Monday, June 28, 2010

The Grace Books



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Vol 1
The Lord Your God Is in Your Midst
 
Vol 2
Rivers of Living Waters

Sunday, June 27, 2010

One thing we all have in common: we're different!

Yesterday afternoon, I put as my Facebook status: "Tell me something 'strange' or 'not normal' about yourself."  I thought it would be a fun thing to do, to get a few laughs with others as they shared about themselves.

I began the discussion by saying that I eat cottage cheese with crumbled potato chips and ketchup!  Soon other fun comments began rolling in from various people about strange food combinations that people like, as well as other interesting and 'strange' factoids from people about themselves, such as sleeping with both feet outside the covers, dipping French Fries in ice cream, loving liver and applesauce sandwiches, or pineapple and mayo sandwiches, being "slightly" OCD (yeah right, Jamie!), having double jointed knees, sleeping with one foot outside the covers, needing to sleep with a fan blowing on them, hating mustard on hamburgers and hating ketchup on hotdogs, but liking the vise versa, eating raw potatoes, reading magazines from back to front, having two nails on a pinky toe, not being fond of pickles but loving pickle juice, eating cold pizza smothered with honey, being able to hum and whistle at the same time... and quite a few other strange, interesting and unique things about the people who wrote about themselves!

 I did indeed get a good laugh out of all of this, and the interactions between various people who were part of the thread.  (BTW, the thread is here, although I'm not sure if you'll be able to view it unless you're a "friend" of mine on Facebook, or a friend of a friend).

But something deeper that I got out of it is how absolutely wonderful it is that God has made each of us so unique!  All of these "strange" and "not normal" things about us are really just evidence that God has a great big, huge, GINORMOUS paint palette, and He's not afraid to use new colors and new patterns and new techniques on His astoundingly BEAUTIFUL creations!

As one person put it:
"you have all delighted God in sharing your uniqueness..... i can just picture Him laughing with joy when he created each of us fashioning us after His own image! think of that!!! :-) how boring would life be if we were all the same?"
In scriptures such as Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12, Paul talked about various ways in which God had gifted various people within the body of Christ, using words and phrases such as "differences of ministries" and "diversities of activities," and saying that we are "individually members of one another" and yet "all the members do not have the same function."  While Paul was talking in particular about "gifts of the Spirit" that are perhaps more likely used within the context of special gatherings of the church, the same really does apply to the ways in which God has uniquely and diversely wired each of us in everyday life - in the core of our individual personalities.

Our differences are to be celebrated.  As "members of one another," we have the special privilege of highlighting and encouraging these diverse traits in one another, and helping to bring them out in one another.  We're not meant to worry about whether or not we're the same as others, or put others down for not being the same as us.  God has skillfully, and I believe passionately, made each and every one of us into extraordinary people.  God Himself has done it!
Ps 139:14
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

GIG 247 - The Gospel Is Good News for All


The gospel is good news for everyone! For the person who hasn't yet come to know Christ, it's the good news that the gift of God's righteousness is freely given to all who believe. For the person who has already known Christ, it's the continuing good news that all their sins - past, present and future - are completely forgiven and done away with, and that they are kept eternally by God, not because of their continuing good deeds, but solely because of God's grace.

The gospel reveals that what we do or don't do doesn't make us who we are! Our identity is by birth.  A sinner is born a sinner because they are born in Adam, and all their righteous deeds can never change that.  A saint has also become a saint through birth - this time through the second birth - being 'born again' in Christ.  Again, none of this has anything to do with our actions.  It's all based upon the free gift of God's righteousness.

"The gospel" is called several things in the Bible, including the "gospel of peace," "the gospel of Christ," "the gospel of grace" and "the gospel to the poor."  Does the phrase "the gospel to the poor" mean that the gospel is for those who are poor materially in this world, or does it mean some other type of poverty (ie: spiritual poverty)?  We'll talk about that and these other things this week on Growing in Grace.

Thanks for listening, and thanks for sharing with a friend!

gigcast.graceroots.org

Thursday, June 24, 2010

GIG 246 - You Are Righteous Apart from Your Behavior and Performance


Righteousness is a gift from God that we can never earn. All the blessings of God are given to us freely as the gift of God. If we thing we've worked or performed or behaved well enough to receive something from God, then that's not the gospel and it's a lie!

The book of Romans says that all have fallen short of the glory of God.  In Romans 1, Paul makes a list of many examples of "the unrighteousness and ungodliness of all men."  After making this list, he concludes in Romans 2 that there is therefore absolutely no place for judging one another, since all of us are in the same boat.

He then goes on to share the good news of the gift of God's righteousness that is freely given by God Himself to those who believe.   It's not our good behavior or performance that makes us righteous, and it's not our poor behavior or performance that keeps us from being righteous.  It's the gift of God that makes us and keeps us righteous!  The good news is that you are righteous.  You are not merely a "sinner saved by grace."  You are no longer identified as a sinner, no matter what your behavior.  You are a holy and righteous saint!

gigcast.graceroots.org

Thursday, June 17, 2010

GIG 245 - The Gospel is About God's Righteousness, Not Man's


After starting to talk about what "the gospel" is in the first half of Romans 1 (the revealing of God's righteousness), Paul backtracks for two chapters until picking back up again on his talk about God's righteousness in the second half of Romans 3.  Paul talks about the wrath of God and he mentions various behaviors that are symptoms of "all of the unrighteousness and ungodliness of men."  During all of this, Paul talks about things that are not part of the gospel.  So often we confuse all his words as pertaining to the New Covenant (to the gospel), but here we have a case in which he purposely backtracks to he can better set up what he's trying to say.

All this talk about God's wrath and about sinful behaviors and judging one another has nothing to do with the actual gospel, but Paul brings all of it up to show how the gospel cannot be about the righteousness of man.  Man's righteousness falls very short of God's righteousness.  ALL have sinned and fallen short of God's glory.  That's Paul's big point, before he gets back to talking about the gospel in the middle of Romans 3.  Again, the gospel cannot be about man's righteousness.  It's all about the gift of God's righteousness that He freely gives.

gigcast.graceroots.org

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Positional?

To me, the term "positional" is something that has been added by theologians to explain a particular view that I used to hold myself, but that I no longer think is biblical.

As examples of what I mean, Peter did not say that we have been positionally "born again of incorruptible seed" (1 Peter 1:23) or that we've positionally become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). Paul didn't say that we've been positionally made a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). He didn't say we've been made positionally holy (various references that refer to us as holy). He didn't use the word, nor imply, that we have been made positionally righteous (again, several references). He said we have become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. He didn't say that we're positionally "one spirit" with God (1 Cor 6:17).

The writer of Hebrews didn't say nor imply that we have been positionally perfected forever. He didn't say that our sin has been positionally taken away and positionally cleansed by the blood of Jesus. He didn't say "by that will we have been positionally sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb 10:10).

I've had to add the word "positionally" to all of those verses, because none of them state nor imply that it's positional. As I read these verses, and the surrounding contexts and overall points that Paul, Peter, etc, are making, these things appear to be literal realities.

If you look at the make-up of man as spirit, soul and body, it's easy to understand that these things are realities in our spirits. Our bodies have obviously not been "born again" or made "new creations" or become "righteous" or "sanctified" or "one spirit" with God. Our souls (mind, will, emotions) have obviously not been "perfected forever" or made "holy" or "become partakers of the divine nature." But in our spirit - which is the essence of who we truly are - all of these things have become a literal reality. We have literally (not positionally) been "perfected forever" in our spirits, which have become one spirit with God.

We're not lowly sinners who happen to have been made positionally right with God.  In all reality, "righteousness" and "new creation" (etc) is who we truly are!

We're Not Lowly Sinners

Those in Christ are not lowly sinners saved by the grace of God. We are holy, righteous, sanctified saints who have been saved by the grace of God and have become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21) and in fact been perfected forever! (Heb 10:14).

We have become "one spirit with Him" (1 Cor 6:17) and we have become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). Romans 5:1 says that we (saints) have peace with God, having been justified by faith. We have been justified. (We are justified). We are righteous. We are holy. We are perfected.

All of this is due to the gift of God. It's not our gift to Him and it's not our work for Him. We could never attain any of this through our own effort, even with "God's grace" added to "our efforts." It all had to be a gift, and God did give it all to us as a gift.

Notice even in Romans 7 (and elsewhere), the struggle isn't MINE. The battle within is between the Spirit and the flesh. I am neither the Spirit, nor am I the flesh. I am a perfected, righteous, holy, spotless saint.

ALL our sin has been cleansed and taken away by nothing less than the blood of Jesus. To live as if we are lowly sinners is to spit on the work of Jesus. "It is finished!", he cried. He became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

The problem isn't that we're lowly sinners. The problem is that we're a royal priesthood who don't understand that we're a royal priesthood! We're righteous, holy people who have become one spirit with God, who don't understand that we're righteous, holy people who have become one spirit with God! We think that because we still miss the mark (in our behavior), THAT defines us. But sin no longer defines us. Sinful behavior is a result of not living as who we truly are. But it never changes who we truly are. We remain the righteousness of God because He has given us His very own righteousness as a gift. Not because we deserved it. Not because we earned it. Not because we stopped sinning. But because of the sacrifice of Jesus. Because of His blood and nothing less.

We need to live in the reality of what He has done for us and who He has made us to be. We are new creations!

Mick Mooney - Searching for Grace - Part 2



I'm back this week with Part 2 of my interview with Mick Mooney, creator of the Searching for Grace comic strip. This week's conversation went in an unplanned direction - and the spontaneity led to some great discussion about many things! Much of it revolves around Old Covenant "shadows" (such as the Sabbath, the sacrifices, tithing and circumcision) vs. the New Covenant "substance" - Christ Himself.

If we try to live out any of the Old Covenant ways, even with a label of "grace" or "Christianity" on it, Christ is of no value to us at all! All that matters is "a new creation" and "faith expressing itself through love."

I think you'll glean a lot from Mick's wisdom as he shares about these things and much more!

Check out the Searching for Grace comic and other things about Mick at searchingforgrace.com.

Listen here: gigcast.graceroots.org

Sunday, June 06, 2010

GIG 244 - What is the Gospel?


It sounds like a very basic question, but for various people there are so many thoughts that come to mind when they hear the word "gospel." This week we look at what we consider to be a cornerstone scripture when it comes to understanding "the gospel" and the New Covenant.

Rom 1:16-17
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."

Many are familiar with the first verse above (verse 16), but we believe the next verse (verse 17) holds the key to what the gospel is about. Listen in as we discuss how the Old Covenant, which was no "gospel" at all, was about man's righteousness (and which is why a new covenant was needed, as we discussed during the past two programs) and how the New Covenant is about God's righteousness, which has been given to us as a gift, and is therefore good news (gospel)!

gigcast.graceroots.org

Friday, June 04, 2010

Mick Mooney - Searching for Grace - Part 1



After a few months without a Growing in Grace Together program, I'm back with a four-part series with Mick Mooney, creator of the Searching for Grace comic.  Mick has a huge passion for the gospel of God's grace, and I'm sure you'll enjoy this series of interviews!

This week Mick talks a little bit about the main characters in the comic, Pastor Moses (representing 'law') and John (representing 'grace'), and he talks about how the comic came about and about the overall purpose of the comic.

Mick also talks about how various people are in different situations when it comes to the expression of being the church.  Some have left the institutional setting of the church and have joined together with others in a more organic expression of church, which is what Mick himself has done.  Others remain in the institutional setting, where a mixture of law and grace is taught, which is what the character "John" in the comic has done.  Mick talks about how to approach pastors and others with the message of grace in loving and gracious ways.

Check out the Searching for Grace comic and other things about Mick at searchingforgrace.com.

Listen here: gigcast.graceroots.org