Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Gospel of Grace: It's not a Religion!

I am shocked over how quickly you have deserted the grace gospel and strayed away from Christ who called you to Himself by His loving mercy. I’m frankly astounded that you now embrace a distorted gospel of salvation by works! 7 That is a fake “gospel” that is simply not true! There is only one gospel—the grace gospel! Yet you have allowed those who mingle law with Christ’s grace to confuse you with lies. Galatians 1:6-7 TPT first edition

We've begun a new study examining the Gospel of Grace in its fullness. Last time we looked at the idea of effortless Christianity. On the fringe, some view the Gospel as a message affirming lethargy. Seeing any aspect of the Faith as works and performance. 

 When we examine the Gospel, we will naturally quell foolish errors as well as the accusations presented by the religious traditioned minded. What is best is to stay centered, stay focused on the truth. We mustn't allow bitterness or wounded emotions to form and fashion a "god" acceptable to our sentiments. 

 Today, I sense the leading to focus on the truth that life in Christ is not a religion. This is not a do this or perfect that and God may finally find you acceptable. In my time under performance-driven ministries, they often ascribed reasons as to why people weren't blessed. 

 They would say there is nothing wrong with God. There is nothing wrong or faulty with His eternal Word. Then there must be something wrong with you. They would say you must not have employed some spiritual discipline. Or you did but you didn't do it correctly. Or you didn't do it long enough. 

 Grace says, this New Covenant wasn't made between you and God. This Covenant was cut between the Father and the Son, Jesus Christ. You don't have the power to nullify it. This New Covenant doesn't disqualify God's people. We come to God based on Jesus faithfulness, perfect obedience, and worthiness, never on our own merits. We receive God's goodness, favor, blessing by simple Faith, resting in Jesus Finished Work, not our own works or performance.

 The Gospel of Grace is predicated on Jesus Finished Work. It rests on the truth that the Father accepted Jesus work. The Gospel of Grace makes Jesus bigger in our eyes. It puts the Lord Jesus as the central focus of it all. For too long, our works, our performance, our track record had too much focus and Jesus was out of focus.

Living the Christian life under Grace

 I am going to give you some life-altering, amazingly Good News. I am going to simply and practically explain the Christian life. Here is the extra Good News that accompanies the Good News. None of what I am going to tell you is rooted in perfectionism or always getting it right. It is living the Christian life under Grace.

 So here it is, the simple, practical Christian life. Looking at the four Gospels, where we get to know Jesus better, seeing how He interacted with the sinner, the saint, and even His enemies. Going through Acts, seeing the Church in its beginning stages, how it navigated through life in good times and bad. Onto the Epistles and the Revelation, seeing day to day living, all the while patiently awaiting the triumphant return of our Savior.  All this together sums up the Christian life.

 You may say, brother, you haven't said anything about how to live. I am going to make it plain and simple right now. First things first, receive Jesus as Savior. We can debate this next point if you will and if you do then just move on, then receive the Baptism in the Spirit and that beautiful Grace gift of a prayer language. Follow the Lord in the waters of baptism. This is merely a public display of personal identification of faith in Jesus, not a work whereby you're saved. Now nothing we see so far is works or self-effort.

 Now putting the rest of the Scriptures together we see how to live as a believer under Grace, living out this relationship. How does this look? In a relationship, the two parties communicate, they fellowship, they enjoy each other. 

 Spend time with God. Read the Scriptures often. Meditate on them. This simply means ponder them. Take a passage, think about it and how it applies to you, in your daily life. Get to know who you are in Him, and continually remind yourself of who you are in Christ. Fellowship with God by spending time in prayer. When we pray, we are communicating with God. He gives us wisdom and insight on issues we personally face. Find some fellow Christians and get to know them. Build each other up. If you can, go to church. Bring your supply of His gifts and favor on your life and bless and minister to others. 

 Realize His great unconditional love for you. See and understand His amazing forgiveness He has bestowed upon you. Now walk in love and forgiveness to others. Be a generous giver. God gave us His Son. Be a blessing no matter how small the gift. 

 Guess what, I just laid out a simple way to live. This is performance free. All I have said is simply a byproduct of relationship, not religion. Loving people, forgiving people, fellowshipping with other believers, studying God's Word, gaining a better understanding of it the more you study, recognizing your true identity in Christ, ministering to others, devoting some time to God, spending time with Him in prayer, hanging out with your Father, none of this is based on perfection, always doing the right thing, or always getting it just right. Jesus already got it right, just lean on His righteousness, not yours. 

 As an added bonus, whenever New Year's rolls around you don't need to worry about some word for the year or some new discipline you need to be doing. Staying steadfast and immovable in the basics, relationship, and you will always see successful growth and maturity and fruitful living. 

 This is the Good News. Jesus perfectly performed the work. Rest in that. That is the foundation. On top of that, we begin a healthy relationship with God, first by understanding one important truth. That God loves you unconditionally. That He finds you perfectly acceptable right now. He has made you just, that is in perfect right standing, He has made you holy once for all time and given us His Spirit. We did nothing to earn, achieve, or merit any of this. 

 In summation, this Good News Gospel of Jesus, the Gospel of Grace is rooted in Jesus unconditional love, God's approval, and Jesus perfectly completed Work. It is not dependant on your perfect obedience, or faithfulness or performance. The work is to believe in Jesus. The only labor is to enter into the rest. Jesus made the finish line, our starting point. 
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Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Gospel of Grace: Effortless Christianity?

I am shocked over how quickly you have deserted the grace gospel and strayed away from Christ who called you to Himself by His loving mercy. I’m frankly astounded that you now embrace a distorted gospel of salvation by works! 7 That is a fake “gospel” that is simply not true! There is only one gospel—the grace gospel! Yet you have allowed those who mingle law with Christ’s grace to confuse you with lies. Galatians 1:6-7 TPT first edition

 Whenever us believers hear something new, we as fallible humanity usually respond in similar ways. We either reject it and spend much energy fighting what we've just heard. Or we seemingly receive it but then follow it to the extreme turning it into something it was never intended to be, rejecting any and everything we've ever heard. Lastly, we sometimes simply receive it, study it, prove it out, and are better for it. 

What was your response when you heard the Good News Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Gospel of Grace? How did you receive it? Or have you never heard the Good News? The Gospel of the Grace of God manifested in Christ Jesus. 

 Today, I'd like to address a response some have to the glorious Gospel of Grace. This area of practically living the Christian life. Some say it's effortless while others proclaim we have a part to play, rejecting this notion of effortless faith. So what is the right response?

Working harder or hardly working?

 If we stay centered we will come to a better understanding of what it means to live life under Grace, and have a focused understanding and awareness of the Finished Work. This is the most important truth we must grasp. It is Finished. It wasn't started and has yet to be finished. It wasn't begun by Christ and expected to be completed by us and our works and performance.  

 Jesus completed the Work. The Father is pleased. He has fully accepted the once for all sacrifice of His Son. He isn't waiting on its fulfillment or completion. It is Finished. The Father isn't looking for our contributions to Jesus' Work to "perfect" it or make it a reality. It's the Finished work, not the just started work or "the waiting on someone else to help complete it work." 

 We must understand the work is finished and keep that as the foundation for successful Christian living. Living the life in Christ must have its beginning with this understanding. So again let's ask, is it effortless Christian living? Before we answer I was reminded in my heart that we must give this some context to help more folk understand the issue.

Keep it in context

 The Body of Christ makes up some billions of people who've received Jesus and His free gift of Grace, life eternal. Apart from the essentials, all Christians believe, i.e. the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ, the infallibility of God's Word, Jesus is the only way anyone can be saved, God our Father is the maker of Heaven and Earth, there are various denominations to agree or disagree on the minor issues. So it stands that not all believers have the same experiences. 

 That said, the idea of effortless Christianity was really a response to what believers who had been involved with the Word of Faith Charismatic circles of Christianity had experienced. Over the years much of faith teaching had transformed from the idea that you could take God at His Word, that what He promised He would fulfill to more of a works and performance message. In essence, it mixed the Old and New Covenant when it came to receiving from God. 

 Effortless success was the way one Grace minister phrased it. Another said it a little clearer, speaking of self-effort. So the idea of effortless Christianity came as a response of sorts from the performance-driven, achieve to receive mindset many had adopted. 

 With that understanding, let's bring it back to the center. Do we have a part to play? Is Christianity effortless? Is Grace a message to affirm laziness, apathy, lethargy, and slothfulness? 

Living the Grace life

 Having been one of those under a performance-driven ministry hearing words like do your part, Christianity isn't effortless, can make me pull away from that. That is why we must live in the center and let go of the extremes. 

 The Gospel of Grace is not a do-nothing message. That is it is not a message promoting slackness and lethargy. If what you hear leaves you sensing that you should separate from the local church, fellow believers, Bible study, prayer and personal devotional time, note you haven't heard the Gospel. Grace is gracious and full of God's love. Love doesn't isolate itself.

 It is true that the Gospel of Grace is a do-nothing message in the sense of do nothing to earn or achieve or merit God's favor and goodness and love and blessing. Think, what righteous act could make you receive the most important gift of all, salvation? No amount of sacrifice, giving, Bible study, apparent faithfulness could merit God to make you righteous. 

 This is where the center is. Grace is effortless in the sense of personal merits, achievements, and works done to try to be found worthy enough to receive from God. Living under Grace isn't effortless in the sense of being in a relationship with our Father. Rest isn't inactivity, it is Spirit-led, Spirit-directed activity. 

 Now don't use the fleshly lie that the Holy Spirit hasn't lead you to be a giver or fellowship with fellow believers or ever pick up your Bible. What happened was He called and you hit ignore messages. Spending time with our Father is refreshing. It brings peace and guidance and wisdom. It isn't a chore or a work to perform.

 If Grace isn't completely effortless then what is our part? 
 29 ‘This is the work God wants of you,’ replied Jesus, ‘that you believe in the one he sent.’ John 6:29 NTE

 To believe in the one He sent. We believe in Jesus that's a living active Faith. If we believe we will follow Him. Look at James 2. Note James mentions Abraham and Rahab. Abraham offered his son. Rahab opened a door. They didn't do this task over and over to get God's attention. No, their faith in God was living and active. It caused a response from them.

 In summation, Grace is not a message of do nothing, be lazy. It is the Good News that Jesus finished the work. There is rest in that. This Faith in rest will cause a genuine response. Rahab opened a door, a task that could've gotten her killed. Yet, something in her heart produced a bold response and action. That wasn't effortless, yet it also wasn't a performance-driven, I hope God will like me now, kind of action. The truth is in the center. 

 Follow love's leading and guiding. The Spirit will lead you into all truth. He won't lead into error, false teaching, immorality or a lazy, lethargic way of living. 
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