GRACE NOTES – PASTORAL LETTER 7.6.23

05-2023 Grace Notes – Pastoral Letter Monthly memory verse: “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and His might, and the wonders that He has done” (Ps 78:4)..

Dearly beloved saints of Covenant of Grace,It was a joy to gather, worship, and fellowship over a meal together this past Lord’s Day, and I look forward to congregating again soon, Lord willing.  In the meantime, I have been praying for you, and for myself, asking the Lord to increasingly help each of us to die to our selfish desires, and to increasingly live lives that are driven by love for our God and love for one another.  The fact that this basic re-orientation is central to the Christian life was recently pressed upon me, as I was reading through 1 and 2 Peter, and, through a string of cross references, ended up reading Colossians 3.  There, having proclaimed the glories of Christ and His gospel earlier in the letter, the Apostle Paul is in the midst of instructing the Colossians, and us, about how we’re to live as those who have been united to Christ, by faith.  As he does so, a simple contrast becomes evident between the way we used to think and live, and the way we’re to think and live now as followers of the Lord Jesus.In the first place, as we set our minds on the things above, we’re instructed to mortify our former way of thinking and living, which was essentially self-oriented.  As God’s Word puts it, we must, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col 3:5).  Any number of connections might be drawn between the various vices listed here, but one thread that certainly runs through them all is that they are sins that are focused on satisfying self above all.  And indeed, this is precisely the logical conclusion those who hold to a basically godless worldview.  After all, if there is no God, no objective morality, and no overarching purpose to life, then why shouldn’t I do all that I can to derive as much pleasure as I can for as long as I’m here?  So, if I take delight in sexually immoral activity, passions, and lusts, why not indulge them as much as possible?  If I have dark desires, why not foster and even act upon them where I find opportunity?  If I want something that someone else has, why not fixate on it, being filled with jealous discontentment until I have it, since I think it would make me happy and I only have these few years on earth to be happy?  It isn’t entirely illogical, given the presupposition that God doesn’t exist.  But, of course, that presupposition is false, and it produces poisonous fruit – unsettled, angry, bitter, selfish hearts that devalue others in so far as they stand in the way of me getting my desires, and lives that, to one degree or another, evidence what is bubbling beneath the surface, waiting to break out.  Certainly, it doesn’t produce lives of self-sacrifice service displayed in acts of love and generosity, except in the rare case that one stumbles onto the fact that doing good feels good, and so does it in order to satisfy themselves.  This is the natural disposition of the human heart, ever since the fall.  It is the sort of people we all once were.  It is the people we would still be, but for the grace of God.  But, the grace of God has indeed come to us, in Christ.  Therefore, we’re commanded to mortify that which rightly belongs to our former way of life, but which has no place in the life of a Christ-follower.  In the first place, then, we’re told to be done with such self-oriented thinking, desiring, and living – to put if off, like old filthy garments, with which we want to have nothing more to do.In the second place, as we set our minds on the things above, having put off our former way of life, we’re instructed to clothe ourselves with something wonderfully new, which is essentially others-oriented.  We are, of course, to love the Lord our God above all, with the entirety of our heart, mind, soul, and strength.  But, as the Word consistently makes clear, from the ten commandments to Jesus’ two-fold summary of the same moral law, sincere love for God is never separable from love for others, whom He has fashioned in His own image.  Therefore, those who have come to now and love Him, being united to Christ by faith and called children of God, are to daily strive to demonstrate the beauty of His grace toward us in the way we interact with one another.  As Paul puts it, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col 3:12-14).  He goes on from there, but that is enough to show the powerful contrast between what we were before and what we’re to be now that we have set apart and grafted into Christ as God’s chosen ones.  Having been so loved by the Lord, and having an amazing, incomparable heavenly inheritance in Him, we’re no longer to live as if this world is all there is, and as if our main goal in life is getting as much pleasure and satisfaction for ourselves while we’re here, regardless of how it affects others.  Rather, we’re to live with a heavenly, Christ-ward orientation that consistency reminds us of the things in store for us, and therefore frees us to freely serve and give and endure loss in this life, without growing bitter or fearing that we might be missing out on something.  We’re to be compassionate, kind, humble, meek, patient and forgiving, as the Lord has been with us.  And, in all of this, we’re to love.  We’re to love because God first loved us, and has promised to bless us with the abundant enjoyment of His love for all eternity, which is more than enough to make up for any art or loss endured in this life as we seek to show His love toward one another.  We’re to live as Chris lived – not looking to be served, but to serve; not lusting after and demanding more and more pleasure and power and stuff for self, but giving and forgiving with an open hand, showing that we know what a blessing it is to be the recipient of such undeserved, over-abundant kindness.  Not only are we to empty ourselves of selfish sins, but we’re also to seek to have our hearts and minds filled with others-oriented love that runs over into all our interactions – putting, as it were, flesh and bones on all our words about a Savior who came to seek and to serve.Take time, then, to lay your heart bare before the Lord in prayer, asking Him to help you to do these very things.  Ask Him to help you see where selfishness rules the day in your thoughts and deeds, and to help you put it to death – to help you stop going through life as if self-gratification was the be-all and end-all of your existence.  And, ask him to help you not to be content to stop there, but, through prayer and meditation on His Word, to foster new desires and habits aimed at magnifying the love of Christ toward you by letting it run over into your treatment of those around you.May the Lord, who has shown us such overwhelming grace and mercy in His Son, equip you to manifest something of the same goodness at all times and in every way!
 In Christ,Pastor Eric P.S.Join us for the prayer meeting each Wednesday in the Fellowship Hall – dinner is served at 6:00pm, followed by a brief lesson and a time of prayer at 6:30.  Or, join us for prayer each Thursday at 10:30am in the adult Sunday School room.Please mark your calendars!  If you ever need to double-check dates, events are usually kept up to date on the church’s website calendar:  https://covenantofgracews.org/event-calendar/· Daily devotions
o I continue to encourage you to daily read Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening as we seek to maintain a spirit of unity.  It is widely available – here is one link:
§ https://www.biblegateway.com/devotionals/morning-and-evening/today
 

‘Vision Statement’  Covenant of Grace is a loving church family that equips people to know God and His Word through serious, joyful, Christ-centered worship and service, in reliance upon the Holy Spirit.

Matt 22:37-39
37 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself

Love God.  Love people.

 

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508 Harvey Street
Winston-Salem, NC  27103

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Covenant of Grace Presbyterian Church
PO Box 26511
Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27114-6511

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