Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Grace:the Antidote for Burnout

11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.” Acts 15:11 NKJV

 We've begun a new series of study on the Radical Grace of Almighty God. We're centering on the restorative, renewing, and healing power of His Grace in our lives. Once Grace is freely received in our hearts, we will experience wholeness. 

 Today, I want to focus on an issue many believers have struggled with. That is this area of spiritual burnout. More clearly stated, this area of strivings, abiding in a performance-based faith, operating in achievement syndromes. This accomplishment rooted approach to God only produces more struggle and eventual burnout. 

 Many Christian sincerely desire to be committed, dedicated, devoted followers of Christ Jesus. This is commendable. However, what God wants is not a dutiful servant. He is not seeking interaction with people who relate or interact with Him out of a sense of obligation or moral responsibility. 

 What our Father seeks is a relationship. He is not our supervisor or manager or executive in the Heavens, He is our Father in Heaven. He is longing for a relationship, not a duty-minded servant. He is the good Father, who gave us His only Son as the payment for all our sins, redeeming us from the hand of the enemy, exchanging our old nature with a new nature, making us the very righteousness of God in Christ. 

28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

 God desires us to come to Him as His children, not His workers. He longs to interact with us as the loving Father who rejoices over us with joy. He strongly desires to fellowship with us like family, not as employees. He sees us as His sons and daughters, not subjects or dutiful servants. God longs to eradicate the image of God as the harsh taskmaster, who is never pleased, out of our thinking and to embrace the true image of God. That He is our good and loving Father who is always for us and never against us.  

 Spiritual activity such as prayer, devotion, church attendance, and even our giving are good things. We can experience growth and maturity as a result. However, prayer or Bible study was never designed as a task to complete or duty to fulfill. Going to church has always been about fellowshipping with fellow believers and bringing our supply to bless the Body of Christ. It was never about an obligatory, weekly chore that must not be missed. 

 The cure for this burnout is found in Grace. Paul masterfully expresses a truth we must never forget.

Don’t be mistaken; in and of ourselves we know we have little to offer, but any competence or value we have comes from God.              2 Corinthians 3:5 Voice

 Our sufficiency or Christ's?

 The key to overcoming burnout is realizing it's Christ sufficiency and not our own. That's Grace. When we focus on doing the good things and turn them into some type of chore or task to be completed we are operating out of our own sufficiency.

 Sometimes people mistakenly think they are operating out of Christ's strength when in fact they are in their own strength. You see reading God's Word offers comfort and strength. Hearing the Word preached also brings faith and encourages us. However, how we are to live and operate is out of His sufficiency not our own, as Paul said

 People take the encouragement from the Word and assume this is living and moving in Him. They then proceed to carry out the Christian "tasks" expected such as witnessing to the lost. Eventually, this work, work, and more work begins to grow tiresome and produces weariness. 

 In response, they increase their study time. They fast. They attend more church services. Still, the work makes them weary and has the potential to turn them bitter and cold. The solution? The answer? Knowing and understanding the truth that operating in Him is letting Christ work through us and not us working for Him. 

 We must know and understand where our sufficiency is. No matter how much Bible we read, no matter how long we pray, no matter how many sermons we hear, we must never forget where our sufficiency is. We are insufficient apart from Him. Our trust should always be in Him and not in anything we have done or are doing. 

 What we must understand is that our efforts, our works, are never sufficient in and of themselves. What Grace does is bring us to a point to realize no matter what we will always need God to work through us and in us. When we lose sight of this, we will burn out.

 In summation, how can we tell if we are on the path to burning out? How can we tell if we are on that road headed to weariness? When we begin trusting in our actions and disciplines when we see spiritual activities as duties or obligations to meet know we are on the wrong path. Thank God for Grace that directs our steps to a better way, the way of rest and refreshing. 
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Monday, October 8, 2018

Grace: The Antidote for the Hurt

11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.” Acts 15:11 NKJV

 We've begun a new series of study on the great Grace of God. Specifically, we are focused on the healing, delivering and renewing power Grace provides once received within our hearts. Grace is the antidote for anything that afflicts or brings torment. 

 In this life, we experience joy, peace, and comfort. We all have experienced victory and triumph in our lifetime even in the smallest circumstance. Be it something as simple as finding a good parking space at the mall, to something as profound as people escaping tyrannical governments. Point is we all have things to be thankful for. 

 That said, we must also acknowledge sometimes there are challenges to living life on this planet. Especially challenging is when those we trust bring us pain. Certainly, I can acknowledge we as finite beings can allow our emotions to rule a situation and "feel" hurts. Circumstances where the Pastor didn't shake your hand or the situation didn't turn out exactly like you wanted. 

 Sure, in those times, we know when we are honest we may have just misread the situation and need to realize people didn't go out of their way to make our life difficult. These are things that we through growth, maturity, and managing our emotions overcome and find a better way to navigate feelings and expectations. However, there are real and genuine hurts and painful experiences that we need to receive healing and wholeness from.

 I said all that because often when we bring our pain to others sometimes these situations are dismissed as us being too emotional or too wrapped up in our feelings. When our pain has been dismissed these hurts and wounds begin to fester and they create anger and morph into bitterness. God wants to heal our hurts not dismiss them as imaginary or us overreacting.

 Jesus is the person of Grace. He is there for us when life brings about pain and misery. Today, I want to address the real pain religion and tradition afflict upon the masses. There are so many who have been hurt and mistreated by the traditions of men. 

 For instance, there is a tradition that divorce is the unpardonable sin. That if you divorce and the ex is still alive and you remarry then you are committing adultery. Sadly, so many churches and ministries adopt this view. 

 Their tradition so blinds them that they even insist on women who are in a physically or even sexually abusive situation with their husband that they must remain married. Sure separate they say, but you must not divorce. You must wait, (for an undetermined amount of time, until you die?) for that husband to change, and you must not divorce and definitely never remarry.  This is not Good News. God cares about our wholeness, not us upholding some tradition of man.

 If you've been hurt by religion and tradition I have great news. Jesus is the healer of the hurt. Did you know how Jesus deals with the hurts religion afflicts? We don't have to guess because the Gospels record Jesus dealing with this exact situation. 

 If you read John 9 the entire chapter,  you will see an exciting event unfold. What we see is Jesus encountering a man who was born blind. Now before we proceed, let's quickly address a tradition that has been formulated. 

 The disciples ask was the person born blind because of sin? That is the person's own sin or his parents? Jesus dismisses this nonsense and just proves His goodness and brings wholeness. God didn't cause the man to be born blind just so later in life Jesus could heal him. I believe God is Almighty and magnificent. He is not a weak, puny, pathetic god. He doesn't need to make one sick just to heal him. See more about this here

 Jesus heals the man and you would think there would be rejoicing and gladness. No, among the religious there was strife and variance. Some doubted the miracle, so they brought this man to the Pharisees, the religious leaders. Were they happy that a man born blind can now see? No, they were angry because their traditions were trampled on and that didn't sit well with them.

 The religious leaders doubted, questioned his integrity and even brought his parents before them. They began to intimidate his parents who had fears of excommunication. When the man reaffirmed the truth that he was once blind but can now see, and gave glory to Jesus, they became enraged. He told them once again of this great miracle. He once again gave glory to Jesus. They called him a no good sinner and excommunicated him.

 All this man did was receive a miracle from God and rejoice and give the glory to Jesus. Yet he had his integrity questioned. He and his family were intimidated. He was labeled a sinner and then removed from fellowship. That is a lot of pain inflicted upon him by religious leaders. Let's see Jesus' actual response.

35 Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.” 38 And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him. John 9:35-38 NASB

 Look at the response of Jesus the person of Grace. He heard they kicked him out. Jesus is attentive to the plight of this man. In other words, Jesus is looking out for you, you're important to Him. He found the man. This is amazing Grace. Jesus was seeking and searching for this man. Grace found him. He showed him the way and the truth. Jesus brought wholeness and restoration to him. 

 Jesus isn't done. Continue reading. 
39 And Jesus said, For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” 40 Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “We are not blind too, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains. John 9:39-41 NASB

 Jesus reveals once again He is the Savior of the World, that He is come to save all people from their sins if they simply believe. Then He rebukes religion. Why? Because they are so self-righteous they cannot see their own brokenness and unrighteousness. 

 Grace is the antidote for the hurt and the pain. Whenever religion and tradition bring affliction Grace brings wholeness. When religion questions your worth, Grace reminds you whose you are. Believer, when religion calls you a no good sinner, Grace reminds you that you are the righteousness of God in Christ. When religion calls you unforgiven Grace reminds you that you're forgiven once for all time. When religion tells you that your salvation is uncertain or insecure, Grace reminds you that you are unconditionally eternally secure. Grace is the remedy for all the lies and slander of religion.

 With Jesus as our healer, we must remember not to lash out at other believers. The "institution" of the Church isn't the issue. It's the religious traditions and controlling leadership that is. We must not allow hurts to make us bitter and spiteful and resentful people. 

 Yes, the hurt is real. The pain inflicted upon us by tradition runs deep. Yet, Grace can uncover all the areas we are hurting. Grace can bring wholeness to all areas, even the hurts we refuse to give voice to. We must not allow pain to isolate us. We all need each other. Allow Grace to overtake you. Let His love cascade over you, showering you with healing and wholeness, acceptance, and restoration. 

 In summation, Grace is the antidote for all that afflicts. Tradition and religion seek to control. It seeks to impose its insidious rule over our lives. Under Grace, we are free from the religious traditions of men. We find our help, our hope and our being in His Grace and what His Finished Work made us.
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Monday, October 1, 2018

Grace: the Antidote for Religious Tradition

11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.” Acts 15:11 NKJV

  Have you ever been enthralled in an adventure film and the hero is desperately searching for the antidote to some poison the villain has infected them with? You breathe a sigh of relief as the hero finds the help and the villain is captured never to do harm again. Can I tell you of a real-life adventure? If you are a believer you live out one daily.

 You see as a child of God, the World, the flesh, (that old way of thinking, the unrenewed mind), and the enemy, the defeated devil, seek to constantly inject "poison" into you every day. Be it the "poison" of fear, shame, guilt, condemnation, stress or even the religious tradition of men. The Good News is God has already granted us the antidote for all the schemes of the enemy and whatever this World may try to throw our way. What is this antidote?

 Grace! God's Radical Grace is the antidote for all that seeks to derail us and bring us destruction and defeat. God's unearned, unmerited, undeserved favor brings us the constant victory. It reminds us the Work is Finished. Jesus is King! He is victorious and the enemy is defeated. 

 Grace isn't just about being unable to save ourselves. It isn't just about exchanging our unrighteousness with His perfect righteousness. Though these truths are amazing and essential to know to walk in victory, Grace has done so much more than that. 

 Grace connotes the idea of stooping down. Like a King stooping down from his horse and lifting up a commoner. In other words, God came down from Heaven, became a man and lifted us up. Think of it. Undeserving, selfish, sinful, wicked humanity who were going about satisfying our every unrenewed desire and God stooped down to rescue us. God looked past our faults, flaws, and failures because He desired a family. 

 God's amazing over the top Grace, is not just for procuring our eternal salvation. It is also where we find our true identity. It is where we see all He made us in the Finished Work. It gives us a new purpose for living. It's God and His unconditional love and acceptance surrounding all areas of our life. 

 When we as believers see the "poison" of religious tradition seeking to infect us we now know the antidote is already prepared. When we go to a church gathering, an evangelistic meeting, a crusade meeting or any Christian assembly and they began to spread the poison of tradition you have no need to fear. Know Grace is the antidote. 

 When you're sitting there and they begin to tell you that you need to do more of this or that in order for God to accept you or love you or favor you just take the antidote of Grace. You know its His undeserved favor that brings acceptance not your performance. Now certainly, I am not suggesting these religious leaders are intentionally seeking to wreak havoc in your life, they are just deceived themselves by the traditions of men, and Grace is the same antidote for them too.

 Often, religious tradition means well, but it always leads to more bondage. Bondage to works and performance and futile attempts to earn God's love and acceptance. For instance, as believers in Christ, we know from God's Word to the Church, that He desires we grow and bring forth the fruit of righteousness. Now how is that accomplished?

 Religious tradition begins to preach and place demands on God's people. You need to be in church more. You need to study God's Word more. You need to pray more. You need to give more offerings. You need to share your faith more. It's all do, do, do. It's a constant harping on doing these good things. What is the result? Guilt, and shame because we don't consistently, engage in personal devotions, prayer or sharing our faith. Our church attendance can become sporadic. 

 We then look at our lives and make a connection between not doing these things and receiving God's goodness. The antidote is Grace. We must remember He is good to us because He is good not because we are good. 

 Instead of constantly harping on doing good things and pointing out the areas where we are missing it, how about we tell people the Good News? Instead of telling folk, read your Bible or pray, how about telling people how much God loves them? What we really need is to remind people how loved they are by God.

 Want to see growth in Grace? Tell people how much God loves them. Tell people how pleased He is with them. Tell them how God accepts with them and approves of them. Pray they experience His unconditional love, goodness, and favor. 

 Tradition says "you're unworthy."
Grace the antidote says "The Cross made you worthy!"
Tradition says "God is punishing you for your sins."
Grace the antidote says "Jesus bore all the punishment for your sins, He isn't charging your sins to your account, now live in the freedom only Grace brings, and sin will not have dominion over you."
Tradition says "God is mad at you, God is so disappointed in you!"
Grace the antidote says "God is satisfied with Jesus once for all sacrifice. Because of Jesus, you're the beloved with whom He is well pleased."

 In summation, no matter what words tradition speaks over you, Grace has the antidote to remove those lies. Grace received produces victory in every area of this life. Christianity is Grace from start to finish. It is only in the Finished Work will we find our peace and stability and true identity. 
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