Tag Archives: grace

A LINE IN THE SAND

A LINE IN THE SAND

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Romans 6:1-4.

Paul did not let the grass grow under his feet. As ridiculous as the counter-arguments may sound, he anticipated and responded to each one before they were even thought of.

If the sinfulness of man resulted in the revelation of God’s grace, and the greater the sin, the greater the grace, why not just go on sinning so that God’s grace may be even more evident? What a crazy argument! It’s like saying, “Let me live as recklessly as I can and do as much damage to myself as I can so that the skill of the doctor who attends to me can be made known!”

We would never reason like that when it comes to our own physical bodies and yet there are people who actually think that it’s okay to carry on sinning because God will forgive them. Like the Israelites of old, who happily disobeyed God’s commands because they offered sacrifices for their sin, there are people who think that God’s forgiveness is the reason for carrying on with their old sinful lifestyle.

This way of thinking completely misses the reason the Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself as a sacrifice for the sin of the world. His broken body and shed blood dealt with the guilt of our past, paying our debt and striking all our sins from the record. However, there is much more to it than that. Sin is not only debited to our account, it also pollutes us, making us unclean, like the leper who was excluded from society because he was infectious and his putrefying sores made him look unsightly and smell offensive

We know that a decaying body produces a terrible stench. Can you imagine how bad a dead spirit must smell? And we were dead in our trespasses and sins before God, through the Holy Spirit, raised us up in Christ, washed us clean through His blood and made us sweet-smelling and acceptable to the Father. Why would we even think of living in sin again and smelling like a pig-sty all over again?

Imagine your little daughter playing in the mud just before she is due to attend a birthday party. You pick her up, put her in the bath and wash her from top to toe. Then you rub her dry, powder her and dress her in her party finery. Would she want to go back into the mud just so that she could be bathed again? Of course not!

Jesus’ sacrifice not only remedied the past – it also transforms our present. When He died on the cross, since we are now “in Him”, we also died with Him. We made a public declaration of our identity with Him through our baptism, symbolised by our going down into a watery “grave” and rising with Him to a new life. There is nothing magical about baptism itself; the physical act of being dunked under the water does nothing to us physically, but it is a powerful witness and declaration of what has happened in the spirit and faith in its purpose transforms us on the inside.

Something happens in the spirit realm when we declare, through a public action that we have died with Christ and been raised to a new life. It is a kind of “cut-off” point between our past and present. It speaks to the people who witness it as well as to the unseen realm of angels, good and evil, that we have become new creatures in Christ. It is a declaration of war against those who hate God, both people and devils but, at the same time it brings all the power of heaven to our assistance.

We now have a new Master, a new identity and a new destiny, based on the gift of Jesus Christ’s righteousness which has been credited to us through God’s grace. Would we not then, in keeping with who we now are, embrace the grace of God to live up to our new identity? Our baptism, identifying us as children of God and followers of Jesus, is like drawing a line in the sand.

On which side of the line do you stand?

Acknowledgement

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

GRACE AND PEACE

GRACE AND PEACE

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ: Grace and peace to you from God our Father.” Colossians 1:1, 2.

Quite a mouthful in the opening sentence! Unlike our modern communication, ancient letters said it all in the first sentence; writer, recipients, and who they were.

Who were Paul and Timothy?

Paul described himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God. He was not a self-appointed or self-proclaimed apostle. We have many of those today. Why do spiritual leaders love titles? Does it elevate them above the rest or give them an edge on spirituality? On what authority do they claim those titles? Those who call themselves Apostle So-and-so or Prophet So-and-so – can they honestly say that they were given that title and office by the will of God?

With a title comes a task – to lead people by example as Paul did. Because he was a God-appointed and Spirit-anointed apostle, he could say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” How often do those who carry official-sounding titles betray them by espousing people to themselves! They are the only ones who are right and not to recognise that is to dishonour their title.

Who was Timothy? A brother! Timothy was Paul’s young trainee. When Paul found him, he realised that he had found gold – a young believer who had the makings of a fine leader. Paul did not give him the title of apostle. It was not his right to give, but he trained and mntored him to understudy him as a faithful and fully equipped leader. He was able to leave him in Ephesus to care for the church there while Paul went on with his mission to make Christ known where He was not known.

Paul regarded Timothy as his son in the faith. He often accompanied Paul on his journeys and acted as messenger and support during Paul’s imprisonments. He was a comfort to Paul in his suffering and in his old age, a true son upon whom Paul could rely to continue his work when he was no longer there

Who were the Colossians? The ancient city of Colossae was built on a major trade route which ran through the Lycus River valley in the province of Asia Minor in modern-day Turkey. It was famous for its dark red wool cloth called colossinum from where the city got its name. The city lost its importance when the nearby city of Laodicea overtook it as a business centre.

Paul spent two years in the nearby city of Ephesus from where the gospel spread to other centres, carried by converts from Ephesus. It is likely that one of Paul’s converts, Epaphras, was responsible for carrying the message to Colossae. Philemon was a member of that church, to whom Paul wrote a short letter about his slave Onesimus.

Although Paul did not know the people in the church at Colossae personally, he could still address them as “holy people” and “faithful brothers and sisters.” Why? Because, like his Master, he could view them as already complete in Christ. As long as they were in Christ, from God’s perspective, they had already been perfected. “In Christ” is, of course the operative word.

Grace and peace! Grace – a prayer for his readers to experience the ongoing grace of God in their lives, and peace – a normal Jewish greeting – “shalom” but for Paul the result of all God’s mercy to us – His peace that guards our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Infused into this greeting is all the richness of God’s work in the lives of those who are “in Christ”.

This was much more than just a nicety, a polite greeting like we would say when we say “hello” and “goodbye” but, to Paul, it was the expression of his heart and his love for God’s children, even if he did not know them personally.

SCRIPTURE TAKEN FROM THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

HANDCRAFTED BY THE MASTER

HANDCRAFTED BY THE MASTER

For it is by grace you have been saved through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2: 8-10).

What a different picture from the one Paul painted in the previous verses! We are no longer dead and stinking but alive to God and objects of His grace and favour. How sad that religion drives many branches of so-called Christianity. What do I mean by “religion”? Religion flourishes by rules and ritual. Religion is a “do-it-yourself” attempt to reach God or to satisfy the perceived demands of a god.

Even believers in Jesus often erroneously think that their response to what God has done for them is to “work for God”. But God’s word tells a very different story. God sent His Son into the world to rescue us from the plight sin put us in, not for our sake but for His sake. He wanted a family of sons and daughters bound to Him by love, not a group of slaves bound to Him by fear.

He did everything necessary to bring us back to His original plan because of His mercy. We did nothing to deserve His grace and we can do nothing to earn it. He did it for Himself so that the minions who rebelled against Him would be confronted with the truth – God is love.

Humans find it difficult to accept a free gift so great that it transfers us out of the devil’s clutches and places us in the hands and under the care of a gracious Father. We would rather attempt to repay God for His kindness in some futile way which does not impress God at all. God is not a tit-for-tat God like the gods of the heathen. If you do this for Him, He will do that for you. Everything He did to save us from self-destruction, He did for Himself, and He gives is to us as a free gift of His grace.

But that does not mean that we simply take everything and give nothing back. As sons and daughters of God, there is a response He requires of us, but it is not a response of repaying our debt. It is the response of the children of God who adore their Father and serve Him out of love and gratitude.

A study of the gospels will reveal that there are five characteristics of a true son which Jesus mirrored in His life on earth.

  1. A son loves his father

A religious leader once asked Jesus, “Which is the greatest commandment?” to which Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” Love for God is the atmosphere in which a son of daughter lives.

  1. A son trusts his father

If there is no trust between a father and his child, he then lives like a slave in fear. Love and trust are the basis of the other three characteristics of a son or daughter.

  1. A son submits to his father

Jesus is the perfect model of a submissive son. Even when He faced His greatest battle in the Garden of Gethsemane, He submitted to the Father’s will, and not with gritted teeth but with love and trust.

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Hebrews 5:7

  1. A son obeys the father

A son does not grudgingly obey or give in to the father under compulsion. Obedience is the hallmark of love. Jesus said to His disciples, “If you love me, you will do what I command you.”

Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 1 Hebrews 5:8-10

  1. A son serves his father

This is not the service of a servant but the service of partnership, doing the Father’s will with Him to fulfil the Father’s greater purpose of establishing His kingdom on earth.

The good works of which Paul speaks are not random acts of kindness because we feel sorry for people in need. They are the integrated actions of God’s people which reveal His character to an ungodly world. When we live in harmony and fellowship with the Father, He will reveal His will to us and enable us to carry out His plans in partnership with Him to bring a wayward family back to Himself.

Whatever it involves in the way of acts of compassion and kindness towards others, God wants to reveal Himself through us so that those who have been deceived by the devil into hating God, will see Him in us and turn to Him in faith.

Paul said that we are God’s masterpiece, handcrafted by Him to carry out His will on earth by doing what He planned for us to do long before we were born.

Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3,                                                                              eBook 978-4828-0511-6

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or Kindle version, on www.takealot.com  or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

My second book, Learning to be a Disciple – The Way of the Master (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing), a companion volume to Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart, has been released in paperback and digital format on www.amazon.com.

 

6 – ENGAGING THE POWERS OF THE KINGDOM – THE POWER OF GRACE

6 – ENGAGING THE POWERS OF THE KINGDOM THE POWER OF GRACE 

Lest we begin to think that we are becoming powerful in this life in God’s kingdom by applying these aspects of kingdom power, the Word reminds us of our need for God’s GRACE. We have no power in and of ourselves. We are helpless outside of our union with Jesus,

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 NIV

and His grace to overcome our weakness.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV

What is grace? It’s a difficult word to define. In essence, it is God’s attitude of favour shown to undeserving sinners. However, God’s grace is much more than an attitude. It is the heart and power of the gospel. God freely gives us whatever we need because of His gracious attitude.

Grace is the energy of the kingdom. We were saved, justified, redeemed, delivered from darkness, made alive, adopted, and everything else that is associated with salvation, because of God’s grace.

Through the sacrificial death of Jesus, God’s wrath against sin was replaced with grace, undeserved and unlimited favour. We exited the realm of wrath and entered the realm (government) of grace.

Paul called it “a standing in grace”. It’s as though we are standing in a sea of grace so vast that, wherever we look around us, all we see is pure divine grace.

God’s grace is ultimately the outpouring of His love in practical ways to prepare us for eternity with Him.

“In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” Ephesians 1:5-6 NIV

Firstly, then, how can I access this grace?

The answer is… BY FAITH. We entered into all the benefits of salvation when we believed that Jesus is the Son of God.

Salvation is purely by God’s grace, a gift we received when we believed.

“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.” Ephesians 2:8 NLT

Faith in Jesus also changed our standing before God. We are no longer called sinners but saints – those who are set apart from sin to God. “Saints” refers to our standing, not our behaviour. We have been declared righteous and have a standing in grace which allows us to tap into all the resources of the kingdom which God’s grace provides.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand….” Romans 5:1-2 NIV

“… and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:24 NIV

GOD’S GRACE SUPPLIES WHATEVER WE NEED TO OBEY WHATEVER HE REQUIRES.

BY FAITH WE RECEIVE THE GRACE WE NEED TO BE WHAT HE WANTS US TO BE.

Grace is a never-ending supply of God’s power to function as citizens of His kingdom and children in His family. It is God helping us in our helplessness.

Where do we find this grace?

“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:14-16 NLT

Put very simply, we find grace where God is… at His throne of grace. We receive God’s help when approach Him and ask for it.

This is not an exhaustive study on God’s grace. I want us to understand grace in the context of kingdom power, how to engage God’s grace in our need so that we learn to overcome the world. There are some do’s and don’t’s that will guide us on our journey towards reigning in this life.

“For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:17 NLT

  1. Grace is freely given but it is not cheap. Someone had to pay in order for us to receive it without cost. Jesus paid the ultimate price to give us this free grace.

“… to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” Ephesians 1:6 NIV

“What we do see is Jesus, who for a little while was given a position “a little lower than the angels”; and because he suffered death for us, he is now “crowned with glory and honor.” Yes, by God’s grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone. God, for whom and through whom everything was made, chose to bring many children into glory. And it was only right that he should make Jesus, through his suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation.” Hebrews 2:9-10 NLT

  1. God’s grace is His choice, not ours.

They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children. God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them his law. He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises… . So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it…. When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who are destined for destruction. He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory. And we are among those whom he selected, both from the Jews and from the Gentiles.” Romans 9:4, 16, 21-24 NLT

  1. God’s grace is freely available to us but we must take the initiative to ask for and access this grace.

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:19-22 NLT

“So, let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:16 NLT

  1. God’s grace is not a licenSe to sin.

God’s grace is freely given to those who desire to live in the freedom from sin that Jesus’ death and resurrection provides. There is no grace for those who continue to live in sin and indulge in the flesh with the mistaken idea that God will always forgive.

“Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not!  we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?… For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God…. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.” Romans 6:1-2, 7, 10-11 NLT

  1. We can miss (fall short of – NIV) God’s grace by harbouring bad attitudes towards others.

“Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” Hebrews 12:15 NLT

God’s plan, in all the ups and downs of our everyday lives, is to restore in us the likeness of Jesus. He constantly tests us, through our daily struggles, to see whether we are learning to be sons, those who protect unity with Jesus (remain on the vine) and live in submission to the Father.

He also uses our struggles to work for our good.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Romans 8:28-29 NIV

What is the” good” He is talking about? Learning to act and respond to life’s difficulties like Jesus did rather than out of the flesh. Jesus said, “I am humble and gentle in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Most of our difficulties come from our clashes with people. When we react from the flesh, we build up anger, resentment, and bitterness and carry in our hearts the baggage of grudges and offences. We add our own sin to the sin of the one who offended us. We miss God’s grace by refusing to let go of the offences and, in the end, our bad attitudes affect the people around us.

To have a humble and gentle attitude is to preserve the quietness of spirit that submits to God’s discipline instead of fighting against every offence.

“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”  Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:6-8 NIV

How true is God’s warning to Cain,

“You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” Genesis 4:7 NLT

  1. We can “receive God’s grace in vain”.

“As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 NIV

God’s grace through Jesus qualifies me to receive all the benefits of His salvation and all His resources in Jesus. The only restriction to the provision of God’s grace is my unwillingness to believe and receive.

When my flesh rules in my life and I prefer to react in the flesh rather than ruling over my flesh, God’s grace is of no value to me. It could be that I have never been born again of the Holy Spirit.

“Anyone who continues to live in him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know him or understand who he is.” 1 John 3:6 NLT

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:10-11 NIV

This does not mean that we will never sin. We are still plagued by the old nature but, as children of God, we do not practice sin as a way of life.

“Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God.” John 3:9 NLT

However, when we sin, Jesus is God’s provision for grace to restore us to fellowship with the Father.

My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.” 1 John 2:1-2 NLT

So, to sum up, in His package of salvation, God has provided grace for us to cope with every situation that arises is the course of our daily lives. His grace comes to us in a variety of forms and ways – which we shall look at as we continue.

Our response is to believe His promises, receive His grace and use every opportunity to avoid living like the people in the world…

“Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. All glory to him, both now and forever! Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18 NLT

We must avoid the pitfalls of missing God’s grace by holding on to grudges or receiving His grace in salvation but never continuing on by applying His grace in our weakness.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

All Scripture quotations in this series

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

 

FORGIVENESS – A TRUE STORY  

The scene is a Truth and Reconciliation courtroom in South Africa. 

 A frail black woman rises slowly to her feet. She is something over 70 years of age. Facing across the room are several white security police officers, one of whom, Mr van der Broek, has just been tried and found implicated in the murders of both the woman’s son and her husband some years before. He had come to the woman’s home, taken her son, shot him at point blank range and then set the young man’s body on fire while he and his officers partied nearby.

Several years later, van der Broek and his cohorts had returned to take away her husband as well. For many months she heard nothing of his whereabouts. Then almost two years after her husband’s disappearance, van der Broek came to her house to fetch the woman herself. How vividly she remembers that evening, going to a place beside a river where she was shown her husband, bound and beaten, but still strong in spirit, lying on a pile of wood. The last words she heard from his lips as the officers poured petrol over his body and set him aflame were,” Father,  forgive them…”

Now the woman stands in the courtroom and listens to the confessions offered by Mr van der Broek. A member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission turns to her and asks “So what do you want? How should justice be done to this man who has so brutally destroyed your family?”

“I want three things,” begins the old woman calmly but confidently. “I want first to be taken to the place where my husband’s body was burned so that I can gather up the dust and give his remains a decent burial.”

She pauses, and then continues. “My husband and son were my only family, I want secondly, therefore, for Mr van der Broek to become my son. I would like for him to come twice a month to our township to spend a day with me so that I can pour out on him whatever love I still have remaining in me.”

“And finally,” she says, “ I want a third thing. This is also the wish of my husband. I would like someone to come to my side and lead me across the courtroom. I wish to take Mr van der Broek in my arms and embrace him, to let him know that he is truly forgiven.” As the court assistants come to lead the elderly woman across the room, Mr van der Broek, overwhelmed by what he has just heard, faints. As he does, those in the courtroom, family, friends, neighbours – all victims of decades of oppression and injustice – begin to sing, softly but assuredly, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.”