Monday, November 12, 2018

Loosing our Religion!

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

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. Colossians 2:8 KJV

having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 2 Timothy 3:5 NKJV 

 We've been in a study as of late concerning God's Grace and the wholeness it brings. As I was studying on the healing and wholeness Grace provided, the Spirit captured my heart. It was made clear to me even stronger that in order to be fully whole we must relinquish all the religion and traditions in our lives. 

 I am not just speaking of the traditions of men of the church you don't attend. I am speaking of all the traditions of men. I am talking about Southern Baptist tradition. Methodist tradition. I am talking about the Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Episcopalian traditions of men. I am talking about the Pentecostal/Charismatic/Word of Faith traditions of men. 

 Look, I am not attacking these Christian denominations or churches. I am talking about the traditions of men that allow believers to come in and not see Jesus as the focus of it all. I am talking about coming into a gathering, whether you sit reverently, or lift your hands, or even dance a little dance but never have an encounter with the risen Christ and receive of His Grace and the gift of righteousness.

Lose the religion!

 It's time we lose the religion. Listen, we've all experienced the guilt, the shame, the condemnation and burdensome weight of religious tradition. Let's see Jesus' thoughts on religion.

And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. And He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Step forward.” Then He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent. And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. Mark 3:1-5 NKJV

 This clearly illustrates the religious tradition of men. They were more focused on men keeping the letter and not disturbing the traditions rather than seeing a broken man made whole again. It's the same today.

 We see broken men and women, marred by the pain of divorce. Be it as the result of betrayal or abuse, seeking to find a future peace and happiness only to hear the voice of tradition rise up proclaiming, no, solitude and singleness is your lot. If you remarry you're a sinful adulterer. 

Broken young men have come to the Church looking for restoration and to find salvation. Yet, they didn't look like everyone else and didn't wear a three-piece suit. They had piercings or tattoos or long hair. They were driven out of the church until they could "clean up their act."

 Godly women who had received God's gifting and Grace upon their life to proclaim liberty to the captive and recovery of sight to the blind and to tell of the great love and freedom in Christ are silenced. Tradition keeps them quiet saying women shouldn't speak in the Church. They then create the inconsistent tradition women can teach children and other ladies but other than that sit-down and shut up.

 There are those sick and broken. They are hurting. They have a disabling disease. There are those trapped in the bondage of cruel addiction. The tradition-bound leader proclaims Jesus can't help you. His healing power was only regulated to 2,000 years ago.  Hope you can find a good doctor and hopefully you have good insurance.

 What are Jesus' thoughts? Jesus hates tradition for it robs His people of all He purchased for us. Religious tradition grieves Him because He knows how it hardens the hearts of those who follow it.

 This passage also illustrates what matters to God. Your wholeness matters to God. Your restoration is important to Him. God values your completeness regardless of the traditions of men. Jesus moved passed the tradition and reached out and brought healing. 

 We likewise need to move pass tradition and bring Jesus and His wholeness to all. In the sense of deserving by our doing, we are all unworthy. We were all broken, lost, fallen ones. We rebelled against God. We've gone our own way in the past. There isn't one person who deserves, by their own merits, good works, accomplishments any of God's goodness and favor. That's why this is the Gospel of Grace. We, therefore, can't withhold this goodness and Good News from anyone.

  When we say lose the religion, we aren't speaking of denying the clear truth of God's Word. We are talking about relinquishing the traditions of men. A performance-based faith, the striving, and works syndrome. The loveless message of religion. The God is always angry and disappointed in the Church mindset. The "you need to be doing more to please God" concept. The powerless claim that Jesus can't heal or restore today. We're speaking of resisting the accusations, the guilt, the shame and condemnation traditional religion brings. It's time to embrace Grace.

 In summation, if you want to find fulfillment, and wholeness let go of religious tradition and embrace the Grace. God wants you to know how loved and accepted and redeemed you are. He wants you to encounter Him on an all the time basis. He is always with you and He is always cheering you on. Jesus believes in you. Tradition, like Law, will only point out your flaws, your missteps. His Grace points you to your identity in Him. It reveals your new nature, who you are in Him and how victorious you are in Him. Embrace Grace. 

Monday, November 5, 2018

Grace: the Remedy for Accusation

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 looking at a fundamental aspect of God's Grace. Grace, the Good News Gospel of Jesus brings healing and restoration and wholeness to those who receive it. Grace in its goodness never leaves us the way it finds us. 

 So far we've seen how Grace is the antidote for traditional religion. We've seen how Grace brings wholeness to the hurts. We've seen how Grace is the remedy for fear

 Today, I sense the leading to begin addressing this issue of the wicked cycle of defeat and anguish the enemy brings to God's people. The cycle of accusation and condemnation and shame. What may seem conspicuously absent in this cycle is "temptation." What we will soon see is sometimes the enemy doesn't even need a temptation to find a reason to bring his accusations.

 If you've been a believer for more than a month or so, the temptation scheme of the enemy is all too familiar. The enemy tempts or allures you to transgress, to commit sin, to feed your fleshly appetites. In a moment of weakness, you follow through on that temptation. Then instantly, the enemy rushes in with a host of slander and accusation. This cycle may look something like this.

The enemy, that defeated devil, tempts you "why not indulge yourself?"
 You resist. "No."
 The enemy, "Come on just one more time. What can it hurt?" 
 After considerable tempting and alluring you give in. Instantly, the enemy comes to you. "Look at you! Look at what you've done! And you call yourself a Christian? God's so mad at you! God's so disappointed in you!"

 When we give in to temptations the enemy quickly brings his accusations. This is the common expression of accusation from the enemy. As we grow in the Lord what use to trip us up doesn't trip us up any longer, so the enemy seeks other ways to tempt us. 

 This arena of accusation is where we who just blew it are in fact guilty. So what is the remedy for this type accusation? His Grace is the remedy for all accusation. Even if we are guilty of what the accusation is. 

 Are you saying, even if what you are accused of is true, that Grace is for that too? That's what's so amazing about Grace. Grace doesn't see us in our mess and just leave us there. Yes, but didn't Peter instruct us not to suffer or be reviled for wrongdoing?

 Here is the Good News. Your sin is none of the devil's business. Even when you fail, God's Grace has already addressed that sin. His shed blood has already forgiven and paid for that sin. Your sin is between God and you and no one else. If your sin affected others, follow God's love and leading and see how He would bring restoration and wholeness to all those involved. 

 When temptation arises and we fall for it and sin, this cycle of accusation and condemnation and shame will begin. What we must know Grace is there to disrupt this cycle and bring us to a place of wholeness and victory. When accusation comes, Grace reminds us of our true identity. He shows us we are better than that sin. Grace reminds us He has so much better for us in Christ. Grace makes sin less and less appealing, enabling us to walk out who we already are in Him, the righteous and holy children of God. 

We must also realize this isn't the only avenue this cycle comes into our life. I addressed the temptation and accusation issue first because it is so common. However, the other arena the enemy loves to bring his accusations is the religious traditions of men. It comes through well-meaning teachers and other believers. It comes across to us in the doctrines of old. 

 Many would be surprised to know the accusation of the enemy often comes through the mouths of other believers. Let me pause momentarily. Sometimes the accusation of the enemy can come through the voice of the World system. They slander and accuse the Church of not being loving or kind when we uphold the righteous principles God established as the Truth. 

 In times like this, respond peacefully but truthfully, in love, knowing the World system is lost and in darkness and therefore ignorant of the truth. They can't see the light because they're blinded. No need to feel condemned or shamed because of their words. Jesus wasn't always popular and we won't be either so just enjoy your life free from the opinions of worldly men.

 With that understanding, let's focus on one of the biggest areas of accusation. The mouths of the religious and their traditions. Certainly, they mean well, but the traditions of men have brought so many into a place of guilt and condemnation. 

 I heard a message preached by a well-known minister. He was passionate about raising the standard of holiness. Being honest, as believers who would want to embrace a lifestyle of sin? Remind people of who they are and whose they are. Growth will develop unlike this type of preaching which only stirs up sin.

 The minister preached we ought to begin by living out the Ten Commandments. Clearly, we can see that the spirit of religion was masking itself as the motivator of holy living and truly veiling the minister's eyes. 
14 Not only Moses’ face was veiled, but his people’s minds and understanding were veiled and blinded too. Even now when the Scripture is read it seems as though Jewish hearts and minds are covered by a thick veil, because they cannot see and understand the real meaning of the Scriptures. For this veil of misunderstanding can be removed only by believing in Christ. 15 Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings their hearts are blind and they think that obeying the Ten Commandments is the way to be saved. 2 Corinthians 3:14-15 TLB

 By promoting Law as a means to attain a more holy living your leading people astray. Paul tells us the strength of sin is the Law. Without realizing it, the message didn't bring people into a closer walk with God, it actually made them draw back. 

 Accusations come by way of traditional teaching. Its subtle words say there is something wrong with you. That God finds displeasure with you and if you just heed these words God will love you more. Staying with the truth of the New Covenant and tuning out tradition causes these accusative words to have no power over you.

 Another way this accusation finds a foothold in our thinking is when we begin creating standards to live by that God has nothing to do with. It starts with placing demands upon ourselves that God never put there. Often, these demands come when we compare ourselves to the ideal Christian.

 In reality, this phantom Christian who spends hours in prayer, and devotion, has a perfect marriage, is a perfect spouse, perfect parent and is a highly praised employee just doesn't exist. This accusation veils itself as a motivation for growth but in reality, it's designed to tear us down and get us to quit. It speaks this to us repeatedly, "I could be doing so much more."

 Here is the truth, it's already done. It is finished. What more needs to be done? Is it your sacrifices and efforts that are needed or is it Jesus' once for all sacrifice? It seems to tradition that Jesus Finished Work means nothing. That all Grace is for is to be an ability gift to fulfill all the demands tradition and self-righteous comparison brings. Resist this lie. Grace reminds you of who you are in Him. You are complete in Him. Your fulfillment is in Him. Jesus' work is enough. Rest and be who He already made you.

No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LordAnd their righteousness is from Me,” Says the Lord.  Isaiah 54:17 NKJV

 In summation, understand accusation comes to all of us. Be it through our own sins or by the voice of the religious, their traditional teachings, or by comparing ourselves to others. Victory comes when we listen to what God says about us. Truth removes all error. Hear Jesus' words to you and live and abide in them;

10 Until finally, Jesus was left alone with the woman still standing there in front of him. So he stood back up and said to her, “Dear woman, where are your accusers? Is there no one here to condemn you?” 11 Looking around, she replied, “I see no one, Lord.” Jesus said, “Then I certainly don’t condemn you either. Go, and from now on, be free from a life of sin.” John 8:10-12 TPT

 Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net