Posts Tagged ‘freedom’

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The “Grace” Controversy

July 28, 2014

GOD’S GRACE. Controversial?

Who’d have ever thought that God’s grace could be controversial?  Yet, it seems to be a controversial topic among preachers and teachers today.  What a strange world we live in (oh, the world has always been strange).

In Paul’s day, the religious Jewish folk said he was “blaspheming the Law of Moses and the temple” because he was not telling Gentiles (non-Jews) to become circumcised or that they had to follow the Jewish laws.  Today, there are those who say that persons who preach grace want to throw out the Old Testament….similar? [If you read the Book of Acts in the Bible, you’ll see this everywhere Paul went.]

The Old Testament was the only “Scripture” available to the first Apostles.  Paul, as a teacher and lawyer, used it to prove that Jesus was the Messiah to the Jews.  Paul proved Jesus was Messiah to the Gentiles by signs and wonders.  The Old Testament scriptures would have had no meaning to non-Jews.  Paul used whatever he could to show the non-Jews that God loved them; however, they wouldn’t be able to connect the dots using a scripture that had no relevance for them.

As Christian believers in this time, we have the wealth of the Old Testament to peruse as we see Jesus Christ throughout.  We can see God’s plan of redemption beginning in Genesis and follow it all the way through.  We can see God’s character and how patient he was to the Jewish people and how He loved them.  We see his plan to return mankind to a place where they are one with Him again.  We see how blessed we are that we have a new contract (covenant/testament) and that, as believers, we have been set free from the law of sin and death. {Romans 2:8}

When Jesus walked the planet among us, he was accused of casting out demons by Beelzebub (Satan).  [Luke 11:15]

When Jesus was here, there were no Christians.  He came to the Jews to explain to them who he was and to show them that they were not able to keep the Mosaic Law perfectly enough to ensure salvation.  He showed them how impossible it is to keep the Law so that they would know that they needed a Savior (Him).  Most of them eventually did not believe and many of them called for his crucifixion.

He had a dual message:  1) that no one can keep the Law well enough to be saved and, therefore, God sent His Messiah to save them; and 2) to prophecy about the New Covenant (or agreement, contract or Testament) and what would happen after He died, took our punishment, and rose again to a new life…ushering in that New Covenant.

I knew the grace of God when Jesus Christ became my Lord and Savior. John 3:16-18 says

16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Just believe?  Isn’t that grace?  This was God’s plan from the beginning.  No hoops to jump through, no Law to obey, just receiving His gift of mercy and grace.

So…we just believe and go on living however we feel like?  Well, we could, but there is another component…the Holy Spirit who comes and lives in us when we turn ourselves over to Jesus Christ, believing He has done it all.  The Holy Spirit bears witness to Jesus in us.  Our lives begin to change as the Spirit begins changing our desires to match up with God’s desires. We cannot remain the same as we were…we are alive for the first time, we KNOW love for the first time and we respond to that love. [John 14:17; 16:5-15]

Many of those who are so uptight about grace forget the Holy Spirit’s empowerment and our new ability to respond.

When you fall in love with someone, even on an earthly level, you want to please them, you want to learn all about them, and you change your life for them.  Think about how it would be if that person’s spirit was in you helping you to understand them, showing you how to love them and, more than that, showing you that they love you more than you could even absorb.  That’s what grace is like…that’s what grace is.

             Grace is Jesus.  Grace is Love.

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HUMBLE EGO TRIP?

February 24, 2014

            I remember thinking, during a worship service, how grateful I was for the cross.  I was imagining myself standing at the bottom, looking down at his blood, and feeling so very overwhelmed with my own unworthiness.  In the midst of this tremendous emotional drama, I heard in my mind (in my own voice…like a random thought) the words, “You are on the wrong side of the cross.”  It caught me up short!  What?  What does that mean I thought, wrong side?

            At the time, I didn’t realize the importance of that statement.  I understood that it meant that I needed to get into the forgiveness side of things, but didn’t really know what that meant.  But, I knew it was the Lord.

Most of my Christian walk (since 1975), I’ve felt unworthy or less than.  When I was first born again, I didn’t care if I was worthy or not.  I knew that I was saved, loved, forgiven, set free…had a clean slate and a new beginning.  As the years went by, I started putting things on my slate.  I put on a lot of “should’s”, “have to’s”, “must not’s”, etc.  I also always fell short of all those goals.  Some were taught to me, some were found in the Bible, and most came from my own mind.

So, I got involved in church, got counseling, studied the bible, listened to certain TV preachers, etc.  All the while, I still felt like everyone else “had it” but me.

Recently, the scales fell off my eyes (just like the apostle Paul in the Bible (Acts 9)) and I saw Jesus again!  I was reading a book entitled, “God Without Religion”, by Andrew Farley, on New Year’s Eve and by the next morning, I couldn’t’ put it down.  He plainly explained grace in his book and brought me back to the “joy of my salvation” (Psalm 51:12).  When Jesus said “It is finished” it was finished!  I didn’t have to be concerned about “should, have to, mustn’t” words.  Jesus covered everything.  He left us with only two commandments:  “Love God and love others.”  We can’t love God until we know that God loves us.  Once we know, we begin to love him.  As we get to know more about his love for us, we begin to love him more and more and we want to tell others about Jesus.

Does this give us an excuse to keep living a life of sin?  Why would we want to?  Why, after being touched by his love, would we have any desire to do anything that would move our focus from that love?  He said he will complete the work he started in us (Phil. 1:6), He will take us from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18).  We are his forever, He tells us that we know his voice and no one can snatch us out of his hands, and because the Father has given us to him, no one can snatch us out of the Father’s hands.  (John 10:26-29).

Humble?  Who cares!  Jesus loves me just as I am and will make me whole, through the Holy Spirit.  I just have to love Him back and share that love with others.  Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is FREEDOM! (2 Cor. 3:17)

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The Old is New Again!

February 17, 2014

     I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior in 1975. That was a long time ago.  One thing I knew, then, was that I was forgiven, my sins were removed, my slate was clean.  He loved me and died for me to set me free.  I KNEW that!  I didn’t know the Bible, I didn’t belong to a church, I only knew that I was forgiven and new. 

I was so excited I couldn’t wait to tell others.  I was so excited that others hid when they saw me coming, and then…they too accepted the Lord and they became “born again”.

This was during the Charismatic movement in the Catholic Church and, following my mother, I began to attend prayer meetings.  I was baptized in the Holy Spirit, Wait! Don’t stop reading because you don’t believe that is for today, or that is only for the Apostles.  Who told you that anyway?  No one told Stephen, Philip, Barnabas and many others, so they just did what Jesus said. Look for yourselves.

Anyway, I couldn’t wait to start reading the Bible and finding out what is said.  It came alive.

That excitement lasted about three years.  I saw miracles. I saw addicts set free and arthritis and migraine headaches healed by the laying on of hands (by just plain, ordinary believers, just like Jesus said).

Over the years, the excitement wore off and the world crept in.  I was leaving my first love and becoming self-consumed again.  Little by little, like Chinese water torture, self became more important.

When I attempted to get back what I had, I joined a bible teaching church, I diligently listened to the Pastor.  I learned about faith and the power of it.  I learned and learned.  I liked my church and loved my Pastors.  I became involved in service and small groups and training, and the like.

We eventually changed pastors and our new Pastor began really teaching the Bible.  He took more than a year and a half to go through the Old Testament historical books giving us a clear understanding.  He had us do daily readings and we read the Proverbs and Psalms.  His teaching was clear and concise.  I began to take BibleCollege courses to learn more.  He took us through the Gospels, tying the Old and the New Testaments, showing threads and shadows and how it all led to God’s Plan to set us free.

I was filled with knowledge, filled with faith, yet something was missing.

On New Year’s Day, 2014, in a little book, I found what it was.  It was just plain Jesus!

That day in 1975, I met Him. I knew He loved me unconditionally.  But, over the years, I forgot.  I started adding have to and if  to the Gospel…“conditions”.  Then, I tried to meet all the “conditions” I had imposed upon myself, or had imposed upon me by various teachers, books, etc.

Jesus spoke to two types of people: religious and believers.  To the religious, He said, in essence: “You’ll never be good enough. You have to be perfect to enter into My Kingdom.”  To the Believers, He said, “I have covered it all, you only have to believe in Me and tell others about the good news!”

I now know when I read the Bible or listen to teaching, I must rightly divide the word of truth…there are no if’s or have to’s in the Good News, just Jesus, who did it all for us and finished it.

It’s called “Grace”, unmerited, empowering, freeing, loving Grace!  Grace to just love God and others.  Grace to set others free!  He just plain loves us!  We can’t escape His love and we can’t make Him love us more!  All I had to do is believe…and it’s still all I have to do. He did all the rest.

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Free to be Me!

January 21, 2014

Gal 3:3  Are you so foolish?  Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”

What happened when I/we responded to the call of Jesus in our lives?

John 3:16-18  [we all know this scripture]  Jesus said that all we have to do is believe, that He was not sent to judge the world, but that the world would be saved through him.

Well, I believed.  I was given eternal life and I didn’t have to do anything to get it except “believe”.  What did I believe?  That Jesus gave me eternal life.

Jesus’ commandment:  Love God with all our hearts and love one another like He loved us.

2 John 1:5,6

 Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one anotherThis is the commandment just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.

What happened to us when we accepted Jesus? We were no longer separated from God.  Our sin was covered in His blood and we were completely made new.  I became a new creature, nothing of my old self remained because new things have come.

  [2 Corinthians 5:17 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.]

What are those new things? Here are some:

I no longer live for myself, but for Him. (2 Cor. 5:15)

My sins are no longer counted against me. (2 Cor. 5:19)

I have good news for others that they can be new and free too. (2 Cor. 5:19,20)

I am the righteousness of God because Jesus became sin on my behalf.  (2 Cor. 5:21)  I don’t have to do anything to become “righteous”, I already am and will always be!

Ephesians chapter 1 tells me that

I have every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

I was chosen by Him before the foundation of the world.

I am holy and blameless before Him in love!

I’ve been adopted as God’s daughter through Jesus because that’s what He wanted!

God’s grace has freely been bestowed on me in Christ.

I’ve been redeemed!

I’ve been forgiven according to the riches of His grace (not by anything I’ve done)

He has lavished His grace on me.

It goes on and on.

I am free to be me.  But what about my walk?

The Holy Spirit resides inside of me. He is the pilot of my new self.  He guides me into all truth.  He teaches me all things, He brings Jesus’ words to my mind. He is the Spirit of Truth who bears witness of Jesus for me.  (John 15:26).   He guides me into all truth and will disclose what is to come and He glorifies Jesus all the time. (John 15:13,14).

I can choose to listen to the Spirit or listen to the flesh.  I have the ability to choose life at all times.

Jesus said that we receive power when the Spirit comes upon us! (Acts 1:8)

The power to witness about Him!

I am free to be excited about what Jesus has done for me and to listen to the Spirit direct me in my and life to tell others about it.  I am free to love others and have the grace to do so.

Jesus only asked that we love God first and love others like He did.  The Holy Spirit in me gives me the ability to do so.

We are to make disciples and teach them to:  Love God first and love others as He loved us.  That’s what Jesus asked of us and for that, He has given us eternal life, total freedom from sin (original, separating sin), ability to live for Him and choose His way.  He gave us His peace that passes understanding.

I need to stop thinking about what God wants from me (like I could give Him anything), and start thinking and remembering what He did for me.

When I first accepted my Jesus, I worshiped Him, I praised Him, I continually thought about how wonderful He is and what He did for me.  I couldn’t stop talking about the freedom I found, the love that entered into me and the wonder of walking with Him.

Little by little, for the best reasons, I started to put in “if”, “have to”, “should”, “must” because I wanted to please Him.  I already please Him, He loves me unconditionally and only asks me to love Him back!

THANK YOU LORD JESUS!

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The Dance

February 7, 2012

During my prayer time this morning, I was overwhelmed by the sense of freedom I have in Christ. I saw myself dancing and floating and spinning and twirling in sheer joy and happiness with my Lord. I could have stayed there forever just basking in His presence, in gratitude and fullness of life. What a wonderful gift I have been given.

This gift is available to everyone! I can fly, dance, run, play and be safe in Him. I pray that I will have opportunity to let others know that this is for them too. Those who don’t know Jesus Christ cannot understand freedom in its purest sense. Those who have invited Him into their lives find themselves finally whole, finally filled, finally secure inside. We find that empty place in ourselves empty no longer. It is easy to enter into this permanent, eternal freedom…just ask Him to come into your life; He’ll take care of the rest. See you at the dance.

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“Vengeance is Mine,” says the Lord.

July 29, 2011

Romans 12:19-20.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves but leave it up to the wrath of the Lord; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.  “Therefore, if your enemy is hungry, feed him, if he is thirsty, give him a drink, for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” (2 Thess. 1:6). 

In looking up cross references for these verses, I see they apply to anyone who harms us.  God is our protector and He will take care of it.  We are supposed to be Kingdom dwellers and act in such a way that love is our response, no matter what.  Jesus said to “turn the other cheek”.  That, to me, does not mean…let them slap you again, but that it has no meaning, therefore, it does not matter if you slap me or not-I will love you anyway.  

I am not able to do this yet, but I can imagine the freedom that would come from it.  To be so sure and secure in God’s love that we can look beyond the action and respond with love, knowing that God is in control would be something to strive for.    

I also know that only God knows the other person, understands his or her heart and motivations.  I can trust Him to take care of the issue.  I don’t need to trespass on His territory.  I must remember that my job is to love and bring others into the Kingdom and everything else belongs to God.