Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Grace Q & A: What about Repentance?

17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17 NKJV

For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. Hebrews 2:1 NASB

 We've been in a study of the Grace of God. The Good News Gospel of Jesus Christ. We've been getting back to basics and asking and answering simple questions about the Grace of God. So far we've discussed what Grace is. We've seen how we're no longer under condemnation. We've addressed the issue of cheap Grace and answered the charge that accused Grace teaching of being only for sinful people and the Lazy

 Today, it seemed good to address the issue once again about repentance. What is the relationship between Grace and repentance? Some accuse Grace teaching as being against the idea of repentance. Some say we teach we can sin all we wish and never need to repent? Is this an accurate assessment?

 This is not an accurate assessment because this assessment of Grace is based upon hearsay, conjecture and even some hyperbole. What we must consider is that among all denominations, churches, and Christians are differing theology on sin and repentance. Allow me to elaborate. Some simply feel repentance is a sense of "sorrow" over sin and then asking God to forgive it. Still, others, feel that true repentance is to turn from committing sinful deeds, that is if one is habitually sinning the same sin they still haven't repented.

 Still, in the face of differing views, Radical Grace is charged the same. We are accused of teaching that when you sin you need not repent. Or that we can freely pursue sin and never concern ourselves with sin. How should we respond to this charge?

 First, we must understand the enemy opposes the work of God. He brings these false accusations to deter us from proclaiming the glorious truth of the Good News Gospel of Jesus Christ. The enemy uses many voices to distract people from hearing the Good News. Religious tradition, legalism use the same accusations they charged Paul the Apostle with. That Grace teaches sin is acceptable. That Grace says it's good to sin without restraint and there is never the need to change. 

 I understand the need to bring clarity. I understand the need to qualify what we say at times. Certainly, no one should desire to be misunderstood. That is understood but at the same time we must not get so distracted we spend more time trying to explain to legalists what we are actually saying than actually proclaiming the Gospel truth. 

 To once again answer religion's accusative charge, what Gospel are they hearing? The truth is they can't grasp the concept of once and for all time sacrifice. The Finished Work of Christ. Hebrews clearly reveals it had to be a once for all time sacrifice. 

  Jesus bore the sin of all, once for all time. He paid the ultimate price. Once He shed His sinless perfect divine blood, that settled the sin issue once for all time. Once the sacrifice was made what other sacrifices are equal to it? Is it our apologies? Is it our sorrow? Is it our groveling? Is it our confession? Only His Blood bought us once for all time forgiveness and perfect righteousness. 

18 Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.  Hebrews 10:18 NASB

 This is the answer to the charge. When we sin we aren't confessing the sin or sorrowing over it, in order to receive forgiveness of that sin. That is what people selectively hear. They hear what they wish and discard the rest. No one said we should keep sinning that Grace will abound. No one said sin is ok or something to be pursued.

 In truth, no one is even saying we should never confess our sin. That we should never feel sorrow over sin. In reality, there are times when we blow it and it can affect others. In those situations, we may experience sorrow and remorse for how our actions were detrimental to others. Why? Because we have the Love of God shed abroad in our hearts. Our heart desires to bring joy and gladness to people. 

 That said, we stay with the Gospel. We know and understand our confession, or as it is really defined in Scripture, agreeing with God about our sin, acknowledging it, doesn't make us more or less forgiven. Sorrow may come about after we miss it but we can't allow that to dominate our thinking or dictate our identity. 

Some things to remember

1. Under Grace right and wrong are still right and wrong.
Truth hasn't changed under Grace. Meaning, right, and wrong is spelled out for us in the Scripture. It is still wrong to commit adultery or lie or steal. Because God's Love is our guide, He wouldn't direct us to sin. 
2. The Scripture is still the absolute highest authority and is the truth of God. 
If we disregard the Scripture as God's Word. If we do some mental gymnastics to dismiss clear warnings and clear statements of right and wrong because it messes with our emotional sentiments we've disregarded His Word, His truth. 
3. If we disregard His Word, then there are no standards and anything is "permissible".
Once we operate outside the perimeters of Scripture, feelings, unrenewed desires, ideologies become the foundation of right and wrong.

 With the foundations once again established, and this charge about Grace and repentance addressed, how then do we define repentance? Is repentance defined as turning from sin? How about sorrow for sin? Is groveling to our Father when we blow it the right image of repentance?

No, these are the definitions of men. Repentance is clearly defined in the Scripture. It means to change one's mind. It means to embrace right thinking and reject wrong thinking. Hence the need to reestablish the foundations. Right thinking is possible when we renew our thoughts to His thoughts. How do we know His thoughts? They're found in God's Word. 

 Religious traditional holiness concepts claim repentance is a turning away from sin. This may be the way repentance was seen and understood under the Old Covenant. Look at how the ministry of the New Covenant distinguished repentance and turning here.

 The issue with this turn and cease from all sin definition becomes a works oriented gospel. That is not good news and is not the Gospel. New Christians and those who've been a Christian for many years may be struggling with a sin. If the leadership holds this definition of repentance, it translates to them teaching these particular Christians either lost their salvation or were never saved. They did not truly repent. That's contrary to the simple Good News Gospel Paul preached.
30 Then he led Paul and Silas outside and asked, “What must I do to be saved?”
31 They answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved—you and all your family.”Acts 16:30-31 TPT

 What about repentance? What must we do to be saved? What about repentance and Grace? It is simple if we stay with the Scriptures. Follow New Covenant truth. 

 Repentance is a change of mind, that's it. What is the role of repentance in our salvation? Changing our minds about Jesus. Changing our minds about our condition. Changing our minds about the simplicity of the Gospel. This change of mind is not a conscious effort. It's a natural response to the hearing of the truth of His Word, the Gospel truth. 

 Salvation isn't a commitment to turn and cease from all wrong. It isn't a turning to good works. Good works and walking out our holy identity is a fruit of the Gospel not the root of our salvation. 

 Grace and repentance are always active in our relationship with our Father. We are constantly changing our minds about who we are and what He said about us. In other words, When our thinking contradicts His Word, that is what He said about us, our circumstance or our standing before Him, we change that thinking to align with what He said, not what we feel in our minds. 

 In summation, don't allow tradition to move you away from the simplicity of the Gospel. Don't allow man's words to define repentance. Stay with God's Word. Repentance isn't a scary word. It is part of the Good News that we can change our minds and think His thoughts. It's Good News because it shows us we can relinquish traditional religious thinking, wrong Worldy concepts, lies of the enemy, and embrace what our Father says. 
image courtesy of jesadaphorn @freedigitalphotos.net

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Grace Q & A: Is God really always pleased with us?

17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17 NKJV

For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. Hebrews 2:1 NASB

 We've been in an ongoing study of The Good News Gospel of Christ Jesus. We've been getting back to the basics of the amazing Grace of God. We've addressed the objection of too much emphasis on Grace. We've looked at the truth that we are no longer under condemnation

 Today I sense the leading to answer another question that some have asked about Grace. In answering this question, we will allay yet another myth about Grace. Is God in fact always pleased with us? Is there a way we can be displeasing to God?

 Before we answer the question fully, we must first ask ourselves something. Why is the concept that God is pleased with believers somehow controversial and even unsettling to some Christians? Is believing that our Father is well pleased with His children somehow diminishing to God's character?

 Based solely on interviews given by certain religious leaders and their writings and sermons, the biggest objection to the concept that God is always pleased with His family seems to be that this view lessons God's moral standards. That He no longer brings correction.  He never bothers with instructing His people. 

No correction under Grace?

 The disconnect in the religious tradition-minded is that they don't fully understand true Biblical correction. Instruction is given out of love and not out of anger or disappointment. To illustrate, think back to when you first began instructing your children how to properly eat with a utensil. 

 When you instructed or corrected their use of the utensils were you angry? Were you berating them with harsh words until they got it right? Were you sore displeased in them when they didn't get it right? No, you love them and you took time to show them the correct way. 

 In a similar fashion, God's correction isn't harsh. He isn't angry at His Church! Sadly, some believers feel they didn't have a sincere church meeting unless the speaker reminded the people of how often they fall short and fail to measure up. 

 Some believers cling to a flawed concept, a faulty mindset, a wrong image within, that God, through the avenue of His Spirit is perpetually reminding believers of their sins, shortcomings, and failures. Is this the work of God? Is this the moving of His Spirit? God's Word would call this concept false.
 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Hebrews 8:12 NKJV

If He said by His Spirit that He would no longer remember our sins then why would His Spirit contradict the Scriptures and remind you of your sins? God isn't reminding you of your failures, that's the enemy and His condemnation and accusation attacks. Resist those fiery darts and stand strong in your righteousness in Christ. 

  What about correction though? If God's not bringing my sin to me why does He correct or instruct me? When God brings correction He reminds you of who you are and whose you are. Sin and shortcomings are an attack on your identity. 

 Look how Paul by the Spirit brought instruction and correction to those in Corinth, here and here. Be it strife and division, or even sexual immorality among the church, the correction was the same. He reminded them of who they were. He brought them back to their identity. In other words, the Spirit was saying, this isn't you. 

"Who told you that?"

 In Genesis, God asked this of Adam. This is how God corrects and instructs us. He wants us to be reminded of who we are. The World system, the flesh, (or thinking that isn't aligned with the truth of God), and the enemy try to tell you who you are. They call you addict. They call you immoral. They call you moocher. They call you a failure.

 God looks at you and reminds you of who you are. He speaks to your identity. He speaks of the real you. He looks past the sin or misdeed and doesn't allow your actions to define you, but His Finished Work to define you. Allow God to tell you who you are not your poor choices, not any addictions or habits, not the defeated enemy satan but your Father who loves you unconditionally, eternally. 

 Is God always Pleased with us?

 To answer the question raised, is God always pleased with us? Absolutely. You are His beloved child with whom He is well pleased. What about my failures, my shortcomings, my sins? The answer is identity. God is always pleased with you. Your choices or actions aren't who you are. The Father and the Finished Work define you. While God isn't pleased with negative thinking patterns, misdeeds, sins and shortcomings, He is always well pleased with you.

In fact, it is knowing and fully understanding that He is well pleased with us that brings victory over the enemy and temptation. 
Look at Jesus' temptation in the wilderness, here. Look at the enemy's words to Jesus.

 The enemy said to Jesus, "if you be the son of God..." What is the significance of this phrase? The enemy when tempting Christ, left out His full identity. God had just told Jesus that He was His beloved Son in whom He was well pleased. The enemy never addressed Him as the beloved Son in whom God is well pleased. 

 The temptation always includes an attack on identity. When you know you are always well pleasing to God the enemy's temptation loses its power. The strongholds are pulled down when we remember our identity. 

  Well, can't we bring our Father displeasure? We can, but not in the way that religious tradition thinks. Paul speaks of not being able to please God when we are operating from the flesh. In context, Romans 8  is speaking of operating out of the spirit. In other words, when we try to earn, strive, achieve to receive what only Grace provides that displeases God. We are minimizing the Finished Work and attempting to complete in the flesh (works that are done in our own strength) what is only begun and completed by the Spirit. 

 In summation, we are always His beloved children in whom He is well pleased. God isn't mad at anyone. He isn't in a bad mood. He actually likes you. Remember who you are and whose you are and rest in that and walk in victory. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Grace Q & A: Is Grace just a message of comfort for the lazy?

17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17 NKJV

For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. Hebrews 2:1 NASB

 We've been in an ongoing study of Grace, the Good News Gospel of Jesus Christ. We've been getting back to the basics and asking and answering questions concerning Grace. We've addressed issues like is there too much emphasis on Grace? Is Hyper-Grace false teaching? What about cheap Grace? We've also seen how there is no longer any condemnation to those in Christ Jesus.

 In our last study, we were answering a well-known minister's objections, more accurately categorized as accusations, against the Hyper-Grace Gospel. The two-pronged allegation was that Grace teaching was for those who struggle in sin and those who had an issue with discipline and obedience. We dealt with the obedience issue when we addressed the sin question. 

 Today, I sense the leading to focus on the claim that Grace is only for those with an issue with discipline. In a nutshell, I see this as just the same charge that Radical Grace is for lazy, fruitless, inactive believers. So Is the Grace Gospel only an ear-tickling message for the lazy?

 In order to better answer this charge, let's first explore a traditional mindset in Christians. There exists a thinking pattern in most of Christianity. This line of thought can be summed up this way if you will. There is still more to do. Because believers don't understand rest, they feel they should be doing something. 

 This is of course in relation to our relationship with God. What believers in Christ must remember is that they're already freely accepted by God. They've already been made righteous. They've already been forgiven once for all time. They've already been made holy. Their salvation is sealed by the Spirit, it is already eternally secure. There exist no extra work or action or spiritual discipline needed to make this truer for the Christian. 

18 And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices. Hebrews 10:18 NLT

 The writer here is telling us once the work is finished there is nothing you can add to complete it. Look at an already baked and decorated cake. It's finished. You can't add any more eggs to help complete it. How foolish would it be if you went to the kitchen and started mixing more eggs and sugar for the cake? You might be saying I must add my part to the completed work to make it more complete. As foolish as this sounds, that's exactly what tradition has done with Christianity.

Rest, it is Finished!

 Religious Christianity fails to grasp the concept of rest. They can't comprehend a completed finished work. They sincerely feel compelled to act. That there is in fact still more to do. There is still more to do to become holy. There is still more to do to become more acceptable to God. There is still more to do to receive full forgiveness of sins. There are spiritual disciplines we must master in order to walk in more favor. 

 There is in fact only one thing to do. That is to enter into rest. To take God at His Word. To simply believe. Believe and receive it. It isn't "achieve to receive" or "strive to arrive." It's simply accepting it and believing it. Believe what? Believe the Finished Work was enough. Believe God accepted the once for all sacrifice of Christ.

 The real work, if you will, is to labor to enter into rest. Society is merit-based. That's good and fine and acceptable in the natural realm. However, in relation to God, that's a burden too heavy for anyone to bear. 

 Many believers see relating to God the same way they've done all their life with their elders, parents and older relatives, their employers, and even the natural authorities, such as Monarchies, Prime Ministers, and Presidents. In other words, they see God as the harsh taskmaster who sets up commandments and these orders must be strictly carried out or else. They may claim to see God as their Father, but they still want to relate to Him as their employer who is constantly engaging in performance rating evaluations. 

 Then along comes Grace. Grace portrays our God as a good Father. One who is pleased with His children. Who accepted Jesus once for all sacrifice and longs to fellowship and commune with His people regardless of their performance level. This infuriates the minds of the religious. 

 Because Grace is saying rest, the work is complete now just enjoy the relationship, tradition charges that this revelation just creates inactivity. Not true, it just redirects our pursuits. It just reveals to us that we can stop the striving to be loved, accepted, forgiven and eternally secure. Grace says God always favors Jesus and He is our perfect righteousness so walk in Jesus' favor not our own, and certainly not a favor based upon our doings.

Lazy, "good for nothings" or Believers in rest?

 Lazy? Lacking in discipline? Or are we resting in Christ? What is laziness spiritually speaking? Is it only praying for 20 minutes instead of an hour? 

 Some sadly have made a doctrine about praying for an hour because Jesus asked His disciples to pray for an hour. That was a one time request Jesus made for His disciples. Yet some have turned this into the standard "prayer time".  Some have turned this into the ministry of condemnation concerning prayer. 

 Tradition is about rules, regulations, and the letter of the Law. Grace is about a relationship. A restful relationship rooted in the Finished Work. A relationship that's not working or striving or performing in order to "make the relationship work." 

 Being honest, I have been involved with the local church all throughout my life. Most churches I was associated with weren't Radical Grace based. On numerous occasions, I saw the pleas and multiple requests for volunteers to serve. I've seen whole services dedicated to trying to get members and attendees to help out in various areas. Question, why then, isn't the "holiness", the "Pentecostal", the "Baptist", the "charismatic",  the "Faith" message being taught accused of promoting laziness?

 The truth is it is a religious accusative slander to the truth of Grace to say it promotes laziness. Now, is there a small minority of folk who misunderstood the Gospel who stopped praying or giving or reading the Word thinking these were legalistic chores? Sure, but with proper instruction, these will gain a better understanding, and their misuse of Grace doesn't alter its truth.

 In summation, Grace is about a relationship. We pray, we give, we fellowship with other believers, we study our Bibles, not to achieve favor or blessing or love. We read, pray, give and fellowship because we're already blessed, favored and loved. Again, Grace is a relationship. It's a rest in Christ. It's not inactivity, it's Spirit led actions based upon being already accepted, loved, and redeemed. 
photo courtesy of iosphere@freedigitalphotos.net

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Grace Q & A: Is Grace only for people living in Sin?

17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17 NKJV

For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it
Hebrews 2:1 NASB

We've been in a study, getting back to the basics of Radical Grace, the Good News Gospel of Jesus Christ. We've seen that Grace removes condemnation from the believer. We've addressed the objection about too much emphasis on Grace, and answered the question about Radical Grace being a false teaching

 Today, I'd like to answer yet another question/objection about the teaching of God's Grace. A well-known minister who publicly opposes the Hyper-Grace Gospel stated that some are following the "message of Grace" because they struggle with sin. That they have an affinity for disobedience.  

 Some have even said Grace teaching is the soothing sedative making believers comfortable in their sins and pursuit of lusts. Is this an accurate statement? Is it true that people are only attracted to good news because they want to live loose and free from any moral restraint? 

 In truth, there are only two responses to these accusations I feel are appropriate. One is obvious. Myself nor any other person can ever determine anyone else's motives or desires that aren't fully made known. I can't know every person's possible motivation as to why they are drawn to hear Grace. 

Have people come to Grace awareness because they were looking for a "license to sin?" It's entirely possible. However, that doesn't malign or slander the truth of Grace. I have known of people who only came to church to meet somebody with the hope of dating that person. Their motives weren't the purest. Yet, in the midst of that, they heard the Gospel and their lives were never the same. When anyone regardless of motive hears Grace long enough, they will encounter the person of Grace and transformation is inevitable. 

 The second response to the accusation is one of astonishment. It astonishes me to see their spiritual pride on display. What they are implying by saying Radical Grace is only for those struggling with sin is that they, themselves are faultless, walking in perfection and "got this" holiness thing working. That their works program, their self-efforts and spiritual disciplines and personal achievements have brought them to a place of mastery over sin and habits. 

 Are they indeed walking in freedom? While they may not manifest sinful habits, these desires are still active within. They must work their programs, have constant supervision in order to never slip. What others do in these types of ministries is just hide their sins better and put on masks in front of others. They engage in a facade of "holiness" all the while struggling and never allowed to admit their failures.
Good News Grace is for All of Us!
 The truth is Grace is for all of us. Grace isn't merely the entry point of the faith and then after receiving Christ our efforts, performance and achievements are what matters most. No, thank God, it's Grace from start to finish.

 Grace is for those of us walking in victory over habits, sin and poor choices. Grace is for those of us still captured in habitual sins and struggling to overcome destructive habits. Grace is for the lost person just hearing the Good News for the first time. His Grace is for the believer who has been in a relationship with Christ for years. 

Just this past week, I heard a testimony of one who was in captivity to a destructive sinful habit. This habit brought with it a pattern that altered their life and led them further and further into darkness. It decimated their life, ruined their marriage and even caused them to lose a ministry. No denying sin has consequences and will take you further than you want to go and cost you more than you want to pay.

 All the while listening to the story and seeing how God turned their life around, I was looking for God's Grace. Yes, they saw restoration but what about their life in the midst of their sin? Not once did the testimony include how God saw them in their mess and reminded them how much He loved them. How even though they were in this terrible behavior pattern, He was still for them and not mad at them. Sure He was displeased in the behavior and actions, but He wasn't disappointed in them as His child, whom He dearly loved.

 The basic message was you need more accountability and transparency in your life. You need not isolate yourself. While that is all true, where is Grace?

 Could they have openly shared in the early stages of the sinful habit their struggles? Would slander, gossip, looks of shame and disapproval, be the prevailing atmosphere? Too often this is the environment of most ministries and churches. As soon as someone falls or fails, we are quick to contact other believers, "Can you believe what so and so did?" 

 The atmosphere of ministry should be one void of all shame and disappointment. Instead of the ministry of disapproval, disavowing, disowning, how about the ministry of reconciliation? While adultery and other similar sins that harm others shouldn't be condoned or celebrated and even though there will be obvious consequences for these behaviors, we should always look for ways to bring restoration and reconciliation to all involved, ministry is designed to bring wholeness not brokenness. 

Religious tradition, the ministry of condemnation, believes sin is greater than Grace. That Grace has an expiration date. That our actions and choices can negate and nullify His Grace in our life. That behavior is our savior, not Jesus.

 Some even see sin as some barrier too great for even God to move through. Some believe as kryptonite is to Superman, so sin is to God. That God sees our sins, our habits, our struggles and immediately flees from us. He's "hands-off" far removed from us until we get "clean" again. The Good News of Grace has a far better report than tradition.

 No matter how long you've struggled. No matter how often you fail. No matter the time that has passed living with the addiction, the habit, or the bondage. No matter how far you've fallen. Know God has never turned His back on you. Know God the Father is not looking down upon you with disgust or contempt. Know God isn't above you with arms folded in disappointment and disdain towards you. Grace is all the time shouting, I am for you, not against you! I have so much better for you! My plans for you haven't changed! I love you whether you fail or overcome! 

 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 

 In summation, Grace is greater than sin. Grace received produces an empowerment that propels us passed our addictions and habits. Grace, the divine influence upon our hearts, works in new desires that effortlessly removes the old, sinful desires. 

 Grace also keeps us and reminds us continually of who we are while we are still in the midst of our mess. His Grace ministers life while we are walking out our freedom from addictions and habits. Grace even brings reassurance of our sonship, righteousness, forgiveness and eternally secure relationship in the midst of our worse days.