[READ ROMANS 5 for context]
A SPECIAL GIFT
Our daughter Sara, the youngest of our three kids, last month did something really amazing. Let me tell you what she did. Janine loves a present every now and then and one present she really loves to receive are those little charms of Pandora. She has quite a collection going on there already and Sara, as generous as she is, came up with something really interesting.
How does an eight-year-old come up with the idea to go online to the website of Pandora, choose about 10 beautiful pictures of potential gifts of Pandora charms, cut and paste the pics into one nice page, print them out neatly and then ask daddy to go to the mall to look for the right present? Well, that’s what she did. Together with Rebecca and I Sara was on a mission one month before Mother’s Day! The good thing of going out early on a hunt for the perfect gift is that you don’t need to wait in line that much. The woman that attended us was totally amazed at how Sara approached the buying of the gift. Sara even showed the paper she printed out to the saleswoman.
That’s the story behind the gift my wife got today for Mother’s Day. Personally, it was the funniest thing I did in a long time with Sara. She really blew me away with this.
We give gifts as a way of saying ‘I love you’. It’s a way of saying to the other that we were thinking of the person.
In the letter of Romans, Paul goes into great detail telling us about the gifts that God gave through Jesus Christ to us. The gifts are like benefits as part of the fact that we can stand in a right relationship with God again, if we believe that. The Bible calls that justification by faith. I’d like to unwrap some of these gifts as part of the package of ‘justification by faith’ that is available for those who believe it’s for them. So, let’s dive into 7 presents that are awaiting us when we take hold of our right-standing with God the way Paul describes it in chapter 5. Here we go…
Present #1 Peace With God (verse 1)
I think it is save to say that the world is not a very peaceful place. As we are hearing about wars again in the Middle East, turmoil with refugees in Europe, tensions among people groups all around the globe, it is peace that humans are looking for. We can hear the John Lennon song over the radio during Christmas saying that War is Over. Lennon is singing of peace as if it is the absence of war and this is the usual interpretation of peace. Yet, the bible describes peace first and foremost as a right relationship with our Maker, God. Through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, we can have actually peace with God. Peace is what people are looking for. In a stressed-out world, we often look for a quick fix to keep our emotions in check as we often get overwhelmed with life.
Let me give you a few situations where moms (not just moms!!) can just get into…
1. Managing finances
2. Kids’ future
4. Finding time for ourselves or for friends
5. Keeping up with the housework
6. Keeping up with physical appearance
7. Being more a mom than a wife (finding balance…)
8. Healthy diet and regular exercising.
Probably the list could go on and on. Now again, don’t just apply this to the moms here. Dads are also concerned about basically all of these issues.
This message is not about stress-management. There are plenty of books in any given bookstore about that. It’s about peace with God which totally supersedes the idea of stress, worry, anxiety and even depression.
C.S. Lewis, the writer of the Chronicles of Narnia, once wrote that people can look for happiness as a remedy to the lack of peace, yet it is impossible to find that outside of God. It simply does not exist. The reason for that is simple. God made us, designed us, shaped us and therefore, as the Potter He knows what the pot (that’s us) needs. Having peace is first of all knowing that you know that you are OK with God, not on your terms, perhaps comparing your ‘goodness’ with others, but on His terms, which is believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus that died for you.
Many people live in an existential fear of many things. The future, sickness, aging, death, pain and much more. Often the popular songs reveal what the spirit of this age really is about. It reveals how people are not in peace at all and look for answers. Being right with God means first of all, having peace with God. It’s not trying to have peace with Him. It’s actually having peace with Him and that’s a big difference.
Present #2 Access To God (vs 2a)
The outflow of having peace with God is that you can actually have access to God. In OT times the Jews had the Temple where they worshiped Yahweh. Yet, access was limited and any non-Jew did not have access at all. Jesus’ work of reconciliation does away with that for good. Access to God is now not based on what I first need to do to become. I already am accepted and therefore I can come.
A famous pastor was once in a big meeting with several other Christian leaders around the world. He was leading the meeting and it was a busy time for that man. All of a sudden, his phone rang, in the middle of an important meeting. This pastor checked his number and saw it was his child calling him from the other side of the world. What do you do in such a situation? Well, this pastor had a simple rule with his kids; if you need me, just give me a call and I will answer. He really was available. Everybody looked at this pastor, leading the meeting (!), picking up his phone to hear the sweet voice of his child, and they were amazed. After all, they were in the midst of an important discussion about ministry! After the pastor hung up the phone, he smiled and wanted to continue the meeting. Yet, a pastor friend popped the question: ‘So, what was that about?’
‘Oh, it’s all right. It was my baby girl, she was in school and hurt herself. She just needed reassurance, that’s all! And I told her that she could call me any time…’
All people in the room stared at the pastor in amazement. This man really was available for his children.
I guess this is just a glimpse of God who is accessible 24/7. You just come as you are. No ‘issue’ is too small for our Heavenly Father, because He knows everything about us anyway. Access to God is a second benefit in being right with Him and it flows from the fact that we have peace with God.
Present #3 Glorious Hope (vs 2b)
Let’s unwrap some more presents. We said earlier that we can have peace with God and because of that we also have access to Him. Peace refers to our past and access refers also to the present. Once we were alienated, strangers and apart from Him, but not anymore. The third present refers to our glorious future. Paul calls it hope. One day we will share in God’s glory, knowing that this life as we know it will not be all we have. One day we’ll be united with Him, forever. It will be a time where there is no more place for sickness, war, hunger or any of those things we see in the world today. Someone once said that we can live several weeks without food, a few days without water, but only a second without hope. People cannot live without hope. It’s impossible!
Paul writes the Romans saying that they can really rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Rejoice is probably stronger than just ‘to be happy with something’. It’s not just knowledge nor is it only a feeling (how strong as that may be). It’s the reassurance that all will be well because our destiny is secure.
In the next blog we will unwrap 4 more presents. Stay tuned!