Invisible yet Tangible Grace and Peace

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 1:2

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God’s grace and peace are supernatural in their source and manifestation. We would not have any idea of God’s grace and peace if it was not for the supernatural revelation of the scriptures. From the most truly righteous person in the world, to the most truly evil person of the world, we are all alive because of God’s grace and His gift of life. If God Himself is Spirit, and invisible to the physical eye, how profound is the invisibility of the attitudes and character of the invisible God. We would not understand how much God loves mankind if it were not for His revelation of Himself to us in the revealing of Christ, as revealed in the Bible. This is an act of His grace.

Yes! I deliberately overused the concept of revelation in the previous paragraph to make the point. God is kind towards man. Not just kindness as in somebody giving you their seat on a bus, or helping you to pick up items that you have dropped. God is kind to us as in going the extra mile for us, giving us everything He has and even – yes – dying for us. That is kindness of an extreme sort. That is God’s grace. Not that kindness is necessarily a synonym for grace, not so, but when we are talking about God, grace is a tangible, life changing, impacting aspect of God that changes our time and space world.

In the same way that the bright midday at the time of Christ’s death turned the physical atmosphere of the planet pitch black for three hours; just like the rocks breaking open at the loud cry of Jesus’ “Tetelestai!” (“It is finished!”); just like the death of Jesus causing dead saints to arise from the grave and walk about Jerusalem, God’s grace – a spiritual, invisible attitude and action of God Himself shakes and interferes with the world of individuals who put their faith in Him. And allow me to raise my voice, stamp my foot and bang my fist on the table while I assert to all my readers that it impacts those who hate God, turn the back on God, or claim to be atheists as well. God is good. Everything He does is good. It is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance, and when we repent, His grace leaps up to overdrive and is lavishly poured over our lives and characters.

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Mercy is not getting what you negatively deserve. Grace is being given the positives that you do not deserve.  The Bible refers to Jesus Christ as the “God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10). The gospel of Christ is, “the word of his grace” (Acts14:3), as well as, “the good news of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). By presenting grace as some abstract, theological idea that the man on the street cannot see as relevant to his making a living, or paying his bills, we lie. Paul stated that, “the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, teaching us to deny all ungodliness” (Titus 2:11-12). When preachers and teachers make the grace of God to be a sloppy, insipid attitude of the Almighty towards evil and bad living, they become the worst kind of deceivers.

The grace of God is strong and manly, loving and desperate to aid. The grace of God is God Himself putting all His effort and application into saving man from the fallen world he is born into. The grace of God carried Christ to His passion.

The grace of God is a gift. The received grace of God brings peace to the heart. In the modern secular world, one cannot but hear them used in weak effeminate contexts of the media. They seem like slight small words that poets like to use. But these are the words of the crux of the battle between good and evil, righteousness and sin. These two words are bulging and ready to pop open with the liquid love of God in people’s lives, if only they were taken seriously and received as the tangible substance that drowns our sin and dark history when we receive Christ. “Grace and peace,” can come to anybody with faith and a ready acceptance of the love of God in Christ.

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The very nature of the gospel is reconciliation with, and conceiving of the peace of God in a person’s heart. It creates peace with God, with man, with self and with society and the world. The source of all this, is the grace of God that devours all rationale of people’s evil and shortcomings that would, in the natural, disqualify them from any kind of oneness with God. Grace and peace flow to mankind from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace are both internally received. Logically one would think that they are conjoined. I do not think it right or biblical to disabuse my readers of that perspective. When grace flows into a person’s heart, peace emanates from within. They are both invisible, yet their impact on the human personality is always obvious to sight. Grace brings us into relationship with God. When that relationship is fed and watered peace exudes from the inner man. It is a more than wonderful thing to see grace and peace working their business in a human life.

Although owning grace and peace are invisible as a state of being, the bible refers to them both persistently concerning how they are co-workers together in the humans walk of faithand whence they come. I desperately want my readers to get hold of this invisible, yet almighty power of the grace of God working even more and more grace into our human scenario. When we know the dynamics of the two, we can intelligently negotiate how to increase them in our lives.

We sit at the feet of Jesus Himself first of all who likened these unseen items of spiritual reality to visible physical reality, debts of money being cancelled, and anxious characters receiving such a gift of settlement.

ZZZZ Jesus is our PeaceJesus told a story that confronts us with the whole issue of grace. It’s in Matthew 18:21-35. Without any qualifying explanation, he tells us that a King was owed an obscenely preposterous amount of money. The debt was ten thousand talents. The man who owed this amount was also owed 100 denarii by a third character in the story. So hold on to your seatbelts while I untie a few things not often noted.

The King wanted all his accounts put straight, said Jesus, and so, in comes the servant who owed him ten thousand talents. Just so that we can envisage the terms concerning eastern currency at that time, I discovered from a huge amount of research  that one denarius was a day’s wage. So, 100 denarii was about three month’s wages for a worker in the time of Christ.  A talent was about 6,000 denarii. So the debt of the first servant to the king was 600,000 times larger than what he was owed by the second servant. The Talent was the largest unit of currency in Roman exchange. On top of that, “10,000” was the highest Greek numeral.

The amount owed to the king by this man was ridiculous. According to Josephus, the joint annual tribute of Judea, Samaria and Idumea at this time was 600 talents which made people dizzy just thinking about that amount of money. To owe 10,000 talents is likening one single human being to owe the entire national debt of the USA, UK and Russia put together. I am labouring this issue for the point I want to make a little later. 10.000 talents I calculate as 164,383 year’s wages for a worker at the time that Jesus told the story. Christ deliberately chose to use this awesomely incredible amount of money in order to make a very specific point.

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Imagine the weight of such a debt on a person’s mind. The pressure of debt and the need to pay debts puts people in mental hospitals and others in the morgue. Debt is a horrible thing. I know this is a parable, I am, however, filled with concern as to how one human being could handle such a predicament.

In the narrative of Matthew 18, immediately prior to Jesus giving us the story, Simon Peter is asking Jesus about the issue of forgiveness. “Lord, how often should I be forgiving my brother who sins against me?” and then Peter makes a suggestion that he obviously thought was extravagantly Godly: “Shall I forgive him seven times?”

Jesus answered, “Not seven times, but seventy times seven!” While Peter was reeling at the words of the Master and trying to absorb what he seriously meant, the Saviour plunged into this divine masterpiece of logic that teaches us all about grace received as well as grace given.

Jesus speaking: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king, who wanted to reconcile accounts with his servants. When he had begun to reconcile, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.  But because he couldn’t pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, with his wife, his children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.”  The king was within his rights. There was nothing unjust about the royal decree concerning such a debt. The individual servant with the debt larger than the internal assets of the International Monetary Fund had to respond.

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“The servant therefore fell down and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will repay you all!’ The servant’s statement is ludicrous. How on earth was any servant going to pay back 164,000 years salary? However! Guess what? “The lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.” That is an incredible phenomenon. It was an act of undiluted grace. The king could have done all he could to at least reduce what he was owed. He could have had the man burnt alive for incurring such a debt, and nobody would have even suggested that the king did anything wrong. But grace per se is nothing to do with right or wrong, It is nothing to do with the rights of the king. It is all to do with compassion, and kindness that leaves issues of right and wrong in the dustbin. It is forgiveness. It is allowing others to start afresh. It is to do with closing those accounts that tear people’s hearts out. I am not talking about the money that is owed, I am talking of the relationship that is here broken, mended by an act of grace that is beyond the pail of what any of us will be asked give.  The King closed the account as “Paid in Full.” Try to get hold of the concept of what it cost the king to announce the debt as “paid in full.”

For the overall message of the parable, I see the king as the Lord God Almighty Himself. The phenomenal amount of the debt owed him by the servant is only a small picture of the account we overdrew on with our sins before God. The entire human race owe God, big time. We owed a debt we could not pay. Christ paid the debt He did not owe. In the context and seminal force of the parable, the servant was forgiven a debt of such extremity that it is difficult to compare it with anything even today, apart from you and I getting our sins forgiven at Christ’s expense.

Imagine being forgiven a debt of billions upon billions of pounds. The mental, spiritual release would be euphoric. The debt that dominated the servant’s entire existence was lifted and gone by virtue of the king’s pronouncement. To live with that load of guilt and worry settled would be an invisible, but tangible experience of the grace of the king.

However, in the deep Euphoria of received grace, as the servant left the palace, he bumped into one of his peer group colleagues – somebody at the same level of life, and position in society as himself. Matthew tells us, “But that servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, who owed  him one hundred denarii, and he grabbed him, and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’

For the freshly forgiven servant, there must have been an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. Didn’t it even ring a bell in his recent memory of the life changing experience of the king’s grace and forgiveness? “So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will repay you!’ It was almost the exact same words the creditor had uttered to the king when the man with the mace had exercised grace towards the servant and forgiven him the vast amount.

Matthew, however, tells us how the experience did not remind the man of grace and kindness that was so richly bestowed upon him.  How crass was that! It says of the forgiven servant that, “He would not, but went and cast him into prison, until he should pay back that which was due.” This is hard to swallow. A man who was forgiven a debt bigger than the bay of Biscay only moments before, refuses to forgive one of his debtors a few pence. The story is such that it makes me angry as I read it. I see it to a certain degree like David saw the story of a man with a huge flock of sheep stealing a lamb from a man whose only possession was that very lamb, and feeding a visiting friend with the poor man’s sole lamb. But in my rising anger as I read the story of this servant, I literally step into David’s shoes. “Who is this wicked man?” shouted David, “God do so to me if this man isn’t dead by the end of the day. He does not deserve to live.” But then, we have one of the most dramatic moments in the 66 books of the Bible when the prophet points at David and informs him, “You are the man!” For David had many wives and concubines, yet had stolen Uriah’s sole wife.

My anger at this evil servant has me inwardly declaring, “Somebody take him out and dispose of him for such evil.” But I scream again when I realise, that it is me that is portrayed in the parable. I have been forgiven ten thousand talents of sin against God, and I have at certain times of my life held grudges against people who have owed me for a dollars worth of offence. Woe is me! “I am the man!”

The message is frighteningly obvious, painfully true and strikingly more common a practice than we would think. The first servant had received grace, but obviously no peace. The huge degree of grace he had received did not budge him one little bit toward forgiving his colleague the pittance that he was owed. But the story wasn’t finished at that point.

“So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were exceedingly sorry, and came and told to their lord all that was done.” There was gossip and chit chat amongst the servants at the palace. The forgiven servant had refused forgiveness to a colleague of the same status as he, and with a debt that was 1 over 600,000  times less than the one he had been forgiven.

When the king was told about what had happened by the listening compassionate servants, he stepped into monarchical action. “Then his lord called him in, and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt, because you begged me. Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, even as I had mercy on you?’  And that is the point of this issue called “grace and peace.” His lord was angry, and delivered him to the tormentors, until he should pay all that was due to him. So my heavenly Father will also do to you, if you don’t each forgive your brother from your hearts for his misdeeds.”

This parable is an account from the master Himself on how to receive grace, and then how to give grace. It is all invisible, yet it is an issue concretely tangible in the kingdom of God.

So the impact of the grace received was not enriched, because the spirit of the grace that he received was in no way imparted to others.

To learn from the parable a full and frank series of instructions about grace and peace we need to bullet point.

  • God is the original source of forgiveness and grace,  as was this king.
  • The level at which God’s forgiveness flows is far beyond our comprehension.
  • The servant asked for time to repay (as if he could). The king gave the  man grace – much more than what he asked for. God gives us morte than what we ask for.
  • This parable is a picture of God’s government of His kingdom. “The kingdom of heaven is like …” This means that the story is divinely given inside information on how we are to respond to received grace if we are to move in the realm of the kingdom of God..
  • Our forgiveness and grace received from God was even more costly than it was to the king in the parable.
  • The king would not have been at fault if he had demanded payment, but he chose not to. God’s grace is His choice and is consistent with  Him being Love personified.
  • FORGIVENESS AND GRACE FROM GOD CANCELS OUR ETERNAL DEBT.
  • Grace received changes the very circumstances of our lives.
  • The servant had spent more than he could repay. Nothing he received was deserved. That is why we call it grace.
  • Grace puts us out of the reach of right and wrong, and into the realm of grace and forgiveness. as we have freely received, so we must freely give.
  • If grace given does not change our attitude to those who are indebted to us, even to do what was erstwhile legal and right becomes hideously evil and wrong.
  • Everybody has mammoth debts towards God, and debts payable to each other as human beings.
  • Grudges held against people puts others in debt to us.
  • No matter how severe the hurt, the grief and thus the amount of the emotional debt owed a person, it is small in comparison to what we owe God.
  • The normal scene when grace has been walked out in life is that those who have received much grace should give grace out as abundantly as they themselves received that grace.
  • Forgiveness and grace is not optional for the subjects of the kingdom of God.
  • When one has endured the humiliation of having one’s debts openly referred to before kneeling and pleading for grace, all in a public place, good will and common sense demands that there should be an expression of similar grace in a similar public forum when one is pressured by another’s debt that is owed oneself.
  • Grace upon grace gains momentum. Grace received is increased by grace given.
  • The issue of grace has removed what is right or wrong, or discussion on why the debt was incurred from the table. Grace and peace, both received and both given is the goal of the whole exercise and the currency of the kingdom of God.
  • Grace warmly received and properly responded to produces peace of heart and mind.
  • It is possible, according to this parable, to receive great grace and yet miss out on peace.
  • Lack of grace and forgiveness is a self inflicted imprisonment.
  • The “torturers” of bitterness, anger and regret will torture your soul worse than the Gestapo ever did.
  • Allowing others of your own group to witness your lack of grace devalues your friendship in their sight.
  • Grace received and not given is perceived by all humans as indecent and seen as truly wicked.
  • To forgive is a process of giving up. That’s exactly what the word forgiveness means – “to give” to someone by releasing them from debt. It also carries the idea of “releasing,” and freeing  one’s self.
  • Forgiveness and giving grace is the virtue we love most to hear about and least employ.
  • Forgiveness is not natural to fallen man, that’s why it is sometimes hard to do.
  • Forgiveness is not fair – our sense of justice always screams to be vindicated by vengeance.
  • Jesus did not die to extend His grace to us because it was “fair” on Him.
  • This first servant was forgiven but experienced no change of heart, or expressions of thankfulness.
  • Jesus closed the parable by saying, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” Let him that has ears to hear, hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
  • SECRET: 1. Face your creditor head on. 2. Own the debt. 3. Ask for forgiveness.
  • Grace and forgiveness brings closure and disposes of baggage.
  • The exercise of grace and forgiveness, both received and given, brings life.
  • Do you want to be right? Or do you want to be healthy and well?
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Bernardino Mei. Christ cleansing the temple.

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