Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Guilt or Grace?

"how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" Hebrews 9:14

Guilt is a lousy motivator, don't you think? For most of my life I have been subject to my own "you should's," "you ought's" and even worse, "you didn't do this" or "you really screwed up there's." The funny thing about guilt is, it never helps me to do what is right. It only pounds me down, making me want to hide and shirk my responsibilities even more.

It is the same way with God's law. God never intended for us to live up to it. "How could that be?" someone might ask. In amongst all the "thou must's" and "thou shall not's" we forget that the law was given to us to show us that we could not keep it. Ever.

Romans 7:4-5 says: "Therefore, my brethren, you were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God. For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death."

If I read that right, it says that the Law arouses our sinful passions when we were in the flesh. But if we are in Christ, we don't have to listen the old letter that kills, but act from the totally new person we have been made to be through Christ. The new person is enabled by the grace of God, not the Law.

In II Corinthians 5:17, it says if any man is in Christ, he is a brand new creature. The word for new is kainos (Strong's #2537) meaning, in that usage: "all things are new, previously non-existent, begin to be far different from what they were before."

God does not motivate through guilt. For most of my life, I have listened to guilt motivations from myself and others, but guilt is not a good reason to go out and do something. It is like I am saying Christ hasn't quite paid enough and so I must do something good to try and make up for the bad things in the past that I have done. In that case I have not yet completely comprehended the finished work of Christ.

When He died, He died for all of my infractions: past, present and future. He knew in advance the mistakes I would make. Only when I forgive myself for them, and believe they were truly paid for, can I move out truly free, not trying to make up for them somehow.

Christ's blood was enough! I do not have to listen to the guilt manipulations of myself or of others. This whole world system works on a basis of merit, but God works on a basis of free, undeserved grace which we can never, ever repay. I can live my life knowing that I am the object of God's love, as great for me as it is for His Son, not because of anything I ever did or will do, but because of His magnificent grace.

When Jesus prayed for us, His beloved children, He stated that we are loved just as He is:

"I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know that Thou didst send Me, and didst love them, even as Thou didst love Me.Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold my glory, which Thou hast given Me; for Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, although the world has not known Thee, yet I have known Thee; and these have known that Thou didst send Me; and I have made known Thy name to them, and will make it known; that the love wherewith Thou didst love Me may be in them, and I in them." John 17:23-26

Friday, April 11, 2014

Beyond My Own Understanding

Psalm 76:10
"Surely the wrath of man shall praise You; With the remainder of wrath You shall gird Yourself."

In vain the other day I "vented" before God but could not stay in that state of mind too long. I hated the feeling of tension welling up inside me and so instead I ended up crying out before Him.. Today, when my heart again was overwhelmed I went to my secret place to cast my burden on Him.

It is there I can go and pour out my heart before God, the living God, the God who hears. People can offer sympathy and prayers but they cannot solve your problems, only God can. He solved our biggest one 2,000 years ago by dying on the cross for each and every human sin. Scripture says He will be praised, so how on earth could my "venting" ever accomplish anything worthwhile? Yet He heard me in my hour of need, and He did not cast me away. Well, I guess if He was there for my biggest problem ever (sin and death), He will be there also for my problems in this transient life.

Lately I have been thinking on what constitutes a blessing by God. People say all the time that they are "blessed" when they have a good job, a nice house, a nest egg for a rainy day, etc. What if you are being persecuted, though, like the believers in North Korea who just received a death sentence? According to the American way of thinking, we might not consider them blessed. But Jesus said in Matthew 5:11- 12:

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

What if it seems like one trial seems to come upon the heels of another? James 1:2-3 told us to:

"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,
knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience."

Somehow that seems to be the last thing I want to do in a trial. I either want to grumble about it, or press the panic button, but certainly not count it all joy. Why it goes it against every single natural thought I have!

These Scriptures prove to me that God does not see trials and adversities the way a man does. I love that about God, that He does not think like us! If He did, we'd all be in trouble!

Isa 55:8-9

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts."

But Scripture tells me I need to takemy every thought captive in I Corinthians 10:4-5:

"For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ"

These two verses tell me some important truths.

1. We are in a warfare.
2. Our weapons are not carnal. Human help will not help, only God and His Word can help us.
3. These weapons from God want to bring down every thing inside me that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, of what He says is Truth in His Word.
4. It is a battle for every single thought.

Only God can make us victorious in this battle. We cannot fight this on our own. Sometimes, for me, during trials, a thought will come in that will make me start fearing, but I realize that thought needs to go because it is exalting itself against the knowledge of God, of Him promising in His Word that somehow I will be left hanging out to dry, that God will not provide for me. Today, after I prayed, I was tempted to think that I was still the same old "me," and not victorious, but then I started humming some songs of praise to God as I walked along outside and I felt my burden starting to lift.

And then the Spirit brought to mind two beautiful Scriptural promises, something to meditate on in the midst of trial:

II Cor 2 :14 "Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place."


Isa 42:3

"A bruised reed He will not break,And smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth."

Oh, may He recall more and more of His precious promises to us as we walk through the hills and valleys of life!