The Journey of Grace
T. Austin-Sparks said once that "the spiritual life is a pilgrimage, and that the Christian is on a journey which begins in the world and ends in the heart of God." It is a journey, he says, of "progressive illumination and successive challenges."
It is good to remember this. The Christian life is about progress and growth, but a progress and growth in the midst of challenges. As I walk through Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, this fundamental truth is confirmed again and again. Paul is eager to remind the Ephesians of their destination, their goal, and to equip them for the challenges they will face along the way.
In the first three chapters, there are at least five of these goal statements, and each one seems to display a new facet of the eternal inheritance in store for those who believe.
1. (1:4b) "that we should be holy and blameless before him."One of Paul's characteristic words for this destiny of unity with God is "inheritance." It is a word that encompasses the full panoply of God's grace. As David long ago sang, "indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance." (Ps. 16:6)
2. (1:10) "as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth."
3. (2:7) "so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."
4. (2:22) "In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit."
5. (3:19) "and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."
This inheritance is certain, but it is not yet ours in full. Still, to assure our hearts, God has poured out his Holy Spirit, and all the gifts of the Spirit, as a downpayment. In our progress as Christians it serves as a source of hope and strength. It enlightens our hearts and reminds us of the great power of God on our behalf. As we move along in this new journey, we thereby grow in grace. We learn to apply the grace of God to all situations. We grow confidant in our God, and strong to forgive, to show mercy, to love. We become, by the grace of God, at long last capable of these things that had always been for us deep problems. Though spiritual enemies come against us, we do not lose heart. We experience the victory of the Lord in our lives, and in so doing we become shining lights for others whose faith may perhaps be flagging. We grow into the full stature of our destiny in Christ. Our lives show forth the unmistakable evidence of the sovereign grace of the Lord God.
Is this not a beautiful vision? Do you believe that Christ can dwell in your hearts not only to comfort, but to mature you, to prepare you and strengthen you, so that in the end it might truly be said of your life that it was indeed a living sacrifice?
To get there, we will need to be rooted and grounded in love; and being so rooted, we will grow strong and mature as we draw nourishment from that ground of love; as we do so, we will grow so certain of the love God has for us, so sure of its power and extent, so able to trust it, so confidant of his steadfast will, his ability to bring to pass all that he has purposed from the start, that we will walk in the fullness of his grace, overflowing with the rich blessings he has poured into us.
Amazing power! Amazing love! Amazing grace!