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Posts Tagged ‘grace’

O Lord, though our iniquities testify against us,
Do it for Your name’s sake;
For our backslidings are many,
We have sinned against You.

Jeremiah 14:7 (NKJV)

The Reason for the Desolation

God’s people had gone astray and refused to turn back to God in repentance. It sounds simple, but it gotten real sticky for a while. God explains it when he points how these people “have loved to wander” and “not restrained their feet” (v. 10, NKJV). In other words, God’s got good reasoning for not supporting or supplying this people. The desolation leads to a newfound devastation that creates desperation.

The Desperate Request for Help

The request in verse 7 is as close as the wayward nation gets to saying that they have stirred up the anger of God. It is the closest thing that we see to an outright admission of their own iniquities and how they trespassed and transgressed against God. Yet, they only seek a rescue. They offer no repentance for their sins, just acknowledgement.

The Response to Desperate Cries for Help

“. . . Do not pray for the welfare for this people.” [Jeremiah 14:11(ESV)]. God just comes out and says it without any hesitation. This seems to echo what God shared in chapter 11 about not praying for these same people.

In fact, this is only the follow-up to God sharing that it is time to remember their sins and punish them accordingly for these sins.

When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence. (Jeremiah 14:12, NKJV).

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What would others say your words seem to be seasoned with?

Think about before you try to answer. Don’t just try to squeeze yourself into the textbook Sunday school answer. Think about what others would say about your words.

How do you come off to other folks? Is it like your words are seasoned with grace? Or, is it like you sound almost a if you forgot that you yourself have been saved by grace and forgiveness mixed and blended with the lovingkindness of God?

https://amzn.to/2WATUKG

A Goal of Graciousness

Paul’s words to the believers in Colosse seem straightforward and stern: “Let your speech always be gracious. . .”

Let’s just focus on that for a moment.

Could you imagine the number of insults that would incrementally decrease as a result of maintaining a goal of graciousness?

Can you picture how many souls would turn to us and ask about God if we as Christians just focused on our “speech always be(ing) gracious?”

The wonder is not what would happen if we did set graciousness as our goal. The wonder is why we do not set gracious speech as our goal time and time again.

To Whom Much Grace is Given…

I know that is a poor paraphrase, but walk with me for a moment on this one.

What if we just identified what we have been given much of in order to fulfill the requirement in turn? In other words, what if we looked at it deeper when we read this portion of Luke 12:48? What if it was about much LOVE or much FORGIVENESS? We cannot take Christianity as a robotic religion when He has endowed us with free will and His Spirit, the Helper, to quicken us in response to His urging and imploring us to be different and live differently. We have to accept that God desires us to meditate on His Word day and night.

If nothing else, we can set a course for change. We can determine within ourselves to make the change and seek to keep gracious speech as the gateway to offering grace to others as we go to and fro. In our various settings, whether in line at the coffee shop or at the table in the board room, we can choose to speak to others with much grace as we keep in mind that it was with much grace that God sacrificed His only begotten son for our salvation.

Speak with grace today and every day.

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For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:8-10  (ESV)

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We’re not saved by works. That is not how salvation works. we are saved by grace through faith. Our salvation is a gift from God.

So how do works fit in?

We are saved to serve the Lord.

Growing in His Word

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works . . .

That is what it says. Verse 10 says as believers, we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works.” The conclusion is that we do not get engaged in good works as a means for obtaining salvation. Nor do we perform good works as a means of paying back God for His goodness.

We serve because we are saved.

We have been saved in order to serve the Lord, our Master, our God.

What makes it difficult to stick with that is the ideas and interpretations folks have that do not fit the theological framework of salvation. People believe half-truths that have been passed down for centuries from the pulpit to the pews. People take commentary as gospel. People accept the words of the pastor without checking the Scriptures like the believers in Berea (Acts 17:11).

The problem comes down to how folks accept and apply what they hear from others rather than placing their focus on what they hear from God.

Being called to salvation is the recruitment and enlistment into the kingdom of God, while it also ushers in the next phase of being called to serve the Lord. Just as we accept the terms of salvation, we must readily accept the terms of service to the Lord. The text in verse 10 says that “we should walk in them.” In other words, we should live out our faith in service, through good works.

The calling of a Christian is not just to salvation.  God wants us to understand that we were not just saved.

We were saved to serve the Lord.

 

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For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

– Galatians 1:10 (NASB)

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Photo by Caleb Oquendo from Pexels

 

Do we find favor? Or, vice versa, does favor find us?

The question lingers on.

Yet, favor with God is entirely different from favor with men.  The Lord is said to look at the heart, while man is caught up in the outward appearance.  The world looks on and assesses what is on the outside and obvious, but the Lord searches the innermost parts of man and in His secret places for what is hidden from the natural eye.

Paul’s argument to the Galatians is that seeking to please man disqualifies you as a servant of the Lord, according to Galatians 1:10. The context of his argument is based on the profession of the Good News as the gospel and that there is no other gospel for consideration. His argument was rooted in the inherent defense of the Word of God against those who would twist and manipulate it to lead others astray with unnecessary ritualistic demands. What Paul was saying to the Galatians was that their faith should remain rooted in the gospel that touched their hearts and changed their lives.

When we read the early chapters of Galatians, we can sense how deeply immersed Paul was in the upkeep of the faith of these fellow believers. But we also get a sense of how much Paul did not worry about the favor of men.

22 And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” – Galatians 1:22-23 (ESV)

Something here shows us that Paul was not seeking notoriety for His Damascus Road experience or a warm reception from those whom he once persecuted. Paul just sought to be known for “preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” That was the case with Lee Strobel, C.S. Lewis, and Stephen Baldwin. Their efforts to disprove and destroy the effects of the Good News on others led to their own conversion.

unusual suspt

But can one find both favor with God and man?

The words from Proverbs 3:4 simply say it is possible: “So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.” The upbringing of the Lord Jesus demonstrate it is so, saying: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52, ESV).

Proverbs 19:6 helps us to understand that: ” Many seek the favor of a generous man. . .”  People will desire the favor of those who seem to have power and authority as in Proverbs 16:15 and 19:12. The problem is seeking man’s favor alone will never truly satisfy our souls.

So, it is possible to have favor with both God and man. We just cannot allow the pursuit of favor with man to outweigh our desire to find favor with God. Favor with man is just an added benefit that might come along with favor with God.  It is not a given that those who find favor with God will automatically also find favor with man.

The prophets experienced this firsthand. They were given the message of the Lord for the people, but they also were viewed as troublemakers and considered disruptive to the prosperity and peace that the people of God had discovered and tried to enjoy.  Oftentimes, the prophetic books of the Bible open with the fact that their message was a burden to bear for the sake of the people and in obedience to God.

Look at the life of David. He was anointed as a lad but not appointed until later.  Imagine living that life under the nose of King Saul. He served under him and you were married to his daughter as well as best friends with his son. But he was also destined to rule in Saul’s place. This put David at odds with Saul later.

Just imagine if what made you special made others skeptical.

What if it made them suspicious of your motives?

What if you being marked out for something special also left you marked as a target for ridicule and resentment by others?

Take a brief moment and think back to the last time you graciously showered someone else with favor. Was it a transforming experience or was it purely a transaction? Have you ever shared your power and influence in favor of someone who cannot even get their foot in the door?

Maybe it is time that you reflect back to the times when you needed favor.  Even better yet, think about the times when you fell out of favor and how badly you desired to regain your status.

To be a little more godly, we’re all going to have to figure out how to be a little more gracious and generous. When we do so, we can freely give to others without seeking anything in return.

 

 

 

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And you were dead in your trespasses and sins– Ephesians 2:1(NASB)

“Grace is but glory begun, and glory is but grace perfected.”- Jonathan Edwards

Sin had us in a state of deadness.  Our trespasses and iniquities held us captive.  As Paul wrote in the New Testament, we were “slaves to sin.” Sin prohibited any ability to truly live.  We could see any way out of the grasp of sin.  Its stronghold had us blinded.  It blocked any sign of light from penetrating into our dark dwelling place.

God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins

– Colossians 2:13 (NIV)

Set Free

God set us free.  He freed us from guilt by grace.  He freed us from shame with salvation.  He freed us from pressure with perfection.

He set us free.

He set us free without condemnation.  He set us free with forgiveness.  He set us free through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.

No Longer Dead But Alive with Christ

By freeing us from sin, He made us “alive with Christ” (Col. 2:13).  He took us from one state of being (dead) and led us to another state of being (alive).  He freed us that we might have life and life more abundantly (John 10:10).  We have that abundant life in and with Christ Jesus.  He’s the reason we are free, but He’s also our Redeemer.

Suffer No More

He freed us, but He wants us to live like Christ.  He saved us, but He desires us to follow the example of His Son.  He set us free so that we might not suffer any longer.

Live today fully liberated by the might work of the Lord’s saving power.

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. – Romans 6:11 (ESV)

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Think about this concept for a moment.

God (holy, self-existent Creator) grants grace to us (sinners).

[Does that really make sense to you?]

Let’s be honest.  You know that you are not worthy of being “saved.” Just like I know that I am not either.  However, God sees fit to hand blessings out to the unworthy and the unwanted.  He makes something out of the ones who have always had nothing and does good for those who have been long considered no-good, dirty scoundrels.

That makes sense, especially if He would have just let us into heaven and left it at that.

No, that’s not all.

He gives us His Spirit to dwell within us.  He leads us and guides.  He lives within each and every believer.

So, given that bit of information, we should definitely become more bold in our approach with God.  Since He lives within us, let us become more bold in His grace.  Because He is good to us, we should exhibit more boldness due to His grace.

We should get real BIG.

We should get real Bold In Grace.

After all, God saw something in us worthwhile and sent His only begotten Son to sacrifice His life for us.

Let’s get BIG.

 

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Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. – 1 John 2:7

John was pretty clear.  He wasn’t writing about anything new.  It wasn’t anything that the believers had not already heard, either directly from Jesus or quoted by one of the followers who had walked with Him during His earthly ministry.

It was the same as it was in the beginning.

There was already an “old commandment” and that was “no new commandment.” It all was the same.

Nothing was new.

Jesus said what needed to be said.  He said it all from the onset of His ministry.  He continued with it throughout His ministry.  He wrapped up His ministry with the same thing.

His disciples and apostles were to continue in what He taught them from the beginning.  New followers were to do so also.  No one was to add anything to it.  No one was to compel others to get circumcised or recognize new moons or other feasts to become at one with Christ.  All that it took was a faithful belief in Him as the Son of God, the Savior, and the propitiation of our sins.

Nothing was added.

We have all that we need in Him.  We have all that we are to follow in His Word.  There is nothing new to it.  There is to be nothing added to it.  It is totally complete.

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Sometimes, it just seems like our good intentions just aren’t good enough.  I know that we mean well, but it may not end up doing us or anyone else any earthly good.

I believe that we all have set out to do something for someone else without an ounce of greed or arrogance in mind, not even within our hearts. Sadly, the end result ended up being a disaster in our eyes. It was not even close to what you had in mind when you started out. It ended up blowing up right in your face.

I speak from experience.

As bad as it has felt, I also realize how humbling it had been for me. I recognized the short-sighted and well-intended moves that I made really made no difference in anyone else but me. I was humbled enough to see how fruitless my efforts were from the start.

In order to truly help someone out, you truly need to hear someone out first. If you don’t know they’re needs, desires and hopes, you are merely going through the motions and working from assumptions.

I had been doing so for a long time.

“Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” – Romans 13:10

Loving others will cause to help without harming a soul. Love will cause us to listen and learn. Love will cause us to take it slow as we take it all in. Love will cause us to pause and pray over needs and issues that people have shared with us before we make the wrong move.

It was hard for me to learn that life lesson.

Let these words sink into your soul for a moment.

“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching”- Hebrews 10:24-25

By God’s grace, we have been saved. Our purpose is to produce fruit through good works. Live out your purpose as a believer and seek to do good. Allow your good works bear fruit that lasts eternally.

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There isn’t much to worry about it.  It is already taken care of by Christ.  He’s done all of the heavy lifting.  We just have to accept it as so.

You see, we were once lost.  We were “slaves to sin” as Paul so eloquently depicts us all (Romans 6:20).  In other words, we were not just lost.  We were so lost that we were headed in the wrong direction and playing for the wrong team.  We were utterly living as “enemies of God.”

But isn’t God’s plan good?

Right when we were at our worst, Christ died for us and reconciled us with God.  He stood in as the propitiation of our sins.  He suffered and sacrificed for our salvation.  He saved us.  He took us from lost to liberated by grace as the atonement for our sins.

Christ has set us free for freedom.

Therefore, stand firm and don’t submit to

the bondage of slavery again.

– Galatians 5:1 (CEV)

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8 Open your mouth for the mute,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
9 Open your mouth, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy.

– Proverbs 31:8-9 (ESV)

As Christians, we say that we follow Christ.  If you can recall some early church history, prior to the label Christian being placed us at Antioch, Christians were called people of the Way.  We were all about the Way, the new thing that God would do among us as He had spoken of through the prophet Isaiah.  It was not until many had been martyred, tortured and persecuted for the sake of Christ that the name Christian  had become acceptable.

We see others suffering and we refuse to sit by silently.

We hear about torture of women and children who abandon the faith of their ancestors to become Christians and our hearts weigh heavily with compassion and sympathy for the Christ-like suffering of these modern day martyrs.  Yet, we refuse to let it go on without our voices speaking against such atrocities.

We see men and women turn their lives around and turn their entire lives over to Christ in rehab centers, halfway houses, homeless shelters, street missions, prison chapels and on street corners.  We praise God for His mercy, grace and forgiveness right along with them.  Yet, we speak out against the temptations and other ills that sucked the life out of them throughout their addiction, imprisonment and other ordeals.

We speak loudly.  Speak through bull horns.  We speak into microphones at press conferences and from pulpits as well as behind podiums and on top of city hall steps.

We speak boldly in public spaces.  Just as Elijah called out the king of his prophetic days, we stand boldly before leaders and hold them accountable for justice, equity and liberty among the citizens.  We spoke boldly of the truth being covered up for greed and gain.  We speak boldly about the crimes and corruption of the scoundrels and scam artists.  

We let our voices ring as loud as church bells.  We let our voices sound out like sirens.  We lift our voices and uphold our fellow man for the sake of common good regardless of his or her station in life.

Let your voice be heard.

Let people remember that you have a voice and that you are not afraid to use it.

Speak up.  Speak out.

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