Sunday, March 14, 2010

Grace, Grace, Wasting Grace

Grace, Grace, Wasting Grace
March 8, 2010
Romans 6:1 "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?"

I was washing my four-year-old son's face the other day, he had dark chocolate all over it; he had indulged a little too much. We were standing over the sink with the water running and I was using a washcloth to scrub his face over and over as he was very sticky. He stopped me from cleaning him and quickly pointed out an error of mine. "Daddy," he said, "you're wasting water!" He was right. I left the water running without concern of wasting it. I should have turned it off between rinsing out the washcloth and wiping his face. Though that water could have continued running forever, I wasn't using it wisely. God's grace is a lot like water, in that it is used to make us clean from dark entrapments, but we can waste it if we are not careful. While God's grace will never run out, we should not try to use more than we need.

If someone was all too aware of God's grace, it was the apostle Paul. Recall that his name was originally Saul, and he persecuted the first Christians, putting them to death. But God saved Saul from his sins, changed his name to Paul, and set his life on a new path. Paul was appreciative that God applied His grace to him, giving him a major second chance; Paul was determined not to waste it. Paul knew of God's grace: the more sin that is present, the more grace that is needed to cover it. But in Romans 6, Paul warns about abusing this grace. Just because we can freely apply God's grace to our lives, doesn't mean we should continue on with our lives in the same sinful manner. Paul instructs us to change our ways, so we don't end up wasting God's grace. His point is: if you know better, then you should live better, regardless of grace.

He goes on further to say that we died to our sinful nature. Once we become Christians, we allow our sin to die on the cross with Jesus, so that we may be alive with His resurrection (read it In Romans 6). We are instructed to not allow that old sin back into our lives again, verse 12, "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires." This instruction is given to us AFTER we have applied God's grace to our lives, not before it. It is a warning to live our lives, not to continually abuse the grace because it is there, but to, verse 13, "offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness." The grace is not given so you may keep on sinning, the grace is given so that, verse 14, "sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace."

Many Christians think that grace is given to simply apply it to their lives whenever they need to, as a means to justify themselves, covering over their sins. This is backwards. The grace is given so that the sinful nature may not be an excuse or to blame for living our lives against God's Word. By applying grace to your live, verse 22, "you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life."

The next time you are presented with the opportunity to sin, think about what you might be doing with God's grace. Should you deliberately continue to indulge in that sin, you are abusing God's intended grace and are a slave to that sin and not God. Don't continue sinning, thinking you can simply apply God's grace. You are no longer a slave to sin but a slave to righteousness. Yes, you can extend a little extra grace to the new Christian, but at some point, the conviction of God's Word needs to be present in everyone's lives. While grace is free and unlimited, it is not a crutch to continually placate immature Christianity. If you are living your life, utilizing the grace, grace, wasting grace method, then you truly do not understand why God gave us His grace.

1. In what areas of your life are you applying God's grace too liberally?
2. How can you turn those areas of your life over to God so you are not a slave to that sin?
3. How can you submit your life to God, so that you are a slave to righteousness?

Add. Scriptures for Study: Rom 3, 4, 5, 6, Titus 3:7, Heb 10:29, 2 Peter 3:18, Jude 1:4

I Want What I Want

I Want What I Want
March 1, 2010
John 21:18 "someone. . .will lead you where you do not want to go "

You have rights. As a human being, you certainly have many rights. Here in America, we say that every human has certain inalienable rights, like the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Even God gives you certain rights that He will never take away, like the right to your own free will, to serve Him or not. Yep, you got rights, alright, and who best to assert your own rights than yourself. It's up to you to stand up for yourself, make sure no one takes away your rights, those things that you want and deserve. Let no one take them away from you, at least that's what everyone says. You certainly have that option, to want what you want and not let anyone take it away. Yes, you certainly have the option to pursue what you want, but God forgive you if you actually do. As Christians, we have many, many rights, but one thing is sure, if we choose to follow Christ, it is our obligation to lay those rights, those wants, down.

Once you become a Christian, you confess that Jesus is Lord of your life. That Lordship is a governing or rulership over your life. You get to lay down your life for Him, so He may use it as He wishes. This creates a tug-of-war on your life. You, as a human, constantly want what you want. But oftentimes, this 'want' is in opposition to what God wants for you. If we live our lives holding onto our wants, then Christ has a more difficult time actually using us the way HE WANTS to use us. I may have my own wants, desires, and dreams, but if I choose to serve the Lord, then I have to lay those down, realizing I may NEVER attain my own wants, desires, and dreams. Instead, I get to fulfill GOD'S wants, desires, and dreams for my life.

This is not actually pleasing to the ear, to hear that you may never have what you want. You might want to be rich and famous, but that may not be what God wants for you. This only creates a problem if you never lay down that want. If you hold onto it, fighting for it every chance you get, you end up living your life in rebellion against God; He can't use a rebellious person. The only use He has for a rebellious person, is. . . well, let's just say He has NO use for that person.

Peter, the great apostle, had to learn this lesson the hard way. He told Christ that he would follow Jesus anywhere, laying down his own wants. But Jesus warned him in John 21:18-19. Jesus spoke directly to Peter and his wants.
Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!"

This passage represents the two different stages in Peter's life; his younger years represented a life before he began following Jesus, and his later years represented a life of following Jesus. Jesus was aware that Peter would not want what Jesus wanted, but He knew Peter would lay those down to follow Him. Christian, your life before Christ meant doing what you wanted, but now, you get to lay that down and do what HE wants. God doesn't really care if you want what you want. He is interested in you laying down those wants for Him and His glory.

1. What is it that you want in life?
2. Does your 'want' line up with what God wants for you?
3. How can you lay down your wants, in order to truly follow Christ?

Add. Scriptures for Study: Is 55:8, Matt 10:38, Lk 9:23-24, Lk 14:25-33, Jn 12:24, Rom 6:11-14

I Don't Love God

I Don't Love God
Feb 22, 2010
John 14:15 "If you love me, you will obey what I command."

If you've been a Christian for any length of time, you will know about the greatest commandment. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul. The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. Despite not having to live under the Old Testament laws, these two previous commands can and do encompass the perfect Ten Commandments. After we've accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, these two greatest commands are the pivotal tenets of the Christian faith. If we can master these two things, loving God and loving our neighbor, then we've pretty much mastered life. BUT, we all fall short of obeying these two commands every day.

I don't know about you, but I've fallen short of these two commands this past week alone. I thought about myself more than God on several occasions. I've had brief arguments with others, asserting my rights and upholding my side, more than I should. I've accelerated in traffic ahead of others to get myself where I'm going, and I don't think I turned the other cheek at the appropriate times. While I wasn't dealing drugs or robbing a bank, these actions are still not what God desires. I'm not perfect and I KNOW you aren't either. In fact, everyone reading this is guilty of violating almost every one of the Ten Commandments this past week. No one is perfect; the closer you get to God, the more you are aware of this and your individual sins. In short, both of us have violated God's two most critical commands: loving God passionately and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

Our own actions condemn us. Our actions demonstrate what we don't want to admit. If we were honest about our actions this past week, none of us could prove our love for the Lord. After all, if we really did love Him, we would obey His commands. My lips say that I love the Lord, but my actions constantly prove otherwise. Your lips might say that you love the Lord, but your actions demonstrate the opposite. Christians who are living by the two greatest commandments will always be the kindest, gentlest, most compassionate people on the face of the planet. But the fact of the matter is, there are a lot of rude and selfish Christians out there AND you and I are often those people.

Before you hang up your Christianity, there is hope for you and me yet. God is aware of our shortcomings; He said that we all have fallen short of His intended glory. But listen to the sweet words He uses after noting our shortcomings. In the latter part of Romans 3:23, He says that we are "justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." This does not mean that you may demonstrate your sinful nature freely against God's greatest commandments, but it does mean that Christ already took care of it when you do. When your actions declare that you really don't love God, because you aren't keeping His greatest commandments, Christ declares that you are covered by His sacrificial work on the cross. How amazing is His work for us!

While it is great that Christ has us covered, it would still be better if our actions proved that we really do love God, by keeping His commands. Every day is a new chance to demonstrate our love for the Lord by obeying the two greatest commandments. We all need to be open and honest about our actions. I am; are you?

1. Where in your life have you fallen short of the two greatest commandments this week?
2. Can you confess that your actions have proven the opposite of what you say with your lips?
3. How can you apply His grace to yesterday's shortcomings while proving your love for Him today?

Add. Scriptures for Study: Matt 22:33-40, Mark 12:27-29, Luke 6:29, Rom 3:23, Heb 4:1

It Should Hurt When You Give

It Should Hurt When You Give
Feb 15, 2010
1 John 3:17 "But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?"

The idea of sacrificial giving is not new to Christians, at least it should not be new. We are taught that we should offer up the sacrifice of praise. We are taught to give of our tithes and offerings to the Lord, taking precedence from the woman who put a pittance in the offering, though it was ALL she had. But we are never really taught to give sacrificially to others, at least not with our resources. We may have been encouraged to volunteer or give of our time to others, but when was the last time you sold something of value in order to give it to someone in need. I'm not condemning you; I'm guilty of the same thing. I think I know how to give sacrificially to my wife and kids but not to my neighbor or the poor person who lives across town.

In the recent weeks, we've seen great tragedy from an earthquake in Haiti; the world watched as the Haitians crawled out of the rubble. This horrific event has afforded some amazing people the opportunity to give and do great things for the people of that impoverished nation. But this outpouring of love should not have happened in the light of one great tragedy, but on a daily basis. And when people gave, did they simply skim off the top out of abundance, or did they dig deep to the point where they actually had to sacrifice a few things? This later is what the Lord instructed us, by His own example. He set the standard in the verse right before 1 John 3:17. Verse 16 says, "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us and we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."

If given the right moment, I would not hesitate to lay down my life for my children; it is instinctual. But is it instinctual for a Christian to give to another person to the point that it actually hurts? Is it instinctual to give sacrificially to a stranger? I've given many times to other people, but not at the expense of having to miss a meal or two. I've also received many times from others, but out of their abundance, not from their sacrifice. God desires us to give sacrificially of our material possessions to others. He set the example and has asked us all to follow suit. He wants us to be aware of other people's situations and compare it to our own. If they are in need, then he wants us to help them. If we don't help them, the love of God does not live in us.

In this economy, I don't personally know many millionaires anymore, but I do look at the kind of lifestyle people live. If they can afford granite counter tops in their kitchen, leather seats in their car, or a nice vacation across the country once a year, then they can afford to give a little more to the single mother who is striving to keep the heat on. It is sacrificial giving and it hurts, trust me. But it doesn't hurt as much as having your electricity turned off or risk losing your home to foreclosure due to medical bills. If you have more than others, that's great; allow the Lord to use it in someone else's life. They probably need it more than you AND you'll be more like Christ because of it.

The next time you're prompted to give, don't consider what extra you have sitting around. Determine to give and allow it to actually cost you something. If it doesn't hurt even just a little, you're being too selfish. Giving sometimes hurts, just look at Christ; it wasn't comfortable for Him to give His life for us on that cross. You are required to give regardless of how much money you make. Practice this now, even though you're not a millionaire. Someday you might be in the position to do amazing things for others.

1. Can you be like Christ and not give sacrificially to your fellow man?
2. How can you live your life so you are always meeting someone's need?
3. When was the last time you gave to someone sacrificially?

Add. Scriptures for Study: Ps 119:36, Jer 8:-14, Mark 12:41-44, Luke 6:38, Luke 10:25-37, Phil 2:3, James 1:27, James 4:3