March 18, 2011 Leave a comment
“Grace is what taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved.”
These words from the famous hymn Amazing Grace by John Newton was always a curious one for me. The concept of grace teaching our hearts to fear was one of the concepts that I am not familiar with, and something perhaps uncomfortable to modern Christians today. But I think it a lot along the lines of what needs to be relieved must first be revealed. Only when Jesus opens up our hearts to our sin only then, all the same, Jesus will be the one who calms our fears. Maybe there is a tendency for us today to focus solely on the latter, with our fears relieved today, that we forget how what insecurity we have to begin with. If we are taking away only the symptoms, then perhaps we are not curing the sickness.
I am reminded of a story from a sermon from Charles Spurgeon, that I will just recount through memory because I don’t remember the number among thousands, and the text I recall is quite lengthy. There once was a rich prince who walked through his kingdom for a pleasurable stroll. He passed through town and went through to countryside. Down the mighty river which ran through his kingdom, where he spotted a farmer squatting down by a muddy river. The farmer was slowly and carefully sifting out the dirt from the bucket of water for his flock of sheep to drink from. The prince was much agrieved by this because he led the farmer into his palace located at the top of the river. He pointed out to the young farmer, the cause of his problems: a tree fallen over the mouth of the river, dirtying everything in the river. The farmer was aghast when he realised that he had been cleaning out all the dirt from the water when the more effective way was to remove the tree from dirtying the water.
We may have control over what we see in ourselves, but sin manifests itself in a multitude of ways that we could ever imagine. One moment, we could be suffering from depression, while the next we may have the greatest pride in ourselves. There is an importance then, in moving from an abstinence from sin, to an appreciation of God and all his love for us. Because only when we can appreciate God’s extravagant love for us, can we begin to truly repent from our sins, and enjoy God more and more.
If we remove our dependency on sin, we must replace it with something else or we are merely translating our addictions to another idols. Jesus says in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” The context of Jesus saying this is important, the parable is concerning the interaction between earthly and heavenly things, he is talking about holding onto things of this earth, greater than the heavenly revelation that we have been given.
The idea is that if we are to remove ourselves from the world, we would need to replace the world with something else. Where we are broken away from association with earthly people, we must replace it with communion with the Church. Where we crucify our pride, we need to replace it with humility which comes from God lest we grow bitter. Where we crucify our self-esteem, we must replace it with trust in Christ lest we grow spiritually depressed. When we take our eyes aways from idols, we must turn our eyes upon Christ on the cross. Without these things, our change will only be temporary.