Pure GRACE through FAITH

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” -Romans 1:16-17 (NIV)

Lately I have been getting a repeated message coming to me: As Christians, we are saved through faith in God and His tremendous GRACE. What Jesus did alone has justified us. That is the true gospel. Sadly, many churches today do not preach the true gospel, but mix grace in with some sort of works that must be done (or at least one must strive for) in order to please God and enter His kingdom. Quite often, preachers and teachers try to scare people into accepting Christ as their savior. On more than one occasion, I have heard some very descriptive sermons about hell. Is hell important? Of course. Jesus spent way too much time bringing up the subject for it not to be. Will it motivate someone to accept Jesus as their Savior? Maybe. But that does not seem to be what He wants. He wants us to love Him as He loves us. Teaching on the subject of hell certainly has its place in Christian theology, but it is our Heavenly Father who draws us to Him (John 6:44). We know that it is not God’s intention that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9).

Embrace His love and see the foolishness of life without Him. That is my prayer for those of you who may happen on this page and don’t know Jesus as I do.

Two Views

My wife and I watched the State of the Union address last night and some of the commentary afterward. After the official Democratic rebuttal, one of the commentators said there were two distinctly different views of America offered between both sides. Both see their side as right and the other as foolish.

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is the power of God to us who are being saved. -1 Corinthians 1:18 (CSB)

The comment last night about two different views on the same subject got me thinking about the two prevalent world views we have: one with God and one without. To those of us who are Christian, we see the moral decay of America (and the world) as a bad thing that is harmful to humanity and an affront to God. The world, however, sees this decay as some sort of freedom from religious tyranny and refers to much of the immorality as “acts of love.” Sadly, this world of unbelievers sees us as fools. Yet, the moral decay of any society has always preceded its destruction. Who is really being foolish?

So what can we do to change this dismal world view of us and our beliefs/values? Witness. Tell our stories. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. -Romans 1:16 (CSB)

We as Christians know that the motivating factor for God’s law is His incredible love for us. As Christians, we are not a glum lot opposed to laughing, loving and having fun when we can. We are opposed to acting in a manner that is contrary to God’s law for us and often causes us to do harm to ourselves.

Jesus made me an offer I could not refuse. I thought I had it ‘going on’ in my younger years. I was on a path of destruction. He saved me from that. I found out that the things I thought were sometimes ideas planted by demons to convince me I was unworthy of God’s love and would never be able to have a personal relationship with Him. Satan, who often mixes lies with truth (2 Cor. 11:14-15) to make his stuff seem more believable was right about one thing: by myself, I am unworthy. Fortunately, Jesus died on the cross for me and took care of all that. It wasn’t just me He died for, it was you too. Are you aware of that?

Dumbing It Down…

When I came to you, brothers, announcing the testimony of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. For I didn’t think it was a good idea to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a powerful demonstration by the Spirit, so that your faith might not be based on men’s wisdom but on God’s power. – 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (HCSB)

The church I attend has begun focusing on 1 Corinthians in recent weeks. Yesterday, the first 10 verses of 1 Corinthians 2 were discussed. So often in my life, I have considered [in my own arrogance] myself to be somewhat of an intellectual. I have placed a great deal of importance on my level of intelligence and those I associate with. I have come to realize how important it was for me in my life to “dumb it down” and accept things on faith that God has revealed to my spirit. By the way, I have discovered that I am not as smart as I think I am, and wisdom that is not applied to one’s life is wasted on unbelief!

At this point in my walk, I have discovered a great necessity to simply follow the example that Paul set and preach only “Christ — and Him crucified” to those who will listen. The deep theological discussions of doctrine and eschatology can wait for another day, and have no saving power in and of themselves. If I can resist the temptation to debate such things, I can focus on the core message of the Gospel — Jesus and what He did for us and continues to do today.

I am not about to criticize those who devote much time and attention to such things as what Revelation is trying to teach us about end times or whether or not dispensation theology has merit, among other debates. If we could perhaps leave such topics alone for a while and devote our lives to preaching Christ crucified, it would go along way in healing our divisions and thwarting the plans of the devil. Don’t you agree?

Wisdom

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. -James 1:5 (ESV)

I have been recently watching a Bible teacher on TV, studying with him as he goes through the book of Proverbs. So often, I will randomly read some of them and pick one or two out to expound upon. Recently, I’ve been going through them one chapter at a time — which has proved very valuable to me in my walk as a Christian.

Solomon could have had basically anything he wanted from God, but chose wisdom. Most would likely have selected money or power, but he chose instead to ask for wisdom. God was clearly impressed with his choice and granted him not just wisdom, but great wealth as well. Of course we know that Solomon, being human, had his flaws and would eventually succumb to worldly things that diminished him. But he knew enough, at least in the beginning, to opt for wisdom.

The book of Proverbs (written largely by Solomon) has a lot to say about wisdom. Actually, God has a lot to say about it and Solomon selected to record much of it for posterity.

Worldly people would have us believe that somehow modern enlightenment has freed us from the restrictions that morality (God’s law) imposes upon us. We are then, by that reasoning, free to sleep with [or live with in a sexual relationship] anybody we want to — without the shackles of commitment that many fear would be placed on them in a marriage. Of course, that always leaves us wanting something more that we often can’t quite be honest enough with ourselves to identify. Sexual gratification outside of marriage isn’t gratifying for long and usually comes with a very hefty price tag attached to it. That price tag is often a ticket to destruction. This is not destruction at the hands of God, I’m talking about self-destruction that we are often so good at as human beings. The law is not designed to confine us, but to set us free in God’s love to be the people He intends us to be.

Sometimes I like to pick up Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” to see what his take on a particular scripture is. I offer here his rendition of Proverbs 8:1-11:

Do you hear Lady Wisdom calling?
    Can you hear Madame Insight raising her voice?
She’s taken her stand at First and Main,
    at the busiest intersection.
Right in the city square
    where the traffic is thickest, she shouts,
“You—I’m talking to all of you,
    everyone out here on the streets!
Listen, you idiots—learn good sense!
    You blockheads—shape up!
Don’t miss a word of this—I’m telling you how to live well,
    I’m telling you how to live at your best.
My mouth chews and savors and relishes truth—
    I can’t stand the taste of evil!
You’ll only hear true and right words from my mouth;
    not one syllable will be twisted or skewed.
You’ll recognize this as true—you with open minds;
    truth-ready minds will see it at once.
Prefer my life-disciplines over chasing after money,
    and God-knowledge over a lucrative career.
For Wisdom is better than all the trappings of wealth;
    nothing you could wish for holds a candle to her.

GUILT.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. -John 3:17 (NIV)

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. -2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)

Over the years, I have come to realize that guilt truly is a verdict and not an emotion. While some might rightfully point out that guilt can be a powerful motivator to change course and do better, it is more often a tool I think that the enemy uses to dissuade us from following Christ in a manner that is effective and visible to others. The finished work of the cross should be more than sufficient to cover our sins, provided we embrace God’s wonderful gift, confess and repent.

“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool. -Isaiah 1:18 (NIV)