Teaching Grace

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ… Titus 2:11-13

It’s God’s grace that convicts us of sin. It’s His grace that saves. It’s His grace that empowers us and teaches us how to live a post-lost life.

After we are saved, we live in a new paradigm. That’s a fancy way of saying that we have new perspective, a whole new way of looking at things. The problem is we live in the same old world. Grace having saved us doesn’t dump us as new creatures into a world that hasn’t changed. It empowers us and teaches us how to deal with our new circumstances.

Grace first teaches us to disown what ruled us before. Because of what Christ did for us, we don’t want to ever bring shame to Him.

In place of what use to compel us, Grace teaches us about self-control and living soberly. To live soberly means to not be drunk, to be aware of what’s real. Three things are real: 1. This is not our home. We need to live by heavenly standards. 2. Satan won’t be happy about that. He will try to derail us. 3. Others are watching. Those who are still loss are looking for hypocrisy. Our brothers and sisters are looking for example.

Grace teaches us to stop putting self first. To be upright and godly is to think first of God, then of others and lastly of ourselves.

Finally, grace teaches us perspective, about the blessed hope. What surrounds us now is temporary. What is coming is eternal and glorious. We should act accordingly.

 

Radical Response

It’s clear that ISIS is bent on killing us Americans in general and us Christians in particular. It really doesn’t matter if this is radical Islam or something else. What should be our response?

The government response should be based on its principal function to protect its citizens. Government is not there is educate us or supplement our incomes or take away our incomes or our freedoms. It’s function is protection. A government that doesn’t do that is failing in its fundamental function. There is only one way to deal with someone trying to kill you: kill them first. For those of us old enough to remember, Pearl Harbor was just on painful reminder that isolationism doesn’t work with fanatics.

As Christians, our first response should  be to convert them, but it seems a little late for that. Right Mr. Robertson?

Our response as Christians to radical Islam should be radical Christianity. That means it should not be fear and it should not be hate. We should respond by doing what we should have been doing all along. We should be radically following our Lord. We should be radically carrying out His commission. We should be radically loving, even our enemies.

Maybe the real reason for ISIS is to remind government of its real function and to get us Christians off our backsides and make us do what we should have been doing all along: get radical ourselves.

Thanks ISIS for the reminder. Now Hands Up.

Patterns

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.Romans 8: 28?

Last week I read Model Man by Larry Stockstill. You can’t help but notice that Pastor Stockstill is a man of routines. He gets up at the same time each day, goes on a walk with his wife with whom he then does a devotional time and then eats the same breakfast. He has, or at least did when his family was younger, a family night and a date night each week. These patterns seem to have served him well as God has accomplished much through his ministry over the years. Sometimes patterns make us efficient and secure. However, sometimes they make us lazy, bored and comfortable. If we have too many patterns in our lives it makes it tougher to grow because growth is about change and patterns restrict change. If we are to affect the world around us that requires us to be creative and patterns tend to restrict our creativity.

If God is doing something to move you out of your habits or patterns as I know He is with me, then maybe He has plans for you. The older we get the more we rest in our patterns and the more we tend to think that God is done with us. Pattern breakup is God’s response to that attitude.

When our patterns are threatened we need to remember Romans 8:28, and how we can know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  Consider the nature of this promise.

We know. We have inside knowledge. (This promise is Certain)

All things. Everything, no exceptions. (This promise is Comprehensive)

Work together. It’s all part of one perfect plan. (This promise is Complex)

For good. We absolutely cannot lose. (This promise is Comforting)

Jeremiah, David (2006-03-07). Captured by Grace: No One Is Beyond the Reach of a Loving God (p. 156). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

When our lives seem less organized, less according to the patterns we have gotten use to, it’s good to remind ourselves that we are a special people. We love God and are called according to His purpose. What seems like chaos and unwelcome change, is God getting us ready for a new and exciting assignment. With Paul we can count it all blessing. Things are about to get radical.

 

Reconnecting

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:25 NLT

I attended my first connect group meeting at our church for the fall semester last night. It was good. It was a men’s only meeting studying Larry Stockstill’s Model Man. The message was very simple: Tell the truth. Keep your word. Pay your bills. It seems a bit sad that we need to hear a message so simple these days. Even sadder is that next week we talk about purity and that’s a message needed even more.

It was the first of a six-week set of meetings. The book is very simple. I read it in one sitting. We watched a video then had a discussion. All of it was great. It was great to connect with other Christians, especially other men. It was great to get out of the house. It only lasted an hour but I know it will make a difference in my week.

It’s not too late to join a group. Check out the possibilities.  You can fit in an hour in your week. Especially one that will really make a difference. Don’t tell me there’s not an hour in front of the TV you can’t give up.

 

Grace – Brilliance in the Darkness

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— Romans 3

If our experience of grace isn’t everything I’ve been talking about, it’s because we have tried to take a short cut to it. Romans 3:21-25 is the Gospel.

I believe this is so because of the way Satan tries to chip away at the elements contained in these verses. See how he tries to drag the law back in. See how he tries to cast doubt on faith being enough. See how he tries to label only the “worst” as sinners. See how he tries to convince that nothing that’s free can be worth anything.

Perhaps these days Satan has been most successful in taking the universality of sin out of the equation. When we speak of sin at all, it always seems to be someone else’s sin. For years it was divorce, until that affected a majority. Now it’s homosexuality. These sins du jour are certainly sin, but they are placed front-and-center to distract us from the unpleasant truth that all have sinned and not just a bit. All are totally depraved.

Grace can only shine in its ultimate brilliance because it emerges from ultimate darkness. Therefore, Plantinga points out, we load up on bland and inoffensive modern worship practices , “seeker-sensitive” though they may be, at our own peril. Catchy praise choruses and positive-thinking sermons are crowd pleasers, but sometimes the praise bands drown out the sobering reality of sin—not “unproductive habits,” but sin—and the consequent demand for confession, repentance, and forgiveness. Jeremiah, David (2006-03-07). Captured by Grace: No One Is Beyond the Reach of a Loving God (p. 30). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Only the painful reality of our own depravity and our total inability to do anything about it can lead us to the cross and the process of confession, repentance, and forgiveness. Then on through faith to the glorious justification and righteousness that His blood bought.

If grace doesn’t see the greatest thing God has done for you, you may be looking at your “Christianity” through rose-colored glasses. Make sure  you have taken the path that starts at your own depravity. It takes a recognition of personal sin to appreciate a personal savior.

Mercy and Grace

Let us then approach God’s 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 

We usually think of Mercy and Grace together like ham and eggs or biscuits and gravy. (I really should have breakfast BEFORE I write these things.) However, mercy and grace or different. Mercy is forgiveness for what we have done; grace is the power to not do it again.

Mercy is God withholding the punishment we rightfully deserve. Grace is God not only withholding that punishment but offering the most precious of gifts instead. Mercy pays the penalty for our sin at the cross. Grace substitutes the righteousness of Christ for our wickedness. Jeremiah, David (2006-03-07). Captured by Grace: No One Is Beyond the Reach of a Loving God (p. 23). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

We can be merciful, in fact, God tells us that unless we forgive we won’t be forgiven, but we can’t pass out Mercy and Grace like God can. God forgives even though He has perfect knowledge of just how sinful we are. He also knows how soon we will repeat our sin. For us, it is tough to be merciful, even with our limited knowledge. As to grace, we don’t have the power to gift like God does. We can forgive infractions, but have now way to empower others to improve.

Perfect mercy and grace are God things. We should rejoice that it is so.