Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Growing Up In Grace: Love and Acceptance

18 but grow [spiritually mature] in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory (honor, majesty, splendor), both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18 AMP

 Growing up in Grace requires the right roots. We've established in past studies what the right roots are, (see here.) I feel impressed to continue along these lines in today's study. 

that we might learn to praise that glorious generosity of his which has made us welcome in the everlasting love he bears towards the Son. Ephesians 1:6 Phillips 

6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:6 NKJV

 Understanding we are accepted and loved!

 Do you want to hear some too good to be true but true good and glad news? You are loved by God. Not just loved but accepted in Him. Jesus changed everything. Before Christ, God and man were separated by mankind's sinful, fallen nature. 

The Father who longed for a Family.

The heart of God since the fall of Man in the Garden is that of restoration and reconciliation. Our Father longed for the day when men would no longer be separated by their fallen nature. He longed for the day when Jesus would be the once for all time sacrifice for our sins. For the time when by simple faith anyone could freely receive this gift of new life and adoption into His Family.

 Our sins aren't what kept Jesus on that Cross, it was His love for all humanity. It was because of the joy set before Him, that one day the Father would be reunited with His family, (Hebrews 12:2). You were the joy set before Him when He bled and suffered and died on that Cross. Seeing you forever forgiven, completely cleansed by His Blood, eternally secure, made the very righteousness of God, healed and made whole, motivated Christ to lay down His life and pay that high price. 

 When Jesus' birth was heralded by the angels note what they stated

“Glory to God in the highest [heaven],  And on earth peace among men with whom He is well-pleased.” Luke 2:14 AMP

 When we read this with a performance and Old Covenant mindset we read it as only peace toward certain men. That there is peace only to the men whom God approves of. So if you want peace with God, you best get busy earning it or proving you're worthy of this peace He offers. 

 I used to read this passage this way. Now I see the beauty of this proclamation. This is a divine invitation. This is God speaking the end from the beginning. He saw that Jesus would provide the once for all time sacrifice. This, in essence, IS the Grace Gospel. 

 The proclamation is that God, because of Christ, is accepting and approving of all mankind. This is was not saying God accepts and approves of all the actions and thinking of mankind. This was an open invite made available to all mankind to respond to the free gift of eternal life.

 Once we receive the Lord by faith we must know and understand just how deeply and how thoroughly He loves us and accepts us. This is the right foundation for true growth and spiritual maturity. You see spiritual maturity isn't you improving your performance so that one day God may actually like you. It isn't us working on ourselves so that eventually we may be acceptable to our Father.

 So many have been told by religion that they don't measure up. Some have even been labeled undeserving or not good enough by the standards of religion. The truth is God was in Christ reconciling the World to Himself. He isn't judging this World with calamities and cataclysmic disasters. God isn't mad at anyone. He has approved of all humanity. There is no nation or person who can say they are more or less deserving of the love of God and the reception of the divine invite unto new life in Christ by faith. 

 Once we realize we are deeply loved, highly favored and accepted and approved by our Father because of Jesus' Finished Work, all strivings will cease. We will see the appeal to the things of this World system fall away. When we realize we were the joy set before Him, we can't help but fall madly in love with the love of a loving Savior and Father. This is growing up in God's Grace. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Growing up in Grace: Right Root produces Right Fruit

18 but grow [spiritually mature] in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory (honor, majesty, splendor), both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18 AMP

 Spiritual growth. This concept sometimes has a negative, performance oriented stigma attached to it. Our detractors often accuse us Radical Grace ministers of promoting "sloppy agape" and "cheap grace". What these accusers fail to recognize is that Our Daddy God loves us with a furious love. As one song states, Heaven meets Earth with a "sloppy wet kiss". I'll take this "sloppy agape" over the performance and conditions based faith they promote. As for cheap grace, the only way to cheapen grace is to dwindle it down to a price where humans can afford to pay for it by their achievements and efforts. 

Spiritual Growth: Right Root equals Right Fruit

 The truth is spiritual growth is not some fast track works rooted plan to gain God's love or acceptance. For the misguided and misinformed ones who are perpetually seeking God's love and approval, spiritual growth becomes a task to complete or duty to perform. However, when one realizes the truth that through the Finished Work they've already been accepted and are thoroughly pleasing to their Father, growth occurs freely and effortlessly as a response to the new creation within.

 In past studies, we've established the right roots in His Grace. These roots will produce growth and right fruit. Once we've placed our trust in Christ's Finished Work, we are in Christ, we have union with God. Let's review briefly these right roots.

 We've been made New Creations in Him ( 2 Cor 5:17). We've been declared righteous (Romans 5:1) and made the Righteousness of God in Christ, as a result, we are just as righteous as Jesus (2 Cor 5:21). We've been forgiven of all our sins, past present and future (Colossians 2:13). We are perfectly accepted and approved by God (Ephesians 1:6). We're completely free from fear and shame and all guilt (1 John 4:17-18). We have freedom from all condemnation (Romans 8:1). We rest knowing our Father will never be angry with us, or be disappointed with us (Isaiah 54:9). Through this Grace and Finished Work, we've been made holy, once for all time (Hebrews 10:10-14). This is the right roots that produce real fruit.

 One last root we must put into remembrance is the truth of our unconditional eternally secure salvation (Hebrews 9:12). I recognize that so many resist this glorious Grace Gospel truth. Traditional mindsets plant hurdles to this truth in believers minds so as to sway folk from receiving this truth. Jesus is the answer to all these objections.

Tradition says "Salvation isn't eternally secure."
Jesus says "My blood purchased eternal redemption, and all those  who come to me are secure in my hand and will never perish."
Tradition says "We can sin away our salvation."
Jesus says "Sin is not greater than my once for all time sacrifice for sin. Where sin abounds Grace much more abounds."
Tradition says "We can walk away from our salvation."
Jesus says "When you are faithless, I remain faithful."

 These are the proper roots for growth in Christ. With these truths established firmly in our hearts and thinking our life in Christ will flourish. Is there any performance or efforts required? This is a great question. Religion looks at the performance and God looks at our heart.

 Does this mean that we lounge around never studying the Word or spending time in prayer or devotion? Does this mean we live any way we choose regardless if it is immoral? Certainly not. A lifestyle of drunkenness or sexual immorality may be acceptable with the World system but it is contrary to our new nature and brings misery and loss. 

 All one need do is read a newspaper and clearly see sinful pursuits are not fulfilling. We see authority figures, such as teachers, who act on feelings of unbridled sexual passion and engage in inappropriate relationships with their students. We see how a wild night of drinking in excess costs much in the long run. Poor judgment is always the result and many regrets are produced from living this way.

 Grace doesn't revel in condemnation or pointing fingers. It always points us to Christ. Christ has so much better for us. Walking in His love within us is much better than harboring prejudices, bitterness or envy in our thinking. Christ is our sufficiency. There is nothing this World can offer that take the place of this furious love and eternal hope and everlasting joy we have in Him. 

 How then do we grow spiritually? We grow by acknowledging continually who we are and what we have in Christ (Philemon 6). This is why we study His Word and spend time with Him in prayer. It is not to fulfill some religious duty or obligation. It is about a vital relationship, not a dull or drab religious exercise. We spend time with God because we are already loved and approved. We relax with Him because we are always pleasing and accepted in Him. 

In summation, growing in Grace is progressively maturing into who you already are in Him. It is not a journey to attain a position, or garner some status with God. We aren't in pursuit of what we already have. We rest in the Finished Work, and receive of all He has purchased for us and what He has made us. It is identifying with the risen Christ. As He is so are we now, He isn't bound by addictions or habits or bitterness. If He isn't bound and we are like Him then neither are we, identify with this and you will see true fruit manifest. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Another Mistaken Idea: If He isn't Lord of All, He isn't Lord at all!

24 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen Romans 16:24 NKJV

 Some time ago I began a periodic study of some of the mistaken ideas that have infiltrated the Church. Removing wrong thoughts, or ideas brings freedom in our relationship with God. Today, I feel impressed to address a concept in the Body of Christ, that many cling to.

If He isn't the Lord of All, He isn't Lord at all?

 This is a really loaded statement if you will. This phrase is a popular saying among many church groups. Some Christian writers and speakers in the past have had much success by constantly labeling the Church of Jesus Christ as lackluster, uninspiring, and subpar in its scope. For some unknown reason, it seems appealing to some Christians to hear how much the Church is failing and is a great disappointment to God. 

Why is this phrase a mistaken idea? Because it seeks to determine one's salvation and acceptability with God based solely upon one's performance and merits. Ideas such as this uproot the secure position of the believer and rips away the blessed assurance they have in Christ. With ideas such as this, our right standing before God is now based upon our obedience and not Christ's obedience. 

The "C.O.P.S." are coming!

 The performance and Old Covenant minded ministers and believers, seek to turn the fruits of salvation into the roots of our salvation. They look to find how well one's Consecration or Commitment, Obedience or Observance to the "rules", Performance, and Submission or Subjection to the Lord is to determine if one is "really" saved. Just like the Pharisees of Old they seek outward evidence only to determines one's value in Christ. 

 These "Pharisaical" style ministers love to point out perceived flaws and failures and shortcomings. These have told the divorcee' that they are displeasing to God. That you have failed your marriage so you're a failure to God. These are they who label other believers as not measuring up. These ministries preach a works-based gospel that never produces security or assurance in Christ. 

 Front loading the gospel message with requirements other than responding in simple faith is adding to the Grace Gospel. I've heard a mega church pastor actually tell his church that if there is even one area where you're still in charge you will go to hell when you die. If this is so then salvation is dependent upon my continual submission and obedience. What if you fall short one day? See how this idea removes assurance and security in Him? 

 These concepts never produce the true fruit bearing believers that these ministers hope for. It produces a shallow, surface appearance of having it all together, but inside people are hurting and struggling. People then simply mask their behavior and intents of their hearts. The people still sin and fall short, they just find ways to conceal their actions. This is why there are no freedom from bad habits and addictions in works and performance based ministries. 

The truth is Jesus IS Lord.

 This concept is erroneous because Jesus is Lord, regardless if you allow Him to be Lord or not. The Word is clear, see it here. Jesus is the Lord of all and because of this, He is the only one who is the Savior. Is our salvation then rooted in our level of consecration, observance, performance, submission? Absolutely not. These are the fruits of the New Creation, not the roots.

 If we could ever merit what Christ paid for than Jesus alone isn't our Savior. Our behavior has become our savior. Whatever we see Jesus paying for in the Finished Work proves only the Cross could appropriate it for us. Thus, no amount of goodness, charitable deeds or even abstinence from wrong or immorality, could procure it. It is by Grace alone, through faith alone we receive it. 

 Our eternal salvation was only made possible by the Finished Work. His blood has what has cleansed us and gave us perfect right standing before God. One's level of commitment or submission to His Lordship isn't what saved us and isn't what maintains that salvation. His Grace and our faith in His once for all time sacrifice on that Cross are what saved us. After we are saved, the fruit of the New Creation is progressively maturing into who we already are in Him, including submission to His Lordship, which is His leading and guidance and direction for our individual lives. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Another Mistaken Idea: "Get Right with God"?

and become one with him, no longer counting on being saved by being good enough or by obeying God’s laws, but by trusting Christ to save me; for God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith—counting on Christ alone. Philippians 3:9 TLB

 Mistaken ideas are birthed in the minds of men when we take a religious traditional or experiential interpretation of the Word of God. Whenever we study God's Word it helps us to renew our minds to the truth of the New Covenant. Whenever I bring truth to remove a mistaken idea it is not the intent to demean or ridicule those who have not fully grasped the beauty of the gospel and New Covenant. 

 Get right with God?

 This is a popular phrase in religious circles. It really struck me as a mistaken idea in the context it is most often used. In some cases, this phrase is simply defined as one receiving Jesus and trusting Him as Savior. I don't like the phrase when ministering to the lost because it connotes an image of an angry God who is so displeased with them, and hates their very existence until they are "right" with Him. Ministering to the lost is not usually the context of this phrase.

 I've seen this phrase used in Christian movies. It is always in reference to a believer who has sinned. In one particular film, a zealous young believer wants to intellectually defend the existence of God to a couple of rowdy atheists. The problem? Oh my, this young believer hasn't been living a perfect sinless existence on campus. So because of this, he can't present the truth to these atheists because they will expose his sins. He bows out needing to instead spend time "getting right with God."

 Another Christian film has some men who come together to swear and oath to honor and love their family and serve the Lord. Well, one fellow is involved in some felonious activity. Certainly, he ends up behind bars. His friend's advice? You need to "get right with God." 

 The concept behind this phrase is when a believer sins they must make amends with God. They need to get things "right" between themselves and the Lord. The Lord is displeased and disappointed in them, and, therefore, is out of fellowship with them. The sinning believer has "let God down." 

 The reason this is a mistaken idea and concept is that number one it overlooks the truth of the righteousness of the Believer. Secondly, it disregards the truth that God is no longer imputing or counting our sins against us. Let the Word confirm this;
But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners. David also spoke of this when he described the happiness of those who are declared righteous without working for it  
7. “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven whose sins are put out of sight  
8.  Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin.”              Romans 4:5-8 NLT

The Righteousness of God in Christ

 We must not allow religious tradition no matter how well meaning to rob us of the truth of who we are in Him. In Christ, we have perfect righteousness or right standing before God.
21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT
 In Christ, we are right with God. We are the righteousness of God in Him by faith. According to this mistaken idea each time we sin we are out of right standing and need to take steps to get back right with God. This is an absolute unScriptural ideology.
 Our righteousness in Christ isn't suspended or put on hold whenever we blow it or mess up. Righteousness is a gift we have received by faith. It has nothing to do with works or our performance. We exchanged natures at the Cross. 
 When we received Christ He took our unrighteousness and gave us His perfect righteousness. We are now declared righteous and by virtue of the New Creation we are made righteous. If we, therefore, exchanged our old "filthy rags" righteousness for Jesus perfect righteousness then, right now we are just as righteous as the Lord Jesus Christ.
 Because of this truth of our righteousness we know we don't lose our position of righteousness just because we sin. This righteousness is an irrevocable righteousness. Once we've been made in right standing with God we need not fear or worry us ever being out of right standing with God.

Blessed is he whose sin is not imputed

 In Christ we rest knowing God isn't imputing or holding our sin to our account. Don't believe me? Allow the New Covenant to speak for itself.
12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Hebrews 8:12 NKJV
 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation 2 Corinthians 5:19 NLT
12 He has removed our sins as far away from us as the east is from the west. Psalm 103:12 TLB
 The Word has settled the issue. Because of the Finished Work and Jesus Blood we are redeemed and eternally cleansed from all our sins. How can we be letting God down and needing to continually get right with God each time we foul up if He says He remembers our sin and Lawless deeds no more? 

 Allow this mistaken concept to be uprooted from your thinking. Now if you have missed it, the Lord will bring correction, but it isn't because you aren't right with Him. Because you are righteous before Him, He will remind you of your true nature. He will guide you to live out of this new nature and not the ways of the World and your old ways of thinking. There we find freedom and experience the peace that is ours already in Him.