He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

Archive for June, 2014

THE TRUE MEANING OF GRACE (Part 3)

IS GRACE A PERSON?

Some object to calling grace a person because they hold to the view that grace is an “empowerment” making it impersonal and a “force” received by God to enable us to do good.

Here are some verses to contemplate:

John 1: 14,15: ”The Word became flesh and took up residence  among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son  from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John testified concerning Him and exclaimed, “This was the One of whom I said, ‘The One coming after me  has surpassed me, because He existed before me.’ ”)  for the law was given through Moses,  grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

The essence of the Son is fullness of grace and truth.

He was and is full of God’s underserved, unearned, unmerited favor demonstrated throughout His entire life. Extending Himself towards all those that turned to Him with life, healing, and salvation. No one deserved it. He freely gave of Himself; therefore He is the essence of grace representing the Father accurately who “so loved the world” that He sent (extended) Jesus into the world to die in our place.

His life demonstrated God’s grace; His undeserved favor towards mankind.

The “empowerment” folks make the erroneous argument that grace cannot be unmerited favor because Jesus was full of grace and did not need unmerited favor from God.

They deliberately create a circular argument around the definition without the practical application realized in the fact that grace (unmerited favor) of God “CAME THROUGH” Jesus Christ; meaning He is the one who provides us with grace and truth not that He needed God’s unmerited favor.

As the Son of God, He was grace (favor) being extended to us by His Father, as undeserving as we all were.

Jesus is grace personified.

Another verse for consideration is the following:

Hebrews 10:29 “How much worse punishment do you think one will deserve who has trampled on the Son of God, regarded as profane the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and insulted the Spirit of Grace?”

Only a person can be insulted, not an “empowerment”. Here it clearly states that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Grace.

In the text it refers to someone rejecting and trampling on the Son of God and considering the blood of the covenant; Jesus’s blood as profane.

This is a direct rejection of the free gift of God’s grace; unmerited, unearned, undeserved favor offered in place of our own works to make ourselves righteous before God.

The Jews, who this was written to, were caught between two opinions; to stay under the law based on their own efforts to please God, asking for His help no doubt, to “empower” them to do so or to receive the underserved sacrifice for their sins through the blood of Jesus.

The fact that they were vacillating between these two opinions put them on the edge and dangerously close to “insulting the Spirit of Grace”.

This is a clear illustration of self-righteousness versus Christ-righteousness as a free gift of His grace. Truly, self-righteousness is the ultimate insult to the Spirit of Grace.

Here’s what the Apostle Paul said about this:

Galatians 5:4,5 “You who are trying to be justified by the law are alienated from Christ; you have fallen from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.”(as a gift) (6.)

Galatians 5:18 “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”

Hebrews 10:14 “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified.”

So if the work was finished by Jesus Christ on the cross, and by his one offering, as a free gift, He has perfected us forever, why do we think we can add to this or improve upon His work by our self-efforts without insulting His sacrifice and the Spirit of Grace?

Adding to His finished work by changing the meaning of grace to “empowerment” to do what God commands is insulting to the true meaning of grace; that being God extending Himself though Jesus His son, towards us who could do nothing to save ourselves and doing all that was needed to reconcile us to Himself. It puts the focus on ourselves to do what God commands “with His help” and us back under the law.

 This “new” meaning for grace, in my opinion, is in the neighborhood of insulting the Spirit of Grace.

What is needed is true repentance, (metanoia) to change our minds and accept the free gift of God’s grace as our only means of salvation and to maintaining a growing, vital, living relationship with Him; supernaturally by and through the indwelling Holy Spirit who alone can produce His fruit in our lives.

THE PROBLEM WITH MIXTURES

Christianity as a whole today is a mixture of Grace and Law. Mixture breeds confusion. It is one or the other; either we are as the Word says already perfected forever or we must achieve our sanctification by our own efforts. It cannot be both.

Our attempts to add anything to the finished work of Jesus is a statement that what He did was not enough and something has to be added to it to maintain it by our own efforts.

CONFESSION OF OUR SINS

Even the idea of our confessing our sins in order to maintain “fellowship” with God is in error if it means that we have to do this to maintain our side of the relationship and consequently our eternal life.

It has absolutely nothing to do with receiving His forgiveness. The forgiveness of our sins was accomplished on the cross by the blood of Jesus paying the ultimate price and penalty for ALL of our sins.

Our relationship is intact by the blood of Jesus, not by our confession of sins. This is an eternal covenant of God the Father with His Son through His blood for the forgiveness of our sins. We had nothing to do with it.

All we have to do is to believe it and receive the free gift of salvation through grace alone. We are then the purchased recipients of Jesus sacrifice and the beneficiaries of His covenant with the Father.

 We can add nothing to this completed and finished work because it is finished… period.

My wife and I may have a disagreement. My coming to her and seeking her forgiveness may give us a sense of restoration but I promise you, I was just as married to her before the event and during the event as I am when I seek her forgiveness. My behavior did not alter the covenant.

How much more with the Covenant of the Blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, nothing and no one can separate us from Him and the Father; that includes you and me and our sin. (John 10:27-30)

THE DEAL JESUS MADE WITH THE FATHER

The New Covenant is not between us and God. It is actually an Eternal agreement between God the Father and Jesus His Son, witnessed by and administered through the Holy Spirit.

This Covenant was actually made before time began and before the creation of the world; or another way of saying this is it was made outside of time and therefore it is Eternal. We all have a hard time grasping such an idea and I’m sure even Paul may have wondered at the revelation he received directly from Jesus about this. Understanding of this truth only comes through revelation by the Holy Spirit.

Here is what Paul said about it in Ephesians 1:3-8 “Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens.  For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight.  In love  He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved.  We have redemption in Him through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace  that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.”

So before the foundation of the world, before time as we know it began, God the Father chose us in Jesus to be holy and blameless in His sight.

He loved us so much that He asked Jesus to come, enter time and our world, as one of us, and die in our place so that we could be holy (set apart for a noble purpose) and blameless before Him and all this before time began. They knew in advance that we would need a savior. Our sin was not a surprise.

In other words Jesus said, “Abba, as for the people you will create through me that you love and adore; I will take the blame and the responsibility for all that they do that falls short of Your glory. Put it on my account. I will pay for it all with my life, as one of them, with my own blood as the purchase price.” Abba said, “Done deal.” That was the deal they made before time began and before the world was created.

All we have to do is by faith receive His grace; His unmerited, unearned, undeserved favor and we receive all the benefits that Jesus paid for with His blood. Forgiveness of all our sins, freedom from sin through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, healing and wholeness while remaining on earth and an Eternity to look forward to ruling and reigning with Jesus in His Kingdom. What a deal indeed.

WE HAVE EVERYTHING WE WILL EVER NEED

The truth is through this Eternal Covenant, Jesus has provided everything that we will ever need for life and godliness; everything means “everything”. It is all ours by the blood of Jesus; the Covenant maker on our behalf.

2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has ( past tense ) given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.”

There is absolutely no place for any of us to take any credit for our salvation or our sanctification. It is all been provided through Jesus by grace and the work of the Holy Spirit in us. We only have to believe it.

Jesus is our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification and our redemption. To know Jesus is to have the fullness of all He is. As He is to the Father so are we in Him now and forever.

 “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” I Corinthians 1:30

But what about the sins I commit today or tomorrow?

All sins were in the body of Jesus when He died on the cross and according to God’s own Word; He remembers them no more. (Hebrews 10:17) All, means all; past, present and future.

That by the way, was written before any of us were born. It predates our lives and consequently our sins. Now all we have to do is come to believe this in order to receive the benefits of it. We had nothing to do with securing the New Covenant and we therefore have no ability to keep it or destroy it.

Our responsibility is to respond to His ability.

Coming into agreement with God when we fail is simple repentance; “metanoia”( changing our minds). We come back into agreement with the truth of God’s grace and the truth that by it we are the righteousness of God in Christ as our true identity. This restores us instantly to a place of peace and rest and freedom from the lies of the enemy and any remnants of condemnation; supernaturally.

The Holy Spirit always shows up to confirm and reinforce the truth about our righteousness standing with God by the blood of Jesus alone. It is His responsibility to “convict” or convince us that Jesus is our righteousness. (John 16:10 & 2 Corinthians 5:21). It is our responsibility to believe this is true.

It is always a good thing to thank God for His forgiveness and grace when we repent but it is not our repentance that earns our forgiveness. We are forgiven not because we repent but because Jesus took the penalty for all our sins in His body on the cross and paid the price for each one by His own blood. Repentance happens as our minds are renewed according to the truth of who we are in Christ.

THE FALL OF MAN AND FALLING FROM GRACE

When Adam and Eve fell from a perfect state of grace they did so by believing a lie that they lacked something and that God was holding out on them. That there was something they had to do for themselves to be complete when in reality they lacked nothing. They were already as much like God as they would ever be.

The enemy deceived them into doubting their true identity that already reflected the perfect image of God. He did this by first getting them to doubt God and His Love and provision by suggesting that they should question God’s motive for prohibiting them from eating the forbidden fruit.

The enemy uses the same lies today. He gets us to doubt our true nature and identity in Christ or he gets us to doubt God and His love, grace, and provision who has already given us “every spiritual blessing in the heavens”. All of Heaven’s blessings are already ours, here on earth and that is the truth.

We can become deceived into believing there is something we must do to maintain our relationship with God by our own efforts to gain His favor and Heaven’s blessings. We become self-conscious rather than Christ –conscious; focused on Him and all He is and all He has done for us. When this happens, we have “fallen from grace” and put ourselves back under the law.

The weight of the law (self-effort) negates the freedom and blessings of grace and it only leads to death.

We only become more like Jesus when we look away from ourselves and behold Him in all His glory. We are then transformed from glory to glory into His image and this by the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit.  This is a process of discovering and believing what is already true about us. (2 Corinthians 3:17,18)

IN CONCLUSION

We really need to step back and consider what we believe about grace and our response to it.

It is a critical juncture in our life journey that presents two paths for us to choose from.

One path leads to life and the other to death. It is that important.

My prayer is that you choose grace; God’s unearned, unmerited, undeserved extending of Himself towards us through Jesus and the life that flows from it in the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

Here’s what Paul said about this choice:

“I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.  For the flesh ( of human origin “self-effort”) desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Galatians 5:16-18

“We have this kind of confidence toward God through Christ.  It is not that we are competent in   ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our competence is from God.  He has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit produces life.” 2 Corinthians 3:4-6

When we understand that our self-effort puts us under the law and results in the opposite of what we want, “so that we don’t do what we really want to do” and grasp grace in all its fullness, Jesus life will be produced effortlessly in us, by faith,  as we rest in His gracious finished work.

We need no further empowerment than the indwelling power of the Spirit of Grace who alone produces the fruit of the nature and character of Jesus in us.

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THE TRUE MEANING OF GRACE PART 2

LIVING IN GRACE

In reality, we are empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit once we receive the free gift of God’s grace of salvation through faith alone in Jesus Christ and His Finished work on the cross in our place.

We are further empowered from within by the Holy Spirit through the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. This is how our lives become “empowered” and aided by the Holy Spirit and we gain access to His “grace-gifts”.

This is available to all who desire it as our blood bought inheritance that we did nothing to merit, earn or deserve. All we have to do is receive it by faith as a gift.

Jesus qualified us and sent the Holy Spirit to fill, empower and baptize us; immerse and saturate us in His Spirit.

The grace-gifts are ours to use freely under the power of the Holy Spirit to bring life, freedom, healing, wisdom, miracles and salvation for the advancement of His Kingdom in the earth.

The Holy Spirit desires to empower and fill each of us to overflowing by His love and grace even more than we may realize. It is His greatest pleasure to fill us to overflowing with Himself and to release His gifts through us. (Ephesians 5:18)

As with any gift it becomes ours when we receive it as ours.

It is free for the taking but we have to choose to receive it and enjoy it, or not. It is up to us. There is no other qualification. Paul urges us to be continually filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit. This is to be our way of life; to be filled with the Spirit of Grace.

SO WHAT ABOUT SIN ?

God extending His son, stretched out on the cross for you and me; in our place as our substitute and payment for our sins. This is God’s grace and love demonstration.

Seriously, if you knew someone had done this for you would you want to do anything to discredit or lesson the importance of their sacrifice? Wouldn’t you want to live the rest of your life in a way that honored what they willing did for you? How much more, with knowing that God sent His own Son who willing died in our place so we wouldn’t have to experience death, judgment and separation from God in hell for all eternity?

The only reasonable response is to be overwhelmed with a sense of how great His love is and to want to show Him how much we love Him as a response to His love. This comes only by revelation of the Holy Spirit and never by putting ourselves or others under the law.

In fact, any act of outward “obedience” to try to earn or deserve God’s favor is treason against the Gospel of Grace preached by Paul and the other disciples. It is an insult to the Spirit of Grace.

We cannot earn our salvation in the first place by our good works. What makes us think that once we are saved we keep ourselves saved by our acts of obedience? If that is the case, then Jesus didn’t need to come and die for us however it is not the case and thank God the Father that He did come and die in our place.

“Anyone who uses grace as an excuse to sin does not understand what it is.” (4.)

Anyone who believes that there are no consequences for sin because of grace are also sadly mistaken.

There are always consequences resulting from sinful behavior. No one is exempt from this. It is the natural consequence of going against the way God set the world up to work best. It is always a lesser road that leads to disastrous results and bondage. Sin is enslavement, not freedom; resulting in death.

No one who persists in a sinful lifestyle will reap anything but destruction in their lives and relationships. If they remain unrepentant, refusing to change their minds in light of the truth that Jesus by His grace came to set us free from sin and its consequences which ultimately leads to death, will suffer the consequences of their poor choices.

They need to examine themselves to see if they are even in the faith and definitely need to reexamine the Gospel of grace which sets out to set us free from sin, death and destruction by the gracious favor of God. (2 Peter 1:2-11)

No one can deliver themselves from sin. We need a Savior to do that for us. His name is Jesus and He is the one that Grace and Truth came through. (John 1)

Jesus came to set us free not just from the penalty of sin but from sin itself.

I believe the reason people who know Jesus persist in sinful, self-destructive lifestyles is because they live in confusion under guilt, shame, and condemnation and believe the lies of the enemy about themselves and God.

Some pridefully presume upon the grace of God as an excuse for their behavior with the notion that one day they will change while remaining captive and in bondage to what Jesus died to set them free from. This adds to the downward spiral of more guilt, condemnation and hopelessness. It leads to acceptance of a lesser level of life way below their privileges and calling in Christ rather than the abundant life Jesus came and died to give us. If left unchecked it will lead to a progressively destructive life of defeat and despair.

This is what living by self-effort, self dependence and self righteousness under the law looks like. I believe this grieves the Spirit of Grace who has all that we need for life and godliness readily available to us; free for the taking. (2 Peter 1:3)

It is the same as those who think they can be righteous before God by their “obedience” and “holiness” by their own efforts. Both have “fallen from grace” and have placed themselves back under the yoke of bondage to the law / self-effort. Rather than a humble dependence upon His power that can free them they walk in the lie of independence and self reliance in self deception, darkness and confusion. It is a slow and painful journey that leads to death, not life and certainly not freedom.

The Fear of the Lord

The church has unfortunately added to their sense of condemnation by demanding that they shape up or ship out by preaching the “Fear of the Lord” implying we can still fall under His condemnation if we’re not careful.

Jesus removed all the reasons for God’s wrath when He absorbed all of it in His body on the cross. The only ones needing to “fear” God are those that reject Jesus and His grace; His unmerited favor.

Now our “fear of the Lord” is out of honor, respect and reverence for His awesomeness and appreciation for His amazing grace and love shown to us through Jesus.

Jesus even changed the word “fear” to “worship” when confronting the devil in the wilderness temptations. In Luke 4:8, it says “Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’ ”  This was His interpretation of the commandment in Deuteronomy 6:13 and 10:20 and other places where the command is to “Fear the Lord.”

This is an old covenant requirement that Jesus changed to a New Covenant reality based on a new relationship with our Heavenly Abba –Daddy brought to us by grace through Jesus Christ.

Interestingly, in the Greek the word for “worship” means “to give a kiss” or to “throw a kiss” in abeyance out of love and respect. (proskynéō pro “towards” kyneo “ to kiss”.)

A kiss can also be an intimate display between two lovers; between a bride and her husband; Jesus our Heavenly King-husband and His church; His bride.

Worship is entering freely into intimacy with Jesus in the Presence of the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit.

We are qualified through Jesus; His blood and His righteousness which have been given to us as a gift. Through Jesus, we have been made holy, righteous and pure and free to be who He created us to be. We are able to rejoice without “fear” in His Presence. And all this by His abundance and overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness. (Romans 5:17)

Jesus came to bring us into intimate relationship with our Abba-Daddy who we love because He first loved us and who we hold in absolute honor, reverence, and awe and who commands us to “come boldly before His throne of grace to find help in our time of need”. Hebrews 4:16

We can do this because of the blood sacrifice of Jesus who opened the way through His body for us to have free access even into the Holy of Holy’s; the throne room and Presence of Almighty God who calls us His children.  Hebrews 10:19

Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children. And we are!”(I John 3:1)

Paul further clarified the issue of the “fear of the Lord” in Hebrews 12: 8-24,28-29 “For you have not come to what could be touched, to a blazing fire, to darkness, gloom, and storm,  to the blast of a trumpet, and the sound of words. (Those who heard it begged that not another word be spoken to them,  for they could not bear what was commanded: And if even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned! The appearance was so terrifying that Moses said, I am terrified and trembling.) 

Instead, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God (the heavenly Jerusalem), to myriads of angels in festive gathering, to the assembly of the firstborn whose names have been written in heaven, to God who is the Judge of all, to the spirits of righteous people made perfect, to Jesus (mediator   of a new covenant ), and to the sprinkled blood, which says better things than the blood of Abel… 

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us hold on to grace.   By it, we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”

Whatever fire consumes becomes fire.

To this I say, “Amen!” Lord, by your grace, consume us so that we become more like You!

So what is the remedy for sin in a believer in Jesus?

The only remedy is not more condemnation but a revelation of the grace (unmerited favor) of God which in Paul’s words in Romans 8:1 says “There is therefore now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.”

The gift of no condemnation is what sets us free to sin no more, just as the woman caught in adultery thrown at Jesus feet received.

Knowing how much we are loved and forgiven sets us free by His grace to walk in freedom from sin and this gives us the desire to do good and to please Him and to live a life of love.

“Right believing always leads to right living.” (5.)

If we see ourselves as our Heavenly Father now sees us, as holy and righteous as Jesus Himself, we will want to live to please Him and to live up to who we actually are in Christ; empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit where His life is lived supernaturally through us.

By His grace, we have been set free from sin. We now can choose to rely on His grace to walk in true freedom and depend on His Holy Spirit to produce His fruit; the life of Jesus in and through us.

Therefore, if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.” John 8:6

“You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. .   But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” Romans 6.18,22.