“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, it saved a wretch like me.”
While we sing these lyrics, many of us still wonder if God’s grace is really enough to defeat our old nature.
Pastor Noel Heikkinen says God’s grace is more than just a classic chorus, or a passive good will. It’s the power that invades the ugliest parts of our souls.
“God’s grace is sweet, but it is not saccharin sort of thing. God’s grace weasels its way into the grittiest parts of our lives. I think that the most transformative work the grace of God does is in those places that we don’t want to go, those places that betray our wretchedness. I really do think of grace as a kind of a relentless pursuit of the dirtiest spots in our lives by God.
The reality of our sinful state, before grace enters the picture, isn’t pretty for any of us. On our very best behavior, we are still powerless to save ourselves.
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” Isaiah 64:6
Yet when we trust in Jesus’ sinless sacrifice on the cross, we are made perfect, blameless, holy in Him.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here…God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:17, 21
It can be hard to believe that a perfect God wants imperfect people like us, when all we can see is our failings. Noel encourages us to free ourselves from the perception that God expects us to be good enough to earn His love. The truth is, He is using us, right now, just as we are, for our good and His glory.
“Think about this: God basically looked at every possible world that could be created and He found the one that would give Him maximum glory. That’s the one we live in. That means, if you look at this life, God created for us “the length of our life and the boundaries of our habitation;” He made this world in which we live, with all the pain, all the suffering, the abuse, all the joys, the beauty–He created all that. Why? So that each one of us may perhaps reach out to God and perhaps find Him.”
“You are exactly where you’re supposed to be. You are meant to be a wretched saint. If God thought He would get maximum glory out of snapping His fingers and turning you into the perfect follower of Jesus the moment you became a Christian, He would have done that! But He didn’t. He created the world that gave Him the maximum glory and this is the one in which He is transforming your wretchedness into the likeness of Jesus, until the only thing that is left is the ‘saint’ part of you.
We’re tempted to believe that God isn’t pleased with us, that we’re not good enough to be loved. But your Father doesn’t see you as a failure! He sees in you the perfect righteousness of Christ, which He’s revealing more and more clearly as you walk with Him.
Let’s commit to believing what God says is true about us: that we are exactly where He wants us to be right now, that He truly delights in us, and He is transforming us into the image of His Son through His amazing, relentless grace.
Noel Heikkinen is the primary preaching pastor at Riverview, a rapidly-growing, multi-site church in the Lansing, Michigan area. Noel also serves as the U.S. Midwest Network Director for Acts 29. He’s the author of Wretched Saints.