This week, in conversation, one of us remarked that the Christian year actually begins now. Our new year should not commence on 1st January but 1st September! All the church activities that took a break during the summer resume. The Christian community arouses from its slumber and what better time to remind ourselves of the Gospel.
As the Apostle Paul said, “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” (1 Corinthians Chapter 1 verses 1-4).
We need to be reminded because it is so contrary to our natural instincts. We want to do something, help someone, be nice. What a slap in the face to find it has all been done by the grace of Jesus and our task is to simply believe. In fact, it is worse – if it were not for the work of the Holy Spirit we would not believe at all. Our very faith comes from God as a gift out of his grace (Ephesians Chapter 2 verses 8 -10).
We need to be reminded that we are saved by grace through Christ and not by works; that we are accepted by God so we obey, not we obey so I’m accepted.
It is God’s grace (the word means giving us what we do not deserve – in fact we deserve the opposite) in sending Jesus, his grace in placing our sin on Jesus on the cross so that we can say “in my place condemned he stood”. It is by God’s grace that Jesus conquered death and sent the Holy Spirit to incline our stubborn hearts to believe that we are now forgiven and by a grace given faith can now work out the implications of our salvation as God works in us (Philippians Chapter 2 verses 12 -13).
Many things flow out of the Gospel of grace. There is freedom from the doubt as to whether or not I have done enough, been good enough etc.(to gain God’s acceptance), that plagues those caught up in religion. No more the treadmill of trying to be a good person by doing good things. That is all in the past, accomplished by grace for every believer in Jesus. His grace in salvation blessing reaches the depth of every repentant heart (Acts Chapter 3 verses 19 – 20). Past sins are blotted out and future sins covered by the blood of Christ’s sacrifice (1 John Chapter 1 verse 7).
Entering into this freedom enables us to live in obedience to God’s Word just as Jesus did. His obedience to the Word is paramount. Here are two examples in extreme situations (1) answering Satan from scripture and (2) believing he would be resurrected he handed his life over to his Father’s will (St Matthew Chapter 4 verses 4 – 10 and St Mark Chapter 14 verse 36).
“If the Son sets you free you will be free indeed” (St John Chapter 8 verse 36).