I’ve written before about my reputation for always preaching on grace. I’ve actually toyed with publishing a book titled Confessions of an Extreme Gracist. Not an appropriate title, maybe, but it’s a tag I wear proudly anyway.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul opened up his heart and soul to the church. Throughout Chapter 1 the apostle’s spirit overflows with joy and peace. He speaks of abundant rejoicing and urges his readers to bring their requests to God with joy, “in nothing terrified by your adversaries” (Philippians 1:28). Meanwhile, Paul himself rejoiced in “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding” (4:7). And he wrote to the church to do likewise: “My brethren, rejoice in the Lord” (3:1).
I have a default system at work in me. It’s a reflex that springs into motion whenever I fall short in my walk with the Lord. I’m talking about my tendency to turn to works rather than to God’s incredible grace to reestablish my standing with him.
I believe most of us have this default system at work in us. It’s why Paul emphasizes God’s grace again and again throughout the New Testament. In letter after letter, he hammers home the sufficiency of grace for our right relationship with the Lord.
“Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house” (Hebrews 3:1-2).
The author of Hebrews offers a strong word to all who are “partakers of the heavenly calling.” What is this heavenly calling? It is that you hear heaven calling you.
To some readers, the statement I’m about to make will sound bold. To others it will sound obvious. Either way, it’s a commentary on the church I’d rather not have to make. That is, most Christians are powerless.
Consider what “normal” Christianity looks like today in the typical believer. This person is a bit self-seeking, a little materialistic, somewhat consumerist. Most of his daily choices are about improving his life. That includes his spiritual pursuits, from his church groups to the podcasts he downloads to the seminars he attends.
The main question on the lips of multitudes worldwide is, “What is going on? There is fear and panic everywhere. Economies are being shaken all over the globe. What will our future look like?”
As followers of Jesus, we know the only reliable answers are in God’s Word. The world’s experts — economists, government leaders, academics — all admit they are confused. Nobody can tell us why bubbles are bursting or how we went from a booming economy to sudden crashes.
I have walked with the Lord for over sixty years. After all this time, I am convinced it is possible to walk before the Lord with a perfect heart. You may say, “Nobody’s walk is perfect. The Bible makes clear we’re all sinners.” But Scripture does tell us it is possible to walk before the Lord with a perfect heart. Let me take you into what this means.
We long to see our churches transformed, filled with power and the glory of God. The book of Acts shows us the way.
In Acts 3, Peter and John had just been part of a historic spiritual awakening at Pentecost. Jesus’ followers had gathered in the Upper Room when the Holy Spirit came and filled everyone in the place. As a crowd gathered outside, Peter was emboldened by the Spirit to preach — and three thousand people came to Christ in a single hour.
Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). Christ shared these words with his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion. It was meant to give them comfort and reassurance in what would be the darkest hour of their faith. Since that time Christians down through the ages have drawn comfort from Jesus’ words here, to sustain them through their most difficult trials.