There was a time in history when it was said, “all roads lead to Rome.” Well, all roads may have led to Rome at one time, but all roads definitely do not lead to the grace and peace that so many are longing for today. Our troubling times only reflect the deeply troubled hearts of men, women, boys, and girls who are searching for peace and yearning for grace.
We shouldn’t be led to believe that we can pursue peace and grace for living life in the same way that we navigate our way to geographical destinations. Let me explain. If I want to get home after church this morning there are many different roads that I can take so that I will end up at my house. There is more than one way to accomplish my goal of getting home.
If we were to decide to take a trip to Dallas next weekend then we could sit down with a map and plot out our route. Now, some would say that the best way to get to Dallas would be to take I-35 all the way. I-35 is the quickest, easiest road to take to get to Dallas, but what if my family wanted to stop by Duncan and see my folks and then jog over to Lawton to see Connie’s folks before we arrived at our final destination? We would just plan our route according to what best meets our needs. There are a myriad of roads that we could take to get to Dallas, but there are not a myriad of roads that lead to lasting peace and grace.
There are people in our society that believe there are many roads that we can take to acquire the peace and grace for living that we all desire. The fact of the matter is that there are many among us who do not even have a map, much less any idea how to travel the road to peace and grace.
On Tuesday of this past week I was attending a meeting with the Billy Graham Mission team and some people from across our city who are working on the upcoming Mission. Rick Marshall, the Mission Director for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, shared with us as we were beginning our meeting. Rick wanted those of us who live our lives in a Christian environment to realize that our society is truly lost. Rick said that the Billy Graham organization had recently been contacted by the Armed Services. Their Chaplains are overwhelmed with the immense need they are encountering with the young soldiers who are in Iraq. Rick said, “This is the first generation of young soldiers who were born and raised on American soil, but out of the grip of the Church. These young people, who are now confronted with the overwhelming spiritual, emotional, and physical challenges of war have no resources to help them in their struggle.” With this great need the Billy Graham people have agreed to have the Mission from QualComm Park in San Diego broadcast to every Naval ship and every military base in the world so that the soldiers can learn of the peace that surpasses all understanding and the saving grace of our Lord and King.
Rick wasn’t through driving home his point. He told us that of the 100 largest churches in America 36 are in the Dallas, Texas area. The largest is in Plano, Texas and yet 75% of Plano is unchurched. The pastor of this church said, “We are not being successful in reaching our neighbors because we do not know how to fish in a pagan pond.” There is no doubt about it – my friends we are lost, utterly lost! Confusion as to which road to take is not our main problem. There are multitudes in our communities who do not even have a map.
Don’t get me wrong; there is mass confusion about which path leads to peace and grace because of the multitude of roads, dead-end roads, which are being pushed upon the people of our society. Rick Marshall told us that every day in America there is the emergence of a new “messiah” who supposedly knows the way. Jesus said, “I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.” Yet, this is not the dominant message being declared, not even in our churches. Let me give you a couple of examples of what I am talking about. I was reading an article on the website of The Association of Christian Meditators this past week that I want to share with you. Listen closely.
Yet the doctrine of Universal Salvation states that all beings shall be saved, even Satan. If a computer program makes a mistake, do we send it to hell? No, we try to find the mistake and re-run it, and continue the process until we are satisfied. Similarly, we in the Association of Christian Meditators believe that reincarnation SOMETIMES occurs? Christians are promised eternal life in Heaven, if they are good. Yet the already saved may chose to re-incarnate for a purpose, so taking a new life should not be seen as only for the imperfect. The path to liberation or Nirvana being too difficult for most people, Yahshua (Jesus) made it easy for the virtuous to attain eternal Life in heaven, if they so choose. (Association of Christian Meditators. http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/prothro/us.htm)
The people who put together the website have almost gotten one thing right: They write, “The path to liberation, Nirvana, peace, and grace is too difficult for most people.” I say the path to peace and grace is not too difficult for most people, but all people.
Another example that I ran onto this past week is an article by someone who is sponsored by Biblelands.com. Now you would think that with a name like that?well, don’t judge a website by it’s sponsor. Listen to this.
Many people believe that Heaven has only one gate and only one narrow road leading up to it. In America, many, if not most Christians fervently believe that this one road leading to this one set of Pearly Gates is only open to Christians and all others are doomed to oblivion or even eternal damnation in the fires of hell. Nothing could be more arrogantly removed from the truth. There are many roads to Heaven and HEAVEN’S GATES are opened to people of all faiths who honestly attempt to live honorable and ethical lives. (Sponsored by Biblelands.com. http://www.heavensgates.org)
Can you see why people would be confused? Which is it? Is the peace and grace that we’ve all been longing for a gift of grace from Almighty God or is it something that we just need to work a little harder to achieve? It doesn’t really matter what I think about this because God’s Word speaks definitively about the topic. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for today found in Galatians 1:1-5.
1 Paul, an apostle-sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead-2 and all the brothers with me, To the churches in Galatia: 3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Galatians 1:1-5 NIV)
If you will remember last week we talked about Paul’s calling as an apostle and the constant battle he fought against the false teachers of his day. Paul was a traveling apostle while the false teachers were locals who constantly tried to draw people away from Jesus and away from the Gospel that Paul was preaching.
Throughout this letter Paul is so intentional with every word that he chooses to flow from his pen. Paul begins this six chapter letter by saying, 3 “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ?” This verse holds two of the most powerful and meaningful words in all of Christianity! John MacArthur writes about these two words in his commentary on Galatians and says,
Two of the most precious words related to that God-given gospel are grace and peace. The first is the source of salvation and the second is the result. Grace is positional, peace is practical, and together they flow from God our Father through His Son and our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Since it offered no grace and provided no peace, the law system being taught by the lying Judaizers is attacked even in this simple greeting. If being right with God and possessing salvation is by works, as those false teachers maintained, then it is not of grace (Rom. 4:4-5) and can bring no peace, since one never knows if he has enough good works to be eternally secure. (John MacArthur)
The false teachers of Paul’s day knew the road to peace?you earned it. They knew the path to God’s favor?you earned it. You obey the Law, you observe the feast days, and you work and work to make sure that you remain on that road of righteousness, self-righteousness. Paul taught another message, a message they couldn’t tolerate, but the message of salvation by grace through faith that leads to peace. Let’s take a closer look at these two powerful words.
The word “grace” in Greek means, “that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, and loveliness; of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.” The word is used over 130 times in the New Testament.
Let me give you a couple of examples of places where the Apostle Paul used this powerful little word. In Paul’s letter to Timothy he writes about how the grace of the Lord was poured out on him in abundance. Read along with me beginning in verse 13.
13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-of whom I am the worst. (1 Timothy 1:13-15 NIV)
One of the most beautiful pictures of the power of grace used by Paul is found in 2 Corinthians 12 where Paul speaks about a thorn in his flesh that he was absolutely unable to do anything about. Paul knew he couldn’t alleviate his “thorn,” whatever it was, but he cried out to God to remove this thorn. God wouldn’t remove the thorn, but He promised Paul that there was something stronger, something more effective than the removal of his thorn, and that was His sustaining grace. Read along with me beginning in verse 7.
7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NIV)
God’s grace not only draws us to Himself, but it is God’s grace that equips us for the purpose He has planned for us. God’s grace not only equips us, but it sustains us all along the way. It is God’s grace that lifts us up when we are down! It is God’s grace that fills us up when we are empty! It is God’s grace that gives us hope when we are hopeless! It is God’s grace that saves us when we are utterly lost! It is all of grace, all of grace, so that none of us can boast!
The next word that we need to take a look at is the word, “peace.” The Greek word translated “peace” means, “security, safety, prosperity, felicity; the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is.” Peace is not the absence of war, turmoil, or trials – it is the presence of God empowering us, sustaining us, and quieting our spirit with the gentle confidence of His Spirit. Paul wrote about this peace in Philippians 4:6-7. Read along with me.