Below you will find a sample chapter from my book Supernatural: Contending for Signs and Wonders Today. This series of posts is all about the amazing grace of God… To request a FREE COPY of the e-book of Supernatural, contact the author today!
THE BIG IDEA: The greatest miracle in the Kingdom of God is when someone encounters Jesus as their Savior. We are saved by God’s grace alone, through faith in Jesus. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done.
“Jesus comes not for the super-spiritual but for the wobbly and the weak-kneed who know they don’t have it all together, and who are not too proud to accept the handout of amazin’ grace.” (Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel).[i]
One of the most popular, well-loved hymns of all time is Amazing Grace, written in 1779 by an English pastor named John Newton. The first verse says, “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.” Almost everyone in the world knows the lyrics to this song, but have they personally experienced that amazing grace in their own lives?
Perhaps one of the most impacting stories I have ever heard about grace came from Philip Yancey’s book What’s so Amazing About Grace?
“I heard (this story) from a friend who works with the down-and-out in Chicago: A prostitute came to me in wretched straits, homeless, sick, unable to buy food for her two-year-old daughter. Through sobs and tears, she told me she had been renting out her daughter – two years old… She made more renting out her daughter for an hour than she could earn on her own in a night. She had to do it, she said, to support her own drug habit. I could hardly bear hearing her sordid story… I had no idea what to say to this woman.
At last I asked if she had ever thought of going to a church for help. I will never forget the look of pure, naïve shock that crossed her face. “Church!” she cried, “Why would I ever go there? I was already feeling terrible about myself. They’d just make me feel worse.”
What struck me about my friend’s story is that women much like the prostitute fled toward Jesus, not away from him. The worse a person felt about herself, the more likely she saw Jesus as a refuge. Has the church lost that gift? Evidently the down-and-out, who flocked to Jesus when he lived on earth, no longer feel welcome among his followers.”[ii]
I am reminded of a true story, something that happened to my mom back in the seventies. She had been attending a church in Regina for several years and one day, the pastor and one of the deacons came by for a visit. They started asking my mother about her relationship with my dad. Although they were still married at this time, they had been separated for a while. Mom told them about how my father was an alcoholic, how he had often cheated on her, how he did not support our family, and drank all of his money away. He was never home, and wasn’t a good husband or father. To make a long story short, the pastor and deacon told my mother that marriage under God was eternal, and she wouldn’t be able to get into Heaven without her husband. That meant she was going to go to hell. Mom was so hurt, angry and betrayed by this pastor. As a single mother, she had gone to them for support and received nothing. Needless to say, she never darkened the door of a church for twenty years.
I’m so happy to report that shortly after I got saved, my mom started attending church again. She was a prodigal daughter who found her way back to the Father’s House. One of the highlights and greatest privileges of my ministry was water baptizing my mother at Bible Fellowship. Praise the Lord!
Both of those stories still grip my heart and cause me to cry: There’s something wrong in the church today. I attended a church once that did not understand the grace of God. One Sunday morning, the worship team had decided to resurrect that old song, Amazing Grace. I was shocked to see how they had changed the words to this classic hymn. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved someone like me.” Unbelievable! They wouldn’t even acknowledge the truth of Romans 7:24: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” There was one time that pastor was preaching, and he literally said from the pulpit, “If you ever catch me in the foyer before church, and I ask you how you’re doing, I don’t want to hear all of your problems and troubles in your life. If I ask you how you’re doing, I only want to hear you say, ‘Praise God, I’m on top and I’m rising’!” Something is wrong in the church today!
I thank God for a good friend of mine who introduced me to two books that radically revolutionized my understanding of God’s grace and Christianity. The first one is called All of Grace by Charles Spurgeon. He wrote: “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. It is a very surprising thing – a thing to be marveled at most of all by those who enjoy it. I know it is to me, even to this day, the greatest wonder that I have ever heard – that God should ever justify me… Our Lord Jesus did not die for imaginary sins. His heart’s blood was spilled to wash out deep crimson stains which nothing else can remove.”[iii]
It’s a terrible thing that contemporary preachers shy away from speaking about sin and thereby rob people of the most amazing joy and peace that can be found in Jesus when they confess their sins to Him and find forgiveness. People need to realize that they are lost sinners before they will ever be compelled to call on the name of Jesus to be saved from their sins. In the words of a fiery old preacher: “It is time for preachers to start telling sinners there is still a King who saves, a cross that bleeds, a hell to shun, and a heaven to gain!”
The second book that impacted me was called The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. Its subtitle is “Embracing the unconditional love of God.” The revelation of God’s grace in this book was a breath of fresh air to me. I have read this book more times than any other book I own (other than the Bible, of course). I want to share with you a quote from his introduction:
“The Ragamuffin Gospel was written with a specific reading audience in mind. This book is not for the super-spiritual… It is not for legalists who would rather surrender control of their souls to rules rather than run the risk of living in union with Jesus…
The Ragamuffin Gospel was written for the bedraggled, beat-up, and burnt-out… It is for the wobbly and weak-kneed who know they don’t have it altogether and are too proud to accept the handout of amazing grace… It is for poor, weak, sinful men and women with hereditary faults and limited talents… It is for the bent and the bruised who feel that their lives are a grave disappointment to God… It is for anyone who has grown weary and discouraged along the way.”[iv]
The one quote from this book that most revolutionized my understanding of Christianity was this one: “Morton Kelsey wrote: The Church is not a museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners.” When you go to church, you don’t have to dress up to try to impress God or anybody else. Church isn’t a museum for saints. It’s not a place where you have to put on your best suits and dresses and a plastic smile. No. The church is a hospital for sinners. But it was neither Brennan Manning nor Morton Kelsey who originated this concept – it was Jesus Himself.
Jesus said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do. Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to be merciful; I don’t want your sacrifices.’ For I have come to call sinners, not those who think they are already good enough.” (Matthew 9:12-13, nlt).
Do you feel like your life is a grave disappointment to God? Do you feel burned out, beat up, discouraged? Do you feel like giving up? Do you have doubts and questions about whether or not God could love someone like you? If so, then the truths in this chapter will encourage you. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve messed up or how badly you’ve sinned, Jesus died for you. He didn’t come for those who think they’re good enough already, Jesus came for those who are hurting and broken. He came to save us, help us, and change our lives. Therefore, the grace of God is the most important topic in the Bible.
So few people understand God’s grace. If we really understood His grace – that God’s love and acceptance of us is totally unconditional – it would change everything. We shouldn’t be too surprised by the fact that people don’t understand God’s grace today, because they had this problem in the early church as well.