Named Shon Hopwood, he said when his high school basketball career failed and college and the military fell through, he was left with a complete lack of purpose, susceptible to addiction and depression.
He had an equally adrift friend who suggested they rob a bank. Ultimately, they robbed five banks with guns and Hopwood said they scared personnel of the banks half to death.
When 23 years old, he was finally caught by the FBI in a Double Tree Hotel in Omaha, Neb., and sentenced to 12 years in federal prison. While there, God began to deal with him about his sins.
Hopwood asked, “What does it mean to be redeemed, and how do you redeem yourself after robbing five banks? The answer is, you don’t ... you need help.”
He continued: “Because of our sins, none of us — and surely no former prisoner like me [he was released in 2009] can be redeemed on our own. We need the gospel of grace.” He accepted the grace of God and is now a follower of Christ.
The Bible has a great deal to say about grace. The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:7-8 that in Christ “We have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.”
What do we mean by the word grace? Dr. Daniel L. Black, editor of adult Sunday school literature at Pathway Press, says, “Grace is the unmerited (undeserved, unearned) favor God extends to us for Christ’s sake, by which He forgives us and saves us from sin.”
Black continued, “Grace is also God working in us, for us, and through us by His Spirit to accomplish His good will in our lives.”
The word grace is used 149 times referring to God or Christ in the New Testament, not counting the words gracious or graciously. So the Holy Spirit wants us to know that grace is available to all of us and it is free.
Apostle Paul made this clear to the church at Ephesus when he said: “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” (Ephesians 2:8, 9).
How the world needs to accept God’s grace today! People are running, wandering, searching, when God is saying, “This is the way, walk in it; accept My unmerited favor.”
In his book “World Aflame,” Billy Graham wrote: “This is still the age of grace. God’s offer of forgiveness and a new life still stands.
“However, the door will one day be closed. Some day it will be too late. This is why the Bible continually warns and challenges: ‘Now is the accepted time’ (2 Corinthians 6:2).”
Ministers like to proclaim the grace of God. Pastor E. Stanley Jones exclaimed: “Grace binds you with far stronger cords than the cords of duty or obligation can bind you.
“Grace is free, but once you take it you are bound forever to the Giver, and bound to catch the spirit of the Giver. Like produces like. Grace makes you gracious, the Giver makes you give.”
Someone has said the glorious Gospel of the grace of God is the profound heritage of the church, and the ministry for a lost world.
John Newton, an 18-year-old, completely forsook his upbringing and became as profligate as he had been virtuous. He worked on a slave ship carrying slaves from Africa to England. On a return voyage from West Africa he was so profane that the captain, anything but a saint himself, reproved Newton for his dirty mouth.
John Newton later became a captain of a slave ship himself and was known for his ungodliness. Finally, there came into his hands the book “The Imitation of Christ,” which ultimately led to his conversion.
Before conversion he lamented, “I’ve scorned the light and glory I once knew. ... My sins are too great, too great to be forgiven.” But God, in His grace did forgive him. Later John Newton wrote:
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see.”