Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Scandal of Grace

God has already saved us and called us to this holy calling—not because of any good works we may have done, but because of His own intention and because eons and eons ago (before time itself existed), He gave us this grace in Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King. 2 Timothy 1:9 VOICE

  I have a confession to make. I am involved in a scandal. A scandal of grand proportions. A scandal that has life altering consequences. What is this scandal I am referring to? Is it adultery? Is it pornography addiction? Is it a tax evasion scheme? It is none of these things. The scandal I am involved in is the scandal of Grace.

 The scandal of Grace? Yes, this over the top, Radical Grace of God is scandalous. For it takes wicked sinful hearts, who deserve an eternity separated from a holy and perfect God, and justifies them. This Grace of God takes the most undeserving of us and declares us not guilty. I was once lost, following my own plans, pursuing sinful passions, disregarding God's way of doing things. This wonderful Grace of God found me and redeemed me and cleansed me and made me new and placed me in right standing with God forever. 

 Why is this Grace scandalous? In the mind of the enemy, the accuser, he knows how unjust and guilty we all are in and of ourselves apart from Christ. It is scandalous to the religious tradition-minded because they feel we must work for and earn our forgiveness and right standing with God. How then could the undeserving, the lowest of the low, be exalted to a place where their sins and wrong doings will never be accounted to them again? It is because of the Radical Grace of Almighty God expressed in the Finished Work.

Many religious leaders talk about the Cross. They even minister the need for the Cross. Some are known for saying we need more teaching on the Cross. They may even see many flood the altars in response to the initial preaching of the Cross. This is good, but what about when the new converts return to church?

When these same converts return to the church where they discovered new life and mercy through the preaching of the Cross and begin the journey of the Christian life, the same preachers give the impression that the Cross was only effective to forgive their past sins. These ministers make it seem like the Cross wasn't enough to forgive them of all their sins, past, present and future. That the Cross was insufficient to secure their eternal salvation, once for all time. 

 Once religious minded ministers make new converts they trade the preaching of the Cross for something else that they see more effective in developing growth in Christ. They trade the Cross for the works and performance path. To them, the Cross is sufficient to bring about the new birth but isn't as effective as personal performance and their step programs in making one righteous and acceptable to God. The Cross seems like enough to get you born again but insufficient in making you holy once for all time. 

 This is why this scandalous Grace is so freeing and refreshing to the hearer. It removes the burdens to perform and the achievement syndrome trying to earn God's love and acceptance. This Grace gives hope to the hopeless and destitute. This Grace whispers to the addict and the one still caught in the mire of their sin that God still loves them and has so much better for them. This scandalous Grace  restores, renews, and breaths new life into what appears dead to others. 

 Thank the Lord for His amazing, over the top Grace! I honestly can say I hope you join me in this scandal I am involved in. This scandalous Grace, that changes hearts and gives the undeserving mercy and new life and wholeness. This Grace has new life and destiny for you. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Growing up in Grace: From the Inside Out

18 but grow [spiritually mature] in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory (honor, majesty, splendor), both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18 AMP

In the recent weeks, we've been engaged in a brief study concerning growing up in the Grace of Almighty God. We have established from the Word how true growth occurs. True spiritual growth is never accomplished if we are following the traditions of men.

 Spiritual growth in Grace isn't found by following the dictates of a particular denomination. It isn't found in our self-efforts to try and please God. It isn't found in religious traditions perpetuated by spiritually blind leaders who don't understand the Word of God. Growth in Grace isn't about striving, or trying to earn or achieve a position or status with God. 

 Growth in Grace is found by knowing and understanding who we are in Him. It is found in understanding we are loved and accepted by Christ aside from any works or achievements on our part. It is found in the knowledge of our eternally secure salvation in Christ. 

 In our last study, we established that rightly dividing the Word is essential to an enhanced growth in Grace. In concluding this study today, we want to focus on the last area where we find true growth. True growth is found in the supply of His Grace.

Flowing "Freely" in the Supply of Grace

 If we are going to study growing up in Grace we must see how His Grace supplies wherever there is a demand. When it comes to growing up in Him, how exactly does one go from bitterness to forgiveness? From anger to self-control? From impatience to patience? Some would teach that God must send us tragic circumstances in order to facilitate growth. I soundly reject this.

 Wherever there is a demand Grace has an abundant supply. God hasn't established a system in this New Covenant where He demands a response from you that you must generate in your own strength or efforts. He isn't even demanding a changed lifestyle by our efforts or futile attempts to eliminate the ability to carry out a negative desire.  Grace changes us from the inside out, not the outside in.

 As we grow up in Grace, we will begin to notice a certain way of thinking or habit we have is contrary to our new nature. Religion would either say well we are just struggling because we still have a sin nature. Or that we must eliminate some outside source then we won't have that habit. While I concede there are some times where a specific relationship or activity may not be profitable and should fall by the wayside, just removing the channels available for a negative desire doesn't actually remove the desire. 

 Grace removes desires that are contrary to our New nature in Him. If we are struggling with impatience or anger all we need do is to tap into the supply of Grace. How do we do this? It is by understanding we are already perfectly loved and accepted, (here). If we understand we are already loved then this Gracious supply is there for us to love others. 

 Before Grace understanding, we thought we had to drum up some kind of feeling in order to express patience or mercy or love to others. When we understand His Grace has already supplied us with more than enough love within we can express that love to others. Struggling with forgiveness? Know and understand how much we are forgiven and then extend this to others. 

 Certainly, there is a maturing process into who we already are in Him. The supply of Grace transforms us from the inside out. We don't need religious tradition based programs to see change and growth. We have His supply, His New Nature within. We already possess what we need. He has shed His love abroad in our hearts. He has forgiven us once for all time. He has given us all things that pertain to life and Godliness. This is where fruitful growth is found.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Growing up in Grace: Rightly Dividing the Word

18 but grow [spiritually mature] in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory (honor, majesty, splendor), both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18 AMP

In the recent weeks, we've been engaged in a brief study concerning growing up in the Grace of Almighty God. We've established that knowledge of who we are in Him and what we have by virtue of the Finished Work is where true growth begins. We saw how fruit abounds in our eternally secure position in Christ. 

 Today I sense the need to continue in this study. One area that generates lasting fruit is understanding how to rightly divide God's Word. If we misunderstand or misapply God's Word, we will flourish in religious tradition but not in the truth of God's Word.

 Much of the Church is saturated with the religious traditions of men. Biblical illiteracy coming from pulpits, Christian media, and devotionals permeate the Body of Christ. Teachers readily mix Law and Grace, blend Old Covenant principles and prayers with the New Covenant, and exalt experience over the promises of God. 

 Some resist the knowledge of who they are in Christ because they are so focused on being busy. Busy engaging in "spiritual warfare", not realizing the enemy is already defeated. Or busy "working" for God, in order to become more holy or righteous, not realizing they've been made holy and righteous by virtue of the Finished Work.

 When it comes to growing up spiritually mixing Law and Grace or blending the Covenants will never yield lasting fruit. Let's look at blending the Covenants and the detrimental effects it has on our growth.

Rightly Dividing the Covenants: Change my heart, oh God?

When believers are in the maturing process of becoming who they already are in Christ, they begin to notice the aspects of their lives that don't always reflect that Christ-like new nature. Not realizing that it is their flesh acting out, and not understanding the proper definition of the flesh they mistakenly mix the Covenants in an attempt to see change. 

 The flesh is a way of thinking that is contrary to the Word of God. It is the "policies of the former administration." It is the old man, the old sin nature's way of doing things. When we received the Lord we became a new creation in Christ. That old man passed away. Not fully aware of what actually happened at salvation, some believers foolishly begin praying Old Covenant prayers to see change. They pray what King David prayed, hoping to see some change in their lives manifest.
Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and make me willing to obey you. Psalm 51:10-12
 This is one of the most unbelieving and Biblically illiterate prayer a New Covenant Believer could ever pray. Allow me to reveal how this kind of prayer sounds to the Lord.
"Create in me a clean heart, and renew a steadfast or loyal spirit within me". How this sounds to the Lord's ears. "Lord, even though you declared that once we are in Christ old things pass away and we are made an entirely new creation in you (2 Cor 5:17). We are made the very righteousness of God in Christ (2 Cor 5:21). We are born again of incorruptible seed (1 Peter 1:23). We have passed from darkness to light and passed from death to life (1 Peter 2:9-10), ( 1 John 3:14). Lord, You've already, by virtue of the New Birth gave us a new heart, but I don't believe what you say and am asking you to remake my heart new and clean."
"Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me" How this sounds to the Lord's ears. "Lord, even though you declared in your Word that you would be with us always (Matt 28:20). That you would never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). You declared that you would in no way cast anyone out who came to you (John 6:37). Lord, I know you have made it clear in the New Covenant you would never banish or cast us away, but I don't believe you. So please don't ever banish me, until I can perform better."
 "Restore to me the joy of your salvation and make me willing to obey you." How this sounds to the Lord's ears. "Lord, even though you declared in Galatians 5:22-23 that the fruit of the New Creation is already in me. That in Christ I am already made pure, holy and set apart (Heb 10:10,14). In my heart, there is already the Joy of the Lord and the fruit of self-control. Yet, I don't believe what you say, Father." 
It is plain to see why not rightly dividing the Covenants, and being Biblically illiterate is why so many fail to experience real and lasting fruit and growth in Grace. Certainly, God understands people's sincerity. But, it would be like a child asking for a glass of water from their father the exact moment after their father just gave them a full glass of water. 

 Can you envision that image? The child crying "Dad, can I please have a glass of water?" The dad, looking quite perplexed points out to the child, look, I have already given it to you. It is right there in your hands. The child then telling their father, "I hear you say that, but I don't believe you." Christians who blend the Covenants are much the same. They're pleading for God to give them a new heart, to make them holy, to make them righteous, not realizing they're asking for what they already possess. 

Rightly dividing the Word is about more than just removing mere performance based faith from our lives. It is about accepting and receiving the truth of who we already are in Christ. When we remove Law and Grace mixture and Covenant blending from our understanding and begin to rightly divide the Word we will begin to walk in the fullness of His blessings and to grow up into who we already are in Him. 

In summation, it is vital for our growth in God's Grace to begin to rightly divide the Word. Read and study God's Word with a New Covenant understanding. Any idea that conveys the concept that we must do this or that first and then God will respond is Old Covenant or Law mixture. Under Grace, we realize Jesus already moved on our behalf. We simply believe and receive by faith, what He already accomplished in the Finished Work.  

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Growing Up in Grace: Our Security in Christ

18 but grow [spiritually mature] in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory (honor, majesty, splendor), both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18 AMP

 We've been in a brief study concerning growing up spiritually in the Grace of God. We've established that by planting the right roots of knowing who we already are in Christ will produce growth in our life in Christ. When we know who we are and what we have because of Christ, fleshly desires, and sinful habits will in time fade away. In Him is found true and lasting freedom. 

 We also established that understanding our love and acceptance in Him frees us from guilt, shame and allows for unhindered growth. In our last study, we discussed how hearing the true gospel of Christ allows for growth that is uncontaminated by religious tradition. Getting the root right always produces the right fruit.

 Today, I sense the impression to continue studying growth in Grace. Another area that is essential for proper growth in Him is to understand our complete security in Christ. Too many believers are insecure in their relationship with Father God. Religious traditional teaching about God, people's own experiences with their own father, are the main reasons for this. 

 This is why it is essential that we properly reveal the loving goodness of our Father in Heaven to a lost World. His everlasting, unconditional love will heal hearts and reshape images people have of God. Misrepresenting the Father to the people is not something God takes lightly. In fact, this is why Moses couldn't enter the Promise land. He made it appear God was angry with the people when He wasn't. (see here). 

Secure in Him forever

 When the Golden Gate bridge was being constructed the builders installed safety nets so the workers would not perish during the construction phase, (here). When the workers knew even at that height they were secure, they produced much labor. Had they not had a safety net, do you believe they would be so productive? 

 This is what the security in Christ brings us. When we know we will never again perish, we are able to grow and produce fruit. Even when we stumble and fall we can immediately get back up and continue walking. 
28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, 29 for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.” John 10:28-30 NLT
 We are forever secure in our Father's hands. He promised we would not perish or be lost again. Knowing this great promise we can freely pursue God's plan for our lives. Religious, performance minded folk believe that assurance of our salvation, knowing we can never perish causes us to live contrary to our new nature. 

 Religious tradition tends to think that by removing our assurance and ministering an idea of eternal insecurity that this will motivate people to grow up in God and cease from wrong living. Fear then becomes the driving factor as to why we live right. God then moves from being God the Father to the "godfather". 

 We better get right or God is going to "get" us. One slip up and you've lost your salvation. Threats of loss of sonship and blessings are what drives you to keep your heart and mind pure. How well does this style of ministry work? It leaves many broken, burnt out, and breaking away from the church, and walking out on their "relationship" with God.

 I've got some good gospel news. God is going to get you. He is going to get you saved. He is going to get you healed and whole. He is going to get restoration to you. He is getting new life and abundance to His people. He is not mad or disappointed in His Church. 

 In Christ, we are cleansed from all our sins. We are as righteous as Jesus. We are eternally saved and secure. He purchased eternal redemption for us, not temporal redemption, (see here). We now rest in our eternal redemption. This is where we find real and lasting fruit. 

 Reject the notion of an eternal insecure salvation. We have eternal salvation because of the Finished Work. Once you truly and sincerely received the Lord Jesus and His free gift, you are forever saved and can never again be lost or perish. Because we are always in His hands and can never permanently fail or fall our potential and possibilities in Him are endless! 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Growing Up in Grace: Building Upon The Right Foundation

18 but grow [spiritually mature] in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory (honor, majesty, splendor), both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18 AMP

We've been in a brief study about how to grow up in God's Grace. We've established from God's Word that knowing and understanding who we are in Christ is where true growth occurs. How do you know and understand who you are in Him? By hearing the true gospel and by feeding on God's Word without the filter of religious tradition. 

Building Upon the Right Foundation

 What is the right foundation? The right foundation is hearing the true gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is good news. The Gospel is Jesus plus nothing. Religious tradition has added to the Gospel. The gospel isn't Jesus plus your efforts and performance. The gospel isn't Jesus plus your "spiritual disciplines". The gospel isn't Jesus plus your promises to do better. 

The Gospel isn't the Mad News

 Religion has done much to mix the gospel message with the concept that God is severely angry with you. That God is often disappointed with you and your inability to pray or fast or read your Bible for extended periods of time. Building upon a foundation like this believers will shudder when they think of God. They won't draw near to Him for fear they are such a disappointment to Him. The results are minuscule growth. 

The Gospel isn't Bad News

 Tradition often mixes the good news with the "bad news". This message leaves the listener without any hope. The bad news says you've blown it once too often, God won't forgive you. The bad news mixed gospel says God won't even hear your prayers until you get "right" with Him. This bad news says believers can lose or forfeit their salvation. Those hearing this message get the impression it's never enough. Burnout and insecurity are often the results of hearing this message.

The Gospel isn't Sad News

 Traditional mindsets mixed sad news with the good news. This message requires you to clean yourself up before you come to God. This message tells the new converts they must give up everything in their life to please God. Leisure, participating in sporting events or spectating these events, and hobbies are frowned upon. Instead of viewing your favorite program you could've spent that time in prayer and fasting.
The sad news mixed gospel says even though you're saved you still have the sin nature. Therefore, it must be all of Him and none of you. This is an unfortunate concept in the Church today. When we received Christ we are thoroughly cleansed by the blood (Rev 1:5-6, 1 John 1:7), We are made a New Creation in Him (2 Cor 5:17). Jesus makes His abode within us. Hearing this message leaves the hearer in condemnation and the sense that they never measure up.

The Gospel is the Good News of Christ's Finished Work

 What is the gospel of Jesus Christ? Let Jesus answer this
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16 NKJV
 That's it? It is a simple message. A simple gospel. Religious tradition seeks to continually mix the message with performance and self-effort additives. This is why Paul stated this 
But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:3 NKJV
 The gospel is the simple message of Jesus Christ and placing complete trust in Him and Him alone. 

 When we begin with the right foundation of Jesus plus nothing true growth begins. We won't need "spiritual disciplines" to make us spend time with God. Ponder this, if I had to make or "discipline" myself to spend time with my wife, how would that make her feel? I would be spending time with her for sure, but wouldn't this reveal that I'd rather be somewhere else engaging in other activities? Who would enjoy "forced" fellowship?

 Yet, this "forced" fellowshipping with God is exactly what the Church as a whole prescribes for spiritual growth. Engaging in daily devotions, prayer, reading your Bible doesn't make God love you more. It isn't about scoring points for the afterlife. The gospel mixture of performance drives people further away from God. 

 When we realize we were the joy set before Him on the Cross, fellowshipping with God no longer becomes works or efforts. When we understand He loves us unconditionally and rejoices over us with joy, prayer, and devotions become a relaxing time of intimacy with our Father. 

 Now, are there times when the outside voices of stress attempt to drown out our sweet communion with God? We all have demands and deadlines weighing upon us in different seasons of our lives. As we progressively mature in Him we learn how to simply set aside those thoughts, and even if it's only for a few seconds, commune with our loving Father. That's why the Psalmist wrote by the inspiration of the Spirit "be still and know I am God." 

 In summation, planting the right seeds of the true gospel of Jesus is how we experience growth in Grace. Knowing God isn't mad at us, that He offers us eternal security, not leaving us hopeless, and makes us a new creation in Him is the only foundation that will produce lasting fruit. Stay with the true gospel, Jesus plus nothing.