Posts Tagged grace

Conscience Bath

Hebrews 9: 14

How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

The writer of Hebrews makes the comparison between the Old Testament sacrifice of the blood of animals to the New Covenant established in the blood of Jesus. The blood of animals was able to purify people so that they were presented clean. How much more the blood of Christ? However, let us take note. This verse really isn’t so much about being washed and, thus, presented holy and clean as it is about sin consciousness. There is a big difference.

Would you feel more clean, more justified if I sprinkled you with the blood of a sacrificed animal? That is the issue here. The blood of Christ is pristine enough to sear our consciousness of sin, that is, if we allow it. There is power in the blood of Christ but there is more power in your authority as the decision maker. As I have written before, you are either an old sinner or you are saved by grace. To say that you are an old sinner saved by grace makes a good sound byte but the reality is that you are either one or the other. We understand what people are attempting to convey with that statement, and it is meant to be a statement of humility. However, the greatest statement of all is, “I am clean.” Now that is a faith statement and it takes throwing yourself completely into the blood and sacrifice of Christ to make it.

The point of this verse and this theme is that since Christ cleansed you from all unrighteousness and washed away your sin (past, present and future) with his blood, then you ought to have a clean conscience as well. If we maintain a guilty conscience, or awareness of our sin, then that is a confession that Jesus’ blood was not sufficient. A continuing reminder of our former sin, then, tends to give way to dead works. What are dead works? Those are the things we do, even subconsciously, to earn salvation.

We know we are unworthy of salvation. Therefore, we subconsciously do the things which we think will earn us favor with God. We try to do the “right things.” At one level these behaviors and the motivation for them appear, if not holy, at least rightful. In truth, though, they are repugnant, a stench in the nostrils of God. Why? The reason is because the entire paradigm is based on an egocentric religion. It does not flow from faith and thanksgiving to the Almighty. It does not depend on the blood of Christ. This salvation depends solely on our worthiness. This righteousness comes through our own strength. We must earn the favor of God through behaviors.

The true faith lies in surrender. It requires much greater faith in God and in the sacrifice He and Jesus made to say, “I was unworthy but now I am clean.” God says you are His righteousness now. (2 Corinthians 5: 21). There is nothing you can do to add to your standing with Him and the blood of Christ, when it is fully and freely accepted, cleanses, purges the consciousness of sin and stain. Our very conscience will be wiped clean from dead works. In that clean conscience is living worship and service to the king.

If you can’t say, “I stand clean before the Lord,” then meditate on this scripture and 2 Corinthians 5: 21. You have been made clean by Jesus’ blood. You will never be more clean than you are at this moment nor will sin stain your conscience if you accept what Christ did. You are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, no longer an old sinner but fully and completely saved and washed by grace. Glory to God and our precious Lord Jesus!

Law and Life

Matthew 12: 1 – 2

At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath through the grainfields, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Behold, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath.”

Whoa! This is major bad news! Jesus, he whom we hold up as perfect, as having never sinned, broke the law. He and his disciples did not keep to the law regarding the Sabbath. The law says, “For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall surely be put to death” (Exodus 31: 15).

How many times have we read over this without even pausing to consider the significance? For myself the answer is, many times. This passage is right here in the middle of the first book of the New Testament; in the gospels. It would seem to have calamitous results for our faith. So, what gives?

Jesus’ answer is contained in verses three through eight but the substance of it is in verse seven, “But if you had known what this means, I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE, you would not have condemned the innocent.” What does he mean by this and how does this answer the problem of the law?

The answer is found in 1 John 4: 8, “God is love.” Compassion has greater weight in the Kingdom of God than law. I am not disregarding the law, only showing that there is something superior and that is the love of God which is most clearly demonstrated in acts of grace. Jesus came to bring God’s Kingdom to earth, but what is His Kingdom? Here we see that God values grace over law. He sent Jesus so that we could be free from the curse of the law.

How many of us stand in the same shoes as the Pharisees? I know that I have in the past. When confronted with someone who was engaged in an adulterous affair, all I could see was the law. It is very, very hard not to be so hide bound that all you can see is the letter of the law applied to the situation. Where does grace fit in here? What does love have to do with it and why was Jesus not put to death for his violation of the law? How does compassion apply to this situation and who are the innocents of whom Jesus speaks?

The Pharisees had them dead to rights. Why didn’t they prosecute? Even the Pharisees were forestalled by Jesus’ response. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath (v. 8) which means what Jesus brought into the earth is a higher law than the law of Moses. Jesus reminded the Pharisees, who knew the law, what was recorded in Hosea 6: 6, “For what I desire is mercy, not sacrifices.” Mercy, grace and compassion, those are the laws of the Kingdom of God. They are a higher law than anything else.

This, I believe, is what Jesus was trying to tell us in this passage. We have a tendency towards strict application of the law to all people other than ourselves. We get a revelation of grace when we are in the hot seat, but it is considerably harder when we look upon others. Why were the actions of Jesus and his disciples not sin? Because the higher law stepped in. God’s mercy and Jesus’ lordship are bigger than the law. There is a higher law in the land now, one that is rooted in the love and compassion of God. Jesus came to set us free from the bondage of the law so that we too can walk in the grace of our Lord. This explains why the fruit of the Spirit and the characteristics of God are shown in kindness, goodness, gentleness, etc. When we are able to really wrap our heads around this, we will understand a great deal about the Kingdom of God. I would say this is a great passage to meditate on and even to journal. Ask the Father to explain this to your heart, “How can Jesus be sin free when he broke the law?” The answer is as big as God Himself and will completely revolutionize the church if we can grasp it. Herein lies the Kingdom of God in its glory. Partake of His goodness in full.

Who May Abide?

Psalm 15

O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart. He does not slander with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a reprobate is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord; he swears to his own hurt and does not change; he does not put out his money at interest, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken.

David asks a good question here, does he not? Who may abide with God, abide in His tent? The answer David provided is simple but certainly not easy. Can we stand up to this list? I have good news. This is not our test for abiding with the Father. Our test is only one question and it is a simple yes/no question. Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior? If you answer yes to this question then the Father has provided suitable habitation for you to live together with Him now and forever.

Our righteousness is in Jesus and him alone. All of the things David aspired to and listed for God’s people are values we should ascribe to, of course. Being accepted by Christ compels us to acts of morality, decency and ethical behavior. It should call us into the highest levels of character. However, nothing we can do on our own will win favor with God nor secure us a place in eternity. Christ is our way, the only way. His blood washes us clean and secures our place in God’s tent.

On the one hand, that takes a tremendous amount of weight and worry off of us. On the other hand, realizing the truth of this construct creates, hopefully, a desire to make Jesus’ sacrifice meaningful. It may stir up a sincere desire to do something for him, not out of duty but out of love. It makes us better people than we were on our own. There is no thank you large enough to cover what God and Jesus have done for us. I don’t think for one minute we should take for granted the gift they have given us. Equally insulting, though, is for us to try to earn it. Actually, I think it is far more egregious. Trying to earn it, is as if to say their sacrifice was not good enough, like our labor and good works could ever add anything to the blessing they have bestowed on us.

So, we revel in the grace that was poured out for us and we glorify Father and Son for making us family. We can be happy and rejoice in having a home with a loving Father. We do good because they are good and our hearts draw us to be more like them because we admire them. There is nothing left for us to earn. They have done it all. Celebrate with Father and Son in the miracle of your salvation and in your adoption as a child of the Most High and be blessed.

Camels and Gnats

Matthew 23: 24

You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

The camel of which Jesus warns, is judgment. I know I am guilty in this. As we judge what is wrong in others or with other’s behaviors we commit an even bigger crime, that of judgment. There is grace from God for all mistakes, error and sin. However, you will find that judgment is one of the hardest attributes to be forgiven of. Why? It is because a judgmental heart does not know grace and mercy. Therefore, the person who is critical and judgmental does not have that well of God’s grace within themselves to draw upon, even for themselves. They are choking on a camel while criticizing another for their gnat sized fault. It turns out, therefore, that we are best able to experience forgiveness for all of our imperfections when we first extend the grace and forgiveness of God to others. Another way of understanding this is that we create an environment of grace when we extend forgiveness to others, which we then become the foremost benefactors of.

It seems the church is often the last one to the party in the sense that we, who purportedly love the God of love, are often the most critical and judgmental of all people. For once, I would like the Christian Church to be the leader in embracing all people with the profound love of God. Maybe then, we could also receive forgiveness for ourselves and abandon the embittered personalities that so many of us tend to show to the public. There is enough love in our God for the whole world, but it must come through us.

Ultimately, this is a message of healing and it is a selfish message. If we would heal ourselves, it must be through the outpouring of grace, mercy and fellowship that our Father has poured out on us. When we finally, embrace who we are in Christ, then we will finally forgive ourselves and at long last we will receive the warmth of God’s forgiveness into our very spirits. We will be healed. We will be whole and God will be able to move into our hearts and make His home there. We will be fulfilled and will overflow with joy. Our freedom, our healing and our ultimate joy are found in accepting others without judgment or criticism. So do yourself a favor, let grace and acceptance be your calling cards. Let love have her perfect way in your heart.

The Throne Room

Hebrews 4: 16

Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.

I do interactive journaling for www.bornofthespirit.today. I recently asked God about this verse and what He would like to reveal to me about it. Click on the link above to see what He said to me. As I pondered all that He said to me, I knew I wanted to use this same verse for a Word of the Day.

The Protestant Reformation was supposed to usher in a time of approachability to God. No longer do we need a priest to speak to God for us or to tell us what God says to us. This is not to minimize the operation of spiritual gifts; that is another topic entirely. This discussion focuses on the necessity of another human to facilitate the conversation between us and the Father. You can speak directly to Him and more importantly you can hear from Him yourself.

Before Christ, only the High Priest could go into the Holy of Holies where the presence of God resided. Even then, he could only enter at the appointed time and after the proper preparation. Jesus tore the dividing veil asunder, literally, and now each of us has an open invitation into the very presence of God. We have a pass which entitles us to enter into His throne room at any time of the day or night, weekdays and weekends. There is not one minute of one day when the doors of the throne room are closed to us. Don’t you find that amazing?

We all need more of God. We need Him morning, noon and night and this verse shows us that we have availability to Him. Whatever you are doing right now, pause and take a moment to see yourself walk through the giant doors, which equally gigantic angels hold open for you. See your Father on His throne, beaming with His smile of welcome. Go to Him. Enjoy His presence and return frequently.

Compassionate Grace

Exodus 34: 6 – 7

Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth.

How often have you heard about the angry, vengeful God of the Old Testament? Well, here He is full of compassion, grace, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. You know, we’ve got to be careful about what we listen to. Show me the scriptures! Give me evidence! When we actually look at the Old Testament, especially in its entirety, we find a God who was long on patience and whose actions were characterized by lovingkindness.

God is love and He so loved all of us that He sent His only begotten son to the cross for us. No one sends there only son to suffer and die for people He doesn’t love. He gave everything precious to Him so that we could be saved. Is that evidence of a vengeful God. And think about it this way . . . didn’t Jesus come to earth, suffer and die in the Old Testament? The new dispensation and the new covenant could not be ushered in until Jesus went to the cross, died and arose so all that we celebrate in the Christian faith about resurrection, salvation and the new birth is based on the Old Covenant love of God.

Yahweh has always been a full of compassion and lovingkindness. When Moses hid himself so that God could pass before him, what he saw and reported was that this God was full of graciousness, truth and compassion. We learn that God was and is slow to anger. How can we justifiably describe Him as angry when He is slow to anger? Does that make any sense at all?

The truth is that God is as He always was. He has not changed. His love for us has always motivated His actions. The fact that He did not send a lightning storm and strike down the grumbling, complaining Israelites in the desert is proof enough of His long suffering. Not one among us is as patient or as slow to anger as our Divine Father and yet we accuse Him of being impatient and merciless. It is just not true. We’ve been lied to but now we know.

Never be afraid of your heavenly Father. Never fear seeking counsel and communion with Him. He is gentle and kind. In fact, He is the most gentle being that has ever inhabited this universe. His compassion knows no boundaries. I love Jesus and I know you do too but we must remember that Jesus came to reconcile us to the Father. Jesus is the way. The way to what? To the Father. Jesus’ mission was to bring us back into relationship with the Father when we, like the prodigal son, sinned against Him and went astray. All the while, the Father was awaiting us, His eyes searching the horizon, a gold ring and new robe in Hands readied to drape us in the family colors and crest. He is the one who was deprived yet He longingly awaited our return, every day searching the road in the anticipation of our appearance. He never lost faith. He put the sacrificial lamb on the alter so that we would be able to approach Him with a clean conscience. This is the act of love, not anger.

The God of the Old Testament is a loving God, full of grace and mercy, abounding in compassionate concern.

Intertwined with Jesus

Isaiah 40: 31

Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.

When you go to our webpage (www.iveyministries.org) you will see this verse on the leading banner. One might question why we have chosen this verse when there are others which seemingly fit the logo better. Of course, one thinks of John 15: 5, “ I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.” Yes, I love that verse. It is rich, but so is today’s verse.

To really appreciated today’s verse one needs to look a bit deeper. If you stopped reading this and looked at our website, you undoubtedly noticed a difference. Above reads, “those you wait for the Lord.” The website verse reads, “those who hope in the Lord.” That is the NIV reading whereas for the Word of the Day I used the New American Standard Bible. Which is right? Well, they both are. The God’s Word version deals with this verse well. It says, Yet, the strength of those who wait with hope in the Lord will be renewed.” Certainly that adds clarity between the various readings but still, I have not answered why this verse in any version would be appropriate for Ivey Ministries other than it is just a great verse and inspiration from the Lord. In order to reveal the very essence of this verse we must look in the concordance.

When you look up the word “wait” in Strong’s Concordance (Strong’s no. 6960) you find it is the Hebrew word “qavah”. It is a root word which means to bind together perhaps specifically or particularly by twisting. So let’s look at today’s verse in this light, “Those who are ‘twisted together with the Lord’ will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” Now, that makes sense, doesn’t it? Let me restate it, “Those whose lives are twisted together, intertwined, with the Lord, shall have great strength.”  One would expect nothing less. The word qavah also implies a sense of expectation. Truly, if we each had a revelation of being inextricably intertwined with Jesus wouldn’t we have enormous expectations of goodness, power, strength and blessing flowing in and through our lives?

That is what I want for you, a life so full of the indwelling presence of the Lord that when you breath, he breathes; when you speak, he speaks. I want the blessing of the Lord to fill you to overflowing. The overflowing grace of the Lord will bless all people you come in contact with. You have the right to walk in the power of the Lord, yes, but also in his majesty. I want you so full that you have the answers, authority, words and power for every situation. I envision each one of you so full of Jesus that he literally overflows from you. All victory, all glory is yours in Christ and that is what you are entitled to. Do you want to talk about entitlement? This is your inheritance in Christ, full victory and glory of the Father. Everything that Jesus is belongs to you through him. He so desired to give you full access to all the glory of God that he chose to go to the cross. Let us not stop short of everything. Let us not settle for anything less than Jesus’ absolute best. This is the Kingdom of God, that we should be intertwined with the Beloved and behold His face. Glory to God and to His children.

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