Discover the Essence
God is love.
1 JOHN 4 : 8
Once upon a time, there was a young prince who was set to marry a beautiful princess. But something happened–a wicked serpent entered the picture and deceived the princess and made her unacceptable to the prince. Yet the prince still loved her, and he left the glories of his father’s palace to win her back. He gave his own life on behalf of the princess, who had now become ugly from following the serpent’s way. The prince, however, was raised back to life by his father. Because of his love for her, the prince made the unlovely and unacceptable princess lovely once again. They were married, and they lived happily ever after. The end.
Dr. Warren Gage, professor at Knox Theological Seminary, notes that fairy tales like the above composite sketch are all reflective of the Christian gospel. The Bible begins with a wedding (that of Adam and Eve), and it ends with a wedding (the marriage feast of the Lamb, wherein Christ metaphorically weds His bride, the church–all those who have truly put their faith in Him).
So great is the love of God that when we lost our way because of our sin in following the serpent, He sent His one and only Son, and He Himself paid that which He did not owe to win us back. He paid a debt for us that was so great we could never pay for it ourselves.
This book is dedicated to exploring the magnificent truths of the cross of Jesus Christ. Here are four dozen meditations to help you consider various aspects of the awful price Jesus Christ paid for us when He suffered death for us–even death on a cross.
Each meditation includes a Scripture verse at the beginning and a quotation near the end. The final thought we leave you with in each meditation is the beginning of a prayer; our hope is that this will be the springboard for your own prayer of thanksgiving for what Christ has accomplished on the cross. (This is why we don’t end these prayers as we normally would: “In Jesus’ name. Amen.”)
This book may be used for your personal devotion or for corporate devotion. The goal of each short chapter is to discover afresh the great love God has for you–the essence of which is Christ crucified for your sake and mine.
The Riches of His Grace
That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
E P H E S I A N S 2 : 7
Amazing grace–how sweet the sound. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that grace is the greatest thought to ever enter the mind of man. Grace encapsulates in one word the essence of the Christian gospel.
This amazing grace of which we sing is what we are saved by. We are saved, we are redeemed, we are taken to heaven, we enjoy paradise, we avoid the pains of hell–all by grace. Therefore, it is a term of exceeding importance, is it not? And yet I’ve discovered, over many years of talking to many people, that the meaning of grace isn’t clear. I’ve yet to meet one unconverted person who could tell me what it was–could define it or even come close to defining it.
Now, if it is true that we’re saved by grace, then it’s important to ask ourselves: Can we define it? And if it is true, as I suppose, that no unconverted person can tell me what it is, I think it would be important to you to make sure you can define it.
Think for a moment. Grace is _______. What? Your answer to that question may reveal where you really stand with God.
Did you answer it? Do you know what this marvelous term means?
We may be able to define it some way, but one thing is certain: We can never comprehend it, because it plumbs the profoundest depths of human thought. It scales the dizziest heights of divine revelation. And though we may get ahold of a little corner of it, we can never fully comprehend it with our minds. It is, indeed, beyond full comprehension; it is the greatest thought in all the world.
In the Greek language, the word is charis–a lovely term. And what does it mean–this beautiful word?
Many people suppose that grace is essentially justice. Since the Bible says we are saved “by grace” (Ephesians 2:8), and since they believe we’re saved by living a good life and following the
Ten Commandments and keeping the Golden Rule and doing the best we can, they suppose grace is another word for fairness. It is a quid pro quo–do this and you get that, tit for tat, perfect equity. They think this is what grace is really all about: If I do the best I can and try to live a good life, then I certainly ought to go to heaven, and if I don’t get to heaven, then that just wouldn’t be fair.
The first thing you need to know about the Christian gospel is that it isn’t fair. Be glad it isn’t! Since all of us deserve hell, fairness would mean that hell is where we all would go. So thank God, the gospel is not fair.
Ordinarily when we say something isn’t fair, we mean it’s less than fair. Let’s say you work at a job making ten dollars an hour. After a forty-hour week, your paycheck should be $400. And if you get $400, that would be fair; it would be equity; it would be proper.
But suppose your boss gives you only $295. You would go and tell him, “This isn’t fair.”
On the other hand, suppose after another forty-hour week you get a paycheck made out for ten million dollars. Again you tell your boss, “This isn’t fair”–but this time you mean that it’s more than fair; it’s wonderfully not fair.
That’s exactly what the gospel is–wonderfully more than fair. It is not a quid pro quo, tit for tat, this for that kind of a thing.
The full meaning of grace is seen in the cross. Because of my sin, justice demands that I experience the wrath of God. Instead, because of grace, God has taken all my slimy iniquity and placed it on His own Son. And the just anger of God has fallen upon Him, and Jesus in His own spirit and soul and body has borne the penalty for all our iniquity and cried out, “It is done. It is finished. It is paid. It is enough!” He has buried our sins beneath the depths of the sea. He has placed them as far from us as the east is from the west, never to remember them against us.
So rich is the love of God for us. This love is best seen in His Son suffering on the cross in our place.
The whole world without Christ is lost. He comes with infinite mercy and condescension, with the exceeding riches of His grace, willing to forgive us and cleanse us from every spot of sin. He comes to make us whiter than snow, to clothe us in the righteousness of His own Son, to adopt us into His family, to pardon and justify us, to make us His heir, and to provide for us and take us at last into mansions of paradise. This is only the hem of the garment of the exceeding riches of His grace.
Prayer: Father, thank You for Your grace poured out on us by Your Spirit because of Your Son’s death for us on the cross.