If you are a believer in Jesus you’ve likely experienced seasons of accusation. Those are the terrible times when it feels as if we are cursed and gone astray. We feel condemned, wrecked, ruined, and that we have no hope of gaining salvation.
I’ve had terrible seasons like this in my own life. This is why one of my favorite songs isEmbracing Accusation by Shane and Shane. In this song they take on these seasons of Satanic accusation and invite us to embrace them. The song ends with this great lyric:
Oh the devil’s singing over me
An age old song
That I am cursed and gone astray
Singing the first verse so conveniently
He’s forgotten the refrain
The devil is fine preaching the gospel…at least in parts. He’ll sing the first verse but blind our eyes to the refrain that Jesus saves.
When The Devil Preaches The Refrain
But this got me wondering. Would the devil ever preach the refrain but leave off the first verse? Would he ever preach adoption, forgiveness, justification, peace with God, etc. without preaching the Cross?
The Puritan Richard Baxter believed that he often does. As Baxter wrote:
It is a great project of the devil, and successful with many, to draw them to venture on the sin, by showing them first the effectual remedy, the abundant mercy of God, the sufficient satisfaction made by Christ, the full, and free, and universal promise; that these are sufficient to cleanse the soul of any sin, therefore you need not fear. (Baxter, 102)
I believe Baxter is correct. Satan is very good at preaching grace before sin and the law after.
The moment before engaging in the forbidden, you hear the forked-tongue whisper of, “there is no condemnation, you need not fear, you know God will forgive you. He loves you. It’s okay.”
Then, when you’ve done what ought not be done, the father of lies preaches the first verse so conveniently (and loudly) but leaves off the refrain. “You’ll never be loved again. You’ve blown it. God has abandoned you, and there is no way you’ll ever be in his love again.”
Grace before. Law After.
I love the remedy that Shane & Shane prescribe when the devil preaches a truncated gospel; namely, finish the song. When he’s preaching condemnation embrace the accusation—he’s right. You’ve blown it. Your sin is serious. It’s no light thing. You really do deserve hell.
But finish the song. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law. Shout the refrain when he loudly sings the first verse.
I believe the same remedy applies when the devil preaches the refrain without the first verse. Finish the song. Yes, the Lord is kind. Yes, the Lord is patient and gracious and merciful. But his kindness is meant to lead us to repentance.
We’d do well to heed the words of Baxter:
There is enough in his grace to save the [repentant]: but if you will sin upon presumption that grace will save you, you have small reason to think that you are penitent, or ever will be, without a very merciful change…it is a terrible thing to sin deliberately and wilfully, because of the greatness of mercy, or the sufficiency of the death of Christ; and this is clean contrary to [repentance] and conversion. (Baxter, 103)
Thankfully, the gospel is true and there is forgiveness and rescue found even for those who have presumed upon His grace. But drop your presumptions and throw yourself at his feet for mercy.
The devil likes to preach grace before sin and the law after. But the gospel preaches Jesus before and Jesus after.
When the devil says, “He’ll forgive you”. We look to our loving Lord and say, “But I don’t want to make him have to. Why would I want to sin against such a sweet Savior? Why would I presume upon his mercy and his kindness? That is the way of the wicked.”
Likewise, when the devil says, “He’ll never forgive you.” We look to our bleeding Savior nailed to a Roman cross and say, “But he already has. There is therefore no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. The blood of Jesus Christ has removed the curse of the Law. And in him I have the righteousness of God”.
No matter which part of the gospel the devil is singing, always remember to finish the song.
Here is the Shane & Shane song with John Piper: