Thursday, April 01, 2021

Fleshly Guilt and Motivational Speeches vs. God's Grace at Work

I received an invitation to a men's retreat via email, and while there's nothing inherently wrong with these things, there was some wording in the invitation that stuck out to me. It said something about how easy it can be to dismiss opportunities like this and to come up with excuses to not attend. This actually says a lot about the mindsets of people who put on things like this.

If I were to attend a men's retreat, why would I want to go to one in which the hosts think I'd want to make up an excuse to not attend?

Due to past experience (and I'm not saying this particular retreat is set up this way), I know that many of these events are set up to "challenge" men to do more, be more, work harder, be more committed. They are essentially based on a legalistic, performance-based mindset that believes in a type of Christianity that is all about doing. All about behavior. All about performance.

The teachers and leaders in these retreats essentially try to guilt men into being dedicated to performing better for God in order to become the men He wants them to be... rather than teaching them and encouraging them in who God has already made them to be, and that they don't need to "become" anything, and how it's His faithfulness, and it's His grace that is at work in them that causes an outflow of thankfulness and fruit.

Look, I used to attend these things, and I'd get all pumped up from the motivational speakers (that's really what they are) about how I'm going to change, and how I'm going to be "on fire" for Jesus! And then within days I'd be all deflated and discouraged because I couldn't sustain the fire. The reason for this is because all the preaching centered on ME and MY commitment, MY performance, MY attempts at taking the world for God. And I don't have what it takes.

But if you put me with other people who will daily encourage me in Christ's finished work... in who I already am in Him... in how I'm already complete in Him... in how He Himself is faithful to perform the work He began in me... in how I'm already fully in Him and He in me... in how it's not up to me and my faithfulness and commitment but in how He sustains me by His faithfulness and commitment to me, and by His grace... I don't need an excuse to not attend, but rather I'm running as fast as I can to get there!

Is it that I don't want to "do," or that I don't want to "perform," or even that I don't want to be "committed" to good things? Of course not. But legalism and guilt, and fleshly motivational speeches, are not the way. Rather, being free to be who God has already made me to be, and to rely on His sustaining grace... that is the way.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

The Gospel Is for Both the "Good" and the "Bad"... Whoever Accepts the Invitation

Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.' So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests. Matt 22:8-10

We often think that "bad" people are the unworthy ones, but really the unworthy ones are the ones who were originally invited to the wedding, but rejected the invitation. This represents Israel, God's chosen people, who rejected the gospel. So God sent out His invitation to "as many as you can find." "Both good and bad." It's not about whether you're good or bad. It's whether or not you accept the invitation that has been extended freely to all.

The parable then continues, saying that a wedding guest was found who didn't have on a wedding garment. He was cast out "into outer darkness." The wedding garment represents righteousness. So how do we become clothed in righteousness? Israel had (zealously) tried to pursue it through their law-keeping, but they did not attain it. (See Rom 10:2-3). It's something that can only be received by grace through faith. Again, it's not about your good or bad works. It's about receiving the gift.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Abraham gave Melchizedek a tithe of ALL?

"And he gave him a tithe of all."

This is what is said in Genesis 14:20, after Melchizedek blessed Abraham after Abraham's return from defeating the kings and rescuing his nephew lot, and bringing back the spoils of war.

Now, some people suggest that the tithe that Abraham gave was not only a tithe of the spoils of war, because it says, "and he gave him a tithe of ALL." The suggestion is made that Abraham also gave a tenth (tithe) of all his possessions to Melchizedek. This suggestion is then used to further the whole idea of tithing in today's church.

My friends, it's so easy to "suggest" such a thing. But it's also lazy to suggest such a thing! Why do I say that? Well, the entire account in Genesis 14 is only 24 verses long, and takes only a minute or two to read. The "rescue" and "tithe" part takes up about half of this. However, did you realize that the actual events that took place involved traveling hundreds of miles, and probably took many weeks, or possibly months?

The Genesis 14 account says that the original battle, where Lot and his family and goods were taken, was in the Valley of Siddim. Someone escaped and came and told Abraham about this. Abraham lived Mamre. He then gathered up his army of 318 men and went in pursuit to Dan, where he attacked and won the battle and brought back all the goods and people who had been taken, as well as the spoils of war. Sounds pretty simple, right?

Well did you know that it was approximately 200 miles from the Valley of Siddim to Dan? And from where Abraham lived (Mamre - 37 miles southwest of Salem), it was over 160 miles to Dan. So Abraham and his men go on this 160+ mile journey, successfully plan and execute an attack, and head back home.

The Genesis 14 account says that the king of Sodom met him in the Valley of Shaveh (near Salem, which is 126 miles south of Dan), and Melchizedek brought out bread and wine and blessed Abraham. This is where and when Abraham "gave him a tithe of all."

So are we really going to suggest that after traveling almost 300 miles, over a period of several weeks, with a bunch of men and goods, and now the added spoils and people that were recovered, that Abraham first decided to go back home to Mamre (another 37 miles from Salem), gather up a tenth of everything he possessed, and then bring it all back 37 miles to Salem, along with all the spoils of war (remember, he gave almost all the other 90% of the spoils back to the king of Sodom), and then he gave Melchizedek "a tenth of all" of this????

Like I said, it's very easy to come up with things like this to try to justify our reasoning (of what we want the scriptures to say). But it just makes no sense whatsoever. We've been taught things, or we come up with ideas, and we want the scriptures to make our case... but the scriptures simply don't make those cases. So why would we, with any sense of integrity, keep on trying to make things fit that just don't fit?

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Repentance Isn't About Your Changed Behavior

The repentance that is needed for salvation is not a repentance of works. That is, it's not a change from bad/evil behavior to good behavior. Repentance that saves is a change from unbelief to belief. It's a change from self-righteousness (thinking your good behavior justifies you before God - faith in your good behavior) to putting your faith in God who gives you His righteousness as a gift, having nothing to do with your behavior.

If the repentance that is needed for salvation is about you changing your behavior, then it's not God who has saved you. You have saved yourself! So go ahead then. Just try presenting all your awesome behavior changes to God. He sent Jesus to shed His blood and died as the one perfect sacrifice for all sins... but you go ahead and stand in front of Him and show Him how good you've been!

Or... get that idiotic thinking out of your head, and truly repent. Stop thinking your behavior has anything to do with salvation, and believe the gospel instead.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

God's Grace Is Sufficient for You

God's grace is sufficient for you.

Living with regrets? God's grace is sufficient for you. Thinking you should have made different decisions? God's grace is sufficient for you. Committed ungodly behavior? God's grace is sufficient for you. Thinking you should have said one thing but instead you said another thing? God's grace is sufficient for you. Thinking you should have done one thing but instead you did another thing? God's grace is sufficient for you. Don't know what to say now? God's grace is sufficient for you. Don't know what to do now? God's grace is sufficient for you. Backed yourself into a corner? God's grace is sufficient for you. In between a rock and a hard place? God's grace is sufficient for you. Thinking you missed "the will of God"? Guess what... He's right there with you, and His will is that you are in Christ Jesus - which you are - by His grace, through faith. God's grace is sufficient for you.

God will never leave you and He will never forsake you. You're in Him and He's in you. There is nothing that can separate you from Him. Nothing! God's grace is sufficient for you.