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John Newton was born in 1725 and he was a mess of a man. John worked on a ship, and he was hated by all of his shipmates.  He was a wild and violent, raging drunk. They nicknamed him The Great Blasphemer.  

John took sin to a whole new level. He was so hated, he actually fell overboard the ship and his crewmates did not throw him life preservers. Instead, they threw harpoons at the guy.

When he survived a brutal storm that took his best friend, he realized that he had actually called on the God that he had been hating. So he started reading the Bible and was transformed by the grace of God.   He put pen to paper and wrote the lyrics in 1772, to the hymn that we now know as Amazing Grace. 

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see. ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed. 

Messy Grace and Paul. Paul knew a thing or two about grace. He rambles on about it in Ephesians 2. In this chapter, you’ll notice that Paul breaks all sorts of grammatical rules. He gets so excited, he’ll start a sentence and won’t finish it. He’s so passionate that he can’t even get out a complete thought.

You Were. . .

Ephesians 2:1-3 (NLT) Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. 2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. 3 All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else

We were all Sinners and DESERVING of God’s Wrath. You thought you were living your best life then, but you were just racking up sins, condemnation, and punishment. Does that make you mad to be called a sinner? To say that you were born bad? To say that the reason that everything goes bad in your life is because of the bad person at the center of your life?

Good or Bad is a Yes or No Answer. It’s not like cooking a steak. You put a steak on the grill. You get in the 130’s you got a rare steak, 140’s medium-rare, 150’s Medium. But if you get in the 160’s, you’ve got a burnt steak. A lot of people think that is how sin works.  You got a few sins, you’re still good but you got a smoky smell. Get a few more and you’ve got some singe marks, but it’s okay. But get too many, and you’re burnt.

Sin is more like a dropped steak that fell into something gross. You order an expensive steak. You smell it, your mouth is watering. But that steak slides off the tray and hits the dirty floor right when the server gets to your table. That steak is over. One little thing turned a good thing into a bad thing. 

That’s what just a little sin does. It turns a person who was created good into something very selfish and very bad. BUT. . . Would you like to hear two of the most beautiful words ever? 

BUT GOD. . .

Ephesians 2:4-7 (NLT) But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) 6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. 7 So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

Paul, the guy who wrote this, was a messed up, broken dude. He killed people that disagreed with his religion. The first time we meet Paul is at Stephen’s stoning in Acts, chapter 8. He didn’t participate, but he was shouting “AMEN” to it. He hated what Stephen said. Stephen condemned Paul’s hard heart. He hated it so much he went on a crusade against all Christians.

Paul, a Man who was a Sinner. He chose a hard and cruel path, BUT GOD showed up for Paul. Jesus met him on the road to Damascus and everything changed for angry, miserable Paul.

By Grace

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NLT) God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

A Precious Sacrifice. God sent His one and only Son, His unique Son. He came to earth the same way we do, He was born, but of a virgin. All the mess and pain of childbirth was His way to us.

Jesus had a mission. He was sent to do what His Father sent Him to do. He walked among us. He taught us. He touched us. He healed us. He resurrected us. For all of His goodness, kindness, compassion, and love, we killed Him.

When we nailed him to a Roman Cross, He said, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” Mid-afternoon that day the sky went dark and He cried out, “It is finished.”

Three Days Later.  It was a dark three days on the planet. Friday night they rushed him into a tomb. Saturday, they waited. And, Sunday. . . He was no longer dead! On Sunday DEATH was over. On Sunday the judgment and wrath were over.  On Sunday, Jesus lived. Because. . . on Friday, God saw the blood, and on Sunday, He passed over you. Let me tell you the good news. The best news. The way I heard it long, long ago.

Ephesians 2:8 (KJV) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.

What we deserve, Jesus took! What we could never EARN. God GAVE! What we WERE is forever changed by God’s Amazing Grace.  Would you like to follow Jesus today?

Talk About It… 

  • Have 2 or 3 people in your group read Ephesians 2:1-10 from different translations. 
  • Have 2 or 3 people in your group retell the story of Ephesians 2:1-10 in their own words.
  • Highlight or underline any words or phrases that you find interesting in Ephesians 2:1-10 printed at the beginning of this guide. Discuss your selections with the group.
  • Do you have a favorite hymn or worship song? What is meaningful to you about it?
  • Look up the lyrics to the song Amazing Grace. Which parts of the song do you especially identify with? Why? 
  • Describe a “but God” moment in your life. How have you seen God’s amazing grace at work in you?
  • What did you discover that you would be excited to share with a friend?