Five Points Blog

Grace to You


Have you ever noticed how the Apostle Paul begins every one of his epistles with the phrase “grace to you”?  And he ends each epistle with a different but similar phrase, “grace be with you.” So when he is about to write Holy Scripture, he says grace is coming to you, and when he has finished writing the Spirit’s words he says, “Let this grace be with you.”

What do we make of this? At least this: Paul’s writings, indeed all the Holy Scriptures, are God’s grace to us. They come to us as grace and remain with us as grace. To read, study, and meditate upon Scripture is to experience God’s sheer grace.

Yet we mean much more than the ancient Scriptural letters are grace to us. Scripture’s grace communicates to us not just the story about the Savior but the person himself. Bible books are not just an epic with an Author, a Hero, and a plot (some capture the whole narrative of Scripture with the phrase “kill the dragon, get the girl”). Mysteriously and wonderfully, Scripture mediates God the Son. In Scripture, Christ stands forth from his Word and we behold him.

This was Samuel’s experience: “And the LORD appeared again at Shiloh, for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD” (1 Samuel 3:21). The gracious Word revealed to Samuel the Lord himself! Reading the Bible is not meant to make you deftly smart in religion but stunningly united to Jesus Christ.

This is precisely my prayer for our season of time in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: that over the course of these messages, you might not only enjoy the grace of the Word, but see Christ stand forth from the Word to save, to unite us to himself, and to be enjoyed eternally by his beloved. Pray for my study and for our hearing and seeing, that we behold the glorious Savior as he stands forth from the gracious Word. 


Contemplating the Final Judgment


Many today, especially young people, do not want to think about eternity because it seems so far away. But if we, like Jonathan Edwards, think about eternity, it will affect the way we live today.

Edwards composed a list of resolutions with his fifty-fifth reading, “Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as I can think I should do, if I had already seen the happiness of heaven, and hell torments.”

As we contemplate the greatness of our salvation, we are helped by meditating upon the stark contrast between Heaven’s delights and Hell’s agonies. Our sovereign God is Lord over it all, and we can be sure that every divine act—whether it is righteous indignation or vindication—is in perfect accord with all the excellencies of God’s attributes. 

The Hebrew name of God “Elohim” refers to the creator God as Supreme Judge. What a breathtaking scene is found in Revelation 20:11-15 as the Universal Judge is presented in all his splendor upon the Great White Throne. Both heaven and earth “fled away” (v.11) from his presence. When confronted via a vision with the thrice-holy Lord of Hosts in the temple, the prophet Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me! For I am lost” (Isaiah 6:5). Imagine the scene in Heaven when both great and small stand before that same Lord with books being opened up containing all that they have done, knowing that they will be judged accordingly without mercy! “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31). 

The contrast of “swimming in the ocean of God’s love” forever because of sovereign grace is most humbling. Today, may this verse from the great hymn “How Sweet and Awesome is the Place” by Isaac Watts resonate deeply within every believer’s heart:

Why was I made to hear your voice, and enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice and rather starve than come?


Finding Rest for Our Souls


In Psalm 127, we are given a glimpse into the function of rest in the way God has ordained the world:

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.

God gives rest to those on whom he has set his love to accomplish two purposes. First, rest is given so that life is not marked entirely by toilsome labor. It is a gift from a loving Maker to create us in such a way that we are physiologically required to rest. That is built in to our system so that we don’t just tiresomely work our whole lives.

Second, rest is given so that we see that whatever we set our hand to is not ultimately dependent upon us. I am not sovereign. God is. Contractors can carry on their work faithfully, but if God wills that a house not be constructed, it won’t be. Security guards can make their rounds, but the facility won’t be safe unless God ensures protection.

Embracing the gift of rest is an act of gratitude and faith, acknowledging that God is the only one who never slumbers nor sleeps. He is gloriously self-sufficient to carry out his perfect plans. Rejecting rest is to strive to dethrone God and deny his purposes for us.

Having such a robust view of rest transforms the activity from being that of a slothful couch potato to a faith-filled enjoyment of all that God is and does.


Concerning C.S. Lewis


Join us for an event that will help you understand and appreciate more of C. S. Lewis and his world of Narnia. Dr. Michael Ward, author of The Narnia Code, will be at Five Points Community Church to discuss the imagery of Narnia that C.S. Lewis uses to speak to our souls and draw us God-ward. May 28, at 7:00 pm.

Some have criticized C. S. Lewis, the Oxford and Cambridge professor, of wasting his intellect by writing children’s stories. The Chronicles of Narnia—seven strange and fanciful stories—consumed C. S. Lewis and drew his attention away from the Christian apologetic dialog for which he was so admired. Yet millions of people, young and old, book readers and movie goers, intellectuals and sophomorics still read and love Lewis’ non-fiction works like Mere Christianity, and his fictional works like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the first of the seven Chronicles of Narnia.

As with most great literature, Lewis’ writings speak to us at multiple levels: the surface story, the moral, the imagery, the insight to deeper things. In fact, the more you read Lewis, the more you discover. Spend enough time with him and his words begin to sing to you. They sing a silent, reflective song—a song that draws you onward, to something imaginatively wonderful, to a far off country, to Aslan.

Dr. Michael Ward, in his landmark work The Narnia Code, takes readers on a fascinating journey into the mind of Lewis and into the beautiful imagery Lewis used to construct the seven books in The Chronicles of Narnia. The imagery is as old as history itself and originally found in the Bible, and carried by the grace of God into ancient Western thought. Even pagan myths ring with it, yearning for the hope of the bright morning star, the veneration of beauty and of life eternal. These are not the vain desires of a forsaken race, but the very mark of a Creator on his creation. Here in these myths of ancient virtues, Lewis makes his purpose clear for telling his fictional tales: It is to draw us by our heartstrings God-ward.

Lewis knows that this drawing is not of our own accord, but must be accomplished by a sovereign God. He writes in Mere Christianity, “When you come to knowing God, the initiation lies on his side. If He does not show himself, nothing you can do will enable you to find Him.”

According to Psalm 19, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God.” This God having placed his mark on our souls, calls his own to join the heavens in singing his song.


From Glory to Glory


Be amazed believer, today you are being transformed in your moral beauty before God. He is increasing your moral pleasantness from one degree of glory to another. The outcome is that your life will perfectly reflect the moral excellence of His Son Jesus Christ. Scripture proclaims: “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30). Glory is what we are in part and what we shall be fully. 

That is what sanctification is for the believer: the ever-increasing transformation into the glory of Christ. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).  What ‘same image’ does Paul have in mind? The image of Christ, what Paul calls “the glory of the Lord.”  If you are trusting Christ, you are becoming ever more like Christ.

How does this occur? The answer is plain: it occurs when we behold Him. Beholding (seeing, gazing and meditating upon, enjoying, worshipping, savoring) the glory of the LORD, in the face of Jesus Christ, we cannot help but be transformed into his image. To see Christ is to be changed by His moral beauty into the likeness of Christ.

The only sphere in which Christ’s moral beauty can be seen is in His Word. Daily, hourly, ponder the vision of Christ’s glory there. Meditate on it until your spiritual eyes view Christ on every page. He is there. Don’t miss Him. For in seeing Him, in perceiving His glory, He is making you like Him. He shares His moral beauty with you. 

 

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