Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Grace Q & A: What about 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 an ongoing study of the Good News of Jesus and His great Grace. We've been getting back to the basics of the Gospel of Grace. We've addressed issues like is Grace only for those living in sin? Is Grace a false teaching? We've also seen how under Grace we are free from condemnation

 Today, I feel impressed to answer the question, what about sin? What about our sins? What is our standing before God when we sin? What is God's response to our sin?

 There is in essence only three responses to the question. There is the legalists, religious, traditional response. There is the foolish response. Finally, there is the truth of God's Word and what He says about our sin. Who will you believe?

 The legalist and the foolish go to the opposite extremes. To the legalist religious folk, your sins disqualify you and make you unworthy, unrighteous and of no use to God. Sin too much and your salvation is lost. The foolish goes to the opposite extreme. Their mantra is to do what thou wilt, the Cross paid for it anyway. This extreme ignores the obvious, sin carries with it consequences.

 Setting aside these extremes, let's "be real." You don't have to be told it's ok to sin and all is going to be ok to know that that is a falsehood. How many lies have we told only to have them "blow up in our face"? The adulterer who lost his spouse and family's trust can tell you sin isn't really that fun. The addict who lost it all pursuing their addiction can also testify, sin isn't so glamorous.

 Those who have seen His Grace and mercy in their life can also testify of God's goodness and faithfulness even when they weren't so faithful. They can readily see the legalist view discounts and disregards His goodness and Grace. 

 So laying aside the traditions, let's see how God responds to our sins. What we're really asking is, when we actually commit sin, what does God say about it? Does He require that we "repent" or turn away from that? Does He require that we confess that sin in order to be forgiven? When we sin does that mean we break fellowship with God? 

 We could probably spend several weeks studying all these issues but we're going to briefly answer them all today. To begin with, let's get the obvious out of the way. What me must remember is we live in a fallen World. Sin abounds in this Earth. The enemy is the tempter, seeking ways to allure us to fall. We also aren't perfect and we are maturing into who He made us. 

 So we may fail, we may succumb to temptation. That doesn't mean we have to, doesn't mean the enemy and our flesh is stronger than Grace. It just means we aren't perfect. That said, its also obvious sin is not God's best for us. We don't celebrate sin or wrongdoing. We don't take Grace and misuse and misapply it saying sin is ok and there is no right and wrong. Grace supplies us the power to overcome sin and bad habits.

What about repentance?

 When addressing sin and repentance, we must define our terms. To repent means to change our mind. So repentance isn't crawling, prostrating ourselves at an altar weeping. It is us renewing our minds to what God says. So do we repent when we sin? We do change our minds about our actions. 

 When you cut someone off in traffic, or lose your cool with people, soon afterward you say to yourself, I shouldn't have done that. Or say I could have handled that better. News flash, that is Biblical repentance. You changed your thinking about that behavior. 

 You may say what about the Godly sorrow Paul spoke of? When we miss it or blow it, we may experience feelings of guilt or even sorrow. When we hurt others it is natural to regret those actions. We have the love of God within so we don't desire to hurt others. But guilt and regret aren't from God.

 Paul's words here showed that Godly sorrow not worldly sensual, or emotional sorrow brought these to repentance. So sorrow isn't repentance. Godly sorrow isn't an emotion. It's us realizing who we are and acknowledging that our actions aren't in line with our identity in Christ. 

What about the confession of sin?

Tradition is quick to point us to 1 John 1:9 as the remedy of sin. What tradition forgets or dismisses is the truth that all our sins past and present and future are already forgiven in Christ. 

13 You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. Colossians 2:13 NLT

 Are we to confess our sins when we blow it? Are we to 'fess up when we mess up? Do we confess our sins to get forgiven?

 We must begin with the truth as our foundation. We are forgiven once for all time. Our sins are completely forgiven and the price is fully paid. As Hebrews declared where there is an offering for sins there is no more need for another offering to be made. 

 One thing striking about this idea that we must confess our sins to be forgiven that is overlooked by most is the year the Epistle of 1 John was written. Jesus died and rose again around 33 AD. Paul's Epistles were written sometime in AD 50s. Paul never taught that we must confess our sins to be forgiven. 

 1 John Was written around 95 AD. So what were believers to do when they sinned around say 58 AD? How about 90 AD? If we are to confess in order to be forgiven of our sins post being born again, why didn't God ensure that this message is the first one brought to the Church? I submit this was because 1 John 1 was written to unbelievers, not believers. 

 So do we confess our sins when we miss it? Under Grace, we don't confess our sins in order to receive forgiveness of sins. Because we are already forgiven, we can confess or agree with God about our sins. He said they're forgiven so we say the same thing. We agree with God.

What about the breaking of fellowship?

 This is the insidious lie of religious tradition. That when we sin we break fellowship with God. The idea is that God turns His back to us until we say sorry. Is that the picture of God? 

 Tradition uses 1 John 1 to promote this idea. The idea is that when we sin we actually are walking in darkness. So to tradition we walk in light and darkness. We are in the light when we are good little Christians, oh no we blew it, we are in darkness, oh you confessed, your back in the light. That is not the truth.

 Paul tells us otherwise. We are the children of light. We are not of darkness. Paul tells us those in darkness are not saved. John in the first chapter of 1 John is addressing the Gnostics, those who were not saved, he was not addressing believers. So the idea that we lose fellowship is a falsehood. 

 God declared He would never leave or forsake us. There is no fine print. There is no added clause. There is no stipulation that said I won't leave or break fellowship unless you sin.
God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:9 NASB
 Our fellowship with God is based upon His faithfulness, not ours. He will never leave us or forsake us. He is with us no matter what. 

Identity

 This is the answer to the sin issue. God deals with us in our new identity. Because sin has been forgiven and washed clean past and present and future, God deals with us on that basis when we miss it. His response to our sin is to bring Godly correction in love.

 How does He correct us? By reminding us of who we are. He reminds us we are the righteousness of God in Him. God doesn't hold our sins against us because Jesus already paid the price for them. He isn't going to punish sin in the Body of Jesus on the Cross and then turn around and punish us when we sin.

 This also means He isn't sending disaster or destruction to nations because of sin. There are wildfires raging in the US State of California as of this writing. Some tradition ruled believer publicly declared God is burning this state because of sin. That idea is an insult to the Blood of Jesus and Finished Work.

 We are under Grace, not a probationary period. Our sin isn't going to cause us to lose our salvation. Think of it, when we were lost no amount of good deeds we did could cause us to become righteous. So after we are righteous by faith, there is no amount of badness that will cause us to become unrighteous. We are in right standing because of Jesus not our actions. Where sin abounds Grace much more abounds. Grace is greater than sin.

 Sin is missing the mark. Sin is not something we should pursue or celebrate. When we do miss it though, God responds with His Grace and reminds us of who we are. 

 His correction may be uncomfortable at times but He is just reminding us of who we are. Paul spoke of turning one over to the enemy. Tradition says this was God punishing the person. No, in light of the Cross, all Paul did was after exhorting the person to let go of that sin and the person refused, he allowed the person to experience the full consequence of sin, of following the devil's guidance. Once the person experienced all sin offered he was ready to forsake that lifestyle.

 Sin costs more than we want to pay and keeps us longer than we want to stay. But God is always there reminding us of who we are and whose we are. We must remember we have right standing before God even when we blow it, sin doesn't make us lose our righteousness in Christ. We must remember His Grace abounds wherever there is sin. 

 In summation, what is God's response to our sin? Is it to break fellowship? Is it to demand we fess up? Does He forsake us? No, He corrects us by reminding us of who we are in Him. He shows us the better way. His Grace supplies us the power to overcome. God never responds in anger, judgment or condemnation. He responds in His love and goodness. He is faithful even when we are faithless. This is the Good News.
 Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Grace Q & A: Does God ever require anything of us?

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



 In the recent weeks, we've been in an extended study of the great Grace of God. We've been getting back to the basics of the Good News Gospel of Jesus Christ. We've just been doing a simple Grace question and answer format. If you have questions, by all means, leave them in the comment section below. 

 So far we've seen that we are not under condemnation under Grace. We've asked the question is God always pleased with us? Today, I sense the guidance to address another issue. Does God ever require anything of us? If He does how does that reconcile with Grace?

 Does God ever require anything of His redeemed? His children? This is a question that requires the delicate balance of the Word of God. Because legalistic religious tradition and the unlearned foolish would misapply and mislead. Religion would have one to believe God demands and requires works and achievement and performance to secure God's love and favor and goodness. The foolish would float around thinking there is no standard of conduct, no perimeters within to operate, a do what thou wilt philosophy.

 We must use the Scripture, rightly divided because there are times and situations where God does require something from us. Under the Old Covenant God required the Children of Israel to follow the demands of the Law. In His mercy, He instituted the sacrifices, which do give us a foreshadowing of the once for all sacrifice of Christ, for when they missed it. 

 In the New Covenant, we also see passages that seem God is putting forth requirements for believers. Rightly divided we see God requires things of Christians who are called into ministry and leadership roles. The key here is understanding these are Christians who are freely entering the service of the Lord. 

 Serving in ministerial leadership has some requirements because we are representing Christ to a fallen and fractured World who need to see real people. People who can help lead them to the Savior. Leaders who won't take advantage of them. Who aren't out to hurt them or mislead them. 

 Now the religious among us who fight Grace and wish to institute a performance centered gospel would readily say if there are requirements of a believer then that isn't Grace. They would proclaim I thought you hyper-Gracers say that God did it all? Why do you have to "do" anything? 

 Their motive is to get people back under works. What they fail to understand is what the Hyper-Grace Gospel is all about. Grace isn't a do-nothing message. It is a do-nothing in order to receive His love, goodness and favor and blessings. If you're engaging in spiritual disciplines or works in order for God to do something for you, then you are operating under Old Covenant principles. 

Whatever the demand Grace is the supply

 Now, let's bring all this together. Even if there is a demand or requirement under Grace we must understand God has already given us the supply. This is the aspect of Grace that some forget. 

 The Law demands but it can't supply. Religion can see portions of the New Covenant that address behavior or spiritual disciplines like prayer and turn them into requirements that must be met in our own effort and strength. Any aspect of the Christian life can find its supply in Grace.

 Whatever the demand Grace is the supply. The Law demands righteousness. Grace supplies that righteousness in the person of Christ. 

 Religious tradition makes ardent, strenuous demands of people. Grace supplies the believer with the truth of who they are in Christ. Grace reveals their true identity and acceptance with their loving Father God. 

 The flesh makes a demand that we fulfill its lusts and unrenewed desires. Grace supplies us with the empowerment over that addiction and the freedom and deliverance from darkness and destructive habits. Grace shows us we don't have to surrender to that addiction or habit. 

What has He required of us?

What has God asked of us as New Covenant believers?
29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” John 6:29 NASB

23 And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. 1 John 3:23 NKJV

 What has God asked of us? Simply to believe and walk in His love. When we believe in Him and love others we will walk in wholeness and uprightness. The standard isn't rules or regulations from men, it's adhering to what God said in His Word. Well brother, if He is asking this of us then we are earning something, right? No, God also has given us faith and put His love in our hearts when we received Him. 

He commands us to walk in love but supplied that ability to do so. Romans 5. He commands us to believe but He gave us His Faith, Ephesians 2 and Romans 10. Wherever we see demand know Grace brings a full supply.

 In summation, we can't say it enough. Wherever there is a demand God has already supplied it. God tells us to forgive, but He has already forgiven us, so we can forgive others. He gave us His righteousness and made us holy once for all time in the Finished Work. So we can walk uprightly because He already made us holy. Grace did it all and any requirement finds its full supply in Grace.
Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net