Wednesday, October 14, 2009

68 - Grace Pilgrimage - 6

"OK, someone asked - then what is THE CHURCH?"

Well - to begin with it is a Grace Fellowship - of people who knowing they are saved by grace are very JOYFUL. That joy causes outreach, because we live and always have in a world that WANTS THAT. Joy can be and should be very attractive. ADD to that, Jesus claimed that "people" would know we are His disciples IF we have love for one another. A loving fellowship is not just a good thing - it is a sign of being genuine.

As Paul wrote his correspondence to Philippi, he challenged them to be God's "little heaven" on earth. They knew what is was like to be a "little Rome" - but they were struggling to LOVE each other. Paul's solution was partly "have their love abound MORE and MORE" 1:9, and also to realize they had their actual citizenship IN HEAVEN. A HUGE reason for focusing on being the church is to help make it God's outpost of grace in an alien land, 3:20.

What do we accomplish by meeting together if God's PRIMARY goals are not being our focus? It is a good thing to believe in God's grace (without explaining it away) - but it is a whole LOT more biblical to STAND IN GRACE and be known for our love for each other. STAND in grace? Paul and Peter emphasize that - and our world needs to see it or they won't see God's grace fellowship which is a little bit of heaven on earth.

Jesus prayed a prayer for disciples and maybe we could go back and challenge ourselves to "Let His will BE DONE on earth as it is in heaven" in this regard. It is wonderful to look forward to "heaven" - but Jesus wished for HIS will to BE DONE - as Kingdom life is received and experienced. We are NOW seated with Christ in the Heavenly realm, Ephesians 2:6, and God has gone to a LOT of trouble to show the earth HE LOVES US ALL. Sure, He does that by sending rain on the just AND the unjust, but is HE running us in the next phrase in Luke 6:35 - "HE is kind to the ungrateful and evil/selfish"?

We love to talk about love from 1 Corinthians 13 - well, until words like "patient and longsuffering" get in there. So - don't focus on those facets today - instead let's just take ONE word for our focus - "Love is KIND" - and until we focus on being God's outpost of grace, kindness just gets canceled.

However - if we continue a pilgrimage of grace, realizing that God forgave us - before we asked - and Jesus died for us "while we were YET sinners" and then, well - HE RUNS US NOW . . .maybe the world can learn to love like we should - "because HE first loved us" 1 John 4:10. Since HE runs us now - how about allowing God's grace family to LOVE FIRST. It proves a few things . . .more to come

Monday, July 20, 2009

67 - Grace Pilgrimage - 5

Peter wrote to his readers that we "Stand in Grace" 1 Peter 5:12 - in fact he commanded them to "Stand fast in it" which agrees with Paul's teaching in Romans 5 about the "Grace in which we NOW STAND".

Real frankly, the concept of standing in grace was not part of my study and life for much of my 66 years. Well over half of it I believed in the DOCTRINE of Grace - but, mostly I was warned to not emphasize grace at all. I can now see that GRACE has caused all kinds of problems throughout the history of dealing with God. MANY of the early church problems either misunderstood grace or actually ignored grace.

My pilgrimage in this regard has already been mentioned briefly, but one HUGE step came along in my deeper study of Galatians - especially chapter 3. It has to do with the early church's problem with law as a concept of Salvation. When we try to translate any section or book, we WRESTLE with each phrase and all possible thoughts relating to it. We simply need more of that - to get an overall Gestalt of big ideas which cannot be limited to a terse definition of two words. Words like faith, agape, grace, guarantee - need a conceptual construct to express the idea. ADD to that - MANY of the ideas of the NT are controlled by THAT context and have quite a different meaning from simple dictionary definitions. So - we need to "kick the thoughts we have around with friends" and get the concept.

Paul taught in Galatians 3:21ff. that no law can ever make us alive. FAITH in JESUS makes us alive, Paul teaches. Well - then we need to study that and allow plain Scripture to speak to us the whole truth. "IN Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith" Galatians 3:26.

That short sentence includes several concepts which only make sense to those who understand God's meaning put on the words. In Christ Jesus - made perfect sense to Hebrews and others of the day - but we don't operate that way nearly so much. That puts JESUS as the covenant Representative - and His victory becomes the victory of those HE represents. So - His victory in death and resurrection becomes ours by faith in Him - and identification with Him (not really necessary except we have the freedom to NOT choose to accept His work on our behalf) puts us in a position to receive everything HE accomplished - even to the point of being JOINT HEIRS with Christ. (Romans 8:17). Once we understand their structure and meaning, we can REALLY rejoice in what is ours because we know our inheritance is as sure as Jesus' inheritance - so it is a LOCK. That's why Paul could refer to the concept as a GUARANTEE - Romans 4:16.

That changed my life - and can change anyone's life who allows the TRUTH to be received and experienced. Ever wonder why "Rejoice always" is a command - not just to be believed but experienced? Because - when we DO KNOW the truth - and ARE SET FREE - we will rejoice with JOY UNSPEAKABLE . . .more to come

Monday, May 18, 2009

66 - Grace Pilgrimage - 4

MANY other verses influenced my grace study. Books I read sometimes helped (and continue to do so) my realization that the focus always seems to be in need of MORE focus on Jesus and what HE did. Even my misunderstandings have helped much - because every so often I am caught with the idea that something I believe and try to share has something lacking. Sometimes I have had the experience of seeing that I "re-define" a word to fit my "take" instead of staying with the actual word translated. The word GRACE has an "accepted definition" of "unmerited favor" - and I had redefined it as - well - if I did an hours' worth of work and got paid for a week's worth - that IS unmerited favor - so I need to do my paltry work to prove I am part of the "saved group" and I had many who agreed with that.

I believe that to be error on my part - grace in the Bible doesn't allow that re-defining. A better description would be closer to "on the house" which Yancey used in his neat book, "What's so amazing about Grace?" But - not only that, but when I took all the contexts of the word in the Greek NT, I noticed Paul went to a LOT of trouble to enlarge the concept in Ephesians 2. The phrase that GOT me was "not of ourselves" - which sort of cancels my hour of work - even if I got ten million dollars for it. BUT - even that didn't settle it for me - I had to note the context into verse 10 which contends "FOR - we are His workmanship" - and that slayed the dragon - "workmanship" comes from the Greek word we use for POEM - meaning "the creative result of a mind" - telling me that GOD works ON US as HIS project - and projects by nature do NOT work on themselves at all.

So - Paul was teaching a concept which took ME out of the equation - and put all effort on GOD. Well - luckily I had been translating Romans at the time and had just dealt with the idea in Romans 6 of "can we continue to sin as a lifestyle - in order to increase Grace?" Paul's response was "Don't you realize that you DIED?"

So - that new lifestyle was NOT a self-effort lifestyle at all. I was NOW under God's control, and Paul expected people to realize that their new CHOICES needed to harmonize with a realization of who we now are and how that lifestyle unfolds. It was a Grace salvation; it is also a Grace lifestyle. Since we still MAKE CHOICES - we need to ALLOW God to be in us to will and to work (Philippians 2:13)but notice the focus - GOD.

The secret I allowed to happen at that point was to thank Abba that even though I didn't always realize it, HE was running my life and guaranteeing my outcome of it - both for salvation and for my continuing life. My part is to trust Him - harmonizing with the principle from the beginning of time - especially focused for us in Abraham.

Like any baby, I don't know much when I am born or born again. BUT - I did decide to trust God - and that template is efficient in all Biblical history. It was what Adam and Eve should have done in Eden. It is what Cain should have done and his failure to do so caused murder. It is simply "dying" to our own self-focus AND allowing God to be GOD. Paul calls that "from Faith to Faith" Romans 1. It is at the center of the Grace concept - and as Paul and Peter agree - GRACE is the thing on which WE stand. Amazing - that idea - makes Grace very central to life and security - more to come

Friday, April 10, 2009

65 - Grace Pilgrimage - 3

Another SIMPLE concept which changed my life was the fact that JESUS paid it ALL. To begin this part of the study, allow me to say that Christendom has always seemed to have a habit of making "Christianity" a SELF-FOCUSED concept. It always seemed to be a "do-do; should do; can't do; shouldn't do" lifestyle. I don't have to tell you that to me, THAT doesn't SEEM to give Jesus all preeminence. OK - I do seem to be influenced quite a bit by the idea that Jesus is ALL and IN you all - and things like that. Most of YOU know that the idea came from those verses and Jesus' CLAIM "I AM the Way, The Truth, The Life" - so that I was left without an escape from allowing Jesus to BE Savior and Lord. BUT - where did that funny concept of "we are saved by what Jesus did - the focus is not on US" come from? Well - those verses and days like TODAY - GOOD FRIDAY - but mostly from Isaiah 53 and its fulfillment. ONE part of the picture is the "all we like sheep have gone astray" and we know that sheep don't find a way to be NOT astray - so the focus of safety and security MUST be on the shepherd. We KNOW that - but the picture doesn't really SINK in. But the one which GOT me, was "The Lord laid ON HIM the iniquity of us ALL."

ALL of Christendom knows that verse and the phrase which follows - "with HIS stripes, WE are healed."

About 30 years ago someone asked me, "Do YOU really think that WE are healed by HIS stripes?" I replied, "YES - and I will give you NO exceptions or disqualifications."

Well - there was a small controversy brewing about whether Baptism was a work at that time . . .plus some of my "other" friends just ASSUMED Baptism WAS a work - so it was a natural response to ask, "Then why be baptized?"

My answer has gotten me in trouble ever since - since I responded - "Baptism has NEVER been a work - it is simply an identification with Jesus and what HE did - THAT is what united with Him and His death means. It is THE ultimate faith response we have - the one which "saves" us - which accesses "that grace in which we NOW stand" Romans 5:1ff.

As you contemplate the JOY of Good Friday - and the grace in which YOU now stand - go back with me to Calvary and to the empty tomb and rejoice as we say together - "With HIS stripes we ARE healed" - Jesus did it all - HE is it all - and I am IN HIM now. As Paul would wonderfully say it later - "Your life is hid with Christ IN God" Colossians 3:3.

If you don't mind me being a little too creative - think of Baptism as the time and place where "you get your stripes" or at least where you get the benefit of the stripes HE received on our behalf. We are saved by what Jesus did on the cross - and our joining that - by faith. That's why my backyard "baptismal pool" still has the waters troubled from time to time - someone wants to be joined to Jesus and HIS stripes by faith. The focus is JESUS - more to come

Monday, March 30, 2009

64 - Grace pilgrimage - 2

I don't wish to be OVER-SIMPLE - but maybe I should just confess it right here - simple concepts changed my life. Maybe the MOST simple was about GRACE. I am used to definitions which do NOT define and explanations which actually explain away the concept with which we start. The oldest definition I remember for GRACE was "unmerited favor" - and there was Lexical evidence for it. My problem was - is there merited favor? Well - I'm talking from God's realm - do we EVER merit His favor?

OK - my answer was "not hardly" - what was yours? Well - if that is true - why use THAT as an answer? So - I began a search for the root concept - the basic idea of the Greek word, "Xaris" or "karis" - (my only granddaughter is named that - so it is quite cogent to me) - and I found a simple four letter word which captured it - GIFT. Funny thing - everyone already KNEW that. So - I began to use it - and each time I had problems with someone over my definition - they wanted "unmerited favor" - because "gift" as too simple. Besides, another word is translated "gift" as well - and we don't want to confuse.

Well - translators already did that - "gift" is used for at least five words in the NT. Actually the one other main word could be better translated as "present" - but I use that as a synonym for gift anyway. What to do? Well - at least we talked about it a little - let's just admit the word MEANS gift - no matter how we translate it - at least in our common vernacular. So - my trek took me to a simple definition - but the concept might be a little more complicated. We're talking about God GIFTING us with salvation as a present. Once I saw the simplicity of THAT - my study changed and so did my life. Grace was a simple word with impressive complications. I could now BOAST of God and what HE did - in Christ and begin a new full, confident focus on what GOD DID - and the focus was better - and more Biblical. Jesus really DID begin to get "all preeminence" as Paul wrote is should be in reference to God's desire and structure. For me - the focus was sharply changed - to put God in the thoughts and focus of NT Christianity. AND - many scriptures became more understandable and simple. When Paul taught about a "faith apart from law" I could actually see a faith apart from law with no twisting involved.

When I saw a sentence in our NT which taught "Christ is all and in you all" - I could appreciate that fact. HE was given to me to be my new life. His performance was a GIFT to me. His confidence is now my confidence - because as John wrote - "As HE is, so are we in this world." (Don't forget, that was written about confidence on judgment Day - we SHOULD have that - but the focus is HIM.) Just as I was thinking that thought - I "ran into" a thought in 2 Corinthians 3:4 "SUCH is the confidence that we HAVE through Christ - toward God - NOT that we are sufficient of ourselves to claim ANYTHING as coming from us - our sufficiency is from God." Note that Paul said the sufficiency came "through Christ" - so allow YOUR motto to be the same as mine for today - "ALL sufficiency is from CHRIST - NO sufficiency is from us" - thanks Paul for that great help.

Ah - but that means we are saved by grace - and the sufficiency was IN CHRIST - so guess how we STAY SAVED - though Christ. (Otherwise there might actually BE some sufficiency somewhere else - right?) Wow - Christ actually IS ALL - and we can count on it. No wonder that expression is in your NT - "Thanks be to God for HIS indescribable GIFT"

Monday, March 16, 2009

63 - Grace pilgrimage - 1

Many steps are involved for any study as it gathers information and outlines itself as new thoughts emerge and challenge former conclusions. I have mentioned that several of these happened when I was translating books. Even beginning students translate phrases and sections of simple Greek. As we get into second and third year Greek, much time is spent in trying to wade through grammar problems and attempt to search though more complex structures. ONE of the things which amazed me was the new insights which didn't demand a new translation but a fuller understanding of the general translations right in front of me. When Jesus claimed to BE The way, The Truth, The Life - it didn't take a fresh translation, but rather an acceptance of the plain words translated into simple English. The same is true of many passages in Romans and Galatians. Problem was - at the three churches I spent time with, not one had actually had a thorough study of the basic text. Overviews have left many woefully lacking in true textual meaning.

One brief example - I had heard Romans 3:23 "partially" quoted probably 300 times. Being forced to translate it changed my pilgrimage from learning what HAD been taught to what the TEXT teaches. The SUBJECT of the context is God's NEW way of righteousness which is APART from law - and focuses on faith in Jesus Christ. "ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" is the well known partial verse. That phrase was meant to be part of the teaching that ALL are justified freely by His grace as a gift. In other words, the emphatic part of the verse got left out entirely. The whole context is about a focus on a new kind of righteousness - GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS (verse 21) which comes about through faith in Jesus Christ. The phrase about all persons sinning was actually an axiomatic statement which led up to teaching that God has an answer for all who have sinned - salvation by faith in Jesus Christ - apart from law.

Another little phrase is ignored or missed in the same regard a few verses later in Romans 3. Paul asked in Romans 3:27 - "what then becomes of our pride and boasting? It is EXCLUDED." Abram is the example of the template for being declared righteous in God's presence. He simply believed God (that in a dream message)and THAT was counted to him as righteousness. Paul discussed the concept all the way from 3:32 through chapter 5. That section is not studied enough. But - to get to my point - Paul taught that IF Abram had done any works for his righteousness then he had something to boast about.(By the way - since there was no Law of Moses yet - that kind of works is not our subject - but ANY works.) BUT - even then he wouldn't be able to boast before God. See chapter 4:1ff. The point is made however, that Abram's righteousness was a gift in response to his faith - period. Part of our problem here is that faith simply means to trust another entity's PROMISES. Christendom has re-defined faith to be people centered instead of God focused - serious error it seems to me.

Result - the concept of boasting is rampant among much of Christendom - mostly innocently - but to close for today, notice two concepts: (1) boasting is not available for all who come to God. The idea of boasting is simply a self-focus. God leaves us NO GROUNDS for a self-focus. (2) Even the intelligentsia of the day - the Greeks (check 1 Corinthians 1:21-31) cannot find their way to God by their "wisdom" -they as well are left to come to God with a simple focus on His Promises - or more directly on His Promise - Jesus Himself. To them, that is FOOLISHNESS - but it is Truth. To those who think they can do GOOD WORKS - sorry it is EXCLUDED. Good works DO get done by Christians - but they are the result of God being at work in us to will and to work - Philippians 2:13. As Ephesians 2:10 teaches us - we are HIS workmanship - we are worked on by God as we are His project.

Conclusion - Paul taught me much I did NOT understand correctly as he claimed that Jesus came, lived, died and raised so that those who LIVE might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who for their sakes died and was raised - 2 Corinthians 5:15. The focus is NOT us, but rather it is JESUS. - More to come

Monday, February 2, 2009

62 - MORE from the journey

So - do we ALL agree on the focus being JESUS - or have we allowed Pharisaism (or if you prefer Phariseeism) to control our mindset. Their directive was to focus on how to NOT BREAK the LAW - so it was a "human behavior focus" and they called that being faithful to the Law and thereby faithful to God. They called that the SAFE position - therefore MANY accepted that as VERY Biblical - if not the ONLY very Biblical position. (Their word was "sacrosanct" - and was nearly always equal to Scripture because they felt it was Scripturally derived and concluded.) As time went on, their interpretations became more authoritative than Scripture itself. (Sorry to say - that sounds like religion to me.)

Jesus came along and corrected their interpretations MANY times. The one which stands out to me is John 5:39 - "You search the Scriptures because you think that IN THEM you have Eternal Life - but THEY talk of ME and you will not come to ME for Eternal Life" - which reminds me that NT scriptures are even MORE the focus on Jesus - since HE should get total preeminence and be seen as THE way, THE truth, THE life - John 14:6. We may excuse the OT scholars to some extent - (and many do not) but how do we excuse OURSELVES?

We have used HUMAN reasoning to "interpret" the Bible - and that MANY times allows Jesus to be pushed to the side. BUT - both OT and NT is claimed by Jesus to focus on HIM to be THE focus of Scripture, so we do the "interpretations" at our own peril.

Another part which encouraged me to repent of this structure is Romans 5:1ff. which teaches us that "we have obtained ACCESS by faith into the grace in which we NOW STAND" - which claims a solid foundation for life in Christ. Especially true to our understanding if we've already studied Romans 3-4. That section claims to reveal the way God did things through "Faith IN CHRIST" apart from law (Romans 3:21)and the GUARANTEE of righteousness (Romans 4:16) with the result of our "standing in Grace" - and having "peace with God THROUGH our Lord Jesus Christ" chapter 5:1.

One concept which became very cogent to me was the powerful focus of Christ as the source - and our trusting HIM - not our interpretation of all Scripture. Please note that none of this is apart from Scripture - but the focus is JESUS and our faith in HIM - and that is our quandary - we allow some to put the focus on US - instead of our dependence on HIM - I repented of that due to plain scripture teaching.

All of that simply reinforced my focus on Jesus as the NEW Covenant - our focus of hope and salvation. But - the reason I did was sourced in the OT - from Deuteronomy and the Prophets (which Paul claims as one part of his reference in Romans 3:21ff.) Notice especially 3:24 - justification is a GIFT and Paul teaches this righteousness focuses on Jesus - verse 26 - result - OUR boasting is EXCLUDED. Why? Because it is total gift and we cannot boast of something which is a gift to us - it points back to the GIFT-GIVER. We do receive gifts - but that has no focus on US - except to rejoice in it. AND - that is ONE reason we live a life of continual rejoicing - even to the extent that is is commanded.

Rejoicing people are easy to talk to generally - so let's make our lifestyle with that focus. I rejoice in YOU - each of you who read these words - and I praise God for you - to the goal of fulfilling Jesus' goal - that WE would be known as HIS disciples IF we love one another. Join me in this wonderful goal - I have not seen it much - so we're breaking new ground here. More to come

Sunday, January 18, 2009

61 - More from the journey

Obviously anyone who gets up in the middle of the night DESERVES to be called strange, but others just ARE strange. So - if my thinking is a little off the beaten path - chalk that up to lack of sleep and inherent weirdness.

I have long struggled with all those verses that don't fit in with some folks take on spiritual things. So - allow me to struggle with that in your presence. We can usually find a version which says it in an almost incoherent way. I am not trying to do that. However - I DO wish to take the different phrases which represent different original offerings and try to see if they may share a slightly differing perspective and teaching.

Paul taught us to "take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" 2 Corinthians 10:5 and no one talks about what the "obedience of Christ" has to do with my taking thoughts captive. However - if you realize that we are saved by Christ's obedience, then making THAT our focus is quite cogent. In fact, in the original, being saved by the faith of Christ is mentioned several times. If we ignore the concept - we'll also miss out on many verses which comfort us VERY much. Like that one I have mentioned about having FULL confidence on judgment Day - 1 John 4:17. Many of us just ignore that teaching and go on.But - God means for you to have confidence every day and even on judgment Day - so why not do it? Ah - but can we with our present theology? Maybe we need to augment our knowledge bank somewhat.

My contention is that Jesus is the New Covenant and HE invites us to be HIS BODY because HE is the Savior of the Body and we realize at a very DEEP level that the focus is Christ - HE gets all preeminence and we can be very satisfied with that. We also realize that HE is the Savior of the body, but somehow we compartmentalize those concepts to make the focus be on us and what we believe and that we CAN be saved if we have all the proper "positions" on all those Theological arguments.

Does that sound even CLOSE to JESUS being The Way, The Truth, The Life? Does that sound like Paul saying he did not want a righteousness of his own - but only that which comes from the righteousness of Christ? (Philippians 3:9)

What's the problem?

Well - Hebrew thinking has been ignored and canceled - for one thing. The old concept of a Promise Covenant is almost totally lost. Even though most of us know some of the ideals of a marriage covenant, we cannot seem to think of God loving us in a covenant structure. BUT - He did that toward the nation of Israel and that ended up in ruins. (Read Deuteronomy again sometime and check out the fulfillment especially of a section of chapter 28 - verses 47-53.) We are destined to that if we think WE can keep covenant with God.

However - God didn't structure it that way for US - the NEW covenant is DIFFERENT. (Jeremiah 31:31ff.) This is a situation much MORE like that of our children - they must be born into the family to be IN - and their relationship to us is one of DNA - not performance. Then - like Jesus, they LEARN how to be sons of the living God as one witness to the world that a God of LOVE is our focus and our guarantee of heaven. HIS character is impeccable; His promises are assured and we KNOW He will take care of it, as Paul taught - because "HE has given US assurance by raising Jesus from the dead." (Acts 17:31)

But - that doesn't totally answer our original conceptual query - how do we get involved with the "obedience of Christ"? Answer - His ultimate obedience was "obedience unto death" - and we are buried into that performance by baptism. We bury dead folks - and they are raised to "newness of Life". (Romans 6:4) But - instead of allowing the teaching to take us to JOY - we argue about baptism. Well - go ahead - but I won't argue with you. I don't fully understand any OTHER birth process either - but I do enjoy being born and I just REJOICE at the birth of my four children. I saw that experience - and I still am clueless. And - I don't even care - I am thrilled at God's miracles. If I am joined with His death, Paul taught, then I also know FOR CERTAIN that I will be joined with His resurrection.(Romans 6:5)

AND - all the time I know the focus is JESUS - HE is the LIFE and I am united with HIM - and I am very satisfied with that and I recommend it - because confidence on Judgment Day - that is really SOMETHING. I am ready for that because Jesus IS MY LIFE - and I am part of HIS body of which HE is the Savior. More to come

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

60 - conclusions about LAW

As we say “Good bye” to a LAW study – let’s review the concepts. We noted that the hardest part was simply understanding the concept. Just remember here that LAW is meant to GIVE structure to life – and I emphasize GIVE – it is to SERVE us – to assist the order of our lives. Paul referred to the Mosaic Law as our “schoolmaster” or “servant” to get us to Christ – so that once we are “to Christ” – we don’t need the servant to bring us anymore. So – law then is not in charge of us NOW – Christ is. That is Paul’s argument in Galatians 3:23ff. Well, he said “We are no longer under a schoolmaster or custodian” verse 25. That verse SHOULD have settled some understanding of LAW – but there are always those who claim we are under and NEW LAW. Paul obviously said, “We are not under a schoolmaster” – but we translate that as “under THE schoolmaster” and we get a new schoolmaster or custodian.

PROBLEM – Paul mentioned more than once that we are not “under law” but “under grace” – and that may be the concept we need to clarify. (Check Galatians 5:18 for the best explanation – also mentioned in Romans 6:14f. and 1 Corinthians 9:20 to give Paul’s activity as a free man.) How do we have any structure if we are NOT UNDER LAW?

The answer – figure out what “under grace” means. AND – in this regard a serious mistake has been part of my life – I just didn’t ever define that – so I could make it whatever I wished. Many have a working definition of “we try the best we can and God makes up for our lack” as how grace operates. And – guess what – God DOES make up for our lack – but what we miss is – LACK is all we have.

NO – under grace means the concept of GRACE is totally in charge. The focus of “ourselves” comes under one phrase – “NOT of ourselves” and “NOT of works” (Ephesians 2:8-10) – and just so we know it applies to ALL of life – plus salvation – Paul uses a great contrast in verse 10 – “we are HIS workmanship” – so we don’t work – we are worked on.

One other concept includes remembering that we are BORN again – and are God’s children because HE created us anew – “all this is from God” 2 Corinthians 5:17f. so we must focus on GOD – not ourselves. Don’t forget – JESUS paid it all – so what was it HE paid for – the breaking of LAW – and then HE offers Himself to us to be our new life – a new identity and a new Spirit. HE is now responsible for us – and HE is able to take care of us – so we can “STAND IN GRACE” – as both Paul and Peter wrote.

God’s kids are very confident about their standing with God – they come BOLDLY before the throne of grace (yes, many do miss the fact that it IS a throne OF GRACE) and the text of Hebrews says “KNOWING that we will find grace and help for our time of need. Shouldn’t we LIVE that way- as God’s kinds?

Let’s allow Scripture to guide us and point the way to relationship with God as FATHER and our relationship to HIM being based on receiving HIS life – which is HIS life and we NOW have it. More to come . . .QUESTIONS?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

59 - LAW Pilgrimage - (7)

"INTO THE VINE in 2009" - is my greeting and motto this year. As I am discussing the concepts of LAW in my sharing of my pilgrimage, I realized that for me, it was accentuating the positive of God's plan which dealt more fully with my tendency to be a legalist. GOD means for me to be a SON - in prophecy and fulfillment - and doing that helped explain my error to me. We can read such things and jump right past it to get to our favorite negative - or our felt need of a CONVICTING statement of my wrong. Many of us Christians have suffered from that problem - always needing a new STRONG statement to keep us on the straight and narrow. (Cf. 1 John 3:1-2; Romans 8:15-17- and the prophecy of Hosea 1:10 fulfilled in Romans 9:26)

I don't put down conviction - far from it. However - if we ONLY focus on being convicted of our failures or our "wrongs" - do we next convince ourselves that we are STILL doing everything for encouragement? I think I substituted being convicted of wrong as "encouraging" to harmonize my "convictions" with verses like 1 Corinthians 10:23; 8:1; 14:5; Romans 15:2 and others. That 1 Corinthians 8:1 convicted me - Paul wrote "Knowledge puffs up; Love builds up" - and I lost part of my legalistic structure right there. BUT - when I studied 1 Corinthians 13 - and ran into a verse that teaches, "Love doesn't keep a record of wrongs" - well, I began to stop thinking God had His list of mine - but was still LOVE. BUT - that didn't end it - I still would cling to "conviction" with both hands. It was when I realized that God forgave ALL my sins - the positive began to take over. I began to see that whenever I see the word LOVE - agape in the Greek - that was a description of GOD and HIS nature, I could BEGIN to realize I had come to the understanding of Scripture from wrong information. LAW had been "almighty Master" - when God wanted LAW to be our great SERVANT. The servant "LAW" was to bring us to Christ - where its role in my life would change. A new lifestyle would begin - with Christ as Savior and Lord. Some great material about being "in Christ" and Christ being "in me" changed it all forever. I began to see myself as a son of God - and "law" took its proper place as my servant. And - no one can scare me with reference to areas I am not perfect in yet - that's all part of my ROYAL training - very appropriate for God's kids to grow and mature - to improve and develop. I embrace that now as part of "growing up into HIM who is the head" - Ephesians 4:15.

That guarantees the NT picture of law being UNDER us - but we are not "lawless" - in fact we learn "law" better than most. We just know that it is part of maturity - not a matter of heaven and hell. Obviously a lawless "Royal" is a contradiction of proper decorum; but one who thinks that if he keeps law, he becomes ROYAL - is deluded about royalty AND law.

Final nail in the coffin of "Law-legalism" - came in two parts - first, salvation is the GIFT of God, Ephesians 2:8-10; so receiving it is in the structure of GIFT RECEIVING - (but I still didn't GET the concept of "unconditional love") and then the idea that "GOD was IN CHRIST - reconciling the world to Himself" - 2 Corinthians 5:19 - which means reconciliation is PREPARED for us - already an accomplished fact. I join HIS reconciliation in Christ; then I invite others to join what I have received. That makes it MIGHTY GOOD NEWS for me to simply announce to my world. Ah - a Scripturally balanced mind - at least in THAT regard. More to come