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Grace Notes

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I CHALLENGE YOU
by Philip Owen

            Believer, do you find God’s commands to be burdensome? Are you weary of the exhortations you read or hear from the Word, maybe even feel a little irritated if you’re honest with yourself? Do you find your conscience prodding you to respond to those commands and exhortations, and do you do so by mechanically making a checklist of duties and halfheartedly attempting to fulfill them? Those attitudes and actions evince sin in the heart, sin that must be acknowledged and confessed. But should the Spirit of God show you mercy in bringing you to the place of repentance, the Word of God then offers an antidote to the sinful sense that God’s will is dreary, or worse. And it may be found in the declarations of what God has done in us and for us and in the promises He has made to us. If you have truly been redeemed by grace through faith and have been convicted that your attitude toward God’s will does not honor Him, then I would challenge you to take your eyes off yourself, find out once again who God is, dwell on what He has done for you, and feast on His promises. Camp there, like Joshua before the door of the tabernacle, prayerfully, meditatively, reverently.

            Of course, the truths to which I refer may be found from Genesis to Revelation. But an exceptionally rich vein may be mined from the first three chapters of Paul’s Epistle of the Ephesians. More than eighty years ago, Ruth Paxson penned a classic devotional work on Ephesians entitled The Wealth, Walk and Warfare of the Christian. She made the following observation in the Introduction to that work. “But now let us get a nearer view of the majesty and might and matchless grace of the sovereign God in His own workshop, as opened to our view in the first three chapters [i.e., of Ephesians]. Here man is scarcely seen save as the recipient of God’s grace and the beneficiary of His mercy and love in salvation. Our first glimpse is into the eternity of the past, where God formed His eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord. All the rest is the execution of that purpose.”

            Would you honor God and do what is pleasing in His sight? Would you live for the priceless blessings of eternity rather than the cheap baubles of time? Do you desire the peace, joy, and contentment of God’s approbation rather than empty self-congratulations or the meaningless plaudits of the world? Then stake your claim in the first three chapters of Ephesians, praying that the Spirit of God will make real to you the truths contained there.

            How carelessly we skim the second verse of the opening chapter: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Let the reality of grace—undeserved, unearned, unmerited favor—sink into your heart and mind. Pray that you might fathom the fact that before grace came, “you were dead in your trespasses and sins . . . and were by nature children of wrath” (vv. 2:1, 3b), that you were deservedly under God’s righteous judgment and utterly incapable of changing that fact. Then consider the fact that “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31), but that He freely lavishes peace upon the hearts, minds, and consciences of those He saves and sanctifies.

            If that weren’t breathtaking enough, Paul then blesses “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” because He “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3)—words  that introduce a litany of blessings that we could neither imagine nor begin to understand were it not for the work of the Holy Spirit illuminating His revelation. What are these blessings? That is for you to discover/consider as you read the text. Suffice it to say that the Lord is an extravagant Giver who lavishes gifts on those He has called to salvation. Anyone who has dwelt in the presence of the Lord will testify that nothing on earth (nor everything on earth) can compare with the enjoyment of His love. Ruth Paxson did not choose the word wealth for her title casually or carelessly. “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5b). Find the Lord in the pages of His Book and you will find Him filling your life with indescribable blessings. I challenge you to earnestly engage with these truths without coming away transformed by God’s blessings and anxious to serve Him.

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