1. You are worrying about whether or not you are resting in grace This seems kind of crazy doesn’t it? But it is so true! There is an amazing grace awakening happening around the world. It is bringing to light ancient truths surrounding Jesus’ finished work and setting people free by doing so. But if we are not careful, resting in Christ’s work will become the “11th Commandment.” Being anxious about whether we are resting or not is needless. If we have believed in Christ, then we have entered the rest.
“Now we who have believed enter that rest...” Hebrews 4:3
2. You constantly confess your sins to God for forgiveness This is a big one. We are either totally forgiven at salvation or we aren’t. If we are not totally forgiven, then there is a lot of tireless and ultimately futile work to be done. Furthermore, if we are not totally forgiven, then something was incomplete about Christ’s work on the cross. While no honest Christian would say this with their mouth, many of us say so with our works. Instead of resting in our total forgiveness, we constantly seek more of it when we mess up. According to Hebrews, if we have believed, we are perfectly cleansed from sin.
“For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” Hebrews 10:14
3. You worry about your intentions How often do you question whether you are doing something for the right reason or not? I often question myself. When I wrote “Fight for Grace” I constantly asked ‘Am I doing this for the right reason? Is it pride? Or is it excitement about Christ?’ The reality is that at any one moment there are several intentions present within us. There is Christ’s intention for us, the flesh’s intention for us, sin’s intention for us (connected with the flesh), and our intention for us (connected to Christ’s intention). This is why it is necessary to know that we are on the same page with Jesus. We are compatible with Him! He has brought us back to life and we are righteous. So in the moment we can learn to rest in Christ’s finished work for us and live in glorious freedom. We can live in the fact that our intention, strictly speaking, is never wrong. And if we ever yield to the intentions of sin or the flesh, we will know because it will go directly against the Holy Spirit’s leading and our new heart.
"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:214.
4. You are Lone Rangering it If we, at any point during our day, begin to strive in our own strength to love or live righteously, we will burn out and fail. We are not meant to place confidence in ourselves for Christian living. Our confidence needs to be in Christ’s indwelling presence. We are not meant to live in our own strength. We are meant to express Christ. So throughout the day, in each moment, know that you can trust Jesus to produce the character needed for each situation. Need patience? Jesus has an endless supply! Need joy? Jesus is constantly joyful within you. Need peace? The Prince of Peace is ready to give it to you. While we are never separated from Christ, we can still live like the lone ranger. But we don’t need to.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:22-25
5. Christianity is a rule-keeping game for you Let me say that if this is what Christianity is to you, I am sorry. Truly. I apologize from the bottom of my heart on behalf of anyone who has presented Christianity as a rule-keeping game and God has “the great Score Keeper.” If this is what you believe, then you no doubt despise religion. This list may even cause some butterflies or a gag reflex. But if there is any part of you that is still curious about Jesus, know this: Christianity is not about rules. It is about a Person. It is about meeting Jesus, the God of the universe, letting Him save you as you are, and then letting Him live life with you. Remember, God is not to be confined by a box. He created the box. So anytime Christianity is represented as being about staying within the box instead of knowing the God who created it, flee from the lies! Jesus wants so much more for you.
“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3
“But to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.”
Have you ever been in a financial hole so vacuous and large, that no matter how hard you worked at trying to recover and dig yourself out of it, you couldn’t?
Not everyone has been there, but many, many individuals have. Unease and stress turn into despair and depression as you realize that there is no recovery from the downward trajectory that you are on. The debits have piled up so ridiculously on your ledger, that the credits aren’t even a speed bump to slow them down. In situations like this, outside of a benefactor to deliver you or the outrageous chance of winning a financial windfall through a lottery - stick a fork in you, you’re done. The technical term for being financially ruined is “Bankrupt”. Kiss your assets and possessions goodbye.
Life, however, is about more than money. If money was the end-all, be-all of happiness and contentment, there would be no unhappy, discontent, depressed, unsatisfied rich people. Although there are many people that look to money and a hedonistic lifestyle for their satisfaction, there are others that look beyond worldly, temporary pleasures to find fulfillment in spirituality and the eternal.
There is a funeral home not far from my home that I pass whenever I take my daughters back and forth from school. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen a U-Haul truck parked outside when people are paying their last respects. The dead can’t take their toys and collectibles with them. Neither can you. When people get this, they try in their own way to live a life that has meaning and gives themselves enough credit to satisfy their Maker’s requirements - whatever those may be.
If you believe the Bible, you will come to find out through reading it, that God requires a payment to get into Heaven. He has a spiritual ledger of debits and credits. When you stand before Him on the Day of Judgment, he will examine you to see if your balance sheet works out in your favor (everlasting life, Heaven) or against you (spiritual death, darkness, Hell). I’d like to give you some tips from the Bible, so you’ll know what you’ll need to get you safely through the Gates of Heaven.
Tip #1 - Believe in God and the Hereafter
“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Hebrews 11:6
I may or may not have been told by police officers in my past that ignorance of the speed limit was not a valid excuse to get me out of the consequences of violating said limit. Likewise, God holds us all accountable to HIm and ignorance is not an excuse to let us off the hook. God tells us Creation itself testifies to the fact that there is a Creator, and should drive every individual to seek HIm. Sadly, many do not.
“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,” Romans 1:20-22
Tip #2 - Believe Everlasting Life is Available for You
“And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Daniel 12:2
Don’t be like the religious leaders of the 1st Century, who liked to talk about spirituality, yet lacked faith:
“Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlastinglife, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” Acts 13:46
TIp #3 - Recognize Sin Causes Spiritual Death and Separation from God
A lot of people are “in the hole” spiritually. Except it is much worse than that. The reality is, many individuals are running around spiritually bankrupt, separated from God, and spiritually dead in their sins. The debits on their spiritual ledger are far beyond any ability to repay, beyond any turning-over-new-leafs, beyond any personal attempts at redemption, recovery, or spiritual disciplines. God is our spiritual “Bookkeeper” and will judge us to see if we have adequate payment for the massive deficit our sins have placed on our personal ledgers.
“What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;” Romans 3:9
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” Romans 3:23
“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;” Ephesians 2:1
“But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” Isaiah 59:2
Tip #4 - Understand the Penalty for Sin
“For the wages of sin is death;” Romans 6:23
“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:12-15
TIp #5 Believe God Has Provided a Solution for You
God is love. He created us in HIs image with the intent of having loving, sustained fellowship with us. He would walk in the Garden of Eden and fellowship with Adam and Eve. Yet, He wasn’t looking for puppets to control, but creatures with freedom to return His love and fellowship. And we know how that story ended...in disobedience, separation, and death.
God’s love for humanity has never faltered though. He does not desire for us to perish. He has made a way for us to be delivered, cleansed, and forgiven of sin so that we can re-enter fellowship with Him, both in this life and the eternal life to come. God doesn’t so much judge our sin as much as sin delivers death and destruction to us and robs us of life, joy, peace, and connection to God. Sin separates us from God much like a virus separates us from health. God is love, life, light, abundance, contentment, peace, joy, and rest. Sin brings us death, darkness, emptiness, longing, condemnation, selfishness and every evil work.
God called out a people and made them His own. Their forefather, Abraham, established a special place for his children by placing faith in God. The children of Israel, like all of humanity, still had issues with sin. So God, in His love and providence, gave them a way to deal with their individual and corporate sins through a Covenant with His people - the Law. On Mount Sinai, God delivered the Ten Commandments as the foundation of the Law and later Solomon would build the Temple where temporary sacrifices were offered to God to deal with the sins of the people. But over the years, the children of Israel would forget the purpose of the Covenant was to maintain connection to God and their focus became more about rules and requirements and much less about faith and relationship.
Just as God had delivered His people from Egypt after the Passover, God in His lovingkindness reached down and offered a new Passover, not with the blood of innocent lambs, but with the blood of His innocent Son. This was to make a New Covenant, a better Covenant (Hebrews 8) so not only could HIs people, but all of humanity have access to HIm and enjoy fellowship, love and forgiveness with Him forever through the life, work, sacrifice (death and blood), and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:16-18
Tip #6 Understand You Can’t Buy Forgiveness with God
Have you ever been super hungry and stopped somewhere for a bite to eat just to realize they were cash only and you only had a debit card? Or maybe showed up at an arcade with a bag of quarters and the machines only accepted tokens?
God makes forgiveness of sins available to all of humanity, but there is just one catch. It’s a free gift.
There’s basically three types of people in the world.
No Payment/Atonement for Sins Needed. If you don’t think there is such a thing as sin or that it’s a problem, then why seek forgiveness? The apostle John dealt with God deniers, spiritualists and other skeptics and mystics in his day. He addressed them in the book of 1 John. “
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:8-10
Pay/Atone for Sins through Self-Effort. The key difference between pure Christianity and other religions of the world, is that Christians are justified by God through faith in the work of Jesus Christ. All others seek reconciliation with God through keeping of laws and commandments, spiritual disciplines, or any other number of self-effort. But once you go down that road, you are working from a place of indebtedness and not accessing the grace of God through faith.
“But to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.” Romans 4:4
The debt is insurmountable though, no matter how good your religious game is.
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” Titus 3:5
Christ Paid/Atoned for Sins through His Effort. Christ was God’s gift of love to us. A payment for sin is necessary to have a relationship with God and have everlasting life.
“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” Romans 3:25
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23
Christ not only provided atonement for our sins, but He went beyond that. He not only gave His life for us, but gave His life to us. When we believe on Christ and trust Him for salvation of our souls, we enter into His death, burial and resurrection and come out the other side new creatures in Christ.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
Eternal life is only through Christ. He’s not just one way, He is THE way. He is the only one that has made provision and atonement for the sins of mankind. He is the only one that can restore a lost sinner’s spiritual life and relationship with God. He saves us from sin. He saves us from ourselves and our darkness.
“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” 1 John 5: 11-13
Every one of us is on a spiritual journey, whether we ignore it or acknowledge and pursue it. The ending point (which is really a starting point) is at the feet of God. No matter what our beliefs, we will all stand before God. He wants a relationship with you. He’s done all the work. He’s made one path for humanity. Will you receive what he’s provided for you? Will you accept His free gift of salvation and everlasting life in Christ? You can’t earn it through any good works or deeds. Or will you remain separated from Him, dead in your trespasses and sins?
“For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6:2
Christianity is not about rules and regulations. It’s not about good moral teaching. It’s not about doing our best in life so that we get on God’s good side. It is not ultimately even about us at all. Jesus did not come here to make bad people good. He did not come simply to be a good moral teacher. He did not come to show us how to get on God’s good side by our own strength. He came to give us the greatest gift of all: Himself. Jesus, who is life itself, came to give us His life. Eternal life.
So often we throw around Christian jargon about how people need to “give their lives to Christ” so that they can be saved. We have all heard preachers call people forward to “surrender their lives to Christ.” But really, honestly, is this what saves people? Let’s think about it. How would me giving God my totally fragile, broken and sin-filled life bring about my forgiveness and promise my ultimate deliverance from death? Sorry, I don’t have that much magic to offer.
The reality is, nowhere in the New Testament will one find any letter or book urging people to “give their lives to Christ.” This mindset is simply absent from scripture. But what is encouraged is people believing and receiving His eternal life as a free gift. Such is the promise of Romans 6:23.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Jesus is life. Whoever believes in Him has eternal life, His life. As John says in His letter “Whoever has the Son has life” (1 John 5:11-12). And such is the miracle of the gospel: the life of Christ becomes our life. We cannot be saved by simply giving our lives to Jesus and surrendering all to Him, whatever that really means. We can only be saved by trusting in His sacrifice for our sins, recognizing that He is completely and totally enough for our right standing with God, and that we cannot ever do anything to be right or stay right with Him. It must be a free gift from God. It must be grace.
So many teachers have made Christianity a game of surrender to God, where its adherents must constantly surrender any and all areas of life to God. While there is truth in letting God reign in us through His Spirit after salvation, following Jesus is not about making a list of things to surrender. It’s about letting His eternal life have its way in and through us. The gospel is not just a set of facts to believe. It is a person; a living, breathing God who laid His earthly body down to save us, and who offers us union, intimacy, and a Life that has no end.
We often quote verses like Luke 14:27 that state that we must deny ourselves and carry our cross to be Jesus’ disciples. But the reality is Jesus’ message was to those who followed Him during His earthly ministry. This was not some eternal truth that we must daily wrestle with, denying our needs and desires and “surrendering” them to God. Jesus’ cross led to His death, burial, and resurrection. So where does our cross lead? The same place!
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
Paul did not consider Himself to be carrying any cross. He considered His old self to be dead. If we carry our crosses correctly, they lead directly to our own Calvary where we are crucified with Jesus, our own private tomb where we are buried with Him, and our own front row seat to that glorious resurrection where we are raised with Him. It’s His life that saves us (Romans 5:10), and our lives that are totally and completely, irrevocably intertwined with His.
“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:3
Our old life is gone and our new life is one with Christ’s life. We live because He lives. His life is our life. What a gift that simple faith brings! As we understand our salvation in a deeper way, it becomes less and less about “giving things up,” and more about being who we really are: brand new, God loving creations who have been given the Life of Christ.
Sound too simple? It was never meant to be complicated.
Sound too good? It must be the gospel.
“And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” 1 John 5: 11-12
_________________________________________ Please follow Andrew at www.graceisreality.org
The short answer is yes. With tensions high in the
political arena, not to mention various social problems dominating media of all
kinds, I thought it might be time to talk about how God views some of these
issues. You may be asking yourself, “How do you know how God views these issues
or anything else?” God has preserved His Word, the Bible, for many years in
order to help us answer many difficult questions and navigate issues such as we
are currently facing. We can look to the Bible in order to see the big picture
as well as the details.
There is much talk today about “inclusiveness” or
“tolerance” or making everyone feel welcome, accepted, loved, valued, etc. Many
people even say things like “God loves everyone”, “God loves you just as you
are”, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, etc. Let’s examine some of these ideas
and statements in light of the entire Bible.
The Bible tells us the God created mankind, Adam and
Eve, in His image (Genesis 1:27) meaning, Adam and Eve had a spirit that was
alive to God and in perfect fellowship with God. When Adam and Eve sinned
(Genesis 3) their spirits were considered “dead” to God due to their sin
(disobedience). Subsequently they did not have a perfect relationship with God
and were in desperate need of some way to be restored to proper fellowship with
God. The worst part of this story is that every human being born after Adam and
Eve inherited their dead spirits or sin nature, meaning every human being that
has ever been born, except Jesus, has been born spiritually dead and cut off
from God. This means that every human being, including you and me, was born
“excluded” from God and the promises of God.
Ephesians 2:1-3 says, “And although you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in
which you formerly lived according to this world’s present path, according to
the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now
energizing the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom all of us
also formerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the
desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath even as
Today those who do not know God only do what comes
natural. Many people stress the importance of humans above all while
diminishing the importance of God. They focus on human reason, experience, and
science as the source of all truth instead of the supernatural revelation that
comes from God in the form of His Word and His Son. Some people do not want to
be “restricted” by any sort of religious rules or teachings but would rather
rely on themselves as their own religion. God is considered irrelevant to their
lives. Some of these people would even call themselves Christians. Speaking of
relevant, the vast majority of people living in America today have been taught
that absolute truth does not exist and that everything is “relevant” based on
whatever circumstances one may find themselves. Their ultimate authority is not
God or His Word but is, in fact, their personal opinion since everyone’s
opinion is no more valid than anyone else’s opinion. If God is irrelevant or
does not exist, then all that does exist is ultimately physical. If this is the
case, then why not seek pleasure and happiness at all costs? If no after-life
exists, then why not attempt to fulfill every desire that one’s fallen nature
produces? This is the way the world thinks and acts, and why shouldn’t they?
They are only doing what comes “natural”.
What does the Bible say about what God did for the
world? What has God done for people like I just described?
John 3:16: "For this is the way God
loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in
him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not
send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be
saved through him. 18 The one who believes in him is not
condemned. The one who does not believe has been condemned already, because he
has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. 19 Now
this is the basis for judging: that the light has come into the world and
people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil.
20 For everyone who does evil deeds hates the light and does
not come to the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed. 21 But
the one who practices the truth comes to the light, so that it may be plainly
evident that his deeds have been done in God."
Jesus did not come into the world
to condemn the world because the world is already condemned based on the sin
nature that every human inherited from Adam. God does love everyone enough to
provide a way for everyone to be saved from His wrath and from a ruined life.
He has provided His own sinless Son as a sacrifice which paid for all sin for
all time. Hebrews 10:14 “For by one offering
he has perfected for all time those who are made holy.”
How does the Bible say that a
person accesses this gracious gift? By faith, trust, reliance on the finished
work of Jesus. This means trusting that what Jesus did by shedding His blood on
the cross was enough to satisfy God’s demands.
How can a person know if they have
done and are doing this? John 3:19-21 tells us. When a person is exposed to the
light, the truth, the gospel of Jesus, how do they respond? Verse 21 is very
definite in this matter, “But the one who PRACTICES the truth …” Practice for
sports, music, or any other activity is done in order to improve one’s skills.
When a person practices the truth, one shows that the truth lives in them. This
person practices trusting Jesus as a lifestyle. Those who practice a lifestyle
that is contrary to God’s Word may think they know God but in fact are
In conclusion, God is both
inclusive and exclusive. He excludes everyone who does not have eternal life
and remains dead in their naturalness. This includes those of all races, religions,
genders, etc. It makes no difference. Likewise, God includes all those who have
eternal life in His Son Jesus. He includes all those from any background. God
does not identify people by race, gender, behavior, etc. He identifies all
people based on one and only one criteria; How did/do you respond to the light
of the truth of His Son Jesus? If He has given you eternal life then you
are included in His family and will live with Him forever.
By Daniel Niceley Author of "The Lie of Forgiveness"