Archive for August 2016

The First and the Last

The biblical drama unfolds with so many ups and downs and twists and turns. But in all the many changes there is just one goal-Jesus.  Everything is moving towards him and climaxes in him. Jesus is the last thing in the whole drama, the ultimate intention.

That is true.  But Jesus isn’t only the last thing; he is also the first. Even before the world was made God decided to be with us as one of us.  He never wanted to be God without us.  Before we humans came into existence God had already decided to be in the deepest fellowship with us.  And this decision happens in Jesus.

Only in the Jesus’ story is God’s original decision opened to us.  We  have no other way of knowing what God first decided . We certainly do not speculate above Christ or behind him to an eternal decree of predestination apart from Christ.  No!  We fix our eyes on Jesus and see God’s eternal purpose unfold in his story.  

This focus sets me free from all uncertainty.  Now I do not look back to a horrible and absolute decree that says God might not actually want me.  With Jesus before me as both the first and the last, I know for sure that God only wants to be God in fellowship with me in Jesus.

Jesus is the Father’s original decision and ultimate intention and so are we in union with Jesus by the Spirit.  We may assure our hearts in that beautiful Triune Reality.

Responding to Grace

God the Father elected his own Son to be the One man in whom the many would be forever blessed.  The Father’s Son gladly became the  man for others serving us unto death that we might live in God.  And the Spirit of God engrafts us into union with this unique man so that we live in God with him as He lives in us.

What response does this Triune God of Grace now want from us?  He simply wants our gratitude.   Of course, God commands us to respond in many ways.  But we do not respond to His commands out of mere duty.  We rather respond to all his commands out of gratitude  It is always the God of Grace that we hear commanding us.  It is always the God of Grace whose command contains the promise of being with us enabling our response to the command.    He does not drive us to obedience through guilt, but draws us by grace.  And our free response is born of gratitude for the extravagant Fatherly Grace of God, through Jesus and in the Spirit.

So, before our gracious Father, enabled by the Spirit of his Son, our obedience is a joyful and thankful act of agreement with the will of our Father.  It is our free expression of trust in and gratitude to the Father for His unrestrained goodness towards us.

With God and for God on our behalf

Jesus is Lord!  But this Lord came into the world not to be served but to serve giving his life as a ransom for many.  This self-giving is the revelation of who God is.  He is the one who is ready to stoop to the lowest place in order to lift us up to the highest place.  In this action God shows that he is for us and has always been for us just as he always will be for us.  Can we say anything different when we see the Lord serving us even unto death?

But are we for God?  Well, Jesus is the true man who is with God and for God on our behalf.  So we also are with God and for God in union with him. Too often, we look at ourselves and our own failure to be continually with God and for God. We are dismayed with ourselves and so lack assurance before God. But the only man who counts with God is this unique man.  With our eyes fixed on him we are reassured that our life is now hidden with him in God.

May God’s Spirit assure our hearts that we really are with God and for God in union with Christ.

Two-way Grace

From the fullness of His Grace, the Father gives His Son as free gift for us.  From the same fullness, the Father gives His Spirit as free gift in us. And in giving His Son and Spirit the Father gives Himself to us. So Fullness of Grace comes from the Father, through the Son and in the Spirit.  The three persons move indivisibly as the one expression of grace from the one fountain of grace.

The same grace that moves from God towards us moves back from us towards God.  It does so as gratitude in the Spirit through the Son to the Father.  In the Spirit, we see with wonder the indescribable gift of all surpassing grace.  And the same Spirit moves us to express our thanks for this gift, through Jesus, the one who is the indescribable gift.  Yes, through Jesus, we have free access in the Spirit to express our thanks to the Father from whom all the grace comes flowing freely to us. And so all this thanksgiving is itself grace.  Grace in us by the Spirit flowing freely to the Father in the Sprit through the Son.

Grace and Gratitude are indivisible in this two-way movement bringing two-way blessing.  In grace, God blesses us; in gratitude we bless God

 

Grace and Gratitude

Grace evokes gratitude like  the voice an echo.

Gratitude follows grace as thunder follows lightning

Karl Barth

The word translated “grace” in the New Testament is “charis”.  This word is also embedded in the word “eucharisteo” usually translated, “thanksgiving

In 2 Corinthians chapters 8-9 Paul writes repeatedly of charis,  and eucharisteo showing the inseparable relationship between grace and gratitude. Towards the end of chapter 9, he speaks of “…the surpassing grace of God upon you” (v14)Not just grace, but surpassing grace. Then Paul goes on,  Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift (v15)! Not just gift, but inexpressible gift.

What is this gift that is beyond expression?  It is the gift of Christ, the Father’s Son, and all the giving that comes to us in him.  Human words can never describe the height and depth and length and breadth of this free gift of grace.  The gift is too wonderful for words!

What is our response? Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!  The word translated ‘thanks’ here isn’t the word eucharisteo it is actually charis  Why charis?  Isn’t charis the grace that God shows to us?  Yes. But it seems that here Paul sees grace and gratitude as so indivisible that surpassing grace  comes to us from the Father through the inexpressible gift (Jesus) and returns to the Father in our gratitude by the Spirit.