Hymn: Of A Rebel Made A Son (Newton)

The Works of John Newton (4 Volume Set)  Although this hymn by John Newton might have a few titles, one line in it would be my choice for a title: “…Of a rebel made a son.”  Whatever it is called, here’s Newton’s wonderful hymn that exalts the grace and love of Christ.  Say it out loud!

Saved by blood, I live to tell
What the love of Christ hath done;
He redeemed my soul from hell,
Of a rebel made a son:
Oh I tremble still to think
How secure I lived in sin,
Sporting on destruction’s brink
Yet preserved from falling in.

In his own appointed hour,
To my heart the Savior spoke;
Touched me by his Spirit’s power;
And my dangerous slumber broke.
Then I saw and owned my guilt:
Soon my gracious Lord replied,
‘Fear not, I my blood have spilt,
Twas for such as thee I died.’

Shame and wonder, joy and love;
All at once possessed my heart,
Can I hope thy grace to prove
After acting such a part?
‘Thou hast greatly sinned,’ said he,
‘But I freely all forgive,
I myself thy debt have paid,
Now I bid thee rise and live!’

Come my fellow sinners try;
Jesus’ heart is full of love
Oh that you, as well as I,
May his wonderous mercy prove!
He has sent me to declare,
All is ready, all is free:
Why should any soul despair,
When he saved a wretch like me?

John Newton, “Hear What He Has Done For My Soul”, Book III, Hymn 54.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Hatred, Forgiveness, and Justice (Guinness)

carpe diem cover image In chapter 5 of his excellent book, Carpe Diem Redeemed, Os Guinness makes a great point that true justice does not have hatred as its fuel:

…Hatred poisons society and holds the hater captive as mercilessly as any ancient Pharaoh, Southern overseer, modern tyrant, or sexual predator.  Will the United States ever transcend racism and sexism?  Certainly not through the ways in which racial and sexual politics are being waged now.

Booker T. Washington exemplified the way of the gospel in shining contrast with many of today’s racial and sexual activists.  Freed by Abraham Lincoln from slavery in Franklin County, Virginia, Washington was remarkable for his complete absence of any bitterness.  ‘I was resolved,’ he wrote, ‘that I would permit no  man, no matter what his color might be, to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him…I pity from the bottom of my heart any individual who is so unfortunate as to get into the habit of holding race predjudice.’  In strong contrast, he wrote, there were those then (and there are those today) who make it their business to  keep stoking racial wrongs in the public square.  ‘Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances because they do not want to lose their jobs.’

Born in slavery and facing the dark rise of the Ku Klux Klan, Booker T. Washington knew the degradation of slavery all too well and hated it as an institution – as we should hate racism today.  The stark contrast between the spirit of such great African American champions and that of many of today’s racial activists is stunning.  These great ex-slaves and oppponents of slavery knew that freedom that begins in the heart must never issue in hate, whereas activism that is not free in the heart only compounds hate even as it claims to fight hate.  Justice pursued with hate leads only to more evil and even greater injustice.  To be reconciling and restorative, justice must be pursued with an eye to the possibility of genuine repentance, genuine forgiveness, and genuine reconciliation – and thus with hearts that are freed from bitterness.

The past is always present.  It is certainly not dead.  But forgiveness and reconciliation can draw the poison out of hate so that the past no longer kills the present but liberates it to go forward freely into the future.  Through repentance and forgiveness, the poison is prevented from spreading.  The ball and chain is broken.  Reaction needs\ no longer follow action.  Even before the end of time, the past can be redeemed in part, with the evil acknowledged and contained.

Os Guinness, Carpe Diem Redeemed, p. 95-6.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

To Thy Grace I Ascribe It (Augustine)

The Confessions of Saint Augustine Many of us have heard the story about Augustine stealing pears when he was a teenager.  Indeed, he stole them not because he was hungry or poor, but simply because he wanted to sin (he “lusted to theive”).  Afterwards Augustine even said that he didn’t even really enjoy the pear but he did enjoy the theft and sin itself.  Only a few pages after he talked about stealing pears he wrote these words in his ConfessionsWhenever we hear the pear story, we should remember these words too!

Behold my heart, O God, behold my heart, which Thou hadst pity upon in the bottom of the bottomless pit. Now, behold, let my heart tell Thee what it sought there, that I should be gratuitously evil, having no temptation to ill, but the ill itself. It was foul, and I loved it; I loved to perish, I loved mine own fault, not that for which I was faulty, but my fault itself. Foul soul, falling from Thy firmament to utter destruction; not seeking aught through the shame, but the shame itself!

What shall I render unto the Lord, that, whilst my memory recalls these things, my soul is not affrighted at them? I will love Thee, O Lord, and thank Thee, and confess unto Thy name; because Thou hast forgiven me these so great and heinous deeds of mine. To Thy grace I ascribe it, and to Thy mercy, that Thou hast melted away my sins as it were ice. To Thy grace I ascribe also whatsoever I have not done of evil; for what might I not have done, who even loved a sin for its own sake? Yea, all I confess to have been forgiven me; both what evils I committed by my own wilfulness, and what by Thy guidance I committed not.

 Saint Augustine Bishop of Hippo, The Confessions of St. Augustine, trans. E. B. Pusey (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996).

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

A Hypocrite Will Come to Church (Watson)

 When we pray the Lord’s prayer we ask our Father to “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (NASB).  This is what Paul was getting at in Ephesians 4:32: “…forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (NASB).  Here are Thomas Watson’s comments on this reality:

He whose sins are forgiven is willing to forgive others who have offended him.  …A hypocrite will read, come to church, give alms, build hospitals, but cannot forgive wrongs; he will rather want (lack) forgiveness from God than he will forgive his enemies.  A pardoned soul agrees thus: “Has God been so good to me to forgive me my sins, and shall I not imitate him in this?  Has he forgiven me pounds, and shall I not forgive pence?”

…By this touchstone we may try whether our sins are pardoned.  We need not climb up to heaven to see whether our sins are forgiven, but only look into our hearts.  Are we of forgiving spirits?  Can we bury injuries, requite good for evil?  This would be a good sign that we are forgiven of God.  If we can find all these things wrought in our souls, they are happy signs that our sins are pardoned, and are good letters (of) testimonial to show for heaven.

Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Prayer, p. 242-3.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

Pray Hard, For You Are Quite A Sinner (Luther)

The following paragraph is from a famous letter of Martin Luther to Phillip Melanchthon.  I’ve posted it on this blog before, but it’s worth doing again.  This letter shows two things: 1) Luther well understood Rome’s unbiblical doctrines [note the “imaginary” language below] and 2) he understood the gospel clearly.

If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but
the true mercy.  If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the
true, not an imaginary sin.  God does not save those who are only
imaginary sinners.  Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let
your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the
victor over sin, death, and the world.  We will commit sins while we
are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides.  We,
however, says Peter (2 Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new
heaven and a new earth where justice will reign.  It suffices that
through God’s glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the
sin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to
kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day.  Do you think
such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager
sacrifice for our sins?  Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.”

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI