‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear;
And grace my fears relieved.
That line from Amazing Grace has echoed in my head for a few years. It’s one of those lines from a song that I had sung for years but woke up one day realizing I had never given much thought. I started a blog article on it a few months ago that I never finished. What does it mean that it was God’s grace that taught me to fear? That hardly sounds gracious. Bryan Chappell’s The Promises of Grace has helped me put into words the thoughts rattling around in my head. And he’s expounded upon them and fleshed them out in very practical ways.
p. 37 “… that apart from the working of the Spirit, men do not even discern their sin; they see only what has disadvantaged them. True spirtual understanding can be explained only by the presence of the Spirit… Were we not His, our sorrow would be selfish, self-centered, and even hostile toward God.”
p. 41 “Praise the grace that reveals the spiriutal dangers that should alarm us. Praise that same grace that amidst the storims of conscience yet whispers, “Peace, be still.”
Praise God for the opening words of Romans 8, that there is NO CONDEMNATION in Christ Jesus. For some of us, that sounds like an excuse to not worry about our sin. If you aren’t concerned by your sin, Chappell makes a good argument that you are not Christ’s at all. Rather, when the grace of God begins its work in our heart, we become well aware and disturbed by our OWN PERSONAL failures. Not the failures that have been projected upon us, but the ones we have done ourselves and the even bigger ones we are capable of. Grace teaches us to fear. Ourselves.
Then grace our fears relieves. Once we have a right understanding of the weight of our sin, God whispers, “Peace, be still.” In Christ, the debt has been paid. The chains of our sin have been broken. We can repent, get up, and no longer be controlled by the behavior we have come to despise in ourselves.
Chappell gives a great illustration of this concerning disciplining his young son. I fully identified with it, because at this stage of life, this is the place of my greatest self-condemnation. I have great idealistic ideas of how I want to patiently parent my children. Then I have moments when I fail in every way. I sat on the floor one day recently crying with my 2 boys (who were also crying) as I felt the weight of failure in how I had responded to them. But Jesus whispered Peace. I knew that Jesus had made the way for me, and that I now needed to travel that path. I asked my boys to forgive me. I told them what I should have done as opposed to what I did do. And we prayed together asking for God’s grace to change our attitudes and actions. And we got up, wiped away our tears, and went forward through the day on a different path from the one we had started the day.
This is only one of the first points of the Promises of Grace. Chappell’s book is a study of Romans 8. He writes in a way that I LOVE. His writing and illustrations are accessible and relevant. He doesn’t need big words to get his point across. I feel a kindred spirit as I read his book. You CAN communicate the deep truths of Scripture without complicated language. The theology in Romans 8 runs deep, but Chappell brings the deep meaning to the surface and shows how the gospel truths there radically change how we view ourselves and our lives.
In keeping with my impulsive tendencies, I am posting this sort-of review before I have finished the book. If I run into anything that totally undermines this recommendation, I’ll let you know. But right now, this book seems like a book of first importance for all Christians to fully flesh out how the gospel changes everything.