Sunday, October 16, 2011

Amazing Grace

It was only a short time after I began following Jesus in earnest; less than a full year.

During the previous summer I had made a profession of faith and been baptized by immersion at the First Baptist Church of Hammond IN.  By the end of that year, Chris and I left Northwest Indiana and moved to St. Louis.  In the spring, we became members of a small General Baptist Church in South City and that is where I began to grow up as a Christian.

I remember an evening service that took place the beginning of that first summer at Christy Park General Baptist Church.  It was the Sunday night service after a week of Vacation Bible School.  The attendance was low; the usual for a Sunday night (perhaps even lower since we had all worked hard the week before). I don't remember what the pastor preached on that night. I do remember that it wasn't an evangelical kind of message. It was more the kind of message that you would expect for a pastor to preach to a bunch of workers that needed a bit of rest and encouragement to continue in the work of God.  The service ended without an invitation of any kind; a rarity in most evangelical churches. There was a prayer of benediction and we were dismissed.

As we began to talk to one another and decide who was going to Ted Drewe's and who wanted dinner first, a stranger began to make his way from the back of the church to the front where the pastor was still standing. I remember seeing him and thinking that he was like a fish swimming upstream. We were making or way out and he was trying to get to the front. After a few moments, the pastor switched his mic back on and spoke to us.  He told us that since we had been dismissed, we were free to go; but he asked us to take our conversations to the foyer or parking lot. Then he told us that this man had come seeking God and asking for prayer and the pastor invited us to stay and pray with them.

Several went to the front to kneel and pray there. Most of us returned to our seats or sat down where we were and prayed from there.  Later we would find out that this man was legally blind and having some other personal issues. For that particular night, he felt like Satan was truly after him and ducked into the sanctuary of the church, seeking refuge from his pursuer.  As he wept over his need for God and as many prayed for him without really knowing what was going on,  the pianist went to the piano and began to play Amazing Grace.

As I listened to her play, it struck me that I was witnessing the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. I think that it was the very first time that I was aware of His Power and Presence at the moment that it was happening.  There was nothing in the message about our need for God. There was nothing about our sinful condition; nothing about our helplessness. There was no instruction, no encouragement to seek the saving grace of God, no invitation or opportunity given--and yet here was one that had come for just that purpose.

You may be thinking that this was some crazy guy that came in off the street. Maybe that description worked -- for that night. But Gerald became a part of our fellowship. His wife and daughter soon joined us, as well.  He began to grow in his new faith. The transformation that was taking place in his life was interesting to watch and be a part of in a small way.

That was more than 25 years ago.

I still think of that moment (and it generally brings tears to my eyes) whenever I hear that song. You don't hear it in its traditional form at Hopedale anymore. Now we sing the Amazing Grace: My Chains are Gone version.  I think that I like it better ... and it still brings the same memories to mind.

And I am still amazed the God chooses to love us and has provided the means for us to be reconciled from our sin through the death, burial and resurrection of His son, Jesus.

As you read this, perhaps you are sensing that it's time for you to examine your life in the light of eternity.  I know that Gerald felt that it was the devil that was chasing after him. The devil may not be chasing after you. It may be that it is God that is pursuing you.  Is He guiding your heart to come to Him?  Are you running from Him because you would rather cling to the temporary things of this life than to claim an inheritance in heaven?  Stop running from Him. He is calling to you so that you can fulfill your God-given purpose in life. True happiness; true joy can only be found in Him through His son Jesus.

I've listened to this several times as I've been writing. I pray that as you listen to it the Holy Spirit will stir your heart to come to Jesus, to share your story, to give glory to God.

John <><

1 comment:

Kevin said...

Very nice post, John...especially the paragraph second to last.