Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Great Grace: Greatly Refreshed

33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Acts 4:33 NKJV

We've been in an ongoing study of the great Grace of God. We have seen how this Grace is greater than all of our failures. We saw this Grace has freed us from Old Covenant Law. 

 In our last study, we saw two reasons religion adds performance and works to the Gospel. Walking by sight not trusting the Lord to work in His people and Christian guilt. I sense the Lord leading me to further explore the legalism that is weighing down the Body of Christ.

 Law, Lordship Salvation, and legalism add burdensome weight to the life of the believer. God's great Grace brings greater refreshing. What do I mean by Law and Lordship Salvation, and legalism exactly? What burdens am I referencing? 

 Law demands but Grace supplies. Law is that demanding but offering no help or ability to keep the "rules" system. Lordship Salvation is front loading the Gospel message with lists of demands and requirements that one must meet in order to first be saved. Legalism is religious concepts where believers must prove themselves worthy recipients of salvation. 

 Are you abiding by God's commands? Are you committed enough? Are you dedicated enough? How obedient are you? How is your Christian conduct? Careful how you respond? In some circles, it could mean you're not truly or sincerely saved.

 I want to address your commitment, your consecration to Christ. I want to address your obedience, your performance, and perseverance, (take note these words make the acronym COPS, for they represent Law and legality). These are scary words in some circles. They drum up images of our often failures and missteps. Our broken promises and the half measured successes and on and off again commitments. 

 Now, I am not saying this to reinforce some failure mindset. I am not saying this to encourage foolish living. I am just talking plainly about where we've all been. Maybe you're there now. I have been here too many times to mention. The point is we can all if we are honest enough admit that none of us has done exceeding abundantly well in the commitment and performance department. 

 Religion though uses the standards of commitment and obedience as measuring tools to determine our worth and value in the Kingdom. This brings me to another motive or reason for this burdensome performance based faith. Jesus walked this Earth. He was perfectly obedient and fully committed to His Father. Some say He was 100% yielded so a 100% of God flowed through. So these leaders create a religious system for men to follow so they too can one day be 100% yielded. 

 In order to achieve this yieldedness, one must pay a high price. This price is the cutting away from anything natural or carnal. If you are enjoying life then something's wrong.

 Gnosticism was the serious error that was creeping into the Early Church. John dealt with it extensively. They felt all things physical or natural, of the Earth realm, was wicked and therefore no way would God ever become flesh. Flesh is wicked. They believed sin was in this natural arena only and not in the spiritual realm so they denied the existence of sin. That is what 1 John 1 was addressing. What I want to point out is that the Gnostics eschewed this physical realm as wicked and something to avoid at all cost.

 Today we see a diluted but similar viewpoint in religious circles. If you enjoy things of this planet and the World you obviously aren't committed enough. Do you enjoy watching movies or TV? Are you a sports fan? Do you follow a sports team? Well, that is carnal and hinders your consecration. I mean if you have time to watch a ball game you have time to study, to fast, to pray, to witness to someone.

 Religion cringes at the idea of a Christian enjoying their everyday life. Want to go fishing on a Sunday morning? Where is your commitment? Do you enjoy an alcoholic beverage? Do you have tattoos? You have committed the unpardonable sin! You are not truly dedicated!

 You see the burdensome weight of religion? Great Grace brings great refreshing. Grace removes this burden to perform and keep the rules and obligations of man. I probably need to devote an entire blog post to alcohol and tattoos. 

 Let me suffice it to say that enjoying a beverage or getting some artwork inked onto your skin isn't going to interrupt God's fellowship with you or cause Him to love you less. Look there exists no clear passage forbidding alcohol or tattoos in the New Covenant. The issue with alcohol is to use your liberty with wisdom and love. We don't want to cause a weaker brother to stumble so don't flaunt your freedom in their face. On the other hand, alcohol can be unprofitable if you use it as an occasion to gratify the flesh (that mindset that is apart from God), that is using one area of liberty to justify other areas of clear sin. That said, drinking alcohol won't defile you or make you unworthy in God's eyes. Look, God created this Earth for us. In moderation, we can enjoy alcoholic beverages with friends and relax and enjoy each other's fellowship.

Greatly Refreshed

 Where religion and tradition bring crushing burden, Grace brings refreshing. It removes crushing burdens of performance weighing us down. Grace brings refreshing where we can begin to enjoy life and each other and our relationship with our good Father. God isn't looking to see how well you followed up on your commitment. He isn't checking up on your progress, shaming you, saying other believers have grown and overcome in this area why are you still struggling? I can't stress this enough. It is about a relationship, not pledges and promises on our part to do more, do better, get it together, to be more pleasing if we can just have a little more time.

 This New Covenant brings great refreshing and blessing. No longer is it about our work or how well we perform. It's a rest. It's a wonderful life-giving relationship with Almighty God.

Old: Ministry of condemnation
New: Ministry of Righteousness

Old: Ministry of death
New: Ministry of the Spirit

Old: Sins are not forgotten but remembered to the third and fourth generations
New: Merciful to our unrighteousness and our sins and iniquities will He remember no more

Old: Law written in stone
New: Law written in our hearts

Old: If you forsake Him, He will forsake you
New: He will never leave you or forsake you

Religion is about upholding the standard. It is about meeting the requirements. It's about fulfilling all the obligations. Nowhere in this equation is there love and mercy and above all relationship. 

 God is all about relationship. His Grace brings great refreshing. Our Christian walk becomes refreshing and rewarding again when we bring Grace back into the equation. When Jesus is the center of all we do we will experience the peace that surpasses understanding and will find love and acceptance and a rich, more meaningful Christian life.

 Under Grace, we no longer have the crushing burdens of guilt, obligation, and performance weighing us down. We have freedom from shame, fear, and condemnation. With Jesus, we experience the fullness of joy.
You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. Psalm 16:11 NASB
Great Grace has brought to us Great refreshing.

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