The Grace to Believe the Gospel

In my devotional time as of late, I’ve been reading Scotty Smith’s book Everyday Prayers: 365 Days to a Gospel-Centered Faith. I have thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, I have enjoyed it so much I have begun trying to practice it. Usually when I do my daily Bible reading, I write down verses that stand out to me, make some observations about the text, think about ways the text applies to my life, and then jot down a short prayer. A couple of weeks ago, however, I decided to try and write my thoughts down in the form of a prayer. I don’t think I always do a good job at it, but it’s a work in progress. In any event, here’s one I did on October 2nd.

Bring quickly the best robe . . . for this my son was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found (Luke 15:24).

Father, by nature I’m an unbeliever. Simply put, the gospel is too good to be true. When I hear that I’m forgiven by trusting in Christ alone, I recoil. I question whether such glorious news can be true for me. “Maybe for other people who haven’t sinned as much I have?” I question. Can it be, Lord? Are you sure I haven’t sinned away all my days of grace? In such moments I need to run to the cross, Jesus; run and hug the bloody cross. Only then is my mind drawn to Paul’s words: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). None! My heart begins to swell with praise. I feel the burden lifting. Then my eyes turn to Romans 8:33-34 and then to verses 37-39. Combine these words with the fact that you cannot lie (Num. 23:19; Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:18), and the conclusion is? I’m free! (Jn. 8:36). I’m free from the crushing burden to always perform, to always get it right, to always look good; free from needing the approval of others. I live under a banner that waves, “It is finished!”

As the hymn writer put it, “Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, who like should sing His praise?”

One final thought: My heart has been gripped as of late with the grace of God. I think if I really understood God’s grace I would relax a lot more. But as I think about it myself and talk about grace with other people, I see that we struggle to believe that God really is this good. This is because God’s grace isn’t like anything we experience in this world. Consider this thought by Walter Marshall, taken from his book The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification: “By nature, you are completely addicted to a legal method of salvation. Even after you become a Christian by believing the Gospel, your heart is still addicted to works . . . You find it hard to believe that you should get any blessing before you work for it.”

I ask you: Is that not true? Is that not how we think? I know I do. But God’s grace isn’t that way! That’s why the gospel is too good to be true. It’s unbelievable. Robert Capon accurately voices the prayer of our hearts that naturally resist believing the gospel of grace:

Restore to us, Preacher, the comfort of merit and demerit. Prove for us that there is at least something we can do, that we are still, at whatever dim recess of our nature, the masters of our relationships. Tell us, Prophet, that in spite of all our nights of losing, there will yet be one redeeming card of our very own to fill the inside straight we have so long and so earnestly tried to draw to. But whatever you do, do not preach grace. . . We insist on being reckoned with. Give us something, anything; but spare us the indignity of this indiscriminate acceptance.

May that not be our prayer. Instead, may we say, “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.”

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