Sunday, January 30

Sunday's Hymn and Sermon: Considering Grace

Grace Greater Than Our Sins

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.

Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide.
What can we do to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
Brighter than snow you may be today.

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive?
---Julia H. Johnston

From Chris Vogel, in Grace and Faith that Works:
"Grace alone" has always been a pivotal issue in the history of the Church. Virtually every error concerning man's salvation is an error that has its departure in the denial of "grace alone." And that denial is often a very subtle denial. No one would ever be so bold to claim that their standing before God was devoid of grace, but due solely to their own merit. Error sneaks in not with the bald faced lie of total personal effort, but whenever one neglects to see that our standing before God is by grace alone and that grace has secured our standing before God. If grace comes only when coupled with our effort, if grace is not the only factor, then we do not understand or believe the Gospel.

It is not uncommon for people to view God’s grace as a cooperative effort, that God will give grace as we do our part. What is the great axiom of American religion? "God helps those who help themselves." Pollster George Barna found that 86% of evangelicals believed that that statement was either a direct quote from the Bible or an excellent summation of what the Bible says. But that view is flatly contradicted by Scripture.

During the height of the Reformation Martin Luther debated the great Erasmus over freedom of the will and the nature of grace. Erasmus described grace with a common analogy of medieval Europe, but what is also generally accepted by people today. Erasmus said God’s grace is like the parent helping the baby to walk. He holds the hands, he steadies the body, he lets the child take a few faltering steps on his own and catches him if he falls. The picture sounds loving, but incorrect. (Footprints poster?) Luther responded that such a view thinks too highly of man and too lowly of God. Rather we are a caterpillar surrounded by a ring of fire. There is no escape. Grace is the hand which reaches down and plucks the helpless creature from a certain holocaust.
Read the rest.