Ministerial Meanderings

God centered theology in a man centered world.

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Location: Springfield, Missouri, United States

I was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Laurel, Maryland. I served in the United States Air Force for 20 years then retired. Then God led me to become a pastor. I was converted to Christ in the summer of 1966. I enjoy the company of my wife, children and grandchildren. I live with my three cats Hobbs, Taz, and Chloe.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Amazing Grace Still Amazes Me

There has been a lot of attention paid recently to this great old hymn. The book by John Piper on the life of William Wilburforce and the recently released movie "Amazing Grace" has brought new attention to the hymn by John Newton. Newton was a friend and an influence on Wilburforce, who was a Minister of Parliament (MP). Newton had once been a captain of a slave trading ship but he was saved by God's "amazing grace." Wilburforce believed God had saved him during his public life to be an influence for good for the people of England. Newton and Wilburforce teamed up together with others to abolish the slave trade once and for all among the British people.

Newton knew the depth of his sin and depravity. He was thoroughly a five point Calvinist. He knew there was nothing good in him. Yet, he knew that God had saved him in spite of who he was. So he opens his great hymn with the words, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me." We all know those words. But not many people today think of themselves as "wretches." In modern theology man has been becoming better and better. In much of today's preaching, man is a pretty good guy who God loves and wants to make into a better guy so that he can gives us happiness and contentment. But that is not the biblical gospel.

Grace is impossible to understand apart from a view of man's depravity. We are sinful in every part of ourselves. Our emotions, our wills, our bodies, our intellects, our thoughts, in short, there is no part of ourselves that is not stained by sin somehow. This is the definition of the Calvinist doctrine of "total depravity." To me, it is simply a Bible doctrine. Romans 3:10-18 and other passages show us what man is like apart from God. There is nothing good in me. Even now as a Christian I know how much I love my sin.

O, I know, I am supposed to hate sin. I do hate sin. I hate it and I hate myself when I find sin in me. But as Paul said in Romans 7, I find two laws at work in my members. There is a law of the Spirit that leads me to holiness and there is a law of sin seeking to please my flesh. They are always at war within me. I look around myself and I find many enticements to sin and I find that my flesh loves it so. Sometimes I enjoy logging onto a voice chat area on the Internet to talk with other Christians. Sometimes the topics are controversial and the discussion gets heated. Sometimes, we get mean with each other. In those moments it occurs to me that I cannot even talk about holy things with other Christians without using it as an occasion to sin. Yes, I hate sin, but my flesh loves it so.

In light of that I take to heart the verse in 1 John where the beloved apostle says "Behold what manner of love the Father has for us, that we should be called the sons of God." Isn't that true? Look how the Father loves us ... that he takes us rebellious, sinful, depraved, worldly creatures ... creatures who, even if we are saved, must offend Him with our sin, and yet He calls us His own dear children. Even while we were His enemies, according to scripture, He sent His Son to die for us. We are adopted into His family, into Christ, and have become partakers of the divine nature. We are inheritors of everything that is Christ's. One day, we will be mirror images of Jesus Himself. Wow! Amazing grace indeed!

I know my own sin. I know my failures and how easily my flesh turns aside from holiness towards sinfulness. But I also know the promises of God that He has given to me. That is why I still find grace to be amazing. Salvation is not a nebulous thing. It is a personal thing. So I can say look at how the Father loves me, personally .. that I should be called a child of God. That is why grace is still amazing to me.

2 Comments:

Blogger Baptist Girl said...

Hi John,
Great post.
Within each man lies concealed
the deadly cancer of sin and the only cure is found in the Grace, yes "Amazing", it is that He would take a wretch like me and draw me unto Salvation. I don't deserve it but because of Grace I am a child of the living God.

Cristina

2:07 AM  
Blogger Micky said...

About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staff was very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 1994, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages [England & Australia]. God LOVES me so much. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].

Peace Be With You
Micky

8:22 PM  

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