Posts Tagged 'Grace'

It is the Gift of God

“He (Jesus) entered Jericho and was passing through.  And there was a man named Zacchaeus.  He was the chief tax collector and was rich.  And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small of stature.  So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, ger he was about to pass that way.  And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zaccaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”  So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully.  And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”  And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor.  And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”  And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Luke 19:1-10

At our church we have been working through the book of Ephesians.  This week, our pastor pretty much spent the message expounding on Ephesians 2:5:  “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved.”

The idea here is that God makes us alive (grants us salvation), while we are still dead (there’s nothing we do to earn or deserve it.)  This is what is meant by the phrase, “by grace you have been saved.” Verse 8 says: “For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Romans 5:8 says: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

If our salvation was somehow a result of something we do, of us moving towards God in some way, than it wouldn’t be by God’s grace alone.  We would actually play a part in our salvation and could take part of the credit for it.  These passages make it abundantly clear that we have nothing whatsoever to do with it. 

Let’s bring this back to the story of Zacchaeus.  Zacchaeus basically makes some promises to Jesus face here.  He says he will give half of his possessions to the poor, he says that if he cheated anyone he will repay them back 4 times.  Jesus then says, “Today salvation has come to this house…”  We need to see the point here that Zacchaeus was not saved because of some righteous things he did.  He hasn’t done anything yet.  God saved him and as a result of that salvation, his response was to do those things. 

I think that’s a pretty important distinction that can be glossed over if we’re just reading a (probably) familiar story like this one without paying much attention.

How do I pray for my wife?

One of the books I picked up a few weeks ago is titled, “Water of the Word” by Andrew Case.

Mr. Case wrote this book to provide husbands a foundation to start praying for their wife.  In many cases he has taken phrases straight from the Bible and arranged them into beautiful prayers.  He considers these a good starting point for praying for your wife, from which you can move into more intimate, personal prayer.  Here’s what he has to say in the introduction:

“These prayers are also not intended to be read alone.  The the married man I commend frequent use of these prayers with his wife, praying them over her from his heart, using her name.  The should be the rule and not the exception, so that she is regularly reminded that Christ intercedes for her in like manner, that he husband loves her, and that the Word of God abounds with sanctifying power…I solemnly charge you before the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ to never neglect the joy and privilege of interceding for your wife…God has shown marvelous favor to you, therefore pray for her with all your might while you live.  Show Christ to her and to the fallen world in this way.  Whatever you do for her, do not fail or forget to do the best thing.  She is a gift too wonderful for you to care for alone; Sovereign Grace must guard, guide, and govern her heart and life.”

 The image he portrays here of a man cherishing and caring for his wife in this way is not the image of a “normal” husband that is portrayed in our culture.  By that, I don’t mean that there aren’t men modeling this behavior out there, I mean that it isn’t modeled in our tv shows and movies.  We typically don’t see men caring for their wives this way and treating her like she is a “marvelous favor” from God and a “wonderful gift.”  This is just not “normal” today to think that way.  Typically “the wife” is our old ball and chain, or our “social coordinator,” or other things, but most men don’t refer to their wives this way at all.  I’ve been exposed to a couple of teachings in the last few days that have left me wondering, “Is it really possible to live that way today in America?”  This one doesn’t seem all that impossible, but it will prove a challenge, because I honestly need to retrain my heart with some of these attitudes. 

 He also speaks at length about pride and humbleness:

“Be ever conscious of your broken condition – that you are a sinful man who is in need of continued renewal by which you are being conformed to the image of Christ.  Therefore pray strongly , as one who knows he is weak.  Pray boldly, as one who knows he has no ability or confidence of himself.  Pray sweetly, as one well aware of the heart within him still tinged with the bitter fruit of wickedness.  And pray mindful of the truth that you are in need of just as much intercession as she.”

Here is one of the prayers in the book:

Incomparable God,

I praise you that while my wife was still weak and ungodly, Christ died for her.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person, but You have shown Your love to her in that while she was still a sinner, Christ died for her. 

O beloved, since therefore you have been justified by His blood, much more shall you be saved by Him from the wrath of God.  Rejoice!  Rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom you have now received reconciliation.

Father, let her not continue in sin so that grace may abound.  May it never be!  Do not allow her to live in sin once she has died to it.  Cause her to consider herself dead to sin and alive to You in Christ Jesus.  Let not sin reign in her mortal body, to make her obey its passions.  Keep her from presenting her members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness.  For sin will have no dominion over her, since she is not under law but under grace. 

Just as she once presented her members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now may she present her members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.  Instill this truth every deeply within her: the wages of sin is death, but Your free gift is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Restrain her from earning deadly wages.  And come quickly, Lord Jesus.  We long for You.  Amen

Grace to You and Peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

It’s the part of Paul’s letters we typically skip over. “Paul, a servant of Christ…blah, blah, blah…(when do we get to the important stuff?)…Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

If you’re somewhat like me, you may find yourself skipping that first section when reading a New Testament book. “Yeah, I know you’re Paul, I know God sent you, I know who you’re writing to, “ you might be thinking.

However, it’s important to note that Paul begins 13 (by my quick count) of his letters with some variation of the title of this post. Perhaps he was trying to drive something into our heads, and not just be repetitive? Martin Luther has the following to say in his commentary on the book of Galatians:

“The terms of grace and peace are common terms with Paul and are now pretty well understood. But since we are explaining this epistle, you will not mind if we repeat what we have so often explained elsewhere. The article of justification must be sounded in our ears incessantly because the frailty of our flesh will not permit us to take hold of it perfectly and to believe it with all our heart.

The greeting of the Apostle is refreshing. Grace remits sin, and peace quiets the conscience. Sin and conscience torment us, but Christ has overcome these fiends now and forever. Only Christians possess this victorious knowledge given from above. These two terms, grace and peace, constitute Christianity. Grace involves the remission of sins, peace, and a happy conscience. Sin is not canceled by lawful living, for no person is able to live up to the Law. The Law reveals guilt, fills the conscience with terror, and drives men to despair. Much less is sin taken away by man-invented endeavors. The fact is, the more a person seeks credit for himself by his own efforts, the deeper he goes into debt. Nothing can take away sin except the grace of God. In actual living, however, it is not so easy to persuade oneself that by grace alone, in opposition to every other means, we obtain the forgiveness of our sins and peace with God.

The world brands this a pernicious doctrine. The world advances free will, the rational and natural approach of good works, as the means of obtaining the forgiveness of sin. But it is impossible to gain peace of conscience by the methods and means of the world. Experience proves this. Various holy orders have been launched for the purpose of securing peace of conscience through religious exercises, but they proved failures because such devices only increase doubt and despair. We find no rest for our weary bones unless we cling to the word of grace.

The Apostle does not wish the Galatians grace and peace from the emperor, or from kings, or from governors, but from God the Father. He wishes them heavenly peace, the kind of which Jesus spoke when He said, “Peace I leave unto you: my peace I give unto you.” Worldly peace provides quiet enjoyment of life and possessions. But in affliction, particularly in the hour of death, the grace and peace of the world will not deliver us. However, the grace and peace of God will. They make a person strong and courageous to bear and to overcome all difficulties, even death itself, because we have the victory of Christ’s death and the assurance of the forgiveness of our sins.”

The next time we open one of Paul’s letters to read, perhaps we’ll take a little more than a cursory glance at the opening and reflect on the Grace we have received!


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