Monday, November 14, 2016

Christian Scenarios

If you attend a church service or listen to one on television or on the internet, you might hear a scenario similar to the following.
Scenario 1 – Pray a prayer and ask God to forgive you of all your sins. Get baptized. Attend church on a regular basis. Tithe (give 10% of your income) to the local church. Do the best you can to try to live up to the standards of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) and the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 and 6). When you sin, ask God to forgive you of that sin and restore your fellowship with Him. Bottom line: Pray to get saved, get baptized to show it, do your best not to sin, when you do sin, ask for forgiveness, repeat as necessary. 

However, this scenario could leave you feeling unfulfilled and defeated. Since you will continually commit acts of sin during the rest of your life, you might find yourself feeling like a failure. Do you constantly wonder if you have offended God to the point that He is withholding His blessing from your life or maybe even punishing you for something you have done? As hard as you try, you never really have peace for any extended length of time. Why?

Consider another possible scenario.

Scenario 2Hear the truth of the gospel, i.e., Jesus lived a life without sin, offered his sinless life as a sacrifice for your sin, His shed blood cleansed you of all sin (past, present, and future sins), He was buried and raised to give you His eternal life so you could now live with Jesus Himself living within you in the person of the Holy Spirit. Jesus has made you spiritually alive, forever clean, and permanently accepted by God. Believe this truth knowing that you are a forgiven person with no need to ask for forgiveness since God has already forgiven you of all your sins in Christ (Hebrews 10). Live life motivated by a new clean heart that does not want to sin. Live a life of gratitude to God, expressing praise to God for what He has done, and offering yourself as a living sacrifice for Him to do with you whatever He pleases. 

In scenario 2 the pressure is off. You are not relying on your imperfect performance to get right with God or to stay right with God, you are relying on the perfect performance of Jesus that has made you right with God permanently. Because of this incredible truth you now want to live a life that is pleasing to God. In other words, you do not want to sin. Sin is not consistent with who you are as a child of God. However when you do sin, you know that you are still just as forgiven as you were before you sinned. Jesus died for all sin and has already removed all sin from your account (Colossians 2:14). This fact frees you up to live a life of freedom in the power of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:1). This truly is eternal life living in and through your human life. 

Which scenario sounds better to you? Which scenario do you think is Biblically sound? Just do it! 

By Daniel Niceley
Author of "The Lie of Forgiveness" 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Understanding the Way of God More Perfectly

"And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace:For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ." 
Acts 18:24-28, KJV

We need more Aquilas and Priscillas. 
Many of my fellow Christians enjoy going to their churches, participating in small groups, Sunday School classes, and services. They may like to dig into the word of God, read some Christian books and claim some Bible promises here and there. Then there are the men and women that take it to the next level, and like to geek out on Bible study: they devour commentaries, underline and highlight every other verse in their Bibles and are usually up for a theological debate on Facebook, and spread the word in some form or fashion elsewhere. You might say some of these passionate Christians fashion themselves to be modern-day Apolloses - eloquent and mighty in the scriptures (at least in their own minds).
Apollos was more than likely well-educated. The Bible points out he came from Alexandria, Egypt on purpose. It was an epicenter of learning, philosophy and education in Biblical times and was famous for its library ( The Bible also states that he was eloquent and mighty in the scriptures. You can imagine that he could hold people's interest with the way he spoke and he knew his Bible very well. At that point, much of the New Testament was still being written, so he would have been more familiar with the Old Testament and its prophecies of a coming Messiah. He had heard of and been taught according to the ministry of John the Baptist. He was very passionate about his faith to the point where he would visit synagogues and preach and teach "diligently the things of the Lord". 
Now on one particular Saturday, he was visiting a synagogue in the Greek city of Ephesus. As was his custom, Apollos began to preach, teach, and proclaim what he knew "boldly". I believe he was thundering away and the man was on point. I believe he was able to have much of the effect that old John the Baptist did when he would preach by the river Jordan: people weeping and responding in repentance and getting baptized. But on this particular Sabbath, something different happened. There was this sweet Christian couple in attendance that loved the Lord dearly and who just happened to have had the opportunity to be educated at the feet of the Apostle to the Gentiles himself - Paul. When Aquila and Priscilla heard Apollos,  I think they looked at each other and they recognized that the man was gifted and his heart was in the right place. They could also tell from his teaching that he was ignorant. He only knew part of the story. So, with love and encouragement, they pulled him aside when the opportunity was right and proceeded to fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle for him.
What was the result? By the time he got to Achaia he "helped them much that had believed through grace" and "mightily convinced the Jews" and could point out in the scriptures that Jesus was Christ. So how was this teaching different than the baptism of John? First, remember that John was beheaded before Jesus was crucified. The New Testament didn't go into effect until the death of Christ as Hebrews 9:16 teaches us, "For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator." John the Baptist's ministry was that of a Jew preaching to other Jews that were under the Old Testament Law. His ministry was to prepare the way for the coming Messiah (Matt. 3:3) and he proclaimed,  "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:" (Matt. 3:11). Many of the religious leaders of the day prided themselves in following the letter of the Mosaic Law and putting on an outward show, but on the inside, they were cold and dead.  "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness." (Matt. 23:27 KJV) So, Apollos, was used to preaching repentance to Jews under the Old Testament Law...calling them to turn from a dead spirituality and instead follow God from the heart. Yet Aquila and Priscilla corrected him and showed him that true salvation comes from believing in Christ - a free gift by the grace of God that can only be received by faith. Even turning over a new leaf by repenting and following the Law of God from the heart could not accomplish what Christ had freely offered on the cross. Paul the Apostle would later write a letter to the church of Ephesus where Aquila and Priscilla were located, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9 KJV) So, Apollos, with the humility to receive the truth, amended his knowledge and beliefs and subsequently went on to "mightily convince the Jews" not only of believing through grace but showing that Jesus was the promised Messiah - the Christ.
There are many well-meaning brothers and sisters in Christ out there who are like Apollos when he first showed up at Ephesus. They are eloquent, mighty in the scriptures, instructed in the way of the Lord, fervent in spirit, and speak and teach the word of God diligently. Yet, like Apollos did, they fall short of understanding and teaching the New Covenant Gospel - a gospel of 100% grace by 100% faith. They sing, "Jesus paid it all, All to him I owe, Sin had left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow...", yet in practice they feel and think and behave like he didn' they need to do more or be more or that some of the debt is left unpaid by Jesus and they still have to "take care of it". So, yes, be like Apollos in all those ways (eloquent, mighty in the Scriptures, fervent in spirit, etc), but also be like him in receiving the way of God more perfectly. Put away the Old Covenant, put away the baptism of John, and fully embrace and rest in the New Covenant, the finished work of Christ and the grace of God. After that, then follow the loving example of Aquila and Priscilla and help the brethren to truly know, experience, live, love and teach the grace of God. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Truth About Paul's Romans 7 Struggle

"The Truth About Paul's Romans 7 Struggle"
by Andrew Farley

Epic Fail: The Sermon on the Mount

It seems that there have always been debates surrounding the purpose of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Some believe that His teachings are guidelines for our lives today, and that believers need to strive to meet them throughout their daily lives. I have had it explained to me like this: “the Law was a standard for the Israelites, and it proved to condemn them because they failed to meet up to it. Now, under grace, the standards have been upped but because we have the Spirit, we can meet these demands that Jesus asks of us in the Sermon on the Mount.” 

But such a conclusion fails to take into consideration the overall thrust of Jesus’ teachings here. He is not trying to encourage Christian’s to live “kingdom lives” by imitating what He is teaching. He is trying to convince Jews of what perfection really looks like under the Law. Notice what Jesus says about the type of righteousness that one must have to enter into the kingdom: 

"For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:20
In other words, unless you are even more righteous than the Pharisees who behave well outwardly, yet inwardly are sinful, you cannot enter the kingdom. Remember, in many ways the Pharisees externally kept the Law very well. Paul himself claimed that he was blameless according to the Law (Philippians 3:6). Jesus wanted people to stop looking to externals for righteousness, and He did this by teaching them true perfection according not only to external behavior, but inward intentions. His teachings reveal something crucial about the human condition: the sinful nature that every human being inherits. Sure, the Pharisees may have looked good fasting and praying on street corners, people may look good religiously, but deep down something is off. Deep down a change is needed.
Notice what Jesus says about the deeper issue of sin during the Sermon on the Mount. 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his hearts.” Matthew 5:27-28 

“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You food-for- nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says,‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” Matthew 5:22 

“It was said, ‘Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce’; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” Matthew 5:31-32 

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men…But when you give to the poor do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:2, 3-4

Those who read the sermon and think “Okay, time to roll up my sleeves and get to work on this Christian thing” have missed the point entirely. Those who read the sermon and think “Wow. I suck!” may just be on to something. Whereas many during Christ’s time thought that they could externally keep the Ten Commandments and be square with God, Jesus showed that it wasn’t simply keeping the letter of the Law. It was fulfilling it perfectly in the spirit of the Law. In effect Jesus said, 

“Never cheated on your wife? If you have lusted, then you have cheated. Never murdered anyone? If you have hated, you have murdered. Have you ever divorced someone or even been divorced? Have you ever married a divorced person? If so, under the Law, you are guilty of adultery. Oh, and when you give to the poor, are your intentions right? Do you do it to be seen by man or to honor God? Because if you do it for the wrong reason, you are guilty, regardless of your seemingly good behavior.” 

This sermon stings, doesn’t it? I will admit, the depth of my guilt according to Jesus’ teachings here is great (or was before salvation). The one that is especially sobering is the teaching on divorce. Marriage is such a permanent covenant in God’s eyes that the breaking of it, except in the case of marital unfaithfulness, brings the guilt of adultery upon a person. Furthermore, if anyone marries the divorced person they are guilty of adultery. My first marriage ended in divorce, not by my choosing at all. Yet according to Law, I don’t even avoid the guilt before God. It doesn’t matter how much I wanted to save my first marriage, the bottom line is that I don’t make the cut under Law. And neither do you. Harsh and sobering, isn’t it? I don’t believe Jesus was trying to make people feel bad for their past. This was not His purpose. He was simply showing the Israelites the stringent and impossible standards of moral perfection under the Law. And boy did it hurt! Bottom line: No one can avoid guilt under the Law. The standard is just too high. But the good news is that God has a new covenant for us and it is beautiful. The liberating truth of the New Covenant is that our sins are completely taken away at salvation (Hebrews 8:12). Once we see how far short we fall of God’s standard under Law, expressed in greater detail during the Sermon on the Mount, we can truly receive the grace that Jesus offers so freely. All of our adulteries, lusts, lies, poor motives, prideful intentions….ALL of our failings are taken away at salvation. We are freed from condemnation (Romans 8:1), freed from sin (Romans 6:18), adopted by God (Ephesians 1, 1 John 3:1), made new spiritual beings (2 Corinthians 5:17) and brought into full fellowship with our Father (1 John 3:1). The Law existed to point out sin so that the whole world may be held accountable to God (Romans 3:19). With the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus expressed in greater magnitude the standard of perfection that is represented by the Law. If we seek to meet the standards put forth in the Sermon on the Mount, then our failure will constantly be revealed. But if we rest in the fact that Jesus has met the standard for us, then our lives will be a celebration of the amazing grace of God. Once we realize that we have epically failed under Law, we can receive the epic grace and love of God in the finished work of Christ. And then the adventure truly begins!

Andrew Nelson
Author of Fight for Grace
copied with permission

Thursday, November 10, 2016

From Religion To Grace

I grew up thinking that in order to go to heaven and get right with God, a person must turn from their sin, ask for forgiveness of past sin, and if I committed a sin, then I would have had to go through the salvation experience again and rededicate myself to God.

In addition, I assumed the burden was on me to make restitution for the wrong I did. For example, if I stole something, I would have to go to every person I stole from and make it right.

So to sum it all up, it was all on the individual to not only precipitate salvation and qualify for God's grace, but it would be up to the individual to do the work that kept them in the grace of God. So basically you justified and "sanctified" yourself.

This belief in effect drove me from "Christendom" and into "the world" when I was in my teens. I figured that I could never be the person I needed to be to please God and qualify for heaven.

The truth that changed my life was this... I can't qualify for God's grace either to save myself or to keep me saved. I can't fix myself up enough so that God will let me into heaven.  I'm a sinner (naturally speaking) and there's nothing I can DO to stop being a sinner. I can't undo my sin. All my good works won't undo my sin.

Therefore I need something (or SOMEONE) outside of myself to do what I can never do for myself... namely make me acceptable (and righteous) in God's sight.

The truth was that Jesus became all that we are so that we could become all that He is. God MADE Him to be sin for us so in the same way, we could be made His righteousness. He took our sin on Himself and died on the cross, so that we could take His righteousness on us and have His resurrected life. The Judge of all counted Jesus as all the sinners in the world so that He could count us as righteous as Jesus is... and do it as a free gift. Jesus didn't earn our sin (He never sinned) and in the same way we can't earn His righteousness. Jesus went to our hell so that we could go to His heaven. All by His grace!

This truth about Jesus changed my life. It changed my entire perspective on life.  It allowed me to give up on myself and forget myself. It gave me a new identity that isn't founded on what I do, but rather on what Christ did for me.  It allowed me to let go of who I use to be, and cling to who I am in Christ. A brand new man. Now I'm FREE.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Vision

“But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” 
Acts 20:24, KJV

Knoxville is in need. 

There are over 450 churches in the Knoxville area. If you wanted to find a church by particular denomination, it would be easy enough to do so with a quick Google search and get names and addresses of churches that fit your description.

But what if you were looking for a church that taught a particular belief or a key Biblical concept? Doing a Google search would only benefit you if  1. you knew what you were looking for, 2. searched for it correctly, AND 3. the church that believed or taught that belief had a website that contained information on that particular topic in such a way that it could be picked up by a search engine.

So that brings me to the point of this post and for the existence of this blog. This blog is about Grace. 

By Grace I mean the clear understanding that as a Christian we are saints of God and we are in a covenant relationship with God, also known as the New Covenant. The Old Covenant was a covenant of Law. The New Covenant is a covenant of Grace. Under the Old Covenant, men pursued righteousness by doing the works of the Law. Under the New Covenant, men are righteous by faith - by believing in the finished work of Christ. Under the Old, sins were paid for temporarily with the blood of animals. Under the New, sins were paid for forever with the blood of Jesus Christ.

Although the above seem like pretty basic teachings of Christianity, many Christians have discovered that the messages they are hearing from the pulpit each Sunday aren't so clear as to where the Old Covenant starts and the New begins. They are hearing and are being taught a "mixed" gospel: part old/part new; part works/part faith.

For those Christians that have come to this realization on their own from studying the Bible, from hearing a preacher on TV that "gets it", or from a book or blog from an author that understands what Christians really have in the New Covenant, going to a mixed (gospel/covenant) church can leave one feeling empty, unfulfilled and many times frustrated.

If you identify with the above, then this blog is for you. There are other Christians in the Knoxville area that feel the same way, understand Grace and the New Covenant, and have a desire to meet together, share the truly Good News of Grace with believers and unbelievers, encourage one another, and possibly even start a Grace-based church in Knoxville at some point.

Our vision is:

1. To find you! The ones that get it! You're not alone and we want to share the joy, rest and peace we truly have in Christ. 

2. To reach other Christians that are caught in the mire of a mixed gospel (eyes on themselves, always trying to be more and do more to please God, yet never resting in the grace of God) and disciple them in the New Covenant and God's grace. 

3. To reach unbelievers and win lost souls to Christ. To spread the truly good news that their sins can be forgiven forever and that they can enter into a beautiful, fulfilling relationship with their Creator and have everlasting life. 

Thank you for stopping by. I and other contributors will be adding new content on a regular basis and we will post activities and ongoing events as they come up.

I look forward to meeting and talking to many of you soon. 

In Christ,

Brett Turner