Don’t be a ‘lost’ celebrity

A recent news feed came through with a heading that said something like ‘Year in Review 2017: Remembering those we lost this year’. Roger Moore and Hugh Hefner were mentioned specifically. It’s always surprising how many celebrities have died each year and how many I’ve not heard of and also how many I didn’t realise had died. It struck me that they used the word lost. It made me think.

I’ve written previously that I’m unhappy about using the phrase ‘lost’ for those that have died in Christ. I’m not happy about those that have died outside of Christ either. But the terrible reality for those that have died without Christ is they are truly lost in every sense of that word. How many of those celebrities are truly lost I have no idea. I’m glad I don’t know but with some (as with non-celebrities) we fear the worst.

There’s a lovely verse in the Bible that says ‘For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost’ (Luke 19:10 ESV). We don’t need Christmas to remind us, that Jesus came, and that He came to seek and to save the lost. There is no specific season to remember the grace of God – we can remember that every day.

Death and sin are the great levelers. The great and the good as well as the poor and the not so good will know these realities. It doesn’t matter how large or small a person’s ‘send-off’ is. Or whether in poor simplicity or with great pomp; they are equally dead just the same. The real question isn’t whether they are lost or not as we simply do not know. The real question is whether you are lost or not. If everyone were to be saved there would be no need for the Son of God to do any seeking. But He came, not only to seek, but to save. The wonder is by the Holy Spirit He is still seeking and saving. That doesn’t sit very well with our modern ‘can do’ independent sensibilities. But it’s something we are familiar with. Recruitment agencies ‘Headhunt’ the best candidates, usually for high-end positions. The Son of God is seeking sinners. That’s the only qualification He’s looking for – a realisation of sinfulness and of lostness.

Thankfully our lostness can be turned into foundness by the saving power of The Lord Christ. Many will know the first verse of John Newton’s hymn ‘Amazing Grace’. But if not, here it is:

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch; like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

One of the most well known stories Jesus told is the Prodigal (wasteful) son and how this son went into the far country. But his father looked for his son and eventually embraced him exclaiming, ‘For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate’ (Luke 15:24).

The theme of being lost and being found is a wonderful redemptive theme. Its wonder is found in the reality of what The Lord Jesus Christ has done for sinners. The Prodigal son was aware of his great unworthiness as he fell at the feet of his Father. It’s a great picture of poor lost unworthy sinners coming to Christ for salvation. And it’s to Him, and only to Him, we must come. As the Bible says ‘… there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). No one else has done what Christ has done to redeem sinners, and no one else is mighty to save.

It’s unlikely a celebrity will be reading this, but if you are one, then you too along with the poorest most unlikely sinners may and must flee to Christ. Then trusting only in His great Redeeming work upon the Cross like John Newton, and every other Christian through the ages, you may also be found instead of being lost.

Is this Christmas? Extracting The Legal Pain!

Extracted is the legal pain. These five words in verse two form a single line in this remarkable hymn by Charles Wesley. This is Wesley at his best as someone said. These hymns are not inspired in the same authoritative sense that the Bible is but they can convey profound truth in a wonderful way. Inspired perhaps with a little i. These five words convey two very important Bible truths. Truths that need to be constantly stated because man in sin always assumes and seeks to state the opposite and to deny the truth. So what are these two truths?

1. ‘Extracted is the legal pain’ tells us of a problem. Any punishment is unpleasant and we all recognise that it’s the result of doing something wrong. Overstay in a car park and a demand for payment will arrive in the post. Get caught speeding and you’ll get a fine. These are trite examples but you get the idea. If you get caught breaking the law of God – and make no mistake we have all been caught – payment is required. The Bible calls it sin. And as we continue sinning, that is, as we continue breaking the law of God we are, as it were, earning a wage. The Bible says very plainly that the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). As if that wasn’t bad enough, the reason we continue to sin is because there’s a deeper problem. The problem is that there’s a something wrong with our nature. But we seek to deny it or play it down. What problem? There’s nothing wrong with me, you might say, even though you know full well there is a problem. There’s a deep-seated problem that’s impervious to mere outward reformation. What’s required is a reformation that goes far beyond any outward change. Changes of habit or lifestyle are definitely in vogue and even make good viewing. But these changes will do nothing for us legally before God. In the court of God who can make representation for us when on every hand we are found guilty in thought word and deed. Any earthly representative has the same problem. It’s no accident The Lord Jesus Christ is called our Advocate (1 John 2:1). The problem for us is that we need a nature that is beyond the law. There isn’t one! The law of God condemns all. It slays all! All are guilty and found wanting before a Holy and Righteous God.

2. Although the words speak of punishment in an excruciating manner the legal pain is being extracted from an innocent party. The fact is, the legal pain should really be extracted from me, the guilty sinner, but it’s been extracted from another! Secondly then, to ‘Extract the legal pain’ speaks of Substitutionary Atonement. And this is the heart of The Gospel and why The Lord Jesus Christ came into the world. And it’s why at Christmas we realise why The Christ came. It’s not really about stars, stables and shepherds but about a bloody cross, about agony of soul and of body, about punishment and death. It’s about the cost of Redemption! A cost we sinners cannot ever possibly pay. Not even an eternity will extract the legal pain from us! We need another to do it for us. One that is suitably qualified for the awful task. Although Wesley has captured the horror of breaking the law of God putting the frighteners on you is not necessarily a good evangelistic strategy. But on the other hand, you are a fool if you ignore it because you don’t like being threatened or dislike ‘hellfire preaching’. The truth is, there is a Hell. And there’s only one way to escape it (Heb 2:3). That way is The Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Being ‘right with God’ is a legal declaration that God makes. This is the Justification by faith that is celebrated this 500th Reformation year – and every year. Because of what Christ has accomplished on the Cross, God is able to be just and to justify those that have faith in The Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 3:23-26).

So it’s no wonder the Wise men and the Shepherds rejoiced when the Salvation of God appeared. We Christians ought to be amazed at what God did in sending His Son. And we are amazed at what Christ has done by coming to us when we could not and would not go to Him (Heb 10:5). Salvation truly is of The Lord. Will you trust Him? Is your faith in The Christ? Please have a happy Christmas. But don’t ignore or neglect what it’s really all about.

Sue’s Funeral – Order of Service

Here is the Order of Service for my beloved Sue. I have adapted it slightly to post it here. It’s quite close to how it was printed so you can read the wonderful hymns. The full service audio link is also at the end of this post.

Sue Iliff
25th November 1955 – 23rd November 2015

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Funeral Order of Service Led by Pastor Paul Watts

WELCOME AND OPENING PRAYER

HYMN
1. The God of Abraham praise,
who reigns enthroned above,
ancient of everlasting days,
and God of love.
Almighty, great I Am!
by earth and heaven confessed,
I bow and bless the sacred name
forever blest.

2. The God of Abraham praise,
at whose supreme command
from earth I rise and seek the joys
at God’s right hand.
I all on earth forsake,
its wisdom, fame, and power,
the Lord my only portion make,
my shield and tower.

3. Though nature’s strength decay,
and earth and hell withstand,
to Canaan’s bounds I urge my way
at God’s command;
the watery deep I pass
with Jesus in my view,
and through the howling wilderness
my way pursue.

4. The goodly land I see,
with peace and plenty blest,
a land of sacred liberty
and endless rest;
there milk and honey flow,
and oil and wine abound,
and trees of life forever grow,
with mercy crowned.

5. There dwells the Lord our King,
the Lord our Righteousness;
triumphant o’er the world and sin,
the Prince of Peace
on Zion’s sacred height
God’s kingdom still maintains,
and glorious with the saints in light
forever reigns.

6. The whole triumphant host
give thanks to God on high;
“hail, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”
they ever cry.
Hail Abraham’s God, and mine!
I join the heavenly lays;
all might and majesty are thine,
and endless praise.

TRIBUTE 1 Chris

TRIBUTE 2 Adrian

HYMN
1 IMMORTAL honours rest on Jesus’ head;
My God, my Portion, and my Living Bread;
In him I live, upon him cast my care;
He saves from death, destruction, and despair.

2 He is my Refuge in each deep distress;
The Lord my strength & glorious righteousness;
Through floods and flames he leads me safely on,
And daily makes his sovereign goodness known.

3 My every need he richly will supply;
Nor will his mercy ever let me die;
In him there dwells a treasure all divine,
And matchless grace has made that treasure mine.

4 O that my soul could love and praise him more,
His beauties trace, his majesty adore;
Live near his heart, upon his bosom lean;
Obey his voice, and all his will esteem.

PRAYER – Pastor Geoff Thomas (Aberystwyth)

BIBLE READING – Trevor Thomas
Romans 8:18-39 (New King James Version; NKJV)
From Suffering to Glory
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy
to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the
earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the
sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly,
but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation
itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious
liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation
groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only
that, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves
groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption
of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen
is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we
hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know
what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession
for us[a] with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He
who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because
He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love
God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom
He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His
Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover
whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He
also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
God’s Everlasting Love
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be
against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up
for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33
Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34
Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also
risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession
for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation,
or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or
sword? 36 As it is written:
“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him
who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor
angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to
come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able
to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

HYMN
1. Come, let us join our friends above, who have obtained the prize,
And on the eagle wings of love to joys celestial rise.
Let saints on earth unite to sing with those to glory gone,
For all the servants of our King in earth and heaven are one.

2. One family we dwell in Him, one church above, beneath,
Though now divided by the stream, the narrow stream of death;
One army of the living God, to His command we bow;
Part of His host have crossed the flood, and part are crossing now.

3. Ten thousand to their endless home this solemn moment fly,
And we are to the margin come, and we expect to die.
His militant embodied host, with wishful looks we stand,
And long to see that happy coast, and reach the heavenly land.

4. Our old companions in distress we haste again to see,
And eager long for our release, and full felicity:
Even now by faith we join our hands with those that went before;
And greet the blood besprinkled bands on the eternal shore.

5. Our spirits too shall quickly join, like theirs with glory crowned,
And shout to see our Captain’s sign, to hear His trumpet sound.
O that we now might grasp our Guide! O that the word were given!
Come, Lord of Hosts, the waves divide, and land us all in Heaven.

MESSAGE – Paul Watts

HYMN
1. I saw a new vision of Jesus,
A view I’d not seen here before,
Beholding in glory so wondrous
With beauty I had to adore.
I stood on the shores of my weakness,
And gazed at the brink of such fear;
‘Twas then that I saw Him in newness,
Regarding Him fair and so dear.

2. My Saviour will never forsake me,
Unveiling His merciful face,
His presence and promise almighty,
Redeeming His loved ones by grace.
In shades of the valley’s dark terror,
Where hell and its horror hold sway,
My Jesus will reach out in power,
And save me by His only way.

3. For yonder a light shines eternal,
Which spreads through the valley of gloom;
Lord Jesus, resplendent and regal,
Drives fear far away from the tomb.
Our God is the end of the journey,
His pleasant and glorious domain;
For there are the children of mercy,
Who praise Him for Calvary’s pain.

CLOSING PRAYER

The Sands of Time are Sinking

We live in a fallen world and it can be a  terrible blow to receive difficult medical news.  Christians don’t get a free pass on suffering. But these words may help the one trusting in Christ.

‘Dark, dark hath been the midnight,
But dayspring is at hand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Immanuel’s land.’

There’s no getting away from the fact that we are all on a one way journey. There is no reverse. The sand of time will run out. For the Christian, amidst their sorrow – and it’s a real sorrow – there is Hope. I have to pause for a moment, because when the Bible uses the word Hope, it doesn’t mean a vague wishful thinking in the face of a bleak unknown. It means a certainty, into a Glorious future. The words above are the second part of the first verse. Here’s the full hymn as found in Christian Hymns, No 816. Christian, rejoice and ponder each precious truth. What a blessing to be saved and have The Lord Jesus as Saviour!

The sands of time are sinking;
The dawn of heaven breaks;
The summer morn I’ve sighed for,
The fair, sweet morn, awakes:
Dark, dark hath been the midnight,
But day-spring is at hand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Immanuel’s land.

The King there in His beauty,
Without a veil is seen;
It were a well-spent journey,
Though seven deaths lay between;
The Lamb with His fair army
Doth on Mount Zion stand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Immanuel’s land.

O Christ, he is the fountain,
The deep, sweet well of love;
The streams on earth I’ve tasted,
More deep I’ll drink above;
There to an ocean fullness,
His mercy doth expand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Immanuel’s land.

With mercy and with judgement
My web of time He wove,
And aye the dews of sorrow
Were lustered with His love:
I’ll bless the hand that guided,
I’ll bless the hand that planned,
When throned where glory dwelleth
In Immanuel’s land.

The bride eyes not her garment,
But her dear bridegroom’s face,
I will not gaze at glory,
But on my King of grace;
Not at the crown He giveth,
But on His pierced hand:
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Immanuel’s land.

I’ve wrestled on towards heaven,
‘Gainst storm and wind and tide;
Now, like a weary traveller
That leans upon his guide,
Amid the shades of evening,
While sinks life’s lingering sand,
I hail the glory dawning
From Immanuel’s land.

Author: Samuel Rutherford; Author: A. R. Cousin (1857)
(This version in Christian Hymns, 816)

What mercy, what judgement as He weaves our web of time! What a wonderful thing, what a joy it will be to ‘Bless the hand that guided’ and to ‘bless the heart that planned’. Will it be your joy to Bless and Praise Jesus. I pray it may be so.

Far Off I see The Goal

1 Far off I see the goal—-O Savior, guide me;
I feel my strength is small-—be Thou beside me;
with vision ever clear, with love that conquers fear,
And grace to persevere, O Lord, provide me.

2 Whene’er Thy way seems strange, go Thou before me,
and, lest my heart should change, O Lord, watch o’er me;
but, should my faith prove frail, and I through blindness fail,
O let Thy grace prevail, and still restore me.

3 Should earthly pleasures wane, and joy forsake me,
and lonely hours of pain at length o’ertake me;
my hand in Thine hold fast till sorrow be o’erpast,
and gentle death at last for heaven awake me.

4 There, with the ransomed throng who praise forever
the love that made them strong to serve forever,
I, too, would seek Thy face, thy finished work retrace,
and magnify Thy grace, redeemed forever.

Robert R. Roberts (1865-1945)

The Gospel is for Christians Too

Several people have kindly asked what they can do for me. I very much appreciate this. It’s a difficult question to answer but to one person I said ‘Tell me the Gospel – that’s what you can do for me’. I related a couple of stanzas;

Tell me the Old Old Story of Jesus and His love.

Tell me the story often for I forget so soon.

Tell me the story always, if you would really be, In any time of trouble, a comforter to me.

I was kind of surprised at the response, ‘you know it better than I do’. The implication as I read it was ‘you don’t need me to tell you the Gospel, you already know it’. Behind this, unwittingly I believe, is the notion or idea that Christians no longer need to hear the Gospel or have it preached to them. Of course I could have misread it and that wasn’t what was meant. But I don’t believe so.

The view might be more commonly held than ‘evangelicals’ would like to admit: that the Gospel is ‘now in the rear-view’ mirror. We no longer need it preached to us. Is this an exaggeration? Maybe. In the circles I move in, I really really hope so. Why should it be a surprise that a Christian would want to hear the Gospel. It doesn’t matter whether I know it better, or even if I didn’t know it all. I still need to hear it.

I wonder, if, as Christians we need to develop a naturalness about speaking the Gospel to one another. It isn’t just for evangelism. If there is any comfort at all in this world of sadness it’s to be found in The Glorious Gospel of the Blessed God (1 Timothy 1:11). It’s where our hope is. Gospel hope by the way isn’t about wishful thinking, it’s about certainty. It’s about what God has done ‘through Christ Jesus’. He (Jesus) has OBTAINED Eternal Redemption. Hebrews 9:12. Salvation is of The LORD (Jonah 2:9).

On Sunday morning we stayed home and listened to a sermon by Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones with the title ‘Through Christ Jesus’ (Eph 2:7). I commend this sermon to you – it can be found HERE.

Tell Me The Old Old Story Hymn

Tell me the old, old story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.
Tell me the story simply, as to a little child,
For I am weak and weary, and helpless and defiled.

Refrain

Tell me the old, old story, tell me the old, old story,
Tell me the old, old story, of Jesus and His love.

Tell me the story slowly, that I may take it in,
That wonderful redemption, God’s remedy for sin.
Tell me the story often, for I forget so soon;
The early dew of morning has passed away at noon.

Refrain

Tell me the story softly, with earnest tones and grave;
Remember I’m the sinner whom Jesus came to save.
Tell me the story always, if you would really be,
In any time of trouble, a comforter to me.

Refrain

Tell me the same old story when you have cause to fear
That this world’s empty glory is costing me too dear.
Yes, and when that world’s glory is dawning on my soul,
Tell me the old, old story: “Christ Jesus makes thee whole.”

Refrain

My song is love unknown

I was looking through my Hymn Book yesterday evening and happened upon this wonderful Hymn. It’s a shame many of these ‘Traditional’ Hymns are falling into disuse. If you listen to the You Tube video – skip the ad.

1 My song is love unknown,
My Savior’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I, that for my sake
My Lord should take, frail flesh and die?

2 Christ came from heaven’s throne
Salvation to bestow;
But people scorned, and none
The longed-for Christ would know:
But O! my Friend, my Friend indeed,
Who at my need His life did spend.

3 Sometimes they strew His way,
And His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the way
Hosannas to their King:
Then “Crucify!” is all their breath,
And for His death they thirst and cry.

4 They rise, and needs will have
My dear Lord made away;
A murderer they saved,
The Prince of life they slay,
Yet cheerful He to suffering goes,
That He His foes from thence might free.

5 Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King!
Never was grief like Thine.
This is my Friend, in Whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.

Samuel Crossman, 1624 – 83

How sad our state by nature is!

Isaac Watts

How sad our state by nature is!
Our sin, how deep it stains!
And Satan binds our captive minds
Fast in his slavish chains.

But there’s a voice of sovereign grace
Sounds from the sacred word:
“Ho! ye despairing sinners, come,
And trust upon the Lord.”

My soul obeys th’ almighty call,
And runs to this relief;
I would believe thy promise, Lord;
O help my unbelief!

To the dear fountain of thy blood,
Incarnate God, I fly;
Here let me wash my spotted soul
From crimes of deepest dye.

Stretch out thine arm, victorious King
My reigning sins subdue;
Drive the old dragon from his seat,
With all his hellish crew.

A guilty, weak, and helpless worm,
On thy kind arms I fall;
Be thou my strength and righteousness,
My Jesus, and my all.

Isaac Watts: Ju­ly 17, 1674 – No­vem­ber 25, 1748.

 

Lost History Lecture by Paul Cook

English: Augustus Montague Toplady (1740-1778)I just started reading Paul Cook’s book Fire From Heaven: Times of Extraordinary Revival (book link) and I recalled a lecture he gave way back in 1980 on Augustus Toplady ‘The Saintly Sinner’. I looked for it on my Website but couldn’t find it. After some searching I realised it was uploaded but the link was missing and it wasn’t even listed. Anyway, it’s now fixed and available for download.

I have great memories of Paul and his ministry. The lecture on Toplady will not disappoint. FYI, Paul Cook is married to the author Faith Cook.

Go here to download. Visit my website for full listing of lectures.

Here’s the first verse of Toplady’s ‘A debtor to mercy alone’

A debtor to mercy alone,
Of covenant mercy I sing,
Nor fear, with God’s righteousness on,
My person and off’rings to bring.
The terrors of law and of God
With me can have nothing to do;
My Savior’s obedience and blood
Hide all my transgressions from view.

 

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Brief Comments on the hymn ‘Trust and Obey’

We sang the following hymn at the service Sunday evening. Though well loved by many, I’ve felt uncomfortable about this hymn for a while so I’d like to briefly explain my problems with it. Let me just emphasise and underline that I have no problem with the command to trust and obey, these are entirely scriptural. It’s the setting of other aspects of the hymn and when it gets used in any Gospel context, any context. Period. It just didn’t sit well within the overall message. It was a good message, but with serious problems that demand another post – more later.

Here’s some of my problems with the hymn.

The overall concept it seems to me is to produce happiness. Of course there’s nothing wrong with being happy and only someone with serious problems would not want to be happy. We all want to be happy. And, it does to some extent depend on how many footnotes you put round the word. To be fair, the song speaks of being ‘happy in Jesus’ which may be an entirely different concept to a worldly description of just being happy per-se. A better word might have been ‘Blessed’ but that wouldn’t fit and is more positional than experiential.

When you look through the song it’s basically about me and my trusting and my obeying. There’s no objective truth about Jesus that might draw out from Christians a desire to Trust and Obey but the end result of happiness. Thinking back to the History lecture about Andrew Fuller, he suffered the terrible loss of his daughter and it completely rocked him. His diary entries stopped. Here’s an extract from the lecture concerning this period of Fuller’s life.

On 30th May 1786, Fuller’s daughter, Sally, died at the age of six and a half years. This was one of several deaths close to the man at the same period, but surely the most painful, and it is a measure of his sensitivity of soul that within a few days his diary entries dry up, only a few torn leaves indicating the heart trouble of the following months. The diary does not open again until 3rd October, 1789:

‘For above a year and a half I have written nothing. It has seemed to me that my life was not worth writing. Two or three years ago my heart began wretchedly to degenerate from God. Soon after my child Sally died, I sunk into a sad state of lukewarmness; and have felt the effects of it ever since. I feel at times a longing after the lost joys of God’s salvation; but cannot recover them. I have backslidden from God; and yet I may rather be said to be habitually dejected on account of it than earnestly to repent of it. I find much hardness of heart, and a spirit of inactivity has laid hold of me. . . . [After recording some sermon preached:] These subjects have tended sometimes to make me long after that joy and peace in believing which I have heretofore found. But joy of heart is a feeling I cannot yet recover.’

Jeremy continues; The climb out of this period of spiritual dullness and desolation was painfully slow and difficult, but the Lord was upholding and helping his servant.

This period of trial in the life of Fuller does not square with this hymn. Surely Fuller was not Trusting and Obeying sufficiently to be ‘Happy in Jesus’. And we should especially note the comment made by Jeremy Walker that the Lord was upholding and helping his servant. The hymn doesn’t tell us this at all. But I’m running a little ahead of myself.

The hymn I believe is damaging and destructive in the following ways. The tune is quite upbeat and almost triumphalistic and to the Christian that believes he is Trusting and Obeying it’s sung with great gusto – this could be a problem. But what about the Christian conscious of his sin or is walking through some fiery trial – this is anything but helpful. What would Andrew Fuller have made of the hymn? Given this biographical entry of Fullers I fail to see how verse 2 can be anything other than discouraging for one going through such a trial. This verse is just cruel to such a one. How Fuller and other suffering Christians need the Balm of Gilead pouring into their souls as they are indeed kept by the power of God and His loving kindness.

Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.

The hymn concentrates on the ability of the Christian to do His good will and to therefore find that ‘He abides with us still, And with all who will trust and obey.’ Is this true? I don’t believe it is. Are we really to believe God only abides with us when we are ‘Happy in Jesus’ and ‘trusting Him still’. The Bible says ‘He will never leave us, nor forsake us.’ It’s to the praise of His marvelous Grace that He ALWAYS abides with us still. Even though the sense of His presence or the reality of the truth is not able to be grasped. Many years ago now at an Aberystwyth Conference Douglas McMillan was preaching through Romans 8. When he recited verse 28 ‘And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose’ he leaned over the pulpit and said ‘Sin included‘. Now that’s the Grace of God at work. We do not deserve any of it including when we are not trusting and obeying as we ought to be. The hymn is pure law. There’s no Grace in it at all.

I think you get the idea now. In verse 4 we read ‘But we never can prove the delights of His love, Until all on the altar we lay; For the favor He shows, … the joy He bestows, Are for them who will trust and obey. This is not good news. I only know of one person that has laid all on the altar. We read much of Burnt offerings & sacrifices in Leviticus. And in John 1:29 we read of ‘the lamb that takes away the sin of the world’. That’s laying all on the Altar! Only Jesus has done that, otherwise we wouldn’t need a Saviour! Otherwise we wouldn’t need to repent. This why we need Jesus the only one that has kept perfectly the law of God in every way. In thought, speech, deed, behaviour, inwardly, in every way trusting and obeying the law of God. Now THAT is Good News. Even though we are so dull and wayward in our sin and rebellion God gives the desire and the power to call upon the Saviour.

The Gospel really is THAT radical! We are all self righteous at heart. Surely there’s some little thing I can do? Nope. It’s all been done. All you have to do is come – and as I say He even gives the desire and the power to do that! What a Gospel! What a Saviour! What a Salvation!

I said it would be brief so I’ll leave it at that, though more could be said. The last hymn on Sunday evening was ‘Rock of Ages’. What a contrast!

Full Text of the Hymn :

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Refrain

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.

Refrain

Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.

Refrain

But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.

Refrain

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet.
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way.
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.

Refrain