Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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-- Equipping His servants
-- Proclaiming His Gospel

Grace from the Father & the Son


Grace

by Dennis Pollock

As you read through the New Testament, you find that the writers loved to link the Father and the Son together. There are, of course, individual references to both God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son, but so often we find them together. It seems as though the inspired writers were determined to convince us that you cannot experience God without Jesus. Or as John would put it, "Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also" (1 John 2:23).

This is in sharp contrast to certain aspects of American culture where the name of Jesus seems to be taboo. I watched a "Christmas" television musical program not long ago, featuring some of America's most popular singers. I was saddened and pained to see the hour unfold with songs about snow, Santa, romance, and so forth, but with nary a single reference to the Lord Jesus. Finally as the show concluded and the credits rolled an unseen choir did sing a Christmas carol which actually included Christ, but by then I was too heartsick to be much enthused. I'm not so fanatical as to insist that every Christmas song must have Christian content. I can enjoy Winter Wonderland and Deck the Halls as much as anyone else, but to do an entire Christmas concert without a single reference to the Savior whose birth we supposedly celebrate is going way too far.

Sadly in some places and among some who call themselves Christians we see the unthinkable unfolding before our eyes – Christless Christianity – the absence of Jesus Christ in Christian activities and "ministries." I first became aware of this after doing a lot of reading of the sermons of Charles Spurgeon, the great English pastor of the 1800's. Spurgeon was first and foremost a preacher and a teacher of Jesus Christ. In addressing his young Bible-college students, he exhorted:

Let your sermons be full of Christ from beginning to end crammed full of the Gospel… People have often asked me, “What is the secret of your success?” I always answer that I have no other secret but this: I have preached the Gospel… Every time you preach, be sure to have much of Christ in the message…

After reading some of Spurgeon's words along these lines, and noticing in his sermons how he, himself practiced what he preached, I began looking for Christ in the sermons of pastors I heard, either in person or on television. To be honest, I personally was at fault on this issue. Until then I had not always been faithful to present Christ consistently in my teaching and preaching. Sometimes I was so focused on my subject in preaching that I developed tunnel vision and failed to find the link that it had with Jesus. And as I heard other preachers I discovered that this was common. I have heard sermons on overcoming sin where Jesus was never mentioned, sermons on David and Goliath where faith in God was strongly urged, but Jesus Christ was nowhere to be found. Such sermons could have been preached in a Muslim mosque without the slightest objection from anyone.

And then I noticed that it was not just limited to preachers and sermons. I read a book on child rearing which included many fine Biblical principles but gave the impression that Jesus must be irrelevant to the subject, since the author had almost nothing to say about Him. I have even watched "Christian movies" which portrayed conversions where Jesus played no part. The actor somehow developed a love for God and faith in God – apart from any mention whatsoever of Jesus. Even in the act of prayer, many Christian movies never have the actors concluding with "in Jesus name." It is either "in Your name" (whoever the You is, the audience is left to guess), or they simply finish with a generic and spineless amen.

The apostle Paul and the other men chosen by God and inspired by the Holy Spirit to write the Scriptures were of a different sort. Their writings were absolutely saturated with the name of Jesus. In the first ten verses of First Corinthians the name of Jesus is mentioned ten times. In the first chapter of Philippians Jesus or Christ or both are mentioned 18 times, and the gospel is spoken of six times! The Bible tells us that out of the abundance of the heart our mouths speak, and Paul's heart was surely filled with Jesus!

God's ID

One of the means by which Paul keeps Jesus Christ before our eyes is his continual habit of referring to God in connection with Jesus. In the Old Testament God frequently identified Himself as the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." We see this a few times in the New Testament, but there is another title and identifier far more common: "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Paul's desire and prayer for the Roman believers is that they "may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Not just glorify God (as many would put it today) but "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." To the Ephesians, Paul writes, "I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named" (Ephesians 3:14, 15). Peter exults, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3).

It is right and good that we should praise, exalt, and magnify God our Father. But it is very much wrong if we somehow see Him alone, without reference to His Son Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit inspired the New Testament writers to hold Jesus before our eyes to such a degree that we should never conceive of a relationship with God our Father apart from Jesus –  the One who makes that relationship possible.

Grace and Peace from…

Jesus transfiguredAs Paul began his epistles to the churches he had a favorite expression which he always used. To the Romans, the Corinthians, the Galatians, the Ephesians, and every other church or individual that were the recipients of his epistles, the same words are used with very little variance: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Sometimes he threw in mercy along with the grace and peace, but otherwise it was identical. Paul's apostolic benediction included his desire for the believers to enjoy grace and peace which found their source in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. It was never grace and peace from God, nor was it grace and peace from the Holy Spirit. It was always "grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Peter doesn't change things much, writing, "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord" (2 Peter 1:2). Nor does John break the pattern, writing, "Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love" (2 John 1:3).

Christianity is all about Jesus Christ. That may sound a bit too obvious, but apparently it is not all that obvious, at least in some quarters. The trouble is that the world has always found Jesus offensive. They don't mind a bland, easy-going Jesus who carries little lambs on His shoulders and holds children in His lap, but the Jesus who insists that He is the only way to God, and tells us that unless we repent and believe in Him we shall surely perish is more than many can take. The Jesus who died on a bloody cross for our sins, and insists that unless we are born again we shall never see the kingdom of God is far too radical for most people's liking. And so our world greatly prefers to talk or hear about God rather than Jesus. But the God they refer to is certainly not the God of the Bible who sent plagues among the Egyptians that devastated the entire nation, the God of whom the heavenly beings cry holy, holy, holy. No the world's version of God is far more insipid. He is a fuzzy conglomeration of what ungodly men might wish him to be: weak, grandfatherly, detached, always pleasant, never bothered by anyone or anything, and never insisting upon anything other than that we always and in all situations allow everybody to do their own thing.

This is the god nearly all can accept. He is "the man upstairs," "the good Lord," or "the big guy." With such a god, we are quite comfortable. He asks little, demands nothing, and continually radiates blessings and good will toward all people, regardless of belief or lifestyle. So why go and spoil this with talk about Jesus Christ, His cross, His demands of supreme allegiance, His insistence upon costly discipleship, and His claims to be the exclusive access point to God? But of course this is precisely what the New Testament emphasizes and what the inspired writers place before us continually. With them it is not merely "we give thanks to God," but rather, "We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Colossians 1:3). They do not tell us: "we have fellowship with God," but rather: "truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3). And as Jesus' prays to the Father, He declares the essence of eternal life: "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent" (John 17:3).

The Great Conspiracy

I believe there is a conspiracy to keep the name of Jesus from the public today. The absence of Jesus in sermons, Sunday school lessons, Christian music, Christian movies, the media, the schools, and nearly every other public arena is no accident. No, I am not saying that men have gotten together and pledged to close their mouths and never mention the Savior of the world. Rather it is a conspiracy developed in the invisible realm, where principalities and powers work and scheme and plot for the ruin of men and women. In that dark, unseen place where evil reigns, malicious spirits have determined to keep the life-giving name of Jesus from the ears of a spiritually starving and dying world. People cannot believe on One whose name is never mentioned, except as slang. A little talk about God here and there is no problem for them. They do not fear sermons that encourage faith in God but fail to mention Jesus Christ, the Author and Completer of our faith. A little talk about prosperity, a little boost to our self-esteem, an inspiring message about achieving our destiny, a couple of Scriptures to ease our conscience and give us the impression that we are surely on the right road – and men and women slumber and sleep blissfully in ignorance and darkness. A dose of religion and a little talk of God has made them immune to the real thing.

When you look at the ingredients of a great many of the products we buy, you find that one particular ingredient is of a special category. It is labeled the "active ingredient." Among the other ingredients you may find water, you may find certain chemicals that give the product a pretty color, and another that gives it a nice fragrance. These are included to make the product pleasant, but it is only the active ingredient which does the thing for which you have purchased it. Without the active ingredient you may have the illusion of something that will work, but in truth you have nothing at all. The main purpose of the product is negated. In the church and in all things Christian, it is Jesus Christ who is our active ingredient. We may dress up our ministries and make them as attractive as possible, but without Jesus Christ they are nothing more than pretty colors and pleasant fragrances. And no matter how much we may talk about God, if we don't lift up Jesus, His cross and His resurrection, His love, His teachings, and His miracles, all our efforts, our plans, our organizational committee meetings, and even our prayers are worse than useless.

May our preachers, our writers, our Sunday school teachers, and every Christian that attempts any form of Christian ministry be faithful to lift up the name of Jesus Christ, today, tomorrow, and forever. May we never be content merely to talk about a generic God, but rather the "God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." In the words of our Lord: "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me" (John 14:1).

For a full listing of all devos (written and audio) go to our Devos Catalog Page.

     

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