Adventist Review associate editor Gerald Klingbeil recently sat down with Bill Knott, executive editor of the magazine, and talked with him about GraceNotes, a weekly Sabbath message focusing on God’s amazing grace.
Tell us about the origins of GraceNotes. When and why did you begin to send out these weekly e-mail and text messages?
For many years I’ve carried a prayer list in my Bible that named friends and leaders in God’s church for whom I was interceding. During quiet moments of worship services and while waiting for appointments, I would pray for each of them.
I could explain how the undeserved favor of Jesus rescued me from my own lostness—but it remained a theological construct, not a living experience.
It occurred to me one Sabbath morning about six years ago that many of these same people don’t have persons regularly reminding them of the truths of the gospel, and that they might be blessed by a weekly reminder of God’s care for them. The list was small then—about 70 persons—but it has grown to include thousands of friends, pastors, leaders, and members around the world.
Why did you decide to focus on grace? Surely there is more to the Christian journey than grace, isn’t there?
Ellen White frequently describes redemption as “an inexhaustible theme,” and the longer I’ve pondered the grace of Jesus, the more amazing it appears to me. Week by week, as I write the five or six sentences of each GraceNote, I try to capture the lessons that the Lord has been teaching me: lessons about my own sinfulness, about the perfect salvation available through the love of Jesus, about the way grace intersects with our most important relationships.
The GraceNotes project is a weekly record of what I’m learning through study and prayer. It’s designed to build encouragement and hope in those who read each note.
What has this journey into grace done in your own life?
As a lifelong Adventist and a pastor for 30 years, I thought I understood the grace of Jesus—and perhaps I did in a theoretical way. I could explain how the undeserved favor of Jesus rescued me from my own lostness—but it remained a theological construct, not a living experience. Through the amazing kindness of Jesus and the witness of godly friends, I came to fully trust my life to Jesus. I recognized that I could do nothing to save myself—that I had to rely entirely on the righteousness of Jesus.
I like to tell friends that though I’m married to the same woman, live in the same house, and hold the same job, everything about my life is different. In a word, I discovered the joy I had been missing as a believer, and I began to understand how powerfully gratitude can reshape a life.
From your vantage point as editor of the flagship magazine of the Seventh-day Adventist Church as well as a trained historian, what’s the story of grace within our faith community?
Like believers in all ages, including in the era of the New Testament church, we’re tempted to assume that everything, in the end, depends on us: on our sincere intentions, on our hard work, on our acts of service for others.
At key moments in our history—the 1888 Minneapolis General Conference session; the renewed emphasis on the righteousness of Christ in the 1970s and 1980s, and the contemporary hunger to understand this theme I see everywhere in the church today—God has been reminding us to put first things first.
Grace will always be counterintuitive for sinners: we mistakenly assume that we can by ourselves fix what’s broken in our lives. The irony is that we diminish the work of Jesus when we underline the importance of our effort. By celebrating grace, by highlighting the salvation wrought through Jesus, we find our lives—and our behaviors—increasingly conformed to His image.
What do you hope to accomplish by sharing your weekly GraceNotes online?
My weekly GraceNotes are a testimony designed to encourage the many who are “heavy laden” to come to Jesus, trust His love for them, and allow Him to transform them through a daily, living experience of gratitude. Seventh-day Adventists ought to be foremost in proclaiming the grace of Jesus, for grace is still the most powerful and transformative force in this universe.
You can find each week’s GraceNote—and the entire archive of previous posts—at www.adventistreview.org