Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Grace and Peace in the Midst…. (Ephesians 1:2)

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 1:2, NASB95)

Yesterday I had set aside some time to work on this blog for a while and attempt to do some deeper study in advance of some of the upcoming verses. But things didn’t quite work out that way. In our congregation there is one special husband and wife with a large family who is in the process of saying goodbye for a while. The husband is hooked up to various tubes and is not expected to last much longer, and the family has been coming in to be with him and his wife. This is a very difficult time for them, but as it is with so many believing couples I have known, it is also a time which is frequently endured with a sense of peace as they know without a doubt that God’s grace has been extended to them, and because of that they can prepare to part with great hope. Yesterday and today I had the privilege of spending some time with them, and in this observing God’s grace and peace in action.

“Grace” and “peace” are incredible things. So much of the world lives without any permanent peace, both internally and externally. But there are those who have discovered how to be at peace even when the things going on around them are far from peaceful. And grace is that generous kindness that is extended to another when they are in need and unable to fix things for themselves. It is here that someone from the outside offers to those on the inside a help that lifts a burden or takes some things off of their plate, so that those that remain seem more manageable.

At times like the one mentioned above it could be really easy to get wound up, especially when you don’t know what is happening next, you don’t like what is happening, or maybe as it is in some cases when those involved don’t agree on how it should happen. In these moments rather than experiencing peace, we can experience tension, frustration, helplessness and even anger. It is moments like this that we all hunger for a calm in which to rest while we await what is about to come. It is here where we deeply desire a place of peace.

But God. Paul wrote, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” This was his common salutation. It was his regular greeting. It was his way of saying, “God bless you” with a healthy reminder of just how He has done so. He reminds those who hear or read this greeting that both grace and peace are a gift to us from God our Father and His Son who He sent to save us from our sins, to draw us to Him, and to give us new life and an everlasting hope—our Lord Jesus Christ.

God loves us so much. Because of our sin we have been separated from Him, and He chose not to let that stand as a barrier. He provided the only means by which we can become fully cleansed and brought back into a relationship with Him. And beyond that we know that He constantly lavishes His love on us in countless ways. It is Him who shows Himself strong when we are weak. It is Him who gives wisdom when we lack understanding. It is Him who knows us intimately and wraps His hands around us. It is Him who holds us closely when times like the one mentioned above are so very true and present. God did all of this not because He was obligated to do so, but because He wanted to out of His love and compassion. This is what grace is. It is God giving to us what we need as a gift because it is His joy to do so.

And peace, what an incredible result of knowing that we not only a fully forgiven and will not face judgment for our sins, but that He is also faithful to keep us until that very moment that He ushers us into His presence. There is nothing that comes to us that has not been through His sovereign hands. There is nothing that blindsides Him even though we may be caught by surprise. God is our constant help, and He has promised Himself to be faithful even when we struggle in response. We are at peace with the Father because we’ve been given salvation in the Son. Because Jesus paid for our sins and rose again, we are fully forgiven and forever made alive. Though our bodies may fail, and our tents be packed into the dirt, we know from Scripture that He has for us bodies not made with human hands which are eternal in the heavens. The inspired and infallible words of Scripture are an incredible source of these truths, and the Holy Spirit given to each of us who have believed works to make them alive in our lives.

When the world struggles we can know peace because we have experienced and continue to experience the incredible grace of God. The last words Jesus spoke to His disciples before praying to the Father in their presence on the night He was betrayed (as recorded by John) were, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NASB95) Peace is a condition of the heart resulting from being at rest even in the midst of tribulation, and the reason we can rest is because of God’s grace shown to us. Jesus has overcome the world and we are the beneficiaries. 

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