Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Scandal of Grace: Jesus our Righteousness

God has already saved us and called us to this holy calling—not because of any good works we may have done, but because of His own intention and because eons and eons ago (before time itself existed), He gave us this grace in Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King. 2 Timothy 1:9 VOICE

 We now resume our regularly scheduled study of the scandalous Grace of God. Grace, Grace. Scandalous Grace, what have you done now? You've have taken undeserving, spiritually dead unrighteous ones and given them the free gift of right standing with an Almighty, holy God. 

 When His amazing Grace melted our hardened hearts and we stop resisting His love and received the Lord Jesus Christ into our lives He exchanged our old nature with His new nature. He gave us the free gift of righteousness. He placed us into perfect right standing with our Father in Heaven. We were justified or placed into a position of just-as-if-I'd never sinned. It is imperative that we understand how to live victoriously in this righteousness. 

17 For if because of one man’s trespass (lapse, offense) death reigned through that one, much more surely will those who receive [God’s] overflowing grace (unmerited favor) and the free gift of righteousness [putting them into right standing with Himself] reign as kings in life through the one Man Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). Romans 5:17 AMP
 We can reign as kings in this life when we understand our righteousness in Christ. One translation says we will reign in life when we "receive of the gift of righteousness", (see here). We need to not just receive the gift but actually open it! It is one thing to possess a gift it is quite another to open it and enjoy it. We must not just receive the free gift of righteousness but apply it for daily use.
 When we understand our righteousness in Christ we will no longer lack confidence when we pray. When we read the Scriptures our eyes will be open to seeing how much our God is for us and not against us. This righteousness produces boldness in the heart of the believer. When you seek to pray for someone with a need you won't be looking for brother holier than you to pray the prayer of faith because you know God hears and answers your prayers too. 
 This righteousness produces peace, (see here). By placing us in right standing with God, Jesus has ensured we will never experience His wrath or anger or disappointment. Jesus took all our judgment and wrath and disappointments on that Cross. God isn't angry at us at all, He is in a great mood when He thinks of you!
 When you miss it or blow it, you've no need to fear that God is scheming for ways to "get back" at you. God isn't plotting your downfall because you didn't measure up one day. God is not the author of bad days. Certainly, if we make poor choices we can see natural consequences but understand God isn't trying to punish you.
You can still have bold confidence with God even when you fail because of His free gift of righteousness He has given. His love and mercy are immeasurable. Your imperfections aren't going to stop Him from moving on your behalf. While you were yet enemies, He freely gave His own Son. How much more now that you're His sons will He move on your behalf?
This is the scandalous Grace of God. He gave us an unearnable gift. He gave us an undeserved gift. We receive this free gift by simply trusting in Christ alone. Before Christ came into our lives our righteousness was as filthy rags as Isaiah said (see here). Once received this gift is irrevocable and unceasing.
We who have received His free gift of righteousness have exchanged our sins for His right standing with the Father. We are declared righteous and by virtue of the New Creation made the very righteousness of God in Christ. If we, therefore, have exchanged our old worthless, perpetually failing, "filthy rags" righteousness for His perfect righteousness, then the righteousness we've received is His and not our own. Therefore, we are just as righteous as the Lord Jesus Christ! This is the scandalous Grace of God and we rejoice amen.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Must we Tithe our way to blessings?

6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. Hebrews 8:6 NKJV

Send it down. Send the rain of blessings. A shower of financial blessings. Intrigued? Are you desiring this to manifest in your life? If you heartily agree, then there is just one step you must take. You need to take a tenth of all you earn and give it to a local church or donate to a television ministry. 

 You may say well I've been doing this since my youth. Great! Now continue in this practice. Well, you may say I've been giving this much and more and don't seem to have these showers of blessings you speak of. You just need to keep on Tithing faithfully. No matter what it appears like, just keep giving.

 Does any of this discourse sound familiar to you? Has this scenario ever occurred in your Christian experience? What are some characteristics of this dialogue? Promised, unforetold wealth and abundance. A life living above circumstance. All of this contingent upon your willing financial exchange. 

 This is the proverbial fine print. Your blessing resting upon all you can do. My earlier words may convey a flippant tone to some. I may come across in a facetious manner but this is not the intent. I say all these things to bring wisdom and truth to an often mistaught and distorted subject.

 Many believers are on the receiving end of this endless performance rooted financial program. Christian giving is being redirected toward this giving in order to get or receive mindset. This type of giving is a compulsory, pressure induced, fear based standard.

 Take note on how the Apostle Paul received an offering, (here). One can note, no pull or pressure. No promises that if you are consistently giving God will pay off your mortgage. The motive of the heart is clear as well as the amount.

 Paul's standard of giving is to give as the Lord has increased you. This standard isn't a one size fits all. This is yet another proof that the practice of Tithing isn't a New Covenant standard for giving. Certainly this does away with the erroneous gimmicks concerning Tithing. Leaders offer the challenge, give to God ten percent regularly and in three months see how blessed you are. This is an obvious gimmick. Who is going to actually confront the leadership of a church and say this didn't work for me? They'd respond by saying either it did work but you just haven't seen it yet, or your "heart motive" was wrong.

Faith in a formula or Faith in the Finished Work?

 I've stated in the past if you're trusting the Lord for healing or any other need to be met, don't look at circumstance but look to the Finished Work. Have faith in His Faith and Finished Work. Certainly, no one has the answer this side of Heaven as to why some don't always see the answer to their prayers. We should not accuse and find fault with other believers regarding this issue.

 That stated if we are given a formula we then can certainly judge its validity by its "fruit" and success. Preachers of tradition are teaching that if people give ten percent of their income all these blessings will overtake them. Their possessions will be protected from damage. Their challenges will be overcome.

 We can look at the lives of those who have acted upon this appeal. They're not abiding in realms of untold riches. There are single moms who can't make ends meet yet their church elders are still demanding she continues giving at least ten percent. I viewed a TV minister during a Q&A respond to a tithe question. 

 In this interaction, it was revealed that the son was now responsible for his ailing elderly parent's finances. They had Tithed much of their lifetime. They had to cease from Tithing due to the medical bills. Their son, now in the custodial care of his parents, was in charge over their finances. He wanted to know if he should Tithe off this money now. The preacher was adamant. Of course, he should Tithe on their money. By Tithing, their healing and wholeness could come to pass. 

 My question to the minister would be, what about all those years they Tithed? Did God not count that? Why did they get so ill in the first place? They Tithed didn't they? The reality is we live in a fallen and fractured creation. Promises made by men that if you donate a certain amount that you will never have trouble, are just that the promises of a mere man!

 Salvation comes from the Finished Work. Our part is simply to respond in simple trust. Healing and blessings and redemption originate from the Cross. Yet when it comes to receiving wisdom, insight, favor, blessings or healing tradition teaches your performance, your faithfulness, your level of faith, your commitment, and how much you give or whether or not you Tithe is the added requirement to receive.

 Man made traditions exalt performance and formulas over the Finished Work of Christ. If the foretold promises of abundant return on your giving don't seem to manifest these teachers are quick to point at your performance as to why you fail to receive what they promised. It's time to be free from this bondage.

 All favor and blessing are found in His Finished Work. Paul declared we are already blessed in Him. 
How we praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every blessing in heaven because we belong to Christ. Ephesians 1:3 TLB
 We are the blessed because we are in Christ, not because we give some set amount of money. 

 Pause and reflect on your salvation in Christ. What did you do to receive it? You simply placed your trust in Christ to do what you couldn't do. You trusted enough in His once for all sacrifice to allow Him into your life. He then made all things new and gave you perfect acceptance and His righteousness. You didn't do anything to merit this or achieve it. Yet when it comes to blessings or any other promise from God we have added stipulations.

 Imagine if we did this when it came to salvation? Can you picture the words of men used in the context of your salvation?

"You asked Jesus into your life, but you worry too much, so He didn't save you."
"You sought the Lord for the forgiveness of all your sins, but you haven't been giving ten percent of your income, so when you begin giving ten percent faithfully, then He will forgive you."
"You asked to receive His righteousness but you haven't maintained proper speech, this and your lack of faithfulness makes your request void."

 In this New Covenant, we rest in His Finished Work and work of redemption. Once in Christ, you are redeemed from the curse. No matter how much you give or how faithful you are. You are redeemed, period. God our Father isn't the great extortioner. He isn't demanding a certain amount of money from you before He answers your prayers.

 New Covenant Tithing? No! New Covenant giving, directed by the Spirit and from a heart of gratitude for His generosity towards us. Don't be attached to a pressure filled standard of giving. Don't give based on necessity. Don't give out of fear or superstition, the delusion that if you don't give some catastrophe awaits. Give from a heart transformed by His amazing Grace.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

New Testament Tithing or New Covenant Giving?

6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. Hebrews 8:6 NKJV

 This New Covenant is a much better Covenant with better promises. Many mistakenly believe this New Covenant began with the birth of Christ. This one error causes many to wrongly divide the Word of God. 

 This is one reason this issue of Tithing is so controversial. When we rightly divide the Word we can clearly see that Tithing is an Old Covenant practice. This truth angers the religious traditionists with legalism clouding their understanding. How else can they manipulate and control the people if they know the truth about giving? 

 This truth also excites the foolish who have rebellion driving their motives. They hear the wonderful truth that this obligatory ten percent giving standard is done away in Christ and they take it to mean we should withhold all finances and be stingy and not generous. Is this the motive of spreading the truth about the Tithe?

 A heart that has been captured by His amazing Grace isn't a heart of rebellion. It isn't a heart burdened with dutiful performance seeking to appease an austere master. It is a heart that has been infused with His very life and love and goodness. It is a heart that has all of Him in all of it. 

 Even after a pure heart of His Grace conveys the truth that the Tithe is an Old Covenant practice, some may still cling tightly to this tradition. Allow Paul himself to reveal the standard for giving in the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ (here). Note verse 7 in the NASB:
Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 NASB

 Here is Paul's standard of giving. Give from your heart. Don't give under compulsion or grudgingly. To give grudgingly is to give with reluctance or resentful manner. What would it mean to give this way?

 There could be several reasons for giving resentfully. Giving grudgingly may happen because one has not understood generosity and they fear giving anything away. To that Paul is saying don't give. It would be better for folk to not give like this because it will only produce bitterness.

 Understanding God's great love and generosity towards us will help us grow in this area of generosity. Secondly, Paul says not to give under compulsion. Other translations say don't give under pressure, or obligation or under necessity. This proves Tithing isn't the standard.

 How so, you may ask? Paul says we should give as we purpose in our hearts. Paul says we aren't to give under necessity. How can God expect us to give as we purpose in our hearts if the standard to give is ten percent? Why tell us to give as we purpose if God already has a set standard? Also, if we are to give ten percent this would be obligatory giving and Paul said we aren't to give under these circumstances. 

 In fact, the word Paul used for necessity is a word that means necessity imposed by circumstance or by Law of duty. This is a powerful truth. The Tithing standard requires people to give out of commanded duty and not out of a heart of loving devotion and generosity. 

When the love and amazing Grace of God flood our hearts and minds we are changed. We are remade righteous and perfectly holy and acceptable and pleasing to our Father. Our hearts begin to reflect the Father's love. In this loving interaction between our Father, we are able to freely give to meet the needs of others, to promote this beautiful life changing message, and alleviate suffering in this fallen World. 

 Tradition places a burden upon the people seeking their compliance and blind obedience. They reject these plain truths revealed from the Word. Some have said when you Tithe there will be meat in God's house. They define this meat as "revelation" from the Word. The point is to drive some fear into the hearers that if they fail to Tithe then they won't be able to receive the truths from the Word of God. 

 This is the detestable control tactics of religion. This clearly violates plain Scripture. We are not to give under obligation or pressure. God loves you and He isn't hiding Himself from you. He was made an open shame for you in the Finished Work. Religion tries to veil this beautiful Grace of our Lord Jesus. His love and Grace won't be contained. He is revealing Himself more and more.

 In summation, we should freely give under the leading and guiding of a loving Savior. If you've been giving ten percent and it is not a burden to you should you immediately stop? Don't allow any man to dictate what you should give or not give. Let God be God in your life. Allow Him to lead you in how much to give. People are fearful if there is no Tithe then how will ministry be accomplished?

 People would give if they knew there 2% or 8% was just as holy and acceptable as 10%. Let's let the Spirit teach and direct His children. If you study the Scriptures, from Acts to the Epistles you will see God's heart for giving. People gave to meet the needs of others. They gave for disaster relief. They gave to support the ministry of the gospel. They even supported those preaching the gospel.

 One last note. Yes, it is Scriptural to support a local church. It is Biblical that a minister receives a salary for their duties if they are a full-time minister. However, if you see ministers flaunt wealth, and seem to be all about the cash, I would flee a place like that. Don't support lavish lifestyles with promises made by them if you give then God will make you rich. This is a religious sham designed to relinquish your money from you. 

 Don't allow religious tradition to bind you. Don't give into rebellion and cling tightly to what is yours and end up being greedy. Don't fall for the scams of religious trickery. Give out of a heart of love to promote the beautiful gospel of Jesus and see the captives set free by His Grace.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Is Tithing in the New Covenant?

6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. Hebrews 8:6 NKJV

 A careful study of God's Word will reveal exactly when the New Covenant was instituted. It is clear from Scripture that in order for the Testament or Covenant to begin a death must occur (Hebrews 9). Jesus' birth, therefore, didn't institute the beginning of the New Covenant. Rather it was His death and victorious resurrection. 

 Therefore, when you search the end of the Gospels and the record of Acts and the Epistles and the Prophetic book of Revelation what is conspicuously missing is the instruction to continue the practice of Tithing. Before one cites Jesus own words about the Tithe, understand He was speaking of matters concerning the Law. Still, others will quickly cite Hebrews 7. 

What About Hebrews 7? That's New Covenant!

 This is the most common objection raised when one begins to actually study the New Covenant and dares question the tradition of Tithing. Yes, Hebrews 7 mentions the Tithe. See it in context here. What tradition has done is take verse 8 out of its setting and tried to teach a New Covenant practice of Tithing.
Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. Hebrews 7:8 NKJV
 Tradition interprets this passage this way: Here mortal men receive tithes, "here" means here on Earth. That was before the Cross. Then when it says "But there he receives them," they say this is Jesus in Heaven receiving your money. Therefore, keep giving us 10% of your income. Is tradition correct in their interpretation of this passage?

 Again, go back to context. The context is first the purpose of the Epistle to the Hebrews. In context, it reveals the superiority of Jesus to all else. Jesus is better than the Old Covenant prophets. Better than the Angels, Better than the sacrifices of Old. Hebrews 7 in context reveals the superiority of Christ' Priesthood over the Old Covenant priests. 
Furthermore, here [in the Levitical priesthood] tithes are received by men who are subject to death; but in that case [concerning Melchizedek], they are received by one of whom it is testified that he lives on [perpetually]. Hebrews 7:8 AMP
The Amplified properly translates this misunderstood passage. The writer of Hebrews is conveying the truth that Jesus Priestly ministry supersedes the former Aaronic priesthood. This understanding is instrumental in convincing the Hebrews of their need for the Savior.

 As for Tithing, this is the only New Covenant passage. It is clearly not giving an instruction to continue in this practice. Tradition is quick to proclaim, "We know we are to continue in Tithing because He never told us to stop!" This argument appears strong but in actuality it is really weak. 

 Acts 15 reveals the first official meeting of the Body of Christ to discuss vital doctrinal truths. The need arose because in the beginning only the Jews were given the gospel. After the Apostle Peter had a vision from the Lord the message was beginning to spread to the Gentiles. The Apostle of Grace Paul was there sharing the good news of his ministry to the Gentiles. 

 Take note of this meeting and the results here. Notice how some wished the Gentiles to keep the Old Covenant Law. Tithing would be included in this desire. What was the outcome? James gave some instructions for these Gentile believers. Note what was missing. He gave no instruction for them to give a tenth of their income.

 The reason there is no command to stop Tithing in the New Covenant is because there was never a command to start! These Gentiles would have never read anything from the Old Covenant. They were never given the Law. 

 Some will concur that they may not be a command to Tithe in the New Covenant but we should at least give a tenth because that was the standard in the Old. In this New and better Covenant how much more should we give? This idea sounds real spiritual. However, it is deceptive because it eliminates the Spirit's work in the individual heart of a believer. It makes man the decider on what the individual gives and not the leading of the Spirit.

 The Holy Spirit is the one abiding in the heart of the believer. He will lead and guide His people on where to give and how much to give. He is not a hard taskmaster. He is not an extortioner. He doesn't apply pressure or resorts to fear tactics to produce a giving heart.  

 Is Tithing in the New Covenant? If Tithing was of such importance God sure missed many opportunities to instruct His people concerning the Tithe. In the Law the Tithe allowed the people to set apart certain things as being devoted to God. In the New Covenant we, the Body of Christ are set apart and devoted to God. In the New Covenant, it isn't none of me and all of you Lord. It is all of me in all of You Lord. 

 All of me, includes my finances, my dreams, and my destiny. Tradition fails to understand this New Covenant. In the New, Christ is in us. We must not allow tradition to rob us of the truth. Tradition keeps us working and performing, trying to get closer to God or to "surrender" to Him. What is to surrender when He already has me? 

 He is in me, and I abide in Him. In the New our Father has access to our wallet and checkbook and we freely give what He puts on our hearts. We can trust His leading and guidance because He loves us unconditionally and will never lead us astray or leave us lacking and broken.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Tithing Under Grace, Or Under Law?

6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. Hebrews 8:6 NKJV

 Under Grace, He has cleansed and forgiven all of our faults, missteps, failures, and sins. Under Grace, He has provided us a new and living way for us to appropriate all His promises and provision. Under Grace, we have a living and vital, loving relationship with our Heavenly Father. 

 Such good and glad news to know we are abiding under Grace. With such good news, one would be hard-pressed to find fault, contention, and controversy. Yet, whenever the good news is proclaimed what it seems to produce in the minds of some is irrational arguments, protests, and objections. Many feign agreement with this New Covenant of Grace, but immediately cite the many supposed errors and dangers of this message. 

 This is the rotten fruit of the traditions of men. Christ came to set us free and religion and tradition seek to keep us bound to Law, and ordinances and rituals rooted in men's tradition. One of the most detrimental affront to the Body of Christ is this insistence on the continuation of practices that are rooted in Old Covenant Law. One such practice is the obligatory giving of a tenth of all that comes into one's hands. 

Wait, brother, Tithing is New Testament because Jesus said to tithe during His Earthly ministry.

 To respond to this misunderstanding first we must establish some truths about the Lord Jesus Christ. First, He was born under the Law, not under Grace, (see Galatians 4:4-5). Being born under Law proves that His birth didn't establish the beginning of the New Covenant. Jesus triumphant resurrection and the coming Holy Spirit is where we see the beginning of the New Covenant. 

 When Jesus mentioned tithing note the full context.
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Matthew 23:23 NKJV
Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees concerning "matters of the Law". This was not Him giving those under Grace a future command to continue this practice of tithing.

Is Grace saying we hate the Law or disregard the Law?

 Absolutely not! Grace just understands the purpose of the Law. The Law is God's perfect standard. It isn't abolished in Christ but fulfilled in Him. The Law or the perfect standard proves to the World that all have fallen short and need a Savior. 

 Paul stated in Romans that the Law is good and perfect. Allow me to cite some principles about the Law. When Israel was given this Law it had several purposes. Certainly, the main purpose was to prove to men they needed salvation. The Law came that offenses may abound. It was there to prove this is a standard that no one can keep. That said, there existed other purposes that God gave this Law to Israel. 

 First, He gave this Law as a means to guide and protect the Nation of Israel. For example, some of the dietary Laws helped preserve the health of the Nation during this time. Secondly, the Law helped the Lord have a publicly set apart people for Himself. Finally, the Law provided us with many types and shadows of the Finished Work and Jesus' work of redemption for all. 

 Now that we have the substance, we no longer need the shadows and types. Therefore, there is no need for the Church to continue in practices rooted in the Law. What much of religious tradition fail to understand is the all or nothing standard of the Law. Religious tradition insists we must continue Tithing under the New, yet in reality, much of the Church as a whole have not even actually tithed themselves.

 I can already hear the objections. "Brother, I have given a tenth of every dollar I have ever had, what do you mean I haven't tithed?" This is crucial, just because you give ten percent to the local church doesn't mean you have actually tithed. What? You say I have lost it and you strongly disagree. Well, if we are required to follow a practice from the Law then you best follow all the Law requires when it instructs about tithing. 

 Under the Law, One must bring the tithe to the priest. The tither then is under obligation to recite four things. Before the Priest and the Lord, the tither is to recount their origin. Then they were to recount their persecution. Then they were to recount their deliverance at the hand of the Lord. Finally, they were to ask God's blessing on all their land and livelihood, (See Deut 26).

 Also, under Law if one does not give the exact amount of the tithe, then they are obligated to pay the Lord 20% of their tithe as back payment, (See Lev 27:30-31). What am I saying? I am simply revealing this over the top standard of following the Tithe. These actions are simply what it means to Tithe the Tithe. The truth is under Law it is never enough. 

 Traditions of men, create ways and means to try to earn the blessings and favor of God. This causes men to look unto God as this austere task master who is perpetually angry or disappointed in His people. Religion is quick to create rules, programs, and practices designed to appease this perceived wrath of God. By teaching we owe God a percentage of our income, religion effectively controls the people with fear and perpetuates this image of God.

Is Tithing under Grace or Law? It is clear from Scripture that Tithing is an Old Covenant Law practice. Be released from this bondage of fear and anxiety concerning how much you give to the Lord's work. Freedom from religion is an open door to the freedom of a loving relationship with a loving Savior.