Summary: This is the third in a 4 sermon series adapted from David Jeremiah’s book, Captured by Grace. Each point is based on a verse of Amazing Grace and tells the story of John Newton. Powerpoint available, just e-mail me.
AMAZING GRACE: VERSE THREE
Scott Bayles, pastor
Based on David Jeremiah’s Captured by Grace
First Christian Church, Rosiclare, IL
For those of you who haven’t been here or who’ve been asleep in your pew, we’ve spent the last couple for weeks wading our way through John Newton’s timeless hymn—Amazing Grace. This song has been recorded by more artists, in more styles, more times than any other song ever written. It has captivated the hearts and minds of worshippers for generations. But, as I’ve said before, I don’t believe it’s the melody of the song that is so compelling; rather it’s the message of God’s amazing grace within it that reaches deep into our hearts and touches our spirits.
In the first verse, we find the captivating presence of grace, the compassionate purpose of grace, and the changing power of grace. In the second verse, we discover the confusing paradox of grace as well as the connecting point of grace.
By the time we get around to singing the third verse of John Newton’s grand hymn, you might be thinking a variety of things:
Are we going to sing every single verse?
When is the part about there being ten thousand year? That’s the best part!
These shoes aren’t very comfortable; I wish Scott didn’t make us stand up.
I wonder if I could sing alto. I get tired of singing soprano.
Hmm, I wonder what these words are all about…
Every now and then, someone stumbles upon that last thought. What a novel idea—actually paying attention to the words we sing as they emerge from our lips. Try it sometime and I guarantee you’ll experience and immediate “worship upgrade.”
Like the verse before it, the third verse of Newton’s hymn underscores two extraordinary components that combine to make grace utterly amazing. The first component is the comforting provision of grace.
• THE COMFORTING PROVISION OF GRACE
The first stanza of verse three announces, “Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come…” What do you usually think about when you sing those words? Do you reflect upon the dangers, toils and snares through which you have personally come?
Newton didn’t write those words because he thought they sounded pithy or because he wanted to give the organist an opportunity to play a minor chord. He wrote them because he lived them. It is remarkable how many close encounters with death John Newton had. Consider some of the highlights:
• On a hunting expedition, Newton stumbled while hiking up a bank and accidentally fired his shotgun, missing his head by inches. He shot the brim of his hat off.
• During the storm that we talked about last week, he was sent below deck and the man who took his place at the pumps was washed overboard.
• One time, he tried to retrieve his hat which had blown overboard, but he was so drunk at the time that he nearly drowned. Surprisingly, he couldn’t swim even when he was sober.
Brushes with death have a way of making us consider the big questions about life and eternity. Newton’s own close calls edged him closer and closer to Jesus. He regarded his survival as proof of the comforting provision of grace, sustaining him over and over, when by any human reasoning he should have perished. Salvation meant more to him than just the hope of heaven; it was a literal experience that he had many times, and the sum total of it all convinced him that God must have a special plan for his life.
Wouldn’t it be fun sit back and listen to John Newton and the apostle Paul exchange war stories? Believe it or not, Paul’s stories would be even more suspenseful than Newton’s. Paul once survived a murder plot by the Jews (Acts 9). He was stoned nearly to death, dragged outside the city, and then left for dead. Later he got up and walked to another city (Acts 14). Having managed to get the entire city of Jerusalem into an uproar, he was physically removed from the temple and then flogged by Roman soldiers (Acts 21). He was shipwrecked not once, but three times. One time he was even lowered in a basket through an opening in the city wall, to escape murder. Through it all, he was plagued by what he called a “thorn in his flesh.” Paul’s life reads like one hair-raising adventure story after the next replete with dangers, toils and snares.
Now, you might look at your life and think it’s kind of humdrum compared to someone like Paul or John Newton. But think a little harder. We all have our share of dangers, toils, and snares—dramatic or not, it really doesn’t matter. Surely, you’ve had times of danger, when your life or livelihood was threatened. You’ve had to toil, when you labored almost beyond endurance. You’ve had snares, when you’ve wrestled with temptation—sometimes winning, sometimes losing.