Apologetics: ə-pŏl'ə-jĕt'ĭks from the Greek απоλоγία Def: The branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines.

I Am the Wretch the Song Refers To. . .

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 06 April 2010

"I am the wretch the song refers to."
~Todd Friel

In the introduction to his book, “Hard to Believe – The High Cost and Infinite Value of Following Jesus,” John MacArthur writes, “The world is filled with millions of people who think they are headed for heaven – but they are deadly wrong. . . .
what is especially sad, is that many of those people sit in evangelical churches misinformed!”

I agree with MacArthur.

So what is the "misinformation?"

The misinformation is nothing less that a complete misinterpretation of the Gospel.

The message of most Christian concerts, youth events, women’s conferences, men’s rallies, etc., and seeker-sensitive churches is “Jesus loves you! Jesus will free you from all your pain! Come to Jesus now!”

It’s a distorted message and a message that advances the thought that being a Christian is easy and freeing and fun. It’s called easy believe’ism, and it is anything but biblical! And it only touches the very surface of True Gospel of Salvation.

Consider how Jesus approached personal evangelism when he walked on earth as a man. Jesus did not say to people, “Pray this simple prayer” or “Just make a decision to follow Me.”

Not at all.

Jesus confronted people with the reality of their own sin. (Consider, for example, the woman at the well in John Chapter 4.)

Those who “accepted” Jesus were truly convicted of their sin and they repented. Those who refused Jesus rejected the fact that they were sinful. Instead they boasted and bragged of their own righteousness. (See, for example, the account of Jesus and the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17-22)

Do you suppose if the rich young ruler in Mark Chapter 10 had simply been told to repeat a simple prayer of salvation, he would have done so? And would he have walked away counting himself as saved?

Maybe. . .
would he have really be saved?
has our culture gone wrong that we think we can do this very thing?

I don’t think we can identify the exact point that we began drifting from the Truth, but . . .

Robert Schuller made one of the most absurd and anti-Gospel statements ever in his 1982 book “Self Esteem: The New Reformation” when he wrote (on page 98), “Once a person believes he is an unworthy sinner, it is doubtful if he can really honestly accept the saving grace God offers in Jesus Christ.”

. . . this is where the drifting went terribly bad.

So . . . (see if I understand this. . . ) if you want to be saved according to this new reformation of self esteem, you cannot believe yourself to be an unworthy sinner? And to follow the logic further, there really is no reason at all for Christ’s death on the Cross. Right?
Again: Absurd!

. . . The very idea erases the entire story of redemption beginning in Genesis and culminating in Revelation! To do away with the notion of sin, essentially eliminates the entire Bible!!

II Timothy 3:2 reminds us that “Dangerous times will come, for men will be lovers of themselves.”

It is indeed this new man-centered gospel of self-esteem that has hijacked the Gospel. And it is this gospel of self-esteem that has permeated the seeker-sensitive evangelical churches of today.

* And therein we find the “misinformation.”

Here’s the Truth: The Gospel of Salvation has as its bedrock the very idea of sinfulness and scripture confirms it repeatedly.

Bottom line: I am a wretch. I am the wretch the song refers to. You are a wretch. Every human being to ever walk the earth is and was… a wretch.

Amazing Grace!
ow sweet the sound,
That saved a WRETCH like me. . .

Yet, to confront this by acknowledging sin in our culture today makes you a Bible-thumping Pharisaical fundamentalist [I mean that in a bad way.]

Leaders of the self-esteem reformation look down on the True Gospel of Salvation, pointing out that we should not “judge” others, but instead tolerate and love each other.

We cannot be saved without first acknowledging our own wretchedness before God; and we cannot share the Gospel of Salvation without first pointing out to others their wretchedness before God.

“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
~ Romans 3:23

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
~ I John 1:8

“And when he [the Holy Spirit] is come, he will convict the world of sin…”
~ John 16:8

It has been said that repentance is the stuff saints are made of…

Isaiah the Prophet said,
“Woe is me! For I am unclean; because I am a man of unclean lips…”
~ Isaiah 6:5
Job said,
“I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
~ Job 42:6
Peter said,
“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
~ Luke 5:8
The Apostle Paul said,
"What a wretched man I am!"
~ Romans 7:24

…you will also find the repentance of Daniel and Abraham in the Old Testament and John in the Book of Revelation. These saints recognized, acknowledged and professed their wretchedness before God and others.

Look now at some biblical examples of Schuller’s gospel of self-esteem:

Cain did not see his wretchedness. He saw instead his own righteousness in the fruits brought by his own hands to the altar.

Saul – before his conversion – did not see his wretchedness. He saw instead his own pedigree as a high ranking religious leader.

The rich young ruler did not see his wretchedness. He saw instead his superior knowledge and achievements.

Hopefully, we can see here that the gap between the Gospel of Salvation and the gospel of self-esteem is gaping. The consequence of each is eternal.

“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself,
and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

~Luke 9:23

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us
and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

~ I John 1:9

Yes, Jesus loves you! Jesus will free you from all your pain. Come to Him. But. . . the Bible in full context shows us very clearly that until we recognize that we are indeed wretched sinners, we cannot appreciate the Cross and we cannot know His Grace.

Amazing Grace!
How sweet the sound,
That saved a WRETCH like me. . .

I AM the wretch the song refers to. . . .

Esthermay V. Bentley Goossen
© 2010 The Heart of a Pastor’s Wife



Tami said...

I thank God for His amazing grace. I so desperately need it.

Thanks for hosting today, Esthermay!

kalopoieo said...

AMEN. Without our great sin there is no need for the Cross. When we refuse to acknowledge our sin, we hate God and love self. You unearth the hidden pride of man here. Very good.

Nic said...

Oh my goodness, Esthermay! What a powerful, powerful perspective today. I thoroughly enjoy your writings on these and it's good to see you post again...AHEM Feb 8... LOL! You have a true God-given gift to get to the heart of the matter and I LOVE it! Love you too, my sweet friend! Have a wonderful Tuesday!

p.s. I'll have mine up later today.

Kate said...

This is so good! I hate what the seeker-churches have done to Jesus! And I love "Wretched" with Todd Friel. wish he was on network t.v. so more people could hear him. Thank you for always bringing truth to us. You're the only lady blogger I know that doesn't get all lost in feelings. Keep teaching TRUTH!

Betsy Markman said...

Amen, bravo!
I don't have much time for writing at this point in my life, but I may just have to link up to something I wrote earlier.

Thanks for this bold and TRUE post!

Barbara said...

Amen and Amen and Amen!
If only more churches would teach this. I am so grateful for the Cross that takes away my sin.

Missie said...

We are so in need of repentance, thank you for hosting!

sara said...

I am also the wretch the song refers to.

great post!

Karen said...

Praise the Lord that we are not rejected for being "wretched" but helped via Jesus and His grace.

Nic said...

Sweet Esthermay, mine is posted now. :-)

Anonymous said...

So thankful that this unworthy sinner really honestly accepted the saving grace God offers in Jesus Christ, in spite of Rober Schuller's beliefs.

iowachic said...

I am a wretch!
And so thankful I grew up in a Bible teaching church.

Rachel said...

Without sin, there is no need for sacrifice--so if we're all so good, why do we need to carry on the pretense of being a Christian? Of course, I'm playing Devil's advocate here.
God loved us enough to send His Son to die for us, though we didn't deserve that mercy, but so many are acting as if that sacrifice was their right, their entitlement. They don't respect God's power to judge, and the Holiness of His nature, which requires justice. If only they would read the Bible for themselves and fall on the Rock that saves, rather than be crushed by it!
Thanks again for a post that challenges readers to examine themselves in the light of the Gospel!

Sharlyn Guthrie said...

The pendulum has indeed swung too far to the side of easy-believism, and true repentance has become its casualty. You have outlined this so clearly and powerfully here.

tigermom said...

EXCELLENT! I wish there were more people not afraid to speak the truth of what the Bible has to say about sin. You stand out amoung bloggers because you write with boldness. Thank you!!!!!!!! We are a consumer culture and we only want what makes us feel good. Confronting sin just doesn't do that. P.S. I love John MacArthur :)

Denise J. Hughes said...

I so appreciate your heart in sharing the Truth in such a straightforward manner!

Anonymous said...

I disagree that Dr. Schuller's book was a "terribly bad" thing. His book did unveil a wonderful new Revolution; it took Christianity into the culture we live in today and out of the archives of the dead Greek and O.T. world of ridiculous laws.

I have read the Bible and there is nothing about pointing fingers at people and calling them sinners.

GOD IS LOVE. IT IS LOVE THAT FREES US. When you take on the judgemental tone in a post like this, you make all Christians look like a "Bible-thumping Pharisaical fundamentalists."

Jesus's ministry was all about tolerance and love. To achieve eternal life, we simply must live as he lived and offer love and tolerance. It is not yours or mine to judge anyone's life as sinful.

Andrea said...


Our inability to accept sin points directly to the post modernism & secular humanism that has seeped into the church. I agree with MacArthur that the vast majority of Christians on their way to hell being misinformed. What's even more sad is that our children are like frogs being boiled to death in the poison that Schuller and others have started. I’ve become disillusioned with my own denomination as I’ve watched my own children. When youth leaders become more interested in activities and music and self esteem and fun than the eternal condition of a child’s soul, then its time to find a new church!

People wonder why the world is the way it is? Look at church youth groups and you’ll have your answer.

I'm so happy when I see you on my Google Reader, Esthermay. Your posts always encourage me so much.

Blessings to you and your husband.

sharon said...

I am a wretch too.
This is a great post. Powerful!

Ben said...

Dare I say that teaching the doctrine of sin will cause great division in the local church? Guess I just did.
Indeed many pastors have been scolded, threatened, even forced to resign when they teach the full counsel of God's Word which includes the doctrine of sin. Schuller's impostor gospel has indeed hijacked God's inerrant Word.

Being removed from the American church now for a few years, I see so clearly that American Christians face a spiritual battle unlike Christians in less developed countries. Satan cannot thrive in a church where truth is presented. Satan rules in many churches in America because churches have turned their back on truth for the false gospel of self esteem. False prophets are rampant in America!

I agree with MacArthur too. There are more people sitting in pews on their way to hell in the United States because they are living the false gospel of LOVE having been taught from all direction that GOD IS LOVE to the detriment of their own eternal life.

GOD BLESS you, Estermay, in your ministry. You will surely endure the attacks of the Enemy for teaching TRUTH!

Joan said...

AMEN!! thank you for such an encouraging post.

If we are praising God for His Glory & Majesty to the exclusion of praising Him for saving us from our SIN and wretchedness, then we are false Christians.

I am so thankful that the Bible has been make clear to me. PRAISE HIM!

Bebemiqui said...

"The Scripture testifies often that man is a slave of sin. The Scripture means thereby that man's spirit is so alienated from the justice of God that man conceives, covets, and undertakes nothing that is not evil, perverse, iniquitous, and soiled."

-John Calvin "Instructions on Faith"

LauraLee Shaw said...

Well said, Esthermay. I do believe there are people who have been hurt very badly that need to be reminded that God loves them (my abused mother was one of them), but His love is so overwhelming that it should make us realize our smallness. I wanted to toss my cookies the other night listening to a famous pastor on tv talking about all the "benefits" of the faith. The love of Jesus leads us to repent, to change, to follow hard after Him...not to "be anything we dream to be." Keep preachin, sister.

Michelle said...

Excellent post, Esthermay.

It is unfortunate that the very first step in coming to know Christ is being eliminated- "Repent!"
(Acts 2:38)

Warren Baldwin said...

We can't really accept grace until we know what it means to be lost. Sin condemns; Jesus saves. Real love is showing the consequences of sin and leading people out of it with the Gospel. Good post.

N Abram said...

Hiya, thanks for this excellent post. It did remind me of this passage in Matthew 24 Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you. 5For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,[a]' and will deceive many. 6You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed.

Mary Moss said...

Yes, I am that wretch as well. Thank you for this wonderful post.


Patty Sumner said...

AMEN! Have you heard any of the messages preached by Paul Washer...look them up. Thank you for the truth of the Word! Keep on sharing!

Anonymous said...

God never shuts one door but he opens another. ....................................................

Unknown said...

AMEN AND AMEN! Thank you for that straight-forward message!

LisaShaw said...

LauraLee Shaw and Warren Baldwin sum of some of my thoughts.

"Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a WRETCH like ME".

Thank You JESUS!


Anonymous said...

A good medicine tastes bitter. .............................................

sherry said...

simply .. and humbly .. amen.


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