Saturday, 14 December 2013

Living in grace (Romans 5:1-2)

Imagine someone rejects you when they discover something about how imperfect you are.  Wouldn't that hurt?  That's what happened George Matheson in the 1860s.  He was engaged to be married and then discovered that he was going blind.  When his fiancé learned about this she ended with him.  Needless to say he was devastated.  Yet following this personal tragedy he wrote one of the most moving of all hymns.  Human love may be fickle but God's love is secure.

O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

The apostle Paul has spent the first four chapters of Romans teaching about justification by faith.  Because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross God regards us as if we had never sinned.  Sadly, for many people this is where their understanding of grace ends.  They don't see that God continues to be gracious to us now that we have become Christians.  They think that God, who has graciously brought us into his family, is now like a parent who is impossible to please.  They can't believe that God delights in them; they fear he will loose patience with them; they think it is only a matter of time until he walks away.

But God won't walk away.  He has brought us into his family and he will never ask us to leave.  He will always be gracious to us.  Nothing can separate us from his love.  His kindness did not end the day we became a Christian.  His kindness to us was only just beginning.  We see this in the two verses we are studying this morning.  These verses tell us of three results of being justified by faith.  They picture what it means to live in grace.

1.  We have peace with God.

'Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God ...'

Apart from grace we were God's enemies.  We were rebels who were the object of his righteous anger.  But on the cross that anger was satisfied.  God has dealt with our sin and made peace with us.

An evangelical Christian was good friends with a Catholic priest.  They spent hours enjoying each others company, talking together and writing letters back and forth.  One letter from the priest included the line, 'Ah ... I think you are too cocksure of heaven.'  God wants us to be sure of heaven.  He has made peace with us.  He has done everything that is needed to take away our sin and is committed to keeping us to the end.  Nothing will separate us from his love.

2.  We have access to God.

'God not only accepts us, he delights to receive us, and he delights to bless us' (Martin Lloyd-Jones).  'Therefore being justified by faith ... we have gained access by faith into this grace wherein we stand ...'  This is our second point.  Our heavenly Father delights to see us coming to him.

When we pray do we approach God with confidence?  Do we realise that God is glad to see us coming?  Do we remember that he is happy to bless us, and that he is more concerned about our welfare than we are ourselves?

The words 'standing in grace' are meant to convey the truth that our position before God is stable and secure.  Our position is one of being sure-footed before a God who is always kind to us.  Remember that the blood of Jesus goes on cleansing us from all sin (1 John 1:5); that we are kept by the power of God (1 Peter 1:5); and that he who began a good work in you will see it through to completion (Phil. 1:6).

We stand in grace, so when we blow it he does not stop loving us.  We stand in grace, so his plans for us don't finish when we let him down.  We stand in grace, and he delights in us even though we are so far from being perfect.  We stand in grace, so our standing before him is not dependant on whether we have had a quiet time today.  We stand in grace, and he has given us everything we need for life and godliness.

3.  We have hope of glory.

Because we are justified by faith we have peace with God, we have access to God and we have sure hope of glory.

I hope that Munster will win the Heineken Cup, but I have my doubts.  We think of hope as something that is uncertain.  In the New Testament hope refers to a certainty.  It is the anticipation of something that will surely happen.  Because we have been justified by faith we 'rejoice in hope of the glory of God.'

The glory that is spoken of here seems to refer to God's glory seen in us.  One day we will be perfected.  When we enter his presence the battle with sin will be over.  When Christ returns our mortal bodies will be replaced with a resurrection body.  We will be like Jesus.

Although this glory is something that lies at a time in the future there is a sense in which we get a foretaste of it now.   The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth explaining that, 'we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit' (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Martin Lloyd-Jones writes, "we are concerned about getting the reluctant outsiders into the Church, but when you and I know something of the glory of God, and when those others see that we are being 'changed from glory into glory' they will come to us of their own accord as they have always come to such people."

Because we have been justified by faith we have the sure hope of glory.  Those people who have been most effective for Christ in this world have tended to be those who have looked beyond this world.  A glorious future awaits all God's people.  Contrary to popular opinion those who are genuinely heavenly mind are actually most earthly good.  The great Scottish Puritan Samuel Rutherford was described as a man who had his feet on the ground, his hand to the plough, and his heart in heaven.


'O Love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in Thee.'  Grace did not end at the moment of your conversion.  God delights in you.  He goes on being kind to you.  He continues to forgive you.  He is glad to see you approach him.  He will keep you to the end.  He won't walk away.  He has brought us into his family and he will never ask us to leave.  Nothing can separate us from his love.  You can delight in the sure hope of heaven.  These are truths can can turn our world upside down.  And it is all true because God dealt with all of our sin on the cross of Christ and remains committed to us for good.

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