Posted in encouragement, theology

Grace: What a Wonderful Gift

By Elizabeth Prata

I am fascinated by grace. I think as a Christian matures, we see our sin more and more for what it really is. The picture of the Prodigal Son wallowing in the pig pen eating scraps is a vivid, if not enough mental picture of us before salvation. Our sin sadly persists in us, though forgiven and overlaid with Christ’s righteousness. We still have to work at killing what is ‘crouching at the door’ waiting to have us.

The grace that lifted us from our pigsty and washed us is all the more precious as we see the depths from which we have come. Seeing the heights from which he stooped to save us and the grace that flew Him there on wings of love is a wondrous thing. I can’t stop thinking about it.

I read this short account of grace from the Lexham Survey of Theology trying in human words to explain the mystery and incredible gift of grace. I especially loved the last paragraph.

—————————

God’s grace is unmerited divine favor, a favor from which comes many gifts.

God’s grace flows out of his inter-Trinitarian, gift-giving life. Even in humanity’s fallen state, God freely grants to his creatures good things they do not deserve. The greatest of these goods is Jesus Christ.

The bold thread of grace in the Bible is a distinctive marker of Christianity, one that sets it apart from other religions. J. Gresham Machen noted, “The very center and core of the whole Bible is the doctrine of the grace of God.” The works of God in creation as well as his covenants, his promises, his word, and his work of redemption all spring from his grace. All we have is due to grace, but, as Michael Horton says, grace itself is “not a third thing or substance,” for “in grace, God gives nothing less than Himself.”

God’s grace toward mankind arises from the fullness of his being. He is gracious. When God appeared to Moses he declared his name, Yahweh, the I AM, as the sum of his eternal being. This nature includes his graciousness: “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness”. (Exod 34:6). J. I. Packer suggests that grace is simply God’s love demonstrated toward those who deserve the opposite. God’s grace is his gift-giving life, and the gift is himself.

The grace of Yahweh is not a reaction to our creaturely ways but the extension of God eternally giving himself as Father, Son, and Spirit. Jesus Christ brought to man the grace he was already as the eternal Son within the Trinity (“full of grace and truth,” John 1:14–18). Thus, in receiving “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” we participate in divine fullness of “the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor 13:13).

—————–
end Lexham Survey of Theology article

grace verse 2

Posted in encouragement, theology

Grace IS Amazing

By Elizabeth Prata

palm sunday

My favorite doctrine is Grace, followed by Providence.

Grace that is extended by our loving God is shocking and amazing and wonderful. I was saved later in life and I remember what it felt like to live a sinful life in rebellion against God. It was confusing and upsetting, most of the time.

I read a lot, and enjoyed historical books and the world’s myths. As I read books, all the world’s made-up gods were capricious or unloving or dismissive of humans. That seemed right to me. Even when I read of the Founding Fathers and learned about their deism, that god also seemed right to me. The deist god created everything – including humans – but then retreated from humankind’s affairs and let us wind down of our own accord.

Grace given by a loving God was foreign to me and unthinkable. Because that would mean He was involved with humans, lovingly. Weird.

But that and only that God is the one true God.

He came in the form of a baby who grew to be a man-God, teaching and loving and performing miracles. He died for our sins and absorbed the wrath of God on our behalf.

Of course my favorite hymn is Amazing Grace.

Amazing Grace! how sweet the sound
It was not a sweet sound to me then, but it is now.

That saved a wretch like me
I used to close my mouth if I happened to be at a Church service, like at Christmas, and this hymn came on. I wasn’t a wretch!, I’d utter. And close my mouth, refusing to say the lyrics.

I once was lost, but now am found
I didn’t know I was lost, but my spirit did. I was into bookbinding back then and my spirit was expressing motifs readily familiar to the saved person. This is the frontspiece and end piece to a softcover book I made. It seemed right that the lost person depicted was in black and white, unhappy, and the found person was transformed into something beautiful. I pasted them in, not knowing why.

Clipboard

Was blind but now I see
I didn’t know I was blind. Revelation 3:17 applies here:
For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

Thank you Lord, for your grace!! How wonderful that even when we’ve been there 10,000 years, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun. An eternity praising You is not enough, but what grace that I am able to do so in the first place.

Was blind but now I see…

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:5-7)

Posted in hymns, theology

O How His Grace Amazes Me – The Hymn that Spawned a Book

By Elizabeth Prata

An interview from 2010 regarding Sinclair Ferguson’s inspiration for his then-new book By Grace Alone.

 

 

Pastor Conrad Mbewe wrote about the hymn and its author, pastor Emmanuel T. Sibomana, an African Baptist pastor in Burundi. (1915-1975). Mbewe wrote-

I think that Oh, how the grace of God amazes me should rank among such hymns as Amazing grace by John Newton. To begin with, it is an experiential hymn. It speaks about our experience of the grace of God. Anyone who “has been there” will immediately identify with it. Something in your soul resonates with the lyrics as you sing the hymn. It is not the senseless excitement of those who are drunk with wine, but an informed warmth of heart because of a godly reflection on what God has done for you in Christ. And by the time you get to the last stanza, you really want the whole of creation to join you in singing your divine Saviour’s eternal praise.

Sinclair said that he had begun a project with the church organist to play through and intently listen to all the hymns in the hymn book at their church. They did this over successive nights. When they came to O How His Grace Amazes Me, Ferguson was struck by the power of the hymn and its progression into all the important doctrines, and unusually, on grace.

The hymn caused him to ponder these things for a good while, until finally breaking forth into the book he decided to write.

When Sinclair is asked if the world needed yet another book on grace, he said the world should be filled with books on grace. Amen! I love the doctrine of grace. I pray that the music at your services cause you to truly reflect on the great doctrines and the awesome attributes of God.

Here is Emmanuel Sibomana’s hymn O How His Grace Amazes Me:

Modern arrangement, 4-min: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s963Kq4sbtk

Traditional arrangement with organ, 7-min- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAsCo_RsHJg

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

I deserved this

I spent 42 years striding the earth, self-satisfied with my smartness and artful living. I was at enmity with Jesus, hating Him and loving self. I sinned, sinned some more, and sinned again. I deserved a meteoric projectile to the head. Like this guy:

cnn pompeii

CNN has the story:

A man managed to escape the first eruptive fury of Vesuvius in A.D. 79, only to be crushed beneath a block of stone hurled by an explosive volcanic cloud, new excavations at the site suggest. Archeologists working at the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, Italy, found the man’s remains almost 2,000 years after he died.

Stunning pictures from the scene show a skeleton pinned beneath the stone. The impact crushed the top of the man’s body. His head might still be buried beneath the block of stone.

Instead, what I received was patience for over four decades, and protection from death (which I deserved, Romans 6:23). At the moment of appointed time for Jesus to come into my life, I was given grace, the Spirit of repentance, salvation, justification, adoption, eternity in glory, co-heirship with God, righteousness imputed, spiritual blindness lifted, the indwelling Spirit…and so much more.

As a craven wretched sinner, I deserved a meteor to the head. Instead, I received loving tender reconciliation.

Let the image above, which is dramatic enough as it really happened to an unfortunate citizen of Pompeii in 79AD, sink in. Don’t let a day go by without praying in thankfulness to Jesus for salvation, and not getting what we really deserved.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— (Ephesians 2:8)

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

Grace upon grace

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. (John 1:16).

What do you mean grace upon grace? What does he mean? He means grace literally grace in the place of grace. That’s the Greek. Grace in the place of grace. Grace just keeps replacing itself. It’s overlapping.

It’s like waves. If you go down to the beach, and you watch the waves, you don’t know where one ends and one begins, they just roll on top of each other. That’s the notion expressed in the way this is framed. Waves of grace rolling on us. Romans 5:2 says, “We stand in grace, we literally are engulfed in waves of grace.” You don’t live on past grace, you don’t live on stale grace, you live on grace replacing grace replacing grace, replacing grace. Grace on top of grace, His mercies are new every morning. There are no gaps in His grace. This is an amazing, amazing statement. ~John MacArthur We Beheld His Glory

What a tremendous gift His grace is. I’m so thankful for my salvation, that I have the privilege of knowing Jesus as Savior and Friend, and no longer as my enemy. He is a good, good Father.

grace

Posted in discernment, Uncategorized

The arrogance of self-sufficiency

“I’m self-sufficient. I’m proud of it.”

That was me, before I was saved. I was saved by grace of Jesus Christ. My parents were intensely interested in raising their children as “self-sufficient” and “independent”. I heard those words so often. I had to ‘figure it out’ or ‘do for myself’ more times than not. By the time I reached adulthood, I was proud of all the things I could do by myself, for myself, leaning on no other. Asking for help was anathema.

Of course all the instilling of self-sufficiency was a stumbling block to bending the knee, realizing how hopeless I was on my own, and asking Jesus for help. The fact that He calls us and we don’t choose Him is a grace that will manifest itself in untold aspects throughout all eternity. I never would have asked. He chose me.

The pagan heart builds many idols. Any and all idols are in opposition to God. Idols are an enemy of God, and at enmity with Him. For me, the root of all that vaunted self-sufficiency is pride. I was proud of all that I could do. I was proud that I needed no one. I was proud of my capabilities- capabilities I’d cultivated and no one else.

Anything can be an idol. Self-sufficiency is one.

The Chaldeans were swimming in self-sufficiency. This idol permeated their actions and drenched their hearts in evil. Habakkuk proclaimed against it in chapter 2 of the book of Habakkuk. This prophet pronounced 5 woes on the Chaldeans (though they were not named, this was the original target audience.) As scripture has one meaning but many applications, these verses can and do apply to us today as we learn object lessons about doing for ourselves and not bowing to God’s will for us.

The fifth woe was the woe upon idolators (2:18–20). In poignant verses, God asks if idols can speak-

What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it.(Habakkuk 2:18-19).

Oh! How terrible for the idolater who asks dead wood and stone to speak! How sad we seek instruction from dead objects and not the Living God!

Any and all idols in our hearts teach us lies. We are the maker of the idol, so because of our sin nature, it teaches us the lie of sin. Can stone awaken and instruct us in the ways of righteousness?

“But I don’t worship idols,” you say. “I don’t ask stone or wood to speak.”

Do you seek instruction from horoscopes? The sun? “Mother Nature”? Do you rely on your intellect? Your capabilities? Your money? All idols! All dead!

The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23a). God speaks of this New Testament truth in the Old Testament in Habakkuk 2:8, 2:17…

The Good News is that the rest of the Romans verse continues after speaking of the wages of sin, by a glorious promise.

but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:6b)

The antidote to self-sufficiency is humility. As this woman spoke so eloquently on Twitter this week,

Anna Crouse‏ @annacrouse_

Humility isn’t a burden or humiliation or oppressive weight but is the only posture that can receive the wondrous grace gifts of God

Instead of “I can do it” we say “I can’t do it. Lord I need you!”

 


Resources

Elyse Fitzpatrick: Idols of the Heart
Do you feel discouraged, even defeated, in your battle against habitual sin? Are you dismayed or surprised by the situations that bring out your fear, anger, or distress? Elyse Fitzpatrick delves into the heart of the problem: deep down, we’re all idol-worshippers who put our loves, desires, and expectations in God’s place—and then suffer the consequences of our misplaced affections. Yet God loves his people and can use even our messy lives and struggles for his glory. Fitzpatrick shows us how to better search and know our hearts, long for our gracious Savior, and resist and crush our false gods. Includes questions for further thought.

Posted in prophecy, Uncategorized

Throwback Thursday: He will open the door and He will close the door

This essay was first published on The End Time in December 2011.

Do you take the Lord’s power and grace for granted? Have you diminished His Holiness in your mind? Many people in this day and age have. How do I know? They think the Lord will somehow relent, and allow everyone into heaven after all. Or that His mercy is so great and so wide that they will be forgiven, even if they do not know Jesus. Jesus will not relent. His decision is final, and His decrees are sure. If you do not know Jesus on the day you die, you will be cast into hell. If you do not know Jesus on His day of wrath, if you die you will be cast into hell.

Even saying such a thing in this day and age seems like a revolutionary act. People chide us Christians who flatly declare the truth from the Word, that He will not relent. “Our God is a loving God,” they exclaim. “He would never do that!” Well, Remember rebellious Korah who was swallowed by the earth? Remember Uzzah who touched the ark? Remember Ananias and Sapphira, who blasphemed the Spirit by lying to the Apostle? Jesus will not relent, because He is the door.

I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” (John 10:9).

He is the only One who opens the door.

I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” (Revelation 3:8).

He is the One who shuts the door.

And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in. (Genesis 7:16).

When the ark was filled He shut the door and the rest of the world was judged. And so it will be again, for the unaware.

But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. “Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ (Matthew 25:10-12)

He is the King of the Kingdom and it is He who says who enters and who doesn’t. He is the Door. Right now the door is open to all who would repent. It will be shut at the rapture. Not that anyone cannot be saved after the rapture, but with the door shut, you are in the cold, hard world and exposed to believing the lie.

and with all the deceit of unrighteousness in those who perish, because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie,” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11)

Enter now while the door is open. Repent and believe the truth: that Jesus is resurrected Lord and He is the only way to enter the Kingdom. He speaks the truth, and when He says that judgment is coming, believe it. The time will come when the door will be shut. As it says in Isaiah 26:20- “Come, my people, enter you into your chambers, and shut your doors about you: hide yourself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation is past.”

While the door was open, they did not listen and believe in Noah’s day:

Sinners before the Flood, 1594 Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem
After the Flood, Circa 1588 Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem

This is what Judgment looks like:

The deluge, Léon Comerre  (1850–1916) 

This is what grace looks like:

Noah’s flood KAULBACH, Wilhelm von (1805-1874)

How so? you ask. How is this grace? The serpents are writhing, the people are dying! Well, don’t focus on the serpents and the people. It is one way we diminish His holiness and His mercy. Focus on Him and His protected righteous and the fact that His promises of salvation are sure. The angels ministering, the ark itself was a lengthy warning to the same people who are now crying for the door to be opened. “Come, my people, enter you into your chambers, and shut your doors about you: hide yourself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation is past.” He made a way for the righteous to be saved!

Please answer His call, and repent!

Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.'” (Luke 13:25)

Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:9)

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

Behold the Works!

On Sunday, our pastor was preaching through Galatians 5. Paul is reminding the Galatians about the grace that saved them, and how they have fallen away from it by adding works (of the Law-circumcision). Our pastor spent some time dwelling on this.

Galatians 5:2-6:

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

At one point he was talking of how we must remember how utterly depraved we are in the sight of Jesus. Our sins are dirty, polluted, corrupted and our sins dirty, pollute and corrupt everything and anything we try to do for Jesus, unless we are saved by Grace. Even if we try to preach that salvation is grace PLUS works, it is still a dirty doing. People think they can be saved by works, or add works to grace, because they forget just how holy Jesus is, and how filthy we are. The Galatians certainly did.

Our pastor said it’s like a master artist, who had painted a glorious masterpiece, and someone came along and added to it. Someone thinks, “Let me just add to this…” and wrongly believes that Jesus will accept or even needs our help. How could we even possibly believe that even one atom of our help could be added to a work of Jesus and not immediately pollute it?

When he said that, it reminded me of the very real event that had occurred a few years ago in Spain. What happens when you have an old church, an elderly woman, and a fresco that needs restoring?

An elderly woman has unintentionally destroyed a valuable piece of artwork after she decided to ‘restore’ the painting herself. The painting was a 19th century Spanish fresco titled “Ecce Homo” by painter Elias Garcia Martinez. It was donated to the Centro de Estudios Borjanos in Borja, Spain, by the painter’s granddaughter, according to the Telegraph. The centro reportedly holds an extensive archive of regional religious paintings. The woman, a neighbor of the church reportedly in her 80s, thought she would save the church both time and money by restoring the painting herself. The Telegraph described the restoration as, “a botched repair where the intricate brush strokes of Martinez were replaced with a haphazard splattering of the octogenarian’s paint. Years of carefully calculated depth of expression simply washed out by copious amounts of red and brown.” (source)

Cecilia Ginenez, the octogenarian aforementioned, truly was sincere in her attempts to “help” the painting. She was not out to ruin it. But she thought more highly of her ability and works than she ought. And so, her results made the painting worse for the wear.

Three versions of Ecce Homo: left, the original version;
center, the deteriorated fresco; right, the attempted restoration by Cecilia Giménez

Wikipedia describes the event:

The Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) in the Sanctuary of Mercy church in Borja, Spain, is a fresco painted circa 1930 by the Spanish painter Elías García Martínez depicting Jesus crowned with thorns. …[I]ts fame derives from a good faith attempt to restore the fresco by Cecilia Giménez, an untrained elderly amateur, in 2012. The intervention reinterpreted the painting and made it look similar to a monkey, and for this reason it is sometimes known as Ecce Mono (Behold the Monkey).

No…we are saved by glorious grace alone. We do not add works to our salvation as part of the initial justification event. Afterward, of course, while we are being sanctified, we work for Jesus because we obey Him, we love Him, and we are grateful to Him. But before justification, our works are nothing but filthy rags, rubbish, dung, and counts for nothing toward righteousness. What a relief that Jesus does it ALL. Otherwise, take heed, or you will Behold the Monkey!

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Further Reading:

What Role do Works have in Salvation?

Is Salvation by Faith Alone, or faith plus works?

Are we saved by faith alone, or do we need works, too?

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

Losing my salvation

John MacArthur has famously said on more than one occasion, “If I could lose my salvation, I would.” His comment is a succinct but devastatingly incisive statement about the fallenness of man. The fleshly part of man wants to be in control. It wants to be king of our lives. Even Christians who understand our own depravity and desire to work FOR God soon find that if they do not carefully reign in the flesh, that we are not participating in our own sanctification, but we’re bossing God around and replacing Him with the idol of works.

MacArthur wasn’t guessing when he said what he said. I’ts grounded in the bible. There is biblical precedent for his statement.

God instituted a Doctrine of Works. Don’t bristle. Stay with me. In Genesis 2, God told Adam,

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:15-16).

As Martyn Lloyd Jones said of the Doctrine of Works in his sermon “The Covenant of Grace in the Old Testament“, the Genesis verses are obviously a doctrine of works. God told Adam to–

–work the Garden
–keep the Garden
–not eat of the fruit.

The inheritance of the reward from God was entirely dependent upon what Adam did or did not do. This is works.

It failed.

It failed immediately and utterly. Adam failed to work correctly for his reward from God. Since we are all in Adam from the moment of birth, from the moment of conception even, (Romans 5:12, Psalm 51:5) we, too, will fail to please God with our works. (Hebrews 11:6).

Once again Lloyd Jones, “If man in a perfect position didn’t keep the covenant of works, then what is the point of God making a new Covenant of Works? And indeed He didn’t. He then made a Covenant of Grace.”

We cannot, cannot, inherit any reward from God based on our own works. We have proved this. It was tried, it failed, it’s done. God made a Covenant of Grace which is that we receive a reward from Him based on HIS choice, HIS will, HIS election, HIS grace. Our reward is all based on faith, and guess what? The faith we have is also a granted gift from Him. (Galatians 3:22). It is a faith that HE keeps for us and in us. It’s sealed. (2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:13).

This knowledge of works v. faith has import for those who are in a works-based religion – which is to say everyone else in all other religions, even atheism. Mormons try to reach god through their covenant of works. Catholics try to pile up works so as to acquire enough to please God. Islam teaches “To those who believe and do deeds of righteousness hath Allah promised forgiveness and a great reward,” (Surah 5:9). And so on. And so on. And so on…

Our working out of our salvation through fear and trembling is a result of the sovereign choice of God to dispense faith and repentance to us. It’s based on our knowledge of the above, that our works while in the flesh count as filthy rags. It’s all Jesus, from start to finish, including His reward to us. We receive a glorified body so that we may no longer sin against Him. We become sons, adopted to His family, and thus co-heirs. We receive manifold and eternal mercies in heaven. Most of all we receive HIM. Jesus is our treasure. In His grace he shared Himself with us, gladly, voluntarily.

Praise God for the Covenant of Grace. Because, if I could lose my salvation, I would.

riches of his grace verse

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

The truth about grace

Grace is a concept. But it’s not just a concept. Grace is a gift, but it’s not just a gift. Grace is a force. Think about how powerful grace is. Think about its power as it exists in Jesus, as it is delivered to the saints, its common state as it covers the world, and its special state as it enlivens the saints to do our work.

Here is an excerpt about grace from a sermon from John MacArthur called, Strength Perfected in Weakness, looking at this verse: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

In speaking of the linchpin part of the passage, ‘my grace is sufficient for you’, MacArthur said,

But grace is not just an inert sort of concept; it is a force, it is a power. It is a power that transforms us. It is a power that awakens us from sleep. It is a power that gives us life in the midst of death. It is a power that is dynamic enough to transform us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God’s dear Son. It is the power that saves us. It is the power that keeps us, the power that enables us, the power that sanctifies us, and the power that one day will glorify us. You have to look at grace as a force, a divine force that God pours out into the lives of His people at all points to grant them all that they need to be all that He desires.

Grace is a gift.
Grace is a state.
and…
Grace is a POWER.