One amazing thing about Christians is that we don’t sing because we like to sing, but because the grace that we have received from God makes us sing. It’s not that we’re commanded to sing, but that we’re compelled to sing.
Grace, rightly beheld, always moves the heart to thankfulness and worship that must be shared. And so we sing.
But what is it that is so amazing to us about grace? Why does it make us sing? Consider these lines from some of the songs we sing:
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!
Alas! And did my Saviour bleed, and did my Sovereign die?
Would he devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?
Was it for sins that I had done he groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity, grace unknown, and love beyond degree!
He left His Father’s throne above—So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love, and bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free, for O my God, it found out me!
Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology defines grace as God’s ‘goodness toward those who deserve only punishment.’ That’s why it’s amazing to us. Before a holy God, with our sinful hearts and deeds exposed we are wretched and helpless — as lowly as a worm. And yet, God has been infinitely good to us.
John Piper, building off of Augustine, defines grace in terms of how it ‘found us out’ and what it does to us. Grace is God’s active changing of our heart’s desires so that we can truly desire him above all else, freely choose him, and as we love him, find in him our true soul’s joy. Our wills are always free to choose to do those things which we delight in, but they are never free to choose what our wills will delight in. That is why we need God’s grace.
Apart from his grace changing our heart’s desires so that we delight in what satisfies (God himself!) we will never be satisfied and never have joy. So the Christian, having found joy must sing, ‘Tis mercy all, immense and free, for O my God, it found out me!’
But grace is more powerful yet. It doesn’t just convert us, it sustains us and gives life and vitality to our Christian walk. God’s grace is necessary for more than just our conversion: it is necessary for true, ongoing, joyful obedience.
Once converted, Augustine could pray, ‘Give me the grace to do as you command, and command me to do what you will! … All this makes clear, O holy God, that when your commands are obeyed, it is from you that we receive the power to obey them.’ As Piper sums up this aspect of Augustine’s theology of God’s grace he says this: ‘Grace governs life by giving a supreme joy in the supremacy of God.’
It is grace that sought out those who were happy to drink from broken cisterns that were killing us and made us to delight in drinking deeply from the fountain of life. There is no joy like the joy that comes from pondering the reality of what God has done for us in Christ.
And that is why Christians, amazed by grace, must sing.