Grace takes you from where you are to where God wants you to be. It is a truth that comes afresh to you this day, in grace that is new as you continue to study the word that comes to you through the apostle Peter that declares, He who would love life to see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil, and his tongue from speaking deceit; Let him turn from evil and do what is good; let him seek peace and pursue it. [1 Peter 3:10,11] The peace that is addressed here is the wholeness in a person; and it has become a very rare commodity these days in the life of many people. But, when you are His child, God wants you to experience peace, for the glory of His Name, and the Holy Spirit enables you in the pursuit of it.
How does it happen in your life ?
The psalmist describes it in terms of the man who is planted by streams of living water, and Lord Jesus talks about the man out of whose inner being flow rivers of living water. It all points to the Holy Spirit being the source of it all, as the enabling power. The Messiah Himself in His life displayed it. He was led into the wilderness by the Spirit, and there He went through every suffering and testing to overcome the temptation of the devil and it saw Him coming out in the Spirit’s power. And therefore this day, you and I can boldly enter into the presence of God, to find help and grace in our time of suffering and need, to overcome trials and temptations that the evil one brings in our walk of faith. In his letter to the Romans, in the word of God, Paul enunciates the connection between the Holy Spirit and peace, step by step, and it is a truth that you can appropriate as you apply it in your life, to make peace your experience.
The mind set on the Spirit is peace :
For to set your mind on the flesh is death, for to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. [Romans 8:6] And, ‘My peace I give unto you’, are the Savior’s words. It is not something that is impersonal. It is the person of Jesus Christ, who Himself is your peace, and who has given you His peace. Your mind needs to be governed by it, a process that happens by studying and meditating upon the word of God, continually. The word of God is medicine for all your flesh, are the words of Solomon. [Proverbs 4:22] And the light of the New Testament, reveals that the word of God is the person, Jesus Christ, as it declares , For, in the beginning was the word; the word was with God, the word was God. And, the word became flesh to dwell amongst us. [John 1:1,14]Thus, the word of God in your hand is not about mere black letters in white paper. The personhood of Jesus Christ that shines through it can make your life colorful !
God’s word declares that you are healed by His Stripes. And the Holy Spirit enables you to appropriate the truth of what has been accomplished on the Cross of Calvary, to apply it in your life. But, if you do not know the truth of what has been accomplished for you already, through the finished work of the Cross, peace will be very far away in your life. Thus it is not the solution that is the problem, when it comes to experiencing peace in your life. Rather, it is your attitude towards it. For, if you choose to do it your way, depending on your own self effort, you also have to pay the price for it. In the natural realm the danger of it can be seen very easily, for self medication can find a person ending up in a hospital which is the last resort for people who are very critically ill. But, Christ needs to be your first resort and not your last. And, it all goes back to what He has already accomplished, when the punishment that bought your peace was laid upon Him, the sinless Lamb of God. It is the reason why the apostle Paul is able to declare with confidence, And now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. [Romans 8:1]
From wretchedness to blessedness :
It was the transformation that took place within Paul, for even in the chapter prior to it, he describes the torment and frustration within him. It is one that anyone who has not experienced the saving grace of God, or is not walking in the truth of it would attest to, ‘Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death ?’ [Romans 7:24] The words can ring an emphatic chord within you, for pre–salvation you had a problem, and no solution to it. But, post salvation, you may have a problem, but you will also have the power to overcome it, through the empowering grace of God. It is why even in the very next verse Paul is able to give thanks unto the Lord Jesus Christ who gives him the victory.
For, as a Christian, do you have problems ?
Yes, you do, and often with greater intensity than before, for you are now out of darkness, and in God’s marvelous light. And therefore, the one whom you considered to be your friend until then is now your greatest enemy ! And, it is now that you realize how foolish you were to put your trust in such an evil entity, as the evil one ! But, he may fight you tooth and nail now, in cunningness and deception, but you will have the power to overcome it all in the power of the Spirit, for He who is in you is greater ! The evil one could be determined to pull you down, but will not succeed, for God is determined to pull you up.
And, it was what transformed Paul from being a wretched man, to be a blessed child of God. It is the truth that he majestically proclaims, even as he somberly warns the Galatians, the people who had tasted the saving grace of God to be born again, and enter into the kingdom of God. It is that they ought to be careful not to drift back into the darkness of slavery, the bondage of sin from which they had now been set free. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. [Galatians 5:1] And, what can sustain the positive change in you is when it is an inner transformation by the Spirit of God dwelling in you, one that is not merely an outward behavioral change. A pig remains a pig, however much you try to beautify it on the outside ! And, ‘a dog returning to its vomit’, is how the word of God very bluntly describes the condition of the person who reverts back to the problem, from which he has come out. For, in fact, his condition could now be a lot worse than what it was in his earlier spell of bondage. It is the gospel that gets a person out of his problem, and also helps him to stay out of it.
Your behavior, may be impeccable in church, but the real ‘you’, is who you are when you are on your own, thinking that nobody is watching you. It is the person who stands before the mirror making funny faces at himself, and not the smart gentleman who poses before the camera with a professional smile ! And, it is in the reality of your inner being that God’s transforming work begins. Salvation happens in a moment, when you receive Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior. It is when Christ is enthroned in your heart, and your ‘self’ is displaced. But it is then that God begins His work of sanctification in you, transforming you from the inside out, to become more and more like Christ, the One whose Spirit now dwells in you, sealing you for the courts above. And, sanctification is a process that goes on all through your life, until you see the Lord face to face, to dwell with Him forever, in the mansion prepared by Him for you. To put it all in very simple terms, one which no one can possibly misunderstand, a wedding is when a person says, ‘I do’. It is a single day of a person’s life; but marriage is a life long journey, a yoking together ! And, in a lighter vein it has been said that, there are some disciplines in life, which only marriage can teach ! A bachelor, of course, may view it all quite differently !
GRACE gives FAITH responds :
It is how God’s transforming work in you comes about. And it all begins with the Cross. For, you can end up being a wretched person if you do not know how to appropriate the blessing that Christ has made available on the Cross, where His Blood ran red, and your sin washed white. And, all the promises of God are ‘yes’ and ‘Amen’, in Christ Jesus. What Christ has done, takes precedence over what you need to do in response. And, it is grace that gives, while faith responds. For, if He does no stretch forth His hand to give, you stretching forth your hand to receive would be a fruitless act. A beggar by the roadside could stretch forth his hand in expectation, to ask for alms, not knowing whether he would receive something from those passing by. But, it is a totally different scenario when it comes to God.
Everything begins with Him; He stretches forth His Hand to give, and you receive in a grateful response of faith. It is He who loved you first, that you may love Him in response. You did not choose Him; rather it was He who chose you that you may bear fruit that will last. It all starts with God. And, flowing from this is the fact that your promise starts with God, and not your problem, for with Him there is no problem ! Thus, your blessedness too starts with God, and it is by knowing this truth that you are set free. And, as the word ‘knowing’ implies, it is a present continuous life long process. It certainly does not happen in a day ! And, discarding wretchedness, to move into a place of blessedness, and experience the peace that God has made available for you, in Christ Jesus, involves dealing with condemnation to remove any vestige of it in you. Condemnation can creep in to envelop the entire being of a person through three factors. They are the three ‘g’s you could say, of guilt, grief and grudge. And, it is what Paul addresses, as he presents the truth of there being no condemnation now, for those who are in Christ Jesus. [Romans 8:1]
Condemnation – a. the GUILT factor :
In the first verse of the chapter, [Romans 8:1] Paul establishes the truth of there being no condemnation in your life, now, in the sense that, there is no longer the need for you to go through the penalty for your sins, or the penal servitude, and all because, Christ has paid for it fully on the Cross. In the days gone by, it used to be said that, a person who does not have the money to pay for what he has eaten at a restaurant, would be made to work for it in hard labor, by grinding flour in the kitchen ! A kind of localized prison term, maybe ! But, it all pales in comparison to what the Lord has paid for, the punishment that He endured willingly, as the sins of the whole world was laid upon Him. And, He who knew no sin, became sin on the Cross, paid the penalty for the sins of the whole world, and also subdued the power of sin on the Cross of Calvary. And, it is this knowledge of this truth that can remove all guilt in you so that you can experience peace within you. For, otherwise, peace will be very far away in your life, to remain a distant dream that never comes to pass.
Christ has paid the bill, and therefore, you need no longer stay in prison, in the land of guilt and shame. And, if your inner being, your very soul, has been cleansed of all wrong doing and sin, and made whole by the Blood that was shed on Calvary, how much more your physical body, which is just the outer shell of your being ! And, it is why you can declare and confess the healing of your body, and peace within you, saying, ‘By His Stripes I am healed’. It is all because Christ has paid the penalty for your sins, and now, there is no condemnation when you are in Christ Jesus. Therefore, not just in church on a Sunday, but every day of your life, wherever you may be, you can stand guilt free, and not under condemnation, and in the knowledge that in Christ Jesus, your very body is now the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty and freedom, and your worship can continue in you, even when you are on your own, for where the Lord is lifted up, He draws all people unto Himself, is the promise of God’s word. Dealing with condemnation that comes from guilt is important, because you and I are all guilty of some wrong doing or the other, at some time or the other. And, when guilt is not dealt with in the right manner by turning and coming clean with the Lord, persisting in it will lead you to a place of shame. It is when you begin to think that it is not the wrong thing that you have done, but that you yourself are wrong ! And, the devil will then step in to whisper in your ear that you are of no use to any one, and you cannot get anything right, and therefore, what is the point in living ? It is a very dangerous place to be; one that is at the brink of irretrievable disaster, much like the young woman with three young children, who tried to end her life, and when asked the reason for it replied that she thought her children would be better off without her !
Dealing with guilt and condemnation in your own way can lead a person into a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death. But turning to Jesus, you will hear Him say, ‘I am the Way, the Truth and Life’, and in Him there is no condemnation. And, spiritually it could lead to twisted logic. It could be like a man who thinks he cannot do anything right, not reading the word of God, thinking he would only end up misunderstanding it and doing something very wrong ! Twisted logic, which to him is straight as straight can be. He thinks he could go the wrong way, when Christ stands saying, ‘I am the Way ; and He who comes to Me, I will in no way turn away or reject’. Certainly, there is no condemnation in Him.
Judas – the classic example ! :
Pierced by guilt and remorse, Judas went to the wrong people, the religious leaders of the day, who shrugged their shoulders to say it was not their problem. And even now, it is the typical solution that the world would say to you, after a certain point, when you turn to them. But when you go to Jesus, he would say to you in love, ‘I have dealt with it all, and I have no problem’. Judas hanged himself, in guilt that was dealt with wrongly. But, all you need to do is to hand over your problem to God, trusting in the Savior who can move your mountains, for He is mighty to save you. He knew that he had betrayed innocent Blood; but in his knowledge that was limited, Judas did not know that that very same Blood was the propitiation for his sins, and had the power to cleanse anyone who comes in repentance and faith, of all unrighteousness. And therefore, his life did not have a good ending. Guilt dealt with wrongly, can lead to condemnation. And, so can grief, when not handled rightly.
Condemnation – b. the GRIEF factor :
Every person experiences this in life; and it is not limited to the context of physical bereavement of a loved alone. For, the psalmist in psalm 119, talks about the pain of betrayal being like bereavement of the soul. And, one can easily relate to it, for when a person you trusted and counted upon betrays you, it is as if the person you thought you knew until then is no more; and instead there is someone else living inside the same shell ! And, the grief that comes in you in a time of physical bereavement is always there in a person’s life. But it will not lead you to condemnation, when a right and godly perspective of it is there in you. For, we do not grieve as unbelievers do. It is what the apostle Paul makes clear in his letter to the Thessalonians, as he points out the need to encourage ourselves with the truth of the Risen Lord, that enables us to have hope in Christ concerning love ones who have fallen asleep in Him. [1 Thessalonians 4:13-18]
Grief can lead to condemnation when a sorrowing person hears words of discouragement. What happened in the life of Jacob is a lesson, on how sin that is in essence selfishness, can over ride all sentiments. For, to camouflage their act towards Joseph, his brothers went to a great length to make it appear as if he was dead, in order to explain his absence to their father. The cold blooded act of Joseph’s brothers only displays what sin can do to a person; and the root of sin is unbelief. For, when you do not believe and trust in God’s ways, you will try to do it in your own way, and that inevitably would be a quick way to hell.
The other side – Joseph was alive ! :
Jacob could not be comforted; but there was a glorious other side to it. For, Joseph was alive, and one day Jacob would rejoice on seeing the face of his beloved son. What he had never dreamt of had happened in the life of Jacob ! [Genesis chapter 37 – chapter 46] It is the assurance of joy, in the midst of grief, that you and I now enjoy, as children of God in the New Covenant. For, there is the other side to the grief of losing a loved one in the Lord, is the truth in which you can rest, and not let condemnation set in. Loved ones in the Lord, when they go to be with the Lord, are in a more blessed state than you and I. Here, you may have our struggles, but now they are rejoicing in the presence of the Lord endlessly. And, one day you will see them again face to face, in a glory that s much greater ! Oh, when we all get to heaven, What rejoicing there will be, when we see Him face to face eternally, and the words of the song are truth settled in the heavens, not wishful thinking ! Jacob was unable to see the other side, when news that was fake came to him about his son’s death. But, you and I can; we have a better hope. Be encouraged therefore in your time of grief. Grieving is a process; and it can vary in the lives of people in the way they handle it.
It can never be belittled or taken lightly. But, it is then that you need to stick with the process of attending church and receiving pastoral care. It is when you go through the valley of death, that you can know that the Lord is at hand, and you need not fear any evil. Many people tend to give up on their walk with God, when the road to them seems so incredibly narrow that no one can walk with them. But know then, that He is carrying you ! A mother who had given up her child for adoption due to unforeseen circumstances, riddled by guilt and grief was unable to sleep for forty three years. And, it was after all those years, that she was able to finally meet her son, now a grown man, to be assured of his emotional and physical well being. And then, finally she was able to sleep peacefully ! But, with the Cross, it is an immeasurably more intense process, by which you are set free from all guilt and condemnation.
And, through it all you can rest in the assurance that the Suffering Servant is with you, all the way. He is not a God who will point the way to you and step aside. He says ‘I am the Way’. That is Jesus for you; if you would only take up His offer ! ‘I will never leave you or forsake you’ is the promise and the assurance of His grip on your hand that is tighter than yours. He will never let go of it. And one day, you will be able to look back at your life’s happenings to acknowledge it all with gratitude and thankfulness. He is a faithful God, who remains faithful, even when we are faithless, for He cannot deny Himself. Today in your grief therefore, may the God of all comfort, minister into your heart, comfort and encouragement as only He can, and as only you can appreciate and understand. He loves you. And, it is why, you and I can be set free, and be victorious, over every grudge and ill will, that when not dealt with, lead to condemnation.
Condemnation – c. the GRUDGE factor :
The Bible is replete with examples, both good and bad, and there is a purpose underneath it. For, there are lessons to be learnt through every one of the narratives, pit falls to avoid, and role models to follow. And, harboring a grudge against someone can be as self destructive as guilt and grief in leading you to condemnation. It can be seen in the life of King Saul who started off as the Lord’s anointed, only to stoop later on to become a vicious and paranoid person, with no semblance of reason or clarity in his mind. A spear became his companion night and day, even when he sat down to eat,and no one knew who would be at the receiving end of it ! It was the grudge and feeling of envy in him towards David, which led to condemnation in him, and ultimately his tragic end. There were glimmers of hope now and then in his behavior that suggested a transformation, but David was shrewd and not taken in, knowing that Saul would soon revert back to his evil and vindictive behavior.
For, the problem with grudge is that whether you are able to carry it out or not, the grudge will sooner or later lead you to a disastrous end. People could harm you and move away; but, when you harbor a grudge, and keep confessing it, it causes a wrong atmosphere to arise all around you, wherever you are, and people may even find your very presence unwelcome ! When not dealt with in the right manner, a grudge in you could have dangerous consequences. For, internalizing it all within you could be equally or even more harmful, for one day it will all burst and explode ! Or it can make a person increasingly moody and unstable in his emotions, and especially in a family setting it could lead to immense harm and pain. And it is not psychology, but theology that is the solution to it all. For, there is a solution.
And, it comes in you, when you are connected to the person of Jesus Christ, for now there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. And, what you cannot do in your own strength, He has done for you on the Cross of Calvary, where sin, the root of all that is wrong in you, stands condemned. Paul having experienced it all himself, states now with power and conviction, the reason why there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin; He condemned sin in the flesh. [Romans 8:3] God so loved the world that He sent His Only Son, who gave Himself in love unconditional and sacrificial on the Cross, to condemn sin in the flesh. Therefore, now there is no condemnation in you in Christ.
Who is he who condemns ?
Paul goes on to elaborate upon ‘no condemnation’ saying … Who is he who condemns ? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, making intercession for us. [Romans 8:34] Through His death on the Cross, now, there is no condemnation for you, in Christ. And through His resurrection and ascension, where He is now seated at the Father’s right hand, pleading on your behalf now, no one can bring a charge against you to condemn you !
Therefore – 1. when your own heart condemns you :
For, if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. [1 John 3:20] So when your conscience pricks you, and you are cut to the heart, all you need to do is to go to the Lord in true repentance and confession. For, the Lord knows it all anyway ! And now what He offers you is His forgiveness, in the knowledge of the truth, that He has removed all your sins as far as the east is from the west. And, God did not spare His Own Son, in order to accomplish it. Remission of your sins through the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, is the truth that you can appropriate now, to be free of guilt and shame, and be empowered to say ‘no’ to sin. For now, you still have the capacity to sin, but you also have the power to overcome and overwhelmingly conquer it in your life.
When the devil condemns you :
He is rightly named ‘the accuser of the brethren’ ! And, the evil one knows that his time is running out fast, in his path to eternal doom. But, as a child of God wearing the robe of righteousness, in Christ, you are armed with the belt of truth, and hold in your hand the sword of the Spirit, that is the word of God which declares, they overcame him by the Blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony. [Revelation 12:11] The Blood of Christ has cleansed you of all your sin. You stand redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb now. And, it is by confessing this great and marvelous truth that you begin to realize that now there is ‘no condemnation’ in you, in Christ. And now in every problem that you face, even as you turn to Him, He will never reject you. He is your Healer, Protector, Deliverer, Provider, and all that you will ever need in life.
It is why you can lift up your hands to Him, the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords, and draw near to the Savior and Creator of the world, without guilt or shame, but with joy and peace, as you release your worship unto Him. And, as you humble yourself at God’s throne of grace in prayer, let all needless guilt, confusion and grief of bereavement be removed, as the word ministers in your heart; and let all grudges be dealt with by the Blood of Christ, shed on the Cross of Calvary. For, all that you were not able to do for yourself, He has done for you, so that you may be set free from condemnation, to enjoy His blessing upon your life, in Christ Jesus. You are accepted, you are forgiven, and you are loved, by your Father, the True and Living God. And, in Christ, now, there is no condemnation for you.
In the Name of Christ Jesus Amen.
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