When was the last time you sang "Amazing Grace"? What were you thinking as you uttered those words "that saved a wretch like me"? Did those words ring true or just roll off the tongue never to be pondered.
It's a popular catchphrase in our modern church culture to throw the word grace around like the fifth ammendment. If a sermon didn't seem very nice then someone will be prone to say that it lacked grace. But what does it mean? Is it something other than a warm fuzzy feeling? I can recall recently hearing an hour long sermon about grace without the word ever being defined during the whole message.
We need to be sharp in our witness and how we define what we say. The mormon also says that he is "saved by grace". It is only when you press the mormon on his understanding of "grace" that his works righteous religion is revealed. This issue might confuse the pastor of the "largest church in America" but it need not confuse us. According to websters dictionary "grace" means undeserved favour. This raises the question why is God's grace undeserved - I'm glad you asked.
Last sunday I spoke with a man who is an old work acquaintence of a friend of mine called Rene (yes,I have a friend). They both worked together as teachers at a Christian school and would sometimes preach in their chapel services. I asked the man what he thought about Rene's preaching. The conversation went something like this:
Man: the problem with Rene was that he didn't preach grace.
Cameron: could you elaborate on that?
M: He sometimes talked about sin, hell, judgment and that people needed to repent.
C: Did he ever talk about Christ's work on the cross and the blood He shed for human sin?
M: Yes he talked about that a lot.
C: Do you know what "grace" means?
M: (long pause) . . . . . . .
C: It actually means undeserved favor. Do you know why we don't deserve God's favor?
M: Because of sin??
C: So how is it possible to preach grace without talking about sin?
M: I see your point.
A failure to talk about sin, righteousness, and judgment robs grace of it's meaning. Grace is only ever amusing when we fail to see our guilt. Next time you find yourself singing Amazing Grace, examine yourself in the light of God's moral law and look to the cross and marvel at how a good God would be willing to save a wretch like you.
Tomorrow - Why the Law Must Thunder From the Pulpit