Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 28 June 2018

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.  1 Thessalonians 5:28 (NIV).

What a great way to end a letter!   Read it again:   it’s the perfect way to end a letter to several dozen of your close friends.

Or several billion.

Or to begin your day.

Or to bless your dinner.

Or to greet someone at WalMart (go ahead:   try it!).

Or…or…you get the picture.

Next time you say goodbye, invoke the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ into their lives until you meet again.

In fact, shouldn’t this benediction be on your lips at all times?   When we really love someone, when we adore them, when we care enough to send the very best (including a Hallmark), shouldn’t we be blessing them with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to be with them?  At or near the end of Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon, Paul uses nearly identical words to bless his readers with the grace of Jesus.   He uses slightly different words in Colossians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus.  The message:   Jesus is the perfect way to end a letter.

Or begin your day…or bless your dinner…or, again, you get the picture.

We can’t do any better than the grace of Jesus Christ.   It’s the grace of Christ that created us, then breathed life into us.   It is the grace of Christ that sustains us in breath, blood and bone every day.   It is by the grace of Jesus that we live and GET TO LIVE every day.   It is by the grace of Jesus that we get eternal life after this one, and that we get to be part of that eternity now.   It is through the grace of Jesus Christ that we can love.

If you could send a Hallmark to your very best friend, wouldn’t you want to end it by giving them the best you had to give?   That’s what Paul is saying here (and in all those other letters).   This was serious stuff to Paul who, just the verse prior to this one, had implored his friends to read the letter to others.   Back then, it wasn’t broken up into numbered verses; back then, Paul probably though people wouldn’t memorize his words.   But he knew that God had spoken through them and that they were important.   They were words that God wanted us to remember.

So it only follows that Paul would end the letter with a benediction that blesses the reader with the present grace of the God-man, Jesus, who lives and reigns with the Holy Spirit, one God forever.  With that thought, Paul closes out his letter and so shall we.

See you next time.

For further reading: Romans 16:20, 2 Thessalonians 1:1.

Lord Jesus, bless me with Your wonderful grace today that I might share it with others.

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 14 February 2017

 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.  Hebrews 7, verses 23-25.

“Save completely.”   Those are some BOLD words.   Before we move off these verses, let’s explore them a little.

Do you remember “Titanic?”   You know, Kate and Leo in post-pubescent ardor aboard the ocean liner doomed to kiss an iceberg.   Near the end, Kate promises to never let go of Leo (and then she immediately lets go of his frozen dead body).   Then, years later, the older Kate recollects that “he saved me in every way a person can be saved.”   Later that night, she throws the Heart of the Ocean down to the sunken ship and then passes away herself.   Kate thought Leo (actually it was Rose thought Jack) had saved her beyond simply keeping her out of the cold water.  But she was wrong.   Her heart shouldn’t have been in the ocean, or in some cheeky necklace.

And since today is Valentine’s Day, I wonder how many of us look to our significant others to save us when we can’t save ourselves?   A pastor friend of mine today lamented the increasing use of the word “partner” to supplant “spouse, wife or husband” as the dominant word used to describe committed relationships.  I agree with his lament:   “partner” isn’t “spouse, wife or husband.”   “Partner” is a poor substitute for the person ordained by God for you in a covenant relationship with them.

News flash, however:  your partner, or whatever you call them (please don’t say “bae”) can’t save you.   For that matter, neither can your wife or husband, or my pastor friend, or me.   In fact, you can’t save yourself, even, except for one tiny action that makes all the difference in the world.

You can say “I believe in Jesus.”   Sure, add on the rest of the religious language if it makes you happy but you really don’t have to do anything beyond giving your confession.   Jesus has already saved you.   He has already done EVERYTHING needed to save you from the eternal penalty for the things you’ve done to rebel against Him.   He and only He has done this because nobody else could or can.   And He and only He can do it completely.   Jesus doesn’t just pull you out of the freezing North Atlantic after your ship goes down.   Jesus doesn’t just promise to love, honor and cherish you even when you’re ugly crying.   Jesus doesn’t just do whatever you can think up to prove to you that He loves you more than just on February 14th.   Once and literally for all, He made saving us whole, finished, containing all that was needed to make salvation a done deal.  He did it through His heroic death at Calvary.

Jesus completely saves us.   He makes it physically and spiritually impossible for the devil to un-save us.   Sure, said devil can hurt and harm us, but there is nothing he can do to undo what Jesus has already done.   Nothing.   Wrap your noodle around that on this Hallmark holiday.   Your Valentine can’t save you from eternal separation from God because Jesus already did.  A warm fire, great meal, wine and chocolate, flowers and a fancy card are all great things but they don’t do diddly squat in determining who really loves you because Jesus already did that.   There is nothing you need to do and nothing you, me, or anyone else could even do to make that more complete, or more ‘saved’, or more yours because Jesus already did everything that was necessary.

I’ll take that over the Titanic any day.

For further reading:   Romans 11:4, Romans 8:34, Hebrews 13:8.

Lord Jesus, thank You for completely saving me, for loving me so fully that there is nothing I want to or could do to make it any fuller.