Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"This Grace Given" Part 2

Part 2

"Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:8).
     We must note that the grace of which the Apostle Paul writes involved his loving devotion to people with whom he once had no relationship.

    "Remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands" (Ephesians 2:11).

    In his life before Christ, Paul, the "Hebrew of the Hebrews," doubtless led the parade of expressing and walking out the epithet of "Uncircumcision!" regarding the Gentiles (Philippians 3:5).  Salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ changed the Apostle's  heart, however, leading him to a life of loving devotion to those he once despised.  "I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles" (II Timothy 1:11).  Thereafter, he viewed ministry and close connection with the Gentiles in terms of a gift, of "this grace given."  Or, as we often suggest, the Holy Spirit wrought in Paul the sensibility and attitude of "I get to!"

    I suspect the Holy Spirit did not simply zap Paul, as it were, to form in him such love for the previously unloved.  Indeed, Paul first ministered to those of the Jews of his own heritage.  "Straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God" (Acts 9:20).  The Apostle likely required a process of learning and growth in God's grace in order to prepare him for loving ministry to the Gentiles.  The "I get to" of Christ's love in us does not come naturally regarding many of our God-ordained callings and responsibilities.  The Spirit of God and the Word of God works in our hearts to turn us inside out, as it were, revealing a sublime joy known in matters that naturally seem burdensome, unpleasant and undesired.  We respond in faith and submission, of course, and I have found that the choice to view challenging responsibilities in terms of privilege rather than responsibility fosters experience of the joy of Christ. 

      "I have to, Heavenly Father?  No, you get to!"  If we could audibly hear our Lord's voice in this life, such words might frequently echo in our ears and hearts.  Moreover, the Holy Spirit "worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).  Thereby, we discover the love of the Lord Jesus not only for us, but in us, granting insights into the character and nature of the God so wondrous that even eternity will not fully display His goodness.  Apply this truth to the callings and responsibilities of life, be they small matters of the day, or greatly consequential issues of challenge and self sacrifice.  Privilege.  Blessedness.  "I get to."  This is the love of Christ that leads us to the future glory of Heaven, and to the present glory of experiencing His joy of devotion to our Father's glory and the needs of others.

    A final thought.  If the salvation of the Lord Jesus transforms burden into blessedness, life becomes an ongoing experience of fulfillment in all things.  Little wonder that the writer of Hebrews termed such redemption as "so great salvation" (Hebrews 2:3).  Long ago, Paul learned such revolutionary truth, leading to a life of joy, contentment, and "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding" (Philippians 4:7).  The same gift awaits all who respond to the Spirit of God and the Word of God's promise of privilege known in responsibility, of this grace given.

"When they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name."
(Acts 5:40-41)

Weekly Memory Verse
    I will worship toward Thy holy temple, and praise Thy name for Thy lovingkindness and for Thy truth: for Thou hast magnified Thy word above all Thy name.
(Psalm 138:2)

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