[Presented in Church November 24th 2018]
Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
T’was blind but now I see
Amazing Grace is arguably the most popular Christian hymn in history. It was written and published in 1779 John Newton who died in 1807 at the age of 82 years. Newton was an English poet and Anglican clergyman, ordained into the Church of England in 1764 and became curate of Olney, Buckinhamshire. Olney is a small hamlet in the Southeast of the United Kingdom. He was probably the most famous resident of the community, but it has also produced a Professional Rugby player, a television personality, two other poets, a women executed during the Salem witch trials and an Indy Car Champion. But long after all these others are forgotten, Newton’s song endures. We’ve all heard Amazing Grace many times in our lives, the solemn playing on the bagpipes during a Remembrance Day service is probably one of the most poignant moments I can think of. The tune alone, without words, is enough to bring tears to my eyes.
Amazing Grace is just that, amazing. Grace is something that God gives us, even though we don’t deserve it. God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Through the grace of God, we are offered the opportunity at eternal life, at very little cost to us, most of the cost was paid by Christ. He died for me and for you, so that even though He knows that we will sin, He gave us the way to redemption.
Whether we accept His gift or not is ultimately up to us. He freely gave us the gift of grace, and its up to us to decide, because God gave us free will, to accept it or not. According to Romans 3:23-24 reads:
For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
Our choice, but remember that Romans 6:23 tells us of the consequence:
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Throughout my life, I’ve experienced God’s grace without even knowing it. I’ve been blessed with three healthy children, and also two healthy grandchildren. Our granddaughter was born at the right time, because if she had been born just a few years earlier, she would not have survived past a few short days of life. She required life saving surgery at the age of eight days, that would not have been detected until it was too late. God’s grace gave her to us at the right time. Lily is now a healthy young girl, who does have issues still, but she has life through God’s grace.
When I was sentenced to jail, my mom was not doing well health-wise. After my transformation in jail, I prayed every day that nothing would happen to her while I was in jail. Through God’s grace, my mom continued to live until I was released from jail and had the opportunity to visit her one last time.
Through God’s grace, He put the right people into my life at the right time. He brought me to this church even before I was in His hands. Prior to my incarceration, I met Pastor Ricardo, Fred and Beverley, Doug and Leanne along with others at a health meeting. Little did I know how important these people would all become in my life. God’s grace is at work on me.
And I know it was God’s grace that brought Pastor Troy to visit me in jail when I was at my lowest point. His weekly visits got me to the end of my sentence. And in fact, God’s grace got me home a month early, when Judy needed me home, and when I needed to be home to prove to myself and everyone else that I was not the person I once was.
People blame God for many things. Even Christ on the cross in Matthew 27:46 cries out:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
But it is never God that leaves you, it is instead the evil one who causes bad things to happen. I can honestly say that I didn’t blame God for what had happened to me. It was temptation from the evil one who caused it. God’s response was to use the time to bring me back to Him. He put His book into my hands and from there it was always looking ahead to the future.
God’s grace works in many ways:
Joe Minarik, who is 62 years old, grew up in New Jersey. When he was 18, he and his friends met an angel who saved their lives. This is joe’s story.
In 1975, I was 18 years old. One Friday, I went with my friends, Brian and Lou, to New Gretna in South Jersey to visit a friend. The next day, we were going to go target shooting in an area known as the Pine Barrens. It was in November, and we ran into a snowstorm. At about 11 p.m., we were on the last road to get to the home of another friend, Andy, when we ran out of gas. We were stuck on an isolated road for three hours in the biting cold snowstorm. Finally, we saw a truck approaching us. It stopped, and the driver asked if we needed help. I told him we had run out of gas.
I happen to have five gallons in my truck,” he said. He went around to the back of his truck, got a gas can and filled up our tank with a few gallons of gasoline.
I tried to give him money, but he wouldn’t take it. He said, “Please, if you see that someone needs help, stop and help them.”
I said, “Sure. I would like to fill this gas can up and return it to you. Do you live around here?”
He said, “Yes, a mile down this road.” He told me the street name and number and said to make a right, and it was the third house on the left. He said his name was Frank Gilmore.
The next morning, we put gas in a gas can and drove to take it to him. We knew where we had run out of gas, but we couldn’t find the street. In fact, there wasn’t any street off that road for miles. So we drove to the police station, and they told us no such street existed in New Gretna or in Forked River, the next town over. We looked at each other and said, “He had to be an angel.”
When I got home, I said to my friends, “I will send money to Frank Gilmore in two envelopes—one addressed to New Gretna and one to Forked River.” I did so, and a week later, both came back to me, stamped “Undeliverable.” That has stayed with me all my life. I always think about it. That experience made me a more caring and giving person.
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 first begun.
The final verse of Amazing Grace tells us that God will always be there for us. We just have to trust in Him.