Terry ended his prayer, and the musicians came onstage. The audience erupted into joyful worship as Jordan led us into “The grace of God upon my life is not dependent upon me, on what I have done or deserved….”We then moved on to sing Simon Brading’s fabulous, “Here I stand, with nothing in my hands, the best that I can offer, is a filthy rag…” The declarations of Gospel truth were accompanied with tears of joy, hand clapping, and unrestrained shouts as around 300 people worshipped Jesus for his unspeakable gift of grace. Terry had just concluded the last of three nights devoted to preaching his way through Romans chs 5,6 ,and 7, explaining the foundation of Christianity: freedom from the power of sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the consequence that we are liberated from the demands of the Law to walk in the Spirit.
Yes: this is the very cornerstone of Christianity, and yet it is amazing that huge numbers of people who consider themselves to be born again are hazy about their freedom, and live lives regimented by laws which they impose upon themselves, or which zealous but misguided pastors impose on them. Many of us were raised in Godly homes, but our “Godliness” was measured by what we did on Sundays, where we went, or what we wore. In my early days, my sisters and I were not allowed to read secular books, knit or sew or listen to certain types of music on Sunday. Wearing lipstick (or any cosmetics) were considered to be “worldly” and therefore not to be indulged in; and going to the cinema was definitely abandoning oneself to the Devil.
At Bible College, I was sure I was saved; yet believed that if I sinned I had to work through some self imposed punishment to be acceptable to God. To confess sin and receive forgiveness just didn’t seem adequate! Being filled with the Holy Spirit helped release me into a new and growing awareness of the grace and love of God. Terry and I often went to Westminster Chapel and were hugely blessed by Dr. Martyn Lloyd –Jones preaching.
But it was in the early days in the little town of Seaford, as Terry began to preach through Romans that we came into an explosive understanding of the amazing truth that when Jesus died, we died in him. Our old lives were crucified at the cross and when he was raised, we were raised with him into newness of life. He had born our punishment and we no longer have to beat ourselves up to make ourselves better. We are not justified by works of law; we are accepted because of what Jesus has done for us, bearing our sins in his body on the cross. The Law, exemplified in Romans 7 as our overbearing husband, will never pass away; but we have died in Christ and the Law no longer has any claim on us. We are free to ‘marry’ a new husband: Jesus!
There was an evening, probably in the early seventies when the truth suddenly overwhelmed the small congregation. We leapt to our feet and sang and danced and praised God with utter abandonment. I don’t remember how long this went on, it might have been hours, but I remember the heady joy, the shining faces of those who suddenly got a fresh revelation of Grace.
Since then, Terry has preached this around the world. Often people come to him in tears. “Is it really true?” they whisper. Its as if loads of invisible chains are left lying on the floor as they receive life changing truth. It is not a new message, it is the message of the Gospels, of Paul, of the early Christian church, of the Reformers; it is the inspiration for thousands of men and women who have given their lives to announcing this truth. It is the foundation stone of our church planting, our discipling, our training, our evangelism, our marriages, our family life.
Sadly, over centuries, the Gospel has become distorted and reduced to: “Ask Jesus into your heart, and then do your best to be good.” What follows are various rules —which differ from place to place—that you are told you must keep to stay in God’s favour. And they are all completely irrelevant!
After the meeting last week, people came up to me to say, “When I first heard this message, it changed my life.” This happens every time. We were in Paris 2 weeks ago preaching it; in Dubai in February, in South Africa, Australia, India, Israel; in nation after nation the Message of Grace has gone forth.
The Grace of God is liberating, powerful, never changing : it is truly amazing.