Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Approval (Part 2)

In my life, all I have ever known of God has been as a loving Father. I have only known of His loving kindness and goodness. He has been truly good to me

Sure, I have had trials and struggles. He gave me life when I was dying and there was no hope of living. I have been homeless, I have been in the depths of bondage. But He set me free! He delivered me from sin and a life of despair. How could I not love Him and trust Him?

However, I know it is not always that way for many people. I had a friend who at one time could only relate to God as someone who was angry, and ready to pour out His judgment and wrath at any moment for any infraction. He could not relate to the goodness or love of God.

My friend used to call me at 2 or 3 in the morning for help because he was suicidal and just knew that God was angry with him. The enemy had completely convinced my friend that God's judgment was on his life and there was no hope!

I cannot imagine living under such a cloud of fear, or under such a lie. Can you? Do You?

The truth is that just as there was hope for my friend, there is hope for anyone!

To repeat, John 3:16-17 from the God’s Word Translation:

“God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but to save the world.”

I have good news!

God Loves You!

God's love is the foundation of His grace, and all of His promises to us as believers.

God's love is the basis for our very existence.

God's love is also the basis of the New Covenant.

God’s love is why He sent Jesus, and why He died on the cross. It was all about love!

The bible also tells us that in addition to God loving us; it says that if anyone is in Christ they have become a completely new creation. So how does one become “in Christ?”

"Whoever is a believer in Christ is a new creation. The old way of living has disappeared. A new way of living has come into existence." 2 Corinthians 5:17 (GW)

By believing in Jesus, you now have a completely new nature dwelling inside of you. The new nature is from the Holy Spirit who lives in all believers.

2 Corinthians 6:17 (GW) says that, “…the person who unites himself to the Lord becomes one spirit with Him.”

Not only does God see you as a new creation, but He also sees you as His son or daughter.

Everything that God has ever wanted in a son or daughter, he found in you the moment that you believed in Him.

We have become partakers of God's righteousness (approval), not because of what we do or don't do to live up to some standard, BUT because of what Jesus did!

Salvation is a work of Grace and so is walking out the Christian life

It is impossible to live a "Christian" life outside of the Grace of God

The Church, at times seems to give a mixed message... To the unbeliever we quote:

"God saved you through faith as an act of kindness. You had nothing to do with it. Being saved is a gift from God. It's not the result of anything you've done, so no one can brag about it." Ephesians 2:8-9 GW

But once that person becomes a believer and is part of the church, they are then told all the stuff they need to do to STAY right with God. And of course, the things to do to stay in God’s good graces change depending upon what group they find themselves in.

But the truth is being right with God is not because of what we do. The only thing that can make anyone right with God is what Jesus the Anointed One did when He went to the cross for sin.

“He is the payment for our sins, and not only for our sins, but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:2 GW

We need to see a picture on the inside of you how God truly sees us...

In Romans chapter eight, Paul gives us a view of how God sees us under the New Covenant.

In God's eyes we...

Are free from the law of sin and death
Live by the Spirit
Are not in the corrupt nature, but in the Spirit
Are His (we belong to Jesus)
Are alive because we have God’s approval
Have the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelling in us
Have our bodies quickened by his Spirit dwelling in us
Are not debtors to the corrupt nature
Are led by the Spirit of God
Are children of God.
Have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear
Have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we call out, “Abba, Father!”
Have the Spirit itself testifies with our spirit, that we are children of God–we are also God’s heirs, and joint-heirs with Christ
Love God
Are called according to His purpose.
Are predestinated to be conformed to the image of Jesus
Are called
Are justified
Are glorified.
Are more than conquerors through him that loves us.
Can never be separated from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Those promises and many more ought to make us pretty excited about how God feels about us.

God has settled His word forever in Heaven. In other words, what He has said is true.

As believers in Jesus, God loves you, approves you and is on your side. He is good, and He will never change His mind about you.

Trust Him for His goodness today

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Approval (Part 1)

How would your life be different if you knew in God's eyes, you would always have His approval and could never fail?  That He would always be with you and cheer you on...

Would it make a difference to you knowing that God is not angry with you, and is absolutely head over heels in love with you?  He is! 

 Most of us likely know the most quoted scripture in the New Testament, John 3:16;

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

But how many of us can quote the next verse?

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

God loves you and me and the whole world enough to send His most precious Gift, His Son, Jesus. He loves us enough to send Jesus, and to show us that His mission was not to condemn us, but to save us!

One of the greatest revelations that ever came to my life was to realize that God is not angry at me, and not only that, but He approves of me. He is my greatest encourager!

Romans 3:21- 26

"Now, the way to receive God's approval has been made plain in a way other than Moses' Teachings. Moses' Teachings and the Prophets tell us this. Everyone who believes has God's approval through faith in Jesus Christ. There is no difference between people. Because all people have sinned, they have fallen short of God's glory. They receive God's approval freely by an act of his kindness through the price Christ Jesus paid to set us free from sin. God showed that Christ is the throne of mercy where God's approval is given through faith in Christ's blood. In his patience God waited to deal with sins committed in the past. He waited so that he could display his approval at the present time. This shows that he is a God of justice, a God who approves of people who believe in Jesus." (GW) God's Word translation

I love the fact that GW translates the word “righteousness” (dikaiosune in the Greek), as God’s approval.  That is exactly what righteousness is; it is a state of being that is acceptable and approved of God.

God approves of people who believe in Jesus!

Something powerful happens in our heart when we get around someone who approves of us. We suddenly are filled with confidence and assurance.

Have you ever had someone in your life that approved of you, and no matter what you did, that person always accepted you?

Maybe it was a parent, a teacher, a grandparent, or a coach. Maybe you have had a friend who always encouraged you toward victory.

All of us need someone in our life that can give us encouragement now and then. Someone who tells us, “You can do it – keep going – you can make it!"

Sadly, the opposite is also true. Disapproval disempowers our lives.

Can you relate to having anyone in your life that does not approve of you?
Have you had someone in your life that no matter what you do, it will never be good enough, you will never measure up?

When we are around someone in our life that disapproves of us, it disempowers our lives. We can never do our best if we are around that person because we know we can never please them. Even if we have done something hundreds of times, disapproval will intimidate us, and we will mess up!

How much more powerful our lives will be when we realize that God approves of us, is for us, and will not let us fail! God is our "Amen Corner!"

To be continued,,,

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Fallen from Grace?

It is interesting to me that as we grow in the Lord, often things we were taught as early in our walk turn out to be not only unscriptural; but we discover that the actual meaning of the scripture(s) is completely opposite from the way it was taught.
Take for example, the idea of "falling from grace." 

I can remember being taught that falling from grace meant that someone had just sinned so much (too much), that there was simply no more grace available to help him or her.

It was even taught that there are just some people who test God's grace and patience so much that He just has to give up on them and therefore, they "fall from grace."

Of course, the church I was part of back then, seemed to focus more of its efforts on preaching against sinning and backsliding than teaching about following Jesus. They taught very little about His grace, what and who we are in Him, or about loving people and helping to reconcile them to God.
There is one passage in the entire New Testament that mentions the idea of "falling from grace!

It is found in Paul the Apostle's letter to the Galatians in chapter five verse four.  When we read the passage in context, we find that Paul was not talking about someone who was in the depths of a sinful life, being defiled to the point of losing their salvation...

No. Wonder of wonders, he was talking about something completely different.  You could even say, a different kind of sin...
"Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace." Galatians 5:4 KJV

"If you seek to be justified and declared righteous and to be given a right standing with God through the Law, you are brought to nothing and so separated (severed) from Christ. You have fallen away from grace (from God’s gracious favor and unmerited blessing)." Galatians 5:4 AMP
Did you catch it? Try it from this version...

"Those of you who try to earn God’s approval by obeying his laws have been cut off from Christ. You have fallen out of God’s favor." Galatians 5:4 GWV
Paul is specifically saying that a person who is trying to be justified by the law, and not by the blood of Jesus, has fallen from grace (ekpipto charis).

It is the not the person who has fallen back into sinful living or depravity that has fallen from grace.
No, the sin that causes someone to fall from grace, is the sin of trying to add one thing - one law - to the precious blood of Jesus and His finished work on the cross!

The Apostle Paul says it is the person who is no longer trusting in the grace of God alone, but is relying on righteousness through the law (or anything that is being added to the blood of Jesus). That is the person who has fallen from grace.

Trying to add one thing to the grace of God is like adding a drop of blood from a bull or a goat to the blood of Jesus!  Not only is that completely unnecessary and disgraceful, but it defiles the work of Jesus. 

You cannot add to a finished work!
The danger of falling from grace is in trusting in anything other than the blood of Jesus for salvation and righteousness (right standing with God).
" For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." Romans 10:4

The gospel message is pretty simple, because God did not want it to be complicated. He did not want us to try to earn our way to Him through works-righteousness, then that would have voided the gift of grace.

The simplicity of grace is found in Romans 10:9-10: "If you declare that Jesus is Lord, and believe that God brought him back to life, you will be saved. By believing you receive God’s approval, and by declaring your faith you are saved."
I love how the God's Word version of the bible translates the word "righteousness" as "God's approval."  Think about that one for a minute! No one has God's approval without the blood of Jesus.  The moment a person tries to earn God's approval by following the law, they have fallen from grace.

It is God's grace that keeps us. 
"Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
To God our Savior,
Who alone is wise,
Be glory and majesty,
Dominion and power,
Both now and forever.
Amen"   Jude 24-25
It is only what Jesus accomplished on the cross and none of our effort that took away our sins and keeps us righteous. 

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Friday, May 17, 2013

God's Direction

Just thinking this morning about how God works in our lives to give us direction... Psalms 37:23 says "A person’s steps are directed by the Lord..." GWV, but sometimes it can be difficult to know if you are on the right track.

One thing that helped over the years was an out of print book a friend gave us that offered some great advice about guidance. The book described some basic ways that God leads us:
God speaks through His Word. He is not going to tell you to do something that goes against what the Bible says. He does not lead us through fear, through condemnation, nor through control or manipulation. His ways are peaceful. One interpretation of Colossians 3:15 is, “…Let the peace of God be the umpire in your hearts.” In other words, let God’s peace lead you as it rules in your heart.

He leads through His still small voice. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me,” John 10:27. Today it seems odd to most people to hear someone say “God told me,” because in the Western world, science has told us that nothing exists outside of our five senses. However, the truth is, God does speak to our hearts. He mostly speaks through His word, but sometimes through an impression, through other believers, and through preaching. Sometimes we just “know in our knower” as a great Bible teacher used to say.

He might even speak to us by other supernatural means; dreams or visions. For example, look at how He spoke to Saul the persecutor (who became Paul the Apostle) – He knocked him off of His horse after appearing to him as a bright light, then spoke audibly to him, “Saul, Saul why do you persecute me?” Let me tell you – that would get my attention!

He leads us through our life’s circumstances. We may have an opportunity to share the love of God with someone near us; perhaps you are in just the right spot at the right time to be a blessing to someone. Maybe you have a chance to use your gifts in a special way, or you have an opportunity to go on a short-term mission trip! I highly recommend that!

Maybe today you are feeling that God never speaks to you, but sometimes we miss the supernatural when we are looking for the spectacular.

Chances are that you are not going to have a three-legged chicken come to your house at three o’clock in the morning and bark like a dog to give you a sign from Heaven that God wants to speak to you.

But God is constantly speaking to us. The heavens declare the glory of God! He speaks to us by giving us life and breath and people to love, and who love us. The challenge for us is to recognize how He is speaking to us at any moment...