Jesus commands you to take up your cross and follow him, and then he gives you the strength to carry the load.
Pay careful attention to these words from 2 Thessalonians 2:16–17, because they offer you a very pointed and practical summary of the work of the gospel on your life: “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” If someone were to ask you what in the world God is doing in your life right here, right now, what would you answer? I am persuaded that one of the primary reasons many of us struggle with moments of disappointment with God is that we misunderstand what God is doing. Paul really summarizes the work of God in pointing us to two essential pieces of God’s redemptive agenda.
First, God has been and is exercising his grace to bring real comfort to our hearts. What is that comfort? It’s not that he will make sure that our hopes and dreams are realized, that all our bills are promptly paid, that the people around us like us, or that we escape suffering. His comfort is more foundational and redemptive. Here it is: despite our sin, you and I have been welcomed into an eternal relationship with the Lord almighty because Jesus fully met all the requirements of God that we failed to meet. We no longer have to fear God’s wrath. We no longer have to measure up in order to achieve his acceptance. We no longer have to hide in guilt or shame. We are God’s forever and ever. He will never turn his back on us. He will never angrily throw our sin in our faces. He will never withdraw his presence and his promises, no matter how messed up we continue to be, because our standing with him is not based on our performance, but on the perfect record of his Son. But that is only one piece of God’s agenda.
Yes, we should celebrate our eternal reconciliation (“eternal comfort and good hope”) to God, but we should also recognize that there is a second part to his work. It is transformation (“establish them in every good work and word”). There is no more comforting message than the one preached from the cross of Jesus Christ, and there are no more powerful promises of transformation than those found in the grace of that cross. By grace, God is actively working real vertical comfort into our hearts so that we will not seek comfort horizontally, and by grace he is transforming our hearts so that in our work and our words we will progressively live as he chose us to live. God’s comfort doesn’t mean that the way we live our lives makes no difference, and the fact that God lays claim to our daily living in no way removes the eternal comfort of his reconciling grace. We are his by grace and we are being changed by grace—all because of his reconciling and transforming zeal. Today, bask in the comfort he gives and respond to his gracious call.
For further study and encouragement: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21
Taken from New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul Tripp, © 2014, pp. 132-162. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.