Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Grace Q & A: Is Grace just a message of comfort for the lazy?

17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17 NKJV

For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. Hebrews 2:1 NASB

 We've been in an ongoing study of Grace, the Good News Gospel of Jesus Christ. We've been getting back to the basics and asking and answering questions concerning Grace. We've addressed issues like is there too much emphasis on Grace? Is Hyper-Grace false teaching? What about cheap Grace? We've also seen how there is no longer any condemnation to those in Christ Jesus.

 In our last study, we were answering a well-known minister's objections, more accurately categorized as accusations, against the Hyper-Grace Gospel. The two-pronged allegation was that Grace teaching was for those who struggle in sin and those who had an issue with discipline and obedience. We dealt with the obedience issue when we addressed the sin question. 

 Today, I sense the leading to focus on the claim that Grace is only for those with an issue with discipline. In a nutshell, I see this as just the same charge that Radical Grace is for lazy, fruitless, inactive believers. So Is the Grace Gospel only an ear-tickling message for the lazy?

 In order to better answer this charge, let's first explore a traditional mindset in Christians. There exists a thinking pattern in most of Christianity. This line of thought can be summed up this way if you will. There is still more to do. Because believers don't understand rest, they feel they should be doing something. 

 This is of course in relation to our relationship with God. What believers in Christ must remember is that they're already freely accepted by God. They've already been made righteous. They've already been forgiven once for all time. They've already been made holy. Their salvation is sealed by the Spirit, it is already eternally secure. There exist no extra work or action or spiritual discipline needed to make this truer for the Christian. 

18 And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices. Hebrews 10:18 NLT

 The writer here is telling us once the work is finished there is nothing you can add to complete it. Look at an already baked and decorated cake. It's finished. You can't add any more eggs to help complete it. How foolish would it be if you went to the kitchen and started mixing more eggs and sugar for the cake? You might be saying I must add my part to the completed work to make it more complete. As foolish as this sounds, that's exactly what tradition has done with Christianity.

Rest, it is Finished!

 Religious Christianity fails to grasp the concept of rest. They can't comprehend a completed finished work. They sincerely feel compelled to act. That there is in fact still more to do. There is still more to do to become holy. There is still more to do to become more acceptable to God. There is still more to do to receive full forgiveness of sins. There are spiritual disciplines we must master in order to walk in more favor. 

 There is in fact only one thing to do. That is to enter into rest. To take God at His Word. To simply believe. Believe and receive it. It isn't "achieve to receive" or "strive to arrive." It's simply accepting it and believing it. Believe what? Believe the Finished Work was enough. Believe God accepted the once for all sacrifice of Christ.

 The real work, if you will, is to labor to enter into rest. Society is merit-based. That's good and fine and acceptable in the natural realm. However, in relation to God, that's a burden too heavy for anyone to bear. 

 Many believers see relating to God the same way they've done all their life with their elders, parents and older relatives, their employers, and even the natural authorities, such as Monarchies, Prime Ministers, and Presidents. In other words, they see God as the harsh taskmaster who sets up commandments and these orders must be strictly carried out or else. They may claim to see God as their Father, but they still want to relate to Him as their employer who is constantly engaging in performance rating evaluations. 

 Then along comes Grace. Grace portrays our God as a good Father. One who is pleased with His children. Who accepted Jesus once for all sacrifice and longs to fellowship and commune with His people regardless of their performance level. This infuriates the minds of the religious. 

 Because Grace is saying rest, the work is complete now just enjoy the relationship, tradition charges that this revelation just creates inactivity. Not true, it just redirects our pursuits. It just reveals to us that we can stop the striving to be loved, accepted, forgiven and eternally secure. Grace says God always favors Jesus and He is our perfect righteousness so walk in Jesus' favor not our own, and certainly not a favor based upon our doings.

Lazy, "good for nothings" or Believers in rest?

 Lazy? Lacking in discipline? Or are we resting in Christ? What is laziness spiritually speaking? Is it only praying for 20 minutes instead of an hour? 

 Some sadly have made a doctrine about praying for an hour because Jesus asked His disciples to pray for an hour. That was a one time request Jesus made for His disciples. Yet some have turned this into the standard "prayer time".  Some have turned this into the ministry of condemnation concerning prayer. 

 Tradition is about rules, regulations, and the letter of the Law. Grace is about a relationship. A restful relationship rooted in the Finished Work. A relationship that's not working or striving or performing in order to "make the relationship work." 

 Being honest, I have been involved with the local church all throughout my life. Most churches I was associated with weren't Radical Grace based. On numerous occasions, I saw the pleas and multiple requests for volunteers to serve. I've seen whole services dedicated to trying to get members and attendees to help out in various areas. Question, why then, isn't the "holiness", the "Pentecostal", the "Baptist", the "charismatic",  the "Faith" message being taught accused of promoting laziness?

 The truth is it is a religious accusative slander to the truth of Grace to say it promotes laziness. Now, is there a small minority of folk who misunderstood the Gospel who stopped praying or giving or reading the Word thinking these were legalistic chores? Sure, but with proper instruction, these will gain a better understanding, and their misuse of Grace doesn't alter its truth.

 In summation, Grace is about a relationship. We pray, we give, we fellowship with other believers, we study our Bibles, not to achieve favor or blessing or love. We read, pray, give and fellowship because we're already blessed, favored and loved. Again, Grace is a relationship. It's a rest in Christ. It's not inactivity, it's Spirit led actions based upon being already accepted, loved, and redeemed. 
photo courtesy of iosphere@freedigitalphotos.net

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Grace Q & A: Is Grace only for people living in Sin?

17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17 NKJV

For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it
Hebrews 2:1 NASB

We've been in a study, getting back to the basics of Radical Grace, the Good News Gospel of Jesus Christ. We've seen that Grace removes condemnation from the believer. We've addressed the objection about too much emphasis on Grace, and answered the question about Radical Grace being a false teaching

 Today, I'd like to answer yet another question/objection about the teaching of God's Grace. A well-known minister who publicly opposes the Hyper-Grace Gospel stated that some are following the "message of Grace" because they struggle with sin. That they have an affinity for disobedience.  

 Some have even said Grace teaching is the soothing sedative making believers comfortable in their sins and pursuit of lusts. Is this an accurate statement? Is it true that people are only attracted to good news because they want to live loose and free from any moral restraint? 

 In truth, there are only two responses to these accusations I feel are appropriate. One is obvious. Myself nor any other person can ever determine anyone else's motives or desires that aren't fully made known. I can't know every person's possible motivation as to why they are drawn to hear Grace. 

Have people come to Grace awareness because they were looking for a "license to sin?" It's entirely possible. However, that doesn't malign or slander the truth of Grace. I have known of people who only came to church to meet somebody with the hope of dating that person. Their motives weren't the purest. Yet, in the midst of that, they heard the Gospel and their lives were never the same. When anyone regardless of motive hears Grace long enough, they will encounter the person of Grace and transformation is inevitable. 

 The second response to the accusation is one of astonishment. It astonishes me to see their spiritual pride on display. What they are implying by saying Radical Grace is only for those struggling with sin is that they, themselves are faultless, walking in perfection and "got this" holiness thing working. That their works program, their self-efforts and spiritual disciplines and personal achievements have brought them to a place of mastery over sin and habits. 

 Are they indeed walking in freedom? While they may not manifest sinful habits, these desires are still active within. They must work their programs, have constant supervision in order to never slip. What others do in these types of ministries is just hide their sins better and put on masks in front of others. They engage in a facade of "holiness" all the while struggling and never allowed to admit their failures.
Good News Grace is for All of Us!
 The truth is Grace is for all of us. Grace isn't merely the entry point of the faith and then after receiving Christ our efforts, performance and achievements are what matters most. No, thank God, it's Grace from start to finish.

 Grace is for those of us walking in victory over habits, sin and poor choices. Grace is for those of us still captured in habitual sins and struggling to overcome destructive habits. Grace is for the lost person just hearing the Good News for the first time. His Grace is for the believer who has been in a relationship with Christ for years. 

Just this past week, I heard a testimony of one who was in captivity to a destructive sinful habit. This habit brought with it a pattern that altered their life and led them further and further into darkness. It decimated their life, ruined their marriage and even caused them to lose a ministry. No denying sin has consequences and will take you further than you want to go and cost you more than you want to pay.

 All the while listening to the story and seeing how God turned their life around, I was looking for God's Grace. Yes, they saw restoration but what about their life in the midst of their sin? Not once did the testimony include how God saw them in their mess and reminded them how much He loved them. How even though they were in this terrible behavior pattern, He was still for them and not mad at them. Sure He was displeased in the behavior and actions, but He wasn't disappointed in them as His child, whom He dearly loved.

 The basic message was you need more accountability and transparency in your life. You need not isolate yourself. While that is all true, where is Grace?

 Could they have openly shared in the early stages of the sinful habit their struggles? Would slander, gossip, looks of shame and disapproval, be the prevailing atmosphere? Too often this is the environment of most ministries and churches. As soon as someone falls or fails, we are quick to contact other believers, "Can you believe what so and so did?" 

 The atmosphere of ministry should be one void of all shame and disappointment. Instead of the ministry of disapproval, disavowing, disowning, how about the ministry of reconciliation? While adultery and other similar sins that harm others shouldn't be condoned or celebrated and even though there will be obvious consequences for these behaviors, we should always look for ways to bring restoration and reconciliation to all involved, ministry is designed to bring wholeness not brokenness. 

Religious tradition, the ministry of condemnation, believes sin is greater than Grace. That Grace has an expiration date. That our actions and choices can negate and nullify His Grace in our life. That behavior is our savior, not Jesus.

 Some even see sin as some barrier too great for even God to move through. Some believe as kryptonite is to Superman, so sin is to God. That God sees our sins, our habits, our struggles and immediately flees from us. He's "hands-off" far removed from us until we get "clean" again. The Good News of Grace has a far better report than tradition.

 No matter how long you've struggled. No matter how often you fail. No matter the time that has passed living with the addiction, the habit, or the bondage. No matter how far you've fallen. Know God has never turned His back on you. Know God the Father is not looking down upon you with disgust or contempt. Know God isn't above you with arms folded in disappointment and disdain towards you. Grace is all the time shouting, I am for you, not against you! I have so much better for you! My plans for you haven't changed! I love you whether you fail or overcome! 

 6 I pray with great faith for you, because I’m fully convinced that the One who began this glorious expression of grace in your lives will faithfully continue the process of maturing you through your union with Him and will complete it at the unveiling of our Lord Jesus Christ! Philippians 1:6 TPT 

 In summation, Grace is greater than sin. Grace received produces an empowerment that propels us passed our addictions and habits. Grace, the divine influence upon our hearts, works in new desires that effortlessly removes the old, sinful desires. 

 Grace also keeps us and reminds us continually of who we are while we are still in the midst of our mess. His Grace ministers life while we are walking out our freedom from addictions and habits. Grace even brings reassurance of our sonship, righteousness, forgiveness and eternally secure relationship in the midst of our worse days.