Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Understanding Grace: Identifying with the Finished Work of Christ

18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18

 Identity, what defines it? Is it simply what you do? Is it your occupation? What makes you, you? Many a lost soul has traveled the land trying to "find themselves." In the end one may find new appreciation for living, for creation or for another occupation. Is this what makes up who they are?

 Identity is the essence of all that is you. Truly the only way to realize your full potential and be all you are is found in Christ. When we receive the Lord, by virtue of the finished work, we have union with Christ. We abide in Him. 

 Identity is not what you do or what you abstain from. Identity is who you are. In Christ, because of the finished work, you are complete. This is why it is essential to understand the finished work is in fact finished. 

What part of finished is unfinished?

 In the minds of the religious, when Christ said "It is finished," they take it to mean "I'm just getting started, now you all need to complete it." To the Covenant and Law mixing minded minister we are not really complete in Him. Holiness, is something to be pursued, or a status to be achieved. Righteousness, is something you grow into. 

 To the mixture minded grace isn't even unearned, undeserved favor  of God. They instead focus solely on the empowerment that grace, or His divine influence upon the heart produces. They subtly replace grace as mere empowerment. Thus, giving allowance for efforts, and achievement, and works in order to please God. 

 Want to receive from Him? Get busy working for it. What about freely given, freely received? Sure it is, the religious will tell you. His empowerment was freely given and you freely received it. Now therefore, get busy. All the works we tell you to perform are still in effect, but you have His empowerment to aid you in your efforts.

 In many Charismatic/Word of Faith circles performance and hard work is still much in order. Granted, they teach a freely received salvation, works free. However, if you want to receive the return on your giving, or healing, then you must work hard and perform well enough to receive it. This is why New Covenant grace is so vital to understand. It is a finished work. We can rest in Him. It is not by achievement we receive from Him it is by identity, by our union with Him. 

Our union with Christ

When He said it is finished He meant it. This is who we are now in fullness by our union with Him. 
21 He orchestrated this: the Anointed One, who had never experienced sin, became sin for us so that in Him we might embody the very righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21
 We are the righteousness of God in Christ. He gave us His righteousness in exchange for our old sin nature. If Christ gave us His righteousness, then we are just as righteous as God Almighty.

We are Sanctified, made Holy in Him. This isn't something achieved over time. This is who we are in Him.
10 And because of this, we are made holy through the sacrifice Christ made in his body once and for all time. Hebrews 10:10
This is what causes division and stirs up religion since the New Covenant began. Many want to assign a "positional" holiness to the believer.  In time, and through achievement and abstinence from any influence deemed unacceptable, you are progressively holy. Or you are holy, for real. 

 The truth is there is no progressive setting apart of the child of God. There is no process of being made holy. Holiness is who you already are. The error from religion is they expect a mature holiness right away from new believers. Because there is not maturity in all areas they formulate a doctrine of a progressive setting apart for believers.

14 For by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are made holy. Hebrews 10:14
This is who we are in our union with Christ. There is no progressive holiness or sanctification. There is however, a progressive maturity into who we already are. When we identify with who we already are, then and only then, will fruitful living be visible to all. 

 We are the forgiven in this Union with Christ. He took away our sin. He completely forgave us. 
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
We are forgiven of all sin. Knowing we are forgiven produces a genuine love and a true fruitful response to God. Many in mixture circles resist this truth. To them, in order for God to forgive we must repent first.

 Is this truth? What did Jesus say about forgiveness?
21 Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven! Matthew 18:21-22

 Jesus taught Peter, forgive no matter what. He didn't teach him to forgive a person only if they repent. Would God tell us to forgive others regardless if they repent but then hold onto a different standard of forgiveness toward us? He told us to not hold anything against anyone regardless if they repent. 

 In other passages, Jesus does mention if one repents forgive them. He also teaches forgive others regardless if they repent. Is this a contradiction? No, it means in any situation forgiveness is paramount. 

 So what is the conclusion? Because of the finished work and our union with Christ, we are made perfectly righteous and holy and completely forgiven. This is who you are. This is your identity. Regardless of your actions, this is who God says you are. Actions don't define us. The finished work defines us. We are hidden in Christ. Walk in the fullness of who you are with boldness. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Understanding Grace: Resting in the Finished Work

18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18
 In our last study we looked at the finished work of Christ. To come to a better understanding of grace we need to renew our minds to the truth of Christ's finished work. We saw from the Word there is nothing we can do to make God love us or favor us more. Yet, tradition and religious ruled minds resist this truth intensely.

 Before understanding God's amazing grace, I was one of those resisting this truth. In my past I struggled and strived in a vain attempt to get God to bless me and to "use" me more. I would give away large donations, including portions of monthly bills. I studied for hours at a time. I gave away things I enjoyed, such as collectibles, movies on DVD or VHS (yes, that ancient form of media), I turned off "secular" music and only listened to Christian bands. I pursued God passionately.

With all these efforts I never saw lasting tangible results. I didn't experience the continual overflowing riches or open doors of ministry the preachers I was following kept promising. All the while I was still striving. I would experience burn out and then try harder. I was constantly plagued with the idea that there must be something wrong with me. That I wasn't doing enough or the right things I was doing, I wasn't doing long enough. 

 I was cutting away and suppressing my personality in order for me to be more holy or anointed. I was always taught the anointing will cost you. I realized if I wanted to minister healing and new life to folk I'd better start paying God for use of His anointing. So I kept striving.

 After years of striving, God revealed His truth to me through His Spirit and Word. I finally saw His wonderful, amazing grace. Now I understand who I am in Him. There was never anything wrong with God or His Word and by virtue of His finished work there was nothing wrong with me. Knowing this, I could rest. I now rest in His completed work. I stopped striving and began resting and you can too.  

 Contrary to the myth our detractors are accusing us of we are not preaching a "do nothing" gospel. That is we are not promoting laziness and unfruitful living. True there may be some misguided believers who have misunderstood grace as literally, do nothing. Staying with what God said is the simple remedy for that.

 That being said, there is a genuine "do nothing" gospel. There is nothing you can do enough to earn or deserve God's love. You can't do this or that just perfectly to cause more of God's blessing to be on you. There is no amount of striving that will cause God to be more pleased with you. Jesus did it all. His work was enough.

 Servants or sons?

 In times past there was a concept being taught in the Body of Christ. That is that we were mere stewards or servants of God. Because of this, the idea that God was a hard taskmaster became a stronghold in the minds of many. It is still strongly believed by many even today. 

 This thinking error causes some to believe Daddy God wants to make sure His children aren't too happy or satisfied. For instance, you better not like your job He will make you quit it. Don't like your place of residence because if you like it too much God's going to make you give it away and go to a far away land. In the minds of many God doesn't lead or guide with love. He drives His Children with fear, to motivate them to work and work harder.

 Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir. Galatians 4:7

 In order to rest in the Finished Work we must also know who He has made us. He calls us sons not servants. We aren't employees looking to follow the commands and orders of some hard to please employer. We are adopted sons in the Family. Our Daddy rejoices over us with joy. We are always well pleasing and accepted with Him.

Working or resting?

In the light of His finished work are you working or resting? 
And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work. Romans 11:6

 This passage in Romans is clear. If you are working or striving in order to receive from God then you are fallen from grace and relying on your works. Whenever you add efforts and striving to any equation then you have subtracted grace from it. It is really that simple. 
There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Hebrews 4:9-10

 It is interesting to note the same word for work in Hebrews 4 is also the same in Romans 11. This proves that if you are working or toiling you are trying to earn a wage with God. You aren't resting in grace. You are on the achievement program. Why work or strive for what God has already freely provided?

 When we enter into the rest of the finished work then we are ceasing from our own works and performance. Instead we are fully relying on Christ's work and perfect performance. Think of it. What work, or amount of striving could put you in right standing with God? What could you do enough of to meet God's standard of absolute perfection? 
 This said, we must reject the hoops religious, Law mixing and Covenant mixing preachers keep putting up for us to jump through. We must set aside all these works and efforts they insist must be met in order for us to receive from God. The finished work made a new and living way for us to freely receive from God. It's by grace through faith. 
Place your faith in Christ. Put your hope, your trust and belief in His grace and love. Fully trust in what He accomplished in the finished work. My faith rests in His faithfulness and perfect performance not my own. We are at times even unfaithful. Here is good news though. Jesus is always faithful even when we are not. Striving ceases when you know you are accepted, loved and well pleasing to your Father. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Understanding Grace: The Finished Work of Christ

18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18

 Whenever one ministers truth that seems to contradict the teachings or ideas of those who have gone before them, inevitably controversy ensues. Accusations are hurled their way. Books and articles are written to try and "correct" the supposed errors. Straw man arguments are created by lumping in fringe elements and their ideas with those teaching truth. This is why in recent weeks we have been studying understanding grace.

 Today, I want to share some exciting, glad news. When we speak of God's amazing grace we must include His finished work on the Cross. The cross is the reason we have this grace available. The cross was grace in action paying the price for our redemption. On the cross Jesus made one of the most powerful statements He had ever spoke.

30 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. John 19:30

 Jesus declared it was finished. What was finished? His work of redemption? The Old Covenant? The Law? Some ministers fuss and argue about what this statement means. Why this statement creates such strife is beyond me. I believe He knew what He meant when He said it is finished. 

 The phrase it is finished is actually one word spoken in Greek. It is the word tetelestai. You can study this word for yourself here. This word means complete. To conclude. It is done, it is perfectly complete.

  Yes, in His work of redemption Christ had to be resurrected in order to ensure complete victory. However, Jesus spoke the end from the beginning. So what was finished? All, was accomplished. Redemption, the Law, the Old Covenant all of it was finished in His perfect sacrifice. 

 The reality of the finished work is, all that we need to overcome in this life is already completed, and bestowed upon us. It is already ours based upon perfect redemption. Understanding the finished work means we realize that there is nothing we can add to the work of redemption. What amount of good works or steadfast faith can cause God to be more or less pleased with us? 

 It is absolute truth, Jesus plus nothing. Consider these passages.
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Ephesians 1:3

 Grace to you and peace be multiplied in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, seeing that his divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and virtue; 2 Peter 1:3-4
 These passages are indicative of a complete redemption. That by virtue of this grace we already possess what we need for victory and total salvation now. By the continual acknowledgement of who we already are in Him we will see the fruition of it in our life. Our maturity comes by acknowledging what we possess and who we are by virtue of our union with Christ.

Understanding this gives us a better understanding of what weak faith is. The Word of God on many occasions describes a strong faith or a weak faith. I have heard many try to describe what a weak faith is.

 Some speak of a weak faith as a struggle to believe in the existence of God. If you are a believer, it is challenging for me to believe one struggles with the existence of God. However, if this is you, peace to you. Look upon creation. This is proof enough God is real. 

 Some have defined weak faith as one who struggles with receiving the promises of God in a certain area. It may be true that outside sources may try to weaken your stand. Circumstances and well meaning people may try to discourage your hope. There is help for this. Stay with what the Word says concerning your situation and never focus on anything else. Focus on the finished work and you will see the blessings of God. Maybe not the way that some present them, but as the Word promised them, you will receive.

 That stated, in context of many passages in Scripture what is weak faith? 
14 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things Romans 14:1
 What is Paul teaching here? He mentions weakness in faith in this chapter, also in Galatians and 1 Corinthians. The weak in faith are those whose conscience are condemned by their participation in anything they perceive as secular or "Worldly". It is those who feel strongly that they must observe Old Covenant Laws and practices. Paul contrasts strong faith and weak faith in this chapter.

 Weak faith means one is not convinced of the finished work of Christ. They feel in their minds that there still is much to be done for their sanctification or acceptance. They feel that they're more holy or set apart by their good deeds. They also feel they're less holy and pleasing and acceptable to God based upon their bad deeds. They truly believe salvation has begun in them but they must complete it.

 We must understand the finished work. Because of Christ's sacrifice we are already pleasing and accepted by the Father. Regardless of your actions you are always acceptable and pleasing in your Father's sight. Now don't misunderstand me. He is not always pleased with our choices. He isn't pleased when we miss the mark and step out of love and forgiveness. He is however, by virtue of our union with Christ, always pleased with us, His beloved children.

 Salvation is complete in Him. When He died on that cross He paid the complete price. He took the penalty of sin which is death for us (Romans 6:23). The Cross is so much more than that. It is also Him defeating the powers of darkness on our behalf. It is Christ buying us back from the deception and influence of darkness. 

 There is nothing we can add or take away from the work of redemption. It is finished. Salvation isn't begun by Him and finished by you. There is so much more to say about this. For now rejoice in this truth. Salvation He started it and He will see it through to the end...
6 I pray with great faith for you, because I’m fully convinced that the One who began this glorious expression of grace in your lives will faithfully continue the process of maturing you through your union with Him and will complete it at the unveiling of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Philippians 1:6 Passion translation

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Understanding Grace: Accepted in Christ

18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18

 For the past few weeks we've been studying understanding grace. We've seen we always have free access before God through grace. In other words Father God has an open door policy for His beloved. Forgiveness of all our sins comes by His grace. We saw how it's by the blood of Jesus we are forgiven not our confession. Under grace we are now free from all fear and any shame. 

 Today, I'd like to proclaim some to good to be true, but true good news. In this life we may at times sense we are unaccepted or unworthy. Here is the good news, we are accepted in Christ. Beloved, in this grace we have been made accepted. 

to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:6

  What does it mean to be accepted? This word accepted in the original Greek is a derivative from the word Charis, which is the Greek word for grace. This word means to be endued with special honor. To be made acceptable and highly favored. 

 When we receive this free gift of grace we are endued with honor. In the past we were clothed with rags of shame and self efforts. Our righteousness as filthy rags. Ever see someone try to clean a spill with a dirty rag? All they are doing is spreading the uncleanness around. Before Christ we were unrighteous and unclean in our hearts and minds. After Christ we are cleansed and made whole and given special honor. He gives us His beauty for our ashes.

 We are also highly favored. We are not just favored, but highly favored. This means we are esteemed and the rights and benefits the Son (Christ Jesus) walks in, we now have available to us. Believe for the favor already bestowed upon us as sons and not servants. 

Because we are accepted we cannot be condemned

 The Word of God is clear we are no longer under condemnation.
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1
 A wonderful truth is now that we are accepted in the beloved we are no longer condemned. Condemnation loves to plague the minds of believers. It tries its best to remind you of past failures and mistakes. It says your future is grim because of your past. It says how can God use you? 

 Condemnation wants you to look upon your sins, weaknesses and failures. Grace points you to Jesus and His faithfulness and His one time sacrifice for all sins. Condemnation says you are disqualified for service. Grace says the finished work qualified you. Now go forth and fulfill the plan and destiny of God for your life. His grace equips you for all you need to follow God's plans for you.

Because we are accepted guilt cannot dominate us

 Before we received Christ we were guilty before God. The Law made it this way. None of us can keep that standard.
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:19-20

 Thank God the truth doesn't end here. Let's go on and finish what Paul stated here.
21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; Romans 8:21-22
 Now that we have received His free gift of righteousness we are in perfect right standing before God. Guilt cannot dominate you when you know who you are. 

Guilt may still try to rise up in your mind. It wants you to focus on failures and says you can't come before God. He doesn't want to commune with you. It tries to make us shrink back before God. Grace says you are righteous and forgiven. You have free access to God. He delights in you. His blood has judged you not guilty. Identify with who you already are and guilt will flee. 

Because of His acceptance we are never rejected

 Rejection is a deep root that plagues many. We all have experienced rejection to some degree or another. A loved one betrayed us. A friend let us down, or spouse left us. We can all say we have lived with rejection. I have some good news though.
He was despised, and rejected by men; a man of suffering, and acquainted with disease. He was despised as one from whom men hide their face; and we didn’t respect him. Isaiah 53:3
 Jesus took our rejection. He suffered the greatest rejection. He bore all the pain and sadness of rejection for us. 

 Under grace we are accepted. We are no longer subject to these feelings of rejection. When someone rejects us, it may hurt our emotions. However, the good news in Christ is we are never rejected. We are accepted. This wonderful truth brings healing to all forms of rejection. Whenever you feel rejected you can go forward in grace understanding that you are always accepted in God. 

 Allow this acceptance to wash over you. Let it cleanse your mind of pain and grief from the root of rejection. He was rejected so you never have to be. People or groups aren't our source of happiness and fulfillment. Jesus is. Rest and rejoice knowing and understanding that under grace, acceptance is always yours. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Understanding Grace: Freedom from shame and fear

18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18

 In all of your getting, get understanding. This sums up the motive and objective of these last few posts. I strongly desire for you to get a clearer understanding of God's amazing grace. Let's take another journey to discover how much more beautiful this gift of grace is.

Understand grace: freedom from shame

 Before we received this beautiful gift of new life in Christ, we all had a past. For some the past represents a multifaceted realm. Meaning there is a mixture of good and bad. Some have a past where they've been victimized and traumatized. Others have a past where they want the words they spoke or the actions they participated in, to never be made known.

 The gospel of God's amazing grace has some too good to be true but still true good, glad news. He has washed away our past. He is the God of the turn around. His grace gives us new life and new hopes and dreams.  
11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” Romans 10:11
 That is an exciting promise from God's Word. When we receive Christ's free gift of newness of life we are guaranteed to never be ashamed again. His grace frees us from all shame.
 “Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; For you will forget the shame of your youth, And will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore. Isaiah 54:4

 This passage references shame three times. In the original Hebrew there are three different words that are translated as ashamed or shame in this verse.  Each of these have a distinct and significant meaning.  The word translated ashamed means to be put to shame. To be disappointed because of your shame, to feel shame. In other words shame says your disqualified.

 The next word translated as shame carries the idea of being detected. To literally blush. To bring reproach. In other words your mess ups and foul ups are plain for all to see. Therefore, you hide your face from people. You live with regret.

 The last word translated shame carries an interesting meaning. It means the feelings and condition of shame. It also means the cause of shame. This idea includes our memories and the actions that cause us to experience shame.

 God and His grace removes disappointments and qualifies us. He causes us to lift up our heads even when we miss it. His grace removes the source of our shame. Grace frees us from past regrets. To summarize, He washed us clean and our actions don't get to determine who we are. The blood of Jesus and the judgment of our Father is where our identity is founded upon. He judged us not guilty. He declared us righteous. The blood of Jesus is the shame remover. 

Understanding Grace: freedom from all fear

 We have a fresh start under grace. That is glad news, but what about my tomorrow? What about the future? His grace provides freedom from all fear.
“For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; For as I have sworn That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, So have I sworn That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you. Isaiah 54:9 
 His grace provides freedom from judgment and wrath. God is not mad at you. He loves you. He isn't even in a bad mood. When He thinks of you He rejoices. He looks at you as His most prized creation. His highly valued one. We are in right standing with God. He will never be mad at you.

 In righteousness you shall be established; You shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; And from terror, for it shall not come near you.      Isaiah 54:14

 When you receive the Lord, you receive the free gift of His righteousness. It is the great exchange. He took our sin and old life and gave us His righteousness and new life. In this right standing with our Father fear and oppression have no right to us.

18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us. 1 John 4:18-19

 This is wonderfully good news. His perfect love for you means fear has no place in you. His perfect love removes all torment and oppression and fear. When fear says to your mind God will abandon you for this reason or that you just rest in the truth. Remind yourself, He loves me and will never leave me or forsake me. 

 Religion and tradition and Covenant mixing preachers, preach an uncertain future, a conditional salvation and performance based relationship with God. Grace, on the other hand, teaches us how much our Father loves and cares for us. His love removes all fears from us. His love has gone before us. His favor has made a way for us. Resting in the finished work, we relax with God knowing all shame and fear is done away in Christ. Our best days are ahead of us. Rejoice in His grace, what an amazing gift.