Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Opponents of Grace: Pseudo Grace (Erroneous Teaching)

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Galatians 5:1 NKJV

 We've been in an ongoing study concerning the various opponents of Grace. Paul instructed us to stand fast in the liberty and freedom Christ and His Grace brings. If we are told to stand fast, then it stands to reason that there are opponents that we must resist. 

 We've exposed the many opponents of Grace over the past few weeks. We've seen how shame, fear, and tradition seek to get you off of Grace ground and back into a performance-based relationship with God. Today, I want to conclude this series of study by unveiling another opponent of Grace, pseudo-grace. 

 What is pseudo-grace? The word pseudo means something that is not the genuine, false, sham, a fake. Fake grace is a really down to Earth way of putting it. There are two sides to this opponent. 

Pseudo-grace A-side Religious grace

Pseudo or fake grace manifests itself in religious traditions of men. What do I mean by religious grace? Religious grace is that false grace that adopts the language of Grace but rejects and refuses to receive the revelation and reality of Grace. 

 Religious grace embraces the lingo but insists upon keeping their traditions central to all aspects of their walk with God. The mixing of Law and Grace, the blending of the Old and New Covenant is one sure way to easily recognize this opponent. Another subtle way this opponent arises is how they define Grace.

 Allow me to elaborate briefly. How do you define the word airplane? Would you say oh, that's that winged structure that flies me from one destination to another? If you answered yes then you are incorrect. You defined what an airplane does not what it is. An airplane is a powered heavier-than-air aircraft with two fixed wings. 

 I hope you are tracking where I am going with this. I'm not giving a lesson on Airplane mechanics or vocabulary definitions. I wanted you to see how often we defined things by what they do and not what they are. This isn't detrimental to us per se, that is until we see how this applies to how we define Grace. 

 Religious grace defines Grace simply as an empowerment. As God using His ability on our ability. What's wrong with this? Because it leaves in place all the efforts, performance, and achievements tradition requires of us. It's just now we have God's empowerment to do all required of us. Many teach that we can keep the Law because we have His empowerment now. 

 This is a serious error. What they are doing is defining Grace by what it does and not what it is. Grace is God's unmerited and unearned favor. It is God stooping down to rescue lost humanity. What Grace does is produce an empowerment. Grace isn't an empowerment to keep the Old Covenant. It is an empowerment to follow God's plans and purposes for our lives. If you're interested I've devoted a whole article on religious grace, see here.

Pseudo-grace B-side error and false teaching

 Pseudo-grace also entails the false teachings and errors that some are misled into following. Allow me to elaborate from "least to worst" if you will on these errors. It begins with simple misunderstandings of the scope of Grace and ends with the rejection of Bible truths.

 Under Grace, it is ok to hold an opinion regardless of its popularity. Pseudo-grace gets offended and flees in terror if someone under Grace expresses a political stance, holds to an opinion contrary to the World's system or encourages others to vote their conscience and convictions in a general election. Grace is loving and respectful of others, but it is ok to have differences of opinions.

 Under Grace, we abide in God's love and kindness towards us. Therefore Grace believers should be the most confident and stable people there are. Pseudo-grace on the other hands exalts emotions and feelings over reason and all else and produces some of the weakest, unconfident, emotionally unstable believers in the Church. 
If you dare disagree with their viewpoint on a subject or offer correction in love to an area of their life they have a meltdown and run and hide and claim they are being persecuted and that other believers are just haughty or arrogant.  

 Through Grace, we walk in love and unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our unity, however, is rooted in Jesus and the truth of who He is and what He has accomplished in the Finished Work. Sadly, pseudo-grace in the name of love and unity impresses believers and ministers to align themselves with Universalists and those proclaiming inclusion and denying the existence of Hell. When we align ourselves with false teachers we unwittingly endorse their views. 
If this fellowship is sincerely about love, why I have yet to see pseudo-grace endorse unity or fellowship with those preaching Law or tradition? Paul the Apostle, never aligned or sought unity with the Legalists perverting the Gospel for the sake of unity. In fact, he called out false teachers and even rebuked Peter for aligning with those perverting the Gospel. Sadly, ministries who are misled by pseudo-grace to align with false teachings have folded and churches have closed their doors.

 Grace frees us from sinful habits. Grace leads us out of sin. Christ and His Grace brings a change of mind on how we view sin. We now see it as wrong and detrimental to our lives. Pseudo-grace sees sin as no real issue. Meaning, sin is ok. It is of no consequence or even an issue if people in the church are engaging in sexual immorality or adultery. Pseudo-grace says we are loved so let's not talk about sin. In order to be more accepted and popular, it embraces the World's definition of what is right and rejects what the Word defines as sin.
 The reality is Grace says love your neighbor, that includes your gay, Buddhist, Muslim, Atheist neighbor. This is true. Grace loves its neighbor in their sin but Grace doesn't celebrate their sin. Grace doesn't conform to the World's system definition of right and wrong. Grace doesn't mean that every action is good and permissible and beneficial. Sin is real and it's offers nothing but sadness and misery. Grace provides the way out, not the way in.

Universalism, Trinitarian Theology inclusion, inclusionism,
denying eternal judgment-existence of Hell:
 So many in an attempt to distance themselves from religious tradition and Law and Grace mixture have embraced the darkness. demons have offered a counterfeit to God's redemptive Finished Work and pseudo-grace readily accepts it.

 Grace plainly and clearly reveals salvation isn't by our merits or achievements. It does reveal though that it is received by Grace through Faith. These aforementioned false teachings all say everyone is already saved or will be. They say Hell is not real. A loving God wouldn't send anyone there. They say all humanity is included. These are all lies from satan to diminish the preaching of the Gospel.
Is all humanity saved?
Jesus the Person of Grace said only those who believed would be saved and have eternal life, here and here.
Is all humanity righteous apart from personal faith?
No, Paul revealed it is a righteousness by faith, not an automatic righteousness, here.
Is all humanity forgiven of their sins or do they need to receive the forgiveness of their sins?
Jesus the person of Grace has the answer,
 18 to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’ Acts 26:18 NKJV
Though He is the propitiation for all sin mankind must still personally receive the forgiveness of their sins.
Does everyone have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them apart from faith?
The Word declares otherwise, see here. Paul after his conversion had hands laid upon him to receive the infilling of the Spirit. If its all automatic why go through this ritual? This again proves it's by personal faith that we receive, that we have the Spirit dwelling in us.
Is all humanity the children of God? Are all adopted into the Family of God apart from Faith?
1 John 3 reveals otherwise. It is by Faith we become children of God. This invitation is made available for all to receive. Grace doesn't force people to come to God.

What about Hell?
Hell is a real place but was designed for satan and not any man. God is a good God. He is a loving God. He is also a just God. A just God deals with evil. Would it be loving and just for the World not to have dealt with Hitler? When a lost soul by free will rejects Grace they are saying yes to the devil and freely choose to partake of his destiny. That's why we preach urgently to see people freed from darkness. The only thing that sends people to Hell is the rejection of His free gift of Grace. 

 This sums up the aspects of pseudo-grace. Legalistic, oppressive works oriented and viewing God as the harsh taskmaster. The flip side is the distant god that is of man's own imagination and has an anything-goes philosophy. The god who says there is no urgency to reach people, for nobody is lost anyway. Stay with the Word and pure Grace will always lead you in paths of righteousness, goodness, favor and God's perfect plan and purposes for your life. 
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Opponents of Grace: Insecurity

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Galatians 5:1 NKJV

 We've been in a study of the opponents of Grace. Paul admonished and instructed us to stand fast in the liberty which Christ made us free. If there was no opposition why the need to stand fast?

 These opponents are often creeping in subtly. Slithering into our thought life cloaked in what appears to be a spiritual truth. A great example of this is the vicious enemy of insecurity.

Sadly, so many Christian organizations, denominations, and ministries embrace this enemy. A religious zeal without New Covenant knowledge and wisdom allows this enemy to flourish. Believers and ministers, in their crusade to usher the Church into a more "holy" walk and lifestyle strip away security in so many Christian's lives.

 Let's define our terms so as to not miscommunicate. Insecurity, as defined by the dictionary, is to lack confidence, be deficient in assurance, uncertainty, unsafe, shaky, beset by fear and anxiety. Now that we have the full understanding of what we are referencing let me ask you this. Have you ever listened to a message, attended a Christian crusade, went to a church and afterward felt insecure as per the dictionary definition?

 Have you ever left a Christian gathering feeling uncertain about your right standing before God? After a message felt deficient in the assurance of your salvation? While speaking with other Christians, ever felt beset by fear and anxiety about your relationship with God? Fear and anxiety about how He looked upon you and your estimation in His eyes? After listening to a particular Christian song or sermon did you suddenly lack the confidence to approach your Father?

 If you answered yes, (if we are really honest, we know we've all felt like that at least once in our walk with God), then you have just dealt with the opponent of Grace insecurity. This enemy is so subtle it disguises itself as holiness, commitment, and deep spiritualness. Preachers fall for it and bring it in the Church and prop it up allowing it to bombard believers each time they darken the doors of the church house.

 Grace, the Lord Jesus, defeated this enemy with His words of promise in John 6 and John 10. He not only spoke it, He fulfilled it in His Finished Work, Hebrews 9. The Lord Jesus Christ, the person of Grace, declared that He would lose no one that came to Him. That those who believed would never be lost or perish. That nothing or no one could remove us from His hands. The Finished Work revealed His perfect shed blood purchased our eternal salvation forever.

 Sadly, many Christians reject this notion. According to them, we as Christians aren't guaranteed, Heaven. That Grace is merely the entryway into salvation. Afterwards, it is up to our performance and steadfast faith to complete what Grace started in us.

 Their theme is He who began a good work in you expects you to complete it by your effort, performance, and spiritual disciplines. If you don't you're not assured of your eternal destination. Is this what Paul said?
6 I pray with great faith for you, because I’m fully convinced that the One who began this glorious expression of grace in your lives will faithfully continue the process of maturing you through your union with Him and will complete it at the unveiling of our Lord Jesus Christ! Philippians 1:6 TPT
. Letters from Heaven by the Apostle Paul (The Passion Translation) (p. 59). 5 Fold Media, LLC. Kindle Edition. 

 Paul reveals it is God who began the work and God through our union with Christ that will mature and complete the work. This is the good news. This is the truth that counters this opponent of insecurity.

 Burned out? Stressed? Anxious? Fearful? Pause and take an inventory. Do a checkup from the neck up as they say. See if you bought the insecurity lie. 

 One great minister of the Gospel of Grace relayed a conversation he had with a German Psychiatrist. This Doctor told him that all the Christian patients he had come across that were suffering severe depression, anxiety, and other mental issues were those who had believed that they had committed the unpardonable sin. In other words, when the eternal security of their salvation was in question they began to lose their minds. When they thought they were hopelessly lost they began to suffer stress and unrest.

 We can readily see the distress caused by this teaching of eternal insecurity and yet Ministers still insist on teaching it. I've seen a preacher tell their church at an altar call for salvation that at least 2/3rds of the congregation needed to be at the altar. Really? In the span of a few weeks over half your church have lost their salvation? Of course, the altars were packed and it looked really good for television. In reality, all the preacher did is strip away the assurance and security of the people's salvation. 

 One well-known opponent of Radical Grace teaching says we can still have security even when the teaching is salvation isn't eternally secure. He used the analogy of the airplane ride. The plane takes you to your destination and if you want to arrive your secure but you can jump out the plane anytime you want. 

 So our salvation then is still contingent upon us? Even in the natural, a plane has stewardesses that attend to you. They are there to assure you everything is ok. They deal with nervous passengers. They won't let you jump out the plane. 

 Think of it. If you as a sincerely born again believer, who possess a new heart and the very life and nature of God within you, would want to walk away where is that thought originating from? Certainly not your new heart. It's from your unrenewed mind being assaulted continually by the enemy. Is Grace not greater in scope and power than the enemy?

Defeating Insecurity

 You want to uproot this enemy? You must continually meditate upon who you are in Christ and what His Finished Work accomplished for you and in you. You must see yourself as God sees you.
Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. Ephesians 1:4 NLT
 This is how Christ sees you. This is what Christ made you through the Finished Work. If we want to be in a relationship with God, to have free access to our God, to able to approach Him at all times we have to be holy and without blame eternally. 

 God is a Holy God. His very nature opposes sin and uncleanness. There is no sin or wrongdoing in Heaven. If we were not yet holy but still trying to attain it, we could never approach God until we "arrived" at this state of holiness. Thank God in the New Creation He already made us holy and blameless and flawless in God's eyes. That's why we can have perfect communion with God. 

 Christ in His Grace and goodness exchanged our old nature with His nature. He gave us His righteousness. Now we can stand before God without shame or guilt or insecurity or uncertainty. In God's sight, we stand perfectly accepted. We are forever forgiven, irrevocably righteous, possessing His righteousness. We are just as righteous as Jesus. We have been redeemed eternally. Our salvation is secure as long as Christ lives and He is the everlasting One.

 In summation, reject those assurance robbing messages you hear from certain preachers. When you know how eternally secure you are in Christ's hands and God's hands you never need fear or worry or have uncertainty about your future. You never need to feel like your salvation is on shaky ground. Your salvation is resting on Jesus precious Blood and Finished Work, and He said it is Finished. You're eternally secure and insecurity can no longer rob you of your assurance and confidence before God because your salvation is based on Jesus work, perfect performance, and once for all time sacrifice. 
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Opponents of Grace: Unworthiness

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Galatians 5:1 NKJV

 We are continuing our study of the varied opponents of Grace. Again I say, Paul, admonished us to stand fast in this liberty if there were no opposition why the need to stand fast? These opponents will creep in subtly if we are unaware of the schemes of the enemy. When are forewarned of their methods and characteristics we are forearmed to quickly render them ineffective against us. 

Today, I want to expose yet another of these opponents. This particular adversary is hard to detect because often it masks itself in religious piety, humility, and worship towards God. This enemy appears to be so harmless. In reality, it is one of the greatest enemies of Grace. 

 I am speaking about unworthiness. Just go to some churches and listen to their worship songs. Listen to their prayers. 

"Oh Lord, we are so unworthy!"
"Please Lord come by here and visit us. We know we aren't worthy but we ask you to come fill this place."

 These prayers sound pious. They sound so spiritual. So humble. Yet all they are doing is reinforcing the low self-image and diminished worth before God concept so many hold onto to. Many will bring praise to God saying "God you alone are worthy."

 Is that the truth? Is God the only one worthy? That depends on the complete thought you're conveying. Allow me to elaborate. I can recall in elementary/grammar school as a young boy first hearing the definition of a sentence. A group of words that make up a complete thought. Aside from a grammar lesson what point am I making by bringing this up? Glad you asked.

 I want to pinpoint the concept of a complete thought. When we say He alone is worthy we are making an incomplete thought. Think, say I gathered ten men in a room and asked if all ten had their wallet in their back pocket. They all respond with an affirmative. What if I then pulled my wallet out of my pocket and stated I am the only one with a wallet, would that be a correct statement? Of course not.

 What if though, I knew that my wallet was the only green colored wallet among the bunch? I could then rightly say my wallet is the only green wallet. I hope you're tracking with me. When we are saying, God, you alone are worthy we are making an incomplete statement an incomplete thought. Why? Because in this New Covenant Christ has made us worthy.
You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy Revelation 3:4 NKJV

 Based upon the New Covenant, the Finished Work, the truth revealed in this passage, can we rightly say God is the only one worthy? No, because He has made all His children worthy. Now if we are making a complete thought we can say God alone is worthy. God alone is worthy...of all praise. He alone is worthy...of our adoration and love. He alone is worthy...to be called Lord of all. 

 I am not trying to split hairs or debate semantics but this opponent is so subtle we often dismiss it and its detrimental effect in our relationship with God. Our worth, our value, our self-image all will affect how we approach our good Father. 

 Take a look at the World system and all that people go through to be found worthy. To be accepted. Some will starve themselves, some will put up with much just to get ahead. 

 When the day is done, when the doors are closed, when the shades are drawn, when the lights go dim we are alone with our thoughts and we are confronted with how we really truly see ourselves. With no one there to impress, the masks fall away. We are forced to see ourselves. What do you see?

 Do you see a failure? Do you see a lazy, good-for-nothing, ne'er-do-well? Do you see a loser? Do you see a victim? Do you see a disappointment? Do you see one who is always letting people down? Do you see one who is unlovable? Do you see a reject? Do you see a nobody? 

 If we are honest, we all have seen ourselves at some point in our lives like the aforementioned. Often we just bury these feelings. Or we just ignore them when things get better in our circumstances. The enemy subtly reinforces these negatives through the prayers we pray and the worship we bring to our Father.

 The truth is it is not God-honoring worship to debase and diminish ourselves before our Father. God paid a high premium for our lives. He gave His only Son to ransom us from death and the enemy. Jesus and the Finished Work redeemed, restored and recreated us, righteous, holy, forgiven and totally accepted and cleansed. It's only true worship when we uplift and exalt with thanksgiving, our Father for what He's done in the New Creation and New Covenant.

 Prior to my own personal Grace Revolution, my Grace awakening, the Father opened my eyes. The Lord revealed this area of our worth in Christ. In fact, this truth of our worth in Christ is what brought me to a true understanding of salvation and relationship with my Father.

 Having been raised in the church, I heard the gospel and accepted Christ at a young age. Now I didn't capitalize Gospel like I usually do because the gospel I heard was only partially good news. Yes, Christ died for me but certainly, clauses were attached to salvation. Now I am not saying they outright said salvation is by Grace through Faith plus your works but that was the subtle message. 

 Often times the message in youth meetings was to stay away from "R" rated films and steer clear from that Rock and Roll music. All the while I was never shown the power of a relationship with our Father. I was never shown just how much He loved me. 

 Yet right before my Military service began, a Pastor named Stan had come on staff at the church my family attended. Stan was a nice fellow. Let me tell you the impact of his message. If it wasn't for Stan I am not sure if I would have really grown in my walk. 

 During the mid-week meetings, the church offered classes on different subjects. Just so happen Pastor Stan was teaching a class and I attended that night. It totally changed my life. He taught that God loved me. I mean sincerely loved me. That God doesn't invest in a flop, he doesn't make junk. In other words, Stan was teaching God's unconditional love, and how He saw me. For the first time in my life, I saw I had value in the sight of the Most High.

 This totally transformed my life. I saw I had value. I had worth. Nobody could take that away. I had a confidence birthed in me that has grown stronger the more I see just how worthy God has made me. 

  Stand fast in this Grace, especially against this subtle opponent of unworthiness. This enemy is constantly seeking to diminish our effectiveness in the Body of Christ. It causes us to look continually at our failures, our misdeeds, our sins, and shortcomings. 

 When we grasp the reality of the New Creation, our perfect righteousness, our total acceptance with our Father God this enemy will be broken off our lives. We eradicate these unworthy concepts in our thinking when we remind ourselves of His once for all sacrifice in the Finished Work, how His blood has cleansed us and made us holy once for all time.

 In summation, don't look for your approval, your acceptance, your value, or worth outside of Christ and His Finished Work. The World, the fleshly sensual thinking, and the enemy promises fame, fortune, and love but only leave you broken, beaten down and in misery. In Christ alone is found worth, love, and acceptance. His Grace and Finished Work made it all possible.   
 Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Opponents of Grace: Pride

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Galatians 5:1 NKJV

In the recent weeks, we've been in a study of the many opponents of Grace. It bears repeating, Paul instructs us to stand fast in our liberty in Christ. If there exists nothing opposing us then there is no need to stand fast. 

 Therefore, we are exposing these varied opponents of Grace. Before I began writing this study, the Lord had already shown me a few of these adversaries. Since beginning this study, the Lord has revealed even more enemies of Grace. Today, I want to explore and expose one of the most deceptive and dangerous opponents of Grace, pride.

The original, original sin

 When I was in Bible College it was interesting to see as we studied the fall of man, that Adam's transgression wasn't actually the first sin ever committed. The first real sin is the pride lucifer expressed. The enemy's biggest sin is his pride. Which is why he continually tempts all of us to indulge in this sin.

 Not to get sidetracked by a theological debate, but I would like to highlight a truth about our enemy satan. If you study the Book of Job, you see the initial calamity and the ensuing theological debate. From that debate, we see all five men blame God for Job's calamities in one way or another. When God reveals Himself, after careful study and following in context, I believe in Chapter 41 God reveals to Job the person of the enemy. That it was the enemy behind his attack, not God. What I want you to see is how God describes satan;
He beholds every high thing; He is king over all the children of pride.” Job 41:34 NKJV

The enemy is the king of pride. This revelation also quells another dumb tradition found in 2 Corinthians 12, about Paul's thorn, see here. Some erroneously have concluded that Paul was becoming conceited so God put some devil on him to ensure he wouldn't become too proud and would remain humble.  Think for a moment, if the enemy is the king of pride, why would God in His infinite wisdom, utilize the king of pride to ensure Paul wouldn't be prideful? That's like the rodent guarding the cheese. Truth is Paul wasn't being conceited, the revelation of righteousness was exalting the Church over the lies of the enemy. 

 This incident highlights the stark difference between God's hand upon us and the self-exaltation the enemy tempts us with. 
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,  1 Peter 5:6 NKJV
When we rest in Christ, exalting His Finished Work and not our own He will lift us up in honor. He will cause us to be a success in all areas. However, if we are seeking personal honor, personal exaltation,  to make our name renown and not His, then we are figuratively on our own. In other words, our work and efforts are completed in our own strength. 

 We can see this in God's revealed attitude about pride;
“God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5b NKJV
Strong words from the God of mercy and loving-kindness. God resists or stands opposed to the proud. Why is this? Because pride is humanism. It is man's efforts. It is performance, works, efforts done apart from God. It's man telling God back off, I got this, I don't need you. I can do this myself.

Definition and Characterizations of Pride

 We've seen pride spoke of in the Scripture. Let's define it. Let's examine how it expresses itself in our lives if we allow it. 

 Pride defined in the Greek connotes the idea of appearing above others. We can see this in our lives when we want the accolades. When we crave the praise. When we want the prize, if you will. 

 It is clear why God resists the proud. If we are appearing above others, then where is the Savior? Where is Jesus and the Finished Work? Where is Grace? Oh, it is overshadowed by our fame. It is sitting in the background while we take center stage. 

 How does this manifest in our lives? When we believe it was our Faith that did it. When we prayed that person received healing. When we took charge of the project, it all worked out. If we don't do it, it won't be done right. Again, where is Jesus at? Oh wait, He is in our shadow as we boast in our greatness.

 We must relinquish this mindset. How do we accomplish this? By sincerely desiring to see Jesus name made known and not our own. By always acknowledging the source. It may sound like I am preaching against New Creation realities or our Righteousness in Him, but we must be more aware of our inabilities, our sinfulness, and unworthiness. Wait before you throw the stones, allow me to explain.

 I am not saying go back to self-debasement. I am not talking about adopting a sin conscious. I am not advocating embracing an unworthy mindset. I am not saying unlearn all you have about our perfect right standing and acceptance with God. What I am saying is to become more self-aware of who we are apart from Him and His Grace and Finished Work. 

 Without Christ, the Finished Work, His Grace active in my life, I know I can do nothing. Even the breath I breathe is because He created my lungs. The ability to do anything all originates from Him. So I am saying remember your source. Our abilities, be they mechanical, technological, oratory, or any skill you can name all have their source in His gifting us when we were born. A perfect illustration of this is a shoe. That shoe may be shiny, pleasing to the eye and very expensive. But until someone puts their foot into it, it can do nothing. 

 The other aspect of Pride revealed in the original Greek, is this idea of an overestimation of our works. This is the subtle way pride creeps into our lives. I have seen this in Grace circles.

 This subtle attack entices us to reveal how important and vital above all things our "ministries", works and efforts are. This manifests in various ways. Telling others how our ministry work is more important than all others. The person who feeds the homeless will proclaim how vital this work is. At the same time, the person volunteering in domestic abuse shelters will disagree, no this is what is most important. 

 We begin to compete with one another in the Church. We begin to have an over-inflated view of how vital and important our work is. The harsh reality is we live in a fallen World. The poor, the hurting, the downtrodden, the abused we will have with us always until Jesus returns. The most vital ministry is to simply proclaim Jesus. Proclaim Jesus wherever you are and in whatever you're doing.

 Sometimes we can get prideful in our revelations. "I know healing, or Spiritual Gifts, or Faith, or end time prophecy, or the Grace Gospel." "I have something you don't, therefore I have a spiritual superiority to you and therefore there is nothing you can teach me or show me. "

 We must also guard against allowing pride to make us judge and jury of the Brethren. "You don't feed the homeless? You have no compassion!" "You don't participate in this outreach or that ministry? You need to better walk in love!""You hold a political opinion? You have viewpoints about how a nation should be governed? Grace means we accept anything and any view, you can't know Grace!"

 We must resist strongly this enemy pride. Pride seeks to exalt us and our achievements and effort and not Christ and the Finished Work. Pride says Grace is insignificant. It is effort and our performance that really matter. Pride reassures us that our efforts should never go unnoticed. If they do, then you are justified to leave that church, quit the job, move away or divorce that spouse.

 Pride is self-occupied. Grace is Christ occupied. Let's be Christ focused and not self-focused. Why do we do what we do? Do you assist in ministry to the poor and downtrodden because love motivates you or because you secretly wish others to see your piety? Only you and God know your true motives.

In summation, reject pride and embrace Grace. Pride brings destruction and disappointment. When you believe the hype about yourself failure all too often is the end result. Trust in Christ alone. Rest in Him. Realize all gifts, talents, and abilities originate with Him alone. Thank and praise Him for His goodness continually. Make Jesus your central focus and see that His name is renown and not yours and pride will be defeated and lose its hold in all areas of your life. 
Image courtesy of bplanet at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Opponents of Grace: Condemnation

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Galatians 5:1 NKJV

 We've been in an extended study exposing the opponents of Grace. Paul instructed believers to stand fast in our liberty in Christ. To stand fast means there exist something to resist. In Christ, you have triumphant victory, so you need not fear or succumb to defeat by these schemes of the enemy.

 The enemy always seeks to remove you from Grace ground. He steadily uses every means at his disposal to see that you relinquish Grace and fall back into works, efforts, and performance. Why is this?

 Because if he can get you back into a works or efforts and performance rooted relationship with God, he can utilize his greatest weapon against you. That is the deepest root of all, the root of condemnation. The enemy first brings condemnation though, in the most obvious way, through temptation. 

 The enemy tempts or allures you with the sin that is based upon your own unrenewed desire. The enemy brings the temptation, sometimes you fall for it and give in. This gives him the opportunity to bring accusations, which also gives place for him to bring condemnation to you. That is his vicious cycle. Tempt, accuse and condemn. 

 Clearly, we can see the condemnation he brings when we miss it. This is one of his major schemes, but this is seemingly the only one the Church as a whole is aware of. But are you aware of his most subtle scheme? The enemy's most subtle attack is through efforts based Christianity. 

 When I say effort based I am not saying Christianity is an inactive, passive, lazy existence. I am speaking of a relationship rooted in our doing, our abilities, our performance, our faithfulness and not rooted in His faithfulness. If you base your relationship with Christ upon how well you perform, you are setting yourself up for failures and disappointments. 

 This is what the enemy wants though. He wants believers to come to God based upon their goodness, their ability to resist sin and their abilities to remain strong and steadfast in faith. Because when you come to God based upon your own track record the enemy now has means to accuse you. 

 He says "You call yourself a Christian." "How could you do that?" "Look how little you gave, brother so and so gave way more than you." "You haven't been so faithful in your prayer and devotion times, you really think God will answer your prayers?" 

 When we are basing our relationship with God upon our doing these words will pierce our thinking. They will bring hesitancy to our prayer life and in our worship and approach to Father God. When we hear accusations it gives place for condemnation to take root. 

 This is his most subtle attack. You believe you are working harder to become more Christ-like and in reality, you're trapped on a performance wheel. We allow condemnation to drive us to do good things or devote more to Christ. When we do this, we eventually burn out because it isn't Spirit led or directed activity. I've seen people getting up earlier and earlier in the morning to spend time with God, but God didn't lead them to do this. Religious condemnation rooted tradition motivated them. Sure enough, they cease this action over time and then feel condemned when they do.

 We've identified the attack, now how do we combat it? How do we resist it? How do we drive it out or uproot this evil root of condemnation? 

 The answer is to be in Christ. 
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 NASB
In Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation. I like this passage in another translation because it highlights what the Greek word for condemnation means.
So now, those who are in Christ Jesus are not judged guilty. Romans 8:1 NCV

In the original Greek, this word condemnation means to pass a damnatory sentence. It means to pass judgment of condemnation on one. In Christ, there is no longer any condemnation. There is no more sentence of guilt hanging over you. Now I know there is some controversy surrounding this passage.

 The original King James and some other translations add a clause, if you will, bringing a condition to this promise of no condemnation. I want you to rest assured that highly respected scholars have proven the older Greek manuscripts do not have that clause added. Some have even speculated that the scribes added this clause because Paul's Gospel smelled too much of Grace. Some have a disdain for the truth of eternal security so they push for this added clause. (Here is a great source exposing this truth about the proper translation.)

Too Much Grace is Dangerous

 This is the motto of religion but in reality, it is the theme of the enemy satan. When you know there is no condemnation in Christ, period, no clause, no conditions the enemy loses his stronghold in your mind. When you know you are in Christ Jesus and fully secure in Him the enemy's assault of accusation accompanied by condemnation loses its power over you.  When the enemy brings the accusation so he can get condemnation to once again take root you can respond with the truth of the Finished Work. 

When he says "You didn't make time for your devotion today. You didn't pray today, and you call yourself a believer." You can respond, "Shut up devil! I am in Christ, I don't ever have to read or pray. I am in Him. My relationship with my Father is none of your business!" 

 Don't allow him to be the spiritual motivator in your life. When you do you allow condemnation to take root. Because then you're engaging in spiritual activity not out of relationship but fear and the accusation of the enemy. The thought floods your mind that God will be displeased with you for not engaging in a spiritual activity. You begin to see God as the difficult to please harsh taskmaster and not as your Father who rejoices over you with joy. 

 Sadly, a majority of Church leadership utilizes this exact motivator to get the people to pray, engage in devotional times and to give. Saying such things as "God has done so much for you. Can't you do something as simple as come to church or give?" The people hear these accusations and again condemnation takes a deeper root. The people begin to work harder or they just give up and quit the church.

 Allow Christ and His love and life-transforming Grace to be the only spiritual motivator in your life. Lean into Christ and not religion. Jesus has an everlasting love for you. He isn't keeping score. He isn't tallying up your good points to see how they measure up to the negative in your life. We are in a relationship, not a ritualistic religion. We are in Christ.
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