Posted by: Randall Niles | January 6, 2011

GRACE in the NEW YEAR!

Many people sincerely believe that they can earn God’s ticket to paradise by doing good works — for example, by observing the Five Pillars of Islam, the Buddhist Eight-Fold Path, the Hindu Doctrine of Karma, the Jewish Law, or the New Age call to global, environmental unity. Even many Christian churches focus on what rules and rituals must be followed to earn salvation.

However, as much as we create “religions” to work our way to God, most of us ultimately experience emptiness – an unfulfilled (maybe even despairing) state of our soul. The ancient scriptures are pretty clear… They tell us that we can scrub and scrub – using an abundance of soap – but the stain of our guilt is still before God (Jeremiah 2:22). In fact, all of us are unclean, “and our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).

Whereas “religion” focuses on what we must “do” to earn God’s favor, Jesus Christ said, “Done!” Since none of our “religious acts” are good enough to achieve reconciliation with God, God sent his only Son to do everything for us – to pay for all our wrongs. That’s Grace.

Simply, God’s Grace has nothing to do with “organized religion.” It’s not about hierarchical structures, ornate buildings, flamboyant preachers, ceremonial tithing, family connections, interpretive doctrines, or traditional rules and rituals. It’s about trusting in Jesus and what He did on the cross for you and me. Jesus Christ is either the Son of God who offers the only true hope for our world, or he’s not. Strip away everything else – all the religious words and rituals – because it’s all about God’s Grace in the end.

Does this mean don’t go to church, respect your pastor, or give to charity? Of course not — It’s just a matter of perspective… motivation… heart.

Grace is hard to communicate as a “mere” Christian doctrine – it’s ultimately a personal experience in the depths of a thankful soul…

John Newton was born in London in 1725. At a young age, he went to sea with his father, the commander of a merchant ship in the Mediterranean Sea. In 1744, Newton was conscripted into service on a British naval vessel. He deserted, was recaptured, and relegated to lower deck duties after a public flogging. Ultimately, he was transferred to a slave ship near Sierra Leone, where he served a slave trader under abusive conditions. In 1748, Newton escaped the ship, but then returned to the African shores as the captain of his own slave trading vessel.

John Newton was not a religious man. However, on May 10, 1748, while he was piloting his ship through a fierce storm, Newton experienced his self-described moment of “great deliverance.” His journals reveal that all seemed lost and the vessel was doomed to sink. Out of no where, he shouted for all to hear, “Lord, have mercy upon us.”

The ship survived the storm, and Newton believed that’s where God’s grace began working in his life. He realized his wretched nature, and that he was saved by God’s amazing grace. Newton soon entered the ministry, and started writing hymns.

Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believ’d!

Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Happy New Year — Keep Thinking,

Randall Niles

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