Posts Tagged ‘ grace ’

Charles Wesley: Depth of Mercy

Depth of mercy! Can there be
mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God his wrath forbear,
me, the chief of sinners, spare?

I have long withstood his grace,
long provoked him to his face,
would not hearken to his calls,
grieved him by a thousand falls.

I my Master have denied,
I afresh have crucified,
oft profaned his hallowed name,
put him to an open shame.

There for me the Savior stands,
shows his wounds and spreads his hands.
God is love! I know, I feel;
Jesus weeps and loves me still.

Now incline me to repent,
let me now my sins lament,
now my foul revolt deplore,
weep, believe, and sin no more.

The Wesleys and Ecumenical Spirit

Quote about the ecumenical spirit of the Wesleys:

„The Wesleys were able to hold together a „Protestant“ understanding of salvation (justification by grace through faith) and a „Roman Catholic“ vision of the Christian life that is oriented more toward holy living or perfection in love (sanctification). While the Protestant traditions have always tended to emphasize faith as the means to salvation, the Catholic heritage has stressed love as the goal of life in Christ. The Wesleys wanted to hold this means and this end together. To become a loving person, you must put your trust in Christ (faith is the means to love’s end). But faith in Christ is not the goal; to become loving, as Christ is loving, is the purpose of your discipleship (love is the end toward which you move from faith’s foundation). Some have claimed that this vision of the Christian life is what makes the Wesleyan tradition unique in the history of the church.

Along these same lines, Albert Outler, one of the greatest students of John Wesley, once described him as an „evangelical-chatholic“. While pessimistic about humanity in its brokenness (Protestant evangelicalism), Wesley was supremely optimistic about the potency of God’s grace (Roman Catholicism). What holds these two perspectives together is the Wesleyan conception of God’s grace as relationship. Always initiated from God’s side, the process of salvation is reconceived as a relational process, the purpose of which is healing and the restoration of wholeness in our lives. Not only did Wesley bridge the gap between evangelical and Catholic; he also opened up the possibility of dialogue with the Eastern Orthodox tradition, which views salvation essentially as the restoration of God’s image in our lives and communities.“ (Paul Wesley Chilcote; Recapturing the vision of the Wesleys)

His grace is his glory

Last night we studied Exodus 33-34 in our Youth Group. It is a fascinating study, especially on the background of Israel’s naked dance around an Egyptian god. Moses is seen foreshadowing Christ’s mediating work in a beautiful way. Because Moses had found favor in the eyes of the Lord, God would ‚change His mind‘ and dwell in the midst of the congregation, instead of the tent of meetings outside of the camp. Israel gets a completely fresh start as a result of Moses‘ intercession. The ten commandments are given again, the covenant being renewed, the former plans of the tabernacle taken up again.

What an encouragement! For we are all idolaters. We all have turned back to Egypt in our hearts at times, we all have – secretly – carried some gods of Egypt with us on our journey with Jesus… Through the mediating work of Jesus – Christ as the High Priest – we all can have fresh starts. I think it is important to understand what Jon Courson points out: It is not Jesus‘ words, with which he intercedes for us, but his wounds. When it says in Hebrews 7:25, „Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.“, it is not to be understood in a technical sense. I think that at this point we often make the mistake that we base a certain doctrine on one verse alone, which is never a good idea. When Christ intercedes for you and me, he doesn’t need to lose any words. „…he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. (…) But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.“  (9:24; 26) The Holy of Holies was not a place of prayer, it was a place of atonement. Jesus is not before the throne of grace pleading our case with words. It is his blood: „…Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.“ (12:24) To say that on top of the fact that he will always be as a lamb that has been slain, he would still have to add words of prayer and intercession takes away from the atonement. It is to say that his blood isn’t enough, he has to add words. So this thinking is not biblical and it is not logical, because we know that his blood is enough.

Well, anyways…actually I wanted to share something else. In verse 18 Moses asks: „Now show me your glory.“ Up to this point, God had been speaking to Moses through an angel. Even though that is not in the text here, the Rabbis always understood it this way and it is stated three times in the New Testament (Acts 7:38; Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2). Moses wasn’t satisfied to be lead into the promised land by an angel, he wanted God in their midst. He wasn’t satisfied to only hear from God through an angel. He wanted to see God.

Now he had seen alot of God’s glory, in the sense of the miraculous demonstrations of supernatural power and majesty. So what was he asking for? I believe he just wanted to go deeper. He wanted to know God in a deeper way. Which is remarkable, especially on the background of everything he already had experienced in the past. Many of us would be satisfied to see God work or manifest himself in supernatural ways. Moses didn’t want to see what God could do or even would do – he wanted to see God.

„Only do not let us make Moses talk like a metaphysician or a theological professor. Rather we should hear in his cry the voice of a soul thrilled through and through with the astounding consciousness of God’s favour, blessed with love-gifts in answered prayers, and yearning for more of that light which it feels to be life.“ (Alexander Maclaren)

God told Moses that this was not possible in the fullest measure, because that would simply put Moses to death. But in his love he was willing to show Moses as much as was possible. Now check out what God shows Moses as an answer to his request to see God’s glory, his beauty: „I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mery on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. (…) And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.“

Now without wanting to ellaborate much further, the observation is clear. Moses wants to see God’s glory, and God shows him as much as possible of that glory of His. He does it by a self-revelation, not to the eyes but to the ears of Moses. He doesn’t show Moses what he can do, but he tells him who he is in his relation to human beings. And I just think that this is God’s glory, that is his beauty. We are saved to the praise of the GLORY of his grace. To me, that is the most glorious thing I could ever imagine…