It’s so easy to cling to the glory days. Though this looks different for each of us, most people have a moment, an era, a season to look back on with nostalgia and longing.
Athletic victories remembered by a man whose back now hurts getting up from the couch. Firm teenage skin no longer taken for granted by a middle-aged woman staring into her mirror. Professional expertise and command gone by the wayside for a retiree feeling purposeless. The fun and freedom of the college years before the daily drudgery of #adulting began. Sleepy newborn snuggles cherished by the mom now parenting a rebellious teen.
Remembering our glory days can often cause us to miss the moment we’re in now and the good that can be found there. And if we’re not careful, this mindset can even bleed over into our relationship with God.
By the age of two, each of my children has been taught in our Children’s Ministry to recite Ephesians 2:8-9, which begins with the phrase, “For it is by grace you have been saved.” This verse encapsulates the heart of the gospel – we can’t do it on our own. We have no way to earn or deserve the salvation that we so desperately need. But if we only think of grace as something we have already experienced, we’re relying on our glory days all over again.
The completed work of Christ on the cross for our sins is a watershed event in human history, and every believer can look back to the time when they stepped from unbelief to belief, when their eyes were opened in faith to the goodness of the gospel. But it’s all too easy for Christians to camp out there, minimizing the extent of what Jesus accomplished on our behalf.
Christ’s death paid the penalty that our sins deserved, but the cross isn’t the end of the story. When Jesus rose again, he gives us new life in him. This life, moment by moment, is as much a gift of grace as his death. Because we live in him, grace sustains us in the present – and we can trust it to continue in the future as well.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
This passage begins by reminding us of the glory days of the gospel which, unlike our own experiences, can never be tainted by rose-colored glasses or forgetfulness. God acted mightily on our behalf, giving us new life through his love in the resurrection and ascension of Christ, making a way for us to live in intimate relationship with him. But Paul goes on to remind us of God’s future purpose.
There is an age to come. In one sense, it has already arrived – we are one with Christ. His life is in us, and our lives are “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). But in another sense, we are still waiting for future promises to be fulfilled, when sin’s presence will be removed completely from the world and all things will be made new. And these verses remind us that grace will be what carries us through. We haven’t plumbed the depths of graces by crossing the line of faith. God promises to show us “the immeasurable riches of his grace” in the days to come.
Just as we began our experience of grace by placing our faith in the work of his Son, so we continue in grace daily. May each of our lives be marked by these moment-by-moment decisions to place our faith in him, whether in difficulty or delight. For our glory days are still to come.
Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.
– John Newton