Saturday, June 15, 2013

Grace and Peace

Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 01:05-07, NKJV).

Grace has been defined as God's unmerited favor, meaning He gifts us with good things we do not deserve. It is the opposite of mercy, which is Him not giving us the judgment we do deserve.

It is impossible to know peace with God without first understanding, and accepting, His grace through Jesus Christ, who died on the Cross for our sins so that we could end our long war against God; a war that we can only end by surrendering, like Jacob, when he wrestled with the Angel of the Lord.

You see, we are born in a state of war. It is the war our forefather Adam entered into when he aligned himself with Satan against God in the Garden. It is a war that is fought every single day, and it is only God's grace that allows it to continue until all who will be saved, are saved.

Then, in due time, He will end that war, and each one of us who have ever been born will find ourselves either on the side of peace through belief in Jesus, the Prince of Peace, or on the side of darkness and torment. Sadly, the Bible indicates that, in comparison to all who could know peace, those of us who, through faith, throw down our weapons of sin and selfishness and surrender to our Lord, are few in number.

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13, 14, NKJV).

You see, in this life He gives us a choice, a real choice, between light and dark, life and death. And the terms of that choice are this: either surrender to self and follow the evil dictates of our own inherent (part of us through and through) sinfulness, or surrender to Him and be made new (with a new heart and a renewed mind), and begin the journey of sanctification, that process whereby He makes us more and more like His Son.

The invitation to life is extended to all, but few will accept it, choosing in their pride and arrogance to continue the war. These tragic souls will never know peace, despite desperately wanting to believe that they are either good enough to enter into Heaven through their own efforts, or fervently believing that there is no such thing as God or life after death.

Both strategies will result in endless torment, for both reject the grace of God. Most of the people alive in the world today will, therefore, never be at peace, for, increasingly, faith in Christ is looked upon with contempt and ridicule. For:

There is no peace,” says the LORD, “for the wicked.” (Isaiah 48:22, NKJV).

But God desires to give us peace through His grace. He makes that abundantly clear in His word. In the New Testament alone, the concept of this peace is mentioned 88 times. He is called the “God of peace” five times, and the source of grace 23 times.

At one point God Himself makes this lament through His prophet Isaiah:

Now let me sing to my Well-beloved A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard: My Well-beloved has a vineyard On a very fruitful hill. He dug it up and cleared out its stones, And planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, And also made a winepress in it; So He expected it to bring forth good grapes, But it brought forth wild grapes. “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, Judge, please, between Me and My vineyard. What more could have been done to My vineyard That I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, Did it bring forth wild grapes? (Isaiah 5:1-4, NKJV).

The vineyard is His people, Israel, but by extension, it is all those who have rejected His grace and goodness. Listen to the yearning in His question: What more could I have done?

He provides us with life even though we are rebellious sinners. He sent His beloved Son to pay the price for our sin so that we could escape the judgment we deserve, placing that punishment upon Jesus, who knew no sin, but who willingly died in our place so that we could live.

And beyond that, He not only gives us the means to escape death, but lavishes upon us grace beyond measure in a never-ending physical existence filled with joy and delight and everlasting blessedness.

Yet many will remain at war, no matter what, and to those He gives this warning in that same lament through Isaiah:

And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned; And break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will lay it waste...” (Isaiah 5:5, 6, NKJV).

To reject God's grace is to refuse His offer of peace, purchased by the death of His Son.

Listen to this final warning from the Book of Hebrews:

Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The LORD will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:28-31, NKJV).

Continuing to fight the hopeless war against God is the same as trampling on His Son's sacrifice and regarding His shed blood on our behalf as worthless.

Instead, Paul reminds us to receive His grace with open arms and grateful heart, and by doing so, know His peace.