Volume. XXVIII, No. 7
Sunday, 18 August 2013


Astounding Grace & An Extravagant Love For the Lord Jesus


Astounding Grace
One of the most remarkable statements in the Bible is found in Isaiah 62:5, 'as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you'. The prophet Zephaniah takes the thought a step further, and deeper: 'The Lord your God is with you . . . he will rejoice over you with singing' (Zeph. 3:17). It is quite breathtaking to imagine the everlasting and ever-blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, rejoicing over weak, poor, inconstant, shallow, doubting, believing sinners - and he does, astonishingly.

The greatness of what Isaiah and Zephaniah wrote does not lie however in the wholly undeserving objects of God's rejoicing, but in the astounding grace that gave birth to his rejoicing.

I fear, if you are anything like me, that grace is such a commonplace in the evangelical Christian's vocabulary, that the thought of it rarely if ever moves and thrills you, far less overwhelms you. It is a biblical truism that we are saved by grace, that salvation in all its parts is 'from him, and through him, and to him . . . To him be the glory for ever! Amen' (Rom. 11:36). We know that grace truly is 'amazing'. We understand that grace is undeserved, saving kindness to  judgment-deserving sinners. We know this. We confess this. We sing this. Some of us preach this. But when were we last humbled and overwhelmed by the heart-stopping wonder of grace?

Thomas Goodwin, the great English Puritan, wrote insightfully about God's grace:
Grace is more than mercy and love, it super-adds to them. It denotes not simply love, but the love of a sovereign, transcendent superior, one that may do what he will, that may wholly choose whether he will love or no . . . Now God, who is an infinite Sovereign, who might have chosen whether ever He would love us or no, for Him to love us, this is grace. Goodwin has surely captured the heart and glory of grace, 'For him to love us, this is grace.' Him! It has always helped me when thinking about the grace of God to change the word order to 'the God of grace'. Grace is not a 'spiritual substance' that God parcels out to us from a heavenly
treasury. Grace is God giving himself to us. In essence, Jesus is the grace of God (read John 1:14, 17). He is God's gift of love to the world. In him, and in him alone, God gifts to us his love, his kindness, his mercy. Grace is deeply personal.

The implications of this are profound. It means above all else that we are to glory in the God of grace and not in the grace of God. I hope I am not making an artificial distinction. Of course Christians will love and cherish the doctrines of grace. Of course we will celebrate the inexplicable sovereignty of that grace. But there is always the danger that we isolate the blessings of the gospel from the Person of the Saviour. If Jesus Christ himself is the grace of God in its revealed fulness (John 1:14, 17), then our lives will be marked first by love and adoration to him, the essence and epitome of God's grace. What Peter wrote about the exiles of the dispersion should be true of all Christians, 'Though you have not seen him, you love him' (1 Pet. 1:8).

When our Lord Jesus asked Peter three times, 'Do you love me?', he was surely not only speaking to Peter. Was he not asking every one of us, as he asked Peter, 'Do you love me?' It is not love to Christ that saves us - but nor is it faith in Christ that saves us! It is Christ who saves us through faith - this is grace. Again, this is not trying to be clever with words. Rather it is what God's holy Word again and again impresses on us. Our boast as believers is not that we have faith, but that the Lord Jesus is our heavenly Bridegroom and that he, yes he, rejoices over us with singing.

(By Rev Ian Hamilton, pastor of the Cambridge Presbyterian Church. Reprinted with the permission from New Life B-P Church, London)

An Extravagant Love For The Lord Jesus
Reading the Letters of Samuel Rutherford is to enter a world where love to the Lord Jesus Christ is the absorbing preoccupation. Writing to a lady parishioner in 1637, he said, 'Christ is a well of life; but who knoweth how deep it is to the bottom? . . . And oh, what a fair one, what an only one, what an excellent, lovely, ravishing one is Jesus.' Such language, and, vastly more importantly, such heart affection, appears remote, perhaps even embarrassing, to many Christians today. Neither our language about the Saviour, nor our discoursing on the Saviour, gives the impression that he is the love of our lives, the One we cherish and adore above life itself. Why are we such strangers to the unembarrassed ardour that so marked Rutherford's (and multitudes of other Christians' past and present), relationship with the Lord Jesus?

One answer that is sometimes given is that our temperaments are somewhat culturally conditioned and cannot be expected to be 'fulsome' and 'uninhibited': we are English/Scottish after all! We don't wear our hearts on our sleeves! Aside from the fact that Rutherford was as Scottish as you can get, this answer is a pathetic excuse. There is little doubt that the Lord has given his world a wonderful cultural and temperamental diversity. But according to our Lord Jesus, the extravagance of our love to him is not conditioned by the genetics of our temperament, nor by the geography of our nationhood, but by our grasp of his grace to us in the gospel!

In his Gospel, Luke recounts for us, in the greatest detail, the anointing of the Lord Jesus by a 'sinful woman' (7:36-50). As the woman lavishes her love on the Saviour, Simon, Jesus' host, says to himself, 'If this man were a prophet he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is - that she is a sinner.' Jesus' response takes us to the heart of the matter. As he concludes his searching exposure of Simon's heart, he says, 'therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven - for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.' Consider what our Lord is saying to us. The reason why the sinful woman lavished her affections so openly and extravagantly on the Lord was because she had a deep sense of the wonder of the forgiveness of sins. The reason we love our Saviour so haltingly and so mutedly, is, at heart, because we have lost the sense of the wonder and blessedness and glory of the forgiveness of our sins.

It is an evangelical commonplace that 'the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from every sin.' We are able to talk about Christ and the gospel, and to my great shame, preach about them, and not be captivated by the sheer glory of the divine mercy. We sing about 'Amazing Grace', but if the truth be told, just what is so 'amazing' to us about God's forgiving grace in Christ? 'He who has been forgiven little loves little.' It has nothing to do, at heart, with nationality or genetics; it has everything to do with grasping the glory of the cross and the wonder of being a forgiven sinner, a friend and child of the living, thrice holy, triune God.

How then can we begin to love him better? How can we love him more ardently, more extravagantly, less self-consciously? There are no slick formulae, no out-of-this-world experiences to cultivate. Simply this: Consider Jesus! Contemplate Calvary! Make the time and take the time to meditate on God's amazing grace to hell-deserving sinners.

There is no substitute for loving Christ. Let Rutherford have the last word:

Give Christ your virgin love: you cannot put your love and heart into a better hand. Oh! If ye knew him, and saw his beauty, your love, your liking, your heart, your desires would close with him and cleave to him . . . Oh Fair sun, and fair moon, and fair stars, and fair flowers, and fair roses, and fair lilies, and fair creatures, but O ten thousand times fairer Lord Jesus.

(By Rev Ian Hamilton, pastor of the Cambridge Presbyterian Church. Reprinted with the permission from New Life B-P Church, London)

More Lively Hope

 

Announcements

*Kitchen Roster: Today’s Team Leader: Volunteer. Next Lord’s Day: Bro Boong Atijatuporn
*Deepest Sympathy to Mrs Sylvia White and Mrs Helen Jenkins on the home-going of the late Rev James White.
*Hope Bookstore: Open today: 12:30 - 1:45 pm
*Christmas Concert on Sat, 14 Dec. Please keep this date in your diary.
*Reminder: All members expected to attend ACM. Please be here by 7:15 pm. If unable to come, please obtain a proxy form from Dn Colin Gan.
*Candidates for 7th Session Election: Pastor T Ki, Elder M Lee; Deacons C Gan, WK Wong & D Yeo; Deaconesses J Gong & P Yeo.

Praise & Thanksgiving
Journey mercies: Rev George van Buuren (Adl); Rev & Mrs Pong Sen Yiew (Tas/Syd/S’pore); Dn Tony & Sis Sally Law (Adl); Bros Ngie Joo Gong (Adl), Joseph Selvanayagam (Gold Coast/Adl) & Lucas Yiew (Tas/Adl); Sisters Alice & Michelle Lee (Adl) & Mary Ting (Gold Coast/Adl); & others who are travelling.  
God’s Guidance & recovery from second surgery (in Adelaide): Sis Michelle Lee
Provision of a new oven & stove for kitchen
Church Activities, in the past week.
God’s daily mercy, guidance & blessings.
Visitors & new worshippers.

Prayer Items
Health & God’s healing - Dr Gary Cohen (USA), Dr SH Tow (S’pore); Rev George van Buuren; Mrs James White; Bro Colin & Sis Kathleen Creaser; Preacher Zhang (Sihanoukville); Grandpa Ki (S’pore); Bros Surish Dharmalingam (Laos), Elton Law & Kang Fun Tan (S’pore); Sisters Lai Kheng Chiong (KL), Myung Ki, Choon Fong Lee (KL), Lehia Paauwe, Margaret Pearson, Corinne Teng, & Susan Varadi (Nursing Home); Mr Swee Liang Ng; Mr Mang Soo Ong; Bro Peng Cheong Wong (Dn Wai Kin Wong’s father); Mrs Maggie D’Mello; Mr Tony Zhang; & others in affliction.
Special Prayer: Pastor Ki (investigation); Rev Edward Paauwe (hip surgery); Bro Len Pearson (Lobethal); Sisters Margaret Hooper (post-op), Michelle Lee (post-op), Anne Tan (post-op) & Mavis Wong’s mother (salvation & post-op recovery)
God’s comfort in grief: Mrs Sylvia White; Mrs Helen Jenkins & family.
iSketch & Tell Studio, YouTube Ministry & preparation for Ordination: Ps Hai Seng Lim.
Cambodia Missions - Bro Sun Sokha (Phnom Penh)
Kuching Missions: Bro Jeremy Teo & family.
IBPFM & PMU: Board & Missionaries.
Ministry in New Life BPC (London) & God’s guidance for the future: Ps & Sis Ki.
Ministry in Hope BPC - God’s guidance for future - Ps & Sis Weng.  
Journey mercies: Bro Raphael & Sis Bernadette Ng & family (Melb); who are travelling.  
Interpreters of sermon into Mandarin.
Job - Bros Timothy Ngoma & Jonathan Liao (Syd); Sisters Corinne Teng & Sharon Ying (Per); & others looking for  stable jobs.
Australian Visas - Sisters Clara Sim & Sharon Ying (Perth - for PR).
Hope BPC - for new Pastor; ACM & New Session candidates & Election next Sat.
God’s guidance & direction - Sisters Michelle Jap (Jakarta) & Felicia Tan (S’pore).
Candidates for Baptism & Membership Transfer.
Year 12 students: for strength & encouragement in their studies.

 

 

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PO Box 398, Fullarton, Adelaide, South Australia 5063