Receive

"Those who receive abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness will reign in life." (Romans 5:17 NASB)

Have you ever questioned why we don’t reign over certain situations, circumstances, the "stuff" of life? It's simple really... The way we reign in life is to receive God's grace. Too simple? That's the point! We complicate things with religious formulas. Here's a couple of thoughts on receiving God's grace. 

First… We must receive abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness. Grace is a gift that is freely given. It cannot be deserved, earned or merited. We qualify for God's favor and blessings not because we work hard to live righteously; but because we are already made righteous by Christ's finished work. The religious mindset that prevails in so many circles is that we must achieve the blessings and favor of God by self-effort or good behavior. However, the favor of God is unmerited. It isn't how we behave but how we believe. The moment we try to balance grace with our own efforts to be righteous we neutralize grace (Galatians 5:4). Reigning in life is not about achieving but receiving the abundance of God's grace! Abundance can be defined as never running out, never sparse, having excess and overflowing. We never teeter on the brink of running out of God’s grace. Whenever we sin God’s grace is greater (1 John 3:20) and where sin abounds grace does much more abound to overflowing and swallows up our sin (Romans 5:20, 6:24).

Secondly… How do we receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness? By simply believing in Christ’s finished work. That’s it! We don’t have to be experts on grace. We just simply have to be recipients. We don’t have to comprehend it; we only need to receive it! We must believe in God’s grace without doubt and go on living life in that belief. We have to consistently believe the truth that we are righteous apart from our own works (Ephesians 2:7-9) and that nothing we do or don’t do will separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:35-39). I have news for you… You will never be able to fully wrap your mind around the awesome Grace of God! God’s grace is too amazing to comprehend. So what do we do when we don’t understand it? We believe it anyway! Leaning on our own understanding of the things of God causes us to question God’s Word and thus prevents us from entering into the benefits of all that His finished work has provided for us. Quit trying to understand it and simply trust it (Proverbs 3:5).

Romans 5:19 goes on to say that we weren't made sinners by anything we did but by what Adam did. The same is also true of our righteousness. We weren't made righteous by anything we did but by what Jesus did. The moment we believe that we are totally acceptable before God based on what Jesus did, not what we did or continue to do. And that same grace will do it's work in our lives to save us and keep on saving us (in every area of our life). The blood of Jesus is not only all sufficient it is all efficient. Once we begin to receive God's grace in our lives we will start experiencing the power to reign in life just like Jesus reigns in life (1 John 4:17).

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, it's time to focus on the task at hand. This involves all the details of moving, resigning your current job, preparing kids, selling house, etc. This doesn't always make navigating through the specifics easy, but nothing is more unnerving than moving forward indecisively. However, once you resign to the underlying feeling, it will naturally propel you forward rather than you trying to muster self-momentum. Also, this is the phase when your vision for the mission will begin to come into sharper focus. Note: Again, don’t allow the fear of uncertainty to tempt you to go back to juggling. Focus forward! Remember God's word on the matter and all the people, conversations, scriptures, and the unction you have deep inside. At this stage, God will show you a video of yourself in the place He has called you to and you'll naturally begin formulating God's strategy for your assignment. This is because God will have your total attention. You can't watch a video and juggle at the same time. The mission phase is something like an out-of-body experience. You just wont be able to stop thinking about it. In fact, it will powerfully affect your ability to even fairly concentrate on your current assignment. In other words, your spirit and thoughts will already be where God is leading you.

PEACE, PLACE, PURPOSE... This is a three-fold point. Sometimes the peace doesn't come until after you've made the decision to move. God will only tell you so much because obeying God always takes a leap of faith. If God told you every little thing to do it wouldn’t require any faith at all. Besides, in this phase you already know mostly what to do because you’ve been dreaming of it for years. You’ve worked out so many details in your head and had several Spirit-led imaginations prior to this point that you’ll almost be in default mode. Eventually you’ll find yourself in the place God has called you and fully involved and devoted to your purpose.

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

What Is That To You

Therefore this saying went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?" (John 21:23)

Here the disciples asked Jesus why they were going to be martyred but John wasn’t. Jesus responded to their quibbling, “What is that to you?” All too often we feel the same when we don’t seem to get a fair shake. The same is true of judging others by their deeds. But don’t we have enough of our own issues to deal with, let alone worry about the sins of others? When it comes to asking about other’s sins, we need to hear Jesus asking us the same question he asked the disciples… “What is that to you?”

Regarding the shortcomings of others, we must have a hands-off-policy and let the Holy Spirit do the dealing. He is exceedingly efficient at His job. He well knows how to bring revelation truth to those who are in error and turn them from their path to misfortune. And He will do so lovingly in order to bring them to maturity not to call them out or cast them out. Jesus never calls the sinner out. He always calls them home. Our responsibility is not to point out the faults of others but to point them to Jesus. I’m amazed at how easy it is to expose sin instead of exposing Jesus. Sin loses its luster in the light of Jesus so let’s point to HIM!

Instead of asking, “What about the adulterer, fornicator and murderer?” we need to be asking, “What about when I scream in traffic, snap at my wife, think lustful thoughts or cheat on my taxes?” God does not judge us based on the standard of the Law. The Law cannot nor ever has saved anyone. The Bible calls the Law the ministry of death and condemnation (2 Corinthians 3:7-9). When we emphasize the Law and living up to it’s standard, it strengthens people’s resolve to sin even more (1 Corinthians 15:16). We will never get people free by emphasizing their condition. We must offer the remedy. Grace is that remedy (Romans 6:14).

God is not a fair judge but He is a just and good judge. Through grace, we got what Jesus deserved and He got what we deserved. That’s doesn’t seem fair but it certainly is good. As believers, God does not judge us based on the good we have done. He judges us based on the good JESUS has done. Now… What is THAT to you?

Faith Works By Love

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. (Galatians 5:6 NKJV)

Faith works by Love. For years I believed this to mean that if I labored diligently to love God and love others then my faith would work and God would hear and answer my prayers. I was always trying to figure out how to make my faith operable. I thought this was just another formula for success. Not so! This is the endless cycle of legalism. I believed that my faith was dependent upon how well I served, gave and loved. I believed that my faith was a work to please God. Yes, I know the Bible says, “the just shall live by faith” and “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6; 10:38). However, these scriptures mean that it makes God happy when we simply believe we are justified before Him through Jesus’ finished work. Simple. Not complicated at all. We don’t become just by our doing, but by our BELIEVING. Faith is not a work. It is a result of RESTING on what Christ has done for us. So often we get caught up in our love for God instead of getting caught away in God's love for us. 1 John 4:10 tells us that true love is not based on how much we love God but on how much He loves us. The Greek word for love in our key passage (Galatians 5:6) is agape (God’s unconditional love). Our Faith in God works effortlessly when we know we are unconditionally loved. When we settle the issue once and for all that God loves us UNCONDITIONALLY, no matter what, our faith will work UNINHIBITEDLY because it’s based on God’s perfect love for us not on our imperfect love for Him! Our prayers flow easier because our faith is based on what Jesus has done not what we have or haven’t done. When we pray based on Jesus accomplishment we can ask in faith and it shall be DONE (Matthew 7:7)! And that my friend is how faith works!

Born'd Again

Jesus replied, "Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again." (John 3:3 NIV)

The words "born again" are often used when describing a genuine salvation experience (or as some of my Southern Pentecostal friends affectionately call it "born'd again"). However, in extensive research given to the origins of the Christian faith, theologians and Biblical scholars have discovered that over 100 years ago the term "born again" was seldom or almost never found in Christian literature or true Gospel preaching. Rather the phrase "I was seized by the power of a great affection" was used to describe the breakthrough to a personal relationship with Jesus. It was also used as a visceral description of authentic conversion, the phenomenon of Pentecost, and the release of the Holy Spirit. Interestingly however, Jesus specifically used the term "born again" to effectively illustrate to Nicodemus that in order to perceive and experience the good news of freedom and life of the Kingdom, one must have a total recalibration of religious thinking. Being "born again" is not so much a message for sinners as it is for the religious mind. On the converse, the central message for those oppressed by the demand to adhere to religious systems is the gospel of GRACE. It is found in Jesus' own words... "Come to Me all you are heavy laden and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28)

He who has an ear...

The Gravity of Grace

Now which of them will love Him more… (Luke 7:42 ESV)

To Love Jesus more... This is a lifelong pursuit. Yet, even more important is the life long quest to simply be loved (1 John 4:10). After seeing the movie Gravity win so many Oscars last night, it reminded me of the compelling power of God's Grace. It is astonishing that some persist if we preach grace too liberally it will result in loose living and sinful behavior. There is nothing more false. Grace is the force that pulls us deeper into the love of God and His holiness. The gravity of grace keeps us grounded in God's love. Nothing but good can come of this.

"That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith that you, being rooted and grounded in love may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:16-19 NASB)

In Luke 7 we're introduced to a prostitute whom Jesus delivered of seven demons. Later, He is invited to a Pharisees house for dinner. As they recline at the table, the former prostitute barges into the gathering and begins to wash Jesus feet with her tears and anoint them with a very costly perfume. Such extravagant acts of worship could only be motivated by Grace. The appalled religious man thinks, "If Jesus knew her ill repute, He would stop her." Religious people refuse to see the redeemed for who they are but rather dwell on who they were.

Jesus tells the Pharisee a story of two men who were forgiven of a debt. One was released from a much greater debt than the other. He asks the Pharisee a question, “Which do you think will love his benefactor more?” The Pharisee states the obvious, “Of course the man who had the greater debt.” When we accept that our sin debt is completely cancelled we will cease serving Him out of duty, fear and obligation. Rather, Grace inspires unceasing and liberal acts of obedience and devotion (verse 45).

Religious people guard themselves from too lavish a display of adoration, judging others for their liberality (verse 39). However, notice that Jesus does not condemn His friend. Likewise, we must not hasten to judge or disassociate with those who do not yet have the full revelation of God’s grace. The greatest evidence of a life marked by grace is not how we respond to those who agree with us, but to those who disagree with us.

Haters Make You Greater

You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result... (Genesis 50:20 NASB)

As of late the word "haters" tends to be a much-used pop culture buzzword. I am also noticing many quickly react to their haters meeting the rebuke with prideful resistance. Haters (or critics as they often should be referred to) can serve to correct us and bring necessary balance. Not everyone who disagrees with you, offers their opinions or questions your perspective is your hater. No one is above reproof. The Bible teaches us that God actively resists the proud but gives grace to the humble and that "iron sharpens iron." (James 4:6; Proverbs 27:17) We would be wise to remember this when we're quick to accuse someone of being a hater. When someone challenges your way of thinking or doing things, try not to take it too personally. However, if there's some truth to it receive it humbly and submit it to God. Often people just need to know that you are listening to them and value what they have to offer.

To clarify, there are definitely those who classify as real haters (people who purposely and maliciously cause division plotting to the hurt and discredit of others). When these individuals malign us the strength of our leadership is tested. However, if we are mature enough we can even discover truth from our cruelest skeptics. In this way, we do not allow our skeptics to hurt us but rather to help us. It takes a strong and humble leader to receive criticism and continue to learn and grow. Jesus told Peter to agree with his adversary quickly (Matthew 5:25). The point being that sometimes when we immediately reject a rebuke without giving it time to process, we may also miss the treasure of truth that lies just beneath the surface of the criticism. God can speak to us even through our enemies and turn what they meant for our harm into our advantage (Genesis 50:20). Even if the criticism is unfair, unreasonable and unwarranted we can still grow. The truth is, patience, love and humility are more deeply learned in the furnace of adversity.

For the most part though, I am specifically speaking to those who are less mature and refuse to listen to Godly wisdom & counsel and adhere to sound instruction (Proverbs 1:7). We cannot always dismiss our critics, even those who may at times seem harsh but in the end actually can help us mature and reap a harvest of spiritual fruit in our lives (Hebrews 12:11). At one time or another all of us need a Brother or Sister Sandpaper around to help smooth off the rough edges of our lives. We must (at every stage of our spiritual growth and ministry) be open to discipleship and accountable to leadership. Not only should we speak the truth in love but we must also be willing to RECEIVE the truth in love. We must remember that our Heavenly Father loves and because He loves us He can chose whomever He wishes to bring necessary and beneficial correction into our lives (Proverbs 3:12). Besides you have more than enough GRACE in your life to take criticism no matter what form it comes and no matter whom it comes from.

Turning Failure Around

For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again... (Proverbs 24:16 NASB)

The following is an excerpt from my book GRACEWORKS.

If you’re facing failure it is most likely because you are facing your failure! To live in God’s grace is to face forward - looking away from your failure and focusing on God's irreversible love for you. You must also understand that there are no formulas in grace. Simply embracing God's grace is the key to getting past your failures. However, overcoming failure is a process and often takes awhile to learn to apply grace. Yet, as you grow in your understanding of grace and are quicker to receive it, you will be more successful in overcoming failure. Here are seven steps involved in the process of turning failure around. (I use the acronym F.A.I.L.U.R.E.)

1. Forget the past. Release all regret. It is the final chain to be broken. To be strong is to let go of yesterday. Therefore, take one last look over your shoulder and say to your past, “I’m letting you go forever. You cannot follow me into my future!” (Philippians 3:13-14)

2. Accept the consequences. You cannot re-write the past but you can start a whole new book. Your yesterday does not have to determine your tomorrow. Remember, no matter what happened or how terrible it was, God is working everything out for your good. (Romans 8:28)

3. Invite correction. Only fools despise instruction but honor belongs to those who embrace correction. Every mistake you’ve made serves as a stepping-stone for your success. And remember: to use a stepping-stone it has to be firmly under your feet. (Proverbs 13:18)

4. Learn the lesson. As we grow in grace, we often take the test first then learn the lesson afterwards. Truth is, God knew you were going to fail. But no matter what the failure, the number one lesson Jesus wants you to learn is to rest in His love for you. (Matthew 11:29)

5. Understand the process. Accept that failure happens. In fact, failure is as vital a part of the growing process as succeeding. Our failures remind us of our dependence on God’s grace and give us courage to keep moving forward at a steady pace. (Proverbs 24:16)

6. Receive forgiveness. God has already forgiven you. It does you no good to punish yourself. The problem isn’t that God hasn’t forgiven you but that you haven’t forgiven yourself. You’ll just have to accept that God loves you no matter what! (Ephesians 1:7-8)

7. Expect to succeed. No matter how many times you may have lost you are not a loser. God sees you as a total success story. Your failures don’t define you; they refine you into the image of Jesus. The good news is in Christ you are undefeatable! (Romans 8:37)

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.

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?

 

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!

 

Mirrors

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!

 

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 GRACEWORKS... 

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.

 
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Go Hungry!

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

A few weeks ago I started a weight loss program. So far I’ve lost about 20lbs and still going strong. Recently someone asked me what was one key that has helped me “shed the pounds.” Was it commitment? Was it exercise? Was it eating right? Supplements? Of course all this has contributed. But my one response came as a shock and when I said it something went off in me. I told them that my key to losing weight was realizing that no matter what the program, I’ve had to learn to live with some hunger! In other words, to STOP gaining weight, sometimes you have to just 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 shouldgo HUNGRY! Are you getting it?

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 people 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 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! If you do I promise you’ll GO HUNGRY for God the rest of your life! And the paradox is… Jesus alone satisfies your hunger (John 6:35)!

 

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 the book Graceworks (pages 119-121).

Posting Scandals

And Jesus said, “I do   not condemn you, either…” (John 8:11)

A few days ago I came across a somewhat scathing post (along with a picture) that condemned a major U.S. government figure who was caught in a recent scandal (this was also reposted by some of his followers). I was a little troubled by this post but more importantly I was hurt for the individual being exposed. It is not the church’s job to point blame and shamefully expose people’s sin while subtly spotlighting our “good” moral behavior. Our platform was given to us to proclaim Christ and be the hope to a lost, hurting, desperate and dying world. I’m sure this man is deeply ashamed for the world at-large to know of his secret sin. The reputation of His integrity is lost forever. In fact, he’s pretty much lost everything. Why would any one of us want to further make an example of Him?

The hard truth is people’s sin will eventually disclose them (Numbers 32:33). However, we are not called to be their sin broadcasters. The woman caught in adultery was paraded down the street and cast in front of Jesus by her religious accusers. In response (and very careful to note here), Jesus stooped down and posted His own message. We’ll never really know what He wrote. I believe there is a reason for that… He didn’t want us to know. If Jesus were on Twitter, would He post OUR shameful deeds? After all, He has first hand information and could completely ruin any of us. Truth is, we all may have private thoughts about our disdain with someone’s actions, but it’s not for the world to know. More importantly, we must demonstrate Jesus’ heart of compassion. Notice Jesus said, “He who is without sin cast the first stone.” This was Jesus’ FIRST response. Unfortunately our first response is usually to rub people’s noses in their failure. Jesus didn’t come to rub in our guilt. He came to rub it OUT! (John 3:17) Highlighting people’s failure in a self-righteous tone does not help win people to Jesus. In fact, it chases them far away. Exposing people’s sin is NOT the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18) and it certainly shouldn’t be our ministry. Our ministry is Jesus and the hope we have in the cross. Whoever came up with the idea that we should preach sin is completely off course. We are to preach the GOOD NEWS of Jesus! He IS the gospel message! We must, as new covenant ministers, point the way to Jesus.

Scriptures do not indicate that the woman even wanted forgiveness. She was caught red handed in the act and forced upon the ground only to look up into the eyes of Jesus and await his response. This is what a shameful world is looking for. What will our response be? Shame and condemnation or forgiveness and refuge? Jesus then said, “Where are your accusers?” and they were nowhere to be found. We should be careful lest we accuse people and lose our audience with Jesus. At the end of the day notice who had audience with Jesus… The woman caught in her sin. What a truth that Jesus is indeed a FRIEND of sinners. When we use our platform to expose and perpetuate the sinful deeds and speak of that which is done in darkness is not a shame only to those whom we expose, but it is a shame to our own heart as well (Ephesians 5:12). Truth is, if the curtain of our own hearts were thrown back, it would reveal our own hidden sin, hate, malice, jealousy, greed, lust, pride, etc.

Ephesians 6:8 says that what we do for others God will make happen for us. The recent past clearly shows that when ministers make it a habit of being hard on people for their sin it isn’t too long before their own secret sins are brought to light in a major way. Think about this for a moment… If we want people to point to the good in our lives and keep us covered then shouldn’t we also seek to do the same for them. What if our life story were told today? Would we be proud of our innermost thoughts, secret sins, etc.? How would we feel if OUR story was posted in the major headlines? I know this for certain; God would never do that to any of us so why should we?

In short, whenever we expose other’s sins we are indirectly parading our sense of self-righteousness, inviting others to gaze upon us as the example of Godliness and holiness. Paul called himself the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15 NIV) and the truth is we all are! When anyone’s sin or scandal is exposed it should draw out hurt over haughtiness, compassion over condemnation, pity over pride, mercy over maliciousness. We must remember this lest we be the ones on the chopping block.