Archive | January 2015

It’s Not Sunshine!

It’s Not Sunshine!

I want to be in the light

As He is in the light

To dance in fields and flowers

I want to be in the sunshine

And be warm and fuzzy

‘Cause all I want is to be in the light.

OR

I want to be in the light

As He is in the light

To see all the sin that’s within me.

I want to be in the light

And be completely exposed

‘Cause all I want is to be in the light.

I want to be in the light

And be purified

I want to give Him all the sin that’s within.

I want to give Him my life

And have Him clean it out

‘Cause all I want is to be in the light.

It’s your choice—will you choose a nice, warm sunshiny God or will you choose the God who will totally expose you and then come in and clean house until it sparkles?

1 John 1:5-2:2  “…God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.  If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar, and His word has no place in our lives….If anybody does sin, we have the one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

You’re Not Good Enough!

“You’re Not Good Enough!”

That’s probably the hardest lie to combat—the little nagging thought in the back of your mind that says that you’re not good enough to be a Christian.  That if you were really a Christian, you wouldn’t __________ (fill in the blank).  I believe it’s so hard to combat because it’s true.  You aren’t good enough!

Surprised that I would say that?  Expect me to pat you on the back and say, “It’s ok.  I’m sure you’re not as bad as you think.  You are good enough, honey, and God loves you because He sees how special you are.”  Nope, sorry.  Wrong answer.  You aren’t good enough.  You are worse than you think.  After all, the Bible says that if we are guilty of breaking one part of the law, we are guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10).  So, frustrated with yourself because you can’t stop doubting?  Angry that you seem to always be thinking of yourself instead of others?  Wondering if God can forgive you for stumbling over the same rock for the 600th time?  Face it, you are NOT good enough for God.

So, if the solution to feeling guilty in God’s presence isn’t to think about how good you really are (because you would know the truth: that you really aren’t all that good), than what is the solution?  The solution is to stop focusing on yourself.  No, you are not good enough.  Yes, you have fallen flat on your face too many times to count.  Stop focusing on how sinful you are and start focusing on God—how good He is and how much He has done for you.  After all, He did the whole send-Jesus-to-die-for-you-on-the-cross thing.  Let me say that more slowly.  God (holy, created the whole earth, perfect) sent His only Son (also perfect, etc.) to die (yes, I said die) for you (and we’ve already established how sinful you are).

Listen my friends, if at any time you have wondered if God really loves you enough to rejoice over you (check out Zephaniah 3:17 for a really awesome verse about God’s amazing love), know this: that there is nothing more amazing than Jesus coming to bring reconciliation between a holy God and a sinful us.  Whether you were brought into relationship with Him yesterday or fifteen years ago, it was and is the ultimate sign of God’s amazing love for you and for me.  At any time, Jesus could have called the whole thing off, but He didn’t because He saw you.  He saw me, and He loved us.  He didn’t love us because He saw anything special in us, nor did He love us because we somehow proved ourselves worthy of His love.  He loved us because He created us to be in relationship with Him, and He wants nothing more than to cultivate that relationship.

We are not good enough for God.  That is amazing news…because He is good enough, and His love is great enough to cover all our sins.

Love Them Like an Enemy

Love Them Like an Enemy

I was having trouble loving someone I really should have been able to love.  She was a nice person and genuinely cared about others.  Yet, for some reason, she rubbed me the wrong way and I found myself fighting a constant battle to love her.  When I brought this dilemma up to a friend of mine, a pastor, he said something that made me pause:  “If you can’t treat her like a friend, treat her like an enemy.”

Treat her like an enemy?  That sounds harsh…but it made me think.  How are we supposed to treat our enemies?

Matthew 5:43-45 commands us to love them and pray for them:

43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[h] and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies[i] and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

This is also found in Luke 6:27-36

27“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. 34And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. 35But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Romans 12:20 tells us to take care of their material needs:

20On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]

This is said in the context of loving one another:

Romans 12:9-21

9Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.

17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d]says the Lord. 20On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e] 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

So, how are we to treat our enemies?  We are supposed to love them, pray for them, do good to them, bless them, give to them, take care of their material needs, rejoice with them, mourn with them, and ultimately live in harmony with them.  To me, it doesn’t sound that different than how we are to treat our friends.  So, as we go about our lives, let us endeavor to treat everyone as we are commanded to treat our enemies.

Does God Remove His Grace From Christians?

Does God remove His grace from Christians who are living in sin in order to bring them back to Him?

There are two key words in this question:  grace and Christians.  I am talking here specifically about God’s grace.  I am not referring to other blessings from God.  Nor am I referring to God sending difficulty into the lives of Christians in order to bring them back to Him.  I am just talking about His grace.  In the same way, I am referring specifically to Christians.  God deals differently in the lives of unbelievers and that was not the focus of this study.

First of all, the Greek word for grace used in the New Testament is “charis”.  According to Strong’s Concordance, charis means “graciousness, especially the divine influence upon the heart, and it’s reflection in the life—acceptable, benefit, favor, gift, grace, joy, liberality, pleasure, thanks.”  This is the only word which is translated “grace” in the New Testament.  (Incidentally, the word translated “grace” in the Old Testament is the Hebrew word “chen” which means roughly the same thing.)

The answer I found when I searched the scriptures was that, contrary to removing His grace to bring wayward Christians back to Him, God gives MORE grace to the sinner:  “…But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” (Romans 5:20)  Rather than God removing grace from the sinner, the more we sin, the more grace God gives to us to cover our sin.  Galatians 5:4 is the only verse in the Bible which talks about how a person could go from having God’s grace to not having God’s grace.  “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.”  Gaining God’s favor by observing the law and receiving it by grace are mutually exclusive.  This verse says that it is possible to fall from grace.  It does not say that God removes His grace.  The only way to fall from grace is to try to obtain His favor by observing the law.  This is the opposite of God removing His grace from a Christian because of their sin.  The only way for a person to move outside of God’s grace is for them to try to NOT sin in order to gain favor with Him.  The book of Galatians was written to people who were trying to earn God’s grace.  It is by grace through faith alone that man is justified, and by faith alone that he is to live out his new life in the freedom of the Spirit.

Grace leads to works, not the other way around.  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10) God’s grace is His kindness, unmerited favor, and forgiving love.  “Saved” has a wide range of meanings.  It includes salvation from God’s wrath, which we all had incurred by our sinfulness.  The tense of the verb suggests a completed action with emphasis on its present effect.  Faith in Christ is the only means of being made right with God.  NO human effort can contribute to our salvation; it is the gift of God.  One cannot earn salvation by observing the law.  Such a legalistic approach to salvation (or sanctification) is constantly condemned in Scripture.  No one can take credit for his or her salvation.  The order of sanctification is grace which leads to salvation through faith which leads to works.  “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.  It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” (Titus 2:10-11)  Grace encourages rejection of ungodliness and leads to holier living.  It is the grace of God that leads us in paths of righteousness and not the removal of God’s grace.  The grace of God is the undeserved love God showed us in Christ while we were still sinners and His enemies and by which we are saved apart from any moral achievements or religious acts on our part.  But this same grace instructs us that our salvation should produce good works.  “[God] has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace.  This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” (2 Timothy 1:9)  Salvation is by grace alone and is based not on human effort but on God’s saving plan and the gracious gift of His Son. “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)  Through His abounding grace, God can enable each Christian to abound in generous deeds.

Works do not lead to grace.  “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:21) To mingle legalism with grace distorts grace and makes a mockery of the cross.  “So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.  And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” (Romans 11:5-6)  Paul is speaking here of the remnant of Israel.  The only “works” they had were worshipping the one true God.  We, as Christians, have already done the only work necessary for God’s grace.)  “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-24)  God has provided righteousness for mankind.  When someone believes in Christ as Savior, God declares the person to be not guilty.  Instead, He declares the person to be righteous.  He cancels the guilt of the person’s sin and credits righteousness to her.  No one lives a perfectly good, holy, righteous life.  But even though all are sinners, God will declare everyone who puts her trust in Jesus not guilty but righteous.  Christ died to pay the penalty for ours in and lived a life of perfect righteousness that can in turn be imputed to us.  Christ’s righteousness (His obedience to God’s law and His sacrificial death) will be credited to believers as their own.  Although man clearly and totally deserves to be declared guilty, because of His trust in Christ God declares Him righteous.  He declares us righteous freely…meaning as a gift, for nothing.  Redemption is a word taken from the slave market—meaning obtaining release by payment of a ransom.  Paul uses the word to refer to release from guilt and to deliverance from slavery, because Christ in His death paid the ransom for us.  “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect.  No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10)  Paul is speaking of the fact that He persecuted Christians—it was by God’s grace that he came to know Christ.  Why would God give more grace to a persecutor of Christians than to one who was already His child but was straying?  “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.  Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.  But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:3-5)  God saved us by His grace while we were “gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature.”  How much more will He sanctify us by His grace even though we may stray from Him?  “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2)  We now stand in God’s grace and nothing can remove us from that grace.

God gives us grace in our weakness and temptation.  “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)  This is God’s response to Paul asking Him to remove his “thorn in the flesh.”  God putting trials in our lives does not signify a removal of His grace but may, in fact, be a manifestation of His grace.  “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)  Because Christ our high priest ahs experienced human temptation, He stands ready to give immediate and sympathetic help when we are tempted.

Rather than remove His grace from us when we have strayed from Him, God pours out the riches of His grace into our lives.  “Now I commit you to God and to the word of His grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” (Acts 20:32) Paul is speaking here to the Ephesian church.  God’s grace, not the removal of it, builds us up.  “From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:16-17)  One of the few places God’s grace is mentioned in the gospels, John makes the distinction between the law, which was given through Moses as part of the old sacrificial system, and grace, which was came through Jesus Christ through His sacrifice.  “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” (Ephesians 1:7-8)  Slaves were freed by the payment of a ransom.  Similarly, th3e ransom necessary to free sinners from the bondage of sin and the resulting curse imposed by the law was the death of Christ.

I set out looking for a place in the scriptures where it mentioned God removing grace from those who had put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ.  I found only one which came close, but upon reading the context, it actually said the opposite.  Galatians 5:4 talked about falling from grace by trying to be justified by observing the law.  Rather than falling from grace by sinning, this verse says they fell from grace by doing the right things in their own strength—by trusting in their own good deeds instead of in the death of Christ.  God’s Word does not support the idea of God removing His grace from the lives of Christians.  Rather, it states that God gives more grace in the face of sin in order to enable sinners to return to Him.