Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast!
The good thing about a study in grace is that as it unfolds (and you realize with a sinking feeling how not-gracious you are) there is grace to repent and to be forgiven and to value grace all the more.
That has been my week in a nutshell.
First I was looking at the indicators of a life where grace is in place. People who have been smitten by grace…
- forgive readily, no strings attached. They remember what they’ve been forgiven.
- give cheerfully, and generously—of their time, their talents, their possessions, their very lives!
- rejoice unenvyingly when others are blessed (whether they ‘deserve’ it or not)
- love liberally with no expectation of return
- repent continually. They are more aware of their own sins than their neighbor’s.
- live humbly. Their confidence and boasting are all in Christ. They’re just glad to be included in His family!
Then, I was feeling mighty pitiful…for just a bit. Repentance was needed.
A person may try to be ‘holy’, by doing or not doing. A person can think herself righteous as compared with her neighbor… But when grace is missing it is hard to deny. And grace received is the stuff of heaven’s rejoicing! “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which [think they?] need no repentance.” Lk.15:7
Round about this point the Spirit nudged me with this song… averting my gaze from the truth about me, apart from Jesus, to the truth about me because of Jesus!
Every debt that you've ever had
Has been paid up in full by the grace of the Lord.
Be ye glad, be ye glad, be ye glad
And I found myself in Ephesians 1 relishing: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ…” (and beginning a Bible memory project!)
But lastly came the reminder that among the spiritual disciplines helpful to our growth in Christ is that of CELEBRATION. Hmphf. Not something I’m a natural at. Give me solitude, study, and silence any day over this! Give me something I can DO to be holy. But in celebration we relinquish our conscientious pre-occupation with a thousand worries and self-appointed ‘disciplines’ and prove our reliance to be on God for our salvation. It is the Sabbath principle at work (or should I say, play?)
And I realized I’d come full-circle, back to the celebration of the true Passover Lamb whose blood makes clean. He invites me to sit and eat—‘this is my Body broken for you’’ to feast on Him, to partake of His grace:“My grace is sufficient for you.”
It was as though He were saying… I did not call you because you were good. Here is my grace—rest in it. Celebrate Me. Your sin is no deterrent to grace, your weakness no shame at My Table. You will not overcome by trying harder or working smarter. Grace doesn’t come that way. You cannot even crucify yourself. Flesh cannot conquer flesh. Freedom is not something you ‘figure out’, attain by discipline, or earn by hard work. It is not by might or power that freedom will come but by yielding to My Spirit. Come, sit, eat.
All this rests in the symbolism of the Passover Lamb. On the Cross His work was finished. We derive the benefit by resting in it. We live by being forgiven…
And that has been the kaleidoscope of thoughts dazzling my mind’s eye this week—what a lead-up to Easter week it has been!
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” Jn.6:53
“May grace and peace be multiplied to YOU in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” II Pet.1:2
P.S. I must share one more song. Just can’t get enough of these lyrics. “We have a great High Priest—the perfect risen Lamb! My life is hid with Christ on high—with Christ my Saviour and my God.”
I’ve been feasting this week on the the good words of:
Roy Hession: Be Filled Now (available online here: http://www.christianissues.biz/pdf-bin/sanctification/befillednow.pdf )
J.I. Packer: God’s Words: Studies of Key Bible Themes (Baker,1992)
John Piper: Future Grace (Multnomah,1995)
I can’t resist tucking in some precious quotes below…
re:The Spirit as Comforter: (Hession: Be Filled Now)
We seem to appreciate most intensely the Spirit's ministry as Comforter, when, having become cold and out of touch with God, we try to get back to Him by 'works.' How natural it is for us to imagine that if we have got away from Him by committing sin, we shall come back to Him by doing good. And so we promise ourselves we will try harder, we set ourselves higher goals, we seek to do more for God or even to spend longer on our devotions. All these things are right, of course, but in as much as we so often do not attain those goals, we only end by burdening ourselves with additional self-reproach and an added sense of failure. We become tense in our efforts to improve, and condemned because we cannot succeed. We have come to experience what Paul did, when he said, 'The commandment, which was ordained to life (if I could attain to it), I found to be unto death (because I failed to do so),' and if we go farther along this road, we shall be in the same place of despair that he came to when he said, 'O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?' (Rom 7:10 and 24).
What a relief it is when the Holy Spirit points us, as He did Paul, away from our work to Another's work, the finished work of Christ for us on the Cross, whereby we see that the work has been done for us, the distance between us and God bridged and peace made! The Spirit bids us cease from trying to get peace by our efforts, and to come to Jesus as a sinner and rest in what He had done. As we do so, the burden of striving and self-reproach slips away from our hearts, and the Comforter whispers peace to our hearts.
(Roy Hession: Be Filled Now)
It may be asked how do we get this new sight of Jesus as and when we need it? Not by trying to get it, nor even, I suggest, by praying for it, but rather by telling God we have not got it. Let us not dissipate our energies for the time being anywhere else but in this one direction. Tell Him you are not seeing Jesus, tell Him you are in bad shape, that you are not free, that you have not peace. Tell Him you are struggling to get by your efforts what deep down you know is a gift, but that you are struggling none the less. Tell Him that today you have not this sight of Jesus, His Blood and His victory that you had yesterday. Make no effort to get it, just tell Him you have not got it. Then allow Him to show you why you do not have it. He may show you dark and unsuspected things, but say yes to Him. All this is what is meant by going to the feet of Jesus, to the foot of His Cross. Such phrases may sound like cliches to some, but they express an awesome and hallowed experience to others. It is there that the Blood of Jesus avails for you. And you will not have been long at His feet before the Holy Spirit arises with healing in His wings, and gives you to see all you need to see of Jesus, and to possess all you need to possess of His fullness.
Re:The life of grace is a life of freedom…(Packer, God’s Words)
1. "...the Christian under grace is freed from the hopeless necessity of trying to commend himself to God by perfect law-keeping. Now he lives by being forgiven, and so is free at every point in his life to fail (as inevitably he does in fact, again and again) --and, having failed, to pick himself up where he fell, to seek and find God's pardon, and to start again. Pride, our natural disposition, which is self-protective, self righteous and vainglorious, will either refuse to admit failure at all or refuse to try again, lest the trauma of failing be repeated; but the humility of the man who lives by being forgiven knows no such inhibitions....daily...his shortcomings are forgiven and his joy restored." (Packer, 106)
2.“Moreover, the Christian under grace is free from sin’s dominion…not only is righteousness (law-keeping) both possible and prescribed fro Christians, but it is also a fact that no Christian can go on sinning as before, for union with Christ has changed his nature so that now his heart (his inner man) desires righteousness as before it desired sin, and only obedience to God can satisfy his deepest inner craving. He hates the sin that he finds in himself, and gets no pleasure from lapsing into it. Such is the state of mind of the man who is reed from sin’s dominion…He knows that his freedom has ennobled him and brought hi both the desire and the strength for right living, and for this he is endlessly thankful.”(Packer,107)
3.“Finally, the Christian under grace is free from bondage to fear—fear, that is, of the unknown future, or of meeting God (as one day we all must do), or of being destroyed by hostile forces or horrific experiences of one sort or another. He knows himself to be God’s child, adopted, beloved, secure, with his inheritance awaiting him and eternal joy guaranteed. He knows that nothing can separate him from the love of God in Christ, nor dash him from His Saviour’s hand, and that nothing can happen to him which is not for his long-term good, making him more like Jesus and bringing him ultimately closer to his God.” (Packer,107)
“Relax and exult in your appointed feast. I will take responsibility for tomorrow’s obedience.” (Piper,49)