Wednesday 4 July 2012

What is next?

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
Romans 5:1-2

What is next?

That’s the question these verses are answering. What is next for the believer who places his or her trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour?

Or put it another way: Why become a Christian now? Why not put it off to another day - after my graduation, after I find a job, after I get married, after I’ve had a chance to sort my life out?

It is a common question from non-believers and new believers: What can I expect life to be like after I trust in Jesus? And if we’re honest, those of us who have known Jesus longer than others, have a hard time answering that question. We say something along the lines of, “You get to serve on the music team,” or, “Your prayer life is transformed,” or, “The fellowship among brothers and sisters is so much sweeter.”

None of those answers are necessarily bad or wrong. But let me suggest to you three things the bible promises for those who trust in Jesus; three descriptions of the Christian life today.

1. We keep looking back to the cross
“We have been justified by faith.” That’s the cross. Jesus’ death and resurrection is the guarantee that all our sins have been paid for and that all the promises of God are secured for us, through the cross.

No longer enemies, no longer under God’s judgement, we are now at “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”. It’s not talking about being able to sleep well at night - not that kind of peacefulness. It is talking about a broken relationship that has now been restored. We approach God as our loving heavenly Father, trusting that the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ, has made us righteous and acceptable.

2. We stand in God’s grace
We live each day in “this grace in which we now stand.” Every moment you have on this earth as a Christian is a gift of God’s grace. The only reason why you are still a Christian - that you still trust in Jesus, that you still repent of your sins, that the bible makes any sense, that you praise God for his goodness, that you still turn up for church each Sunday, that you still pray, that you tell your friends the gospel - each and every of those moments is a testimony of God’s sustaining grace in your life through Jesus Christ.

Only by grace can we enter. Only by grace can we stand.

3. We look forward to Jesus’ return
“And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” There is more than this life. Jesus promises he will return to judge all sin, to restore God’s creation and to save his people. Our hope is not in this world. It is not in our glory. We boast in God’s future glory that will be revealed.

This makes a big difference today when we face suffering. Because it goes on to say:

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Romans 5:3-5

How does hope in God’s glory help us in our suffering? Notice that the bible says that “hope does not disappoint us”, literally, it doesn’t put us to shame. It means that this is a certain hope. It is saying that God won’t let us down.

And yet, it doesn’t mean that we won’t suffer as Christians. Our hope isn’t that God will take us out of our suffering. One day, when Jesus returns, there will be no more suffering, that’s true. But that isn’t the emphasis here - not the absence of suffering.

Rather, it says, “Hope does not disappoint us because God has poured his love into our hearts.” What does God do in the midst of our suffering? What is the guaranteed answer to each and every believer who prays to God when they are in pain, in doubt and in despair?

“I love you. I have loved you. I will always love you.”

By his Spirit, by his grace and through the sacrifice of his Son, God’s certain answer in every moment of the believer’s life, lived out by faith, is his love poured out into our hearts. In this world, Christians will face suffering. But God uses even our suffering to remind us of his love, to remind us of his promises, to point us back to his Son. We rejoice in this hope: the hope of God’s glory.

The everyday Christian life
So, on the one hand, the bible is answering the question, “What is next?” by saying that salvation is not simply a one-off event. Rather, the bible teaches us that salvation is past, present and future. It is past - We are saved through the cross. It is present - We are being saved through the sustaining, sovereign grace of God. It is future - We will be saved on the day God judges the world through his Son, Jesus Christ.

Yet, at the same time, the bible is giving us a picture of the normal everyday Christian life. Every day, we keep looking back to the cross. Every day, we continue standing on his grace. And every day, Christians pray, “Let your kingdom come” - that is, we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

Why not do that today?

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the cross,
The certainty that there, Jesus took our sins,
He died our death. He rose for our justification.

Help us to stand by your grace.
To withstand temptation.
To take our stand against the devil’s schemes.
To stand firm on your promises.

And Lord, Let your kingdom come.
We look forward to the day
When we will see Jesus face to face,
When there will be no more death,
No more mourning, no more crying or pain,

But until then we rejoice in the hope of your glory
This hope which sustains us through times of suffering and difficulty
This hope which will never put us to shame

We ask all this for your glory in Jesus’ name,

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