At one time he said – ‘I wish I could believe like you.’ He was like the man who said, ‘Lord I believe, help my unbelief.’ Then he would revert to his criticism – as if part of him wanted to believe, but another part of him thought how absurd it was that anyone could believe everything in the Bible. We continued to pray for him for many years.
The medical authorities had written him off. – Set your affairs in order – only days to live. Then my brother – a medical investigator – intervened and asked some pointed questions of the hospital registrar. The next thing we knew, he was on an emergency flight to Adelaide. He received specialist attention, and with the right medication prescribed he survived another 6 years.
It was during his convalescent period that God had serious dealings with my father. The first I knew of it, was the day he asked me – ‘if you could sum up Christianity in one word, what would that word be?’ I thought this was another of my Dad’s loaded questions – but I thought for a moment then said – “Grace”. He was visibly shaken. He said, ‘that is exactly what I would have said.’ He said, ‘most people say “Love”, but I believe it is grace.
We enjoyed many wholesome conversations on the gospel. In the last week of his life, I remember he could hardly talk. He struggled to breathe and he indicated while we were on the phone (and he in his hospital bed), that he wanted me to do the talking. I would share portions of my current sermon with him and pray with him. On the last conversation I referred to these words of our Lord Jesus in John 17 – “Father, I will that those whom you have given Me, be with Me, that they may behold my glory.” I said, ‘Dad, the Lord is speaking of you there. Jesus can pray that, because our Heavenly Father is the Author of Grace, and that is what grace does. Our salvation is all God’s doing. The Father gave you to Christ before the foundation of the world, your name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life before the foundation of the world, and Jesus wants you with Him, to behold His glory.’ – ‘He could not contain himself – he managed to say, “That is what I want, that would be wonderful.’ That was the last thing he ever said to me.
Now there is no fixed theological law to say “Grace” is the word that defines Christianity. But it certainly helps to emphasise that grace is the key element in our salvation. It is not found in other religions of the world. All world Religions are based on human merit and human effort. That is the principle undergirding Islam, Buddhism & Hinduism. It is all a matter of doing your best, and hoping, in the end, that your best was good enough. But not so Christianity. The Bible says, “By grace you are saved.” That is a complete statement.
In the Bible it is represented as the exact opposite of works. It is opposed to any thought of worthiness. Please turn to Rom.11:6.
That seems very wordy, but he is simply emphasising that whatever is of works cannot be of grace; and, that whatever is of grace, cannot be of works. This is the HS speaking. It is His emphasis. He shows us, that works and grace are essentially opposite, just as light is the opposite of darkness. Where you have one, you can’t have the other.
So all through the Bible, you have this repeated emphasis. Statements like this – Now to him that works the reward is not reckoned of grace but of debt.
For by grace are you saved-not of works, lest any man should boast. God has deliberately excluded all forms of boasting in His Presence.
Now this is so much against our nature, we cannot believe something as great as our salvation is something to be believed and received, in that we do nothing for it – but only say thank you.
This is so much against our nature, that you have preachers and teachers all through the history of the church who talk about grace, but give it a different meaning. They say, God in His grace made salvation possible, but it is up to us sinners to make the most of it. But there you have the contradiction. That gives sinners something to boast of.
Most of us, when we are converted are Arminians. An Arminian is one who believes they are saved by their own decision. God puts it in place, and it is up to us to choose. I was like that. Suddenly, it all seemed so clear. It seemed so logical to just make my decision and believe. I did, I made my choice, – I became a Christian. But until I learned the teaching of the NT I had two serious problems as a Christian.
I thought it was a simple matter of presenting the facts. 1. We are sinners & on our way to hell. 2. What did Jesus do? – He died to pay the price of our sin. 3. What must we do? – pray to receive Christ & believe He comes into our hearts. They were the facts. They were as plain as day to me. All I had to do was present the facts. Who wouldn’t want to be saved. I was quite appalled that what seemed like such a straight forward decision brought antagonistic responses. People were not interested – or if they were, their profession was very short lived.
I had a problem when I sinned. I thought I had put my sin behind me, but then it popped up again – and again – and again. I began to doubt the reality of whether I had received Christ or not. I lost count of the number of times I prayed to receive Christ again – just to make sure.
I was misguided, because I was not taught salvation from God’s point of view. It did not mean I was not a Christian, but I did not belong to a church where the doctrine of Grace was taught from God’s point of view. It was not until I went to Bible College – and even there it was not taught, but I discovered Spurgeon and studied the Scriptures, and I began to see salvation and grace from a different vantage point. Just as Jesus taught His disciples, so He teaches us. Jesus said to them – “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you.” That is exactly what grace is all about. – Read again Eph.2:8-9.
Jesus said, “No man can come to me, unless the Father draw him.” – The Bible says, left to ourselves, no one seeks after God. That is what sin has done to us. We read in Eph.2:5 “even when we were dead in trespasses, God made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)”.
You realise that your decision was a result of God’s decision – that it was not your decision at all – but God’s. It was not your works, but God working – it was not your purpose, but God’s purpose – you have nothing to boast of, but God has all the glory.
– “He who began…! – Now unto to Him who is able ….! Joh 5:21 “as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.” – Joh 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.” – Friends, we have nothing of which to boast.
This is grace from God’s point of view – God has revealed this to us. If He had not made it known to us, we would have always thought it was our good sense – our decision – our efforts to seek Him. The Bible clearly says – “No!” Paul wrote – “God saved us,-not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace.
And we are not left in the dark as to when God fixed His purpose. – Before the foundation of the world. Eph 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world.”
How can a person say I believe the Bible, and also believe that? When the Bible says in Ac 13:48 “as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” How can a person reverse that? – They do, because it is in our nature to rebel against the teaching of God’s grace. We would rather rob God of His glory, than admit we are utterly dependent upon His grace.
It is our Nature to argue against grace. The usual argument is, why bother? If God has decided everything ahead of time, why bother. Everything is decided. Nothing can change it. That is fatalism – it is Islam – it is not the Christian way.
And there is perhaps no better way for us to appreciate this, than to hear a little story – a true story about a man named Martin Luther. His story is very instructive. It shows how the stumbling-blocks of self-righteousness are removed. It shows how wonderfully free the gospel is. Jesus said – “Go into all the world and preach the good news.” And the good news is the news of God’s love to the unlovable. Grace, without merit and without money without cost w/o effort to those who believe.
He thought he had to bring his repentance as an offering before he could be acceptable to God. And of course, he was never satisfied that his repentance was acceptable enough.
And in teaching others, he started to teach himself. He said, as he read the Scriptures, that a voice seemed to come to him from heaven: “All true repentance begins with the knowledge of the forgiving love of God.” He realised that repentance began by simply believing in God’s love in Christ. He listened to that voice and light broke in, – joy filled him. There was no need for preliminary goodness, or preparatory feelings or good works. He realised he must be received as a sinner or not at all. The Gospel only recognized his guilt; salvation is only given to those who are lost. At first, his joy knew no bounds.
His sin continued to haunt him. He cried “Oh, my sin, my sin!” It seemed the message of forgiveness was too good to be true; sins like his could not be so easily and so simply forgiven.
Then the Scriptures spoke to him again. This is where reading about Luther is so helpful. This voice seemed to say, “Are you only pretending to be a sinner, and so do you only need a pretending Saviour?” And he felt rebuked because he knew that Jesus Christ is the Saviour of great and real sinners, who deserve nothing but condemnation!” That helped him greatly.
He was lecturing in Romans, and Romans emphasises God’s electing grace. – It hit him. – “God is sovereign in His electing love. Perhaps you are not one of His chosen.” But the gospel pointed him to Christ. “Look to the death of Christ,” was the answer, “and learn there God’s gracious mind to men.”
He said to a friend who visited him. “I believe in the forgiveness of sins, but I don’t know if my sins are forgiven”
His friend said, “Do you believe in the forgiveness of David’s sins, and of Peter’s sins–why not of your own sins? Forgiveness is as much for you–as it was for David or Peter.”
Thus Luther found rest. He had nothing to do, but believe. He had to fight the good fight of faith – which meant he had to bring himself back to this again and again – “He must believe the gospel.” He had to fight against his sins, but his success or failure was not going to effect the outcome of his salvation. You cannot be anymore forgiven, than forgiven.
The gospel of grace brought liberty and peace to Martin. He knew that he was forgiven, because God had said that forgiveness was the immediate and sure possession of all who believed the good news.
It was Luther who wrote – “Learn to cry to the Lord Jesus and say – Lord, You are my righteousness & I am your sin.” Thank God for a man who can get to the point.
He was made to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Amen.