Sunday, January 20, 2013

Let Us Have Grace!

Let Us Have Grace!


Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.  For our God is a consuming fire.” – Hebrews 12:28-29
The one thing regarding religion that bothers me most is that it makes everyone feel unworthy.  I’m not talking about Christianity, or the new covenant of grace given by Christ.  I’m talking of religion…the twisted gospel preached by many that we have to somehow make ourselves worthy of the salvation offered by Christ, and then have to keep ourselves perfected to hold on to His gift of grace.

The whole idea that we could with any success become worthy of salvation is contrary to God’s word.  Romans 3:23 says all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Even the ones speaking these false statements cannot of himself be found worthy, for it says ALL have sinned.  Romans 3:10 says There is none righteous, no, not one”.  Not a single person who ever walked this earth, except Christ, was righteous in his own efforts.
Yet we tell the alcoholic, the adulterer, the drug abuser, the thief, the party goer, and any we see sinning that they have to clean themselves up before coming to Christ.  We tell them to change their lives, and then come to Christ.  Whether this is spoken aloud from the pulpit or from our actions of making them feel unwanted when they enter our church doors (feel the conviction!), the message is the same.  Make yourself right – then Jesus will make you righteous.  How absurd! 

The whole idea reminds me of what Satan said when he rebelled from God.  In Isaiah 14:13-14 we read that in Satan’s heart he said:
‘I’ will ascend into heaven,
‘I’ will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
‘I’ will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;

‘I’ will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
‘I’ will be like the Most High.’”

I , I, I, I, I – Satan had an ‘I’ disease!  He concentrated on how he was going to make himself “like the Most High”.  Telling a sinner that they have to remove their sin before coming to Christ is giving them not the gospel of God - but the message of Satan.  And oh how Satan loves when we make those who need Christ most feel unworthy of His grace!  He applauds our efforts to do so!

In Hebrews 12:18-28 Paul writes concerning the old covenant of laws that were given to man from Mount Sinai, in contrast to the new covenant of grace (unmerited favor) through Christ. When the old covenant laws were given, the people were instructed to not go near the mountain, not touch the mountain, and that even if a beast were to touch it, it would die.  Holiness must remain untouched by the unclean to remain holy (Haggai 2:11-14).  But the new covenant of Grace from Christ is attainable, allowing us to enter holiness by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Even Christ in winning Thomas told him to touch Him (John 20:27) so that he would believe.  Holiness is no longer untouchable.

The old covenant laws were never meant to be perfected, but to show man that he could not attain perfection.  The laws were to be a mirror reflecting our sins. Romans 3:20 saysTherefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Read that again.  By following the laws, NO FLESH WILL BE JUSTIFIED IN HIS SIGHT!  You can keep all Ten Commandments, do every deed in the Levitical law, and you will still be unjustified in God’s eyes.  The laws were given to give “knowledge of sin”.  So if you feel guilty once you read the Ten Commandments, congratulations! You have proof that they still work in the way God designed them to work.  God’s word never returns void, but will accomplish what He sends it to do (Isaiah 55:11).
But God, knowing even before giving the law that we would not be able to perfect ourselves, planned a new covenant, a new way to righteousness.  Even before the earth was created, Jesus was “the lamb slain” for our sins (Revelation 13:8).  Our inability to follow the laws did not surprise God – it was part of His great plan.  And His great plan was always, as it is now, for us to come to Him through faith in Jesus.  Read this passage from Ephesians 4:2-10:

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
The message is clear.  God loved us with a great and mighty love, even before we were given life.  He planned even then to have us with Him in Heaven so He could show us “the exceeding riches of His grace and His kindness toward us”.  So His plan was never for us to achieve righteousness. He knew we could not.  His plan was to give us righteousness, as a gift, unearned.  It is ONLY by His grace, unearned love and favor, that we are saved, and “not of yourselves”.  He created us to be “in Christ Jesus” so that we could be righteous, and have good works.

The whole idea that somehow we could grow righteousness from our own sinful nature makes about as much sense as a farmer plowing a field, not planting seed, and expecting crop to grow!  There is nothing good in us.  Salvation plants an “incorruptible seed” in our souls by which we can expect a crop of righteousness.  1 Peter 1:22-23 says Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit … having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever”.  That seed that is planted is the Holy Spirit, which leads us to righteousness through His life in our souls.  Without God, without His Holy Spirit, there is no seed and there is no righteousness.
Hebrews 12:28-29 says let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.  For our God is a consuming fire.” LET US HAVE GRACE!  Do not twist Gods word by making us unworthy of salvation.  No one is worthy!  If we were it would be a wage earned by our perfection.  But it is a gift – not a pay check! And then “our God is a consuming fire” that will perfect us, burning out the sin within us through our transformation as we follow His Holy Spirit.

Make no mistake!  The salvation that is given is ETERNAL, coming from an “incorruptible seed”.  We receive ETERNAL LIFE and nothing can take that away.  In John 10:28-29, Jesus says And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. No one - not even yourself and your repeated sins after salvation - can loosen God’s grip on you! You “shall never perish”, which is an eternal promise.  
The consuming fire within you, His Holy Spirit, will perfect you as you follow Him.  But to think you receive the Holy Spirit at salvation and then are immediately perfected forever is crazy! We all know we cannot flip a switch and be good people for the rest of our lives.  How many perfect people do you know?  Follow the will of the Holy Spirit, submitting your will to His, and as Philippians 2:12-13 says, you will “work OUT your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

Friends, don’t buy the lie that you are unworthy and therefore cannot have salvation.  Don’t wait until you have removed your sin because in and of yourself that is impossible.  If you do, you may never be saved, because you will never find yourself worthy of the gift of grace.  If you could have been righteous without Christ, surely God would not have sent His own son to die as a sacrifice, pre-paid for your sins.  He would have expected you to become righteous without Him. 
And once you have salvation, rest assured it will be yours for eternity.  God is not an ‘Indian giver’.  His grace is exactly that – grace – unearned.  His promise is ETERNAL life, and God does not lie nor break His promises.  Your salvation never was and never will be dependent on you. 

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