Marc Drake, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church of Sun Lakes
With the Christmas season upon us, I’m challenged afresh to ponder the magnitude of God’s grace in sending his Son to this earth for us (Romans 5:8). The coming of Jesus was planned in eternity past and prophesied throughout the centuries until in “the fullness of time” he appeared (Galatians 4:4). No greater gift has ever been given! As Max Lucado has written: “Salvation is God-given, God-driven, God-empowered, and God-originated. The gift is not from man to God. It is from God to man.”
So, as I ponder the grace of God during this season (and every season for that matter) I am once again reminded of how amazing it really is. In fact, someone should write a song about it. Wait a minute; someone did! His name was John Newton, and if ever anyone stood in amazement over the stunning grace of God it was Newton. He had been a hardened slave trader and lived the most ungodly life imaginable. But in God’s mercy this man came to faith in Christ as his Savior, eventually became a pastor, and even preached before the Queen of England.
In later years, due to Newton’s poor health and failing memory, it was suggested that he retire (at age 82!). He responded, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior!” On another occasion, a friend of Newton complained about someone who was resistant to the gospel and was living a life of great sin. The friend said, “Sometimes I almost despair of that man.” Newton replied, “I never did despair of any man since God saved me.”
Yes, John Newton understood grace. But God’s grace and mercy are not just for the down-and-out. They are for the up-and-out as well. The Bible says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We all need a Savior. And we rejoice in the fact that the true Savior has come, the Lord Jesus Christ. He died for our sins (paying a debt we could never pay) and then rose from the dead.
Those who know him as Lord and Savior can rejoice with Mary who – shortly before the birth of Jesus – sang in Luke 1, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (vs.46-47). What a gift we have in Jesus! And it’s all due to the indescribable grace of God.
Amazing Grace! how sweet the sound –
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.
(John Newton, 1725-1807)