Monday, April 27, 2015

Another Mistaken Idea...Perfecting holiness?

 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
 Today, I would like to address another mistaken idea that traditional religion has propagated throughout the Church. I will first cite the Biblical reference used to support this idea. This, of course, isn't to say the Word of God is mistaken, but rather the religious minded interpretation of the passage is.

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. 2 Corinthians 7:1
 This wonderful passage has been used by some to create a performance driven relationship with God. This idea has left many believers disheartened and wounded. What is this mistaken idea? Allow me to expose it.

"Righteousness is what He did, holiness is what you do!"

 I have heard many ministers, mostly in the Pentecostal and Charismatic circles of the Body of Christ espouse this idea or variations of it. This doesn't mean other denominations haven't taught this idea. They may change the wording but the results are the same.

 Is this a true statement? According to 2 Corinthians 5:21 we've been made the righteousness of God in Christ. Our right standing before God could never be earned or achieved by our merit. Most sound minded believers understand this.  
 That said, the real concern is the concept that holiness is something we do or accomplish. This is why this is a mistaken idea. Holiness seems to be some destination that we need to arrive to. Holiness is some state we must achieve and/or maintain in order to please God. Our blessings and relationship seem to be rooted in our obedience and lifestyle. 

 Holiness is what we do? This idea presented is this. Jesus forgave your sins. Now it is your duty to cleanse yourself from any misdeeds and missteps from this point forward. Look at the passage again.
 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves...
See it is right there. We must cleanse ourselves. So the idea is when you blow it or are still struggling with addictions and bad habits you are perceived to be filthy and dirty before God. 
...perfecting holiness in the fear of God. 2 Corinthians 7:1
 You're not only dirty but now must perfect your holiness. So believers go about their lives and look to outward means to ensure they're perfecting holiness. Allow me to illustrate what this looks like in the average believers life.

 Believer hears the good news. Gets saved. Realizes they're in right standing by what Jesus did. Now the preacher says they need to focus on their holiness before the Lord. That is what is most important. Believer goes home and contemplates this news.
 So believer begins by cutting his hair and covering those tattoos. Goes to church and hears that is insufficient. So, believer quits watching certain TV shows. Goes back to church and hears that is insufficient. So believer quits listening to hard rock but still listens to country music. Goes to church and hears that is not enough.
 Believer can't understand so he quits wearing shorts and no longer wears jeans to church but a suit. Again at the church he hears that is not enough. Believer goes home and quits listening to all music but Christian music and turns off the TV. Goes to church and hears it's still not enough. He realizes it must be the nicotine addiction. He tries and tries to beat the habit. Each time he lights up he realizes how dirty and filthy he is to God. He weeps each time he finishes a cigarette. Finally, after so long he quits. Yet with all these things keeping his focus his wife feels neglected. His wife leaves and he finds himself divorced. The church then kicks him out because divorce is the unpardonable sin. Believer gives up because this Christian life is too hard...

 This happens all to often. This is why religion and tradition and legalism is so wrong and destructive to the Church. Allow me to give the good news. Righteousness is what He did and holiness is what He made you! It is not something He expects of you, it is what He has made you! 
24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. Ephesians 4:24
By this will of God, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all,
...For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified. Hebrews 10:10,14
Holiness is what He made us. It is part of our new nature. This beautiful passage Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians is a simple truth. He isn't saying cleanse yourself from your sin or bad habits. For only the Blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin and wrong. 
 A better understanding of this passage we cited in 2 Corinthians is found in another translation.
Since we have these great promises, dear friends, let us turn away from every sin of the body or of the spirit. Let us honor God with love and fear by giving ourselves to Him in every way. 2 Cor 7:1
The word holiness in the Greek here is only found 3 times in the New Testament. It means sacred. All Paul is saying is give yourself to God. Be who you already are in Him. Holiness is not some spiritual running wheel we get on when we get saved. Running after what we never attain to. I hear so many teach we are pursuing holiness.
 I'm not pursuing what I already possess in Christ. I am what He made me. Habits and addictions reign when we don't realize how much God loves us. They remain when we don't identify with who we already are in Him. That is the key to overcoming in this life.
 This mistaken idea of holiness is something you do is not based on the Word but tradition. People believe it because they feel we still possess the old nature, (that will have to be for another post much debate there). Suffice it to say we are made righteous and perfectly holy by virtue of the new creation. We can't add to it or take away from it. 
To summarize we are already holy. To give ourselves to God is to simply rest in the finished work. To grow in our relationship with God, and not giving ourselves over to wrong thinking. We don't pray or feed on the Word in order to get God to bless us. No, we feed on the Word and pray because we love God because He first loved us. All of our blessings are rooted in the finished work and us therefore already have all the blessings we ever need (Eph 1). We just by faith freely receive what Grace already provided. 


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Gracefully loving those against us

We who have received this wonderful and beautiful truth of the grace of God have had many oppose us. Today I want to share some insight to help us overcome when we face persecution or slander. 

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:7

 Love endures and never quits. Love never loses faith and hope in God's goodness. When we love as He loves we never lose.

 I want to caution against a mindset that can creep in when we are found to be opposed by religious leaders and some well meaning believers. A sense of isolation or ostracizing comes to us. We feel like those still under the delusion of Law and self efforts or performance based faith are our enemies. We feel like we can't even fellowship with them. 

 I have been feeling this for a season myself. I see the books they write against us "hyper grace" preachers. I see the articles that they write. I see the fearful rush to the extremes of pushing the Old Covenant Law back upon the Church. I see other well meaning ones try to "balance" grace with performance. 

 I had been experiencing the desire to draw back from church life and fellowship with believers who hadn't received the message of grace. Then Jesus showed up to me in a time of worship the other day. This is what He spoke to my heart.

 "Just because those who have rejected grace have counted you as their enemy, doesn't mean you have to make them YOUR enemy."

 With that little nudge of truth from the Father's heart I saw His heart for ALL the Church, all of the Body of Christ. I repented (change of mind, remember the Bible definition not religion's), right then. I just saw these others weren't my enemies. These other believers just hadn't yet received this wonderful message. What a great way to win more by showing just how gracious grace is.

Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. Ephesians 5:2

Allow this truth to take root within. Let us love those who oppose us and malign us. Lets show how gracious grace is. We can live a life of love toward those against us. You may not feel like it after reading their claims against us. The Word gives us the key to loving people.

10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. 1 John 4:10-11
Remember grace supplies. We love because He loves us. His love is deposited within us so we now have a graceful supply of that love to extend to others. We can love those who write their books and blogs and articles against us.
 When I saw these same folk with the lens of God's love I really feel pity for them. My heart goes out to them. Imagine a hard life where salvation is only started by God and left up to us to finish it. If one has all these rules and performance pressure upon them, no wonder they lash out at others. 
 We can pray for them and bless them with our words and deeds. I believe this mindset will win more to the message of God's grace and love. We are channels and carriers of His grace and love. 
 I trust this message has blessed and encouraged you today. Remind yourself of the supply of grace. We have His love supplied to us. We can overcome the opposition by His love. Rest in His love this week and always. Share it with others it is contagious!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Walking in the New Covenant

17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17

Is the Church under the Mosaic Law III

 We've been studying about Law vs Grace and the place the Law has in the New Covenant. I want to conclude this study by addressing how to walk in the New Covenant in relation to the Old Covenant Law. I want to address a couple of issues with clarity and truth from the Word of God.

 The Law is good and just. It served a purpose

 New Covenant grace isn't about being anti-Law. The truth is the "hyper grace" folk are the ones who truly honor and exalt the Law in its rightful place. It served as a schoolmaster until faith came. The Law is good and just and holy (Rom 7). The problem with Law Covenant was no man could keep it. It in reality was designed only to stir up sin and to bring humanity to an end of itself or efforts. 

 Do you know there is wisdom in the Law? Certainly, some of the dietary ordinances had some health benefits. At the time sanitation was an issue, some of the cleansing rituals had benefits for sanitation. Circumcision has many natural health benefits even today. These are well and fine. The core issue is though none of these rituals, ordinances or "do's" and "don'ts" written in stone, will bring new life. None of these will bring salvation any closer. In comparison to the Blood of Jesus they are nothing. These things can't save you.

 Do we define sin with the Old Covenant Law?

 How do we define sin? Do we use the Mosaic Law for authority as to why we shouldn't lie or steal? We must use great caution when looking to the Law as our standard. First, because grace mixed with any portion of Law is no more grace but works. Secondly, what we in the modern Church like to define morality as is only a portion of the Mosaic Law. 

 If we look at Leviticus we can see moral codes such as not wearing garments mixed with two materials. How you raised your livestock, how you treat the land, how you pay workers. These and other things were all addressed in the moral portion of the Law.  Do you stand up whenever an elderly person walks by you? That is part of the moral portion of the Law. Looking to the Mosaic Law for morality becomes and endless list of "don'ts" that the Jews couldn't keep. That is why Jesus gave us a New Covenant. 

 I want to emphasis what Paul emphasized as to what defined sin.
For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”10 Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law. Romans 13:9-10
 Take note Paul referred to one Law. That is the Law of Love. James called it the royal Law. Love is the key to defining sin. God is love. He changes not. We need not the Mosaic Law to define sin because even before the Law we see, to a degree, love being the guide. 

 In Genesis we see Cain coveting the acceptance God gave Abel's sacrifice. We see Cain murdering Abel. Without any Law or code, it was understood this behavior was wrong. Cain knew it within, why did he try to conceal the matter? Joseph knew adultery was wrong without any Law or code. Why? He loved the Lord and knew it wasn't loving to engage in sexual activity with another man's wife. Stealing was also understood to be wrong, you can see that in the account of Joseph's brothers. 

 Some fighting the message of grace and New Covenant life in Christ declare strongly the Law of God hasn't ceased. The moral character of God has never changed. These leaders are referencing the Mosaic Law. They are missing it. It is not the Mosaic Law that is unceasing but rather the Law of love. Grace teaches us to live upright and Godly. God is love. Grace teaches us to love more. If we love more, we won't engage in sexual sins, or cheating or deceptive practices. 

 God gave us grace to fulfill the Law?

 This is the most unusual teaching about the Law I have ever heard. Why would grace be given to keep an obsolete system (Heb 8)? The standard of Law was perfection. No one is perfectly perfect 100% of the time. Here is why this concept is contrary to the truth.

1. The Law causes sin to abound (Romans 7)
2. The strength of sin is the Law (1 Cor 15)
3. Under a curse if you're under the Law (Gal 3)
4. Not led by the Spirit if you're under the Law (Gal 5)
5. The Law cannot perfect or mature anyone (Hebrews 7:19)

 Again I say anytime we mix Law and grace we make grace void. God is wise enough to know not to give grace to keep a system than cannot perfect or mature anyone and stirs up sin and makes one abide under a curse. So what is the relation to New Covenant life in Christ and the Law?

 The plain truth is there is no relation whatsoever. The Law has been fulfilled in Christ. That system is an obsolete system. Religious blinded men are deceived into thinking two systems are still functioning today. Let me illustrate. When we update our computers the Old programs is gone and the New updated one comes. This may not be the best illustration but it still proves a point. We operate in the New not the Old. 

 For our standard of morality or how we live allow the love of God to govern your heart. Looking to the Law only causes us to be trust in ourselves and not trust in Christ's finished work. Walking in the New is to fully rely on God. To fully trust in Christ perfect performance not our own failings and shortcomings. Rest in His faithfulness not our own. This is life in the New Covenant. It is a daily relationship with our Father. 

 To conclude, is the Church under the Mosaic Law? Absolutely not! We are under grace. Be refreshed in Christ and His everlasting love for you. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Do we need Old Covenant Law to balance New Covenant Grace?

17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17

 Is the Church under the Mosaic Law part II

 I've begun a study concerning this question about the New Covenant Church and its relationship with the Old Covenant Law. In the first study I stated unequivocally that the Church is not under the Law in any way. In this study I want to address further this issue of "balancing" grace with Law. 

 What is balance?

 Whenever a truth from the Spirit is being restored to the Body of Christ many voices arise in opposition. Usually this opposition arises from adherents to a previous renewal of truth that don't want their "truth" to be disturbed by some "new truth". Some Leaders are fearful the new truth will cause their control and dominance to lose its grip. Others are fearful some will abuse the truth. First, we must understand all the truths God has restored over the last hundred or so years to the Church are not contrary to one another. The power of a Spirit filled life, healing, the gifts of the Spirit and faith aren't opposed to each other. So now the renewal of the truth of God's amazing grace isn't opposed to any of these other truths.

 Grace helps us advance further in Christ. His divine favor and influence makes it even easier to receive all God has for us. The reality is when God is restoring His truth to the Church we should  add that truth with other truths to get the full picture. None of God's truth cancels out other truths. For example, grace and healing flow together they don't oppose one another.  Lets use the message of faith to further illustrate.

 When God restored the truth of faith to the Church many opposed it. Why? Because those still operating in the Charismatic truth believed only God could initiate healing or blessings. Others exalted sovereignty over all other truths and rejected the message. With faith, God revealed you didn't need some powerful and anointed service to receive from God. Because He is sovereign, that is the supreme ruler, He meant what He said in His Word. You could open your Bible and take God at His Word anytime and in any situation. That really is all faith truth is. It is taking God at His Word. 

 This is where the true definition of balance comes in. Over the years in faith circles, the truth of faith has morphed into a serious works and efforts theology. Some fell by the wayside only hearing a concept of faith and quit their jobs and stopped medical treatment. Still others, persevered with endless confessions, and works to prove their faith was genuine. If they hadn't received they hadn't worked hard enough. I have actually heard this taught. So what is balance? Balance is simply staying within the truth of the Word of God.

 Does the Word of God advocate not working or ceasing medical care? Not one place suggests this. Does, the Word declare it is by our great effort we receive from our Father? Not one place, He said it is by grace, through faith and not of ourselves. Staying with the Bible and proper context and exegesis is all balance is.

 Does the Law then balance grace?

 Does God's Word teach this? 
And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life2 Corinthians 3:4-6

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. Galatians 1:6-7

 then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.”He takes away the first that He may establish the second. Hebrews 10:9

 According to these passages the Old Covenant was done away so we can have the New. These also inform us that we are to teach the New Covenant not the Old. It also offers a stern warning for trying to add to grace or mix the law and grace. 

 If the Word declared that we are to be ministers of the New Covenant why would we use the Old to "balance" the New? The Old was fulfilled in Christ. 

 In Ephesians 2 Paul clarifies this issue clearly. 
12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:12-13

 Look at this passage. The Gentile nations were strangers and far off from the Covenants. This includes the Abrahamic Covenant and the Mosaic Covenant (Law). The other Nations of the World were never given the Mosaic Law. Why then would gentile Christians be susceptible to the Law? A good illustration would be America and Singapore. How would you like to be resting at home and Law enforcement suddenly raid your home? The reason for the abrupt intrusion? You were found breaking Singaporean law. How can this be? I am an American how am I under the requirements of the laws of Singapore? The same way we aren't under some other nations laws we as the Church were never given the Mosaic Law and therefore not under any requirement to abide by it.

14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. Ephesians 2:14-16

 The Word is clear. Through the Cross and the Blood of Jesus He abolished that Old Law and established a New Covenant. He has replaced the Old Law with the New Covenant Law. That is the Law of love and faith and the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. 

21 I can’t dismiss God’s grace, and I won’t. If being right with God depends on how we measure up to the law, then the Anointed’s sacrifice on the cross was the most tragic waste in all of history! Galatians 2:21

 If being right with God depends on how we keep the Law then we nullify grace. Why? Because by default you're thinking and actions are saying that you are choosing your performance over Christ's perfect performance. Do we mix the Law with grace? Do we balance grace with Law? Absolutely not! The Word of God is clear. To add Law to your relationship with God is to nullify grace.

 Want to see grace balanced? Stay with the Word. Does the Word teach grace gives us a license to live in sinful activity? According to Titus 2, no it doesn't. Does grace make us lazy? 1 Corinthians 15 says no. That answer's those who see grace as folly. What about those who strive to keep the Law?

 According to all the passages I have listed the Old Covenant has been abolished. The New Covenant has taken its place. Staying with the Word of God reveals that mixing grace with Law nullifies grace. Trying to balance grace with Old Covenant Law brings it to nought. Law is about your performance. Grace is about His perfect performance. Where will you place your trust and hope in? 

 Excited and honored to share the truth with you. Glad to expose the Light of God's Word on untruths. In our next lesson we will answer does the Law mature us? Does the Law show us what sin is today? Stay tuned....