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March 26, 2017

"AMAZING GRACE - Verse Two"

TEXT: Acts 9: 1-8ff
READING:  Titus 2: 1-15

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SUBJ: Verse 2 of Newton’s hymn, Amazing grace wherein he delights to report on the graciousness of God on bringing him first to fear and then to relief as his fears were put into perspective.

AIM: That we might be reminded of the terrifying estate of being without God and without hope in the world and that we might be thankful that the fear of the Lord has become delightful.

INTR: In the first verse of the hymn Newton gave an overview of the effect of grace on his light and we are focused first and foremost on the effect the grace of God had on him and posed the question as to ourselves.
1. We would be reminded of the words on his tombstone: “John Newton, Clerk, once and infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy.”
2. Our tendency is to stop considerations of grace with conversion (even then there is the tendency to insert thoughts of personal activity) and to proceed on with a sense of personal ability and responsibility.
3. What we sometimes refer to as a “reality check,” Newton saw as a gracious revelation of the truth about himself and his standing before a holy God.

THESIS: Grace has its beginnings with us in eternity and does not wait for our permission or submission to begin to work. The teaching role of grace is evident from the beginning of the revelation of Christ to us and in us.

I. Fears taught
1. We are not given many insights to the action experience with conversions in the Bible, but we are told what brings them to pass.
1) We are told of the fact that it was the Lord that opened Lydia’s heart and
2) That: For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Philippians 2:13
3) And from Paul in Galatians that it pleased God to reveal His Son in him.
2. But, on the road to Damascus we are shown, in a measure, the immediate effect on Paul as we see him trembling and astonished
1) We would here be reminded of the meaning of the word “amazing:” “To confound with fear, sudden surprise, or wonder; to astonish.” Webster’s 1828 dictionary.
2) And so, to understand the scene upon which our eyes are opened as to both our estate and the revelation of the person of Christ our God.
3. In reading after Newton, we may be reminded of near death experiences before we were saved and then wonder at what the consequences might have been – a terrifying thought
1) Thus, provoking a look at the present estate (Newton had just recently had many – enduring storms and the perils of his own wicked ways.
2) And then to see the providence of God evidently working by placing certain ones in his path.
4. And so, His heart was taught that the things he had laughed at and despised were deadly to his soul and that he stood before a holy God and was flaunting all that had been laid before in the example of His mother and others placed in his life.
5. The initial thought is that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God and that it is He who has the power to kill and to cast into hell and that is what he must do!
6. To be found with only the pictures of what has befallen others is terrifying at best.

II. Fears relieved
1. Paul’s fears were relieved after three days (some sooner and some longer) when Ananias appeared with both physical relief and the message that the One who had struck him down in his mad pursuit of rebellion had now commissioned him into service.
2. The fear of God is not taken away in conversion – It is put in its proper place: Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you. 1 Samuel 12:24.
1) Fear then retains all the truth of God first revealed and is replaced with the blessedness of knowing the love of God emanating from that same source.
2) It is no longer a fear (such as drove Adam and Eve into hiding); rather it is a fear that is ever reassuring the heart of the engagement of that same grace to deliver.
3. And so we are taught, by Amazing Grace, that it is right to be in fear of the One who sent His Son into the world brought Him to such an ordeal as we deserved with the realization that it should have been me hanging there on that cross. But more, we are taught to embrace that horrible scene as the means of our salvation.
4. As the words of Christ in all the various forms of qualified invitation are realized as meaning me – my fears are relieved – over and over again!
5. So it was, with Newton and the thought amazed him that such fear had been turned into joy and delight in His Lord.

III. How precious indeed
1. Perhaps we all can remember experiences in our lives that proceeded from pure terror to a sense of relief and so
1) To reflect on what might have been with a sense of the fear remaining while
2) The realization that it didn’t happen and that good things await at every turn.
2. So it is in finding the ability to believe the Gospel in all its presentations and in particular to find a secure trust in the One who gave Himself for us that we might be delivered from this present evil world and the dangers it holds.