18 Grace - the ultimate refuge



The Christian life is a struggle.

Paul makes this clear in Romans 7:7-8:4 as he relates the deep and pervasive inner tension that hounds the Christian’s choices.

This struggle ought not to surprise us when we consider that it confronted even the Holy One, the incarnate Christ. He knows just how it feels for he was ‘tempted in every way, just as we are’ [Hebrews 4:15]. He knows what it is like to be faced with choosing the devil’s agenda instead of God’s [Matthew 4:1-11]. He knows, far more than any of us, that there is a cosmic battle, and that the chief battleground is human hearts and human minds.

Here in our hearts and minds the subtle nature of temptation makes each decision often appear to be a personal choice between two personal options. The deeper reality, that these decisions are really a choice between God and Satan, between the kingdom of Light and dominion of darkness, is cleverly camouflaged. But in Romans 7 Paul faces it squarely. He, Paul, the servant and apostle of Jesus Christ really desires to do what is good. At the same time there is within him the pull and the enticement of sin. So great is this enticement that sometimes he does not carry out the good that he desires.

And he is trapped there: here in this I/me tension that has the potential to generate an unendurable wretchedness within us, a deep despair, an overwhelming guilt.

He is trapped there, and we are trapped there, in this wretchedness, this despair, this guilt … were it not for grace.

We will always fail. We are always sinners. And because of this there is never a day, never a moment, never a nano-second, when we do not need this ultimate refuge, this place of permanent present peace and joy in the midst of the battle, in the midst of the failures.

Having described his agony, his grief over his inability to not sin, Paul rejoices in this refuge, this rescue from the wretchedness generated by his continuing sin, this strong fortress that shields him, and all who believe in Christ, from all the arrows of accusation, from all condemnation: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Here in this refuge there is no condemnation. Here in this refuge we have been set free from all that the law could hold against us. Here in this refuge all the points of accusation cannot reach us. Here in this grace we are shielded and secure.

We rejoice in grace at the point of conversion, and we rejoice as we anticipate grace on the day of judgement. Let us also rejoice in this grace, this ultimate refuge, day by day, moment by moment, as we live as acquitted sinners in the presence of the Holy God. 

© Rosemary Bardsley 2010