Originally Published in the November 19, 2014 edition of The Chadron Record.
Most of us have heard the old hymn, “Amazing Grace”. This famous song was penned by a slave-trader turned pastor and abolitionist in England during the late 1700’s. His name was John Newton. When Newton was advanced in years – with his eyesight, health and memory fading – he famously declared, “I remember two things: That I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great savior.”
Fellow pastor Scott Montgomery and I have teamed up to unpack this rich quote. Today we consider the first part – I am a great sinner. Next week, Scott will tell us why Christ is a great savior.
Jesus spent time with people who many in the religious establishment considered to be especially sinful. They were “tax collectors and sinners”. The religious leaders complained about this to Jesus’ disciples. Jesus’ response? Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. He wasn’t implying that the leaders were spiritually healthy – far from it! What he was saying was that he came to save people who are spiritually ill; and that means sinners.
So are we sinners? Most people consider themselves to be more or less good. And they usually think that because they know people who are worse. If God is grading on a curve, then I am doing okay. At least, far better than the guy who lives down the street who doesn’t even mow his lawn!
In Romans 1-3, the Apostle Paul rips apart all of our claims to goodness. Due to our rebellion against God, our rejection of the knowledge of God, our willful idolatry (cherishing things more than God), and the trampling of God’s law; all people are proven to be sinful. God doesn’t grade on a curve – he is a perfect and righteous judge. So at the end of the day, we are shown to be no better than the tax collectors and sinners that Jesus came to save, “for there is none righteous, no not one.” That covers everyone! Even you.
So I agree with Newton; I am a great sinner. That is the bad news. But that bad news leads us to the greatest news in the universe: Christ is a great savior. He saves sinners like us.
Stay tuned next week for part 2.