“Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him fro the dead), and all the brethren who are with me,
To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and the Father, to who be the glory forevermore. Amen.” Galatians 5:1-5
Recently I had an unusual preaching experience. My pastor, Clay Reed, asked me to coordinate a joint message with my father, Don Miller. The focus of the message was on, “The Legacy of Prayer.” Dad is 92 years old and has been preaching and praying since he was saved, 72 years ago. Our wives, Libby and Dana, joined us for the presentation on the platform. My two children, Ashley and Allyson, took part in a question and answer time with the pastor at the end of the message.
In preparation, Dad and I spent several mornings sitting at his kitchen table talking about the things that he has learned about prayer after decades of pastoring, and raising a family. Dad has never been one to be scripted, but I made some talking points that I thought might trigger some of his memories and initiate responses that would be helpful for people to hear. Dad approved and ignored all of them. He always does.
When Pastor Clay asked him a question, Dad nodded and moved immediately into a form of prayer that has become more and more a pattern, during this past year. Since August we have accompanied Dad to the Emergency Room numerous times, and spent over a month in various Intensive Care Units, due to either his Congestive Heart Failure or falls he has taken. His last early morning visit took place the Tuesday night. He took a blow to the back of his head, from a fall in his kitchen and had to have four stitches on the back of his head. Since we were to speak the following Sunday, I was concerned about his wellbeing and capacity to clearly share what was on his heart.
As it turned out, God used Mom and Dad to clearly exhibit a picture of what seven decades of marriage looks like when two people spend their lives praying TWOgether. It should come as no surprise that their Life Verse is “O magnify the Lord with me, come let us exalt His name together.” Psalms 34:3
Dad’s response to most questions is a reflex reaction that points him toward God. He moves in and out of prayer with God, throughout the day, and when someone introduces a question or a comment to him, he quickly turns the focus of the question or conversation towards The Father. Sometimes it is difficult to tell when his prayer ends and his comments begin. He maintains a seamless stream of conversation with God, and when questions come his way, he invites The Father to take part in the conversation. It’s hard to explain, but amazing, and a little nerve-wracking for me to experience, but not for Dad.
Note to self: It would probably improve most of your conversations with people if you invited The Father to take part, before you said anything. Try it. Soon.
Paul seems to be able to do something very similar. As he introduces himself, his apostolic credentials, and his ministry team in Rome, Paul transitions seamlessly from a salutation into a word of intercession. Everything that ends with Amen is not a prayer, but Paul’s statement has all the markings of something more substantive, than a mere meet and greet salutation. The greeting becomes a glorification of The Meeting that takes place when God’s grace meets man’s need.
“Grace to you and peace from our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and the Father, to who be the glory forevermore. Amen.”
God’s grace is the dispensation of His unmerited favor upon rebellious people who do not deserve to be forgiven. Yet He offers an end to the hostilities between Himself and rebels who comes to Him in absolute surrender through His Son, Jesus.
Rescued rebels who seek refuge in God’s arms, from “this present evil age” become the pillars of the church, through the grace of God. As Paul began to speak of grace, he must have remembered how much of The Father’s forgiveness was required to transform him from a murderer of Christian converts to a mentor of the early church.
Paul never got over God’s grace. It never stopped amazing him how much he had been forgiven by God, and how he had been commissioned by Jesus to share the mystery of The Gospel. Neither should anyone else. It is “Amazing Grace”, indeed.
“Rescue us from this present evil age” is a far cry from the desire of most contemporary Christians. They seem to be intent on blending in with it, selling out to it, or hiding from it. None of these describe repentance, a turnaround that takes places when sinners admit they are moving in the wrong direction, and in need of a Savior to rescue them from evil.
Paul could not meet and greet people without pointing them to the grace of God, The Father, and giving Him glory for rescuing him and others through His Son, Jesus Christ. Paul had looked into the face of his “evil age”, and by God’s grace had seen the face of His Savior.
When faced with evil, turn to the face of God through prayer, and call out to Jesus. He still rescues repentant rebels. Nothing is more important than The Meeting of God's grace at the point of your need. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!