Amazing Grace is probably the best-loved hymn of the Christian faith. Not only is it sung in churches but also it is often heard at times of loss and sorrow among those who are not necessarily professing believers. But John Newton’s language is out of step with the general thinking of our day. To speak of “a wretch like me” is felt to be damaging to self-esteem. As this generation has focused on self-esteem, esteem for God and his Son has diminished.
A Wretch Like Me Saved
Grace is amazing because by it sinners are saved. God is holy and hates sin. The angelic chorus of heaven sings, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts.” Because we are sinful creatures living in a sinful world it is difficult for us to grasp what it really means when we say God is holy. As fallen sinners we have a tendency to make excuses for sin, but God hates every evil way. He hates pride, selfishness, ingratitude, and fleshly lusts which war against the soul. He hates the secret sins of the heart as well as the glaring sins that all may see.
As a result of Adam’s sin the whole human race is under condemnation. By nature man is in rebellion against God.
He is determined to go his own way, do his own thing and ignore the commandments of God. He does not love God, fear God, or seek God. Psalm 14:2-3 describes it vividly: “The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”To think, then, that this holy God would reach down to save corrupt rebels is amazing. Not only does he save them from the penalty of sin, rescue them so they will not spend eternity in hell, but he adopts them into his family. He gives them “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away” (1 Peter 1:4). These sinners were poor, needy, and bankrupt but he makes them rich as “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17).
Some day all those in his family will be with him. There will be no more struggles with sin, no more battles with Satan.
There will be no sorrows, no tears, no pain — nothing but eternal joy. Amidst the struggles and burdens of life in this world it is difficult to fathom the reality of such bliss which will go on forever.Think of it, the saints here read about Jesus in the scriptures, they hear preaching about Jesus from the pulpit, they sing about Jesus from the hymnal, they pray to Jesus, they find comfort in his fellowship; but ultimately in heaven they shall be with him, and see him as he is. In their resurrected bodies, perfectly conformed to the image of Christ, the redeemed host will behold his glory, sing his praises perfectly, and never have to fear any dark nights or seasons of separation from him.These redeemed glorified saints are there not because they deserve it. Not because of any work they performed or any price they paid. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). They are there because salvation is a gift bestowed on unworthy sinners through the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. Grace is Amazing!
I Once Was Lost But Now Am Found
John Newton had a vivid view of what it means to be lost. He was influenced in early childhood by the teachings of his mother but as time passed he turned away from any religious convictions. In adult life he became captain of a ship involved in the slave trade. On a journey home while he was attempting to steer the ship through a violent storm, he had what he would later call his “great experience.” When it seemed that the ship would sink and he would surely die, he cried, “Lord have mercy upon us.” As he thought about what he had said, he concluded God had dealt with him in that storm and God’s grace had begun to work in his heart.To be lost in a storm on the sea, or lost in the darkness of night, is a fearful thing to consider. But when you think of what it means to be lost in sin, lost because of separation from God, lost forever, it is a dark picture indeed. The good news of the gospel is that “the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Sometimes when people relate their experience they talk about the time “they found the Lord.” But the fact is, it is the Lord who finds the sinner.Luke 15:4-5 describes it this way: “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it. And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.”
What good news to know the Shepherd goes after the sheep “until he finds it.”
The sheep wander afar and would never come to the fold on their own, but the Good Shepherd finds them, carries them home and proclaims, “Rejoice with me: for I have found my sheep which was lost.”Can you sing Newton’s hymn and say, “I once was lost but now am found”? Multitudes have no sense of being lost; they have no sense of being a guilty sinner accountable to a holy God. But if by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit you were made to see your sin, and your lost condition, and now by his grace you can say, “I am found” — you are the recipient of the greatest of all blessings. Yes, grace is amazing.
Was Blind But Now I See
By nature men are in darkness. “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:10). The sad thing is they do not know they are in darkness. They boast of their wisdom and take pride in their works. But God says that they have “their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them because of the blindness of their heart” (Ephesians 4:18). They are blind; they are in darkness.When the spiritually blind are first enlightened to see, it is a painful sight to view the corruption of their nature and to realize that even their righteousness is filthy rags. But what a joy to then see Jesus as the Savior of even the greatest of sinners. “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:5-6).
What a change is wrought by grace!
The soul that was in darkness, ignorant of his own sinfulness and his need for a Savior, now by God’s grace comprehends his ruined state, and by faith sees Jesus.
God has commanded light to shine into his darkened soul and he turns from sin and self-righteousness to find forgiveness and salvation in Jesus Christ. What a blessing when the blind are made to see. Do you see in Jesus all you need? Do you see in him the blood that cleanses you, the righteousness that clothes you, the hope that sustains you? If so you can sing from your heart, “Amazing grace how sweet the sound.”