From Sodom to Jesus

22 So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. 23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” 26 And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

27 Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. 28 Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” 29 Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” 30 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” 31 He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” 32 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” 33 And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.

(Genesis 18:22-33).

 

  • But there was that one time when God would spare the wicked for the sake of ONE righteous man…Jesus Christ.
  • This is good news to all of us who are wicked…(that’s all of us).

And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
    and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

(Romans 4:5-8).

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

(Romans 5:6-11).

 

In the name of Jesus Christ, may God keep you and bless you.  Grace and peace to you.

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The Fight

Ok,

Maybe you are like me and you have gone through the exact same thing that I am about to explain.  I’m swimming in the ocean of God’s grace and the thought hits me; “well, what I am supposed to do about obedience now?”

Like a flood all of the memories of sermons, lectures, principle offices, family meetings, “come to Jesus” moments at Summer Camp and at Marine Boot Camp come rushing in like an under tow.  “You can do better!”  “What is your major malfunction?!”  “What would Jesus do?!” “Remember your promise, promise keeper!” “You bear the name of Christ, Christian!  It’s time to live like it!”  “How can you do this?”  “Not in my house!”  “I am very disappointed in you!”

What on earth do we who have been set free from the Law of sin and of death (Romans 8:2) do with obedience?  I HATE it when I do not obey the Law.  I HATE IT I HATE IT.  It’s like I am in a fight with myself or something.  Which is truer than you think.  The Old Adam verses the New Man in Christ.  It’s like when it hits you that you are not being obedient and you are all like

liar liar 1

You sin that same sin for the umptienth time in 1 week and your inside doing this

liar liar 7

Someone asks you how your spiritual growth is going and you are all like this

liar liar 6

You are failing at this obedience thing big time.  “You?  A Christian?”, you imagine coworkers, family members thinking.   The gospel set you free!  You have grace!  You are no longer bound to and under the Law!  You should be happy and doing better right?  You have joy in the Lord right?  What about your light?  Aren’t you gonna let it shine?  Can’t you finally take that bushel off now, you smoldering wick you?

liar liar 2

Yet there I am, the sad sack of out of shape spiritual fat body.  Feeding on Christ and his bread?  More like feeding on a disobedience filled

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New Years resolutions shot, spiritual growth chart goals gone and I’m right back in the confessional booth like Pre-Tower Experience Martin Luther.

liar liar 5

To really make matters worse, what if you are a preacher who has taught the gospel of God’s grace and unmerited favor all courtesy of Christ’s cross and blood and are now tasked with speaking about the Christian life and Christian obedience on Sunday and right now all you have planned to share on that is

liar liar 3

Well, you are not the only one. Even if you are not preaching on Sunday, maybe you have run into a friend who has asked you the same questions.  Well now that you are a Christian, saved and set free by grace what do you do about obedience?  Feel free to be a fly on the wall reading on the following modified conversation between ummm lets say Cack Zole and Brad Chird

————————————————————————–

Brad,

I have had a few things gnaw on me, to try to tell me that things such as a theology of the cross, grace, Law and Gospel distinctives are ultimately too good to be true.  I have had the pull to question and ask “what about holiness?  what about godliness?”  Are these things not to be pursed for the sake of resting in Christ?”  I fully believe that by faith I have been given the righteousness of Christ.  I have faith that sanctification and any pursuit of anything holy or godly is all Christ doing his work in me.  So it feels very dangerous for me to move towards an emphasis of the intentional and conscious pursuit of holiness and godliness.  I do not trust myself in the pursuit of either and only trust in the hope that Christ is working both in me himself.  I often fall back on Galatians 2:20, that it is not me who is living and doing things that could be counted as “holy, godly, etc” but it is Christ who lives in me….

I find it so very hard and quite honest repulsive to go back to a mindset that produces in me a desire to show that I am approved, to display that I am regenerate, and to be as dismissive as I was when looking through the lens of glory rather than cross…

Is the command to a pursuit of godliness meant to crush to cause us to run to Christ or is it a command for us to try?…

I humbly ask counsel all of this, appreciating and valuing your thoughts and understandings on the matters such as these.  I often have come across moments where deep questions are presented to me in a spirit of “I-believe-that-I-am-right-but-I-am-going-to-ask-a-challenging-question-to-prove-that-you-are-wrong-so-that-I-can-feel-more-pride-in-my-original-stance-and-feel-victory-over-revealing-to-you-how-stupid-you-are.”  I cannot stress enough that this is not the case.  My questions have no motive of quarrel or argument but a genuine thirst for counsel and good news.

Because He Lives,
Cack Zole
————————————————————————–
Good morning Cack,
     You’re caught in tension we all feel in this life as those who are simultaneously saints and sinners, who feel the law at work in us and yet find comfort in the grace of God.
     The call to lead a holy life, to pursue godliness, is nothing more than the demands of the law. Yet these demands are good. The law is not bad. It is given by God to show us the life that he desires for us. Yet, as you well know, as you experience in your daily life, no matter how hard you try, you always fall short of the law’s demands. That’s why we say that the law always accuses. It always finds something in our thoughts, words, deeds, and desires that convicts us. The law will never give us rest. And the law will always kill.
     That’s why the Gospel defines our life. This Gospel not only forgives us, but also fills us with the Holy Spirit, who produces fruits in us of which we may not even be aware. The Gospel is that life of Gal 2:20. We have died (by the law) and it is not longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us (by the Gospel). And since Christ lives in us, we are pleasing to God, even if we are not pleasing to ourselves. His righteousness, his life within us, and for us, is all that matters.
     The life of holiness is a gift. You are made holy, your life is made holy, exclusively in Christ. He is your sanctification, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians.
     The struggle between the Old Adam, who is always under the law, and the New Man, who is always free in the the Gospel, is a daily struggle. God is always putting us to death and raising us to life. Every day is Good Friday and Easter for us. It can feel almost schizophrenic at times, pulled this way and that. But above all this is Christ. His opinion of you is all that counts. And he says, “You are holy in me. You are righteous in me. Your are godly in me.”
     The theology of the glory will always take you back to yourself. The theology of the cross will always bring you to Christ. It is the way of life through death, resurrection through crucifixion.
I hope this helps. Blessings to you, brother!
Brad Chird
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After hearing this Cack was like this

top gun

Man that is good news isn’t?  You are free!  And then leave it at that….Fight the good fight, telling fellow sinners the good news of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  Let’s attack licentiousness and sin with more grace so that Fundy’s can always be like

what are you doing

Welcome, To The Real World…

morpheus-matrix

 

I am a nerd.

If I have not made that evident, this post will surely remove all doubt.

I love nerd things.  I love sci-fi, I love Start Wars, I love Comic Books and I have tried to keep up with the new story arcs throughout the years.  I squeal at every new Marvel Movie and GOTG (Guardians of the Galaxy, sorry non nerds I realized you wouldn’t know the acronym) was my favorite movie of 2014.  I love to read and read and read.  I love to read dystopian novels like 1984, Brave New World and One Second AfterThe Walking Dead is filmed in my back yard.  Well, not literally my back yard but not that far away over here in Atlanta, GA.  I can remember hearing radio announcements that would say, “if you hear gun fire or see zombies/walkers don’t freak out it is just the Walking Dead filming.”  I revel in the fact that you may be thinking to your self “The Walking Dead isn’t nerdy, I like it.”  That is awesome news to this nerd whenever nerdy things are more popular with the regular folks like you maybe.  But the point I am trying to get across is I probably easily fall into the nerd/fanboy category when it comes to my tastes in entertainment.  I like deep thought, I like deep books and movies and I love to talk about deep things especially theological stuff, like apologetics and junk.  I am a theology nerd which is a rare Captain Planet like combination of Geek, apologist, theologian, nerd.  When those powers are combined you get Captain Grace Nerd or something like that.

Therefore, I believe this illustration may not translate well to some, especially those who may roll their eyes at deep theological thinking and Sci-Fi as being a waste of their time or rubbish.  But for those who are wanting me to get on with this post to serve up some theonerd sauce, this post is for you.  Actually, it is for anyone who may not have figured out this grace thing out yet.  I was in your shoes not that long ago and I hope this helps.

There was a movie that came out in the late ‘90s that spawned a trilogy called “the Matrix.”  I absolutely ate this movie up.  If you had asked me at the time I would have said that it was my favorite movie of all time.  If you haven’t seen this movie you really need to go see it, unless of course you believe that seeing a rated R movie will send you to hell…wouldn’t want to send you into that dimension of guilt and personal unholiness.  I think it may come on AMC and or FX from time to time so wait and DVR that version; it should be on a more righteous setting for your taste.

Surely I am not the first one to create the parallel which I am about to serve up, it is just too good of a fit.

If you have not seen the movie THIS IS YOUR SPOILER ALERT DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER…

Personally…I’m the nerd who has that funny look and laugh whenever someone says that they have never seen Star Wars or the Matrix…”YOU’VE NEVER SEEN STAR WARS/THE MATRIX?”  YUK YUK YUK (nerd laugh)

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If you have seen the movie, you will remember the scene where the character Morpheus who has been to the real world and now operates freely and miraculously in the Matrix presents an offer to the other character in the movie, “Mr. Anderson” or his real world name “Neo.” No, my theological illustration is not comparing this to the Saul/Paul difference of before/after Christ identities, which is a neat one to make.  But what I am going to try to go after is something a little deeper I think. In this scene of serving up his offer to Neo, Morpheus presents this choice to him and says,

“This is your last chance.  After this, there is no turning back.  You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.  You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.  Remember: all I’m offering is the truth.  Nothing more.”

red-pill-blue-pill

Did this not have your theological connections spinning?  Haven’t we heard this before?  Remember Neo taking the red pill to realize that he is waking up from a prison cell; a cell that he has never been able to see before until now?

That is how I feel every day when I realize that Jesus has set me free from the bondage of the Law and Sin.  Grace has opened my eyes to see that I am now free from the bondage of my sin and my failure to fulfill the law.  The Spirit of life has set me free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).

In the rest of the movie, even though Neo now knows the truth, he still hasn’t fully realized what He is capable of in the Matrix.   It is not because he hasn’t trained to know, earn, or learn what he is capable of but it is about renewing his mind (yeah, renewing your mind, that connection can be made in the Bible too, Romans 12:9).  It wasn’t until Neo finally “got it” and realized who he was in the Matrix was he able to see the construct of the Matrix and how the enemy operated in it.  He was able to move freely, he was not bound by the law of the Matrix and was able to see through the Matrix because of something he always had with him but never knew how to tap into before, until coming to grips with his new identity.  Remember that part when Morpheus gets the question from Neo about what he will be able to do when he understands his new identity?

Neo: What are you trying to tell me? That I can dodge bullets?
Morpheus: No, Neo. I’m trying to tell you that when you’re ready, you won’t have to.

That is like what has happened to those of us who finally get what God’s grace has done to us.  By God’s unconditional gift of grace, our new identity is in Christ, not in who we were before; dead slaves in our Matrix, Ghost Buster goo pod.  We now have everlasting life, reconciled with God forever, Because of Who Jesus is and what He did. Our earthly shells may fail us but our identity in Christ never will.  What I am trying to tell you is not that you will be able to fulfill God’s law by growing in obedience, growing spiritually, mastering your sin, gaining righteousness and gradually getting better and living righter because of Grace.  

I am not telling you that you can dodge the Law.  No, Neo.  I’m trying to tell you that because of Who Jesus is and What he has done for you, you won’t have to.

OwnIt-MatrixBullet

Jesus is the only person who ever can and ever will fulfill the law.  That is why our only hope is to rest in and have faith in Jesus.  That is why Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and that no one can come to God, be reconciled with God without going through Him (John 14:6).

Many of us have grown up in a prison cell in church or by a church where we are told that there are certain rules that we cannot break if we want to remain in close fellowship with God.  We are told that if we do not obey the rules of the Law or the Matrix than we will surely die and surely be in a position where God must thrash us.

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Yet this kind of talk does not even belong in the conversation in regards to someone who is in Christ.  Romans 8:1 makes it clear that there is no thrashing available for us.  These threats from these “Matrix Churches” are empty and quite honestly, a lie, all out of ignorance, lack of seeing the truth of the gospel of grace; or worse, out of a demonic desire for control and power over the members of said church.  2 Corinthians 5:21 says “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  Jesus took your thrashing and God has offered you grace.

Grace in the realization that we are sinners and our only hope for mercy is Christ.  Knowing that God has given you grace by having faith in Christ changes everything.  It is like taking the red pill.  Does that mean life will now go perfect?  In the movie the Matrix that certainly was not the case, they still had their problems.  But as for Neo, he was no longer slowed down or enslaved by the Matrix.  The Grace of God frees us from being slowed down and enslaved by Sin.  Seeing this, growing into grace, lets you see the Matrix or better yet our world as it is.  Grace shows us how we can move through life unhindered by our sin and slack fulfillment of God’s Law because of Christ who is in us.

Christian, this is something that cannot be earned and cannot be learned.  It is something that has, is, and always will be present in you.  The only thing that is holding you back is that you are still stuck in the mode of waiting for something from Christ when you already have everything in Christ.

Christ alone, Christ in us changes everything. 

You might begin to notice opportunities to show grace to people who are spitting in your face or hurting others.  You will notice opportunities to serve and love other people.  You might even find a way to show grace to “Christians” who are still stuck in the Matrix of the gospel of works.  You will start to see the moves, steps and strategies of how God has divinely placed you in situations and conditions for His glory and for the gospel of His grace.  You will come to realize that there are no such things as coincidences and luck but were always God’s divine strategy, sovereignty and will; all done for the glory of His name.  You will laugh and feel joy/praise on those days when you do not feel like you are saved because of how you just jacked something up or thought BECAUSE you KNOW that God’s grace is STILL with you and that God will NEVER leave you and WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU (Romans 8:35-39).  The one distinction I might make that would be more in line with how we are woken up from our spiritually dead condition, is if the movie showed Morpheus hover over to Neo’s bubble bath prison pod, leaned down to his ear and said “Neo, WAKE UP.”

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This is how it is with us when God calls us to salvation.  Our condition was dead, yet God’s gift of grace said to our spiritual corpse “wake up” and we did.  Think how silly it would look if we said, “man I’m so glad I woke up when God told me to, thank goodness for that righteous work of mine.”  It was all God, y’all.  All God.

If God has given you the red pill of being saved by grace through faith in Christ…”there is no turning back…remember: all I’m offering is the Truth [Jesus].  Nothing more.”

Welcome.

To the real world.

desert

This Week At Seminary: Topic: Creeds and Confessions of Faith

I am currently in Seminary and I thought it would be interesting to post my responses to this week’s assignment questions or “discussion board posts.”  I have another blog post that I want to write but I have not yet find the time to do it.  It is rolling around in my noggin but it will have to stay there for now.

The Seminary assignment is to answer or discuss a series of questions in reference to the topic of the week which is, Creeds and Confessions of Faith.  To be honest, if the church I grew up in or if the church I attend now has an adopted confession of faith, I am not aware of it.  I am not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing but I digress.  The following are the questions that have been proposed to me and then my responses.  Feel free to discuss and let me know your thoughts on this matter.

What are some pros and cons churches should consider in adopting a confession of faith?

Some of the pros adopting a confession of faith is that it provides some sort of structure and may serve to remove any ambiguity for members and for visitors who may ask “what does this body of believers believe?”  Yet I understand that in saying that, just because a confession of faith has a particular stance, does not necessarily mean that every member will consider themselves following or subscribing to said confession.

There are several cons that I can think of when thinking whether or not a church should consider adopting a confession of faith.  One, there will be the temptation of prescribing authority on the confession of faith.  Meaning, shared or sole authority with scripture.  This may never be the intent or the spoken outcome, but one need only to observe a few churches to see that their veneration for a particular confession of faith seems to trump or be glorified more than scripture.  If this church body does not subscribe to the doctrinal authority of sola scripture (scripture alone) then I believe the skies the limit to whatever confession they want to adopt.  Man is fallible. Therefore, any creed or confession outside of scripture is capable of being corrupted by the error of man.  This is why I believe that there are potential cons that a church should consider when adopting a confession of faith.  Anything apart from a church placing their hope in the person and work of Christ alone will simply lead to preaching and adherence to Cheap Law.  This is the greatest con possible; that a church’s hope would be in a confession of faith rather than in Christ.

Ok.

That was my initial response.  There are more questions but I need to read more of this week’s reading assignments.

What are your thoughts on Confessions of Faith?  Is there anything more than saying what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:2, “for I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified?”  Do we really need anything more than that?  Hope in the person and work of Jesus?  On a side note I’d like to make an observation…I wonder if Paul did not include that Jesus had come back to life in this confession because it was a well understood truth in the time period of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that Christ did rise because they saw him after his crucifixion?  Just a thought.

I have been under the impression that the following are essential beliefs that should break or create unity between self-professing Christians: The Trinity, the Person and Work of Jesus, the Authority of Scripture, and Justification by Faith alone.  But my question is, if an individual has been given the gift of grace of having faith in who Jesus is and what He has done…is that not the only confession we need?  Or better yet, is our confession not that we have done anything in order to cling to Christ, but that because of who Jesus is and what He has done, Christ is clinging to us?

I no longer look at my salvation as me accepting Christ, but instead Christ accepting me.  I no longer look at my salvation as me giving my life to Christ but Christ giving His life to me.  My confession is Christ Alone.

Christ Alone.

My Confession is that Salvation only comes to sinners by Grace Alone Through Faith Alone In Christ Alone.

My Confession of Faith is GATFAICA.

I am so thankful that God loved me first.

I am so thankful for God’s grace.  Without His grace, confessions are just words.

Grace Pharisee

To be honest I am not sure how long ago this started to happen to me.  Maybe a year or so?  I have grown up in the church and honestly can’t remember a time in my life when I did not know who Jesus was.  Knowing how unfaithful I have been to Him throughout the years would cause any Pharisee to look at me with side eyes and grumble “lukewarm” or “unclean heathern.”

I gave my heart to Christ in 1989 just a few months before my 8th birthday.  Yet part of what has happened to me in the last year would change my confession to not that I gave my heart to Christ, but that Christ gave His heart to me.  This change has been inspired by God through people like John Piper, Steve Brown, Tullian Tchividjian and more recently Andrew Farley.  I have been shown over and over again that it really is not about me but all about Christ when it comes to my reconciliation with God.  Something happens to a person when they realize that all of their spiritual needs have already been met by Jesus.  Now that you know that you don’t “have” to do anything for God in order for Him to like you, love you and cling to you shakes and crumbles any idea of what bartering system you think existed between the both of you before.

This has changed me.

This has set me free.

I believe that most people in theological circles would refer to this as the message of grace, or the teachings of grace which is a little confusing because if you have ever read the New Testament, I am not sure how you can walk away from it without thinking about anything else or any other message.  To read about the glory of God’s grace through Jesus and somehow walk away thinking “ok now where can I go in the New Testament that will tell me how to work on improving my walk with God by living the radical, obedient, right living, disciple-making life?  Tell me my part now.”  How can there be another dominant message absorbed from the New Testament other than what the grace of God has done for sinners?  It leads me to think, “did you even read Galatians? Hebrews?  Do you even Romans bruh? What gospel did you smoke?  Not that there is another gospel…(shout out to Paul).”

I used to preach this message of what you now need to do oh Christian and I now bristle, feel embarrassed and Raiders of the Lost Ark Playdoh-face melt when I hear or read about any Christian who is presenting the challenge to live righter, be more radical, do better, sin lesser, claim more of what you want from God, in order to be doing the Christian life the right way…to be clean and acceptable to God, here are the 5 easy steps you need to be sure you are doing.  “If your life sucks, it is probably because you don’t fast.”

What the what…

I now get why Paul was all like FOOLISH GALATIANS…EEDEEYOTS!  WHY ARE YOU LEAVING GRACE TO GO BACK TO THE LAW? STOP DIPPIN IN THE STOOPID SAUCE!

It really is stupid when you think about it.  Grace has set you free.  Jesus has set the captives free.  You are no longer a slave to the law you have died to sin and you are now a slave to righteousness who is Christ.  If you were in shark infested water, drowning, and someone came and got you out and you asked if you could go back into the water you’d be committed to a padded room.

Well..ok…another post might be to describe our condition before Christ…to be more accurate you’d be dead in the water and Jesus swam up to you and said “wake up, let’s go” which you obey…not out of your ability to obey but out of the reality that Jesus just raised you from death to life…ask Lazarus…one minute he is deader than dead stinkin up a cave and then his eyes open of all a sudden…did Lazarus do that?  Nope…Jesus did.

I digress…another blog another time I’ll try to explain.

(For those who would love swimming in shark infested waters…that illustration will fail you…the Movie “Jaws” touched me as a kid).

Sorry, chasin rabbits for a second there…where were we…

How silly is it when Pharisees present the argument against grace as conjuring up some make believe person who would still want to sin after accepting the offer of unconditional grace?  As if someone like that even exists…”Oh yeah well what about unicorns and how they will handle grace, hmmmm?”

“But I can still sin can’t I?” – Unicorn

Face Palm…

Then the Pharisee will usually ask something like…

“I still need the law right?” “Tell me what my part is, tell me what I am supposed to do, what I need to do!”

Um….yeah….say “wow” and “thank you (Shout out to Andrew Farley).”

YOU DIED TO THE LAW…D.E.D. DED!  Or in my Georgia accent “Day Ed.”

Do you still sin?  Yes of course but any sin committed by an individual who is in Christ, already has the covering of the righteousness of Christ. Jesus did not only just die for you but you died with Jesus…let that sink in…

So wait…calm down…no, I am not saying lets go sin more since grace has already covered it…Paul had to calm folks down from this kind of freak out in Romans 6.

Show me someone who says that they get and have received the message of grace and will say something like “Now it’s time to sin all the sin I ever wanted to sin!! YARRR!!” And I will show you someone who hasn’t really gotten grace.  I think I can confidently say that because I do not know of anyone who has been broken and liberated by grace to ever feel that way or want to go sin some more….new creation….Jesus in them….there will be inner conflict now with sin…Yet, the person who has been saved by grace does not stay long conflicting with sin because worship jumps in over the knowledge that Jesus has covered their sin already.  But for those who are Christians that may have been led by a Pharisee to freak out over present and future sins….

NEWSFLASH…no sin is greater than or more powerful than Christ…your hope is not in hoping that you can hang on to Christ but in knowing that Christ is hanging on to you (Romans 8:31-39; John 10:27-29; and Hebrews….yes all of it slacker…are you not saved or something?) Just want to make sure that’s out there. Grace covers more than you realize…

All of this has heightened in me an intense disliking of so many task masters who have lived their life behind a pulpit or behind Christian celebrity status; reigning down condemnation on Christians for their mistakes and their sin…Romans 8:1, Pal…Romans 8:1.

I fight myself from responding to tweets and blogs from these Christian Pharisees that rail against the need to improve spiritually, to grow more holy, to do everything on our end to make sure we are holding up our commitment to God.  As if anyone could hold up their end of the bargain…wait, what bargain?!  I’ts a gift, amirite?!

Those who peddle cheap law are the only ones who will try to convince you that you ever had a chance of living up to the law, serving up the lie that you could some how pay it off with your works and right thinking.

And then it hits me…

I am a Grace Pharisee…

I am mad at them and have chosen in my own self-righteousness to condemn them for their self-righteousness…

Zoinks…

It is one thing to call a pal of yours a goober smooch and another thing all together to call a total stranger a goober smooch.  The Galatians were no stranger to Paul so in that case I have a feeling that his words were meant and received as a concern from a loving friend…well maybe not…but as far as I know he didn’t go to Mars Hill (the real one in the New Testament) calling people knuckleheads, just sayin.

The good news is that even when I am a Grace Pharisee…there is enough grace to cover me in those moments as well.

Jesus will never regret saving me and he will never regret saving you.  His desire to save you does not hinge on who you are but on who He is.

The true gospel is what needs to be trumpeted and defended not the gospel of works.  GATFAICA=Grace Alone Through Faith Alone in Christ Alone is how salvation…reconciliation with God comes to sinners.  Not LATWAIYA=Law Alone Through Works Alone In You Alone…

It is grace that causes me to calm down and respond in love or keep quiet…sometimes.  As if a response from me is truly needed or warranted by a stranger who is peddling LATWAIYA.  Come to think of it…anyone who is a Pharisee might find him or herself in the Matthew 7:21 crowd that are headed for the same destination that anyone from any other religion is headed.  Both will tell you that it all comes down to what you do with salvation, what you do with their god and their teachings.  Their gospel is that your hope is if your good deeds outweigh your bad.  That’s not good news at all.  That is performancism…a term coming I believe from Tullian Tchividjian.  It a system based on what you do and not on what Jesus has done.

Our only hope is in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

This frees me even from being a Grace Pharisee.  In those moments when I want to Hulk Smash verbally peddlers of LATWAIYA I remember that there is enough grace for them too if they were to ever realize it and have faith in the One Who offers it.  Just as much as I harp on their need to serve grace to their audience, I need to be sure that I am serving grace to them.

Correction…I don’t “need” to…Jesus took care of my “need to’s.”  But I “want” to be sure…that is the difference…my wants have changed…New Covenant, New Creation stuff….all because of God not because of me…I can’t boast in something I did not do.

Grace changes everything because God used it to change the system.  The Law is not cheap; you can never hope to buy it with your works.  You aint gonna do it, you won’t and you cant.  Grace is not cheap; it cost the blood of the Son of God.  The value of grace is seen when you realize the value of the Law.  It is perfect and Holy and is fatal for sinners.  Thanks be and glory be to God that He loves sinners and sent Jesus to die for sinners so that they could die with Christ. If you have died with Christ you have been raised with Him as well.

“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old selfwas crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  Romans 6:5-10

I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  Galatians 2:20

After Darkness…Light

It is a gift of God’s grace that the good news of His grace never stays silent for long.  There have been several “dark ages” in the past where the light of His grace appears to have been snuffed out by those who would lead us to believe that salvation comes with our cooperation and obedience to the law.

But God has always been faithful to raise up a people who will remember and rejoice in the reality and truth that it is all up to God and that salvation only comes to us by His unmerited favor.  Names like Paul, Augustine, Martin Luther and more after years spent in tears, anger, exhaustion and hopelessness at the altar of the gospel of works were miraculously, amazingly and gracefully shown the gospel of grace.

The message that salvation comes to us by grace alone has changed so many lives.  It has changed my life.  To know that God has GIVEN me a gift of His grace, His unmerited favor, frees me from myself and my ability.  Instead of leaving me alone to choose utilizing my own faculties, convictions and spiritual righteousness, God gives me by grace His choice, His convictions and the spiritual righteousness of His Son.

Just like in Luther’s day, the thought that God through Jesus has “paid it all” and that Jesus really meant what He said when he breathed out “it is finished” may seem lost in the mind of the Church today.  One way to gauge whether or not the concept of God’s grace is championed in the pulpit across your country is to observe what the major critique of the church is from those who are outside of it.  Is there a critic outside of the church today suggesting that the reason that they do not go to church is because the church preaches a message of grace and extends too much of it?  It is no coincidence that any critic of God’s unmerited favor is usually found inside the church.  This has always been the case.  Just like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son, it is always those who have never left Father’s house who grumble at the prospect that Father would unconditionally love and accept the wayward son without conditions or merit.

I believe that something is happening.

I believe that there is a great awakening or reformation that is happening.  I see it in the sermons I hear on YouTube, in the conversations that I have with others, in the books that I read, blogs that I read, in the radio programs I hear, in casual conversation, in the sermons I hear at church, the message of God’s grace and the flame that it contains is growing hotter and brighter. I believe that you may have witnessed it too.  Just like God began to rise up those who would be overcome and intoxicated with His grace some 1500 years ago, I believe we may be seeing a similar move by God right now.  The spiritual darkness and bondage that was lifted off of so many people back then I believe is beginning to lift off of so many of us today.

For far too long we have exhausted and burned out our up and coming generations with the gospel of “do better”, “live righter”, “it’s all up to you now”,  moral-therapeutic-self-help-deism version of Christianity and are left scratching our heads wondering how we lost them.

As we watch our young (and old) leave the church we have done everything to try to be cool, to be hip to bring them back with programs, ministries, concerts, fashion, skinny jeans, tattoos, beards, fog machines, strobe lights, free coffee, we’ve exhausted all resources to try anything to bring our loved ones back.  The only thing that will bring back and hold the next generation and generations after them is the grace of God.

Tell them the truth that God loves them unconditionally, that they do not “have” to do anything for Him because He has already done everything for them and watch to see what they now “want” to do.

Bury the message of “do” and champion the gospel of “done.”

Burn the WWJD* bracelets and raise high the banner of WHJD**

It is time to once again cling to the gospel that salvation comes to us by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.  Correction:  It is time to once again realize that it is by grace that GOD IS CLINGING TO US with the gospel that salvation comes by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

The dark shadows created by the current theme of “moralistic-therapeutic-self-help-deism” inside the church will be overcome by the message of God’s amazing grace.  I thank God and praise the glory of His name for once again turning the lights on.

Post Tenebras Lux:  After Darkness…Light  (motto of the Protestant Reformation)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:4-8 

 

*WWJD:  What Would Jesus Do

**WHJD:  What Has Jesus Done

The Little Engine Who Can’t

We all know the old story, (or maybe it is just fresh on my mind being the daddy of a 3 year old) about the brave little engine who with all her might and despite her lack of ability climbed the top of the mountain to bring all of the snacks, candy and toys to the little boys and girls on the other side of the mountain.  While huffing and puffing up the mountain the brave little engine kept saying the same thing over and over again “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”  Sound familiar now?  It was a heroic moment.  It taught little boys and little girls that it is wrong to come with the attitude of “that’s not my job” and it is right to try to help others who are in need regardless of what you may believe your ability to help may be.  It also was a lesson in heart and actually trying to do something to help others.  It promoted action rather than inaction and that is a very good thing.  That is a very American thing.  To pull oneself up by their own bootstraps and get to work is antithetical to what sometimes feels like the majority of the political voices in American are saying today.  The modern “Little Engine That Could” would probably have a Federal Government Seal emblazoned on the side of it’s iron hide.  However, this post is not about American exceptionalism, capitalism, politics or anything like that.  I do love politics and find it fascinating but right now is neither the time nor the place therefore, I digress.

When reflecting on the story of “the Little Engine that Could” in a Christian perspective, biblical reality seems to go in a different direction in the understanding of how this story should turn out.  The reality of life will find that many of us, if not most of us, find ourselves bogged down and exhausted with life.  We try harder, try to live better, doing righter, keep on keepin’ on, struggling to finish the race well and finishing the race well seems to somehow always paint a picture in our minds of running a race alone and all by ourselves.  Why do we never see Jesus as the one who is running our race?  We even rely on and declare funny sayings that we think are in the Bible but really are not like, “God helps those who help themselves” and “God will never give you more than you can handle.”  NEITHER of these statements are found in the Bible and quite frankly are against what God’s Word actually says and teaches.  They may be found on coffee cups but not in God’s Word.

The reality is that God often, if not most of the time, gives us things that we cannot handle.  He does so specifically and purposefully so that we will come to the realization that we NEED His help.  Look at the Law.  It is impossible.  You cannot handle it on your own.  Yet somehow in the name of free will and individualism we pervert the understanding of both to love and latch on to the idea that we can be in control and if we work hard enough and try hard enough we can figure out how to keep the law and how to win at life for our own righteousness sake.  Take note that this is done for our own righteousness sake and never in worship of God’s namesake and the righteousness of Christ.  Yet in our self-help, self-worth, self-pride, worship of the idol of self in the religion of “me” we look as if we are a little engine struggling, pulling, tugging up a mountain saying “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” and never moving an inch.  Sometimes slipping and sliding down the track until we hit rock bottom.

Yet rock bottom is where Jesus often meets us isn’t?  It is in those moments of “I can’t.  I can’t do this.  I give up” where Jesus reaches out his hand and offers Himself, His ability, His strength, His hope, His way, His truth, His life to us.  Not his help.   He is NOT our co-pilot.  He does not help us to make it happen.  He MAKES it happen.  It is ALL on him.  He IS the pilot, he IS our life, he IS the catalyst, the ignition, the initiator.  We never start looking for Jesus without God’s gift of grace placing the desire in our heart to look for Jesus.  We love Him because He first loved us.  We need to realize that we are the Little Engine Who Can’t and rejoice in the fact that God has given us His grace in the ability to understand and see that truth about us. (Those who do not understand this truth have not been given God’s grace and understanding to see it for they are not the children of God.  This will sound offensive to them and will only harden their heart more.  Think Pharaoh in Exodus and what the Old and New Testament say about Him and his relationship with God.  The heart that receives by faith in the truth of God’s gift of grace through faith in Christ is a heart that has already been changed, regenerated by God in order to receive this as truth…heavy stuff, I know, so maybe a future post can explain all of this).

Since we are on the topic of childhood memories, remember the first Church song you remember being sung?  For me it was “Jesus Loves Me.”  One of the key lines in the song is “they are weak but He is strong.”  Remember that and hold on to that.  Apart from Christ you will never ever EVER reach the top of the mountain.  Yet, the moment that you give up and look to Jesus for His finished work, for His peace for His love for His forgiveness for God’s grace,  is the moment that the Engine Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life steps in to take over everything.  EH VA REE THANG.  You never stop being the Little Engine Who Can’t but you have a friend and a master in the Engine Who is the Way.  When He covers you with His own power and nature, you have a new nature being in Him.  With His covering, it is His ability that is now in control and getting the job done.

He cannot be stopped.

He cannot be exhausted.

His grace cannot be swallowed up by your inability and failure.

He has enough grace to cover it all and all of you.

And He is always on time.

God WILL give you more than you can handle.  Those moments are given as a gift of grace to realize how much you need Jesus, how your only hope is if you are in Him.  Use those moments to praise God that He is able to bring you through on the other side of the mountain.   Smile, praise and worship God, enjoy the ride, and rest in the finished work of the Engine Who is the Way the Truth and the Life.

Let this new found freedom and rest motivate you and inspire you to call out to others, “All aboard.”

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  

John 14:6

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 

2 Corinthians 12:9 

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” 

Matthew 5:17

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” 

Matthew 11:28-30 

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 

1 John 4:10

as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 

Romans 3:10-12

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”  

John 6:44

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” 

Matthew 16:24-25

 “I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day!” 

1 Corinthians 15:31

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  

Galatians 2:20

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  

Ephesians 2:8-9