Last evening, I had dinner with friends and the conversation eventually rolled around to childhood memories. Some memories were sad, some embarrassing, and others made us laugh. On the short walk home from our friend’s home I began to think about what our lives could have been like without an encounter with Jesus. Where would we have ended up? What would our lives have been like? Probably none of us would be friends and maybe not even met. And yet there we were sharing a wonderful Easter meal and strengthening our friendships. I know my life is richer for having these friends along with the many other friends we have made over the years since Ruth and I became Christians.
None of us reading this post have had a Damascus road experience like the Apostle Paul, but somewhere along the line most of us have experienced God in such a way that our lives have changed in significant ways. Later last night, lying in bed, I couldn’t stop thinking about the love of God that plucks us out of the fire of self-destruction and indifference and leads us to eternal life.
In the opening verses of Galatians, one of the most important documents written in history, Paul wrote,
3 “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,
4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,
5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Galatians 1:3-5
Grace and peace sum up the Gospel. God’s grace is what led Jesus to Calvary and made the words, “who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age,” possible. And every one of us reading this post who has experienced the wonder of God’s saving grace knows exactly what Paul is talking about.
For Ruth and I it was listening to a preacher who couldn’t stop smiling. It wasn’t anything he said that lit up my heart but it was the joy he portrayed. I leaned over to Ruth and whispered in her ear, “if I could be as happy as that man I would be a Christian.” Half an hour later we were kneeling in the sawdust at the front of the stage giving our lives to Christ. I was twenty-four and a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since that day and I have forgotten scores of events in my life that must have seemed important at the time but are gone from my memory now—but that day we gave our hearts to Jesus is still as clear as a bell.
Paul tells us in those opening verses that Jesus came on a rescue mission to save us out of this present evil age. Think about that for a moment and let the power of his statement sink deep into our soul. Jesus died to rescue you from sadness, pain, loss, hurt, loneliness, misery, suffering, cruelty, and separation. He hung on the cross, Easter Sunday, to say, “I love you and give myself, “for your sins,” so we can be one again.
None of us deserve salvation and most certainly none of us have earned it. In fact, if we were honest with ourselves we would have to admit that there is nothing about us that is really worth saving. This is why Christians have good self-esteem. It is because we know where we have come from and what we were when left on our own. But as Christians we have been rescued and been declared to be sons and daughters of God adopted into His family through faith in the saving grace provided through the love and sacrifice of Jesus, God’s own Son.
Yes, we can be embarrassed and ashamed of the dumb things we did in our past but even more so we can rejoice in who we have become through the grace of God. When Paul wrote grace and peace to the Galatians he was much more than offering them a polite and trite introduction to his letter. He was pouring out to them the blessings of heaven. In grace He offered, as we have already stated, the free gift of eternal life and in the word peace he presented the assurance of that grace.
Peace has the meaning to live well with assurance. In the book of Acts we read, “You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.” (10:36) The gospel is grace and the peace that flows from grace into the heart of a Christian. Jesus’ redemptive act is appropriated through the working of the Holy Spirit into our heart to assure us that we have peace with God and the irrevocable promise of salvation in Christ alone.
It does us all good to think, from time-to-time, about from where God has brought us so that we can better rejoice in what He has done in our lives. As a Christian you are destined for eternal life—a life made new. Yes, we may continue to live in this “present evil age” physically, but through Christ we have already been redeemed out of it and are children of the Kingdom of God. This earth is no longer our home, we are but strangers passing through on our way to Zion.
Martin Luther encountered the grace and peace of God and the Reformation began. John Wesley encountered God and saved England from the fate of the French Revolution. John Carey found the grace and peace of God and carried the gospel into the heart of India. You and I have also received that grace and peace through faith and God’s touch to our heart is every bit as powerful and assuring and loving as it was to Luther, Wesley, and Carey. Jesus love pulled us out of the darkness of sin and set our hearts alight by the Spirit of His love.
That is something to celebrate and rejoice in all the days of our lives!