Breaking the chains of our hearts

Published 2:33 pm Saturday, December 14, 2013

By Chris Surber

What’s so amazing about grace anyway? A textbook definition of grace really isn’t amazing. It can mean a few things: elegance, favor, goodwill, or pardon. Those ideas are good. But amazing? I don’t think so.

Grace isn’t amazing until you attach something to it that is. That’s what the writer of the famous hymn “Amazing Grace” did. He attached the story of his life to grace because what grace did to him was amazing.

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John Newton wasn’t always a composer of hymns. At one time, he was a part of the African slave trade. He was a violent and cruel man.

But then God transformed his heart with grace while Newton was reading the classic Christian work “The Imitation of Christ,” aboard a slave vessel in the midst of a horrible storm that threatened to sink the ship.

Grace changed him completely. He became a minister of the gospel of Jesus. He became a radical ambassador for the grace of God. He no longer trusted in any good deeds or religion to save him. His transformation was amazing.

Only God’s grace could have changed John Newton. He had religion before grace. He practiced a form of Christianity common to his day.

But religion without grace isn’t amazing. Religion without grace is an empty cup. That’s what separates the way of Jesus from every religion in the world.

Christianity really isn’t really even a religion. It is the way of grace instituted by the Son of God – Jesus.

Every religion in the world is based on some way of working to earn divine favor. A Muslim, for example, must work hard in his or her faith by keeping the five pillars of Islam in order to fulfill an obligation to Allah and earn his mercy.

Today, even some Christians have forgotten about grace and replaced it with a wrongheaded notion of earning mercy through religious works.

Mercy isn’t amazing at all. Mercy is usually doled out in small portions. But the grace of God that Jesus brings into the hearts of those who receive Him by faith? That’s amazing!

Where religion says, “Do this and don’t do that, and maybe God will be kind to you,” Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 ESV)

That really is amazing. Jesus says that God sent Him into the world not to add to our religious burdens, but to remove them entirely.

The religion of Jesus is the only way to salvation, because it guarantees what no other religion can deliver — grace that none can ever earn amazing enough to wash away all our sin. Grace does what mercy can never do. It breaks the chains of sin and heals the broken heart.

There is nothing so amazing as God’s grace.