Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Good News vs fake news: He alone is Worthy?

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 Jesus name. We've been in an extended study contrasting the Good News of Jesus with the fake news of religious tradition. As we've already established, people are not our enemy. We wrestle not against flesh and blood. Sadly people are misled by error and tradition and philosophies of men, and they perpetuate those errors, but just as Grace is for us who've readily received it, it's also for those who oppose themselves.

 Often in times of praise and worship in our meetings, gatherings, and local churches, we may hear the phrase ring out by some well-meaning but misinformed worship leader or choir director, "Oh, Lord we're so unworthy!" Have you ever been in a gathering and heard this? Have you ever heard a Christian song lyric where they cry out "You alone are worthy?"

This concept that we are just unworthy little worms in the eyes of God is one major stronghold in so many minds. I especially see this in the Pentecostal/Charismatic circles. My heart goes out to those in Pentecostal/Charismatic ministries because so often their theology is founded on works and performance. As a result, many see themselves as unworthy, never fully measuring up.
 This is not an insult directed at Spirit-filled churches. I was raised in Pentecostal churches. I have good memories growing up in church. In fact, Pentecostal/Charismatic churches are the fastest growing churches in many parts of the World. This is why it's essential that the Good News Gospel of Jesus and not religion, is being preached by all churches and ministries Pentecostal or not.

 Sadly, many ministries and churches have no idea what the Gospel even is. To them, the gospel is the proclamation of how displeasing you are to God. How often God is disappointed in you. How you are constantly letting God down. Their gospel is one of proclaiming God's judgment and wrath. How He is sending destruction throughout this Earth because of sin. How even Christians when they get to Heaven will still answer for all their sins in this life.

 Is it any wonder that believers create concepts like we are so unworthy in God's sight? I want to give you the Good News that you have infinite value and worth. Remember God made you and He doesn't make junk! I want to uproot those negative thoughts in your mind and replace them with the truth of the Gospel.

He alone is Worthy?

 In our songs, in our prayers, and in our praises I've heard this phrase repeatedly. He alone is worthy. Many years ago, before I even understood Grace, or fully grasped the revelation of redemption and our perfect righteousness in Christ, the Lord spoke to my heart. 

 I remember where I was, standing in a church meeting during praise and worship. This phrase was being sung, "You alone are worthy." The Lord captured my attention and opened my eyes and spoke inwardly, don't you ever say again "You alone are worthy". I made you worthy by the blood. So God isn't the only one worthy.  Now I understood that if we are saying, God, you alone are worthy of our adoration, our praise, our thanksgiving, our devotion and our worship, well then, of course, that's true. But just saying generically   He alone is worthy is an insult to the Blood.

Worthy because of the price paid

 We are not worthy because of our goodness. We aren't worthy because of how well we perform. We aren't made worthy because we get it right. We don't always get it right but thank God Jesus did, and our trust is in Him and not in ourselves. 

 You know how you can tell the value of something? By its rarity? By its demand? Any free market economist will tell you what someone is willing to pay for an item shows its value. Think of it. Almighty God, the Most High, the Creator of Heaven and Earth gave His only Son for you. That is the highest price ever. The sinless, perfect Son, was given to redeem, rescue, even ransom us back from sin, death and the power of darkness. 

 Never see yourself as lowly, or unworthy. Father paid a high price for you. He sees your value. He sees your worth. He gave His very best for you. He doesn't invest in or sponsor a flop. 

Worthy because of His love

 Think of it, we are the object of God's highest affection. As much as He loves Jesus He loves you. Wow, to be the object of His unconditional love. Being loved by the King reveals just how valuable we are. We are not mere worms, we are the apple of His eye. 

Worthy because of our adoption in the Family

 God our Father, welcomed us into the Family of God when we simply received a free gift, we trusted in Him alone to redeem us. We are not mere paupers groveling before the King. We aren't subjects and servants. We are sons. We are the children of the Most High. We aren't sitting under the King's table awaiting scraps. We now freely pull up a chair next to our Father and freely feast at His table. 

 Hear the words of Jesus:
But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. Revelation 3:4 NASB 

 With the words of Jesus, with the knowledge of the Finished Work, His cleansing Blood, His great love and our sonship how will you see yourself? In spite of all this, religious tradition still perpetuates the lie that we are groveling worms in the dust in the sight of our God. That we are one failure away from being banished from the Kingdom. What do you say? 
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Good News vs fake news: God takes back His gifts?

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 contrasting the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Good News of God's Amazing Grace, with the fake news of religious tradition. As we've established, people are not our enemy. This is absolutely essential to keep in mind as we examine the traditions of men. 

Sharp Divides

 As we begin to uncover yet other areas of traditional religion, I thought it best to begin by making an honest, sincere assessment of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. It may be uncomfortable to hear, but it's true nonetheless. The Church is sharply divided concerning certain theological points. 

 Here are the major areas of disagreement. Methods of water baptism. Do we sprinkle? Do we immerse? Do we baptize in Jesus name only? Whole church denominations are created on this division. The biggest theological divide is the Calvinism vs Arminianism debate. Whole denominations and seminaries are founded on one or the other. 

 I'm sure some would wonder where I stand on that debate. My view is easy, I disagree with both schools of thought because they are performance-based and not Grace based.  One of the other great divides is the issue of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Are they active today or have they ceased? 

Let's frame this debate another way. Does God give gifts then rescind them? I believe we should let the Word of God be the final authority. There is no passage in Scripture that states these Gifts have ceased. There also is certainly no passage that suggests any of the Gifts of the Spirit operated in modern times are the work of satan or demonic influence. 

Now, why am I so confident about this? Because of the goodness and faithfulness of God.
29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Romans 11:29 NKJV
 God is a giver. He isn't taking away what He gave to equip the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ to walk in power. 
and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 1 Corinthians 2:4 NASB
 God's Spirit has continued in power and in demonstration throughout the Church age. 

 As a word of wise counsel, we must be mindful that flowing in the Gifts of the Spirit is not necessarily a sign of maturity, and definitely doesn't make one a superior Christian. In other words, we should never be looking down at others. Instead, we should always be looking upward at Jesus, the source, and supply of all good things.

 As a believer, do you desire to flow in these gifts? Simply ask God to fill you with His Spirit. Receive it and then begin to flow with God, asking for His wisdom in exercising these Gifts. As you flow with God, you soon discover love and compassion are the true motives for flowing in the Gifts. You also seek to make Jesus name renowned and never your own. 

 Allow me to share a testimony as it will open it up to an area I sense the Lord really desires to minister. Some friends of mine, A husband, and wife had a wonderful ministry of sharing this beautiful Gospel of Grace. Through challenges and surely the opposition of the enemy (he hates Grace), it seemed this door of ministry was closed for them. 

 As I was communicating with them the Spirit of the Lord began flowing through me in the gift of prophecy and word of knowledge. Words of edification, and exhortation were given to them. I began sharing specific words that were for them personally. God wasn't done with them and His gift and calling hadn't changed no matter the opposition. needless to say, this blessed and strengthened them. In fact, they had been discussing the work of the ministry among themselves. 

 See how beneficial these Gifts are? Now, this leads me to this point. No matter what, the gifts, the calling, the purpose God has for you has not changed or ceased. 
29 For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn. Romans 11:29 NLT

 Tradition for too long has told believers that because of their sins, their disobedience or unfaithfulness, His calling or giftings will be taken away. Some have been told if you don't use the gift, God will take it away. That is a lie. God's gifts are irrevocable.

 Even if years have passed and it looks like nothing has changed, know He never takes back what He gave. No matter how long it's been, no matter if it looks like there are no opportunities, rest knowing His plans and purposes, and giftings and call are never withdrawn. God thought enough of you to invest in you and He knows you're worth it. 

 Don't allow tradition to keep robbing you. Even if you've failed, God isn't finished with you yet. His plans and purposes are unchangeable. Look again at what He called you to. Don't quit. Your gift is an asset to the Body of Christ. There is someone who needs what you have to give. There is a smile, a hug, a kind uplifting word that only you can share. Don't listen to the enemy saying you're unworthy. You're the righteousness of God in Christ. 

 Yes, we as the Church are sharply divided concerning some theological points. As true as this is, we as the Body of Christ are so much more than that. We have Jesus as our Savior and His Spirit living and abiding in us. We are the recipients of His great Grace. We are a Family, the Family of God.

 In summation, know that His Spirit is still moving in power today. Know His goodness hasn't ceased. He wants to show Himself strong to His Church, not just a selective few. His power and Gifts are available to as many as will simply ask in faith believing.

 Know also that God has not forgotten you. His plans for you have not ceased. He who started the work in you will be faithful to complete it. His plans and purposes for you are unchanging. His Grace is greater than any sin. He is the restorer of broken dreams, shattered hopes and, desires dashed. You're engraved in the palm of His hands and what He promised will surely come to pass. He is faithful.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Good News vs fake news: Redefining Grace, repentance, and what it means to be saved.

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 the matchless name of Jesus Christ. We've been in an extended study as of late distinguishing between the absolute Good News of Jesus Christ and the absolutely, terrible, fake news of religious tradition. As we've established, people aren't our enemy. God isn't mad at anyone. His unconditional love and goodness are for the religious opposers of Grace as well as you and me.

 I really must reiterate that last point again. This week I caught a video of a well-known minister sharing his views of how much the Church is missing it in conveying the Gospel. Unfortunately, his message was a different gospel and not the Gospel of the Grace of Jesus Christ.

 His view was that we need much more emphasis on repentance.  He charged that we were simply pushing "easy believism." His printed articles on the subject pushed the need for people to submit to the Lordship of Christ. In essence, he was simply pushing Lordship Salvation just using catchy phrases to masquerade it. 

What is Lordship Salvation and why should I care?

 I've mentioned this insidious false gospel in times past but perhaps I need to finally address it fully. Lordship Salvation is the counterfeit to the Gospel of Grace. Allow me to sum up this effort rooted message.

 In a nutshell, Lordship Salvation declares simply trusting in Christ alone as Savior is insufficient to receiving salvation. In other words, faith alone in Jesus as Savior isn't all that is required, there are other stipulations and prerequisites to receiving eternal life.

 Under the Lordship banner, one must not only trust in Christ alone. You must also meet one or more of these conditions: turn from all your sins, be willing to turn from all your sins, commit your life to Christ, obedience, and persevering in the faith. 

 As for assurance of your salvation and security in Christ, you can't find them in the Scriptural promises alone. You must also seek assurance in your performance and your daily devotion and commitment to the Christian life. Sin weakens assurance. If you're in sin your assurance is uncertain and your security in Christ is resting on the shaky ground of human sinfulness and unsteadiness. 

 Scriptural principles like Lordship, repentance, and even Grace carry different definitions than how the Scriptures define them. Repentance now means to cease from all sins and turn from them. If you are struggling with sin you've not sincerely repented. Lordship means you are wholly committed to Christ in all areas of life and obedient to Him in all ways. If any area of your life isn't perfectly submitted, then you haven't sincerely made Jesus Lord, and if He isn't Lord of all, He won't be Lord at all. Grace is redefined to simply an empowerment to follow God's many commands.

 So what must we do to be saved? That question is the most important we can ask. Paul the Apostle of Grace was asked this question. 
30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:30-31 NKJV
 Take note, Paul didn't say, "now brother, you need to repent of each and every sin. You must commit to changing your life right now. You must make Jesus the supreme ruler of all your life right now. Are you willing to stop each and every one of your sins, drop all your bad habits, lay aside all weights right this moment? If not you won't be saved!" 

 Paul gave the Jailer the Gospel of Grace. He understood salvation was us placing our trust in Christ and simply receiving a free gift. Why do so many miss this simple truth? I believe it's because people have a theology of "sight seeing" and not faith believing. They see the faults and failures of many Christians so they desire to frontload the Gospel with restrictions and requirements. 

 This faulty theology gives place to false definitions to Biblical truths. It starts with the redefinition of Grace. Grace becomes a simple empowerment. When we see Grace as only an empowerment we are subtly reinforcing a works and performance mentality. This redefining of Grace gives way for Law-keeping, self-efforts, and the keeping of man-made traditions. It doesn't do away with performance and ritualistic Christianity but rather reinforces it.

 Some have actually read the four Gospels and created a concept that under Grace God's commandments are stricter than Law. They say things like under Law adultery was a sin, but under Grace even looking at a woman is adultery. See how "harder" the commandments are under Grace? Grace demands much more of you, tradition says. Don't fret they say, Grace empowers you to fulfill these harder commands. 

 This is the danger of redefining Biblical truth in favor of tradition. Grace is turned into a works program. Repentance becomes a tool to strip away assurance. Christ's Lordship is twisted into a weaponized form of condemnation used to measure your Christian success. 

 Some may say brother what about Peter's words in Acts 2? He told the people to repent and submit. Did He? Reading it in context what did he say? To answer, we must think of the audience being addressed. These were those of the Jewish sect who were given Law and not Grace. In the literal Greek, this passage is so beautiful. Peter tells these Jews to change your mind about Christ, accept His free gift, get baptized and receive the baptism in the Spirit. 

 Peter wasn't giving some stipulations or requirements to receive a free gift. Some would also argue that Paul in Romans 10 laid out the Lordship position. Again in context, how is Paul laying out rules and prerequisites to receiving a free gift? Oh because he stated confess the Lord Jesus? Some translations say confess Jesus as Lord. I think the NKJV said it perfectly and clearly explains what Paul was conveying.

 When we come to Christ, we are acknowledging He is the Lord. We can't make Him Lord by our confession or promises to obey. He is already Lord. Jesus is Lord of Heaven and Earth! What are we acknowledging? That He is the Lord, that salvation and new life is only found in Him. This is not about a commitment to do better and live perfectly.

Right believing produces right fruit

 Right believing equals right thinking which produces the right fruit. Defining Biblical principles and the Gospel correctly produces right believing. This, in turn, will produce the truth in our hearts that will produce real fruit.

 Grace is not simply empowerment. Grace is the unearned, undeserved, unmerited favor of Almighty God. When received fully it will produce an empowerment. Repentance is the change of mind. We change our thinking for His thinking. We accept what He says about us and our circumstance and our position in Him regardless of our present behavior. Lordship is acknowledging the truth of who Jesus already is. 

 When we receive the free gift, His love is shed abroad in our heart. This fruit is what transforms our lives from the inside out if we let it. So is Lordship a requirement for eternal life? No, but it is of great benefit in doing things God's way because He is so much wiser and has more insight than we ever could on our own, and because He loves us and always has what's best for us in His plans and purposes.

 What if one receives this free gift and goes back to doing things their way? What if they aren't submitting to God's ways? They are just a wayward sheep whom God loves dearly, but sadly, they will experience a harder life. They will reap the consequences of poor choices but this doesn't alter their eternal address. God in His love will send correction to get their attention. Not in the form of sickness, disease or tragedy though. He's a good Father.

 In summation, receive the Good News and be aware of the subtle fake news of tradition. When someone is adding stipulations and prerequisites to the Gospel stay clear of those works rooted messages, they only produce bondage and burn out. Receiving salvation is receiving a free gift of Grace. It isn't something we have to bargain God for with promises of endurance and commitments to behavioral improvements. 
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net