Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Understanding Grace: Does Radical Grace dismiss obedience and living holy?

`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

 We have been in a series of study concerning His over the top, too good to be true but true, Radical Grace. Recently we began to dismantle the myths often associated with Radical Grace. True Grace isn't advocating pursuing sin, fashioning a lazy, purposeless way of living or disregarding God's Word. 

 Over the last couple of posts, we have been addressing the misnomer that there is no more correction or instruction under Grace. Certainly, God is grieved when we miss it or act contrary to our true righteous nature. Scripture makes it blatantly clear that God our Father will correct us if we stray off the righteous path. The key principle for understanding Grace is the how He corrects.

 Whenever a minister threatens loss of sonship or salvation in order to alter behavior, know this isn't Godly correction. We have established from Scripture that God corrects us by reminding us who we already are. God's correction leaves us hopeful and restored not dejected and distraught. This leads us to answer yet another myth.

What about obedience and holiness?

 We are often accused of dismissing the need for obedience and living holy. Radical Grace has received much criticism and accusations. This is one of the major accusations hurled upon those who ascribe to God's Radical Grace. Are we, in fact, dismissing the need for obedience and upright living? 

Get the Root right and the Fruit will be right.

 The point of contention stems from a wrong perception of God and salvation. Our detractors have the proverbial cart before the horse. The underlying perception is we must love God, obey God, live right before Him and then He will save you, or bless you or love you. 
  Many hold to a concept of God that He waits for us to do this or that and then He will respond. The problem with this mindset is, it is rooted in Old Covenant principles. God under the Old commanded the Israelites to do this or that and then He would respond with blessings, deliverance or protection. The Old Covenant was a covenant cut between God and man. The weak link in this covenant was mankind. 

 Under the New, God cut a covenant with Jesus and we are the benefactors of this New Covenant. This is why our conduct has no bearing on our receiving or not receiving His love and mercy and blessing. Now as I have already established if we step out of our identity and make poor choices we are susceptible to the consequences of those decisions. But, receiving mercy and love and blessing comes because we are sons and not because we are perfect.

 Think of this. If we are only blessed because we were good enough then what type of relationship do we have with God? It is not father and son, but rather employee and employer. I don't pray and beg to receive a paycheck after forty hours of work. I earned that pay, it belongs to me. Look at the dynamic of a relating to God as an employer and not Father. 

 It is not a relationship of Him leading and us following but rather us striving and achieving. This is why under Law and performance there is so much competition among believers and ministries. Local churches won't support a traveling evangelist because he may take some members out of some of their regular services and they wouldn't be able to give. I know of one minister who went to New York years ago. Some of the local pastors protested and boycotted him. This is because they felt threatened and were in competition with each other. I thought the Church was about reaching the World? This is not the gospel, this is performance and legalism at its "finest".
 Does Radical Grace then dismiss obedience? Certainly not. The truth is we understand that obedience and holiness are the Fruit not the Root of our relationship with Father God.  

 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, Romans 1:5 ESV
 Grace produces obedience and upright living. Grace understands and rests in the Finished Work. Jesus was already obedient on our behalf. We have a secure and eternal loving relationship with God because of it. We received the free gift purchased by that Finished Work and through it, we now have a new heart and the mind of Christ. 

 Paul references obedience in other portions of Scripture;
26 but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith Romans 16:26 NKJV

16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report? Romans 10:16 NKJV

 Interestingly how Paul mentions obedience to the gospel and to the faith. In John's epistles, he lists the commands under the New Covenant. They are to believe and to walk in love. Paul, by the Spirit, is conveying the same message essentially. Obeying the gospel and faith also means to add nothing to our salvation.

 Our salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. When we add to it with stipulations like doing this more or abstaining from that, we are adding to our salvation. Salvation is simply placing our trust and all hope in Jesus alone and what He did on our behalf. Is obedience then defined as following the tenants and dictates of a denomination or a minister? 

 Certainly not, obedience is complying with and following the leading of the Lord. In essence, obedience is really just simple trust in a loving Father. Oh if I had known this years ago! In my mind, based upon the teachings I had sat under, I saw God as the harsh taskmaster and obedience as a servant and master relationship. God wasn't a loving Father. He was a stern and austere master who always kept score when I blew it or didn't perform just perfect enough.  

 God is a good, good Father. This image of God and this concept of obedience needs to be eradicated out of the minds of His Children. Obedience or rather, simply trusting in His love will produce the right fruit. Certainly, there are rewards for following His leading and living from our new creation. We aren't earning or achieving anything, we are following His leading and guidance to a place of abundance and rest that is available to all His kids. There is no preferential treatment, therefore there is no need for competition. 

 Trusting in Him brings about great rewards. It leads us away from temptations and out of the realm of poor choices. It leads us to a place of rest and peace. Does Radical Grace discount obedience? No, we properly define it and strip away the wrong concept so many have clung onto in the past. Grace brings freedom and a more fruitful relating to God. We have the right root (the Finished Work) and thus the right fruit is produced. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Understanding Grace: Does Radical Grace teach that God isn't grieved by our sins?

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

 We've been in a series of study concerning God's Radical Grace. This too good to be true, but true good news. We have seen how we are forgiven, loved and free from all shame and fear because of what Jesus has purchased for us in the Finished Work. 

 Currently, we have been dispelling the myths often associated with Radical Grace. Radical Grace isn't a message that promotes laziness or advocates living in sin. In our last study, we allayed the myth that Radical Grace promotes the idea that there is no longer any correction. 

 With that foundation laid, I felt impressed to build upon the truths of how God corrects and in doing so, dispel yet another myth that our detractors accuse us of. Does Radical Grace convey the idea that God is no longer grieved by our sin? When a truth is presented people will always draw conclusions from it. We want to ensure we draw the right conclusions.

 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God...Ephesians 4:30a NKJV
30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30 NLT
 The Scripture is quite clear. Yes God can be grieved by our actions and choices. The key to truly understand this concept though is to rightly divide the Word. It also comes when we rightly define what grieving Father God actually means.
 In Our last study, we saw from God's Word that our loving Father in Heaven does correct us when we stray or miss it. We saw the how He corrects. He reminds us of who we are in Him. He brings to our remembrance whose we are and our value and worth to Him. 
 Couple this understanding with the truth that He can be grieved by our actions and we see a clearer image of a good Father. Why is He grieved? He is grieved for a few reasons. 
 Firstly, He is grieved because sin is destructive. Sin hurts His kids. He loves us with an everlasting love. He doesn't want to see us hurt or damaged or jeopardizing our family, career or other relationships by foolish choices. 
 When temptation arises rest in who you are, and whose you are. Remind yourself you are the righteousness of God in Him. If you are loved and secure in Him then what would He not freely provide for you that is consistent with Godliness and love? 
 Married and feeling tempted by another person in your community or on the job? Then, begin to ask God to begin to send the rain of refreshing and passion upon your marriage. We are tempted when we believe God has forgotten us or we fail to recognize and understand He is a good, good Father who always loves us and has our best in mind. 
 Secondly, He is grieved by our poor choices and actions because we are stepping out of our identity. We are succumbing to the lies of the enemy and accepting a false identity. The enemy loves to present a false identity to us so we will accept it and walk in it.
 For example, Our Father declared we have peace and joy in Him. The enemy comes to our minds with lies that depression and despair and anxiety is part of who we are and to just accept it. We should reject these lies. When we rest in our new identity in Him we will walk in victory. 
 Lastly, He is grieved by our actions because this is a poor witness and example for others to see. Granted, we don't live to please people. We don't exist to make sure we have the approval of all around us. We are, however, created to be beacons or lights upon a hill for all to see. Our life can be a great witness to the lost that there is a good God in Heaven who desires a relationship with them.

 Grieved, but not disappointed

 With this truth presented I feel compelled to uproot an error often associated with any teachings along this line. When Ephesians stated God can be grieved by our actions it never said He was disappointed.
 It is important to distinguish this truth. When we miss it or foul up the enemy and religion seem to revel in this concept that God is now disappointed in you. The enemy comes with his accusations.
 "You call yourself a Christian. Look at this sin and mess up. God is so disappointed in you."
 Religious tradition also begins to point fingers with condemning and accusative words. They begin using words like,
"You let God down."
"You are such a disappointment to God."
"You sinned so much, there is no way God's plans or calling is that important to you. If it was you wouldn't have been sinning."
"You need to get right with God."
 With such accusations, we may feel we can't go on. Why even pursue a relationship with God? We will just let Him down again. We might as well just go back to our old life. 
 Well, I have some good news. God is not disappointed in us. The price Jesus paid in the Finished Work was more than enough for God. He is always pleased with us. When we miss it, He is always there rooting us on. He reminds us we are better than this sin or poor choice. Jesus never leaves us hopeless.

 As believers in Christ, we rest in the Finished Work and our new identity in Him. We are already "right with God", even when we miss it. He has made us the very righteousness of God in Christ. We are just as righteous as God is. Knowing and trusting in this right standing we can rejoice knowing He isn't ever disappointed in us. 


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Understanding Grace: Does Radical Grace teach there is no longer any place for correction?

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

  We have been in a series of study as of late concerning God's amazing Grace. Recently we began dismantling the myths often associated with Radical Grace. Up to now we have allayed the myths that Radical Grace advocates sin, makes folk lazy and purposeless. That Radical Grace is merely Universalism in disguise. 

 This week I want to quell yet another myth associated with Radical Grace. The myth that Radical Grace doesn't believe in correction. That hearing and receiving the message of Radical Grace means all choices and actions should be celebrated and acceptable. 

Grace brings correction when first received

 The first area of correction Grace brings is to get us to the place where we are resting and trusting in Christ alone. Grace will bring instruction to us in our times of study and hearing the Word and times alone with Him in prayer. It gently reminds us of who we are.  It will help us lay aside the weights of religion and tradition and bring to our awareness our true identity in Christ.

 This may come as a surprise, but many who are performance minded who claim they love correction in reality only love adherence to their traditions. Correction to them is simply a reminder to keep all their traditions. Radical Grace, on the other hand, understands correction as instruction or a reminder for the Believer in Christ to understand their perfect righteousness in Him. This Grace will bring instruction that the performance path is not the right way. Grace brings this correction so we will rest in His right standing and Finished Work.

 Does Radical Grace mean then we can never miss it or be rebellious to our Father's plans or purposes?

 Any time information is presented to us we will inevitably draw conclusions. Drawing the right conclusions from the right information is how we steer clear from error. Unfortunately, we are all capable of missing it and sometimes we can draw the wrong conclusions. 

 The foolish are those who merely heard a concept of Radical Grace. They heard some information and drew the wrong conclusions. The Word of God in various places continually admonishes us to avoid foolishness. Now God still loves the foolish minded with an eternal love. He just desires them to come the knowledge of the truth.

 In reality, foolishness is simply ignorance or immaturity in action. Some then have heard a partial message of Radical Grace and concluded that they can never miss God. That it is an impossibility to rebel against His plan for their life. Is this accurate? Is this the message of Radical Grace?

 Certainly not. The first "commandment" or "tenet" of the "satanic bible" is to do whatever thou wilt. Does that even remotely sound like Grace or love? Of course not. Grace is gracious and loving. Grace is not the message that we are free to enjoy sin and poor choices. 

 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; 1 Thessalonians 4:1 NKJV
Here is some difficult but honest news. If you as a believer are living with your significant other without being married, that is not God's will or best for you. It is unloving because in reality it is rooted in selfishness or self-gratification. If you regularly lie or cheat or find shortcuts to get out of assigned duties at your job that is wrong behavior. Where is the love for others being displayed in this behavior? These behaviors are the "fruits" of wrong thinking.

 Does God simply ignore our poor choices or sins? Newsflash we will reap the natural consequences of our poor choices. Let me elaborate. God still loves us. He is still pleased with us, just not our actions or choices. Jesus took the full punishment for our sins and failures. However, we still live in this Earth. Poor choices have poor consequences. If you commit adultery be aware you are in danger of losing your marriage, the trust and respect of your  children and depending where you work, possibly your job. 

 With poor consequences still attached to poor choices certainly God will correct us when we are on the wrong path. So don't draw the wrong conclusion that correction doesn't exist under Grace. The  truth we must know and understand is the how He corrects us.

How does He correct us?

 This is paramount for us to understand how God corrects us. Does He correct us by casting guilt and condemnation onto us? Does He shame us publicly? Does He make you have a flat tire because you are just no good? I used to think this is how He corrects. These and, of course, the threats of loss of salvation. This is why the Word is so vital to our growth in Grace. Let's allow the Word to reveal how He corrects.
For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. 1 Thessalonians 4:7 NKJV

1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? 1 Corinthians 6:1-2 NKJV

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! 1 Corinthians 6:5 NKJV

But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, Colossians 3:8-10 NKJV

 To the performance and insecure minded all they see here is Paul chiding believers. Is this an accurate description of what we just read? Certainly not. Paul the Apostle of Grace by the Spirit is bringing correction and instruction. How so? He is simply reminding the people of who they already are in Him.
 This is how God corrects. He reminds us of who we are and whose we are. When we awaken to the truth that we are the very righteousness of God in Him, we will begin to act accordingly. When we understand He already sanctified us and made us holy by the Finished Work we will begin to identify with that. This is what brings about true change in our thinking and our actions toward one another. 

what Grace isn't saying

 A word of caution here. As I stated earlier we must draw the right conclusions from the information that is presented to us. Even if you find yourself in a state of living in sin and poor choices, don't react by adopting the performance based, self-help mentality. Meaning don't say to yourself and God, "I'm sorry, I will do better now let me do..." That is not correction that is humanistic self-improvement. 

18 And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices. Hebrews 10:18 NLT

 Many of the performance minded and insecure wish to "balance" Grace. What they mean is they want Radical Grace mixed with all the "commandments" they deem vital. In other words, "God loves you yea but get busy doing more and if you miss it you're a sinner and need to confess or God's gonna get you.."

 Grace is saying there is no more sacrifice for sins. You can't pay for your sins or poor choices. You can't try to outweigh your "bad" by doing better stuff like feeding the homeless or giving donations.  If you've failed and are seeing some consequences still trust Him to get you through it. Allow wisdom and instruction to come so you don't repeat the same behavior patterns. Be who you already are in Him.
 In summation, yes there is still correction under Radical Grace. It isn't condemnation or guilt. It is the process of us understanding who we already are in Him. Radical Grace isn't saying let's do evil that good may come. Yes God has a great plan for each of His kids. Yes, we can rebel and get off the path. But His amazing Grace is there to help us get back up again and get back on the path. Correction is good for us. It may seem grievous at first, but it is for our best and growth in Grace.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Understanding Grace: Does Radical Grace Ignore or dismiss the Scripture as invalid or errant?

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

 We've been in a series on understanding God's amazing Grace. Up to now we have seen that by His Grace we always have free access to fellowship with our Father. That we are forgiven eternally. We have seen how we are forever secure in His hands. 

 I sensed strongly to continue dispelling the myths often associated with Radical Grace. Today I am impressed to topple yet another myth linked with those who minister God's extravagant Grace. Too often we are accused of disregarding God's Word when we proclaim the good news. 

Is this a honest assessment of Radical Grace ministers? In order to answer this allow me to elaborate what makes up a Radical Grace preacher. There are many "voices in the wind" so to speak. Many are vying for our ears, for our attention, some even for our devotion. We must first discern these "voices" and their source. 

The "voice" of legalism and performance

 In the Body of Christ we have many proclaiming what they sense is good news. They begin with God's Grace but progress into works and performance. Their love for what they see as truth overrides any mercy or grace. Sadly, these "truths" that many cling to is nothing more than the traditions of men. 

 Their source is the traditions they have embraced. They use the Scripture as a weapon. They beat the sheep into submission. There is no freedom and liberty in Christ. The Word of God is wielded to strike fear and anxiety in the minds of God's people. 

On a side note...

  I have also seen those who utilize Scripture to seek gain. I categorize these with performance driven preachers for a reason. These are the ministers who promise that, by opening your wallet or check book to them, you will receive untold riches and everlasting abundance. These alleged promises are nothing more than "lottery ticket" messages that are beyond the truth of Scripture.

 I absolutely believe we have a good, good Daddy God. He wants to pour His abundant love and mercy and goodness out upon us. Certainly He blesses His Church, His children. That said, He never promised or guaranteed we would be millionaires or live in mansions. 

 Now what are these "ministers" to do when the people aren't walking in the foretold wealth? This is when Law and performance is there to "rescue" these ministers. They are quick to revert to preaching a performance driven faith so as to explain why people aren't receiving what they promised. 

The "voice"of the foolish

 The other voice we must discern is those of the foolish. These are the "ministers" or bloggers or "Facebook theologians" who mainly desire a following to validate them. The Scripture is useless to them unless they can distort it to promote some erroneous views. 

 These are those who don't tear down religious traditional strongholds. They don't build up either, because again, their following is what is paramount. What they actually do is simply tear up. They tear up other ministries. They tear up the authority of Scriptures if it disagrees with their latest philosophy. They tear up relationships. Error always shipwrecks people's joy and hope and peace. Thank the Lord His Word spoken in truth always brings restoration.

 The voice of the Radical Grace minister

 Now that we have discerned the wrong voices lets hear the true voices. Radical Grace embraces God's Word as the final authority. It is God's Word that reveals to us who God is to us. It is the Word that reveals we have a good Father who always loves us. It is the Word of God that reveals the Finished Work. The Word is what anchors our soul when contrary thoughts come to us.

 Radical Grace doesn't dismiss the Scriptures. The legalist doesn't rightly divide the Word. The foolish disregard the Word. Radical Grace embraces the Word. The Word is what reveals to us this majestic Radical Grace. Jesus is Grace. Jesus is the Word made flesh. The Word and Grace are one!

 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 NKJV

 The Word equips us because it assures and anchors us in the truth of our redemption in Christ. It reminds us the work is accomplished. Jesus finished it at the Cross. We cannot add to our salvation. The Word reveals we are completely forgiven. The Word reveals we have been made the righteousness of God in Christ. 

 It is simply false accusation to say Radical Grace dismisses the Word. We hold the Word in high esteem for in its pages reveal to us our complete redemption and acceptance with our Father. Be refreshed as you search the Scriptures and discover rich truths about our redemption.