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. 

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