Thursday, May 11, 2017

Clash of the Covenants - new book from Mike Kapler

The brand new book, Clash of the Covenants - Escaping Religious Bondage Through the Grace Guarantee, from Growing in Grace co-host Mike Kapler is now available for Kindle on Amazon!  Remember, you don't need a Kindle in order to read.  Download the Kindle app on your computer, tablet or smartphone. 

Have you been robbed by religion? Have you ever wondered where you really stood with God? For everyone trapped in a mindset of wondering whether God is angry or disappointed with them due to a lack of performance or dedication, help is on the way. In fact, it already arrived more than a couple thousand years ago.

Christian churches are filled with people who have been hearing Bible teaching built upon a foundation of mixing together two very different covenants that are not alike. Frequently embraced in most Christian circles, the practice of combining the old and new covenants has resulted in a diluted version of the gospel. This religious formula has caused many to avoid the institutional church altogether, often puts them in a state of confusion, and leaves them hungering and thirsting for a new identity of righteousness, unaware it has already been provided.

The current reality of unconditional love, peace, freedom, forgiveness, and everything else that is good, has been gifted to us by God's grace through the finished work of Jesus Christ. This is the message most people have been longing to experience, but it may require a complete change of mind from a lifetime of traditional church doctrines that have left many drowning in guilt and feeling as though they are in a state of bondage. God has provided a way of escape from the burdensome religious business—it is through a New Covenant where it is impossible for us to fail, because Jesus is the mediator and guarantee of this better covenant, and it has been established on better promises.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

God Desired and Was Pleased With the One Sacrifice of Jesus

There is one sacrifice for sins that God was pleased with. It was, of course, the sacrifice of Christ, through which our sins were not only "covered," but completely taken away. There's sadly a teaching that's been going around for some time that says that God didn't want any sacrifices. He didn't even want the sacrifice of Jesus. The sacrifice of Jesus was all man's doing, and God had nothing to do with it, nor did He desire it. The passage that is quoted to make the point of God not wanting a sacrifice is Hebrews 10:5-6 (which is a quote from Psalm 40), which says:

"Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body you have prepared for Me.
In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure."

Now, if you take those two verses alone like that, it could be made to appear as if God indeed didn't want any sacrifices - not even the sacrifice of Christ.  But if you keep on reading (and read the previous passages as well), you'll see that the entire point is about how Jesus came to do God's will, and that God's will was the sacrifice of Jesus. Notice the little saying at the end of verse 8 below. It's the sacrifices and offerings that were offered according to the law that God did not desire, nor had pleasure in:
Heb 10:7-10
7 Then I said, 'Behold, I have come - In the volume of the book it is written of Me - To do Your will, O God."

8 Previously saying, "Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them" (which are offered according to the law), 9 then He said, "Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God." He takes away the first that He may establish the second. 10 By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Jesus came to do God's will, and God's will was for Jesus to offer Himself as the one sacrifice for all sins. Backing up to Heb 8:3, it says that the high priests (under the law) offered both gifts and sacrifices, and therefore "it is necessary that this One also have something to offer." Heb 9:23 tells us what this offering is: "He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." A little further down, in Heb 10:10-14, we see more about this: "But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. 14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified."
So much for this sacrifice being all of man, and God wanting nothing to do with it!

Heb 7:26-27
For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people's, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.

How much clearer can it be?  Jesus came to do God's will.  He offered Himself as the sacrifice for sins, and God was pleased with it.  All of this was done for our sanctification.  Why would we want to deny it!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Grace Doesn't Enable Us to Keep the Law

The Law of Moses is a burden. Grace doesn't make the law any less of a burden. Life in Christ doesn't make the law any less of a burden. Peter addressed this in Acts 15 when some Pharisees said it was necessary for Gentile believers to keep the law.

First, note what Peter didn't say. He didn't say, "Well, now that they have Christ, they indeed are able to and should keep the law." To the contrary, he said to those Pharisees, "Why do you test God by putting a putting a yoke around the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?"

For centuries the law had been a burdensome yoke for the Jews, and it doesn't become any less of a burden for those who believe in Christ who try to live by it. The law was always meant to be a burden.  Its purpose was to point people away from self-righteous justification to justification by faith in Christ alone.

In Christ, God has removed the burden.  He hasn't done this by making the law easier to keep, by grace.  Rather, He's "wiped it out" and "taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." (Col 2:14)  So why are so many believers still living under it?  Let's not add to their burden by teaching and preaching law in the lives of believers!

As we saw in Acts, Peter had referred to the law as a burdensome yoke that no one could bear.  Paul took this a step further in his word to the "foolish Galatians" who knew they'd been saved apart from law but had gone back to the law as a means of attempting to complete the work that was begun by the Spirit and could only be accomplished by grace.  Paul exhorted them, "It is for freedom that Christ set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of bondage." (Gal 5:1)

The law is, was and always will be a yoke of bondage and a burden.  What we need is not more or better adherence to the law, but rather to be free from it entirely!  When we're freed from the law, we're freed into the liberty of Christ.  We're freed from death unto life.  (2 Cor 3:7-9, Rom 5:17, Rom 8:2). We're freed from sin unto righteousness.  (Rom 6:7, 18-22).  This is what Christ has done for us!

The "Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" is our life now!  This is where our hope is.  This is our source of righteousness, and in fact is our very righteousness.  This is where our godly living comes from.  Put the law away and turn to Christ!

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Law Didn't Lead to Better Behavior; The Law Led to Faith in Christ

Not long ago someone asked me if I thought the purpose of God's law was to curtail unrighteous and criminal acts (which was this person's interpretation/understanding of 1 Tim 1:8-10) and to teach the people of Israel not to do wrong. My response is that the role of the law was to condemn sinful acts, but it could do nothing to curtail sinful acts. Even under the law, "there is no one righteous, not even one... There is no one who seeks after God... There is no one who does good, not even one." The law has no power to make a bad person good, nor to change a person's bad behavior to good. In fact, not only could the law not curtail sin, but "the law is the strength of sin." (1 Cor 15:56).

The word "curtail" means to cut back, diminish, reduce. Paul said that the law actually has the opposite effect. "The law entered that sin might increase." (Rom 5:20). "But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind." (Rom 7:8) "When the commandment came, sin revived and I died." (Rom 7:9) "And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death." (Rom 7:10)

1 Tim 1:8-10 (the lawful use of the law) doesn't say that the law leads to a curtailing of sin. If we put Paul's words here alongside everything else he says about the law, we see that the law is a tutor to lead people to Christ. (Gal 3:24). (Not to lead people to better behavior, but to Christ.) Paul goes on: "Therefore the law was our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith." That was the purpose of the law. To lead the lawless and subordinate, the ungodly and sinners, the unholy and profane... etc, etc... to Christ, that they might be justified by faith.

"But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness." (Rom 4:5)

The requirement of the law was perfection, and yet it had absolutely no power to provide it! Perfection could not be obtained through the keeping of the law. The law only showed people their imperfection, and led them away from trying to be perfect through their works.  It pointed them to being made perfect, righteous and holy by the gift of God, by His grace alone, through faith.  What teaches us to do right and to say "no" to sin?  It's not law.  It's grace! (Titus 2:11-14)

Even with all of this being said, I must point out something very important. As Gentiles (which is a word that refers to all people who are not Jewish; that is, most people who have ever lived), we never had any relationship to God's law in the first place. We were strangers and aliens from everything that had to do with Israel and the law (Eph 2:12). We were without hope and without God in the world. We were "far off" from God (Eph 2:13). But in Christ we have been brought near to Him. As Gentiles, we came to God, not through the tutor of the law like Israel did, but simply by God inviting us into the New Covenant by grace, through faith. There actually is no "lawful use" of God's law when it comes to Gentiles. The lawful use of God's law is for Jewish people who are trusting in their own works for righteousness. For Gentile unbelievers, it's not a matter of law but a matter of conscience. (Rom 2:12-16)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

It's All Grace

God's grace doesn't "make up the difference." It's not that we've got a certain amount of ability to do good, and grace is meant to make up for whatever we're lacking or wherever we fall short. You will not find a definition or description of grace that is anywhere close to that in the scriptures!

The Apostle Paul didn't say, "I put forth my best effort and grace covered the rest." No, Paul chucked aside all his best (see Phil 3:4-11), counting it all as loss, and counting it all as bull dung, so that he could know Christ alone. When it came to living out our daily life and living out our various ministries, Paul said it was all grace. He said that his holiness and sincerity were from God, "not according to worldly wisdom but according to God's grace." (2 Cor 1:12).

Paul talked about his great accomplishments and abundant work that he'd done, but he said, "yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me." "By the grace of God I am what I am." (1 Cor 15:10) Our gifts and callings aren't our own, but solely the result of God's grace. (Rom 12:6). Our ministry/serving is "according to the gift of God's grace" and "the working of His power." (Eph 3:7).

If your ministry is about you and your wonderful work "for God," give it up! Don't be so foolish. "Neither is He served by human hands, as if He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things." (Acts 17:25). It is God who works in you (Phil 2:13). God began a good work in you and God will be faithful to complete it! (Phil 1:6).

Sunday, May 08, 2016

By Teaching the Sermon on the Mount as a Christian Teaching, We Nullify the Word of God

One of the things Jesus was doing in the Sermon on the Mount was countering the teachings of the Pharisees. The Pharisees had created rules and traditions that watered down the Law in order to make it "doable" for them. (Jesus told them, "you nullify/make void the Word of God by your tradition" - Matt 15:6, Mark 7:13). In the sermon, Jesus made clear what the Law really said and meant, as opposed to the spin the Pharisees had put on it. Let me emphasize something: in the sermon, Jesus was teaching the law, bringing back its true meaning and intent (which effectively showed just how impossible it is to keep it).
Ironically, what the church has done today is they have watered down the Sermon on the Mount, putting a spin on the various things Jesus said in it, in an attempt to make His hard words "doable" or to make the sermon into a "Christian" teaching. Most likely unknowingly, what they have done is diminished, and thereby nullified, what Jesus was actually saying. In trying to make this difficult law sermon into a teaching on practical Christian living, they are oblivious to how they have made void the Word of God.
I don't say this to complain about the church, but to make the larger point that in order to truly understand the gospel, we have to recognize the things that are taught in the church today as the gospel that really aren't the gospel.