The audio files from the recent Northern Ireland Ministry Assembly are now available for free download in mp3 format. There are 4 talks on Titus by Vaughan Roberts, and 3 on preaching grace by Bryan Chapell.
I really have come to appreciate the depth of truth and emotion in older hymns over the past few years. I’ve always loved hymns, but the more I’m exposed to the inferior, ephemeral, insubstantial, and inconsequential in services of worship, the more I appreciate them. It was good to sing God’s praise at the Expositors’ Conference this week using hymns old and new.
Here’s another hymn I’ve sung recently that has a realistic approach to death: the comfort of God’s grace. Of course, that’s also the main thing in life.
By grace I am an heir of heaven:
Why doubt this, O my trembling heart?
If what the Scriptures promise clearly
Is true and firm in ev’ry part,
This also must be truth divine:
By grace a crown of life is mine.
By grace alone shall I inherit
That blissful home beyond the skies.
Works count for naught, the Lord incarnate
Hath won for me the heav’nly prize.
Salvation by his death he wrought,
His grace alone my pardon bought.
By grace! These precious words remember
When sorely by thy sins oppressed,
When Satan comes to vex thy spirit,
When troubled conscience sighs for rest;
What reason cannot comprehend,
God doth to thee by grace extend.
By grace! Be this in death my comfort;
Despite my fears, ’tis well with me.
I know my sin in all its greatness,
But also him who sets me free.
My heart to naught but joy gives place
Since I am saved by grace, by grace.
1742, Christian Ludwig Scheidt (1709-61),
tr. H. Brueckner.
Recently I heard someone say that our God was the God the second chance. In fact, they said he was the God the the second, third, fourth and fifth chance.
I’ve heard such things said before, but this time I wondered if it were true. Somehow I didn’t feel it was.
My problem is this. If I think God is like that, might I not come to presume on him being a soft touch? I know I fail him, and I don’t like it, but it is a fact. I’ve repented many times of failure, and I know I’ve been forgiven for my sins (1 John 1:9). But is that the same as saying God gives me another chance?
Gos is a God of grace — dealing with me not as I deserve, but in mercy, and totally undeserved favour. To my mind that’s in a whole different league from chances. Chances are finite. Chances keep a tally. Chances keep the score. Grace is abundant, immeasurable and unfathomable. It’s more than a matter of semantics. I think it is a totally different mind set. Somehow grace breeds responsibility for my actions, which thinking of chances could generate a carelessness.
Peter’s questions about forgiveness (Mat 18:21) and Jesus’ answer (Mat 18:22-35) illustrates the difference in mindset. Peter’s question came from the mindset of chances — how often? how many times? Jesus’ answer, though initially couched in terms of times clearly moves us beyond keeping score. His parable shows mercy and grace in operation. And it also shows the necessity of responsibility on the part of the forgiven. The first debtor had not grasped the implications of his master’s grace and mercy.
Yes, grace may be abused, as Romans 6 also implies. But I will only abuse it if I do not understand it. “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (v 2) When I have grasped grace I will relinquish my grip on sin as surely as a toddler releases the dangerous knife when his mother proffers a favourite toy.
I think I am more likely to be misled by chances. Accepting and understanding grace will make my expectations more realistic. Chance is such a worldly concept. There is great danger I will let the world shape my concept of God. Grace is divine and unworldly. I’d prefer to have my concept of God shaped by him and his grace.