Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Spirit of Grace: Hungering for His Presence?

14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen. 2 Corinthians 13:14 NKJV

We've been in a study in the recent weeks concerning the Spirit of God. We've seen that the Spirit is our comforter. He is our ever-present help in time of need. He is with us always. 

 In our previous study, we looked at the concept of spiritual hunger. We answered some of the objections or concerns some may be holding too. As with any truth, there exists a ditch on both sides that we can fall into when we embrace extremes. 

 New Covenant Grace understanding was breathed upon the hearts and minds of those seeking for truth. Those of us who grew weary of religion and tradition and performance traps, but still desired relationship with our Father received the truth the Father longed to bring. He has always wanted His Church to know and understand who He really is. He is a good and loving Daddy God who loves us with an everlasting love.

 This truth of Radical Grace wasn't designed to remove truth and uproot every single thing we've ever been taught. Grace is not about averting truth. It isn't a rebellion against rules and traditions. Grace and truth came by Jesus the person of Grace. It was given to enhance truth and to assist us in getting a clearer understanding of the truth of the Word of God. Certainly, it has uprooted errors, and traditions and performance based ideologies. With this understanding, let's explore the concept of spiritual hunger and the presence of God.

He is with us always

 This is the foundation we must always hold fast to. He is with us always. He said He would never leave us or forsake us. This is the truth, take note this doesn't require an emotion or feeling for it to be so. He declared it, therefore, it is settled. If we really understood this, would we continue making statements or singing songs to the contrary?

 "Draw me close to you, never let me go."
"Open up the doors to Heaven and let us enter in."
"Savior, while on others thou art calling, do not pass me by."
"Come by here my Lord, come by here."
Singing songs or praying prayers with verbiage such as this undermine right thinking and dissipates hope in the hearers.

 Resting on the truth He is with us always, does this mean we should not hunger or desire His presence among us?  Some would say if you're still hungering or thirsting then you haven't received of the New Covenant. In one sense, they are correct. That being He is with us always. We need not pray prayers like King David prayed. We shouldn't be praying things like don't take your Spirit from me. Or ask for God to allow us to enter into His presence. He is with us already, we are in His presence continually because He abides in us.

 This is true, but is there a positive hunger and thirst that doesn't deny His abiding presence? Yes, as we concluded in the previous study, when we hunger or desire what He desires, then we are in perfect rhythm with God. Rightly dividing the Word will help us reconcile both of these absolute truths.

 Jesus stated He is always with us when we gather in His name. This is a promise and again feelings or emotions don't alter it. Jesus also said this:
17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. John 14:17 NASB
 So there is an abiding presence and a tangible presence of God. Some then suggest, His abiding presence is always there but His tangible presence is not and we must chase after it. No, that isn't the idea here. They both go together. Does this still sound like a riddle or a puzzle? The Word of God gives us true clarity.

To hunger or not to hunger?

The simple answer is found in an account in the ministry of Jesus.
17 Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them. Luke 5:17 NKJV
 Here we see Jesus presence was abiding in their midsts. The tangible presence, the power of God, was also clearly there. Yet, the Scripture records no one received anything. His presence was there to heal, to help and yet nothing was happening. 

 Why wasn't anything happening? Jesus Himself lets us in on the secret in another passage here. Jesus is teaching us to desire for what He desires. We who have received the Lord have His abiding presence and His tangible presence is also with us. Yet, there are times when our meetings, our Bible studies, our fellowships, and gatherings appear just like they did in Luke 5.

 All too often, we see the depressed come into our gatherings and they leave depressed. We see the discouraged come in and leave with the same discouragement. We see the downtrodden, those in despair and destitute come in and leave the same way. We see the sick and broken enter and then leave with the same condition.

 So what is the answer? Again, why wasn't anything happening in Luke 5? So are we to hunger or simply rest in the truth He is with us always? The answer is this, we have the abiding and tangible presence with us always. However, we have a choice presented to us as in Luke 5.

An active or inactive presence?

 This is the answer to the question. Jesus taught us to hunger and thirst. We are to hunger for or desire what He wants. Jesus and His power were present in Luke 5 and yet no one received. The reason being because they chose an inactive presence. They didn't desire for God to do anything. 

 This is what we desire for when it comes to hungering for His presence. We don't desire for Him to show up because He is already present. We don't ask Him to come down and envelope us in His presence because we already have that. What we need to do is simply get on board with the Spirit of God and desire for what He wants to do in our midsts. We should have a passion and desire for His presence to be active in our midst.

 Instead of using our faith to "bring His presence down" we should be using our faith to find out God's heart and what He wants to do in our gatherings. This is what true spiritual hunger is. God may want to use you to give someone a kind word. God may want you to hug someone and reassure them it will be alright. He may want us to be a financial blessing to someone. 

 In summation, should we hunger for His presence? We should desire intimate fellowship, but we shouldn't hunger for what we already have, instead we should hunger or desire His presence to be active in our midst. When we hunger for an active presence, we aren't denying the truth that He is with us always. What we are doing is saying, God, we desire what you desire. Your heart is my heart. We want to cooperate with your leading and guiding. We want you active in our midst.
Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thankful for His Amazing Grace!

18 give thanks to God no matter what circumstances you find yourself in. (This is God’s will for all of you in Jesus the Anointed.) 1 Thessalonians 5:18 Voice

11 while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. 2 Corinthians 9:11 NKJV

 This week we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. Many will be traveling. Many will be gathering with friends and family to celebrate. Sadly, some will be alone this season. Still, others will not be looking forward to visiting with relatives as strife and bickering will be all they can expect to see.

 Whatever circumstance you fall into I'd like to share some encouragement with you. No matter what your experience you can rest in one truth that is everlasting and unchanging. That God is love, He loves you, He sent His only Son to die for you and to give you eternal life and His very own righteousness.

Thankful for His Grace

 No matter what we face we can give thanks in this. That His Grace is eternal. He has forever made us acceptable to our Father in Heaven. He has given us His free gift of righteousness. 

 This week, take the time to pause and reflect on just how great His Grace is towards you. When friends or family gather and they want to debate or argue or quarrel, resist the temptation to enter into that strife. Just reflect on how you've been made righteous and smile. If you find yourself alone, remind yourself you aren't truly alone. He said He will never leave or forsake you. He is the God of all comfort.

 We can all be thankful for His Grace. In Him, we have perfect acceptance. In Him, we have the free gift of righteousness. In Him, we've been made a new creation. In Him, we have peace that surpasses all understanding. In Him, we have freedom from all guilt and shame. In Him, we have no condemnation. In Him, and because of the Finished Work God will never be angry with us. In Him, we have an eternally secure salvation.

 We do have much to be thankful for. Sometimes, we just need to be reminded of it. God loves you and rejoices over you with joy. Have a wonderful, blessed thanksgiving. 
Image courtesy of Becris at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Spirit of Grace: What about spiritual hunger

14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen. 2 Corinthians 13:14 NKJV

 We've begun a brief study on the Holy Spirit. The main objective of this study is for us to grow into a deeper understanding of our relationship with God's Spirit. When one speaks of the Spirit of God the question of spiritual hunger certainly will arise.

 For those who've gained a greater understanding of the New Covenant, sometimes the topic of spiritual hunger can be controversial. To elaborate further, sometimes the idea of hunger connotes the image of one in desperate pursuit of what they already possess in Christ. Because of this concept, some reject altogether the idea of being hungry for the Lord. 

 Is the rejection of hunger or more rightly stated as desire, the right response? When truth is presented we have three options. We can reject it. We can be foolish and take truth to the extreme and create an error. Or we can simply receive the truth. 

 When it comes to spiritual hunger I quite often see two extremes. I see some reject the truth of the New Covenant. I see them striving and performing in order to become what God already made them under Grace. I also see some who want to so distance themselves from a performance based faith they seemingly have no desire for the things of God.

 Under Grace, those of us who've received the Lord Jesus have been accepted in the Beloved. We've been made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. We were made a brand new creation in Him. We have a clean heart. Yet, I still see some believers striving and hungering to be made acceptable. This is misdirected spiritual hunger.

 In Christ, we know the Spirit of God dwells within us. He has said He will never leave or forsake us. The Lord is not far from us because He abides within us. Under Grace, there is no distinction between secular and sacred if you will. Why? Because we abide in Him and He in us and we are always in His abiding presence. 

 That said, because of His ever abiding presence, He is with us if we are watching the ball game or if we are in a quiet devotion. The extreme comes about because some then say to themselves He is with me always so I don't need devotional time with the Lord. This thinking is wrong because Grace is about a relationship. It is not a healthy robust relationship if one party never communicates or spends quality time with the other.

  As I have stated, there is no difference in secular and sacred. If one is awakened to the abiding presence of God within, folding laundry and cleaning bathrooms can be just as fruitful as spending ten minutes alone in prayer. What then is the answer to the question of spiritual hunger?

 I sensed the Lord impress this truth upon my heart. When we hunger or desire for what He desires, then we are in true spiritual hunger. How do we know what He desires? We discover His heart when spending time in His great love letter He gave us, the Word of God. 

 Desiring to be more holy, or righteous means one hasn't rightly divided the Word and can't see He has made us righteous and holy once for all time in the Finished Work. Again, this is misplaced hunger. On the other hand, possessing no desire to read the Word or pray simply means His love and goodness hasn't yet been made real to you. Some would feel pointing fingers and issuing demands would stir the desire to spend time in devotion. Not so, allow the Grace, the goodness and love and mercy of our Father cascade over your heart and mind. When His love is more real to you than your next breath you can't help but desire to fellowship and commune with our Father.

 Are you still convinced spiritual hunger or desire is about works or performance? Look at what Paul, the Apostle of Grace states about his heart's desire

10 [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope] Philippians 3:10 AMPC
 Paul knew the New Covenant. Yet, his heart's strong desire was to have intimate fellowship with God. It does sound strange but the more full we are the more hungry we become. If we are hungry to be complete, then hunger is misdirected. If we are hungry for intimacy because we understand we've already been made acceptable then we are on the right track.
 Think of this. Why did God send His Son to pay the price for our sins? Why did God give us this free gift of the abundance of Grace and righteousness? So that we would go on living our lives apart from Him? Of course not, it was so the Father could frolic and fellowship with His most beloved creation. 
 We who were once lost and spiritually dead, separated by sin and condemnation, now can freely fellowship with our good Father. He rejoices over us with joy. He isn't counting our sins and shortcomings against us. We can cherish our time with Him because He isn't mad or disappointed with us. We get to dance and rejoice with our glad Father. Spending time reflecting on His love, His mercy, His protection and deliverance is not drudgery, it's delightful and refreshing. Desire rightly directed produces a more fruitful and rewarding relationship with our Father.
Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Spirit of Grace:Comforting, Counseling, Convicting?

10 “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace...Zechariah 12:10a NASB

14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen. 2 Corinthians 13:14 NKJV

 Today, I want to share with you the wonderful good news of the precious Holy Spirit. I've alluded to the Spirit and His work often in times past. This is the first series of study I've devoted to knowing and understanding God's Mighty Spirit. 

 The third person of the triune Godhead sometimes gets overlooked. Whenever we do hear about the Spirit it's usually because religion is teaching how we grieve and fail the Spirit. Or it is tradition's voice steadily teaching that all of His power and gifts are regulated to the first one hundred years of the Church's existence. 

 Today, I wish to begin a journey with you where we go deeper in intimacy and communion with the precious Holy Spirit. The Spirit yearns for and earnestly desires to spend time with each of us. I know some may be saying He is within so, I am always with Him. Yes, that's true He is ever present, He dwells within us. He can't get any closer. However, it is not so much about the abiding presence within but maximizing our relationship and fellowship with Him. 

 You know my wife and I could spend all day together. That means she is ever present with me throughout the day. However, what if we quarreled throughout the day? Would that be refreshing and intimate fellowship? Of course not. So in like manner, though the Spirit abides within all believers, some really have no fruitful, joyous, intimate fellowship with Him on a regular basis. 

Comforter, Counselor, "Convicter"?

 When Jesus introduces the Spirit to the disciples He references Him as the Comforter. This word in the Greek is a beautiful description of God's Spirit. 
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. John 16:7 KJV
 This word Comforter in Greek is parakletos. It means one called to come along one's side and help. It means intercessor, consoler, advocate, and comforter. 

 For many, though, they've been taught and therefore believe the Spirit is also the one convicting them of their failures, and shortcomings and faults. How can one have intimate fellowship with the one who is constantly reminding you of your failure and sin? So many traditional religious folk believe strongly that the Holy Spirit convicts Christians of their sins and failures. 

 They use this passage in John's Gospel to "prove" this is true. 
And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me;10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. John 16:8-11 NASB
 See brother it's right there. It says He will convict of sin. It seems some just see one word or phrase out of Scripture and create whole doctrines out of it. 

 We can't add to or take away from the Word of God. The Word says plainly He convicts the World of the sin of unbelief. If you take this passage in full context what we see is an evangelistic message for all humanity. The Spirit comes to all humanity and convicts them of their unbelief or rejection of Jesus. In essence, He is asking what will you do with the Lord Jesus?

 The Spirit convicts the lost of their unbelief, revealing that because Jesus has risen and ascended He has made available the gift of righteousness. Because He has already judged the enemy, they don't have to fear judgment if they receive what Jesus freely offers. In this passage, where does it teach Christians are being convicted of their sins?

 It's not in there. Does this mean we will never be corrected when we miss it? Certainly, the Lord corrects and instructs those He loves. It is the how He leads and corrects that people don't seem to understand. He is not the one telling you how deplorable you are because you are such a disappointing failure. 

 John's Gospel also reveals the way of correction. 
1But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; John 16:13a NASB 
The Spirit leads us into all truth. Jesus is the truth. The Word of God is truth. The Spirit reminds us of whose we are and who the Word reveals we are. This is where correction and growth come to fruition. 

 When we understand just how much He loves us and how He sees us in His sight we will experience real growth and begin to realize more fruitful fellowship with the Spirit. God's not mad at you. God's not disappointed or upset with you. The Spirit longs for times of refreshing intimacy with you. Awaken to His abiding presence and walk conscience of His comfort and guidance in your daily life and you will come to know more lasting joy and peace regardless of circumstances. 
Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

What Gospel Are You Hearing? The Hyper-Grace Gospel

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. Galatians 1:6-7 NKJV

16 I refuse to be ashamed of sharing the wonderful message of God’s liberating power unleashed in us through Christ! For I am thrilled to preach that everyone who believes is saved— the Jew first, and then people everywhere! Romans 1:16 Passion Translation

  In the recent weeks, we've been studying the Gospel of Christ. We've asked the pertinent question, what gospel are you hearing? So many are hearing a message that leaves them hopeless, discouraged and sometimes downright deceived. As ministers of the New Covenant, we all should have a passion for preserving the integrity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 Since we've exposed the many false gospel narratives, I sensed the impression to look at the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is not bad news. It is not sad tidings. It is not a message revealing just how angry and disappointed God is with the World. The Gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ.

The Hyper-Grace Gospel

  Many detractors of the truth of Grace have coined this phrase "hyper-grace" as a form of insult. It is designed to show how extreme and off base the message of Grace supposedly is. I suppose according to these critics we can actually teach too much Grace. Too much Grace is dangerous and unbalanced in their view.

 What is the Gospel of Christ? The English word that is translated Gospel in the New Testament is the Greek word "Euaggelion". It is defined as the glad tidings of salvation through Christ. The proclamation of the Grace of God manifest and pledged in Christ. The Gospel is the proclamation of God's amazing Grace. 

 Why embrace the label hyper-grace? Because this is exactly how Paul the Apostle described this over the top, too good to be true but true Grace of Almighty God. 
...But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, Romans 5:20 NKJVb
The word in the Greek for abound is huperperisseuo. It is defined as super abounding, exceeding, to overflow, to enjoy abundantly, to abound beyond measure. The Gospel of Grace reveals we can never deplete the supply of Grace. Let's briefly look at the characteristics of the Grace Gospel and even answer a few myths along the way.

1. The Hyper-Grace Gospel reveals we are forever forgiven.
When we receive the Lord Jesus all of our sins are forever forgiven. God is not holding a record of our sins against us. He isn't tallying up just how often you blow it. He isn't going to use a demerit and merit system to determine just how much He will bless you. We've been forgiven of all our trespasses, past and present and future, Colossians 2:13.

2. The Hyper-Grace Gospel reveals we've been made the righteousness of God in Christ.
 When we receive the Lord, we exchange our old dead and unrighteous nature with Christ's living and righteous new nature. We receive His righteousness not some cheap knock off! We are just as righteous as Jesus, 2 Corinthians 5:21

3. The Hyper-Grace Gospel reveals God isn't angry with us, nor ever disappointed in us.
 This concept really irritates the tradition ruled mindset. Isaiah 54 prophesied that in this New Covenant God will never be angry with us nor rebuke us. Yet, some point to Revelation and Jesus' rebukes of the seven churches. Is there a contradiction? No, He rebuked their actions and revealed their errors. In our position as the righteous, born again, children of God, He is always pleased. In our thinking patterns, in our choices, and actions He may not always be pleased and will correct us to keep us on the right track of blessing and peace.

4. The Hyper-Grace Gospel reveals we've been sanctified, made holy, by the Finished Work, once for all time.
 Hebrews 10:8-14 reveal we've been made perfect in Him. We've been sanctified once for all time. What about progressive sanctification? This passage in Hebrews doesn't reveal a progressive sanctification. It's once for all time. This doesn't mean instant perfection in thoughts and words and deeds. What the Scriptures reveal is a progressive maturity into who we've already are.

5. The Hyper-Grace Gospel reveals we are eternally secure in Christ Jesus.
 John 10:27-29 reveals we are forever in our Father's hands and nothing can snatch us out. Once we are saved we are always saved. When we were lost and dead in trespasses and sins, no amount of good deeds could remove our old nature. We couldn't use our free will to simply renounce satan and no longer be lost. It was only when we received the Lord and through the new birth receive new life and exchange our old nature with Christ's nature. Once born again we can't be "unborn again". This is the good news of Grace.

 Some may be thinking, "yeah this sounds all good, but you hyper-gracers, are soft on sin and accept wicked living as ok." Actually, we aren't soft on sin but rather we magnify the solution to 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
God's superabounding Grace changes us from the inside out. Grace isn't about behavior modification but true heart transformation. Grace doesn't look to alter us from the outside in. He changes our desires, which will produce right living.

 Some may be thinking, "Hyper-Grace teaches and aligns itself with false philosophies like universal salvation in all it's forms." It is unfortunate that some who teach the errors of universalism or inclusion make claims that they are teaching Hyper-Grace. Jesus spoke of wheat and tares growing together.

 When the truth is taught, false ideas will subtly try to masquerade as truth. I've seen some take a passage in Colossians to mix truth and error.
21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled Colossians 1:21 NKJV
 Some have taught that this passage proves no one was really lost. People were just separated from God in their thinking. Therefore they weren't really lost and simply need a mental awakening to see life. The problem here is that salvation is a heart transformation, not a mental awakening. What Paul was teaching in context, was that our thinking was contrary to God's ways but when we receive Christ we have the mind of Christ. Right thinking leads to right living.

 What Gospel are you hearing? Hear the good news of God's Grace. Hear the glad tidings that you're righteous and forever forgiven. Hear the truth that God isn't mad at you. Hear the good news that you are eternally secure. Hearing anything else leaves you broken, dejected and deceived. Hear the Good news Gospel and rejoice in His goodness and love for you that never fails.