Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Grace Be To You

1Corinthians 1:3-4 Grace be to you, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always on your behalf for the grace of God given you in Jesus Christ,

I love that thought. Some variation of verse 3 is repeated toward the very beginning of all of Paul’s epistles. Paul was always wishing the best for those around him. Have you ever wondered why he says those words so often? I’ve thought about it. And here’s what I see.

Paul is a very educated man, particularly in religious and spiritual thought. With his meeting with the risen Christ on the road, Paul’s frame of reference for that knowledge shifted. From self performance to God performance. Paul himself said in the beginning of Romans 7:18, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwells no good thing.” Paul’s flesh, my flesh, your flesh is incapable of doing anything good. So, how do we do what’s right in God’s eyes?

Well, if Paul is right (and the early church fathers thought so enough to include Paul’s epistles in the Bible), we are totally incapable of doing anything spiritually correct on our own. So, the first step is to recognize that, accept the sacrifice for our sins and repent from them. The word repent means to turn away. And, if we think about what Paul said in Romans 7, we can’t do any of that. We need the guidance of the Holy Spirit just to see that we need help. And further assistance from Jesus in us and the Spirit to begin and go through the process of spiritual regeneration.

We go from having dead fleshly spiritual cells to living, growing, flourishing life in Christ. And for that we need God’s grace. Unmerited favor. God giving us what we don’t deserve. When we think about the progression of Jesus’ life, there’s a pattern, intended to give us that grace. The manger where He was born is an example. Animals eat and sleep in the same place where they get rid of what they’ve eaten. That’s much like the spiritual realm of the world without God. As Jesus grew up and ministered, there were lots of examples of the spiritual equivalent. Christ was the only light in all that darkness. And that continued all the way to the cross.

The grace mentioned in our beginning passage is a result of Christ’s unwavering walk through life to the cross and beyond. It’s a gift that can’t be taken lightly. No matter whether we accept that gift or not, it’s up to us. But we need to consider all of what’s involved. It can’t be just a whim. Because there are eternal consequences to our decision.

If you’ve never made a commitment to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, I urge you to consider it. Even ask God to make Himself real to you. And I’d suggest reading the Gospels. Each has its own unique perspective on the life of Christ. But start with the Gospel of John, where God’s love is most clearly expressed. And I mean really read it and think about it. If you were going out to buy an expensive phone or TV or a car, you’d seriously research it. Here you have even bigger consequences of your decision, so give the reading and thinking the attention it deserves. And, of course, our hope is that you make the right decision and draw closer to God.

If you’ve already made that decision at some point, but lost your focus, those same Gospels are a good way to reacquaint yourself with Jesus Christ. An opportunity to be restored to a full relationship with Him. Don’t miss the chance to re-experience His grace.

And, finally, if you already have that relationship…. Well, we can always uses a refresher in all the things that have taken us to new spiritual heights. God’s grace takes us to where we need to be and is the basis for His peace in our hearts.

How are you going to grab onto grace and peace, today?

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