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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.

Romans 2.4

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Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

Paul is talking still about religious people: about people who come to God on the basis of what they have done, not on the basis of what He has done. Religion ruins lives.

As we have seen in verses 1-3, religion leads you to judge people for things that you do yourself. It leads you to criticise people for doing things wrong that you do yourself. It leads you to having a double standard for judging people – if person X commits sin Y then you condemn them and judge them. When you commit the same sin, you justify yourself because of your motivation or your other good works. In short, religion makes you judgmental, critical, acerbic and rude. No-one likes a religious person.

Jesus on the other hand is gracious, kind, redemptive, helpful, gentle and easy to live with. If people truly know Jesus they are great people to be around. They are easy to live with, they are kind, patient and gentle.

Religion is awful.

Now, this verse contains some wonderful instruction. It explains why religious people are so condemning, judgmental and hypocritical.

The reason is this: they hate the riches of God’s goodness, forbearance and longsuffering. Never, ever hate God’s goodness, forbearance and longsuffering.

Let’s look at these three elements of God individually:

1. God’s goodness

The Greek word for goodness is chrēstotēs. It can be translated as goodness or benignity or kindness. It means that God is never mean, never malicious, never hurtful. It means that God does not have plans to harm us, does not want revenge on us when we sin, is not holding back anything from us.

It means God is good and good means good. God loves us and God is for us. You can cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you. He adores you. He only wants to do good for you, He only speaks good words about you, He only acts for your good. He truly is awesome!

Religious people do not realize that God is rich in goodness. They think that if you do something wrong, God will immediately withhold His blessing and get revenge. Some religious people will tell you that God is behind all the evil in the world. Others will tell you that you are not healed or not wealthy because of your sin or your lack of goodness or lack of service.

All these ideas have their root in despising the goodness of God and not having a clue of who God really is!

2. God’s forbearance

The Greek word for forbearance is anochē. It means the ability to put up with things. God is rich in forbearance. God is tolerant.

If you have messed up today, God is not looking to get you and beat you up for it. God is rich in the ability to put up with things. Look how much you did wrong before you were born again! God put up with all of that, and still when you repented and believed accepted you fully and made you fully righteous.

Now you are in God’s family: He puts up with anything you do.

Religious people are not tolerant. They will not put up with anything. If you sin you are out the door. Heaven forbid if you do something wrong that people find out about. If you break the religious community rules you will be shunned. That is what religious people are like: they will turn on you as quickly as you can imagine. They are not tolerant because they do not know the tolerance of God. God is gracious! God can put up with things.

The more you realize the goodness and graciousness of God, the easier it is to develop a real genuine relationship with Him.

3. God’s longsuffering

God’s forbearance is God’s ability to put up with anything you do wrong and not shun you or kick you out of the community. It is a form of mercy: God’s mercy is God’s ability not to treat you as your sins deserve.

God’s longsuffering is God’s ability to love you and care about you and passionately desire to be with you no matter what you have done. It is a form of God’s grace. God’s mercy is not giving you what you deserve, God’s grace is giving you what you do not deserve.

God’s longsuffering is God’s ability to love you and bless you even when you do not deserve it. It comes from the Greek word makrothymia, which is translated patience or longsuffering in the KJV. It comes from two words: makro, meaning long; and thymos which means passion or heat.

Listen: even on your worst day, God still feels passion for you. He is the God of macro-passion. He dotes on you, cares for you, loves you passionately.

Religious people cannot deal with this. They cannot sustain their passion for God or for people. They cloak their lack of passion for God and for people with religious cliches. They hate people who turn up and who pray with passion, preach with passion, love with passion, serve with passion. Religious people portray an austere God, not a God hot with passion.

There is even a doctrine many churches in the UK teach called impassibility. This means that God cannot experience pain or pleasure from our actions. It is heresy – the Bible is clear: he CAN be touched with the feelings of our infirmities (Hebrews 4.15). Not only that: it leads to people not being able to understand God, so it stops people having a real relationship with Him.

Muslims also teach that God has no emotions, no passion, no heat. It is simply not true: God can be made happy by your actions. God can be grieved by your actions.

Listen: God adores you. He is passionate about you. When you fail and you feel pain, He feels it more. His love for you is boundless, it is passionate, it is red-hot. He adores you.

Conclusion

When you realize that God is good, longsuffering and tolerant you start to enjoy His company. It is when you accept the lie that God is some short-fused difficult to please monster that you run far far away from Him.

People often get worried and concerned when you teach that God is good, that God forgives, that God does not hold sin against you. They start to panic: if you do that they say, people will do whatever they want. They will live in sin and rebel.

That is absolutely not true. It is the truth that sets people free. When the truth that God is good and kind is preached, it leads people to repentance. The Greek word for repentance means to change your thinking.

It is ONLY when you realize that God is good, can you actually change your life and live a pure, holy, loving, kind life. Religious people do not live a pure life, they are critical hypocrites. They are cruel, mean and condemning. If you sin they will judge you and fail to love you. They are not godly. They have a form of godliness, but no power. People who think that God is out to get them may look holy, they ARE NOT.

When you realize that God is good and that He adores you, that does not make you want to go and do what you want. It makes you want to tell God how much you love Him, to go and show that love and goodness to some stranger, to go and serve your family, to honour His life and goodness and to go and preach the gospel to the world.

I adjure you: NEVER NEVER NEVER despise the riches of God’s goodness, God’s forbearance and God’s longsuffering. Rather enjoy those riches and share them with the world!

Glory and freedom,
Benjamin

Wisdom Distilled (IV)

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When we use the word good to describe God, it means exactly the same as what it means when we use it to refer to a human.  God is kind, gracious, always willing to forgive and always willing to heal.

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