Grace

Transforming Grace (Colossians 1:1-2)

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Today we start our journey through the book of Colossians. There will be times when the reading for the day will only be just a few verses. I urge you in these days, to grow in reading & meditating on Scripture. I urge you to read, read again, to ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you (from even the smallest section), to wait and to listen to the Holy Spirit for revelation about God, about faith or about the implications of our faith in Jesus for our lives. Bless you.


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Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. (Colossians 1:1-2)

‘Paul’

Here in this greeting for the letter, I see a person with a name. Scripture is full of real people, individuals who were rescued by God, with real personal stories to tell, just like you and I. More than that, this letter is written by an unlikely person!

His name was changed, he used to be ‘Saul – the persecutor of believers in Jesus’ but had been renamed by God and became ‘Paul – the anointed preacher, discipler and church planter’. His name used to be feared by believers and yet God had transformed him so that now he was one of the leaders of the early church across the known world. God is in the business of changing people!

How have you been transformed by faith in God?
What change is there that’s still needed in your life?
Is there someone you’ve been praying for that really needs big change?

Remember that change, total transformation is what God does, so be encouraged and call out again to God for your life or the life of someone else.

‘Paul, an apostle’

Paul identifies himself as ‘Paul, an apostle’ (vs1) – what does this mean? At its most basic level it simply means ‘sent one’ or ambassador! Although the term means other more specific things in Scripture just for today I want you to see that this man Paul who did such amazing things for God is no different in one sense to you and I. We too like him are ‘sent ones’ sent by God into our 24/7 lives as God’s agents, God’s ambassadors.

What would change in your life if this truth were more front & centre for you?
Whom has God sent you to?
What are you doing about it?

‘Grace to you and peace from God our Father’

All Christ followers are united in their experience of the grace of God. God saved us not by our own merit but by His grace and God continues then to pour out into our lives after salvation His unmerited favour and blessing.

God’s grace is the very air we breath every day as believers in Jesus and grace not legalistic striving leads to us being at peace with God who has become our Father in heaven. We could never be at peace with God through our own effort, but because of God’s grace we have been reconciled to right relationship with our maker our heavenly Father and so we are a blessed people.

We start the journey with Jesus by grace and grace is what we need everyday to stay on the journey. As the great hymn from 1779 declares;

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun. (John Newton)

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Patient Forbearing Gracious Faithful God & Unfaithful People (Nehemiah 9)

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This incredible chapter of Scripture looks back on the story of God’s people from the time of Abraham to the present time of Nehemiah and the story is a remarkable one!

Read through the chapter and make note of every reference to God, every thing that describes who God is, what God is like & what God has done for His people…

What emerges is a powerfully clear incredible portrait of our great God!

Now go back through the chapter and look for every reference to God’s people and make not of how they/we are described…

They were and we too are a weak, disobedient people!

God is so patient with me and with you.  God is so faithful and gracious and loving inspite of what we are like.  Thank Him and praise Him!

Jesus’ Identity & Purpose (John 18:38-19:27)

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Jesus’ trial before Pilate oozes truth about Jesus’ true identity and His purpose on the earth.

“I find no guilt in him” (18:38) – Pilate said.

And yet, he released the real criminal, the sinner.

And so Barabbas walked free, a fore-runner of you and me!

Yet the innocent One was condemned – all of our gospel story.

Pilate had Jesus flogged by soldiers, they mocked Jesus mercilessly.

Jesus was silent just as had been prophesied (Isaiah 53:7)

Pilate then repeated same verdict two more times; “I find no guilt in him”! (vs4&6)

Dripping with irony, Jesus is accused of claiming to be exactly who He was – God! (vs7)

Pilate then questions Jesus again and lectures Jesus on authority!

Jesus replies; “You would have no authority over me unless it had been given to you from above.” (vs11)

Pilate shivers in his boots & tries to release Jesus again having found nothing wrong with Him, but the Jews revolt…

Pilate pronounces the truth about Jesus to those present, “Behold your King!” (vs14)

But Jesus is rejected by the Jews again, they don’t want Him as king they want him dead.

Pilate re-checks with those present, proclaiming truth as he does; “Shall I crucify your King?” (vs15)

Blasphemously they cry out; “We have no king but Caesar!” (vs15)

And so Jesus was condemned to die by crucifixion.

Pilate, God’s agent in the moment states the truth again as he inscribes on the cross; “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (vs19)

The Jewish officials try to get Pilate to change the wording to soften it’s meaning

Pilate would not budge; “What I have written, I have written.” (vs22)

Jesus, King of all kings, came to die in our place for our sin, the Lamb of God, the suffering servant, He the sinless One was bound so we could be freed, He was crushed for our iniquities and the punishment that God put on Him paid the way for us to be forgiven, His death and resurrection gave you and me life!  Behold your King!

Sleep well (John 10:27-29)

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0-7 deys baby. New born baby.
Sleeping is a vulnerable necessity. Our bodies need sleep. Sleep is restorative and so essential both in terms of physical and mental wellbeing. And yet sleep is a vulnerable state, one is unaware and unable to protect oneself.

Worry is one of the main enemies of good sleep and so the more one has to worry about the more allusive good sleep is.

People worry about all sorts of things. Some people worry about their salvation, they have believed in Jesus and although Romans 10:9-10 is clear that those who have believed in Jesus ‘will be saved.’ And yet they worry, which just reveals that their trust is focused in the wrong place and on the wrong person.

You and I were not good enough to be saved and we are not good enough to stay saved either! We are saved and justified by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.

Yes, there are a number of hard to understand passages that definitely serve as warnings to us, warning us to ‘remain faithful’ to keep our hearts soft and open to God’s words to us, urging us to persevere to the end…

And yet, we need not worry!

Because if you have put your faith in Jesus, if you have asked Jesus to forgive you of your sin, you are justified (declared righteous) on the basis of Jesus’ finished work on the cross, you are adopted as God’s child, you have the Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing your inheritance to come…

In addition to this, you and I who have believed in Jesus have words like these from Jesus Himself;

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29)

I love this! Jesus gives eternal life, we don’t earn it through our good behaviour. We will not perish because Jesus has given us eternal life. No one can ever snatch us from Jesus’ hand because it is Jesus’ hand, the same hand that holds the universe in the span of His hand! More than that, you and I who have believed are God’s gift to Jesus and no one is greater than God and so no one is able to snatch us from God’s mighty hand!

Sleep well my friend if you have believed in Jesus.

Live your whole life as a passionate, grateful, worshipful response to God’s grace (Romans 12:1-2), live a life that is worthy of the calling (the grace) you have received (Ephesians 4:1) but sleep well! Jesus has got you, the Father has got you! Sleep well.

Gospel Glimpses (Mark 15)

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Justification (vs3-5)

Jesus didn’t justify Himself, didn’t defend himself against His accusers, would’t speak in his own defence to Pilate’s amazement.  Why?  Jesus would not justify or defend Himself, in order that He could justify and defend from the accuser, those who trust in Him.

Substitution (vs6-15)

Jesus the sinless One was mocked, whipped, beaten and ultimately crucified in our place for our sin, while the sinner (Barabbas) walked free!  The One deserving of only praise substituted Himself and took the punishment that was only ours to bear.

Jesus saved us by not saving Himself (vs29-32)

Jesus was taunted; “save yourself!”  People thought Jesus’ death was a sign of Jesus’ lack of power, thought it was a moment of Jesus’ defeat and yet it was Jesus’ power and strength, His power of the will that kept Him there not a lack of power.  Jesus could have at any moment called upon a host of angels to save Himself from the cross and the mocking.  But Jesus endured the cross scorning its shame for the joy of what lay ahead if He did (Hebrews 12:2) – the joy of redeeming us and restoring us to a right relationship with Him.  Jesus didn’t save Himself so that He could save you and me.

Forsaken so we could be adopted (vs33-34)

In what I believe must be the most chilling, shocked words in all of Scripture, Jesus cries out to the Father; “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Jesus was forsaken, abandoned in that moment by the Father & the Spirit as the sin of the whole world rested on Him, so that those who put their trust in Him would never be forsaken by the Father ever.  Jesus was forsaken so that we who trust in Him could be adopted and would belong to the Father forever.

Access granted (vs37-39)

Jesus endured all of this, so that the way to God could be opened up forever.  Nothing remains between God and those Jesus has forgiven.  We are sons and daughters of the most High God, we belong in His presence, we have access, we have His heart and His attention.  We have no need of a sacrifice system or a priesthood, we have benefitted from the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus and we have one mediator between ourselves and God – Jesus Christ.

Praise Jesus!  There is no one like you Jesus.  None can compare.  Thank you for salvation, thank you for bearing everything that should have been ours and for giving us what we did not deserve.

Paradoxical (Mark 2:1-28)

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I want to be more and more like Jesus.  Don’t you?

One of the things about Jesus that has always amazed me is that as the Holy, spotless, sinless One in whom there was not even a fibre of sinful compromise, was a total sinner magnet!

Sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, outcasts were drawn to Jesus, they wanted proximity with Him.  You’d have thought that they would have felt estranged by him, uncomfortable around Jesus because of His spotlessness.  But they weren’t…

Now we know that Jesus didn’t lower His standards or dabble a little with compromise to fit in with them.  He was sinless and spotless and yet somehow, paradoxically, messed up people who’s lives didn’t match up to God’s holy standard – were drawn to Him.

John’s gospel records vividly that Jesus came ‘full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14).  I love that description of Jesus.  Jesus didn’t come either with grace or truth.  Jesus didn’t come sometimes with grace and sometimes with truth to varying degrees oscillating between them.  No,  Jesus came full of both grace and truth.

And yet I think, there is an order there that matters.  I believe if we encounter people with truth first, then sometimes we will never get the grace as they will have run away already as they weren’t ready for what we showed them or told them.  If people encounter gracious acceptance, humility and gentleness then they are way more likely to listen to the truth.

Is this how ‘sinners’ were drawn to Jesus?  He was so gracious with everyone and yet never compromised on the truth about what needed to change in their lives?

May we as Christ Followers and as His church be like Jesus!  May sinners find our churches safe places, places where they are included because of their infinite value as image bearers of the most High God, may they feel drawn into close proximity quickly,  and yet may that be loved enough to have truth shared lovingly with them too.

May we as Christ Followers and as His church grasp this paradox that to be holy is not to be removed from sinful people, but to be more and more like Jesus, to have His heartbeat in us.  May we grasp that God’s will for us is that we be in close proximity with lost people so that we can be used by God to share the good news about Jesus with them.  May we grow more and more in our love for those whom Jesus came to call (vs17) to repentance, knowing always that they are like us and we are like them, but for the grace of God.

Prayer:  Who are you praying for, who does not yet know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour?  Pray for them now to come to know and love Jesus and do anything the Holy Spirit leads you to do to reach out to them.

The Cup

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One of the most moving stories for me is when Jesus was about to be arrested in the garden of Gethsemane. This account takes me apart every single time and it changes the way I worship.

Jesus knew that the time was coming for him to be arrested. He takes himself to a quiet place to pray and asks his disciples to pray and keep watch with him, but they kept falling asleep. I imagine in Jesus’ distress, he had never felt more alone.

It says in the Bible that Jesus was so overwhelmed by sorrow that he was at the point of death. Have you ever been so overwhelmed in distress and sadness that you felt like this?

Matthew 26:39 He prays to his Father three times saying;

“My father. If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.

Yet

not as I will, but as you will”.

The desperation in Christ’s voice can be heard and felt through these pages.

And God does not respond.

Why?

I imagine that God was in so much pain as He watched His son in the garden that He couldn’t muster up the strength to answer; “No, my son. It has to be this way. I cannot let this cup pass from you”.

And so He turned his face away instead.

God needed Christ to drink the full cup of death so that WE could be reconciled to Him.

Jesus must have felt so incredibly alone that night. The dread he must have experienced as he waited for his betrayer to come for him. The distress he must have felt at having his friends fall asleep while he struggled alone through anxiety. The ache he must have felt when he cried out to his dad three times, “please, if there is any way please, take this cup from me” and got no response. This must have been a terrifying place to be.

We can see the sacrifice that both God and Christ made that night. God said it has to be this way – death. And Christ, having understood that the cup could not be taken away, took it with both hands and drank it. All of it.

He could have changed his mind and had angels surround him immediately to defend him, yet he says; “how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen this way?”

When I read this story, I feel a mix of incredible emotions. I feel so sad that I could cry. And I do. I feel like I can’t actually talk to God. I did this. I am the reason God had to have His son drink this cup.

But I also feel an easy garment of grace put upon my shoulders.

What a huge sacrifice was made for me.

The most touching of all is when Judas came to betray Jesus, Jesus quietly says to him;

“Friend, do what you came for”.

In this moment, Jesus calls his betrayer friend. He still views Judas as a friend and has no bitterness towards him. Judas is still accepted and loved even in this very moment.

This tells me there is peace between God and I.

Christ still sees me as friend.

By Samantha Schreiner