by Paul Tautges | July 14, 2022 11:48 am
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved usTitus 3:4
And Can it Be, that I Should Gain?is one of my favorite hymns because it preserves the mystery and wonder of salvation—the marvel that God could love a rebel like me so much that he would take upon himself everything necessary to reconcile me to himself. Charles Wesley captured this awe, as each verse of his poetry builds to its crescendo: Amazing love! How can it be that Thou, my God, should die for me? Truly, God’s love for us is amazing. How can it be that God would die for us?!
The Scripture above reveals the wonder that filled the apostle’s heart, too, as he pondered the impetus behind the divine rescue of sinners; that is, God’s kind and loving heart. The “goodness and loving kindness” of God stirred him to send his only begotten Son, not to condemn the world but to save us (see John 3:16-17). Musing on this truth will humble you; it will guard your heart from the spiritual pride that may lead you to not “show perfect courtesy toward all people” (Titus 3:3). It benefits your spiritual health to remember you “were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures” (Titus 3:3), but then God intervened and pulled you in by his kindness. As Paul continues, he identifies three lateral roots that branch off the primary root of God’s loving kindness toward you.
First, your salvation is “not because of works done by [you] in righteousness.” Instead, you are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Second, God saved you “according to his own mercy;” he pitied your helpless and hopeless condition apart from Christ and interceded on your behalf. Third, he made your spiritually dead, unresponsive heart alive together with Christ by the “regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” Through hearing the word of truth in the gospel, the Spirit breathed new life into you and gave birth to saving faith.
In his abundant loving kindness, God took the initiative to save us, as Jesus testifies: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44). From a human perspective, we might be able to remember the spiritual hunger we felt inside, or the steps we took in search of God. But if we’ve experienced conversion then Scripture compels us to affirm that beforehand and during—and unbeknownst to us—we were being convicted by the Spirit and drawn to Jesus by the Father who loves us so. Wesley apprehended this well: ‘Tis mercy all, immense and free; for, O my God, it found out me.
 Charles Wesley, And Can It Be, That I Should Gain?, 1738, public domain.
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