The world is a beautiful place, but with many ugly scars. The world is a beautiful place, but has suffered many wounds.
We have gathered together here today in order to grieve, and that grief is on account of one of those countless wounds. But grief is also our standing testimony to the beauty of the world, and of our acute awareness of the discordance between what is the case and what ought to be. If there were no discordance, there could be no grief.
But recognizing this only takes us so far. We must not settle for considering the beauty of the world, which ultimately can only increase our despair, or our condemnation, or both. By faith we must also see the beauty of God’s grace—not just His artistry. And we must see it in a way that understands that the less we deserve it, the more beautiful it is.
I want to say that again. The less we deserve the grace of God, the more beautiful it is. Great sin does not make the grace of God more dodgy, or morally questionable somehow. It is the glory of God to be gracious to sinners, and this is one of the most difficult lessons for us to learn. It runs counter to how we think, and not because we are too aware of our sins. This is one of our sins.
Sin is ugly. It defaces and defiles. And because the enemy of our souls hates us, he wants to hurt and maim us in the bargain. In our sin, we sometimes rebel in open defiance and shake a fist at Heaven, or in our confusion and sin, we can also collapse and finally just give up, as Jack did.
Running behind all of this, as a glorious backdrop to our confusions, the creation continues on in its declaration of the glory of God. But this creation, by itself—this gift of a world, of a life, of the light of day, our loved ones—considered by itself, only serves to increase our condemnation. This is because it is precisely all such gifts that our sin abuses.
I mentioned the beauty of sovereign grace earlier, and it is important for us to turn to a consideration of that now. And because of the efficacy of this grace, it actually cannot be successfully abused, despite the efforts of many.
As we meditate on God’s grace, we must be careful. We live in a sentimental age, and this means that whenever anyone dies suddenly or tragically, we circle our emotional wagons in order to simply wish the departed into Heaven. But if such wishing would do it, Christ died in vain. Remember that in the Garden Christ prayed that if there were any other way to save us apart from Him going to the cross, would His Father please consent “to do it that way?” The fact that the Father did not allow the cup to pass from His beloved Son means that there is no other way of salvation for us. It is Christ or nothing.
So if Christ is refused, there is no hope. Scripture teaches us that there is such a thing as a defiant and hypocritical rebellion that definitively rejects God and His grace. All who will not have Christ are in fact granted their egoistic demand, and this is granted to their eternal loss. In such cases, we know that Scripture is capable of delivering words of strong judgment, that sinners might fear
But we also read words of even stronger consolation, that sinners might hope, and I want to share some of those words with you now.
“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.”
John 6:37 (NKJV)
If the Father gives, how many will come? All will come. And when they come, what will not happen to any of them? Not one of them will be cast out. Are there any exceptions? By no means. What if a believer is caught in a sin? By no means. What if the sin is a particularly ugly one? By no means. Do not dismiss those three words—by no means—because they were written before the foundation of the world in the blood of Christ.
Our perennial temptation is that of wanting to earn this favor of His. But if we earned it, it would not be grace any more, and we would all be still in our sins.
Then there is this word found in Hebrews.
“Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”
Hebrews 7:25 (NKJV)
Who does Christ save? Those who come to Him. How thoroughly does He save them. He saves them to the uttermost. How can He do this? He always lives to intercede for them, sins and all.
If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father (1 Jn. 2:1). If anyone sins grievously, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one.
We know that our brother Jack was a bruised reed. Our brother was a smoking flax. And what does Scripture say about that? How does the Word bring us consolation in the context of his collapse?
“. . . that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will declare justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel nor cry out, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench, till He sends forth justice to victory; And in His name Gentiles will trust.””
Matthew 12:17–21 (NKJV)
We too easily assume that a holy God wants to crush us all with His omnipotence—but if He really wanted that, we would all be crushed by now. No, He is up to something else, something very good indeed.
“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Hebrews 4:14–16 (NKJV)
The fact that Christ was without sin—as He most certainly was—is a fact makes Him more merciful, not less merciful. The grace of God is not just unmerited favor, but is also demerited favor. So when we need help and mercy—as we do right now—where do we come to get it? We come to the throne of grace, this says. Ah, yes, but how do we come? We come, it says, boldly.
As the hymn puts it so well, “hallelujah, what a savior.”
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.