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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Bass Harbor Lighthouse (photo by Howard J. Blichfeldt)
Bass Harbor Lighthouse
Bass Harbor, Maine
Photo by Howard J. Blichfeldt (used by permission)

"That Saved A Wretch Like Me"

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"All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23a). "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?" (Romans 7:24).

For several weeks we've been studying a hard portion from Paul's Epistle to the Romans. It's not necessarily uplifting material but a scorning assessment of the human race and the dreadful consequences of sin. The first chapter concludes with this stunning indictment, "They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them" (Romans 1:29-32).

The amazing thing about the Bible is that it's always contemporary. Each of these behaviors or attitudes are easily observed in our world today. Not only can we see it around us but it is also possible to see it within us. The framework was laid in this passage for an oft quoted text written later in Paul's letter to the Romans,
"All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). These verses abundantly establish that we desperately need a Savior. Paul stated in regard to our desperate need for a Savior, "What a wretched man I am!"

John Newton (1725-1807)Perhaps the most famous hymn sung in church, state funerals, national and international events, recognized by believers and unbelievers alike is "Amazing Grace". The writer presents a most unflattering description of himself in this phrase, "that saved a wretch like me". The vast majority of people sing this stanza without pondering its deeper meaning since the familiarity of the song can easily override its disturbing message. And it sure doesn't set well in our time when schools, libraries, and bookstores overflow with books promoting a positive self-image. We too must acknowledge our great need like John Newton who realized the depth of his sin and rejoiced in the height of Christ's salvation.

John Newton (1725-1807)As a believer Newton pastored a church in London, where he persuaded a young William Wilberforce, to fight to put an end of the slave trade, which passed in Parliament in March 1807. Nine months later, on December 21, 1807, the 82-year old Newton lay on his bed “packed and sealed, and waiting for the post,” as he put it. Barely able to speak, Newton’s attendant leaned over the bed to hear his last words—“My memory is nearly gone. But I remember two things: that I am a great sinner . . . and Christ is a great Savior!" The former slave trader best known for writing "Amazing Grace" spoke these words shortly before he breathed his last.

Like Newton we want our life to have a positive and lasting influence on others. It is only when we recognize our sinful state, as presented by these Romans passages, that we also recognize our need for a Saviour who can save us from our own demise.

We are wretched people in our sinful state. Apart from the spiritual fruit that results from Christ who indwells our spirit we have nothing of lasting, redemptive value to offer to others. But with Christ as our Saviour we have a life-changing, redemptive message that can save the world.

Let us boldly go forward with the gospel message by the words we speak and the life we live.
Observant Bible students will realize that two of the verses in our daily Scripture portion were truncated:
  • "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
  • "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24,25).
Hallelujah, what A Saviour!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Thankful manDaily prayer: Father, the words written in 1707 by Isaac Watts come to mind especially as we focus on the cross, "Alas! and did my Savior bleed and did my Sov’reign die? Would He devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?" Watts wasn't a wretched slave trader, murderer or a swindler. He grew up in church as a preacher's son, yet he was well aware of his worthless worm-like state in contrast to Christ, the mighty Maker who died, for man the creature’s sin. Drops of grief can never repay the debt of love we owe for our complete forgiveness, abundant life and eternal inheritance provided for us through the blood sacrifice of Christ Jesus our Saviour. But we can respond by saying, "Here, Lord, I give myself away, 'tis all that I can do." And, amazingly, You joyfully accept our humble response and equip us with all we need to navigate our journey here below that leads us onward to our eternal home. We thank You for Jesus in whose name we pray. Amen.

Prayer includes adaptation of the hymn, "At the Cross" by Isaac Watts

Today's Suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources

"O What A Savior"
Ernie Haase & Signature Sound

"Hallelujah, What A Savior"  Video  Shelly Moore Band

"At the Cross"  Video  (Spanish version)  Dedicated to Marvin Culajay, our "son" from Guatemala who often sang the chorus of this hymn in his native Spanish language while he lived with us about 25 years ago.

"At the Cross"  Video   (English)  Sung by an enthused Spirit-filled African choir

"Amazing Grace"  Video  (Scottish Bagpipes)

"Who Me, A Wretch? Excellent blog article by Joseph Stowell  (Audio version)

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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