By grace through faith.
What does it mean?
How about “by boat through sea”?
Before I forget, I thank God for being my peace to put these notes in writing in the hope that I along with others will go through them and be reminded of how we are alive in this world: by grace through faith, not by our sight through our efforts.
Lately, I’ve discovered many things that I had never noticed before. Many outcomes that, if I had known better I’d say, would be different. I asked myself, “how come I didn’t know this before?”. And I kept telling myself, “if only my eyes were open…”
And from there you can tell what will soon follow. The logic I had seemed to buy into is that if my eyes were open, those things wouldn’t have happened, or at least not the way they have. So in the end, I find myself doing what…”keeping my eyes open.”
Keeping my eyes open is a greater problem than the things that I’ve noticed as problems. Nobody ever gets any rest from keeping their eyes open.
My wife said not too long ago, “You don’t look too happy.” I replied, “I’m just trying to remember the things that I have to do.”
In all fairness, which do you think is more important? Is it to remember the things you have to do? Or is it to rest? Both are important. But if the focus is on the former, the latter will scarcely happen.
Have I forgotten things before? I have. Have I seen the consequences of forgetting such things? I have. Have I also realized why that it was best that I forgot certain things? Yes, so that I could get some rest for my brain.
So what happens when I try so hard to remember what I have to do? I end up having no room left for anything new. Everything new seems like a threat to my quest of trying to accomplish that first goal.
And then I ask, is that how miserable the Christian life should be? Living one struggle after another, one challenge after another?
“Not by sight”.
I love seeing things, good things. I love imagining the way things ought to be. There seems to be a sense of comfort from seeing with our senses, as long as it’s positive things. From afar, Abraham saw the stars to compare them to his descendants. He also saw Canaan to compare to his resting place, the resting place of his descendants.
There’s a sense of a great comfort, great assurance in seeing things. The whole industry is built on trying to make people see things, things like long life, comfort, joy and peace.
Any every once in a while I feel like I’m getting smacked in the back of my head and being told, it’s not by sight through human efforts, but by grace through faith. What I receive from God is not a smack, but a gentler rub on my head, reminding that my rest is not from what I’m seeing or doing.
My rest is by grace through faith. What does that mean? It means that when I find myself in the pit, my rest is not in figuring out how I will get myself out of the pit. It means that when I find myself breaking into pieces the tablet of stones, my rest is not in figuring out how I am going to stick those two tablets back together. It means that when I find myself inside the belly of a very large fish, my rest is not in figuring out how I am going to get out of that whale. It means that when I find myself attached to a cross, my rest is not found in figuring out how I’m going to get myself off of that cross.
I didn’t figure out my way to be born into this world. Why should I struggle each and every day trying to find ways to remain alive in it?
At my workplace, I am to do my job by my sight and my might. I am to do my job by keeping my eyes open for the time that I’m there and do the things I’m hired to do.
But the Christian life is different. If I’m alive in Christ only when my eyes are open or only when I can do some things or only when I understand my situations, then I’m mostly dead in Christ. And there’s no such thing, to be dying and living in Christ repeatedly.
There are many things taking place in my life at the moment. Many challenges and questions are popping up like never before. Questions of assurance, questions of comfort, questions of peace, questions of joy. And I could hand you a list of things, and say “if you can guarantee me these things, I’d feel so much better.” The truth is that nobody on earth can guarantee me those things, not even hope, not even faith, not even the love of God can guarantee me those things.
The faith in Christ, the hope in God, the love of God do not guarantee me the things of this earth. Now, that doesn’t mean that I never jump to conclusion to say that every time I experience something good that it must be a result of my hope in Christ, or my faith in Christ, or the love of God for me. I have drawn these conclusions many times. And the truth is so far from these conclusions.
My faith and hope in Christ and God’s love for me help me with how I respond to my situations. They do not prevent my situations. Otherwise, Christians would have never been exposed to challenging situations.
But what is faith? It’s a gift of the Holy Spirit. It’s not a summary of our current understanding. Faith is the one word that helps us remember that God works “everything, good and bad situations” to the good of those who love Him. Faith helps us remember that God is not rather offering some help with our situation. Faith helps us remember that God has taken charge of the whole situation for us. I remember the many times that my kids would have a fit about certain situations with tears and cries and wailings. I also remember how I would think of something to do that would entirely change their perspective and cause them to rejoice again.
What I do for my kids is temporary. But what God does for me and them is permanent. He saved us. Given that He is a graceful God, He saved us. God’s weakness is His anger. God’s strength is His grace. When God wanted to save us, He did not get angry toward us, He caused Jesus to give his life for me and you. He brought us to knowing and remembering this event faith, meaning his revelation of the event to us. It could have happened and everyone would have taken no notice of it.
But because God saved us, He sent His Spirit to help us remember that every single day.
Not by sight. If I have to count on my earthly situations to determine that I’m all set, then I will never be all set, but upset instead.
By grace through faith. The more my eyes are opened on my situations, the more they scream for my attention, the more that I need to remember that my comfort, my joy, my peace are the charges of God. My comfort, my joy, my peace, regardless of how much I would like to be otherwise, are not of this earth. They are all of Christ, they are all of what God had done through Christ because of His love for me. Not my love for him, but His love for me. They are all detailed in the new covenant. They are not detailed in the terms of agreement that I’ve signed with earthly parties.
My comfort, my joy and my peace are all detailed in the terms of agreement that Christ has signed by His blood for me with His Father, God.
As detailed in Hebrews 8:8-12:
“The days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,
and I turned away from them,
declares the Lord.
This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel
after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”
Wait hold on. This covenant says, “the people of Israel”. Where do I fit in?
So this is where I fit in:
“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:11-22)
You put those two passages together, you have yourself a living will, a living peace agreement. If you think your wedding certificate reminds you of great amount of joy, then think of the joy these two passages are meant to bring you.
They say nothing of earthly situations.
Had Christ forgotten to address our life on earth? Had he forgotten to shape up our expectations? I don’t think so. Here’s how a dialogue went between Christ and his early believers when they asked what’s in it for them:
“Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:28-30)
What does it all mean?
It means that you’ll get many things you had ever hoped to get, but then they’ll be taken away from you. But eternal life, on the other hand, cannot and thus will not be taken away from you.
So is eternal life the true source of our joy as Christians? Is it the true source of my joy? It has to be.
When Christ had offered some to leave him if they didn’t want to follow him anymore, some left and some stayed. But why did they stay? What did they had chosen to continue to follow him?
Let’s looking again what took place:
“Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)” (John 6:53-71)
So from this passage, we have eleven followers who decided to stick around because Jesus has the words of eternal life. Judas stuck around to blindly fulfill what God had long intended to have happened so that God through Christ would show His love for me, for you and for Christ.
Eternal life, the true source of my joy.
Whatever you have now, it will walk away with time. Eternal life won’t.