Are You Astonished By His Grace?

“O Lord, I am astonished at the difference between my receivings and my deservings, between the state I am now in and my past gracelessness, between the heaven I am bound for and the hell I merit,” prays on of the Puritans. [1]  Who prays like this anymore? What a time we live in, that despite our selfishness and love for sin (one loves lust, another greed, another pride, another idolatry, but each is rebellion against God), persons like to think humanity is “basically good.”  Many act as though God owes us something, as if salvation is a given. 

I am not so much talking about the non-religious, but I am talking about many church goers who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ. People declaring they are such and such, condoning whatever behaviors suit them, then acting as though God is obliged to look upon them with favor.

Is any of us really like sweet Georgia peaches, just a little bruised? But what do the Scriptures say?

As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” … For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, ~ Romans 3:10-18, 22-23

Elsewhere, in an epistle written to Christians, the apostle writes,

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. ~ Ephesians 2:1-3

Apart from Jesus Christ, none of us is deserving of God’s affection. Each of us was walking dead men, followers of the devil, walking in the passions of our own lusts, and children of wrath. No, we are not sweet peaches but poisonous mushrooms. What presumptuous arrogance that is so predominant in many American churches, as persons live however they want to live, disregarding the authority of the Scriptures, the teachings of Christ and His apostles, and thinking God is pleased just because persons gather “in His name.” This is no different than the rebellious and idolatrous Israelites, false prophets, and the corrupt priests God rejected in the Old Testament.

Where is humility? What has happened to mourning over one’s sins? What has happened to persons acknowledging God’s perception as being correct and that it is the individual’s perception which is wrong?

My friend, if there is no evident change in your life and no conformity to the likeness of Christ (including His love, humility, purity, holiness, and the like), then it is highly unlikely that you are genuinely a Christian. 

The apostle writes concerning the grace of God,

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation [i.e., making it available] for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. ~ Titus 2:11-12

Again, he writes,

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant. ~ Philippians 2:3-7

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. ~ Galatians 5:13

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ~ 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

If you are saved—born again—it is only by grace. The Scriptures tell us that even our righteousness—our supposed good deeds—are but “filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6, KJV). Look up the Hebrew term for “filthy rags,” it’s quite disgusting—which is the point.

Each of us should be astonished at the mercies God grants us. We shouldn’t ever lose the wonder of His undeserving grace. If you do not at all see glimpses of the wretch and scoundrel you really are (as am I), then how do you understand your need for a Savior? And if such glimpses of your depravity don’t  cause you to realize your desperate need for repentance and forgiveness, it is highly doubtful you really understand anything about grace, let alone experienced it.

That God would bother to look upon us with pity and snatch us from the flames, which was our destination, should create such unending humble gratitude. But how much of this do we truly see within American churches?

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[1] Arthur Bennet, ed., “The Mover,” in The Valley of Vision (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1975), 12.

Perhaps we are most like the ungodly when we are ungrateful. Contrary to popular belief, no one owes us anything—especially God! Yet, how many of us are blessed by God, as well as the work and kindnesses of others? Productivity, a warm hello, a helping hand, a good meal, etc. Even “self-made” persons do not make their buildings, cars, computers, phones, etc. Others did. Others’ giftings are often gifts to us, and all these come from God. What insolent arrogance when we think we are above displaying gratitude.

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him. ~ Romans 1:21

Revive Us, O Lord

You might be familiar with the word to an old hymn:

Revive us again;
Fill each heart with Thy love.
May each soul be rekindled
With fire from above.
~ from “Revive Us Again” by William P. Mackay 

Whatever happened to the words “revive” and “revival”? These used to be spoken of more, even prayed for, in churches but have somehow fallen on the wayside. This is tragic, since we are in such desperate need of revival.

Imagine, for a moment, a cruise ship. On board are people involved in various activities. Some are working, some are in meetings concerning itinerary, and others are running to the next fun activity. Many are content with a sense of safety and security. However, look over the rails and there are literally multitudes drowning in the waters. Is this not unthinkable that those on the ship would not have a sense of urgency to help as many as they could?

I am not trying to be critical nor am I saying fun, rest, and relaxation are wrong. However, are not many churches like this ship and its passengers? We have our meetings and planners set for coming events, but often there lacks any real sense of urgency. Oh sure, we want our churches to grow numerically, but does it always have to do with “souls being saved”? While we might say, “Yes!” But does this include those who are quite different than us? The “sinners” and outcasts for whom Jesus also died? Shame on us when the gospel is more for “people like us.” Lord God, have mercy on us for our Pharisaical hypocrisies!

Our church events, like any secular entertainment, are fleeting. The persons (i.e., souls) around us are eternal. How can our hearts not be burdened for the perishing? Oh, that God would revive us again!

We’re Going to Heaven (but So Many Won’t Go)

We’re going to Heaven—O glorious day!
But still there’s so many who are lost on the way.
Will our hearts have compassion, will we be saddened so—
That we’re going to Heaven, but so many won’t go?

We’re going to Heaven, but so many to hell;
My brothers and sisters we have Great News to tell—
That on an ol’ Cross Jesus died for our sins,
Opening Heaven so that all may go in.

We’re going to Heaven, but are family and friends?
Will they know Jesus when they come to the end?
Oh, do they know how much God loves them so?
We’re going to Heaven, but will they, too, go?

We’re going to Heaven—O glorious day!
But still there’s so many who are lost on the way.
Praise God, Jesus saves! Let the redeemed say so—
We’re going to Heaven … but so many won’t go.
~ Geno Pyse