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.
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
The question is this: If you were saved when you were six or if you can’t remember ever being an unbeliever, can you understand the seriousness of the sin you were saved from—can you sing “Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me?”
Some Christians can’t remember a time when they didn’t believe in God, while others might remember believing very young even if they didn’t have an aha moment. Still others may remember believing as a child, but then they fell away from God in their behavior and thinking only to turn back with a regenerate heart at a later age: teen, college, or adult years. And there are those with a dramatic testimony where you are filled with awe upon listening and thankful for the grace God showed them and the truth He made known. So if your testimony is less than dramatic or if you don’t really have a testimony to speak of because you can’t remember a time when you didn’t believe, does that mean your amazement with God as your Savior is any less? No.
John Piper shares,
“At age 71, with no memory of ever being an unbeliever, I am amazed that God saved me. I know of no season in my life that I would want to go back to when I felt more wonder and thankfulness at God’s saving grace in my life. The sinfulness from which I have been (and am being) saved is as appalling to me in this season of my life as it has ever been. I have no hesitation in singing, ‘He saved a wretch like me.’”
Piper has written an article on desiringGod.org titled, “Can I Sing ‘Amazing Grace’ If I Was Saved at Six?” He offers six reasons why and how it’s possible to sing this line, understanding the weight of sin, even if you have always believed:
1. Those saved out of a life of open decadence do not have a deeper sense of the sin they were saved from, than those who did not partake in the behavior.
Someone saved from a life or crime or sexual immorality does not have a deeper sense of saving grace than someone who was saved from a life of self-righteousness as a child. No matter what age you were saved at, you can always know the seriousness of sin in your life and understand your need for the Savior. Piper expresses,
“…the true measure of the greatness of sin is not the way it ruins human life, but the way it dishonors God.”
People who think that sin primarily messes up human lives rather than primarily diminishing God’s glory, may think that those saved in a dramatic fashion have a deeper understanding of sin. Piper explains it figuratively:
“Many Christians who were rescued from the miseries of their sinful lifestyle are like a person who had cancer and suffered terribly, not from the cancer itself, but from the terrible sores it produced. The doctor saw their true condition and healed their cancer. Their sores went away, and they have been singing the doctor’s praises ever since for taking away the misery of their sores without ever seeing the fullness of his glory in healing their cancer.”
2. The Holy Spirit can illuminate the horrors of sin to someone saved at a young age, by using the Word of God.
“What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ …So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.”
Seeing the consequences of our sin does not save us; without understanding God’s holiness and how He defines righteousness we cannot understand the depth of our sin and our need for salvation. The Holy Spirit alone can reveal the nature of God and the nature of sin, and the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to make these things clear. Piper asks,
“How shall we know and feel the desperate condition from which God saved us when we were six years old? Not by remembering great acts of immorality, but by reading and believing the fifth chapter of Romans!”
3. The most vivid and awe-inspiring picture of sin is not almost dying from an overdose, but rather the Son of God nailed to the cross.
We cannot compare the misery of our own sinfulness or the misery of an illness caused by the fall to the totally undeserved misery of Jesus the Messiah dying on the cross for all of our sins. Piper describes it this way:
“The person who was saved at six years old is at no disadvantage in seeing the magnitude and horror of his own sin from which God saved him at six. The picture of that sin is not some scrapbook photo of a grumpy, six-year-old face. The picture of that sin is blood running down the face of Jesus.”
And we cannot understand the extent of our sin that all sinners (Adam and Eve onward) are deserving of death and eternity spent in hell. No act of human debauchery, no “hellish” experience on earth can compare to the hell that awaits those who do not see their sin as something that needs saving from.
Read Revelation 14:10-11.
4. You don’t need to look at the sins you committed before you were saved to understand your salvation today; you have only to look at your sins from yesterday…
All we have to do as believers to renew the gratitude of our salvation is to think of yesterday’s prideful act, the rude comment we made, the silly way we fought to prove that we were in the right, the selfish act that was chosen over helping others, the self-pity and woe, and the anger we felt against friends, spouses, or even strangers on the road. There are endless examples, and you can thank the Holy Spirit for whatever comes to mind. Piper explains,
“We know the depth and outrage of our sinfulness only by the work of the Holy Spirit, who reveals its true nature in Scripture. Memories and introspection can help if they are interpreted in the light of God’s truth. But many people think they know the greatness of their sin because they remember a season of rebellion and ruin. That memory will never reveal the exceeding sinfulness of sin. Only God’s word can do that.”
To read John Piper’s article in its entirety please visit desiringGod.org.
Paul called himself the worst among sinners, and I’m sure John Newton felt the same about his role as a slave trader…but the truth is we are ALL the worst of sinners because we are all sinners, equally without distinction. And we all need salvation equally, without distinction. So place your head in your lap or your hands over your face and thank God that He alone could save you, and He alone did save you.
Holy Spirit, we come to you in prayer today aware of our true nature as sinners deserving of death and hell. We thank you Lord that you did not leave us to fend for ourselves, which never would have worked—but that you being just, holy, and merciful made the only possible atonement for us through your Son, our Savior Jesus the Christ. Please help us not to forget the original sin you saved us from; convict us to read your Word that we might be renewed each day with an understanding of the depth of our sin and the immensity of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our souls. Thank you God for justifying us and for continuing to sanctify us each day that we might grow closer to you in our understanding of your Word and in the time we spend with you in prayer and listening. By your love we are able to love, and because of your love we want to obey. Only by your amazing grace Jesus, Amen.
I had a friend who was dismayed at what she considered to be a boring testimony; she didn't feel like her faith was real if she hadn't gone through something terrible or dramatic. She tried to appease her feelings by hanging out with a different crowd and embarking on a journey that would only hurt her. But we don't need an amazing testimony; we need an amazing Savior. And He has given of Himself freely. If you know someone who struggles with feeling like their faith isn't enough, pray for them today and share with them that Jesus is more than enough. That our actions can in no way affect or deepen what Jesus has already done for us. May we spend more time looking to Christ and thanking Him for saving us, and less time looking at our sin and thinking about how far we've come. Because we haven't gone one step from sin that Jesus didn't already redeem for us.
4 Reasons to Share Your Boring Testimony
Image courtesy: Pexels.com
Publication date: August 8, 2017
Liz Kanoy is an editor for Crosswalk.com.