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.   

The Consequences of Standing on the Wrong Platform

democratic-vs-republican-party-in-america-republican-democrat-xlc8wc-clipartJesus told the story of two houses built upon two entirely different foundations, one on sand and the other on rock. When the storm came, the house built on sand collapsed, but the house built on the solid foundation survived.  What was the reason for the differing outcomes?  Was it the type of house?  Was it the severity of the storm?  Was one builder just fortunate?  No, the outcome was entirely based on the integrity of the foundation.  During the 2016 election, a choice will be made to once again either build upon the sand or a solid foundation.  That foundation is the official platform for each of the major political parties.

Like a building foundation, the political platform, a party’s statement of official values and positions, will affect how well our nation weathers future storms and challenges. Political candidates will come and go, but the ideas, values, and agendas remain for generations.  Too many Christians have bought into the lie that the presidential election of 2016 is about two personalities.  The truth is the election is about two different views of the world and two different directions for the United States.  Both candidates are deeply flawed but we must look beyond the personality and potential time in office and discern and project what policy and cultural legacy they will leave behind for the next 50 years.  The two major party candidates represent two very different platforms, and the values, views, and policies reflected in those platforms will impact our country long after the candidates are gone.  

The consequences of standing on the wrong platform will be severe and lasting and why I believe this truly is the most critical election of my lifetime.  We will have Supreme Court justices who bend the constitution to suit political ideology and persuasion. We will have the unrestricted slaughter of the unborn, including late term elective abortion such as partial birth abortion.  We will have an all out assault on our right of religious expression, teaching, autonomy, and practice.  We will watch our right to bear arms watered down and severely restricted.  We will see rampant wickedness and abomination further normalized in our nation.  We will watch the greatest healthcare system in the world devolve into a single payer system where medicare and social security are raided and destroyed, where healthcare premiums skyrocket, and where quality is compromised.  We will lose our national autonomy to the march of globalism putting world interests above the interests of our people.  Socialistic policies will continue to drain our national wealth rather than increasing it.  The national debt will balloon to nearly 30 trillion dollars.  Corruption and collusion in the government between the Justice Department, the FBI, the State Department, the White House, and the Clinton campaign will never be brought to accountability.  The economic stagnation experienced under Obama (the only president with no quarter with GDP at 3 percent in U.S. history) will continue because of poor tax policy and over regulation.  Our foreign and military policy will continue to lack common sense, vision, cohesion, and execution trying to control monsters like ISIS instead of releasing our full war capabilities to annihilate them. We will continue to follow immigration policies that violate our current laws, disregard rules of fairness, and ignore our security.  Energy policies will continue to destroy American jobs while failing to tap our own  resources toward energy independence. Inner cities like Chicago, Baltimore, St. Louis, Detroit, and Milwaukee, completely neglected by Obama, will continue to crumble under the weight of crime, unemployment, degradation, and failing schools.  

As believers we have the responsibility to evaluate the platforms of the political parties through the eyes of Scripture.  For the purposes of comparing the most critical components of the platforms, consider where the Republicans (R) stand, where the Democrats (D) stand , and where the Kingdom of God (K) stands on the issues:

The Sanctity of human life:  (R) Life begins at conception and should be protected.  (D) Abortion should be on demand, without restriction and funded with tax money.  (K) “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5).

Marriage:  (R) Marriage is between one man and one woman.  (D) The definition of marriage should include anyone a person loves.  (K) “God made a woman and brought her to the man” (Genesis 2:22).

Religious liberty:  (R) Religious speech and practice is constitutionally protected.  (D) Religious speech and practice is subservient to protected lifestyles.  (K) “Preach the truth in love” (Ephesians 1:5).

God in government:  (R) Rights given by God trump human or government given rights. (D) God has no legitimate role in government or place in the platform.  (K) “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12).

Israel:  (R) The security of Israel is supported unconditionally and it’s capitol is Jerusalem.  (D) There should be a two-state system with no claim of Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol.  (K)  “I will bless those that bless thee, and curse those who curse thee” (Genesis 12:3).

America’s security:  (R) ISIS is an existential threat to our security and way of life and must be destroyed.  (D) The greatest threat to our national security is climate change. (K) “But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason.  They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4).

America’s place in the world:  (R) The interests of the United States should be placed above the world.  (D) The interests of the United States are subservient to those of the world.  (K) “The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon the earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth” (Daniel 7:23).

Like many of you, I find different aspects of each candidate disappointing and distasteful. But I have made the quality decision to look beyond the personality and the limited time each would be in office and consider the long-term implications of their policies and agenda on our nation, our children, and our children’s children.  Instead of the candidate, I am voting for the platform and the future impact of that platform on the country I love.  I am voting for the platform that best aligns with the Kingdom of God. Christian, if you believe that abortion, redefining marriage, restriction of religious liberty, the exclusion of God from government and public life, the manipulation and persecution of Israel, lip service to threats to our national security, and advancing globalism at the expense of our national interests lines up with the Kingdom of God, then please do vote for the Democrat. If, however, you reject the death and darkness of the Democratic platform choosing instead life and light, then you should join me in supporting the Republican nominee for president.  I encourage you to assess which platform is better for building a great nation, sand or rock?


The Seed Thief

Like everything else the Lord does in the earth, He uses a seed to accomplish great things in us and through us. The seed contains and possesses not only the nature of what is to be grown but the full potential of its future. When the Lord made humans He endowed them with some very special gifts that I like to call “Genesis Gifts” or gifts that the Lord has given to mankind at the very beginning indicating not only God’s favor but his divine will for man. We have, from the very beginning, been given God’s image, life, dominion, and seed which allows us to determine and impact our future by the seed that we sow, for everything in life (not just plants and animals) reproduces after its own kind.

Believers are also given hope or life dreams as a seed. That seed comes in the form of God’s thoughts or His Word deposited in the ground of our hearts (Mark 4) that when retained despite trouble and persecution (which according to Mark 4 comes as a direct result of the deposit of that seed in the heart) will produce a harvest. The insight of Mark helps us to understand that the very seed of the dream is also the bullseye or target that the enemy uses to come against that same dream. Ironically the more Word we receive the more of a target we become. That seems counterintuitive and counterproductive on the surface but we must remember that although challenges come because of the Word, it is that very Word that births the dream and brings the dream to reality if we do not faint. As Galatians 6:9 declares, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

The enemy is a master at stealing the dream seed from the hearts of believers and provoking them to quit under pressure. The bigger and more aggressive the dream the greater the level of pressure. The Lord only knows what human contribution and impact has been lost forever simply because those given great dreams could not seem to stand up under the enemy’s constant schemes to influence believers to shrink back and throw down their faith (Hebrews 10:35-30). The writer of Hebrews admonishes, “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” Satan is after our confidence in our ability to hear from God and act on His Word and uses several devices to accomplish his agenda.

First, the enemy uses the scheme of distraction to divert us from focusing on the dream and on to challenges, circumstances, opinions of others, and a litany of emergencies and urgent situations. It is impossible to walk in and fulfill a God-given dream without focus and the enemy knows that all he has to do is keep dust perpetually kicked up around us and we will soon become sidetracked and forget all about God’s mandate for our lives. Like Martha, we sometimes get so distracted by the good that we fail to pursue God’s best (Luke 10:40). The key to maintaining focus is revealed by Mary’s behavior in this same Scripture. When we focus on our relationship with Jesus we are more likely to stay focused on the mission.

Second, the enemy, through the scheme of pressure, setbacks, and opposition, frequently shuts the believer down with discouragement. It is telling that the Lord spent so much time directly encouraging Joshua at the beginning of his ministry and leadership: “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers” (Joshua 1:6). Discouragement is the loss of courage, and faith is in fact spiritual courage. When discouragement moves in, the motivation and drive to continue fighting and believing God disappears.

Third, the enemy is the master of deception. As the Father of lies (John 8:44), Satan is a master at the scheme of deception. From the conning of Adam and Eve in the garden to the seduction of Judas at the close of Jesus’ ministry, the enemy knows exactly how to distort our perception with half-truths and down right lies. The antidote, of course, for his deception is the truth or the Word of God. People who spend quality time in the Word are much better equipped to recognize and reject the schemer’s attempt to pull us away from the dream of God through deception.

Fourth, the enemy understands all too well how important is is for human beings to feel like they belong. Rejection, or the scheme of disowning, is one of the most powerful tools in his arsenal to neutralize a believer’s impact in this world for Jesus Christ. By invading the sacred area of human relationships and inspiring various parties to reject one another, Satan effectively demoralizes us and pushes us into a fog of introspection and self-questioning trying to determine what prompted the rejection. The lack of understanding just adds to the feelings of pain. Jesus was familiar with rejection and since he bore rejection on the cross (Isaiah 53:3) together with the sin, sickness, and shame, let’s be quick to reject this device designed to immobilize us in a day when the Lord needs us up and running. What matters most is the fact that God loves and accepts us and if people reject us, they just don’t know what they’re missing.

Fifth, we know from John 10:10 that the devil is a destroyer. In fact the Scripture says that he comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. Through the scheme of destruction, the enemy attempts to take advantage of every situation to bring devastation into our lives in the the hope that we will falsely accuse God, doubt His Word, and reject His plan for our lives. This tool is made even more effective by the fact that many of God’s servants unknowingly preach that God, rather than the enemy, is behind the stealing, killing, and destroying. What a racket Satan has going. Wreak havoc in the earth and in the lives of people and then lay the blame at God’s feet. This is a criminal’s dream come true. But once the antics of the enemy are exposed and the believer understands that the Lord is good and does good (Psalm 31:19; Acts 10:38), the enemy’s days of destruction in our lives are numbered.

Finally, if the enemy fails to take us out through distraction, discouragement, deception, disowning, or destruction, he will do everything he can to discredit us with an all out attack on our credibility. The scheme of discrediting is designed to cause people to lose confidence in us as believers and when this happens any influence for good and for God is compromised. The true shame of this scheme is that people who desperately need to receive from the discredited believer can no longer do so. Discerning believers will of course see through this but unfortunately people in the world and carnal Christians wouldn’t know the truth if it came up and tweaked them on the nose. The ultimate goal of the enemy is to get the slandered Christian to become disheartened and reluctant to stand up in the future for God’s Word and His plan of redemption effectively silencing another voice of truth.

I want to encourage you to be alert in these last days for the schemer and his ways. Understand that you are not paranoid and you are not dreaming. You really do have an enemy and he would like nothing more than to undermine your confidence in God and in His Word to the point where your dream seed is dug up, your destiny is aborted, and your impact is compromised. When you recognize his activity in your life or the lives of others, immediately move to expose his operation and declare the Word of God over the situation. Remember that the ultimate remedy for the schemes of the enemy is the truth.