THE GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
A Sermon by Rev. Lawson M. Smith
Preached in Westville, South Africa February 25, 1996
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all” (Rev. 22:21).
This blessing is the very last thing said in the whole Bible. After everything else, the Lord raises His hands to bless us. The whole point of everything in the Word is that His grace may be with us all.
Let’s picture the Lord blessing the little girl who was baptized today. Each of us was this size once. We may each work toward regaining the simple, humble innocence of a little child. So this applies to us all.
What is the grace of the Lord that He wishes to be with her?
Grace is a seemingly effortless beauty of movement and form. We might picture a ballerina, or a beautiful building, or a kind and tactful manner in relating with other people. These kinds of grace correspond to truth, married to a good love.
Spiritually, grace means having a perception of what is orderly and right, coming from a love of doing the right things. Joseph, the son of Jacob, is a good example. He found grace in the eyes of his master because of his wise and faithful management of the affairs entrusted to him.
Concerning the Lord Himself we read, “And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him” (Luke 2:40).
The Lord wishes for this little girl that she may grow to be a graceful person, especially in having a love for and a sense of what is the right thing to do.
In the lesson, we read that in the spiritual sense, “grace” means being delighted with truth. Grace is the feeling of joy one has at the discovery or recognition of a truth that is so evidently and beautifully true that we can’t help but smile. Grace is the feeling of security that we are doing something according to conscience, with the Lord’s approval, or in His good graces.
“To those who are in [His] spiritual kingdom,” the Writings say, “the Lord grants that they may be in the affection for truth for truth’s sake. This Divine gift is what is called grace. As far as anyone is in this affection, he or she is in the Lord’s Divine grace, and there is no other grace given to a person, a spirit or an angel, than the grace of being affected by the truth because it is true.”
There is no other grace “since in that affection, they have heaven and all its blessedness.” When a person is in a state of grace spiritually at least in that state he or she doesn’t think of being paid or honored for his understanding of the truth, or of being “right.” And she doesn’t have to force herself to behave. She simply enjoys doing the right sort of things and avoiding wrong things.
When we have this kind of love for following the truth, we learn to act wisely. Acting wisely is the essence of graceful living. The Lord wishes such a free and graceful life for each of us. “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory. No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11) .
Another meaning of grace is forgiveness. To treat someone graciously is to overlook any faults and show the person favor. The Lord Himself is infinitely gracious, forgiving and kind, not withholding any good thing from those who will receive and use His gifts wisely.
The Lord wants His grace to be upon us in two ways. First, He wants us to receive His gracious kindness into ourselves. He leads us to forgive others, following His example. Such grace is at the heart of love toward the neighbor. Second, as we learn to act and speak more graciously to others, the Lord is able to show us grace and forgive us our sins. The Lord never holds anything against us. But we often hold things against ourselves. We cling to bad habits, we hold onto grudges against others, we nurse hurts done to us by circumstances and by others. The Lord wants us to give up our bad habits and let Him take them away. With them, He will take away both the guilt and also the interest or lust for such things, and replace them with an aversion to evil and a love of better ways.
So the Lord wishes for this little girl that she may learn to act with kindness and forgiveness toward others, and that she may be willing to be set free from her sins.
As parents, grandparents and friends, we can help the grace of the Lord be with her. First, we can set an example, as best we can, of acting gracefully, walking uprightly, and living so as to receive the Lord’s grace. Especially as children grow older, it is appropriate for parents to acknowledge their sins that affect their children, and to ask for forgiveness. Children can then see what self-examination and repentance are in real life. We parents need to think carefully and develop a lot of self-control to act with grace, kindness and truth toward our children.
At times various levels of rebuke and punishment are necessary. Human beings are born with inclinations to be selfish. The fact that we and our children have these inclinations is not our fault. We should know that they are going to say and do unkind, untrue things from time to time, just as we adults do. When they misbehave, we have an opportunity and a duty to help our children. We can show them what is appropriate and orderly, and why. We can help them learn to govern their natural inclinations, according to the Lord’s Word.
But in meting out punishment, we may let a spirit of revenge creep in. It clouds our judgment of what is fair, and limits our perception of a child s state. Correction is sometimes necessary, but we must try to let the spirit of the Lord’s grace be upon us. This requires regular self-examination and repentance. It is also a great opportunity for mutual discussion between husband and wife as to what is the wisest and most loving way to train a child, so that she may receive the Lord’s grace for herself when she has grown up.
The second way we can help our children is to teach them the stories of the Word, and help them learn them with affection. Grace is delight in the truth. New Church schools are a wonderful supplement in this effort. But there’s no substitute for family worship at home.
A child s most respected and loved adults, the closest image of the Lord to her, are her parents. Her parents’ own love of the stories of the Word goes far deeper than what the school alone can provide. Their commitment to finding time for worship; the attention they focus on their children to help them learn these stories and their recitations; their conversations about life, in relation to the Lord these examples have real power with children, potentially lasting into eternal life.
In the promise of true marriage love, more than anywhere else, we see the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Parents can help their children believe in an eternal marriage and aim for it, asking the Lord for guidance and help.
We can help our children be respectful of marriage and things related to it. We can help our sons and daughters honor the opposite sex. Boys can learn to honor the beauty and grace with which the Lord has created women, the love that inspires men to look outside themselves, to pursue the truth and a life according to it no matter what.
A girl can love to be beautiful not just for her own sake but for others; to provide for a sphere of beauty and grace, a gentle sensitivity to human states and needs, which makes the soul and home of all human endeavors.
The Lord came into the world partly to show us how to be good parents. His goal was to make us free to choose whether or not we will receive His grace and truth. He taught with authority and clarity, perfectly accommodating to our states. He made it possible for us to find delight in the truth again, for He Himself is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He showed that within the strong but sometimes harsh words of the Old Testament law is His spirit of grace and truth. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory … full of grace and truth … And out of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace” (John 1:14,16,17).
For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” He came to us as the Bridegroom and Husband of the church. He became the visible God, whom we know and can respond to with love, as a bride to her bridegroom and as a wife to her husband.
As we look to Him together as husbands and wives, and as we provide this example for our children, the Lord will be able to bless us with marriages of grace and truth, of love truly conjugial, in which all His blessings are gathered together. So the sacrament of baptism, the sign of entrance into the Christian Church, is full of a wonderful promise: that we may come to know and acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ as our Redeemer and Savior, and follow Him; thus that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ may be with us all. Amen.
Lessons: Rev. 1:1-8, 22:12-21; AE 22 (part)
Apocalypse Explained 22 (part)
“Grace to you and peace” signifies the delight of truth and good. This is evident from the signification of “grace” as being the delight of truth (about which more presently); and from the signification of “peace” as being the delight of the good of innocence and love (on which see in the work Heaven and Hell, where the state of peace in heaven is treated of, n. 284-290). “Grace” means the delight of truth, because there are two things that proceed from the Lord, united in their origin but separated with those that receive them. For there are those that receive more of the Divine truth than the Divine good, and those that receive more of the Divine good than the Divine truth. Those that receive more of the Divine truth than the Divine good are in the Lord’s spiritual kingdom, and are therefore called spiritual; but those that receive more of the Divine good than the Divine truth are in the Lord’s celestial kingdom, and are therefore called celestial. (On these two kingdoms in heaven and in the church, see in the work Heaven and Hell, n. 20-25.) To those in the spiritual kingdom it is granted by the Lord to be in the affection of truth for the sake of truth; and this Divine is what is called grace; so far, therefore, as any one is in that affection is he in the Lord’s Divine grace; nor is there any other Divine grace with man, spirit, or angel than to be affected by truth because it is truth, since in that affection there is heaven and blessedness for them (see in The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine, n. 232, 236, 235; and Heaven and Hell, 395-414). Whether we say the affection of truth or the delight of truth it is the same; for there is no affection without delight.
This in particular is what is meant by “grace” in the Word; as in John: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt in us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth; of His fullness we all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (1:14,16,17).
It is said “grace and truth” because grace is the affection and the delight of truth. And in Luke, after the Lord had explained in the synagogue the prophesy of Isaiah respecting Himself, that is, the Divine truth, it is said: “All wondered at the words of grace proceeding out of His mouth” (4:22).
The Divine truths that the Lord spoke are called “words of grace proceeding out of His mouth” because they are acceptable, grateful, and delightful. In general, Divine grace is all that is given from the Lord; and as all that is so given has relation to faith and love, and faith is the affection of truth from good, this is meant in particular by Divine grace: for to be gifted with faith and love, or with the affection of truth from good, is to be gifted with heaven, thus with eternal blessedness.