A 40 Day Journey to Becoming Like the One We Follow
Day 30: Full of Grace (John 1:14 & 16)
We all love the song Amazing Grace, written by John Newton. What you may not know is although Newton would spend his later years in ministry working for the cause of abolition in Great Britain, his early life was spent as a captain of a slave ship. He sailed enslaved Africans across the sea to be sold off into a life of misery. It was only after a severe storm nearly sank his vessel that he began to pursue the divine. Eventually he left the life on sea behind and pursued a career in ministry. Reflecting on his life, he penned the words "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound! that saved a wretch like me..." while he was still financially supporting the slave trade.
It would take many more years for him to come around to the fact that the Atlantic slave trade was fully evil and needed to be abolished.
Where would we be without grace?
Sometimes the grace of Christ hits us over the head and immediately causes us to course-correct. I think of the story of Paul who went from persecuting Christians to becoming a missionary for Christ. I think of the blind man in John 9 who became a follower of Christ after regaining his sight, hence the famous line, "I was blind, but now I see."
Sometimes grace is a bit slower, yet nonetheless persistent. We see this in people like Nicodemus who slowly grows in his commitment to Christ throughout the gospel of John.
In fact, the more time I spend in the gospels the more I realize that Jesus' grace is the primary source of transformation. People rarely change their ways when their sins are called out. Deep down we all know the truth (we'll get to truth in the next post). The woman at the well knew she didn't have her life together. The woman caught in adultery knew she was guilty. The paralyzed man knew he had no other way to be made well.
That's why John opens his gospel by confessing we've all received "grace upon grace." That's why Paul could say confidently, "by the grace of God I am what I am."
I'll leave you with this from Philip Yancey's book, What's So Amazing About Grace:
"The Christian life, I believe, does not primarily center on ethics or rules but rather involves a new way of seeing. I escape the force of spiritual 'gravity' when I begin to see myself as a sinner who cannot please God by any method of self-improvement or self-enlargement. Only then can I turn to God for outside help–for grace–and to my amazement I learn that a holy God already loves me despite my defects. I escape the force of gravity again when I recognize my neighbors also as sinners, loved by God. A grace-full Christian is one ho looks at the world through 'grace-tinted lenses.'"