GRACE NOTES- PASTORAL LETTER 2.21.24

Monthly memory verse: “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).

Dearly beloved saints of Covenant of Grace,

I rejoiced to be with you this past Lord’s Day as we again opened the Scriptures and joined our hearts and voices in giving praise to our God.  I have been thinking of you and praying since, asking the Lord to grant you the blessings of peace and joy that come from time spent in His presence, drinking in the goodness of His glory and being continually and wondrously remade in the image and likeness of our Savior.  I have been praying this with a particular fervency in light of the time of year and the numerous illnesses that have plagued much of our congregation of late, knowing that gray days and frequent sickness, together with other trials, can prove a weighty and discouraging thing, tempting even the strongest believer to become downcast in spirit.  At such times, and at all times, there is nothing so transformative and encouraging as time spent in the presence of the Lord, whether individually, as families, or as a gathered congregation.  Indeed, to draw near to Him and be granted to see and increasingly reflect His glory is the source of our strength, and the very essence of blessedness itself.

We find this being acknowledged, of all people, by the enemies of the church in the book of Acts.  The Apostles had been doing what they normally did, gathering with God’s people and going about proclaiming the salvation of God in the crucified, but now risen and reigning Christ.  The Word of God, as it does when it is faithfully proclaimed, was causing quite a stir.  As a result, Peter and John were arrested.  Much to the chagrin of their interrogators, Peter boldly declared the death, resurrection, and living power of the Lord Jesus right before them, announcing that salvation was to be found nowhere else.  Unable to refute the well established facts, the council decided to warn Peter and John not to speak or teach anymore in the name of Jesus.  But, again to the frustration of their opponents, Peter and John answered, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-10).  Finally, unable to do anything further, the council issued some final threats and let them go.  It is right in the midst of this account that these enemies of the church themselves were forced to the awareness of what it was that gave these ordinary men such boldness, as we read in Acts 4:13, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”  What gave such courage and power to such otherwise unnoteworhty figures?  It was simply this: they had spent time with the Lord Jesus Christ.  This is what had so wonderfully morphed these simple men into mighty testifiers to the gospel of the glory of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ – they had seen His face and been thereby been gloriously changed to reflect His character in their own lives, even in an outwardly troubling time.

And, though our Savior is today sitting and reigning at the right hand of the Father in heaven, so that we can’t literally see His flesh and blood face, the same transformative power remains available to those who faithfully seek Him in His Word.  Thus, the Apostle Paul describes the ongoing process of growth in the believers life in the following manner: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor 3:18).  As Moses would come away from his time in the tent of God’s presence with his face all aglow, so the believer who devotes time to careful, prayerful mediation on the written Word of God cannot help but leave that time having grown to not only better know and love his Savior, but to better reflect Christ’s glorious character in his own attitude and life.  It is an always available well of life and refreshment to the child of God.  And, if we will only regularly go to this well and drink the water that is there freely offered, we will find that, even amidst all of this life’s sometimes great difficulties and temptations to despair, we are wondrously renewed in mind and heart, strengthened in spirit, and enabled to press on speaking and living in a way that shows forth the beauty and goodness of the One who likewise continued to make the good confession, even to the point of death.

And, of course, we do all of this with the well-founded assurance, built upon the unshakeable Word of God, that this transformation will one day be made complete.  And how will this come about?  The Apostle John tells us how in 1 John 3:2, saying, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see him as He is.”  It has been called the beatific, or blessed, vision, and it is the strong hope of every every believer.  Having looked to Christ all our days, living by faith and not by sight, our faith will at last be turned to sight when we see the face of our glorified Savior.  And, so overwhelming will that vision be, so irresistibly transformative, that we will have the true desire of our hearts, being at long last confirmed to the image of Him whom our souls love and long to see.  The war with sin will be over.  The battle with sin’s terrible consequences will have ceased.  Perfect peace and joy theretofore unparalleled will be ours forever, because we will be with Him forever.  Such is the power of a true beholding of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  Believer, this is your end.

Let us therefore be of good cheer, even when dark skies, chilly days, and disturbing events tempt us to define our days as those of sorrow rather than of rejoicing in the countless kindnesses of our God.  Let us keep one eye fixed on the glory to be revealed, on the Savior to be manifested in His fulness before our believing eyes.  And, in the meantime, that we might be helped in this and enhanced in our likeness to Him in heart and deed, let us make it our fixed resolution to daily gaze upon His glory in the pages of His life-giving Word.  Let us go, time and again, into His presence, casting our burdens on Him and having His image forged in us.  And, as we do so, may the Lord not only greatly encourage our hearts, but make undeniable to those around us that we, like the Apostles of old, have been with Jesus!

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.