The Lord has been wonderfully good to me in terms of my recent and serious challenges with double pneumonia. Thus when I went to hospital in late July, ostensibly for a bronchoscopy and invasive biopsy on what looked like a significant lump/tumour on my lung, a last minute CT scan before the theatre ordeal revealed my lungs dramatically improved and almost completely clear and the so-called lump/tumour virtually vanished.
So instead of sending me to theatre, the surgeon sent me home! What a joy of joys and how my wife and l and many friends and colleagues have praised God! While I know that, that might not have been the outcome, and the Lord’s love would still have been with me, as with others who get negative outcomes in these things, nevertheless I felt that I had been the recipient of a great act of mercy and grace from the Lord for the undeserving. I felt that if I was spared I would want in new ways to preach this grace and mercy of God.
As the Apostle says I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may accomplish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God — Acts 20:24. You see, it is grace he wanted to focus on and preach.
Grace and mercy at heart of gospel
So I want to remind you that it is God’s grace and mercy which is at the very heart of our gospel. Thus the writer to the Hebrews can say let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need — Hebrews 4:16. Likewise, Chris Tomlin in his adaptation of John Newton’s Amazing Grace can sing: “My chains are gone, I’ve been set free, My God, my Saviour has ransomed me, and like a flood His mercy reigns, unending love, amazing grace.”
This of course is what the cross is all about. Thus the great devotional writer of the 50s and 60s, A W Tozer, could write: “The cross is the lightning rod of grace that short-circuits God’s wrath to Christ so that only the light of His love remains for believers.”
I know when I was first being led into serious Christian commitment and conversion, I found it hard to understand that I did not have to earn salvation, but it was a free gift given by God on the basis of His grace alone and received by faith alone. So the Apostle Paul can write, for by grace you have been saved through faith; this is the gift of God, not because of works lest any man should boast — Ephesians 2:8-9.
In other words we are not saved by works but for works. Faith and grace are the root and works are the fruit! When I discovered that salvation was by grace through faith and rooted in the mercy of God it was most wonderfully liberating.
Confession of sin
Of course while our salvation is rooted in the grace and mercy of God, so also is our ongoing Christian life and our walk in Christ. On a daily basis we are dependent on this grace and mercy or we would not be able spiritually to survive. In fact one of the things I really love about the Anglican communion service is that early in the liturgy each congregant calls three times: “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.” And there is a place and space for the confession of sin.
I personally find this spiritually important because no one, and certainly not I, gets through a whole week without picking up some grime or stain in consequence of our sins in thought, word or deed. So mercy is our need.
May I add in conclusion that I feel in our recent election processes and outcomes we have also experienced the grace and mercy of God upon our country. In answer to prayer the election day was peaceful and the outcome suggests that the principles of democracy are alive and well in our country. And a surge of hope has entered our nation’s life. This can only be sustained by the prayers of God’s people.
Let me close with a beautiful prayer from the book of Jude verse two: “May mercy, peace and love be multiplied to you.” And also of course to our country.