Category Archives: Justification

Saved By Grace

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I can’t help but sing the words to a song I learned way back in the 70′s at FCA meetings (Fellowship of Christian Athletes — I wasn’t an athlete, but that’s where all the cute guys spent their Thursday nights…so…)

I think the words express well the movement from a theistic mindset to a personal relationship in One who cares about every aspect of our lives.

In the stars His handiwork I see.
On the wind He speaks with majesty.
Though He rules over land and sea,
What is that to me?

Til by faith I met Him face to face,
Then I felt the wonder of His grace,
And I knew that He was more
Than just a God who didn’t care,
Who lived a way up there and –

Now He walks beside me every day,
Ever watching o’er me lest I stray,
Helping me to find that narrow way,
He’s everything to me!

Just imagine those words set to a 60′s style ballad and a bunch of teenagers standing around holding hands…whew! That was the definition of cool at my high school. Quarterback, tight-end, cheerleaders, tennis players, golf team and me, the little choir girl, all standing around…singing.

But I do love the words. Still.

Until I met Him face to face and felt the wonder of His grace, what was it to me that He was the Creator who rules over all?

Is my sin vile and hideous? Yes. And so is yours. Sin is just that: rebellion against our Holy Creator God. And that is hideous. Human? Yes, it is the state of humanity after the Fall. But it’s not the relationship we were created to have. It is separation from God. So, if I want my humanity restored to a place of fellowship with Him, as was in the Garden, then I will come to Him in faith, recognizing the need for cleansing, and repenting of all my unsightly rebellion.

He is holy.
He is God Most High.
He is worthy of my praise.

He made a way for us to have fellowship with Him. (John 14:6) He sent His Son to take care of all the sin in this world. (Matt. 1:21-22) We are living in “The Year of the Lord’s Favor” — a time when grace has been poured out for all who will come to Him, through His Son, Jesus Christ. (Luke 4:16-19)

I love spending time in His creation and do feel an amazing connection with Him there. I spend much of my time in my backyard garden singing praises to Him for the beauty which surrounds me. I fellowship with Him there. As I sing praises and revel in His love for me…I am moved to repentance of those things which separate me from His holiness. I desire to move closer and closer to Him…to know more of Him. And as I repent, He cleanses me (my feet, for my whole body has already been washed in the blood of the Lamb) and I move closer into fellowship.

Sometimes I get so excited for that day when this mortal will put on immortality and I will no longer live in corrupted flesh, but will be made incorruptible. In a moment. In the twinkling of an eye. (1 Cor. 15) For when I am in the body I am away from the Lord, but when this body is gone, I will be forever in His presence…in holiness. No longer corrupted, but perfect in His sight.

What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand
And leads me to the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

Taken from an old comment.

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Orthopraxy

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A definition: Orthopraxy is a term derived from Greek (ὀρθοπραξις) meaning “correct action/activity”, and is a religion that places emphasis on conduct, both ethical and liturgical, as opposed to faith or grace etc. This contrasts with orthodoxy, emphasizing a correct belief, and , the use of rituals…(as opposed to “orthodoxy”) an emphasis on correct practice rather than correct belief.

I grew up in the holiness tradition which meant living a life of holiness (defined as perfection) was first and foremost. Our salvation was proved by how “good” we appeared. (If you haven’t yet wondered about the heresy in that sentence, you may need to read it again.) It may not have been the original intent of the church’s teaching, but that is how it was practically lived out.

We looked on the outward appearance to determine if someone was truly “saved.” We were fruit-inspectors and modern-day Pharisees.

Let me show you how this was played out in my life:

Around the age of 10-11, I had spent Sunday afternoon at a friend’s house. I didn’t have time to change before the evening service (yes, that was in the day we counted church attendance as “proof” of our devotion). Still wearing my jeans and tennis shoes, and knowing how wrong it was for me to walk into the sanctuary for service without my Sunday best, I asked if I could speak to the pastor.

I explained my plight, feeling fully ashamed of my predicament.  But there was no need to worry, his plan put me at ease.  If I would sit on the back pew during the service and leave as soon as the final prayer was being said, it might be okay.  But please, don’t let it happen again. 

I dutifully did as he suggested, feeling hot with embarrassment (read: shame) as the congregants came in to worship.

Another example:

My grandfather was a smoker and a drinker. Consequently, he was not “saved” in light of the church’s orthopraxy. When I was eight years old, he passed away. I grieved for many years wondering if he had made it to heaven. The only hope I had was his dying request for the 23rd Psalm to be read.  And my memory of how loving he was toward me.

I was a bad girl. I was loud. I was curious. I was playful. I was nasty (sexually molested — although that was not believed at the time). I was a crybaby. I was stupid.  I even tried to smoke…once. But I was very careful not to cuss and always ALWAYS talked about my love for Jesus.

I determined to live holy around the age of eleven. I decided to give my life completely over to the Lord and follow His rules thereafter. I would be good! (read with gritted teeth)  Even if I died trying!!!

And I thought I was.  For many many many many many many … years.

I played the role very well. 
I looked the part. 
I even home-schooled.  
I was good.
I was a Pharisee.

I’m not so good anymore. Truly. By my “outward appearance” you might wonder if I’m really saved.

I’ve done some bad things:
I smoked this year.
I’ve had a few drinks.
I’m only in church once a week, and that’s not even on Sundays.
And God knows, I’ve cussed more than people have even heard.  😯
I’ve done stuff.

But do you know what?  I’m saved.  I know I’m His.  And He is mine.

I know Him better today than I did yesterday. 
I understand, by experience, things I’d only taught before.

I can confidently state:
For by grace I have been saved through faith.
I haven’t done anything to earn salvation.  It’s God’s gift.
Where my sin abounds, His grace abounds more.

Sunday’s Sermon

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G od’s
R iches
A t
C hrist’s
E xpense

F orsaking
A ll
I
T
rust
H im

Faith is no better than the object in which you place it.
Weak faith in God is better than strong faith in anything else.

Faith in faith is positive thinking.
Faith in Christ is salvation.

As the Scripture says,
Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.”
~Romans 10:11

For by grace you have been saved through faith;
and that no
t of yourselves,
it is the
gift of God.
~Ephesians 2:8

A personal note:

Yes, I know it’s the essence of the message most of my readers have heard their whole lives.  It seems  old…almost cliche.  But it’s not.

It’s the truth we need to cling to every. single. day. of our lives.  We ALL need grace to make it.  And only trusting in Him…not good works, not careers, not family/friends, not denominational ties…not sacrificial acts done in His name…not perfect church attendance or staying above whatever vice taunts you…nothing will bring you salvation except trusting in Him.

Just thinking on the simplicity of it all.

I am the wretch the song refers to…

Amazing Grace!

Those Gentiles!

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That would be me.
Yes. I am a Gentile.
But, I always wanted to be Jewish.  However, God didn’t see it that way.
And since He is the one who determines who will be…and where…and when…
I’ll leave that alone.

Why, you ask, would I want to be Jewish? 

Who in their right mind would want to be Jewish with all the persecution they have endured throughout the ages?

Me.

Yes, me.  You  see, I understand God chose to reveal Himself to a people He set apart for His purpose.  He chose to work through the Jewish nation.  And to have that rich heritage, to be a part of a chosen people…not through conversion, but through birth…wow.  It’s always been a longing of my heart.

I believe the difference between Christian and Jew is the point of Christ. Jews do not believe Jesus is the Messiah. Christians do. It is that simple. And so, if I were Jewish I would have a better understanding of my Christian faith, by virtue of having learned the Law and the Prophets. The Exodus…the Tabernacle…the Feasts…so many beautiful types (pictures) of Christ are found in Jewish history and heritage.  Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.  Jesus was Jewish.

At this time in History (His story), we are living under Grace, not Law. It is “the time of the Gentiles” as the New Testament describes the Church Age:  the time between Jesus’ life, death and resurrection all the way to “the Day of the Lord” — whenever that may be.

To understand life through the writers of the New Testament, it’s necessary to see that the Gentiles did not believe in One God.  They believed in a plethora of gods.  At that time in history only the Jewish people were monotheistic.

Paul describes the Gentiles this way:

So I say this, and insist in the Lord, that you no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding, being alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardness of their hearts. Because they are callous, they have given themselves over to indecency for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. ~Ephesians 4:17-19

Wow. Let me make this clear, in case it didn’t quite sink in:

Their thinking is futile.
Their understanding is darkness.
They are alienated from the life of God.
They are ignorant.
They have hard hearts.
They are callous.
They have given themselves over to indecency.
They want more and more and more of every kind of impurity.

If that is not the definition of “lost” then I’m not sure what is!

He’s talking about my ancestors and yours (unless, of course, you’re privileged to be Jewish).

But, Paul is also talking about anyone who does not, still, know God.
On this side of the cross, we ALL have a chance to know Him. 
He made a way, through His Son, for those of us who were far off from the promises of God to come near. 

We can partake of the goodness of God. 
We can know Him intimately. 
We can walk out of darkness and into light.

And the other point: Christians can live like that description, if we’re not careful. 

Paul said, “So I say this, and insist in the Lord, that you no longer live as the Gentiles do.” 

That may have been where we came from, but it’s not where we are anymore. 

Now, we have taken on the name of Christ. 
Now, we have obtained the life of God.
Now, we are to be walking in the light as He is in the light.

Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.  The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
~Romans 13:12-13

Raised Right

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I was raised right.  And I raised my kids right.  And that does NOT make us Christians.  The false gospel I heard is called moralism.  Through my good behavior I believed I could gain heaven because Jesus loves me and wants me to be good.

“Why Moralism Is Not the Gospel — And Why So Many Christians Think It Is”  by Albert Mohler

Here’s an excerpt:

“The theological temptation of moralism is one many Christians and churches find it difficult to resist. The danger is that the church will communicate by both direct and indirect means that what God expects of fallen humanity is moral improvement. In so doing, the church subverts the Gospel and communicates a false gospel to a fallen world . . .  . Hell will be highly populated with those who were ‘raised right.’ The citizens of heaven will be those who, by the sheer grace and mercy of God, are there solely because of the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ.  Moralism is not the gospel.”

As Mohler says, it is seductive.  And Paul vehemently spoke against it in the book of Galatians.

We are saved only “by grace through faith” in Jesus’ final work on the cross. 

Our works are rubbish. 
His work is redemption.

So please, read the article and then come tell me what you think.  It amazes me how this thinking has permeated all of society and yet has nothing to do with our salvation.

Faith Sees the Savior

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I stand a few feet from a mirror and see the face of a (wo)man who failed, . . . failed his Maker. Again. I promised I wouldn’t, but I did. I was quiet when I should have been bold. I took a seat when I should have taken a stand.

If this were the first time, it would be different. But it isn’t. How many times can one fall and expect to be caught? . . .

Your eyes look in the mirror and see a sinner, a failure, a promise breaker. But by faith you look in the mirror and see a robed prodigal bearing the ring of grace on your finger and the kiss of your Father on your face. . . .

Your eyes see your faults. Your faith sees your Savior.

Your eyes see your guilt. Your faith sees His blood.

~Max Lucado, When God Whispers Your Name

Sometimes looking in the mirror can be devastating. Seeing the ways we’ve faltered, failed or completely effed-up (excuse me) can hurt SO terribly that we choose to take steps to protect ourselves from the pain.

Some choose drugs. Some choose sex. Some choose alcohol. Some choose work. Some choose “good” works. Some choose laughter. Some choose food. Some choose _________.

Whatever it may be, it’s a way to escape the tragedy of our souls.

We need a Savior. And we need Him every. day.

Grace for the moment.
New mercies every morning.
Blood that covers ALL our sin — past, present and future.

Nothing is new to Him. He saw it all from the beginning. He isn’t surprised by the choices we’ve made. He’s not sitting up there, looking down on us, hoping hoping hoping, keeping His fingers crossed we’ll choose the right door. He knows what we’ll do. And He made a way for us…in spite of us…to be with Him.

His grace is everlasting.
His mercies are freshly bestowed.
His blood covers ALL our sins.

Praise Him!

Oh, precious is the flow that makes me white as snow.
No other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus.

The Solid Rock

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As I’ve been praying this old hymn keeps coming to mind:

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame.  But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

When darkness seems to hide His face, I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my Hope and Stay.

On Christ the Solid Rock I stand!
All other ground is sinking sand…all other ground is sinking sand.

My anchor holds within the veil…in the throne room of God, in His very presence…Jesus, being the forerunner, made a way for me to enter. 

On Christ, the Solid Rock I stand!

…When people take an oath, they call on someone greater than themselves to hold them to it. And without any question that oath is binding. God also bound Himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that He would never change His mind. So God has given us both His promise and His oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can take new courage, for we can hold on to His promise with confidence. This confidence is like a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain of heaven into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest…  ~Hebrews 6:16-20

On Christ, the Solid Rock I stand!  All other ground is sinking sand.

When the Accuser speaks (and sometimes with a vengeance)  I can trust in God…His oath, His covenant, His blood.

Because it is impossible for God to lie.

Thank you, Father, through Jesus Christ, Your Son.