A+ Grace

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)

There’s a true story of a university student who was extremely fearful of taking a final course in her college studies. Her intense anxiety stemmed from the nightmare accounts of how immensely difficult this class was and the next-to-impossible expectations of the professor. Nevertheless, she was required to complete the course to receive her degree. There was no other option. After sharing her anxieties with her father, he suggested that they make an appointment with the professor to discuss her apprehensions. During their visit with the professor he made a surprising offer… “I’ll tell you what, I’m going to give you an A+ before you take this class. No matter how you score throughout the semester, you will receive a promised A+ regardless. I only ask that you diligently apply yourself and do you very best in my class.” The girl and her father were shocked but incredibly relieved at his proposition. During the semester, she made the highest marks of any other student in her class and received the highest grade possible in the course. As a result of the professor removing the fear from the equation, she was able to focus all her faculties on the course work, succeed with high honors, and receive her college degree with Joy!

This is a perfect illustration of what Jesus has done for us. He has already prepared our place with God (John 14:2). It is settled in Heaven forever! We need not worry whether or not we will make it to Heaven based on our good works. It’s not what we do for God, but what he has already done for us. We have free entrance into all God has prepared for us because of what Jesus did, not how well we do. Yet, the paradox is we can do well in this life because Christ has removed all fear of condemnation and judgement (Romans 8:1; 1 John 4:18). We are judged based on Christ’s victory. We have been prepared by and through the sacrifice of God’s Son for all the good works that God wants to do IN us… “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13 ESV)

When it comes to the total security of our salvation, favor, and blessings, Christ did all the preparation for it and we get to enjoy all the benefits that come from it. It’s like someone else studied and took the final exam for us and we get the A+ based on someone else’s preparation. Christ (gr)ACED the test for us, and we get the perfect score! We don’t deserve the perfect grade. That’s why it’s called grace. And by the way… We’re not graded on the curve. We’re graded on the CROSS! Hallelujah. We can simply enjoy the results and benefits of the work that has already been finished. And it doesn’t end there. We can absolutely live victoriously, walk in abundance, overcome any obstacle and do all things well, only because Christ has made it possible for us to succeed at every level (Philippians 4:13). We’re not saved by our works, but we are saved UNTO good works. It is also important to remember that while God doesn't need our good works, the world surely does. We not only should be Heavenly minded we must also be of Earthly good. Amen.

So rest Child of God. You have already been affirmed. The work you do for Jesus (good or bad) is not judged on your performance. It is judged based upon Christ’s PROMISE. You are considered holy, righteous, excellent, and confirmed through the finished work of Christ. It’s something that’s already determined and complete. “And in Him you have been made complete...” (Colossians 2:10 NASB)

Grace Breathes

“By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life...” (Hebrews 11:11 NASB)

In Genesis 17:15, God changed Sarai's name by adding the 5th letter of the Jewish Alphabet hay (grace) to her name. This changed her name from Sarai (princess) to Sarah (mother of nations). God literally breathed his Grace into Sarai's barrenness transforming her into a fertile mother who would birth nations. The letter hay in the Jewish alphabet sounds like a sigh. When you say the name, "Sarah" it feels similar to exhaling or sighing... "Sar---ahhh." A sigh indicates a feeling of relief and rest. God's dreams for our lives are birthed out of rest vs. self effort and striving. When we work God rests, but when we rest God works. That's Grace.
 
Think of how Sarah must've felt? At 99 years old, she was physically incapable of conceiving a son. Yet, God promised her she would bear a child in old age. However, in her impatience to wait on God to fulfill His promise, she schemed to have a son through her handmaid Hagar. Yet, her attempts to do things her way failed miserably, ultimately resulting in her son Ishmael being exiled into the desert. At 99 years of age, it looked like the dream was over and everything in her life was centering on dying. But that's when the promise was just about to begin.

A God dream may lie dormant for a season, but it never truly dies because it was birthed in eternity. The question to ask yourself is... Do you want the Ishmael you’ve made or the Isaac God is birthing? We need Grace (what only God can do) for our dreams. A God dream requires a miracle to come to pass. If it doesn't take a miracle to fulfill your dream, then God probably never gave it to you in the first place. Miracles begin at impossible. When you can't do it, God CAN! It's never too late! Stop striving and let God's GRACE breathe life and resurrect the dream.

"Shall I bring to the point of birth and not give delivery? says the LORD." (Isaiah 66:9 NASB)

Solid Food

“Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53 ESV)

People have often misunderstood the difference between the milk and the meat of God’s Word. They say that God’s Grace = milk, baby food, soft stuff, etc. and the meat = obeying God’s laws, keeping his rules, and meeting his expectations. They believe that holy living is the hard stuff. However, the opposite is true. The meat of God’s word is JESUS. He is the FULL nutrients of our Christian walk. In our key passage Jesus said, “Unless you eat of my flesh and drink of my blood you can have no part with me.”  Flesh and blood… Sounds like meat to me. 2 Peter 3:18 tells us that we cannot grow apart from Grace. This is the real meat that grows us into spiritual maturity. Sadly, many are trying to survive the Christian life off of rules and regulations, all the while believing they are partaking of the meat of God’s word. In reality, they are starving themselves to death.

The milk (baby food) of God’s word is the Old Covenant Law. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna (Old Covenant baby food) in the wilderness, and they died... I am the living bread (New Covenant solid food) that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of THIS bread (solid food), he will live forever. And the bread (solid food) that I will give for the life of the world is my FLESH... Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life... For my flesh is TRUE food, and my blood is TRUE drink (Hebrews 6:48-55 ESV Emphasis Added). Understanding our New Covenant in Christ raises us up to strong, victorious, and mature living. No weak Christian there ever will be who places their total faith on Jesus and his Grace.

In Hebrews 5:13, Paul says, "For everyone who lives on milk is unskilled (ignorant) in the word of righteousness, since he is a child (infant)." (Hebrews 5:13 ESV Emphasis Added). Here Paul compares milk drinkers to those who are ignorant about the free gift of righteousness, who believe their favor with God is earned on a behavior or merit-based system. Bottle drinkers! Those who constantly push or promote holy living as the ultimate proof of their walk with Christ are still sucking on the utters of Old Covenant cows. Yet, when we feed off of what Christ has done through his finished work (solid food), we truly partake of the meat of God’s word, and in this, we will live to our potential with full spiritual vigor.

“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him... So whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread (solid food) that came down from heaven, not like the bread (baby food) the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread (solid food) will live forever."” (John‬ ‭6:56-58‬ ‭ESV‬‬ Emphasis Added)

I Blew It Big Time

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Philippians 3:12 ESV)

I’m so thankful God’s grace is ever toward and for me. I’m not perfect. I’ve blown it big, got it wrong, been arrogant, acted like I was the authority on the matter, and actually believed my theology trumped everyone else’s insight. I admit, I’m passionate about the revelations God has given me and have very strong and Biblically founded convictions about what I believe. However, I want to be careful not come across smug when I feel the need to advise others as to what they should believe or not believe and do or not do. Nor do I want to be passive aggressive in directing my posts to others I disagree with on social media. I am not THE example of flawless ministry or preaching. I desire to share my heart and what God’s grace has done in my life to help and encourage others. It isn’t my calling or assignment to bring correction to the church, Bible teachers, pastors, and ministry leaders. The sure way we can tell that grace has affected our lives is not in the way we respond to those who agree with us, but in the way we respond and treat those who disagree with us. The bottom line is I don’t know God’s grace more than anyone else. I NEED God’s grace more than anyone else. I hope to make this my motivation moving forward as I continue to share the grace that is found only Jesus Christ while honoring and respecting others opinions and viewpoints. I want to be able to say like the apostle Paul, "Even though I haven’t obtained perfection, I keep moving forward to all Christ has for me, knowing all the while that I forever belong to him."

True Godliness

"This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief." (1 Timothy 1:15 NKJV)

In Colossians 2:20-24 Paul addressed religious people who felt that their commitment to piety gave them more personal value to God. Some even felt that they were Godlier than others because of their strict adherence to religious duty. However, in God’s grace, there is no such thing as someone being more Godly than someone else. In Christ, the person who has faithfully served God all their life is no Godlier than the person who has recently accepted Jesus as Savior. The blood of Jesus is the ONLY THING that makes us acceptable to God! Self righteous people revel in their works. However, those who embrace grace sincerely realize that if it weren’t for the grace of God, they would the most hopeless of all sinners. It is absurd to conceive that God admires some more than others. Not so! Grace levels the playing field (Acts 10:34 NLT).

Most of us judge others based on their level of ‘spirituality.’ We say things like, “My, isn’t he a Godly man” or “He’s a good Christian” as if there are bad Christians and good Christians. There is only one kind of Christian and that is one who is saved by the blood of the Lamb. There is no other way to be a Christian. Good works do not make you a Christian (at any level). While God is honored by our devoutness, it doesn’t make us Godly. I’m not downplaying the importance of being passionate and devoted followers of Christ. However, many are at different stages of their spiritual journey. We should never judge others based on their level of good behavior or performance. Paul realized that he was not able, in his own sufficiency, to keep his commitment to God. However, he was FULLY persuaded that God would keep HIS end of the deal thus ending the fear of failure our our success in Christian observance or behavior. Through grace, God is the one that keeps our commitment to Him (2 Timothy 1:12 NKJV).

Think of this. If I were to purchase a new Ferrari (I can dream), it would be up to me to keep the commitment of making the payments. That’s a steep commitment. I would be considered an idiot if looked across the desk at the banker and said, “Now, in this contract I’m about to sign I realize I am committing to make my payments faithfully each month. However, there may be a few months where things are tight and I may not be able to fulfill my obligations to the bank. Would you be willing to take care of those times when there’s too much month at the end of the money?” Can you imagine his reaction? He would think I’d lost my mind! In comparison, God knew that there was no way we would be able to keep our end of the covenant we made to Him. Paul made it clear that even he was not able to keep his end of the deal at ANYTIME. Jesus paid our debt in full and we are free to live in the endless possibilities of what only His grace can afford. In Grace, God is the promise maker and the promise keeper.

In the equation of grace as it pertains to the Christian life, it’s not up to us. It’s up to God. We must embrace this to have peace with God. What HE started HE ALONE is able to finish (Philippians 1:6; Hebrews 12:2). This may be hard to grasp but it is a powerful truth we must believe nevertheless. This unshakable confidence in God’s ability to keep His promise TO US gives us peace when we aren’t “measuring up” and strengthens our resolve to keep moving in a Godward direction. Goodness doesn’t define us. GRACE defines us!

For too long, Godliness has been a term reserved only for the spiritually elite. This fallacy has led us to label people based on their level of piety. Paul was among the most devout men who ever lived, yet he admitted that he was still the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). It takes a person who understands grace to truly humble himself enough to admit He is the worst of sinners. True humility isn't pretending to be piously reverent. Rather it the total recognition that we are helpless to be what God wants us to be. Only Jesus meets all of God's expectations. Thus, by fully leaning on Christ's sacrifice, we truly humble ourselves. A Godly attitude is a humble attitude. Our Lord Himself, who was full of grace and truth, modeled ultimate humility (Philippians 2:3-8). Humility is the defining disposition of a godly life that is forged only in the fires of Grace.