Rejoice, believer

I recently rediscovered a fantastic hymn written by John Newton. Many a time I’ve sung a hymn which was particularly refreshing and looked up the author only to find it was Newton. I think what I love about many of his hymns are that they show God’s grace not on its own, but in the light of human failing. Amazing grace is obviously Newton’s most famous hymn, and the first verse illustrates the point well. In it, grace is not an abstract concept, but a gift to “a wretch like me” who was “lost” and “blind”. This is what makes the grace amazing – the extent to which we don’t deserve it!

The hymn below is similar, but instead of applying grace to wretches it speaks of how the gospel applies strength to the weak. I find it helpful to regularly remind myself of God’s strength in the context of my weakness, rather than as an independent concept. This way my expectations of a Christian life are accurate. I do have God’s strength, the incredible strength that makes anything possible, but I am also living in a weak body, and I should expect a daily tension between the two.

I won’t say anything else about the hymn, just enjoy Newton’s voice echoing down the centuries.

Rejoice, believer, in the Lord
who makes your cause His own;
the hope that’s built upon His work
shall ne’er be overthrown.

Though many foes beset your road
and feeble is your arm,
your life is hid with Christ in God
beyond the reach of harm.

Weak as you are, you shall not faint,
or fainting shall not die.
Jesus, the strength of ev’ry saint,
will aid you from on high.

Though unperceived by mortal sense,
faith sees Him always near.
A guide, a glory, a defence;
then what have you to fear?

As surely as He overcame
and triumphed once for you,
so surely you that love His name
shall in Him triumph too.

Make a battlement

The morning service yesterday included an excellent sermon from Jonathan Northern, pastor of Baldock Baptist Church, so I thought I’d share the main points here.

It was taken from Deuteronomy 22:8 which says (in the AV, which is what the sermon was preached from):

When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thine house, if any man fall from thence.

This was a civil law for the nation of Israel, and the custom at the time was to build houses with flat roofs which would frequently be walked on, so this law is not as ludicrous as it could seem to us. The law does not directly apply to us, but it shows us two important things. One is a principle for living, which does apply to us. The second is that it shows us one aspect of God’s nature. 1 Corinthians 9:9-11 shows the apostle Paul quoting an old testament law and saying that its primary purpose was not the rule it made, but the principle behind it, so we are perfectly free to look for an application to ourselves.

Obviously the battlement was for protection. A more modern version of this law might be to build a railing round a balcony. The principle behind it is that we should be careful that our lives do not put others into danger, but should show concern for the well-being of those we come into contact with.

Firstly we can apply this to ourselves. Are we putting ourselves in danger? Are you planning your life without thought to God and spiritual matters? Choosing a job in a location with no good church would obviously put us in spiritual danger. Similarly our choice of friends could have similar effects.

Having applied it to us individually, Jonathan moved on to apply it particularly to parents and church leaders, both of whom have a responsibility to protect those in their care. I won’t go into detail as I don’t expect many parents or church leaders to read this.

Finally, Jonathan pointed out that if we are on a balcony with a railing, it would be foolish to lean over as far as possible. Most of us would probably not go particularly near a high drop even if there was a safety railing. Similarly, we should not be trying to get as close as possible to danger, but keeping as far away from it as possible. If something has the potential to lead you away from God, why not shun it completely?

It was an excellent sermon, and this blog post certainly does not do it justice. When the audio is put online I’ll post the link here. [Edit: mp3]