Sometimes what you think you want is not really what you need. I walked into an Asian restaurant the other day and ordered something that I thought was like eggrolls (which I love!), but when I got it, it was some kind of raw lettuce thing that ended up going straight to the trash. What I thought I wanted was not what I wanted at all!
That applies to a number of areas of our lives. What we THINK we want is not really what we need. You may see a protester with a sign that says: “Justice for so-and-so!” — but if the truth be known, if “so-and-so” really got the justice that was coming to him, it wouldn’t turn out so well for him. We say we want “justice” for ourselves and others — but is that what we really need?
This morning we are continuing our study in the Book of Philippians with the second verse:
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Here the Apostle Paul and Timothy, whom we saw last week consider themselves as “slaves” of Jesus Christ — as should we — give their greeting to the church at Philippi. Almost these exact same words found here in :2 of Philippians are repeated in most of Paul’s letters of the New Testament. They are very important, because they reveal a lot to us about what we really want and need — and most importantly, where we can get it!
I. What You Need
“Grace to you and peace”
“Peace” was the typical Jewish greeting; many of you are familiar with the Hebrew word “Shalom”, which means “peace.” “Shalom” means “wholeness, oneness.” It means that everything is whole; right; well; just the way it should be. So when you have “shalom”, it means that everything is “whole, right, well” with you — in your relationship with God and with other people, with your life. So “Shalom” became the typical Hebrew greeting. When a Jewish person saw someone on the street, they might say: “Shalom.” It is saying that you hope that everything is and will be good and right and well with them.
This is what we all want; we want for everything to be right between us and God; we want for everything to be right and at peace between us and other people; and we want to be at peace with the events and direction of our life. “Shalom”; “peace”, is truly what we all want and need.
One of Cheryl’s favorite movies is “While You Were Sleeping” with Sandra Bullock. At one point in the movie, the patriarch of the family is talking to his son and he says: “You know, you work hard, try to provide for the family, and then, for one minute, everything’s good. Everyone’s well, everyone’s happy. In — in that one minute, you have peace.”
I think we all want that kind of feeling of “peace”, that everything is whole, everything is well, everyone is at peace. Now, in the movie, “While You Were Sleeping”, when the dad says, “In that one minute, you have peace”, the very next thing the son says is: “Pop, this isn’t that minute!” — and he went on to explain a problem he had.
And unfortunately that’s how it is with us, too. Many of us would say with the son in that movie, of our own lives right now: “This isn’t that minute.” We don’t have peace with God; we don’t have peace with other people; we don’t have peace with the direction of our lives right now. And the reason we don’t is because of sin. Back in the Garden of Eden, sin came into the world and poisoned everything. And it’s not just Adam & Eve. Every one of us since that time has “turned to his own way” the Bible says. We have all turned our back on God, and as a result we have no peace with God or man; and no peace in our lives. And it is our own fault because of our sin. But peace is what we need.
So Paul opens his greeting by saying, “GRACE” to you. This is an interesting word in its context. The usual greeting from someone in the Graeco-Roman world was “xara” — which means “joy” to you. But Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, changes this traditional greeting to “charis” — “grace to you.” And he does that because GRACE is what we really need from God. Like the word “chesed” or “lovingkindness” of the Old Testament, “charis” is hard to translate into English. It means a “gift” given because of someone’s kindness; not what was earned or deserved. Paul says THIS is what we need from God: we need His undeserved goodness and grace. We need Him to treat us better than we deserve.
Wednesday nights we are studying and praying through the Book of Psalms. Last Wednesday we looked at Psalm 15, which as we saw, is a very simple Psalm. It asks in the first verse: “O LORD, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill?” And then from :2 to :5, the end of the Psalm, it gives 11 qualifications of the person who can dwell with God. It is very simple — except for the fact that NONE of us can do what those 11 things describe! The very first thing :2 says is that you must walk in perfect integrity — who can do that? Then it says you have to be “righteous” — that is, be “right” in everything you do both vertically towards God, and in your horizontal relationships with other people. Who can say they have done everything right both towards God and man? And so it goes through the end of the Psalm. The truth is, the answer to the question, “O LORD, who may abide in Your tent; Who may dwell on Your holy hill?” is NONE OF US! None of us — if we got what we deserved — would ever enter heaven.
That is why we need God’s GRACE. We need God to be gracious to us, and treat us better than we deserve, for ANY of us to have a hope of being with Him in heaven.
Ephesians 2 gives us one of the best pictures in the Bible of the importance of grace for our salvation. The chapter begins: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”
In other words, we had ALL rebelled against God; we had all chosen to sin; we were all living in lusts and following Satan instead of God — and if we got what we deserved, we would ALL be punished by the wrath of God!
But then :4 is one of the greatest transitions in all the Bible. It says: “But God … being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) … For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
That is the only hope that any of us has for salvation and the ultimate peace that we all want: that God will give us His GRACE, and treat us better than we deserve.
At over 1200 pages, Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables is one of the longest books I have ever read, but it was also one of the best, and it is full of symbolism of Christian truth. One of the best is near the beginning of the book, when the central character of the book, a convict by the name of Jean Valjean, finished his term in prison and was released. He came to the home of a French priest, who took him in, fed him, and gave him a place to sleep. But Valjean got up early, and took the priest’s silver and ran off with it. Later that day, the police brought him back to the priest, and told him that Valjean had told them that he had given it to him. The priest said, yes, that it had been his, but he said I have given these to him — and he told Valjean: you forgot to take the silver candlesticks too — they were the best pieces — and he handed them to him. The police let the convict go, but the priest’s grace transformed Valjean, and soon he was a different man. That priest did not give Valjean what he deserved: he deserved to be handed over to the police; he deserved to go back to prison; he deserved to finish his days there. But he didn’t treat him like he “deserved” — he treated him with GRACE — better than he deserved — and his life was changed by that grace.
And that is the way it is with us and the Lord. We do not want what we “deserve” from God! Those of us who understand the Bible will never be found out protesting, asking for “justice” for ourselves. We know that if we got justice, it would end very badly for us. Instead, we ask for God’s GRACE. And thankfully, the Bible says that is just what He gives to everyone who asks — GRACE that sent Jesus to the cross, grace that paid for our sins, grace to forgive us, and grace to bring us back into the family of God if we would repent of our sins. And we can live forever in heaven, at peace with God and with others — NOT because we “deserve” it — but because of God’s GRACE. So what we want is peace; and what we need to get that peace is grace. Grace & peace are what we need.
II. Where It Comes From?
The verse goes on to say: “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Where does this “grace and peace” come from? It is significant that Paul says “from God our Father AND the Lord Jesus Christ”, because he is putting them together as co-sources of this grace and peace. See, as Christians, we believe in “monotheism” — that there is only one God — but Christians also believe that this One God is a TRIUNE God: that the One, true God has existed from eternity as three Persons, as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. (Tri-une means “three in one”) One is not “greater” than the other; they are each 100% God. We see this doctrine taught throughout the New Testament, and it is partially reflected here: where Paul mentions two of the Persons, and says that grace and peace come to us “from God the Father AND the Lord Jesus Christ.” It doesn’t just come from the Father; it doesn’t just come from Jesus; it comes from both of them jointly, as they are ONE.
At Christmas time, Cheryl & I give our kids presents, and sometimes I will have picked out something special that I particularly had wanted to give to one child, and so the present will say it’s “From Dad” or Cheryl will have found something for one of the girls’ kitchen or something that she wanted to give one of them, so it will say “From Mom.” But most of the time, we will have agreed together to get them something, and the present will say, “From Mom & Dad.” That is because that gift is from both of us. It is not just from one or the other, but from both. Since we are married, we are “one”: “Mom & Dad.” We are co-parents, not one more than the other. Both of us together are the giver of the gift, because we are “one.”
That is what Paul is saying here about the grace and peace that come from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and this is important:
— It teaches that God the Father and Jesus are co-equal; that is, they are both God. Jesus is not “less” than God. He said “I and the Father are ONE” (John 10).
— And so we also know that Jesus Himself IS God. John 1:1 says: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus was not just a man, not just a good teacher; He was and is GOD.
Taken together with verses like this throughout the New Testament, the Bible clearly teaches the Triune nature of God, and the Deity of Jesus Christ.
But listen; this is important: This is not just some “doctrine” to believe. You must personally receive the grace and peace of God through Jesus Christ as YOUR LORD. If you were here last week, you remember that “Lord” means “Master.” You must personally come to a time in your life when you make Jesus Christ the Master, or Lord of your life, to receive the grace and peace of God.
Just knowing about it is not enough. James 2 says “You believe that God is one; you do well: the demons also believe, and shudder!” James says the demons believe what this scripture teaches. They know that God and Jesus are one — in fact, they know it better than we do! When the demon-possessed man came up to Jesus in Mark 5, he said “What have we do to with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God” — the disciples didn’t even know that Jesus was the Son of God yet! Those demons had a better theological understanding of who Jesus was than His disciples did at that point! But those demons were not saved, because they had not submitted to Jesus as their Lord & Master, and followed Him. And honestly, that is the same spot that some of you here today are in. You have never purposefully made Jesus the Lord & Master of your life.
Many of you know what a “default position” is: a “default position” is the way things are going to stay, unless they are purposefully changed. For example, your computer comes with certain “default settings” for different things. Those settings can be changed, but they are going to remain on those “default settings” unless and until you purposefully get in and change them. For example, Internet Explorer has been the “default” web browser on most Microsoft computers for years. When you start up your computer and get on the internet, you are going to use Internet Explorer. Now, that can be changed. If you want to, you can get Google Chrome, or Safari, or some other web browser, but if you are going to do that, you have to purposefully change the settings. Internet Explorer is the “default” program — the one it is set on unless and until you purposefully change it.
What a lot of people don’t understand is that they think that our “default position” is that we are all going to heaven, unless we purposefully do something really BAD, that sends us to hell. But that is not true. We were all born with a sin nature, and then when we got to the point in our lives when we had an opportunity to chose, we all chose to sin against God. We have all rebelled against God’s Lordship of our lives. So our default position is that we all are headed towards hell, unless something purposefully changes it, and Satan knows that. That is why he doesn’t want you to do anything spiritually. That’s why he doesn’t’ want you to make a spiritual decision, or make any changes to your life. That’s why he tries to “lull” your life to sleep with all the video games and television and entertainment and recreation he can, to keep you complacent so that you won’t do anything differently, because he knows if you don’t do anything differently than what you’re doing now, he’s got you. If nothing changes, your “default position” is with him in hell.
If you want things to change, then you have to come to a specific time in your life when you turn around and say, “Now I am going to do something differently; now I am going to turn and follow Jesus as my Lord & Master.” That is called repentance: when you say, I am not going to rebel against God any more; I am going to turn around follow Jesus.
And this is exactly what some of you need to do today. You need to admit that you have sinned against God, and that what you need from Him is not “justice”, but GRACE. But to get the grace and peace God wants you to have, you have to make the purposeful, personal choice, of making Jesus Christ the Lord & Master of your life. You have to trust His death on the cross to save you from your sins, and make Him the Lord of your life. That happens in your heart, and you can ask Him to do that for you right now.
But it starts by knowing what to ask for. Don’t ask God to give you what you deserve. That would send every one of us straight to hell. If you need to ask God for something today, ask Him for GRACE. Ask Him to give you what you don’t deserve. Ask Him to give you “grace and peace, from God our Father & the Lord Jesus Christ.”