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The Gospel is good news of mercy to the undeserving. The symbol of the religion of Jesus is the cross, not the scales.
-- John R. W. Stott
What think you of Christ? is the test,
To try both your state and your scheme:
You cannot be right in the rest
Unless you think rightly of him.
As Jesus appears in your view,
As he is beloved or not,
So God is disposed to you
And mercy or wrath is your lot.
Some take Him a creature to be,
A man or an angel at most;
Sure these have not feelings like me
Nor know themselves wretched or lost:
So guilty, so helpless am I,
I durst not confide in his blood,
Nor on his protection rely
Unless I was sure He is God.
Some call him Saviour, in word,
But mix their own works with his plan,
And hope he his help will afford,
When they have done all that they can;
If doings prove rather too light,
(A little, they own, they may fail)
They purpose to make up full weight
By casting his name in the scale.
Some style him the pearl of great price
And say He’s the fountain of joys,
Yet feed upon folly and vice
And cleave to the world and its toys;
Like Judas the Saviour they kiss
And while they salute him, betray;
Ah! what will profession like this
Avail in the terrible day?
If asked what of Jesus I think,
Though still my best thoughts are but poor,
I say he’s my meat and my drink,
My life and my strength and my store;
My shepherd, my husband, my friend,
My Saviour from sin and from thrall;
My hope from beginning to end,
My portion, my Lord, and my all!
AUGUSTINE AND THE FOUR STATES OF MAN
In the 5th century AD, St. Augustine wrote about the "4 States of Man":
* The first state of man (the haec sunt prima) is "living according to the flesh -- with reason making no resistance." This can be seen in so many ancient cultures and religions (and unfortunately more than a few in our own time) with their human sacrifices, their idols, their pagan ceremonies, and even cannibalism. Human life -- without power -- was lightly regarded. Animals, especially domesticated animals, were often valued more highly than human life. Reason often vanishes when weighed against lust and self-gratification. Even today, this seems to be coming full circle.
* The second state of man is "recognition of sin through the Law . . . but sinning knowingly." It was so important for Satan to remove the Ten Commandments from our classrooms and courtrooms. It was critical for him to "separate church and state." So long as people knew the Law, it would not be so easy to ignore the Law. Without the reminders of the Law, we easily return to the first state of man. Does any of this sound familiar?
* The third state of man is "faith in the help of God -- but he perseveres in seeking to please God." Man has begun to be moved by the Spirit of God. We are already standing with one foot in the hell which we have created, but in the "third state", man knows it. So he still struggles against his own sinful nature because he has not yet been fully healed.
* The fourth state of man is "the full and perfect peace in God." This we find in harmony with Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the person of Jesus Christ, we see how far we have departed from God.
Augustine adds, "The will of man is always free, even and particularly when it can no longer will to do evil." But Adam and Eve were not gods, "and their 'free will' would not have sufficed, even in paradise, to merit immortality. Divine assistance was needed. Their immortality could only continue by their continued relationship with the Divine. So how much more do we need God's help since our fall?"
Augustine continues, "Even the good merits and qualities which people may display toward one another are gifts from God. Every good quality comes from His grace. God's mercy is the ground of salvation. Therefore, let no man boast. Out of faith spring hope and love. We hope only in God -- not in men and not in ourselves." ("The History of Doctrines", Reinhold Seeberg, p. 366)
Dorothy Sayers wrote, "If men will not understand the meaning of judgment, they will never come to understand the meaning of grace."
Dr. S.M. Lockridge was the Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, San Diego CA from 1953 - 1993. He entered heaven in 2000. He is well-known for a passage out of his sermon titled “He’s My King”:
“He’s enduringly strong, He’s entirely sincere, He’s eternally steadfast. He’s immortally graceful. He’s imperially powerful. He’s impartially merciful. He’s God’s Son. He’s a sinner’s savior. He’s the centerpiece of civilization. He stands alone in Himself. He’s unparalleled. He’s unprecedented. He’s supreme. He’s preeminent. He’s the loftiest idea in literature. He’s the highest idea in philosophy. He’s the fundamental truth in theology. He’s the miracle of the age. He’s the only one able to supply all of our needs simultaneously. He supplies strength for the weak. He’s available for the tempted and the tried. He sympathizes and He saves. He guards and He guides. He heals the sick, He cleans the lepers. He forgives sinners, He discharges debtors, He delivers captives, He defends the feeble, He blesses the young, He serves the unfortunate, He regards the aged, He rewards the diligent, He beautifies the meek. Do you know Him?
Well, my king is the king of knowledge, He’s the well-spring of wisdom, He’s the doorway of deliverance, He’s the pathway of peace, He’s the roadway of righteousness, He’s the highway of holiness He’s the gateway of glory, He’s the master of the mighty, He’s the captain of the conquerors, He’s the head of the heroes, He’s the leader of the legislators, He’s the overseer of the overcomers, He’s the governor of governors, He’s the prince of princes, He’s the king of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
His life is matchless. His goodness is limitless. His mercy is everlasting. His love never changes. His word is enough. His grace is sufficient. His reign is righteous. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Well. I wish I could describe Him to you. But He’s indescribable. Yes. He’s incomprehensible. He’s invincible, He’s irresistible. I’m trying to tell you, the Heavens cannot contain Him, let alone a man explain Him. You can’t get Him out of your mind. You can’t get Him off of your hands. You can’t outlive Him, and you can’t live without Him. Well. The Pharisees couldn’t stand Him, but they found out they couldn’t stop Him. Pilate coul...
Lord Jesus, receive my spirit, and put an end at Thy good pleasure to this my miserable life; for justice and truth are not to be found among the sons of men…Be merciful unto me, O Lord…Now after many battles, I find nothing in me but vanity and corruption. For in quietness I am negligent, in trouble impatient, tending to desperation…pride and ambition assault me on the one part, covetousness and malice trouble me on the other, briefly, Oh Lord, the affections of the flesh do almost suppress the operation of Thy Spirit…In none of the aforesaid I do delight; but I am troubled, and that sore against the desire of my inward man which sobs for my corruption, and would repose in Thy mercy alone; to which I claim, and that in the promise that Thou hast made to all penitent sinners of whose number I profess myself to be one.
“Answer to a Letter of James Lurie, a Scottish Jesuit,” in John Knox—A Great Intercessor, by Bessie G. Olson, Hall of Fame Series, Des Moines: Walfred, 1956, pp. 45-46, quoted in Mark Bubeck, The Adversary, Moody Press, pg. 33.
“Beloved Christian reader, in matters of grace, you need a daily supply. You have no store of strength. Day by day must you seek help from above. It is a very sweet assurance that a daily portion is provided for you in the word, through the ministry, by meditation, in prayer, and waiting upon God you shall receive renewed strength. In Jesus all needful things are laid up for you. Then enjoy your continual allowance. Never go hungry while the daily bread of grace is on the table of mercy.” Charles Spurgeon “Morning & Evening: Daily Readings
IN REFERENCE TO THE TERRORIST ATTACKS ON AMERICA, REV. BILLY GRAHAM STATED, “IN TIMES LIKE THIS, WE REALIZE HOW WEAK AND INADEQUATE WE ARE, AND OUR GREATEST NEED IS TO TURN IN REPENTANCE AND FAITH TO THE GOD OF ALL MERCY AND THE FATHER OF ALL COMFORT. IF EVER THERE WAS A TIME FOR US TO TURN TO GOD AND TO PRAY AS A NATION, IT IS NOW -- THAT THIS EVIL WILL SPREAD NO FURTHER.”
"At last I understood: in the final analysis, forgiveness is an act of faith. By forgiving another, I am trusting that God is a better justice-maker than I am. By forgiving, I release my own right to get even and leave all issues of fairness for God to work out. I leave in God’s hands the...
Quoting the English preacher John Daniel Jones: He lived from 1865-1942, this is from his sermon The Sovereignty of God
In our absorption in the thought of God as Father, we have almost lost sight of the fact that He is the Holy Sovereign, ruling the world in righteousness. The result has been that to a large extent, we have lost the sense of religious awe, of reverence, and of godly fear.
To make our religious life deep and strong we need to recover that lost sense of awe. We need to be taught afresh the fear of the Lord. And to recover that lost sense of awe, to create a feeling of reverence, we need a fresh vision of God as the Holy Sovereign. The Lord reigns, let the nations tremble. Why (should the nations tremble)? He is holy. We have only to realize that God is the Holy Sovereign, and the awe is bound to come back. The will that rules is a holy will. The power that governs is a holy power. All who sin bring themselves into collision with the sovereign will and power of the universe.
If the realization that a Holy God is sovereign fills us sinful men and women with awe and godly fear, that same realization of God as sovereign ought to fill those of us who love goodness and long for the triumph of Christ with a happy confidence.
Psalm 97:1 The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice.
The destinies of the world are not, for instance, at the mercy of fleets and armies. The Lord reigns. To know that God rules – to realize His sovereignty – is to be delivered from fear and despair.
"The Lord reigns." This is the ground of our confidence in the triumph of the church. The church has not, in recent years, been in a triumphant frame of mind. She has been depressed, nervous, harassed, and anxious. She has been conscious of strained resources and inadequate powers. My brethren, what we want for a recovery of our courage and confidence is the recovery of our faith in the sovereignty of God.
Our lives get broken and harassed just because we forget that it is the Lord who reigns.
John Leo is a columnist that I enjoy very much. He writes for U.S. News and World Report. In the Oct. 12, 1998 issue he comments on the relationship today between rules, Madison Avenue and society. He titles his column “The Selling of Rebellion.” He writes:
Consider the recent ad for the Isuzu Rodeo. A grotesque giant in a business suit stomps into a beautiful field, startling a deer and jamming skyscrapers, factories and signs into the ground. One of the giant’s signs says “Obey,” but the narrator says, “The world has boundaries. Ignore them.” Trying to trample the Rodeo, the hapless giant trips over his own fence. The Isuzu zips past him and toppling a huge sign that says, “Rules.”
But the central message here is very serious and strongly antisocial: We should all rebel against authority, social order, propriety, and rules of any kind. “Obey” and “Rules” are bad. Breaking rules, with or without your Isuzu, is good.
A great many advertisers now routinely appeal to the so-called postmodern sensibility…Burger King’s “Sometimes, you gotta break the rules.” Outback steakhouses (“No rules. Just right”), Don Q Rum (“Break all the rules”), Neiman Marcus (“No rules here), Columbia House Music Club (“We broke the rules”), Comedy Central (“See comedy that breaks the rules”), Red Kamel cigarettes (“This baby don’t play by the rules”), and even Woolite now says, “All the rules have changed.”
“No rules” also turns up as the name of a book and a CD and a tag line for an NFL video game (“no refs, no rules, no mercy”). The message is everywhere—“the rules are for breaking,” says a Spice Girls lyric.