Behavior modification

Your mindset will determine your joy. Too often our focus in on behavior modification. The legalistic persons says:

When I have modified my behavior, I will be Godly(er)

Grace says:

As I am dependent on Christ, He leads me in His Godliness and my behavior is consistent with Him as a result.

God does not look upon us and say “I just wish they would behave better.”

Good behavior is never the goal of God. His desire is a loving relationship with Him. When we walk in Him, proper behavior is one of the results. He leads with intimacy, we follow in His love.

Read the Whole Thing!

Reading random verses with no context is the fast track to confusion. For instance the Book of Romans is a complete discussion of salvation, and the Christian life. However, if you pull out a random snippet, you might end up confused. In chapter 2 Paul says:

For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.

Well look at that. It sounds like Paul teaches salvation by works. I thought he was the “grace” guy. Well, keep reading. When we get to chapter 3, he says:

There is no one righteous, not even one;
11     there is no one who understands;
    there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
    they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
    not even one.”
13 “Their throats are open graves;
    their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
14     “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     ruin and misery mark their ways,
17 and the way of peace they do not know.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Never mind, apparently no one is righteous. So what do we do? Keep reading. He goes on to say:

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. .

The problem is that we can’t just quote a verse a build entire doctrines on a verse out of context. Romans is a masterful work, and Paul takes 5 chapters to establish that:

  • Knowing the truth is insufficient (knowledge without action)
  • We can be righteous if we are good
  • By the way you aren’t good or righteous – you failed
  • There is a righteousness from Christ, not by works.
  • God provided this while we were terrible sinners.

Understanding the word can be a lot of work sometimes. Not understanding it leads to a lot of pain and hardship. When we do not know what God has done for us, we tend to spend our time trying to figure out what we have to do for God. Know God, know His Word, and know the context–and that will help you to truly know Him.

 

 

Your Identity in Christ

There will always be people who want to control us and tell us what we should do. These people are mostly interested in making us to be like them. We are not called to be like them, we are called to be like Christ. Through the blood of Christ we have been given freedom from the law. We have been given a new nature and we are a new creation. We are free from the opinions and control of others. I have only one responsibility and that is to Christ, through the leading of the Holy Spirit.

You might then ask: “What about family, friends, work, and all the other areas of responsibility?” The answer is that everything else falls under the umbrella of Christ. If I obey Christ, I will fulfill all the other responsibilities. If I obey Christ, then all the right things will get taken care of. If I obey Christ, I can be satisfied with what I have done and not live under the judgment of others.

Freedom is in Christ. In Him I have the perfect leader taking me to the perfect destination. I do not need to worry about provision or resources. In Christ, I do not need to worry about the opinions of men, because He has made me acceptable to the Father. The lie of Satan is that we need to submit to rules and what others think. This brings bondage. The truth is, only in Christ are we free.

[From Extreme Turbo Mega Grace]

There is no such thing as Hyper-grace

I have been hearing a few people complain about hyper-grace and the “abuses of grace” lately. A book was written on it, and I’ve heard a few sermon fragments online.  The problem is that they use the word incorrectly. Grace is the unmerited favor of God.  I can’t get too much of that.  I can’t use too much of that.  Grace is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Grace is what the entire Christian life is composed of.  Grace is walking in freedom.

These people feel that if I completely walk in grace, then I will start sinning a bunch as a celebration of grace. The problem is that these people are using the wrong word.  The correct word they are thinking of is not grace, but “license” or “licentiousness”.  The concern is that grace will lead to sin, so we better reign in the grace, to keep people behaving correctly.  This, is living under the law.

In simple terms, Grace is Christ.  Legalism is the law, and license is ignorance of the saving life Christ.  The legalistic person is under the impression that we need the law to keep people under control.  They have no understanding of grace. The law was designed to drive us to Christ, because we can’t do it on our own. The licentious person does not understand that they have been freed from sin. They have no understanding of grace.  They are still trapped in their sin.

The Bible does not advocate a balance of grace and law.  It teaches grace for the believer, and the law for those who wish to be under the curse of the law. The true understanding of grace, is that I have been reconciled to Christ, and have been made free from sin and it’s bondage.  I have also been freed from the law.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  I am led by the Holy Spirit, and empowered by Christ.  If I return to sin, then sin becomes my master.  In Christ, I am freed from the penalty of sin, and the penalty of the law, but I am not free of the consequences of sin.  If I choose to go on sinning, I am still fully loved by Christ, but I am living back in bondage.

I lead a bible study at a prison, and one of the men said “I gave up drugs for Jesus”.  I replied “No, you did not”.  My explanation was this:  When you say “I gave up drugs for Jesus”, what you are actually saying is:

  1. Drugs are good.
  2. I was willing to sacrifice the goodness of drugs so that Jesus would benefit from my action.

This if course, is a complete misunderstanding.  The real situation was:

  1. I was in bondage to drugs
  2. Christ freed me from slavery

When we have the right perspective, we can have the right attitude.  Sin is not something I get to do because of grace, but rather sin is what I have been freed from by grace. I cannot abuse grace, but I can be abused by my sin. The holy spirit will lead me in all truth, and will show me what to do and when to do it.  That is walking in freedom. Christ came to bring us true freedom.  True freedom is not living in sin. That is bondage. True freedom is being led by the Holy Spirit moment by moment, and enjoying the places that He will take me, and knowing that He loves me because He is my Father, not because of how I perform.

Saving the Next Generation

I just watched a video that showed how 70% of kids in church will leave the church.  It’s a great tragedy. There is another push called >4% that aims to make sure we don’t fall to less than 4% Christians in this country. I have seen statistics about how each generation is less and less Christian. I don’t remember the precise statistics, and it’s not worth the effort to look them up, but people talk about “the greatest generation” (the one that won WWII) and how they were 70 or 80% Christian. Then the “Baby boomers” (the 1950s and 60s kids) were 50% or less Christian. And finally, the current generation is 10 or 20% Christian and dwindling.

When these statistics are quoted, too often the emphasis is on the later generations, and how they aren’t getting it. I think the emphasis is wrong. I have seen efforts to give better information, better discipleship, or better something. But all of those will ultimately fail, because they miss the root problem. The current Church (including the past few generations) rarely preaches the grace of Christ. It has preached Jesus for salvation, and then a life of joyless law. Try harder, work harder. That is the death of the Church. The younger generation is not leaving the Church because they are all bad or uninformed. They are leaving the Church because they don’t see Jesus.

We are trying to attract them back with “hipster Church”, and lights, and candles, and contemplative services. We give stuff away, we use video streaming, Facebook, and Instagram, yet the youth keep walking. They don’t want that junk. They can get it in the secular world at a lower price. They want Jesus. They want grace. They want the love of Christ, not our generations of rules and traditions. They want to see the Spirit work in mighty ways. They want what Jesus brings, not what our traditions bring.

I listen to all sorts of pastors on the radio, and most of them talk about the same old stuff. They spend way more time talking about how hard I need to try, and very little time telling about what Christ has done, and will do through me. There are a few good teachers and preachers out there, but you have to look for them.

If we want to reach the next generation, and truly change the world, we need to stop being a religion, and start becoming Christ to the world. When they see Christ in us, they will want it, and they will come running.