Understanding Grace

(Communion Service – Julia Austin, Sunday 10th June 2018)

Reading – 2 Timothy 1:9-12

9 For God saved us and called us to live a holy life.  He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.  10 And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Saviour.  He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News.  11 And God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of this Good News. 12 That is why I am suffering here in prison.  But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.

We live in a world where the majority have little or no belief in God.  We should not really be surprised by this as we are warned that the way of Salvation is a difficult path:

Matthew 7:14  But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.

Being assured of our salvation is vital if we are to survive in a world where the majority are against us in our beliefs. I was reminded again of the importance of being sure of what we believe after watching a documentary recently about the late Professor Stephen Hawking who died on 14 March this year.  Whilst it was inevitably sad to see how much he suffered at the hands of motor neurone disease, what I found even more tragic was Professor Hawking’s declaration part way through the documentary that he did not believe in an afterlife. 

I took from this, and the fact that he was an avowed atheist, that he struggled greatly to believe in God, evident of course in some of his writings.  Here was an exceptionally clever man who had supposedly discovered how our universe came into being and wrote a book that sold so many copies that it was recorded in the Guinness Book of Records in 1998 for being an all time best seller.  The majority of society saw him as a great man who was renowned for his widely popular books probing the mysteries of the universe.

In contrast to this Max Lucado, in his book “God will carry you through”, talks about his father who also suffered with motor neurone disease.  Max’s father however was a keen Christian till the day he died, and he died in complete confidence that he knew his Saviour and that his salvation was assured and, ultimately, this was all that really mattered.  Referring to his father’s faith, Max said:

“Dad lost much: his health, retirement, years with his children and grandchildren, years with his wife.  The loss was severe, but it wasn’t complete.  In the end Dad still had what no one could take.  And in the end that is all he needed”.

God will carry you through – Max Lucado

Here was a man fully confident that he knew his Saviour and where he was going.  Like the apostle Paul, he trusted in His saviour with an unshakeable confidence.  His faith could not be taken from him.  We too can have complete confidence and assurance of salvation because of what Christ did for us and we can be certain of a wonderful afterlife where we spend eternity with our heavenly Father:

Romans 10:9 “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Ephesians 2:8 “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith.”

You can’t earn salvation.  That’s what “grace” means.  It’s God’s unmerited favour.  You cannot earn God’s love.  It’s not for sale.  It’s a gift He wants to give you.  And it’s a gift you accept through faith, and faith alone.

Revelation 3:20 “I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”

God longs for all mankind to come to Him and receive His gift of salvation.  Such is God’s immense love for us that He gave up His only Son to bridge the gap between us and Him and to provide a Way for us to be with Him forever.  He desires to be with all those He created, not just whilst we are here on earth, but for all eternity.  As we again reflect on Christ’s sacrifice for us, surely we are filled with gratitude and, as we step out in expectant faith and belief in our Saviour, God meets with us and we can have assurance of salvation.   Knowing God and accepting that we are sinners who need a Saviour ultimately settles everything unknown.  We don’t need to know all the answers because we walk by faith and we trust in our Sovereign God, the maker of heaven and earth and the ruler of all things.

Obviously we don’t know whether Professor Hawking did privately make his peace with God in the end and find faith to believe in Him, I think this happens more than we realise because God can reach people in their last moments of life in a way that no-one or nothing else can.  But for us who have put our faith in God and His saving grace, let us thank God again this morning as we remember the death of our Lord that, ultimately, gave us all that we really need.  Knowing this can we say like the apostle Paul that:

“To live is Christ, to die is gain”. Philippians 1:21

Praise God that we don’t need to come before the communion table this morning with doubt about who God is and where we are going – because, through faith, we have blessed assurance.

Bible quotes taken from (NLT)Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation.