Monday, December 24, 2018

The Reason for the Season: the Father and His Family

21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesusfor He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 NKJV

 It's Christmas time once again. Malls are packed. Package deliveries are filling many a front porch. Christmas songs fill the radio. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

 At this time, we also deal with the ever-controversial debate is Christmas too commercial? Is it really about receiving gifts? At the same time debate rages on, tradition and not truth abounds about the Christmas story, that is unScriptural songs, incorrect portraits of the Nativity scene etc. 

 What we also ponder at this time of year is the reason for the season. In an ever-increasing secular culture, we as believers must always remember the reason for the season. It's not about frosty men and red nose deer. It isn't about being cold outside and celebrating all things winter. 

 Some would respond, sure we know Jesus is the reason for the season. That is true, but it goes a little deeper than that. Why is Jesus the reason for the season? 

 Listening to some religious traditional minded leaders we may get some misunderstandings about why He came. About why He was sent. 
“Glory to God in the highest [heaven],
And on earth peace among men with whom He is well-pleased.” Luke 2:14 AMP

The angry gospel, the hyper holiness message, tend to convey the idea that God sent Jesus to finally straighten out mankind. To sort out the bad from the good. They've used this passage of the Christmas message to say, see God only approves of certain men and God is angrily disapproving of the rest. 

 This idea is that Jesus came for the good guys. He came to rescue the righteous and condemn the bad guys. He came to finally rescue those righteous ones who were already following God. 

 The truth God revealed in Christ is no one has got their act together. There are no good guys in comparison of the absolute perfect standard of God's righteousness. We all need a Savior. 

 Another tradition is this subtle concept that God sent His Son to find faithful servants. That God was really looking for a people who would be His dutiful servants. In other words, God was seeking servants and subjects to serve in a kingdom. 

The Father and His Family

 This is not the Good News Gospel. Look closely once again at the Christmas account. The Christmas story is about glad tidings of great joy to all people. When God was saying He was well pleased with men, He was speaking the end from the beginning. This was not a proclamation that God is pleased with the behavior of mankind. This message was that God is well pleased with all mankind, that is He is accepting and approving off all to receive this new life.

 The Good News isn't a select, exclusive message. For centuries, the Hebrews were the only ones offered a way of right standing by following the Law and sacrifices. The Good News was that God is accepting all of humanity to simply receive a free gift. Be it Jew or Gentile, male or female, all are welcome.

 Why did He come? Jesus was not sent to find subjects. God already had servants. Though they weren't perfect, the children of Israel had a servant, master relationship with God. Jesus came to offer a new dynamic of relating to God. 

 Instead of merely being a servant, the Father wanted a family. He wanted sons and daughters, not servants and subjects. 
12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. John 1:12-13 NLT

The Father has always sought a family. He placed Adam in the garden. Before the fall He communed with him face to face. After the fall, because of man's fallen nature, God couldn't commune face to face. Sin was a barrier that needed to be removed. 

 With Jesus Finished Work, mankind would once again commune with God in an intimate way. What God did is something much better than the garden. Instead of simply communing with mankind face to face, with the new birth, God could now dwell inside man. God's temple is not a building but man's spirit. God dwells inside the believer never to be separated again.

 The reason for the season? The Father was seeking a family. God was not seeking subjects. He was seeking sons and daughters. He was not sent to create a new class of indentured servants. He was sent to bring about a new species of being that had never existed. The born-again man, the righteous man, the new creation man that has God Almighty, the Creator actively living inside of him. The Father gave a Son so He could receive a Family. 

 The Good News, the glad tidings of great joy of Christmas is a message that should be heralded year round. God in His exceeding great love for us, gave His one and only Son so He could receive a family. He wanted sons and daughters to commune with and to have fellowship. He was not looking for slaves, servants or subjects. He was looking for you. He was looking for whosoever will to come and be a part of His Family freely. This is the Good News reason for the season.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Losing our Religion: Stone Throwers or Love bearers?

having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 2 Timothy 3:5 NKJV 

 We've been in an ongoing study concerning the religious traditions of men. We are seeing the benefit of relinquishing religion and embracing God's goodness and His truth, God's Word. Staying with the Word brings freedom, life, and wholeness. Traditional concepts of men just lead to confusion and striving. 

 If you've been a long time reader/subscriber to this Good News of Grace blog site you know we've dealt with the sin issue extensively. We've seen how God has dealt with the sin issue. When we get to know our Father more and more we can see things from His perspective better and better.

 In this study of losing our religion, we've seen God is always good. We have seen Grace is greater than shame. Today, as you may guess, I sense the need to once again address the right response to the question of sin.

 Recently, a famous Christian singer came into controversy. She didn't respond to some question about what is or isn't sin in a manner that was satisfactory to some. In the midst of the controversy, what I took note of was not the issue of her response but rather how the Church responded to her. How the Body of Christ treated her. 

Stones at the ready?

 Let me first say this. When addressing the secular world, what words are they going to hear and take heed to? That their "favorite" behavior is wrong? Going back in my lifetime, seeing the world around me, behavior choices like using profanity, engaging in sexual immorality, drunkenness etc were not taboo to the average unsaved person. This was just living. Not using expletives to describe every situation, waiting until marriage, not getting drunk seemed like an old-fashioned, boring, missing out on the fun, way to live.

 So, standing in a secular audience and bringing the love of God to them, what would capture their hearts more? Telling them that this behavior is a sin? Telling them how wrong they are? Or just sharing how loved and valuable they are to God? That He isn't mad at them and He has a free gift awaiting them? Obviously, sharing God's love is the key, not pointing out what all is sinful in their lives.

 Pointing out the sins and flaws of the lost sends the wrong message. It clouds the message of the Cross that says come freely. It pollutes the Gospel with the idea of Grace plus good works. It conveys the concept that before one can come to God and receive new life in Christ, they must clean up their act. They need to deal with their sin and then God will receive them. If we could clean up ourselves why did Jesus die for us? This is the lie of religion that we must be found worthy of His Grace and good enough to receive His free gift. 

 Is the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ supposed to be stone throwers or love bearers? Are we to have stones at the ready when one of our own doesn't respond the way some think they should? Is it our job to point out the evil in this World? What I mean are we supposed to just roam the streets and proclaim to all how much of a sinner they are?

Superstitious Christians

superstition is not just throwing salt or carrying a rabbit's foot. A different type of superstition exists among Christians. Some so focus on the commandments, the passages speaking of behavior, and the Law that they respond to them in a superstitious manner. 

Allow me to elaborate before you think I'm off base. I am referring to looking at the Word as the letter and not the Spirit. I am referring to folk living in fear of breaking a statute, a command. In other words, one sees someone stumble, they can't respond in mercy but only in a harsh judgment. Why? They are so entrenched in the letter and not the Spirit. 

 Jesus was brought a woman caught in sin. Yet what was His response? Stone her? No, He gave her the gift of no condemnation. He did acknowledge this was a sin but He gave her the key to overcome. 

 Some are so superstitious of His commands, fearing if they missed it one little bit. Why is this? The root of this fearful approach is because they don't know Grace. They haven't experienced His love in His fullness. They are unsure and uncertain about their own security and assurance in Christ.

 Therefore, these are known more for what they are against than what they are for. Grace and mercy and the love of the Father say I love people a whole lot more than I hate their sins. The religious superstitious mantra is the opposite. They hate the sins of people more than they love them. 

 Hate the sin but love the person? Yes, that is biblical. That is the Gospel. The reason some hate that phrase is that in reality, the message claimed to love the person but instead focused so much more on the hate of the sin. Hate sin? Yes, for sin is evil. Sin destroys, it kills, it robs. Jesus did something about it though. He died for us all. Now it's about receiving a free gift and then that sin stuff won't appeal to us, to our new heart.

  Back to the situation of the Christian singer. Some were angry that the person didn't answer clearly that the behavior in question was a sin. This leads me to point out Jesus and the Apostles. When Paul preached to the idolatrous Gentiles, why didn't he go on a long rant about how sinful they were? When Peter came into the Gentiles house, did he detail how sinful they were before ministering to them? No, they shared the Gospel.  

 This woman is a divorcee, a woman living with a man she isn't married to. She is having sex outside of marriage. Think of the life of this woman.

 Scripture tells us she was going to the well in the later afternoon. Why? Because she was the one in known sin and the people in her town would gossip and put her down. She avoided the people by going late in the day. Can you imagine the guilt, the unworthiness she dealt with continually? 

 This passage in John proves beyond doubt that Jesus is Grace. The passage begins by saying:
But He needed to go through Samaria. John 4:4 NKJV

 This is Grace. He needed to go through Samaria because Grace needed to meet this woman right where she was. Immorality and all. Grace finds us where we are. He doesn't wait for us to find or seek Him. 

 How did Jesus respond to her? Did He list the passages and read them to her with a clenched fist and finger wagging? Did He speak of the commandments against adultery and fornication? Did He call her a worthless whore? Did He gather the town around to reinforce the truth that fornication and living together before marriage was sinful? Most importantly, did Jesus tell them to gather some stones?

 Jesus pointed her to a natural well. Showing her that drinking from the world, the flesh and the temptations of the enemy leave us wanting. Leave us unfulfilled and always thirsting. He pointed her to Himself. He showed her partaking of Himself and receiving the free gift of Grace is the only thing that will satisfy. 

In summation, this is the message we should be proclaiming to the world. Not how sinful they are but how loved they are. Show them how empty and unfulfilling their sin really is. Point them to the only One that will satisfy. We are to be love bearers proclaiming the Good News. Jesus doesn't have a stone in hand. He has nail-scarred hands open to receive whosoever will come and receive this gift freely. 

Image courtesy of Tongrajantaduang at

Monday, December 3, 2018

Losing our Religion: Dare to Pray Bold and Powerful Prayers

having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 2 Timothy 3:5 NKJV 

 We've begun a series of study exposing the traditions of men. We've seen the necessity of dropping religious tradition and the great benefits that accompany that decision. We've seen how religion weaponizes shame. Today, I want to address an issue of great importance.

 What is vital in our walk with God, is hearing the truth that affects our daily lives. We all want to hear something that is practical. Something we can put into practice in our daily lives. As believers, the subject of prayer is of great importance. Prayer is not a religious exercise. It isn't some spiritual chore that needs to be completed or we won't get our proverbial gold star. 

 Prayer isn't a religious duty or obligation. Prayer is communion with our good Father. Prayer is fellowship time with God. Prayer is a conversation with the One who cares for you the most, is interested in all aspects of your life, and rejoices in time spent with you. 

 More than likely, the reason prayer seems dull, unfulfilling, like a chore, we must complete, a duty that must be fulfilled, an obligation that must be met, is due to the fact that prayer doesn't seem to produce anything in our life. We pray and it seems nothing happens. We find prayer to be more disappointing and hopeless, seeing we rarely see answers to what we pray about. 

 So how do we get from dull, monotonous, tedious and uneventful prayer to seeing answered prayers? How do we go from mere obligatory religious duty to actually sense the presence of God more and more as we fellowship with God? What's the key?

Righteousness: the Key to Powerful Prayers

 We must change our thinking about prayer. We must stop being timid and seeing ourselves as unworthy sinners in God's eyes. We must stop seeing ourselves as a mere pauper begging for crumbs, leftovers, and scraps from the Master's table. 

16 Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and wonderful results. James 5:16 TLB

 The prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective. They're bold prayers. They are prayers prayed with confident assurance of our good Father. They are not silent, timid, powerless prayers.

 What makes the prayer of the righteous so powerful? So effective? What causes the Lord to hear the prayer of the righteous? 

 Sadly, religion twists the passage we just shared into a performance-based standard. That when we live up to a certain standard we will then qualify for the answer. We will somehow be found worthy enough for God to hear us. 

 What makes the prayer of the righteous so powerful is whose righteousness we are walking in. The Finished Work was the great exchange. When we believed we partook of that exchange. We exchanged our spiritually dead sinful nature for a new nature, Eternal life, His very life, and nature. We exchanged our filthy rags righteousness for His perfect righteousness. If it's His righteousness we received, then we are just as righteous as Jesus.

 The power behind this prayer is not our goodness or ability to perform well or our perfect obedience. The power rests in Christ and what He has already accomplished and fulfilled in the Finished Work. Think, what is the basis of your asking God anything? Are you desiring to receive based upon your goodness? Your obedience? Your behavior? Or are you coming to God based on Christ's goodness and not your own?

 You can ask him for anything, using my name, and I will do it, for this will bring praise to the Father because of what I, the Son, will do for you. 14 Yes, ask anything, using my name, and I will do it! John 14:13-14 TLB

 Our Father blesses us because He is good not because we are good. Too often we try to qualify for the gift. We try to qualify or be found worthy to receive by our actions. Is this how Jesus said to pray?

 Put your faith and trust in Jesus' faithfulness and obedience, not yours. Now some tradition-minded become highly agitated when we suggest this. They cry foul. They say no, we are to become faithful and obedient and then and only then will God bless us.

 Let me illustrate this trusting in Christ's goodness and not our own. Suppose you were seeking a home loan, a mortgage. Now suppose the bank just told you that you don't qualify for the loan, what do you do? Work hard, be more diligent at becoming more qualified? That's the only option for you. Now suppose a billionaire philanthropist happened to be there at the bank and decided to intervene in your situation? What if they said, put the loan in my name, I will make the payments monthly, and any charges incurred over the life of the loan I will pay? 

 In the future, would you be going to the bank concerning the loan, in your name or the philanthropist's name? If the bank sought to charge you whose name would you invoke? Of course, you would operate in the authority, and resource and good name of the philanthropist and not your own. Your financial state would have no bearing on your standing with the bank concerning this loan. 

 A performance driven mindset would have us still seeking ways of receiving approval for the loan. Even as the loan has been approved by another on our behalf, the one trying to qualify in their own goodness, and faithfulness would look for ways to earn this approval. This is religion. Trying to earn, what is already purchased on our behalf. 

 This is what it means to be the righteousness of God in Christ. This is what it means to pray, asking in His name. It's coming to God, based on Jesus' goodness, obedience, and supply. It is asking of the Father based upon the perfect obedience, holiness, and right standing of the Son. It is never approaching God based on our good deeds, faithfulness or righteousness.

 What does it mean to ask in Jesus name? For so long many thought this meant simply we ask because of the authority of His name. Though there are power and authority in His name, we must go deeper in understanding what that means. Asking in Jesus name is saying He is my representative. That I am asking based on His right standing, His supply, His goodness, and His obedience and never my own worthiness, or faithfulness or behavior. 

 When tradition says we must be faithful and obedience to receive. That our behavior determines whether or not God will bless us we have removed Christ and His perfect Finished Work out of the equation. In truth, we are no longer asking in Jesus name. All we are left with is our own track record. When we are basing our receiving on our own faithfulness and obedience we are in reality asking in our own name;

"Father I have been faithful and obedient, and am therefore asking for this answer in Jerry's name, in Freddie's name, in Ken's name, in John's name, in Mike's name, in Rodney's name I pray amen."
 In summation, if you would like to see your prayer life transformed, realize that prayer is intimate fellowship with your Father who is always overjoyed with gladness to fellowship with you. See all that His Finished Work procured for you. Know who you are in Him. Then dare to come boldly before Him and pray as if Jesus Himself was asking. No more feasting on crumbs, but dare to take your place as His righteous, perfectly accepted child and sit at the King's table and partake of all He has prepared and provided. 
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Monday, November 26, 2018

Losing our Religion: What about Paul's thorn in the flesh?

having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 2 Timothy 3:5 NKJV 

We've started a series of study concerning the benefits of letting go of the tradition of men. We are seeing more and more how stifling religious tradition is to intimacy with God, maturing in our walk with Him and how it turns people away from God. As we study more, we see God in all His goodness and love and turn loose of any traditional religious thinking.

 Today, it seems good to share on a subject that has held many believers in bondage. This account in Scripture has produced so many traditions that cause people to not trust God for wholeness in every area of life. I am speaking of Paul's thorn in the flesh. You can read the few verses of the account here.

The enemy loves to sow discord and confusion into the Church. This event in Paul's life has caused much confusion and brought about much debate among the saints. The Scriptures rightly divided offer no confusion, but traditional religious interpretations of God's Word will create uncertainty and misunderstanding.

The Three Main Traditions Concerning Paul's Thorn:

 There are three main traditional views of Paul's thorn. Let's address them in order.
1. God gave Paul a thorn in the flesh to keep him humble and to stop him from becoming prideful/Paul was getting too prideful and needed humbling.
 Look at many commentaries and you will see this taught. Some translations even put this in the text. Is this an accurate understanding of what it means to be exalted above measure? Is it also accurate to think, the enemy would be the agent used to ensure Paul would remain humble?

 In order for this to be the right assessment of why Paul was given this thorn, we need to see if satan would keep Paul from being prideful. In order to properly evaluate this, allow me to remind you of something.
He beholds every high thing; He is king over all the children of pride.” Job 41:34 NKJV. 
 God declared this about satan. He said the enemy is the king over all the children of pride. In fact, what was the original sin found in satan? Pride! 

  Now, let's use some wisdom and sound judgment. Why would God in His infinite wisdom assign satan the task of keeping Paul from becoming prideful? This leads to another obvious question. Why would the enemy want Paul to remain humble? Wouldn't the enemy do all he could to tempt Paul to become more and more prideful? 

 This view is twisted logic. It's based on the twisted and inconsistent concepts of the traditions of men. This teaching that God wanted Paul to remain humble so He brought satan in to ensure it clearly contradicts the whole of Scripture and the very nature and character of God and the enemy. 

2. Paul's thorn in the flesh was some sickness or disease. 
 This is one of the most widely held traditions concerning Paul's thorn. The idea is God sees Paul is puffed up so He makes him sick and disease-ridden to keep the pride away. 

 What's at root here is the twisted religious idea that God brings evil to better us. That He brings destruction to our life to straighten us out. That in order to get our full, undivided attention He brings to us destructive, tragic circumstances or He puts a crippling, tormenting disease upon us.

 Jesus was God in the flesh. When He walked the sandy shores of Galilee He was fully God. When did He ever bring a debilitating disease on Peter to correct his erring ways? When His inner circle of disciples wouldn't watch with Him for one hour, did He cause them to experience bankruptcy, or kill their loved ones in some terrible accident? Did He whip up some devastating storm that destroyed all they owned? Did He bring a pestilence upon them?  Really nothing like that to perfect them, to instruct them? Nope, nothing at all. 

 When Jesus was here on Earth, we have no record of Him bringing destruction, disease, death or famine on any persons or nations. Think. Jesus said a kingdom divided will not stand. If God our Father made people sick and Jesus turned around and healed them, they would be actively working against each other. The Kingdom would be divided and therefore not stand. 

 You may say but Paul said it was a thorn in the flesh. This must mean it was a sickness. Not true. This was merely a figure of speech. Much like today, have you never heard someone say this is a pain in the neck? Is it literally a pain in the neck? Of course not. Some even go so far as to say this or that is a pain in the rear. If Paul had used that expression, some "theologians" would suggest Paul experienced painful hemorrhoids all his life. 

 If we follow the Scripture you can see these types of expressions used. Here are just a few examples, here. Another place here. One more here. Proving again, this phrase is merely an idiom used to describe a situation facing Paul.
3. God told Paul, "No!"
 This is the saddest thing to hear taught. Imagine coming to God our Father for help only to be told no. Does this sound like God? Is this what a good Father would tell His children?

 The idea taught by tradition is Paul asks God for help, healing, and deliverance and God tells him no. God basically tells him to keep suffering it is best for you. They see where God says my Grace is sufficient, and come to the conclusion that God told Paul, the fact you're saved is all you need. Be content in your suffering. 

 This is not what God said to Paul. He never told Him no. He simply told Him Grace is sufficient. In other words, what you already have is sufficient to deal with this. 

Clearly Understanding Paul's Thorn

Going back to the text, look closely at what is going on. Don't isolate this account and try to use it to explain difficulties and challenging circumstances. The truth is we live in a fallen and fractured creation. Nothing will be perfectly just and right until Jesus returns and completely transforms this place.

 Paul speaks of visions and revelation he is given. What is this revelation? It is the revelation of the New Covenant. It is the revelation of the righteousness of the believer apart from performance and observance of the Law and Jewish ritual and practices. It is also the revelation that there is no difference between Jew and Gentile in Christ. 

 Paul says in order for him to no be exalted overmuch he was given a messenger of satan to buffet him. This word buffet is to attack, strike hard with a fist. Is God assigning satan to beat Paul up to keep him in humility? 

 No, for two reasons. One God commands us to humble ourselves. He didn't say I am going to use satan to humble you. Secondly, He says He will exalt us in due time. So being exalted doesn't always mean prideful arrogance. 
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 1 Peter 5:6 NKJV

This phrase about being exalted above measure is used only twice in Scripture. Here and in the Epistle to the Thessalonians.  One describes arrogantly exalting oneself describing the end time work of the enemy. This phrase here Paul is speaking of exalting over the measure of the enemy's influence.

 The enemy was fighting this New Covenant. He wanted to keep the Jews bound to Law. He wanted to put the Law on the Gentiles. Paul had this revelation of Grace and was sharing it setting so many free. The enemy, the messenger of satan, the word used for angel or messenger, was a religious spirit stirring up the religious to publicly resist Paul wherever he went.

 This is what the thorn was. It was the religious trying to prevent the people from experiencing the freedoms of Grace and the New Covenant. Everywhere Paul preached they would be stirred up. Paul did seek God for deliverance.

 God didn't tell Paul no, just suffer. What He said was my Grace is sufficient. This word sufficient means to be possessed of unfailing strength. It speaks of defense and the ability to ward off an attack. In this strength, it also connotes the idea of contentment. 

 Grace is the unearned undeserved favor of God. What God told Paul was Grace is more than enough. The more the enemy attacked the more Grace superabounded. This is why Paul began to rejoice when He was insufficient in himself. He knew then that his ability couldn't bring it to pass, but God and His strength and power were more than enough to get the job done. 

 Look at Paul's life. Yes, the enemy brought much persecution. Yet all in all Paul's message of Grace, the Gospel, righteousness and the New Covenant was boldly proclaimed everywhere and the message continues to this day.

 In summation, let go of twisted religion. God was there for Paul just like He will be for you. In fact, there is an end to this story. God did, in fact, deliver Paul. 
 11 persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me 2 Timothy 3:11 NKJV
 God is our good Father. We can lean on Him. Trust in Him. Rest in His favor for us. The enemy is defeated and Jesus is our triumphant King and He has made us more than conquerors, so rejoice! 
image courtesy of jeswin at

Monday, November 19, 2018

Losing our Religion: Shame

having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 2 Timothy 3:5 NKJV 

We've begun a series of study exposing the lies of religious tradition. We are seeing the truth of the Gospel versus the lies of the spirit of religion. As we progress we will see more and more the benefit of losing the traditions of men and embracing God's over the top, too good to be true but true Good News Gospel of Grace.

 Today, I sense the leading to address this area of shame. What is shame? How do we define it in the context of exposing religious traditions? Shame is a painful sense of humiliation. It accompanies guilt and condemnation. 

Sometimes when we actually do something wrong afterward we are ashamed of our actions. Certainly, I understand no reasonable person wants to celebrate a poor choice or the act of hurting someone. Though that is true, shame is not God's method of bringing correction.  In the context of religious tradition though, shame plays a major role. 

 Under religion, shame comes to us whether we actually did something wrong or not. What I mean is this. Tradition has their rules and regulations and places a demand that you follow them. What they call preaching often is just the leader harping on the perceived notion of how little commitment the people have. How they are doing less and less and should be doing more and more.  How they come short in their giving and church attendance. How the falter in spiritual disciplines. If we aren't beaten up a little, we don't feel like we've actually heard good preaching.

 When someone messes up shame comes from the enemy. He wants them to take that mistake and allow it to define them. The enemy wants them to allow it to derail them from fulfilling God's plan for their life.

 Tradition backs up the enemy's claims. I have heard horror stories of people made to come to the front of the church and recount their sin. You may say, brother, didn't Paul the Apostle of Grace teach us that we are to rebuke before all those that sin?

 Glad you brought that passage up. In full context, Paul isn't speaking of shaming people. He is speaking of leadership. In essence, he is saying don't entertain disgruntled people's claims. However, if in fact, a leader has indeed taken advantage of people and hurt those he leads, the behavior should be corrected and let the people know the behavior is wrong. 

 God is offering guidelines to protect people. If a leader is scamming the people, taking their savings, or if they are physically taking advantage of them, he should be rebuked or corrected. Correction isn't about shaming someone. So this passage isn't talking about shaming the people every time they mess up.

 Under religion, shame creeps up to us subtly. Tradition will drop hints about how we are failing to measure up to their rules. They may mention things like watching the ball game instead of praying. They may speak of missing church meetings so you can visit family or participate in a prior engagement. They will challenge your "love for God." They will challenge your level of spiritual hunger or maturity. 

 Then the people will do some heavy introspection. It isn't Spirit-led. It is religion led. It leads people to see themselves as continually failing to measure up. I read somewhere a great example of this. A person goes to church and they forgot to silence their cell phone. It rings, and the leadership stop and shame the person for disturbing the meeting. Not realizing the person was going through a tough time already, so they go to the local bar. There they are greeted by a warm smile from the bartender. After they are seated they mistakenly spill their drink. The waitress, says that's ok we all make mistakes, let me get you another drink. Another Bar worker cleans up the spill, saying again its no big deal.   The person never went back to church, but always goes to the local bar.

 Look at your own life. In your own experiences with religion, how has shame played a part in your spiritual journey? Have you ever felt like an outcast? That your sin was too much for even God to handle? Did you feel you never measured up in the eyes of others? That they were always more spiritual than you, and therefore God favored them more? Did you ever feel like God would never answer your prayers because you are not as faithful and committed as others?

 Shame is the tool the enemy equips traditional religion with. Tradition can only show how you are always failing and how you need to continually improve. Grace says otherwise. The Finished Work reveals your infinite value to your Father in Heaven. Under Grace God says you're more than a conqueror. That Christ has made you accepted and approved. Not religious approved but Jesus approved! Even when you fail, Grace reminds you of who you are. You're the righteousness of God in Christ, free from condemnation and no one is able to lay a charge against you. 

 In summation be free from the religious tradition of men and embrace what Grace says about you. When they say you are failing to measure up, rest knowing Jesus already measures up and He says you're approved. When they say you're letting God down, remember you're not holding Him up, so you can never let Him down. Rest knowing Jesus is the complete shame remover. Embracing Grace brings us to a place of rest free from shame and condemnation. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Losing our Religion!

13 making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.” Mark 7:13 NKJV

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. Colossians 2:8 KJV

having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 2 Timothy 3:5 NKJV 

 We've been in a study as of late concerning God's Grace and the wholeness it brings. As I was studying on the healing and wholeness Grace provided, the Spirit captured my heart. It was made clear to me even stronger that in order to be fully whole we must relinquish all the religion and traditions in our lives. 

 I am not just speaking of the traditions of men of the church you don't attend. I am speaking of all the traditions of men. I am talking about Southern Baptist tradition. Methodist tradition. I am talking about the Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Episcopalian traditions of men. I am talking about the Pentecostal/Charismatic/Word of Faith traditions of men. 

 Look, I am not attacking these Christian denominations or churches. I am talking about the traditions of men that allow believers to come in and not see Jesus as the focus of it all. I am talking about coming into a gathering, whether you sit reverently, or lift your hands, or even dance a little dance but never have an encounter with the risen Christ and receive of His Grace and the gift of righteousness.

Lose the religion!

 It's time we lose the religion. Listen, we've all experienced the guilt, the shame, the condemnation and burdensome weight of religious tradition. Let's see Jesus' thoughts on religion.

And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. And He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Step forward.” Then He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent. And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. Mark 3:1-5 NKJV

 This clearly illustrates the religious tradition of men. They were more focused on men keeping the letter and not disturbing the traditions rather than seeing a broken man made whole again. It's the same today.

 We see broken men and women, marred by the pain of divorce. Be it as the result of betrayal or abuse, seeking to find a future peace and happiness only to hear the voice of tradition rise up proclaiming, no, solitude and singleness is your lot. If you remarry you're a sinful adulterer. 

Broken young men have come to the Church looking for restoration and to find salvation. Yet, they didn't look like everyone else and didn't wear a three-piece suit. They had piercings or tattoos or long hair. They were driven out of the church until they could "clean up their act."

 Godly women who had received God's gifting and Grace upon their life to proclaim liberty to the captive and recovery of sight to the blind and to tell of the great love and freedom in Christ are silenced. Tradition keeps them quiet saying women shouldn't speak in the Church. They then create the inconsistent tradition women can teach children and other ladies but other than that sit-down and shut up.

 There are those sick and broken. They are hurting. They have a disabling disease. There are those trapped in the bondage of cruel addiction. The tradition-bound leader proclaims Jesus can't help you. His healing power was only regulated to 2,000 years ago.  Hope you can find a good doctor and hopefully you have good insurance.

 What are Jesus' thoughts? Jesus hates tradition for it robs His people of all He purchased for us. Religious tradition grieves Him because He knows how it hardens the hearts of those who follow it.

 This passage also illustrates what matters to God. Your wholeness matters to God. Your restoration is important to Him. God values your completeness regardless of the traditions of men. Jesus moved passed the tradition and reached out and brought healing. 

 We likewise need to move pass tradition and bring Jesus and His wholeness to all. In the sense of deserving by our doing, we are all unworthy. We were all broken, lost, fallen ones. We rebelled against God. We've gone our own way in the past. There isn't one person who deserves, by their own merits, good works, accomplishments any of God's goodness and favor. That's why this is the Gospel of Grace. We, therefore, can't withhold this goodness and Good News from anyone.

  When we say lose the religion, we aren't speaking of denying the clear truth of God's Word. We are talking about relinquishing the traditions of men. A performance-based faith, the striving, and works syndrome. The loveless message of religion. The God is always angry and disappointed in the Church mindset. The "you need to be doing more to please God" concept. The powerless claim that Jesus can't heal or restore today. We're speaking of resisting the accusations, the guilt, the shame and condemnation traditional religion brings. It's time to embrace Grace.

 In summation, if you want to find fulfillment, and wholeness let go of religious tradition and embrace the Grace. God wants you to know how loved and accepted and redeemed you are. He wants you to encounter Him on an all the time basis. He is always with you and He is always cheering you on. Jesus believes in you. Tradition, like Law, will only point out your flaws, your missteps. His Grace points you to your identity in Him. It reveals your new nature, who you are in Him and how victorious you are in Him. Embrace Grace.