The Truth About Grace

From time to time in the body of Christ, teaching about a core biblical doctrine seems to swing to extremes and needs to be restored to the scriptural boundaries for that concept.  For example, it’s common today to hear grace, the unmerited favor of God, described as some kind of license to sin, when in reality, it is the power not to sin (Titus 2:11), and the provision of mercy when one does sin (1 John 1:9).  A growing number of believers have also been bamboozled into believing that the sacrifice of Jesus is not enough.  Advocates of this syncretism between Christianity and Judaism teach believers they must keep the law as well as accept Jesus. 

The Scripture, however, is plain: “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12).  Jesus described the obligation or duty of the believer as believing “in the one he sent” (John 6:29).  The Apostle Paul described the Judaizers as practitioners of witchcraft for confusing the people with an emphasis on the law over the efficacy of Jesus’ sacrifice (Galatians 3:1).  In other words, as we focus on Jesus we are walking in grace.  Pope Francis recently said, “Some believe they can have a personal, immediate, and direct relationship with Jesus Christ without the communion and mediation of the Church” describing this as wrong, absurd, and dangerous.  I understand he is challenging believers to maintain or restore their relationship with the Church, but neither the Church, nor any man can take the place of the true mediator between God and man, Jesus the Christ.  We need a personal, immediate, and direct relationship with Jesus as well as a connection to the local church that springs from our relationship with Jesus.

We also walk in grace by focusing on love.  Jesus reduced the 613 old testament laws (civic, ceremonial, rabbinic, and moral) to the command to love God and love people (Matthew 22:34-40).  He taught that all of the law and prophets hang or depend on the love commandment.  This means when we truly love God and others we are actually living consistent with the very heart of God.  Choose to love the haters when they treat you wrong or say ugly things about you.  Jesus, with lips anointed with grace (Psalm 45:2), loved no matter what they said or did to him.

Finally, we walk in grace by focusing on the Spirit.  We need the Holy Spirit because grace sets a much higher standard than the law.  The law said we should not murder.  Jesus said a person with anger seething in the heart is just as guilty.  The law said we should not commit adultery.  Jesus said a person who looks at a woman to lust after her in his heart is just as guilty.  Grace means that through the new birth we have the presence of the Holy Spirit operating in us 24 hours a day to help us and guide us.  The law tells us the what to do or not to do, the gospel tells us the why, but the Holy Spirit tells us the how and empowers us to do so.  For example, the law forbids murder, Jesus exposes anger as the root of murder, and the Holy Spirit tells us in real time how to specifically apply Jesus’ admonition to do good to those who mistreat us.

No, grace is not a license to sin or merely God’s merciful response to us when we do sin.  Grace is not lacking and in need of support by a return to the bondage of the law.  Grace is not sloppy living because we are no longer under the law.  Grace is a much higher standard than the law only realized by focusing on Jesus, focusing on love, and focusing on the daily leadership of the Holy Spirit who guides us into a lifestyle far surpassing life under the dictates of the law.   

Contagious by Association

People influence one another for good or bad simply by being around each other.  Every person we come in contact with is both making and receiving a unique positive or negative impartation.  As we connect with people we are bestowing and conferring on others what is operating in our lives in abundance, and they are bestowing and conferring upon us what is operating in their lives in abundance.

Moses, for example, was told to lay his hands on Joshua so that an impartation of wisdom, authority, and honor could be made into his life.  Similarly, Elisha received a double portion of the anointing when Elijah graced him with his cloak.  Paul indicated that his special grace of divine protection and deliverance was available to his partners in ministry who prayed for him and supported his ministry endeavors.  In other words, we catch what people have, not what they simply say or want us to catch.  We don’t catch the mumps from someone who has the measles.

We all have something to impart, and we all have something that can be imparted into our lives from others.  They key is to be careful who we connect with, associate with, and align with because we all will imbibe or absorb, assimilate, and take in the spirit of our connections and associations, good or bad.  The Bible says, “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17), and “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33).  We must be mindful of who we are giving the privilege of speaking into and influencing our lives.

Some people impart love, mercy, graciousness, positivity, and gratitude into our lives.  Others infect us with cynicism, dishonor, negativity, and compromise.  The Scripture plainly teaches we will know them by their fruit (Matthew 7:16).  Learn to guard your heart from being influenced by people who have little or no good fruit in their lives.  Are they faithful to the local church?  Do they faithfully participate in ministry?  Do they give faithfully?  Do they share their faith and invite people to church?  Do they actively walk in love, practice mercy, and control their tongue?  If not, be careful connecting with them because you will start to manifest what they have been manifesting.  You may just need to quarantine yourself from people like that unless and until they start showing signs of life and positive impartation.

The key is to make sure we are imparting life to others while maintaining diligence over what we are exposed to ourselves.  The reality is that we are all extremely contagious and we infect others with our spirit, our spirituality, our attitude, our thinking, and our behavior.  Let’s make sure our associations result in positive impartation for ourselves and others with the result that we get stronger as believers, grow in maturity, and become more effective as witnesses of Jesus Christ.

Oh the Humanity

gracePerhaps the greatest paradox in Christianity is the realization that the Lord sovereignly chose to use imperfect people to preach a perfect gospel and lead people to a saving knowledge of the one true perfect God.  Besides the one flawless example of Jesus, every man and woman charged with speaking or acting on behalf of God throughout history has been flawed.  Abraham was a chronic liar.  David couldn’t keep his zipper up.  Moses needed anger management.  Jeremiah could use some Prozac.  An arrogant Peter sounded a lot like Donald Trump.   Paul was quick to write people off at times.  Despite the flaws and failures, the Lord did amazing things through them and so many others because the anointing is God on flesh doing what flesh can’t do.

Though a preacher of righteousness and recipient of the revelation to build a vessel to rescue God’s creation and his own family before the flood, Noah was found in a compromising position after partaking of wine from the grapes he grew after the great flood waters receded.  The behavior of his sons upon the discovery of their naked and drunk father reflects two contrasting attitudes found readily in the Church today.

In Genesis 9, Ham discovered his father’s nakedness and couldn’t wait to tell his brothers.  When Ham’s brothers, Shem and Japheth were told they placed a blanket between them and walked backwards into the tent to cover their father’s shame making sure they did not so much as turn their head in the direction of Noah.  Notice the different reaction when the humanity of the preacher was discovered and observed.  Ham saw Noah’s humanity and broadcasted that humanity to others.  Shem and Japheth saw the same humanity and chose instead to cover the humanity because “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

So that I am not misunderstood here, Christians and particularly Christian leaders must have accountability in their lives.  But there is a difference between accountability to specific brothers and sisters who, in keeping with Paul’s command, restore the fallen and flawed with gentleness (Galatians 6:1) and others who observe the humanity and work to expose or broadcast the error with no heart for the restoration of the fallen.  Why is it we all want cover for ourselves and exposure for others?

There seems to be an unwritten rule some cynical believers follow that says if they witness the humanity of a Christian leader they do not have to respond in mercy, respect, or discretion, and they no longer have to receive from that leader. That “Ham” spirit, as in the days of Noah who was personally responsible for saving representatives of all of God’s created life on earth, forgets and diminishes the contribution that leader has had in his or her life and the lives of others choosing to focus instead on the imperfection of the leader.

Of course when Noah found out from Shem and Japheth what Ham had done (and understand emphatically here that just like Shem and Japheth, a godly believer does not hold confidences against the leader, but good or bad, keeps the leader informed) he was of course disappointed and prophesied a very different future for Ham in comparison to his brothers.  A simple reading of this story in Genesis reveals a powerful truth that all Christians can and should learn from.  The Hams in the body of Christ witness leadership humanity, broadcast that humanity to others, and end up cursed or empowered to fail.  In contrast, the Shems and Japheths in the Church are not blind to leadership imperfections, but in observing the humanity, choose to cover it with a garment of love and mercy and end up receiving the blessing or the empowerment to succeed.

If we spend any time around Christians and Christian leaders, we will observe imperfections, flaws, and their humanity (and they will observe our humanity).  Make a quality decision to be a blessed Shem or Japheth in the Church who sees, covers, and works to restore the humanity of others rather than a cursed Ham who sees, exposes, and cares little about restoration.  Remember that without love and mercy for others when they fail, we become more susceptible to temptation and failure ourselves (Galatians 6:1).  Without grace for others, we set ourselves up to reap the same when our humanity is observed (and sooner or later our humanity too will come out).

Build Me a Sanctuary

“And they shall make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst” (Exodus 25:8).

God wanted his people to build Him a Sanctuary where He could dwell amongst His people.  God wanted to commune with His creation!  In order for God to dwell in His sanctuary the priests had to purify and cleanse the sanctuary.  There can be no sin; no, nothing unclean can live in the same place God lives.

This was a complicated act that had to be fulfilled by the Ancient Jews in order to have the presence of God dwelling amongst them. These rules and laws were impossible for us to continue to fulfill and God knew they would not last the test of time. He had to act in order to save His beloved creation. God knew we would fail in every way so He sent His Son. His word says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Understand this; God sent Himself in His Son. Colossians 2:9 says, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” Why? God knew that if you want something done right you have to do it yourself.

We are no longer required to build a Temple made with wooden beams, or marble blocks, animal skins, and silver or gold but with flesh and bone.  We are His Temple!  We have become His abode where He dwells amongst us.  Is that possible?  Yes, it is. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). What then do you say to God when we are told that our body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit?

We look back to Exodus 25 and we see what God was doing.  He was preparing for us a way that He could dwell with us as His sanctuary.  This is the command He gave us and it is what lies behind the commandment “build Me a sanctuary.” These words teach us our relationship to God and what He expects of each of us.  What made this commandment so unique was God knew we would become His Temple, His “kings and priests” (Revelation 5:10).

In order for us to abide in him and him in us we must keep His temple, His sanctuaries clean from all sin.  God and sin cannot dwell together.  This is our daily challenge as we take up or own crosses in order to keep our temples clean so the Lord may dwell within His temple which is you.

My Question to you is this…Are you His Holy Temple, His king and His priest?  Or, are you just making it through life from Sunday to Sunday?  His Temple was a place He dwelt all day and all night.  Are you acting like a “king and priest” or are you acting just like the world?  What makes you different than those around you?  Can Christians and non-Christians notice something different about you and how much time you spend with the Lord?  Or, do you just blend into the crowd and become another unknown face?

When you dwell with the Lord He dwells with you.  IF you commune with Him, you become a partner and a friend and you experience His personality and His Nature.   In the end how much do you want to Tabernacle with the Lord in His Sanctuary or in His Temple? “It is written,” he said to them, ‘My house will be a house of prayer; but you have made it a den of robbers.’ ” (Luke 19:46) What does your house, abode, dwelling, Tabernacle, Sanctuary or Temple look like? Are you making your Temple “a house of Prayer” and a “Holy Mountain” or are you selling your goods in a market of thieves?

Today’s blog entry was written by Wayne Olin, one of our Hope Harbor faithful serving the United States Army in Korea.

Trash Day

Trash day comes early Friday morning at our house. We know the trash truck is going to come by in the morning, scoop up our city issued container with its claw, dump the contents into the truck bin, and drive on to the next house down the road. Each Thursday evening before we head off to sleep we empty every trash can in the house, fill the container, and then move the trash buggy to the curb for pick up the next morning. There have been times that we have forgotten about the trash. Hearing the truck in the distance, we scramble to collect everything and get the trash to the curb before we miss the truck. No one wants to deal with garbage hanging around another week until the truck returns.

I stumbled onto an interesting portion of Scripture recently while reading through the first chapter of the gospel of Mark that deals with a different kind of trash – the spiritual variety. The account refers to the ministry of Jesus Christ in Galilee as he proceeded from synagogue to synagogue to preach and teach the good news of the Kingdom of God. It seems that in every synagogue he came to he had to serve as the spiritual trash man getting rid of the garbage that had accumulated through years of spiritual neglect in the synagogue system.

In Mark 1:23 the Bible mentions that Jesus was teaching in a synagogue and in the course of the meeting a demon possessed man began to manifest – not in the street – not in the market place – but in the synagogue itself. Later in v. 39 in a summary statement regarding the ministry of Jesus the Bible states that he “traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.” Apparently, the gathering place for the people of God had become so contaminated that the standing orders for Jesus at each location were to preach the gospel and drive out demons. When Jesus showed up, it was trash day and wherever he went he took out the trash.

It’s amazing to think that demon possession was this common AMONG the worshippers IN the synagogue system. With such a spiritual vacuum, however, it is understandable that the enemy would capitalize on the situation and move in with his influence. Fortunately in the local church we don’t have that big of a gaping hole because of the sanctified many that have experienced the new birth. But what we may lack in actual possessions (and yes I have had to personally deal with this as well in the Church), we more than make up for with other kinds of spiritual trash lurking in our hearts and homes. Just like Jesus, we need to be diligent to speak the Word over our lives and our homes and drive out anything that is impure, unholy, or unprofitable. Just like Jesus, let’s remember to regularly take out the spiritual trash in our own lives.

2 Corinthians 7:1, NIV – “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”