Superabounding Grace

"Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” (Romans 5:20 NASB)

Despair seems to abound all around us: threat of nuclear war, mass shootings, devastating hurricanes, volatile financial markets, political uprisings, worldwide disease, etc. Not only is the Earth in chaos, but often our private world is reeling. Life feels overwhelming. Circumstances crash in like a flood. Problems seem insurmountable: family crisis, emotional trauma, financial pressures, severe illness, and even death.

Yet, the the GOOD NEWS is Jesus came to give us life MORE ABUNDANTLY (John 10:10). His love and life changes everything. Jesus didn’t come to just take us to Heaven, but to bring Heaven to us. God's Grace is more than just a free ticket to Glory. It’s the total security of knowing that He is right here with us and that He will never leave us abandoned. He is a present HELP in the time of trouble (Psalms 46:1).

Jesus is our way of escape. He is our relief, our hope, our joy in every situation. No matter what we go through, His grace is greater (1 John 4:4). God’s grace exceeds the boundaries of our limitations, supplies our deepest needs, and breaks the power of all our fears. Where sin and its effects abound, God’s grace is champion. “No power of Hell or scheme of man” can win over God’s grace (Romans 5:17,21).

The Greek word for Salvation is sozo which means healing, protection, deliverance, freedom, security, peace, and prosperity. Our salvation isn't just limited to the forgiveness of sins and assurance of our eternity with God. It's so much MORE! It includes everything that Christ provided for us through his death, burial, and resurrection. His super-abounding grace encompasses every aspect of our lives.

Through God’s unlimited Grace, we can experience more of Heaven on Earth (Mark 6:10). It not only empowers us to avoid sin and obey God, but even more so, enables us to receive the fullness of all He has given us through Jesus Christ. Grace is God’s supernatural power, peace, and provision. Wherever sin, sickness, and sorrow seem to abound, God's grace exceedingly abounds toward us over it all.

What's Right About You

“And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment...” (John 16:8 ESV)

The devil loves to make a detailed inventory of your failures. His job is to constantly remind you of all that’s wrong about you. Yet, no matter where you are falling short, the Holy Spirit will always remind you of what’s right about you.

The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin (John 16:8). The world includes all who are lawless, the unregenerate, non-believers, and unrepentant sinners (John 16:9). However, while the world is convicted of sin, we as believers are not of this world. Keep reading...

When you trusted in Jesus for your salvation, you were snatched out of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of His light (Colossians 1:13). You are an official citizen of Heaven and are subject to a totally different jurisdiction than those who are of the world.

We are not of this world (John 15:19). In Christ, there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). There is nothing but light all around you. You will never hear harsh words from the Holy Spirit when you fail or fall short. Condemnation, guilt, and convicting words come from the darkness.

The word convict means to pronounce guilty. The Holy Spirit definitely convicts sinners of their sin. Yet, the Holy Spirit constantly convinces believers (you and me) of His presence and righteousness, especially when we feel abandoned or rejected (John 16:10).

Before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He promised His disciples to send the Holy Spirit (the Helper) to comfort them from feeling alone, abandoned, and rejected. They would need to be constantly reminded that He would always be with them (John 15:26).

The Holy Spirit is our helper (advocate). He comforts us when we hurt, strengthens us in weakness, and defends us against satan's accusations. He is not against us; He is for us (Romans 8:31) He never puts condemnation on us (Romans 8:1), but always convinces us of Christ’s unshakable love (John 15:26).

Hear me clearly... SATAN is the accuser (Revelation 12:20). He seeks to harass those who belong to God, but we are dead to his lies. We must learn through the truth of God’s grace to rightly discern whose voice is accusing us when we fail.

You may say, “But I still have issues and shortcomings." No worries. Jesus will finish what He started in you (Philippians 1:6). Besides, God doesn’t see you for what you’ve done (good or bad) but for what Christ has done. He sees you through the finished work of His Son.

You are the righteousness of God in Christ. You are just as holy and blameless as He is. In Christ, you are complete and lacking nothing. You are hidden deep in the love of Jesus. (1 John 4:17, 1 Corinthians 1:8, 2 Corinthians 5:21; Colossians 2:10; 3:3)

That's what's right about you!

You Might Be Self Righteous If

“But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags…” (Isaiah 64:6 NKJV)

In order to fully understand what Isaiah meant in our key passage, we must carefully examine his unorthodox choice of word pictures. The words “filthy rags” come from two Hebrew words: ed and beged (Strongs #899 and #5708). These two words combined connote a primitive piece of cloth used to shield a woman’s menstruation cycle. We should contemplate Isaiah's crude comparison of the Hebraic Law concerning regulations on personal hygiene to vividly illustrate the worth of our self-righteousness. Trying to earn righteousness through works is like trying to clean yourself with a dirty rag. The more you try to wash yourself, the dirtier you become. We cannot cleanse ourselves nor maintain cleanliness before God in our own efforts. Therefore, we must receive the free gift of righteousness by faith, trust in the finished work of Christ, accept the full forgiveness of God, and believe we are finally righteous once and for all (Hebrews 10:10). Along with this, we must become aware of our tendency towards self-righteousness and fall full into the Grace of God. How do we know if we're self-righteous? Here are a few indicators...

You Might Be Self-Righteous If...

…you think you’re better than someone because of something you’ve done.

…you constantly obsess about your spiritual growth instead of Jesus.

…your success stories always start with “I...”

…the faults of others dominate your conversations.

…you can’t forgive someone who hurt you.

…your freedom in worship is contingent on how holy you’re living.

…you get nervous, irritated, or angry when grace is mentioned or taught.

…you are uncomfortable around unsaved or immature Christians.

…your definition of “godliness” is based on the frequency of spiritual discipline.

…you find yourself more often judging others instead of loving them.

...you focus on the faults of others instead of receiving grace for yourself.

…you sneer at grace for someone else’s failures, but love grace when you need it.

…you believe you have something to do with your salvation.

…you think Jesus' finished work isn’t enough and that you must add your works to it.

…your definition of “good o'l gospel preaching” is being hard on people.

…you say (or sing) that Jesus will never let you go, but subliminally you don’t believe it.

…you feel that getting to Heaven ultimately depends on you.

…you think that salvation is Jesus' job but maintaining it is your job.

…you believe Jesus saved you from your past sins but not your present and future ones.

…you're trying more instead of trusting more.

…YOUR love for God is the focus instead of HIS love for you.

…you’re racing to finish Christ’s work instead of resting in His finished work.

J.U.M.P.

"How long will you hesitate between two opinions?" (1 Kings 18:1 NASB)

I’ve talked to so many recently who are in the midst of the valley of decision. It’s as if they’re standing on the edge of the cliff of their destiny and want to take that leap of faith. They’re hearing, “If not now when?” Recently, I was talking with a friend in such a place and God gave me this word for him almost immediately while we were talking on the phone. It came in the form of an acronym of the word J.U.M.P. Keep in mind there are many factors involved in seeking God's direction. Don't take this as the final "word" from God. I only hope that it will help in part as you seek His will in your situation.

JUGGLING... This is the season of juggling all the pros and cons, heavily weighing indecision, dreaming and wondering if God is saying yes or no. Often this involves talking to trusted advisors, mentors, friends and close relatives. This can be particularly stressful and even agonizing. However, at some point the juggling needs to stop, because no matter what phase of the decision process you’re in, there is always a potential temptation to keep juggling.

UNDERLYING FEELING... No matter how long you’ve been juggling, most of the time you will know what it is you are supposed to do. It’s that thought, picture, image, dream and bottom-line thing that is not going to go away. This is what you must settle once and for all. At this point there is no need to go back to juggling. You've done that already. The idea is to progress in your seeking. It won't do you any good to juggle because you'll just be juggling the same things and getting nowhere. You've analyzed enough. If you don't make a move you will give yourself a reason not to.

MISSION... Once you know the bottom line, you can focus on the mission. This involves all the details of moving, resigning your current job, preparing the kids, selling the house, etc. This doesn't always make navigating through the specifics easy, but nothing is more frustrating than wandering in circles in the valley of indecision. Torture! However, once you resign to the underlying feeling, it will naturally propel you. Other 'm' words come to mind in this phase: the mission, the means, the map, the manpower, and the move to set your mission in motion. In this phase your vision will begin to come into sharper focus. Don’t allow the fear of uncertainty to tempt you to go back to juggling. Focus forward! God will show you mental images and live action videos of yourself in the dream He has called you to and you'll naturally begin fine-tuning the strategy for your assignment. God will have your full attention. Your every thought will be on where He is leading you. Your spirit will be projected into the future of your mission. It's as if you'll already be there.

PURPOSE... Now that you're clear about your purpose and activated a plan, you will have a settled peace. Often, the peace doesn't come until after you've made the decision to pursue. Many times we are waiting on God, when He is actually waiting on us. However, understand that peace doesn't mean you won't have some problems along the way. It simply means you are no longer in turmoil with indecision. Indecision debilitates! Obeying God always takes a leap of faith. If God told you every little detail it wouldn’t require faith. If you think about it, you probably already know a lot of what to do because you’ve been imagining it for a long time. You’ve mentally worked through several details prior to this point. Eventually you’ll find yourself in the PLACE God has called you because you're fully committed to your purpose.

So, as the 80’s Rock legend David Lee Roth once said... “You might as well go ahead and JUMP!” (cheesy synthesizer riff here).

A Prescribed Time

“For I have assigned you a number of days…” (Ezekiel 4:5 NASB)

God is precise in His timing. He has a beginning and an end for every season. Many times, we feel that God has dropped us off somewhere without reason until we’ve passed every test and accomplished every task to His exact specification. Not so! God places us specifically in line with His purposes. He knows exactly how long it will take to complete HIS will. God is the master of the machinery.

Just because you fail doesn’t mean it will prolong your season. Don't let failure define you. Let it refine you. God's intention isn't for you to succeed as much as it is to be aware of your total dependence upon Him. When we fail, we learn more about God's character, His loving kindness, His patience, His faithfulness, His grace, etc. God’s assignment isn’t dependent on you fulfilling the task. If it were, it would mean the responsibility of accomplishing God’s purpose is up to you, that He is relying on you. Know that whatever God is doing will be accomplished in HIS prescribed time.

So, take in all the sights and sounds of your current assignment. Change your perspective. The moments now will be memories that will serve to your advantage at the next level. Don’t stress out when you mess up. God knows what HE is doing. HE is faithful to complete what HE started (Philippians 1:6). God called you and HE is faithful to bring it to pass (1 Thessalonians 5;24). You didn't start it, so you can't finish it. God is the author and the finisher of your story (Hebrews 12:2). Take heart! You WILL finish strong!

Irrevocable Righteousness

"For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." (Romans 11:29 NASB)

Keeping in context with the entire book of Romans, the above verse means that God's FREE GIFT of righteousness and His SURE CALLING cannot be returned, revoked, rescinded, cancelled, terminated, reconsidered, refunded, ratified, or forfeited. All praise to God’s for our irrevocable righteousness that is only found in Jesus Christ!

Other places in the New Covenant reiterate this truth. Jesus will never leave us (Hebrews 13:5-6). Jesus is always with us (Matthew 28:20). We will never be separated from His love (Romans 8:35-39). Nothing can snatch us out of His hand (John 10:28). Jesus didn't die for a salvation that was temporal based on our limited ability to live according to the Law. His atoning sacrifice was totally sufficient and efficacious. Thus, our salvation is satisfactory and complete, lacking nothing. It's a salvation that lasts forever for those who receive it!

Some think if we teach people they are too secure in Christ they will go out and freely sin. This is nothing more than religious fear. Self-righteous people think too much grace gives people a license to sin. The truth is, people sin without license anyway. We don't need a license to commit sin. Grace produces after its own kind. Grace doesn't produce sin, it produces the life of God within us. The scriptures tell us that when LUST is conceived it brings forth sin (James 1:15). Grace brings freedom. Lust brings bondage.

Grace in no way gives us license to sin; it gives us license to live free. I’ve never had anyone come to me and say, "Wow Tony! Thanks for teaching all this Grace stuff. I think I'll go out and really live it up, party like there's no tomorrow, and sin without restraints!” Never! People usually exclaim, "Tony, your teaching on Grace has set me free from condemnation and the fear of losing my salvation. I've never felt more relieved. I love Jesus even more!"

Whenever people say, "Don’t teach too much grace to folks or they'll go out and sin," in essence they’re saying, “Careful now, we don't want people to be too sure of themselves.” Ridiculous! Our salvation is SURE and we should be overwhelming confident and secure in our salvation. Friends, sin isn't birthed from too much security; it's birthed from INSECURITY. Sin is a result of the lie we believe that sin is more satisfying than Jesus' love.

When we get a grasp of just how secure in Christ we are, sin will lose its power over us (Romans 6:14). We must come out of a Law biding mindset in order to experience the abundant life and overcoming power that comes though the Grace that is found only in Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17). When we receive the FREE GIFT of God's Grace and remind ourselves continually that we are 100% secure in Christ (in this life and the next) the shackles of bondage will begin to break off of our lives and we will know the freedom wherein Christ has truly set us free INDEED! (John 8:36).

The Second Mouse

“Don't put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there.” (Psalms 146:3 NLT)

I’ve heard it said, "It's not what you know; it's who you know." If you rub shoulders with the "right" people you'll go far in life. While I'm grateful that I've had the favor of influential men and women of God, I'm only connected to them for the sole purpose of advancing HIS kingdom. Our platforms are for proclaiming the gospel, not for promoting our goods. All ministry activity must point toward Jesus Christ and the saving of souls. This brings glory to God and fruit from our labor. God’s Word strongly advises against being tied to ambitious and driven people (Proverbs 23:6-8). Typically, they are prone to love things and use people rather than love people and use things. The elite often deplete. Trusting in man-made systems to advance our agenda always ends in disappointment. STOP following “climbers” who won’t take you up with them. They’ll only use you for selfish gain. Racing, clawing, and jockeying for recognition is a rat race that eventually leads to a trap (Proverbs 29:25). Remember, it’s the second mouse that usually gets the cheese.

Substance

"You need to persevere so... you will receive what he has promised." (Hebrews 10:36 NIV)

It takes a lifetime for a God given vision to come to pass. Just think: it only takes 6 months for a mushroom to sprout up, but it takes over 60 years for an oak tree to grow to full maturity. One gets mulched up in a mower, while the other one survives storms, unbending and unbreakable. Many want to reach their pinnacle quickly. However, it takes years of compacting circumstances and strength under pressure to become something of real substance. One of the definitions of substance is "something real, not imaginary; something solid, not empty." Too many young pioneers and visionaries look for shortcuts to success rather than take the long road to fruitfulness. Real fruitfulness is a byproduct of faithfulness and perseverance instead of politics, sticking it out, and staying your post. When we attempt to take shortcuts toward our vision we will end up cutting our vision short. We must never give up and endure to the end. Nothing lasting, significant, sturdy, or truly impactful ever happened quickly. If you're facing discouraging and difficult times, it's time to hunker down even harder and trust God even when it SEEMS there's no growth or results. I call it postage stamp faith: sticking to your assignment until you reach your destination. The deeper the unseen root the higher the visible fruit. By the way... Be very mindful not to miss the wonderful things God is doing NOW for any anxiousness of what you're striving for. Today is only a result of what you believed for yesterday. Take time to thank God for the milestones you have seen and know that He is yet to do even greater. A God moment is only a result of what He has been doing in you over time! This is the stuff that real substance is made of.

Clarity in Confinement

"Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the second time while he was still confined in the court of the guard..." (Jeremiah 33:1 NASB)

God spoke clearly to Jeremiah while he was in confinement. Sometimes we think that God doesn’t speak to us in our difficult times. However, God can and wants to show us things that only we can see and hear when we're in the pits. When you feel stuck in life, ministry, relationships, your career, finances, etc. try to silence your anxious thoughts long enough, and be open to hear the Holy Spirit regarding your situation. (Psalms 96:10) Of course this will require that you let go of your pride as well (James 4:6). And don’t believe the lie that you’ve done something wrong to get where you are. Often, our trials are clear indicators, and even the results of what we did right. Sometimes following God's will lands us right in the middle of temporary trouble. Resistance from the enemy is a part of doing thing's God's way. For example, Noah found Grace in the eyes of the Lord, and then he had to go build a boat. Grace and favor don't necessarily mean it will be easy. Sometimes when God’s favor is on your life, things will be more difficult for a season. Just, be careful not to let the dry times discourage you, steal your faith, and pass you by without being sensitive to what God is up to around you. And no matter what happens, know that God is moving mightily on your behalf in the silence.

Live On Accident

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us…” (1 John 4:10 NKJV)

In my ministry travels, I have met some of the most precious and sincere people in the world. Their heart is so pure and they desperately want to honor God. Yet, I can see it in their faces and hear it in their voices... Disappointment! Disappointment in themselves... Disappointment in their commitment... Disappointment in the way they have proven their love for Jesus. They feel accepted by God when they do well and rejected when they do bad.

The reason for this is we've been taught from the time we are very young to obsess about our spiritual growth and religious progress. Religion tells us to work hard to earn God’s favor by adhering to Biblical formulas and prescriptions. Yet, at the end of the day our love level for God seems to rise and fall depending on the season of our lives and our unpredictable emotions. A life of religion is based on behavior and performance.

Yet, the Gospel is not the bad news about us. It’s the good news about JESUS! Jesus came bringing a new perspective on the commandment of love. 1 John 4:10 redefines Love… “In this is love, NOT that we loved God, but that HE LOVED US.” It’s not what bad sinners we are. It’s what a good savior Jesus is. God doesn’t love us because we are lovable. He loves us because He is love (1 John 4:16). God's love doesn’t rise and fall based upon our performance. His love is steady because of his PROMISE. God loves us perfectly outside of our ability to love Him or perform for Him. After all, Christ died for us even while we were sinners (Romans 5:8). 

Our best love for Jesus will only and ever be a response to our growing revelation of His great love for us. When we learn to steadily focus on Jesus’ perfect love for us rather than our weak love for him, we will naturally live for God better on accident than we ever could on purpose.

S.O.A.R.

"But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles." (Isaiah 40:31 NLT)

You were made to S.O.A.R. (Strength to Overcome All Resistance). Years ago, during a great season of trepidation and hesitation to step out by faith into something God was calling me to, a great mentor encouraged me by saying, “Tony, put your flight gear on.” Wow! That greatly empowered me to take that leap of faith which has resulted in the ministry I am in today. You were created to ascend. So, mount up like the eagle you are and prepare for flight. Don’t worry about the wind that is contrary to you right now. In fact, welcome it. Planes fly head-on into adverse winds in order to elevate. The wind that is blowing against you is the perfect condition for flight. Air balloons can only rise higher as they drop their sandbags. Don’t let doubt, fear, unbelief and insecurity sandbag you. Lay aside every weight of anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, and disappointment, and let go of present sins that are pinning you down (Hebrews 12:1). In order for the cockpit of a rocket to probe further into deep space, it must break off from the lower parts of the rocket. What are the lower-parts in your life? Are they humans (relationships), hobbies (activities), or habits (practices), In order to breakthrough you must break off from lower level thinking and living. Your attitude determines your altitude. So prepare to leave ground level perspective. Set your sights on things above and soar (Colossians 3:2).

 

Social Media Grace

"I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace." (Acts 20:24 NIV)

As of late I felt the need to post this explanation regarding my social media presence. I don't post tweets, upcoming  ministry events, videos, pictures, follow-up thanks, music and promos of my ministry resources to get validation from anyone. I do it to BRING VALUE and encourage people with the revelation of the gospel of Grace. I take social media very seriously as it presents a powerful ministry forum for me to declare the good news of Jesus Christ and what He has done in my life. I want to share it with you and hopefully it will continue to create inroads for Jesus to truly bless your life.

As many of you know, I have been serving at Free Chapel under Pastor Jentezen Franklin as a worship leader for the past 14 years. It has been an honor to be a part of this phenomenal ministry. However, the other significant part of my income and vital support comes from Tony Sutherland Ministries, Inc. and my travels abroad. Social media has created a powerful pathway for me to minister in churches and events around the world. For this I am truly grateful and because of it I will continue to post regularly on social media.

Social media has presented many open doors of ministry for me. In fact, many pastors and leaders have found great value in my posts and as a result invite me to speak and minister in their churches on a continual basis. This has been a tremendous blessing to my family for our necessary income as well as regular ongoing support for my growing non-for profit ministry. Social media has presented a creative way for me to continue to step out in obedience to God's call and further advance the message of Hope in Jesus Christ.

FYI... My commendation comes from God alone. He is my only source of acceptance and approval. I am grounded in this truth. However, I must share this message of God's acceptance with as many as I can, and thus make as many vital connections as possible. Some presume that I should just sit back and wait patiently for God to do everything. This is an assumption based on ignorance, inexperience, and immaturity. True Faith requires trust AND action. Therefore, I take advantage of every opportunity to present my ministry before others in an appropriate and sincere manner.

For those of you who receive from my insights and updates, I am grateful that God is touching your life through my ministry. For those of you who misunderstand my intentions and do not benefit from my posts, that's OK. However, it is for those who do find value and encouragement from my posts that I will continue to use this powerful medium to bring honor and glory to Jesus Christ and testify of what He is doing through my life for His kingdom. Grace and Peace!

The Old Man is Dead

“For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband.” (Romans 7:2 NKJV)

Many think this passage is a doctrine on marriage. However we must remember that the book of Romans is Paul’s methodical and meticulous argument for the gospel of grace. In Romans 7, Paul uses the illustration of marriage to further explain our relationship to the Law and grace. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, The Gospel of grace tells us that if any man is in Christ, He is a new creation. The Old covenant has become null and void and the New covenant has now been enacted. In effect we have entered into a new marriage covenant: one of grace and acceptance.

Some wives refer to their abusive husbands as their "Old Man." Paul uses this same illustration here (Romans 7:2) that if your old man, your abusive husband (the Law) is still alive (lording over you) you cannot marry your new loving and gentle husband (grace). Once your old husband (The Law) dies, you are free to marry your new Husband (grace). Paul used this illustration to show that the Law and grace can’t live together under the same roof. You either live by the Law or live by God’s grace. The new Husband (grace) is loving, kind, patient, gentle, forgiving, generous, etc. The old husband (the Law) is a ruthless, abusive, demanding, harsh, rude, brutal, unbending, unyielding, obsessive-compulsive perfectionist (Galatians 3:24). Satan is our abuser and acuser. He uses the law cruelly to beat so many down into bondage. Way too many Christians have a bad case of the abused-woman-syndrome. In other words, even after marrying their new Husband (grace) they find it hard to believe that He is a gracious and loving Husband.

This is why your mind must be retrained in the perfect law of LIBERTY (James 1:25) so you will be able to accept and fully trust your new Husband (grace). Through Christ’s finished work, the Law has lost its dominance over you. In effect the Law (your old husband) is dead. Grace is your new Husband. Once you have revelation knowledge that your new Husband (grace) is nothing like the rude, abusive husband (the Law) you were once so used to living under, only then you will learn to break free from all types of behavior patterns, ungodly temperaments and insecurities and be able to enjoy the freedom of love that your new Husband (grace) has for you. It may take awhile, but there is plenty of time to learn to be free as you enjoy your newfound relationship with your new Husband (grace). This is a beautiful picture of the awesome work of grace in our lives. While we may be righteous before God, we will still have the tendency to think and perform in those old mindsets. That is why we must be transformed in our thinking (Romans 12:1-2). We must first believe we are made holy apart from good works or self-effort to attain to righteousness. From this new mindset will flow the life of Christ and the power of God. We are free to run, free to dance, free to live in the forgiveness of Christ. That’s why Paul said, “IN HIM (Christ) we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28).”

The Law demands. Grace accepts. Now under our new Husband (grace) we can live in the constant light of His love, never to fear if we are unacceptable. God doesn’t require that we serve Him to please Him. Rather OUT of His heart of love for us we are free to live and serve IN His good pleasure for us.

Mind Over Matter

"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." (Romans 12:2 NASB)

At first this may sound ludicrous but did you know there is no such thing as spiritual growth? Look carefully at the passage above. Romans 12:2 does not tell us that we are transformed by the renewing of our spirit, but rather by the renewing of our MIND thus proving (living out in vital display) God’s good, acceptable and perfect will. This is literally how we successfully apply the mind over all of life’s matters. Proverbs 23:7 tells us that we are a product of what we think of ourselves. Therefore, having a radically renewed mindset to all we are, all we have, and all we can do through Christ (Philippians 4:13) is the vital key to radical transformation. It is also absolutely essential to breaking the cycle of defeat from incessant frustration over our failures.

When we are saved our Spirit is born of incorruptible seed without one single strand of sin’s DNA. It never grows old and never dies. Upon the moment of salvation our spirit is Heaven-conceived, totally regenerated, wholly constituted, completely mature and fully loaded with all the make-up of Christ. We are partakers of the righteous nature of God Himself (Colossians 1:27, 2 Peter 1:4). A fully resurrected Christ lives inside of us. However, our flesh has yet to be contended with. This is the process of sanctification and rest assured it is a life long process. Our flesh has the same sinful human tendencies it had before receiving Christ. The outer man will struggle a lifetime, awaiting its glorification (the Kingdom come). However, when we see ourselves in Christ and surrender ourselves to Christ we will naturally begin to break habits and compulsions that hold us captive. Grace awakens the holiness of God inside of us! Once our mind is awakened to who we are in Christ (repentance) then the fruits of holiness and righteousness will assuredly follow (transformation). Holiness is a byproduct of a changed mind. Through the miracle of repentance, precipitated by grace, transformation is not just possible… It is IMMINENT!

Our total salvation in Christ involves three things: justification, sanctification and glorification. Our justification is immediate, our sanctification is life long and our glorification is in the Kingdom to come. Christ is involved in all three and all three are fully promised. As believers when we struggle with sin we must remember that the Holy Spirit is still powerfully at work in us. We shouldn’t worry whether or not He will be successful in that work. Know for certain that the Holy Spirit is exceedingly efficient in purifying us. He will not fail. The very notion that our inner man is struggling for freedom in the outer man is a sure sign that Godly sorrow is producing the desire to change  (2 Corinthians 7:10).

God calls us to more than just moralism. The worldly mind comprehends and even practices morality. But repentance leads to a true change of heart with an authentic desire to live in the fullness of God’s purpose. Repentance is the powerful work of God’s grace to bring us to a place of total freedom. Repentance isn’t mentally flogging ourselves for our failures until we feel some sense of penitence. Grace doesn’t lead us to feel guilty. It leads us to live Godly lives in this present world (Titus 2:12). Repentance isn’t wallowing in the sorrow of our sin. Rather it’s the power to walk away from it.

…From an adaptation of my book GRACE WORKS (pages 119-121).

Go Hungry!

"For the love of Christ compels us…" (2 Corinthians 5:14 NKJV)

A few days ago I started a weight loss program. It's just plain HARD, but I'm sticking to it! No turning back. Over the past few days I've learned that no matter what people tell you, if you're going to lose weight, you're just going to have to learn to live with some hunger every now and then! They say, eat clean, make healthy choices and eventually you won't feel hungry. I don't know what planet these people are living on, but that's just flat out BALONEY! Actually, the thought of bologna makes me hungry right now! Truth is, there's just no way around it. To STOP gaining weight you have to STOP eating whenever you want to. Sometimes you simply have to walk away from the pantry, put down the fork, and GO HUNGRY!

To have a true passion for God and accomplish great things for Him, there has to be something that motivates us on the inside; a deep-down, insatiable hunger! We can go faster and farther for God when we’re hungry for Him! Hunger drives us forward! No one likes to be hungry, to have a sense of unsatisfaction! And yet, it’s something we need! Craving something bad enough will keep us in forward motion. In other words, as we go, we should go HUNGRY! Are you getting it yet?

But HOW do we trigger that hunger for God? Do we emphasize more stuff to do? More formulas? More frenzy? Emphatically NO! We can’t genuinely motivate people to live for Jesus by telling them to DO more, TRY harder, JUMP through more hoops. Jumping through hoops is for circus animals! The way to set hearts ablaze is to tell them what Jesus has ALREADY done for them! Demanding imperatives (the should do’s) wears us down. Declaring indicatives (what Jesus did) inspires us to greatness!
The gospel of GRACE (the-too-good-to-be-true-news) stirs a hunger for God like nothing else! Receiving the love that God has for us will both CONTROL us from doing harmful things to ourselves and COMPEL us to do amazing things for Him! Read the key verse again. God’s love FOR US is the motivating factor, not our love for Him! When we realize just how fervently God loves us, nothing will be able to stop us! Christ’s IRREVERSIBLE love moves us FORWARD!
The gospel of grace is the SINGLE force that has supercharged and catapulted me farther than I’ve ever been! In the past, nothing I did for God seemed to completely eradicate my constant dissatisfaction of what I was doing or my guilt to please Him. But now, through His grace, I’m not learning to how to try more. I’m learning how to RELY more. In fact, I’m living for God better accidentally than I ever could have on purpose. Many of the weights and distractions I struggled with have simply fallen off of my life effortlessly. It’s all because grace reigns SUPREME in me! (Romans 6:14)
So stop striving and let GRACE, God’s unmerited love, acceptance and favor through Christ, rule YOUR life! Let grace, not guilt, motivate your passion. If you do I promise you’ll GO HUNGRY for God the rest of your life! And the paradox is… Jesus always satisfies your hunger! (John 6:35)

But Grace

"For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully." (2 Corinthians 11:4 NASB)

The following excerpt is from my foundational book GRACE WORKS.

Two very important distinctions in the grace message are legalism and libertarianism. We must understand these opposing viewpoints to better embrace the gospel. When you preach the pure gospel that says we are saved by grace through faith, not of works (without boundaries, exceptions or controls) that is called Libertarianism. When it is taught that we are saved by grace but also must maintain our salvation by good works and sinless living, that is called legalism. Legalism advocates that we must not sin or we jeopardize our righteous standing with God. This is not the New Testament gospel (Paul called it preaching “another Jesus”). Legalism is accompanied by the fear that unless we preach grace with stipulations, then we are throwing everything out of balance. It’s, “Yes grace BUT we must also…” or “Yes, grace BUT we must be careful…” Fear causes us to attach warnings to the message of grace. Simply stated: Legalism says, “Grace, but…” Libertarianism says, “But GRACE!”

When we try to coerce others into adhering to the standard of holy living out of fear that they will take license to sin, we fall into the tireless cycle of fear and control. Why? Control is a by-product of fear. We fear losing control of people so we impose extra addendums to keep them out of sin. Fear is the mother of all confusion. When we operate out of fear and control it only brings envy and strife. Envy and strife are the co-conspirators of confusion and evil, and where confusion and evil exists, sin will surely abound… (James 3:16 KJV).

Enforcing religious controls on people will prove ineffective to produce true holiness in them. People will comply with legalism to a point but will eventually rebel because the flesh can’t keep up with the Law. The Law eventually runs the flesh down. That’s the way God designed it. He created the Law to drive us to utter exhaustion in our own strength (Galatians 3:24). It is God’s Grace alone that totally extricates us from the harsh domination of the Law. Legalism is based on manipulation and control, which ultimately brings people back into bondage. Libertarianism however, liberates the believer to hear from God and respond to God’s power. Living in this way leads the believer towards true life-transformation.

Mirrors

"For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:20 NKJV)

This passage is taken from the famous "Sermon on the Mount" (Matthew 5-7). It wasn't a mountain though. It was actually a small hill called Mt. Eremon located between Caperneum and Tabgha. The natural landscape of this hillside surrounded by a small valley created an amphitheater of sorts, perfect for the word of grace to reverberate into the gathering crowd. It was here that Jesus tells the people that unless their righteousness exceeded (surpassed) the righteousness of the Pharisees they would not be able to enter the kingdom of Heaven. To the typical, self-righteous mindset of their time this was impossible. The Pharisees were supposedly the most righteous on the face of the earth. Who then could enter Heaven? God's standard of righteousness was to be perfect as God Himself was perfect (Lev. 11:44-45; 19:2; Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:16). Even the Pharisees knew they weren't as perfect as God. OUR answer to Jesus' question also lies in our concept of righteousness. If making it to Heaven is based on our righteousness (our goodness, godliness, devoutness, etc.) then none of us can make it. The Bible tells us there is no one on the face of earth who is righteous, NO NOT ONE (Psalms 14:3; 53:3; Romans 3:10-12).

At no point in our own efforts are we righteous (in any part, even to the minute level). Only Jesus meets every requirement and standard of God. We must completely get this revelation! Our reliance must not be on perfect performance but But prove yourselves doers of the word and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25 NASB)

The reason we don't produce fruit is because we too often stare into the wrong mirror: the mirror of the Old Covenant, which reminds us of everything we USED TO BE. The Bible tells us the old has passed away and the new is becoming (2 Corinthians 5:17). However, when we look into the right mirror (the mirror of God's grace) We see who we really are in Him and the more intently we gaze into the right mirror, our focus becomes more clear and we see who we really look like: Jesus! Today during my teaching, my German translator rendered it as… “If we remain in the law of liberty (grace) we will enact the ability to change” WOW!

God wants us to be doers of the Word but this is totally contingent on what mirror we look into. The mirror of the old covenant will always reveal imperfection and no matter how hard we try to fix the flaws it will never reveal perfection. The mirror of grace says I’m forgiven, acceptable, holy, free, loved, sinless, complete and perfect. How? Because I am in Christ. This image of who we are in Christ is the only thing that will deeply change us and produce in us the overcoming life. Simply put, when we place our focus and faith on the legal degree of God's grace over our lives (the PERFECT law of LIBERTY) we will become much more effectual doers.

The reason why we can’t grow spiritually is because our born again spirit cannot grow. It is already perfect. We are the righteousness OF GOD (2 Corinthians 5:21). In other words, our spirit is as righteous AS GOD. The implications of this are staggering. As a believer our spirit was born in Heaven and therefore is completely perfect in every way. The facts are, spiritual growth is impossible. However, our mind is what needs the changing. The scripture doesn’t say our spirit needs renewed. It says we are transformed by the renewing of our MIND (Romans 12:1-2). The reason why we don’t grow is because we obsess about growing. But when we live in the right environment (grace) we naturally mature because the conditions are right.

Similar to the mirror of the old Covenant, The Holy Spirit doesn’t remind us about what’s wrong with us. He reminds us constantly about what’s right with us. Therefore, when we stop expending necessary energy through self-effort to make ourselves better, we allow God’s power to put to death the old deeds and bring about effective change compatible to the work of Grace in our life.

Meditate on this until it becomes revelation… You will NEVER be the same again!

Exceedingly Righteous

"For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:20 NKJV)

This passage is taken from the famous "Sermon on the Mount" (Matthew 5-7). It wasn't a mountain though. It was actually a small hill called Mt. Eremon located between Caperneum and Tabgha. The natural landscape of this hillside surrounded by a small valley created an amphitheater of sorts, perfect for the word of grace to reverberate into the gathering crowd. It was here that Jesus tells the people that unless their righteousness exceeded (surpassed) the righteousness of the Pharisees they would not be able to enter the kingdom of Heaven. To the typical, self-righteous mindset of their time this was impossible. The Pharisees were supposedly the most righteous on the face of the earth. Who then could enter Heaven? God's standard of righteousness was to be perfect as God Himself was perfect (Lev. 11:44-45; 19:2; Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:16). Even the Pharisees knew they weren't as perfect as God. OUR answer to Jesus' question also lies in our concept of righteousness. If making it to Heaven is based on our righteousness (our goodness, godliness, devoutness, etc.) then none of us can make it. The Bible tells us there is no one on the face of earth who is righteous, NO NOT ONE (Psalms 14:3; 53:3; Romans 3:10-12).

At no point in our own efforts are we righteous (in any part, even to the minute level). Only Jesus meets every requirement and standard of God. We must completely get this revelation! Our reliance must not be on perfect performance but on the perfect performance of Jesus. IN CHRIST we are as perfect as God Himself is perfect (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9). We are recipients of God's perfect nature and completely clothed in His ultimate divinity (2 Peter 1:4). Jesus is perfection personified. In fact, Jesus surpasses perfection and in Him we also far surpass God's perfect standard. Through Christ we are EXCEEDINGLY RIGHTEOUS! Amazing!

Trying or Trusting

"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." (John 14:15 NASB)

We’ve all failed at loving God in our thoughts, words and actions. Just read 1 Corinthians 13 (The ‘love chapter’) and you will quickly realize how you have failed at love. But just because we fail at loving perfectly doesn’t mean we don’t love God at all. Only God’s love is perfect. Many of us don’t really believe God loves us in spite of… Grace teaches us that God loves us without conditions or reservations. When we truly grasp this we will end up living better for God accidentally than we ever could on purpose.

We will never love God perfectly this side of Heaven. That's why we need to stop trying and start trusting. In other words, our focus shouldn’t be on our love for God but on His great love for us. It’s the only way we can fulfill the great commandment, which is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Our love has limits. God’s love knows NO LIMITS! It isn’t what terrible sinners we are but in what a wonderful Savior He is. Religion says you must do things to get to God. Grace says Jesus already did all that was necessary to get to you. We don’t do good to get God. We get God to do good!

Obedience is inspired by true love and awe. When we dwell on the love of God for us, true reverence, devotion, admiration and awe-inspiring wonder is the by-product. We must understand John 14:15 from a grace perspective. John is not saying that we love God BY keeping His commandments. He is saying if we truly love God, we WILL keep His commandments. In other words as we allow God’s love to fill us, nothing will be able to stop us from obeying Him. Obedience is a result of God’s Love working in us and loving through us. His love ignites the flame of our obedience!

So how do we increase our Love for God? It is certainly not in trying to obey Him more. That only wears us out. Our love is deficient. God’s love is ALL SUFFICIENT! Therefore, the only way to truly obey God is to allow His love to minister to us. Faith works by love (Galatians 5:6). In other words, as our understanding of God’s love increases so does our ability to live out our faith for Him. This is what John meant when he spoke of God’s love being perfected in us (1 John 2:5; 4:12-18). It’s like the old song says, “O how I love Jesus, BECAUSE He first loved me.” Our love grows for God only to the extent that we grow in our concept of HIS LOVE FOR US!

Are you trying or trusting? 

Be Narrow Minded

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13-14 NIV)

In this passage "wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction" defines the many Old Covenant laws and practices that ultimately led to futility and were ineffective in producing true heart change and life. The Old covenant is full of rituals that were never intended to bring people closer to God but only leave them more frustrated at the end of the day. None of the Old Covenant practices truly brought people into intimate relationship with God. The system of the Law did not give people access to God's heart and covenant love. These laws only made people tolerable to God and forebodingly approachable to Him.

"Enter the narrow gate" is not an illustration of walking a tightrope of perfection or carefully following a prescribed formula that get us closer to God (as so many believe and teach). "Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it" means that few discover the simplicity of trusting JESUS! Receiving God's Grace and walking in the joy of relationship with Him is the ONLY way to know life as God intended (John 10:10 & 14:6).

While so many are prescribing formulas and methods to draw near to God, remember to be narrow minded. Simply enjoy your relationship with Jesus (that only He provided) and delight in the total love and acceptance of God through Christ. This is the way that we truly draw near to God.