"Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ"
"However , I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace".
These are the sentiments about the gospel from the apostle Paul as he shares the things that are very deepest and dearest to his heart. The thing that he was so passionate about, the grace of God that he was so eager to tell people about, and share with everyone he came across, hoping that they to would respond to Gods kindness, Gods undeserved kindness to them, and share in a life of peace with their Creator, having been forgiven of their wrong, sinful, rebellious ways. For trying to pass on this amazing message he was beaten and outcast, by those who even used to be his friends, ultimately he was killed for trying to share his gospel of grace.
Not only was forgiveness and reconciliation on offer, through grace, but also the hope of Eternal Life. God is prepared to forgive our wicked ways, which truly deserve death, according to the law, and give us the gift of eternal Life which we did not deserve, Rom 6:23, this is indeed grace, not only do sinners not deserve Life, but unfortunately no matter how hard we work at it there is really no way to escape from the fact that we will end up dead. Scientists are trying to dream up ways to stop us from dying, and many, many religious people have even come to the conclusion that death is really a release from some physical jail, (our bodies), that on death, we are released to a life of bliss in eternity with God, they have made death, equal life.
Although there are a variety of thoughts and convictions on the matter we all really and truly end up as dust, dead, as the bible so plainly describes in lots of places.
If I was God and people treated me like we treat our heavenly Father I would leave them dead and be glad they were gone, fortunately I’m not God, but I am trying to be more like him and his son Jesus and follow the command to “love your enemies”.
Unlike me with some of the negative hostilities I have warring in my body, being gracious is a part of Gods character , back in Exodus when the name of our heavenly father was proclaimed to Moses in chapter 34 vs 6 it went like this…”The Lord, The Lord ,the compassionate and GRACIOUS God, slow to anger abounding in Love….etc. In 2 Chron 30 vs 9 we are told“……The Lord your God is graciousness and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to Him“, and again in Neh 9 vs 17 ”…..But you are a forgiving God, GRACIOIUS and compassionate , slow to anger and abounding in Love. Therefore you did not desert them.”
You may notice at the end of the last quote, it says “therefore you did not desert them”, the point is, they very much deserved to be deserted, the context is in regard to the people that Moses brought out of Egypt, not far out of Egypt the people “became arrogant, stiff necked, and did not obey your commands. They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them”. In fact they were so rebellious that they wanted to throw Moses out of the leadership and set a new leader over them to take them back to slavery in Egypt, but as it says , “you did not desert them” , even though they deserved to be, That equals Grace. Legally and Justly God could have left their carcases to rot in the desert, after all, “the law came through Moses”, and under the law their rebellion should be dealt with by death, but not our God, thankfully he showed his Love by being gracious beyond measure to them, as we are reminded in Ps 103 vs 10 “he does not treat us as our sins deserve, or repay us according to our iniquities. :11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; , :12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.:13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him. Indeed , “The lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made, Ps 145;8,9, “The Lord longs to be gracious to you, he rises to show you compassion, Isa 30 vs 18.
Even though the old testament is full of affirmations and examples of Gods grace most of the people reading of how wonderful God was, still couldn’t really understand just how gracious he really was, this is strange, with such glorious reflections on the character of our Father in the Holy scriptures it is a wonder that there could be any room for doubt. But such is the wonder of the nature we possess, we have the ability to make darkness out of the most bright light.
God knew that we still were not convinced of how gracious and loving he is, he knew that from the moment we were created, but he was determined that he would not stop until the full measure of his grace was poured out to us. This grace of God was revealed through the Lord Jesus Christ In John 1:17 we are to told, “ the law, ( Justice) was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”.
And what a challenging revelation this grace that the Lord put into practice proved to be, and still proves to be up to this very day. In Luke 1:40 we are told of Jesus “ …the child grew an became strong; he was filled with wisdom and the GRACE of God was upon him”. In Luke 4:22 again “..All spoke well of him and were amazed at the GRACIOUS words that came from his lips”.
Jesus came proclaiming a God that the people hadn’t even appeared to imagine, having a heart of compassion and grace for those who were not acceptable by the religious or secular standards of the day, mixing it with even the ones who were thought to be under the curse of God , and even touching the supremely unclean, the lepers, and allowing himself to be touched by the wicked in Luke 7:37-50.
In his stories Jesus shared his insights of the forgiving, loving, compassionate, gracious and joyful God that our Heavenly father is. One of the most challenging and memorable would surely have to be the parable of the merciful father in Luke 15. You can read the full story in Lk 15:11 - 31, think about it and see where you fit into the picture.
It is a story about the truely gracious, loving heart of our heavenly Father, Jesus tells the story of a son who wants to go his own way, leave the family home, and the family, take his share of the inheritance and go and do his own thing. The son ends up squandering all the inheritance in wild living, in the end not even being able to afford enough food to feed himself. Who wouldn’t say, serves him right, I have certainly felt like that, and I can feel justified in harbouring this attitude. We can even find lots of bible verses to support our attitude, eg. Prov 5:23; Prov 10:4; and also the popular verse that says, “A person will reap what they Sow”.
Not so with the Father, we don’t find dad sitting down in side the house, sulking in his self righteousness, thinking up ideas of confession for the son to go through, making plans to insure that this will never happen again, being ready to meet out justice, pouring over the thought of how much money the son has wasted and how it will have to be repaid for him to find favour with the family again. We find a dad who is not being reasonable at all. At the fathers response I can imagine that many would be horrified, “What are you doing, Don’t you know what this wicked boy has done, he deserves to be punished , to pay for his wrongdoing”, instead dad is up there pouring out grace and love on this undeserving wayward lad. I love dads response, it is as follows, Lk 15:20 “…While he was still a long way off, his father saw him (He had to be looking for him, surely) and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”……:22 “..the father said to the servants, Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.:23 Bring the fattened calf, lets have a feast and celebrate.:24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again: he was lost and is found.” So they begun to celebrate.” I can imagine that the listeners were shocked and dumbfounded, Jesus was telling the listeners, and us, the readers, what God is like, do you believe it, a God of such love compassion and grace. You had better believe it, because we are all, to some extent, greater or lesser, just like the wild living son who has rejected the father.
The reason I love the dads response is because I too need our Heavenly Father and Jesus to respond to me, just like the father in Jesus story responded to his son. In fact we all need the grace of God to reach out and touch us. We all have been like sheep that have strayed out of the way, our sins have separated us from our God, All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, we all have the heart that is described in Jer 17 as being deceitful and beyond cure, and it would seem that most of us have done things that we would not like everyone to know about. But God is there, he knows our lives inside out, there is nothing that is hidden from him, he actually knows us better than we know ourselves, which is a very humbling awareness to have.
Although God knows us and our weaknesses and wickedness, Our father is always wanting for us to return to him, ready to throw an incredible celebration, and have rejoicing (Lk 15:6,10,32) in heaven when we repent of our ways, and determine in our hearts to follow Jesus.
In the way that is typical of Gods grace and love, he has taken the initiative in reaching out to us in a very clear and unmistakable way. By raising up for us his own special Holy one, his dear sinless son, Jesus, to be our saviour from sin and death. Billions have heard the name “Jesus“, and are aware that it means, “saviour”, this is an indication that Gods message, his gospel of grace is something he has made possible for everyone to have a chance of hearing and responding to.
As has been quoted previously from Acts 24, that it was the apostle Paul’s life’s labour, it was the thing that drove him, that he might complete his task of testifying to the gospel of Gods grace. He had experienced the wonder of Gods undeserved kindness, his grace, being richly poured out on him and wanted to let every body else know how great it was and to share in graces blessing, of joy, forgiveness of sins, and the hope of eternal life, In 1 Tim 1:13, 14 he tells us of the wonder of his conversion, “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The Grace of our Lord Jesus was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and the love that are in Christ Jesus”. Under Gods justice Paul was worthy of death, under Gods grace, that is found only in Jesus, Paul was given a new start, and he knew this new start, this freedom, this peace with God, is on offer to all, as is stated in Titus 3:7 ‘So that having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life”, In Romans 3:23 we are told “for all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God,:24 and are justified freely by his Grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus “. In 1Tim 2:4 It says, speaking of God “who wants all men saved and come to a knowledge of the truth”, The extent of Gods desire to have us become part of his family and share in his grace and the blessings that flow from it is described in Rom 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners , Christ died for us”. God had his son treated like the sinner deserves,
That the sinner can share with Christ in the eternal life that Christ deserves, by having faith in what was done for us, Isaiah 53; 1Pet 2:24; 2Cor 5:21; 2Cor 8:9.
Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see. Such is the truth for all who come to understand the gospel, the good news of Gods grace in all it’s marvellous truth . For now we can but wait, but not be idle, We are encouraged by Peter in his first letter, “to prepare our minds for action; be self controlled; set our hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed from heaven”. Until then may the spirit of the living God and his son Jesus burn in you with all power and love as you “proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” and get about telling of the wonderful things the Lord has done for you.