We're here to talk about the wild, ridiculous love and grace of Jesus. So come along for the ride, and take time today to laugh, love & forgive. Never regret anything that makes you smile. Don't label people & focus on the positive. And enjoy EVERY sandwich!
No matter what style of church music you prefer, chances are that if you are a believer in Jesus Christ then you love the song Amazing Grace. The song speaks to the heart of us all, offering hope that no matter our condition or our failures God's love will be with us. I have sung the words to this wonderful hymn to many a strange tune- House of the Rising Sun, Sweet Home Alabama, The Theme from Gilligan's Island and Peaceful Easy Feeling. It's the lyrics that make the song (pardon the pun) so amazing. The opening words remind us that the love of God whose name is Jesus came to save us from our sinful nature-
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
Now I can't speak for you, but I know I am indeed a wretch. Wretch is defined as "a person who is base, mean or despicable." A wretch is a sinner, and both God in heaven and everyone who knows me here on earth knows this to be true. Even my best days have bad moments. Salvation through faith in Jesus was not something I got a long time ago and now I'm cured- I need to be saved from being a wretch each and every day of my life. I know this about myself, and I understand why John Newton used that word to describe himself so many years ago when he wrote the song.
It is important to remember, however, that "wretch" is a word that we can use to describe ourselves. It is NOT a word God would ever use to describe us! Don't get me wrong, I am sure there are many occasions when the Almighty finds my actions to be wretched- but God does not discount me as a wretch. No matter our sinful nature and faulty behavior, we are God's beloved. Scripture makes that abundantly clear. In Genesis 1 we are told we are created by God in His own image. The Creator makes no junk. In Psalm 8 we hear that we are "created only a little lower than than the angels and given a crown of glory and honor on our heads." That does not sound wretched. Jesus himself says in Matthew 5 that "you are the light of the world." In Ephesians 2:10 we learn that "we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do his good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." We are fearfully and wonderfully made by the God of the universe. God despises our sins. But God loves us unconditionally. How else can you explain the story of Jesus? Our actions may be wretched. But there is nothing we can do to make God love us more, and there is nothing we can do to make God love us less. We are not wretches when held in the arms of the living God.
In 1978 I attended a youth ministry conference in which a speaker named J. David Stonehad us sing Amazing Grace, but had us substitute the word "someone" for the word "wretch." He had us sing it that way to remind us that in the eyes of God we are all somebody. We are special, because we are children of God. God knows the number of hairs on our heads and has a purpose for each of us. Most of us (myself included) seldom need to be reminded that we can be wretches at times. But many of us need daily reminders that because of Jesus, we are forgiven. Our past is wiped clean and our hearts are set free. When John 3:16 says that "God so loved the world" what it really means is "for God so loved YOU!" When we approach our lives with the understanding that the Creator of the universe and the Savior of the world love us no matter what, it changes us. It gives us power and encouragement. We become more the person God intends for for us to be. And as Todd Leet said from the pulpit of Van Dyke Church this past Sunday in his wonderfully inspirational message, what God sees when He looks at us is his masterpiece. His greatest creation is you. And even me.
The bottom line is this- we need to believe that amazing grace truly is amazing! It is a love that is unconditional and limitless. It is a love we cannot earn and will never lose. So sing the song with gusto and BELIEVE that God has indeed saved wretches like us so that we can be SOMEBODY in the name of Jesus. As Philip Yancey once wrote in his brilliant book What's So Amazing About Grace, "God loves people because of who God is, not because of who we are." The song offers us this final reminder:
The Lord has promised good to me. His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
Jesus will never leave nor forsake us. But he will ALWAYS love us! Amen & Amen.