Grace to You and Peace
How do we connect personally, emotionally, spiritually, passionately, faithfully and fully that, in accordance with the word and will of God, we are, through faith in Christ, slaves of Christ Jesus, called to mission, and separated for the gospel? How can we really experience the reality Paul describes for us in the day to day lives we live?
First, we must, by faith through the work of God’s Holy Spirit, embrace the conviction that we are genuinely, authentically loved by God. I say “through the Holy Spirit” because that is the work of the Spirit according to the word of God. Paul reveals in Romans 5:5 that it is the Holy Spirit through Whom the love of God arrives in the heart of the believer:
Romans 5:5 (ESV) 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
God pours His love like High Falls in the spring into the hearts of His people, and He does this work through the Holy Spirit. So, first, we must by faith embrace the fact that God loves us actively and wonderfully not because of any merit on our part, but because of Who He is and how He is.
(I keep reiterating the need for faith because the word tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” Many folks today wonder why their lives fall so far short of what they’ve heard about in the Bible. Many unbelievers point to the failure of God to do stuff in their lives according to what they perceive He says in His word. One reason for that deficiency is lack of real faith. We probably need to take up the nature and role of faith in another post sometime!)
The second clue we get as to how we can connect personally and powerfully with this identity as doulos, kletos, and aphoridzo comes from the final words of Paul’s greeting, a pronouncement of spiritual blessing upon His readers:
Romans 1:7 (ESV) To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Having embraced from the heart that we are loved, let us also affirm, without fear or shame and with wonder and awe, that there are always spiritual blessings awaiting us and that we are never so without need that God’s blessings are extraneous. A consequence of life in the midst of a ridiculously affluent culture can be the development of a pragmatic mindset characterized by the absence of a sense of need, except in crisis.We can become so convinced we have all we need that we no longer look to God for His provision of Himself except when we undergo personal crises. Just like the church in Laodicea, our wealth can make us oblivious to our need.
Jesus, writing to the seven churches of Asia in the opening chapters of Revelation pulls back the curtain of confusion on the Laodicean church and shows them their inner reality:
Revelation 3:17 (ESV) For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
At the very least, Jesus means for them to understand that despite their perceptions of themselves and their life situation, they still have real needs that only God can meet. And so it is with us and every Christian of all time in every place. No matter how well provided for we are in this world, there remains within us a need for God Himself that can never be satisfied with “stuff.”
That’s what makes Paul use of a common greeting personally important to us. Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ are not simply spiritual commodities God hands out when He’s in a good mood or there’s an inventory overstock in the heavenly warehouse. Grace and peace are attributes of God Himself. They are His essential character. They are the substance of His being. God is not offering us spiritual goods, He is offering us Himself and we are never without need of Him. It is in Him, in Christ, that we live and move and have our being!
We have not yet attained that level of perfection in either our “doing” or our “being” that we are without need for the indwelling, surrounding, sustaining, supporting, providing, directing, guiding, life-giving, heart-molding, mind-changing, spirit-maturing, grace-giving, peace-providing God! Today, this very moment, you need the satisfying grace and peace of God. I need Him. You need Him. And what saved and redeemed heart would not erupt with praise and thanksgiving knowing that He Who sits enthroned in the heavens condescends in love to bestow upon His beloved, for His glory, all that we need, even in those moments when we lose sight of just how much we need Him!
How do we realize in our own personal experience the realities Paul describes in Romans 1:1-7? We start by embracing God’s love for us. We continue by affirming and accepting God’s necessary provision of Himself for us. Take by faith what God offers. Receive grace. Accept peace. Embrace love. Open your heart and life and mind and soul to the real presence and power of God Himself. Put your faith in Him and let Him put Himself in you!