Saturday, November 24, 2007

Whats so Amazing about Amazing Grace, part 2

In my last post I spoke a little about John Newton, the author of the beloved song "Amazing Grace". I told a little of his early life, how he became a Christian, and even the epitaph that is on his tombstone. Today I would like to look the lyrics of the first verse, giving biblical support for the doctrine that I see there, and with a little luck continue with the other verses soon after.

Verse 1
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

Grace is indeed amazing! But what exactly is it? A common easy to remember, simplified explanation which you may hear in many churches is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Not bad, but perhaps a little over simplified.

Webster’s defines grace thus: the free unmerited love and favor of God - unearned and undeserved. I think that really nails it! The bible talks much of grace, but one of my favorite verses about grace is Ephesians 2: 8-9 "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."

How sweet the sound

Anyone who is truly saved knows how sweet the sound of the word grace is. But the reason it is so sweet is deeply tied to being "a wretch like me" which we’ll look at in a moment.

That saved

Simply put, a person is saved when he is born again. John 3: 3 says "....except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." In Matthew 1: 21 it says "....and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins." You see, when Jesus saves you, it is not just from the penalty of sin, but also from the bondage of continuing in sin!

A wretch like me

Wretchedness speaks of the total depravity of man. Once you have seen yourself in the mirror of the ten commandments, you will start to get a view of your wretchedness. Romans 7: 13 says in part: "....that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful." In fact, if you are having a hard time seeing yourself as a sinful wretch, keep in mind that Isaiah said in chapter 64 verse 6 that "....all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags". That’s right, as if our sins were not bad enough, God views our good deeds (outside of Christ) as filthy rags!
What is amazing about grace is that it should be bestowed upon me! I am that wretch who has neither earned nor deserves grace.

I once was lost, but now am found

This may chafe against some that may claim to have been a Christian their whole life, but it is quite biblical. In fact I can only think of two people mentioned in the bible who were not once lost. One, of course, was Jesus Christ himself, who was to do the finding. The other was John the baptist, who scripture states was filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb (and that is not to say he was not a sinner in need of salvation).

1 Corinthians 6: 9-11 "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. "

You see, even if you find yourself on the list mentioned in 1 Corinthians above, there is still hope for you through Christ Jesus our Lord and Saviour. The terms saved, born again, and converted are all found in the bible and they all speak of a change. While one cannot base their salvation on the fact that their lives have been changed, the lack of a lasting change should certainly be cause for alarm.

Of course when we hear the phrase "once was lost but now am found" it likely brings to mind the parable of the lost sheep as found in Luke 15: 4-7; "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. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance."

In the passage above, I would just ask; who did the searching, the Shepperd or the sheep? The fact that it is Christ that seeks out the lost, and not the lost who seek out Christ shows the irresistible call of God. Though from the human perspective it may seem that it is man who seeks salvation, scripture makes it clear that "We love him, because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19)

Was blind but now I see

Before being born again, each of us is blind, and it is because we have been blinded by the god of this world as 2 Corinthians 4: 3-6 states: "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. 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. "

If, as it says in the passage above, that our minds have been blinded by the god of this world, then something needs to take place in order to give us sight. We need a miracle! We can see a picture of that miracle in the story of Jesus giving sight to a man blind from birth (John chapter 9). So too, are each of us helplessly blind until Jesus has performed a miracle upon us in giving us spiritual sight!

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