Archives For grace

On your journey to discipleship, it’s important to remember following Jesus is always about the next step. We aren’t concerned with where He’s leading us, we’re simply content to follow. A hallmark of discipleship is never looking back. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been, or what you’ve done. The blood, grace, and love of Jesus makes all which has come before irrelevant. We are who He says we are, and He sees only who we are becoming.

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As far as God is concerned, the past doesn’t matter. He’s not interested in what you’ve done, only in what you will do for His Kingdom.  He holds no grudges. Jesus never looks at what you’ve messed up in the past as an indicator of what you might accomplish in the future.

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Every so often, I like to increase the amount of hate mail I receive. There’s no better way to assure this than discussing the faith (or grace) vs. works topic. As I have stated previously, I don’t fall into either the faith or works camp. I believe one without the other is useless, and believe there is strong Scriptural support to say the answer isn’t either faith or works, but rather faith and works. James says plainly in his letter faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26).

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Coming from the brother of Jesus, I’m going to consider him a strong authority. There’s more to say about this, however. To those in either the faith or works camp, I urge you to keep reading. Not so I might persuade you to agree with me, but rather to take an honest look at what Scripture says about this and consider the eventual logic behind each view.

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What does the armor of God look like in your life? Ephesians 6:10-18 is a familiar passage of Scripture detailing the armor of God. Like many familiar passages, it can be easy to overlook and never take the time to apply it to your own life. Paul gave us a great gift when he outlined the weapons of our warfare. Though I have distant memories of a flannel-graph (remember those?) soldier in Sunday School, there is nothing childish about the depth of this passage.

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Within these words are the strategic plans to counteract the attacks of the devil.  To best make use of the armor and weapons, we should know what they look like in our own lives.

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One of the reasons I believe we don’t take the call of Christ more seriously in our lives is because we don’t see our sin the way God does. We don’t tend to see ourselves as deserving of hell if not for the blood of Jesus. We might say we deserve hell, but do we honestly believe it? As A.W. Tozer wrote, “from the way we love, praise, and pamper ourselves it is plain enough that we do not consider ourselves worthy of damnation!”

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There’s a disconnect between what we say we believe and how we live. Instead of living as if we were humbly and eternally grateful for the salvation of Christ, we instead live as if there’s always something more we “deserve”.

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I can’t seem to get away from the constant debate of whether we are saved by grace alone or works alone. As I have often commented here, I don’t believe it’s a matter of grace or works, but rather grace and works. Before you bail on me, I wholeheartedly believe and affirm that we cannot be saved by anything other than the grace of God. Without grace, there is no possible way to “work” our way into salvation. Only our faith in Jesus and the grace He extends to us can secure our future with Him. The works we do are simply proof of our love for Him. If we are sincere in our devotion to Christ, obeying His commands – doing the things He told us to do – will be a natural extension of that love.

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A phrase I’ve grown weary of hearing over the years is, “you deserve it.” It permeates the advertising world as well as our everyday speech. We tell colleagues they deserve their recent promotion or our friends that they deserve some time away. Commercials try to convince us that we deserve a new car or the latest electronic gadgetry. As followers of Jesus, I hope you recognize that what we deserve is an eternity separated from our Creator. We deserve nothing in this life because we have all squandered what God has entrusted to us. To be frank, we deserve Hell. I think that’s why we spend so much time trying to be comfortable and secure. We know what we deserve and yet do everything in our power to keep from thinking about it.

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“Hear my cries Lord, hear my plea / All around me, all I see / Are canyons of heartache, rivers of mistakes / … It’s clouding up my clarity.” Those lines are from the song, “Mercy”, written by Aaron Pelsue. How often have you felt this way? Every day brings a new disappointment, and it seems as if bad news has taken up permanent residence in our inbox. The daily news grows ever more depressing, and the demands on our time our choking out any semblance of a spiritual life. We are dismayed by our past, discouraged by the future and despondent over our current circumstances. Where does it end, and how do we get off of this ride?

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Recently several churches in my area have been dropping their sponsorship of Boy Scout troops. My own church home has made headlines because of their decision to follow suit. At issue is the recent decision by the Boy Scouts of America to allow homosexual boys to join their ranks, something that has previously been forbidden. The churches that are pulling their support from the scouts are doing so ostensibly so they are not financially supporting or associated with a group that allows homosexuals to benefit from their funding. Upon learning of my home church’s decision, I took an afternoon to think and pray about this stance. I’d like to share my thoughts with you.

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God is so merciful and His grace is unending. We all know the things we should do, but in practice few of us consistently succeed. We go through seasons of growth, but then there are those times when it seems all we can do is mess up. We could spend the majority of our days living in guilt, discouraged that we have missed the mark again. God rejects that idea. He sent His Son to free us from guilt and to remove all of our sins. Walking in the footsteps of Jesus gives us never ending opportunities to start again.

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We live in a culture that is obsessed by what we “need” and by things we “deserve”. On top of this, we add the additional items which we simply want to have or achieve. At the end of the day, we are consumed by an avalanche of selfish desires that have no positive effect on the world around us and wind up serving only ourselves. This is not the model of Biblical Christianity. It is instead a far cry from the behavior of the early followers of Jesus that we find recorded in Acts 2:44-47. In that passage we see that Christians divided whatever they had and shared with anyone who was in need. There was no thought of “getting ahead in life” or hoarding resources for themselves. They weren’t concerned with personal wealth-building, but rather with building up someone else. Selfishness was not on their radar because the focal point of their lives was Jesus Christ.

Fast-forward two thousand years or so to our modern society. The things we “need” have taken on an entirely different meaning; where once our needs were food and shelter, they have now become extravagance and overabundance. If we don’t have a couple of week’s worth of food in our house, we “need” to go shopping. If we don’t live in a nice neighborhood, we “need” to move. If our televisions cannot display the latest HD quality picture, we “need” a new TV. I submit that the vast majority of our “needs” are more accurately simply a wish list of our “wants”. What we need is the love and grace of Jesus. That is a true need with the added benefit of being a glorious want and desire. We love Him because He first loved us and gave His life for us, so we want to live our life for Him. It’s beautiful the way God has caused us to want most that which we need most. He has put a deep longing within each of us to come to Him. He is all we need.

Another area we get wrong concerns the things we believe we “deserve”. We tell ourselves that we deserve to be happy, deserve to be secure and deserve nice things because we work hard to get them. This too flies in the face of Biblical teaching. What the Bible tells us we deserve is eternal damnation and separation from God in Hell. That is what we deserve. Anything we get that is more than this is simply because of the grace of God and we should fall on our faces and plead for His mercy. It is common to hear people say that they only want what they deserve; they can have it by simply continuing to live their lives for themselves and rejecting Christ. This is a sure-fire method to guarantee yourself to get what you deserve. Live for yourself and be eternally separated from God. Keep the money you earn to yourself and ignore the poor, and you will be stripped of everything you possess. It’s easy to get what you deserve; simply continue to live your life for yourself and leave God out of the equation. I will personally guarantee you, based on the word of God, that you will indeed receive the full measure of everything you deserve.

We need to rethink our wants, needs and our concept of what we believe we deserve. Our “wants” should be those things that will bring us closer to Jesus. Our “needs” should be just enough to survive in this world. What we deserve is clear, so we must repent, accept the grace of God as our covering, and praise Him from saving us from the life we truly merit. Don’t live your life on the terms dictated to you by our Western culture. Live your life in gratitude and service to Jesus, reflecting His love and grace to everyone you meet.