“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.”
This (and perhaps some subsequent) articles are some personal reflections on the first week of the Keswick Convention this year, when the theme was Sent: Serving God’s Mission, and the morning Bible readings were from the Gospel of John.
Something that struck me with some force was a comment from the platform concerning Christian testimonies.It was an appeal, really, that while it’s always great to hear the personal faith story of a person who has come to Christ, the content of such testimonies should really contain a clear and definite sense of the joy of forgiveness and the wonder of the grace of the gospel, rather than (as is too often the case) being dominated by happiness at the sense of meaning/purpose/direction that Jesus has now brought to my previously aimless and purposeless life.
The point is well-made, and a timely and necessary appeal to believers to be clear about exactly what the gospel is, and the extent of the transformation that occurs when, by God’s grace, we put our whole trust in Christ for forgiveness-of-sin, reconciliation-to-God and eternal life.
Jesus certainly does bring meaning, purpose and direction to our lives – it was the life more abundant that he said he came to bring, and we have the beginning of that now, and the fullness of it ahead of us in heaven. But really, if we’ve understood the gospel correctly (and if it’s been the authentic gospel message of salvation through Christ crucified and risen that we’ve responded to) then testimonies should surely contain a greater emphasis on our wonder at God’s grace, that takes a hell-deserving sinner, and by grace sets him/her on the path to heaven.
John Newton: “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.” Now that really is a word of testimony! At the end of his life, Newton wrote in his will: “I commit my soul to my gracious God and Saviour, who mercifully spared and preserved me when I was an apostate, a blasphemer, and an infidel, and delivered me from that state of misery on the coast of Africa into which my obstinate wickedness had plunged me……. I rely with humble confidence upon the atonement and mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ, God and Man, as the only foundation whereupon a sinner can build his hope, trusting that He will guard and guide me through the uncertain remainder of my life, and that He will then admit me into His presence in His heavenly kingdom.”
That is the clear hope of the gospel – to be taken from a life of sin and rebellion; to be reconciled to
God through the cross of Christ; and to be assured that, our sin having been dealt with, we are safe and secure in God’s eternal hands.Let us, then, by all means, seek meaning and direction in our lives from Christ – but let us also be clear in our own minds as to what the gospel is, and what we were before it took hold of us. And let us rejoice in the wonder of forgiveness, as the psalmist does in Psalm 32 – giving all thanks and praise to God.