The Strong Christian Leader

christian leader

For whatever reason I am not able to shake this irritation.  Like  a rock in your shoe you can try to ignore it for some time but eventually you stop to pull everything off to remove what is a constant annoyance.  This is how I am currently dealing with all of the calls for bold, strong, Christ-like Christian leadership from Christian leaders.

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Wait…why does this irritate you Zack do you ask?  Because it is an in-your-face misunderstanding of the type of people God uses as His Leaders (yes take notice I said His). And because it is suggesting that we need something other than Christ and the object of what we are being told that we need is suggested to even be in the realm of possible reality.  I will try to establish some key things that should be universal throughout Christendom.  But if all I had to go from was the current trend of “we need Christian leaders to be xyz” coming from all sorts of areas than I am led to believe that what I am about to type below is not universal.

  • God doesn’t need any of us to do anything. If that were not true than God would not be God and we would be.  The fact that He “uses” anyone is for His glory and because He loves us and wants to shower us with His grace.  Raise your hand if you “need” your 3 year old’s help with putting together his “some assembly required” Christmas gift…Ah, but you like letting them help for obvious reasons…
  • There are no “strong” people when the strength that we are referring to is righteousness, morality and perfection.
  • The only kind of people that are available to be leaders are weak sinners.
  • God uses weak sinners as leaders.
  • Christ was the only strong human leader.

Has anybody else but me noticed that the individuals who are demanding that we need strong Christian leaders are actually individuals who are currently trying to fake the funk of presenting an outward image for all of us to see as the “model, strong, Christian leader?”  Does this not then make it a call to not look at Christ but to look at the “strong Christian leader?”

My Face to the #GospelPosse whenever I hear the call for a Strong Christian Leader:

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There is no such thing!

“We need strong football bats!”  “Don’t preach grace or you will create Grace Pirates!”  Grace Pirates? Yeah that might be a future post about another make believe creature that seems to be spawned from our “logical” human reasoning.

As a matter of fact from now on whenever I hear or read a call for more “strong Christian leaders” the first though that will come into my noggin will be “football bat.” Some of this stuff is too silly, you just gotta laugh.

We “need’ Christ.  We don’t “need” people.  The type of leader that would be ideal to have are sinners, who make effort to say “do not look at me look at Christ!  He is the leader you need, He is the only leader worth following!”  Yet so many “strong Christian leaders” walk into a room expecting everyone to curtsy and drop rose petals for them to walk on in order to ascend to their throne/pulpit to bring the word and call down fire for “their” sheep!

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They seriously in all their pride think that the show can begin when they arrive

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They truly believe that when it comes to church and the church service that THEY are the Showstopper

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Honestly, HBK is the first one that I think of when I hear “the Showstopper”

Show me someone who is demanding that our Christian Leaders be strong and I will show you someone who thinks that they are the strong example to follow and expects to be served by you instead of you serving God.

They want you to see them as the conquering strong Christian that you are to aspire to become.

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They may never admit it but this is the projection that they are subconsciously wanting you to see so that they will feel more secure in the hope that they have in what they are doing and not in what Christ has already done.

Here is the fake projection they work towards hoping that you are seeing:

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Here is the reality of any of us who are trying to lead apart from Christ:

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We need Christ!  The fact that Christ uses weak sinners as leaders is another act of grace.  It proclaims to all of us that no matter how much we have failed at life God will never fail us.  There is no one outside of God’s ability to use.  As a matter of fact let’s take a quick rundown of the kind of “strong leaders” God uses and their “qualities of strength”

Abraham=doubter and liar

Moses=murderer and glory hog

Rahab=hooker

Gideon=coward

David=womanizer, adulterer, murderer

Samson=luster

Peter=coward and denier of Christ

Saul/Paul=murder and self-righteous church ordained, appointed and identified “strong leader”

Ok I think that’s enough.  The point is….any person that God uses for His plan, glory and leadership is a weak, desperate for grace sinner.  The call, or worse, demand that they be strong is like demanding a man to grow a beard by shaving.  It can’t happen because it an impossible expectation.

thats the rumor

Don’t give me a leader who will tell me that they are strong or tell me to be strong.  Give me a leader who will tell me that they are weak but He is strong.  Give me a leader that will not point to a sin-human leader to follow but will point to Christ.  Don’t give me a leader who will lie to me with their mouth or their actions that they have this living the Christian life thing all figured out.  Give me a leader who is honest enough to let me know that they are just of a hot mess and in need of God’s grace as I am.

The ideal Christian leader is a leader who has been captured by the grace of God, who knows that it is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone that they are able to stand.  The greatest lie and the worst thing that can happen to anyone is to have someone in front of them saying “look at my example and follow it.  Look at my work and follow it.  Look at my ability to progress and move forward in my spiritual growth process and emulate the works and law that I am able to get better at fulfilling.”  That is nothing but a lying sack and tom foolery. Sounds an awful lot like, that voice in Genesis 3.

I saw a tweet from @chief_sinner who said, “If God were pleased with progress, he would have given us a goal.  Since he’s only pleased with perfection, he gave us a substitute.”

giphy Bingo

…Bingo.

The worst thing that we as a race of sinners needs is a tooter of their own horn.  We need Christ.  We don’t need a goal that we can never obtain we need a substitute who fulfilled perfection for us.  More than our need for a leader who will point us to Christ, we need Christ and Christ Alone.

Remember how bad Peter messed up?  Do you not think that he knew that He messed up?  Do you not think that it changed him forever to know that Jesus still loved Him and would want Him?  Take note of Acts 10:24-26 where Peter corrects Cornelius from worshiping him…how many “strong Christian leaders” would not bask in your genuflecting of them and not Christ alone?

Look at a mighty miracle that God performed through Peter and John in Acts 3.  After the lame man could walk Peter had to address the crowd who had been “astounded” by this miraculous work of healing and said to them, “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety (piety=righteousness, being a “strong” leader/man of God) we have made him walk?”  Peter was very much aware of who he was…a sinner who was living a life as a civilian of Heaven…some times that is hard to swallow…that Almighty 3 time Holy God would love me and choose me and then call me a civilian of Heaven…Hah!  Me? God chose and wants sinner me in Heaven with Him?

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Peter asks the crowd “why are you marveling at me, God did this through Jesus!”  and then serves em up some Law: “yeah, the same Jesus who you killed.”

STOP.

If you are like me you have thought before “how dumb must they have felt, killing Jesus?”…The fact is, you and I killed Jesus just as much as anyone who yelled “crucify him.”

After hitting the crowd with law Peter hits em with grace…not mixed…not law and grace mutated together like a Ninja Turtle but law/grace.  Verses 17-26 Peter tells the same crowd who killed Jesus that their only hope is to be saved by Jesus…the number that grace claimed and captured after weak, lobbing ears off, denying Christ Peter gave a testimony of hope in Christ alone?  About 5,000.  Because of the grace of God through Christ…not through the strong leadership of Peter.

We don’t need strong football bats.  We need Christ.  The worst thing that we could have is a leader who says “look to one of us sinners as the model of Christian morality, growth and strength.”  We need to realize that our only hope is Christ Alone.

There is no such thing as a strong Christian leader.

The only hope that we have is Jesus.

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The Passionate Human Response that God’s Grace Deserves

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When I first read Radical by David Platt I thought “YES, THIS GUYS NAILS IT.” And in many places he does make some very good points and provides as a jolt to the system for our need for Christ.  But I am hoping I am not the only one who tried to do the radical challenge and ended up feeling like a failure.  I couldn’t successfully do the radical challenge and quite honestly got burned out by it.

I believe I may have mentioned this in an earlier post but I wanted to revisit something that haunted me for some time.  I am free of the story I am about to give, and all has been forgiven  but I believe that my experience may help someone else who has, is currently, or will go through something like this.  I pray that God will use this to help you in however way He chooses.

I had to write a review of “Radical” in school and I explained in the review that I submitted how God’s grace has set me free from the feeling that I “need” to live a radical life for Christ because He offers me His radical life through the gift of God’s grace.

Quick Disclaimer:  I admire the work of my professor.  He has done wonderful things in teaching the word of the Lord.  This is not a bash on him and it is not my intent to cast judgment on him.  This is not what this post is about.  End of disclaimer.

In the class there seemed to be an underlying theme different than what I had recently discovered, devoured  in the teachings of that Liberate Crowd.  You know, people like Tullian Tchividjian, Steve Brown, Elyse Fitzpatrick and so many others.  I received an A on my paper, but when reading the comments on what I had submitted, a lump in my throat formed and I felt cold all over as I read these words:

“Your paper is well-written with careful critical analysis . . . as I have come to expect from you.  I am glad that on your personal journey you have come to experience God’s grace rather than be caught up in trying to somehow please God.  But, perhaps in your freedom you can now examine the passionate human response that God’s grace deserves.  Yes, His grace is completely amazing and freely given.  We stand and rest in His grace every day.  Our surrender and service are a response to this grace which is so great.  I believe that a true experience and response to God’s grace, and an intimate relationship with Him, will lead us to Romans 12:1,2 where we are commanded to offer our lives as living sacrifices to God.  Not to earn His grace, but to respond to it.  I also believe this is what Platt is saying in his book.”

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Lub dub

The sound of my heart beating out of my chest.

The dark room that I am in just got darker.  No doors.  No windows.  Just the pitch blackness of my ability and my performance.

The thought of delivering “the passionate human response that God’s grace deserves.”

The loss of breath.  Fear permeates the air.

The realization that I am not able to deliver such a response.  The realization that such a response means perfection which I am laughably incapable of. I literally laugh at the thought of it.  I can never nor will I ever be able to provide the response that God’s grace deserves.

I find myself backed into a corner in my cell.  Like a wretch I cower at such a demand of perfection.  What do I do?  What can I do?  Is there anything I can say, is there anything I can promise, is there anything I can try other than beg?  Broken by this demand of perfection I cry out;

“Woe is me!  I am a man of unclean lips!  I am undone!  Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

Thanks be to God, Jesus enters the room finding me huddled in a heap in my corner.  I beat my chest and with tears streaming down my face look into his and say “I am a sinner…have mercy on me!”  Jesus rushes towards me and clings to me greater than the fear of hopelessness in my lackluster performance.  Jesus liberates me from the slavery of Sin and the Law.  My body no longer feels the chains of either but the air of grace.  My joy is in knowing that I can put my hope in Who Jesus is and what He has done and not in the hopeless slack effort of failing any and every attempt at providing the human response that God’s grace deserves.

I can never hope to offer up a response worthy of such a gift.

The deserving 100% passionate human response to this gift of grace was given by a man who was also 100% God.

It wasn’t me and it wasn’t you.

Not the passion of Zack but the passion of Christ.

My response to God’s grace is a victory shout and a 10th Leper offering of thanks.

I have always had an intimate relationship with Christ.  He is in me and I am in Him.  This intimate relationship never loses its intimacy because of who I am and what I can’t do.  This intimate relationship is fixed because of who Jesus is and what He has done.

A living sacrifice does not struggle to earn the grace that it has been given.  A sacrifice is dead.  I believe Paul’s follow up to Romans 12:1, 2 would be found in Galatians 2:20, “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.”

I need to offer myself as a living sacrifice.  That means letting go of the hope that I had in ever performing at the level of surrender, the level of service, the level of gratitude that grace deserves.   My only hope in responding to the demand of the law is in Christ Alone.  Christ Alone is your only hope too.  My new nature in Christ does indeed lead me to want to obey.  But my hope is not in those moments when I obey.  My hope is in Christ who has already obeyed and fulfilled the law for me.

God’s love for me was never dependent on how I would respond to His gift of grace.  God’s love for me is eternal and without conditions.  He pours out His grace over sin zombie me without asking and without expectations.

Grace is grace not because of what we have, are, or will do but simply because God loves those whom He pours His grace on.

Salvation comes to sinners by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone all done for the glory of God alone.

You see, it was never about your glory, effort, or response in the first place.

Show me a sinner who has been drowned by God’s grace and I will show you a sinner whose response is “wow” and “thank you.”

Our failure is not in failing to give a deserving response to God’s grace.  Our failure is in not resting in the hope that we have in the person and finished work of Christ Alone.

It Is Finished.

Funny…grace that demands a response is no longer grace.

Reference

Isaiah 6:5

Romans 7:24-25

Luke 18:9-14

Luke 17:11-19

Ephesians 2:8-9

Galatians 2:20

Matthew 11:25-30

Ephesians 1:3-14

For My Next Trick…

The devil can fake a lot of things. He can fake signs, wonders, feelings, power, you name it. If he knew he could cause people to chase down a path that leads to something or someone other than God’s glory with a little bit of magic, do you not think that he will try to do it? If he knew that he could do something that would cause you to place your faith in anything other than Jesus, would he not give it a shot? Even try to use actual signs, healings and miracles in a way that would lead us to have more faith in the signs than in God?  Better yet, worship the signs and wonders in and of themselves?  He’d be stupid not to, right?

The good news is that he cannot fake God’s Word. It has already been given to us. He can tempt us to misuse it, to pervert it to conform to match and give the desires of our heart. He can tempt people to add to it or take away from it.  He can tempt people to use it to control others.  But He cannot change it. Praise God! He cannot change it! Therefore, let us endeavor to stand in awe of His Word and the Word and we will not be misled by Satan to follow a promise given by him, someone or something else. If your everything is Jesus, then promises of anything else will appear worthless in comparison.

Some final good news of comfort. The devil can only do what he has been granted divine permission to do. Also, when a child of God is misled, there is enough grace to cover that mistake too. God is faithful, even when we are not.

Whatever I may lack or lose in this life…give me Jesus, for then I will want for nothing.

Reference List:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.  He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden,  but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”  But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,  she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.  Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

Genesis 3:1-7

Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.

Exodus 7:11-12

Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood.  And the fish in the Nile died, and the Nile stank, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.  But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts. So Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.

Exodus 7:20-22

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes.   And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit.  He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him.  Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.  And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him.  And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.”

Mark 5:1-7

As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling.  She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”  And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.

Acts 16:16-18

 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”  And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”  Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason?  Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.  But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.”  And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

 Job 1:6-12

(Satan had to go to God to ask permission to touch Job…)

 “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak.  And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days!  Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath.  For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.  For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.  See, I have told you beforehand.  So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.  For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

Matthew 24:15-28

But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.

Matthew 24:36

Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.  Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?  And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time.  For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.  And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.  The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

2 Thessalonians 2:3-12

Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon.  It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed.  It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived.  And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain.  Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name.

Revelation 13:11-17

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

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