Just the title of this song alone, brings tears to my eyes. When I think of the grace of Jesus, I see in my mind’s eye, mountains majesty and waters flowing freely! When I first heard this song as a born-again Christian, I was moved to tears. I had the joined the choir in the church I belonged to and we were given this song to practice. I could not sing it because the words had overwhelmed me. I wonder if that is how Haldor Lillenas felt as he penned them?
Brother Lillenas was born in Norway on November 19, 1885, and died August 18, 1959, in Colorado. He was saved at the age of 21 and almost immediately he felt the calling of God to become a preacher. He studied music in college and he and his wife, Bertha Mae Wilson, wrote approximately 4,000 hymns together. In 1918, he wrote the song Wonderful Grace of Jesus on an organ he bought from his neighbor for $5.00. As I was looking through a list of titles of the hymns he and his wife wrote, I noticed that many were hymns on the grace of God and about His Word, the Bible! His words were so clearly written and they revealed that this man loved the Lord and that God’s Word was precious to him.
Wonderful Grace of Jesus is probably the most popular of his hymns. This hymn has the entire plan of salvation laid out for the unbeliever. To the unsaved, it reveals the precious grace that God bestowed upon mankind. To the believer, it causes the heart to rejoice because our salvation is sure and secure.
Wonderful Grace of Jesus
Wonderful grace of Jesus,
Greater than all my sin;
How shall my tongue describe it,
Where shall its praise begin?
Taking away my burden,
Setting my spirit free;
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.Refrain
Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus,
Deeper than the mighty rolling sea;
Wonderful grace, all sufficient for me, for even me.
Broader than the scope of my transgressions,
Greater far than all my sin and shame,
O magnify the precious Name of Jesus.
Praise His Name!
Wonderful grace of Jesus,
Reaching to all the lost,
By it I have been pardoned,
Saved to the uttermost,
Chains have been torn asunder,
Giving me liberty;
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.
Wonderful grace of Jesus,
Reaching the most defiled,
By its transforming power,
Making him God’s dear child,
Purchasing peace and heaven,
For all eternity;
And the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.
I would have loved to know what circumstances in Haldor’s life prompted him to pen these precious words! The best way we can honor this man is to glean from the message he tried to give us. What have we learned?
It is the grace of Jesus that reaches down to the vilest of sinners and it is not our own works or efforts that reach up to God. Eph. 2:8-9, For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (8 Not of works, lest any man should boast. (9) Our salvation is a precious gift from God, Himself! For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (Joh 3:16)
Christ paid a great price for us – with His own life – His own blood was shed on that cross so that we would no longer have to live in sin and serve the devil. For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Co 6:20) and Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men. (1 Co 7:23)
We are no longer slaves to sin, my friend. A slave cannot free himself – he cannot pay a price to the slave owner to free himself. However, our Master did purchase us – He bought us with a great price! No more are we bound unto slavery! No more are we slaves to the devil. Christ has paid the price! We do not need to be servants to sin any longer.
Throughout the Old Testament, Christ’s precious grace was shown. I especially love these verses in Ezra! It is like reading a prophecy of that upcoming grace! Ezra 9:6-9 And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens. Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass unto this day; and for our iniquities have we, our kings, and our priests, been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, and to a spoil, and to confusion of face, as it is this day. (7) And now for a little space grace hath been shewed from the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage. (8 For we were bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem. (9) Isn’t this beautiful? In our sin, we were delivered to the enemy. The unbeliever is the servant of sin and the devil! As God showed Ezra that He had given them a nail in His holy place, God gave mankind Christ nailed to a cross where His blood was placed on the Holy of Holies.
The payment for sin was the blood of a Perfect Lamb placed on the altar or sacrifice. Our Lamb, Jesus Christ, shed His own perfect and sinless blood and it was placed on the altar in the Holy of Holies. The Father sees only the blood of His Son when He looks for payment at our judgment! Our payment was paid in full. We were purchased with a great price!
God reached down to the most defiled – the sinner! It only takes one sin to be a sinner. We are all sinners. For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (Rom 3:23) There is no big sin or little sin. No matter what “religion” will teach you, the little ones will condemn you as much as the big ones. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. (Jam 2:10) To the unsaved, even if he should tell a lie, he is guilty of breaking all of the commandments.
God extended mercy and showed His love for us by sending His Son to die for us while we were deep in our sin. There’s nothing we can do to be good enough. Thank God, He placed this verse in His Word so we could see that! But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8 Praise the Lord that I did not have to wait until I was sinless before getting saved. If that were the fact, I would have died in my sins and gone straight to hell.
With this grace, we are free from the burden of sin and our spirit is made free. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. (Rom 8:2) I could not possibly live by the law – if I could, I could be saved on my own merit. But Eph. 2:8-9 are quick to point out that our own works cannot save us. The best of what we have appears like filthy, dirty rags to God! All of what we have appears like filthy, dirty rag to the Father! But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Isa 64:6)
Christ’s grace transforms us and makes us a new creature! If you claim salvation by His grace and yet you still do the exact same things you did prior to your “salvation,” and you do not have remorse for doing these same things, then you have not experienced Christ’s life changing grace. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Co 5:17) The Law cannot save us – we must be born again according to John 3:3. The Law, however, teaches us that we are sinners! For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. (Gal 6:15) It is this new creature of the heart that Christ is looking for. We can do all we can to “earn” our way, but it will be for nothing! Unless the heart is truly saved, our efforts will be in vain. Only Christ’s grace can revive our spirit from death to life everlasting. I am no longer under the bondage of sin and can say no to sin. The devil cannot force me to sin. It is my own lust that causes me to sin. Tit. 2:11-12, For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, (11) Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; (12)
Praise the Lord for men like Haldor Lillenas along the way who penned words that encouraged our spirits throughout the years! I love singing this song and hearing it in four part harmony! Music is such a wonderful part of the church service and it does wonders at preparing the heart to hear God’s message from the man of God. What beautiful words to hear this morning! The wonderful and matchless grace of Jesus! Amen!