Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Good News vs. Fake News: God punishes you when you sin

15 Now let me remind you, brothers, of what the Gospel really is, for it has not changed—it is the same Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then and still do now, for your faith is squarely built upon this wonderful message; 1 Corinthians 15:1 TLB

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

 We've been in a series examining the Good News versus the fake news of religious tradition. We've been exposing the differences between truth and tradition. Whenever we shine the light of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ on the traditions of men revealing their error, we are not attacking people. We are simply highlighting wrong thinking in light of the revealed will of God, the truth of the Word.

  One major area tradition abounds in is the subject of sin. In the next few posts, we will expose the truth over tradition in this area. When we speak of sin it seems to some, sin is much more powerful than Grace. Sin is the proverbial "kryptonite" of God. Meaning God sees sin and He is weakened, unable to help or heal you, to move on your behalf, or to answer prayer. Others see God responding to your sin the same way the movies show vampires reacting to sunlight. God sees it and He flees. He must disconnect from you. He must break fellowship from you. 

Is God Punishing Me When I Sin?

 This is a very real concern for many Christians. This is where so many of us live. Often it isn't sin in general that concerns us. Moreso than not its the frequency of our failures and misdeeds. It is that one sin we seem to be struggling with and keep repeating.

 We can get into fear, worry, and concern about our relationship with God. At times we create a scale from bad to worst sins. If we commit a real bad sin just once we fear instant judgment. Then we go to the other extreme looking at the same sin we keep struggling with. We wonder if we keep repeating this behavior will God really forgive us? We wonder if we can cross some proverbial line and then God will say "that's it, you've sinned once to often you're gonna get it!"

 What is the truth? Does God punish us? Is He angry with us and disappointed in us when we sin? Is He standing by just waiting to strike if we blow it?

 To answer this, let's look at Christ's redemptive work at the Cross. What did He actually do on that Cross? What did He accomplish? 
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
    our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
    that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
    that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
    Through his bruises we get healed.  Isaiah 53:4-5 MSG

 Jesus bore our sins. He took the pain, punishment, and judgment for our sins. If God is punishing you for your sins then God would be saying Jesus' sacrifice and Finished Work wasn't enough. It didn't complete the payment for sin and redemption. That would mean our salvation is not complete, the work is unfinished, and we, therefore, have no eternal hope. 

 Thanks be to God, Jesus did Finish the Work. Thank God the price was fully paid and completely accepted by Father God. There is no more punishment for sin. Jesus paid the price. God isn't going to charge your sins to you and expect you to pay for them when Jesus already paid for them. How just is it for a merchant to expect additional payment for an item that has already been purchased and paid in full? 

 Tradition has some nonsensical ideas about God. They can't grasp the goodness of God. They can't understand His mercy. They fail to comprehend the very nature of Grace.

 Does this mean God is ok with Christians living in sin? That He merely winks at those who abide in sinful living? That He is celebrating our moral failures, misdeeds, mistakes, and sins? That our Father isn't grieved when He sees the pain and hurt and misery sin causes?

 God is absolutely perfect and holy. He is purity. Certainly, He doesn't celebrate sinful choices and habits. Sin grieves His heart because He doesn't want us hurting ourselves and others. He doesn't desire us to live and act contrary to our true identity in Him. 

 We need to see this issue from God's perspective. Nothing you could ever do will cause God to love you less or make Him want to distance Himself from you. Look at the newborn infant. The parents love that child unconditionally. All that child does is sleep, eat, spit up and urinate and defecate. It cannot perform in any way. Yet the parents continually show love and affection. Even when the baby messes up the furniture, the floor, the vehicle or their crib, good parents are right there cleaning up the mess and still showing love, acceptance, affirmation, and adoration.

 Do parents withhold food or shelter or warmth when the infant spits up staining the furniture or carpet? We know parents that have done such things because they make front page news. We call them loveless, abusive people. Even lost sinners condemn this behavior. Sadly, religious tradition views God as being this way. Withholding blessings, affection, and love because of people's sins. 

 They say God will get you for sinning too much. They say God is punishing you. They will cite Hebrews 12 to substantiate this claim. In the complete context, this Epistle to the Hebrews who were on the fence about fully receiving new life in Christ and embracing Grace or staying with the Old Covenant Law. The writer is correcting their thinking about Grace and Law, the Old and New Covenant, and the supremacy of Jesus and the Finished Work. In doing so the writer reveals that those whom God loves He corrects.

 Correction and instruction are not punishment. When we look at New Covenant correction we see it is God by His Spirit reminding people of who they are and whose they are. God corrects and instructs with His Word, not with punishment or harsh circumstances. He lovingly reminds us of who we are and He never stops loving us or distances Himself from us. It's His goodness that brings us to change not punishment. 

 When we miss it or keep sinning that same sin, often we look at our life and can see bad days or trying situations and conclude we deserve it. That God is punishing us and we are displeasing to God. Often the result is we back away from God. God doesn't want our behavior to determine our identity, but who He made us in the Finished Work. He wants us to awaken to Him and our new identity in Christ and not distance ourselves when we sin. 

 The truth is there is only one punishment for sin and that is death. It is not unanswered prayers or God breaking fellowship with us. Jesus already paid the price. He died so we wouldn't have to. We need not fear or shrink back from God. If we think God is punishing us for our sins, we are not fully receiving and abiding in His perfect love for us. 
17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. 18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. 1 John 4:17-18 NLT

In summation, God isn't punishing you when you sin. He isn't angry with you. He isn't seeking ways to get you or make your life harder. He isn't creating harsh and destructive circumstances to punish or teach you. Sin may have harsh consequences here on Earth, but that isn't God punishing you. Focus on God's love. God will love you before that sin, during that sin and afterward. His perfect love will lead you out of sinful ways and bondages and addictions. He is a good Father who loves and cherishes you and this love never fails. Sin loses it's appeal when we embrace His perfect love, for He alone is the satisfaction and fulfillment we long for in all areas of this life.
Image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Good News vs. Fake News: A Christian can be Disconnected from God

15 Now let me remind you, brothers, of what the Gospel really is, for it has not changed—it is the same Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then and still do now, for your faith is squarely built upon this wonderful message; 1 Corinthians 15:1 TLB

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

 We've been in a series highlighting the differences between truth and tradition. When distinguishing truth from tradition understand we aren't against people. We aren't attacking other churches, denominations or ministers. We are simply examining the teachings, the theological perspectives some hold to in light of the Word and the New Covenant. People are not our enemy. In Christ, we are all brethren.
 All sincerely born-again Christians belong to the family of God.

 Today, I sensed the leading to examine an idea that seems to be prevalent in the Body of Christ. I'd like to ask you a question, to begin with. Have you ever sat in a Christian assembly and after listening to the worship and sermon came to the conclusion that as a believer it must be possible to be separated, divided, even disconnected from God? What do I mean exactly? Look at some of the lyrics of some popular Christian hymns and worship songs.

 "Draw me close to you, never let me go."
"Open up the doors to Heaven and let us enter in."
"Savior, while on others thou art calling, do not pass me by."
"Come by here my Lord, come by here."
"I just want to be where you are."
"I just want to be near your heart."

 Let me first say this. Music is an artistic expression. It is a beautiful gift God gave mankind. Perhaps many of these songs sung are just an extension of the artist's expression during times when their emotional state sensed a separation or divide. So we aren't attacking the artists. The problem is too often we take these hymns and songs as truth and build a theology around them. 

 There exists in the Body of Christ today an idea, a concept, a theology, if you will, that connotes the idea that a believer at times is somehow apart from God. That they are far from the Father's heart. That they need the Spirit of God to usher them back to God's presence. That our sins, our poor performance, our lack of spiritual fervor removes us from our Father's fellowship, communion, and presence.

 In many Christian circles, it seems the presence of God is like some magic trick. Now you see it, now you don't. That God is so temperamental, so easily offended, so quick to depart if we don't have our program just right. This stems from the traditional concept that God merely tolerates us and is often displeased and disappointed in us and our lack of faith, commitment, and passion.

 Because of this, we must work hard to ensure we create an atmosphere for God to be "comfortable" in. We strive to create the perfect mood. In our meetings, we turn down the lights. We demand children sit still. We demand certain songs be sung. We pray or rather beg for a half an hour or so before a service begins for God to show up. What are we doing? We are hoping God finds us pleasing enough and the atmosphere conducive enough for Him to come and visit us. 

 What are we doing Church? We are reinforcing a concept and idea that God doesn't want anything to do with us until we satisfy His impossibly strict standards or He won't be in our midst. We are creating the concept that if our own spiritual life is in disarray or out of order in any way He won't want to be with us, that He will be far from us. 

 These concepts have become a prevalent stronghold in the minds of so many in the Body of Christ. This is why we see so many fasting, abstaining from food and foregoing natural pleasures such as watching movies, listening to music or engaging in a hobby. They aren't taking time to fellowship with God and celebrate the intimacy He already made possible. Instead, they are striving and performing in order to be found worthy of God's presence to visit them. In their mind, we can only visit His presence. It is not something we abide in. 

Is a Believer ever disconnected or separated from God?

 The truth is so much better than this tradition. The good news is you are His beloved child with whom He is well pleased. The truth is you are not far from Him. You don't need to be "taken into the Father's heart." In Christ, you are already in the Father's heart. You're engraved in the palm of His hands. He loves you with an everlasting unquenchable love. He isn't looking for ways to disqualify you from His presence. Your Father rejoices over you with joy. Because of Jesus, He is in you and is with you always.

 We need to uproot this stronghold from our thinking. Allow the washing of the water of the Word to renew your thinking in this area.
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation Ephesians 2:13-14 NKJV
It is clear, we are never separated from God. He already tore down that wall of separation and we are drawn near by the Blood. Has the Blood lost its power? Then know we are always near. This passage in full context outlines how the fulfillment of Law and ushering in of the New Covenant made us one with God, see here.
For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God Colossians 3:3 NKJV
 If our life is hidden in Christ, how can we ever be separated or apart or divided from God? Only religious tradition can disregard the Word and believe such nonsense.
 Tradition will shout what about when we sin? That's for sure when He leaves us. Is it? If you believe this let me introduce you to Grace.
...And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b NLT
He is with us always. Not just when we obey, or live sin free. He is ever with us and we with Him. We are never divided, or separated from God. 
  In summation, I want you to know and understand God is for you and you're never apart from Him. Once I was listening to a worship album, it had a catchy tune and passionate singers. They kept pleading bring us into the Father's heart. Suddenly, the Lord spoke up within my heart. "You're already in my heart. You don't need to be drawn into my heart." Relinquish tradition rooted lyrics and teachings that leave you thinking you are apart from God and must strive to get back into His presence. You're His beloved and He is pleased. Celebrate His presence, and rejoice in the intimacy all Christians have with their Father. You are never abandoned, alone or apart from Him. You are in Christ and He is with you always no matter what.
image courtesy of Stoonn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Good News vs. Fake News: You're under a curse for not tithing

15 Now let me remind you, brothers, of what the Gospel really is, for it has not changed—it is the same Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then and still do now, for your faith is squarely built upon this wonderful message; 1 Corinthians 15:1 TLB

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

 We've begun a series of study that is highlighting the differences between the good news and the bad news of religion. We are distinguishing between truth and tradition. What we are not doing is attacking and accusing our fellow Christian brethren. Even though some see Radical Grace believers and teachers as their enemy we don't have to count them as ours. 

 Ever sat in a local church and heard them take up the offering? Vast numbers of churches and ministries will mention the ten percent, or tithe, Christians are "supposed" to be paying. As you hear these words, how often have you grasped your purse or wallet a little tighter? Suddenly, you're reminded of the utility bills or mortgage. What about food for the week? Then the guilt may overtake you for not giving a full ten percent. What if you don't give?

 This is right where so many Christians live and this is where many ministers quickly reference this supposed "curse" for not giving a full ten percent of your income on a consistent basis. So fear, guilt, and condemnation are the true motivation for many believers giving. Is this the right motive in our giving? Paul apparently didn't think so.
So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 NKJV

 This passage shows how we should give. One translation says we shouldn't give under compulsion. Compulsory giving or giving of necessity shouldn't ever be a motive in giving. Note the phrase of necessity. If we were under a curse for not tithing,  if we were under some Law commanding us to give ten percent then our giving would, in fact, be giving under compulsion and out of necessity. 

 Brother, doesn't God's Word, in fact, say we are cursed for not tithing? Glad you asked.
“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say,
‘In what way have we robbed You?’ 
In tithes and offerings.You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. Malachi 3 8-9 NKJV
 See it says so right there, brother? It does say there is a curse for not tithing, but who is God talking to and what is He referencing? 

 The key to understanding and rightly dividing this passage is the phrase, this whole nation. What nation? Is the Church of Jesus Christ an actual nation? If so where is it so I can move there? 

 No this is obviously referencing the nation of Israel. God is speaking of a specific issue that is occurring in the nation of Israel. The people were forsaking the tithe, which meant the tribe of Levi would go without their needs being met. One main objective of the tithe was to provide for the tribe of Levi because they didn't receive any inheritance. 

 As for a curse, God was only revealing the consequence of blatant disobedience. Now, what Covenant is this taking place in? This is under the Old Covenant and dealing with a specific issue affecting Israel. This is not the New Covenant. Under the New, Christ already bore every curse there is. There is no more curse in effect for not giving a specific amount. Galatians 3 reveals Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law. 

 Tradition will still argue that as Christians we are still under the command to tithe. They will say things like, "the tithe filtered through the Cross". "We know we still tithe because nowhere in the New does He say stop." A simple study of the early Church should put these traditions to rest.

In Acts 15, a historical event occurred. The Church held a meeting to preserve the Gospel free from error and works based tradition. This was the opposing argument,
But then some of the believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and insisted, “The Gentile converts must be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses.” Acts 15:5 NLT

We must understand that this being ancient times people couldn't just go to the local library and check out the Law and read up on it. People couldn't fire up their Mac and look up the Mosaic Law. So these Gentiles would have no learning in matters of the Law. When did they hear the teaching of Malachi and Leviticus commanding the tithe? Where would they read about the command to be circumcised? 

 Keep that in mind as you read and study Acts 15 in context. The legalists wished that the Church specifically keep the Law of circumcision. Note however what gets lost in the debate. They strongly desire that the Church be required to follow the Law of Moses. In this Law, there is the command to tithe. So they wanted to ensure the Church continues in the tithe.

 What is the conclusion the Apostles reach? 
24 Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law”—to whom we gave no such commandment Acts 15:24 NKJV 

 The Apostles say in one accord that we never gave a command to continue in the Law. This would include tithing. The reason there is no command to stop tithing is that there was never a command to start in the New. 

 Did the tithe filter through the Cross? No! That is the thinking of legalists who wish to merge the Old and New Covenant together. Fair-minded believers will acknowledge that there are a few similarities in the New and the Old. What I mean is there are universal truths that reveal the Character of God.

 Adultery was wrong before the Law, during the Law, and under the New. It is obvious because God is love. He isn't about breaking Covenant and betraying those He loves. So there are some moral similarities between the Old and the New. However, when you look to the Old to see principles of receiving blessing, favor, and goodness you've missed it.

 So are we cursed for not giving ten percent of our income away? Absolutely not. We give to be a blessing and to advance God's influence in this World. There is no curse awaiting those who choose not to give. 

 Some would say the tithe is the way God blesses us. My response to that is what about the believer in war-ravaged lands? What about the Christian in drought-ridden lands? What about the single mom struggling to put clothes on her children's back and food in their mouths?

 Is God looking at that single mom who struggles to get by with arms folded in disappointment and displeasure? Is He saying, "I wanted to pour my favor out upon you but you haven't given me exactly ten percent of your gross income?" I know tradition says yes. They say "you can't afford not to tithe." To say something like this means you believe there is an attached curse for not tithing.

 Relinquish the lies of tradition. Cast down the fears tradition brings. Stand fast in the Finished Work. Follow God's giving plan for your own life. God may, in fact, tell you to give ten percent. He may tell you to give two percent. He may even tell someone else to give 90 percent. The point I am making is, don't allow any man or ministry to dictate to you how much or how often you should give. We also shouldn't try to put God in a box concerning a specific amount and no one should put guilt, shame, fear or condemnation on others for their giving amount. Just follow God's guidance for your life when it comes to giving.

 Father God is a big God. He is a good Father. His divine hand of favor rests on the lives of His children. If we trust Him, if we lean on Him and follow His guidance He will lead us into paths of wisdom, favor, and blessings. This also means as we follow Him, He will use as instruments of blessing. He may lead us to pay for someone's gas. Buy their groceries. Help them with their rent. What an impact we can make when we flow with His Spirit. We are blessed to be a blessing and in Christ, we are never under a curse. 
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Good News Vs Fake News: The Gospel of Grace is a counterfeit dangerous message?

15 Now let me remind you, brothers, of what the Gospel really is, for it has not changed—it is the same Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then and still do now, for your faith is squarely built upon this wonderful message; 1 Corinthians 15:1 TLB

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

 We've begun a new study distinguishing between the good news and the "fake news" of tradition. We've established that when highlighting the differences between truth and tradition we aren't attacking people. We wrestle not against flesh and blood but rather the deceptive spirits leading people astray. People aren't our enemy.

A Dangerous End-Time Message?

  Whenever the Church begins hearing a revelation of God's goodness and great love and mercy, tradition is quick to try and extinguish the flames of revival. In the 1940s and 50s, one minister began to boldly proclaim that God is a good God. You can't imagine the controversy this created.

 People would tell ministers and fellow believers they didn't like it when this minister said this. Their reasoning? "people would get the wrong idea about God." Religion and tradition fear when the people know more about their Father. Perhaps this is because their controlling grip of fear will loosen on the minds of the people when they better know their Father.

 Tradition resisted the Charismatic move, surely God can't move by His Spirit today and certainly couldn't bestow a personal prayer language to His kids. They fought hard against the move of Faith. Surely people couldn't simply take God at His Word. Surely God Would never answer the believing prayers of His people. 

 Today, God is doing it again, restoring the true Gospel to the Church. He wants to reach the World. Now we see religious tradition in a panic and doing all they can to resist this move. To them, Grace is an end-time deception that is leading that captive in its grip down the road to eternal damnation.

 Some are even going so far to call this the great crisis of our time. That the Grace awakening is a mere distortion of the Gospel. That Grace does away with holiness, obedience, and repentance. They say Grace is producing and promoting lust driven immoral, remorseless living. 

The True Crisis of Our Time

 The true crisis of our time is the fact that religious tradition has abandoned and forsaken the original Gospel. They've replaced it with a gospel of mixture. They've embraced a gospel of works and performance. They add our efforts and performance to the simple Gospel of salvation by Grace alone through faith alone. 

6 I am shocked over how quickly you have deserted the grace gospel and strayed away from Christ who called you to Himself by His loving mercy. I’m frankly astounded that you now embrace a distorted gospel of salvation by works! 7 That is a fake “gospel” that is simply not true! There is only one gospel— the grace gospel! Yet you have allowed those who mingle law with Christ’s grace to confuse you with lies. Galatians 1:6-7 Passion Translation (first edition)

 Paul rightly exposes what is the true crisis. The changing of the Gospel from the Gospel of Grace to the gospel of works and efforts. Tradition can't seem to accept the concept that salvation is begun by Grace and completed through Grace.

 To them, once salvation is received, Grace's job is done so to speak. Now that you've been counted worthy to receive salvation, you need to get busy earning it and proving you were worth it. In essence, tradition's gospel message is God starts it with Grace and you finish it or bring it to completion by your performance.

 The only time Grace is referred to is when they define Grace as some empowerment concept. In other words, God still has portions of the Mosaic Law that need to be observed, but don't fret He gives us the Grace to accomplish this task. If people don't walk this moral observance out? Either they were never saved, they are in rebellion or are just not "tapping" into this available Grace. 

 The traditional gospel starts with God's Grace. It begins with people sharing how much He loves and accepts you just as you are. Once you accept Him in your life then the message changes. Belief and acceptance are replaced with requirements and expectations. This is why so many find the Christian life to be too hard.

Let's stay with the true Gospel;
8 Anyone who comes to you with a different message than the grace gospel that you have received will have the curse of God come upon them! For even if we or an angel appeared before you, to give you a different gospel than what we have already proclaimed, God’s curse will be upon them! 9 I will make it clear: Anyone, no matter who they are, that brings you a different gospel than the grace gospel that you have received, let them be condemned and cursed! Galatians 1:8-9 Passion Translation (first edition)

Salvation is received by Grace through Faith. It is all a work of God. You simply take Him at His word and put your trust in Him. Once you have sincerely done this you are saved and nothing can alter this. Your performance, your steadfastness, your belief, your choices can never undo what God has done. Jesus is forever married to the Church and He never seeks a separation, an annulment or divorce. 

 Tradition can't accept this because they are so desperate to contribute to their salvation. When they get to Heaven, I half suspect they will be looking for Jesus to hear Him say, "Thanks for helping me save you. I couldn't have done it without you!"

 Is Grace a dangerous message? Is the Grace awakening the crisis of our time? Absolutely not! Grace is the Gospel, not a message. Grace is the unearned, undeserved, unmerited favor of Almighty God. This favor received in and upon our lives will produce an empowerment to walk in victory. However, this victory is accomplished in different stages in every believer's life. 

 God sees the end from the beginning. He already knew you would be struggling with pride or anger throughout your lifetime. He has already seen how much you struggle with that sin or addiction. He still chose to save you and enter into an everlasting relationship with you. He will always encourage us and love us pointing us in the right direction. Sometimes we will follow Him and sometimes we fail. The good news He is still there and He isn't angry. He is their beaming with pride, looking at His child, flaws and imperfections and all because His love for you is eternal and unconditional.

 Yes, God desires us to lead lives of moral excellence but He isn't holding our sins and flaws against us. He isn't walking away from us when we fail. He isn't demanding results or we are "fired." We need to have this truth established in our hearts and minds so we can fully benefit from a loving relationship that will be fruitful. This is the Gospel and Good news!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Good News vs Fake News: Truth vs Tradition

15 Now let me remind you, brothers, of what the Gospel really is, for it has not changed—it is the same Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then and still do now, for your faith is squarely built upon this wonderful message; 1 Corinthians 15:1 TLB

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

 It's the beginning of a new year. At this time we often we look back at the previous year and reflect and remember significant events. In 2017 one phrase that was oft in media outlets was the phrase "fake news". When it comes to hearing the good news of the Grace of God, sadly religion and tradition usually spread more fake news than good news. I sensed the inspiration of the Spirit to begin a study distinguishing between the good news and fake news.

 Whenever we shine the light of truth on traditional religious strongholds we must proceed with caution. We can be easily enticed to get in the flesh, or the old way of thinking. To be resentful or get angry at traditional religious leaders who conceal the truth of God's overflowing goodness to all. This should never be our motive in distinguishing between tradition and truth. I can freely admit I have gotten into angry fits and allowed my flesh to dictate my reactions to religious traditions. Thank God for Grace and mercy.

Bitter or Better?

Are you better in Grace? Do you have a better understanding of whose you are? Of who He has made you in Christ? Of your right standing before Him? Of just how forgiven you are? Of how much you're accepted, favored and loved by Him? Of how secure your salvation truly is in Christ? Better at showing love because you've received His everlasting love?

 Or are you bitter? Bitter because of what religious tradition taught you? Bitter at denominational Christians and leaders? Bitter at those who resist the truths of the Gospel of Grace? Bitter at churches, preachers, Bible Colleges, and Seminaries?  Are you bitter and seek to antagonize, annoy, aggravate, provoke, irritate and rile "traditional Christianity" by your attitudes, your social media posts, blog posts, or interactions with other believers? 

 I've seen situations where bitter believers share provocative and antagonistic statements questioning traditionally held theological views on Social media. In reality, many are simply seeking to aggravate and goad others to dispute their view and "revelation". When their newfound "revelation" is challenged and not accepted, they take this as an opportunity to claim some form of persecution and "attack" on them. If their "revelation" is challenged in light of the Scriptures, they label those who disagree with them as just being prideful and arrogant. Sadly, some aren't sincerely embracing the Gospel of Grace, but are rather clinging to bitterness and resentment and anything that opposes and irritates religious Christians. When bitterness is the true root and motive for your actions, the only "fruit" you will manifest is strife, disputing, and quarreling.

 Let love be our guide and instructor. Jesus is the love of God manifested. Jesus, God in the flesh, displayed the love of God and revealed to us the goodness of the Father. It was Him who pointed out that that tradition negates the Word in people's lives. Jesus the person of Grace distinguished between truth and tradition. This proves we can distinguish and discern truth and tradition in a loving manner.

 Here is one thing to remember. When we shine the light of the Gospel of Grace on the fake news, traditions of men we are not attacking people. We are distinguishing the truth and removing the false. People are not our enemy. The enemy and his spirits of error and deception are our true enemy. Even though religious preachers oppose the truths of unconditional eternal security, the forgiveness of all our sins, that God is not mad at us or ever disappointed in us, that we are the righteousness of God in Him despite our performance, that doesn't mean we have to oppose them and count them as our enemy. We are one family. We are the Church. We are the Body of Christ. There is no Charismatic Heaven. No Word of Faith Heaven. No Hyper-Grace Heaven. No Baptist, Pentecostal, Lutheran Heaven. There is only Heaven where the Body of Christ will be together, without divisions!

 That said, and with our motives clear, how then do we discern between fake news and the Good news? What is the key to see the truth and reject tradition? How do we know we are hearing the truth?

 This isn't a formula or anything but we need to take a few steps to be able to successfully discern between truth and tradition. First, we must make the Word the final authority. Not what Grandma taught us as a child. Not what the denominational leaders claim. If the preacher and Grandma agree with God's Word fine, but if it differs then simply disregard it. 

 I recall a time years ago when I shared with a brother about the benefits of praying in tongues. He said his Grandma taught him to steer clear of that tongues stuff. That it was demonic and not for today. I then showed him Mark 16. When he saw what Jesus said, his eyes were opened and he accepted Jesus words over his Grandma's.

 After establishing within yourself that God's Word is the final authority, you must then rightly divide the Word. You have to keep the Scriptures in context. Any text taken out of context leaves you with a con. The extremes of the prosperity gospel came about because men took the Scriptures out of their settings and context and assigned their own interpretation to them. 

 When you rightly divide the Word, you also have to determine which Covenant the passages are in. In other words, are the passages teaching concepts from the Old Covenant or from the New? Under the Old, you had to forgive to be forgiven. In the New Covenant, you forgive because you've already been forgiven. 

 Finally, after making the Word the final authority and rightly dividing it, you have to look at the character of God. God is a good God. You can see that throughout the Old and New. So would God be sending storms and misery? Would God be punishing you for your sins by making you have "bad days" when Jesus already took the punishment for your sins? Is God the author of disease, death, and destruction? Clearly no because we see the character of God in the Scriptures.

 In summation, we should discern the truth over the traditions of men with the motive of love in our hearts. We love all our brothers and sisters and want to see them all freed from the shackles of religion. With the keys to understanding how to determine if we are hearing the truth or mere tradition, we can now find freedom in our lives and lovingly share this with others. 
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