Responding to God's peace
I was reading this in Romans 5:1-2: “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” (NLT)
I love the way that this tells us that we have been made right with God because of Jesus and not because of us. So many spiritualities today are seeking to get right with the Creator (or some other divine being) by what the person does, through his or or spiritual practices. Christianity says that all of our peace with God comes from what God, in Christ, has done for us.
Peace with God. It was the good news that the messenger brought to the watchmen in Isaiah 52. It was what made the very feet of the runner beautiful. God acted to bring peace and he did so whilst the Israel of God slumbered in its sin. There is no contribution that I make except to accept that which has been prepared for me in advance.
And the peace is about right standing with God. And surely this is peace on God’s terms? It is the abdication of my right to determine my own fate. I am not my own. I am won at a cost and belong to another. To serve myself, in these circumstances, is to dishonour the peace that has been won for me. It is to seek to carry on living in the old murky habits of the life I have been redeemed from. And that is the very opposite of gratitude. It is to say “Thanks but can I just keep on doing some of the old stuff? I rather like some of it.” That is base ingratitude. It is also a failure to grasp two linked things. The first is the magnitude, the seriousness, of the rescue. There was a greater peril than I am processing right now. A peril so great that it needed the death of God's own Son to rescue me from it. And the second is the holistic nature of the problem and of the rescue. It is all of the old man that needs to be saved not just parts of him. It is the whole of the old life that needs redemption from slavery, not just some of it. It is the whole of life that is radically renewed by the working of God’s grace and not just the bits that I am happy to have renewed. It is the whole of me that is now to be devoted to God and not just little bits of it. Nothing in me should be more important that the glory of God.
But I love the way this verse ends. It says that "we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” This is truly amazing grace. If we are honest with ourselves we will see things within our own hearts that we would do anything to prevent others knowing about. But God knows about them. And if we have believed in Jesus Christ and repented of our sin, God has done more than forgive them. He has removed them from his book of judgement. And, even though we did not deserve it (deserved in fact the dreadful punishment that fell on Jesus), God is going to bless us by allowing us to share (by way of participation) in his glory. It will still be his glory and not ours. But we will enjoy it, lap it up, delight in it, for all eternity.
I was preaching last night on God's glory and our participation in it. And I observed that many nominal Christians see heaven as only a little better than outright death, but would still prefer to stay here for longer thank you very much. And I think it is because their view of what it will be like is way too puny. Being with God in the new heavens and new earth, and gazing on the face of Jesus Christ, will be far from boring. Think of the delight that a Brian Cox evidently has in looking at the stars and planets and thinking about their orbits and origins etc. And then imagine being able to contemplate the one who created all those things. And to participate in his glory. There will be never ending delights there that will dwarf the most wonderful things we can see and enoy now.
And this God has given to those who were his enemies deserving of his anger and condemnation. He was the offended party, but he it was who made peace with his people through Jesus Christ. It has all been done for us. But to receive that with a scant nod of the head and no thought of doing his will indicates that one has failed to appreciate what God has done. When you do begin to appreciate just what a privilege God has won for those who are saved by faith, then whilst you will glory in the past redemption won for you, and enjoy the present blessings he brings, what will most animate you will be the future that God has laid up for you.