Be free to struggle

At our Brixham zoom meeting this Sunday we shall be sharing in an online Love Feast.

The Love Feast or Agape is a Christian fellowship meal recalling the meals Jesus shared with disciples during his ministry. The service expresses the koinonia or sharing, belonging and fellowship enjoyed within the body of Christ.

The Love Feast in common with other acts of worship includes prayer, praise, scripture, preaching and mutual fellowship, but in addition the Love Feast contains a time of prepared Testimony and the sharing of the Love Feast cake and a drink.

I would like to share my prepared Testimony with you:

A long time ago I watched a film about John Newton and was impressed. I knew the hymn amazing grace and the biography helped me to see how Newton had a strong faith, but I could identify with his struggles. He never thought himself worthy of being loved by God but was grateful that he was!

In his hymns Newton merged great theology with autobiographical insight. Newton wrote through the sieve of his own experience, so that, – just as in ‘Amazing Grace’ – his personal testimony shines through in ways that allow us to identify with him. And Newton was very honest.

I came across this particular hymn and it immediately resounded with my testimony, my experience. On Friday and Saturday 5th/6th March in my Daily readings I read Romans chapter seven, here are some verses that I contemplated:

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 
15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 
16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 
17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 
18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 
19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 
20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. 
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 
22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 
23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 
24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 
25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Here is Newton’s hymn ‘Conflicting Feelings’ also known by its first line ‘Strange and mysterious is my life’. If you want to sing this hymn, it’s often set to the tune Solid Rock (My hope is built on nothing less), with the last line of each stanza repeated. The hymn was probably written with Romans chapter seven in mind as the conflicting passions ricocheting.

Strange and mysterious is my life.
What opposites I feel within!
A stable peace, a constant strife;
The rule of grace, the power of sin:
Too often I am captive led,
Yet daily triumph in my Head.

I prize the privilege of prayer,
But oh! What backwardness to pray!
Though on the Lord I cast my care,
I feel its burden every day;
I seek his will in all I do,
Yet find my own is working too.

I call the promises my own.
And prize them more than mines of gold;
Yet though their sweetness I have known,
They leave me unimpressed and cold.
One hour upon the truth I feed,
The next I know not what I read.

I love the holy day of rest,
When Jesus meets His gathered saints;
Sweet day, of all the week the best!
For its return my spirit pants:
Yet often, through my unbelief,
It proves a day of guilt and grief.

While on my Saviour I rely,
I know my foes shall lose their aim,
And therefore dare their power defy,
Assured of conquest through His Name,
But soon my confidence is slain,
And all my fears return again.

Thus different powers within me strive,
And grace and sin by turns prevail;
I grieve, rejoice, decline, revive,
And victory hangs in doubtful scale:
But Jesus has His promise passed,
That grace shall overcome at last.