Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Great Grace: Forgiven Forever

33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Acts 4:33 NKJV

 Over the recent weeks, we've been in a study detailing the great Grace of Almighty God. We've seen how greater Grace is than any failures and shortcomings. We examined how greater Grace is than any performance-based concepts of men. In our last study, we began looking at how greatly we've been forgiven of our sins.

 One of the greatest objections to the message of Radical Grace is the idea that our future sins have already been forgiven. You would think that this notion of future forgiveness is some new idea brought forth by Pastor Joseph Prince. Yet, if you would visit some mainline denominational theological studies you'd see that many Christians hold to this belief. Some Baptists groups, for example, hold to this view. My only point is that this concept isn't some fringe, out of touch, unorthodox teaching.

  Before we proceed, we must acknowledge men can bloviate about any theological topic they want. At the end, all that matters is what does the Scripture actually say? Let's allow the Word of God to establish the truth and then we can expound on its implications.

14 who bought our freedom with his blood and forgave us all our sins Colossians 1:14 TLB

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 NLT

12 I am writing to you, little children (believers, dear ones), because your sins have been forgiven for His name’s sake [you have been pardoned and released from spiritual debt through His name because you have confessed His name, believing in Him as Savior]. 1 John 2:12 AMP

He is the one who took God’s wrath against our sins upon himself and brought us into fellowship with God; and he is the forgiveness for our sins, and not only ours but all the world’s. 1 John 2:2 TLB 

What I've posted is the Scriptural proof of just how many sins He has forgiven us. He forgave us all our sins. Not just some, not just past, but all of our sins. We are forgiven past and present and future. 

32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32 NLT

13 bearing graciously with one another, and willingly forgiving each other if one has a cause for complaint against another; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so should you forgive. Colossians 3:13 AMP
 These passages point that we aren't forgiven in some kind of installment plan. It reveals we should forgive others who wrong us because we have already been forgiven in Christ. We are forgiven all our sins past tense. What does this mean?
It means we were forgiven of all our sins at a particular point in time. When do you think this event took place? It is plain and clear that He forgave us of all our sins in the Finished Work. This is the good news of Grace. We are forgiven once for all time in Christ.
 Now where the controversy begins is what does this truth mean for the believer today? How is this truth applied to our Christian walk? The religious minded resist this truth. They can only accept that God paid for our past sins and not our future sins. Well, when Jesus died how many sins had we committed? None! We weren't even alive yet. So all of our sins He paid for were future tense. 

What if we sinned?

 This is where we can see just how much Grace we flow in when we see sin in our life or others. Obviously, no one in their right spiritual mind is in favor of sin. But what happens when we sin if we have already been forgiven of it?

 Let's see the progression of sin if you will that we normally see in Christian circles. 
1. We sin a sin
2. We feel the guilt of our choices
So far no issue, it is normal when we sin or blow it or miss it to feel guilt, the issue is what do we do with that guilt? Now let's see how traditionally this progresses.
3. Because we have sinned we are unclean again and need to get right with God again.
4. Because we have sinned we are subject to some form of punishment or retribution for our wicked deeds.
5. Because of our sin, we are out of fellowship with God.
6. We need to come back to God in repentance, meaning we must turn around and cease this action or we really haven't truly repented.
7. We must confess this sin to God in order to receive forgiveness and be placed back in right standing with God. 

 For those adhering to this traditional checklist, it is almost blasphemous to hear that our future sins have already been forgiven. This checklist is thrown aside when we realize just how forgiven we are. In the next few posts, I will deal with the concepts of confession of sins to be forgiven, true repentance and answer the question are we out of fellowship when we sin. For now, let's see the full implications of our complete forgiveness in Christ.

 When we know we have been forgiven once for all time we can fully rest in Christ's Finished Work. When we sin, we can take that guilt and see that Jesus already bore our sins and the shame and guilt that accompany it. We then can walk fear and shame and condemnation free. Instead of confessing our failures we can confess the Finished Work and our perfect right standing before God. When we focus on the Finished Work, we can see that the sin isn't who we are and that Christ has so much better for us.

 When we blow it, sometimes guilt suggests to our mind that we deserve punishment. We deserve a bad day or difficult circumstances. In fact, religious minded ones will say things like God won't answer your prayers or pour His favor out upon you. Inadvertently, they have created a concept where we also pay for the sins that Jesus bore. We must reject this notion. In the Finished Work, He bore the full punishment for all our sins, and we have total forgiveness. Rest in the complete forgiveness Christ gives. We aren't being punished for our transgressions. We can't pay for them anyway. We receive goodness, prayers answered and an outpouring of favor because of Jesus' faithfulness and not our own. 

Because of the complete forgiveness, we now have in Him, even when we sin we are still in right standing before God. His righteousness He bestowed upon us is an irrevocable righteousness. You no longer need fret that you are unrighteous when you blow it. You needn't feel like you have to crawl back to Him and grovel at His feet to be accepted again. You are completely forgiven and in right standing. God is pleased with Jesus once for all sacrifice for sins. He isn't looking for your groveling to perfect it. 

 Now for those still objecting to our future sins being forgiven, then I say you are rejecting the entire premise of the New Covenant.

16 “This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” 17 Then he says, “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds." Hebrews 10:16-17 NLT

If our future sins aren't guaranteed forgiven, how then can God say I will never again remember our sins and lawless deeds? The sin issue is settled in the sense that God has paid the full price. He is the final sacrifice. We now only have a reception problem. People need to receive the forgiveness of their sins and walk in freedom. 

In summation, Christ bore the sins of all mankind. He presents a free gift of total forgiveness and all we need do is simply receive it. When we freely receive this wonderful gift of Grace, we have received the complete and total forgiveness of all our sins. When we realize just how forgiven we are, we will bear much fruit. Remember Jesus words, to whom much is forgiven the same loveth much. We have been forgiven much, don't take the amazing out of Grace. We are forgiven completely, past and present and yes future. 


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Great Grace: Greatly Forgiven

33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Acts 4:33 NKJV

Not long ago we began a detailed a study of His great Grace. Recently, we've looked in-depth at the various performance-based faith concepts currently in the Body of Christ. Having thoroughly defined what a performance driven faith looks like I sense the impression to examine another aspect of our great redemption. 

Greatly Forgiven

 When we get a clear understanding of our perfect redemption in Christ, one of the greatest aspect of His Grace is understanding just how forgiven those of us in Christ actually are. It is such good glad news knowing you are cleansed and totally forgiven. No matter what you've done. No matter how bad your sins seem you are totally forgiven in Him. 

Wait, isn't all humanity forgiven of their sins?

 Perhaps you took note that I said only those in Christ are forgiven. This is a challenging topic to address. You see Jesus paid for the sins of all humanity. 
He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world. 1 John 2:2 NLT
This is marvelously good news!Yet how do we reconcile this passage with this one?
46 and He said to them, Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Luke 24:46-47 NASB
 Is there a contradiction to the Gospel message? It really isn't a contradiction to the Gospel. The Gospel is the Grace of God. It is still good glad news. The truth we must always include is that any gift no matter how good and wonderful and life transforming must still be received to enjoy the benefits of it. Look at Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 5. See that he makes it clear only those in Christ are a new creation. Then he shares are work as ambassadors for Christ.

Take note that Paul says God isn't counting men's sins against them. What does it mean God isn't counting men's sins against them? It means He is not looking for you to come up with a payment plan for your failures and faults and sins. He is satisfied with the once for all payment of sins, Christ's shed blood.

Our work as ambassadors for Christ is to urge the World to be reconciled to God. We proclaim to them God isn't holding anything against you, so please receive this free gift. Redemption is a two-way street, God offering the gift and mankind responding by Grace through faith freely receiving it. Look at Jesus' words, the person of Grace Himself makes it clear.
18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’ Acts 26:18 NASB 

 It is clear then that those not yet in Christ still need to receive the forgiveness of sins to walk in the benefits of it. Because Christ Finished Work bore the full punishment for sins on the Cross though, there is now no more "punishment" for sins today. Meaning God isn't sending tornadoes or tsunamis to punish wicked nations or states or cities.

 Now let me make it clear, only the rejection of Jesus is what results in a man choosing eternal separation in Hell. Yet, if you look at Revelation, in the end of it all, you see men having to answer for their works. What does this mean? It confirms that the Gospel is the Grace of God.

 Let me explain, the Gospel of Grace says we can't ever do enough, we can't earn or achieve salvation by accomplishing a task or carrying out an action. We can do nothing but simply respond by believing Him and receiving His work on our behalf. But you may be asking I thought all sins were forgiven, so why the need for the lost to answer for their works? That again confirms the Gospel is the Grace of God.

 Picture this. An extremely wealthy tycoon walks into a department store. There are only 3 people inside browsing. All three are poor and destitute. They are all just admiring the beautiful items in this store. Now let's suppose this tycoon lays down a million dollars cash and says whatever they desire I'm paying for it. He made an overpayment.  Two of the customers respond with great joy and freely receive all that was offered. They take their items to the register and the clerk says this is all paid in full have a nice day.

 Now the final customer says no thanks, I am not worthy. Or they may be saying I am not that poor I can handle paying for my purchases. Even though the products were paid for this one rejected that payment and sought to pay for their items with their own efforts and funds. Of course, they would come up short. That is what is happening in Revelation. Mankind who are bankrupt spiritually, who have rejected Grace seek to find their own method of paying for their sins. 

 Grace has freely provided forgiveness to all mankind but this forgiveness must still be received to be activated. In order to reap the benefits of a clear conscience and freedom from dead works, one must freely receive what has been freely given. That answers this supposed contradiction of the Gospel message. Pastor Ryan Rufus has a great article on this if you're interested in further study.

Freedom from pain and the cure for shame and guilt

 Now that we understand the message of forgiveness let's see how this knowledge of forgiveness is the cure for all shame and guilt. If you recall Paul's words in 2 Corinthians, he stated old things are passed away and the new has come. In Christ, we are made new. God's Grace makes all things new.

 So many have a past in which they were abused, mistreated or even abandoned. Some have experienced unspeakable horrors and cruelty at the hands of others. Others have seen the worst life in a fallen World has to offer. How can people live today free from the pain and hurts? What if you were the one doing the wrong and hurt another how can you deal with the guilt and shame?

 The Grace of God reveals His sinless blood shed for your imperfections and pains and hurts perfectly cleanses and heals you. The work of redemption is a Finished Work. Take all the pain and misery of the past and see it nailed to that Cross. See Him bearing all your pains, your sorrows, even your guilt and shame and exchanging it for His righteousness and total forgiveness. 

 In Christ, you stand complete. You are made whole, nothing missing. There are no spiritual birth defects. You are perfect in Christ. You are remade new, and He sees you cleansed, righteous and forgiven. Rejoice, your slate is wiped clean. You have a zero ledger balance. You don't owe a thing. 

 So great a salvation. So greatly forgiven. Now, what about our future sins? In our next study, we will see that we truly are forgiven of all our sins, past and present and future. You don't want to miss it.
Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Great Grace: Religion or Relationship?

33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Acts 4:33 NKJV

 We've begun a study of God's great Grace. In the recent weeks, we have been flowing in a stream focusing centrally on the works, the efforts, and the varied performance-driven mindsets plaguing the Church, the Body of Christ. We've briefly touched on demand-driven legalism, Lordship Salvation, and Old Covenant rooted faith teaching.

 Today, I sense the impression to follow this stream even further. The objective is to further expose these performance-driven thinking patterns in the Church. Thus allowing believers to more easily recognize if they are in religion or relationship.

 Religious-rooted preachers and believers are performance-driven, checklist minded, and relate to God from a blended mixture of Old and New Covenant principles. The reason some reject this call to examine their teachings or beliefs or actions to see if they are rooted in a performance based faith is because they can't recognize that they have adopted and minister and function from a legalistic mindset. They feel because they don't demand that ladies, not wear makeup or they don't forbid jewelry and they don't have an enforced "dress code" they cannot be legalistic. 

 They look at the words of Paul and Peter and James and only see them as regulations and rules. They follow them as a checklist that needs to be observed to the letter so God will favor them more and more. They use all their efforts and strength to comply with and conform to these regulations so God will be more pleased with them. 

Jesus plus nothing? 

 Now it is easier to understand why the concept of Jesus plus nothing is almost sacrilege to these trapped in legalistic performance. To them, this sounds like rebellion, slothfulness, irreverence. It drums up images of affirming sinful pursuits and an overall disregard for the instructions of the New Covenant. This is the performance-driven outlook. We've identified it. Now how can we rescue people from it? Sure, we can be angry and bitter for how they've altered the message. The problem is that doesn't resolve anything or assist anyone. 

Ritual or Relationship?

 Due to their religious outlook, those under legalism aren't relating to God from a relationship.  The actions they partake in are in reality more ritual than relationship. When we see the words of Paul and Peter not as instructions and exhortations but as regulations we begin to form checklists in our minds. We inevitably engage in rituals to come before our Father. We create rules about how to approach God. We have guidelines about praise and worship. We even go so far as to speak for our Father and reveal there are hurdles to leap over and hoops to jump through in order for Him to be pleased and accepting of our praise. 

 What do I mean by performance based faith? What do I mean by rituals? I went online and just typed in the word performance to see how it is defined. What I saw pop up so clearly defined legalistic, checklist minded, ritualistic relating to God. The definition was "the action or process of carrying out or accomplishing an action, task, or function." 

 Think of that. A process of carrying out or accomplishing a task or function is what performance is. Now, look at your walk with God. Is it based or rooted upon your abilities to carry out or accomplish an action or task? Let that sink in. Allow that to penetrate your thinking. 

 Is the healing of your body contingent upon you carrying out a task? Is God supplying your needs dependant upon you accomplishing an action? Is His favor upon you based on how many tasks you carry out? If this is so then that begs the question just how many tasks or actions must we complete? How often are we to be engaging in accomplishing a task? How do we know when we have done enough to merit or achieve this favor?

 Under the Old, men had to complete tasks or actions to approach God. In the New, God abides within us. Why the need for ritual then? What do I mean by ritual? Ritual is when we are relating to God with steps and formulas and actions to get God's attention. Rituals and checklists go hand in hand. Did I make the right confession? Did I do this step first? Did I miss a step?

I know what the religious mind is thinking. Hey, the Word does give a checklist under the New of how to please God. Does it? Hebrews 11:6 and Romans 8 are the references. Hebrews declared it was impossible to please God without faith. Romans states we can't please God if we are in the flesh. People love to take these out of context and setting. Paul said we aren't in the flesh if we are in Christ. Certainly, if we are in the flesh, a mindset apart from God, a mindset that disagrees with righteousness by faith but embraces righteousness by works we can't please God because we can't ever do enough or perform just right to please God. Hebrews is only saying God is only pleased when we agree with God when we believe Him. When we believe what He has said. 

 See how easy it is to take such encouraging words and then see them as regulations? It then turns us into performing just right to be accepted. It sets us up to engage in rituals to find ourselves more pleasing to our Father.  

 Instead of seeing the Word as mere regulations see the heart of Paul and Peter and James. Even the commands to walk in love and walk away from the way the World does things aren't designed as rules. Often times, the Word is reminding us of our identity in Christ. They are giving us instructions to further advance into maturity and fruitful living. Pursuing sinful passions are fruitless and not fun. What's fun about adultery? Yea, spouse leaves you and children's innocence is shattered and their trust is weakened, sounds like a great way to live, huh? Of course not! 

 When we are in a performance rooted faith we see the Word as regulation. We will create checklists to observe to the letter and formulate rituals to carry out religiously. If that is you, let that go. Come back to God as a simple child and daddy relationship. In a healthy relationship, how many chores or tasks do you need to complete to receive your Earthly father's love and acceptance? What rituals then do you need to perform or checklists do you need to keep in order to get God's attention and receive of His great love?

 Come to the Grace side of the Christian life. We rest in His loving promises and what He has already accomplished in the Finished Work. We don't have to complete enough tasks to enter into His presence. We don't have to fulfill a checklist for God to receive our praise and worship. We don't have to engage in some ritual in order to receive from our good Father's Gracious hands. 

 He has us engraved in the palm of His hands. We are ever on His mind. We are the apple of His eye. We can't achieve or merit or perform enough to receive what has freely been given in the Finished Work. To be totally free from this performance thinking, ask yourself when I am praying or when I am offering my praise, am I coming to God, petitioning Him based on how well I have behaved, performed, or completed a checklist or specific requirement? Or am I coming to my Father based on Jesus' perfect performance and obedience? Come to the Father, petition God, offer up praise to Him based on Jesus and not your efforts or works and you will always find fulfillment and blessing and exceeding goodness and Grace!
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Great Grace: What About the Cross?

33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Acts 4:33 NKJV

 In the recent weeks, we've been studying God's great Grace. We have seen how we are greatly freed from Law and have great liberty wherein we aren't required to observe a certain day or week in order to walk in greater intimacy with our Father. 

 We've also begun detailing the various performance and works centered teachings of man. In doing so, I want to provide a clear and balanced view. Is God's great Grace a license to sin or an excuse to become slothful or lazy? No, Grace is no license to sin, nor is it an excuse to be lazy. For further study see here and here

 Now that we have added clarity to the track we are on, I sense the leading to examine another teaching that I see has transformed into a performance mindset. Now I am not seeking to condemn or attack other believers. One sure way to know you're maturing in your walk with God is the ability to realize there are truths that are rooted in God's Word but men can take these same truths out of balance and out of context and create extremes, but that doesn't take away the validity of the original truths found in Scripture. 

 I want to examine the modern understanding of faith. What is faith? Faith isn't your particular religious persuasion such as Baptist or Pentecostal. Faith isn't blind. We know in whom we have believed. Faith is simply knowing and trusting God. Faith is taking God at His Word. Faith is also acting on your beliefs. 

 These corresponding actions of faith are what I want to examine in detail. It seems to some that corresponding actions of faith are the source of all blessings. Listening to some, it appears that all one need do is spend enough time meditating the Scriptures, confessing those promise passages, give consistent donations, and perform some sort of action proving you believe what you say you believe and then all of God's promises will be yours. Now all the while you are steadily doing this, you must also never let anger overtake you, causing you to enter into strife or unforgiveness toward another. You must also remain sin free for the most part. Now for my question.

What about the Cross?

 In all these equations about doing in order to activate and receive God's promises where is the Cross? It appears that our receiving the benefits of blessing, favor, provision and healing is rooted in our actions. Modern faith teaching has transformed into a works and performance system that tries to merit God's blessings. 

 We can see that faith teaching has disconnected from Grace and the Finished Work. One reason for this disconnect is this concept that healing and provision and other blessings are rewards from God. If healing is a reward it stands to reason why some see that if one is failing or fouling up in an area of their life that God is now limited and can't bless that individual. For Him to bless such an individual would mean God is rewarding bad or immoral behavior. 

 Another reason for the disconnect is that some have seen great progress, in their view, due to their spiritual disciplines. Anything that would dare suggest that those aren't necessary must be in error. They will accuse you of promoting slothfulness and will tell you that we must do our part to receive the blessing and have success in life. So you best get busy bub!

 Another reason for this disconnect is their image of God. Yes, He is loving and good. He won't make you sick or send destruction your way. However, He is a stern and austere taskmaster. Faith has no feelings. If you fail or falter, you blew it. You got to start over from the beginning. God demands perfect faith from you or you won't receive. If you sinned, He will withhold blessings and healing and none of your prayers will be answered until you get right with Him.

What about Jesus and the Finished Work?

 Sadly, if you sincerely took a large percentage of modern faith teaching and removed Jesus' death and burial and resurrection from the equation, the teaching would not change much. In other words, what they're teaching is a diluted form of Old Covenant relationship with God. Think of it, under the Old, they confessed the Word, they meditated on the Word, they acted on what the Lord told them, they gave in order to receive blessing and protection. 

 Under the Old, man would act and then God would respond. Man would perfectly obey the statutes and God would respond with blessing. Modern faith teaching has regressed into relating to God with this type of Old Covenant thinking and action.

 Where is Jesus? Where is what He has done the focus? It appears all the source of blessing is men's works. Are healing and the blessings a reward? Are the spiritual disciplines you engage in the complete source of your progress? Is God this austere taskmaster?

 Under the Old, we would have to act and then God would respond. In this glorious New Covenant, Jesus already acted on our behalf. So now we respond to what Grace and the Finished Work has already completed and provided. The word response is the key. We aren't working to earn or achieve anything. Why did God establish the New Covenant if it was going to function exactly the same as the Old apart from animal sacrifices?

 Healing and provision are not rewards. Rewards connote the idea of a wage earned or achieved. If we could earn healing, blessings or anything from God, then why did we need Jesus to die for us? Spiritual disciplines are merely responses to what Jesus has already done. In reality, they are just us cooperating with the leading and guiding of the Spirit. Also, they aren't the same for each individual person in Christ. Meaning, what He leads me to do may not be what He guides you to do. The point is we should be following after Him. It is about a relationship. 

 God is a good Father. He isn't the taskmaster. Yes, God may be displeased with our actions or choices but those aren't who we are. He is never disappointed in us, His children. Imagine, if you will, an earthly father who discovers his son has gotten bad grades in school or has broken a valuable item in the home, or has been caught watching something he shouldn't be. Perhaps dad finds out the older son was showing off foolishly and damaged their vehicle. 

 How long should it be before this father allows his child back in his presence? How many dishes does his child need to wash or how many floors does he need to sweep, or how many chores does he need to complete before he can come before his father, sit on his knee and hug him and receive affection? Well, what if the son is in a rebellious streak you may ask? Should the father then say: "I won't allow him at the dinner table or have any interaction with him or even allow him to abide in this house until he apologizes!"?  Is that the loving response? Remember it is the goodness of God that leads men to repentance. God isn't separating or distancing Himself from us when we miss it.

 Now we are seeing more clearly how faith teaching has drifted away from the Finished Work. We see that it trusts in human efforts and actions to produce the blessings of God and not the Finished Work of Christ. This produces spiritual pride. It also produces a competitive atmosphere, "Look at what my faith produced." Because the Word reveals principles to develop faith, people mistakenly believe faith originated within themselves. 
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; Ephesians 2:8 NASB

Paul clearly reveals that it is none of us and all of Him. There has been some controversy as to what Paul is saying is not of ourselves. Is it the Grace? What about the salvation? Is it faith? This passage is revealing that the Grace, the faith, and our salvation is not of ourselves it is all the gift of God. We have nowhere to boast.

 No one no matter how much they devote to meditation and confession can boast as to what their faith accomplished. It was His faith that He gave us at the point of salvation. It is Him leading and guiding us which causes our faith to grow. We have nowhere to boast.

 So what about the Cross? Is your faith in what you do? Is your faith in how flawless your behavior is while you are believing for a promise to manifest? Our faith needs to be in Him, the source of it all, the redemption, the Finished Work. What about faith in the Word? I have faith in God's Word but it's rooted in the understanding that without the Finished Work there would be no New Covenant Scripture. The authority of the Word is based on who God is and what He accomplished in the work of redemption.

 I have actually heard one of these faith/prosperity preachers sincerely tell folk that they need to move on from the Cross to the more important stuff. If the faith teaching you follow can still operate uninterrupted if the Finished Work was removed from the equation, know you have an Old Covenant faith concept. In this New Covenant, He has done it all, and we simply respond by believing He accomplished what He set out to do and acting accordingly. 

 We need to get back to focusing on the Cross. Without the Cross, there would be no gift of righteousness. There would be no healing, no provisions, no forgiveness, no blessings, no favor, no God abiding within us. Put Jesus back in the center. He is the source of all blessings, not our works. Our actions are responses to what He already accomplished in the Finished Work. If our trust is in our actions then we are asking God to bless us on the basis of how well we perform. I look at what Jesus accomplished and trust in His obedience on my behalf and trust in His merits and not my own. Greater Grace, a greater focus on Jesus and the Finished Work.
Image courtesy of Naypong at

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Great Grace: Greatly Refreshed

33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Acts 4:33 NKJV

We've been in an ongoing study of the great Grace of God. We have seen how this Grace is greater than all of our failures. We saw this Grace has freed us from Old Covenant Law. 

 In our last study, we saw two reasons religion adds performance and works to the Gospel. Walking by sight not trusting the Lord to work in His people and Christian guilt. I sense the Lord leading me to further explore the legalism that is weighing down the Body of Christ.

 Law, Lordship Salvation, and legalism add burdensome weight to the life of the believer. God's great Grace brings greater refreshing. What do I mean by Law and Lordship Salvation, and legalism exactly? What burdens am I referencing? 

 Law demands but Grace supplies. Law is that demanding but offering no help or ability to keep the "rules" system. Lordship Salvation is front loading the Gospel message with lists of demands and requirements that one must meet in order to first be saved. Legalism is religious concepts where believers must prove themselves worthy recipients of salvation. 

 Are you abiding by God's commands? Are you committed enough? Are you dedicated enough? How obedient are you? How is your Christian conduct? Careful how you respond? In some circles, it could mean you're not truly or sincerely saved.

 I want to address your commitment, your consecration to Christ. I want to address your obedience, your performance, and perseverance, (take note these words make the acronym COPS, for they represent Law and legality). These are scary words in some circles. They drum up images of our often failures and missteps. Our broken promises and the half measured successes and on and off again commitments. 

 Now, I am not saying this to reinforce some failure mindset. I am not saying this to encourage foolish living. I am just talking plainly about where we've all been. Maybe you're there now. I have been here too many times to mention. The point is we can all if we are honest enough admit that none of us has done exceeding abundantly well in the commitment and performance department. 

 Religion though uses the standards of commitment and obedience as measuring tools to determine our worth and value in the Kingdom. This brings me to another motive or reason for this burdensome performance based faith. Jesus walked this Earth. He was perfectly obedient and fully committed to His Father. Some say He was 100% yielded so a 100% of God flowed through. So these leaders create a religious system for men to follow so they too can one day be 100% yielded. 

 In order to achieve this yieldedness, one must pay a high price. This price is the cutting away from anything natural or carnal. If you are enjoying life then something's wrong.

 Gnosticism was the serious error that was creeping into the Early Church. John dealt with it extensively. They felt all things physical or natural, of the Earth realm, was wicked and therefore no way would God ever become flesh. Flesh is wicked. They believed sin was in this natural arena only and not in the spiritual realm so they denied the existence of sin. That is what 1 John 1 was addressing. What I want to point out is that the Gnostics eschewed this physical realm as wicked and something to avoid at all cost.

 Today we see a diluted but similar viewpoint in religious circles. If you enjoy things of this planet and the World you obviously aren't committed enough. Do you enjoy watching movies or TV? Are you a sports fan? Do you follow a sports team? Well, that is carnal and hinders your consecration. I mean if you have time to watch a ball game you have time to study, to fast, to pray, to witness to someone.

 Religion cringes at the idea of a Christian enjoying their everyday life. Want to go fishing on a Sunday morning? Where is your commitment? Do you enjoy an alcoholic beverage? Do you have tattoos? You have committed the unpardonable sin! You are not truly dedicated!

 You see the burdensome weight of religion? Great Grace brings great refreshing. Grace removes this burden to perform and keep the rules and obligations of man. I probably need to devote an entire blog post to alcohol and tattoos. 

 Let me suffice it to say that enjoying a beverage or getting some artwork inked onto your skin isn't going to interrupt God's fellowship with you or cause Him to love you less. Look there exists no clear passage forbidding alcohol or tattoos in the New Covenant. The issue with alcohol is to use your liberty with wisdom and love. We don't want to cause a weaker brother to stumble so don't flaunt your freedom in their face. On the other hand, alcohol can be unprofitable if you use it as an occasion to gratify the flesh (that mindset that is apart from God), that is using one area of liberty to justify other areas of clear sin. That said, drinking alcohol won't defile you or make you unworthy in God's eyes. Look, God created this Earth for us. In moderation, we can enjoy alcoholic beverages with friends and relax and enjoy each other's fellowship.

Greatly Refreshed

 Where religion and tradition bring crushing burden, Grace brings refreshing. It removes crushing burdens of performance weighing us down. Grace brings refreshing where we can begin to enjoy life and each other and our relationship with our good Father. God isn't looking to see how well you followed up on your commitment. He isn't checking up on your progress, shaming you, saying other believers have grown and overcome in this area why are you still struggling? I can't stress this enough. It is about a relationship, not pledges and promises on our part to do more, do better, get it together, to be more pleasing if we can just have a little more time.

 This New Covenant brings great refreshing and blessing. No longer is it about our work or how well we perform. It's a rest. It's a wonderful life-giving relationship with Almighty God.

Old: Ministry of condemnation
New: Ministry of Righteousness

Old: Ministry of death
New: Ministry of the Spirit

Old: Sins are not forgotten but remembered to the third and fourth generations
New: Merciful to our unrighteousness and our sins and iniquities will He remember no more

Old: Law written in stone
New: Law written in our hearts

Old: If you forsake Him, He will forsake you
New: He will never leave you or forsake you

Religion is about upholding the standard. It is about meeting the requirements. It's about fulfilling all the obligations. Nowhere in this equation is there love and mercy and above all relationship. 

 God is all about relationship. His Grace brings great refreshing. Our Christian walk becomes refreshing and rewarding again when we bring Grace back into the equation. When Jesus is the center of all we do we will experience the peace that surpasses understanding and will find love and acceptance and a rich, more meaningful Christian life.

 Under Grace, we no longer have the crushing burdens of guilt, obligation, and performance weighing us down. We have freedom from shame, fear, and condemnation. With Jesus, we experience the fullness of joy.
You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. Psalm 16:11 NASB
Great Grace has brought to us Great refreshing.