As stated in Part 1, in our more lucid moments, we are acutely aware of our sins and lack of holiness. We know that Christ is not our greatest delight and highest treasure. We bemoan our slow progress in sanctification and we know that there still remains something of a legalist/Pharisee in all of us.
When we find ourselves in such a state, we must recall that God has given to us many Gospel consolations in His Word. Two of the greatest consolations revealed to us in the Word of God are the death of Christ and the grace of God.
The Grace of God
When it comes to battling and dealing with our daily sin, what we need most is Good News. We need consolation in those dark moments when the lively fellowship we so enjoyed with our Heavenly Father is turned into bitterness and anxiety. For, as Robert Traill has written, “It is impossible that there can be true and strong love fixed on that person from whom we do dread the greatest evil…”
We can never love God until we can see somewhat more or less of his love to us, unless we hear his consoling words of promise, Good News.
For, we are naturally enemies of God by nature. We are born with a heart that is against God. And even after our conversion, there remains something of a legalist in all of us, that is in our flesh. So until we can get somewhat of the knowledge of God, as revealed to us in Christ, consolation will allude us.
This is where grace comes in, that undeserved favor Dei by which sinners alone are received and cleansed from their sin and guilt. God is a promising God because He is a gracious God. God, if He is to be known in a consoling manner, must be known as a promising God. As Robert Traill wrote, “The Lord hath framed us in that manner, that it is impossible that God can be loved, but by a person that takes up this God as a promising God.”
God is a promising God because He is a gracious God.
There is no consoling knowledge of God apart from His promises and their are no consoling promises if God is not gracious.
In Acts 20:24, Paul speaks of the gospel as “the gospel of the grace of God,” and in v. 32, he speaks of it as “the word of his grace.” The grace of God runs through every vein of the Gospel. Every promise God makes is a word of grace. However, apart from the Gospel, God is only a consuming fire.
Consolation comes from the knowledge of God as He reveals Himself in and through Christ. Such knowledge of God is a gracious condescension on God’s part. It is from the grace of the Incarnation, the Word-made-flesh (Jn. 1:14), that Christ has made God known to us (Jn. 1:18). The glory of God, manifest in Christ, is “full of grace and truth,” (John 1:14). The grace of God shines gloriously in the justification of a sinner through the righteousness of Christ. God’s glory, then, is most supremely manifested in His graciousness (cf., Ex. 33-34; Eph. 1:6, 12, 14). It is from Christ’s “fullness,” that “we have all received, grace upon grace,” (John 1:16). Throughout our lives, we who have already received grace, have it bestowed upon us again and again, constantly freeing us from sin. What consolation!
Every promise God makes is a word of grace.
Our consolation, then, is a gift of God, a God who is unspeakably gracious. There is nothing that we have that we have not freely received, including consolation (cf., 1 Cor. 4:7). We must never think that we have merited consolation. For, if our consolation was dependent upon our obedience, there would be no comfort but only a terrifying expectation of judgment.
Rather, our consolation comes from knowing that:
“The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness (Lam. 3:22-23)!”
It is because of the grace of Christ that our sins have been removed from us as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12). “…He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself,” (Heb. 9:26). Christ has put our sins so far away they shall never rise up again in judgment against us (Rom. 8:1). The words of grace we hear spoken to us are the gracious words Christ spoke to the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more,” (Jn. 8:11).
God, in Christ, has done for us in grace what we could never achieve by our works. “8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works…” (Eph. 2:8-9).
God has graciously chosen to redeem us, “so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus,” (Eph. 2:7).
When the stinging awareness of sin arises in your mind, drop to your knees and with great humility and gratitude, joyfully recall the surpassing riches of His grace. It is the kindness of our promising God that leads us to repentance (cf., Rom. 2:4). For, if the Lord should mark our iniquities, none of us could stand. But, with Christ, there is forgiveness that He may be feared (cf., Ps. 130:3-4).
Consolation, then, comes not by law but by grace. Consolation, like grace, is received not earned. Yet, because something of a legal disposition remains in us while we are is in this world, we are prone to think of God’s consolation as conditioned upon our performance. When we really “blow it” we are tempted to think that we have forfeited God’s favor. However, because consolation is based on grace and not merit, we need to realize that we do not earn God’s consolation by our performance and we do not forfeit God’s consolation by our failures.
Consolation, like grace, is received not earned.
Jerry Bridges, in Disciplines of Grace put it this way, “Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace,” (p. 18).
Our consolation is based upon a promising God who is exceedingly gracious. Consider some of His gracious promises:
The words, “I will,” are our consolation! Amazing Grace! Grace abounding to sinners! “20 …where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord,” (Rom. 5:20b-21). This is the sinner’s consolation.
In those moments when you are painfully conscious of your sin and you begin to grow anxious about your salvation and your right standing with God, always remember the grace of God. God’s promises are always joined with His grace and compassion. Therefore, you have no reason to fear that He will fail to keep His promises.
We are not condemned because God’s grace is never ending. His love never ceases. His mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning. Therefore, we can have great hope in Him.
In all your dealings with God, remember grace. Receive His consolation as grace. It is certain that nothing but grace can justify a sinner and nothing but grace can console a justified sinner.
In all your dealings with God, remember grace.
The consolation of the believer stands in the fullness of Christ. “…from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace,” (John 1:16).
The grace of God is exceedingly abundant toward sinners (cf., 1 Tim. 1:14). Therefore, because God’s grace abounds, His consolation is always in supply. The believer’s consolation comes from knowing that there is always a greater abundance of grace than there is of sin to be covered.
The grace of God is everlasting. As Paul writes, “…grace reigns through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord,” (Rom. 5:21). Because grace reigns forever, God’s consolation is ever present and never ending.
“To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen,” (1 Tim. 1:17).