Posts Tagged grace

Law or Liberty

Psalm 1: 2

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.

I want to talk about prayer and study today. I continually encourage you to read your Bible but the question is, is this a matter of law or can we find liberty in it.

We live in a period of grace, Jesus having saved us from the curse of the law and being the very fulfillment of the law in this age. So, is it right or acceptable for ministers to teach and advocate the exercise of legal requirements? I think the answer is no but I think we do it so we must be vigilant to preach liberty to the captives. We tell you to tithe and to give offerings. We tell you to read your Bible and pray daily. Does it begin to sound like law. In other words, is this something you must do in order to please God?

The Bible says, “without faith it is impossible to please Him,” (Hebrews 11: 6). So, anything we do without faith will not please Him. That includes reading your Bible and even praying. That is a big concept, isn’t it? Don’t get me wrong. I want you to read your Bible every day. I want you to spend time talking with Dad. It’s just that I want you to do it because you choose to, not because the law requires it of you. Reading the Word, meditating on it, discussing it with the three persons of the trinity are important because in those tasks are key elements to your freedom, success and overall wellness. We are learning that it is good for our brains, good for our bodies and good even for our pocketbooks. The same is true of giving into God’s work. I do not want it to sound like law. I want you doing these things because it is healthy to your life.

Any thing which draws you closer to Jesus is going to make you happier, healthier and more prosperous. Listening to his voice is key to having the abundant life Jesus came to give you. I have pointed out Joshua 1: 8 several times before. This was God’s advice to Joshua when he was required to assume the leadership of Israel after Moses’ death. It reads, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night.” Even when God spoke this to Joshua He did not give it to him as law. God wanted to encourage Joshua and give him the help he needed. So God told him to camp in the Word. It is for this same reason that I and others continuously encourage you to read and think about what the Bible teaches. If it is the single best piece of advice God could come up with, it must be pretty potent.

Literally, this verse from the book of Joshua means to observe the Word. In other words, we are to engage ourselves with it, looking to see what it says and what it does. And, it’s not as if we don’t have Jesus, Father and the Holy Spirit to ask when we don’t understand it. God promised He would give us wisdom when we ask but it usually comes when we are focused on His Word. Spend an hour in it or three days in it as Kenneth Copeland often does, and you will also observe some things that are not only fascinating but life giving as well.

There are promises which go with focused attention to the Word. I didn’t share verse three with you until now. It promises that the person who does ponder Father’s Word will be “like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” Come on!  That’s great news! So, don’t meditate day and night because you are commanded to. Don’t do it because you feel a compunction. Do it as an exercise of your liberty and in faith because you want to. Desire to know what Father has hidden in those pages just for you. It is a veritable gold mine. Really! The Word has power to transform lives, especially yours because you are already open to His heart. You are unique in the body of Christ as you are devout in reading this daily devotional. Let Father impart even more into your life. Be Joshua. Be the believer who is firmly planted by streams of water. Be free to live abundantly.

No More Pain

Psalm 30: 1, 5               God’s Word

Verses 7 – 8, 10 – 11    Passion Translation

I will honor you highly, O Lord, because you have pulled me out of the pit. Weeping may last for the night, but there is a song of joy in the morning. I was panic-stricken and became depressed. Still I cried out to you, Lord God. I shouted out for mercy. So hear me now, Lord; show me your famous mercy. O God, be my Savior and rescue me! Then he broke through and transformed all my wailing into a whirling dance of ecstatic praise! He has torn the veil and lifted from me the sad heaviness of mourning. He wrapped me in the glory garments of gladness.

This psalm is full of praise, but it also reveals the intense mourning and emotional torment that David endured. One side of the coin may be praise but often the other side is tumultuous challenge and seemingly insurmountable problems. Reading it immediately made me think of all the hurting people in the world, people who are depressed and even suicidal and my heart, like yours, grieves for these people. I want to say, “Fear not, joy comes in the morning.” The NASB version of verse 5 says that a shout of joy comes in the morning. That’s big. Though the night may be spent in tears, there is hope, there is salvation and the situation will improve.

We sometimes limit Jesus’ scope of salvation to deliverance from sin and hell. Salvation means so much more to Jesus than simply eternal life with him. He is our savior in every single situation in this life. When you comprehend the richness of salvation and eternal life you understand that you are living your eternal life now. It isn’t that we will die and be reborn to eternal life. You are there now, we all are. So, this salvation of which David writes is the deliverance from grief, the release from mourning. It is the hope of a new day, a day which is full of promise and even resurrection. Each day is so new that it truly is a beginning and one thing we know about life, things constantly change. Life is not static. Therefore, though there are huge problems now, ultimately things will alter. For every problem, there is a solution. For every grief there is joy. That seems impossible when one is overwhelmed by grief, but it really is true. David could tell you it’s true and many other people as well.

Why did Jesus tell us to go and share the good news of the gospel? I believe the core of that answer is so that he could save people from the hopelessness of their present situations. We know that God gave his only son so that none should perish but rather that all should pertain to eternal life in paradise with Him (John 3: 16). God took care of eternal life. He has already done what needed doing in order to save us all from eternal damnation. God did that. It was His job. Now, we have a job to do. Jesus told us to go into all the world and share the good news of the gospel. To me that means sharing a lot more than one verse. Sure, tell all people about John 3: 16 and how the Father sacrificed His son and sent him to hell so that we would be spared. Just don’t stop there. Jesus said of himself that he came into the earth to give us life and that more abundantly (John 10: 10). He came to give us a full life, to save us from the train wreck that many of us have made of our lives here on earth. What I am trying to get you to see is that salvation and the good news of the gospel is so much bigger than a singular event, extraordinary though it is.

Jesus wants to save us in our frustrations, from our anger, he wants to heal the emotional scars we carry around, save us from our deepest depression and restore us to joy. Jesus is the joy of the earth. You cannot be in him and with him and depressed. He is glory itself. He is the lifter of our heads. That is good news. He is the lover of our souls. He lifts us even when it feels like the sun won’t rise in the morning. There is no problem which he cannot overcome.

I think our job is to go out and tell people the good news about God and Jesus and how much they love us so that they will not face hopelessness and so they will know they are never alone. Everyone needs to be loved by a love that is so sublime that it is breath to our lungs and health to all our bodies. Jesus is life, there is no life without him (John 14: 6). He has given a piece of himself to every human being so that they might have love, life, and hope. If we will go into the world and simply tell them the good news about a benevolent being who loves them and is powerful enough to save them from whatever torment they encounter, then I pray and believe there will be no suicide in the earth. We have the antidote for depression. God loves us, each and every one. He gave His only son as a sacrificial lamb. That has to stand for something. He didn’t do that because He is ambivalent towards us. Furthermore, He did that for a people who did not know Him, who did not love Him.

Please, send this to anyone you know who needs to hear the good news about being devoutly loved. Share the love and joy of the Holy One, not just so you can get them into heaven, but so they can have some relief right here and right now. There is no reason people have to suffer. Jesus is their saving grace for today, for tonight, for the dark times and the dark places. He is the light, the light of hope. And, say a prayer for everyone who is hurting. Ask the Lord of grace to shine his light more brightly through each one of us so that all, and I do mean all, may know there is a God and that He loves them immensely.

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.