NASB Philemon 1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
6 and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake.9 yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus—10 I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment,
16 no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
Philemon is clearly the wronged party in this story of slavery and freedom. The slave Onesimus has effectively stolen his “property” simply by running away from him. Onesimus ran away hoping to find freedom in the crowded city of Rome. God had a different plan to teach him about a different kind of freedom from a man “now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus.” The Apostle Paul writes of “my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment.” Onesimus found his freedom in the faith of Christ from a man in chains.
God led Onesimus to Paul in that crowded city. It was receiving grace and freedom that made it possible for him to return to the master he’d run away from. It was receiving grace and freedom that made it possible for Philemon to accept Paul’s word that Onesimus has become part of the fellowship of faith and “more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
What began as a story of slavery and freedom God turned into a blessing of grace and freedom for both Philemon and Onesimus.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
We all know about keeping schedules don’t we? They depend on arriving at the right place at the right time. That’s why the word “came” defined the reality of the first 5 verses of John for me. There was a plan! There was a time! There was a schedule! There was a baptist and there was a Jesus!
* John “came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.”
* Jesus “came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet …to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—…born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen…the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth…For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”
16 “Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.”
and that’s still on the schedule. Don’t miss it!
II Corinthians 6:1 As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” [from Isaiah 49:8] I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
To my co-workers:
“Now” seems like such an insignificant little word compared to these other words in the verses; God, grace, favor, helped and salvation. How important could one little word be? I can answer that for you.
If it weren’t for that one little word we’d have to settle for other words like “then, later, eventually, and sometime.” Ask yourself: how significant faith would be if those words were all God had to offer you?
“Now” may be a small word but it’s an indispensable part of the grace we are urged to receive and respect. “Now” is why God’s Word is called “living.” “Now!” Is the whole point of the narrative of faith.
God – Now! Grace – Now! Favor – Now! Helped – Now! Salvation – Now!
II Corinthians 5:20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Being an ambassador “…as though God were making his appeal through us” become more real to me this week. I wanted to implore these people I really care about but instead my appeal was full of frustrated emotion and more loaded with the need to persuade than the desire that anyone might be reconciled to God. It’s so easy to spout off when you get your mouth and emotion involved. The fact is being an ambassador for Christ has obligations of grace.
I lost track of the reality that grace at it’s most basic level is God working to give me time to change. My motivation was more of the problem than my words were, and I blew it. I disappointed myself, and my two best advocates, Christ and my husband. It’s been a reminder to me of the obligation of, and my need for, grace AND it’s purpose.
Forgiveness has bound me to these people and grace in a new way AND loosed me to transformation “so that in him [Christ] we might become the righteousness of God”…together.
Psalm 37:4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
We try many things in our attempt to “delight in the Lord” only to discover we still can’t find that bottom line because we’ve made it more about what we do than the desires of our heart. Our problem is we think we’re strong enough to figure out what the desires of our heart are instead of admitting we haven’t a clue. We take God at his word that our hearts are his domain without remembering he sees the reality of those desires. It’s a scary fact we have to face that God may allow us the desires he sees there.
C.S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory said this: “If we consider the unblushing promises of reward … promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us…”
The Westminster Shorter Catechism gives us a simple bottom line. Q. 1. What is the chief end of man? A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
This is about the Simplicity of Grace. Grace is not an exemption for our flaws. Grace is God’s bottom line. It’s purpose is to change us through combining the desires of our heart and our actions with what he knows to be true about us. Grace is the place your heart finally learns the “desire” to “take delight in the Lord.” Grace is the Simplicity of what it means to “glorify God” and sincerely “enjoy him forever.”
NCV Romans 15:4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
We read the Scripture because we believe they were “written to teach us.” Learning from them is a very good reason but I don’t think that alone would keep us coming back day after day or account for the impact the Bible has had for such a long time on so many lives. There’s something far more personal happening “so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”
We read because we believe our faith is a gift from God that we want to learn about. We read because we believe our relationship to Jesus has brought us grace and forgiveness. We come back and read some more because we discover within those pages there’s something that gives those ancient words new life for today. We read because the secret of endurance and encouragement lies within us, the Holy Spirit – hope, that has promised to reveal the mystery of our personal connection to God and help us navigate in this foreign land we call life.