Grace's Endless Kindness
Philip Ryken writes that his ‘friend found out he was sick right before Easter.’ And to everyone’s surprise, he had liver cancer – ‘a death sentence, as it turned out.’ He notes that just eight weeks later they laid him to rest with ‘songs of praise, words of testimony, and many tears.’ He described his friend as a scholar, pastor, and mentor who for nearly thirty years had served as the senior minister of Philadelphia’s Tenth Presbyterian Church: James Montgomery Boice.
‘Later,’ he notes, ‘we recognized how God had been preparing our pastor for this sudden departure.’ Over the last two years of his life, Dr. Boice had been putting his faith to music, writing new hymns of the Christian faith. Many of these songs focused in some way on the life to come.
One hymn was called ‘Alive in Christ.’ He recalls that Dr. Boice started working on it shortly after he received his diagnosis. After he died, Philip Ryken realized that he had taken the words of Scripture – specifically Ephesians 2 – and used them to give his personal testimony. ‘It was a dying man’s last testament of his faith in Jesus Christ.’ Philip Ryken continues:
“Dr. Boice began his hymn with a confession: “I once was rebellious, corrupted by sin, pursuing the devil’s dark path.” He went on to talk about the way God had intervened by grace to give him new life in Christ. But I was startled by the third stanza. The hymn looked ahead to the future, praising God for resurrection life. As we sang, I could imagine my friend in glory, still giving praise:
“God lifted me up to the heavenly realms
Where seated with Christ I am free;
In ages to come he will show me more grace –
So great is his kindness to me.”
“Consider what these words mean. However much grace God has shown to us in this life, he will show us even more in the life to come. Throughout the endless ages of eternity, he will show us the ever-increasing grace of his infinite love.
“As I sang those words I wondered if they were true. Is it really the case that in the coming ages God will show us more of his life-changing grace?
“It is certainly true that God’s grace stretches all the way back to eternity past. His call to save us by grace is something he “gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Tim. 1:19). God is not just working things out as he goes along; his purpose is rooted in eternity. As John Stott once explained, “If we could trace the river of salvation to its source we must look right back beyond time to a past eternity.””
But does the grace of God also extend to eternity future? And if it does, is it extended to us in ever-increasing measure? Reflecting on this question, Dr. Ryken pulled out his Bible and turned to Ephesians 2. There he read that because of his great love for us, God “made us alive together with Christ” (v5) and “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places” (v6). Then he read why: “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (v7).
It was then, Dr. Ryken noted, that these true words from Scripture took his breath away. He writes: “My friend had gone ahead of me to glory, where God was showing him more grace than ever. Some day the same thing will happen to me: in the coming ages God will show me more of his grace forever.”
My friends, I want you to have this joy as well, so I invite you to consider the endless kindness of God’s life-changing grace with us this Lord’s Day. As we open up the Word of the Lord to Ephesians 2:1-10 and discover anew the riches of God’s endless grace. I urge you to prepare your hearts in prayer this week. And surely, it would be a wonderful time to invite a loved one or a friend to come along with you.
Grace upon Grace,