The Ferndale Fortitude (Vol. 2 No. 7, December 18, 2022)
John Newton lived from 1725 to 1807. He wrote How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds but is, perhaps, best remembered for writing Amazing Grace. He said, “Yet, though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor what I hope to be, I can truly say, I am not what I once was.”
What was he? In his own words, “a slave to sin and Satan.” Newton knew Satan’s strength. He also knew how deep his sins cut and had firsthand knowledge of slavery. He was a slave trader.
Do you believe there is forgiveness for wretched people? Do you believe a slave trader can become an abolitionist? While most people appreciate second chances for themselves, many today will not entertain grace for others. We live among a population that delights in putting people into pigeonholes. Once a slave trader, always a slave trader. No room for grace. No room for remorse or redemption. We live in a culture that demands reparations while dismissing repentance.
And that is a sad and inconsistent worldview because we all value grace, mercy, and the second chance offered in forgiveness. The other guy may not deserve it, but we certainly appreciate it when it is offered to us.
At St. Mark Lutheran Church, we cling to forgiveness and know full well that God changes people. Their hearts. Their lives. Their souls. Their words and actions. Everything! We live in the grace of Jesus Christ. We repent of sin. And we wholeheartedly denounce the heart-hardening demand of tit-for-tat reparations because Christ already paid our reparations. Each of us has a personal Savior in Christ, who, being the God of justice, recognizes that sins cannot go unanswered. There must be justice. This is why He was born—to be beaten and killed for our evils. Justice for our sins demanded the severest form of reparations. Death.
At St. Mark, we thank God for paying that penalty to repair our relationship, and we praise Him for changing our hearts. We are a congregation of sinners, people just like John Newton, people just like you. We are people who know sin and Satan too well, and by the grace of God, we know that we are no longer slaves to either. As Newton said, we know we are not yet what we ought to be, we are not even what we wish to be, nor what we hope to be. At the same time, we are not what we used to be (Ephesians 5:8).
We’ve included the words to How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds. If His name sounds sweet to you—if a real, historic person dealing with your real, historic sins soothes your sorrows—then you are not alone. If, like us, you know you are not what you ought to be, nor what you hope to be, and you find peace in the prospect of God’s justice enabling you to one day look back with a heart that says, “I can truly say, I am not what I once was,” then know that Christ Jesus does make the wounded spirit whole. He truly calms the heart’s unrest. We’ve all experienced it firsthand. You can, too.
As fellow sinners who have been where you are, we are here to help. May you truly have a Merry Christmas in Christ.
In the sweet name of Jesus,
Rev. Tyrel Bramwell
2 Corinthians 12:10
How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
in a believer’s ear!
It soothes our sorrows, heals our wounds,
and drives away our fear.
It makes the wounded spirit whole
and calms the troubled breast;
’tis manna to the hungry soul,
and to the weary, rest.
Dear name! The rock on which I build,
My shield and hiding place;
My never failing treasury filled
With boundless stores of grace.
O Jesus, shepherd, guardian, friend,
my Prophet, Priest, and King,
my Lord, my Life, my Way, my End,
accept the praise I bring.
How weak the effort of my heart,
how cold my warmest thought;
but when I see you as you are,
I’ll praise you as I ought.
Till then I would your love proclaim
with every fleeting breath;
and may the music of your name
refresh my soul in death.