Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Understanding Grace: Our Good, Good Father

18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18

 Continuing in our series on understanding grace I want to express to you some good news today. We have a good, good Father in Heaven! So many in our culture and those around the World have a stern and harsh view of our Father. Far too many promote this negative view. Today I want to dispel the myths and reveal just how good our Father God is.

 Many, many folk have an image of God our Father as nothing more than a harsh taskmaster. The kind of Father who forces feeds you veggies when you don't desire to eat them. That Taskmaster god who will make you do what is contrary to your personality. 

 The taskmaster god drives you and compels you with threats of removing promised blessing. The taskmaster god is moved by your actions and performance. If you enjoy flying or riding a motorcycle be sure the taskmaster god will demand of you to give this up. You must be using your time to watch and pray. Don't even consider viewing sporting events or having a favorite sports team. The taskmaster god will drive these desires out.

 The taskmaster image of god is labeling God as a mere extortioner. He will take away blessing or remove favor in order to achieve His plans and purposes. Far too many ministers promote this view when endeavoring to teach people to be more devoted to God. Let's allow this image to be torn down and removed from our thinking.

Our good, good Father 

 Allow me to introduce to you our good Father.
May grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, surround you. All praise goes to God, Father of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One. He is the Father of compassion, the God of all comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:2-3
 This is who our Father is. He is the God of all comfort and compassion. He isn't the one driving us with fear and oppression. That would be the work of the enemy. God is a good God.
8 You’re so kind and tender-hearted to those who don’t deserve it; And so very patient with people who fail You! Your love is like a flooding river overflowing its banks with kindness. 9 God, everyone sees Your goodness, For Your tender love is blended into everything You do! Psalms 145:8-9 Passion 
This is our good Father. He is love. He is kind. He loves you with an everlasting love!

Our Father isn't holding anything against us

 God isn't holding your sins or poor performance against you. Believe it or not, God believes in you. You are the apple of His eye! 
13 You were dead in sins, and your sinful desires were not yet cut away. Then he gave you a share in the very life of Christ, for he forgave all your sins, 14 and blotted out the charges proved against you, the list of his commandments which you had not obeyed. He took this list of sins and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross. 15 In this way God took away Satan’s power to accuse you of sin, and God openly displayed to the whole world Christ’s triumph at the cross where your sins were all taken away. Colossians 2:13-15 TLB                                          
 God isn't bringing up our failures or mistakes. He isn't reminding us of our sins. We are forgiven!

Our Father isn't mad at us!

 This is some glad news. How many times have we missed it in a week? In a day? Yet our Father isn't mad or angry with us. He looks at us and picks us up when we fall or fail. He reminds us of who we really are in Him. He reminds us we are better than this. 
“For this is like the days of Noah to Me. As I promised that the waters of Noah should not flood the earth again, so I have promised that I will not be angry with you or speak sharp words to you. Isaiah 54:9 
Our good Father has promised to not be angry or wrathful with us. This is a promise we can be sure of. God is pleased with you. True, He may not always be pleased by what we do but He is always pleased with us.

God our Father isn't shunning us when we fail

 When we miss it or disobey the love of God within and act out of fleshly thinking God isn't removing us from His hand or His Family. God isn't pushing us away until we learn to act right. 
For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b
When we miss it, sometimes guilt will arise. Sometimes the thoughts of shame try to encroach our minds. When we experience these times the temptation arises to isolate ourselves. We feel like we aren't welcome in God's presence. 

 Cast these thoughts aside. Daddy God relishes the thought of you coming before Him. We are always welcome. He has promised He will never forsake us. He didn't state I won't forsake you unless or some other added clause. Jesus made a perfect way for us. We always have a place at Father's feasting table.

Daddy God loves us no matter what

 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:9-11
 This is true love. We have a good Daddy. I know some may speak of Father God as the cause of afflictions or trying times. I realize that some have not caught the revelation of just how good our God is. This doesn't stop me from enjoying my relationship with my good Father.

 God is love. His love is accepting and tolerant and compassionate. Now, don't misunderstand my words. Don't fall into the trap the enemy has ensnared religious traditionalists and those in rebellion. The enemy has convinced some that we are defined by what we do. That our identity is discovered by our actions. Religion wishes to define us and our worth by our performance. Rebellion wishes to embrace their pursuit of various lifestyle choices as who they are.  That is not the truth. 

 God's love for all has nothing to do with their actions or activities they may involve themselves in. God loves us regardless of our deeds and what lifestyle we choose. One therefore can still love someone but disagree with a personal lifestyle choice or specific action. That has nothing to do with one's identity. We find our true identity in Christ. We are who He made us not what we do. 

 God's love is extravagant. He isn't trying to change your personality. He made you. If you like to wear orange streaks in your hair or keep it short and conservative it makes no difference to Him. God is only interested in having us conformed to the image of His Son. He isn't trying to make us align with the mold religious tradition would have us placed in.

 We have a good Father. Get to know Him more and more. He will refresh you, renew you and recharge you each time you fellowship and commune with Him. He has only good for us. His hand of favor is extended to all who will simply receive it. He is so good His grace will look for you no matter where you are. He is healer, comforter and restorer. Place all your trust, and hope in Him. He will never let you down. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Understanding Grace: Walking by Faith in the Finished Work

18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18

 In the last several posts we've been in a series about understanding grace. Grace is a subject that is inexhaustible. As we know grace isn't just a doctrine it is a person, His name is Jesus. When we focus on grace we are simply shifting our focus off ourselves and onto Jesus. That stated I sense the impression to continue with this series, and today share some truths concerning the role of grace and faith in the life of the Believer. 

What is faith?

How do we define faith? Is faith defined as the type of church we attend? For example, I am so and so and I am of the "Baptist faith". Is this the definition of faith? Others say faith is blind. That it is trusting something without any evidence or substance. I choose to let the Word define faith.
11 Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses]. Hebrews 11:1 AMP

 This is how we define faith. Let's examine this Biblical definition further in light of traditional definitions of faith.

Faith, the Title Deed

  Faith is defined as assurance, that it perceives as real fact regardless of what our senses tell us. This is of great importance. Faith is the title deed. We who own a vehicle or a house understand the significance of a title deed. The title deed is the legal document that proves beyond all doubt and circumstance that that property belongs to you. 

 In other words, if I said I was giving you a car and then handed you a title deed you wouldn't have to physically see the car to know it's yours. The title deed proves the existence of the car. In this sense then, faith is not "blind." Now, what is the importance of this in the life of the Believer?

 When we understand faith we can walk victoriously in this life. This doesn't mean we have a "rose garden" life and that all will go exactly as we plan. What it does mean though, is when good times or challenging times occur we have victory because regardless of what it seems like God is always with us and He has us in His perfect hand. No matter what feelings we may be experiencing, we are confident in the truth that God will never leave us or forsake us.

Where is your faith?

 Now that we understand what faith is, where is your faith? Where have you placed your heartfelt trust and confidence? Where is your source of hope in all areas of your life? This is a vitally important question. Let's examine where so many of us may have our faith.

Is your faith in your problems? 

 Some in the Body of Christ place faith in the difficulties we face. They put all their trust in trials and tribulations. They are quick to believe the struggles and setbacks are where they grow the strongest. This is where God "perfects" and matures them. 
 13 If we are tempted by such trials, we must not say, “This temptation comes from God.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one. James 1:13
 God is a good God. He isn't sending tragedy or bankruptcy or infirmity your way to strengthen or mature you. He has already deposited within you all the fruit you need to mature and succeed in this life. Trials and temptations give us an opportunity to put to work the fruit we already possess. In essence, it's not the trial that matures but how you respond that brings maturity. 

Is your faith in your performance?

 This is where so many of us were before the knowledge of grace. We are trusting God to meet a need so we desperately try to perform just right. We pray more. We find ourselves giving more. We read our Bibles more. We listen to more teaching CDs or DVDs. We plug into Christian television and turn off the news or other programs. We only listen to Christian radio.

 We do all these things hoping to be good little boys and girls. We want God to look at us and like what He sees. We want to ensure we haven't been naughty but nice. If we believe this is how and why God supplies our needs then we aren't believing in Jesus. We are in reality believing in Santa Claus! 

Is your faith in your failures?

 This is where my faith resided so often before awakening to grace. I best keep my life clean or God won't answer my prayers. I used to believe if I messed up or gave into sinful habits early in the day I would have some type of trouble or difficulty later in the evening at work. If I was good early in the day then I'd have a good day later at work. In other words, the more I sinned the more favor and blessings would elude me. 

 We find ourselves trusting God for a loved one to receive the Lord or some other need to be met. We get going well at first. We begin thanking God for the need being met. Then, oh no, we fall. We slip up. We sinned. We feel now we must start all over again. Surely God will no longer hear our prayers. This is actually taught in some circles. If you fail you must start again.

Or is your faith In Him and His faithfulness and Finished Work?

 This is where I choose to place my faith. When we place our faith in our performance or ability to maintain a pure walk then our faith is in us and not Him. This is where legalism flourishes. When we have our faith in ourselves we have a place to boast. Look what I received by my faith. If you failed to receive you must be doing something wrong.

 Our complete trust and hope must be in Christ. Place your faith in His faithfulness and what He accomplished in the Finished Work. I will not always be faithful and without failure or foul-ups. I may lose my patience in traffic. I may even respond in fleshly anger to an opinion different than my own. This doesn't mean God has canceled out my faith.

 If our faith though is in our abilities, then when we do miss it we make void our faith. This is key, God is not voiding it. We are. In our thinking, we believe that God isn't pleased and therefore will withhold any answer to prayers we may be praying. This mindset eliminates the grace and mercy of God from our prayer life.

 Grace is the safety net, it catches us when we fall. I am not, however, advocating we live a life determined to miss it or indulge in any fleshly impulses. Living according to the flesh is not who we really are. The consequences of fleshly living are we disqualify ourselves from receiving what He has provided and revert back to performance. 

 Place your faith in His faithfulness. He is faithful even when we are not. He accomplished the work of redemption in His Finished Work. Put your faith in that. Am I saying then we need not read the Bible or give or listen to Christian teaching? If this is means to get God to do something for you then it is performance and works based faith. If this is a means to grow in our relationship with Him then we should pursue it. I trust you see the difference. 

 In summation, our faith should be a rest. It is resting in the Finished Work. It is placing all of our trust and confidence in His abilities and performance. I place my trust in Christ's obedience not my own. We disqualify ourselves when we trust in our abilities. Why? Because we can't keep the standards perfectly only Jesus did. Placing our faith and trust in Jesus is the key to overcoming faith. Jesus was always perfect so I trust in His faith not my own. 

 Now when you are believing God to meet a need you can trust in His performance, not yours. You need a job or to see an infirmity removed? Ask the Lord, and believe you have received it. From that point on, put your trust in the Finished Work. Put your confidence in Jesus obedience and perfect faithfulness and not your own. Then, just keep thanking God. This is living in grace and walking by faith. It is resting in His promise and not our performance. It's having faith in His faith not our own.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Understanding Grace: True Humility by the Grace of God

18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18

 Humility, this principle is spoken of many times in God's Word. This is one area where we all can agree fruit should abound. That is without question. However, understanding what it actually means to be humble has alluded so many believers. The heart of the matter is defining humility and understanding its place in the life of the Believer.

 The Word of God plainly instructs us to clothe ourselves with humility 
You younger men, follow the leadership of those who are older. And all of you serve each other with humble spirits, for God gives special blessings to those who are humble, but sets himself against those who are proud. If you will humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, in his good time he will lift you up. 1 Peter 5:5-6
 Stated the same in other translations
...“God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time 1 Peter 5:5b-6
 It is quite clear we need to embrace humility. There is obvious benefit to remaining humble and not prideful. He gives freely His grace to the humble but resists the prideful. He promises to lift us up when we remain humble.
 What would cause God to resist someone? Is God just an egotist who demands we remain lowly and despise ourselves but exalt Him? This is the furthest thing from the truth. He stated in the Word He will lift up or exalt those who humble themselves. God has no issue with exaltation, its self exaltation He resists.

 Grace the secret ingredient to "humble pie"

When we lift ourselves what are we actually doing? We are essentially stating "God, I got this". "God I don't need you"."God I can do this by myself." Most of us would be quick to say I'd never say this or have that attitude. Yet when we reject grace for works and performance that is what we are saying.

 When we understand our salvation, our righteousness, our new life is all because of what He did and not by our works or striving, then we will be walking in true humility. The idea that salvation begun with Him but is completed by us is rooted in pride. We are lowering ourselves in a good sense to accept by faith what He accomplished in the Finished Work. This is what it means to humble yourself. 

True versus False Humility 

 Admitting a need or that you require help is a sure sign of humility.  When you come to realize you can't do it alone or haven't got the full ability to fix everything that is a sure sign of being humble. When you see yourself as God sees you and are not saying I am better than so and so you are walking in humility. 

 When we have a healthy self image but not thinking to highly of ourselves we are abiding in humility. Whenever we reject the notion that "it's all about me" then you're displaying humility. Placing others needs over your own is being fruitful in humility. 

 Humility then is not a bad word. It is love in action. It is not having the inflated ego. It is readily accepting what God says about you. What then is false humility? Let the Word of God define it for us
 How then can man be righteous before God? Or how can he be pure who is born of a woman? If even the moon does not shine,
And the stars are not pure in His sight, How much less man, who is a maggot, And a son of man, who is a worm?” Job 25:4-6

 This is false humility. Bildad the Shuhite stated these words. These are words uttered that God accurately recorded to reveal how men try and understand the things of God without having full knowledge of God. In simpler terms this was truly stated and recorded in the Word but its not a statement of truth. 

The worm syndrome

 This is the "humility" religious tradition wishes us to embrace. They proclaim "we must be meek and mild, so realize you are nothing!" False humility rejects the truth that we are the righteousness of God apart from works. Religious humility wants us to hold our heads down in lowliness continually feeling bad for our sins.  

 False humility embraces what I call the worm syndrome. "You are so unworthy." "You are nothing." "You are lowly and so insignificant in God's eyes." "Our life is just a vapor." It demands we debase ourselves. Self is now the enemy of our souls. 

We must decrease so God can increase?

 This is a loaded question. If we can say fleshly thinking, such as selfishness or taking advantage of others or tearing down others should fall away from our thinking, certainly we can agree with that. However, when religion cries we must decrease they are not just referring to the flesh but our self. As if our self, our personalities and interests are in themselves wrong and need to be removed for God to show Himself stronger. 

 Here is some good news Believers, self is not the issue. You see we who have received New Life in Him have a new self. Our personalities are who God made us. God said the treasure from Heaven is in Earthly or "clay" pots. Our self is not hindering God. 

 God celebrates us. He made us unique and wonderful. "Oh, we need to die to self brother." That is religious tradition. Our old self is already dead. We are remade new in His image and He lives and abides in us now. Sin and flesh are our enemies not our self. 

 What then is the flesh? The flesh is not our bodies. Our bodies are the temple of God. Flesh is a mindset. Flesh is a way of thinking contrary to God's Word. It is the policies of the "former administration". We used to be dominated by a sin nature now we are free and made new. 

 When the thought comes God won't forgive me for this sin. Realize you're in the flesh. That is wrong. The Word declared you are already forgiven of all your sins. If the thought comes God is displeased with you, again that is flesh not the Word. It is flesh not self we oppose. 

 True humility is not debasing ourselves. It is not hanging our heads in shame. It is not groveling before God to receive from Him. It's not begging God to "take us back" when we blow it. It is not trying to decrease our self or God given personality. 

 True humility is placing ourselves under God's mighty hand. It's us putting all our hopes and trust in His Finished Work. It's accepting the reality we can't save ourselves or change our circumstances without His hand of favor. It is agreeing with who God says we are.

 We are washed and forever cleansed by His blood. We are forever forgiven of all our sins. We exchanged our sinfulness at the Cross for His perfect righteousness. We are the righteousness of God in Him apart from performance or Law. We identify with our righteous new nature within. We can come boldly before Him and confidently fellowship and commune with our Father. We rejoice knowing He has purchased for us perfect redemption. 

 Reject false humility and embrace the true. Stay with His hand of favor and let Him promote you. Let go of schemes or attempts at people pleasing or influence and trust His timing and favor. We are loved, accepted and forgiven. Rest in your true identity. 


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Understanding Grace: Our worth in light of the Finished Work

18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18

Whenever the truth arises, it causes us to reevaluate what we have heard. When the truth of God's Word arises tradition scatters. In the light of truth misunderstandings, false concepts, and ideas crumble and fade away. So it is with the grace revolution. False concepts of God have lost its hold on the Children of God.

 One of these false conceptions that is a major stronghold for so many, is the idea of our worth. In the World system, they go to extremes to prove their worth. Their worth is wrapped up in their work abilities. Their worth is placed heavily upon their physical body. They perceive value by how many find them appealing. Sadly, some in the Church also look in all the wrong places to discover their worth in the Family of God.

 So many look to their performance and ability to behave as their worth to God. Just, recently a major grace teacher slipped up. Opened the wrong door. Made a poor choice and interrupted his life and family by being in an adulterous relationship. Now to some he is no longer worthy of being used by God. His witness is "tainted". His destiny is over. He disrupted God's plan for him. He is finished. Is this so?

 Religious tradition heartily says yes. Wrong. His worth is not found in his ability to perfectly keep God's standard of love and integrity. When God gave him the plan and destiny for his life don't you think God already knew he would make a mess of things? This is why we need grace, folks. Certainly, adultery is terrible and hurtful. This is not saying it is a good thing to hurt others because of grace. 

 I am saying this minister's worth isn't tied to his performance. God will restore and make things new and bring healing to all those affected. This is just one example of where our worth is found. Too many look to themselves for their worth. 

 Be honest. If our dutiful and diligent abilities is where our worth is found then how much is required? What is the standard? Meaning, just how much prayer time makes you worthy in God's sight? How much Bible reading and devotional time is enough? See how this "hamster wheel" Christianity came about? 

 It is never enough. I have sat through meetings where people cram an altar crying and pleading with God to forgive their lack of commitment. You aren't doing enough. You need to try harder. There is much more for you to do. You need to know more. You know God isn't pleased with you right now. You could be doing more if you would turn that TV off. You would have more time with God if you just got away from everyone. I've heard these concepts many times.

Our worth is found in His Finished Work

 Where is our true worth discovered? It is only in Christ work on that Cross. Too often I have heard it spoken "we are so unworthy". It is even taught when you pray or commune with God that we should say we are so unworthy. I hate religion and tradition. This lie is birthed from their misconceptions of God.

 Are we so unworthy? Standby as I write each passage from God's Word that declared we are so unworthy.


 Take note that I have written nothing. This is because their exists no such passage. We sometimes believe or accept things because someone who is more mature than us said so. That is not the basis for truth. It is not something we should place our foundation of trust in. 

 There is one passage that does prove our worth in Him.

 “Yet there are some in the church in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes with evil. They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine.  Revelation 3:4-5

 This is a powerful passage. The Lord directed me to this passage once long ago. He taught me early on my worth was found in Him and the Finished Work. Of course religion kept muddying the waters with tradition and Law and performance based faith that I couldn't always see this beautiful truth until I received grace understanding.

 Here is some good news. The truth that Jesus took all our sins, and sickness and lack and old life and exchanged it with His righteousness, healing, and abundant life proves to us how much we are worth to God. He purchased our redemption and forever forgave us and gave us eternal life and security. We are remade worthy in Him.

 The above passage declared all God's Children are worthy. These victorious ones are all those who have received Him by faith. Therefore don't say that God alone is worthy. Now don't misunderstand me. It is correct to say He alone is worthy if you complete that thought with the truth that He alone is worthy to receive all praise and glory and honor. If you only say He alone is worthy then that is not completely accurate. Remember He made you worthy in the Finished Work.

 Don't seek your worth any longer in how well you can perform. In your ability to remain faithful. In your gifting and calling or vocation. It is not in your "looks" or your outward image. You are made worthy by the blood. Father God saw your infinite value when He paid the price by giving His Son for you. You are of much worth to Daddy God. Rest in who you really are. You are priceless.