Monday, March 19, 2018

Good News vs fake news: Christians Still Have a Sin Nature

15 Now let me remind you, brothers, of what the Gospel really is, for it has not changed—it is the same Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then and still do now, for your faith is squarely built upon this wonderful message; 1 Corinthians 15:1 TLB

13 making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do. Mark 7:13 NKJV

 We've been in an extended study of the Good News of Jesus Christ, contrasted to that of the fake news of religious tradition. Today, it seemed good to tackle a highly controversial topic. This idea or concept that Christians still possess a sin nature.

 In your Christian life, have you ever heard discussions or sermons referring to believers "winning the war within?" Or the idea that there is a black dog and white dog within you warring for supremacy? That deep inside your chest there exists two natures. One positive, one evil and the one you feed will be dominant?

 These concepts are birthed from the traditions of men. Traditions designed to explain why Christians still sin. Traditions created to answer for the seemingly continual moral failures among Christians. This is also where the dying to ourselves concept was birthed.

One Nature or Two?

 How many natures then do believers have? Christians have two natures in their spirit? One pure and the other evil and unclean? Are we really expected to believe that God, who is holy, to dwell in an unclean temple? 

 Allow the Scriptures to be the final authority on this subject;
11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, Colossians 2:11 NKJV

Paul in Colossians 2 (here), clearly illustrates the old man, the old nature, the sin nature being put off or cut away. In circumcision, there is a removal of skin. It is cut away, it doesn't remain in place. Paul revealed in Christ, our old man passed away and we were raised to new life and receive complete forgiveness.

In Romans 6:3-11 NKJV we clearly see baptism representing the passing of the old nature and rising with a new nature. Paul uses such phrases as;
...that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4b NKJV
knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. Romans 6:6 NKJV

Here we see clearly illustrated that baptism symbolizes the death and removal of the old nature and the rising again with a new nature. 

 In Ephesians 2:1-10 NKJV, we see yet another clear statement revealing the New Creation reality of those in Christ.Paul makes strong statements like;
 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2:1 NKJV
The old nature was dead, spiritually separated from God. Now we are made alive in Christ. 

Finally, Paul really dismantles this nonsense of two natures, or believers retaining a sin nature in 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NKJV. In this beautiful passage, Paul details our full identity in Christ. 
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV

 It doesn't get any clearer than this. The old has passed away. The old is done away with in Christ. In Him, you are made totally and completely brand new! 

Paul also reveals what God made us in Christ when the old was removed.
21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV
God declared us righteous and then by virtue of the New Birth and New Creation He actually made us the very righteousness of God in Christ! 

 What fellowship, therefore, is there with light and darkness? What do righteousness and evil have in common? God admonished us through Paul not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. In other words, don't join in union with darkness because it is corrupt and doesn't share your values. If He is telling us outwardly to avoid being in union with darkness, why would he join two opposing natures inwardly? 

If there is no sin nature why do Christians sin?

 This question alone should raise awareness of the traditions of men. This question lends credence to the performance and works rooted gospel of men. Under performance, our actions and efforts are paramount. So we become desperate for ways to be more perfect and when we fail to measure up no matter how hard we try we find a scapegoat, must be our sinful nature making me fail.

 Then we create customs, and traditions to try and curb this evil nature within. We distance ourselves from people, from family, from any form of entertainment. Yet, so many still see failure in one area or another. So again they blame this sinful nature within.

 This is not victorious living. This is also a subtle form of condemnation that we intake on a continual basis. We are continually agreeing that there is something wrong with us. That is a total disregard of the Finished Work.

 The Cross worked! The Finished Work took all our sin and shame and inferiority and exchanged it with His wholeness, total forgiveness, perfect acceptance and New Life and complete righteousness. We are not sinful, lost, depraved beings. We are New Creations in Christ Jesus. We are made new and walk in newness of life.

 Why do we sin then as believers? Why do we find ourselves missing it? Why do we stumble? Why are we beset by addiction or bad habits? There is an answer in Scripture.

1.) Temptation. 
 Even though we are made new the enemy comes to tempt us. This temptation is outward not inward. It is rooted in unrenewed desire, more on that shortly. The enemy comes with enticement to sin. James 1 expounds on this.

2.) Unrenewed Mind
Romans 12 clearly expounds on this. As believers in Christ and with a greater understanding of the New Creation, Righteousness of the believer, and the Grace of God, we are aware of the dangers of wrong thinking and wrong believing. 

3.) Unrenewed desire
This is an often ignored subject. Paul speaks of it in Colossians 3.  We understand wrong thinking but we also must address wrong bodily desires. 

 These three areas are where we must grow in Grace to find victory over sin and bad habits. Religion makes rules that isolate people but it doesn't alter desire, it just doesn't give it a place to express itself. Over time people will find some place or time to express that desire, or rather the enemy will help you find ways to express it.

 This is where we must use wisdom. When traditional folk speaks about not feeding that old sin nature they are partially right. Not that we have a sin nature but there is a partially true principal about not feeding desires. 

 Before we were saved, our old nature was that of sin and desires that were contrary to God. In other words, it was all about self. In this time, our thinking was developed to justify our actions. Our physical bodies were trained to then enjoy certain activities. Not just sexual immorality. Things like gossip, judging others, being full of strife and anger. Harboring resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness. 

 After we are born again the nature within us changes. Often many of these things lose their appeal. Sometimes though our bodies and thinking are still desirous of these activities. This is why Paul speaks of renewal. 

 We renew our thinking by feeding on the Word and knowing who we are already in Him. This also renews bodily desires. This is where the not feeding the old comes into practice under Grace. In other words, not because of condemnation or performance but because of our New Creation we don't give attention to or "feed" negative desires. 

 If we see we are struggling with addiction, why subscribe to magazines that entice that specific addiction? If it's a sex addiction, why go to movies that are sexually charged? If it's nicotine it would probably be best to not join your friend on a smoke break, just talk to them afterward. 

 I am aware this is a fine line and many become really legalistic in this area if they are not careful. The solution is to be led by the Spirit, and realize this is what God is leading you to do and not make your boundaries the boundaries that everyone else should follow. Allow God to lead and guide and direct His children. Also, we all know within us what is feeding a desire and what activity isn't if we are sincere. While we don't feed the negative desire, we should renew our desire with new desires rooted in love and Grace. Letting Him live through us is key.

As for temptation, we should use wisdom. We should avoid temptation situations if at all possible. This is accomplished by establishing Spirit directed boundaries. Being as blunt as possible, don't go to bed with your girlfriend and pray for strength not to engage in sexual activity with her. That is foolishness. Use wisdom.

 In summation, do believers have a sin nature? No, absolutely not. Jesus made us New. The Cross wasn't a shoddy work. It fully accomplished redemption. He didn't leave us as bad as He found us. He made all things new. As believers, identifying with the risen Christ within us, renewing our minds to the Word, and forming new desires in Grace, we will see growth and freedom from addictions and sin. Also, the good news is while we are on the journey of maturing into who He already made us inwardly, there is no condemnation no matter how often we fail. This isn't an excuse to remain in sin, but rather the empowerment to grow in Grace and freedom.
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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Good News vs. Fake News: God is the author of your afflictions

15 Now let me remind you, brothers, of what the Gospel really is, for it has not changed—it is the same Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then and still do now, for your faith is squarely built upon this wonderful message; 1 Corinthians 15:1 TLB

13 making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do. Mark 7:13 NKJV

  Greetings in Christ, the One who loves you unconditionally and eternally. We've been in an extended study of the Good News of Jesus contrasted with the fake news of religious traditions of men. As we've established, this series of articles isn't about attacking people, people aren't our enemy. It isn't about stirring up division and strife. It is about separating truth from error and Good News from falsehoods masking itself as the Gospel.

 Apart from any purposeful personal attempt on my part to establish some specific theme, inadvertently I have sensed the Spirit weaving a theme throughout this series. The concept of Grace and the sin and disobedience issue. We've seen the difference in the Grace response and religion's response. Addressing sin can lead one to the subject of suffering. Look at Job's comforters. When suffering is present, often someone is quick to bring up the sin issue. 

 Today, I sense the Lord wanting to address the suffering question. This topic stirs much controversy. Even Grace people are divided on this sensitive subject. What I want to do is examine suffering in light of Grace and the Good News of Jesus Christ. 

Sadly, due to so much traditional religious views abounding about suffering, many shrink back from a relationship with Father God. Death, disaster, desolation occur throughout the planet and somehow God gets the blame. How can one grow close to someone who is creating their suffering?

 Sometimes, in order to have a deeper, more meaningful, more fruitful relationship with our Father, we have to unlearn what's been ingrained in our thinking through traditional religion. I am not speaking of denying the basic tenets of the Christian faith. I am speaking of removing religious traditional strongholds in our thinking. Precepts, concepts, philosophies birthed not from Scripture but from religious tradition and personal experiences. 

 What can we say about suffering in light of the Grace of God? I want to help renew your image of Father God. Allow Paul's reminder to help
For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Thessalonians 5:9 NKJV
 See it more plainly spoken in another translation;
For God has not chosen to pour out his anger upon us but to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ; 1 Thessalonians 5:9 TLB

 God hasn't appointed or set us up to receive condemnation. He didn't establish a time for us to receive punishment or be the recipient of His anger. He appointed those who trust in Him to receive His salvation. 

 If sinful, mistake making people aren't appointed to wrath but to receive His Grace or undeserved favor, why would He appoint us to suffer? In other words, if we deserved Hell, eternal damnation and separation, but instead receive salvation and new life and forgiveness not based on our goodness but His, why would this same loving Father put hardships and afflictions upon us?

God is a Good Father!

 We need to shout this from the mountaintops! Declare it from the highest hills and rooftops! God is always good! 
O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help. Psalm 86:5 NLT

You are good and do only good; teach me your decrees. Psalm 119:68 NLT

 I just cited Old Covenant passages that reveal how good our Father is. If He is this good in the Old, the Covenant based upon works and Law how much more is His goodness seen in the New Covenant? God has always been good but His goodness is seen so clearly in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 What am I saying? That in Christ we should never see any afflictions or bad days? We should never experience sickness or pain? This is the hard question. Let me share another passage, Psalm 34

I sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4 NKJV

This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles.The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, And delivers them. Psalm 34:6-7 NKJV

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34:19 NKJV

 This is the truth. This is our Father. These passages reveal the answer to the suffering question. Religious tradition observes the suffering and famine abounding on this Earth and assign it to God's hands, that because He is sovereign He must be the One causing the disaster or sending the destruction. 

 Another view is the Faith view that if one possessed enough faith then suffering would never occur in their life. This view is taking a truth to the extreme. Faith doesn't deny trouble exists. It doesn't mean afflictions won't arise.

 The truth is found in verse 19. Many are the afflictions of the righteous. In other words, this is a fallen World. Famine, floods and freak accidents occur. Disaster, death, and desolation are seen. Pestilence, poverty, pain abound. These are the result of a fallen fractured creation. This is paramount to understand. The tragedies and terrible times we've all seen is due to the fallen World and the resulting corruption in men who bring about evil. 

 Let's finish that passage to complete the truth. Many are the afflictions, but the Lord delivers us out of them all. In other words, afflictions are part of this fallen World but God isn't ordaining, or orchestrating them.

 God isn't appointing afflictions upon His people. He isn't premeditating plans for your pain and misery. He isn't bringing bad days. God is our Father who rejoices over us with joy. His plans for us are always good. He isn't afflicting His people.

 In this life, we may feel pressure. We experience loss or pain. We may feel surrounded by our enemies. Fear, anxiety, worry try to cloud our minds and the voice of condemnation seeks to cause us to stumble. The enemy's biggest attack is to remove the hope of the believer in any situation. 

 Firefighters understand the fire triangle. If you remove just one element, the fire will be put out. Believers have a triangle too. Faith, hope, and love. The enemy longs to try and remove the hope in any situation. If we have no hope, there is nothing for faith to give substance to, and faith works by love but if there is no faith, love is on its own. This is the trick of the enemy.

 So when we feel like we are in a battle, or under pressure, remember what the scheme of the enemy is. Knowing God is always good and not the author of our trial, our hope remains steadfast. When the enemy says your surrounded rejoice. We are surrounded. We are surrounded by our Father's hands. His goodness and mercy surround us. His love and favor surround us. His Great Grace overshadows us. Mighty is our God and He has defeated the enemy. 

 In summation, is God the source of our afflictions? No! God is our good Father. He surrounds us with favor and love as a shield. He is our deliverer, not the one causing the affliction. His plans for us are good and never for evil or our harm. 
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Monday, March 5, 2018

Good News vs fake news: God's Grace can be abused

15 Now let me remind you, brothers, of what the Gospel really is, for it has not changed—it is the same Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then and still do now, for your faith is squarely built upon this wonderful message; 1 Corinthians 15:1 TLB

13 making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do. Mark 7:13 NKJV

We've been in an extended study of the Good News of Grace. We've been exposing the differences between Good News and the fake news of religious tradition. I continue to stress that when we expose the traditions of men we are not attacking anyone. People are not our enemy. Holding contempt towards religious people isn't gracious or walking in His love. Expose the error and the false but love people.

 Today, I sense the strong leading of the Spirit to expose a grand falsehood that's been perpetrated onto the Body of Christ. This idea that Grace, God's over the top too good to be true, but true, Amazing Grace, can be abused. I know this may cut cross grain to many teachings or thoughts. Just stay with me briefly.

 In the Church, we've created buzzwords and phrases concerning God's Grace and the freedom it brings. Phrases like "cheap grace", or "sloppy agape" are common when referring to Radical Grace. Concepts like "beware of "hyper-Grace" that just leads to people abusing God's Grace" abound. 

 All through the Scriptures,  I find it strange as much as its preached, that there is no passage or verse referencing "cheap grace" or "sloppy agape." I can't find Paul saying don't abuse Grace. The reality is the phrase cheap grace was made popular by a German theologian. It was not rooted in the New Covenant but rather a personal conviction this brother had. 

Grace by its very nature can't be abused

 If we truly think we can abuse Grace, then we just admitted we have not fully grasped an understanding of what Grace actually is. Grace is the unearned, undeserved, unmerited favor of God. If a gift is unearned, undeserved, unmerited then how can one's actions warrant the gift or disqualify one from receiving the gift? 

 Once the unmerited, unearned gift is received, then how could one's action cause the gift to be removed? If one's performance didn't cause the gift to be received why is it that afterward, the gift remaining is now contingent upon the conduct of the recipient? If the gift is unearned or unmerited, then no amount of good deeds caused the gift to come, therefore after it is received no amount of bad deeds can cause the gift to leave or to be removed.

 If a wealthy philanthropist took your family to an expensive restaurant and said order whatever you want, would you be abusing their kindness by ordering the most expensive menu item? Would you be abusing their goodness by not finishing everything on your plate? Some would say yes, but that's because many don't understand the concept of unmerited favor. 

Too much Sin

 Let's just get right down to the root issue. We see believers sin and are quick to say, that's abusing Grace. We see a believer hear Grace and then proceed to live loose and in rebellion. See that right there? That is clearly one who is abusing the Grace of God? Are they?

 Sin and what we do with it in our own lives and the witness we see others displaying leads us to address the issue as either walking in Grace or abusing Grace. This is where the controversy is. This is why some resist the Radical Grace of God. 

 The reality is the Grace of God isn't like insurance. Insurance is a paid plan to protect against loss. We pay premiums and when we use it, often we are penalized for it with higher premium rates. File multiple claims and you're considered high risk. Use it too much and you become a liability and are dropped. 

 Unfortunately, this is exactly how religious tradition sees Grace. Jesus paid a high premium by His death and shed blood. When we sin we are "using" this "insurance." Sin too often, the premium is raised. Now it's not just His shed blood, it's also your confession and repentance that brings the forgiveness. Continue in sin, and tradition says you're disconnected from God, the fellowship is severed. Persist in the same sin, and tradition teaches you're a liability to the Body of Christ and God "drops" you. That is you lose your salvation.

 Grace isn't like insurance. God didn't see us in our goodness and say we merit salvation. God saw us in our darkness and stooped down in spite of our sinfulness. He became one of us and took upon Himself all the sin of mankind washing away sin and death and uncleanness with His Blood. While we were enemies Jesus did this for us. Now that we are sons and daughters why would He now stipulate His goodness on our conduct?

 With this foundation established let's answer the main objection to Radical Grace. What about persistent sin and rebellion we some engaging in? Let's go back to the insurance illustration. If you saw someone repeatedly filing insurance claims on their vehicle would you say they are abusing their insurance? No, they paid the premiums. However, their premium is going to go up. We wouldn't label that as abuse, but rather a waste of money. 

Wasting Grace not abusing Grace

 This is the revelation the Lord showed me. By its very nature, Grace cannot be abused. However, we can waste the Grace that's there for us by living in sin and rebellion. Grace is an unmerited gift to be received. If we receive the gift and decided to live in sin, it doesn't alter the truth that we received the free gift. What we are doing though is not opening the gift and utilizing it in our life. 

 A believer has received the gift, but if they got entangled in adultery, they aren't abusing Grace but rather wasting the gift. Grace leads us down the victorious path of goodness and blessing. Sin always leads us down dank, dark paths that lead to misery. 

 Think of it this way. If we get married but then never spend time with our spouse, never fellowship with them, never take time to cultivate the relationship, it doesn't mean we aren't married no matter how much time has passed. What it means is that we wasted quality time and fellowship and the benefits of that relationship. 

 Grace is the undeserved, unearned, unmerited favor of God, this Grace produces an empowerment once received. When we fail to take advantage of this empowerment we are wasting the gift. It doesn't alter our standing before God or the fact that we are saved. It just means we freely received a gift and decided not to do anything with it.

12 It’s true that our freedom allows us to do anything, but that doesn’t mean that everything we do is good for us. I’m free to do as I choose, but I choose to never be enslaved to anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12 TPT

 In summation, Grace is unearned. Grace is a gift. By the very nature of a gift, it can't be abused. We mustn't embrace a religious concept of scarcity when it comes to God's love, mercy, and goodness. His love and kindness know no bounds or limitations. In light of this everlasting, unconditional, no strings attached goodness and mercy, let us take full advantage of His Grace. Don't squander it and waste it by pursuing lusts and sinful desires that will never satisfy. Embrace Grace and the new identity in Christ and see old ways of thinking and living lose their appeal and desire and walk in true freedom.