Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all… The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. (2 Thes. 3:16-18, NKJV)
If I were known for only one thing in my ministry I would hope that it would be to bless and encourage people.
There are times when we all need a word of reproof, a word of challenge, a word of correction – the Word of God is useful for these things (2 Tim. 3:16-17) – but these should never become the aftertaste of our encounters with God. The final word of Paul in this letter was one of blessing, and he ends all of his letters like this, as did other New Testament writers.
Christ began His Sermon on the Mount with pronouncing rich blessings available to people from God – for the spiritually poor, for the mournful, for the meek, and so forth.
I am often tired of guilt-inducing Christianity that tries to pressure someone into feeling bad. I am tired of those who try to motivate through guilt, or to challenge others by guilt. I am tired of mean and angry people who find fault with everyone and everything and do so in the name of Christ. Our Christian faith should offer people more hope than despair, more love than hate, more grace than guilt, and more joy than sorrow.
What is the aftertaste of your encounters and experiences with God? Embrace His grace! Grace is our only hope anyway.
This really is a question of faith – do we believe Christ when He says that He will forgive us, that our sins are erased from His ledger by His sufferings for us? Do we believe that the Christian life and message are centered in blessing, on the curse of sin being lifted, of the believer being set free and receiving the gift of life? Will we surrender to this incredible love of God and His divine desire to bless us? The blessing of confidence in His love is not an optional part of the Christian life, but it is an essential part of the message, an integral and indispensable element of the gospel. Until we believe that “He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Heb. 11:6), we have not really believed the gospel. Faith is a surrender to divine love.
James S. Stewart, in his classic book Man in Christ, described the reality of Paul’s conversion. Some questioned if Paul’s experience was normative of every Christian, or if some may be “Christian” who have never thought or believed as he did. Stewart answers affirmative that Paul’s conversion, though, like all of our stories, had its own unique aspects, was normative for all. Paul was saved by realizing the reality of who Christ is and what He offered. He surrendered his heart to grace.
This leads us to the consequence of the encounter with Jesus on the road – the man’s surrender to the divine love which now stood revealed. That Jesus Christ, whose name he had maligned, whose followers he had harried, whose cause he had striven to bring down to destruction, should nevertheless have come to meet him, and to lay His hands upon him, was a thought at once gloriously uplifting and terribly subduing. For him, then, blasphemer and persecutor as he was, Jesus had been seeking! For him, grace and mercy had entered the field! … Gone was the stern, inexorable God of Judaism, watching His creatures toiling for a justification He knew they could never win. Now there revealed a Father yearning for His child. Face to face with that seeking grace, that reconciling love, Paul’s whole being went down in uttermost surrender. With all the passion of his soul he responded. He gave himself to God. He worshipped Christ. Grace on the side of God had met faith on the side of man: and from the white-hot crucible of that experience there emerged a new life. (James S. Stewart, Man in Christ, pp 140-141.
Blessings to you. Live in the peace and joy of the Lord.