Church Requel
We continue our new summer series, Hymns 4 Him. Today we consider the story behind the hymn, Amazing Grace, its composer, John Newton, and what we can apply to our modern lives.
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  • Church Requel
    2 Marion Ave, Mansfield, OH 44903, USA
    Sunday 11:00 AM
Why "Requel?"
Here at Church Requel we want to celebrate the good news of Jesus in a way that makes sense and relates to every day people. From the songs we sing (contemporary) to the clothes we wear (casual) to the language we use (understandable) we want to be “requel” in our approach. We want to retell the story that has been around for more than 2,000 years in a new, fresh way with a message each week that is straight from the Bible. We invite you to join us as we sing, pray, celebrate and learn from the Word of God.

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Amazing Grace - Hymns 4 Him - Part 2

Amazing Grace could easily be the most beloved hymn of the last 2 centuries. It is estimated that the Amazing Grace Hymn is performed 10 million times each year. It has been recorded on over 11,000 albums by the likes of Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and - of course - Elvis. In 2015 there was a Broadway musical written about the hymn and its story and continued to tour through 2019.

Sing 1st Verse

What an amazing first verse. It perfectly levels the Christian field. No super-saints. No clergy and laymen. All of us - one and all - merely wretches who are saved by the amazing grace of God. Even that third line puts the English into the correct tense. I was lost (all on me) but now I “am found.” I didn’t find myself - I lost myself, but didn’t find myself. But I AM FOUND! Sounds like a perfect sermon!

#1 - It all starts with a ___SERMON___.

John Newton, the author of “Amazing Grace” wrote the words to this hymn as an aid to his New Year’s Day sermon in 1773. We have no idea if there was any music to the hymn at that time - the congregation may have just chanted the song. Can you imagine? They had no idea what they had begun. (We’re not the only or first to have hymns in sermons!)

“[Jesus] told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” Mark 16:16 NLT

This idea of sharing the good news - the gospel of Christ - in a preaching format - in a sermon - was all Jesus’ idea. He could have chosen any method, yet preaching the good news was and continues to be His plan. Even Paul at one point called this “the foolishness of preaching.” (1 Cor. 1:21).

We may believe preaching “foolish”, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be creative and reflect the abilities of the one sharing the good news. This is why every sermon is unique - even when it appears to be the same sermon. It’s also why we are using the ukulele and Hawaiian shirts and leis. Anything to communicate the good news of Jesus and His amazing grace.

Sing 2nd Verse.

We can all think about that hour when we first believed - when we first became Christ-followers. For some of us it was early in life. For some of us it was very late. For some of us there was a dramatic turning point in our lifestyle. For others the change in our Christian lifestyle has been much more gradual. For some of us we have have fallen over and over and maybe feel the amazing grace more than others. For some of us - once we made the commitment to Jesus, we never looked back. All kinds of Christian stories!

Sometimes we think that we have made our lives just so messed up, that God could not possibly want us… or be able to use us. That our “Christian” chance has passed us by. NO!

#2 - It’s never to late to ___START OVER___.

“The Lord’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

When the clergyman John Newton wrote the words to Amazing Grace and the amazing-ness of that grace, he knew what he was writing. John Newton was not always “Clergyman” John Newton.

He started off his life career as “Slave Trader Captain” John Newton. There are few things more despicable than taking a human life granted in freedom by The Almighty God, capturing them, then sailing them in chains to another continent, then selling them off into slavery.

Newton describes his 1748 conversion experience as the captain of a slave ship caught in a horrendous storm off the coast of Ireland. The ship almost sank. In his most desperate moment Captain John Newton prayed for salvation - both physical and spiritual! Miraculously some cargo shifted just perfectly to fill a hole in the ship’s hull and the vessel drifted to safety. This might have inspired verse 3…

Sing Verse 3

Now when we retell this story (as in the musical) we like to think that this conversion experience caused him to change his profession at once and to then enter the ministry. The truth of history is much less satisfactory. Newton made three more voyages to Africa as a slave trader AFTER he became a Christian. If you were watching him at the time, you might wonder how he could claim to be a Christian saved by amazing grace and yet at the same time enslave other human beings.

#3 - God also expects our grace ___TO OTHERS___.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Ephesians 4:6

This is one of our more challenging lessons today. It’s not always easy or obvious on how we should live this out this “grace to others”. When you know someone who claims their Christian faith, but you know they continue to act in a way that is contrary to Christian teaching - how should you respond? On the one hand, responding with judgment and truth is important, right? The Word of God has a lot of things to say about people who say one thing but do another.

Yet, on the other hand, how can we know what only God can know about the sincerity of someone’s faith and their future spiritual growth? It would have been so easy to be judgmental about John Newton in those slave trading years between his 1748 conversion and his 1764 ordination. Eventually Newton did study theology and become an abolitionist and eventually wrote perhaps the most famous hymn we still know and sing today: “Amazing Grace.”

This is why Paul writes, “Let you conversation be always full of grace, but also seasoned with salt.”Full of grace means to always remember that but for the grace of God, there go I. Not being judgmental. Knowing that I and you both are here only because of God’s grace.

But ALSO seasoned with salt - using good sound judgment, examining lives for evidence of God’s working, not being naive… as Jesus said it, being wise as serpents. It is not always easy or obvious. Always seeking guidance from God’s Holy Spirit. And in the end, leaving the matter to God’s Holy Spirit. Praying for, hoping for the very best!

Now… before we move on, let us combine both #2 - Not too late to start over with #3 - God expects our grace toward others. One of the “others” we may need to give grace to is… ourselves! It’s just possible that my greatest critic as well as the one who is most disappointed in me is… me!

Do you remember Peter asking how many times he had to forgive and if 7 was enough? Do you remember what Jesus said? Try 70 times 7. Some of us need to forgive ourselves. Maybe even forgiving over and over again for the same offense. Don’t believe the devil’s lie that it’s too late for you.

And if there IS some preachy person in your life telling you that you’re no-good as a Christian, don’t believe that either. If the good Lord can save someone like the slave trader John Newton and it takes 16 years AFTER his salvation experience to become the abolitionist-preaching song-writer, who then writes THE MOST famous Christian hymn, “Amazing Grace,”… think what God may be able to do with you, if you’ll just give yourself another chance!

Of the 4 commonly known verses of Amazing Grace, the last one is my personal favorite, leading me to consider our forever future with God:

Sing Verse 4.

#4 - Today’s outlook changes with a grace-filled ___TOMORROW__.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled… My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? … I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:1-3

These verses are well known for their promise of a forever tomorrow with Jesus. But did you remember that these same verses begin with a “Do not let your hearts be troubled?”

In last week’s sermon, Blessed Assurance, I talked about these anxiety causing days. School shootings. Divisiveness. Redefining what it means to be a man or a woman… or even to be a human!

I admit to my own anxiety over what our country is becoming. It’s all around us and it seems there is no escape. Yes, we can and should pray for God’s peace, which He promises always to deliver.

But there is another promise from Jesus that should also help us in our imperfect now - the promise of a perfect Heaven in our forever future! We have so much to look forward to and it helps us in those frustrating moments we live within today.

And I love how Jesus describes it: My Father’s house with many rooms… and one of them is prepared for YOU! I grew up with the KJV translation that quoted many mansions. For a long time I liked that translation better because, after all, who wouldn’t prefer a mansion over a room?

Lately though I have thought about it differently. God not only allows me to live in a mansion in Heaven, but also He invites me to live in His mansion with Him! Wow!!! It’s one thing to build a house for someone and say, “go live there.” It’s another thing entirely to say, “I’ve designed a special room - just for you - in MY house - and I want you to come and live with me!”

I don’t know about you, but I am so thankful for John Newton’s verse 4 that reminds us that even after 10,000 years - that we’ve only just begun. (I wonder if Karen Carpenter’s song will make a comeback that year in Heaven?)


No struggles with ourselves or others. No depression. No anxiety. No loss of hope. No loss of living fully to the glory of God! Perfectly healthy bodies AND perfectly healthy minds AND perfectly healthy spirits able to be fully engaged forever to the glory of God. No corruption. No sickness. No disappointment. No frustration. No division. No envy. No sickly pride. No selfishness. Forever NO!

And forever Yes! Yes to relationships! Yes to godly conversation! Yes to God’s Word! Yes to singing! Yes to praise! Yes to worship! Yes to patience! Yes to kindness! Yes to honor! Yes to trust! Yes to hope! Yes to love! Yes to forever and ever Amazing Grace - how sweet the sound! Amen!