Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Losing our Religion: Stone Throwers or Love bearers?

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






 We've been in an ongoing study concerning the religious traditions of men. We are seeing the benefit of relinquishing religion and embracing God's goodness and His truth, God's Word. Staying with the Word brings freedom, life, and wholeness. Traditional concepts of men just lead to confusion and striving. 

 If you've been a long time reader/subscriber to this Good News of Grace blog site you know we've dealt with the sin issue extensively. We've seen how God has dealt with the sin issue. When we get to know our Father more and more we can see things from His perspective better and better.

 In this study of losing our religion, we've seen God is always good. We have seen Grace is greater than shame. Today, as you may guess, I sense the need to once again address the right response to the question of sin.

 Recently, a famous Christian singer came into controversy. She didn't respond to some question about what is or isn't sin in a manner that was satisfactory to some. In the midst of the controversy, what I took note of was not the issue of her response but rather how the Church responded to her. How the Body of Christ treated her. 

Stones at the ready?

 Let me first say this. When addressing the secular world, what words are they going to hear and take heed to? That their "favorite" behavior is wrong? Going back in my lifetime, seeing the world around me, behavior choices like using profanity, engaging in sexual immorality, drunkenness etc were not taboo to the average unsaved person. This was just living. Not using expletives to describe every situation, waiting until marriage, not getting drunk seemed like an old-fashioned, boring, missing out on the fun, way to live.

 So, standing in a secular audience and bringing the love of God to them, what would capture their hearts more? Telling them that this behavior is a sin? Telling them how wrong they are? Or just sharing how loved and valuable they are to God? That He isn't mad at them and He has a free gift awaiting them? Obviously, sharing God's love is the key, not pointing out what all is sinful in their lives.

 Pointing out the sins and flaws of the lost sends the wrong message. It clouds the message of the Cross that says come freely. It pollutes the Gospel with the idea of Grace plus good works. It conveys the concept that before one can come to God and receive new life in Christ, they must clean up their act. They need to deal with their sin and then God will receive them. If we could clean up ourselves why did Jesus die for us? This is the lie of religion that we must be found worthy of His Grace and good enough to receive His free gift. 

 Is the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ supposed to be stone throwers or love bearers? Are we to have stones at the ready when one of our own doesn't respond the way some think they should? Is it our job to point out the evil in this World? What I mean are we supposed to just roam the streets and proclaim to all how much of a sinner they are?

Superstitious Christians

superstition is not just throwing salt or carrying a rabbit's foot. A different type of superstition exists among Christians. Some so focus on the commandments, the passages speaking of behavior, and the Law that they respond to them in a superstitious manner. 

Allow me to elaborate before you think I'm off base. I am referring to looking at the Word as the letter and not the Spirit. I am referring to folk living in fear of breaking a statute, a command. In other words, one sees someone stumble, they can't respond in mercy but only in a harsh judgment. Why? They are so entrenched in the letter and not the Spirit. 

 Jesus was brought a woman caught in sin. Yet what was His response? Stone her? No, He gave her the gift of no condemnation. He did acknowledge this was a sin but He gave her the key to overcome. 

 Some are so superstitious of His commands, fearing if they missed it one little bit. Why is this? The root of this fearful approach is because they don't know Grace. They haven't experienced His love in His fullness. They are unsure and uncertain about their own security and assurance in Christ.

 Therefore, these are known more for what they are against than what they are for. Grace and mercy and the love of the Father say I love people a whole lot more than I hate their sins. The religious superstitious mantra is the opposite. They hate the sins of people more than they love them. 

 Hate the sin but love the person? Yes, that is biblical. That is the Gospel. The reason some hate that phrase is that in reality, the message claimed to love the person but instead focused so much more on the hate of the sin. Hate sin? Yes, for sin is evil. Sin destroys, it kills, it robs. Jesus did something about it though. He died for us all. Now it's about receiving a free gift and then that sin stuff won't appeal to us, to our new heart.

  Back to the situation of the Christian singer. Some were angry that the person didn't answer clearly that the behavior in question was a sin. This leads me to point out Jesus and the Apostles. When Paul preached to the idolatrous Gentiles, why didn't he go on a long rant about how sinful they were? When Peter came into the Gentiles house, did he detail how sinful they were before ministering to them? No, they shared the Gospel.  


 This woman is a divorcee, a woman living with a man she isn't married to. She is having sex outside of marriage. Think of the life of this woman.

 Scripture tells us she was going to the well in the later afternoon. Why? Because she was the one in known sin and the people in her town would gossip and put her down. She avoided the people by going late in the day. Can you imagine the guilt, the unworthiness she dealt with continually? 

 This passage in John proves beyond doubt that Jesus is Grace. The passage begins by saying:
But He needed to go through Samaria. John 4:4 NKJV

 This is Grace. He needed to go through Samaria because Grace needed to meet this woman right where she was. Immorality and all. Grace finds us where we are. He doesn't wait for us to find or seek Him. 

 How did Jesus respond to her? Did He list the passages and read them to her with a clenched fist and finger wagging? Did He speak of the commandments against adultery and fornication? Did He call her a worthless whore? Did He gather the town around to reinforce the truth that fornication and living together before marriage was sinful? Most importantly, did Jesus tell them to gather some stones?

 Jesus pointed her to a natural well. Showing her that drinking from the world, the flesh and the temptations of the enemy leave us wanting. Leave us unfulfilled and always thirsting. He pointed her to Himself. He showed her partaking of Himself and receiving the free gift of Grace is the only thing that will satisfy. 

In summation, this is the message we should be proclaiming to the world. Not how sinful they are but how loved they are. Show them how empty and unfulfilling their sin really is. Point them to the only One that will satisfy. We are to be love bearers proclaiming the Good News. Jesus doesn't have a stone in hand. He has nail-scarred hands open to receive whosoever will come and receive this gift freely. 

Image courtesy of Tongrajantaduang at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, December 3, 2018

Losing our Religion: Dare to Pray Bold and Powerful Prayers

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









 We've begun a series of study exposing the traditions of men. We've seen the necessity of dropping religious tradition and the great benefits that accompany that decision. We've seen how religion weaponizes shame. Today, I want to address an issue of great importance.

 What is vital in our walk with God, is hearing the truth that affects our daily lives. We all want to hear something that is practical. Something we can put into practice in our daily lives. As believers, the subject of prayer is of great importance. Prayer is not a religious exercise. It isn't some spiritual chore that needs to be completed or we won't get our proverbial gold star. 

 Prayer isn't a religious duty or obligation. Prayer is communion with our good Father. Prayer is fellowship time with God. Prayer is a conversation with the One who cares for you the most, is interested in all aspects of your life, and rejoices in time spent with you. 

 More than likely, the reason prayer seems dull, unfulfilling, like a chore, we must complete, a duty that must be fulfilled, an obligation that must be met, is due to the fact that prayer doesn't seem to produce anything in our life. We pray and it seems nothing happens. We find prayer to be more disappointing and hopeless, seeing we rarely see answers to what we pray about. 

 So how do we get from dull, monotonous, tedious and uneventful prayer to seeing answered prayers? How do we go from mere obligatory religious duty to actually sense the presence of God more and more as we fellowship with God? What's the key?

Righteousness: the Key to Powerful Prayers

 We must change our thinking about prayer. We must stop being timid and seeing ourselves as unworthy sinners in God's eyes. We must stop seeing ourselves as a mere pauper begging for crumbs, leftovers, and scraps from the Master's table. 

16 Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and wonderful results. James 5:16 TLB

 The prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective. They're bold prayers. They are prayers prayed with confident assurance of our good Father. They are not silent, timid, powerless prayers.

 What makes the prayer of the righteous so powerful? So effective? What causes the Lord to hear the prayer of the righteous? 

 Sadly, religion twists the passage we just shared into a performance-based standard. That when we live up to a certain standard we will then qualify for the answer. We will somehow be found worthy enough for God to hear us. 

 What makes the prayer of the righteous so powerful is whose righteousness we are walking in. The Finished Work was the great exchange. When we believed we partook of that exchange. We exchanged our spiritually dead sinful nature for a new nature, Eternal life, His very life, and nature. We exchanged our filthy rags righteousness for His perfect righteousness. If it's His righteousness we received, then we are just as righteous as Jesus.

 The power behind this prayer is not our goodness or ability to perform well or our perfect obedience. The power rests in Christ and what He has already accomplished and fulfilled in the Finished Work. Think, what is the basis of your asking God anything? Are you desiring to receive based upon your goodness? Your obedience? Your behavior? Or are you coming to God based on Christ's goodness and not your own?

 You can ask him for anything, using my name, and I will do it, for this will bring praise to the Father because of what I, the Son, will do for you. 14 Yes, ask anything, using my name, and I will do it! John 14:13-14 TLB

 Our Father blesses us because He is good not because we are good. Too often we try to qualify for the gift. We try to qualify or be found worthy to receive by our actions. Is this how Jesus said to pray?

 Put your faith and trust in Jesus' faithfulness and obedience, not yours. Now some tradition-minded become highly agitated when we suggest this. They cry foul. They say no, we are to become faithful and obedient and then and only then will God bless us.

 Let me illustrate this trusting in Christ's goodness and not our own. Suppose you were seeking a home loan, a mortgage. Now suppose the bank just told you that you don't qualify for the loan, what do you do? Work hard, be more diligent at becoming more qualified? That's the only option for you. Now suppose a billionaire philanthropist happened to be there at the bank and decided to intervene in your situation? What if they said, put the loan in my name, I will make the payments monthly, and any charges incurred over the life of the loan I will pay? 

 In the future, would you be going to the bank concerning the loan, in your name or the philanthropist's name? If the bank sought to charge you whose name would you invoke? Of course, you would operate in the authority, and resource and good name of the philanthropist and not your own. Your financial state would have no bearing on your standing with the bank concerning this loan. 

 A performance driven mindset would have us still seeking ways of receiving approval for the loan. Even as the loan has been approved by another on our behalf, the one trying to qualify in their own goodness, and faithfulness would look for ways to earn this approval. This is religion. Trying to earn, what is already purchased on our behalf. 

 This is what it means to be the righteousness of God in Christ. This is what it means to pray, asking in His name. It's coming to God, based on Jesus' goodness, obedience, and supply. It is asking of the Father based upon the perfect obedience, holiness, and right standing of the Son. It is never approaching God based on our good deeds, faithfulness or righteousness.

 What does it mean to ask in Jesus name? For so long many thought this meant simply we ask because of the authority of His name. Though there are power and authority in His name, we must go deeper in understanding what that means. Asking in Jesus name is saying He is my representative. That I am asking based on His right standing, His supply, His goodness, and His obedience and never my own worthiness, or faithfulness or behavior. 

 When tradition says we must be faithful and obedience to receive. That our behavior determines whether or not God will bless us we have removed Christ and His perfect Finished Work out of the equation. In truth, we are no longer asking in Jesus name. All we are left with is our own track record. When we are basing our receiving on our own faithfulness and obedience we are in reality asking in our own name;

"Father I have been faithful and obedient, and am therefore asking for this answer in Jerry's name, in Freddie's name, in Ken's name, in John's name, in Mike's name, in Rodney's name I pray amen."
 In summation, if you would like to see your prayer life transformed, realize that prayer is intimate fellowship with your Father who is always overjoyed with gladness to fellowship with you. See all that His Finished Work procured for you. Know who you are in Him. Then dare to come boldly before Him and pray as if Jesus Himself was asking. No more feasting on crumbs, but dare to take your place as His righteous, perfectly accepted child and sit at the King's table and partake of all He has prepared and provided. 
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net