Tag Archives: grace

Colossians 1:2; Brief Thoughts on Grace and Peace.

To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

There is no greater greeting than the common refrain of Paul upon those to whom he writes. Grace and peace are simply the transforming power of Christ in the heart of believers. It is the unifying echo of the soul, overflowing from the heart. Christians pour out grace and peace to one another.

Having received grace in the working of Christ, believers are uniquely equipped to dispense grace to others. Consider the magnitude of this grace that was received in the mercy of Christ. Ephesians 2 states it well when it speaks of the believer as formerly “dead in trespasses and sins.” Further, Romans 5 describes Christians as those who “were enemies of God.” Yet God provided salvation in Jesus Christ. Salvation is freely given to dead people who hated God. This is tremendous grace! If believers rightly understand the grace they have been granted, then their own lives will mirror that grace. Christians, above all others, ought to live a lifestyle that constantly exudes grace to others. No sin is unforgivable, no grievance too great to overlook, and no character defect too insurmountable. Christians must live a life of grace extended.

So it is that the common chorus of Christianity is Amazing Grace, and no greater grace ought to be displayed than that found within the local church body. For one who has received grace from Christ, there is no room for judgmental rejection of others. No despising weakness or rejection of the penitent admitted within the church, only the forgiving fortitude of grace.

Why is such a grace lost in the modern western church? It seems our churches have neither the grace to support the weaker brother nor the grace to confront the impenitent sinner. Yet true grace must exist in both measures. Christians must extend grace efficient to call one another away from death and toward holiness, and they must extend grace in such measure to forgive and overlook failing family. Imagine living in such a community that extends grace upon grace to one another. What a great triumph over human sinfulness! If a community lives in grace with one another, there will be no greater strength of community!

Paul also wishes peace on his readers. Peace that overcomes turmoil and surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7). The peace of one who is no longer at enmity with God. The peace of former rebels now called children. What a lasting and powerful exchange; death exchanged for life, labor for rest, war for peace. This peace is unique to the Christian experience. Peace with God is only available through Christ. Perhaps it is this offer of grace and peace is the purpose of Paul’s letter. The bulk of this epistle is about Christ and His character in the heart of a believer. In understanding Christ’s character and the implications of His life in the heart His redeemed, grace and peace abound.

O Christian, if you will seek to understand Christ’s work in your heart, there will be tremendous grace and peace.

Finally, note the source of this grace and peace: it is the Father. He, the one who rules over all things, is the provider and sustainer of this grace and peace. What greater source to have than the Father of life? There is none! He who called believers from death to life, who resurrected the soul and soon will do the same for the body, the God who called into existence all of creation. This God and King is the source of grace and peace to all who believe.

So rest, dear Christian, in the provision of grace and peace to you from the Most High God! Surely there is no greater peace!

Philippians 2:12-13; Brief Thoughts

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Having exemplified the character and nature of Christ, Paul admonishes his hearer to obedience. As Christ is humble, so Christians should be humble. As Christ is obedient to death, so Christians should obey. If a believer bears the name of Christ, then they should behave accordingly.

Take note of the nature of this admonition. Paul’s appeal for obedience does not hinge on an obligation, law, or even assumed merit. Paul’s exhortation is based entirely on the character of Christ. Verses 1-11 serve as the premise for the exhortation of verse 12. Rightfully so, because: the character of Christ establishes the motivation for the Christian life. It is the work of Jesus that calls us to obedience, not the work of our hands or the desire of our will. Consider what Christ has done. Think about the work He accomplished. Now, consider what lay ahead of you. Is there any trial or turmoil you cannot withstand given the work that Christ has done in you?

The Philippians are marked by obedience to the Lord. Paul encourages them to continue in obedience and by doing so, “work out their own salvation” (v 12). Their working out of salvation is connected to their own obedience. When Christians pursue holiness and righteousness, they are working out their salvation. It has been common amidst pulpits in the western church to debate the meaning of “work out your own salvation.” However, there is little merit for the debate. After all, this passage is incredibly simple and self-evident. Believers are called to obey and in that obedience, their salvation is proven as genuine.

Challenge yourself! How strong is your faith? Will you be able to obey in the midst of difficult circumstance? Test yourself in this. Strengthen your faith by walking in obedience to Him with deep respect and fear. You will discern the power and effect of your salvation by your obedience to Christ.

Paul follows his exhortation with the reminder that it is God who does the work (v. 13). In the heart of a believer, God is the active agent for transformation and the subsequent evidence of obedience. The power to obey does not emanate from the human will or spirit. The ability to conquer sin does not come from a desire born within and from the heart of a man. Rather, it comes from God. God calls to Himself a people and in doing so, begins to transform and sanctify their hearts to be more like Himself.

Ponder, for a moment, the power that is given to a believer to accomplish the mission of God. Jesus has accomplished the works of humiliation and obedience on behalf of believers. He sacrificed His own majesty and kingship, became a servant, and died on a cross. He lived a life of perfect obedience on behalf of those who believe, so that they would be able to claim His righteousness. Following His death, God the Father resurrected Jesus in power and made Him King over everything, effectively establishing Jesus’ dominion over every being.

God, who resurrected Jesus, now works in those who believe to accomplish His purposes. His divine power is evident in the obedience and righteous lives of those who believe. A Christian has the power to obey, not because of their own ability or self-righteousness, but because of what God has, is, and will be doing in their hearts. He works in the believer to the ultimate end of supreme value. That is to say, God works within the hearts of believers so that His pleasure would be fully realized in them. It is the great joy of Christians to delight in God. It is God’s delight for believers delight in Him.

So then, get to work! If you are empowered by Christ to obey and God is the one who accomplishes the work, then what do you have to lose? It is not in your power that you are able to overcome, it is by His strength and His power. So… get to work! Pursue holiness and knowledge of God. Get to know the creator of all things and delight yourself in Him.

One Of “Those” Days: Guest Post by Stephanie Elkins

It’s been one of “those” days. Some days, raising, training, caring for, and shepherding three little ones ages four and under doesn’t seem that hard. Routines run smoothly, little ones entertain themselves and each other with fervor, the laundry basket gets emptied, and the new dinner recipe turns out amazingly. Life is a bowl full of cherries. Some days, I think, “My children are responding so well to the training they are receiving!” Of course, the more my children excel, the more my own heart has to deal with the pathetic sin of pride.  And of course, shortly thereafter, I can be sure that one of “THOSE” days is coming. The “other” kind. The kind that humbles me. Exhausts me. Frazzles me…and leaves me wondering how I EVER thought I had this whole thing down!

I know the day is going downhill when my middle child, who is only two, doesn’t take a nap. It’s somewhat normal for there to be a day sprinkled in there every so often when the firstborn doesn’t actually fall asleep, but when both of them manage to make it to dinner without having slept, things spiral out of control pretty quickly. Nap time is when Mommy rejuvenates in this house. Not by napping, but by focusing, restoring order, and often by exercising. Mostly by walking on the treadmill with a book and pen in hand. This afternoon, Sally Clarkson’s “The Ministry of Motherhood” was interrupted about half a dozen times with pleas for attention from the supposed-to-be-napping girls. Ironic, of course. While they know that getting out of their beds once they have been put in is strictly against the rules, it doesn’t stop them from trying it one more time. Every day. In my mind, it’s like having a death wish. Why would you intentionally do something today that you JUST GOT DISCIPLINED FOR yesterday? Or five minutes ago. Tension starts building and my nerves start unravelling the longer this whole routine goes on.

One of our primary objectives in parenting is to shepherd the hearts of our children. Pastoring the members of a local church may define the overall calling and direction of my husband’s and my lives, but pastoring the tiny hearts of those who live within the walls of our own home defines our MOMENTS. They are our congregation. And they NEVER GO AWAY.  It’s overwhelming, exhausting, and so soul-inspiring.

One of our goals, then, is to be sure that every opportunity that calls for correction or discipline is viewed as a teaching moment. Because our purpose is to teach our children to know their own hearts, and to turn those hearts ever toward their Savior. What this looks like is a whole bunch of conversations, usually when we really don’t want to be having a conversation at all! While spanking and sending them to bed in tears, or simply isolating them for a time, often would be easier, we aim to make every moment of correction/discipline an encounter with Jesus.

Sometimes these conversations go beautifully, and we all leave refocused and restored. Then there are days like today. In one such moment of discussion after administering discipline, I pleaded with my daughter to choose the path of obedience and submission. After mentioning to her that learning these lessons now, when she is young, will be much easier than learning submission to authority as an adult, she, of course, wanted to know if the other authorities she would “have some day” would give her “pops.” “No,” I replied, “they won’t give you spankings. But there WILL be discipline for you when you fail to submit and obey.” She wasn’t satisfied. “Mommy, like what? Give me an example.” “Ok,” I said, “lots of people have jobs. And they have authorities over them called bosses. If they decide not to obey, but rather to do things their own way, they can lose their job! And then they have no way of making money and no way of buying food for their families.” She wasn’t impressed. “But Moooommy, I don’t have a job. And the only money I have is in my piggy bank. And it’s not even real.” Yeah, that one went right over her head. I wanted to say, “You ASKED me for an illustration of authority/discipline for a grown up! Fine. See if you can come up with something better!”

So, as our day progressed, as mentioned earlier, the un-napped children got more wound up, their abilities to control themselves worsened, and the tears (did I mention we have GIRLS?) flowed much more readily. We announced an early bedtime, bathed them, and then Daddy left for an evening work meeting. Let the fun begin. I should have known that a quick tuck in, a song, a prayer, and a goodnight would NOT see the end of this day. Three children all in bed by 7 o’clock? Why do I ever get my hopes up? Some things just aren’t meant to be. Thus began the next hour and a half of children BEGGING for more of Mommy. In fact, I’m pretty sure they lay in bed contemplating how they can misbehave enough to get Mommy to come back into the room, because apparently a mad Mommy is more desirable than no Mommy at all. There were tears, confessions, spankings, conversations,…and then repeat.

Sometimes, having a four-year-old who understand deep truths and how to apply them creates more challenges. As evidenced by this second conversation tonight. Julia, 4, has been encouraging Ellie, 2, to get out of her bed and come find me and declare her desperate need for something like a Kleenex (she does NOT have a runny nose) or to go potty (she wears diapers). Ellie gets corrected, and then Julia gets corrected for her part in the ruse. Tonight, in one such moment, Luke 17:2 came to mind, and I shared with Julia that according to the Scripture, God takes this kind of thing pretty seriously. “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble.” “Now, what would happen,” I asked her, “if someone had a heavy rock around their neck, and they were thrown into the sea?” No hesitation there. “They would die,” she replied (looking very serious). “Right. So, what this verse is saying, is that things will NOT go well for the person who intentionally leads another person, especially a “little one” (like your sister), to sin. Basically, it would be better for that person to die! So, God takes it very seriously when we lead another person to sin.” At this point, I’m feeling pretty good about this conversation. “But Mommy!” she exclaimed, “I don’t HAVE to die, because Jesus died for me, and he paid for my sin.” [Insert sigh] Yes, baby, yes, he did. And somehow, my point, once again, went right past her.

She gets it. But she still fights it. One moment her heart is so tender, and the next I’m wondering how in heaven’s name she can choose sin so defiantly. (Did I just describe all of us?)

One moment I pour my heart out in conversation with my child, pleading with her to choose obedience out of love for her Savior. And the next, I am desperately pleading grace for my own heart as I battle for control and patience. As I fight to direct my heart. To be zealous for God’s glory and pleasure rather than my own peace and solitude. I was tired, frustrated, and had more on my “to do” list than hours to do it.

This particular evening “ended” with the dishes littering the counter, the leftovers getting cold on the table, the bath water still filling the tub, the neatly folded clothes scattered across the floor of the bedroom, and my 4-year-old “waiting on the couch for Daddy to return from his meeting.” Frustrated and exhausted, I jumped back on my treadmill and grabbed my book. (You know, the one about “The Ministry of Motherhood”). Before I read a complete sentence, I put the book down and started to pray. “God, what can You refresh me with tonight?! I need some peace and quiet! I need to not “be needed” for a while! I…I….” And then I remembered this: I needed to turn my heart toward HIM. I needed to refocus my heart on Him. I thought about listing off His character qualities, but the one that immediately came to mind was SOVEREIGN. And with that thought, came peace. If He is SOVEREIGN, then He picked this day for me. He chose these moments for me. He placed these children, these personalities, this tiny congregation, in my care. He directed this day, these moments, for a purpose. I just needed to receive it. As. Coming. From. His. Hand.