Monday, February 23, 2015

Dispensers of Grace or guilt?

He came to save us. It’s not that we earned it by doing good works or righteous deeds; He came because He is merciful. He brought us out of our old ways of living to a new beginning through the washing of regeneration; and He made us completely new through the Holy Spirit, who was poured out in abundance through Jesus the Anointed, our Savior. All of this happened so that through His grace we would be accepted into God’s covenant family and appointed to be His heirs, full of the hope that comes from knowing you have eternal life. This is a faithful statement of what we believe. Titus 3:5-8 

 We're in a new study concerning condemnation, conviction, and repentance. We are focusing on condemnation again this week. I want to peel this onion back if you will and gain even more understanding.

What about our mess ups, mistakes, and plain sin?

 Glad to address this. What about condemnation because we actually have missed God? What if our actions hurt others? Shouldn't we be under condemnation? Don't we deserve to be condemned? Let's allow the Word to respond. First things first:
 14 Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.15 Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Romans 6:14-15
Sin is not who we are any longer. We are under grace, not Law or performance. Grace received,  God's divine influence upon our heart, makes wrong choices and immorality unappealing. Now last time we studied the actual meaning of the word condemnation. It carries the connotation of an adverse sentence against you. There is, however, one time a Greek word is actually translated condemnation in the Epistles where it really means to be blamed. 

 In Galatians 2:11 Paul confronted Peter for allowing legalism to determine his choices instead of God's love and His grace. Paul defended his confrontation to Peter by stating he was to be blamed. The translators translated this Greek word more accurately in Galatians than they did in 1 John. The word is translated as "condemn" in 1 John and "to be blamed" in Galatians. These are the only times this word is even used in the entire New Testament. Let's look at 1 John for a moment to more thoroughly answer the question about what if we sin.
20 For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. 1 John 3:20-21 NKJV
 This begins to the answer the question. When we miss it be it deliberately or unknowingly we are not blameless if you will. We did miss it. Here is the key, it is never God condemning you, a believer if you miss it. However, your new nature will not feel cozy or at home if you will in making bad choices or living in a manner that doesn't reflect that new nature. The New Living Translation gives us a clearer understanding of this passage.
20 Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence. 1 John 3:20-21 NLT                                                                     It is our heart reminding us who we are already in Him. In Him, we don't live contrary to our new nature. God is not, I repeat not imputing your sin or failure to you and requiring you to "pay up" for missing it. He isn't withholding His love or blessings when we miss it. His forgiveness is still ours. His love never fails even though we do. 

Why we shouldn't want to miss it

There are three reasons why we don't want to miss it continually even though we are forgiven and made new in Him. 
1. sin has consequences. This is a two-fold principle. If you break the law (commit a crime) even though God isn't holding your sin over you, civil law will. Also, you risk earning the mistrust of others around you when you live by your flesh. Secondly, there is a spiritual consequence. It is the corrupting influence of poor choices or sowing to the flesh. The flesh will "blind" you to the new creation realities the Spirit is endeavoring for us to know.
2. We won't go to hell for missing it by our deeds but our choices can display an unappealing outlook of what a relationship with God is about. In other words, your sin may not send you to hell but it may keep someone else from experiencing Heaven.
3. Confidence before God is weakened. This is what 1 John is really talking about. God is never saying you're not welcome to come to me. Our own heart or conscience may lack confidence in coming to God when we blow it. This is why we so often want to run from God instead of run to Him when we blow it.

 To sum up the question, when we miss it we should never accept or put up with condemnation. This only drives a wedge between us and our Father. Our Father is never extending condemnation towards us no matter how "deserving" we may feel we are at the moment. He especially isn't dispensing guilt and hopelessness when we feel sister so and so or brother whosoever "deserves" it. This doesn't mean that we pursue sin or wrong either. We can trust in Him and identify with our new nature and live above sin and wrong thinking. This is not to say we will never miss it. It's just saying we have the freedom in Him not to live a lifestyle of sin and wrong thinking.

Are we dispensers of Grace or guilt?

 Now as I have detailed we never want to live in a state contrary to our new nature in Him. Grace isn't about creating a "comfort zone" for living in poor choices. Paul reveals in Titus that grace teaches us to be who we already are in Him. Grace is an invite to a new and living relationship with God minus the efforts and performance driven mindsets of religion. This said we still must never be willing dispensers of guilt and shame when we see people miss it.

 What profit is it when we hurl guilt and shame to others when they are in sin? This only drives people away from God. It doesn't invite people to come and experience the Father's embrace. God isn't looking upon us with arms crossed in constant disapproval of our actions and poor choices. Here is the reality, guilt and shame in and of themselves will do nothing in creating change in the hearts of God's people. 

 Doling out guilt and shame continually to people who are missing it only produces an environment where people are left in their sin. They are so guilt ridden they feel why go further? That is the real problem with religion. All that is important to the Law minded leadership is that you feel bad. It's never about finding freedom from the bondage or habit. All that matters is that you feel guilty. As long as you feel bad God won't "strike" you down. 

 Grace on the other hands looks to set you free from bondage. Grace brings freedom to those trapped in sin. It wasn't just feeling bad for my actions that produced my freedom from an over twenty-year porn addiction. It was grace! His grace revealed to me Christ had so much better for me. Grace shined the light of God's love in my heart even in the midst of my ugliness and immoral habit. Grace revealed God's great love and goodness to me even though I didn't deserve it or could in no way earn it. Grace revealed His goodness was still extended toward me in blessings and He favored me even in my most darkened state. Grace showed me some boundaries to set up and led me to the place of total freedom where that desire is not existent any longer! Grace is what produces freedom from wrong, not guilt and shame. Fingers pointed in accusation never bring freedom and change. Only His love and mercy and goodness produce lasting change and new life.

 In summation, we are dispensers of grace never condemnation. Grace is extended in goodness even when we miss it. This grace will produce freedom and new life we can walk in daily. The cross made a difference. The cross made a way for us to live in vital relationship with our Father. Experience His peace today. I pray this has blessed you and shown you the way to lasting freedom. You're loved and you matter.

Monday, February 16, 2015

C.C.R.- The truth about condemnation, conviction and repentance.

   But then something happened: God our Savior and His overpowering love and kindness for humankind entered our world; He came to save us. It’s not that we earned it by doing good works or righteous deeds; He came because He is merciful. He brought us out of our old ways of living to a new beginning through the washing of regeneration; and He made us completely new through the Holy Spirit, who was poured out in abundance through Jesus the Anointed, our Savior. All of this happened so that through His grace we would be accepted into God’s covenant family and appointed to be His heirs, full of the hope that comes from knowing you have eternal life. This is a faithful statement of what we believe. Titus 3:4-8 

 We are beginning a new series of study today. I want to dig deep into the Word of God and reveal the truth about condemnation and conviction and repentance. These are words many are familiar with. We hear them in church often. The real question is do we understand what these words actually mean? 

 Now, I am not referring to what we think they mean. Not referencing what tradition teaches what they mean. Rather I'm referring to what does God's Word actually teach they mean. That being said I'd like to take a little time and address the concepts of condemnation and conviction and repentance. 

The truth about Condemnation.

 I want to begin this study by revealing what the Scriptures have to say about condemnation. You see, most believers and unbelievers alike are familiar with the concept of condemnation. Many simply see it as a pointed finger of disapproval. Or someone who has their own closet full of "secret sins", looking disapprovingly at everyone else.

 Many, ministries are quick to state they aren't preaching  condemnation. That they aren't a ministry of condemnation yet, all they proclaim is a mixture of grace and Law. Their message to all is one of continued performance, uncertainty concerning relationship with God, and a conditional salvation. 

 So that there be no confusion, as to what condemnation is I want to go the Word of God as the final authority on this subject. 

 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus Romans 8:1 NLT

This is as clear as it gets. We aren't under any condemnation once we are in Christ. Someone may object to this citing the traditional King James translation of this passage. It says we aren't under condemnation only if we walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh. If you walk in the flesh you are under condemnation. I even heard a minister preach this. "If you feel condemned then quit walking in the flesh and start walking in the Spirit". The truth is the oldest original manuscripts don't have that added "clause" to this passage. It is simply not the Word of God. The Word is clear we aren't under condemnation.

 Some preachers just wanted to use that "clause" to excuse their preaching of fear and judgment to their flock. They enjoy beating the sheep not feeding the sheep. I have a good question to these "ministers". If we aren't under any condemnation why try to place the people of God back under guilt or shame or some message that makes them "feel" bad?

All you have done so far is to prove we aren't under condemnation. What is condemnation defined as from the Word? Glad you asked. There are several words used for condemnation in the Greek. All of them have one common theme. An adverse or damnatory sentence. In other words, "this is it for you!" An adverse sentence means you lose. You're wrong, and you will receive the just recompense for your actions. 

 If you are ministering the Word to someone or telling them about the Lord and you are passing an adverse sentence on them you're ministering condemnation. Now if an unbeliever asks about hell and eternal separation, it doesn't mean you have passed an adverse sentence on them by answering them. Not passing judgment but there is an eternal separation for those who reject the free gift of grace, (this is the only reason, not because of some particular sin or immoral lifestyle, not advocating "sinful living" either). Let me be clear though that is not the good news and that is not what we are called to proclaim to the lost.

 If we teach Heaven beautiful, Jesus as always good, and Father God as loving and merciful we will see more lives changed and the lost running to God. No need to preach hell hot as some traditions proclaim. Scaring people to come to God only produces fearful believers. These will only participate in religious exercises (prayer, church attendance and giving) because they believe this is what is demanded of them. They also feel God is angry with them and will smite them if they don't perform these tasks well enough. 

 I'm not advocating Universalism, (I do believe in an eternal separation for those who reject grace. A gift no matter how free must still be received.) I am clearly saying though preach the good news and people will accept the Lord and not reject Him. There is no need to preach hell and you better turn or burn! Scaring the lost only works on a short term basis anyway. After they leave a crusade or church and get around their friends they will feel "comfort" and forget about eternal damnation. Tell them God loves them and that God isn't imputing their sin to them any longer then the rejection and brokenness they live with will lose its grip and they will find peace and hope. It is God's goodness that produces change.

This subject is like an onion. The more you peel back the more you see. We need to proclaim God's goodness and grace to all. This is the message that will produce the desired results of new life and changed hearts and minds. 

 We will continue looking at condemnation next time and reveal how condemnation kills and stagnates growth in Christ. I trust this message blessed you and encouraged you. Remember you aren't under any condemnation. You're in Christ and you're loved and accepted. He delights in you, let His love flow radically through you to others. 


Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Blessings of New Covenant Grace

And God is able to make all grace (every favor and earthly blessing) come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the need be self-sufficient [possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation]. 2 Corinthians 9:8

 In the last couple of posts I began discussing Biblical prosperity. I addressed the extreme error that poverty and insufficiency were God's best or design for His Church. I also began to address the opposite extreme of unScriptural practices concerning finances. In concluding this series I want to look at another extreme when it comes to prosperity.

 There exist the extreme of unBiblical teaching on wealth, and the corresponding works and performance based trappings that inevitably result from such teachings. I would like to briefly address  some of these teachings. I will also shine a light on the motivation of these teachings. 

The end time transfer of wealth?

 There is a certain teaching based on Proverbs 13 that in the final days God is going to plunder the sinners of their wealth and redistribute it to the Godly.
A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, But the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.  Proverbs 13:22

Is this teaching accurate? Is it Biblical? This doesn't sound like a loving reward for the righteous to "fund" the gospel. It actually sounds more like "The Communist Manifesto". Where God Almighty strips certain rich ones of all their possessions and redistributes it to those more "deserving".  Is this the message of the gospel to the World? Get right with God or else He is going to confiscate your wealth? 

 Remember the gospel is good news. It is the goodness of God that brings repentance not badness or property confiscation. All throughout the Epistles we are never told to long after the wallets of the lost but rather their hearts and minds! We should proclaim God's love for them and see hearts changed by His love.

This teaching is an erroneous idea based on bad interpretation. Proverbs isn't referring to some end time transfer of money but rather the consequences of unGodly means of obtaining wealth. 

The Hundredfold Return

 This teaching says if you give $100 God guarantees you $10,000 in return. Simply put this teaching said God obligates Himself to return whatever you give by 100 times. This is blatant misrepresentation of God's Word. This idea is gimmickry and trickery in order to gain more funds from the saints during offering time. It is completely rooted in greed. This greed dwells within the deceived one proclaiming it and the misled ones giving in order to obtain it. 

But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” Mark 4:20
So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, 30 who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.             Mark 10:29-30

To properly read and understand the Word of God we must rightly divide it. We must not add to it our own idea or own view. In context of Mark 4 and Mark 10 there is never a reference about an offering giving and an expectant return of 100 times the amount given. If anyone placed a newly converted Christian into a room and said read Mark's gospel they would never come out thinking that if they give an offering to their local church that God is obligated to give them 100 times the amount they just gave. 

  Mark 4 is addressing how God's Word when planted in our hearts will grow into fruitful living, if we guard it from tradition, religion, the lies of the devil, and the World's thinking and vain pleasures. No offering taught about here. I guess to these prosperity gurus Jesus was just confused or didn't finish His thoughts. 
The seed the farmer is sowing is the good news, God’s word...
20 But those last seeds—those sown into good soil? Those people hear the word, accept it, meditate on it, act on it, and bear fruit—a crop 30, 60, or 100 times larger than the farmer dropped to earth. Mark 4:4,20 VOICE
 Mark 10 is about us never losing out when we follow God's plan for our life. Notice the absence of the word giving, or gave in Mark 10. It states if you left all to follow Him you will not be disappointed. 

This is where I get rather disturbed at this teaching. It places the focus of our life and faith on gaining some astronomical figure of financial blessing that God never promised. I have heard some Christians speak about their lack. I also have been guilty of this in the past, (probably more so than most). We get on our smart phone or tablet inside our air conditioned home or apartment while watching Satellite TV and text out our prayer request for deliverance from lack because we want some new gadget or bigger screen TV.  We need to focus on what God has already blessed us with and be thankful. Come to the impoverished areas in Asia where children swim in sewage to find any loose change. I believe much of the prosperity gospel is solely greed driven.

 Now with unScriptural teachings and promises what inevitably occurs is the lack of fulfillment of said promises. This in turn makes us look inwardly and try to locate where we missed it. This introspection produces failure mindsets, disappointment in God and condemnation. Let me illustrate something about faith and God's promises.
 1. To partake of the promise of the New Birth what must we do? Believe in our heart and say with our mouth (agree with God) that Jesus is Lord. We receive Him as our Lord and Father.
 2. In order to receive the fullness of the Spirit (Baptism in the Spirit), what must we do? Believe in our heart and confess with our mouth (agree with God) that we receive it.
 3. In order to receive healing what must we do? Believe with our heart and say or confess His Word is true agreeing with God it is done. 
 4. In order to receive provision financially from God what must we do? Give, and keep giving. Search your heart for hidden resentments against others. Give some more above what you gave last time. Consider your way of living each and everyday, make sure you don't ever "blow it", your "harvest" depends on it. Name your seeds and give some more. Call in your money and keep calling. I know you gave but you may not have given enough so give a little bit more. Search yourself if you have a habitual sin. God won't bless you, you filthy sinner. 

 Do you see the graceless way provision has been proclaimed in the Church? Should we exercise faith in believing for provision? Of course! Should we give? Absolutely, without question. However, the why we give is what is at heart. We give not to get anything. He is our Father. In the finished work He took our lack and insufficiency. We give in genuine love as a pure response to His love outstretched towards us. 

  I know this may be difficult for some to hear but we need to stop looking at Old Covenant principles of provision. The "do good get good" and "do bad get bad" life is under Law. Jesus bore our poverty on the Cross. We should be feeding our faith the Word of God on New Covenant grace. On the finished work of provision. Passages like 2 Corinthians 8:9
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.
 It is His grace that is the source of our blessing. Our actions aren't the source of our blessings. Obedience is its own reward. Why? Because if I listen to Him and follow His plans for me I will avoid the hard way or the pitfalls. 

 I know we may believe some of the ministers that proclaim this extreme prosperity are good men. I have no doubt that most are honorable men in most areas of their life. I do believe though the honor stops when they misrepresent God and the Word about money. Brother Kenneth Hagin actually pulled several of these major ministries preaching money, money all the time, aside and tried to warn and correct them. If they were so honorable in this area why the need for correction?

 To conclude, don't fall for scams and schemes and "promises" of innumerable wealth if you give a certain amount. I know of a extremely well known minister who by eyewitness account told a congregation to give to their pastor. He said the Lord told him 10 people were to give $10,000. He then said he would give the first 10 grand. At the end of the service in the accounting room the "check" the minister wrote was never signed. Dishonest? Absolutely! This is the kind of things that occur because these ministers are not willing to be corrected. They leave a trail of broken dreams, shipwrecked faith and children of God broken and condemned.
9But those who crave the wealth of this world slip into spiritual snares. They become trapped by the troubles that come through their foolish and harmful desires, driven by greed and drowning in their own sinful pleasures. And they take others down with them into their corruption and eventual destruction. 10Loving money is the first step towards all kinds of trouble. Some people run after it so much that they have given up their faith and have turned from Christ— and they will live to regret it. Craving more money pushes them away from the faith into error, compounding misery in their lives! 1 Timothy 6:9-10 Passion Translation
Trust in the finished work of provision. There is never anything wrong with God or His Word and by the Blood of Jesus nothing is unacceptable with you. Just receive His blessings. 
 Lets, believe and receive freely His favor. Discounts, and deals. Jobs and better jobs. Provision from unexpected sources. Open doors of blessings are yours in Him. No one is saying we're going to be millionaires but we are His kids and we will not go without. Blessings in abundance to you and your loved ones!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Prosperity: Supplying needs or satisfying greed?

And God is able to make all grace (every favor and earthly blessing) come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the need be self-sufficient [possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation]. 2 Corinthians 9:8

 We are in a new series concerning God's will and purpose and plan for our blessing and provision. As I began last week this message is the one message that seems to need much balance in the Body of Christ. One extreme view in Christian circles is God is content and pleased with your lack, misery, and complete famine. The other side takes the extreme position that Biblical wealth is defined as sports cars, flashy clothes, shiny jewelry, large houses and private planes. 
 I truly believe both of these positions are in serious error. In our last message we dispelled this first myth of extreme poverty. We saw from God's Word that He wills to supply the needs of His people. I want to dispel the other myth of extreme prosperity teaching over this post and possibly the next. 
 As a believer in Christ with a background in the Word of Faith and prosperity camps I am not unlearned in the prosperity messages. I have sat in service after service hearing a great deal about the subject of wealth and prosperity. I have heard almost every message you could on Mark 10 or Mark 4 and 3 John 2. I have heard message after message on how to sow, how to reap and who to give to, how much to give, and who not to ever give to. So it isn't that I don't have clear understanding on what prosperity teachers are saying.
 With this foundation lets examine some of the practices and teachings of the prosperity message. Note that I said the prosperity message and not Biblical provision principles. What about the practice of naming your seed?
 The Bible is clear in 2 Corinthians 9 that our offerings or donations to ministries or fellow believers can be likened to a seed that is planted in soil. I have no issue with calling an offering a seed. What then is the basis of giving a name to a seed planted or "sown"? I have heard time and again, "Got a need, plant a seed."  It is curious how no passage in the Epistles refers to our giving in such a manner. That is because the motive, the focus of that kind of giving is "self focused".  I know some who read this may get offended or upset. I understand I may be stepping on your pet doctrine. 
 If a doctrine or idea we hold to can't pass the scrutiny of Biblical evidence or confirmation then where did that idea come from? The Biblical evidence or confirmation requires in the mouth of two or three witnesses will a thing be established. Not one time is it stated to give a name to an offering to meet a need or fulfill a desire. I only see Paul seeking an offering to bless others. I never see an attached string saying I am giving this so I can have this or that. 
 We do see, in Philippians 4 that when the church partnered with Paul to fund the gospel, he reminded them that God is good and they will be taken care of as well. The point and focus of giving wasn't to meet their wants and needs. It was to genuinely support the preaching of the gospel of grace. It was a genuine motive of love. God saw their hearts and responded by saying because you will allow my blessing to flow through you I will always supply you. 
 Naming your seed is simply a man made idea to generate more offerings and larger donations. It is not found in one single passage in the New Covenant. What about these "debt breaking offerings?"

Again, where is this substantiated by Scripture? I have been in services where a man gets up on stage and declares, 
"If you give right now your debt will be supernaturally cancelled!" 
 I have seen and know of many, many dear precious saints pull crinkled up dollar bills and grocery money and throw it on the altar and I still see them living paycheck to paycheck. I am not talking about 3 weeks I have known them, how about over 10 years Ive seen them struggle? It saddens me how some men in the pulpit manipulate and deceive saints to get them to depart from their money. These debt breaking offerings are yet another unScriptural practice to allure some to depart from money in their wallet.
 Can God cancel debts? Can God bless you to pay off debt? Absolutely! He said He would supply our needs. God is still a miracle worker. I have seen debts paid off many times. It rarely came by somebody giving me an envelope full of cash. Many times it came through diligent budgeting and Godly wisdom. 
 What about throwing money on an altar? Perhaps there is a special offering for a need or mission work. Instead of passing a collection plate a minister may say just drop your offering on the Altar and we will tally it later. That is a convenience motive. No issue there however, I do have issue with the unScriptural practice and idea that by throwing money on an Altar will make it more "anointed" and guaranteed to come back to you in greater measure. Especially so if a minister who is "anointed" walks over the money on the Altar. 
 These are just some unsound practices and man made ideas. Think of this. How do we know speaking with tongues is not some demonic activity or something unsound? Because in the Word we see more than 3 places it details this practice. How do we know we can use musical instruments in Church?  In the New Covenant book of Revelation John describes instruments in Heaven, and in the Psalms God enjoys instruments for His praise. 
 When we refuse to allow the Word of God to be the final authority in our teachings and practices we open ourselves to these erroneous practices and ideas. The truly sad part is how high minded many of these prosperity preachers can be. They almost assign themselves to some Papal level of ministry. Where because they teach something or do something it must be accepted as right without scrutiny or question because of the fact that they taught it. How dare you question minister so and so. Don't you know who he is? Is what the deceived masses will say when inquiring about the Biblical validity of any of their teachings or practice. 
 I have witnessed many so called prophecies and words from God given by some of the most well known ministers  (TV and crusade ministries) that went nowhere. I recall one such minister tell another extremely well known minister that he was supposed to build something. A second well known minister got up and "confirmed" this. Now this is witnessed by several thousand. The minister concurred. It is God to build this. Did he ever build what he was "instructed"to? No, it was never built. I guess God reserves the right to change His mind with these level of ministers. I guess it was an "optional" word for these level of ministers.
 To summarize, many have taken giving and God's promise of provision and perverted it to some greed satisfying philosophy. We need to be more Scripturally knowledgeable to avoid deception and false practices. 
 I trust these lessons will bring clarity and wisdom to an oft unbalanced subject. Next time we will discuss the greed motives even further. We will learn the truth about the "hundredfold return" teaching. We will discuss in more detail this idea that if you're not a millionaire you've missed God. We will also begin to look at prosperity through the lens of grace and not works. I pray you are blessed and comforted this week