Thornleigh Seventh-day Adventist Church (Sydney, Australia)

Home > Church Family > Sermon Summaries > 7 May 2005, Dr Barry Wright - It Took a Miracle

It Took a Miracle

7 May 2005, Dr Barry Wright

(Barry is Thornleigh's Church Pastor)


  My Father is omnipotent, and that you can't deny;
  A God of might and miracles-Tis written in the sky.

  Though here His glory has been shown, We still can't fully see
  The wonders of His might, His throne- 'Twill take eternity.

  The Bible tells us of His power, And wisdom all way through,
  And every little bird and flower, Are testimonies too.

  It took a miracle to put the stars in place,
  It took a miracle to hang the world in space;
  But when He saved my soul,
  Cleansed and made me whole,
  It took a miracle of love and gr

I would like to suggest to you this morning that the very fact that you are all here today worshipping in this church is nothing short of a miracle.


The word miracle in Latin means '…an object of wonder…something to be amazed at.'

These statements describe the inexplicable change that takes place in a person's life when they accept the Lord Jesus Christ. IT IS INDEED A MIRACLE

I believe there would be many among you this morning whose lives could testify to that fact.


HOWEVER, while we realise that this change is the result of a miracle, what does this have to do with LOVE and GRACE?

Let me begin this morning by suggesting to you that, in and of ourselves, we are hopelessly lost. We may long for, and strive for salvation, but we will never reach it by our own individual efforts. The Scriptures make it very clear that all of us, left to ourselves, are destined to die. IN OURSELVES WE HAVE NO HOPE. WE HAVE NO FUTURE.


We are told in Ephesians 2:8,9 that '…it is by God's grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the results of your own efforts, but God's gift, so that no one can boast about it' (Good News Bible).


This verse tells me:


'Grace' is usually defined in the Old Testament as a favour or kindness shown without regard to the worth or merit of the one who receives it. It is given in spite of what that person deserves. Grace is almost always associated with mercy, love, compassion, patience and forgiveness, but most importantly it needs to be recognised that it is also an active, energising, transforming power to save.


The apostle Paul pictures 'grace' as the hand of God reaching earthward. 'Faith' is the hand of man reaching up to God. The saving dynamic is the grace of God available to THOSE who will accept His free gift through faith.

Romans 1:16 tells us that the good news of this grace, as revealed in Jesus Christ, is '…the power of God unto salvation.' THIS SHOULD LEAVE US IN NO DOUBT.

Salvation begins with God's love and mercy and comes not through our searching for God as much as through God's searching for you.

These thoughts are summed up in the following words from another well-known hymn. Ones I am sure you are very familiar with.



  Marvellous grace of our loving Lord,
  Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
  Yonder on Calvary's mount outpoured
  There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.

  Sin and despair, like the sea-waves cold,
  Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
  Grace that is greater-yes grace untold-
  Points to the refuge, the mighty Cross.

  Marvellous, infinite, matchless grace,
  Freely bestowed on all who believe!
  You that are longing to see His face,
  Will you this moment His grace receive?

  Grace, Grace, God's Grace,
  Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
  Grace, Grace, God's Grace,
  Grace that is greater than all our sin!

One of the greatest difficulties confronting the Jews in Jesus time was to understand the concept of free grace. For years the rabbis taught that God's favour must be earned. They believed that the reward of the righteous could only be gained through their own good works. Even the disciples had been affected by this belief and so when the opportunity presented itself in the form of the rich young ruler, Jesus was able to show them that the principles of His kingdom were so different from what the world had to offer.

Lets read this well-known storey as found in Mathew 19:16-30 NIV


What was Jesus' answer?  If you want to enter life - KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS.

Dear friends, OBEDIENCE becomes the first condition. You know, we are told that teaching our own children obedience should be the first lesson they learn.

Let me tell you that the Lord expects no less of you than that required of Adam before his fall - HARMONY WITH GOD'S LAW THAT IS HOLY, JUST AND GOOD.

So, how did the young man answer Jesus' question of keeping the commandments? He says which ones?

Jesus leaves him without any doubt when he mentions the several commands from the second table of the law, BUT he then sums them all up by saying,

'THOU SHALT LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR AS THYSELF' This is the key to God's Kingdom.

Here is a young man whose outward life seemed to be free from guilt but he had a plague spot on his character. The test that Jesus gave revealed that self ruled his heart - the world was his idol.

He claimed to have kept all the commandments but he was missing the most important ingredient - true love for God and his fellow man.

Jesus said in v 21, 'If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me'.

We need to understand that the young man's heart was drawn to Jesus, but he could not accept the principle of self-sacrifice.

He chose riches before Jesus. He wanted eternal life but would not accept unselfish love, which alone is life. With a sorrowful heart he turned away from the only one who could give it to him.

William barclay suggests that if a man looks on his possessions as a source for his own comfort and convenience, they are a chain which must be broken; if he looks on his possessions as a means to helping others, they are his crown.

If every person could accept that ' You are not your own' for you are 'bought with a price' (1 Cor. 6:19,20) this may help us see that our possessions are to be held in trust. To be used as God directs for the 'saving of the lost' and the comfort of the suffering and poor'.

If we would find eternal life - If we would find happiness, joy, satisfaction, peace of mind, and serenity of heart, it will not be by obtaining a credit with God by keeping rules and regulations; it will be through reproducing God's attitude of love and care to our fellow-men.

'Who then can be saved?' To answer the disciple's question, Jesus provides a wonderful assurance when He said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God ALL things are possible.'

Even after listening to this story the disciples, while attracted by the love of Jesus, still held to the idea of receiving a reward in proportion to their labour.

In response to their need, Jesus was to tell them a parable. See Matthew 20:1-16

What is this parable telling us?

It tells us that:

There is nothing more offensive to God than a narrow self-caring spirit. He cannot work with those who exhibit it. As a result, they become insensible to the working of the Holy Spirit.

We all need to learn that the principles of God's kingdom are so different from the world. The way God and man measure character are nothing like each other. In the book 'Christ Object Lessons' (COL) p. 403 written by author, Ellen White, we are told that  'The Christian in his private life… in the daily surrender of self…the one who in the home life represents the character of Christ…in the sight of God…'may be '…more precious than the world renowned missionary or martyr' (White, 1941: 403). The principles of god's kingdom are certainly very different.

On April 18, 1915 a baby girl was born into a Jewish family where battles over religion were to become an accepted part of her life. Her name was Helen Joy Davidman. Both sets of her Grandparents immigrated to the United States in the late nineteenth century. They formed part of that great migration of southern and eastern Europeans who entered America between the 1880s and World War I. Joy's parents were also to be part of this great migration. Her father, Joseph Isaac Davidman was born in Poland in 1887. While brought up in an orthodox Jewish home, he turned his back on the family religion and later became an avowed atheist. In 1909 he married a girl called Jeanette Spivack who also came from a Jewish family, but who were fundamentally nominal and materialistic. However, while both their views on Judaism differed greatly it seemed this couple were well suited to each other. As such, their daughter was to grow up in a home where socialism and rationalism, not Judaism comprised their religion. 

Her growing up years in New York were relatively happy, but were tainted with the demons of anti-Semitism. Even though the city had a sizeable Jewish population the family were constantly effected by various forms of prejudice and bigotry. Added to these racial difficulties, Joy suffered from a number of physical problems that, unfortunately, were not diagnosed for many years. Apart from a crooked spine it was discovered that she also suffered from Grave's disease (an overactive thyroid) which caused, among other things, protruding eyes. The treatment, which was only experimental at the time, involved the use of a radium belt that was placed around her neck for 24 hours once a week for an entire year. The cure was believed to be worse than the disease as Joy's body became riddled with cancer soon after she turned 40.

There was absolutely nothing ordinary about Joy Davidman. Her IQ was unusually high and her memory was nearly photographic. While her brother Howard scored an incredible 150 on the IQ tests, Joy virtually broke the scale.

By the age of eight she had read H. G. Wells's 'Outline of History' and as a result of this reading promptly announced her atheism. Wells, like her demanding father, was a thorough materialist who believed that everything could be explained through the existence and nature of matter. Her father had always insisted that a person with intellectual respectability was a materialist. 

At the age of twelve she wanted to become a writer. A voracious reader, ready for college by the age of fourteen but because of her age, a decision was made to postpone matriculation until the following year. She graduated from Hunter College at nineteen and three semesters later was awarded a masters degree from Colombia University.

During the depression of the 1930s Joy grew disillusioned with the American economic system and promptly joined the Communist Party. After teaching high school for two years, she began experimenting with scriptwriting in the fantasy world of Hollywood.

By 1940 this twenty-five year old dynamo was serving on the staff of a weekly magazine and, in addition to editing a book of poetry, had published a poetry book of her own, as well as a novel and numerous magazine articles.

The first of a series of disappointments came to Joy's family in 1942 when she married William Lindsay Gresham who she met at a Communist Party rally. He was not only a Gentile and a Southerner, but also an impoverished free-lance writer who supplemented his income singing folk songs in Greenwich Village nightclubs. During this time she gave birth to two healthy sons - David (1945), Douglas (1946). Her husband's continued drinking and unfaithfulness, his subsequent mental breakdown and increasing financial concerns, led to a break in Joy Davidman's protective armour. It would seem that the God of Heaven had begun His search for Joy Davidman.

In the quiet of her room, not knowing which way to turn, she fell to her knees and was stunned to find herself praying. Recalling that event in her life in 1947 she says that 'I must say I was the world's most surprised atheist'. To her astonishment she not only knew that God was there with her, but that he had always been there, and that He loved her. Describing this dramatic conversion experience Joy said, she repented, 'God came in' and 'I changed' and I have been turning into a different person since that half minute. She continued 'All my defences, the walls of arrogance and cocksureness and self-love behind which I hid from God, went down momentarily - and God came in'.

It would seem that with this one time Jew, Atheist, and Communist, that God had made a major victory.

However, this new Christian still had a knack for astounding people. If her Jewish relatives had been stunned by her marriage to Bill Gresham and subsequent conversion to Christianity, her literary colleagues were more perplexed by the fact that she published only one more novel, turning from writing fiction and poetry to Christian Apologetics.

Finally, she managed to anger the Anglican world and bewildered them all when she moved to England, and, after her divorce from Bill Gresham, married the celebrated bachelor, Clive Staples Lewis, known to his immediate friends as Jack, and to the rest of the world, as C. S. Lewis. As Professor of English Literature at Oxford, he was best known for his much loved Narnia stories beginning with his first volume 'The Lion. The Witch and the Wardrobe'. Their marriage was to begin one of the most moving, beautiful, but most unlikely love stories of the twentieth century.

In December 1956, The Times personal columns carried a discreetly worded announcement of the marriage of this celebrated author, don and Christian apologist to this outspoken American divorcee. The news sent shockwaves through proper English society.

Joy continued to shock people until her death in July 1960. Doctors had pronounced her cancer incurable and gave her only days to live. However, she emerged from her bed, made Lewis a happy husband, travelled to Ireland and Greece and began work on another book as well as having a major influence on his writing. This influence was particularly seen in the last of his Narnia series 'The Last Battle'.  It was three years later that C.S. Lewis died at his home in November 1963. He was never well after joy's death.

Her effect on Lewis' life and his work is well documented. This crusty bachelor, in his mid to late fifties, experienced what it meant to really love someone, however brief, then to see them suffer indescribable pain, and then eventually lose them.

Joy's greatest legacy is the example of her transformed life. For over thirty years this tortured soul walked the way of self-indulgence and atheism. Then she turned around and followed the beckoning of Jesus Christ. If her walk with Him was frequently graceless and faltering, it was also committed, courageous, and faithful.

Joy was not a saintly person. She had been described as a brash, rebellious person with a ferocious intellect and an unbridled tongue, but after her encounter with Jesus, she did experience real meaning, direction, and happiness and eventually peace of mind.

Jesus became the lord of her life and he was able to use her in strikingly important ways.

She did not find these riches, they were a gift from god, a result of god's grace.

I would like to think that the words of John Newton's hymn aptly fits the life of Joy Davidman Lewis and may reflect our own experiences.

  Amazing grace how sweet the sound,
  that saved a wretch like me!
  I once was lost, but now am found,
  Was blind, but now I see.

  Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
  And grace my fears relieved;
  How precious did that grace appear
  The hour I first believed!

  The Lord has promised good to me,
  His word my hope secures;
  He will my shield and portion be
  As long as life endures.

  Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
  I have already come;
  'Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
  And grace will lead me home.

  When we've been there ten thousand years,
  Bright shining as the sun,
  We've no less days to sing God's praise
  Than when we'd first begun.

We need to be reminded this morning:

Salvation is indeed a miracle of love and grace



Dorsett, L. W.  (1993)  Joy and C. S. Lewis - The Story of an Extraordinary Marriage. Hammersmith, London: Harper/Collins Publishers

White, E. G.  (1941)  Christ's Object Lessons, Washington DC, USA: Pacific Press Publishing Association

(1985) The Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal. Warburton, Vic: Signs Publishing Company.

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