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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"The Hope and Terror of the Gospel" by Pastor Gary Chaffins

Pastor Gary Chaffins is a friend who stands firmly behind his beliefs. Gary and I have talked about concerns and patterns in our community. A gracious, patient man, I have learned to listen carefully to the pastor's words. We enjoy speaking freely about many subjects as they relate to a Christian's life, and I value his friendship and his advice so much.

Gary messaged me recently about a poem he had writen. He said, "I hope you sense the heart behind it. Please feel free to use it on your blog if you find it beneficial to your audience." Well, I do find it very beneficial. I want to share that poem with you today.

Gary Chaffins, is co-pastor at The Grace Community Church at Bigelow in Portsmouth, Ohio. Gary tells us he has a beautiful wife, two rotten kids, a big-white dog, and he carries a large NASB (New American Standard Bible).

Here is the verse:

The Hope and Terror of the Gospel
The Gospel, the message of hope.
Come, be washed by His cleansing soap.
His death, burial and resurrection
Made ours by His sovereign election.
From dead in sin, to born again.
Once the enemy, now made a friend.
Gracious forgiveness, life everlasting.
Justified freely, no more blame-casting.
The Gospel, the message of terror
In unbelief, you’re the sin bearer.
The result of His Holiness, justice and wrath
Made yours by the sin of your path.
In darkness you live, you smile and you laugh
Your days are passing away like windblown chaff.
Angry with the wicked, He is everyday.
His all-consuming fire will be yours to pay.
Will you turn, repent and confess?
Be washed clean, in His righteous dress.
Terror or Hope, which will you choose?
The responsibility is on you, you’ll have no excuse.
Whoever believes in the Son, eternal life He gains
Whoever does not, on him, the wrath of God remains.

--Gary Chaffins

The poet's use of opposition is clear in direct distinction between two choices: the eternal life versus the wrath of God. Gary does not mince words when he asks: "Will you turn, repent and confess?" We, in the human condition, are all sinners, and Gary reminds us that the "cleansing soap" available to all was provided through "a sovereign election" by Jesus's "death, burial and resurrection."

I cannot read these lines without thinking about the second verse of the Christian hymn "Amazing Grace."

"T'was Grace that taught...
my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear...
the hour I first believed."

The incredible message is that forgiveness and redemption are possible regardless of the sins we have committed and that our souls can be delivered from despair through the mercy of God. Yes, this is simply divine "Amazing" grace. 

Of course, being wretched is a terrible obstacle to attaining the grace of God -- today people must overcome so many physical, social, and spiritual obstacles that many lose faith as they follow unfulfilled pathways. 

According to Steve Turner, author of Amazing Grace: The Story of America's Most Beloved Song, when John Newton composed "Amazing Grace" in 1772, and put the internal rhyme "amazing grace" together, it wasn't purely for poetic reasons. Newton understood grace to mean God's unmerited favor to lost souls. Turner says it was a meaning Newton -- with his sordid history and personal tale of redemption -- could take to heart. He had been a slave trader full of wretchedness until ...

In 1747, as captain of the "Greyhound, a Liverpool ship on its homeward journey, Newton found himself and his vessel overtaken by an enormous storm. Newton then recalled a passage in Proverbs: "Because I have called and ye have refused, … I also will laugh at your calamity."

He converted during the storm, though Newton admitted later, "I cannot consider myself to have been a believer, in the full sense of the word."

Newton then served as a mate and then as captain of a number of slave ships, hoping as a Christian to restrain the worst excesses of the slave trade, "promoting the life of God in the soul" of both his crew and his African cargo.

After leaving the sea for an office job in 1755, Newton held Bible studies in his Liverpool home. Influenced by both the Wesleys and George Whitefield, he adopted mild Calvinist views and became increasingly disgusted with the slave trade and his role in it. He quit, was ordained into the Anglican ministry, and in 1764 took a parish in Olney in Buckinghamshire. His life became true to the gospel. 

In 1787 Newton wrote Thoughts Upon the African Slave Trade to help William Wilberforce's campaign to end the practice—"a business at which my heart now shudders," he wrote. Recollection of that chapter in his life never left him, and in his old age, when it was suggested that the increasingly feeble Newton retire, he replied, "I cannot stop. What? Shall the old African blasphemer stop while he can speak?"

("John Newton: Reformed Slave Trader. August 08, 2008)

Gary Chaffins reminds us of choices: terror or hope? We, vulnerable in a raging storm, must submit to the will of our maker. Only then will our imperfections be taken away as we believe in the Son. It's a wonderful promise for redemption, and everyone must face the fork in their lives where the decision is clearly up to them: Hope or Terror in the Gospel.

I want to thank Gary for his beautiful poem. He is a wonderful friend. 

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