Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me…
I have my own definitions of what a wretch is (how I used to see myself), but the dictionary describes it as a deplorably unfortunate or unhappy person, a person of despicable or base character. We could add the words beggar, bum, lowlife, outcast, scum, worm, and loser (just to name a few).
This isn’t very uplifting, is it? But do you know many people still identify with being a wretch instead of being righteous? I love the words of this beautiful hymn: “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.” In fact, I wouldn’t trade the word wretch in these lines. It reminds me who God saved.
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins” (Romans 3:23-24, NLT). This is the part I embrace– that God (in His grace) has made me right in His sight through Jesus. And I’m very aware that’s not where I (or any of us) started.
“Once [we] were dead because of [our] disobedience and [our] many sins. [We] used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.
But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that [we] have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.
God saved [us] by his grace when [we] believed. And [we] can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:1-10).
I highly recommend reading the above passage again very slowly. Notice phrases like “incredible wealth of his grace” and “God’s masterpiece” “created anew in Christ” — these describe who we are now and what we’ve received. That’s why it’s called amazing grace.
Yes, I was once a wretch. A real mess really. We all were. “BUT GOD, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, [even when we were a miserable wretch], made us alive together with Christ…” (Ephesians 2:4-5, my paraphrase).
Say it aloud: BUT GOD…
It’s okay to identify with being a former wretch, as long as you remember the BUT GOD part. You and I, as believers in Christ, are no longer a wretch, a beggar, an outcast, or a sinner. We are now called righteous, sons, daughters, children, beloved.
This is your identity in Christ. It’s amazing. And it’s all because of grace. My continual prayer is that you will identify with how God sees you now.