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Posts Tagged ‘grace’

by Jordan Hathcock

“Non-Violence is one of the byproduct of “loving your enemies”

In the history of our American culture, the “Hero” motif has always captured our imaginations in the cinema world.  We love to see the good guys prevail and the bad guys lose.  It is just the dichotomy that we enjoy to see in the movies. Take for example the new film: Avengers: Endgame (amazing movie, I recommend it.) This is the ending to a twenty-two film and over a decade span, which stunning cinematic magic has brought the hero genre to the forefront of pop culture.

Now, I get it. Bringing these cherished comic book characters to life has definitely sparked the familiar essence of good vs. evil–which has been imbedded in us as a species, since the beginning.  Evil must be defeated for the good to survive and thrive. But, is the only way to destroy evil by violence?

As I mentioned in a previous post, the use of violence to prevent violence just doesn’t work. As participants of the way of Christ, the use of violence is antithetical to what Jesus taught and died for. It is really a tough pill for our American way of life to swallow. Human history is soaked in the violent-blood of Cain instead of the enemy-loving blood of Christ. I get it. We all want to survive and not be destroyed and wiped out. But, are we willing to really believe in resurrection? Are we trusting on a death that leads to life?

We “Christians” have taken the violence a little further along in the spiritual evolution of Cain to following the blood of Abel. It’s vengeance instead of just all out violence. Theologian Michael Hardin points out why we do the Eucharist for this very reason:

“How many times have you read in a news report about someone being killed and the family calling for justice? How many times have you read or heard others say that someone who committed a criminal act ‘got what they deserved?’ Retaliation, eye for eye, lex talionis, is the way we humans do justice. This is the voice of Abel crying out from the ground for vengeance. “Cain bombed my city and killed innocent me, O God, now kill him to balance the books of the universe.” We hear this voice in many of the Psalms where the singer, who is persecuted, cries out for revenge.

Yet, when we take the cup to drink the blood of our Victim, Jesus, Son of God, True Human, Lord of the Universe, is it revenge we hear? No, it is the cup of forgiveness. In his blood we find only forgiveness. There is no hint of revenge either now or in the future. All revenge or retaliation by God is forever forsworn. As the writer to Hebrews says, “Jesus’ blood speaks a better word than that of Abel’s.” Jesus blood does not cry out for justice, his blood cries out for mercy”.

Beautiful! Mercy and forgiveness is what this new creation in The Universal Christ is all about! This is what stops evil. When we let go of the violence of Cain and the vengeance of Abel, we step into the flow of love that Christ showed on the cross: Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing. What a profound statement and a whole new way of interacting with our so-called “enemies”. If the cross shows us anything about God, it’s revealing how God reacts to enemy violence: LOVE.

Yes. It’s love that defeats evil. This love is a non-violent resister to the principalities and powers of darkness that come about when we think violence solves the issue. We must come to grasp to the reality of the Spirit that always loves–brings joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. There is a meaningful trajectory to this way of enemy-forgiving love.

This changes the whole concept of hero. The hero of the story is always the enemy-loving symbol of forgiveness not revenge. We are not here to survive but to thrive. Look, violent marvel hero movies always tickles my fancy (along with the rest of the western world). I am not trying to stop you from going to the movies for God sakes. All I’m pointing out is to truly be the hero who saves the day, it comes by non-violence. Let us be Forgivers that bring new life, not Avengers that end it…

“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

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by Jim Gordon

The Ten Commandments, tithing, church attendance, do this, avoid that….we Christians like to make things so much more difficult than God intended. We have the mentality that in order to be approved by God we need to obey the law and be busy doing good things for Him.

Galatians 2:16 and 20 make it plain that we are not justified by the works of the law. We are justified by faith in Christ. Jesus lived a perfect life here on earth. He lived up to the Law, the rules and regulations that God required for a person to be perfect. By doing so, when Christ died on the cross he was qualified to be the perfect sacrifice that would fulfill the law, forgive all sins and restore our fellowship with the God. When Jesus said it is finished he meant the old agreement was complete and done.

LoveFulfillstheLaw

We no longer live by the old covenant. We no longer need to mix old covenant law with new covenant grace. It cannot be done.

When Jesus died and rose again he restored our fellowship with God. We can have direct access to him without an intermediary. We were spiritually crucified with Him. We are now raised up as new creatures in Christ and live as the righteousness of God because of the free gift we received through Christ.

We no longer live according to the old covenant nor trying to live by the law. We are now free in Christ and we live each day by faith in Him. We live out of love for God because of the grace that was given to us by Christ. When we continue to try to follow the ten commandments and old testament law we are saying that the death of Jesus was not enough.

Enjoy the freedom we have because of Christ. Do not bind yourself to all the rules and requirements of the law. Live a life being free in Christ. Live out of love for God and enjoy daily fellowship with Him.

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by Jim Gordon

Did Jesus teach from the Old Covenant? Was not the birth of Christ the beginning of the New Covenant? When does the Old Covenant end and the New Covenant begin? We tend to forget that the Old Covenant does not end with Malachi and the New Covenant does not start with Matthew.

Even though Jesus came to fulfill the old agreement through grace, the first thirty-three years that Jesus walked the earth He lived under the Old Covenant. He was required to follow all its rules and regulations. He even taught from those rules, yet those rules are no longer intended for us. ‘But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons’. Galatians 4:4,5

OldandNewCovenant

The New Covenant began when Jesus was crucified. When He said ‘It is finished’ He was talking about the Law, the Old Covenant. Upon His resurrection the New Covenant began and we are no longer required to try and live under the Law and the way of the Old Covenant. It is finished!

The old agreement was basically a tutor. A way God used to show humans that we were unable to live a perfect life on our own. It was a way to show us that we needed someone to redeem us and restore our fellowship with the Father. Jesus came and fulfilled the old agreement and upon his resurrection made a new agreement of grace. ‘Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill’. Matthew 5:17

Now that the Law has been fulfilled in Christ, we are no longer required to try to live by the ten commandments and the rules and regulations of the Old Covenant. So often we seem to forget that because of grace we now live by faith in Christ. We are no longer slaves to sin, we are no longer just a poor sinner saved by grace although we were sinners and we are saved by grace. We are now the righteousness of God through Christ. God no longer calls us slaves but He calls us Sons. We are seated in heavenly places in Christ. This is not to say that we should go out and do whatever we want, right or wrong. We do have freedom in Christ to do what we choose, but there are consequences if we choose things that God has warned us to stay away from.

Today we choose to live a life pleasing to God because of love. Godly love is the fulfillment of the Law. We love God and we love others, we have been made righteous through Christ and we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who guides us, teaches us and gives us strength. We do not love or please God out of obligation. We do not love him because we are trying to fulfill a set of rules and Old Testament laws that we could not live up to anyway. We do what is pleasing to God because we choose to do so because of our love for Him.

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by Jim Gordon

Have you ever passed a church building and saw a sign out front that says ‘Everyone is Welcome’? When I see one, I always wonder if they really mean what they say. I have seen so many congregations over the years get set in their ways and enjoy the people who are regulars, but what would happen if ‘everyone’ did come to their church?

What would the thoughts and feelings be if a gay couple walked in, or if a group of homeless people came to hear the Sunday morning sermon? What if an atheist or muslim group decided to stop by and join the service? Would everyone be truly welcome?

We know that Jesus literally welcomed everyone and mostly those who the religious world did not want to have any association. Jesus met with and cared for the people who probably would not go to a church, either because they would not be truly welcome or because they just did not think they would fit in.

everyoneiswelcome

Maybe that says something about our organized church of today. Maybe we have become so involved with religion, being exclusive and following the denominations way of doing things that we have lost our first love. Could we be so caught up in the trends of modern religion that we forget our relationship with God?

Maybe we need to concentrate more on living in fellowship with Christ on a daily basis. More of loving Him and loving others and less about what building we go to on Sunday morning, if we go at all. The true Church is not a building and it does not matter which day we meet or where we meet. The Church is a community of believers. Those who live for Him each and every day. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We should not be focused on a building but on a daily walk with Him.

To love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and to love others as ourselves fulfills the law. We no longer need to worry about obeying the old covenant law. Jesus has fulfilled the law and we now live under a new covenant of grace. This covenant went into effect at the death and resurrection of Jesus. We now have the Living Word within us through the Holy Spirit. We no longer need any man to teach us the ways of God because the Spirit lives within us as our guide.

It is time to put our focus back on our first love, Jesus. It is time to live out our relationship with God on a daily basis, not just on one day we call the sabbath. As followers of Christ we walk with him daily, loving God, loving others and being prepared to give an answer of the hope that is within us to those who ask us. I pray we all let the love of God show through us so that others will know they are loved and accepted by Him.

Share your thoughts in the comments below

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by Jim Gordon

Have you noticed how people like to look up toward the sky when they think of God? I recently watched several football players giving God praise by looking up and pointing toward the sky. Many of us who are Christians seem to think of God as being up in the sky somewhere looking down on us. We are taught in our churches that God is up there and someday we will go to meet him and be with him.

 

We tend to forget that the Kingdom of God is within us. We are told that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and God makes his home within us. The fact is that we really do not act like we believe this truth.

 

If we could only get it in our head and down in our spirit that God is not somewhere up there, far away in heaven. He lives within us by his Spirit. We have the Spirit within us to teach and guide us. The bible says we have the mind of Christ. That is because his Spirit lives within us.

TempleofGodfor WordPress

 

We are living in the Kingdom right now. Yes, we are constrained by our human body but our spirit is one with his Spirit and we are spiritually living with him in his Kingdom.

 

It would be nice to begin hearing more about the presence of God within us right now rather than a God who is far away and who may show up from time to time to bless us in some special way if we attend the right meeting at the right place.

 

God is here now, living within us. He goes with us each and every day through whatever we go through in our daily life. He loves us and is concerned about us and is there for our good. It can be a hard thing to get the old teachings of the church out of our heads and accept the fact that God lives within us now. It reminds me of the old saying ‘you can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy’. You can take the boy out of religion but you can’t take religion out of the boy, or it is really hard to do so.

 

Religion is man’s way of making his way to God. Yet we find out that man cannot come to God by his efforts and good works. Grace is the only way man comes to God, and it is all by the good works of the Father through Jesus.

 

Once Jesus left this earth he sent us a comforter, his Spirit who now dwells within his Church. His Church is not a religious organization and is not a building. It is his followers no matter what church they attend or if they do not attend a religious organization at all.

 

God lives within us. He makes his home within us and is with us spiritually just as much now as he will be when this earthly body passes away and we live in our glorified, spiritual bodies.

 

Start making the effort to see things as God says they are, not as we have been taught within religion. God is not up in the sky, he lives within us. We are his temple and each of us collectively form his kingdom body now.

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by Jim Gordon

I have read many articles about church abuse. It seems many Christians have been through bad times in the organized church and they have become angry and frustrated with the system. Certainly understandable.

For me, I cannot say I went through anything I would call abuse in the system. I grew up in church and was very active over the years. I truly felt I was doing what was pleasing to God and I earnestly was trying to learn and do what He would want me to do.

When I hear all the abuse stories and all the troubling times in organized religion, I do not always understand. I know there are many people in the modern, organized church that truly love God and are trying to please him. I also realize there are many people who were unduly abused in various ways during their church life, and that is very sad.

For me, after several years of being unsatisfied with the system and feeling there certainly had to be more to it than what I had been part of, I stopped attending a traditional church. Obviously, this has to be something you feel is right for you. I do not think it is a good thing to tell people they should do the same. This is a choice that each believer has to make for themselves. I came to this conclusion after many years of seeing things, questioning things, reading things and just being completely frustrated with the system of organized religion.

I have no regrets in leaving, although I have no regrets for being a part of it for so many years either. I did learn a lot and made a lot of good friends. Of course, because of the years involved there are many beliefs and ideas I need to detox from now.

For now, feeling the system is wrong, my wife and I have decided to walk with God outside the walls of the organized church. Not that anyone is intentionally trying to do what is wrong but the whole modern-day organized church is off base. Granted, the system is the only thing we know. It has been this way for years and we grew up with it and thought it was the way it should be.

We have it engrained in us that to assemble ourselves together is to go to church on Sunday morning and sit through a scheduled program. Nowhere does scripture tell us that assembling together has to be done in a particular way, at a special time or in a set place.

churchnotabuilding

We are told that the pastor is the spiritual head and the one we learn from and come under authority and guidance. Of course, God tells us that Jesus is the head of the church, which is his body and the Holy Spirit is our teacher and we need no one to teach us other than him.

We are taught that we are saved by grace, but we need to live by the law to be pleasing to God. Reading through Paul’s teachings it is easy to see that we live by grace. Now trying to live under the law is a curse (Galatians 3:10-13). Jesus fulfilled the Old Covenant Law for us because we could not do it. Jesus did the work, Jesus died and ended the Old Covenant. Upon his resurrection the New Covenant began and we now live by grace. The New Covenant tells us to love God with all our heart and love others.

The Law was a tutor to show us that we were completely incapable of keeping the law and living a perfect life. Only Jesus was able to live a perfect life. For us Christians, a tutor is no longer needed because we have come to Christ and depend on his work and grace.

We are taught that the Bible is the true, living, inerrant word of God. John 1:1 tells us that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. To me that says that Jesus is the living Word. The Bible is the inspired words of God, but we are not to look to the Bible as the all-powerful, inerrant source of what God has to say. We should look to Jesus who is our all in all, our very life.

We are taught to tithe although that is not taught under the New Covenant. Giving as we see a need and as we feel lead is now done out of love, not tithing to the church as a requirement. I personally feel the church today is more of a big business than it is a religious organization. Tithing is pushed because the organization needs to have the bills and the salaries paid.

We are told we are poor sinners saved by grace and that we are weak, unrighteous worms who are unworthy of God’s love. Yet the bible says we were originally created in the likeness of God. We cannot live a perfect life in our humanness but because of Christ and the work he has done, we have been restored to fellowship with our Father. We are now the house of God and we are holy and righteous in his sight because of Christ.

People want to put themselves under the authority of a pastor or the elders of the church, but God says we are all kings and priests and Jesus is the head. We all have something to say when we come together to build one another up. There are no levels of authority among believers. We are all equal parts of his body and have equally important functions to fulfill in encouraging and building one another up.

I think an important fact for us to remember today is that no matter if you are ‘in church’ or outside the walls, we should be looking to each other in love and not fight and argue amongst ourselves. Whether you are going to church, you are going for the Lord, or if you do not go to church, you are doing so for the Lord. Accept each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, pray for one another, encourage one another and stop looking down on people who see things differently than you.

Even those outside of Christianity need our love not our condemnation. Jesus loved those who the religious leaders of his day did not want to have any association. We want our Christian church, Christian schools, Christian dating sites, Christian this, Christian that, whatever we can do to be separate and apart from the non-Christians. Yet we were told to go into all the world and show the love of God to all those that are around us.

YouaretheChurch490

I truly feel that being a person in Christ is a daily lifestyle. Being the church is a 24/7 way of life not a Sunday only thing. God said that He is building His church and that He no longer lives in buildings made with hands. We are the church, we are God’s house, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we are the body of Christ. We function together as equally needed parts of the body under the headship of Jesus.

We need to adjust our way of thinking and realize that church and Christianity are not a religion. It is a lifestyle we live day by day. Jesus is our life, it should be no longer us trying and doing, but resting in what Christ has done for us. We are in Christ and it is him living in us day by day that makes the difference. We may be the only Jesus a lot of people will ever know.

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by Jim Gordon

Grace. It is not something we say before a meal. It is a life-changing event that was provided for us by a loving God. We are saved by grace. A one-time event of Christ dying on the cross provided all we needed to be restored to fellowship and right standing with our Father.

But grace itself is an ongoing, daily event. We are not saved and then just sit around and do nothing. Jesus told us to follow Him. Love others, do good to others and follow his example.

growingrace

By grace our sinful nature is crucified, dead and buried. By grace we are resurrected in the power of Christ and it is His spirit that now lives within us. By grace we are now hidden in Christ and seated at the right hand of God (Colossian 3:1-3). We do not just wait until we die our natural life to enter His Kingdom, we now live in the Kingdom of God.

When we realize that only by dying (spiritually speaking) and allowing the life of Christ to dwell within us is when we can truly follow Him. It has been said that a dead man has no worries. When we are dead to self and alive to Christ, it is His life that is within us by the power of the Spirit. His desires become our desires. His thoughts become our thoughts.

We are saved by grace, we cannot buy it, cannot earn it, cannot do anything to pay God back for it. Each day we can commit ourselves to God, acknowledge that the Spirit of Christ lives within us and daily deny the human nature and selfish desires that separate us from true fellowship with the Father.

Grace is an ongoing, daily lifestyle. It is our choice to commit to Him. When we do, we will continue to grow in grace and knowledge of Him, and we will enjoy fellowship with our Father every day.

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