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Posts Tagged ‘grace’

by Jim Gordon

Galatians 2:16 – nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus

We Christians so often spend our time working at trying to obey the Ten Commandments and trying to do the right thing when in actuality we do not need to be trying to keep the law at all.

We know we are saved by grace but we will still try to mix in some good works by our own effort. We go to church every time the door is open, we tithe our ten percent, we will not smoke, drink, dance or go to movies. We look down and condemn those who do not do what we feel the Bible commands. We feel guilty every time we mess up and think God is going punish us if we do not do everything we know is right to do as Christians. It is all work, work, work.

What happened to grace? What happened to being saved through faith in Christ and Him alone. Not Jesus plus works, not Jesus plus baptism, not Jesus plus obeying the law. We are saved through faith in Christ and we do not have to do any of these things. We do not have to avoid certain things to be loved by God. We have a freedom in Christ that was bought and paid for with the death and resurrection of Jesus. That does not mean we just live our lives doing whatever we want, but we live in the freedom we have through grace. We do things out of love, love for God and love for others. It is no longer out of obligation or trying to follow the law.

Let’s stop putting all the rules and regulations on ourselves and others that we think will make us better people. Let’s stop adding a mixture of law and grace by trying to earn the love of God by our works. Let’s start loving God and loving others and enjoy the freedom God has provided by his grace.

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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 Rocky Glenn

My thoughts going into Easter this past weekend were a mixed bag of criticism, questions, and self-analyzation.  Although this wasn’t the first year we have not actively participated in any church based Easter activities, ghosts of special sermons, carefully selected worship songs, newly purchased clothes, and orders of service timed to the minute haunted my mind.  I have actively, willingly, and intentionally played a role in times past of ensuring Easter Sunday morning service is meticulously planned and flawlessly executed.  Every effort was made to make the right impression on the countless visitors we were certain would be in attendance.  After all, if the plan was executed perfectly it would draw people to join our congregation and our attendance would increase showing how great of a place we were.  Heck, if we performed well enough, visitors might even make a decision to follow Christ!  Oh yeah, I guess we were actually celebrating Christ’s resurrection as well, but, despite being repeatedly mentioned throughout the course of the service, it never seemed to be the real focal point.  There was more concern taken over the timing of every agenda item and every detail of cleanliness and structure rather than celebrating the day for what it was to represent.  It was the biggest Sunday of the year and was treated as such.  It’s the institutional church’s Super Bowl!

Late last week I had a conversation with a long time friend via text and we discussed the subject.  Having walked together through many different courses of life, and many changes in beliefs for each of us, I knew he was someone safe to talk to and would not return any judgment if I shared my true feelings.  I mentioned my disdain for what it has become and how I referred it to as the Evangelical Church’s Super Bowl.  The response I received was a simple, “It’s pretty much all Christians’ Super Bowl,” and he went on to explain it should be a cause of celebration.  He mentioned the resurrection should truly be the one thing in the world we have reason to celebrate and the manner in which we do so should inform people of the power of the resurrection.  I pointed out my problem is it’s the one day of the year we talk about the resurrection and we then live the rest of the year forgetting  it.  We celebrate and look forward to the day itself and gloss over the event.  The next response I received was significant and gently reminded me there were three fingers pointing back at me on the same hand with which I was pointing at others, “Most people are very inconsistent.  I know I am to an extent . . . I say that to seem somehow piously humble, I mean it. I’m an inconsistent mess sometimes.”  The conversation which followed took us everywhere from the prodigal son and his older brother to being focused solely on our own salvation to the true purpose of our faith being faith itself and not our eternal destination.

As I reflected back on the conversation over the next two days, I believe he hit the heart of the matter with the word inconsistent.  If we are all honest with ourselves, we are all just a giant bundle of inconsistencies. Paul stated this in his letter to Rome as simply, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.”  To live a human life is to live a life of inconsistencies.  Inconsistencies appear in both our actions and beliefs and become glaringly obvious when the two do not align with one another.  What we believe as absolutes today are the very things we may question tomorrow.  Theologies and beliefs I would have once defended I now despise and detest.  Though I lived a life once grounded in rules, regulations, and expectations, I strive now to live with an open minded letting Love be my guide.  Yet, in the very same breath with which I proclaim to live in Love I often find myself judging and looking harshly at those who choose to remain in the path I traveled for many years.  Despite striving to live freely in grace and seeking to show grace to others, my back still stiffens as my blood pressure raises when I’m cornered about why I walked away from the life I once lived.  I find it difficult to not respond in anger when being accused of leaving my faith and when I am judged as sliding down a slippery slope to damnation.  The churchboy I lived as would never openly admit to living such a life of inconsistencies no matter how true it would have been.  His life was all about maintaining the perfect image of what he believed a Christian should look like.  I would like to believe the churchboy I once was is dead, but as I shared recently I am forever recovering.  

Brennan Manning admitted his inconsistencies like this:

“When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.
To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.”

I’m at a point in my journey where I can truly recite Brennan’s words as my own.    Brennan captured what I now believe a Christian truly is as he concluded his statement above with the words of Thomas Merton, “A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.”  This goodness of God is found in returning to Paul’s letter just a few sentences after his admission shared above, “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Paul’s words bring us back full circle and return us to Jesus and his resurrection which is where our discussion began.  In pondering and reflecting on Easter, I found I was not alone in the process.  One friend spent the week on social media questioning if our obsession with and promotion of holy days had gotten in our way of enjoying the blessing we have in Jesus Christ each and every day.  On Easter Day itself, he gracefully summed up the week with the following sentences:

There is nothing wrong when we celebrate a certain day as “holy” when it is an option you choose in your own conscience before God.

At the same time, there is not a single instance in the grace portion of your and my bible where a holy day is presumed true and where celebrating a certain day is ever mandated.

Whenever and wherever a mandate to observe a holy day is present, it is a violation of God’s grace who cleansed our consciences and who liberated our minds and our consciences to enjoy him free of manmade ritual and tradition.

A life of grace is a life free of manmade mandates of ritual and tradition.  It all comes down to your own conscience before God.  To share grace with others is to refuse to view them through your own personal mandates which arise as result of that conscience between you and God.

Inconsistencies will arrive and plague us as long as we live but as Paul, Brennan, and Thomas all point out, it’s through Jesus we overcome them.  His consistency overcomes our inconsistencies just as His perfection overcomes our imperfection.

Rocky

 

 

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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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