grace notes- pastoral letter 1.25.23

Monthly memory verse: Whom have I in heaven but You?  And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps 73:25-26).

Dearly beloved saints of Covenant of Grace,

I have been thinking of you and praying for you throughout the week so far, asking that the Lord would sanctify you in every way and fill you with the joy of His salvation.  It is my hope that this note finds you sound in health, strong in spirit, and abounding in praise for our great God and Savior.  And that is precisely what He is – our great God and Savior.  As I have begun reading through the gospel of Mark this past week or so, I have been reminded of this greatness once more, and hope that you won’t mind, but will benefit from, being reminded of it as well in a few short words.  As He entered into the years of His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus displayed this greatness in numerous and wonderful ways.  Just consider a few of these ways found in the first chapter of Mark alone.

He showed that He is the One who came to destroy the works of the devil.  So, in Mark 1:12-13, immediately after His baptism, when He was driven by the Spirit out into the wilderness to be tempted, He remained perfect in holiness and won the victory.  Though faced with strong temptation from Satan, He resisted and overcame, remaining the spotless Lamb of God, who has no sin of His own, and who is therefore suited to take away the sins of the world.  Moreover, in so doing, He became a sympathetic Priest to His people, able to comfort us in every trial and strengthen us to war and win against every temptation.  So, we can go to Him with all of our sins and find mercy, and with all of our struggles against sin and find help to walk in the way of holiness.

He showed that He is the One who has power over every evil spirit.  So, in Mark 1:21-28, when faced with a man possessed by an unclean spirit, the Lord Jesus simply spoke a word, commanding the spirit to be quiet and leave the man, and it was done.  So, we need not fear when evil seems to abound in the world, because our Savior is sovereign even over the forces of evil at work in the world, such that they can do nothing beyond that which He ordains and intends to bring to a good end.

He showed that He is the One with the power to heal every disease.  So, in Mark 1:29-34, whether it was Simon’s ill mother-in-law or many others who were brought to Him, the Lord Jesus healed every sickness, sending well home those who had come to Him sick.  Which means, in every bodily affliction, we can know that He is able to make us well if it is His pleasure – if it is that which is truly good for us and glorifying to Him.  And therefore, we can pray for healing with faith that He is fully able to answer as we desire, even as we submit in faith when the sickness continues, knowing that it isn’t that He can’t heal us, but that He has something else, something better in mind, which He intends to use the sickness to accomplish in and / or through us.

He showed that He is the One with the power to render the unclean clean.  So, in Mark 1:40-45, when  leprous man came to Jesus begging to be healed – a man no one else would dare to touch or even approach – the Lord Jesus did the unthinkable, not only not fleeing but reaching out and touching the man.  And not only did Jesus not become unclean, but the man became clean.  With a touch and a word the man was made well – fully healed of his leprosy.  By the power of Christ, he could go through the mandatory ceremonial cleansing and be declared clean.  He could return to his family and friends.  He could participate in the gathered worship of God’s people, no longer defiled but cleansed.  So, we can take all of our defilement – all of our sins and stumbling – and bring them to Christ, looking to Him by faith, and we too will hear those wondrous words, “I am willing, be cleansed” (Mk 1:41).

Much more follows in subsequent chapters.  He shows His lordship over all and desire to use that Lordship to bless His people by giving them the Sabbath day (cf. Mk 2:23-28).  He shows His power, love, and desire for our wellbeing as He heals a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath day (cf. Mk 3:1-6).  He showed that He is the Lord of creation as He calms a raging sea, the great fear that results producing great fear in His disciples (cf. Mk 4:35-41).  He casts out an entire legion of demons, inspiring a great desire to be near to Him and to tell others about Him (cf. Mk 5:1-20).  He heals a woman with a longstanding flow of blood and raises a girl back to life from the dead (cf. Mk 5:21-43).

The list could go on, but surely, even in this little snapshot, we can’t help but be amazed at the greatness of the God and Savior we are blessed to know and love in the Lord Jesus Christ.  To Him belong all power and authority in heaven and earth, and He is well-pleased to use that awesome power for our good.  Whatever it is that we are facing – trouble in the world, temptations to sin, the guilt of sin, a strong sense of defilement from sin, illness, or anything else – whatever it is, we can rejoice to know with absolute confidence that Jesus Christ sits as Lord over it.  As the One who rules over it, He is fully able to bring it to an end, or, if not, to use it to bring about His intended end, which is always for our good and His glory.  We need not fear that He is unable to help us, because all power is His.  We need not fear that something is beyond His control, because there is no such thing.  We need not fear that He is unwilling to help us, because, concerning that which is truly and ultimately good for us, He is always willing.  In our great God and Savior there is no shortage of power and no shortage of love.  He who healed, calmed, freed, washed, and forgave remains as mighty and as devoted to His people’s good today as when the pages of Mark were written, and as when the events recorded therein took place.

Therefore, Christian, praise Him.  Praise Him and trust Him.  Praise Him, trust Him, and fear not.  Take all your sins, all your cares, and all your troubles to Him and roll them onto His load-bearing shoulders.  He is more than able to help, doing what He knows is wise and good, and He is fully willing.  Consider His greatness – His might and mercy – depend upon it, and say with the Puritan John Flavel of old, “Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ!”

In Christ,

Pastor Eric