Saturday, November 22, 2014

Peace and Hope Romans 5:1-11

Therefore, yep, the scripture starts with a "therefore"(it's there because previously in the book of Romans it speaks of our being saved by grace and not by obedience to the law).

since we have been justified through faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

Having "peace with God" is a precious thing. It's more secure than it ever feels. It's deeper then we ever expect, it's not based on our performance or our effort, it's based on the work of Christ and the faithful love of the Father (which is also more secure than we can comprehend, but we benefit when we try!). So we have this "peace with God" because of our faith in the sanctifying work of Christ.

In any relationship (on earth) we relate to people according to the "peace" we have with them. So if in your marriage all is well and good, when they walk in the room, you may turn to them and make eye contact and smile, perhaps you express a pleasant greeting, or you just give them your attention, because love compels you to do so. If (however) things are not so good when the person walks in the room, you may keep your back turned (even if spoken to). You may pretend you didn't realize they were there, or the dishes may be so interesting and so urgent that you must keep your attention focused on them.
I think most of us are on the surface "fine" in our relationship with God when we start out. Like we believe God is on our side when we get saved, the conflict arises later (after the honeymoon is over and we see how sinful we still are). We feel God is not for us, that He disapproves of us. I was raised by my dad (a Scottish sailor) who was very harsh. He was loving, but his temper was horrible and his words were brutal. Sometimes he'd pin me against the wall with a fist held back and yell in my face how he wished I was a man (so he could punch me). As a 12-14 year old girl, I was learning somethings about what a father was. Things not helpful in my future relationship with God. My parents were divorced and my mom married a big strong loving man one winter while I was away and when I went to live with her the summer of my 14th year, my Mom, and my brother and I all learned how abusive he was. As he broke a solid wood door down to get to my brother and put him through a wall, my brother cried for little girl me to come help him. As he pinned my mother on the floor yelling and hitting her, she cried for the little girl me to help her. I was 14 and very small. My 110lb frame was no match for the 6'2, 250lb man, I learned things about what a father figure was.
So when I was saved, I felt connected with Jesus (my Savior) I felt close to the Holy Spirit (who wrapped around me and comforted me). But the Father...I did not feel peace (even at the beginning) with the Father. I think at first it was easiest to ignore the distance I felt, but God pursued me. He wanted to bring healing. He wanted me to experience the freedom Christ had died for me to walk in. He wanted me to have "peace with God" and as long as the lies I had learned as a child, about masculine power, about male dominance, about fathers using their position to control, manipulate, beat down and hold there, I would not be free. It was for freedom that Christ has set me free, and God wants me to live in that freedom. So he redefined what a Father is for me. He's actually still teaching me, still resetting my mind when I loose peace and don't feel connected to Him. God is so kind, so committed to my good that He would do this.
So that's our peace with God, it's bigger and more real than the earthly peace we have with others. And we are given this peace and kept in peace because of our faith in Christ but then our text goes on to say:

through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.

Now Tim and I over the summer go to music festivals to provide drums and sometimes lights to the musicians. In order to do what we do, we are given "Full Access Passes". We have a collection of 20 or more at the shop of these necklaces, with the venue written on it. Some of these give us more benefits than others, depending on how generous the hosts are, but the bottom line is, we can go anywhere. No place is blocked to us. One of our favorite festivals is the Chenango Blues Fest. They spoil us rotten and treat us as royalty. Beautifully catered meals, a camper to rest in during the day or just to get out of the sun and a port-a-potty that's air condition that smells nice and has running water with peaceful music playing. With our passes we get all the wine and beer we'd like free and the ability to even stand on stage with the artists to take pictures or fix their equipment or what ever we'd like. We are trusted and approved and nothing is withheld from us. We are given the same honor given to the rock stars, we are honored, because of these passes. If I'd like a table, or a chair or a table cloth, I just ask and one of the hundred volunteers runs and get's it for me. This is full access!
Now what a beautiful thought it is to carry this picture in my mind when I read "we have gained access by faith into this grace". So just as at the festival, I gain access (to the good stuff) with the lanyard, faith gives me access to the goodness of God's grace. There are thousands of people who come to the roped off areas at the festivals we attend and they are greeted by the security guards who stop them and will not allow their entrance, where we have just walked. And in the world there are billions upon billions who do not have the peace with God or the grace which we have been given the honor to now stand. We get behind the gate, we get to approach the throne of grace with full confidence, and boldness, because of what Christ has done, because we trust Him, He has covered us, and we enter into His peace and receive His grace and by Christ, we stand. We are actually given all the honor and benefits of a son or daughter of God.
Now my Bible titles this section "Peace and Hope". So if you're going to long for something and go to the drug store of God's Word looking for the medicine you need, if stress and hopelessness are what ales you, I'd say go down the isle marked "peace and Hope" and in the book of Romans in chapter 5 verses 1-11 you will find the truth you need to be healed. So we walk boldly into grace and stand there with the benefit "full access" brings (by faith in Christ), but what of this thing called hope? What is it and what will it do for us?
First let me say in some of our travels, Tim and I have had not so generous or thoughtful of stage management. And our "all access passes" got us cold pizza and blocked off when the "stars" arrived. Our drums were actually put outside and we were only allowed to collect them after the "stars" had left! So when the Lord asks us to trust Him, He is well aware of those who have enlisted our labor, our attention and loyalty, in the past. Listen to the heart of God at Christ's invitation: Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest, take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am humble and gentle and you will find rest for your souls. This is the heart of the One whom we have peace with. This is the heart of the One in who's grace we now stand. This is the heart of the One in whom we hope. I love the way the New American Standard words the next part: 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. This is the "hope" part (we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God's glory). This is all good news (especially if you're having a hard day). Remember the drug store analogy? If you're looking for truth to heal and undo a lie that causing you stress or giving you hopelessness, listen to this: We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. So that's it. We feel the love of God in our heart (by His Holy Spirit) and we know it's all good! We are safe. The worst wont overtake us. We are not abandoned, we are not overpowered, we are not used and then held at arms length, we stand in God's grace, experience His favor and know His peace and have the confident hope of all the good He's working out of our hard stuff. And we will not be embarrassed by the hope of all the good we see in our imagination, because in our heart, we feel God's love with us. That is reason for hope. This is a reason for peace.

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