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.

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