GRACE NOTES – PASTORAL LETTER 12.8.23


Dearly beloved saints of Covenant of Grace,

As always, it was a blessing to spend this past Lord’s day learning, worshiping, and fellowshipping with you.  I have been praying for each of you and for our congregation this week, asking the Lord to continually make us a people with undivided heart and mind, whose earnest desire is that of the Psalmist when he prayed, “Unite my heart to fear your name” (Ps 86:11).  That, after all, is the calling of the Christian life – in, through, above, and beyond all else, to glorify and enjoy our God as our highest purpose and all-pervasive aim – to be a people utterly devoted in heart and life to magnifying Christ.

This will of course mean that, in various ways, we will live very different lives than many of the people around us.  To be sure, we will still do some of the same things lots of other people do.  We will still get up, go about schoolwork, housework, or a trade or business of one sort or another.  We will still pay bills, shop for groceries, mow the lawn, take kids to practice, visit grandchildren, and so on.  But, the heartbeat that moves us to do it all, and the way we go about it all, will be quite different from our unbelieving friends, family, and coworkers.  We will do it all with a desire to glorify our God by the quality of the work of our hands, with the holiness of our speech and behavior, with the sobriety of our still joyful spirit, and with our insistence on bringing Him into our decisions and conversations.  In this sense, while living lives that, in some respects, appear similar to those around us, we will in other respects not align with them at all, because we’re aiming at an entirely different target.  While they’re aiming for the weekend, we’re aiming for eternity.  While they’re stocking-up for the Sunday game, we’re preparing our hearts and ordering our common affairs beforehand in order to devote the Lord’s Day to the God and Savior whose name it bears.  While in the world, in such respects, it will be quite evident that we are not of the world.

For some, this is the way you have been raised.  It is nothing unusual to seem slightly unusual to the Christless onlooker.  For others, it represents a radical break from the way you were raised.  The latter is certainly the case with me.  Someone has well said that becoming a Christian means that something glorious happens to you in an instant, and then you spend the rest of your life learning all about what happened and what it means.  Without denying all the complexity involved in the Christian life, I can certainly say that has been my experience.  I was absolutely stunned at what had taken place.  I had been as worldly as they come, and now I was reading my Bible voraciously.  I had spent years trying to dull my mind with every substance imaginable, and now I wanted to be clear-headed, sharp, and focused so that I could take-in and understand this grand new reality.  I had been entirely self-absorbed, and now I wanted to do anything and everything I could to show the love of Christ and speak the penetrating truth of His Word.  I was still me, but in another sense I wasn’t me at all – I was something different, something new, something better, and I knew it was entirely the gracious work of a sovereign God whose power and mercy were far beyond my comprehension.  He had saved me, and now I wanted to live and even die for Him.

Why say all of this?  Because I hope it captures just a tiny bit of the wonder of this month’s verse, which I encourage you to work to commit to memory.  It is one of the very first verses I memorized when the Lord caused me to be born again: “I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal 2:20).  In context, the formerly proud apostle is speaking with particular reference to his dying to every thought of ever being able to be justified before God by his own careful observance of the law, such that he now placed the entirety of his eternal hope in the Son of God – His death for sin and His spotless righteousness, freely imputed to Paul by faith alone.  But, the concept certainly extends to an entire array of thoughts and behaviors that are fundamentally altered when the Spirit of God shatters the old stony heart within and crafts, in its place, a new heart of flesh.  Not only with specific regard to thoughts of being justified before God, but in so many ways, coming to Christ marks a very real death and new birth.

This means, Christian, we are not who we once were.  We are something new, something gloriously different.  We are Christ’s.  Oh, the old flesh still tosses and turns, trying to trip us up, and the new isn’t quite as polished to perfection as we would have it to be.  But, the change has occurred, we have died to sin and been born again, made alive in Christ Jesus, now to live for God with a mind focused on glory, a heart united in HIs praise, and a life committed to His kingdom.  Praise the Lord!

As we meditate on Galatians 2:20 and commit it to heart over the course of this month, may our mighty and merciful Savior grant that your life and mine would ever increasingly display the awesome reality it describes.  And, should someone take notice and think to ask us why, what has changed, may we be found ready, joyful and courageous, as those inspired words flow through our lips, into their ears, and, if the Lord wills, further still, into their very hearts, effecting the very change we love to declare.

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 u