In theory, the happiest people in the world should be followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. If we are happy, we will be filled with JOY and PEACE. But we know that in the real world this isn't always the case. Everyone, believer and unbeliever, from time to time, suffers from a lack of JOY, a lack of PEACE.
If you know someone whose house has just been burnt down, or has been diagnosed with a fatal disease, do not quote James 1:2, to them, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds." There is a time and place for everything!
We all want the "peace of God, which passes all understanding." (Philippians 4:71). But how? If it can be summed up in one word, that word is GRACE.
How will an understanding of GRACE help us? Ephesians 2:8-9 reads, "For by GRACE you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."
If we really BELIEVE that Scripture we will not ask the question, "Am I good enough to be saved?" As long as there is the remotest possibility that a saved person could be lost, he or she will be filled with anxiety. As long as there is even the possibility that we may sin and sever our relationship with God, and risk being sent to some imagined hell, we cannot be at perfect peace.
That way of thinking assumes that God cannot do what He has promised, because His power is limited by OUR faithfulness. We may be SINGING, "Great is THY faithfulness" but we are really THINKING, "Great is MY faithfulness."
If everything depended on US we cannot help but think that WE hold our own destiny in our hands. But if we know for certain that no matter what happens between now and the rest of our life, we would go to heaven when we die, we would have a totally different attitude toward God. We would begin to praise Him, to adore Him and stand in awe and wonder that God could be so gracious.
Once we truly believe that our future is sealed by GRACE and NOT works, we would be JOYFUL and at PEACE, not just with God but with our fellow human beings. That is why Paul could say, "Therefore being justified by FAITH, we have PEACE with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:1).
He also said, "For HE is our peace" (Ephesians 2:14). "Having made PEACE through the BLOOD of His cross" (Colossians 1:20). That peace is in operation, anyway, whether we know these things or not. But ENJOYING it is another matter.
You may say, "That may be true when I first believed, but that was years ago. Since then I have sinned many times. I even sinned this morning before coming to the meeting." You may sin next week as well, but it makes no difference. "For by GRACE you have been saved, through FAITH."
"Ah," you say, "That's the catch. I don't even know if I have faith. If I do have, my faith is very weak." If you can say that, then thank God! You have got the message at last! It is not YOUR faith that matters. It is the faith OF Christ, not IN Christ. I repeat Ephesians 2:9, "It is the GIFT of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."
God gives us CHRIST'S faith. Why? The answer is simple. How would God be glorified if any human being could say that God couldn't have done it without them? Once we believe that we are JUSTIFIED before God by faith, in Jesus' blood, our life cannot be the same. We have been pronounced blameless before God - that's what justification means.
It refers to the way GOD sees us, not the way we see ourselves. Is it enough to live a blameless life? It comes as a great surprise to many people to learn that God's laws were not given to be kept!
So why did God give the Ten Commandments and all the ceremonial laws and ordinances to Israel?
They are one of the means God uses to judge them and the world. Another reason was to show them that they could NOT keep them. That they could not by THEMSELVES, save themselves. That they needed a Saviour.
Without law there is no sin. Sin reminds us again and again that we need God. God wants us to look to Him all the time, and He uses the Law to conform, mould and even chastise us when necessary. God does it out of love.
Hebrews 12:5-6, "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him: for whom the Lord LOVES He chastens, and SCOURGES every son for whom He receives."
In fact, the LAW can make us worse. Romans 5:20, "The Law entered that the offence might ABOUND." The Law entered so that we would sin even more!! What is the antidote? Paul continues, "But where sin abounds, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so GRACE might reign through righteousness to age-long life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Paul had a struggle with his flesh, as we all do. He wrote, "When I want to do good, evil is right there with me" (Romans 7:21). He continues, "What a wretched man I am! What will rescue me from this body of death?" (Verse 24). The answer is missing in many versions, "GRACE" - Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord (verse 25).
Anyone who teaches GRACE will be attacked by some who would say, "In that case, it doesn't matter what I do, I am going to be saved anyway. So I might as well enjoy sinning now." In other words, "Why not sin that GRACE may abound?" The Apostle Paul faced the same question. His answer is in Romans 6:1. "By no means! We DIED to sin, how can we LIVE in it any longer?"
When did WE die to sin? The answer is when we first believed that "Christ died for ME".
Will not the Judge of all the world judge righteously? Of course He will. Will the believer get away with MURDER? No.
"But you have just said that all the believers' sins, past, present and future have all been forgiven!" someone might say. We need to remember what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15. The foundation was Jesus Christ. "Now if anyone is building on this foundation gold and silver, precious stones, wood, grass, straw, each one's work will become apparent, for it is being revealed by FIRE. If anyone's work should be burned up, he will FORFEIT it, yet he shall be SAVED, yet thus as through FIRE.
So the wrong works are useless.
Paul also reminds us in Ephesians 2:10 that we are being created in Christ Jesus for GOOD works, which God makes ready beforehand, that we should be walking in them.
Every single sin we commit against GOD has been forgiven. We can be thankful that God hasn't just PARDONED our past sins. What is the difference between being PARDONED and FORGIVEN? If a convicted murderer receives a Royal PARDON, he is released. But that pardon does not apply to any FUTURE crime he commits. It isn't CARTE BLANCHE to commit more crimes.
We have received something far greater than a pardon. We have received JUSTIFICATION. We have been declared RIGHTEOUS by the BLOOD of the CROSS.
So God is no longer offended. But what if we have offended another believer? I ask you this: Could we live in JOY AND PEACE for all eternity in heaven with someone who really upset us? Could another person, whom WE have wronged, be able to live with US? God, in His mercy, will REQUITE us. That's a word you don't hear every day. What does it mean?
EVERY WRONG will be RIGHTED and EVERY RIGHT will be REWARDED.
So when is this going to happen? Every believer must stand before Christ to give an account for what he or she has done in the flesh. On that day God "will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart" (1 Corinthians 4:5).
This will be at what is commonly called the JUDGEMENT SEAT of Christ, (bema in Greek). There we will receive our REWARD and be REQUITED. That will be right at the beginning of taking up our new home in heaven. We will have a spirit body, not a fleshly body. Which is just as well. If everything we have ever done or thought were brought into the light today, we would die of shame. Weeping and gnashing of teeth wouldn't come into it!
Nevertheless, in our new spirit body we shall survive and be GLAD we can start our new life in JOY and PEACE with GOD and MAN.
When we KNOW and BELIEVE that God is LOVE and GRACIOUS, that NOTHING has been left to chance, that God is in complete charge of the entire universe, how can we NOT be happy?
For the believer, this life is the only time when we shall suffer pain, heartache and death. God is faithful; He will do what He has promised.
I end, by repeating what Paul wrote in all his letters. "GRACE and PEACE unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." AMEN.