Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Savior that is greater than all our sin!

20 When the law came into the picture, sin grew and grew; but wherever sin grew and spread, God’s grace was there in fuller, greater measure. No matter how much sin crept in, there was always more grace. Romans 5:20 Voice

20 God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. 21 So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:20-21 NLT

  Which is greater? Our sins or God's amazing Grace? Honestly, the way some ministers teach, it appears our sins and misdeeds outweigh the mercy and Radical Grace of God. Yet, God's Word states with clarity and simplicity that where sin abounds Grace much more abounds. His Grace far exceeds our sin and wrongdoing. 

What are the wages of sin?

 This is a simple but pivotal question. The answer we hold to this question shapes the way we relate to God and how we see ourselves before Him. Refining the question may assist in how one answers. Just what exactly occurs the moment when a believer sins? To answer this, we first must distinguish what the wages of sin aren't.

Withdrawn or lost fellowship isn't the wages of sin

 Too many leaders and ministers and believers teach and cling to a concept that the results of our sin are that God withdrawals fellowship from us. This concept is a warped view that is rooted in a misunderstanding of 1 John 1:6-7;
  If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin1 John 1:6-7 NKJV
 Some believers reason in their mind that whenever we sin we are walking in darkness. Therefore, when we don't walk in the light we have no fellowship or forgiveness of sins. This concept is erroneous because as believers we don't walk in darkness. We are children of light. God abides within us. Paul contrasted believers as light and unbelievers as darkness in his writings. 

 John is contrasting the standing of the believer against that of a non-believer. Those walking in the darkness are those who have yet to receive new life in Him. The writer of Hebrews is clear, He said He would never leave us or forsake us. There is never a time when we as believers are out of fellowship with God. He lives within us and is ever present with us.

Unanswered prayer isn't the wages of sin

 Another concept some hold to is that when we miss it, our prayers go unanswered. God seems happy with us and willing to hear and answer our petitions, but suddenly, we have fouled up. We have blown it. We have crossed that line. Now God "closes up the Heavens", He stops sending the "rain", He begins withholding your provision. He waits for you to "get right with Him." 

 Is this concept Scriptural? Sin may weaken a believer's confidence in prayer but God isn't ever withholding any provision from His kids. Look at the Apostle Peter's words after the healing of an invalid from birth. 
 12 Why are you so amazed, my fellow Israelites? Why are you staring at my friend and me as though we did this miracle through our own power or made this fellow walk by our own holiness? Acts 3:12 Voice
 Peter rightly affirmed his personal holiness or lack thereof had nothing whatsoever to do with this work of God. He pointed all the glory to God. He acknowledged his ability or inability to remain sin free was never the source of this miracle. 

 Jesus in His Finished Work freely and perfectly purchased our complete redemption. We don't earn any of redemption's provisions by our actions. If our performance didn't garner the provision to begin with then how can our performance cause the provision to be withdrawn or cease to flow towards us? 

What are the wages of sin?

 I may seem to be making light of sin. I am not. I am rather  exposing the erroneous concepts of man. The wages of sin isn't the loss of fellowship or unanswered prayers, it is death!
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 NLT
 Ministers seem to think after the Cross there is some different spiritual consequence of sin. There is a reason many think this. They can't understand redemption and the Finished Work for one. Secondly, many are fearful of the truth of the New Covenant.

Either it is Finished or it isn't!

 The only consequence or wage for sin is death. Adam fell and died that day he disobeyed the Lord. What happens when we sin? Before the Cross, spiritual death was the only possible result. After the Cross? It may come as a shock but death is still the only wage of sin. Does this mean I am teaching we lose our salvation each time we sin? Absolutely not. I am pointing out the spiritual reality God was faced with when mankind fell.

 If death is always the result of sin, what is the solution? The solution is the Lord Jesus Christ. The Finished Work, the gospel.  Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection are the answer. He came, He died and rose again for you and me. Because He tasted death for us and we received that free gift (Romans 6:23) there is, therefore, no more wages or consequence spiritually for our sins.

 Certainly, poor choices may carry natural consequences, but to attribute any wage or consequence to sin coming from God's hands to you is to say that He isn't satisfied with Jesus once for all time sacrifice for sins. This is why many cling to these concepts like sin breaks fellowship or hinders our prayers. They are afraid to reveal to people the truth that there are no spiritual consequences to their sins. They fear the people would pursue sin freely. 

 When we know the high price Jesus paid for us and truly understand it, this eternal, unconditional love cascading upon us produces a love to follow Him more and lay aside the fruitless and unprofitable lifestyles of sin. Certainly, sin is wrong and brings pain in the World we live in. But we must know God isn't punishing us or withholding His love or blessings. 

 This resurrected King living within proves the vital truth of our eternal redemption. The wages of sin is death. He tasted death for us, He took our place. He died so we could eternally live. Now if we sin we just simply rest in the Finished Work. We confess or agree with God we are the righteousness of God and that we are forever forgiven freely by His Grace. We identify with the risen Christ and not the sin, there we find true and lasting freedom. We can be refreshed, resting knowing that we truly have a Savior greater than all our sins. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

What must I do to be Saved?

17 As He was leaving on His journey, a man ran up and knelt before Him and asked Him, “Good Teacher [You who are essentially good and morally perfect], what shall I do to inherit eternal life [that is, eternal salvation in the Messiah’s kingdom]?” Mark 10:17 AMP
30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Acts 16:30 NKJV
 What must I do to be saved? This is a question that is often asked by many when they first hear the good news of God's free gift of eternal life. The answer to this seemingly simple question has caused much division and strife in the Body of Christ. 
 The reason for the strife and division is simply because religious minded believers refuse to allow the Scriptures alone to answer this question. Whenever we seek to add to or embellish the Scriptures to fit our own narrative or personal agenda we will always have division and disunity. The Word of God is the supreme authority for doctrine and truth. Just let the Scriptures be the final authority and the areas of disputes will fade away. 

 Two answers to the same question

 The Word of God gives two different answers to this question. The Old Covenant answer is recorded in Mark 10. The New Covenant answer is recorded in Acts 16. It would behoove us to rightly divide the Word of God to get the Scriptural answer to this vital question.

 The rich young ruler asked this question of Jesus. Here is Jesus response;
19 But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother. 20 “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.” 21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Mark 10:19-21 NLT
 This is a lengthy answer the Lord Jesus gives. Jesus very literally answers the man's question. What must I do to be saved? Do? Do this and keep that and maintain a perfect track record! That was basically Jesus' answer. 
 Paul the Apostle of Grace was asked the same question in the New Covenant. Here is his response;
31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” Acts 16:31 NLT
 Paul and Silas gave a concise and to the point answer. What was the difference between Paul and Jesus? The difference was because Paul was speaking after the Cross, the Finished Work. Paul was preaching the gospel. 
 The controversy is because people aren't rightly dividing the Word between the Old and New Covenant. Jesus, when He answered the young man, wasn't preaching the gospel! He was merely showing the impossibility in man's ability to keep God's Law. He was revealing to all the necessity of a Savior. 
 Paul and Silas, on the other hand, were ministering the gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost. Paul was revealing the plan of salvation purchased for all who will simply receive it. Paul's answer to the question is this. Simply believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus plus something equals nothing

 When religious minded believers are asked then what must we do to be saved, they point to Jesus' response to the rich young ruler. This is where this heresy of Lordship Salvation finds its roots. In order to be saved, they say, you must first make a lifetime commitment to do more and perform better. They insist the lost one must instantly commit to Christ's Lordship by ceasing from all sin and wrongdoing. In other words, the lost must clean up their act before Christ will save them.  Instead of simply receiving a free gift by faith, salvation becomes a works-based relationship.

 The problem is "performance driven" religion is putting a burden on the lost they can't possibly uphold. How can one who has yet to receive the free gift of Grace make any commitment to the Lord? This is the error of performance and works mentalities. They mistakenly define spiritual maturity, the level of obedience, and commitment as the roots of salvation, not the fruit of new life in Christ. 

 Truly, Jesus plus something always equals nothing. Jesus plus something equals nothing but condemnation. Jesus plus something equals nothing but hierarchy among men. Jesus plus something leaves a wake of broken hearts and worn out believers with their security and assurance in Christ weakened and debilitated. 

Jesus plus nothing equals everything

 Those who are preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ always point to Paul when asked what must we do to be saved. Simply believe in Jesus. That is all one needs to do. The simple act of believing in Christ means we place our confident trust in Jesus alone. We no longer trust in our intellect, or goodness, or our charitable deeds or works. We no longer look at the flaws that seemingly disqualify us. We simply place all of our hope, trust and confidence in Jesus alone to save us.

 Jesus plus nothing is what will produce fruit that is lasting and is not burdensome. Should we as believers in Christ be fruit bearers? Absolutely, we have the very life and nature of God within. We are brand new creations, always loved, and accepted with our Father in Heaven. We have the gift of irrevocable righteousness. 

 It is Jesus plus nothing that completes us. Jesus is always the answer to the equation. When we begin to acknowledge all we have and who we are because of Jesus alone, then maturity and fruit will be flourishing in our lives. We don't need performance driven ministers putting burdens and pressure upon us to try and force growth and productivity. Jesus and His great Grace within produces lasting fruit effortlessly. 

 The Gospel is an invite to receive a free gift. It is an invite to leave the life of burdensome efforts and find rest. The gospel invites us to simply rest in all Jesus did. Resting in Him alone, apart from human effort is all that is needed to produce real fruit. Lay aside works and efforts and performance. Trust in Him. What must we do to be saved? Put all our hope and confident trust in Him alone. Now rest knowing you are perfectly and fiercely loved by Him. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Eternal Life Assurance

13 I am writing all of this to you who have entrusted your lives to the Son of God—so you will realize eternal life already is yours. 1 John 5:13 Voice

 From the beginning stages of our walk with God,  and throughout the rest of our life in Him, the enemy continually attempts to erode our confidence in God. Full assurance of our eternal life in Christ is a major arena the enemy targets. If he can get us to doubt our salvation or believe it isn't eternally secure then he can cause us to weaken our trust in God concerning other areas of life. 

 The enemy works overtime with the aid of religious tradition and a wrong image of God to foster doubts and stir contrary reasoning within our minds and hearts. This is why we contend for the faith. We contend for the gospel of Christ. Look at the grace gospel Paul preached.
For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake. 1 Thessalonians 1:5 NKJV
 The gospel is the good news of the Finished Work. Take note of the "order" listed here if you will. Paul proclaimed the gospel message. By the power of the Spirit flowing through him, the gospel message was confirmed with signs following. Paul concluded the gospel message, by ministering the full assurance of the Finished Work.

 Religion withholds assurance. They want to see how well you produce fruit before they can say for certain you are genuinely saved. Religion fights the message of an assured eternally secure salvation. 

Probationary Christianity?

 Religion treats salvation as some probationary status for believers. Religion has portrayed a false image of God who takes on new family members on a trial basis. If they produce just enough fruit then they have earned the right to sit at the Father's table. There is nothing new here, this is simply the enemy working to deceive the Church into believing righteousness can be achieved by works and performance, not by grace through faith.

 The Word is clear in 1 John 5. We may know we possess eternal life. Why? Because we simply put our trust in Christ alone to save us. After having placed your complete trust in Christ, you have full assurance or confidence that Heaven is your home and you will never again taste spiritual death. Grace is the safety net or life preserver in the troubled times.

I heard a story about the construction of a famous bridge. When the workers were at such high heights they feared falling so they weren't focused on the construction but on their own safety. When  safety nets were added, their fears and concerns fell away. Workers were no longer intimidated or fearful of falling. They knew the safety net would catch them. The result of the safety net? Work productivity increased. 

 Religion believes by teaching you have confident assurance in Christ and should rest in His eternally secure salvation you're giving folk a license to sin. What they fail to understand is the power of grace and confident assurance. When the believer knows there is a "safety net", they will naturally be more fruitful. They don't have to fear being cast aside or displaced from the Family of God if they fail or falter or fall. 

 Religion perpetuates an image of an angry God who simply tolerates His Church. The Word of God said of old that He rejoices over us with joy. Religious tradition teaches He broods over us with wrath just waiting to strike when we miss it. When it comes to the issue of forgiveness of sins, religion alludes to a concept that God sometimes withholds forgiveness.

 The image painted on the canvas of the minds of many believers by traditional religion is that God may withhold His mercy and grace from you when you blow it once too often. I have actually heard a minister teach a congregation that if you keep sinning that same sin God doesn't have to forgive you. Of course, they cited some out of context Old Covenant passage. This image perpetuated by religion discourages believers and keeps them wrapped in the arms of insecurity and lack of assurance.

 Am I saying that one should be comfortable or find solace in their sin or mistreatment of others?Absolutely not. Sin hurts us and others. What I am saying though is there is freedom in Christ, by virtue of the Finished Work. I am saying lay down the false image of God religion has established. 

 Religion perpetuates an image of God as someone who doles out love and mercy when we are more deserving. God demands we forgive others regardless if they ask for it or apologize. Yet He withholds forgiveness if we don't "apologize" or confess our sin to Him. He demands we forgive someone regardless of how often they offend us. Yet He has reserved the right to withhold forgiveness if we sin the same sin too much. He demands that we don't keep a record of others faults. Yet He holds our sins over us unless we "repent".

 This is the image the enemy longs to plant in your heart and mind through religion. The truth of God is He has already forgiven us of all sins when we received that free gift of eternal life. We are forgiven of past and present and future sins. God isn't holding our sins against us. God doesn't hold us to a standard He wouldn't honor Himself. He is a merciful Father, no matter how much we miss it, grace abounds toward us, so we can walk free from all bondages to sin. When we rest in perfect love there is no more fear. 

 We have perfect assurance. We rest in perfect unchanging love.
18 We need have no fear of someone who loves us perfectly; his perfect love for us eliminates all dread of what he might do to us. If we are afraid, it is for fear of what he might do to us and shows that we are not fully convinced that he really loves us. 1 John 4:18 TLB
 God only has our good in mind. Once you've received this free gift of eternal life, rejoice in confident assurance. You are saved, you are redeemed. You are irrevocably saved. Rejoice in the Father's lavish love for you. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Resisting the enemy's counterfeit of faith.

12 Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:12 NLT

 Paul the Apostle of Grace pinned these words by the inspiration of the Spirit. Apparently, there is a fight of faith. If there is a fight of faith we must, therefore, conclude there are enemies to our faith in God. 

What are the enemies to our faith?

  There are many hindrances or obstacles the enemy sets before us. Lack of patience for example. If we are trusting God for our loved ones to come to Christ we can't give up just because time has lapsed and we haven't seen any changes. Other hindrances can be fear, or anxieties or doubting what God says about us. Another subtle hindrance is the enemy attempting to get us to place our focus on circumstances and not the Finished Work. 

How do we fight the good fight of faith?

 This is important. We aren't struggling or striving against the enemy. Jesus completely defeated the devil with all his devices and schemes. We fight or resist the enemy from a place of victory, not from a place of trying to attain victory. 

 How then do we fight the good fight? The Epistle of Hebrews gives us the answer:
11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. Hebrews 4:11 KJV
 We fight or resist the enemy by resting in the Finished Work. We resist doubt, worry, fear and anxiety by trusting and resting in what God says about us. Resting in the Finished Work is how we enforce the enemy's defeat.

What is the opposite of faith?

Did you know faith has an opposite? Many are quick to teach that fear is the opposite of faith. I used to believe and teach that. After careful study and a clear understanding of the New Covenant and Radical Grace, I saw how wrong I was. Fear is the opposite or counterfeit of love. Love brings wholeness and comfort and peace. Fear brings torment and discomfort. God's love cast out fear.

 So what then is the opposite or counterfeit of faith? The counterfeit of faith is work and performance. The performance trap is the enemy's attempt to keep us from knowing our identity in Christ. All throughout Paul's Epistles we see him correcting the error that our righteousness is attainable by works and performance.

 Righteousness is a gift we receive not a reward we achieve. The performance trap is what the enemy and religious minded continually seek to ensnare the Church with. The provisions of the Finished Work are regulated to a reward system that only "good" little Christians are allowed to experience. Haven't received an answer to prayer? The religious minded will teach you, you need to get busy earning your Father's favor and blessing. We must resist these lies of the enemy and the spirit of religion and rest in the Finished Work.

 Those who oppose Radical Grace always revert back to proclaiming there is a need for work and performance in the life of the Christian. Sure simple trust in Christ is important they say, but performance and efforts are much more important to prove you're a true Christian and worthy of Heaven. They warn against Grace teaching. What they offer in exchange is the performance wheel. Keep doing, keep up the efforts and works. 

 Is Grace opposed to Christian growth and fruitful living? Absolutely not. In fact living out of who you are in Him is a most rewarding and profitable way to live. The performance-minded though see commitment and obedience as roots not fruits of the new life in Christ. 

 Want to see growth in your life?  
I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective and powerful because of your accurate knowledge of every good thing which is ours in Christ. Philemon 6 AMP
 When we acknowledge everything we have in Christ because of the Finished Work true fruit will be the result. It isn't by working or striving, it is by receiving and resting in all Christ did for us. The New Covenant is about all what Christ has done for us. The Old Covenant of works and performance was about all we did for God. 

 Salvation is simply Jesus plus nothing. It is simply putting our trust in Him and receiving a free gift. Relationship or growth is fruit from acknowledging and resting in all Christ has done for us. Any activity we are involved in, (giving, helping the poor, walking free from sin, etc), is an extension of the love and grace that is cascading within and upon us by virtue of the Finished Work and our New Creation in Him.