Thursday, August 30, 2012


Righteousness is NOT based on what you do, how you behave, or your actions and morality!!!  Period!  

Righteousness is a free gift by faith!!  Not earned, or kept by some code of conduct.

Israel struggled with this forever (and still does) and the "church" has followed right in her footsteps, trying to earn or behave righteously apart from the free gift by faith.  

Paul address this in Romans 9.  Towards the end of the chapter he says, "The Gentiles, who did not PURSUE righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who PURSUED a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed."

Here is how Paul describes the "why" of that in a translation journey:

"Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works." (ESV)

"Because their minds wre fixed on what they achieved instead of on what why believed." (Phillips)

""I have come to this conclusion.  The non-Jews who had no relationship to God have received a right relationship to him through faith.  But the Jews who looked for a right relationship by keeping the rules have failed to keep the rules.  'Why?' you ask.  Because they tried to acheive it through their own eforts and not through faith."  (Ben Campbell Johnson)

"Why, that the Gentiles, who never aimed at justifying themselves, attained justification, the justification which comes of faith; whereas the Israelites aimed at a disposition which should justify them, and never reached it.  Why was this?  Because they hoped to derive their justification from observance, not from faith." (Knox)

"That Gentiles, the ones who do not earnestly endeavor to acquire righteousness, appropriated righteousness, in fact, a righteousness which is out of a source of faith.  But Israel, earnestly endeavoring to acquire a law of righteousness, did not measure up to the law.  Because of what?  Because, not out of a source of faith but even as  out of a source of works they sought to acquire it." (Wuest)

"How can we sum this up?  All those people who didn't seem interested in what God was doing actually embraced what God was doing as he straightened out their lives.  And Israel, who seemed so interested in reading and talking about what God was doing, missed it.  How could they miss it?  Because instead of trusting God, they took over.  They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing.  They were so absorbed in their 'God projects' that they didn't notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road." (Message) (emphais theirs)

So what is my conclusion?  As long as one tries to attain righteousness, by works, actions, deeds, behavior, or tries to keep or maintain righteousness by any of the same, is doomed to miss the point all together and never actually enjoy the benefit of living righteously. 

Righteousness is NOT something we earn or keep of our own.  It is NOT something we owe back to God by our behavior.  It is a gift of faith that we simply believe and appropriate.  We live it.  

Righteousness is the FRUIT of belief!!  Not a manufactured system of behavior.

You are righteous because of Jesus Christ and His once and for all perfect sacrifice.  "For he [God] hath made him [Jesus] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we [you and I and all humanity] might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Cor. 5:21 (KJV)

Notice the word "made".  It is the Greek word "ginomai" and it means "to cause to be"; "to become, come into being".  Realize that this is a work done TO you and not BY you.  You have been made righteous apart from your doing, and in many cases, in spite of your own efforts.

So quit trying to produce righteousness and just be righteous, which will produce its own fruit naturally.

You are righteous.  Believe it and live from it.



Thursday, June 28, 2012

Your Performance Is Not Needed - Or Wanted

Today I want to take a brief look at the mentality of performance that is so prevalent in the church world today (and quite honestly, in the west as a whole).

The church seems to be built on performance and duty far more than upon Christ's finished work. Christians are bombarded with sermons and books and songs that deal with our performance. We are often told, in one form or another, to "give to Christ the worth of His sacrifice for us". One of the common sayings I hear is taken from the Moravians and says, "May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering". All too often this and other such phrases are used to chide us and to somehow motivate us by guilt to do more for God.

The church world tends to pride itself on its accomplishments. We promote those who "do" the most, criticize those who don't do enough and are always on a campaign to get people to do more - all so that Christ get's what He deserved.

Am I missing something? Didn't Christ already get what He deserved (after taking what He didn't deserve)? Is Daddy God looking down on all of us waiting for us to do our part now? Is Jesus the heavenly cheerleader, telling us to finish the job and make it worth His while? Is Holy Spirit leading us so that we can do more stuff?

This whole notion is rubbish!! It stinks and it is ungodly to the core.

The very moment we think we owe something to God or that we need to prove our gratitude by doing something for Him, we have moved from the realm of grace and back into the realm of law and legalism and bondage.

God did not send His Son as the once and for all atonement for humanity's sin and then require, or even ask, something from us to uphold it or make it legitimate.

Christ's sacrifice was complete in and of itself. It is a free gift that not only doesn't require anything from us, it actually speaks against it.

Let's take a look at what Paul told the Romans:

No man can justify himself before God by a perfect performance of the Law's demand - indeed it is the straight-edge of the Law that shows us how crooked we are. But now we are seeing the righteousness of God declared quite apart from the Law - it is a right relationship given to us, and operating in, all who have faith in Jesus Christ. A man who has faith is now freely acquitted in the eyes of God by his generous dealing in the redemptive ac of Christ Jesus. God has appointed him as the means of propitiation, a propitiation accomplished by the shedding of his blood, to be received and made effective in ourselves by faith. God has done this to demonstrate his righteousness both by the wiping out of the sins of the past (the time when we withheld his hand), and by showing in the present time that he is a just God and that he justifies every man who has faith in Jesus.
What happens now to human pride of achievement? There is no room for it. Why, because failure to keep the Law has killed it? Not at all, but because the whole matter is now on a different plane - believing instead of achieving. We see now that a man is justified before God by the fact of his faith in God's appointed Saviour and not by what he has managed to achieve under the Law.
Romans 3:20-28 (J. B. Phillips)
Do you see it? The whole notion of human achievement has been replaced. We are now on a different plane - an entirely different dimension.

I love how the Ben Campbell Johnson translation reads for verses 27 and 28:

Who can brag then, about having a right relationship with God? Nobody! Why? Because it's not an achievement earned by keeping rules or doing good. A right relationship with God is received by faith. So, you must see that each person receives this right relationship without keeping the rules.

Now some will argue that this speaks only of salvation and not of our Christian life and walk. I even hear people say that we are saved only by God, but now we have to keep God's laws to ensure our salvation.

What a load of religious bull@#&*!

Is the Godhead so weak that it can somehow only initially save us, but then requires our work to maintain it. How is this any different from the Law to begin with? And how can you maintain something you didn't earn in the first place? If you couldn't earn it for yourself, what makes you think you can then somehow maintain it by yourself?

This is pure lunacy! And the Apostle Paul agrees. One of his churches was believing the same lies and he called them stupid, foolish and senseless. And asked them who put them under such a magic spell to believe such lies.

The book of Galatians is an entire letter addressing this issue, but notice specifically for us right now how Paul responds to the notion that we are saved purely by grace but then must do stuff in order to maintain it:

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let m ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
Galatians 3:1-3

And I love the Phillips translation of verse 3 which puts it so simple:

Surely you can't be so idiotic as to think that a man begins his spiritual life in the spirit and then complete it by reverting to outward observances?

That pretty much sums it up.

But what about the accusation that we are just promoting a loose lifestyle of greasy grace where anything goes?

Well, yes and no. Yes, in the sense that grace is the freedom to live outside of any and all rules, conduct, behavior or mannerisms. If grace isn't that completely radical, then it is no better than the law.

BUT, no, if the implication is that people that understand grace don't live in a way that pleases the Godhead. We are not saying or endorsing behavior that is contrary to God. We are simply saying that that is not our focus. Behavior was NEVER the issue. When we focus on the "doing" we lose sight of the "being". And when our focus is on what we do or don't do, those things actually become our idols and our salvation because we are putting more trust in our adherence to those things than we are in Christ's finished work.

You see, Jesus explained this perfectly in John 15 where He talks about the vine and the branches. This is not about our "doing" at all. A branch can't "do" anything of its own. It is completely dependent on the vine! And because of that, it can only "be". Does it produce fruit? Absolutely! But not because it is trying to do, but because it simply abides with the vine.

Union is the greatest bearer of fruit!

I bear fruit because of my union with the Godhead, not because of my achievements or the fact that I am adhering to some moral code. I "obey" the law, not because I am making the effort to, but because it is a natural byproduct of my abiding in the vine. Just like the fruit of the Spirit talked about later in Galatians. They are not our fruit. We don't produce any of them. They are fruit of the Holy Spirit that is naturally manifested through our lives because we are one with the Godhead.

Anytime we focus on our efforts we place the burden for our righteousness on ourselves. When we simply rest in the union we have in the vine, we will produce His fruit through us, with no effort of our own, but with much greater sphere and influence.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Perception Is Everything

I have been thinking over some things lately - things theological and doctrinal.  I am a pastors kid and been in church my entire life.  With that, there is a certain "understanding" of things theological.  Regardless of doctrinal bent, ie Reformed, Calvinistic, Armenian, Charismatic, etc, there are certain elements that cross all the lines and blend together.  Issues like heaven, hell, salvation, grace and faith fall into this category.

The problem is, I have been rethinking these things.  NOT discounting them, not trying to erase them or change them because that is the thing to do, but because I have questions.  As I continue to read the Scriptures and grow in my personal relationship with the Godhead, many of the things we "know" to be true, don't seem to line up quite right.  Again, I am not trying to discount them or "throw them under the bus", I love my heritage and am ever so thankful for it.  But my quest is not for conformity or even heritage, but for love.

One of the things I notice is that people read the Bible differently, with a certain lens, and how they read it and thus understand it, affect how they view God and other people.  Everybody approaches the Bible or the Christian faith with a bias, a personal set of things that lend to our personal interpretation of the Bible and thus the Godhead.

This topic is so vast that it will take days to scratch the surface...that is what will be coming in the days ahead here.  In the meantime, I want to start by sharing an excerpt from a book by C. Baxter Kruger that leans heavily on the beloved "Chronicles of Narnia" series by C.S. Lewis.  Ultimately it is about perception.

You see perception is everything.  How you perceive God, the Bible, faith, et all, will impact your very life and existence.  One such topic that is perceived differently today is that of inclusion.  We will talk more about this in the days ahead, but this excerpt I think will provide a great starting point for us when it comes to the Father heart of God and the all inclusive love act of the Godhead through the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ (which by the way, Scripture indicates actually happened in the heart of the Godhead before the foundation of the world, only culminating physically 2000 years ago).

The following is from the book "The Secret" by C. Baxter Kruger: 

Imagine an eight-year-old kid at the fair.  There he is, in the midst of everything a kid dreams about.  Exciting rides, caramel apples and cotton candy, games and prizes--all are within his reach.  And he is taking full advantage of the moment.  But suddenly he realizes that he has been separated from his parents.  He is lost.  Sheer terror seizes his little soul.  In a split second he moves from having the time of his life to being so panic-stricken that he no longer even knows there is a fair.  His freedom to see and enjoy the good and wonderful things that are all around him has
vanished into thin air. 
What this story is telling us is that what happens to our insides shapes the way we experience what is outside of us.  Our insides can be so shredded we lose sight of the great and awesome things that are all around us.  We no longer see them as great and awesome.  And when that happens, we lose our freedom to enjoy them. 
I think the kid at the fair is a parable of human life, it is a picture of what is 
happening to us, of why our joy and contentment are so fleeting, of why life can be so painful and meaningless.  Again and again we encounter something that overwhelms our insides.  It may well be that we do not even know it.  The internal shredding, so to speak, may not even reach the level of our conscious feelings, much less the intensity of feelings that we see in the kid at the fair.  But the shredding is happening, and the effect is the same.  The bewilderment inside short-circuits our capacity to behold the glory of life around us and thus shuts down our freedom to live in it.  And we don’t live in it.  Our living becomes as empty as the laughter of 
the lady who did not get the punch line of the joke.   
It is not that the glory goes away.  It is just that we can no longer see it.  We 
look right into the smile of a little girl and see nothing.  There she stands, a sheer miracle, the living embodiment of beauty, and she is smiling at  us, eager to share life.  But we look right through her, smile and all.  We do the same with other people, with flowers, with music, with work, and baseball.  Their wonder and glory just don’t register with us.  They appear pale to us, mundane, even boring and meaningless.  I don’t think that we are consciously aware of what is happening.   
Rarely do we tell ourselves that this person or that flower is boring.  We just don’t see them for what they are, and as a result, their presence does not touch us or mean anything to us.  Before we know it we have flown through a week--maybe even months and years--with our eyes glazed over.  We may be alive, but we have missed out on living life. For we cannot relate to, much less enjoy, what we cannot see.   

Let me relate a story to you that illustrates what this kind of blindness does to us.  It comes from C. S. Lewis’ splendid tale, The Chronicles of Narnia.
is of a beautiful land on a clear day.  The whole earth is full of glory, alive with a radiance that only our best, most glorious days can hint at.  It is Narnia, the promised and longed-for land.  Several of the heroes of the story are walking around with increasing awe and irrepressible joy, never having even imagined anything so beautiful, so intensely alive, so real, so good.       
But also present is a bitter little band of scowling Dwarfs.  They are not 
exploring.  There is no light of wonder in their eyes.  They have no joy.  They are, in fact, huddled in a tight circle on the ground.  Far from knowing themselves to be in a beautiful land on a clear day, they believe they are trapped in a “pitch-black, poky, smelly little hole of a stable.”
Lucy, one of the heroes of the story, shouts to the Dwarfs:  “But it isn’t dark, 
you poor stupid Dwarfs.  Can’t you see?  Look up!  Look round!   Can’t you see the sky and the trees and the flowers?  Can’t you see me?”
One of the scowling Dwarfs, named Diggle, blurts out in exasperation: “How in the name of all Humbug can I see what ain’t there?  And how can I see you any more than you can see me in this pitch darkness?” 
Instantly a bolt of grief shoots through Lucy’s heart.  Then an idea comes to her.  She snatches up some wild violets and shoves them toward Diggle.  “Listen, Dwarf,” she says,  “even if your eyes are wrong, perhaps your nose is all right: can you smell that?” 
Smell he can, but far from smelling fresh violets, Diggle smells stable-litter, 
and is so deeply offended he takes a swipe at her.   At this point, the great lion Aslan appears.  Aslan is the supreme hero of the story and the one responsible for the existence and the glory of Narnia.  Lucy, in her 
bewildered grief over the blind Dwarfs, immediately implores Aslan to do something to help them.  What follows is fascinating: 
Aslan raised his head and shook his mane.  Instantly a glorious feast 
appeared on the Dwarfs’ knees: pies and tongues and pigeons and 
trifles and ices, and each Dwarf had a goblet of good wine in his right 
hand.  But it wasn’t much use. They began eating and drinking 
greedily enough, but it was clear that they couldn’t taste it properly.  
They thought they were eating and drinking only the sort of things 
you might find in a Stable.  One said he was trying to eat hay and 
another said he had got a bit of an old turnip and a third said he’d 
found a raw cabbage leaf.  And they raised golden goblets of rich red 
wine to their lips and said “Ugh!  Fancy drinking dirty water out of a 
trough that a donkey’s been at!  Never thought we’d come to this”.
This is a truly tragic situation.  The Dwarfs sit in the open on a splendid 
cloudless day.  Before them is a luscious feast called forth by the King (admittedly you would have to be British to think of this as a feast, but use your imagination).  They have the golden goblets in their hands.  But, as Lucy said, their eyes are all wrong, and so is everything else, dreadfully so.  They actually drink the rich red wine of the promised land and taste only dirty water from a donkey’s trough!    
Note carefully that the problem is not that the Dwarfs have been excluded from the glory of Narnia.  They are every bit as much in Narnia as are the heroes.  In fact, it would be impossible for the Dwarfs to be any closer to Narnia than they already are.  But their eyes are wrong.

And the absence of proper seeing leaves them incapable of experiencing Narnia as  Narnia.  Like the kid at the fair, the Dwarfs’ blindness robs them of the joy of Narnia and thus leaves them scowling and bitter. 

This is what happens to us.  It is not that we are excluded from Narnia, so to speak.  The feast is ours.  We daily dine on the bounty of the King’s royal food and raise his golden goblets of rich red wine.  But something rather like an optical illusion keeps happening and we do not see properly.  We do not see who we really are, where we are, and with what glory we are involved. And this optical illusion, this absence of light, this absence of proper seeing, destroys our ability to experience the feast as a feast, the fair as a fair, life as life.  Without seeing the glory we have no freedom to live in it.  And life inevitably becomes a joyless, boring, meaningless 
routine--sometimes, even dreadful.
What a beautiful description.  Its not that we are not already in, its just that we have not recognized it yet.

It is my sincerest desire that we come to recognize more and more how fully the love of God is for us all.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The End of the Law


I hate that word!

I mean, I undersand it.   I've even used it.  I get the whole point of it.  And I understand that extremes can run the risk of missing the bigger issue that "balance" can bring.  But I still hate that word.  It seems to me that balance is a word used by people who are too afraid to actually risk being called extreme.  Fear is the fuel to "balance".

This is no greater seen than in the grace and law discussion among Christians.  Grace preachers are constantly being accused of being loose with the Gospel and giving people a license to sin, while law people (legalists) are imprisoning people in bondage to duties and works.  The answer, many people say, is balance.  Obviously we have to rely on grace, no one with an ounce of Scriptural knowledge could deny this, but too make sure we don't go overboard we must balance it with law (works, duties, performance, behavior, etc.).

This argument is not new and probably isn'g going away anytime soon, but let me say right up front and without equivocation:
Grace and law do not mix! 
 Not ever, not in any capacity.  Grace alone is the nature of the Gospel.  Period!  Now some will accuse me of being one of those extreme grace preachers and I would repsond by saying, "absolutely!"  Grace is a drink that must be drunk straight, without any chaser.  A mixture of grace and law is law, not balance.

If I have a bottle of 99% natural spring water, taken from the source without contamination, and then add 1% poop particles to it, are you going to drink it?  Of course not.  Why?  Because you now have a bottle of 100% poop particles.  The same is true with grace and law.  When even 1 ounce of law is added to grace, it completely nullifies grace and strips it of its power.

The Father's plan was not to send us law, but to send us grace, and He did so in the Person of His Son Jesus Christ.

"Well, what about the law?" so many people ask, almost offended.  The answer, the law is now null and void and holds no sway over you.  Many then respond with, "But Jesus said that He did not come to destroy (make null and void, of no consequence to us) the law, but to fulfill it".  And they are absolutely right!

Let's look at an example:  Let's say I just bought a new car.  Now I didn't have the money to actually pay for the car so a bank loaned me the money to buy the car and made an arrangement with me to pay them until that note is paid off in full.  So every month the bank sends me a reminder of what I owe them and I in turn send them payment.  During this process, as long as I hold up my end of the bargain - keep paying the monthly payments on time - we have a good relationship.  But, if I don't then the bank has consequences for my default.  Understand that the bank and I are not friends.  We don't hang out and BBQ on Saturday afternoons.  They are there for a specific purpose:  To keep me in line UNTIL our arrangement is completed.  Now, on month 60 I write a check to the bank for the final payment of our arrangement, upon which I now get the title deed to my vehicle.  Why did I get the title deed?  Because I FULFILLED the obligation of that arrangement.  Now, if on month 61 the bank sends me a note saying that my payment is due, we are going to have a problem.  Why?  Because not only do I not owe them anything anymore, we don't even have a relation any longer.  Our arrangement is over.  It ended.  We are not friends.  It would be stupid of me to continue to send them a monthly payment for what has already been paid in full! 

In the same way, Jesus did not come to destroy the law, He came to FULFILL it, which He did on the Cross.  Now, the legalities of the law are over.  We no longer have a relation to it.  It is not our friend.  And to continue to "pay" it though it has already been paid in full, is really quite stupid!

You want more proof?  Let's see what the Apostle Paul had to say:
Now BEFORE faith came, we WERE held captive under the law, imprisoned UNTIL the coming faith would be revealed.  So then, the law WAS our guardian UNTIL Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.  But now that faith has come, WE ARE NO LONGER UNDER A GUARDIAN, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.  (Galatians 3:23-26)
And also:
Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives?  For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.  Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.  For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.  But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:1-6)
You can clearly see from just these two passages that Paul understood and taught that we are dead to the law.  It is no longer for our benefit and we are under no obligation to it.  In fact, in the Romans 7 passage Paul is even drawing the parallel that to continue to "obey" the law once we have benefited from Christ's perfect sacrifice would be like a woman committing adultery.  Why?  Because grace and law do not mix!

My friend, be free today.  You are not under any obligation to the law.  Do not let anyone put you in condemnation or bondage by calling you to works or behavior.  Christ is your new life.  Enjoy Him.


Monday, January 9, 2012

The Joy Of The Lord

Most of us have probably heard the phrase "the joy of the Lord is my strength" at some point or another. In my experience, it seems that this particular phrase has become more of a saying people quote to one another than the life and truth that it was intended to carry.

Let me explain. Many people use this phrase when describing themselves in a difficult situation or as a "pep talk" for someone else who is going through a tough time. It has become a cliche saying for many Christians. The problem with this is that is has lost all its power and intent. This phrase, in its original context, has a key for us to truly enjoy the Lord and live in the fullness of His incredible joy.

The story of Nehemiah is one that may or may not be familiar to you so we will give just a brief overview. The Jews had been in exile and captivity for many years and had finally gone back to Judah, their home. Nehemiah, a Jew, was a wine bearer for King Artaxerxes. One day some fellow Jews came to visit Nehemiah and he inquired about his fellow Jews. The report was not good. In fact, Judah had been destroyed with the "wall of Jerusalem being torn down and the gates destroyed by fire".

Nehemiah fasts and prays and mourns for his people and cries out to God for help. God answers Nehemiah by giving him favor with the king and, to make a long story short, provides Nehemiah with all the money and resources he needs to go and have the city rebuilt. So Nehemiah goes and begins the process of rebuilding the city, facing opposition along the way, but persisting in the call he has. Eventually, the city is rebuilt and the people are gathered together to celebrate and read the law, which for many years had been out of their hands.

That brings us to chapter 8, where this famous phrase is located. Now again, understand that the people are gathered in their "new" city and are hearing the law read to them afresh and anew. This should be a happy time but instead the people are weeping. Let's look at what it says:

Then Ezra praised the Lord, the great God, and all the people chanted, "Amen! Amen!" as they lifted their hands. Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, "Don't mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is holy and a sacred day before the Lord your God." For the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law (Nehemiah 8:6;9)

We can draw many conclusions from these verses as to why they were weeping on such a celebrated day, maybe it was simply like it said, they were weeping as they listened to the Law, knowing that they had simply transferred one form of bondage to another. I believe this passage is prophetic of the New Covenant and the realities that come with the finished work of the Cross.

We have all, at one time, been in bondage and captivity to sin with our walls and gates destroyed by its enslavement. Like, Nehemiah in his time, God was grieved at this bondage and sent One to rescue and redeem us. The problem is that many who have been freed from sin have simply traded their bondage of sin for another - the bondage of law and rules. You can't have both freedom and bondage. The problem with much of modern Christianity is that we have been freed from our bondage to sin through Jesus Christ but we "weep and mourn" because we are clinging to a law that has been completely fulfilled in Jesus and now has no control over us.

The real key is what is said next: Then he continued and said, Go and celebrate, eat the fat and drink the sweet wine, for this day is holy to the Lord your God; and be not grieved, depressed or sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Go and celebrate! That is your part of the New Covenant - go and celebrate. Eat the fat and drink the wine. Do you know what the fat is? In those days, when the priest made the sacrifice of the lamb, once the sacrifice was consumed what was left over was the fat, the goodness of the meat. Kind of like a BBQ. Once the sacrifice was complete, the priest got to take and eat the fat of the sacrifice, the good part, the tasty part, the part that makes you happy. I love to BBQ and any one who loves to eat meat will tell you that the flavor is in the fat. The best part is the fat because it containes the part that makes you happy. Jesus said to eat His flesh and drink His blood which is the New Covenant. Jesus was sacrificed and as priests of God, we get to enjoy the fat and drink the wine. Do you know why? Because it makes you happy!

This day - all your days in freedom - are holy to the Lord, therefore there should be no sadness or depression or grieving because those things are NOT a part of your New Covenant and New Creation realities. In God's presence, which you and I live in continually, there is fullness of joy. Why? Because we know to eat the fat and drink the wine! The joy of the Lord is our strength - every day and in every situation because we have learned to eat the fat and drink the wine.

Here is the key to your unending joy - feast on Jesus! Eat the fat and drink the wine and forever be intoxicated on Him. In the natural, someone who is intoxicated is "happy", why? because they are overtaken by a substance that overpowers them and relieves them of their distresses. In the same way, but only greater, the intoxication of the Spirit makes you eternally happy and releases you from all of the cares and worries that life tries to put in your way. You can literally laugh in the face of adversity because it has no power compared to the intoxication and inebriation of the feast that is Jesus and His complete work on the Cross.

So go ahead, let go of your mourning and weeping and everything that holds you in, go to the altar and take a big swipe of the fat and a goblet full of wine and enjoy the joy that is the Lord!


Friday, January 6, 2012

Thoughts On Hell (by Francois du Toit)

Today I am actually reposting a note by Francois du Toit, the author of the Mirror Translation.  He talks about our obsession with hell and how the whole conversation is missing the point, and also how we have allowed certain words to be hijacked from us when their true meaning have their origin in the heart of the Godhead.  It is a little long, but well worth the read.  Enjoy!!

It is so sad that for many years the church had to reduce its message to a heaven or hell theme in order to persuade people into a decision for Christ.
The Gospel persuades man what God believes and what God achieved on humanity’s behalf in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If the Gospel has the power to get people to fall head over heels in love with God and to love their neighbor as much as they love themselves, then this Gospel demands our total attention and emphasis.
This automatically frees anyone anyway from the dread of hell or any sense of pending punishment.
There is no law against the free expression of the fruit of the spirit. No one can exaggerate love, peace, joy, endurance, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self control. Legalism can neither match nor contradict this. There is no law against love! Galatians 2:22,23.
The urgency to tell everyone the good news of their redeemed innocence because of the success of the cross and God’s act of kindness in Christ to rescue mankind from an inferior expression of life into the most attractive life possible can never be matched by a fear motive! Paul gives such context to the motivation of ministry when he declares that “the love of Christ constrains us, because we are convinced that one has died for all, therefore all have died!”
Our message is powerful enough to stop people in their tracks with the best news ever! Sin in its every disguise doesn’t have what it takes to even remotely match the attraction and total contentment and appeal of the Christ life!
The truth of our original identity revealed and redeemed in Christ, sets us totally free from every distortion in our minds about the life of our design.
We declare the intimate resolve of God and his attraction to engage with the individual in the most personal tangible way possible.
The biggest waste is to miss out on one day of fellowship with your Creator.
I am often overwhelmed with the thought of the ultimate extent of the great work of redemption and act of reconciliation that God undertook to rescue the human race. Underestimating this great salvation has always been the biggest sin of the church.
The greatest safeguard we can ever give someone against a wasted life is in our message that reveals truth in such a way that every possible excuse we could have to experience distance from God or to continue in any form of sin, guilt, fear or an inferior lifestyle is done away with. In its stead there remains only the wide open arms of Father God longing to embrace the individual and the world into unrestricted friendship.
There is enough content in the positive revelation of Christ in you to rid you of a sin consciousness and its dreadful consequence.
Our message is not to persuade people that there is no hell, but rather to convince them that Christ suffered the horror of it to liberate us from its dread both in this life and the next. To influence people into making a decision for Christ based on hell is to distract from the truth. The focus and central theme of the Gospel is the revelation of the mystery of man's inclusion in the death Jesus died and our co-resurrection and joint-position in the father's right hand. The liberating truth of the forgiveness of sins and an understanding of their innocence that leads to a tangible intimacy with the living God and spontaneous love for people. God pleads through us to bring people to realize their full inclusion in the Gospel.
Let his love in you reveal him to your neighbors and the nations. His love is unthreatened and needs no defense!
Col.4:4 This is my prayer request, that I may be able to present this message in the most effective way possible.
4:5 Do not spoil your chance to touch others with the word through a lack of wisdom. Redeem the time by making the most of every opportunity. (Time only finds its relevance in redemption-realities)
4:6 Season your conversation with the revelation of grace. This remains the most attractive and appropriate option to respond in every situation.
The object of New Testament ministry is not in the first place to get people to go to heaven one day! It is the unveiling of the most attractive life possible, the life of our design redeemed again. Now to be enjoyed in an immediate, intimate, daily, constant, conscious feedback encounter with the Living God in Spirit and in truth and undiluted friendship with our fellow man!

He overlooked the times of ignorance and now urges all men everywhere to discover his eternal thoughts about mankind, revealed in Christ, when we were judged in righteousness in one man's death, and raised in his resurrection as the trophy of justice redeemed! Acts 17:30,31. Having made purification for sins he sat down! His throne authority is established upon our redeemed innocence
The more we declare the integrity of God’s persuasion concerning us demonstrated in his son’s obedience in our favor, the less we have to prompt people to believe, their believing will be most spontaneous!
Even our faith is from him! Eph 2:8 Your salvation was a grace thing from start to finish, you had no hand in it; because it is all God's gift to you, because he believes in you. (Mirror Bible)
Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God-- (RSV)
Paul preached in such a way that many believed! Acts 14:1 Yet he never asked for a show of hands to indicate their 'decision' to believe!
The more we make an issue of "Now do you believe this? Because if you don’t you’re going to hell!" the more we disguise the very message we’ve just proclaimed!

God’s work of redemption is valid with immediate effect. “The hour all creation was waiting for has come. The son of man is glorified! The single grain of wheat did not abide alone; it fell into the earth and died and bore much fruit!” John 12:23,24. Mankind died in his death and was made alive together with him and raised together with him and is now seated together with him in heavenly places. Every human life is fully and equally represented and justified in one man’s act of righteousness. 2 Cor 5:14,16; Acts 10:28. “Jesus reveals that man pre-existed in God; he defines us. He justified us and also glorified us. He redeemed our innocence and restored the glory we lost in Adam. (Rom 3:23,24; prohoritso, pre defined, like when an architect draws up a detailed plan; kaleo, to surname, identify by name) What further ground can there possibly be to condemn man? In his death he faced our judgment; in his resurrection he declares our innocence; the implications cannot be undone! He now occupies the highest seat of authority as the executive of our redemption in the throne room of God. (See verse 1, also Rom 4:25) Rom 8:30,34 Mirror Translation
Jesus is what God believes. If every human life is equally included in God’s economy of grace then man deserves to hear this Gospel more than what any man deserves to be judged.
Our influence in society, regardless of our profession, is determined by our faith and not our job-description; our faith is sourced in Christ, in his perfect work of reconciling a hostile world to himself. While we proclaim the sinful state of humanity we are not proclaiming the gospel, and life changing faith cannot come to the people! This conviction is critical, if we are serious about impacting our world with the proclamation of the Gospel
So sad that we allow the deception of a Christless "universalism" to hijack words like 'inclusion' and 'universal,'
These words powerfully and significantly describe the masterful genius of God when Jesus died humanity's death! This is the mystery that none of the rulers of this world understood, otherwise they would never have crucified the Lord of glory!
The point is that the gospel is good news for all people because the gospel reveals how fully included they are in Christ by God's doing; truth is already true before anyone believes it; a diamond doesn’t become a diamond when you discover it, obviously God hid the diamonds and treasures in the earth for man and not from man! That is why we preach with passion, urgency and persuasion in order to awaken every mans mind and instruct every man and present every man perfect in Christ Col 1:28, because the mystery that was hidden for ages and generations is now revealed
We have underestimated the Gospel of Jesus Christ for centuries, because we have adopted an interpretation that robbed us of the true impact of salvation in its relation to life in the here & now on planet earth. We have felt more comfortable with a faith that refers us to a place in heaven one day rather than to see faith as the now & relevant substance of things we always longed for & the evidence of unseen realities around us & within our grasp; the life of our design is redeemed!
Jesus didn’t die 99% or for 99%
He died humanity's death one hundred percent! If Paul had to compromise the last part of verse 14 of 2 Cor 5 , to read: "one died for all therefore only those who follow the prescriptions to qualify, have also died," then he would have had to change the first half of the verse as well!
Only the love of Christ can make a calculation of such enormous proportion!
The same all who died in his death were raised together with him! According to the only scripture in the entire OT that refers to the 3rd day resurrection, we are included! "After 2 days God will revive us, on the 3rd day he will raise us up!!" Hos 6:2 When Paul ponders this scripture (he also quotes it in 1 Cor 15:4) he makes one of his most radical discoveries in his gospel; he writes "While we were dead in our sins (before we knew or believed the gospel) God made us alive together with Christ, and raised us (mankind) together with Christ and seated us together with Christ in heavenly places! That is the point of the gospel; what happened to Christ happened to us before anyone but God believed it! We're not window-shopping here we are gazing into the mirror!
For so many years we’ve read 2 Cor 5 verse 17 out of its context! Verse 14 and 16 gives context to verse 17 Therefore the IF cannot be a condition it must be a conclusion otherwise verse 14 also becomes 'iffy'!!
The gates of hades will not prevail against the testimony of truth; the weapons of our already won warfare tears down every argument and resistance to the knowledge of God; love wins, I can see even the ‘other brother’ awakening to the festive sound!
I suppose I would still have questions if I think about all the contradictions and issues that theology presents us with; but for years now I have determined to go with what I know by revelation concerning his perfect work of redeeming his image in us: to live daily in the full benefit of that and to unveil him in every person I have the privilege to meet; that keeps one pretty busy enjoying him and sharing him!
I am addicted to the Philemon 1:6 kind of koinonia! The koinonia (communication) of our faith is ignited by the acknowledging of every good thing that is in us in Christ!
Exploring the extent of his love initiative and where it leads us truly exceeds any limitation or dimension! And we are all in it together! Wow what eternal bliss and glory we participate in!
The hubble telescope surely increases our horizon daily, only to realize again and again that we are dealing with measureless dimensions in outer space that reflect in us! That we may be filled with all the fulness of God is a thought that breaks all boundaries, we are fearfully and wonderfully made and equally fearfully and wonderfully redeemed!
The whole earth is full of his glory, "and as truly as I live", says the Lord, "all the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of my glory, even as the waters cover the sea!" Jesus said: if you believe that I am what the scriptures are all about, then you will discover that you are what I am all about and rivers of living waters will gush out of your innermost being!
The good news unveils the love of God spectacularly! The dimensions of his love exceed any concept we could possibly have of height, length, breadth or depth!
The gospel can be underestimated, but never exaggerated! The half could not be told of Solomon's wisdom and wealth and in Luke 11 Jesus says, "A greater than Solomon is here"!
Rev 5:13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all therein, saying, "To him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!"

While we argue that all would be OK regardless, we still miss the point! The urgency to communicate this gospel is not compromised thru speculations about the future, but constrained by the revelation of how God's faith included hostile indifferent mankind in the sacrificial death of Christ, and his triumphant resurrection, when he represented the entire human race; multitudes are living in torment right now because they have never heard the truth of their redemption; what a waste to postpone redemption to life hereafter if it can happen now! How all will eventually discover what they have missed and how they will be 'judged' is none of our business anyway; it is our business to live the living epistle to be known and read by all men! And to give everyone within earshot on this planet the opportunity to hear truth that ignites life-changing faith!

Hope you enjoyed this.  Let me know your thoughts.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sold Out To the Undiluted Gospel

I am a grace preacher!
    There is no other Gospel.
      Jesus is Grace.  He is the manifestation of God (unconditional Love).

Today, in many circles, grace is almost a bad word.  Now, no one really would say grace is a bad word because everyone knows that grace is important and that we are "saved by grace".  How could anyone deny the influence of grace?  Of course grace is important, we all know that.


That's the word that always seems to follow - but.  But what?  "Well, grace is important", they say, "but it has to be balanced".  Really?  Really?  Can you tell me where that is stated in Scripture.  Did Jesus ever put a limit on grace?  How about Paul?  Maybe the early church fathers?  No, grace is never told to be balanced with anything - especially law!

"Oh, but wait, that 'greasy grace' with no balance will just let people sin and take advantage of their 'freedom'".  Ever heard that before?  Ever said that before?  That statement is based in pure fear.  People are afraid of pure, undiluted, unadulterated grace.  It scares the hell out of people.  Maybe that's part of the point.

You see, the reality is this:  Grace only works when it is that scandalous!  Grace must be taken straight with no mixer.  Grace is like water:  When it is completely pure, it is refreshing, renewing and life giving, but when it is diluted, it is something of no value whatsoever.  For example, if I had a bottle of pure spring water that was 99% full and then I added 1% "poop particles" to it, guess what I have?  A bottle of 100% poop particles that you are not going to drink.  You see grace must be kept pure or it is useless, it loses it power.  Grace is not something that we mix with law or religion or duty or work or anything else.  When we do, we nueter the Gospel.

Some people will argue that we must have balance, but let's think about that for just a moment.  Is God a God of balance?  Does love have a balance in its equation?  Does not 1 Corinthians 13 look very unbalanced?

As a parent this is very clear to me.  I do not love my kids with balance - even when they do wrong!  How absurd!  To balance love is to make it conditional.  To put parameters on it is to make it sterile.  Love is neither.  I don't love my kids when they do good only.  I love my kids even in the midst of their failings and shortcomings - even in the midst of their rebellion.  Why?  Because they are my children.  My love is NEVER conditional to my children.  I love them.  Period!

We are so afraid that loving people unconditionally and allowing grace to operate without restriction will somehow produce bad behavior.  But guess what?  It does exactly the opposite.  What we dwell on is what we become.  What we think we are, we will do.  When I try to balance grace and love with conditions, then the conditions become my focus and thus my obsession and then, ultimately, my ruler.  When I focus on behavior, I will live trying to "do" the right thing.

But, if on the other hand, I focus on the unconditional love of God and His never compromised grace towards me, my focus is on Him and His goodness rather than my "doing" or efforts.  When my focus is on Him, guess what I begin to naturally act like - Him!

Writing to the Galatians Paul said this:  "Our liberty in Christ offended them; these spies had one agenda, to enslave us to their legalistic bondage! We want you to know that we are sold out to keep the Gospel undiluted for your sakes; had we compromised the message ever so slightly to accomodate their opinions, the whole Gentile world would have felt cheated! We see such a future for the pure Gospel in you" (Galatians 2:4-5 Mirror).

You see, an attack on grace; the attack on unconditional love, is nothing more than religion trying to enslave us from the freedom for which Christ has set us free.  The Gospel is undiluted!  It is pure!  It must be drunk straight!

It doesn't matter what people "label" you or that they accuse you of being one of those "grace people", don't worry about accusations, Grace is best enjoyed when it is served up alone.  Join me as one who is "sold out to keep the Gospel undiluted for your sakes".

Today, don't let anyone steal your joy by trying to enslave you to balancing grace.  Don't do it.  Not today, not ever.  Take your grace straight.  Keep your Gospel undiluted.  And watch the life of Jesus flow through your life more and more each day.

Liberty and freedom are your inheritance.
  Pure Grace provided it for you once and for all through Jesus Christ.
        And remain sold out to the undiluted Gospel!