Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Strong in Grace: Rewards?

So you, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.       2 Timothy 2:1 MEV


   We've begun a new series studying on becoming strong in the Grace of God. Many are strong in various things. Strong in intellectual knowledge. Strong in ambitious desire to succeed in their career. I want to share how to become stronger in the Grace of God. 

 When we speak of Grace, sometimes we find a portion of our thinking resisting the complete truth of Grace. Why? Because living in this world conditions us to want to play a part. To earn our way if you will. 

 The early 1980s musical film Annie adapted from the comic strip, perfectly illustrates how many believers respond to God's Grace. When the orphan girl comes to stay at the billionaire's home, the first thing she does is grab a bucket and scrub brush to beginning scrubbing walls. The staff all looked at her perplexed and tell her she is a guest there. Her response was how will I earn my keep?

 Isn't that how we often respond to Father's Love and Grace? All of the splendor of Heaven has been given to us to enjoy and we grab a proverbial mop bucket and begin scrubbing floors. Instead of enjoying the riches and joy of the Father's house, we look to earn our place there. A place we could never earn, to begin with.

 Let's look then at rewards under Grace. What I am not endeavoring to do is discuss or debate about eternal rewards in Heaven. I personally understand based on Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 3, there is some form of eternal rewards, but nothing that would allow us to take credit for and become boastful about. 

 I am speaking of rewards for our doings now. The idea that the blessing and favor and goodness of God are predicated on our own goodness and works and deeds. I used the illustration of the film because the orphan was invited to dwell with a wealthy person. The invite was his estate's idea not the orphan's. The invite then wasn't extended because of the personal works and deeds of the orphan but the goodness of the wealthy person's estate.

 Some classify the blessing of God as a reward for service. They classify healing as a reward for works. They classify favor as a reward for doing good. The real question then becomes in order to receive all these things how much works do I need to do? How do I know when I've done enough? How do I know if I've done these works right? 

 Imagine a father who only gave his son a treat when he did something good. All the child would believe is that his father cares for him more when he does good and when he doesn't his father is sore displeased and disappointed in him and angry at him. So he works harder and harder to win the approval of his father. Eventually, he will burn out trying to earn his father's love and favor. 

 What if the father often blessed his son with a piece of candy after dinner? What if he loved him and blessed sometimes in spite of his faults and failures? I am not advocating rewarding bad behavior if you will, but I am speaking of unmerited favor and blessing. When the child sees the love and acceptance of their father despite their failure they will want to return their father's goodness with goodness of their own.

 The blessing and favor and mercy of God is rooted in God's goodness, not our own goodness. He blesses and favors us because He is good all the time not because we are. His goodness and healing and favor are extended to us because He perfectly purchased them in His redemptive work. All we need to do is simply believe.

 Healing for our bodies, favor in all areas of our life aren't rewards for services rendered. We aren't in some business transaction with God. He is our good Father, not our employer. 

 Maybe someone would ask, are you saying God will bless and favor us even when we sinned or messed up? That He will heal us even when the sickness or disease is the result of our own doing? Allow me to clarify, yes I am saying this.

 God is not given a stamp of approval of our sins or wrong choices. That's not what the Favor and blessing of God are. God's favor is ours because of Jesus, not ourselves. If we are abstaining from wrong choices and sin only to ensure we are getting a blessing, then that's transactional relating to God and not living in a relationship with our Father. 

 The blessing of God, the Favor of God, His goodness are ours because of the Finished Work. Because He became something He never was so we could become something we've never been. He became sin so we could become accepted, approved, and in right standing with God. We receive from God because of our righteousness in Christ, not our own goodness. 

 In summation, God's goodness and blessing isn't some reward system. He blesses us because of Jesus, not our works. Because He is so good to us, inwardly we begin to desire to abstain from wrong thinking and choices. Growing strong in Grace is receiving what He did for us with joy and resting in it.

Image by Агзам Гайсин from Pixabay 

Monday, February 17, 2020

Becoming Strong In Grace

So you, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 2:1 MEV

 Be strong. We can be strong in a lot of things in this life. We can be strong in studying for a degree. We can be strong in bettering ourselves for our career goals. In the spiritual realm, we can be strong in the religious traditions of men. Today, I want to begin a new series studying something all believers need to be strong in, the Grace of God.

 We can be strong in Grace. We can grow in Grace and in the knowledge of Jesus. We can trust in and rest in God's great Grace. Too often we're strong in something other than God's Grace. 

 Sometimes we find ourselves strong in the religious tradition of men. Sometimes we find ourselves strong in Old Covenant mindsets and not New Covenant thinking. Other times we are strong in trying to earn or achieve God's blessing in our life. 

 The blessing of God is not a blessing on our behavior or our performance. The blessing of God is a blessing on Christ's perfect redemption and His Finished Work. The blessing, the favor, and the mercy of God are God's response to Jesus' works, not our works. We didn't pay the price at the Cross. We didn't bear the sin of mankind. We never bore anyone's infirmities, weaknesses, poverty, or disease. We didn't bear the curse, Jesus did. 

 The blessing of God is a blessing on Christ's work, not our work. When we look at our works as some form of currency in receiving God's goodness we are in a business transaction and not a relationship with a Father. When we look at our performance as something that now qualifies us for all of Heaven's goodness we are putting the focus and attention onto ourselves and not Jesus. When we look at our behavior as the disqualifier of God's blessing and favor we are discounting Jesus' perfect redemption that was accepted as the once for all payment that was perfectly pleasing to the Father. 

 The goodness and favor and blessing of Almighty God is not a stamp of approval of our actions, our words, our deeds or behavior. The blessing isn't something we achieve. It isn't something we earn. God's blessings come because of what Christ did. God is blessing the work of Christ. Now don't misunderstand, good works, avoiding sin, saying no to temptation, being a blessing, serving and loving others is good fruit and bring its own rewards. It's just not the root of God's favor. 

 This cuts cross-grain to all we've heard growing up as believers. We heard "do good and get good." "Do bad and get bad." That's Old Covenant not New Covenant. Under the New, we are already blessed in Christ Jesus. We also must allow God's Word to rightly divide our own thinking and motives. Without even realizing it, sometimes we do good works to achieve something. To gain the favor of leadership or impress others. That's why the blessing is rooted in Jesus' work and not our own.

 Becoming strong in Grace is becoming strong in knowing and understanding all Christ did for us. It's learning to trust in His perfect redemptive work and not our own. It's resting in the Finished Work and not trying to earn, achieve, strive for what God already purchased and performed on our behalf. 

 Becoming strong in Grace isn't about becoming more and more bitter at local churches, ministries, and those that lead them. It isn't about becoming more and more isolated from others in the Body of Christ. It isn't about becoming stingy and no longer giving of our resources and time to bless other ministries. It isn't about becoming more rebellious and delving deeper and deeper into darkness and depravity. Becoming strong in Grace is about becoming strong in who we are already in Christ because of Jesus' Finished Work. 

 We can become stronger in this Grace of God. We can grow in our understanding of what it means to be New Creations in Christ. We can grow in understanding what it means to be accepted and approved in Him. We can become more and more confident in the presence of God. We can rejoice before our Father knowing He isn't holding our sins or misdeeds against us. 

 In summation, we can choose what to be strong in. We can be strong in bitterness. Strong in sinful desires. Strong in religious tradition. Strong in Old Covenant mindsets and observances. Or we can grow stronger and stronger in God's Grace. We can grow stronger in Him. He welcomes this growth and encourages it via His Spirit within and the promises of His Word and the Finished Work of the Cross. 

 God is for us not against us. Go back to when we first received Jesus. We knew we couldn't earn anything. We knew we didn't deserve anything based on our own merit. We knew we were lost and hopeless apart from Christ and His perfect love. Yet He chose us, blessed us, highly favored us, made us new, gave us His righteousness. He forgave us past, present, and future and forever secured us in Him. We can grow strong in this Grace. 
 Image courtesy of vectorolie at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Lies Religious Tradition Taught Us: God is in control

 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. 2 Timothy 3:5 KJV 

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 an ongoing study of the lies religious tradition has taught us. Ideas and concepts taught in such a way that they make it seem almost blasphemous to dare even question them. Views about God taught so long they've formed strongholds in the minds of so many believers.

 So far we've addressed many lies religious tradition has told us. Lies such as God is the author of sickness and disease, the sender of disaster, and the God who causes evil circumstances just so some good may come out of it. That God is pleased with our poverty and misery. That miracles have ceased and Faith is powerless and ineffective today. 

 In our last study, we saw that God's will is healing for all. As we were studying we touched on the topic of God being in control, that He is literally controlling all facets of our life. Today it seemed good to focus on this rampant lie being taught across many quarters of the Body of Christ. 

 Resistance, disagreement, or unacceptance of this theology that God is literally controlling all facets of life on Earth is met with strong hostility by the religious among us. They feel that to disagree is to take away from the sovereignty of God. That we are undermining the very nature of God.

 How could God be the Supreme, Almighty God if He isn't in control of all things? This is where the disconnect occurs. Some define sovereignty as controlling all things. That is not the definition of sovereignty. 

 The word sovereignty isn't even in God's Word. Yet the concept is there found within. Sovereignty defined means, the supreme ruler. It means self-governance. It doesn't mean that it controls all things. Allow me to illustrate how God is self-governing.

 God reveals that by the laying on of hands sick people are healed, Mark 16 and seen throughout Jesus' ministry and that of the Apostles. Why did He say this? Why is it so? Because the self-governing One declared it so. He didn't seek out a committee for approval. 

 Why is it by simply speaking God's Word that Faith is released? Because He decreed it. Romans 10 shows us this. I trust you're tracking with me. These are the aspects of self-governance. This is sovereignty in action. This is not God controlling all circumstances in life.

 Let's look again at some passages and ask hard questions for the tradition-minded. 
who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:4 NABRE
 God wills everyone to be saved. He wills it. Yet not all people are saved and have come to the knowledge of the truth. Many are still groping around in darkness seeking what they think is the truth. Yet God wills everyone to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. 

 Look at this word wills in the Greek. From Thayer's dictionary;
θέλω  /  ἐθέλω
thelō  /  ethelō
Thayer Definition:
1) to will, have in mind, intend
1a) to be resolved or determined, to purpose
1b) to desire, to wish
1c) to love
1c1) to like to do a thing, be fond of doing
1d) to take delight in, have pleasure

God wills or intends is resolved, determined that all should be saved. Yet not all are saved. I thought God was in control? I thought God controls all aspects of life? I thought God's sovereignty means all He wills and desires must happen?

 Perhaps we have misconstrued His Word and misunderstood what sovereignty means. God wills or wants all to be saved yet He gave man the free will to accept this invitation to new life. 

God controls all things?

 I've seen those under tradition seem to think that if God is the one doing it that makes it ok and acceptable. That is if God is the one killing your child, or causing your child to be victimized by sexual abuse, or the one causing your terminal disease or ordaining that you become the victim of a violent crime it somehow should bring some form of comfort to you. That these horrific, traumatic, tragic circumstances are good and right and acceptable because God is in control. He is the author and ordainer of such events. Doesn't this make you rejoice?

 This is the work of the enemy to pervert the image of our Good Father. The enemy wants to reform and refashion an image of God in our thinking, where God is unfaithful to His Word. He fails to keep His promises. He willingly afflicts and is the bringer of pestilence, famine, disaster, tragedy, disease, and poverty. That His idea of goodness is the death of your children, the dissolution of your marriage and the bankruptcy of your business.  

 We must reject and resist with every fiber of our being these lies of the enemy. God gave man free will and the power of choice. We choose who to be influenced by. Either the Goodness and Love of our Father or the lies of the enemy, the flesh and the world system. 

Yes, again and again they tempted God, And limited the Holy One of Israel. Psalm 78:41 NKJV

Look at this passage. Man, finite man, created man actually limited the sovereign Lord. How is this possible? In the New, it is made clearer. Through unbelief

 God is the supreme ruler, but He isn't controlling all aspects of life. God is a Good Father. God isn't causing men to commit unthinkable violent acts. God isn't causing men to commit sin. God isn't violating man's will. Love is not an invasion of the will.

 In summation, our God is Good. God isn't controlling all things. That is He isn't causing or creating every event on earth. Sovereignty doesn't negate a sinful fallen fractured creation. Sovereignty doesn't overlook the work of the enemy who comes to steal and kill and destroy. Sovereignty doesn't override the free will of man. There are things the self-governing One is in control of. That is what He decreed in His Word. Whatever He declared will come to pass, His Word is truth. 
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Lies Religious Tradition Taught Us: It's not God's will to Heal you

Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.                 2 Timothy 3:5 KJV 

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 an extended study examining the lies religious tradition has taught for years and years. Concepts and views taught in such a way to dare question them would make it seem as if your doubting and questioning God Almighty. Things taught in such a way and for so long they've formed strongholds in people's minds.

 In this series, we've exposed lies such as God is the author of your sickness and disease. That God causes evil so good may come. That it's His highest and best that we live in poverty. That God is a mean and angry God, we even explored the true meaning of spiritual warfare. 

 In our last study, we allayed myths surrounding holiness, what it is and what it isn't. Today, it seems good to explore another area of God's goodness. In doing so, we will ask and answer a hard question. Is it God's will to heal today? Is it God's will to heal you?

 What traditional religion has taught for years is that it's not God's will to heal all. That God heals some and leaves others to suffer, languishing in their disease. That God chooses some to heal and some not to. God is sovereign and He knows what's best for us. 

 God seems to know that children suffering from cancer, leukemia, cystic fibrosis or some other disease are good and right. That it's working for their good, their parents good, and the Church's good. God knows more than us and He is sovereign and knows what's best for us. 

 This is precisely what traditional ministers teach. Is this the truth? That is, is this the true will of God? What does God say about Jesus' work of redemption?

Surely our sicknesses he hath borne, And our pains -- he hath carried them, And we -- we have esteemed him plagued, Smitten of God, and afflicted. And he is pierced for our transgressions, Bruised for our iniquities, The chastisement of our peace [is] on him, And by his bruise there is healing to us. Isaiah 53:4-5 YLT

 God lets us know what Jesus paid for in His work of redemption. So let's look at Jesus and what His attitude is about sickness and disease. Let's see what Jesus did when He encountered disease.

 In Matthew 4 what does Jesus do? Jesus heals all that were sick. Not some but all. In Matthew 8, Jesus again encounters pain, sickness, and disease. What does He do? Tell people this is working for their good? Matthew 8 again shows Jesus' attitude about disease. Surely we can find somewhere Jesus tells someone no, I won't heal you, right?

 Looking through the entire Gospels and you can't find Jesus ever telling anyone no. You can't find anyone hearing this sickness and disease is of God and for your good and self-improvement. You won't find any passage stating it's not God's will to heal you. 

 Some like to point to John 5 to prove Jesus didn't want to heal all. The Sheep Gate had a pool and angel came and stirred the water and whoever stepped in first got healed. There was a crowd of sick people there. Always, for there was no set time when the angel would come. These were looking unto the pool for help, not God. 

 Note what is left out when religion points to this passage. Not one soul there sought Jesus. Jesus was there healing and yet they never came to where He was. Well, some were invalid someone would say. And the lame man had four friends carry Him to get to where Jesus was and received. Point is not one soul upon seeing Jesus there, ever asked Him to heal them. If they asked they would've received.

 Jesus Himself answers this question about God's will. Look at Mark's Gospel. Jesus forever settled the question is it God's will to heal. 
41 Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Mark 1:41 NKJV

 Let's get real though. We see Jesus' attitude about sickness and disease. We see what His will is. Yet why do some not get healed? If it's His will why are people not receiving healing? 

 There is a simple explanation but many just don't like it. I am not even speaking of the unbelief aspect. There is an answer but it topples over religious tradition's biggest sacred cow. This idea that God's sovereignty means God's controlling everything.

 Here is the simple truth. Just because something is God's will and desire doesn't mean that it will just happen or be so. This truth cuts contrary to everything religious tradition teaches. Their whole theology rests on this foundation, That God dictates and determines every event on Earth.

 Let God's Word be the final authority. Paul writing to Timothy declared it's God's will and desire that all men should be saved. Peter writing also echoes this same sentiment and expression of God's revealed will. So it's God's will for all to be saved and not His will that any perish. Yet all people are not saved and some people have perished dying apart from receiving Christ's free gift of Grace. 

 Let's look at a couple of other areas about God's will. God declares it is His will that we believers abstain from sexual immorality. Yet many of us believers have slipped in this area. We've engaged in sex outside of marriage after we've received Jesus. Wait, it is God's will that we don't though. Why didn't God just control all things and make it so? If it's His will why did so many fail? It's as if people's free will and choice can counter God's will.

 Paul writes under the inspiration of the Spirit to forgive others because we've already been forgiven. If this is God's will why do some still hold grudges? It's as if mankind can override what God wants. I trust you're tracking with me. Just because God wants something doesn't mean it automatically happens. 

 Healing isn't God's will? God has given us His Son and His perfect Finished Work. He bore all our sickness and disease on the Cross. He's given us His Faith. He's given us His perfect unchanging Word of promise. He's given us the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. He's given us authority over all the power of the enemy and their works. Jesus' perfect work redeemed us from the curse of the Law. God has done all He can for us to receive wholeness, the wholeness He purchased for us.

 So why aren't some healed? Why are some still sick and disease-ridden? Why are children dying suddenly? Why are people struck with cancer and never receive healing? 

 The answer is a mystery. We don't have all the answers. We don't always know why. We only have the truth God revealed to us. We live in a fallen and fractured creation. We know the defeated devil is a liar and sometimes attacks. We have authority over him. We do know that God isn't the author or ordainer of the infirmity. We do know what His will is. So we praise louder than the affliction, and unbelief. In the middle of the mystery, praise God more and more. He isn't the author of the affliction but the deliverer from affliction.