Surrendered to God’s Grace

“The eyes of both of them were opened” Genesis 3:7

This is the first time any person ever felt guilt. Adam and Eve’s attempt to cover their guilt was futile. Covering for guilt and the ultimate removal of guilt would require the death of a substitute. Guilt caused them to flee God’s presence instead of coming to Him. Guilt still does this to those who are yet to be forgiven. Those who most vehemently oppose God are the one’s sensing guilt the strongest. Their sin is against God and only He can forgive their sin. To remain just, a satisfactory substitute would have to die. Adam had brought about a fundamental change in his being which must die. Only a new creation could allow him into God’s presence again.

With the guilt came conviction of sin for which Adam and Eve had no remedy but to flee God’s presence. This did nothing to diminish the conviction or remove guilt. Instead of desiring God’s presence they wanted to hide from Him. People who have believed Satan’s lie still prefer to hide from God.

We observe here that God pursued Adam and Eve until He caught up with them. He then gave them opportunity to have a change of heart which they eventually accepted. First they played the blame game. Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent but in reality they were both blaming God. This characteristic of fallen people can be readily observed in all spheres of society throughout history and is still very evident today. It is, we accuse, always someone else’s fault!

When they eventually surrendered to the grace of God, God clothed them in animal skins thus picturing the means by which they and all who choose to believe what God has said will be saved. God is still in pursuit of people but sadly most will not heed His words of love, grace and forgiveness. Don’t be among them but be among those who humbly acknowledge their sin against God, turn to face Him and receive His gift of forgiveness. Paul wrote, “The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

One who has received the gift of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ will not run away from God when they sin. Having experienced His forgiveness before, they will return to Him whenever they are aware of sin (1 John 1:9). This is a mark of one who has truly chosen to reject Satan’s lie and believe what God has said.

Eternal Life

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:3

Our concept of what is eternal life may actually fall short by a considerable margin. It is possible that we mention eternal life as a substitute word for salvation. In 1 John 5:11 we read, “God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” Our concept is that having received Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour we have also inherited eternal life. It is helpful for us to give considerable time and meditation as we read the Bible as to what that actually means. It is not synonymous with salvation or a change in our way of life but it is an integral part of salvation.

In the verse at the head of this article and reading it in the context of Jesus’ prayer to the Father for Himself, His disciples and all those who will believe in Him, we have a more clear expression of what eternal life is. It is not just about going to heaven and it is not just about being saved from sin and its consequences. It is what Paul refers to as being made alive to God (Ephesians 2:1) which means that we are now able to having a living relationship and fellowship with God.

In this prayer Jesus is not praying for our salvation. The subjects of this prayer are already forgiven and saved. He is praying that they would have the same intimate relationship with the Father as He does and with Himself also. As we read the Gospel accounts we may be inclined to be a little jealous of the disciples who saw and spoke with Jesus every day. They saw the miracles and they heard His teaching first hand. However, though He is not physically present with us, as He was with them, He is none-the-less present with us every moment of every day.

Eternal life is the experience of living with Jesus and the Father day by day. In 14:23 John records Jesus saying, “If anyone loves Me he will keep My word; and My Father will love him and make Our home with him.” This is the closest personal relationship that we can experience in this earthly life.

In the later years of his life after all the other apostles have been killed and long gone, John writes, “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).

Eternal life is a Gift in Christ, not apart from Christ, but it is not just a ticket to heaven that we keep in our pocket ready for future inspection. Eternal life is living in fellowship with Jesus Christ and the Father by the Holy Spirit here and now and forever. The potential has been ours from the moment we first believed. We now have the opportunity of nourishing it to maturity in readiness for that great day when we see Jesus face to face.

Thank the Giver

“Thus says the Lord, “You have sold yourselves for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money” Isaiah 52:3

When the Lord spoke these words through Isaiah to Jerusalem the people had turned to idolatry and away from knowledge of the Lord. This sounds much like our world today. As we consider how the Lord dealt with Israel we will gain an understanding of how He will deal with people now.

The book of Isaiah makes it clear that the Lord’s intent is to redeem Israel. By the time we get to chapter 51 the Lord is pleading with Israel to “Listen to me,” stated three times. God wants to be heard but the people were not listening. Our world is not listening to God’s word either. There are few who really want to hear what God has said.

For those who do listen there is another step. The Lord then says to Israel, also stated three times, “Awake, awake.” It is not enough to just hear what God is saying but to respond to it. As our world is today so was Israel then. People who expect utopia on earth without Christ are dreaming. Israel had tried everything to keep safe. They attempted to build their own military, they had paid tribute to other nations and they had bought mercenary armies and yet they still suffered. For all their attempts to buy freedom they had failed. The Lord says they sold themselves for nothing. Their treasuries were emptied for no gain. All attempts that people make to buy deliverance the Lord says are futile.

Many people seek forgiveness and salvation but they want to be able to boast that they achieved it by their own effort, merit and wisdom. Such is the nature of pride. Paul responds to this by writing, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the Gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

It goes against pride but forgiveness of sin and salvation are a gift from God. The Lord says through Isaiah, “You shall be redeemed without money” (52:3). Israel will be redeemed as a gift from the Lord. In this we observe the Divine Nature of God. In chapter 53 the Lord describes how He will do it. That chapter is a description of Jesus Christ at His crucifixion and resurrection. In a nutshell we have it in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Jesus Christ is the Gift. Those who receive Him are the children of God (John 1:12). Later Paul would write, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

The Lord’s plea with Israel and with all people today is to cease futile efforts to buy forgiveness and salvation with money, by acts of righteousness, by personal achievement, or religious ceremony and ritual, and simply receive forgiveness and salvation as the Gift it is in Jesus Christ. There is only one thing left for us to do. When we have received a gift, we thank the giver.

A Love Gift

“Little children, keep yourselves from idols” 1 John 5:21

This verse at the end of John’s letter refers to the newer Christians to whom he wrote. Every new child of God will benefit greatly from acquiring and maintaining a good understanding of this letter.

Ever since Cain offered the fruit of the ground (Genesis 4:3) people have been creating gods from their own imagination and often in their own likeness of character. These are idols even if they have no physical representation. This gives their creators freedom of conscience to do as they please.

This time of year our society brings out one of its gods in the person of Father Christmas. The concept is that if one does well one can expect to be rewarded. The gifts they receive are perceived to be because they deserve them. Consequently children who are taught that meaning of Christmas may have a distorted view of what it is to be Christian. The world may say that it is harmless fun but we should reflect on how a child may understand and apply the principle. It is possible that they may believe that salvation is a reward for behaviour rather than a grace gift.

God’s Gift to mankind is not offered because we deserve it. On the contrary, it is a gift of grace to people who do not deserve anything but condemnation and have done absolutely nothing to merit it. No payment is required or necessary for a gift. In fact offering to pay for a love-gift would be an insult.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our lord” (Romans 6:23)

The focus of many of the world’s children this time of year is that of receiving a reward from Father Christmas for good behaviour. In contrast Christians exchange gifts as a way of showing that we have received His unmerited Gift of love and in thankfulness desire to share that Gift with others.

The exchanging of gifts gives parents a valuable means of teaching their children the Gospel of Christ. We give out of love, not merit, because He gave out of love, not merit. We accept the Gift because it is given out of love and not merit. Security, peace and joy come from the sure knowledge that God’s Gift is an undeserved love Gift.

The Gift of God

“Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith” Romans 3:27

If obtaining God’s favor is based on our effort then those who gain acceptance would have something of which to boast. Paul makes it clear in this letter, especially the first few chapters, that there will be no boasting because acceptance is not gained in that way. He also says the same in Ephesians: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (2:8-9).

Some people believe that they will be able to mount a credible defense at the judgment but Paul says that “every mouth will be stopped.” No one will be able to defend themselves against the indictments of God. All will know they are guilty and without any defense (Romans 3:19).

The indictments of God are taken by Paul from the Old Testament and recorded in verses ten to eighteen. Alva McClain writes that there are fourteen indictments recorded here. One should take note of the words “none” and “all” in this passage. There are no exceptions. This is God’s assessment of each and every person against His measure.

When we make an assessment of ourselves we use our own idea of what is good or we may compare ourselves against other people who are esteemed by our peers. But are these valid measures?

In the last two chapters of the Bible we read that nothing that is corrupt or that defiles will enter God’s presence. God is holy, without corruption and defilement. Heaven would not be heaven if it did not match God’s purity, perfection and holiness. Jesus Christ is the measure and all judgment has been given to Him (John 5:26-27). Anything that is less than His perfection and purity cannot enter His presence.

Since the indictments taken from the Old Testament are all inclusive of mankind no one will enter God’s presence based on his own effort. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (v 23). If anyone is to enter His presence then there must be another way.

This is the reason Christians celebrate at Christmas and why we give and receive gifts. Jesus Christ is God’s gift to mankind (John 3:16) and through faith in Him (John 6:40) He gives us His righteousness as an undeserved (grace) gift. The title of this article might well have read, “The Gift that is God.” Paul’s testimony is that righteousness is a gift so that no one will be able to boast in themselves. Paul writes that we are “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (v 24).

We are glad that God does not demand that we attain purity by our own effort because it is evident that there is no way we can change what we are. That He changes what we are as a gift in Christ is cause for great joy. Our boasting is not in our own achievement but in the Gift of God and that Gift is Jesus Christ. “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).

No Debate

“Your nakedness shall be uncovered, yes, your shame will be seen; I will take vengeance, and I will not arbitrate with a man.” Isaiah 47:3

It appears that many people think that God is much like our legal system that can be moved to give puny sentences, even for fairly serious criminal offences, or even be given what amounts to a non-sentence – a “good behaviour” bond.

After being found guilty of a crime lawyers do their best to get their client off the hook so far as penalty is concerned. They may claim it is someone else’s fault or the result of unexpected circumstances. They may try and shift the blame to society, to parents, to friends or just being with the wrong crowd; anything in an attempt to reduce their client’s responsibility. An appeal that it is “out of character” is always false. We all act according to our character. An offender may come to court with an outward appeal that is unrecognisable to their friends. A new suite, neat hair and groomed in all outward appearance including body attitude and facial expression; anything that gives an appearance of righteousness is appropriated.

Anyone who thinks that God can be fooled by this hypocrisy will be bitterly disappointed. The unforgiven sinner who appears before Him will be wholly exposed as to his guilt as one naked before God. There will be no hiding behind the excuses that one may use in an earthly court and no one will be cleared by blaming the devil. He did not make them do it.

Isaiah 47:4 reminds us that God is holy and is therefore unable to allow sin in His presence. This is the basis of God’s judgment. He is holy, He is sinless and totally without corruption.

Anyone who thinks they will be able to debate or argue with God with regard to entrance into His kingdom is grievously mistaken. He says that He “will not arbitrate with a man.” Each person will have to accept responsibility for their own choices and actions. They will not be able to shift blame and they will be held accountable.

But there is good news! Christ Jesus died for our sin! Paul writes, “The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). We cannot gain eternal life or entrance into heaven by attempting to mitigate our culpability or reduce the penalty for sin. God will not arbitrate. However, we may gain eternal life and heaven as a gift but that gift is bound up in Jesus Christ. John writes, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe on His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (1:12, 13). Later John wrote, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

If we try and debate with God about our sin He will not hear or participate. He knows all there is to know and He judges with perfect justice. However if we agree with His judgment of our sin and the due penalty He pleads with us to ask Him to forgive us our sin as a gift; the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.