Thursday 10 May 2012

GRACE... AGAIN (part 2)

GRACE, AGAIN. (part 2).

In this blog, I continue the thoughts about the Grace of God, how we understand it, versus what the Bible teaches. (please see below for part 1)


Romans 8:1 :"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit."
Romans 8:5-8
"For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Galatians 6:8
Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit."


Read this passage twice:
John 15:1-8
“ I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
“ I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples."

In Me

I want you to notice two things:
1) the phrase "in Me" is in this passage 6 times;
2) 5 times it is preceded by the word Abide.
The true key to our Christian life is in this passage in a nutshell: We are to abide in Christ. To be grafted in the vine means that the vine has to be cut in order for the graft to be inserted. The graft then has to take on all the nutrients that flow through the vine to assure its survival and ability to bear fruit.
If you have ever had a go at grafting, you will have found that sometimes a graft doesn't take. The graft then has to be removed because if it doesn't it will draw unnecessary nutrients from the vine that will not benefit the graft and may cause damage to the vine. Once the graft is removed, it is destroyed.
Note also the warning that Christ gave in verse 2: "Any branch IN ME that does not bear fruit, He (the Father) takes away, and every branch that bears fruit He prunes that it may hear more fruit"
In this verse I see judgement and grace.
In Me means grafted. No fruit means no change. No change means the Father cuts off that branch and throws it away. This is judgement.
Bearing fruit means that God by His Grace prunes us: SO THAT WE MAY BEAR MORE FRUIT. Grace makes up the shortfall. God wants us to be fruitful, and then he prunes us (takes away the stuff that holds us back) so that we may bear more fruit!
I saw a great definition of grace on Facebook the other day: "Grace: God's divine power exerting Influence upon the heart of man. Grace doesn't grant us permission to live in the flesh, but the power to live in the Spirit." Col Stringer.


Let's look at this next scripture:
Hebrews 12:1-2
"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
You know what? Life isn't easy. Doing things God's way can be tough! But God gives us the instruction manual AND His Holy Spirit to help us and guide us. And the great cloud of witnesses are cheering us on!! God knows the pitfalls and downfalls of this life. Jesus walked this earth and experienced all the troubles, problems, challenges and temptations that this world offers and He overcame. We too can overcome. The Bible says in Revelation 12:11; " by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony." hallelujah !!


I want to pull one more scripture about grace out and present it to you. It is the parable of the lost sheep.
Jesus talks in Matthew 18 on the subject of who is the greatest in heaven. Basically He says that unless you become like a little child, you can't even get into the kingdom of heaven! (vs3)
He then likens greatness in the Kingdom to the humbleness of a little child. Ok keep that thought in mind as you travel to verse 12 & 13:
Parable of the Lost Sheep
“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety- nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety- nine that didn’t wander away!"
This is a great passage on God's grace. Jesus will come looking for you when you become lost! And before you think about grace applying to people in rebellion, I want to point out the Jesus is still talking about little children. Little children are easily trained and corrected and when lost, they want to be found.
When thinking about the sheep I also think of the passage in John 10:27-29
"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand."
Don't you just love Grace??

I hope this study has helped you as it has me get a better understanding of the Magnitude and the Magnificence of God's grace. I pray that you don't abuse it, and that you learn what it means to abide in the Vine.
If this has helped you, or if you disagree, please drop me a note.
Sorry it is such a long subject, but I think we are far from finished with the discussions and the discoveries of this thing called Grace.
Have a great week!

Saturday 5 May 2012

GRACE...AGAIN (part 1)

 Grace again. 

I've been thinking a lot lately about the subject of grace... again. 
It seems to me that as Christians we have very different understanding about God's Grace; how it works, who it is for, the types of grace, etc. 
I've asked a lot of people questions, (people I know and trust, who have a good knowledge of the word of God, and an understanding of God's undying love for His creation), and had some deep conversations with them about this subject. Having said all that, I do not count myself as an authority on the subject, just a student with a desire to know and understand what is the depth our heavenly Father's grace. 


First of all, I want to make it clear that the Bible teaches that it is not the Father's will that any man should perish. John 3:16 says that "God so loved the World..." This is an all encompassing statement. 
2Peter3:9 says that "the Lord is ...not willing that any should perish..."  Here God extends to us His saving grace. He holds out His arms and says: Come! "Come to me all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" and again "To as many as received Him, to them gave He the power to become the children of God." and: "...that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life" 
 See, we need God, but we are so far separated from Him and His goodness, that we could never of ourselves attain or earn salvation. Romans 3:10 says no one is righteous, and vs 23 says " all have sinned and fall short of God's Glory" This is clear indication that it is God's saving Grace that brings us into His family. When we receive Him, we by the saving Grace of Jesus Christ are empowered to become God's children. We are saved, by grace. Amen! 


Well, that's it then, you say. If I receive Jesus Christ and believe in Him,  I am saved forever because God loves me and wants me to be His child. 
Well, I agree with almost all of that last statement. God does love me, and He does want me to be His child. However, there are conditions. 

Put off the Old, Put on the New

In John 1:12 we read the following:"But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name".
Believing in Jesus and His power to save is pivotal and foundational to our relationship with God.  However, faith in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ, requires of us obedience to Him and separation from the former life. 
Paul instructs us to put off the old man and put on the new man. Ephesians 4:22-24:
"...that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness." 
Please understand here that putting off the old and putting on the new is not a 2-minute process, this is something we do organically (as we grow,)and continuously. There will always be things in our lives that require "putting off". This too is the grace of God, that He allows us to change as we grow; He doesn't demand instant perfection.
To the Romans Paul writes: " be carnally minded is enmity against God (8:7) and in the next verse: "Those who are in the flesh can not please God" 
Galatians 5:24:"And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."
Galatians 6:8:"For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life."
Galatians 5:22-25
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self- control. Against such there is no law.  And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit."

You can plainly see the instructions given throughout the New Testament on Christian Living, and the changes in our lives that God requires of us in our call to Holiness. Note again though that we are not doing this of and by ourselves; Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit, our helper. And where we fail, grace makes up the shortfall! 


When I purchase a new car, it comes with lots of options and features. The salesman does his best to give these to me in a 2-minute nutshell, but then he opens the glove compartment and pulls out the vehicle instruction book. This details all of the car's features and benefits and a detailed list of do's and don'ts and maintenance instructions, which, if carefully followed will give me a vehicle which will run to its optimum specifications with the maximum performance and problem free running.  
One thing many people seem to forget is that the Bible is written for and to Christians (especially the New Testament). It is our instruction manual for life. When we follow life to the manufacturer's specifications according to the manual, the reader will get the optimum out of the Life as given to him/ her by the designer and manufacturer (author and finisher : Heb 12:2)  
Now here is where the key difference to all other religions comes in: God knows that we are incapable of following His commands to the letter. We are a sinful being, living in a sinful world, who continue to get it wrong. We are in need of God's grace to make up the shortfall. Thank God for Jesus! Thank God for His Grace! 

I’m going to break this blog in parts as it’s too long to post in one hit.
Please let me know your thoughts so far, and I will continue this next week.
Have a great week!