“For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups” (Ephesians 2:14-15, NLT).
I used to fight with my sister, my kids got into it occasionally and most people I’ve talked to have said their kids had trouble getting along, at least sometimes. Squabbling, bickering, fighting, feuding—it’s an unfortunate and at times, terrible part of life. Parents try to settle the arguments, but true peace between siblings often has to wait until they have matured and finally realize they love each other. At least we hope it comes to that.
As a father, God hurts when he sees his children fighting. But instead of wringing his hands and whining why can’t we all get along, he did something about it. He sent his son to end the system of laws and break down the walls that separate us. We’ve always been the family of humankind, but in Christ, God has created a new family. With his peace in us, we can grow to a place where we truly love each other as brothers and sisters and stop the fighting. The peace Jesus brought is not some ethereal ideal. It’s real, alive and working in the hearts of those who trust their Father to always know best. We can get along, with the grace and peace of Jesus.
“May grace (God’s unmerited favor) and spiritual peace [which means peace with God and harmony, unity, and undisturbedness] be yours from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:2, AMP).
What the world needs now is—grace and peace. I changed the words to the familiar song and yes, the world does need love, but in his letters, Paul more often prayed for grace and peace. He didn’t pray for the uneasy truces we have in some parts of the world, or the temporary order imposed by a benevolent leader, which could end with the next election.
God’s grace and peace are different from anything we know in our human experience because they come from his heart, from who he is. The Amplified Bible expands on what Paul meant, giving more life to our inadequate words. His grace is unmerited, undeserved and wholly independent of anything we can do. It’s favor which comes from the character of a being far above our way of thinking and reasoning, and our ideas of what’s just and fair. The peace emanating from God’s heart reflects the perfect harmony and unity of the Father, Son and Spirit. His three-in-one nature knows no discord. In Christ, he has given us his grace and shares his peace. Jesus, who he is and what he gives us, is what we really need.
“You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9, NLT).
Occasionally we hear about someone leaving a waitress or waiter a huge tip on a small bill. When it happens it makes the national news as it’s unusual for someone to be so generous, especially in hard economic times. Even in good times, the human tendency is to be selfish. Sharing just doesn’t come naturally.
People sometimes use the phrase “richer than God” when describing a person of tremendous wealth. But we have no idea just how rich God is. He does own everything in the universe, but his physical wealth, which means little to him, is nothing compared to the richness of his heavenly existence—Jesus was God, with all the glory that entails. Yet he was willing to give it all up to become a human being. He took on our poverty, in every sense of the word, to give us his riches. And that is the biggest tip ever.
“For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands” (2 Corinthians 5:1, NLT).
No one wants to think about dying, yet the reality and reminders of this part of life are all around us. We know it’s going to happen, but for now, we put it away in a compartment of our brains labelled “later” or “someday” and continue to believe death is only happening to others. Because no one knows exactly what happens after death, we continue to think of that stage of life as a great unknown.
Paul takes away some of the sting of death and answers one big question as he tells us we will have new bodies, made by God himself. These bodies won’t just get a makeover, plastic surgery or a few nips and tucks. They will be spiritual bodies, the same as Jesus had when he appeared to the disciples after walking out of his tomb. God, whom we already know as the great gift giver, is preparing this last, wonderful gift for his children and it will be glorious. His love truly is unending and amazing.
“For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn” (Romans 11:29, NLT).
When we were children, most of us (girls, maybe boys too) played the little game of “he loves me, he loves me not” while pulling petals off a daisy. It didn’t mean anything of course, but for some reason, we insisted on destroying an innocent flower in a quest to determine if our current love interest returned the feelings.
Some play the game with God, wondering if his affections change as easily as ours, especially if they are under the impression he keeps a Santa Claus-type list of who’s being naughty and nice. In this section of Romans, Paul is addressing the Gentiles, who seem to have pulled the last petal off the daisy, ending with “he loves me.” Their conclusion was the Jews got the “he loves me not” petal. But God doesn’t play games. His gifts and his calling (which is to all humankind) are forever and unchanging and are not affected by our our whims and fickleness. God’s daisy still has all its petals and they all say he loves us!
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23, NLT).
If you’ve spent any time in church, you’ve heard many sermons based on this verse. Even if you haven’t been in church much, you’ve probably seen it on billboards. The first part has been painted on signs and carried around at protests and at the end of parades. It’s supposed to impress on people the seriousness of sin and scare everyone into repentance. Doesn’t seem to be working too well, does it?
The second part of the verse is the good news everyone needs to know: sin is serious but Christ already took care of it and it no longer has any power over us. Life in Christ is free! It’s a gift! No strings attached, just reach out and take it. The problem is some Christians still don’t quite get it and that’s why the first seven words of the verse keep appearing on signs and in sermons. All of human experience tells us nothing is free, there are always conditions and buyer beware. Everyone: God isn’t like that! When God gives a gift, it’s totally and unequivocally unconditional. Now that would make an eye catching billboard.
“Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone” (Romans 5:18, NLT).
Relationships are the most rewarding part of life but can also be the most traumatic and painful. Some are easy to get into and easily maintained. Some take real work and can be rocky. Some go sour no matter what we do. Countless books have been written and many people earn their living giving advice on getting along with others and relating well. It seems there are no easy answers to relationship problems.
Something most people don’t realize about God is he is all about relationship. Even though God hates sin and the horrible consequences, he’s not as interested in the rules as most believe. Laws are easily broken by us and generously forgiven by him, all taken care of by the blood of Christ. Because we are forgiven in Christ, we are free from the law, free from sin and death and free to be in right relationship with him. We are free to get to know him as he wants to be known—as a loving Father who gives good gifts to his children, especially love, which helps us be in right relationship with each other too.
What a relief to see God from this perspective and to know him this way!
“True, some of them were unfaithful; but just because they were unfaithful, does that mean God will be unfaithful? Of course not! Even if everyone else is a liar, God is true” (Romans 3:3-4a, NLT).
Ah, that wonderful time of year, when you can feel the dishonesty all around and lies are zinging back and forth like rockets. I’m talking about election time of course! I’ll be glad when it’s over just to get back to our normal level of half-truths, insults and deception.
Under the best of circumstances, it’s hard to know whom we can trust. Finding an honest plumber is hard enough, let alone a car dealer or politician. That’s why this verse is so reassuring. Even if everyone else is a liar (and aren’t we all?) God can be trusted. He doesn’t lie—in fact he can’t lie and is always faithful and true. He’s the rock of truth we can hold on to through the raging and perpetual storms of lies and deceit. Don’t let go!
“I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die” (Galatians 2:21, NLT).
Grace is talked about a lot but doesn’t often make it past that stage. It seems grace is treated as something we receive at the time we accept Christ or mercies we experience as we go through life. But it’s so much more than one time forgiveness or occasional blessings. As Paul said here, Christ died because the law couldn’t make us right with God. His life and death are what brought us grace, which is the most important thing to happen ever.
As we learn more about God, who he is and how he thinks, we see his “operating system” if you will, is Grace 1.0 with no revisions necessary. God is love and grace, and for us, his love and grace can become our way of life. If we are living in harmony with God and in rhythm with his life, it will permeate everything we do and say, from the way we see ourselves and all people, our interaction with them and the way we view the future. May his grace fill our lives and may he help us live it out.
“Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish” (Joel 2:13b, NLT).
Besides a reluctance to believe God actually exists, I wonder if some are afraid of what they might discover if they do turn to God. Will they find a God seething with anger, ready to punish? Will they receive a long list of things to do and rules to obey? Will their lives become dreary, with no more fun and laughter, no more freedom? With so many misconceptions about him, and so many purporting to have a corner on the truth, it’s no wonder those unsure about God give up and go their own way.
In the same way we want to be known and loved for who we are on the inside, God wants to be known by us. He is a mystery and yet he has shown us a great deal about himself. Part of the reason Jesus came to earth as a human being was to reveal his Father; they are one and the same and there is no difference between the God we see in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New. God was and is merciful and compassionate and eager to shower his unfailing love on us. Turning to him and getting to know him isn’t a fearful thing, rather a coming home to the love, security and freedom we all desire.