker who’s sentence was extended because he tried to escape before serving his full sentence. Javert is his task master and a man of whom concepts of mercy and grace are foreign concepts and signs of weakness.

After finally serving his extended 19 year sentence, Jean Valjean is set free under the condition that he report back in to government officials on a regular basis to report his whereabouts since he is a “dangerous man.” Jean Valjean is an outcast whom no one wants anything to deal with. His criminal status leaves him homeless and abandoned by society. It’s clear that Jean Valjean has been forever labeled and in his society he is viewed as unworthy to even be allowed to sleep in a barn. This is not unlike the hopeless state that sinners (aka all of us) find ourselves in when we really become aware of who we are. Jean Valjean (like all sinners) is a broken man who is destined to die lost and deserted.

This all changes when an old priest comes across him and welcomes him into his church. The priest (God) shows Jean Valjean (the sinner) grace and mercy by allowing him to escape the bitter world. Valjean is given a warm meal, drink, a bed, and all the things he needs free of charge. Jean Valjean did nothing to deserve these things, and as far as the priest knew Jean Valjean deserved to die out in the cold (he was a “dangerous man” after all), but the priest’s love for this lost soul saw through Valjean’s unworthiness.

How does Jean Valjean repay this Priest’s kindness? By stealing all the Priest’s silver and gold and running away in the night. Much like the Prodigal’s Son, Valjean saw only opportunity to get ahead of the game. He was willing to steal from the only person who had shown him any mercy and he was caught. When police brought him back to the Priest, rather than see Valjean return to prison the Priest insisted that he had given Valjean all that gold and silver as a gift, and then went on further to give him “the best” that he had left behind. His only condition was that Jean Valjean use this treasure to make something of himself and give himself to God.

This scene is beautiful and really encapsulates what it means to truly embrace grace, mercy, and forgiveness. How often do we as sinners rely on God’s grace and mercy only to continue sinning against God. How amazing it is that in spite of our weakness and sin God continues to love us even when we are completely beyond the point of redemption. We worship a God of second chances, and as a result of this Priest’s kindness, Valjean leans this lesson well.

The rest of the film evolves Jean Valjean doing whatever he can to show this same grace and mercy to others, but as we see through the character of Fantine (played by Anne Hathaway) he is still flawed and his inability to perfectly live this out has terrible consequences. In spite of this Jean Valjean is determined to live a life that is helping others and making good on his promise to the priest. He gives of himself and risks his own life many times, always striving to live a selfless life and always granting grace and mercy whenever possible.

The other prominent character is that of Javert, who is an equally religious man, but sadly mislead. Javert is obsessed with Justice and believes that it is God’s will to see justice served and the law upheld. While Javert understands Justice, he cannot understand mercy and grace. He tirelessly pursues Jean Valjean (who had abandoned that name and started a new life) because he cannot allow a guilt man to walk free. If Jean Valjean is the Prodigal’s son who was lost but found mercy, Javert is the prideful son who demanded justice to be served and sins to be punished.

Though Javert continuously refuses to give Valjean even an inch of mercy, Valjean is quick and ready to spare Javert every chance he gets. Javert refuses mercy, he despises grace, and he demands justice to be served (even when he is the one receiving punishment. He demands that the world be fair and he cannot see past his narrow black and white view of reality. He is not a man who understands repentance, redemption, or the notion that a man can escape his past sins.

In the end Javert is overwhelmed by the repeated mercy he is shown and rather than accept that he was wrong, that a man can change, and that grace and mercy are available for event he worst of sinners, he chooses to take his own life. He chooses death rather than mercy or weakness. He died in his own self-righteousness and was never able to truly embrace love.

While Javert dies literally “falling from grace” his counterpart Jean Valjean dies surrounded by those whom he had helped save. He is embraced by the Priest who had first shown him mercy (representing God embracing him and welcoming him into heaven) and we are finally treated to a scene where Valjean, Fantine, and all those whom had died in the film singing a song of celebration that they had finally reached a life of no more pain, where victory and love resound.

This film is beautifully shot, superbly acted, and wonderfully written. What is more important though is that it was a film about true Christianity. The life of those who choose to actually strive to live out Christ’s teachings is not easy and the dark world we live in will sometimes fight back in very cruel ways. Times will come when it will be easy not be kind, merciful, gracious, and loving. In spite of these struggles we are commanded to hold fast to the truth and reflect the love of our God to the world around us.

Les Misérables, whether it was their intent or not, managed to show a beautiful example of a life devoted to Christ, and they did so in a way that is reaching a very wide audience. I pray that some of this rubs off on those who go to see the film since it’s one of the rare times I think we’ll get to see a film that portrays the Christian religion in a positive light, that isn’t produced by Tyler Perry or Alex Kendrick.

[ Hardin Crowder ]

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Les Misérables and the Gospel Story

Les Misérables, at its core, is the story of a downtrodden man’s salvation. The main character, Jean Valjean, is a convict without hope. It’s when a benevolent bishop shows God’s grace in a life-saving way that Valjean begins his transformation story.

Starring Hugh Jackman in the role of Valjean, Les Misérables beautifully shows how God’s mercy can save a life. Conversely, the actions of Inspector Javert (played by Russell Crowe) show how striving for salvation through works can break one.

Speaking of his character, Jackman says, “Jean Valjean comes from a place of the greatest hardship that I could never imagine—I don’t think any of us here could—and manages to transform himself from the inside.”

Victor Hugo uses the word ‘transfiguration.’ It’s even more than a transformation, because he becomes more god-like. It’s a religious… it’s a spiritual change. It’s something that happens from within. And it’s to me, one of the most beautiful journeys every written, and I didn’t take the responsibility of playing the role lightly. I think it’s one of the greatest opportunities I’ve ever had, and if I’m a tenth of the man Jean Valjean is, I’ll be a very happy man.”

What his character, Valjean, ultimately learns is how to accept love and grace and that by doing that he can honor God. Javert holds to the belief that honest work pleases the Lord and if you falter you are condemned.

With the bishop being the one who reaches out to Valjean, thereby saving him for God’s work, the story shows the life-changing impact grace can have when extended to another. In some ways, Les Misérables encourages people of faith to hold fast to the faith while extending the love and mercy of Christ to all they meet. The Christian Church ought to be the refuge and rescue all of society can lean on, and that’s something author Victor Hugo wanted the Church at the time to understand.

“There’s a large comment in the book about the church at the time. It made [Hugo] very, very unpopular when he wrote it. It was a big behemoth, powerful, distant, quite excluding thing. There was a lot of fire and brimstone,” says Jackman. “I think he was reminding everyone at the time of the Jesus Christ example, which is to love people. And it’s never been more relevant.”

Though Hugo wrote Les Misérables in the 1860s, the story’s spiritual and moral themes are still applicable today. Intertwined with Valjean and Javert’s stories, there is Fantine’s.

Anne Hathaway plays the destitute woman who resorts to prostitution to make money to provide for her daughter, Cosette. To get ready for the role, Hathaway looked into that world to discover what the character must feel being brought that low.

“I tried to get inside the reality of her story as it exists in our world,” Hathaway says. “To do that, I read a lot of articles and watched a lot of documentaries and news clips about sexual slavery. For me and for this particular story, I came to the realization that I had been thinking about Fantine as someone who lived in the past, but she doesn’t. She’s living in New York City right now. She’s probably less than a block away. This injustice exists in our world, and so every day that I was her, I just thought, ‘This isn’t an invention, this isn’t me acting. This is me honoring that this pain lives in this world, and I hope that in all of our lifetimes, like today, we see it end.’”

More than just securing grace for himself, Valjean extends it to those he meets as his story progresses, as we are to do in our lives. The bishop is Christ-like toward him, and he in turn is gracious to Fantine. We are all to be “the Jesus Christ example”, as Jackman puts it, and love one another.

[ Hannah Goodwyn ]

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Unexpected Grace in Les Miz

For many centuries Christmas Day worshippers have been hearing these words as their New Testament reading: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all” (Titus 2:11). Grace, everyone used to know, is foundational to the Christian Gospel.

But this Christmas I’m noticing the surprising version of grace in Les Misérables, already seen by 60 million people as a musical and now as a film. Victor Hugo’s novel may be seen as a story of grace transforming in the life of the common man Jean Valjean and grace rejected in the life of the rigid functionary Javert.

As the story begins, Jean Valjean is being released from 19 winters of imprisonment for having stolen some bread to save his sister’s son from starving. But in the eyes of Javert, Valjean will always be a thief, which is his nature, because he has not learned the meaning of the law. Crushed under this ideological overlay, Valjean sees himself as a slave of the law — in a way remarkably similar to that of St. Paul, who makes grace and law antithetical. The chorus confirms it: “Look down, you will always be a slave.”

In his first job after prison, Valjean is deliberately underpaid. When he objects, the boss says: “Why should you get the same as honest men like me?” (Jesus once told a parable about laborers in a vineyard to open people’s eyes to grace.) Valjean concludes that society has closed every door to him. When he is refused lodging, the innkeeper says: “We’re law-abiding people here. Thanks be to God.” The conservative identification with the law is commonly made in alliance with God, while Victor Hugo seems to understand that the Christian vision identifies grace, not law, with God.

When Valjean finds himself at the door of a rectory, his last chance at lodging, the Catholic bishop welcomes him and we unexpectedly encounter a cleric who epitomizes grace:

Come in, Sir, for you are weary
And the night is cold out there.
Though our lives are very humble
What we have, we have to share.
There is wine here to revive you,
There is bread to make you strong,
There’s a bed to rest till morning,
Rest from pain, and rest from wrong.

Accepting the bishop’s hospitality, Valjean soon enough mocks him as an old fool and steals the silver. When he is caught and charged with a theft that will send him back to prison for life, the bishop protests that in fact he has made a gift of the church’s silver to this man. Turning to Valjean, the bishop astonishes him by saying that in his haste he left behind the most valuable of the gifts given him — the church’s precious silver candlesticks. The bishop wonders if unexpected grace might turn Valjean’s life around:

But remember this, my brother
See in this some higher plan
You must use this precious silver
To become an honest man
By the witness of the martyrs
By the Passion and the Blood
God has raised you out of darkness
I have bought your soul for God!

Valjean gets it. He accepts a grace beyond understanding. The bishop touched his soul and taught him love, called him a brother, claimed his life for God. Can such things be? Valjean had come to hate the world which hated him, turning his heart to stone. As a moral void was closing in, Valjean accepts grace as the new story of his life. He goes on to become a factory manager, then the mayor. Witnessing the suffering of the poor, he sees that in God’s name his life task has just begun. When Javert wants to arrest the hapless Fantine, Valjean intervenes: “She needs a doctor not a jail.” When Javert intends to put away for life a man he thinks is Valjean, Valjean has a crisis in his new identity and wonders “Who am I?” His new life requires the truth. When Fantine lies dying, Valjean offers to become the guardian and then father of her daughter Cosette. Whence all this goodness?

My soul belongs to God, I know
I made that bargain long ago
He gave me hope, when hope was gone
He gave me strength to journey on.

When student revolution is in the offing, Valjean goes to their side because embracing justice as one born of grace is his new vocation. Because he has discovered that “to love another person is to see the face of God,” he joins his story to the story of the downtrodden:

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

By contrast, Javert speaks for all self-made men who believe in the infallibility of the economic order and of the law that sanctifies it. Who know they deserve their fortune, who are quick to judge, who are suspicious of mercy, who enforce the arrangements that keep people in their proper place. Javert experiences no need of grace and cannot accept it. When he hears oppressed workers singing, “At the end of the day you’re another day older. And that’s all you can say for the life of the poor;” when he cannot see how “the righteous hurry past and don’t hear the little ones crying;” when Fantine sings her show-stopper, “I dreamed that God would be forgiving,” Javert has heard it all before and it cannot penetrate his righteous certainty:

I have heard such protestations
Every day for twenty years
Let’s have no more explanations
Save your breath and save your tears
Honest work, just reward,
That’s the way to please the Lord.

As the student revolution begins, Javert attempts to infiltrate it, and is discovered. The students intend to kill him as a traitor to their cause, but accept Valjean’s offer to see to his fate. When Valjean pretends to be executing Javert but in fact sets him free, when it is clear that this is not a quid pro quo on behalf of Valjean’s own freedom, Javert faces a crisis in his own self-understanding. He has devoted his life to an unjust order that denigrates the poor and congratulates the fortunate. He realizes that people with his commitments cannot change their views. He cannot understand or accept the grace Valjean offers, musing to himself, ‘What sort of devil catches someone in a trap and then sets them free? Vengeance was Valjeans,’ but he gave me back my life.’

Ultimately, Javert must reject grace, perhaps honorably if also pathetically, because he sees that it is incompatible with the worldview to which he has devoted his life. Damned if he will yield at the end of the chase. “I am the law and the Law is not mocked. I’ll spit his pity right back in his face. There is nothing on earth that we share. It is either Valjean or Javert.”

To accept mercy, to acknowledge need would be to admit that we all must live by grace and accept its dominion, and that Javert will not do. Grace would be hell, a betrayal of all he has stood for. It is too late to doubt his firm assumptions. Instead he escapes the world where grace is necessary.

[ Donald Heinz ]

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‘Les Misérables’ and the Law of God

Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables is again a topic of conversation, and for good reason.

Christians, in particular, have rightly celebrated the portrayal of the beauty of mercy and grace in this moving 150-year-old tale. Most of the theological analyses have contrasted Javert, the law-obsessed Inspector, with Valjean, the grace-transformed thief.

And while much of this analysis has been spot-on, it’s important that a central biblical and theological reality not get lost. Let me put it this way: Many people regard Javert as the consummate legalist, the embodiment of a single-minded preoccupation with perfect obedience to God’s righteous Law. The problem is this: he’s not.

Which Law?
Make no mistake, Javert is a legalist, from his back teeth to his little toe. But the law that forms his fixation is not the Law of God, the Law of Moses, or the Law of Christ. It is law, for sure, but it is 19th-century French law, draped in a veneer of religiosity, but bearing only a passing resemblance to anything biblical.

The apostle Paul says that God’s Law is holy, righteous, and good (Romans 7:12). But there is nothing holy about condemning a hungry man to prison for five years for stealing bread. There’s nothing righteous about branding such a man as a dangerous criminal for the remainder of his life. There’s nothing good about a law (or law-man) obsessed with catching a parole-breaking former thief, while ignoring persistent criminals like the Thenardiers.

The law Javert loves is a bureaucratic web that entangles the poor and privileges the wealthy. The society Javert defends oppresses widows and orphans, driving them into prostitution and theft as a means of survival. Javert’s law privileges the testimony of the well-to-do over that of a shivering and defenseless woman (even as the powerful seek to satiate their lust in the seedy part of town). Javert’s law consigns the poor to a life that is nasty, brutish, and (in Fantine’s case) mercifully short.

The Subtle Seduction in Hugo’s Story
And lest this condemnation of the ruling class in Les Mis be taken as an endorsement of the “angry men” and their revolutionary ideology, let me just say that I regard the glorification of revolutionary violence as one of the central and most subtle seductions of Hugo’s story, and one that discerning Christians will recognize and reject.

Les Mis romanticizes the Revolution and the utopian radicalism it rode in on: the divinization of “the People,” the glorification of “the barricade,” the obsession with overthrowing the past and recreating the world. The “angry men” make it to “heaven” by their blood and martyrdom for the Cause and “the People,” but the real “angry men” (or rather, their predecessors in 1789) gave us the guillotine and the Temple of Reason in their quest for “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.” The ancien regime was awful, but the revolutionaries were arguably worse.

What Jesus Says to Javert
Distinguishing Javert’s legalism from biblical law is of more than merely semantic interest. It can color the way that we as Christians read the Old Testament. It can perpetuate the idea that attempts to faithfully obey God’s Law are problematic and flawed from the outset, when such efforts are in fact worthwhile and commendable, provided they are done from faith in Jesus and out of confidence we’ve already been accepted by God.

Think of it this way: If Jesus (or Moses) came to Javert, he would not condemn him for his meticulous attempts to keep God’s Law; he would condemn him for neglecting God’s Law, for ignoring God’s Law, especially its weightier matters: mercy, justice, and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23). In other words, Javert would be condemned as a Pharisee, for that is just what he is.

But let us not forget the heart of Jesus’s condemnation of the Pharisees. He condemns the Pharisees for their law-breaking (Matthew 23:2), for their human traditions which trump God’s Law (Matthew 15:3–7), for their love of money (Luke 16:14), for oppressing the poor and the weak (Matthew 23:4), for not caring about the Law enough (for if they did, they would recognize Jesus as its fulfillment).

And let’s not forget that it’s Jesus that ups the ante on obedience in the Sermon on the Mount, calling “sin” what the supposed “lawkeepers” would have excused (lust, anger, oath-taking). All of which is to say, in keying off Les Mis, let’s not equate Javert with God’s Law or with Christian obedience (over against Christian mercy and grace). In fact, if we’re thinking biblically, Valjean is the true lawkeeper, who upholds the weightier matters, protects the weak, the poor, and the oppressed, and keeps the Great Commandments (love for God and love for neighbor) because he was bought by the grace of God (in the bishop’s silver).

Les Mis in Sunday School
I’m not saying that Les Mis doesn’t communicate the beauty of mercy. It certainly does — and does so spectacularly. Nor am I saying that Javert is not an example of everything that is wrong with humanity. In fact, this analysis shows just how pervasive the human penchant to establish false laws is. Whether it’s the traditions of the Pharisees, the ethnocentric law-boasting of the Judaizers, the bureaucratic minutiae of Javert, the over-scrupulousness of fundamentalists, or the hate crimes of the progressives, human beings love to break God’s Law by erecting our own. We are rebels, and this is what we do.

So yes, press Les Mis into use as a Sunday School illustration. Bring it out as a way to start a gospel conversation with an unbelieving coworker. But as you do, be mindful of what you’re doing. Don’t equate Javert with the Law as God intended it. Instead, try this as an exercise: Critique Javert and the society he represents on the basis of the Old Testament alone. Maybe even limit yourself to the Pentateuch.

Remind yourself that the God of all grace, the God of astounding mercy, the God of ransomed sinners reveals himself not only in Matthew and Romans, but also in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Remember that “the world we long to see” is a world in which we walk according to the Spirit and thus fulfill the righteous requirement of the Law (Romans 8:4). Remember that it would most likely be Valjean, not Javert, who would echo David’s song in Psalm 119: “Oh, how I love your law!”

[ Joe Rigney ]

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The Power of ‘Les Misérables’
Article by Tony Reinke

The new stage-to-screen adaptation of Les Misérables (which releases today) is proof again of the enduring power of Victor Hugo’s 150-year-old masterpiece. The novel-turned-musical has been released for film and television now 67 times in the past 115 years.

And although I cannot commend that you go see the newest rendition — mostly due to two suggestive sex scenes involving prostitutes — we don’t need the new film to explore the enduring value of Les Misérables.

The classic script for the plays and for the new movie is available online. And all the musical highlights from the new film, including Anne Hathaway’s incredible rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream,” can be found on this new soundtrack. Best of all, the English translation of Victor Hugo’s French classic was beautifully redone by Julie Rose in 2008. This recent edition offers us a new translation of a captivating story of mercy.

Mercy, that little word, reminds us that we are self-insufficient. We need others. In the end, our salvation must come from the outside. Salvation is a gift, a gift of free mercy. I think this is one profound reason Les Misérables has endured, and why it has attracted so many adaptations and performances.

Surrounding the romance and revolution in the middle, Les Misérables is really a story of profound theological contrast, a contrast in how sinners respond to the offer of free mercy. At a profound level, this is the story of two responses to mercy: one man is broken and lives, and one man is hardened and dies.

Valjean: Captured by Mercy
Jean Valjean is a hardened prisoner with a soul full of anger when we meet him. Hugo, of course, would be more likely to pin this stone-heartedness on society and harsh prison conditions (more so than he would understand indwelling sin as the cause). Jean Valjean stole bread for his starving niece, and for it was sentenced to five years in prison. Failed escape attempts got him 19 years total before his release.

At his release from prison, Jean Valjean finds himself in a tortuous and unending darkness of unforgiveness. “At intervals there would suddenly come to him, from within or from without, a gust of rage, an added burst of suffering, a pale and rapid flash of lightening that would illuminate his entire world and would suddenly reveal all around him, before and behind, in the glare of a ghastly light, the awful sheer drops and grim overhangs of his fate.”1 Such was his life and future.

Jean Valjean attempts to reintegrate with society, but the ex-prisoner finds rejection at every turn. At last he turns to the charity of a local bishop, Bishop Myriel, a kind and self-sacrificing man that takes him in for the night. That night Valjean steals the Bishop’s silver, is soon caught by local police and brought back to the church. The Bishop tells the police that the silver was his gift to Jean Valjean, thus sparing Valjean from a return to prison.

In the play the Bishop later says to Valjean, “By the passion and the blood, God has raised you out of darkness.”2 And such mercy spares Jean Valjean from returning to prison, but it is a mercy that forces a crisis in Valjean’s life.

Take an eye for an eye!
Turn your heart into stone!
This is all I have lived for!
This is all I have known!
One word from him [the Bishop] and I’d be back
Beneath the lash, upon the rack.

Instead he offers me my freedom!
I feel my shame inside me like a knife.
He told me that I have a soul…
How does he know?
What spirit comes to move my life?
Is there another way to go?

I am reaching, but I fall
And the night is closing in…
As I stare into the void —
To the whirlpool of my sin.3

In the light of mercy, Jean Valjean is thrown into the depravity of his sinfulness, and he is broken. By the Blood-bought mercy offered to him by the Bishop, Jean Valjean’s life is permanently and forever changed. He himself becomes a man of mercy.

Javert: Escaping from Mercy
Javert is the legalist, literally, and he holds strictly to the letter of the law. He serves as both a prison guard and a police officer who is always watching Jean Valjean with a keen and cruel eye. Javert is always looking for Valjean, chasing him, and seeking to arrest him after he breaks his parole. An eye for an eye is also Javert’s law. There is but one way to treat others, and it is by strict justice.

[Spoiler alert] The story leads up to one climactic scene when Jean Valjean has the opportunity to kill Javert, who has been imprisoned by revolutionaries. But instead of an eye for an eye, instead of retribution for the lifelong struggles and pain Javert has inflicted on his life, Jean Valjean shows him mercy, cuts his bound hands loose, and sends his archenemy off as a free man.

But such mercy sends Javert, the legalist, into a tailspin from which he cannot recover. For him, mercy proves to be an unsolvable problem.

Who is this man?
What sort of devil is he?
To have caught me in a trap
And choose to let me go free?
It was his hour at last
To put a seal on my fate
Wipe out the past
And wash me clean off the slate!

All it would take
Was a flick of his knife
Vengeance was his
And he gave me back my life!

Damned if I live in the debt of a thief!
Damned if I yield at the end of the chase!
I am the law and the law is not mocked!
I’ll spit his pity right back in his face!
There is nothing on earth that we share!
It is either Valjean or Javert!
How can I allow this man
To hold dominion over me?
This desperate man that I have hunted . . .
He gave me my life! He gave me freedom!

I should have perished by his hand
It was his right . . .
It was my right to die as well . . .
Instead I live . . . But live in hell!

And my thoughts fly apart
Can this man be believed?
Shall his sins be forgiven?
Shall his crimes be reprieved?

And must I now begin to doubt
Who never doubted all those years?
My heart is stone and still it trembles . . .
The world I have known is lost in shadow
Is he from heaven or from hell?
And does he know
That granting me my life today
This man has killed me even so?4

Hugo narrates the crisis: “He saw two roads before him, both equally straight, but he saw two of them; and this terrified him. . . . Jean Valjean’s generosity toward him, Javert, devastated him.”5 This road of mercy, freely offered, is incoherent to the legalist. Even worse, the offer of mercy hardens the legalist’s soul.

A benevolent malefactor, a compassionate convict, gentle, helpful, clement, doing good in return for bad, offering forgiveness in return for hate, favoring pity over revenge, preferring to be destroyed himself to destroying his enemy, saving the one who had brought him down, kneeling at the pinnacle of virtue, closer to an angel than a man! Javert was forced to admit that this monster existed. It could not go on like this.6

And it doesn’t — not for Javert. In the perplexing face of such a beast — the face of unmerited mercy — Javert the legalist jumps off a bridge and kills himself.

Triumphant Mercy
Very early in the novel, Hugo walks us quietly into the Bishop’s study as he sits in solitude and meditates on the names of God — Almighty, Creator, Liberty, Immensity, Wisdom and Truth, Light, Lord, Providence, Holiness, Justice, God, and Father. As the Bishop writes out brief meditations on these various divine names he sees in Scripture, he ends with what he calls the “most beautiful” of all God’s names — Miséricorde, or Mercy.7 In this line, Hugo plays off the book’s French title, but more importantly, he foreshadows the major theme of his book.

Indeed, God’s mercy is beautiful — beautiful to the sinner who is willing to confront his own sin and self-insufficiency, and who is willing to be humbled. But to the legalist who refuses to confront his own sins and self-insufficiency, this same offer of mercy becomes an inescapable problem that hardens the soul. It is a classic retelling of Jesus’s parables of the tax collector and the Pharisee (Luke 18:9–14) and of the prodigal son and the older brother (Luke 15:11–32).

Mercy is never free. Mercy is very expensive. Mercy requires paying the cost of justice, and that is the cost of our Savior’s life. But that mercy is beautiful to behold for those whom God has given eyes to see it. Mercy changes lives. And the offer of mercy can also harden.

The power of Victor Hugo’s classic Les Misérables is the way it contrasts the life of the merciful with the life of the merciless. The merciful have faced their sin guilt and been broken like glass. The merciless have faced their sin guilt and hardened themselves like steel. The merciful have first received Mercy (God) and then aim to show mercy to others. The legalist adamantly rejects mercy, and in rejecting mercy has rejected Mercy.

In spite of the longstanding Javert-Valjean struggle in the book, and even the Javert-Valjean struggle we find in our own hearts, ultimately Scripture reminds us that a mercy-giving life of a Valjean will triumph over the hard legalistic life of a Javert (James 2:13).

[ Tony Reinke ]

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Les Misérables: Law, Grace and Redemption

Victor Hugo’s monumental novel Les Misérables, first published in 1862, has been compared to a gothic cathedral—and justly so. One comes away from the work with the alternating images of grotesque gargoyles and chipped, mildewed saints, cobwebbed shadows and illuminating shafts of light lingering in the memory. Structurally, the book contains all the intricate, and oft-dizzying, architecture of the late medieval period, along with dark crypts and cold corridors.

While one may easily get lost in this literary labyrinth—literally, too, as Jean Valjean, the novel’s hero, scurries about the streets of Paris with Javert the police inspector hot in pursuit—the artistic genius is evident at every turn. Virtually every major scene, for example, is doubled, finding a poetic and often ironic parallel. We will consider three of these twice-told vignettes to see how they develop the drama of Valjean’s redemption, of his struggle between the equally pressing demands of law and grace.

Stumbling into Grace: Two Hallowed Havens
The action of Les Mis begins at dusk on a cold October evening, precisely one hour before the inevitable darkness of sunset, with Valjean, the recently released convict, seeking refuge in the small town of Digne. His yellow passport brands him as a criminal, and so he is rejected from inn after inn. In a tragic parody of Christ’s birth, innkeepers, having an abundance both of available rooms and of steamy, delicious-smelling suppers, turn Valjean away. “Put me up in the stable,” he finally cries, to no avail—even the local prison ward refuses him a cell, saying, “Do something to get arrested first” (a not-so subtle critique of the social system).

Having knocked on every door but the church’s, before which he had merely shaken a defiant fist, Valjean prepares to sleep on a stone bench through the starless, dark, and bitterly frigid Alp-air night. Then, the church door opens. An elderly woman emerges, bidding him to knock at one more door, that of a small house. Having done so, Valjean is warmly invited to supper and a bed fitted with clean sheets. “You mean, you’re not chasing me away?” he says, overjoyed with surprise. “I’m going to have supper! And a bed with a mattress and sheets—I haven’t slept in a bed for nineteen years!…Pardon me, what’s your name?…You are an innkeeper, aren’t you?” His host, the bishop of Digne, introduces himself. “This is not my house,” Bishop Myriel declares, “it’s the house of Jesus Christ,” a refuge for the outcast. Within this unassuming refuge, there are silver candlesticks, a kind of menorah symbolizing the presence of God in this kind-of holy place. When Valjean is later brought back to the bishop for having stolen his silverware, the bishop gives him the candlesticks, too, and their light—a token of God’s grace and the debt of love he owes.

On another wintry night many years later, after becoming “Madeline,” the benevolent governor of Montreuil-sur-mer, only to be discovered and imprisoned by Javert, Valjean finds himself on the run in the dimly-lit streets of Paris. He escaped prison in order to fulfill his promise to rescue and tend the orphaned girl Cosette, now at his side. They hide away in a lonely, enclosed garden as the sound of Javert and his troops, like a storm, breaks and rushes on. Then, out of the stillness, a hauntingly awe-filled scene unfolds, a mystery better experienced than explained: sudden singing; voices of an angelic choir fading in and out of the night air; a cruciform shape spied through a dim glass (dead, or alive?); the sound of a little bell. Like Jacob of old, Valjean discovers “the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it…How awesome is this place!” (Gen 28:16–17). He and Cosette, the penitent and the innocent, fall to their knees. The garden complex, a dilapidated convent for women, becomes a refuge for Valjean: “I must remain here,” he says, and becomes its gardener. Cosette, the illegitimate orphan, receives schooling from the women. It is an unexpected refuge in Christ—thus is grace portrayed.

Pursued by Law: Two Poignant Pleas
The novel’s literary shadows are deepened by the ever-lurking presence of the law’s condemnation, by the tension between who we are and who we were. Within this context, Javert represents that inescapable, shameful past that ever haunts and pursues one’s conscience—the “Devil’s advocate,” as it were—so that Valjean winds up disguising himself in order to make a clean start. Javert is called “the man of the law,” and indeed, represents the strict and merciless application of law, blind to and befuddled by the possibility and hope of redemption. Early in the story, Valjean, captured by Javert, pleads for release in order to rescue the soon-to-be-orphaned Cosette, but Javert refuses—as expected. There are no surprises with law. The principle of retribution is simple and monotonous, like Euclidean logic—it’s a system closed to alternatives, shut-up against intervention.

Near the end of the story, captured once more by Javert, Valjean begs to be released in order to rescue Cosette’s suitor, Marius. The inspector, having been saved recently—and surprisingly—from execution by Valjean, now yields. Perplexed that Valjean spared him, and even more petrif ied by his own sparing of Valjean, Javert mentally gores himself on the horns of the paradox. Caught between his debt of mercy to Valjean and his debt of justice to duty, agonizing between grace and law, Javert finally flings himself into the River Seine and drowns (a scene that itself ironically mirrors Valjean’s mock-drowning escape in order to rescue Cosette after Javert’s original refusal). He is unable to integrate the shock of grace into his legal system, and, perhaps more to the point, unable to bow before his own need of grace—his release of Valjean had been merely an act of retribution, not a debt of love. Javert’s demise is a penetrating reminder that to escape its grip, one must die to the law.

Love’s Fulfillment: Two Cross-bearing Confessions
Woven into the warp and woof of Les Mis is the theme of appearances. The story is filled with disguises so that the question of true identity, even of reality, repeatedly surfaces like a bubble—yet only to pop. The treacherous Thénardiers (the cruel caretakers of young Cosette), for example, assume a new name but remain substantially the same, plotting to rob Valjean. But Valjean’s “changes” seem to reflect true transformations, somewhat akin to the name changes found in the Bible (Gen. 17:5; 32:28). Within this narrative drama, the law’s vision is shown to be flat, literally judging by appearances and focusing on who and what a character inescapably was or has done, while the eyes of grace penetrate to the soul and to truth, ever hopeful of who a character may become and what he or she may finally do. While the law looks for justice, grace sees to redemption, and the tightrope walker betwixt is love.

There are two key points in the novel where Valjean sacrificially casts off his disguise in confession. The first is when he discovers that another man, Champmathieu (but thought to be Valjean), has been captured and is being tried in his place. All the evidence of “Euclidian logic” is against this poor man: he has been identified as Valjean by three fellow convicts, Javert himself denying the need for “moral assumptions or material proofs, for I recognize him perfectly.” But worst of all, his appearance is that of a criminal: “I’d send him to the galleys on the strength of his face alone,” a lawyer remarks. The innocent Champmathieu indeed faces a life term in the galleys upon conviction. The real Valjean is thrown into turmoil by the dilemma: should he enjoy his own paradise at another’s expense (thereby becoming a demon) or should he reenter the fires of suffering (and become an angel)? Disrupting the legal proceedings, he confesses: “Let the accused go … arrest me. I am Valjean.” Ironically, the judge, lawyers, and witnesses think he has gone mad—they cannot see how the upstanding gentleman Madeline could ever be the infamous convict Jean Valjean. And he’s not, of course—but he was. Thus, the apparent scoundrel is innocent, and the respectable benefactor of society is guilty. “I am the only one who can see clearly here,” Valjean says, “and I am telling you the truth.” The spectators are stunned, frozen by the illuminating event of a man submitting himself under the law so that another will not be condemned in his place.

At the end of the novel, and moving from the courtroom to the home, Valjean risks sharing his criminal past with his new son-in-law. Marius, angered, cuts him off from seeing Cosette. Deeply distraught and ill over this isolation, Valjean prepares to die wretchedly alone. Marius, however, eventually discovers the deeper truth: “You save people’s lives, and you hide it from them! You do more than that, you slander yourself while you’re pretending to unmask yourself.” In the happy reunion of his family, reconciled in love, Valjean dies, peacefully anticipating his eternal refuge.

The story that began at dusk before the inevitable darkness now ends in the starless dark of night (before the inevitable dawn)—with the light of the silver candlesticks, recently bequeathed to Cosette, shining brightly upon Valjean’s still, heavenward face.

[ L. Michael Morales ]

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Finding God and Grace in Les Misérables

Jean Valjean was a thief. He broke parole, evaded the law, lied, and assumed several false identities over the course of his life. And, according to Hugh Jackman, he is “one of the great literary characters” and a personal hero of Jackman’s.

Jackman (The Prestige) takes on the leading role of this classic literary convict in the new film Les Misérables, opening Christmas day. As fans of live theatre will know, Les Misérables began as stage musical 25 years ago, inspired by the massive Victor Hugo novel of the same name. It was produced by Cameron Mackintosh (Producer of Cats, Phantom of the Opera, and Mary Poppins on Broadway) and went on to be one of the most successful and beloved shows in the world. Now Mackintosh has paired up with Director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) to bring this legendary musical to the silver screen.

Several recent films have tackled big questions of religion, God, and spirituality, such as Life of Pi and Lincoln. But in Les Misérables, it is hardly a question of where to find God. It would rather be a challenge to miss seeing him! He drenches the characters and the landscapes. He weaves in and out of the story, much like the elusive second-soprano note in a choral song; you don’t even always notice it, and you can’t quite pinpoint it all the time, but everything would be drastically different without its presence.

Christians today would do well to absorb the stories that Les Misérables tells about love, grace, and God’s heart for the downtrodden.

“The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness.” –Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

At the beginning of the film we are introduced to Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe, Robin Hood), who face-off as Valjean is awarded his parole after 19 years of slaving as a prisoner of France. Immediately we discern that the reason these men will always be enemies is that they have a fundamentally different understanding of right and wrong. To Javert (a man employed by the government) the Letter of the Law is all that matters. Valjean broke the law and then tried to run from his punishment; thus, in Javert’s eyes, he is worthy of death and could “never change” into a truly good man.

Valjean, on the other hand, has a different perspective. His only crime was attempting to steal a loaf of bread for his starving family, and he harbors fierce anger and bitterness for the years of servitude he’s been forced to endure for what he sees as a justifiable, understandable infraction.

Javert swears to keep watch over Valjean on his parole, and Valjean soon finds out that the parole papers he is legally required to carry cause people (including potential employers) to scorn him and send him away.

Enter the Bishiop (Colm Wilkinson, who originated Jean Valjean on Broadway). If there ever was a character who embodied the grace and love of Jesus Christ in a film, it is the Bishop. This kindly old man invites a dejected Jean Valjean into his home for a hot meal and a bed for the night, offering him every consideration available to his humble manner of living.

However, Valjean is unused to grace and does not recognize it. All he knows is that he is unable to find work and sees no way out of his desperate situation. During the night he rises in a panic, collects all the valuable silver he can find within the house, and flees. He is apprehended by the police, however, and returned to the Bishop, whom they expect to serve as a witness to his blatant crime.

To the astonishment of the policemen, and Valjean, the Bishop instead tells the officer that he gave Valjean the silver, and reproaches Valjean for forgetting “the best” – a pair of large silver candlesticks from the dinner table. He thanks the policemen for being so vigilant, but insists their services are no longer needed and dismisses them.

Valjean, utterly speechless, can only listen as the Bishop gently sings:

“And remember this, my brother; see in this some higher plan.
You must use this precious silver to become an honest man.
By the witness of the martyrs, by the passion and the blood,
God has raised you out of darkness. I have bought your soul for God.”

The message of this refrain sticks with Valjean throughout the rest of the film (as do the symbolic candlesticks). As Hooper explains it, “Through that contact with the Bishop, [Valjean] learns to have compassion and faith.” Even beyond that, however, the Bishop speaks grace into Valjean’s life for the first time. As Valjean interacts with various other characters, including his nemesis Inspector Javert, he never forgets the lesson the Bishop taught him:

Sometimes people live in darkness, a terrible darkness of poverty, ignorance, and injustice. Forgiveness and selflessness are often the greatest ways we can lift such people out of that darkness and show them the true nature of Christ. Valjean uses his faith and trust in God to propel him to extend this selflessness, this grace, to so many who cross his path. He emerges from hiding to acquit an innocent man mistaken for himself, whom Javert had found and planned to prosecute. He cares for the dying prostitute Fantine (Anne Hathaway, The Dark Knight Rises) and, upon her death, rescues and adopts her daughter. Even when faced with an opportunity to extract vengeance upon Javert (who has been hounding him for twenty years), he chooses the path of grace.

Yet Valjean never comes to live a simple life; his days are always overshadowed by the memory of his own faults and sins. Near the end of the film, as a much older Valjean prepares to die, he is comforted by the ghost of long-dead Fantine.

“Remember the truth that once was spoken:
To love another person is to see the face of God.”

She comforts him because now, now faced with eternity, he still regrets his many transgressions and begs forgiveness of God. Fantine’s lyric is beautifully reminiscent of one of Christ’s most famous sayings:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:36-40).

The lesson of grace to be learned from Les Misérables is a simple one: The Law cannot save us, for The Law serves brokenly in a broken world. Extending God’s grace, however, can illuminate and transform. Loving God, and loving those whom God has placed in our lives, is the closest thing to seeing God that we can have this side of eternity.

[ Debbie Wright ]

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Amazing Grace” (2007 movie)

Amazing Grace, from acclaimed director, Michael Apted, tells the inspiring story of how one mans passion and perseverance changed the world. Based on the true-life story of William Wilberforce (Loan Gruffudd), a leader of the British abolition movement, the film chronicles his epic struggle to pass a law to end the slave trade in the late 18th century.

Along the way, Wilberforce meets intense opposition from members of Parliament who feel the slave trade is tied to the stability of the British Empire. Several friends, including Wilberforce’s minister, John Newton (Albert Finney), a reformed slave ship captain who penned the beloved hymn Amazing Grace, urge him to see the cause through.

[ Walden Media ]

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Newton’s Grace: The True Story of Amazing Grace” (2014 movie)

John Newton was a troubled young man with a violent temper and a penchant for vulgarity that literally made his fellow sailors blush. Whipped for desertion and sold into slavery, it seemed his life would end early in a West African grave…until he was rescued by a ship captain sent by his father.

Following a powerful conversion experience during a storm at sea, Newton would eventually become a pastor in the Church of England and the writer of several of the church’s most beloved hymns, including “Amazing Grace.”

But before that, Newton, the former slave, was appointed captain of a slave ship himself. In an age when human bondage was considered the norm, it would take time for Newton’s conscience to be thoroughly transformed. But Newton came to hate the slave trade, becoming a spiritual leader in the fight to end slavery.

Newton’s Grace is the true story of a real “Prodigal Son,” the story of miraculous forgiveness and change that lies behind the powerful words of one of the world’s most beloved hymns.

[ Inspirata Films ]

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Amazing Grace” (Movie Review)

For most Americans, William Wilberforce isn’t a household name. Amazing Grace may change that. This powerful film recounts the celebrated English reformer’s fierce battle to abolish slavery in the British Empire. It also chronicles the faith journey of a man who struggled to reconcile his passion for justice and politics with his natural inclination to retreat into a secluded life of spiritual contemplation.

The film opens as the 18th century is trailing to a close. Eight years of fruitless effort promoting abolition have left Wilberforce (a junior member of Parliament in the House of Commons) demoralized and depleted. One observer comments that he’s given his youth and his health to a failed cause. Chronic illness has forced Wilberforce to retreat to the home of his cousins Henry and Marianne Thornton to rest and reassess his wherewithal to keep championing an unpopular idea.

The Thorntons introduce Wilber (as his friends call him) to Barbara Spooner, a fiery young woman whose zeal for the abolition movement matches his own. And as he recounts his history to her, lengthy flashbacks fill in his backstory and introduce us to an idiosyncratic cast of supporting characters who play important roles in the battle against slavery.

Among these is the ex-slave trader turned pastor and musician John Newton, who serves as Wilberforce’s mentor. The young reformer’s best friend is William Pitt, whose political ambitions lead him to the position of prime minister at the tender age of 24. Pitt introduces Wilberforce to two other important reformers, the freethinking (and free-drinking) itinerant preacher Thomas Clarkson and an erudite former slave named Oloudah Equiano. Finally, an old fox coincidentally named Lord Fox switches sides after being convinced of Wilberforce’s argument. The cagey older politician’s help is invaluable as Wilberforce seeks to outmaneuver parliamentary nemeses Lord Tarleton and the Duke of Clarence.

POSITIVE ELEMENTS
Wilberforce is first seen admonishing two men beating an exhausted horse to stop. Wilberforce loves the poor, too, often inviting them to eat at his estate. When one of his political peers wants to use a slave as ante in a round of gambling, Wilberforce walks away.

The ambitious-but-principled Pitt tells Wilberforce, “We’re too young to realize certain things are impossible. So we’ll do them anyway.” The pair enjoys a deep friendship that’s assailed severely but ultimately stands the test of time. Even when Pitt is unable to help his friend openly, he still offers private counsel on how to avoid being labeled a seditious traitor.

Wilberforce’s zeal for abolishing slavery is fully ignited when his new friend Equiano gives him a tour of a slave ship; the former slave describes in detail the horrible conditions slaves are forced to endure. After that, Wilberforce takes up the cause in earnest despite fierce opposition.

While confronting a group of well-to-do Londoners with the horrors of what goes on aboard a slave ship, he tells them, “Remember that smell. … Remember that God made men equal.” His work secures 390,000 signatures in favor of abolishing slavery—among them Lord Fox’s, who risks his political career by doing so.

When Wilberforce doubts whether he has the stamina to carry on, Barbara’s faith in him rekindles his energies. But even while struggling, Wilberforce won’t countenance talk of revolution. When Clarkson hints that the government might have to be overthrown in order to abolish slavery, Wilberforce sternly rebukes him: “I’ve pledged loyalty to the king. … Never speak of revolution in my presence again.”

SPIRITUAL CONTENT
Newton’s song “Amazing Grace” serves as a metaphor for Wilberforce’s life. Wilberforce sings it in front of his political peers as a kind of personal anthem. He loves to escape to country spots to pray and ponder nature. While there, he begins to question whether his penchant for spiritual solitude renders him unfit to be a politician. Wilberforce concludes that he’s called to serve God and others by shaping public policy, saying, “God has set before me two great objects: Suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of society.”

Newton is instrumental in helping Wilberforce embrace that calling. Newton tells him not to expect lightning-bolt answers (“God sometimes does His work with gentle drizzle, not storms”). And on a more practical note, Newton recognizes Wilberforce’s natural rapport among his peers (“People like you too much [for you] to live a life of solitude”). Not only does Newton recommend a political career, he exhorts his pupil to confront the slave trade. “I can’t help you, but do it, Wilber. Do it. Take them on. Blow their dirty, filthy ships out of the water. … Do it, for God’s sake.”

Likewise, when Pitt introduces Wilberforce to a group of anti-slavery crusaders, one of them says, “We understand that you’re having problems choosing whether to do the work of God or the work of a political activist. We humbly suggest you can do both. … Surely the principles of Christianity lend to action as well as meditation.”

Newton, meanwhile, is haunted by “20,000 ghosts”—the lives of those he sold into slavery. Though he’s wracked with guilt, the old man cleanses his soul by confessing those misdeeds in his memoir, which reads, “Although my memory is fading, I remember two things very clearly: I’m a great sinner, and Christ is a great Savior.” As a pastor, Newton embraces simplicity and renounces worldly trappings.

A terminally ill Pitt confides in his lifelong friend, “I’m scared, Wilber. At this moment, I wish I had your faith.”

SEXUAL CONTENT
Barbara and several other women wear tight, cleavage-revealing dresses. A husband and wife share a kiss. Wilberforce confronts a politician’s manipulation of facts by using a joking metaphor that alludes to a husband and wife’s relationship (“If he calls [1 in 4] half, I’d hate to be his wife and share half his bed”). Passing references are made to politicians spending money on whores and young girls being debauched.

VIOLENT CONTENT
Wilberforce has a dream in which he envisions shackled slaves (including children) laboring close to a fire. One is consumed by the flames in a hazy blur. In his dictated memoir, Newton details the torture captured Africans were subjected to. (“The slaves are then whipped with ebony bushes to let out the congealing blood,” he says.) In a similar conversation, Equiano graphically relates how slave traders use a knotted rope to keep potential buyers from realizing the slaves on sale had dysentery.

CRUDE OR PROFANE LANGUAGE
Characters use the British profanity “bloody” at least eight times. “H—” is uttered half-a-dozen times, and God’s name is used as an exclamation about that many times, too. “N-gger,” “a–” and “b-llocks” (another British vulgarity) are used once or twice each.

DRUG AND ALCOHOL CONTENT
In Wilberforce’s high-brow world, social drinking (wine, sherry and champagne) is frequent. Many scenes depict Wilberforce and fellow politicians imbibing over meals. Still, in a dark dream Wilberforce angrily sweeps aside wine bottles and glasses of a privileged group watching an opera; here, alcohol seems emblematic of decadence and indifference.

Clarkson uses a wine metaphor to describe the revolutionary spirit spreading from America to France (“The Americans pulled the cork out of the bottle, now the French share the wine”). And that’s no surprise, as he carries a small flask of alcohol with him and is shown drinking from it in many scenes. After slavery is abolished in England, Clarkson pours some alcohol onto the grave of Equiano (who’s passed away before that final victory).

Wilberforce is plagued by crippling abdominal pain. Doctors tell him it’s untreatable; the pain can only be medicated. One physician offers Wilberforce opium, which he initially refuses, saying it will cloud his thinking. The pain, however, is too great, and Wilberforce eventually uses the drug for relief. We glimpse a doctor mixing it. And the film implies Wilberforce becomes dependent on it. Eventually, he abstains because he wants to be fully present for the victory of the abolitionists and for the birth of his first child. Swearing off the drug leaves him vulnerable again to wrenching stomach pain, but he chooses to endure it.

OTHER NEGATIVE ELEMENTS
Gambling goes hand-in-hand with politicians’ social drinking. Several scenes depict people tossing coins into the pot. Wilberforce participates in a gambling match early on. Later, we’re told that he’s given up the vice because of his faith.

CONCLUSION
Many movies pretend importance. Few, however, make good on their lofty ambitions. In contrast, Amazing Grace isn’t landing at the multiplex with a multimillion dollar ad campaign trumpeting its arrival. And yet, the messages it delivers are important.

Not the least of these is the fact that one determined person can make an enormous difference in the shape of history—especially when he’s surrounded by friends who help him when he stumbles. Wilberforce’s commitment to abolition ultimately led to the demise of the British slave trade. But watching this film, we’re just as aware of his humanity as his heroism. He struggles. He doubts. He’s tempted to give up as he battles physical pain and dependence upon painkillers. And yet, with the encouragement of Barbara Spooner (whom he marries), William Pitt, John Newton, Thomas Clarkson and Oloudah Equiano, he soldiers on to victory—almost 20 years after wading into battle.

Equally important is the film’s unequivocal message about the value and dignity of every human being. Though slavery was officially banned in Great Britain in 1807 and in the United States in 1865, deep injustices still keep millions in bondage around our globe today. Whether it’s genocide in places such as Darfur, Sudan; or the exploitative sex trafficking of women and girls in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia (among other areas), slavery and savagery still lurk. We may be tempted to believe our involvement in such issues can’t accomplish much, but Wilberforce’s story inspires us to believe that real change is possible.

Finally, Amazing Grace reminds us that God’s calling on our lives is not neatly divided into sacred and secular categories. Wilberforce initially submits to this false dichotomy. But thanks to his friends’ exhortations, he realizes that his passions for God and for justice can be fused together. Sacred and secular subsequently crash into one another—forcefully at times. Wilberforce’s faith, then, ends up not only leaving a deep imprint upon British society, but upon this film as well.

[ pluggedin ]

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Amazing Grace The Story Behind the Song

This documentary, produced by Emblem Media LLC, focuses on the person John Newton, and the experiences that inspired his words to what has become one of the world’s most beloved hymns, Amazing Grace.

[ Emblem Media ]

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God’s Amazing Grace: The Story of John Newton

Christian author Brian Edwards explores the life of the slave ship captain who became a Christian clergyman, John Newton (1725-1807). Newton is perhaps best known for penning the hymn Amazing Grace and for the remarkable indentation of God’s grace in his life.

[ Brian Edwards ]

Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bQbtk3oXok
Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbCaKB_9wlQ
Part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGFBg1OHD2E
Part 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOogX8jHMVg

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The Biblical Model of Grace
[ Snippets from ‘booklet’ ]

Grace, God’s unmerited favor, is the one thing that distinguishes the Bible message from everything else, whether it be religion, philosophy, schools of thought, etc. It has nothing to do with me and everything to do with God. Simply put, it is God doing for me what I cannot do for myself.

Jesus Christ is the Bible’s central ‘theme’. He is the Son of, and the only way to, a Holy God. Therefore, it is all through Christ alone, by His grace alone through my faith alone.

The biblical Gospel describes the how God ‘reached down’ to humanity through Jesus with grace.

God’s grace is characterized as being a shield, everlasting, trustworthy, abundant, undeserved, free, fruit-producing, contagious, indescribable, sufficient, and renewed every morning.

Grace is given by God through Jesus, as a gift, through faith, to those who are humble, come to God boldly, love God, and ‘walk’ uprightly to show kindness, to redeem, purify, and help the believer in doing good works, everyday, in time of need, for their entire lifetime.

Because of grace, God gives His attention, mercy, rest, blessings, compassion, and kindness tot he believer.

Because of God’s grace, the believer receives justification, regeneration and the Holy Spirit, salvation, faith, repentance, an inheritance, deliverance of sin, atonement and forgiveness for all their sins (past, present, and future). the believer also receives protection, stability, joy, strength, hope, righteousness, enlightenment, knowledge, comfort, patience, discernment, fellowship, personal value, encouragement (2 Thessalonians 2:16), and spiritual ‘gifts’.

Because of God’s grace, the believer can trust, obey, love, serve, encourage, be humble, giver thanks, labor adundantly, and be wise.

God give the believer His grace because it is His will (Romans 9:14-16) and because of His covenant with them (Romans 4:16).

God’s grace is the result of the believer’s repentance, obedience, humility, righteousness, goodness, sacrifice, unjust suffering, and their faith.

However, having said all that, disobedience will receive God’s ‘disgrace’ (Isaiah 27:11; Jeremiah 16:5; and Lamentations 4:16).

[ Grace Guy ]

http://www.graceguy.org/the-grace-model.html

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Why Is Grace So Amazing?

Why Is Grace So Amazing?(Part 1 of 4)from Message #2 of 6: How You Can Be Sure That You Will Spend Eternity With God series.

[ Erwin Lutzer ]

Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z33h3gPkcWM
Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YfYO6rzBcQ
Part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nw9i6OE-A8E
Part 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnreHuGyv_E

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What’s So Amazing About Grace?

Eastpointe Christian Church sermon series.

Week 1 – André Norman [5-6-18]: https://vimeo.com/268590596
Week 7 – Dan Stoffer [6-17-18]: https://vimeo.com/275703725
Week 8 – Dan Stoffer [6-24-18]: https://vimeo.com/277093720

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Captured By Grace: The Converting Power of Grace

Video by Dr. David Jeremiah from his teaching series, “Captured By Grace.” This series was used for a sermon series preached at First Baptist Church, Girard, IL, from Feb. 5th to Mar. 11th, 2012.

[ David Jeremiah ]

Sermon video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDBn0eKE2sE

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The God of Amazing Grace

God’s tenderness and compassion avalanche upon us from the peaks of his steadfast love and mercy. In this lab, Pastor John reminds us that God’s grace is amazing because God himself is. For the study guide, visit http://www.desiringgod.org/labs/the-god-of-amazing-grace.

[ John Piper ]

Video Study: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8Y7wwhc5bE

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A Message on Grace

A sermon series from Truth For Life.

[ Alistair Begg ]

Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a945scrJqmI
Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKQ-Dn8HBFY

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God’s Amazing Grace

This message is about God’s amazing grace, and if you don’t listen carefully you’re going to miss a blessing because sometimes the blessing is tucked away. Discover the story of the saving grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as told in the book of Ruth.

[ Adrian Rogers ]

Sermon video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzNKgMkITPo

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Are We to Continue in Sin That Grace Might Increase?

As we enter Romans 6, we are taking up one of the greatest issues in the Christian life. And that means one of the greatest issues in life, period. Because the only life that will lead to eternal life is the Christian life. So what we are about to see is relevant and crucial for everybody, whether they call themselves Christian or not. Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, spiritualists, atheists – every person who is descended from Adam needs to know what Romans 6 teaches. What Paul describes here is not provincial or parochial or sectarian or regional or ethnic. It relates to everybody because it describes the only kind of life that leads to eternal life. All of us are sinners and guilty because we are united to the first Adam. We will be saved, or not, because we are united by faith to Jesus Christ, the second Adam. And there is a kind of life that comes from being united to Christ. That life leads to heaven. And that life only. That is what is at stake in Romans 6. [more…]

[ John Piper ]

https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/are-we-to-continue-in-sin-that-grace-might-increase

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By Grace Alone

God’s grace is everything for the Christian. By grace alone, God chose his people before creation. By grace alone, Christ chose to die for his people. By grace alone, God causes his people to be born again so that they are new creations. And decisively, God’s grace transforms us into holy people.

Our deeds earned us death. Our works followed Satan. We were dead in our sins. Mary couldn’t save us. Saints couldn’t deliver us. The law could not justify us. But God.

[ John Piper ]

Video Study: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuwOebTRL2E

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By Grace You’ve Been Saved Through Faith?

[ WWUTT ]

Video Study: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvwvJxJiers

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All of Grace
(1 of 13 – Audio Book)

In All of Grace, C.H. Spurgeon outlines the plan of salvation in such clear, simple language that everyone can understand and be drawn to the Father. Any attempt to please God based upon our own works brings self-righteousness and coldness of heart. It is the free grace and mercy of God that makes the heart glow with warmth and thankfulness for God’s love.The heartfelt goal of this dynamic classic is summed up in Spurgeon’s final cry to the reader, “Meet me in heaven!!” “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” — Revelation 22:17

[ Charles Spurgeon ]

Audio Book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cY4zHG9PTBg

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How to Experience God’s Grace

[ Charles Stanley ]

Sermon ‘snippet’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0KZyl7Kp-Q

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Cheap Grace

[ Paul Washer ]

Sermon video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujGaw_Zkz94

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The Mercy and Grace of God

[ Paul Washer ]

Sermon video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZ5x7Gx_O3k

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Jesus: The Gift of God’s Grace

[ Chuck Swindoll ]

Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWBtbl04h7g
Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BG1kDaIzNA
Part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcLnhVR8Ir4

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Common Grace

Grace is often defined as “a gift we don’t deserve.” But Scripture divides grace into two parts: saving grace and common grace. Saving grace is given to believers, but common grace is given to everyone. Learn more about the meaning and implications of common grace, from Dr. R.C. Sproul.

[ R.C. Sproul ]

Teaching video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xTyDJdklcA

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Saved By Grace

There is no reason to wait until heaven to experience the fullness of God’s grace. He wants us to live abundantly right now. From the moment we are saved to our last breath on earth, God desires for us to be intimate with Him. In this sermon, Dr. Stanley shares how important it is to embrace God’s gift of friendship and what it means to be saved by grace.

[ Charles Stanley ]

Sermon video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68rouveSqi0

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The Riches of God’s Grace

God freely blesses and gives the riches of His grace to every one of His children. Becoming a Christian is just the beginning of a wonderful life with the Lord. The Father forgives all of your sins past, present, and future. The Creator then initiates the lifelong process of conforming you to the image of His Son. Learn how God’s incredible grace will strengthen you every day as you walk with Him.

[ Charles Stanley ]

Sermon video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5It02IyxQA

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Fairness or Grace?

Each person is constantly interpreting their world through a grid, through a specific lens. Kevin DeYoung contrasts viewing life through the lens of fairness contra the glasses of grace. Taking us to the Parable of the Vineyard Laborers in Matthew 20, Kevin takes the three questions at the end of Jesus’ famous parable to help expose how often the pastor’s heart can give into viewing life through the lens of fairness rather than the glasses of grace

[ Kevin DeYoung ]

Sermon video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NLDhb_3NHQ

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Grace

Sermon Series

[ Francis Chan ]

GRACE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RRqhAXEKU0
GRACE, GRACE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ck6m3UqzZdY
GRACE, GRACE, GRACE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6HJGzA7dNM
GRACE, GRACE, GRACE, GRACE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_pNoWGYIw4

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Why Grace?

Philip Yancey is best-selling author of a number of books including ‘What’s So Amazing About Grace?’, ‘Where Is God When It Hurts?’ and ‘The Jesus I Never Knew.’

[ Philip Yancey ]

Interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=it4UhakXjrE

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Prodigal

Adapted from “What’s So Amazing About Grace?”(© 1997) by popular Christian author Philip Yancey, Prodigal is a relatable telling of the well-known parable used by Jesus to show us who God is and how God loves. In this picture of extravagant grace, we learn that there is no catch to this promise, no loophole to exclude us from Love. Featuring music from up and coming artist Sara Jackson-Holman, we believe Prodigal is the film your community will be talking about long after it’s over.

[ Journey Box Media ]

Parable video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JMkTTsvifw

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Saved By Grace

The reality of all that God has done for us in Christ Jesus should cause us to ponder why God would shower His blessings on undeserving sinners. The Apostle Paul wrote that God’s reasons are based in His character of love, mercy, grace, and kindness. In this message, Alistair Begg explores these motivations and teaches that, just as we rely on God’s grace for our salvation, we must also depend on His grace to empower us to obey and follow him day by day.

[ Alistair Begg ]

Sermon video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTSd1bFrOeE

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By Grace Alone

In this optional session, Sinclair Ferguson poses probing questions for today’s believer: “If I am not amazed by God’s grace, can I really be living in it? Can I really be tasting, and savoring, and delighting in it?”

[ Sinclair Ferguson ]

Sermon video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5yz99p-Z58

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Six Truths About God’s Wrath

The most fearful reality in the universe is the wrath of God. Many laugh it off now as a joke, but soon we will all be confronted with our sins.

[ John Piper ]

Sermon ‘snippet’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWLCyecSfzI

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Grace

[ Skit Guys ]

Illustration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhoFEuw2GPA

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Saved by Grace

The Apostle Paul pronounced an anathema on any who would distort the gospel of Jesus Christ. This has not stopped the spread of false gospels, however. There is no more solemn responsibility given to Christian leaders in the church than to proclaim and defend the true gospel. Steven Lawson explains that Christian leaders must understand Christ’s work of atonement. They must understand the biblical teaching about justification, saving faith, and sanctification. With Paul, they must refuse to compromise.

[ Steven Lawson ]

Sermon video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abVAUELTmz8

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Surprising Grace

PowerPoint sermon.

[ Jack Graham ]

Sermon video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjVbcz5csYc

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Sweetly Devastated by Grace

This two-minute clip comes from a new message from John Piper, “Make War: The Pastor and His People in the Battle Against Sin.” The full message and all the audio and video from the 2015 Desiring God Conference for Pastors is available free of charge.

[ John Piper ]

Sermon ‘snippet’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YX8MVkNzJmY

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Understanding God’s Grace

[ Love Gospel Church ]

Sermon video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBiLBwtr6c8

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What is Grace?

From our series, I Give Up! Why You Can’t Live the Christian Life with Wayne Barber.

[ John Ankerberg ]

TV show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3mt-NTXyDc

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What Is The Grace of God?

What is the grace of God? What does it mean that God is gracious? What does the grace of God mean, practically speaking?

[ Got Questions ]

Illustrative Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npoD2pV1u6E

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What’s So Amazing About Grace

Sermon series from Twin Oaks Baptist Church.

[ Terry Covey ]

Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XiN13f9oGQ
Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Al0nbVcro2w
Part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCXPTMnSdvQ
Part 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0oXUvRo02s
Part 5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dx1LFB8KU_0
Part 6: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SKuv9JpTUM

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Grace

Small Group Bible Study by Max Lucado

Session 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWjfOzpUxcg

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Grace Upon Grace

[ Matt Chandler ]

Sermon Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gl9xia4JlNQ

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How to Be Worthy of God’s Grace

[ John Piper ]

Sermon Snippet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOPHuqEFae8

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Is Eternal Security a “License” to Sin?

[ Got Questions ]

Illustrative Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mX9UJn7QbBc

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God’s Grace

A caller asks a question about common grace and how it is different than the Arminian concept of prevenient grace.

[ James White ]

Radio show snippet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_tk7du59F4

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Grab a hold of Grace!

[ Paul Washer ]

Sermon ‘jam’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JP5PfX7gaNY

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Grace Is The Basis For:

– Our Christian identity: “By the grace of God I am what I am.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)
– Our standing before God: “this grace in which we stand.” (Romans 5:2)
– Our behavior: “We behaved in the world … by the grace of God.” (2 Corinthians 2:12)
– Our living: those who receive “the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ,”(Romans 5:17) by the “grace of life.” (1 Peter 1:7)
– Our holiness: God“called us to a holy calling … because of his own purpose and grace.” (2 Timothy 2:9)
– Our strength for living: “Be strengthened by the grace that is in Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:1) for “it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace.” (Hebrews 13:9)
– Our way of speaking: “Let your speech always be gracious.” (Colossians 4:6)
– Our serving: “serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” (1 Peter 1:10)
– Our sufficiency: “My grace is sufficient for you.” (2 Corinthians 2:9) “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 2:8)
– Our response to difficulty and suffering: We get “grace to help in time of need,” (Hebrews 4:16) and when “you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace…will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 1:10)
– Our participation in God’s mission: As recipients of grace we are privileged to serve as agents of grace. Believers receive grace (Acts 11:23), are encouraged to continue in grace (Acts 13:43), and are called to testify to the grace of God (Acts 20:24). Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21). God’s mission is to the entire world.
– Our future: God, and his grace, is everlasting. “Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13)
– Our hope beyond death: “grace [reigns] through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:21)
The gospel is all about God’s grace through Jesus Christ. That’s why Paul calls it “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24) and “the word of his grace” (Acts 14:3).

The gospel of the grace of God is the message everyone needs. The word of grace is proclaimed from every page of the Bible and ultimately revealed in Jesus Christ. The last verse of the Bible summarizes the message from Genesis to Revelation: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all” (Revelation 22:21). Through Jesus “we have all received grace upon grace” (John 1:16)—the gratuitous and undomesticated grace of God.

[ Justin Holcomb ]

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The ‘Grace’ of God

A man dies and goes to heaven. Of course, St. Peter meets him at the pearly gates. St. Peter says, “Here’s how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you’ve done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in.”

“Okay,” the man says, “I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart.”

“That’s wonderful,” says St. Peter, “That’s worth three points!”

“Three points?” he says. “Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and my service.”

“Terrific!” says St. Peter, “that’s certainly worth a point.”

“One point? Golly. How about this: I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans.”

“Fantastic, that’s good for two more points,” he says.

“TWO POINTS!!” the man cries, “At this rate the only way I get into heaven is by the ‘GRACE’ OF GOD!”

Peter then said, “Come on in!”

[ Author unknown ]

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The Grace Narrative

[ Tim Keller ]

Sermon ‘jam’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQ7TbPPr1AM

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The LIFE CHANGING Power of Grace

Have you ever found yourself stuck in a sin you felt like you had no power over? As believers, we can try to abstain or do all the good works we want to break free from the clutches of sin, but the Bible gives us the key, and it’s better than you may think. We experience power over sin when we fully receive the grace of God through faith. How does this work? Grace isn’t just an idea. It’s not just a feeling. Because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and because of His life that is now at work inside of us, the grace of God has the power to make a real change in our lives. Video illustration.

[ Troy Black ]

Sermon video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21J2uze1-Do

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The Riches of God’s Grace

Sermon series.

[ Charles Stanley ]

Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJ-sp938GnM
Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6Wo93GYgWU
Part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFu3LZ1ZogA
Part 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwrfk9sF9mk
Part 5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cu1jZvItqBo

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What’s So Amazing About Grace

Sermon series from Prestonwood Baptist Church.

Neal Jeffrey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyumKLkQ_JQ
Jack Graham: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbPr-WrKZKw

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An Introduction to the “Understanding The Grace Of God

1. We Are Saved by “Grace” Through Faith in Jesus Christ
2. Grace is the Power and Ability of God Operating Through Us
3. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Grace
4. The Grace of God Was Upon Jesus Christ
5. The Grace of God Was Upon the Apostle Paul
6. Let Your Speech Always Be With Grace
7. Do Not Abuse the Grace of God
8. Stay Humble With the Grace That God Will Give You
9. Do Not Receive the Grace of God in Vain
10. Continue in the Grace of God
11. How to Receive the Grace of God

[ Michael Bradley ]

https://www.bible-knowledge.com/grace-of-god/

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What’s So Amazing About Grace
(Small Group Bible Study – Session One)

In this ten-session small group Bible study, award winning author Philip Yancey takes you and your study group for interactive, gut-level encounters with radical, life-changing grace. Using candid interviews with real people, he illustrates the power of God to forgive the most horrible deeds, love the unloving, and redeem the seemingly irredeemable.

Sessions include:
1. The Missing Ingredient
2. Letting Grace Soak In
3. An Unnatural Act
4. The Art of Forgiving
5. Skin-Deep: The Power of Grace to Penetrate Racism
6. Grace Put to the Test: Grace in the Face of Disagreement
7. Grace Abuse
8. The Church Backslides
9. Dispensing Grace
10. Counterforce: Grace Set Loose int he World

Philip Yancey serves as editor-at-large for Christianity Today magazine. He has written thirteen Gold Medallion Award-winning books and won two ECPA Book of the Year awards for What’s So Amazing About Grace? and The Jesus I Never Knew. Four of his books have sold over one million copies. Yancey lives with his wife in Colorado.

[ Philip Yancey ]

Study video (Session 1): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=685mdRG_8jI

https://www.amazon.com/Whats-Amazing-Session-Missing-Ingredient/dp/B00MP0X19A/

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Amazing Grace-God’s Effectual Call in the life of John Newton

[ John MacArthur ]

Sermon ‘snippet’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQp8HXL7bmE

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Amazing Grace: How Sweet the Sound Exhibit

About the Exhibit
The author, John Newton, could not have known the impact his words would have. Newton’s own past had shaped him greatly, and his reflections on those earlier times had a profound effect on his writing. Phrases like, “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see,” and “Thro’ many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come,” illustrate this. He had been a slave trader, a self-professed “wretch” whose conversion to Christianity led him to a life serving as a minister in the Church of England.

The context and events of Newton’s life, explored in this exhibit, provide an understanding of the purpose behind the words of the hymn. After Newton’s death, “Amazing Grace” was refined and adjusted to fit the more nuanced context of individual communities who adopted it as their own. This exhibit traced the journey of “Amazing Grace” as the beloved song was infused with individuality. Blues, gospel, jazz, folk, and eventually rock and pop music adopted the song into their respective genres. By the 1970s, it had reached beyond church walls and religious gatherings moving to streets filled with marchers for civil rights, onto the stages of concerts pleading for peace, and into recording studios looking for something new to make a buck. And while audiences have changed considerably, “Amazing Grace” has become one of the most recognized and beloved songs in the world.

[ Museum of the Bible ]

Video of exhibit: https://www.museumofthebible.org/exhibits/amazing-grace

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Amazing Grace: The Tale of John Newton

A short biography on the life, influence, and ministry of John Newton.

Documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXpr8g3w4Ro

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The Grace of God in the Bible

There is always a danger of squeezing the Bible into a mold we bring to it rather than letting the Bible mold us. And, there could hardly be more diversity within the Protestant canon–diverse genres, historical settings, authors, literary levels, ages of history.

But while the Bible is not uniform, it is unified. The many books of the one Bible are not like the many pennies in the one jar. The pennies in the jar look the same, yet are disconnected; the books of the Bible (like the organs of a body) look different, yet are interconnected. As the past two generations’ recovery of biblical theology has shown time and again, certain motifs course through the Scripture from start to end, tying the whole thing together into a coherent tapestry–kingdom, temple, people of God, creation/new creation, and so on.

Yet underneath and undergirding all of these, it seems to me, is the motif of God’s grace, his favor and love to the undeserving. Don’t we see the grace of God in every book of the Bible? (NT books include the single verse that best crystallizes the point.)

Genesis shows God’s grace to a universally wicked world as he enters into relationship with a sinful family line (Abraham) and promises to bless the world through him.

Exodus shows God’s grace to his enslaved people in bringing them out of Egyptian bondage.

Leviticus shows God’s grace in providing his people with a sacrificial system to atone for their sins.

Numbers shows God’s grace in patiently sustaining his grumbling people in the wilderness and bringing them to the border of the promised land not because of them but in spite of them.

Deuteronomy shows God’s grace in giving the people the new land ‘not because of your righteousness’ (ch. 9).

Joshua shows God’s grace in giving Israel victory after victory in their conquest of the land with neither superior numbers nor superior obedience on Israel’s part.

Judges shows God’s grace in taking sinful, weak Israelites as leaders and using them to purge the land, time and again, of foreign incursion and idolatry.

Ruth shows God’s grace in incorporating a poverty-stricken, desolate, foreign woman into the line of Christ.

1 and 2 Samuel show God’s grace in establishing the throne (forever—2 Sam 7) of an adulterous murderer.

1 and 2 Kings show God’s grace in repeatedly prolonging the exacting of justice and judgment for kingly sin ‘for the sake of’ David. (And remember: by the ancient hermeneutical presupposition of corporate solidarity, by which the one stands for the many and the many for the one, the king represented the people; the people were in their king; as the king went, so went they.)

1 and 2 Chronicles show God’s grace by continually reassuring the returning exiles of God’s self-initiated promises to David and his sons.

Ezra shows God’s grace to Israel in working through the most powerful pagan ruler of the time (Cyrus) to bring his people back home to a rebuilt temple.

Nehemiah shows God’s grace in providing for the rebuilding of the walls of the city that represented the heart of God’s promises to his people.

Esther shows God’s grace in protecting his people from a Persian plot to eradicate them through a string of ‘fortuitous’ events.

Job shows God’s grace in vindicating the sufferer’s cry that his redeemer lives (19:25), who will put all things right in this world or the next.

Psalms shows God’s grace by reminding us of, and leading us in expressing, the hesed (relentless covenant love) God has for his people and the refuge that he is for them.

Proverbs shows us God’s grace by opening up to us a world of wisdom in leading a life of happy godliness.

Ecclesiastes shows God’s grace in its earthy reminder that the good things of life can never be pursued as the ultimate things of life and that it is God who in his mercy satisfies sinners (note 7:20; 8:11).

Song of Songs shows God’s grace and love for his bride by giving us a faint echo of it in the pleasures of faithful human sexuality.

Isaiah shows God’s grace by reassuring us of his presence with and restoration of contrite sinners.

Jeremiah shows God’s grace in promising a new and better covenant, one in which knowledge of God will be universally internalized.

Lamentations shows God’s grace in his unfailing faithfulness in the midst of sadness.

Ezekiel shows God’s grace in the divine heart surgery that cleansingly replaces stony hearts with fleshy ones.

Daniel shows God’s grace in its repeated miraculous preservation of his servants.

Hosea shows God’s grace in a real-live depiction of God’s unstoppable love toward his whoring wife.

Joel shows God’s grace in the promise to pour out his Spirit on all flesh.

Amos shows God’s grace in the Lord’s climactic promise of restoration in spite of rampant corruption.

Obadiah shows God’s grace by promising judgment on Edom, Israel’s oppressor, and restoration of Israel to the land in spite of current Babylonian captivity.

Jonah shows God’s grace toward both immoral Nineveh and moral Jonah, irreligious pagans and a religious prophet, both of whom need and both of whom receive the grace of God.

Micah shows God’s grace in the prophecy’s repeated wonder at God’s strange insistence on ‘pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression’ (7:18).

Nahum shows God’s grace in assuring Israel of good news’ and ‘peace,’ promising that the Assyrians have tormented them for the last time.

Habakkuk shows God’s grace that requires nothing but trusting faith amid insurmountable opposition, freeing us to rejoice in God even in desolation.

Zephaniah shows God’s grace in the Lord’s exultant singing over his recalcitrant yet beloved people.

Haggai shows God’s grace in promising a wayward people that the latter glory of God’s (temple-ing) presence with them will far surpass its former glory.

Zechariah shows God’s grace in the divine pledge to open up a fountain for God’s people to ‘cleanse them from sin and uncleanness’ (13:1).

Malachi shows God’s grace by declaring the Lord’s no-strings-attached love for his people.

Matthew shows God’s grace in fulfilling the Old Testament promises of a coming king. (5:17)

Mark shows God’s grace as this coming king suffers the fate of a common criminal to buy back sinners. (10:45)

Luke shows that God’s grace extends to all the people one would not expect: hookers, the poor, tax collectors, sinners, Gentiles (‘younger sons’). (19:10)

John shows God’s grace in becoming one of us, flesh and blood (1:14), and dying and rising again so that by believing we might have life in his name. (20:31)

Acts shows God’s grace flooding out to all the world–starting in Jerusalem, ending in Rome; starting with Peter, apostle to the Jews, ending with Paul, apostle to the Gentiles. (1:8)

Romans shows God’s grace in Christ to the ungodly (4:5) while they were still sinners (5:8) that washes over both Jew and Gentile.

1 Corinthians shows God’s grace in favoring what is lowly and foolish in the world. (1:27)

2 Corinthians shows God’s grace in channeling his power through weakness rather than strength. (12:9)

Galatians shows God’s grace in justifying both Jew and Gentile by Christ-directed faith rather than self-directed performance. (2:16)

Ephesians shows God’s grace in the divine resolution to unite us to his Son before time began. (1:4)

Philippians shows God’s grace in Christ’s humiliating death on an instrument of torture—for us. (2:8)

Colossians shows God’s grace in nailing to the cross the record of debt that stood against us. (2:14)

1 Thessalonians shows God’s grace in providing the hope-igniting guarantee that Christ will return again. (4:13)

2 Thessalonians shows God’s grace in choosing us before time, that we might withstand Christ’s greatest enemy. (2:13)

1 Timothy shows God’s grace in the radical mercy shown to ‘the chief of sinners.’ (1:15)

2 Timothy shows God’s grace to be that which began (1:9) and that which fuels (2:1) the Christian life.

Titus shows God’s grace in saving us by his own cleansing mercy when we were most mired in sinful passions. (3:5)

Philemon shows God’s grace in transcending socially hierarchical structures with the deeper bond of Christ-won Christian brotherhood. (v. 16)

Hebrews shows God’s grace in giving his Son to be both our sacrifice to atone for us once and for all as well as our high priest to intercede for us forever. (9:12)

James shows us God’s grace by giving to those who have been born again ‘of his own will’ (1:18) ‘wisdom from above’ for meaningful godly living. (3:17)

1 Peter shows God’s grace in securing for us an unfading, imperishable inheritance no matter what we suffer in this life. (1:4)

2 Peter shows God’s grace in guaranteeing the inevitability that one day all will be put right as the evil that has masqueraded as good will be unmasked at the coming Day of the Lord. (3:10)

1 John shows God’s grace in adopting us as his children. (3:1)

2 and 3 John show God’s grace in reminding specific individuals of ‘the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever.’ (2 Jn 2)

Jude shows God’s grace in the Christ who presents us blameless before God in a world rife with moral chaos. (v. 24)

Revelation shows God’s grace in preserving his people through cataclysmic suffering, a preservation founded on the shed blood of the lamb. (12:11)

[ Dane Ortland ]

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The Case for Grace: A Journalist Explores the Evidence of Transformed Lives

The Case for Grace, Lee Strobel crafts a compelling and highly personal experiential case for God, focusing on God’s transforming work in the lives of men and women today.

Writing with unusual candor, Lee draws upon his own journey from atheism to Christianity to explore the depth and breadth of God’s redeeming love for spiritually wayward people. He travels thousands of miles to capture the inspiring stories of everyday people whose values have been radically changed and who have discovered the “how” and “why” behind God’s amazing grace. You’ll encounter racists, addicts, and even murderers who have found new hope and purpose. You’ll meet once-bitter people who have received God’s power to forgive those who have harmed them—and, equally amazing, people mired in guilt who have discovered that they can even forgive themselves.

Through it all, you will be encouraged as you see how God’s grace can revolutionize your eternity and relationships… starting today.

[ Lee Strobel ]

Book summary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGsQ42hG5_4

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Stories Of God’s Grace

[ Ligonier Ministries ]

Documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQCibbBwOg8&list=PL30acyfm60fXSIDupFRZJE530Zy5U6YtM

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Grace – More Than We Deserve, Greater than We Imagine

Moira Brown speaks with Max Lucado about his book, “Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater than We Imagine.”

[ 100 Huntley ]

Interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2dBEmPaBa4

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Grace

Have we settled for wimpy grace? It politely occupies a phrase in a hymn, fits nicely on a church sign. Never causes trouble or demands a response. When asked, “Do you believe in grace?” who could say no?

Max Lucado asks a deeper question: Have you been changed by grace? Shaped by grace? Strengthened by grace? Emboldened by grace? Softened by grace? Snatched by the nape of your neck and shaken to your senses by grace?

[ Max Lucado ]

Illustrative video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dT2rAo293HQ

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Grace Is Greater Than

When sin piles up, we try desperately to find a way out. But God enters the picture and shows us that there is nothing too big for His free gift of grace. No matter what you’ve done, Grace is greater than mistakes.

[ Kyle Idleman ]

Mistakes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIpZa_ALMPs
Hurts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCh96y-TkZw
Circumstances: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZ9HhnGlQv4
Weaknesses: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGDdlxvStTA

Grace To You: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHoJk3z-5m8

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Justified By His Grace

How do we come to faith? Left to ourselves, we cannot see our need for God — or, if we do, we try to “fix” our own lives. But as we dig deeper into the opening verses of Titus 3, we learn that salvation is not just an alteration or addition: it is a radical transformation that affects us to our core. The only adequate basis for this kind of change is the grace of God and the love of Christ, revealed by the Holy Spirit.

[ Alistair Begg ]

Sermon video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=at4cX98_tPg

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Are You Glad For Grace?

A sermon clip from: “The Hand of the Lord Was With Them”
[ Kevin DeYoung ]

Sermon ‘snippet’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7pRBGSqGtI

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Grace Through the Eyes of the Father

Matt Chandler preaches a general session at The Legacy Conference in 2012 on Luke 15. How does the Father view grace?

[ Matt Chandler ]

Sermon video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0t4bhzgoFKA

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When Grace Happens

Sermon series.

[ Max Lucado ]

Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-B2JMji9mvw
Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6tl2VMoiUs
Part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_YwEM433-g
Part 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0qIjBuRjNw
Part 5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qf4quJuHA5o

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Gratitude for God’s Hope and Grace

Max Lucado shares about the love of God and the amazing grace and hope God gives His children. Our hearts should overflow with gratitude for all the blessings that we receive from God. From Max Lucado’s Series, “Traveling Light.”

[ Max Lucado ]

Book overview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICH0wf981SI

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The Riches of His Grace

How do we come to know God? Though some may seek him within themselves or outside in the natural world, the Bible teaches that we can only come to God through his provision in Christ. In this message from Ephesians 1, Alistair Begg explains the redemption that Jesus accomplished for us by his sacrifice. As we recognize that we cannot redeem ourselves, the riches of God’s grace draw our hearts to trust in what Christ has done.

[ Alistair Begg ]

Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3ai7IrUAoU
Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VY2jS7wOoFA

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The Scandal of Grace (Mark 2:13–17)

[ John MacArthur ]

Sermon video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJqglCcOvZ0

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What’s So Amazing About Grace?

The word “amazing” means astounding, astonishing, bewildering, perplexing. Why is it that grace is so astonishing, bewildering, perplexing and causing overwhelming wonder? Grace is that attitude in the heart of God that causes Him to be favorable toward wretches like you and me and all the rest of the wretches on this planet of wretches. It is an attitude in the heart of God which is so unlike the attitudes in the hearts of men that it is never seen except as an overflow into the hearts of those into whom God has poured His grace. Amazingly, today the majority of people don’t even know what grace is. This message explains what it is and why it truly is amazing.

[ D. James Kennedy ]

Sermon video: http://www.djameskennedy.com/full-view-sermon/djk19625a-what’s-so-amazing-about-grace

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A Debtor to Mercy Alone

A debtor to mercy alone
Of covenant mercy I sing
I come with Your righteousness on
My humble offering to bring
The judgments of Your holy law
With me can have nothing to do
My Savior’s obedience and blood
Hide all my transgressions
From view

The work which Your goodness began
The arm of Your strength will complete
Your promise is yes and amen
And never was forfeited yet
The future or things that are now
No power below or above
Can make You Your purpose forego
Or sever my soul from Your love

My name from the palms of Your hands
Eternity will not erase
Impressed on Your heart it remains
In marks of indelible grace
Yes I, to the end will endure
Until I bow down at Your throne
Forever and always secure
Forever and always secure
Forever and always secure
A debtor to mercy alone

[ Augustus M. Toplady ]

Music video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EitJ0J6WsmM

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What is Grace?

I consider myself an expert on the subject of race not because I understand it better than anyone else in fact most times I’m left completely clueless as to what grace actually is I just know it when I see it and I know it when I experience it because frankly I’ve needed a lot of it in my life so I guess I’m not an expert just I have a lot of practice but even with all the years of messing up and needing what Christians call God’s grace I’m still left struggling with the most basic of questions what is grace you see I think way too often we in the church overcomplicate something that at its purest form could not be more simple

you see grace is…

Gained Righteousness (Riches) At Christ’s Expense

meaning that was Jesus’s death on the cross he purchased for us a right relationship with God that we could not earn for ourselves .

because

Grace is Received And Can’t be Earned

and once this

Gift is Realized it Adequately Covers Everything

meaning every debt is canceled every single sin past present and future so

Get Ready And Come Expectantly

because grace is a

Growing Revolution And Carnal Execution

meaning that as we leave the flesh behind and as we die more and more to ourselves we are stepping into a movement that continues to change the world by

Giving Redemption And Communion to Everyone

God is

Granting Rest After Condemnation Ends

because a

Gap has been Realized And Connected Entirely

a bridge has been built the battle has been won and

God Reigns And Christ is Exalted

so simply put grace is proof that

God Really Always Can Endure.

[ Jon Jorgenson ]

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That Is The Grace

Sermon ‘jam’.

[ Matt Chandler ]

Sermon ‘jam’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krAw5c-vykM

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O How the Grace of God Amazes Me

O how the grace of God
Amazes me!
It loosed me from my bonds
And set me free!
What made it happen so?
His own will, this much I know,
Set me, as now I show,
At liberty.

My God has chosen me,
Though one of nought,
To sit beside my King
In heaven’s court.
Hear what my Lord has done
O, the love that made him run
To meet his erring son!
This has God wrought.

Not for my righteousness,
For I have none,
But for his mercy’s sake,
Jesus, God’s Son,
Suffered on Calvary’s tree—
Crucified with thieves was he—
Great was his grace to me,
His wayward one.

And when I think of how,
At Calvary,
He bore sin’s penalty
Instead of me,
Amazed, I wonder why
He, the sinless One, should die
For one so vile as I;
My Savior he!

Now all my heart’s desire
Is to abide
In him, my Savior dear,
In him to hide.
My shield and buckler he,
Covering and protecting me;
From Satan’s darts I’ll be
Safe at his side.

Lord Jesus, hear my prayer,
Your grace impart;
When evil thoughts arise
Through Satan’s art,
O, drive them,
King of my heart.

Come now, the whole of me,
Eyes, ears, and voice.
Join me, creation all,
With joyful noise:
Praise him who broke the chain
Holding me in sin’s domain
And set me free again!
Sing and rejoice!

[ Emmanuel T. Sibomana ]

Music video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAsCo_RsHJg

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Thank You For Loving Me

[ Tommy Walker ]

Music Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q78XZbs8lAc

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By God’s Grace

[ Chris Coyne ]

Music Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8P8xei8AgSk

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This Is Amazing Grace

[ Phil Wickham ]

Music Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjXjkbODrro

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Grace That Is Greater Than All Our Sin

[ Sovereign Grace Music ]

Lyric Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Je22nSpTZVQ

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Grace So Marvelous (Grace Greater Than Our Sin)

Worship video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YV21DE7IE5Y

*****************************
Grace

My heart is so proud. My mind is so unfocused.
I see the things You do through me as great things I have done.
And now You gently break me, then lovingly You take me
And hold me as my father and mold me as my maker.

I ask you: “How many times will you pick me up,
When I keep on letting you down?
And each time I will fall short of Your glory,
How far will forgiveness abound?”
And You answer: ” My child, I love you.
And as long as you’re seeking My face,
You’ll walk in the power of My daily sufficient grace.”

At times I may grow weak and feel a bit discouraged,
Knowing that someone, somewhere could do a better job.
For who am I to serve You? I know I don’t deserve You.
And that’s the part that burns in my heart and keeps me hanging on.

I ask you: “How many times will you pick me up,
When I keep on letting you down?
And each time I will fall short of Your glory,
How far will forgiveness abound?”
And You answer: ” My child, I love you.
And as long as you’re seeking My face,
You’ll walk in the power of My daily sufficient grace.”
You are so patient with me, Lord.

As I walk with You, I’m learning what Your grace really means.
The price that I could never pay was paid at Calvary.
So, instead of trying to repay You, I’m learning to simply obey You
By giving up my life to you For all that You’ve given to me.

I ask you: “How many times will you pick me up,
When I keep on letting you down?
And each time I will fall short of Your glory,
How far will forgiveness abound?”
And You answer: ” My child, I love you.
And as long as you’re seeking My face,
You’ll walk in the power of My daily sufficient grace.”

[ Laura Story ]

*****************************
What’s So Amazing About Grace

Refrain:
I’ve been to Calvary, I’ve seen the cross
I’ve seen the agony of pain in His face.
I’ve seen the eyes of Jesus look at me with love
And i know what’s so amazing about grace.

If you have to ask the question, “What’s amazing about grace?”
Then you’ve never heard the story of the cross.
If you ask what really happened when he died on Calvary
Then you need to know how much salvation cost.
(Repeat Refrain)

If you have to ask the question “Why did Mary wash His feet?”
Then you need to know the joy forgiveness brings.
If you ask what really happened when He rose up from the grave,
Then you need to know we serve a living King.

If you have to ask the question, “What’s this story all about?”
Then you need to know the Man of Galilee.
If you ask what really happened when I gave my life to Him
Then you need to know He died for you and me.
(Repeat Refrain)

*****************************
Thank You for Saving Me

What can I give to you
What can I offer to the king
For all the love you’ve shown
For all your mercy over me
I called your name, you heard my cry
Out of the grave, and into life
My heart is yours, my soul is free
Thank you God for saving me
Thank you God for saving me
The rock of salvation
My hope is built on nothing less
Morning by morning
How great is your faithfulness
I called your name, you heard my cry
Out of the grave, and into life
My heart is yours, my soul is free
Thank you God for saving me
Thank you God for saving me
Thank you God for saving me
You gave your life upon the cross
You suffered once for all
You made a way
Jesus in victory you rose
You made us all your own
Now we are saved
You gave your life upon the cross
You suffered once for all
You made a way
Jesus in victory you rose
You made us all your own
Now we are saved
Thank you God for saving me
Thank you God
Thank you God for saving me
Thank you God for the cross
Thank you God for saving me, for saving me
I called your name, you heard my cry
Out of the grave, and into life
My heart is yours, my soul is free
Thank you God for saving me
Thank you God for saving me
Thank you God for saving me

[ Chris Tomlin – “Burning Lights” album ]

*****************************
Mercy and Grace

Verse 1 (Shai Linne)

I gotta say this, God is gracious
That’s not just a doctrine statement, but my heartfelt proclamation
Of a God who saves men without obligation
From sin’s domination and the bonds of Satan
Nobody sins in moderation
That’s obvious from our evil thoughts to our conversation
We were dead, we needed more than an operation
We had to be brought out the grave and made alive, awakened
It’s quite amazing how in salvation
Each person of the Trinity contributes like a compilation
The Father elected me, Jesus bled for me
And regeneration is the Holy Spirit’s confirmation
So we repent of our abominations
Consecration to the God who’s exalted above the constellations
The observation of the congregation is
God is gracious with a lot of patience, so we gotta praise Him!

We’ll forever praise His mercy and grace
Praise the Lord for His mercy and grace
His mercy and grace
And Christ took the curse in our place
Praise the Lord for His mercy and grace (repeat)

Verse 2 (Shai Linne)

When I speak of God’s mercy, I’m speaking of His tendency
To tenderly express empathy towards His enemies
Whether it be mentally or outright obscenity
We effectively deserve hell for our enmity
Adam left a legacy of sin, since we share in his pedigree
We therefore share in his destiny
If God didn’t intervene, we’d all perish eventually
In His great mercy, He gave us the remedy
Christ lived sinlessly, then He paid the penalty
His assassination was public like John Kennedy
Rose on the third day, exalted to the heavenlies
Repent and see your sins will be deleted from His memory
Gain a new identity, eternal serenity
Now it’s clear we should “volunteer” like Tennessee
To spread His fame endlessly, the message is essentially
A merciful God sent His Son to set sinners free!

Verse 3 (Timothy Brindle)

In mercy, Christ saw our wretched condition
But instead of giving us death for our sinning
In grace, His blood paid the debt that’s infinite
Now resurrected with Christ and blessed because we’re in Him
Mercy: Christ turned the Father’s anger
Grace: Christ earned us all His favor
And since Christ kept the precepts of the law
Because of His perfection, we’re accepted by God!
Real righteousness He gladly gives us
The Father happily lavishes this
Instead of filthy rags, our Dad’s forgiveness
The ultimate story of rags to riches!
His grace displayed in saving the worst men
Behold, God’s riches of grace are a Person (Jesus)
Christ, the fountain abounding in His grace
Over my foul sin and mountains of mistakes
In pleasure He’s immeasurably gracious
Now we’re seated with Jesus in the heavenly places
Plus His Spirit’s the strength that will change Tim
He daily gives the grace of sanctification
Forever we’ll praise the I Am
Who gave us grace in the Lamb before the ages began
So Shai, with that, resume the chorus
Because of the cross, all His attributes are for us!

Shai: Yo Tim, that was a bangin’ verse, b
Tim: Nah, remember, I’m a sinner saved by mercy
Shai: What’s mercy?
Tim: It’s not getting what we deserve
Because Christ already suffered the judgment and curse
But Shai, yo, you blazed it ace!
Shai: Praise God, I’m just a sinner saved by grace
Tim: Well, define grace
Shai: Our redemption price immense
Both: Grace stands for God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense!

[ Shai Linne ]

*****************************
Just As I Am

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot;
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt;
Fightings within, and fears without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind;
Yes, all I need, in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Just as I am, Thy love unknown
Has broken every barrier down;
Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Because Thy promise I believe
O Lamb of God, I come, I come

[ Charlotte Elliott ]

*****************************
Amazing Love (You Are My King)

Im forgiven because you were forsaken
Im accepted, You were condemned
Im alive and well
Your spirit is within me
Because you died and rose again

Im forgiven because you were forsaken
I’m accepted, you were condemned
I’m alive and well
your spirit is within me
because you died and rose again

Amazing love, how can it be?
that you, my king. would die for me
Amazing love, I know its true
its my joy to honor you
Amazing love how can it be?
that my king would die for me
Amazing love I know its true
its my joy to honor you
in all I do
I honor you

Im forgiven because you were forsaken
I’m accepted, you were condemned
I’m alive and well
your spirit is within me
because you died and rose again

Amazing love how can it be
that you, my king would die for me
Amazing love, I know its true
its my joy to honor you
Amazing love how can it be?
that you, my king, would die for me
Amazing love, I know its true
its my joy to honor you
in all I do I honor you

You are my king
You are my king
Jesus, You are my king
Jesus, You are my king

Amazing love, how can it be?
that you, my king, would die for me
Amazing love, I know its true
its my joy to honor you
Amazing love, how can it be?
that you, my king would die for me
Amazing love I know its true
its my joy to honor you
in all I do I honor you
in all I do honor you

[ Newsboys ]

*****************************
Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)

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

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed

My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures

My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace

My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, Who called me here below
Will be forever mine
Will be forever mine
You are forever mine

[ Chris Tomlin ]

*****************************
Grace Like Rain

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 so clearly

Hallelujah, grace like rain falls down on me
Hallelujah, all my stains are washed away, washed away

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed

Hallelujah, grace like rain falls down on me
Hallelujah, all my stains are washed away, washed away

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun
We’ve no less days to sing Your praise
Than when we first begun

Hallelujah, grace like rain falls down on me
Hallelujah, all my stains are washed away, washed away

Hallelujah, grace like rain falls down on me
Hallelujah, all my stains are washed away, washed away

[ Todd Agnew ]

*****************************
Your Grace Is Enough

[Verse 1]
Great is Your faithfulness oh God
You wrestle with the sinner’s heart
You lead us by still waters and to mercy
And nothing can keep us apart

[Pre-Chorus]
So remember Your people
Remember Your children
Remember Your promise
Oh God

[Chorus]
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough for me

[Verse 2]
Great is Your love and justice God
You use the weak to lead the strong
You lead us in the song of Your salvation
And all Your people sing along

[Pre-Chorus]
So remember Your people
Remember Your children
Remember Your promise
Oh God

[Chorus] [x2]
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough for me

[Pre-Chorus]
So remember Your people
Remember Your children
Remember Your promise
Oh God

[Chorus]
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough for me

[Outro]
Your grace is enough
Heaven reaching down to us
Your grace is enough for me
God I see your grace is enough
I’m covered in your love
Your grace is enough for me
For me

[ Chris Tomlin – “Arriving” album ]

*****************************
In Christ Alone

In Christ Alone
In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm

What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless Babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save?
Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live, I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again

And as He stands in victory
Sin? s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From a life? s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny

No power of hell, no scheme of man
Could ever pluck me from His hand
Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I stand

I will stand, I will stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground, all other ground
Is sinking sand, is sinking sand
So I stand.

[ Mercy Me ]

*****************************
It Is Well With My Soul

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

REFRAIN:
It is well (it is well)
with my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

——

FYI: Original lyrics that were not sung:

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

[ Written by Horatio G. Spafford; Sung by Audrey Assad ]

*****************************
Here Is Love

Here is love, vast as the ocean,
Loving-kindness as the flood,
When the Prince of Life, our Ransom,
Shed for us His precious blood.
Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten,
Throughout heav’n’s eternal days.

On the mount of crucifixion,
Fountains opened deep and wide;
Through the floodgates of God’s mercy
Flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers,
Poured incessant from above,
And heav’n’s peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love.

Let me, all Thy love accepting,
Love Thee, ever all my days;
Let me seek Thy kingdom only,
And my life be to Thy praise;
Thou alone shalt be my glory,
Nothing in the world I see;
Thou hast cleansed and sanctified me,
Thou Thyself hast set me free.

In Thy truth Thou dost direct me
By Thy Spirit through Thy Word;
And Thy grace my need is meeting,
As I trust in Thee, my Lord.
Of Thy fullness Thou art pouring
Thy great love and pow’r on me,
Without measure, full and boundless,
Drawing out my heart to Thee.

[ Matt Redman – “Hymns Ancient and Modern” album (Lyrics by William Rees) ]

*****************************
I Stand Amazed (How Marvelous)

I stand amazed in the presence
of Jesus the Nazarene.
And wonder how He could love me,
a sinner condemned, unclean.

How marvelous, How wonderful
and my song will ever be
How marvelous, How wonderful
is my Saviour’s love for me.

He took my sins and my sorrows
He made them his very own
He bore the burden to Calvary
He suffered and bled for me.

How marvelous, How wonderful
and my song will ever be
How marvelous, How wonderful
is my Saviour’s love for me.

Forever I will sing Your praise
Jesus, Risen King
Oh my God I stand amazed that You loved me.

When with ransomed in glory
His face I at last shall see
Twill be joy through the ages
to sing of His love of me.

How marvelous, How wonderful
and my song will ever be
How marvelous, How wonderful
is my Saviour’s love for me.

How marvelous, How wonderful
and my song will ever be
How marvelous, How wonderful
is my Saviour’s love for me.

[ Chris Tomlin ]

*****************************
Grace Wins

In my weakest moment i see you
Shaking your head in disgrace
I can read the disapointment
Written all over your face

Here come those wispers in my ear
Saying who do you think you are
Looks like you are on your own from here
Because grace can never reach that far

But in the shadow of the shame
Beat down by all the blame
I hear you call my name
Saying its not over
But my heart starts to beat so loud
Now drowning out the dout
I’m down but i’m not out

Theres a war between guilt and grace
And there fighting for a sacred space
But i’m living proof
Grace wins every time

No more lying down in deaths defeat
Now i’m rising up in victory
Singing Hallelujah
Grace Wins every time

Words cant describe the way it feels
When mercy floods a thirsty soul
A Broken side begins to heal
And grace returns what guilt has stole

But in the shadow of the shame
Beat down by all the blame
I hear you call my name
Saying its not over
But my heart starts to beat so loud
Now drowning out the dout
I’m down but i’m not out

Theres a war between guilt and grace
And there fighting for a sacred space
But i’m living proof
Grace wins every time

No more lying down in deaths defeat
Now i’m rising up in victory
Singing Hallelujah
Grace Wins every time

For the Prodical son
Grace Wins
For the Woman at the well
Grace Wins
For the blind men and the begger
Grace Wins
For always and forever
Grace Wins
For the lost out on the street
Grace Wins
For the worst part of you and me
Grace Wins
For the thief on the cross
Grace Wins
For the world that is lost

Theres a war between guilt and grace
And there fighting for a sacred space
But i’m living proof
Grace wins every time

No more lying down in deaths defeat
Now i’m rising up in victory
Singing Hallelujah
Grace Wins every time

Every time

Yah i’m living proof
Grace wins every time

[ Matthew West ]

*****************************
Amazing Grace

As a tribute to the late Glenn Frey, Tim imagines what it would sound like if The Eagles did a cover of “Amazing Grace” in this performance from his new DVD, “Just About Enough”

[ Tim Hawkins ]

*****************************
More than Works
(Parody of “More than Words” by Extreme)

They might tell you there’s lots of works God wants to see from you
That’s not the right attitude – none are saved by things that man can do
But Jesus said the deed was done on Calvary
More than works ‘cause all the good you do ain’t no big deal
And it couldn’t get you saved – that’s too costly –the Bible tells me so
What would you do if I quote Ephesians 2
No man’s works can save his soul – that’s so nobody can boast
The Good Book says that it’s not by works but grace
And you couldn’t make things new without faith in our Lord too
Now they might try to talk to you and make you just like them
(But) all you have to do is hope in Christ and just be born again
And trust the Holy Ghost – He’ll never let you go
More than works ‘cause all of men’s good deeds are still too small
And they couldn’t get you saved – but you can be ‘cause Christ already rose
What would you do if your heart was born anew
Your good works could show your faith, but you must first take His grace
What do you say? If you trust His Word today
Then you could still make things new just by prayin’ – why don’t you?

[ ApologetiX – “Apol-acoustiX” album ]

*****************************
I’m A Receiver
(Parody of “I’m a Believer” by The Monkees)

I thought God was only Jewish fairy tales
Meant for someone else with lots more faith
All my doubts depressed me — that’s the way it stayed
Till a voice said, “Honey, call my name”

Then I got His grace — now I’m a receiver
God replaced — the doubt in my mind — I’ve been loved
I’m a receiver — Got the Redeemer in my life

I thought God was more impressed with givin’ things
He said, “Boy, I gave the best I got
“What’s the use in strivin’? All your debt is paid
“Didn’t leave a punchline on My grave”
Then I got His grace — now I’m a receiver
Got a place — a palace on high — up above
I’m a receiver — I’m gonna be there if I die

What’s the use in strivin? All your debt is paid
Check out Romans 10:9 — I got saved

When I got His grace — now I’m a receiver
Mama says — I’m out of my mind — I’ve been touched
I’m a receiver — I got Ephesians 2:8,9

Then I got His grace — now I’m a receiver
Not afraid — about when I die
Now I’m a receiver, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

[ ApologetiX – “Hits The Road” album ]

*****************************
Going to Forget Our Bad Deeds
(Parody of “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” performed by Simple Minds)

Hey, hey, hey, hey!
Oooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ohhhhh

Once you concede your bad deeds
How do you know there’s been atonement, baby?
Tell me, you struggle and doubt
Heaven could ever think you’re righteous now, yet
The Lord’s grace is real and it’s strong
He knows our tendencies that we are working on
No change can pull us from God
After Christ gets into your heart, baby

Don’t you — go fret about these
Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t
He’s going to – forget our bad deeds

When you sin abruptly
Look God’s way – you’re never ugly
Grace keeps calling, grace keeps calling now, now, now
Will you recognize, please
Toddlers, they don’t walk upright
They keep falling, they keep falling down, down, down, down

Hey, hey, hey, hey!
Oooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ohhhhh

Don’t you try and pretend
It’s my opinion when it’s His command
I’ll quote — Hebrews
8:12 first and then 10:17 – it’s a surety – God’s
Going to forget our bad deeds
How will you know? Glance here in Romans 8, He
Told you straight from the start
God put His Spirit there in your heart, baby

Don’t you — go fret about these
Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t
He’s going to – forget our bad deeds

‘Cause He washed them white
When you called Christ’s name
Yes, He washed them white
When you called Christ’s name
And they’re washed away

Forever washed away

Well, He washed them white
The moment you called Christ’s name
When you called Christ’s name

And said, “Lord, la-la-la-Lor-ord
La-la-la-Lor-ord
La-la-la, la-la-la la-la-la-Lord
La-la-la-Lor-ord
La-la-la-Lor-ord
La-la-la, la-la-la la-la-la-Lord
La-la-la-Lor-ord
La-la-la-Lor-ord
La-la-la, la-la-la la-la-la-Lord
Well, He washed them white
When you called Christ name
Yes, He washed them white

Hebrews 8:12
“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

[ ApologetiX – “I Know You Are but What Am I?” album ]

*****************************
A Place of Grace
(Parody of “Ace of Spade” by Motorhead)

If your life’s a shambles, don’t turn to modern man
His wisdom’s loathsome to God, it’s plain to see
They play religious games – makes no difference what they claim
All them share a need – they’ve only got good deeds
In the place of grace, the place of grace

Praying for enlightenment, advance through different levels
Going it alone — it’s always based on deeds
Savin’ up for Heaven – saved by what they do
Don’t know when to quit, the devil makes them sweat
In place of grace, in place of grace

You know it’s more than rules – you can’t believe those fools
Go back and read Galatians, baby – find out how to live forever
And don’t forget who told ya

Pushing up the daisies, He showed He loved us deeply
Read and believe – the dead man stands again
Our Savior did arise – take one look at Christ
The only thing you need was done on Calvary
The place of grace, the place of grace, uh

[ ApologetiX – “Nichey” album ]

*****************************
Bends To Low Places
(Parody of “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks)

Blamed it all on my youth
I screwed up and goofed and ruined my life, I declared
My past was a joke and I’d gone so low
God was the last one I thought would be there
And I was sort of surprised at what appeared in the Bible
When I took a glance at that page
Cause Acts chapter 2:21 says Jesus rescues
Whosoever calls on His name
Cause my God bends down to low places
And He’s with me now and I feel safe ’cause
My dues are paid and I’ll be O.K
And my God’s big on total grace cause
If we slip and fall He will go save us
Oh my God bends to low places!
I did stuff that’s wrong
I was messed up so long, but then God bent near the floor
Ever since that night, I put faith in Christ
And I know my hope is assured
Hey, I didn’t need a washing machine
To give me a shower and rinse
I will rely on His life-giving power
To forgive my sins

[ ApologetiX [ “Biblical Graffatti” album ]

*****************************
Goodnews
(Parody of “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins)

Been workin’ – so hard
You’re under – the law
Hey now – those laws
Won’t help you come to God
I’ve got this feelin’ – what I just told ya you doubt
I’ll bet Ephesians 2:8 will clear up this now

Now I gotta tell you – good news
It’s not just Sunday pews
Please – you need – to only trust and believe
Jack, it’s fact – comes from the Book that’s black
You – could use
Everybody loves good news

Your fate is – so cruel
Obeyin’ every rule
But way down in your heart
You’re fallin’, fallin’ so short
Somebody should tell you – that life is a pass or fail ride
I’ve tryin’ tell you – you’ll fail if you don’t believe in Christ
You could die

But you know there’s good news
For you
It’s not just some big ruse
Ooh ee –  it’s free – check Galatians part three
Oh, I know – how those commandments go
You could use
Everybody loves good news
Got good news (Oh!) – God’s good news (Oh!)
Got good news (Oh!) – God’s good news (Oh!)

Got to turn it around
Get your faith off the ground
God’s grace will pull ya through
Ahhhhhhhhh
I’m tellin’ you the truth!

Good news
It’s not just Sunday pews
Please – you need – (to) only trust and believe
Jack, it’s fact – comes from the Book that’s black
You – could use
Everybody loves good news (good news)
Good news (good news)
It’s not just Sunday pews
Please – you need – (to) only trust and believe
Jack, it’s fact – comes from the Book that’s black
You – could use
Everybody loves, everybody loves
Everybody loves, everybody loves
Everybody loves, everybody loves
Everybody loves good news

[ ApologetiX – “Loaded 45s” album ]

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I Made The Team
(Parody of “I’m Eighteen” by Alice Cooper)

I fall on my face and hands
The last ball knocked me on the ground
“Find us a hitter, ” they shout in the stands
I’m annoying all the fans
I made the team — and I don’t know how to bunt
Made the team — I just don’t score any runs
Made the team — I’ve got swing and pray
I’m gonna get out anyway
I’ll go running to the wrong base, oh yeah
I’ve got, a Babe Ruth’s waist and an old man’s arm
Look at me field — you’ll get alarmed
Don’t always throw where I’m taught, there’s no doubt
Still I keep winnin’ — it’s a miracle how
But I made the team — I get confused every play
Made the team — I guess I’m no Willie Mays
Made the team — my God He did the trade
LEAD
I fall on my face and my hands
I fall at the feet of Christ
I’m just a sinner — a little-league life
But I’m important in my Lord’s plans
I made the team, and I like it!
Yes, I like it! Whoa, I like it, love it, like it, love it
Made the team, made the team, made the team and I like it!

[ ApologetiX – “The Boys Aren’t Backing Down” album ]

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Lemonade
(Parody of “Renegade” by Styx)

Oh, Mama, I’ve been cleared of my crimes and I’m not under the law
Law has been put an end to by somethin’ that is so far above it all
Oh, Mama, I can hear you a-cryin’, you’re so scared it’s all a joke
Examine Romans 10 for a while and then you’ll know I can’t be wrong
The Jesus love I knew about has finally found me
Made lemonade from my mistakes — the sweet from the soury
10 verse 4 in Romans says — disobedience ends with faith
In the Son of Man
Oh, Mama, I’ve believed on the Lamb of God, the High Priest of My Faith
God says that He’s forever alive now it’s for sure He’ll keep me saved
Dear Mama, back in Hebrews you will find it, in verse 7:24
Amen, I’m comin’ out from the shadows and I don’t have scary thoughts
They’ve taken off the noose around me — I will be found clean
The reservations had been made with Jesus on Calvary
Everyone has gone astray, but you can repent today
If you want it man
Oh, Mama, I’ve been cleared of my crimes cause I’m not under the law
Amen, I’m comin’ out from the shadows and I don’t have scary thoughts
Hey, check this out, removed the doubts, the Bible astounds me
I read Galatians chapter 3:24 and zowie!
Twenty-four and -five explain, disobedience ends with grace
If you want it, man — You want it, man?

[ ApologetiX – “Grace Period” album ]

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Lost and Found
(Parody of “Round and Round” by Ratt)

Adam and Eve were wearin’ leaves
Seekin’ to hide because they bought the lie
Tightened their belts, excused themselves
God said, Away! I’ll put you somewhere else
I’m gonna make another way
You’re gonna go but then I’ll see you again
You’ll have it rough, I’ve said enough
Someday you’ll see

God knew right from the beginning
That you would end up sinning
He knew right from the start
The human error in our hearts
Lost and found — we’re lost-a but He just seeks and finds
Lost and found — when God’s around, grace abounds
I’ll tell you why

Lookin’ at Luke, chapter 19
Verse 10 it shows, you know, that Jesus said He
Would seek and find the lost of mankind
‘Cause God ordained
It in the fullness of time
Like Romans shows if you will check
Chapter 5 verse 10 His grace it thrives
When bad stuff is addin’ up
God’s grace excels
CHORUS

Adam and Eve were wearin’ leaves
Seekin’ to hide because they bought the lie
Tightened their belts, excused themselves
God made a way — but sendin’ Someone else
Lost and found…

[ ApologetiX – “The Bots Aren’t Backing Down” album ]

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The Real Sin Savior
(Parody of “The Real Slim Shady” by Eminem)

May I have your repentance please? May I have your repentance please?
Will you tell Him “Save me” and please stand up?
I repeat: will you tell Him “Save me” and please stand up?
We’re gonna have to prod them here
Y’all act like you never seen a nice person before, you oughta hope in the Lord
Your panting tongue is just thirstin’ for more
You started lookin’ around searchin’ cause you’re
Uncertain you’re sure you know where you’re goin’ eternally
If you return to God … ah, wait, no, wait, we’re sinning
We couldn’t get saved with the things we did, can we?
And Dr. J. says — nothing you did is such a grave sin it costs you salvation
Ha Ha — Heavenly livin’s above every man
“Chick-a-chick-a-chick-a he’s crazy! I’m sick of them ‘born agains’
Walkin’ around askin’ if you know God — speakin’ of You Know Who
Yeah, but there’s no proof though”
Yeah, probably got a couple of you who think I lack proof
But no worse than what’s goin’ on in America’s classrooms
Sometimes I wanna get on TV and just spread the truth
But can’t — but the school can tell me we come from evolution
“My mama was a fish — my mama was a fish
“And if we’re monkeys you might as well forget original sin!”
And that’s the message that we deliver to little kids
And expect them not to question on their own if God exists
Of course they’re gonna wonder if the Lord’s fake by the time they hit fourth grade
They got the Easter Bunny and Santa don’t they? We ain’t shinin’ examples
Well some of the scandals are caused by people posin’ as evangelists
But if Jesus loved His enemies and Pharisees
Then there’s no reason that you can’t get another chance and believe
But if you feel a slight chill, I got the anti-freeze
This is not a fantasy, it’s important and it’s free
I’ve sinned greatly, but Christ’s for real, baby
It’s a wonder He saved me and just didn’t hate me
So won’t you tell Him “Save me,” please stand up, please stand up, please stand up
Yes, I’ve been crazy, yes, I’ve been real shady
Always wanted Him to save me, but just didn’t say it
So won’t you tell Him “Save me,” please stand up, please stand up, please stand up
Will Smith don’t gotta discuss the Christian path to salvation
Well, I do — it affects him and affects you too
You think I give a care of he likes my parodies
Half of you kiddies won’t even look at me, let alone stare at me
But J., what if we pray? Wouldn’t we be weird?
Why? Would you guys reject Christ just to fit with your peers
So you can live in fear for the next 60 years? This ain’t imaginary, better get prepared
The price of sin yes it costs us dearly with death first
And when that part is over if you ain’t saved it gets much worse
Little chance they’ll put me now on MTV
Yeah, it’s true, but I think he’d scare all the kids — ree ree!
I said now’s when they oughta know and John 3:3
It shows the whole world how they need born again to be free
I’m singin’ you little girls and boys spoofs — all you do is ignore me
Though I have been sent here to inform you
And there’s a million of us just like me you judge like me
Were just like triple fudge ice cream; we’re just quite sweet
You watch Saul in Acts 9:3, you just might see you’re just like him, you’re not fightin’ me
I’ve sinned greatly, but Christ He still saved me
From a hundred temptations and death, sin and Hades
So won’t you tell Him “Save me,” please stand up, please stand up, please stand up
Yes, my sinned shamed me, yet I’ve been healed lately
God the Father forgave me from messin’ with Satan
So won’t you tell Him “Save me,” please stand up, please stand up, please stand up
I’m like a breath mint you listen to but I’m only givin’ you
Things you thought about in your head with my religious group
The only difference is I got the call to say it in front of y’all
And I don’t gotta be Paul — the Book I quote has it all
I just get out a Bible and read it and whether you like it you need it
As sure as I can see that better than 90 percent of you happen to doubt me
Then you wonder how can kids give up their values I tell you it’s funny
Cause at the place I’m goin’ when I’m buried
I’ll see the only person in the world I know who’s worthy
He’s the first and last and I’m J. Jackson I’m the worst
And I’m a jerk and Jesus knows that but my braggin’ wasn’t workin’
And every single person needs a sin savior urgently
You could be working on a burglary or sittin’ in a nunnery
Or keepin’ part of the law perfectly screamin’ “I don’t sin that much”
Puttin’ Christians down sayin’ “It’s just a crutch”
So if you’re still waiting please stand up ’cause this wonderful singer’s time is eaten up
And it’s time to get off your behind and out of the row
Come on down — now is your chance — how do I know? CHORUS
I guess there’s a sin Savior for all of us – Let’s all stand up

[ ApologetiX – “Keep The Change” album ]

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Simp Liztik
(Parody of “Nookie” by Limp Bizkit)

He came into this world for the rejects
Look into the Bible – then you need to size up the facts
Dwell upon the facts – and learn about His grace
Everything’s in First Corinthians Verse 1:28
Hey, i think about the day when the world He came to save
went astray and they nailed him to a tree
How He stuck with ’em though they did that stuff
And went on just to suffer and got lumped with us all
(Hey) like the chumps, like the tramps, like the drunks
Like the punks, like the bums, like the scum like us all
We’ve all been really bad (Oh?) No one is really good (No?)
It’s kinda sad – Christ’s the laughin’ stock of the neighbourhood
And you would think He’d try to prove ’em wrong
But Christ He suffered like I said, stuck up on the death cross
He said that they just made a mistake
And God should give ’em a break – we oughta praise Jesus’ name
Saved us from Hell, what you want me to say?
I know why and I can’t deny
He did it all for the crooked (Come on!) the hookers (Come on!)
So you can be bad lookin’ and still get up to Heaven!
Still get up to Heaven! Still get up to Heaven!
Why did He save those bums? Why did He save those scum, huh?
Can’t figure it out, but He said it in Matthew 21:31
and still they didn’t get it
He came to treat the guys who were diseased
Cause the well don’t want a doctor’s help or hospitality
He had to get ’em all better
Like tax collectors, harlots and lepers and self-righteous hecklers
(Hey) like the chumps
CHORUS
I’m goin’ to Romans – just so you’ll read verse 3:10
Religious Pharisees – They’ll tell you – They’re very good
That’s easier said than done
Psalm verse 53:3 – Righteous? No not one
Jesus alone – Jesus alone – Just Jesus alone
What we wanna say is humans don’t obey
And I could quote the same verse in Psalm 14 verse 3
All have gone astray but you can know the way
The righteous ones are scarce here – we’re all in need of grace
What’s it gonna take for you to go and pray
‘Cause Christ just wants to save you
and all you need is faith
CHORUS

[ ApologetiX – “Keep The Change” album ]

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This Is from Paul
(Parody of “This is a Call” by The Foo Fighters)

Visited your cities – visiting was good
Seems that other men have come in since we taught there
Legalists deceived you – they can seem real good
Yet we know that every one is an imposter
This is from Paul to all my
Friends in Galatia
Listen to Paul, you all

Legalism’s pretty – legalism’s good
That’s if all you ever wanted was some bondage
They’ve got circumcision – and they say you should
But it’s all a bunch of autocratic nonsense
This is from Paul to all my
Friends in Galatia
Jesus fulfilled the law
This is from Paul to all my
Friends in Galatia
Repent or fall!
LEAD

Angels can be pretty – angels can be good
And yet some of them are fallen and are hostile
Satan is an angel – Satan is no good
And he nullifies and waters down the Gospel
This is from Paul to all my
Friends in Galatia
Grace is above the law*
This is from Paul to all my
Friends in Galatia
Listen to Paul!
LEAD

Legalists are pretty – legalists are good
At dissolving all the progress that we started
They will soon regret it – we’ll see where they stood
When they’re underground and cut off and departed
REPEAT SECOND CHORUS

*NOTE: That doesn’t mean Christians have a license to sin. As others
have put it, “Christ gave us freedom from sin, not freedom to sin.
1 John 2:1 sums it up this way: “My dear children, I write this to you
so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who
speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”

[ ApologetiX – “Apoplectic” album ]

https://www.jgospel.net/c/2/149917/279/3986/ApologetiX-This-Is-From-Paul-This-is-a-Call-.aspx

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DEEP THOUGHTS:

“‘Mercy’ is NOT getting something BAD that we do deserve, and ‘Grace’ IS getting something GOOD that we do not deserve.”
[ Mark Besh ]

“Undeserved favor in the face of deserved wrath.”
[ Michael Easley]

“Grace will change our attitude our appetite our ambition and our actions.”
[ Warren Weirsbe ]

“I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”
[ Abraham Lincoln ]

“The very center and core of the whole Bible is the doctrine of the grace of God.”
[ J. Gresham Machen ]

“‘Grace’ is the most important concept in the Bible, Christianity, and the world. It is most clearly expressed in the promises of God revealed in Scripture and embodied in Jesus Christ.”
[ J. Gresham Machen ]

“Grace is the love of God shown to the unlovely; the peace of God given to the restless; the unmerited favor of God.”
[ J. Gresham Machen ]

“Grace is free sovereign favor to the ill-deserving.”
[ B.B. Warfield ]

“Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.”
[ John Stott ]

“[Grace] is God reaching downward to people who are in rebellion against Him.”
[ Jerry Bridges ]

“Grace is unconditional love toward a person who does not deserve it.”
[ Paul Zahl ]

“In grace, God gives nothing less than Himself. Grace, then, is not a third thing or substance mediating between God and sinners, but is Jesus Christ in redeeming action.”
[ Michael Horton ]

“The Christian is not a good man. He is a vile wretch who has been saved by the grace of God.”
[ D. Martyn Lloyd Jones ]

“He is the wise man who knows himself! And he who knows himself, will find nothing within to make him proud.”
[ J.C. Ryle ]

“Grace is God loving, God stooping, God coming to the rescue, God giving Himself generously in and through Jesus Christ.”
[ John Stott ]

“Faith’s only function is to receive what grace offers.”
[ John Stott ]

“A man whose hands are full of parvels can’t receive a gift.”
[ C.S. Lewis ]

“Our merits merit nothing. God’s work merits everything.”
[ Max Lucado ]

“Grace is the good pleasure of God that inclines Him to bestow benefits on the undeserving.”
[ A.W. Tozer ]

“The unmerited operation go God in the heart of man, effected through the agency of the Holy Spirit.”
[ Louis Berkhof ]

“The free and benevolent influence of a holy God operating sovereignly in the lives of undeserving sinners.”
[ John MacArthur ]

“Love that gives upward is worship; love that goes outward is affection; love that stoops is grace.”
[ Donald Grey Barnhouse ]

“I see clearly now that anything, whatever it is, if it be not on the principle of grace, it is not of God.”
[ Jim Elliot ]

“When you pick up the cross of unpopularity, wherever you may be, you will find God’s grace is there, more than sufficient to meet your every need.”
[ Day by Day ]

“We are living in an age of grace, in which God promises that ‘whosoever will’ may come and receive His Son. But this period of grace will not go on indefinitely. We are even now living on borrowed time.”
[ Day by Day ]

“Only as we bow in contrition, confession, and repentance at the foot of the cross, can we find forgiveness. There is the grace of God.”
[ Unto the Hills ]

“The motive of grace is the infinite, compassionate love of a merciful God, but the work of grace was the death of Christ on the cross.”
[ Unto the Hills ]

“Christ did not suffer and die to offer cheap grace. Jesus did not willingly go to the cross so we could have an easy life or offer a faith built on easy-believism. As someone said, ‘Salvation is free, but not cheap.’ It cost Jesus His life.”
[ Storm Warning ]

“Grace is not amazing until you know the wrath of god.”
[ Steven J. Lawson ]

“Without a heart transformed by the grace of Christ, we just continue to manage external and internal darkness.”
[ Matt Chandler ]

“Repentance was never yet produced in any man’s heart apart from the grace of God. As soon may you expect the leopard to regret the blood with which its fangs are moistened,—as soon might you expect the lion of the wood to abjure his cruel tyranny over the feeble beasts of the plain, as expect the sinner to make any confession, or offer any repentance that shall be accepted of God, unless grace shall first renew the heart.”
[ Charles H. Spurgeon ]

“Grace isn’t just forgiveness, it is forgiveness fueled by surrender.”
[ Amy E. Spiegel ]

“This is what grace does. It rescues us from our spiritual blindness. It releases us from our bondage to our rationalism and materialism. Grace gives us the faith to be utterly assured of what we cannot see. It frees us from refusing to believe in anything we cannot experience with our physical senses. But grace does more. It connects us to the invisible One in an eternal love relationship that fills us with joy we have never known before and gives us rest of heart that we would have though impossible. And that grace is still rescuing us, because we still tend to forget what is important, real, and true. We still tend to look to the physical world for our comfort. We still fail to remember in given moments that we really do have a heavenly Father. Grace has done a wonderful thing for us and continues to do more and more.”
[ Paul David Tripp ]

“It may not be an easy thing to live in sweet fellowship with all those with whom we come in contact; but that is what the grace of God is given to us for.”
[ D.L. Moody ]

“Humility raises us not by human arrogance but by divine grace.”
[ Augustine of Hippo ]

“Grace is more than God opening the door to salvation; it’s God bringing people in.”
[ Colin S. Smith ]

“Grace means that God steps into the lives of particular individuals with the purpose and effect of saving them. He needs no permission to do this, nor is He under any obligation to do so.”
[ Colin S. Smith ]

“By the grace of God we will never pluck unripe fruit. We will never press people to decision, because we’ll lead them to damnation and not salvation.”
[ Jonathan Edwards ]

“The saints shall persevere in holiness, because God perseveres in grace.”
[ Charles H. Spurgeon ]

“Grace is the first and last moving cause of salvation; and faith, essential as it is, is only an important part of the machinery which grace employs. We are saved ‘through faith,’ but salvation is ‘by grace’.”
[ Charles H. Spurgeon ]

“And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died he for me, who caused his pain!
For me, who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
That thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”
[ Charles Wesley ]

“God deals with his people not on the basis of their merit or worthiness, what they deserve, but simply according to their need; in other words, he deals with them on the basis of his goodness and generosity.”
[ Millard Erickson ].

 

RELATED SCRIPTURE VERSES:

“For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
[ John 1:16-17 ]

“… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”
[ Romans 3:23-24 ]

“For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”
[ Romans 6:14 ]

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”
[ Ephesians 2:8 ]

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.”
[ Titus 2:11  ]

“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion.”
[ Isaiah 30:18 ]

“After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.”
[ 1 Peter 5:10 ]

“Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God Stand firm in it!”
[ 1 Peter 5:12 ]

“As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
[ 1 Peter 4:10 ]

“But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.”
[ Acts 20:24 ]

“Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord;”
[ Acts 11:23 ]

“which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth;”
[ Colossians 1:6 ]

“But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.”
[ Hebrews 2:9 ]

“And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”
[ Acts 20:32 ]

“But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.”
[Romans 5:15 ]

“For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.”
[ Romans 5:17 ]

“And when he wanted to go across to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him; and when he had arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace,”
[ Acts 18:27 ]

“But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased”
[ Galatians 1:15 ]

“Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”
[ Romans 2:4 ]

“Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.”
[ Romans 11:22 ]

“so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
[ Ephesians 2:7 ]

“if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.”
[ 1 Peter 2:3 ]

“How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?”
[ Hebrews 10:29 ]

“With the kind You show Yourself kind; With the blameless You show Yourself blameless;”
[ Psalm 18:25]

“You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”
[ Galatians 5:4 ]

“For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
[ Jude 1:4 ]

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“A quick summary of the Christian “Gospel”:
JESUS’ PROPITIATION made our SINS FORGIVEN and IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS to us so that we have GOD’S ACCEPTANCE into His Heaven and ETERNAL LIFE.”
[ Mark Besh ]

 

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Hope you enjoyed some of these insights—share them with your friends and colleagues—so we can have a larger ‘pool’ to receive from, and more to share with! Also, remember to include your name as the “source,” if some of this wisdom is of your doing—I would like to give credit where credit is due!

FOCUS VERSES:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
[ Ephesians 2:8-9 ]

“For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
[ John 1:16-17 ]

“… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”
[ Romans 3:23-24 ]

“For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.”
[ Romans 5:17 ]

Mark

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If you have a ‘neat’ story or some thoughts about an issue or current event that you would like me to try to respond to, I would be glad to give it a try…so, send them to me at: mbesh@comcast.net

Disclaimer: All the above jokes & inspirations are obtained from various sources and copyright are used when known. Other than our name and headers, we do not own the copyright to any of the materials sent to this list. We just want to spread the ministry of God’s love and cheerfulness throughout the world.

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