"Faith is a living, daring confidence in one thing -
So sure and certain that you would stake anything and everything on it a thousand times over.
It's because of such grace that we can do what God wants and actually serve each other - it all stems from a genuine affection towards God for such a precious truth". Martin Luther.
This week, a friend was telling me how he'd once driven across part of Australia, along roads that seemed to go on, straight and long, forever. He recalled how one night, however, out of the dark, he found himself screeching to brake at a stop sign at a small town that came out of nowhere. He realized the awful truth of that moment when he failed to stop in time, and he jumped out from the car into the darkness, his heart pounding, as he realized how fortunate he'd been. The road he'd crossed onto could have easily been occupied by a local 'road train' truck (some 4-8 times longer than lorries here in the UK), which would have barely noticed as it ran across him and his car. It was a moment he'll never forget.
The same was true for me on an August night back in 1980.
I was crashing at a house amidst a hot summer, and I couldn't sleep. The room had little to help - a bookcase full of pretty awful novels - but there, amidst the pulp, was a tiny book called 'The Wisdom of Martin Luther'. I pulled the thin publication off the shelf, opened it, and read the opening quote above.
I'd passed the 'stop' sign.
It would be another decade before I fully began to unpack the significance and ramifications of what I'd read on that summer night, but it never left me - like lightning striking on a dark night, that statement provoked and troubled me until I began to really understand what grace is.
The hell of our lives is that we're all racing furiously on a pitch back road - we feel the terror of that, but all we can seem to do is just keep going, even though we know that the stop sign must be coming. Grace is that moment when the ride's finally over, and we find there's something more than the inevitable consequence of being trapped by what we are - the sin and death that brings us so much pain and evil.
We find ourselves alive because someone else reached the stop sign before us and took our place.
Easter is all about God's mercy to a lost and dying people - us.
Jesus deals with our sins and the ruin that they bring - alienation and death - because we can't. Left to our own devices, we'd have been wasted at that crossing by sin and death, because all we would have had left was the corruption our own nature's leave us with, but God in Christ frees us from that horror and makes us more than slaves.
So, here's the challenge for this Easter. Stop raging and racing on for a moment, and let God's grace get into your thoughts and trouble you for a while. Let His astonishing and total giving get down amidst your well-defined thoughts and schedules and let it stagger you in its height and depth, and then, you will be amazed and deeply thankful for what has been made profoundly true to us in Jesus Christ.
In Christ, purely by this amazing mercy, we gain what sin caused us to loose. It's only through that gracious gift alone that we're restored, not because of anything we say or do, but purely because of what our Father does for us by His Son, purely because He loves us.