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March 19, 2017

"AMAZING GRACE"

TEXT: Ephesians 2: 1-8
READING:  Psalm 84: 1-12

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SUBJ: Claiming the message of John Newton’s most famous hymn and applying its gospel message to our own experience.

AIM: That we might experience an increased ability to worship God in the context of redemption and to sing the song from the heart and not just from memory.

INTR: It is to be feared that we sing the hymns of Zion and the songs that should resound as “making melody in our hearts” to the Lord are often merely recited from memory.
1. From Newton’s tombstone: “John Newton, Clerk, once and infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy.”
2. This hymn was most certainly written from “out of the depths” of the soul of one whose heart experienced the things he wrote – do we experience it as we sing it?
3. To look to Christ is to see the essence of grace: And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John 1:14. We would endeavor to visit the hymn with the effect that we are as amazed as was the author.

THESIS: It is in the Grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ that we are made to realize the extent of grace as far as we are concerned. So it was the divine intent that the effect would be the worship of the one true God and Jesus Christ who He has sent.

I. The amazing effect – “How sweet the sound”
1. Verse 7 of our text speaks volumes to the reason of Newton’s use of the word “amazing”
1) The very word “amaze” should arrest our attention: “To confound with fear, sudden surprise, or wonder; to astonish.” Webster’s 1828 dictionary.
2) We are first here amazed at the richness of that grace – incomprehensible greatness
3) We are further amazed at the kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ
4) And we are especially amazed that this kindness comes through the life, work, and sacrifice of Christ our Lord.
2. It is sad that one of the great deceptions is that men can, of themselves, generate the sense that makes us able perceive such sweetness: The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills. Song of Songs 2:8
3. And compare: How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Psalms 119:103
4. The sound is sweet because it reveals to us the determination of a thrice-holy God to do infinite good and provide everlasting joy and fellowship with Him!
5. How is the message received and is the sound as sweet as it should be to us?

II. The amazing perception of the true believer – “A wretch like me” saved by such grace.
1. Who can forget the words of the Apostle: O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Romans 7:24
1) Words that evidently described the state from which he had been saved, but more
2) The effect of sin in his life so that he truly saw himself in that way!
2. As we read Romans 3:12-18, may we be reminded that those words are descriptive of all in the potential of our natures and so there is not hesitancy to describe ourselves as the Lord did the Laodiceans: Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: Revelation 3:17
3. That Christ should engage in full identification with the likes of such – “this man eateth with sinners.” Note that Newton fully identified as an infidel and one a rebel against God.
1) Christ was more than sympathetic to us – He became us and bore our sin in His body on the tree and there suffered our death – Are we amazed?
2) He arose without our sin and declared death to be vanquished – Are we amazed?

III. Delivered from being lost and blind
1. The typical thought about being lost is that of “merely not saved.”
1) Lost, in the sense understood by Newton and the scriptures, is a far worse situation in that there is no consciousness of the fact and there is no human means of escape exists.
i. Lost to any sense of real need of eternal salvation.
ii. Lost to any sense of or need of the love of God applied
iii. To us means that we don’t know where we are – this is much worse
2) Ultimately lost means to be forever cut off from the presence of God and left to the self-existence men cultivate and memory.
2. And blind to any sense of divine light – such blindness apart from grace remains.
3. To see is to see Jesus and the beauty associated with the sound of Amazing Grace – Illustration: The boy seeing color for the first time.