Proclaiming a Message of Good News and Hope to our generation!

Month: July 2013

Workers in the Church, Unite!

Early in the 20th Century, the rallying cry for many of the world’s oppressed masses, was “Workers of the World, Unite!” Sadly, the revolution that followed led to another kind of oppression in the form of communist dictatorships in many countries. The title of this commentary is a rallying cry against a different kind of oppression. It is not a call to bondage, but to freedom under the benevolent Lordship of our Savior Jesus Christ!

Political and religious oppression has troubled mankind from the earliest days of civilization. Sometimes I wonder if it is even built into the nature of fallen man, to oppress and be oppressed. Many times in the course of human history a drive for freedom and prosperity has ended in another form of slavery. The Utopian hopes of men like Karl Marx have backfired. Others, with even more Biblically based ideals have failed as well.

Most every effort to form an ideal community requires some kind conformity to an individual ideal to work. Those who cannot conform do not do well in this situation. Instinctively, they begin to think that acceptance is based upon performance, and they begin to lose something of their own personhood.

Often, upon finding themselves in this trap, some come to the reality of true acceptance in Jesus Christ. What a glorious contrast! When an individual turns from self-reliance and one’s own effort to find purpose, meaning and value in life, there is a sweet release to be found in trusting in the grace, mercy and peace with God in Jesus Christ!

Not everyone experiences this contrast so dramatically. Some of us waiver between receiving this grace so freely given and feeling the need to try to earn it in some way. Sometimes, unintentionally, Godly Christian leaders can even reinforce this feeling.

To give a simple example: on every Sunday in most every church in America an offering plate is passed around. Even if no word is ever spoken, the pressure is there just the same. A momentary thought might come to your mind as the plate comes down the row you are sitting in, “How much should I give? Is this amount enough? Have I shortchanged God in any way? Will He not reward me for giving more?”

This is why the Gospel has to be restated many times even to the born-again believer. It is the Good News that your performance is not what gets you to heaven, or gains you entrance into the Community of Believers, the Body of Christ, the Church Universal. It is our trusting in Christ and His righteousness alone — His good works on our behalf — His righteous life on this earth — His sacrificial death on the Cross — and His rising from the dead for our vindication — it is faith in Him alone that brings us into this grace wherein we stand! Hallelujah! (Romans 4:25-5:2).

Why then am I calling on the workers in the church to unite? Well, it is obvious that centuries of people and groups trying to earn peace with God has created an imbalance in Christianity that has prompted another imbalance. The idea of Christian service has become so connected with a works-righteousness concept or with that of salvation by works, that the Biblical teaching on the subject is becoming taboo.

We Are Not Saved BY Our Works, but FOR Our Works!

Eph 2:8-10
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Those of you who have been brow-beaten into DOING, GOING, WORKING, SACRIFICING, can relax. This message is not for you. I will ask you to not judge or marginalize those whose joy is found in service to the Lord and His people.

Christian service, good works, are NOT dirty words! Those of you who have something on your heart, a passion to bless others in some way — GO FOR IT! Wow! Did that feel good to say! God had you and a purpose for your life in His mind even before He saved you! He already loved you and gave Himself for you — AND planned a joyous place of usefulness for you in His Kingdom! If you already know what that purpose is, seek His guidance in fulfilling it. If you don’t yet know, look forward to the adventure of realizing it! Be faithful in the few and small things and He will give you greater opportunities! (Matthew 25:21).

Titus 2:11-14:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

As a fellow worker with you in Christ, I am calling all of us off the couch! Certainly take the rest you need, but take on the challenges Christ has placed before you as well! No one should take on anothers role or challenge. Each of us has a part to play in the advance of God’s Kingdom for which we are perfectly suited.

Rom 12:3-19:

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

What a life God has planned for us! What adventure! What a thrill to have a part in pressing back the gates of hell! What a joy to encourage one another to fan the flames of passion for our Lord Jesus Christ and His mission on this earth!

Thank You Jesus!

Super Abounding Grace!

In Europe during the early 1500’s, a German monk named Martin Luther uncovered a message that soon began to change the face of Christianity. Since then his teachings concerning the grace of God have been at the very heart of the Protestant church. We know of course, that these teachings were not originally his. He and others, following in the footsteps of Saint Augustine of Hippo, became the founders of a systematic, theological approach to the Grace of God, and the Protestant Reformation was born!

Yet, how many of us today who come under this large umbrella of Protestant Christianity, truly and fully understand the working of the grace of God in our lives? Why has this critical issue been reduced to the debate over a false dichotomy between faith and works, or to the endless controversy over the law verses grace?

And what is the result? Today untold thousands of believers in Christ remain passive and helpless in dealing with the personal challenges of their own lives, and often completely ineffective in their role of offering the good news of the marvelous grace of God to those around them!

Is it possible that many are long overdue for a fresh revelation of God’s amazing Grace? Could it be that the time has come for us all to renew our love affair and heart’s preoccupation with the One Who is full of Grace and Truth – our Lord Jesus Christ?

Among the many things that were said of those early saints in Jerusalem, a passage in Acts 4:33 is particularly intriguing:

“with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.”

It was also said of the believers of that era, that …. “they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

The North American church in the 21st Century has a great deal of knowledge, organizational and political power, financial clout and worldly wisdom. But how many of us miss the ability to give such a powerful witness to the resurrected Christ as did these primitive saints? How many wonder of the great grace that was upon them all?

This personal quest has led me back to the teachings of the apostles. A lifetime could and should be devoted to the beliefs of these holy men who were chosen by Christ Himself, but certain basic concepts are readily perceived — by the help of the Holy Spirit and His illumination of course!

The doctrine of the grace of God in Christ was more than just a concept to them! John so powerfully wrote:

John 1:16-17: “And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.
For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”

and again:

in1 John 1:1: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;”

Something happened to these people! They saw, and looked upon, and handled and received the very Life and Grace of God in Jesus Christ! Where previously they had the law, which told them what to do, what not to do — now they had His enabling power within them to fully live!

But how easy it has been for us to simply reduce the New Testament into just another list of rules! How we have forgotten the very context in which the New Testament commands were given! After having tried and failed in their own human efforts, these men and women of God came to know victorious living by the generosity of God in Christ!

Listen to the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:10: “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;” (Ephesians 3:8)

But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:7)

And the apostle Peter confirms:

1 Pet 4:10 “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

2 Pet 3:17-18: “Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position.
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”

While the religions of men continue to place heavy burdens upon the people, the teachings of the apostles are aimed at challenging us all to receive God’s most gracious gift of Himself! Think of it! Some of Paul’s most scathing rebukes were to the churches of Galatia, whose members were beginning to trust in their own obedience to certain laws and rituals! Some had forsaken the very fountain of Life, and had begun digging wells of their own self-righteousness! (Jeremiah 2:13)

The apostles’ message of grace was never an excuse to sin! In fact it was the very opposite! It removed every excuse for living in sin! More than that, God’s grace brought the power to serve others, freely sharing this very good news with all!

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;

Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Titus 2:11-14)

Are you living in the so called “age of grace,” where some glory in their shortcomings? Or are you truly growing in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, becoming a living witness to the power of His resurrection?

This is a day when we need to renew our commitment to the “testimony of the Gospel of the Grace of God.” (Acts 20:24-25)

This good news is both powerful and life changing! More than that, it is world changing! It is the Good News of the Kingdom of God — His reign of righteousness, peace and joy within us, by the power of the Holy Ghost (Romans 14:17), which is already being revealed in the earth today!

How many of us are tired of a weak, watered-down gospel, that leaves you pretty much where you are right now? The only difference might be is that you can be made to feel just a little bit better about yourself!

But how many are hungering and thirsting after God Himself, knowing that in Him, and Him alone we are made full, complete, ever growing unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ? (Ephesians 4:13)

By the grace of God in Christ we are purified, to live righteous and holy in His sight! And all of this is freely poured out unto us as we humble ourselves at the foot of the cross!

But according to James, the proud, the self-righteous, the arrogant are without hope.

“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.‘ “ (James 4:6 NIV)

Who among us wants to be found opposing God? Or worse yet, God opposing us?

Let us therefore accept the sacrifice of Christ for us, and “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;

And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:19-25)

Hebrews 12:15: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;”

My brothers and sisters, may we always guard against any self confidence or self righteousness that may rise up in our midst. May our trust always be in Christ alone. Our theories, our ideologies, our hopes and dreams are vanishing at the revelation of Jesus Christ, and the wonderful news is that we have already found certain hope in Him!

1 Pet 1:13-16: “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

Heavenly Father,

Our eyes have been so blinded to the grace and truth that has already been given unto us in our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ. But today your truth is making us free indeed.

We humble ourselves before you, and gratefully receive your abundant and amazing grace. From this time forward, may we grow both in our ability to receive the working of your grace in our lives, as well as in our ability to share it with others. For in this way we continue together to learn more of you.

In the Name of Christ Jesus our Lord,

Did Paul Mix Law with Grace?

It has been nearly 500 years since the German monk and college professor, Martin Luther challenged the largest religious institution of his day. It wasn’t that he set out to challenge anyone, but he had found a wonderful truth in the writings of Paul that dramatically transformed his life.

After years of feeling the weight of his own personal sinfulness, he found peace with God through faith in the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. He had been taught that good works, both charitable acts and the sacraments of the church would lead to peace with God and eternal life in heaven. For some reason this peace for him did not come…. until he began his thorough studies of Paul’s writings, especially his letter to the Romans.

When he read that God’s grace, his favor towards those who have not performed sufficient good works, is the means by which we are saved, and that we are justified by faith in Christ alone, it was if the heavens were open unto him! Having already realized that on his own he could never be good enough, he was thrilled to learn that he could have the very righteousness of Christ applied on his account!

This event, along with other situations in Europe at that time, led to the Protestant Reformation, which altered the course of history.

The leaders of the Reformation were very serious about the Word of God, and they could articulate the Gospel of grace in the context of the major themes of the Bible. They also understood what the New Testament writers knew, that the Gospel could and would be distorted.

When a person understands and truly experiences the wonderful grace of God, the response should be a changed heart, and a desire to please Him. We must be careful, however, to attend to the whole counsel of God. A few Scriptures can easily be taken out of context, even in sincerity, that could mislead many.

The Unfinished Work

Some internationally popular preachers today have perfected a terrific feel-good version of the Gospel that has enormous appeal to this modern generation. They downplay the need for confrontation and repentance from sin. They relegate those aspects of Jesus’ teachings to the Old Testament. According to them, these teachings were before His death on the Cross, after which everything changed.

This fits in nicely with the Prosperity Gospel, where people are told exactly what they want to hear, and the goal is personal pleasure, comfort and material wealth. They say: “Jesus suffered so we would not have to suffer.”

So now, grace means we do not have own up to our failures. This they would call having a “sin-consciousness.” Any church that sees any value at all in learning the 10 Commandments, is accused of bringing death upon the people, and “mixing the law with grace.”

This is obviously an overreaction to the many groups in Christianity that still emphasize rule-keeping as a means to salvation. One group appears to be weak on their understanding of Justification, while the reacting groups misunderstand Sanctification. The finished work of Christ on the Cross is immediate in our justification, while the same work of Christ is progressive in our Sanctification!

Paul and the Law

Without getting too technical on this subject, I would encourage you to take a look at Paul’s writings to see what he actually did say. It has been already established that “by the works of the law will no one be justified before God.” Our justification, God’s counting us righteous, is based upon our trust in the righteousness of Christ alone.

Justification is a done deal for the believer. But what about our sanctification? How do we grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Our Lord? Is the finished work of Christ on the Cross the only Bible truth we need to know? If there is nothing left for us to do but to listen to positive preaching, why did Paul himself have so many negative things to say?

If the Ten Commandments only brought death, why did Paul tell the churches to honor their fathers and mothers? Why did he tell them to not steal? Why did he explicitly forbid lying? Why did he have a man put out of the church in Corinth for adultery? Why did he warn against covetousness and idolatry? Surely the Gospel of Grace would have eliminated the need for such references to the law!

The truth is, that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. The primary agent in the changing of our thought life is the Word of God, including both the Old and New Testaments!

In fact, the New Testament had not been compiled yet when Paul wrote that all scripture has been given by inspiration of God and is profitable for reproof, correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God can be perfect fully equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:17)

Yes, those whose hearts have not yet turned to the Lord have a veil over their minds in the reading of the Old Testament. But — when the heart turns to the Lord, that veil is taken away. Therefore, beholding the glory of the Lord Himself, even in the reading of the Law, we are transformed into that same image, from glory to glory! Hallelujah! (2 Corinthians 3:14-18).

It was Paul who said, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man!” For one who is born of the Spirit, there is a deepness there that calls unto the depths of the Christ Who lives within us. There is a hunger for the wisdom, knowledge and counsel of God. We know that obedience begins in the heart, but that it has to be worked out in our daily words and actions.

We are working out our salvation with fear and trembling, knowing that it is God who is working in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure! (Philippians 2:12)

Don’t let yourself be robbed of the power of the Word of God, by those who “wrongly divide” it. Even the wounds we receive from the Sword of the Spirit, that is the Word of God, those wounds only come to remove those things that are deadly to us.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend, this friend is the One Who laid down His life for us. But the kisses of the enemy are deceitful. We are living in wonderful and yet treacherous times. Our enemy would love for us to view our Heavenly Father as mean and abusive. But he would also portray Him as soft, indulgent and unconcerned for our growth unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, progressing from faith to faith, from strength to strength and from glory to glory!

Romans 12:1-2:

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good, and acceptable and perfect. NASB


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