Grace

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.

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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

The Problem with Law and Bacon

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Growing up and finding my footing with God, I often struggled with how to not live under law. I struggled merging the Old Testament rules with the New Testament and frequently found myself in debates around this.

Paul says in Galatians 5:3-4 “again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace” (my emphasis).

Two things stand out here for me; Grace is one. Law is the other.

I feel the message in this verse is “it’s all or nothing”.

However, choosing sides has been made easy for us; we were never actually meant to live according to law! Romans 3:20 “therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin”.

My thoughts and debates around law often took the following shape:

“Tattoos are wrong because it says in Leviticus 19:28 ‘do not cut your bodies for the dead, or put tattoo marks on yourself””. Now, this isn’t an argument about tattoos, rather, it’s an argument that I have found us picking and choosing what parts of the Bible we want to live by. If we are going to go with the law about tattoos being wrong, then we need to go with all the others too (just like Paul says); and some of them are:

  • you can’t plant your fields with two different seeds
  • you can’t wear clothing woven of two different materials
  • you can’t cut your hair or shave your beard
  • you can’t sit near a woman who is menstruating

but worst of all, no bacon for you.

Unfortunately, we cannot pick which parts of the Bible we want to live by and which we don’t. But praise God that He sent Jesus to die, and in so doing, did away with law which means we can now freely eat bacon!!

We no longer need to strive to ensure we’re living up to a list of rules to satisfy God. He is satisfied with us because he is satisfied with Christ (Timothy Lane). If anything, the law was set up to show us just how sinful and flawed we are and how we would never actually succeed in obeying all the rules. Obedience to the law in its entirety was destined to fail.

However, with the law being done away with, this still does not mean we can live however we want. There is still a standard expected from us which Paul goes on to describe; “…live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature…if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law”.

What we are expected to put aside are things like sexual immorality, idolarty, hatred, jealousy and selfish ambition.

Again, we must remember that this is not a new law-list to abide by. There is grace to make mistakes but our love for God drives us to not make the same mistakes over and over again. It is a daily renewing of the heart and mind where the Holy Spirit shapes and forms us, making us more and more like Him every day.

One of my favourite verses is 1 Corinthians 10:23; “Everything is permissible – but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible – but not everything is constructive”.

I love that I serve a God who allows me the freedom to make my own choices on a day to day basis, along with His Spirit as I figure out how I should or shouldn’t be living. There is no longer a list of rules to obey – I have the freedom to do what I want. But the precious thing is that I hold in my heart the Spirit – my helper, guiding me as I learn to understand what God wants for me; which choices are beneficial and constructive to me living a pure and righteous life.

Forget about law and rules. Shake it off you. Leave it behind you. Live in the Spirit and learn His voice. Walk closely with Him and you will not wander where He doesn’t want you.

By Samantha Schreiner