The first aspect of three which leads to the appreciation of grace is this: the sovereign and gracious work of God in bringing sinners to Christ. Charles Spurgeon in his autobiography writes:
When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me. I do not think the young convert is at first aware of this. I can recall the very day and hour when first I received those truths [the doctrine of election] in my own soul—when they were, as John Bunyan says, burnt into my heart as with a hot iron, and I can recollect how I felt that I had grown on a sudden from a babe into a man—that I had made progress in Scriptural knowledge, through having found, once for all, that clue to the truth of God.
One week-night, when I was sitting in the house of God, I was not thinking much about the preacher’s sermon, for I did not believe it. The thought struck me, How did you come to be a Christian? I sought the Lord. But how did you come to seek the Lord? The truth flashed across my mind in a moment—I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek Him. I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, How came I to pray? I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures. How came I to read the Scriptures? I did read them, but what led me to do so? Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, “I ascribe my change wholly to God.
My own conversion began whilst I was venomously opposed to the idea of the existence of God. Yet, I first found myself praying, unexpectedly, at the spot where my grandmother’s dead body had been found. Soon after that I was surrounded by credible, loving Christians. Everywhere I went I couldn’t get away from joyful, believing, dependable believers.
When I finally came to faith I’d been up the previous night until 5am at my 24th birthday party, drinking heavily. But the following night I felt drawn to church against common sense and the good advice of my house mate. As I listened to the words of Psalm 36 which say that because of “the sinfulness of the wicked, there is no fear of God before their eyes” yet “Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O LORD.” The fact that God knew all about my twisted heart, my spite and evil plots, my wicked words and conceit and yet showed his incomparable steadfast love, faithfulness, righteousness and justice for me in the cross of Christ melted my heart and gave me new eyes. When I look back on my life I am able but don’t echo enough the “constant confession” of Spurgeon, “I ascribe my change wholly to God.”
Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith– and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast.