Receive the Grace

God says that by Christ we have access by faith into grace (Ro 5:2); in other words, the power to live the Christian life becomes available to us as Christ Himself enables us to know for certain that He is empowering us to live for Him.

Though God is the source of our strength to live for Christ, God doesn’t merely cause us live for Christ apart from our will, apart from our willing engagement with and pursuit of Him; there is a cooperation with God involved, yet it’s a cooperation which God also determines and enables. This access to grace involves a supernatural knowing (faith) as well as a supernatural willingness to become and to do.

So, it’s significant that God begs us to not receive His grace in vain (2Co 6:1); He pleads with us that we should not neglect His offer to enable us with the strength we need to live for Him. He challenges us and calls us out to act on His invitation to put this divine power into motion and actually live for Him.

Even though God is the Author and Finisher of our faith (He 12:1), and though without Him we can do nothing (Jn 15:%), He expects us to engage our will to walk in this divine power based on His invitation and promise.

Yet even this practical working out of grace is itself another grace, or an additional divine enablement on a different level, such that everything we become for God and in God is also finally all from God and for God. We may only glory in Him. (1Co 1:31)

Paul illustrates this for us in his own experience: he is what he is by the grace of God (1Co 15:10a), and His grace (or enabling power) was not bestowed on Paul in vain (b) because Paul acted out this grace by laboring more prolifically than all the other apostles (c); but even this abundant laboring was not something Paul himself produced all in his own power — even this activity was due to the further enabling of God within him, equipping him to do so. (d)

So, until we both access divine power by faith, and then also act in accordance with our faith to see God’s grace working out in our life, we’re receiving the grace of God in vain. Both of these behaviors are each driven by grace, and are needed to fulfill God’s purpose in making grace available to us.

Perhaps it’s like being given a brand new cordless vacuum … exciting, but keeping it securely in the box out in the garage doesn’t clean the house. Surely, opening the box and putting it together helps, but still the house is filthy. Charging up the vacuum and turning it on, studying and admiring it — that’s moving in the right direction, but this still isn’t the point.

Amazing design and power may be at our finger tips, begging us to engage, but the vacuum still exists in vain. We may even write elaborately about the vacuum and tell all our friends how wonderful and innovative it is, but this is all still a sad waste of the vacuum. We may do all these things, and most sincerely, yet wonder to ourselves why this amazing gift isn’t working to clean our house.

It isn’t until we get off the couch, put our hand to the handle, and begin to move the empowered vacuum over the dust, actually using it per it’s design, that all the potential of the vacuum is realized and becomes practically useful. Until then the thoughtfulness of the gift, and all its power and design is in vain.

So, what aspect of our lives yet lacks the grace of God? What untapped power has God given us that’s still unopened in the box? (Ep 1:18-19) Where is it that we could we become more like Christ if He but enabled us? (Ga 4:19) He will show us the next step if we but ask, seek and knock. (Mt 7:7-8)

Then, as He shows us HIs way, step by step, we seek grace from God to believe, to know, to become, and to do the will of God. (Php 3:14-15)

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Minister Grace

Our speech is unbelievably powerful; words carry the force of life and death (Pr 18:21); our lips can be a vehicle for good and also for evil. (Mt 12:35) We choose eternally every time we open our mouths.

We shouldn’t let impure words come out of our mouths (Ep 4:29a), lies or false accusation, or any malicious words (1Pe 2:1), intended to harm or afflict others (Pr 12:18), only edifying words which minister grace to others. (Ep 4:29b) We’re to speak truth in love. (Ep 4:15)

The fact that God intends to — and actually does — minister grace through our words is remarkable. Grace is God’s power enabling us to become more like Christ; God ministers grace through our words by speaking in and through us, converting souls through His truth, equipping others through the concepts we convey as well as in our tone and manner. As we abide in Christ He lives and loves and works in us, through our very wills and words, to transform others into His own precious likeness. (Ep 4:15) This godliness is indeed a mystery (1Ti 3:16), how God can work in us both to will and to do (Php 2:13), yet it’s reality.

Similarly, when we aren’t careful, Hell itself can set lives ablaze with evil through our words. (Ja 3:6) Every time we open our mouths we create new reality from the void before us, bringing into eternal being what has never existed before, and which will never be forgotten; not only when we’re speaking with great forethought and deliberation, but every idle word is captured and weighed. (Mt 12:36)

Our words fashion reality according to our wills and hearts, something reflecting our inmost being, and will ultimately prove out whether we belong to God. (37) We should speak with this in mind, in prayerful, sober restraint (Ja 1:19); we’ll be judged according to how our words, as well as our deeds, align with Torah. (Ja 2:2)

How powerful is the spoken word? What’s its potential? Christ promises words of faith can move mountains, that nothing’s impossible. (Mt 17:20) Christ’s promises are true, yet not everything we confidently proclaim comes to pass; the reality we create may not be what we expect. The problem isn’t in the promise, but in our understanding of faith: godly power isn’t found in selfish presumption (Ja 4:3), but in supernatural knowledge of God’s will.

God can and will speak through the godly as we abide in Him (Jn 15:7); Christ lives in us … grace is poured into His lips (Ps 45:2); He is full of grace and truth. (Jn 1:14) What’s He saying in us? Let’s be saying this, and only this. He can move mountains and hearts for His kingdom through us. Let the cry of our hearts therefore be: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” (Ps 19:14)

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The Scornful

Scorn is a word indicating lack of respect, or contempt for another, to find someone unworthy of proper consideration. It’s often expressed through laughter or ridicule at another’s behavior (Mt 9:24), as if what someone says or does makes them less valuable to God.

God Himself scorns the scornful  (Pr 3:34), those who fail to esteem others better than themselves (Php 2:3), walking in pride. (Ps 123:4)

We may find others in error without feeling scorn by recognizing that if it weren’t for God’s grace in our lives (1Co 15:10) we’d likely be doing worse. (1Co 4:7) Grief is the appropriate reaction in the face of evil (Php 3:18), not disdain.

We’re to honor all people (1Pe 2:7), praying for and thanking God for everyone. (1Ti 2:1) Of course, some deserve more honor than others (Ps 15:4a), but we shouldn’t disrespect anyone, even in our hearts. It’s the way of the blessed. (Ps 1:1)

Each and every person is deeply precious to God; He’s handcrafted each soul uniquely (Ps 119:73) in His image, for His own pleasure and purpose. (Pr 16:4) It matters not what they’ve done: He’s willing to become sin for them. (2Pe 3:9) If we don’t love those we can see, who are the special handiwork of God, how then can we say we love their Creator? (1Jn 4:20)

So, when we find ourselves laughing at someone in contempt, the joke’s on us: the enemy has leveraged another’s fault to take us down again. This is war; when we’re laughing at sin and brokenness, there’s no victory. God chooses who to restrain from evil and when. (Ro 1:24) If He’s mercifully kept us from certain types of sin and let others go their way (Ro 9:16), we’ve nothing to glory in. (1Co 1:29-31)

Think of every single soul as family, brothers and sisters, relatives; we’re members one of another (Ep 4:25), all of the same blood (Ac 17:26), all part of the human race.

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Turning the Grace

Grace may be the most important word in the Christian Faith. We’re saved by grace (Ep 2:8) and we stand in grace. (Ro 5:2) If we get this foundational concept wrong, we may call our theology Christian, but it may still be foreign to God, and leave us with false hope.

God exhorts us to earnestly contend for the authentic, apostolic faith (Jud 3) because false teachers promote a counterfeit Christianity by changing the definition of grace, turning it into permission to indulge, essentially denying God’s nature. (vs 4)

Grace is commonly defined to be the unmerited favor of God, the idea that we may freely enjoy the blessings of God without deserving them. Since those who receive Christ are forgiven and loved by God unconditionally, the claim is that we’re free to sin against God on purpose, that even if we sin deliberately, God will never be angry or disappointed in us: He’s taken care of our sin in Christ. In other words, defining grace this way means we can receive all the benefits of salvation merely by receiving Christ as Savior, and that receiving Him as Lord is optional.

This teaching on grace effectively turns it into a type of open-ended leniency, permission to pursue our own interests, passions, and lusts. This is what Jude calls turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, exposing those who promote this as ungodly, denying the Lordship of Christ. (Jud 4)

Routinely overlooking the willful, wrongful behavior of those we love is unhealthy at best. Claiming God is this way, and that we should be too, is foolish. God simply isn’t like this; He cares very deeply how we act, being grieved and angered by all intentional sin (He 10:26-27) This is clear in the Word, proof of His love. (Re 3:19)

The problem with the common definition of grace is that it fails to account for the miracle of the new birth, and the transforming dynamic inherent in grace. Grace isn’t freedom to sin, it’s freedom from sin (Ro 6:14); grace is God providing us a new nature (2Co 5:17) that’s inclined to obey Him. (1Pe 1:2)

Let no one deceive us (1Jn 3:7): those in Christ have received Him as He truly is, as both Savior and Lord. (Jn 1:12) Those who carelessly and willfully disobey Him as a manner of life don’t yet know Him. (1Jn 3:9)

The relentless assaults of false teachers require us to earnestly contend for the basics of godly faith as we engage each other to fight the good fight and lay hold on eternal life. (1Ti 6:12) God’s Word is unmistakably clear: those who don’t love Jesus Christ don’t belong to Him (1Co 16:22), and all who aren’t trying their best to honor and obey Him don’t love Him. (Jn 14:23)

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God Is Able

Life is suffering, and suffering is hard; apart from God’s restraining grace, pain and hardship often produce bitterness. (He 12:15) Fear that we’ll become resentful in our suffering is to doubt God will give us grace to overcome.

God is certainly able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy (Jud 1:24); He’s able to make all grace abound toward us, so that we’ll glorify Him in every circumstance of life. (2Co 9:8)

This motivates us to pray for ourselves (Ps 119:25) and for each other (1Th 5:23), encouraging one another in the midst of suffering (He 12:12-13), that patience will have her perfect work in us (Ja 1:4), and that God will perfect us  — establishing, strengthening and settling us. (1Pe 5:10)

Believers are saved by hope (Ro 8:24), delivered from worry and despair by our confident expectation that, in the midst of suffering, God will strengthen us to the praise of His Glory (Ep 1:12): this is what He’s chosen us for, and predestinated us unto. (Ep 1:11) We’re His workmanship, created by Him in Christ unto good works, in which God has predetermined us to walk. (Ep 2:10)

Once we understand the purpose of suffering, that God’s design is to glorify Himself in us through it, we rejoice in tribulation (Ro 5:3), knowing that the trying of our faith works patience. (Ja 1:2-3) Patiently enduring trial enables us to experience God’s faithfulness, and such experience produces hope. (Ro 5:4) God is faithful to sanctify us, and He will do it. (1Th 5:24)

Look for His smile in and through suffering; it’s only in being willing to die for Christ that we may experience the power of His resurrection. (Php 3:10)

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The Election of Grace

Unconditional election is the teaching that God chooses (elects) who will be justified (saved) by and through grace (divine enablement) (Ro 11:5), independently of human works or merit (unconditionally). (Ro 11:6) This is predestination, a pre-choosing of our destiny (Ep 1:5) before the world began (Ep 1:4) based on God’s own will (Ja 1:18), not based on free will. (Jn 1:12-13)

Since Man is desperately wicked (Total Depravity) (Je 17:9), he only does good by the irresistible grace of God. (Ro 9:19) Man is unable to even consider doing anything good without God’s aid (2Co 3:5); without Him we can do nothing good. (Jn 15:5)

While infallibly saving only a few, God mysteriously offers salvation to all (1Pe 4:9), inviting all to come to Him and be saved (1Ti 2:4), refusing no one who repents and turns to Him. (Is 55:7) Yet no depraved soul will ever come to God (Ro 3:11) unless He first moves in them to do so. (Jn 6:65) This is implied in Man’s nature when left to himself (Ro 1:20-21); it isn’t God’s fault. (Ro 3:4)

God forces no one against their will; He allows the wicked to sin according to His purpose (1Pe 2:8), while irresistibly and graciously working in and through His elect to will and to do good as it pleases Him (Php 2:13), guiding and forming our will so that we seek Him, believe on Him, obey Him and follow Him. (Ro 8:29-30)

All the Father ordains to come to Christ will come to Him and be saved eternally. (Jn 6:37) Our election, salvation, and sanctification are all ultimately due entirely to God, not ourselves. (1Co 1:30-31)

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