Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The poem 'Covered'

Set to music here.

I wrote this poem a while back and recently Roxanne Smith composed music for it. She and Richard Schletty then recorded it as a wonderful song of testimony and worship.  Also, Richard took one of my guitar pieces and recorded his vocals of this poem... beautiful... take a listen.

[inspired by Romans 3:21-31]

The blood of Christ
It covers me

The blood of Christ

He died for me

My sin taken
His life given

No condemnation
He has risen

Declared now just
No merit mine

By grace now blessed
Free gift I find

A new heart given
Faith to obey

His yoke easy
Christ led each day

God of heaven

Savior He

This soul, blood-sealed

Friday, April 23, 2010

"Reckoning ourselves to be..." in the church

An encouragement to find and join a church where the Word of God is rightly preached and the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper are rightly administered:
Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Finally after setting forth all the bad news of man's sinful condition deserving of God's wrath and the wonderful good news of God's grace in Christ, Paul addresses the believers with the indicative of Romans 6:11. "So consider yourselves... reckon yourselves..." We are to consider, reckon, recall, remember, fix our minds, i.e. believe on that which has been accomplished for us by God through Christ's death and resurrection.

Paul has spent the first five and a half chapters of Romans declaring what is true concerning God's moral and written Law, about man's sinful condition and utter lack of righteousness. He has made that case that both Jews and Gentiles are shut up before the Law and are under the sentence of death (2:12, 3:19). For "by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin." (3:20) And starting with 3:21 Paul trumpets the good news of justification by faith in Christ:
21-But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22-even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23-for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24-being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;
Paul extends his discourse of righteousness by faith into chapters 4 and 5, showing that our justification and salvation are by grace alone in Christ alone. "'Tis mercy all, immense and free." (And Can It Be That I Should Gain - by Charles Wesley)

John Stott writes in his Romans commentary concerning this new "reign of grace":
“Grace forgives sins through the cross, and bestows on the sinner both righteousness and eternal life. Grace satisfies the thirsty soul and fills the hungry with good things. Grace sanctifies sinners, shaping them into the image of Christ. Grace perseveres even with the recalcitrant, determining to complete what it has begun. And one day grace will destroy death and consummate the kingdom. So when we are convinced that grace reigns’, we will remember that God’s throne is a ‘throne of grace’, and will come to it boldly to receive mercy and to find grace for every need.”
As we are brought to the beginning of chapter 6 Paul once again addresses the charge that hounded his ministry, that his gospel of grace encourages not only a lax attitude to godly living but actually encourages believers to sin in order that grace would abound even more.
2-May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3-Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?...
7-for he who has died is freed [justified] from sin.
Chapter 6 teaches that sin no longer has claim upon us, for we died and rose in Him. His death to sin is effectual for us (in the likeness of His death). And His resurrection is effectual for us unto our justification before God. His perfect obedience is accounted to us (in the likeness of His resurrection) and we are now justified through faith in Him and His finished work on our behalf. United with Christ through baptism we come to share in the benefits of His death, burial, and resurrection. "In the likeness of His death.... shall also in the likeness of His resurrection." No longer under the reign of sin which leads to death, we are under grace, creating in us a repentant gratitude which leads to righteousness. So much for the charges leveled by Paul's critics.

So now back to the verse at the start of this post, "even so consider (reckon, recall, remember, bring to mind) yourselves..." Paul is emphatically stating that it is inconceivable, having died to sin i.e. to it's dominion and penalty, that we should return and again submit ourselves as slaves to unrighteousness. And as I ponder this admonition it becomes obvious that this remembering and reckoning of ourselves in light of Christ's cross is the very heart of the work of the church. Together we are to so reckon ourselves through the reminding of each other, the encouraging each other, recalling to each other that which is true. And this, I really think is why there can be no such thing as a lone Christian.

Daily we battle against our sinful-self inclinations, all too often willingly embracing them. We have seen the enemy and the enemy is us, to quote Pogo. So by ourselves we too easily succumb to discouragement and even despair, often losing sight of why the good news is really good... "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness." And if not discouragement, we can lapse into the false security of self-righteousness by adhering to a select performance of outward measures, as if those acts could atone for our sin and save us. No we need something more for this life.

We need the preaching and teaching of His Word in Spirit and in truth, which creates and strengthens the eyes of faith beholding Christ. "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17). We need nourishment for our hearts and souls by partaking of His body and blood in the Lord's Supper as we remember and recall His death on the cross for our sins. And we need edification, confession, forgiveness through the worship and prayers of the church... singing to one another with "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs." God gives all this to His people through the visible, locatable church, the communion of saints.
Hebrews 10:
23-Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24-and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25-not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
We are comforted and strengthened, growing into His likeness during this sojourn on earth by these very God instituted ordinary means of grace, Word and Sacrament. And as His people assembling together in the church, we find that that which we indeed deserve, the wages of our sin which is death, we do not receive. Rather we are given what we do not deserve, the free gift of God - eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Romans Commentary by John Stott
King James Bible