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Tag Archives: Grace

The Breastplate of Righteousness

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Now, in terms of identity – and this is the year of identity – the bottom line is this: you must identify yourself as a righteous person.  If you are born again, you are righteous and you have to see yourself as righteous.  If you believe in Christ and His complete work, then right now you are approved by God, you are right with God, you are accepted by God.  You have free access to God’s favour, God treats you as if you are perfect, He answers your prayers like you have never messed up, He loves you like you never strayed, and He favours you like you always get it right.  There is no waiting for righteousness, there is no working for righteousness – you are right now righteous! 

Romans 3.21 says that a righteousness without the law has now been revealed – this is the great thing that Christ did on the cross – He made you righteous without you having to behave righteous.  You didn’t get it right, but you are right.  That’s good news!  But for some reason Christians struggle to accept this.  We often struggle in the same way as the Galatian church.

Read Galatians 3.1-5.  In Galatians, Paul is telling the church in Galatia that he painted a picture of Christ crucified for them.  He showed them that Christ died on the cross for their sins and all they had to do was believe and receive salvation.  But religion got in the way, and religion tried to add to the simple truth of believing in what Christ has done and added all sorts of works to it.

In Numbers 21.4-9, the people are being attacked by poisonous snakes because of their constant grumbling and complaining.  People are dying horribly due to snake bites, and they come to Moses and ask him to pray.  When Moses prays, God tells him to make a brass snake and put it on a stick.  Anyone who looked at the serpent on the stick was healed and the poison was neutralized, anyone who looked in a different direction died.  Now if you were in that situation, and you knew friends who looked at the serpent and lived and friends who didn’t and died you would go and look at the serpent Moses made.  It’s a no-brainer!  Now, if someone was obstructing your view of the serpent, knowing it would save your life, you would absolutely get them out of the way.

Read John 3.14.  Jesus is saying that He is the real serpent on the stick.  That what Moses did was just a picture of Jesus.  You see on the cross (the stick) Jesus became sin with our sin (2 Cor. 5.21) and became the serpent on a stick.  All we have to do is look at Jesus and realize that He became sin with our sin and that we are the righteousness of God in Him, and all the poison of sin in our life is neutralized by God as we gaze at Him.  It’s that simple.  Becoming a Christian is that simple, and living the Christian life is that simple.

The problem is that many people try to add to the Christian life.  Like the false teachers in Galatia who tried to tell people that to be filled with the Spirit and move in the gifts of the Spirit you had to meet a certain standard of holiness.  Jesus warns us against people who add to the simple gospel as well in Matthew 7.

Read Matthew 7.13-14.  There is a narrow road and a broad road.  I have heard people say the narrow road is when you are really living for God and really doing the things of God, and the broad road is when you go off and live for yourself – in other words, if you don’t live right all the time, you fall off the path and end up in hell.  That’s not what Jesus is saying: He is saying that there is only one place to look if you want the poison neutralized and that’s Jesus.  Just Jesus is your salvation, your healing, your victory and joy.  Just look to Him!  Now – if you add to just Jesus then you make the path broader because you are adding stuff to it – normally rules about how we dress, how we give, how we love, how we are.

Read Matthew 7.15.  After telling us about the narrow path, Jesus tells us to beware of false prophets.  There are always people who are trying to get you to add things to the work of Christ – add your effort and give you laws to obey.   Just like in Galatia, so it is today.  Jesus calls these people false prophets.  People who tell you that you have to obey certain rules to be right with God or have favour with God are false prophets, no matter if they are on Christian TV or seem lovely!  They come in sheep’s clothing – they go to church and look like you, and praise God like you, then they tell you that we haven’t got the full message and you need to add a bit of this or that – rules that take you away from looking to the complete work of Christ.

Read Matthew 7.16-20.  It’s all about fruit!  All false teaching has the following thing in common: they separate the tree from the fruit.  Let’s explain: an apple tree just produces apples – that’s natural for the apple tree.  Pear trees make pears and cherry trees make cherries.  According to Isaiah 61.3, you are a tree of righteousness.  You naturally produce righteousness as a Christian. 

A tree just produces fruit – you cannot sellotape fruit to a piece of wood and call it an apple tree.  Yet that is what we often do with people forcing them to do certain things to be a Christian.  Just get them planted in the Word and they will eventually produce fruit naturally.  Just keep feeding a Christian their identity in Christ and they will eventually bear fruit.

Most of our problems as Christians, and most of our sin is caused by not knowing who we are: not grasping that Christ has made us righteous once and for all.  All gossip is a lack of understanding righteousness – you run down others because you are not confident in who you are.   But you feed on your righteous identity, you study and meditate on the Scriptures you start to become confident in yourself and don’t need to snuff out someone else’s candle to believe that yours is burning bright.  Christians who don’t know their righteousness will never have healthy relationships because everything becomes a game to see who has kept the law the most.   Get off that path – it doesn’t work, and start to rest in your Christ-righteousness.

Read Matthew 7.21.  Jesus said that you will enter heaven by doing His will.  There are two ways we can do His will.  Either keep the law perfectly (and I think we have established that is not going to work) or believe the gospel!  When you believe the gospel you are made righteous (Romans 5.1) and you are right with God.  Lots of people say Jesus is Lord but they have never believed that He sent His Son to make them righteous.  You have to believe that it’s about Jesus and His work. 

Read Matthew 7.22-23.  Never think you are going to heaven because you have worked a miracle or done a good work.  You are going to heaven because Jesus Christ became sin with your sin so you could be the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5.21).  Not only that you can receive healing, receive prosperity, receive joy, receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit not because of your works but because of the work of Christ on the cross.  That’s good news!

Difficult Verses 5: 1 John 5.16

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Someone emailed me this week asking about the meaning of 1 John 5.16, saying it had always been a puzzling verse to them.  And I agreed – it is a strange verse.  Read it for yourself in the KJV:

If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.  

So it would appear there are a number of questions: what is the difference between a sin leading to death and a sin that doesn’t lead to death.  Any why would there ever be a divine instruction in Scripture not to pray for someone – especially someone in trouble!

Some people use these verses to justify an idea that there are different levels of sin: generally the sin that they do is acceptable, but other people’s sins are unacceptable.  Two things we need to consider so we can discard that idea: firstly, John had just finished saying that all unrighteousness is sin (1 John 5.12), so it seems very unlikely that John is then after putting all sin in the same box separating sin into good sins (or less bad sins) and bad (or worse) sins.  Secondly, it is clear that it is about seeing the sin: it’s not about gossip and finding out that way.  It’s that the brother sees the other Christian commit the sin that does not lead to death.

Well the answer is not that there are different scales of sin, but that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6.23).  Sin pays wages and the wages sin pays is death.  But not every day is pay day!  If you see your brother sinning, you should ask (pray) about it.  But this is where the grammar of this verse gets confused.  Most people translate the personal pronouns like this: 

If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he [that man] shall ask, and he [God] shall give him [the sinning brother] life for them that sin not unto death

So the idea is that you see a brother sinning – you go round someone’s house and catch them watching a porno, you are with them when they explode in anger at someone and plan to hurt them, they tell you they are having an affair, you use their bathroom and the towels say “Hilton”.  So you pray, and because your pray is so awesome God will pour life into that person and wipe away that sin.

That’s not how things work, and you know it!  People sin – born-again, Spirit-filled, Christians sin.  And your prayers don’t change that because prayers don’t override free will.  You can pray for people in sin, don’t get me wrong, and if you rebuke the devil and pray for peace, they may suddenly regain a freedom and start living for God, but they could equally choose to keep sinning.

The point is that is not what this verse means.  The pronouns in Greek are all referring to the same indiviudal, so the best way to translate this verse is:

If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he [the man that sees his brother sinning] shall ask, and he [the man who sees his brother sinning] shall give him [the brother sinning] life for them that sin not unto death

In other words when you catch someone in a sin, when you see it (not when you hear Sister Bucketmouth tell you all about it) then you don’t just pray.  You give life to your brother.  What does that mean?  You tell them that they are righteous, you point out that sin is evil and its wages are death.  You tell them that Christ has already paid the full price for their sin, and that they are dead to sin, and alive to Christ.  You give them the life of the gospel of redemption and you love them will all the love you have.  You are not the accuser of the brethen, you are the brethren of the brethren.  Did you know in law courts judges aren’t allowed to judge family?  That is because even this nation recognizes that family-ties overtake the role of being a judge.  Yet most of the church want to judge their family in Christ.  No!  Love your family in Christ, be family to your family in Christ.  Bring life to them.  Speak words of life and hope and freedom!  Whenever you see someone sin, let them know how much you love them and how free they are!

That’s why it’s not a sin unto death – you brought life before payday.  

The next thing John says is: There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.  

That seems harsh until you realize there is a mis-translated word in there.  And it is the word “pray”.  The Greek word here is not aiteo, the normal Greek word for prayer, it is eratao – which means to ask questions about.  This verse is not saying “yeah, some sins are so bad that if someone does a sin from the bad list you should simply then not pray for them or help them because they are such bad Christians” – though I know a lot of people see it that way.  It’s not saying that, it’s saying something else, something far more profound and far more Christ-like:

There is a sin unto death.  I do not say [another Christian brother] shall ask questions about it.

You see sometimes a sin is hidden until it explodes in someone’s face.  It’s not one of those times you find out about it, show love and life to the person and help them.  You only find out when the person is suddenly dealing with the consequences.  It’s now payday, the wages of sin are now being paid out in full.  His wife turfs him out, his car is repossessed, his boss fires him, his friends abandon him.  In those cases, the Scriptures are not telling you “don’t pray for such a wicked person”.  It’s saying “don’t ask any questions” – mind your own business, don’t ask for all the juicy details.  Get involved by loving, showing life, helping, praying, being kind.  Don’t get involved by trying to find out all the juicy details, and give them your tuppence worth.  No-one when their sin harvest comes in wants your tuppence worth, they want your love and life and abundance.  We live in an age of gossips, and this verse is a timely encouragement to focus on what’s important.

So if you see someone sinning before their sin payday, pray and show them love and give them some life.  If you see someone sinning after sin payday, show them love and grace and don’t get hung up on the details.  Never ever forsake someone for messing up, but love them!

Difficult Verses 4: 1 John 1.9

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Well, thanks to the people who suggested this verse as a difficult verse they want an explanation on.  I will do my best to help you grasp what this verse is saying.  The verse says this:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1.9, ESV)

And it is a difficult verse because it seems at face value that it contradicts the wealth of New Covenant Scriptures that we are forgiven because of the work of Jesus, not because of anything we do: that we are saved by grace through faith alone (Ephesians 2.8-9), that the way to salvation is through believing in the work of Christ (Acts 16.31) and not by our works (Romans 4.16, 24).  If our forgiveness is dependent on our ability to confess, then we are in trouble – you don’t remember all your sins, and nor do I – so how can we possibly confess them all.

This verse is initially so difficult to reconcile with the New Covenant that some people actually seek to remove it from Scripture.  I have heard that, against all principles of letter-writing and grammar, that 1 John 1 was written to non-Christians and 1 John 2-5 was written to Christians.  I will give you three reasons why this cannot possibly be true, but firstly let’s just realize this: if your theology has to rip a New Testament letter to the church in two to avoid a verse, you are letting your theological system have more weight than the Word of God has.  That can only be reading into the text, not reading out of it.  

There are three clear reasons this verse applies to Christians today:

  • There is no chapter break between 1 and 2 in the original text.  You have to rip a letter written to the church into two to make this idea work
  • John uses first person plural pronounsin the verse: “we”, “our” and “us”.  Now if John says “we”, “our” and “us” he is including himself.  You cannot argue that this verse is not to Christians unless you want to make the case that John was not a Christian.  If this verse applies to John, it applies to you.
  • People haven’t thought through the implications of what they are saying.  For people who claim this verse isn’t for Christians, they have to then accept it is for non-Christians.  Some people say it is for all non-Christians, others have a special group of non-Christians that 1 John 1 is apparently written to (again, against all possible logic and grammar!).  One prominent teacher tells us that this first chapter of 1 John 1 is written to the Gnostics.   Now, let’s just ignore the fact that there were no Gnostics around in the 1st century when this letter was penned, and let’s just say that if it is not written to Christians then it must be written to someone!  Do the people who think that it written to non-Christians think that non-Christians (whether all of them or just a special group of them) think that non-Christians have to confess all their sins to be righteous?  Do they believe that for a certain group of Gnostics the normal rules of salvation by faith don’t apply?  It’s just not been thought through. 

I appreciate the passion people have for Christ and the complete work, but ripping verses out of the Bible, or relegating them to a secret group of people who no longer exist, because they are difficult to understand is not the way to honour the Word of God.  We have to engage with the Word and find out what it means.

So what does 1 John 1.9 mean?  Well, firstly, we have established that it is definitely written to Christians.  It is written to born-again, righteous, pure, holy, redeemed people.  John includes himself in the recipients of the letter – so it is definitely written to Christians, even mature Christians and leaders and elders!  Let’s just be honest – sometimes Christians, whether they are new Christians, older Christians or even church leaders – sin.  We get caught up in patterns of sinful behaviour and we need to get out.  This verse actually gives us a powerful route out of sin, and to relegate it to a 2nd century cult or rip it out of the letter is to do Christians a great disservice because this verse is powerful and will help you when you rightly understand it.

The first thing we need to do to find the meaning of the verse is examine the words that make it up.  Let’s start with the word “confess”, which in Greek is homologia.  Homo- means the same as, and logia means words, and homologia means to “say the same words as”.  It doesn’t mean we have to ball and squall on the floor and weep and wail about all our sins.  It isn’t talking about an emotional experience, although sinning, dealing with sin and making declarations can be emotional at times.  It is talking about you saying the same thing as God about your sin.  So what does God say about your sin?

Firstly, God says that sin is sin.  So stop calling it something else.  It’s not your personality type, it’s not a bad habit, it’s not my oopsie. It’s sin.  Gossip is sin.  Stealing is sin.  Outbursts of rage is sin.  Looking at a woman with lust in the heart, watching porn, is sin.  Sex outside of marriage is sin.  Cursing Christians is sin.  Pride and arrogance is sin.  Call it what it is.  Face up to the issue – man up and own your sin! Say out loud: “I have sinned.  This action I have done is sin, and I want to be free!”  Let’s exercise some responsibility.

Secondly, God says that your sin has been paid for on the cross.  It has been dealt with.  2 Cor. 5.21 tells us that Christ became sin with your sin so that you could be made the righteousness of God.  So your sin has been forgiven and you have died to sin.  Sin is not your master anymore because you are under grace (Romans 6.14).  Now you have accurately diagnosed your problem as sin, and are not hiding behind an excuse start to declare that you are free from sin, that you are forgiven, that you are redeemed, that you are righteous, that your spirit is pure and holy, that you are born again.  Start to declare this outloud.  That is confessing your sin – saying what God says about it.

You see you can only have God’s remedy for your problem when you admit God’s diagnosis for your problem.  Keep denying it is sin, keep blaming the other people for making you behave like that, you start to distort the world.  Your thinking darkens and you become corrupt.  Admit it is sin, declare it is sin, then you can declare God’s solution to sin: the blood of Christ and the cross of Christ.

So now you have confessed your sin, we find out that God will do two things.  Not because He is merciful and kind (though He is!) but He will do these things because He is faithful and righteous.  You see if you have sinned, and you have confessed that sin, then you need to know that God isn’t going to do what He does next because of His goodness but because of His righteousness and faithfulness.  Christ died for your sin because of God’s goodness, but now that Christ has paid the full price for sin, it would be unrighteous for God not to help you in your sin!

How does God help us?  Well, the Scripture says He forgives us and He cleanses us from all unrighteousness.  This again causes problems for us complete work people, we read this and go “well, I am forgiven” and “I am righteous” so what is this about?  Let’s just look a little deeper and find out.

Firstly, God forgiving us?  Aren’t we forgiven because of Jesus at the cross, rather than because of our awesome confession?  It depends what you mean by forgive.  The Greek word for forgive is also equally translated as separate, and even as divorce a couple of times.  It means to firmly and deliberately separate two things.  This verse isn’t talking about God forgiving us because we finally said sorry – I know it’s been preached that way, but God is not waiting for an apology!  Forgiveness is rooted in the cross, not our apology.  It’s talking about the fact that God will separate you from your sin – when you start declaring what the Bible says about your sin, you find that sin loses it’s power to tempt you, to control you, to hold you.  When you start declaring that you are free from sin, and sin has no dominion over you because you are under grace not law, that sin loses its power to con you into thinking you have to obey it.  That is what 1 John 1.9 means by forgiveness – it’s about being free from that sin.

Then the cleansing from all unrighteousness.  Look, we all should know that our spirits are righteous the moment we get born again. You are totally righteous in your spirit.  Therefore, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that this Scripture is not talking about our spirit! Then it shouldn’t be too difficult to realize it’s talking about our souls.  Your spirit is righteous, but your soul – not so much.  If you had an x-ray machine that could see spirit and soul, and you were standing next to Jesus and you set the machine to spirit – you would not be able to tell the difference between you and Jesus.  You are one spirit (1 Cor. 6.17).  That’s awesome – your spirit is the righteousness of God.

But if you turned the dial on the machine and set it to soul – to thought processes, to how we think and respond and feel.  I am guessing it wouldn’t be that hard to work out which one is Jesus and which one is us!  Our souls are not yet fully renewed and not yet fully restored – we are a work in progress in our souls.  But when we start declaring the Word of God and what God says about sin – confessing our sins – then God, in His faithfulness and righteousness – starts to cleanse our souls from that unrighteousness.  Our thoughts start to line up with His thoughts, our ways subsume into His ways.  It’s awesome!  You see now why the power of this verse means that it should not be relegated to non-Christians or Gnostics or ripped out of the Bible!  It’s part of grace!

Now you sin and most of the time, you can pick yourself up again.  This verse isn’t saying to confess all our sins, it’s talking about those times where a sin or group of sins just seems to be having the victory over us and our life.  Sometimes, and it happens to all of us, a certain sin just seems to get the better of us.  It seems to be winning.  In those cases, here are the 4 steps to victory:

  1. Agree with God that it is a sin.  Stop making excuses or blaming the others, or your DNA, or the situation.  It is sin.  Confess (declare) that your actions are sinful.  This is the diagnosis that allows the remedy – if you can’t make the right diagnosis, you won’t take the right cure!
  2. Agree with God that sin has been dealt with on the cross.  Start to declare and agree with God that sin has been dealt with.  That you died to sin, that sin is not your master.  Read Romans 6.1-14 out loud.  Declare that it is for freedom that you have been set free.  Declare that your spirit is righteous, that you are pure and holy.  Confess (agree with God) that this sin has been dealt with on the cross.
  3. God will then forgive (separate) you from your sin.  You will find as you declare and agree with God what He says about your sin that it’s power is dethroned.  Your confession gives you authority and wisdom.  It dislodges the sin from your thoughts, and God jumps in and separates you and your sin.
  4. God will cleanse you (your soul) from all unrighteousness.  He will start to help you renew your mind and think God thoughts.

The Christian life is not just health and wealth, it’s also manifest righteousness.  It’s living free from sin, living free from selfishness.  Never having to lose relationships because of your selfishness is one of the best blessings about living the Christian life.  And confession of sin, as defined Biblically – not culturally or dogmatically – is one of the most powerful tools in the Christian life.  Don’t follow the people who because of the misusers of this verse have become non-users of this verse!  Become a user of this verse and learn how to live a life free from sin today. 

God’s Marvellous Grace – A Licence to Sin?

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I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. – Jude 1.4

I think if you are a pastor today, or if you go to church today (I know that’s becoming unpopular among some grace people, but church is still God’s plan to change the world), then you will know that this Scripture is true.  People are worming their way into strong, healthy churches, and teaching that God’s grace allows us to live immoral lives.

As a pastor of a grace church, as someone who loves grace, and who has been changed beyond recognition by the truths of God’s grace, I know from bitter experience that people do still think that grace lets you live immoral lives.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  And as pastors, as good shepherds, we need to notice these people as they will infect your church and rip it apart.  I’m not posting this post because I am anti-grace, but because I am pro-grace!  A little yeast will spoil the whole bunch.

Here are three ways in which you can identify that people think that grace gives us a licence to sin:

  1. They think that grace means that they never have to say “sorry”.  There was a film in the 70s which said “Love means never having to say you are sorry” but that simply isn’t true.  If you care about and love people, and your actions hurt them – if your behaviour is rude, selfish, critical and abusive then you should apologize.  You should let that person know that you care about them, that you regret causing them pain and that you value their relationship.  Jesus had a lot to say about making amends with your family, and people who just dismiss the hurt they have caused others with their negative, selfish behaviour really do not understand grace, no matter what their doctrine on the subject.What is ironic here is that you will find out that the people who insist grace means they don’t have to apologize, will be the most thin-skinned when other people are mean or unkind to them.   A pastor who does not realize this will end up with a church full of offended people, sulking people, and hurt people.  Love means you should apologize when you offend and hurt someone due to your selfish behaviour.  2 Tim. 2.24 says the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome, but kind to all.   Matthew 5.23-24 says So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.  Jesus thinks that reconciliation with others is more important than worship – so be very wary in dealing with people who never think they need to apologize or make amends for their behaviour.  They will destroy your community.
  2. People use grace as a licence to sin when they believe there should be no consequences to their sin.  Now the most beautiful precious truth of grace is that there is no more penalty for sin.  Jesus is the propitiation (the one who takes the penalty) for sin – not just our sin, but the sins of the whole world (1 John 2.2).  There is no more penalty for sin.  You will never be punished for God for your sin.  But sin is still a seed, and seeds will produce harvests.  I had to speak to a young man recently whose girlfriend is pregnant.  He told me “I prayed and prayed that she wouldn’t…” I had to point out that sex is sowing seeds, and seeds produce harvests – in this case, human seeds produce a harvest of a human!  It’s like if you plant apple seeds, don’t bother praying for an orange harvest – it won’t happen.  Sin is sowing seeds of death and they only produce a death harvest.  People who think God’s grace is a licence to sin will always be vocally upset at consequences to sin.  Their marriage is in a mess because they go out get drunk and flirt.  That’s not God judging them, that’s just the consequences to sin.  If you are rude and mean, people will avoid you.  They won’t share their hearts with you.  That’s not God judging you, that’s just the consequences to sin.   People who think grace is a licence to sin will try and avoid the consequences to their sin.  They will never own their sin and own the consequences.  Speeding and parking tickets will be thrown in the bin and ignored, they will never turn up for marriage counselling or debt counselling – they would prefer to moan about their wives and post on Facebook how much money they desperately need.  People who cannot face the consequences to their actions are immature – help them, but don’t build on them and don’t take the consequences for them!
  3. People who think there should be no consequences for sin generally think that means that they should not have to endure the consequences for their sin.  You having to put up with the consequences of their sin does not bother them at all.  Them having to put up with the consequences of sin is all that gets them upset.  So these people will never respect your personal space or fences (if you need some teaching on setting boundaries or fences in your life – or dealing with people like this, http://www.treeoflifeguildford.com/building-fences.html will help you no end), and will invade your life with their problems.They can’t handle being a couple of hundred pounds out of pocket because of their greediness and overspending and lack of self-control, but if they can “borrow” the money off you, then they will not mind you being out of pocket.  And as for saying sorry when they can’t pay you back, see point 1!  If you put up a fence to these people, and refuse to enable them (to use psychological language, refuse to be their co-dependent) then expect a barrage of verbal abuse telling you that you don’t understand grace, that you are legalistic, that you are harsh, mean, selfish.  Grace to these people means that there should be no consequences to their sin; and that people should not put healthy boundaries in their life to protect them from abusive people and anyone who does put a boundary up is accused of being unloving and ungracious.

That is when grace is perverted in my mind, and when I see those three things: an inability to apologize and own wrong doing, an inability to take responsibility for the consequences of actions, and a lack of respect for other people’s personal space and life – then I see an immaturity, a mis-understanding of grace, and I see problems ahead.

Jude’s response to this is to remember that people like this will exist (vv. 18-19).  You should not be surprised at the way some so-called grace Christians can and will act, and how they will try and take advantage of you.

His second piece of advice is “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” (vv. 20-21).  In other words, that’s how they behave but you – but you behave in a different way: praying in the Holy Spirit which is speaking in tongues (just as another issue: people who turn the grace of God into a licence to sin often never pray in the Holy Spirit unless they are facing personal dilemmas). You should pray in tongues.  You might be tempted to get annoyed at how other people have treated you: pray in tongues.  You see a so-called mature Christian tell you that apologizing for messing up and losing your temper at someone is the devil: pray in tongues. Someone comes to you and calls you names, insisting you forgive because you are a grace person, but they never do anything to contribute to the relationship or help you in any way: praying in tongues.  Someone is disrespecting your personal life and invading your territory because it is easier on them: pray in tongues.  Pray in tongues!

Secondly: keep yourself in the love of God.  Remember: other people may misuse you, may worm their way into the church and cause trouble.  But you are still loved by God.  Forget that and your response to these grace-twisters may be less than stellar.  You might be the one being rude.  No – remember GOD LOVES YOU.  He adores you.  He loves you.  He cares about you.  He dotes on you.  Keep focused on Him.  Ministry is hard – but Jesus said “Don’t rejoice you have authority over demons, but rejoice that your name is in the Lamb’s book of life”.  In other words, if you rejoice in your effectiveness as a minister – you will have ups and downs.  If you rejoice in God’s love – it’s all up.

Let the people get on with it, set healthy boundaries, speak in tongues loads – build yourself up and discipline yourself to pray in the Spirit, not just when you have a need but because it’s good discipline, training and growth, and don’t treat God’s grace as a licence to sin, but keep yourself in it.  You see the people that take God’s grace and use it as a licence to sin have heard some ideas about God’s grace, some sermons on God’s grace, maybe even gone to a grace church or even a grace Bible College, but they are not keeping themselves in the love, in the grace.  (Mental assent to the doctrines of grace without actually having grace may be the greatest danger to the entire grace movement but that’s another post).

You though – keep yourselves in the love of God.  Meditate on the love, confess and declare the love, memorize Scriptures on the love, act in love, walk in love, love one another.  And pastors and leaders, watch out for people who think grace is a licence to sin and restrict their influence because they will choke the church to death.

Faith Works By Love

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  • For years the faith movement has been telling people that “faith works by love”. It’s true, that’s how faith works, but they misunderstood “by love”, telling us that faith only works when we love.

    If we don’t love people, forgive people, help people, serve people, show compassion on people, help people, live for people then our faith won’t work, we will stay sick, stay poor, stay in defeat and that’s that.

    So we responded. We made our love confessions, we strained to feel good feelings for people who annoyed us, we made ourselves human doormats, we became our pastor’s armour bearers serving them to the detriment of our own families. In the name of love, we strained to the point we became unbearable to live with. Then we stayed poor, stayed sick, stayed in defeat and rather than receiving God’s grace and healing and prosperity and victory we wailed our lack of love, we condemned our unforgiveness, we beat ourselves up for not loving enough, not feeling enough love and not doing enough – no matter how much we did do and how much we sacrificed.

    The truth (which will set you free as you read this): the love that empowers our faith is not our feeble, human, limited, pathetic, self-obsessed, impure, roller coaster feeling of love; not that which we squeeze out of our hearts and then kick the dog the next moment because our heart now hurts so bad. It’s not even our love at all: it’s HIS LOVE.

    Faith doesn’t work because you have earned enough brownie points loving people. It works when you realize that no matter what you have done, no matter what you have felt, no matter what you have felt, no matter how half-hearted you have been, no matter how much you hurt inside: GOD STILL LOVES YOU.

    His love is unending, unconditional, undeserved. It is not a still, logical, passive love: GOD IS LOVE. He is alive with love for you, He is buzzing, sparking, zapping with love for you. He made you because He needed a vessel to love with all the love inside Him. He redeemed you through Christ and His death and resurrection just so He could pour that love inside you and love you from the inside out.

    God is eternal, and every moment of that eternity is crammed with His love for you. God is infinite – and every iota of that space is exploding with the heat of a million suns with love for you. It’s not love based on your goodness, your strength, your joy, your ability to do. It’s love that comes straight from His nature, His heart, His being. The core of God is love for you.

    God is all-powerful and every ounce of His infinite strength is for you not against you. God can think a million thoughts at once, and all of them are thoughts on how to prosper you, how to get you through, how to make your life heaven on earth. His whole nature is love.

    When you realize the depths of His love for you, and when you grasp that He will never let you go, never let you down, never do or think anything that is not for your highest. When you realize that Christianity is not your utmost for His highest, but His utmost for your Highest; when you find out that you are not a sinner in the hand of an angry God, but a child of a loving Father. When you find out that the faith-life isn’t about your love for Him, but His love for you: then FAITH WORKS.

    Why wouldn’t He heal me when He adores me? Why wouldn’t I get the promotion at work? HE ADORES ME. HE LOVES ME. He wants me to have good things to enjoy. He wants to supply my needs according to His riches in glory. He is awesome to me. He can’t stop thinking about me.

    Of course I am going to walk in victory because He loves me. Passionately. Always. Not based on what I do, but based on what He has done.

    That’s why faith works by love: it’s easy to believe good things are going to happen to me the more I realize and grasp and meditate on His love for me.

Grace People or Gracious People?

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Kenneth Hagin said the derailing of the faith movement would happen if the people with strong faith did not love the people with weak faith. I believe the derailing of the grace movement will happen if grace people never become gracious people.

Grace can easily be just head knowledge to a series of doctrines, making you a policeman to those who you feel are too condemning and too judgmental, and blinding you to the condemnation you throw back at them, and the judgement you pronounce on them for not dotting their theological “i”s and crossing their ecclesiastical “t”s the way you do.

“I’m a grace person” can easily degenerate into our shibboleth, instead of being a foundation for which we build our lives and a way to learn how to love how we have been loved, it becomes a standard for deciding who is in our club and who is not in our club.  The very grace that should level us and bring unity is then used as a tool to divide!

People who are graciously serving the people of God, teaching, training, laying down their lives, are rejected and ignored because they don’t fit our image of grace.  Because they don’t do things the way we do, because they were too busy working for God to sit down and spend a year or two learning all your great revelations which you have kept to yourself or just shared with those you deem to be religious.

Healthy churches are rejected and criticized for not fitting the framework, while the grace people meet in their holy huddle, not even filling a living room because so few fit their rigid “grace” lens which doesn’t lead to loving the world, which doesn’t lead to serving and loving the church, which doesn’t lead to work of love and grace, but leads to a wicked judgmentalism and an arrogant us vs them mentality.

Grace is not supposed to be the mirror you hold up to the world to see if they are good enough to join your world.

It is supposed to be the mirror you hold up to your self to reveal your true identity and nature in Him. It is supposed to make you secure enough to take your place in the body of Christ – not leading for you to go through life not going to any church because “none of them are good enough for my high level of doctrinal purity” or rejecting people because they don’t look like us. It is supposed to be the mirror we gaze into to see His glory – His true glory is stepping into a broken, religious, hate-filled world and showing it love. His glory was never supposed to be kept hidden, never supposed to be shone onto the world exposing them for being outside of His pure, accurate doctrine of God and rejecting them for not grasping what He knew about His Father.

We are supposed to gaze into His glory – not just the friend of sinners, but the one who patiently endured Nicodemus’ ignorance, as the one who had a habit of going to synagogue even though they were mangling the book His Father penned to make points He never intended to make, as the one who even when the religious leaders nailed Him to a cross still died for them as well, crying “Father, forgive THEM for they know what they do”.

Then we are supposed to reflect His glory to the world. Is it your custom to be where the people of God are, even if they don’t get you or understand the true nature of your Father? Are you forgiving not just in word but in action, are you committed to His body on planet earth?

If not, get back to gazing at His glory. Stop using grace to divide and start being gracious.

Gracism!

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Racism is defined as treating people differently on the basis of nationality or outward markers of ethnicity.  Still racism is an issue in the world and the church today – people are neglected, ignored, devalued because of their nationality and ethnicity.  Jesus said His vision is for His house to be a house of prayer for all nations.

The Greek word for nations is ethnos, which we get our modern word ethnicity from.  God wants the church to be a place that people from every ethnic background can get together and worship and spend time with Him together.  A Father of love, loving His family of many backgrounds!

It’s time to stop seeing people through the eyes of race, and look at people through the eyes of grace.  Time to become a bunch of gracists.  Only looking at people assuming the best, ignoring their sin, bypassing their flaws, and looking at their potential, their strengths, their loves, their passions and valuing them as unique and special – not just special to God but special to you.

It’s gracism time!

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