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

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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
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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

The Debate: Part II

In no way was I meaning to dip into the cesspool of false advertising…ok that’s a lie…I may or may not have desired to lead you to believe that I was going to be speaking heavily about these guys

Ghostbusters-Turn-on-Proton-Pack

Not to be confused with these guys

Ghostbusters

But the truth is that this post is going to jump right back into the meaty or should I say “heavy” stuff that is the Debate between Law and Gospel: Is there a distinction?  Or is there no distinction?  How does either view reconcile our understanding of the character and nature of God?  We continue from right where we left off in my Seminary topic from yesterday and I hope you enjoy.   Part II will look at the side of the debate that does not hold to a proper distinction of Law and Gospel.  Part III will pick up with the side of the debate that DOES hold to a distinction of Law and Gospel and will close out the rest of the paper concluding with the results of the research that I made.  If you do not enjoy deep, heavy or meaty theological thinking, well you should be fine…but you never know….I do love to gab but I am not as confident with the intellectual side of my thoughts as I am with my desire to share them.  So if you didn’t enjoy the bulk of the post yesterday now is the time to run away from the nightmare that is below

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How is God’s Character Understood in the Law/Gospel Debate     

Walther writes that both the Law and the Gospel are equally necessary.  “Without the Law the Gospel is not understood; without the Gospel the Law benefits us nothing.”[1]  What may seem as a very cut and dry understanding to the observer in that there is an observable distinction between God’s Law and His Gospel is not universally accepted.  It may be in words but not in actions or practice.  Traditionally, there have been two opposing views when it comes to how sinners are to respond to God’s Law and His Gospel.  One side of the debate does not in practice displaying any distinction between by the way that they preach and the way that they teach scripture.  Some will go so far as to reject the idea that justification is by faith alone and will adhere to the believe that man does indeed have a part in his or her justification and or salvation in the sense that there is something that they must do for God.  Or there are those who may claim that they adhere to the belief in justification by faith alone but will be heavy on Law in their preaching to the point where they in a sense teach that God’s favor can be influenced by how well sinners improve upon pleasing him by keeping his Law. What is taught and implied is that sinners are saved by grace through faith in Christ but now they must provide the proper response that such grace deserves by Christian service, evangelism, discipleship, spiritual growth, spiritual discipline and work.  In a sense it a teaching of Law, Gospel, Law; killing the sinner, offering grace to the sinner and then killing the Christian.

It could be suggested that there is not necessarily any subscriber who would admit to being someone who affirms the label “no distinction” when it comes to Law and Gospel but it is likely that a misunderstanding can be made in what they more than likely adhere to.  The first observation here to be made is that they more than likely hold to a “no distinction” stance by insisting that God’s love, God’s favor, His salvation for sinners must receive an appropriate response from the sinner, proving their appreciation for God.  Without an appropriate level of thanks, one may suggest or question if saving faith is even in play for the sinner.  There is also an emphasis on the desire to want to please God and accepts the belief that sinners can please God in their works for Him.  This side believes that the sinner can live a life pleasing to God as a result of their growth in their relationship with God courtesy of their acts and works.  Again, this position might not ever be affirmed outright but in the way that they live their life and urge others to live theirs, this is implied indirectly.  Another motivation for infusing Law with The Gospel is that it is done with the intent to help assist in the sanctification of the individual in Christ.  It is seen as the more good works and keeping of the Law is in play, the more sanctified the sinner is becoming.  Without a heavy emphasis on the Law after the Gospel is preached, how can one know if they are growing in the faith is the usual thought.

To better understand this position, it may assist in observing some of the objections that they may have to the position that adheres to the belief in a proper distinction between Law and Gospel.  There is the ever present accusation of “Cheap Grace.” This is more or less the concept that those who adhere to an idea of grace without the passionate response that it so rightly deserves that they cheapen grace.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer was an enormous advocate of discipleship and say it as being a costly discipleship; to lessen the cost of the disciple for Christ in a sense would display an image of being a proponent of “cheap grace.”  In an article by Reverend Dr. Heino Falcke we read his explanation of Bonhoeffer’s position as that there needs to be a necessary striving of piety in the midst of the world, “in the midst of the burning political crises of the time.  Here prayed a person [Bonhoeffer] who, risking his whole existence, had “thrown himself into the arms of God”.  This was the spirituality of discipleship, that is, of “costly”, not “cheap grace”.”[2]

There is also the accusation that teaching a level of grace found in Law/Gospel preaching leads to antinomianism. Tullian Tchividjian, Grandson of the evangelist Billy Graham and Pastor of Coral Ridge, writes in his book “One Way Love,” about the accusation of antinomianism.  He accurately identifies this accusation as being a result of the following line of thinking

All right, so perhaps one-way love doesn’t promote laziness, but if you are telling people they can do whatever they want, won’t they…do whatever they want?  Won’t they indulge in all sorts of debauched behavior?  There seems to be a fear out there that preaching grace produces serial killers.  Or, to put it in more theological terms, too much emphasis on the indicatives of the Gospel leads to lawlessness.  Again, the formal name for the objection of lawlessness is antinomianism—preaching in such a way as to imply that the Law is bad and/or useless.  If the control and laziness objections tend to come equally from the religious and nonreligious world, then the antinomianism objection comes almost exclusively from the religious sphere.  After all, since our culture is already so permissive and morally lax, if we Christians don’t stand up for God’s standards of moral righteousness, His Law, then who will?  Is more grace really what this culture needs?  That doesn’t make sense.  It seems backwards and counterintuitive.  Unconditional pardon is probably the last thing lawless people need to hear, right?  Surely they’ll take advantage of it and get worse, not better.  After all, it seems logical that the only way to “save” licentious people is to show them more rules, intensify the exhortations to behave.[3]

This tongue in cheek response from Tchividjian assists in revealing the root deep objection to the preaching of Gospel void of an infusion of Law.

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Footnotes

                [1] Ibid., 6.

                [2] Heino Falcke, “My Bonhoeffer: discipleship, peace, freedom,” The Ecumenical Review 63, no. 1 (2011): 117, accessed May 8, 2015, http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA254096997&v=2.1&u=vic_liberty&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w&asid=063ba693d1a93fc1d85203124da3f0e6.

                [3] Tullian Tchividjian, One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace For An Exhausted World (Colorado Springs: David C Cook, 2013), 190.

Feeling is Great but Knowing is Everlasting (Or Half the Battle…Yo Joe!)

That song with the Michael Jackson hook “I always feel like somebody’s watching me”…what if it was instead “I always KNOW that someone is watching me”…that heightens the intensity of the problem.  To feel that someone’s watching would make you paranoid, to KNOW would enter you into fight/flight mode.  (Thanks to the Marine Corps my toggle switch for this mode has been snapped off on “fight” yut yut yay yut…so don’t sneak up on me creeper!)

I remember a while back watching a sermon on YouTube from Alistair Begg and I thought that he nailed something that I had never really sank my teeth into before.  Feeling comes and goes but knowing is what is needed.  He would go on about how miserable of a day he was having and then it always would send him over the edge when someone at church would ask him how he was feeling.  His premise was something like, “don’t ask me how I am feeling, ask me what I know.  I feel like crap right now but I am thankful that my hope is not in how I feel but in what I know.”  He then used this as a spring board into teaching that it is not our feelings or experiences in our life as Christians that are sustainable but it is what we know as a Christian according to God’s word that sustains us.

That has helped me out on many occasions.  Especially in those moments when I don’t “feel” saved.  Surely I am not the only one who has experienced what I am talking about.

Everybody tracking?  Good to go.

Then why do I see so many social media quick thoughts, sermons, books,  from Celebrity Pastors, non-Celebrity Pastors, celebrities who may be Christians but I am not sure if they have ever said that they are, seem to be constantly commenting on the “feels” of a Christian or give calls for an invitation to Christ, to Church, to an event in order to feel this or that, or even worse, to come to Jesus to receive the constant flow of Snake Oil Christianity.

Yeah I’m reaching way back in the ole DeLorean with Doc Brown on that reference.  If I need to explain what I meant by Snake Oil ask me in the comments below.

Am I the only one who is picking up this constant dropping of the glorification of “feels” and “desires” as the ends and Jesus as the means of obtaining them?

I call it Snake Oil Christianity because in a quick glance it is nothing more than throwing out a sales pitch; hoping that it touches the soon to be church member’s eye.  “Are you poor and wish you were rich?  Are you sick and wish you were well?  Are you weak and wish you were powerful?  Need a job, need a wife, need a life?  Well I have to cure all for you!  It is right here in these hand crafted bottles of mine.  Just one swig of Gimmieemystuffhallaluyarglawry Tonic and all of your problems will be washed away.  That’s right this ri cheer is the cure for what ails ya.  That’ll be $$$$$$ and buy the Gimmieemystuffhalluyarglawry Tonic companion gift set with my book “How Jesus’ Gimmiemystuffhallaljuarglawry Tonic Gave Me My wildest Dreams RAT NOW.”

Should I not be concerned (is it even my place to be concerned) that the constant theme that I am seeing in so many areas of what are Christian circles and preaching is nothing more than instant blessing; just add the Trinity to your will and stir in order to receive whatever it is you are looking for?

I used to fall into this trap.  I used to buy into Jesus is a means to an end way of thinking.  “I want this….where is Jesus at?  I need Him to make this happen.”

Just reading the Beatitudes over and over again, I am not sure how we can get the idea that Jesus said God wants you to be rich, mighty and powerful.  He might indeed!  I am not saying that He doesn’t!  I am confident that if He does it is not for your glory but for God’s and good grief peeppell…our leader was a man who suffered physically and was broke like no joke.  He even told us that the world would hate us and that we would be persecuted because of Him.  His original 12…I think one died of old age but that was in exile (John on the Isle of Patmos I think).  The rest surely didn’t get “Their Best Life Now” according to the standards of the world but got their worst way to die right now…beheadings, impaling’s, stoning’s, upside down crucifixions you know the good stuff.  Let us not forget the early Christians who were sport in the Roman Coliseum either…

But if you were to ask them…because they KNEW that they had been given the grace of God…they would more than likely say that they had their best life now because they know that the life that they have is the life of Jesus.

Yes, we are to make our requests to God.  Yes, even when we do treat God like a genie in a bottle more than we do our Heavenly Father, He still loves us and still wants us around and His grace is still on us. Man that is good news….this grace stuff…I can’t get enough!

My goal is not to make you feel guilty.  My goal is to help you realize that as a child of God, the odds are…what you are really longing for (comfort, peace, love, joy, identity, purpose, etc.) you already have in Christ.

My 3 year old son often treats me the way I often treat God and it makes me smile because I realize that he doesn’t think that I know what game he is playing.  He gets very sweet, shows some affection and hits me with the hook, “can I pweese watch Wallykazam daddy?” while I am watching the Atlanta Hawks game.

I smile and hook him up with Wally because I love him and he said the magic word, so I am sure God feels the same some times.

BUT if I knew that there was something better to give him than Wallykazam…why would I let him settle for the cheap stuff?  Yeah, he might throw a fit “I WANT WALLAKAZAHHHM” but I may be planning something better for him…like hanging out with daddy.  Which is what happened last night and he loved it.  He wanted a mustache like daddy (don’t laugh it is still in the early stage!) So we spent time looking for something to make him a mustache with (pipe cleaners from my wife’s craft station stash…I’m sure she won’t mind).  At that point he had forgotten all about Wallykazam…and then I put it on without him asking…much to his joy.

If I knew that by giving Him something different or using his time in a different way would bring him more joy (even if meant temporary hardship) would I not want to hook him up with that instead?

God is God.  He is sovereign and there is nothing outside of his ability.  If there was anything that could bind God or halt God from accomplishing His will, then He would no longer be God.  His love for me is displayed through the grace that he gave to me in His Son Jesus.  After letting that sink in, knowing what God has done for me, changed everything.  What stuff…oh yeah that cheap stuff I was praying for yesterday…

The inspiration for this blog or rant is nothing more than I want everyone to experience the awe and the wonder of God’s grace for sinners.  It has conquered me, defeated me and raised me from the dead.  It has changed everything in my life.  God’s grace through faith in Christ has been the lone defining point in me.  It is No Longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.  All because of God’s love and His grace for loser, sinner me. Knowing this has caused me to have side eyes at Gimmieemystuffhallaluyarglawry Tonic and

I just don’t understand how I ever got over the truth of God’s grace to ever want to move on to talk about anything else.

And that is why I definitely have my eye on Snake Oil Christianity.

Verses that I love to Read When I need to remember what I KNOW.  Notice how a lot of these verses are telling us something that God is doing has done or will do.  Not suggestions or conditional hopes…but something that is happening will happen or has happened.  I love the “will’s, is’s and are’s”:

Galatians 2:19-21

Ephesians 2:8-9

Ok so really Ephesians 2:1-22

Hebrews 13:5-6

Philippians 4:6-7

Romans 6:1-4

Romans 8:28…ok all of Romans 8

Romans 8:38-39

Romans 8:1

2 Corinthians 5:21

Romans 5:8

1 Peter 5:7

John 11:25-26

Matthew 11:29-30

John 3:16

Matthew 28:20

2 Corinthians 12:9

Romans 6:14

Romans 11:6

James 4:6

Hebrews 4:16

John 1:16

Romans 3:20-24

2 Timothy 1:9

John 1:14

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

The Year Of The Lord’s Favor

I ran across something over the internets a couple of weeks ago that produced an initial response in my gut of, quite honestly, sadness.  I thought of all of the people who would read what I had just read and think

“that’s my way out, that is how I will overcome my trial, that is how I will be able to survive,    that is how I will be able to prosper.”  That is how I

That is how I

That is how I

How I

How I

I

I

I

Being a Marine, this has me thinking about that poor recruit at boot camp who couldn’t get the whole “referring to self in third person” order down pat from the Drill Instructor.  I, me, my, our, us, we, was never allowed to come from your “filthy face.”  Only “this recruit, the recruit or these recruits” would be acceptable…

All this I and “self” stuff…What about Jesus?  What about His finished work?  What about sufficiency in Him?  What about His grace being sufficient?  That is how I?  What about that is WHAT Jesus did?

What about deny self?

What about Follow Christ?

What about No longer I who live but Christ who lives in me?

I immediately thought about everyone who would read what I had just read; to perform a specific spiritual discipline in order to obtain “increase” and assume that this is a call to fast and pray in order to receive increase from God.  There was a reference to this year as “the year of increase.”

I thought about all of the people who would be placing their faith into something that they are physically doing (spiritual discipline, works) in order to receive something that they believe that they need or believe that they should have already and are fretting over their lack of favor/increase.

DISCLAIMER:  CALM DOWN

I am not anti-favor, anti-increase or anti-spiritual disciplines.

In NO WAY is this a slap against spiritual disciplines or anti-bringing requests to God.  The Bible says to bring your requests to God WITH THANKSGIVING AND SUPPLICATION (Philippians 4:6-7).

Also, make note that we are to pray for God’s will to be done…this means that we are stating that if our requests are running in a different direction than what God would will, what His plan and His character would desire for us, then we are effectively asking for anything that is outside of the will, character and plan that God has for our life to NOT come to pass…

Yet we get mad when we don’t get our way…or don’t have our prayer answered the way we like.

We much rather our plans,

our desires,

our will come to pass and it will make us feel righteous, all high, mighty and anointed if God were to give it the green light/blessing.

We do not desire God’s will; we desire our will with the righteous comfort of God’s stamp of approval…so that we are still righteous, amirite?  C’mon…surely I can’t be the only one who has done this in the past…

If you desire to utilize a spiritual discipline as a form of worship rather than a form of magic, then by all means, do not let me or anyone other than God tell you to be silent.  It pleases God and magnifies His glory when we make Him the source of everything in our life (as if He isn’t already).  When we seek His provision we are showing our dependency on God and not on anything or anyone else.

Side Note:  A spiritual discipline that is produced naturally by your new nature in Christ should be what is valued not a bare branch which is what only the old nature of you all by yourself could ever produce.

Good works and spiritual disciplines are good things but not things that WE can fulfill.  Only Jesus can do that…which is why we need Him and when we do works it is out of a nature that we already have in Christ and not a nature that we wish we had (unless we are not in Christ).

In Christ alone will we find complete fulfillment of all the righteousness that we NEED.

Without Christ we have nothing.

Jesus + Something=Nothing  | Jesus + Nothing=Everything

But I have good news for those who may use spiritual disciplines as a magic spell mistakenly thinking that it will conjure up a desire that you have…

Well, first the bad news.  Good news is only good news when you know the bad news.

  • The desires of your human flesh-heart are not desires for God but for sin, more specifically for self. To desire “self” more than God is sin.
  • This nature will lead to a desire that leads to a choice that you will make. The choice that you make comes from the desire of your heart which will be according to your nature.  Does that make sense?
  • The nature of self, the sin nature of self will desire things that are not of God…this nature cannot desire the things that are of God because it is spiritually dead…dead is dead and cannot act…

Good news…

  • If you are in Christ, you have a new nature that will give you new desires that will influence new choices.
  • If you are in Christ, you already have all the increase that you will ever need. God’s grace supplies that in the reality that you are in Christ and that He lives through you.
  • If you are in Christ, every time you choose to follow the desires of the nature of self, God’s grace is and was enough to cover that sin, that mistake. It is finished means “it is finished (John 19:30).”
  • If you are in Christ, there is enough grace to cover you even when you try to use spiritual disciplines like magic. Yup, there is enough grace for that too (GLAWRY BE!)
  • If you are in Christ, resting in Christ is far greater than the anxiety, exhaustion and guilt that the Law gives. The Law gives the desire for you to feel that you NEED to do something in order to receive the Favor of God.
  • If you are in Christ, you do not “need” to do anything for God. He has already taken care of everything in Christ.  It is done.  A done deal.  It’s over.  It is really over…

I believe it was Tullian Tchividjian who I read saying something similar to:  Now that you realize that there is nothing that you “have” to do for God, What do you want to do?

If it is a spiritual discipline then PRAISE GOD for it will be Him alone that gets the glory.

Becoming a Christian, being saved by Jesus is not a means to an end, it IS the end.  A prayer for increase from Christ may appear as a conundrum when in reality there is nothing greater to increase into from Christ.

What happens when your expectations of worldly increase do not come to fruition?  Or worse, what happens when they do?  I can only imagine the damage that prosperity has done to an individual…leaving them to feel without a need for Christ…

Do you want Christ more, relax in Him more, rest in Him more, worship Him more for “increase?”  Has your faith now been placed in something else other than Christ?  Doing that will leave you anxious, guilty, burned out, exhausted and worrisome…I promise!

I know, I’ve seen me do it!

Do you not realize that when given God’s grace you already have everything?  You already have increase?  It is already yours?

In Christ you ALREADY are favored by God.  You already have favor, you already have strength, you already have joy, you already have love… all because you have Christ!  Christ is love!

Have you ever (like me) prayed that God would give you strength?

What if I told you that God IS your strength through Jesus…

There is a difference in praying for God’s portion and praising Him because you know that He IS your portion.

Everything that the Law and every end goal of every spiritual discipline that the Old Covenant hoped to obtain is impossible for anyone to fulfill (apart from Christ) and it was given freely as a gift of grace to sinners in the New Covenant!  Whenever this truth hits me I can’t help but think of the beginning of that old song “Shout”

Weeeeeheeeeehheeheeeeeell……you knowyoumakemewanna…SHOUT

As I was typing this all out and finding my self-righteousness flame I praise God for His grace on me the sinner and then for giving me the thought see and ask;

“How do you know that anyone is thinking what you are thinking?  Maybe you are the only one who is assuming the motive behind what you read.  Make sure that you are not doing anything in order to receive anything that your “self” may want to receive….which surely left unchecked, will desire something more than/different than Christ. Make sure that your desire to write this blog is a desire to glorify God and to share the message of God’s grace through Jesus with others for God’s glory not yours.

What is your motive Zack; to point to Jesus or to point to you?”

Gulp…

I am fearful of that thought for I know the nature of my “self” and I do not trust it’s/my motives.  All I do know is that the message of the grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ has changed my life and has given me so much peace, rest, love and joy.  I truly want and desire for others to experience Jesus in a way that sets them free, which is exactly why He came in the first place (Luke 4:18).

Stop right there…

While looking up that verse

As I am typing this, praise God, look at the verse after 18:

“to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:19).”

That was Jesus quoting the book of Isaiah……the year of the Lord’s favor….the year of increase IS referring to Jesus.  The year of the Lord’s favor is referring to when Jesus came to earth.

The Lord’s favor IS Jesus.

Therefore we can stop looking for the Lord’s “favor” because WE ALREADY HAVE it if Christ has us.

And then like a flood God’s grace swept over me even more and the tension in my shoulders gave way

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,”     2 Peter 1:3

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”    Romans 11:36

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”   2  Corinthians 12:9

It is like fasting and praying for increase when increase was already poured out and dumped all over you…you are covered in favor for you are covered by the blood of Jesus…

When is the year of the Lord’s favor?

Correction…When was the year of the Lord’s favor?

Answer:  The time when Jesus came to Earth to save Sinners…

WOW.

THANK YOU JESUS.

I’ve got nothing after that…I don’t need any more I don’t think…sometimes all we can do is stand in awe and praise God…come to think of it…there is nothing else I’d rather do…

Looking For Your Glasses While They Are Already On Your Face

One of the most confusing messages that we give the world today is giving them the good news of the gospel of Jesus to get them in the sanctuary but then think it is wise to hit them with nothing but bad news, self-help, it is all up to you now, try-harder way of living.

Is this not what every other religion offers? It is all up to you to make things happen?  Pull yourself up by your own righteousness way of life?  Here is what you need to do for God?

Think about it…Every other religion and every other faith other than what the message of the gospel says; “Here is the reason why you do not have the life that you want and here are 10 steps of what you can do to have what you want in life or from God.”

Should we not then think “bucket of yuck” whenever we hear that in the pulpit rather than “here is what Jesus has done”?

Sometimes these wants are good wants….to be closer to God, etc…Sometimes we fast, pray, dance, say prayers like magic in hopes that we will get something from God. As if His favor, increase, forgiveness, direction and blessing are waiting to be poured on us as long as we come up with the right combination of holy living, prayers, posture, practices and position.  “Turn right 3 clicks with prayer of Jabez, turn left 21 days of fasting, turn right 10 minutes of singing praise songs and, Yahtzee!  God’s favor safe is popped open!”

Are doing any of these bad?  No, of course not!  Unless they are done with the purpose and intent of providing you with any other desire other than joy in the Lord.  Unless they are done out of begrudging submission for what you think will be obedient to God rather than out of thanksgiving and worship of Him.

Reporter:  “So Cain, why did you give God that offering?”

Cain:  “You know, being obedient, just doing my duty.”

Reporter:  “So Abel, why did you give God that offering?”

Able:  “Um…to worship and give thanks to God.”

Cain would say he was obedient.  Able would say he was thankful.

What if I told you that you had favor, increase, blessing, joy already in Christ?

What if I told you that God is not waiting on you to move but has moved already?

What if I told you that God’s grace covers more and provides more than you realize?

What if I told you that not only is God’s grace enough, but that it is satisfying?

What if I told you…that as a Christian…you have Christ in you and you are in Christ already…can you get closer to God this side of Heaven than that?

Remember feelings are feelings and are fleeting…

Not saying feelings are bad it’s just that feelings don’t last.  What do you do when the music stops and everything is trying to suck the joy right out of you?  How do you feel in those moments?  How do you feel after getting bad news?

Not like dancing amirite?

Knowing, however, is so much better and sustains our joy and our life when feelings seem to run and hide.

What do we know?

  • There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1
  • 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
  • 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.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  Ephesians 2:4-10
  • But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
  • We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19
  • The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10
  • For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
  • Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.  John 14:1-7
  • I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.  If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.  As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.  These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.  This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you.  No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.  These things I command you, so that you will love one another.  John 15:1-17
  • Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7
  • 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

Look at this and think about how it would look to those who do not have Jesus:

Before saved:  Jesus set you free by covering all your sin.

After saved:  You better not be sinning or you might not be saved….

Wait, so what we are saying is that the gospel will cover all of your sin unless you sin?  That dog aint gonna hunt…and it is not the gospel.  The gospel is good news forever because of what Jesus has done not temporary or potential depending on what you are and what you will do.  If that were the gospel none of us would have a chance…that is effectively the gospel of every other faith/religion/cult….a gospel of “do” unlike the gospel of Jesus which is “done”.

How about our message be the grace of the gospel…24/7/52

How about we give them WHJD* and that salvation comes to us by GATFAICA**?

Until the world knows us by this message of grace, I really have a hard time thinking it is ok to focus more on anything else.

We are known by our message of judgement….not for our message of grace…

The biggest critique of Christianity is not that it offers too much grace to sinners…

Jesus, however, is looked at differently…Our identity is in Him and not in us (thank goodness).

Jesus came to save not to condemn…

Jesus offers grace to the sinner…

Jesus set you free by dying for you and giving you life.

Your sin?  He drank it all down on the cross.

Why?

For the glory of the name of the Lord and because He loves you.

Are you praying, agonizing, sweating, stressing that God may not forgive you for the latest sin you did?  Are you praying for, fasting for, begging for, pleading for things that you already have in Christ?

If so, it is like looking for your glasses while they are already on your face.

* What Has Jesus Done

** Grace Alone Through Faith Alone In Christ Alone