Take a few moments to listen to Michael Card sing the last verses of Hebrews 13:20-21.
Now take a few more moments and take a glance at what the apostle Paul taught us about our need and assurance of God’s grace to us in Christ, in the way that he begins and ends his letters to the church.
Romans. 1:7, 16:24 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. The Grace our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
1 Cor. 1:3, 16:23 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
2 Cor. 1:2, 13:14 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ , and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Gal. 1:3, 6:18 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
Eph. 1:2, 6:24 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.
Phil. 1:2, 4:23 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Col. 1:2, 4:18 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This salutation by my own hand – Paul. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. Amen.
1 Thess. 1:1, 5:28 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
2 Thess. 1:2, 3:18 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
1 Tim. 1:2, 6:21 To Timothy, my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. Grace be with you. Amen.
2 Tim. 1:2, 4:22 To Timothy my beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Grace be with you. Amen.
Titus 1:4, 3:15 To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior. All who are with me greet you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen.
Grace to you – because you can’t live today without it. And grace be with you as you get up and go live this day. Grace comes to you as you hear your Lord approach you in his word, and grace will be there today when you get there. The reason why we need the assurance of “grace be with you” is because if God has been gracious only in the past, but will not be in the future, Christians are of all people most to be pitied. As precious as the bygone blessings of God may be, if he leaves me only with the memory of those, and not with the promise of more, I will be undone. From now to eternity will be lived by future grace, as John Piper taught this years ago in his book, “Future Grace.”
Grace be with you is God’s promise to give you what you need to keep on holding fast to Christ and his promises. This means that you will never come to a place in your pursuit of following Christ where you will say, “I’m good . . . I got it from here.”
Grace to you as you read the words of Christ, and grace be with you as you put his Word down and go about your day. Grace be with you as you deal with a sick child; with you as you await words from the doctor; with you as you go to work and face a bully employer or a temperamental co-worker; with you in your unresolved pursuit of justice; with you as you muster courage to speak up for Christ over lunch; with you as you walk alone widowed; with you in the tribulations of life; with you in your next disappointment; with you as the world stands against your hope in Christ alone; with you in your trying marriage and parenting.
Grace is the undeserved affection of Christ to awaken our need of him – without which, we would still think that we’re good enough, strong enough, wise enough – to live independent of his grace.
Therefore, believe that grace awakens your understanding of your need of grace. If you can see that God’s grace is what explains everything that is right about your life, then it’s because grace came to you first. To know how needy you are of God’s grace is evidence that God has been gracious to you. Those who are in darkness can’t see their need for light, but if you do see your need for light then someone outside of you turned the switch on – inside of you: GRACE!
Now, also believe that all your tomorrows will be sustained by grace, a promise of future grace that will be there when you get there. It’s Jesus’ way of saying, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
What if the new 2017 Fall college student was able to say to the hazing rite offered by the campus Greek Squad: “No thanks – my identity is in Christ”?
What if the latest job application was denied but still you could say in your heart, “Thank God my identity is not based upon their approval of me”?
What if your children’s rejection of your hope in Christ, though painful, did not unravel you, but you could still say, “I love my children, but my hope is not found in them but in Christ alone”?
What if a disability, a disease, a physical catastrophe, even old age are all whispering, “you’re not worth much these days” was met with “my heart and my flesh may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26)?
What if your boyfriend, or employer, or a certain other who can elevate your status wants you to have sex with him/her was found to be a cheap commodity compared to the extravagant wealth that you already have in Christ?
What if your hero is no longer heroic – yet, your eyes are still on Christ?
What if hoarding the things of this earth finally felt empty compared to the abundance of joy that is found in Christ’s love for you?
What if you could move toward whatever fear is telling you to run – simply because no matter what happens you will still have Christ – and he would be enough – no matter WHAT HAPPENS!!??
Today is Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. What if from here on out you will fight against identity-dysfunction by preaching the gospel to your heart? What if you were no longer a slave to fear, but knew your identity as a child of God? Here is a song that our worship team is learning and will lead in congregational worship soon. Enjoy!
I remember when I first heard the word ‘juxtaposition’ used in a sentence. To this day, I never use it because I think it sounds snooty. But, Sunday has become just that: a contrast of two opposites at the same time. On Sunday, I now and forever will feel sour and sweetness, hope and despair, joy and anger, ‘dream way’ and ‘dead end’ at the same time. Corporate Worship with the saints on Sunday reminds me of years and years punching the time clock with my dad. Like Sanford and Son, though many miles apart, yet, my dad and I worked side-by-side preaching the gospel, shepherding and discipling the saints, evangelizing the lost. I sorely miss my Monday reviews talking with my dad how things went on Sunday.
Each Lord’s day was like working with my dad. And now that he’s no longer working with me, I feel very alone in the shop that we once milled about. Sunday brings this out: a feeling that feels like my right arm is missing but I must raise it anyway. It’s very hard to do something when you feel like a piece of you is missing. And this brings me to saying something to you, dear reader:
When your Sunday becomes your hardest day of the week, it just might be a mixed blessing. Why? Because Christ-centered worship exposes what is broken with this world, and you need to be reminded weekly of that brokenness lest you become too infatuated with the false hope that this world offers. People who spend their Sunday sleeping in, then get up and make a late breakfast, attend a local baseball game, start eating burgers by mid afternoon, stop by the grocery store to pick up a few copies of the latest tabloid scoop at the check-out, spend 3 hours on social media getting all whacked out over politics, wrap the day up purchasing a few lottery tickets and going to sleep midway through the latest Redbox fair, NEVER feel the awful weight of their sin and the consequences of sin – death. And consequently, NEVER feel the awesome hope that is found in Christ’s forgiveness of sin and his death-defying Resurrection. Sunday is now my hardest day of the week because worship exposes the deep, deep loss that comes with living in this world.
When I hear ‘Tis So sweet to trust in Jesus’ – it now hurts because my need to trust in Jesus is more urgent than before my dad died. When we sing ‘In Christ Alone My Hope is Found’ it now hurts more deeply because I feel more deeply my need to put even more hope in Christ alone. When on Sunday morning we read together, “he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4), it is like a knife in my heart because I feel more deeply the present impact of “the former things” having lost my dad. Do not be surprised then if Sunday becomes your hardest day of the week. But there it is: you will find it your most hopeful day of the week at the same time. Why? Because what worship exposes as loss it also then offers the greatest hope: Christ really does become your all in all. Christ becomes sweeter the more you lose in this life.
So dear reader, if the losses in this life are beginning to pile up, and you feel like skipping church because it reminds you now of that loss on a deeper level, you are prime for putting even more hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Don’t let the awful pain of loss deter you from the very worship that exposes your need to put more hope in Christ. Your Joy depends on it.
It’s been a year since the Lord took my dad home. And it’s been a year since I was at this spot . . . I should not have waited so long. I’m not sure why, but it was medicine for my heart to weep, play my guitar, sit and remember dad where we buried him. For family and friends who can’t make the trip, may this short clip(s) help you also to reflect and give thanks to the Lord for the life that he gave to Bud Truman.
Two clips are provided for you because of different scenery and sound quality.
I’ve been disappointed, perplexed, and confused with God. I’ve felt abandoned by God. And I’ve been angry at God for many reasons – for the atrocities that happen to children all over the world each day, I want God to put an end to it. I’ve longed for the injustices that take place all around us to disappear: “Why do you take so long to stop the injustices”, the heart pleads. But I have never been angry at God for the injustices committed against Jesus. The one person who was and is completely innocent, I am joyfully humbled that the injustices committed against him were not intervened. Why not?
I think we know why. But my point in making this statement is for another reason. And it is this:
If I can glory in the cross where the grossest of all injustices was committed, then whatever grievances linger in my heart over the injustices of this life, I can trust God with them, that one day, all will be made clear, and God will be found Just.
“And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,
‘Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are all your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.
Revelation 15:3, 4
Putting on the armor of God is like putting on the gospel of God – you arm the mind and heart with what God has done for us in Christ – “the mystery of the gospel.” And having armed your mind with the gospel, you are prepared to take a stance against what the world, your flesh, and the devil tells you differently about life. Each piece of the armor is like a piece of the gospel that shapes our identity in Christ. Read Ephesians 6:10-20, then spend some time in prayer asking the Lord for grace to arm your heart for this week’s walk of faith.
Jesus Christ is my “belt of truth.” Therefore I reject any claim on how to live my life if it does not lead to knowing Christ more fully.
Jesus Christ is my “breastplate of righteousness.” Therefore I reject all performance-based impulses that attempt to impress a Holy God.
Jesus Christ is my “shoes for my feet.” Therefore I will gladly embrace the truth that reminds me that God is no longer angry with me; he has defeated my sin on the cross and now I stand firm in the gospel of peace.
Jesus Christ is my “shield of faith.” Therefore I reject any notion that Christ is insufficient for what it takes to persevere to the end. When I begin to doubt and linger too long around the campfires of the devil, I will move in faith to Christ, for he has prayed for me and I will return to the hard and narrow way that leads to eternal life.
Jesus Christ is my “helmet of salvation.” Therefore I reject any and all propositions that attempt to undermine my identity as “in Christ.” I will preach the gospel to my head and heart when the world calls me to assimilate my faith to its idolatry.
Jesus Christ is my “sword of the Spirit.” Therefore I will at all times take up the Word of God, praying in the Spirit, to stay alert to any scheme of the Devil that attempts to dethrone Christ in my heart. Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords! No worldly offer of personal peace and prosperity can match what I already have in Christ. No kingdom of man can over-rule the Kingdom of God. My life is not my own, for I was bought with a price and therefore I will glorify the Lord with my whole being until he returns.