A Hymn and Prayer for the New Year

Now, gracious Lord, thine arm reveal,
And make thy glory known;
Now let us all thy presence feel,
And soften hearts of stone!

Help us to venture near thy throne,
And plead a Savior’s name;
For all that we can call our own,
Is vanity and shame.

From all the guilt of former sin
May mercy set us free;
And let the year we now begin,
Begin and end with thee.

Send down thy Spirit from above,
That saints may love thee more;
And sinners now may learn to love
Who never loved before.

And when before thee we appear
In our eternal home;
May growing numbers worship here,
And praise thee in our room.

John Newton (1725-1807)

From Woe and Suffering to Joy and Gladness: An Overview of Romans 6-8

I preached this message Sunday, May 15, 2016 at Orwell Bible Church. You can download a copy here.

How does one go from hearing the just declaration of God’s universal wrath (1:18) to exulting in God’s gracious love (8:38-39)? Paul established that every man without distinction is condemned in sin and under God’s wrath (Rom 1:18-3:20), and that justification is by faith alone in Christ alone (3:21-5:21).

1. The Christian’s Responsibility with Regard to Sin, 6

→Each section teaches a fact with corresponding command

1) Christians are dead to sin and alive to Christ, and so must live that way, 6:1-14.

• The possible charge: “Since the gospel teaches believers’ every sin is covered by grace, this promotes the idea that they will sin with gusto so there’s more grace!”
• FACT: Believers are united with Christ so that sin’s power is broken and they will live for righteousness, 6:1-10.
• COMMAND: Therefore, Christians must live out this truth! Don’t be controlled by sin, serve God and righteousness, 6:11-14.

2) Christians are freed from sin and enslaved to Christ, and so must serve righteousness, 6:15-23.

• The possible charge: “Since the gospel teaches that believers aren’t under the Law (v. 14) this promotes the idea that they can sin all they want.”
• FACT: Being in Christ doesn’t give believers the freedom to sin, it frees them from sin and enslaves them to righteousness! 6:15-18
• COMMAND: Believers must zealously serve the Lord, their new master, 6:19-23

→The Christian’s responsibility with regard to sin is to stop sinning and serve the Lord.

2. The Christian’s Relationship to the Law, 7

→This section is about the Mosaic Law. Paul said that Christians are “not under law but under grace” (6:14). How is this? What does that mean? Does this mean the Law is sinful?

1) One must die to the Law to be joined to Christ to bear fruit for God, 7:1-6.

• This is illustrated by marriage: A woman who’s married can’t marry another man unless her husband dies, 7:1-3.
• One must die to the law to be joined to Christ, 7:4-6.
• Unbelievers’ life in the Law bears the fruit of death; believers’ life in the Spirit bears fruit for God.

2) Though the Law declares God’s holiness, justice, and goodness, it is the unwitting tool of sin, 7:7-12.

• The Law declares what is right and therefore identifies and condemns transgression.
• Sinners must be delivered from the Law, not because it is evil, but because it can’t justify or sanctify them.
• The only thing the Law can do for sinners is point out their sin and condemn

3) The Law is not to blame for sin, sinners are to blame for sin, 7:13-25.

• The struggle and failure to do good isn’t the fault of the Law but the sin nature. The problem isn’t the Law, it’s the sin nature.
• Sinners who depend on the Law for deliverance will always be frustrated and fail.
• Whoever relies on himself is without hope; whoever relies on Christ has victory.→

→ Despite the Law’s perfections it is powerless to justify and sanctify sinners. It always successfully discovers and prosecutes sin. The more one sins, the more the Law “works.” The problem isn’t the Law, it’s the sin nature.

→ Jesus, however, died on the cross for your sin, fully satisfying the Law’s judgment against it. The Law’s righteous demands have been fully satisfied by Jesus, not you. Because you died with Christ and rose with him and your sin has been forgiven, you are “dead” to the Law—it has no power or jurisdiction over you, you are free from the Law (Acts 13:39; Rom 7:3; 8:2; cf. also “under the Law,” Rom 2:12; 3:19; 6:14; Gal 3:10; 3:23; 4:21; 5:18).

→ The Christian’s relationship to the Law is therefore “dead” because his sin is forgiven and Christ’s righteousness is imputed. He is not justified or sanctified by the Law but by Christ.

3. The Christian’s Rest in Jesus Christ, 8

→ Every transgression the Law identified and condemned is “paid in full” by Jesus Christ, so that “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”

1) Through the Spirit believers enjoy justification, 8:1-11

• Believers in Christ through the Spirit are freed from the Law’s condemnation of sin, being justified on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice, 8:1-4
• Unbelievers cannot please God because the sin nature controls them and they are enemies of God, 8:5-8.
• Through the Spirit Christians are alive in Christ because of His righteousness, 8:9-11

2) Believers must participate in the Spirit’s sanctifying work, as He confirms they are God’s children, 8:12-17

3) The Spirit guarantees believers’ glorification in fulfillment of God’s gracious purpose, 8:18-30

• No matter what trouble believers experience now, through the Spirit their hope/yearning expectation is not for this world/life/now, but for eternity, 8:28-27
• Believers’ confidence in eternal glory despite present troubles lies with God’s sovereign, gracious purpose to save them, 8:28-30

4) Believers have absolute confidence in God through Jesus Christ, 8:31-39

• No charge can be made to “stick” against believers, 8:31-34
• Nothing can separate believers from the love of God in the Lord Jesus Christ, 8:35-39

O Blessed God! How Kind

O blessed God! how kind
Are all Thy ways to me,
Whose dark benighted mind
Was enmity with Thee.
Yet now, subdued by sov’reign grace,
My spirit longs for Thine embrace.

How precious are Thy thoughts
That o’er my spirit roll!
They swell beyond my faults,
And captivate my soul:
How great the sum, how high they rise,
Can ne’er be known beneath the skies.

Preserved by Jesus, when
My feet made haste to hell!
And there should I have gone,
But Thou dost all things well:
Thy love was great, Thy mercy free,
Which from the pit delivered me.

A monument of grace,
A sinner saved by blood,
The streams of love I trace
Up to the Fountain, God,
And in His sov’reign counsels see
Eternal tho’ts of love to me.
John Kent, 1766-1843

The Mercy of God

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever, Psalm 89:1

Thy mercy, my God, is the theme of my song,
The joy of my heart, and the boast of my tongue;
Thy free grace alone, from the first to the last,
Hath won my affections and bound my soul fast.

Without thy free mercy I could not live here,
Sin soon would reduce me to utter despair;
But, through thy free goodness, my spirits revive,
And he that first made me, still keeps me alive.

Thy mercy is more than a match for my heart,
Which wonders to feel its own hardness depart;
Dissolved by thy goodness, I fall to the ground,
And weep to the praise of the mercy I found.

The door of thy mercy stands open all day,
To the needy and poor, who knock by the way;
No sinner shall ever be empty sent back,
Who comes seeking mercy for Jesus’ dear sake.

Thy mercy in Jesus exempts me from hell;
Its glories I’ll sing, and its wonders I’ll tell:
‘Twas Jesus the friend when he hung on the tree,
That opened the channel of mercy for me.

Great Father of mercies, thy goodness I own,
And covenant love of thy crucified Son:
All praise to the Spirit, whose action divine,
Seals mercy and pardon and righteousness mine.

–John Stocker

The Loving-Kindness of the Redeemer

“I shall make mention of the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has granted us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which He has granted them according to His compassion and according to the abundance of His lovingkindnesses” Isaiah 63:7

Awake, my soul, to joyful lays,
And sing thy great Redeemer’s praise;
He justly claims a song from me,
His loving-kindness O how free!

He saw me ruined in the fall,
Yet loved me, notwithstanding all;
He saved me from my lost estate;
His loving-kindness O how great!

Though numerous hosts of mighty foes,
Though earth and hell my way oppose,
He safely leads my soul along,
His loving-kindness O how strong!

When trouble, like a gloomy cloud,
Has gathered thick, and thundered loud,
He near my soul has always stood,
His loving-kindness O how good!

Often I feel my sinful heart
Prone from my Jesus to depart;
But though I have him oft forgot,
His loving-kindness changes not.

Soon shall I pass the gloomy vale,
Soon all my mortal powers must fail;
O! may my last expiring breath
His loving-kindness sing in death.

Then let me mount and soar away,
To the bright world of endless day,
And sing with rapture and surprise,
His loving-kindness in the skies.

Samuel Medley (1738-1799)

Saved by Grace

Fanny Crosby called this “her soul’s poem.” The idea for it came from a sermon from her brother, who said that no Christian should fear death: the grace that teaches believers to trust Christ and live for him also teaches believers how to die.

Some day the silver cord will break,
And I no more as now shall sing;
But oh, the joy when I shall wake
Within the palace of the King!

And I shall see Him face to face,
And tell the story—Saved by grace;
And I shall see Him face to face,
And tell the story—Saved by grace.

Some day my earthly house will fall.
I cannot tell how soon ’twill be;
But this I know—my All in All
Has now a place in Heav’n for me.

Some day, when fades the golden sun
Beneath the rosy tinted west,
My blessèd Lord will say, “Well done!”
And I shall enter into rest.

Some day: till then I’ll watch and wait,
My lamp all trimmed and burning bright,
That when my Savior opens the gate,
My soul to Him may take its flight.

God Moves in a Mysterious Way

This hymn came to mind as I was going over my sermon for tomorrow morning from John 11:1-6, especially verse 6–“When He [Jesus] heard that he [Lazarus] was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.”

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

–William Cowper (1731-1800)