Friday, 8 December 2017

WHY WE NEED GRACE

Exploring the positive aspects of grace and why we need it so badly


Some believers abuse God’s grace, using it as a licence for sinning, thinking that the more they sin, God’s grace will abound even more (Jude 4, Romans 6:1).

Such are the inherent dangers in overemphasising grace—when we go overboard on grace and think that God’s favour will forever remain with us, no matter how we live out our lives.

Yet, it does not mean that grace is unimportant or irrelevant in the lives of believers. 

The poet Robert Frost penned that “all you really want in the end is mercy.” I think he was spot on there with this one-liner. Undeniably, we all need God’s mercy and grace.

As we look at our own lives, weigh our brownie points against our sin, we will definitely conclude that a fair judgment on God’s part at the end of our lives here on earth would be this—‘guilty’.

For we have all sinned and fall short of God’s standards. If not for God’s grace and mercy, where will we be? (Romans 3:23, Romans 5:8).

As Christians, we are saved by God’s grace, not by our good works, AND stay on in this journey of faith because of His grace.

Like the penitent tax collector in Luke 18:9-14, we are constantly in need of God’s grace and mercy. We, in fact, need lots of His grace and mercy.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
(Luke 18:9-14)

                                      
Yes, there is nothing wrong with a teaching that emphasises grace provided …
  • it (grace) leads to transformed lives.

  • it (grace) is not misused as a licence for sinning.

  • personal responsibility is being emphasised to the same degree as grace.

Apart from grace being God’s unmerited favour towards sinners, what are the other positive aspects of grace?

Among other things, there is grace that sustains, grace that empowers, grace that denies self and grace that reflects wisdom in speech and thought.

Firstly, there is a grace that sustains us in times of trials and tribulations. The apostle Paul was afflicted with a thorn in the flesh. When he sought God for its removal, he was told, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians12:9).

This thorn, a messenger of Satan, was God’s way of keeping him from being too elated over the abundance of revelations he received while he was being transported to heaven. 

However, the exact nature of the thorn, whether it was an ailment or persecution, is unclear.
While others would have wallowed in self-pity, Paul remained level-headed and victorious even amid such adverse circumstances—truly a testimony to God’s sustaining grace.

Secondly, God’s grace also empowers us to serve Him and bless the body of believers and even beyond:
  • “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:6-8).

  • “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies” (1 Peter 4:10-11).

  • “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7, 11-12).

Thirdly, the self-effacing aspect of grace is best epitomised in the life of Jesus. It’s a grace that puts the interests of others before self: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Grace that reflects self-denial is also seen in Jesus’ humility. Though He was God, He gave up all his glory and power to become man. Born in a manger to humble parents, he was obedient to the point of death at the cross (Philippians 2:6-8).

Fourthly, grace is a quality reflected in our speech: “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians 4:6).

Now gracious speech is likely to come from a mind that has been filled with wisdom from above: “The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17).

If we say we believe in grace, then our speech must be gentle and show respect to all, even those who have different viewpoints.

Believing in a gracious God who forgives us of our sins is fine. And we certainly need loads of God’s grace and mercy.

But we also need to discover the reality of grace that sustains and empowers. We need grace to deny ourselves – that which Christ so beautifully epitomised. And, finally, we need to learn how to be gracious in speech, which is indicative of godly wisdom.

As we revisit these positive aspects of grace, we need to ask: “Are we demonstrating all these various facets of grace in our lives?”

                                                                           

ABUSE OF GRACE
When we think the more we sin, the more God’s grace abounds
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” (Romans 6:1)
When we pervert God’s grace, using it as a licence for living immoral lives
“I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives.” (Jude 4)


CORRECT RESPONSE TO GOD’S GRACE
Grace, not an excuse to remain in our sins, but a reason to live righteously
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” (Titus 2:11-12)


RELATED POSTS

GRACE AND TRUTH
The only way to know God and relate to Him is to embrace Him as He truly is—a God of grace, love and mercy AND a God of justice, righteousness and truth. To just know Him as either the former or latter is to live in complacency and indifference to sin OR guilt and despair over sin. The essence of idolatry is to entertain thoughts about God that misrepresent Him.
http://bit.ly/1MEout5

DANGER OF OVEREMPHASISING GRACE
Hyper-grace: “The truth is you are saved by grace and you are kept by grace. It’s grace from start to finish! Don’t let anyone frighten you into doing dead works, but rest secure in His finished work. Just as you did nothing to earn salvation, there is nothing you can do to lose it.”

TRANSFORMED BY MERCY
Our lives must show evidence of change in thought and behavior after we have experienced God’s love.

REPETITIVE SINNING
What fate awaits those who sin repeatedly after they have believed?

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

LET GO AND LET GOD

As we battle our way through life’s many challenges, we have to trust God. He will fight for us.



Winning a battle does not necessarily rest on a nation’s sophisticated war machine, which in ancient times meant many well-armed men, horses and chariots. If God holds the keys of victory, the side which enjoys His favour is the victor.

Here are three Old Testament accounts that reveal how God caused His people to triumph over their enemies against tremendous odds. For the battle belongs to the Lord.

Hopefully, whenever we face life’s challenges—whether it is cancer, retrenchment, marital discord or a delinquent child—these precious truths can be applied in our lives.

Foreign Invasion Repelled

When King Jehoshaphat faced a huge army, he was dismayed. A great military alliance was preparing to invade his nation, Judah. In despair, he cried out to God. Firstly, he began with adoration. He extolled the greatness and might of God. Then he placed his fears and worries before God, reminding Him how He had once driven out their enemies.

The king called upon the whole nation of Judah to pray for God’s mercy to be upon them. Then Jahaziel, the prophet, proclaimed God’s comforting word to the whole nation: “Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15).

Acting upon the prophetic word, the king confidently arranged a worship team to go before his army. As they went into battle, they praised God, as if the Almighty had already defeated their enemies. “Praise the Lord, For His mercy endures forever” (2 Chronicles 20:21).
The battle was truly a walkover in favour of Judah. God caused their enemies to fight against one another; Judah did not even have to fight against them.

The spoils of war were so abundant that it took three days to collect them. On the fourth day, the victors gathered at the Valley of Beracah (blessing) to bless God for His favour upon them. Truly the battle was not theirs, but the Lord’s.

Parting of the Red Sea

In the exodus account, the Israelites were fearful because they were locked in a tight situation. The Red Sea lay ahead of them, rendering escape impossible. Behind them, the army of Pharaoh—with their horses and chariots—was closing in on them, relentless in hot pursuit.

Terrified, they cried out to Moses: “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?” (Exodus 14:11).

It was true that Pharaoh’s army was behind them and the Red Sea was before them but they had forgotten one thing: God was above them.

Moses, demonstrating great faith, calmed them, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14: 13-14).



And, as they say, the rest is history. As Moses lifted his rod over the sea as if to “divide it”, in obedience to God’s command, a miracle happened. Moses’ symbolic act was instrumental in the unfolding of God’s deliverance of His people. He was God’s co-worker. The sea parted and the people of Israel were able to pass through it as if it were dry ground. When the soldiers tried to cross the sea, the walls of water on either side collapsed on them and they were drowned.

When City Walls Tumbled Down

After crossing the river Jordan, Joshua prepared the people to invade Canaan, the Promised Land. The males had to be circumcised as a mark of sanctification before the conquest.

Now Jericho, the first city that stood in the way of their conquest of Canaan, seemed like an impregnable fortress. In some places, its walls were heavily fortified, even up to 25 feet high and 20 feet thick.

God had already told Joshua exactly how to capture Jericho. Every day, for six days, they were to march around the city once. On the seventh day, however, they were to march around it seven times. Then, seven priests will blow their trumpets made from rams’ horns, everyone would shout and the walls would crumble (Joshua 6:2-5).

When God’s people obeyed these instructions, a miracle happened. The walls of Jericho collapsed and they charged straight into the city.

The conquest of Jericho illustrates the fact that the believer’s weapons of warfare are not carnal but spiritual. Repeated marching, shouting and blowing trumpets by priests may seem silly in the eyes of any military strategist. But the foolishness of God is better any day than the strength and wisdom of man.

For victorious living, what must we do? What does God require from us? He wants us to listen to His instructions, trust and obey.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God (Psalm 20:7).

The horses are prepared for battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD (Proverbs 21:31).

His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love (Psalm 147:10-11).

And what is the other requirement? Holiness. Notice that the Israelites failed to conquer the next city in their push into the Promised Land, Ai, because of one man’s disobedience (Joshua 7:1).

It is natural for us to fear, like Elisha’s servant who was dismayed when a great Syrian army came to capture his master. But once Elisha prayed to God for his servant’s eyes to be opened, the young man was comforted by the sight of an overwhelmingly superior army of horses and chariots sent by God to protect them (2 Kings 6:15-17).

Aren’t we inspired by the above passages—that whatever challenge we might be facing is not too big for God to handle? God is bigger than any of our problems. If we lay aside our fears and worries, and commit them to God, He will help us overcome our difficulties. He may even bless us abundantly beyond what we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).

Victory without strife does not mean doing nothing and letting God do everything for us. On the contrary, we need to pray, seek Him, humble ourselves, listen to His instructions and obey, make the move at the opportune time and leave the results to Him.

When we face various challenges in life, we often forget that God is in control and that the keys of victory are in His hand. So let’s cease striving and start trusting Him. For the battle belongs to the Lord.

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What does it mean to have 'quiet confidence' in God?
It means seeking God, being still before Him, trusting that He is in absolute control of our circumstances and that, in due time, He will deliver us (Isaiah 49:23).

HOW TO OVERCOME WORRY
When we worry, we expend a lot of nervous energy which is better channeled to serving God and advancing His kingdom. Satan is most delighted when the army of God is weak—weighed down and distracted by the cares of the world.

FAITH, FEELINGS, CIRCUMSTANCES
The greater our faith, the more we are freed from the tyranny of our feelings and external circumstances.
http://bit.ly/1j0Cr5i



HOW TO QUICKLY ACCESS PORRIDGE




For a quick overviewhttp://bit.ly/1ijiXHp


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