Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Grace Scandal: You Never Give Up On Me

Romans 8:35, 38-39
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The amazing implications of Romans 8:35, 38-39 is that you cannot out-sin God's love.

God never gives up on us.

This portion of Scripture is well known almost to the point that familiarity has lessened it. But the reality of Jesus' life on earth proves that He will never give up on us.

John 1:10-11
[Jesus] was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.

The very people that Jesus was coming to show His love and grace to rejected Him. He gave them life and they spit in His face. At any moment Jesus could have said,

"I'm tired of the disrespect. I quit! I've had enough; if they are going to act like this than so be it! To hell with them all."

But He didn't.

His love remained through all the hatred, all the conspiracy, all the way to the cross. If He didn't give up then He won't give up on you now.

While hanging of the cross Jesus showed His love for all mankind (Luke 23:33-35). I believe Jesus would have hugged the Roman soldiers as they beat Him and nailed Him to the cross. So I seriously doubt that what I do right now would make Him give up on me.

Luke 15 contains three parables that illustrate God going after something that had been lost. The Shepherd left 99 sheep to go looking for the 1 that was lost. The Woman with 10 silver coins loses 1 and does some spring cleaning to find it. The Father whose son left with his inheritance to squander it on the world's pleasures only to return back home with nothing and starving. Following each story of the lost being found there is a great celebration not condemnation.

The Shepherd and the Woman in these stories went searching for what was lost. The Father waited for the son to return. He waited patiently and still looked for his son hoping one day he would return home. Understand this the father loved his son so much that he allowed the son to do with his life as he chose. But once the son's journey brought him back to the father; the father ran to him.

The reality is that we quit on God; not the other way around. Don't get that twisted.

If one Christian wrongs a person, from that point on all Christians are hypocrites and God is fake. But for some reason they miss how many times the world has brought them down because they always retreat to the world. The world lets them do what they want. They give up on God simply because they don't want to deal with the reality of their circumstances. What they don't realize is that God loves them so much that He will allow them to go to hell if that's the course they choose.

There is only one thing that can separate us from God's love and grace and that is SELF; us simply not wanting His love and grace. However, even that won't stop God from loving you and offering you His grace.

I would have written myself off a long time ago. But God went after me. His love found me. His grace was too irresistible. I don't completely know why but He never gave up on me. So I know God won't give up on you.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Grace Scandal: One Way Love

The Bible college definition of grace is:  unmerited or undeserved favor.

What I want us to understand about grace is more than the definition but actually what it is. Grace simply is "one way love". I first heard this tweeted by Pastor Tullian Tchividjian and it is spot on with what God's grace is.

Matthew 15:1-14 talks about an encounter that Jesus had with the religious leaders of His time. They accused Jesus' disciples of not keeping certain traditions. Jesus' reply was that they keep their traditions but squash what God has said to do. Then Jesus quotes Isaiah. In essence saying that they only honored God externally (by doing religious acts and accusing those who didn't) but internally there was no connection with God.

What motivated people in the Old Testament (OT) was guilt. God used guilt in the OT to point out that something had to be done to pay for the sin that was committed. What pointed out the guilt was the Law.

Israel had 613 Laws to follow perfectly for them not to be broken in their lives. Of course no one is perfect. When just one Law was broken by a person then all the Law was broken by that person. So guilt reigned in their lives. Each time they broke a Law they had to DO something to make it right. The Law never says "You are forgiven" only "You are guilty." We desperately need a "Not guilty" verdict.

Religion than can be interpreted as guiltyism. No matter what I do in attempting to be free from my guilt I will fail; going to church, giving money, and doing good deeds will never be good enough. We can never pay this debt. Religion tries to make you feel guilty so that you will DO something to please religion.

Guilt does not equal grace.

Romans 8:3-4
For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so He condemned sin in sinful man in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

The word guilt appears in the OT 170 times and in the NT 16 times.
The word grace appears in the OT 11 times and in the NT 116 times.

Motivation by guilt was replaced with a motivation to accept His grace. Rather than focusing on obeying a long list of requirements Jesus emphasized grace; so guilt-oriented religion was replaced by grace-oriented relationship.

Grace is not about doing but about receiving. Jesus already did everything that God required.

Guilt accused us so we needed a sacrifice. A payment was needed for the wrong done. Jesus paid the debt so we wouldn't have to. He did it without humanity even realizing it. That is one way love.

Romans 11:6
And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

The Pharisees were all about rules and traditions. They were grace killers. They looked at the letter of the law. From creation God has desired a relationship with mankind. He constantly walked with Adam and Eve before they sinned. He said that He would raise up a people not a religion from the children of Abraham. So with Jesus' sacrifice God can have a relationship with us once again.

The grace of God is God showing love to a people who really don't deserve it. Nothing we can DO can pay God back for His grace. It's a one way love and God just asks that we accept it before it's too late.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Grace Scandal: Who is Really Guilty?

What would you say if you were following a trial of a well-known repeat felon who pleaded "Guilty" to several crimes and the prosecution had a mountain of evidence to prove his guilt; then the judge hands down his verdict of "Not Guilty?"

What would you say?
"That is unjust!"
"The judge must have been paid off!"
"This is outrageous!"

After all the shock is over with and the judge gets the attention of the whispering onlookers in the courtroom he looks at the victim and says, "Guilty."

What would you say?
"Are you kidding me?"
"That is wrong! How can you punish the victim?"
"This is scandalous!"

This of course wouldn't fly in our judicial system but in God's judicial system it happens every time a person accepts God's grace. The criminal goes free because of God's love for them and because of Jesus' willingness to take on the criminal's punishment.


You may ask, "Can God really forgive..."

The father that lets his drug dealer friend rape his teenage daughter for another fix?

What about the mother who was too tired to fight anymore with her two toddlers so she drowned them?

What about the guy who was molested as a child who now stalks and then molests other children?

What about the terrorist who strapped a bomb to himself and walked into a school and fulfilled his deadly mission by taking the lives of all the innocent children?

What about the abortion doctor?

The homosexual?


What about me? Is the question we ask. Can God forgive me? What about the sin I battle with every day? Did I mess up too much? Did I out sin the love of God?

Before I can understand grace's greatness I need to understand whom I've offended and the cost of the grace He's giving.

We understand sin in the context of a human problem; the "right and wrong" and the "good and bad" defines those things. Because we discriminate and segregate sin into compartments like "the little white lie" or "it's not hurting anyone."

Psalm 51:4
Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are proved right when You speak and justified when You judge.

Sin is a human problem in the sense that we humans are born sinful. But the Person that is offended each and every time we sin we don't consider. Some sin has earthly ramifications. All sin has heavenly consequences.

When we sin regularly we tell God that we enjoy earthly pleasures more than Your eternal presence. Yet each time we sin God offers us grace.

God's reply is, "I don't like what you are doing, in fact I hate it, because you put yourself above Me. I love you even though you do this and I want to make it right."

God wants to make it right? But He's the one who has been offended and He's also the one who loves you beyond your sin, beyond the darkness of your past, beyond the sinfulness of your present and beyond the struggles of the future.

Romans 5:8
But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The cost was the life of Jesus.

While you and I were functioning in our dysfunction and could care less about the love of God; He loved us regardless. That word "still" gets me. It means that I couldn't get any farther away from God than that. In fact I enjoyed what I was doing; yet He loved me and yet Jesus died in my place.

This amazing love that Jesus has for us is so tremendous. What person could have loved you so much that they decided to take on and endure the full wrath of God so you wouldn't have to? What person went through such tumultuous torture so that one day He could wipe all your tears away?

We have all offended God. Jesus took all of our punishment. All I have to do to receive this grace is admit that I have sinned.

That amazing grace is scandalous!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Our Message Should Be...

The main message that should be preached regularly at every church from each pulpit each week is the same as Jesus' message.

Matthew 4:17
From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."

Luke 5:32
I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

REPENTANCE. In many churches the word "repent" is a 4-letter word. Because we think it is full of condemnation when actually it is a word that is overflowing with such amazing grace. Here is why:

In the Old Testament sin was the big issue. People constantly had to supply their own sacrifice whether from their own herd/flock or purchased by them to get "annual" forgiveness. That only being done on the Day of Atonement once a year. At that specific time of the year a human being could enter into God's presence (the Most Holy Place) and that also only being the high priest. This went on for generations because the sacrifices that were made were not good enough to completely atone for the sin of the people.

Hebrew 10:4
Because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

That all changed with what we read in the New Testament. When Jesus went to the cross sin ceased being the issue and repentance became the issue.

Jesus was the perfect sacrifice to cover all sin once and for all...past, present and future.

Hebrews 9:25-26
Nor did He enter heaven to offer Himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

Sin is done. Sin has been conquered. There is victory. All because Jesus did "away" with it. Meaning sin no longer has a death grip on us. Understand I'm not denying that sin is an issue. I'm not denying that we will struggle with sin in our lives. What I am saying is that we don't need to focus on a particular sin whether from the pulpit or in private but start working towards repentance.

So it's not do I sin but do I repent. In God's eyes it doesn't matter what sin is committed because it already had a sacrifice; it does matter, however, if you repent of it. Instead of us, who have offended God with our sin buy an offering God brought a sacrifice to the table so now all we must do is repent. God's sacrifice was good enough. I just need to accept it and repent.

God's desire is not that I find happiness, success or any other seeker-sensitive bull. He desires that I repent so that I don't have to remain on the outside of the Most Holy Place but enter into it.

Don't think for 1 minute that you have more compassion for the lost because you bow to their will then the Son of God. He made His grace wide open for everyone who repents. God wants us because He bought us with a great price that we were never worth the value of.

So what greater message can ever be preached, than repentance?

Mark 6:12
They went out and preached that people should repent.

That was the message Jesus sent the twelve disciples out to preach. Great things took place as well. People were healed and the demon possessed were given liberty; yet, the miraculous followed the message of repentance.

If we really want to be a church that shows grace, reaches the lost and honors Christ then our message should resonate the same theme as His.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Yes, Jesus Loves Me

If you ever went to church as a child you probably were taught the song, "Jesus Loves Me." Just in case you may not know it or have forgotten the words let me tell you of them:
Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak but He is strong

Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
The Bible tells me so
It's amazing how we sometimes miss the marvelous nature of that chorus because it's a song for children. But what a great hope comes from hearing the words, "Yes, Jesus loves me." Jesus died on the cross as payment for our sin and not only that but to show us His very own love for you and me.

Christ loved us and gave Himself for us, as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:2)
Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. (Ephesians 5:25)
[He] loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

Jesus loves me personally. What an amazing thought. The Beginning and the End, the I AM, the Son of the living God, the Word that became flesh, the King above all kings and the Lord above all lords LOVES ME. No matter my past or my present Jesus loves me unconditionally.

You may ask if you are included in this and the answer is simple.

Because we were weak in our efforts to get out from God's wrath Jesus was willing to be beaten, mocked, nailed to a cross and put in a tomb all for His limitless love for you. Whenever you start to feel lonely, unloved or in need of some encouragement just begin to sing,

Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
The Bible tells me so