Friday, February 20, 2009

The Balancing Act of Grace

What do you do with your sins? You've committed them, you've confessed them, you've been forgiven - but are you still holding on to them?  

Many times we hold onto our sins as a reminder of past failures. We treat their memories as a demonstration of our willingness to show God (and our selves) that, “yes, I really do know who I am and what I did, I really do know the price you paid, and I'm going to carry some of this burden with you.”  

It's as if we convert our forgiven sins into merit badges that are somehow supposed to demonstrate God's appreciation of our willingness to carry our part of His forgiveness, a heavy burden, a reminder of who we are in the light of a most Holy and Righteous God. The worse the sin and the greater the forgiveness, then the bigger and shinier the merit bag.

But is that what God calls us to do?

For many of us, living with sin is a balancing that we play: this much sin, that much grace. We think sin and grace balance each other out, and once that's done, God is happy with us again...


Right?

So, lets explore this balancing act that we play.


Imagine that you're standing before a teeter-totter, and you've got your heavy burden of past sins that you carry with you. You know what I'm talking about: that big bag of failures you've thrown over your shoulder, that you just can't let go of. Now, with your bag of failures, sins, and regrets, sit down on the teeter-totter. If you're like most people, and I must assume that you are, gravity will have it's way with you, and you and your bag will hit the dirt in short order.


So, there you are on the teeter-totter, just you and your bag sitting on the dusty earth looking up into the bright sunlight.


Now what?

Well, now you ask God to forgive you of those sins and failures that you're holding onto. Let's assume you've done that (or that you're doing it right now.)

Lo and behold, God, being who He is, hears your prayer and shows up and with a huge bag of grace and mercy and says, “Okay, let's play this game.” He climbs up on the teeter-totter and, with His bag of grace and mercy, sits down on the other side.

But there's a problem: God sat down on the teeter-totter with His bag of Grace and Mercy, but He is up in the air and you're still stuck on the ground with your bag of sins!

What's the deal with that? It's simple actually. God can't have your sins until you let go of the bag.

Ah, but you've done this before, haven't you? It's evident in that you still carry the bag around. You commit a sin, you confess the sin, and then you put the sin into the bag. At a later time, you take the sin out of the bag, confess the sin again, and put the sin back in the bag. The problem is not in your confession, the problem is your focus.

So get up off the teeter-totter, but leave your bag of sin behind in your place, on the teeter-totter. Once you've done that, you notice that God gets off the teeter-totter too, but leaves his bag of grace and mercy behind. As you watch, you see the teeter-totter creak and groan and bend under the weight of God's grace and mercy. So what's going on now?


Seriously, you've really got to let go of your bag sins, regrets, and failures. Just because you're not sitting with them doesn't mean you've emotionally let them go. So let go, and let God have them! Stop wasting your time worrying about the past, trust God to leave the past where it belongs and look to the future. Right now, bow your head ask God to forgive you for holding onto that which you have already been released.


As you lift your head too look, you see God's grace and mercy crashing down to the earth and your bag of regrets and sins ejected into the air! It travels further and further away, as far as the east is from the west until it's a tiny dot, and then, until you can't see it anymore.

Once your bag has disappeared, you turn to face the Lord, only to find that He's gone. However, He has left His bag of grace and mercy behind for you to use anytime you choose.


But, as you look at His bag of grace and mercy, you notice that it's no longer on the teeter-totter.


Seeing that it was apparently heavy enough to discharge your bag of sins, regrets, and failures as far as the east is from the west, then this may seem to be a bit of a problem. But in actuality, it's not a problem. Look in the bag. Just untie it and open it up. What do you see? Big, fluffy pillows – you know the kind, the type you like best. Go ahead and dive right on in, grace, mercy, and forgiveness is kind, gentle and warm.


So, the next time you find yourself carrying that bag of sins and regrets, come back to God's teeter-totter and drop your bag. Then, ask God to forgive you for carrying the past into the future. Then put God's bag of grace and mercy on the other side of that teeter-totter and watch as your sins are ejected to a place that is farther than the east is from the west.

As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalms 103:12, KJV)

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:32, KJV)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9, KJV)

"No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62, NASB)


Saturday, February 7, 2009

More Do's that you can Do in a Lifetime


And we beseech you, brethren, to know (respect) them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves. (I Thessalonians 5:12-13, KJV)
  • Them which labor among you
    • or they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such men. (I Corinthians 16:18, ESV)
    • So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, (Philippians 2:29, ESV)
  • Those who are over you in the Lord and those who admonish you
    • Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17, ESV)
  • Be at peace among yourselves
  • Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another. (Mark 9:50, ESV)
Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly (idle - lazy), comfort the fainthearted (weak in the spirit), support the weak (impotent, ill, of little strength), be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. (I Thessalonians 5:14-15, KJV)
  • Warn the idle and lazy – admonish them in the Lord – II Thessalonians 3:6-15
    • Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, (II Thessalonians 3:6-7, ESV)
  • Comfort the feeble minded, fainthearted, weak in spirit and mind
    • In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35, ESV)
  • Support the weak (with out strength, ill, of little strength)
  • Be patient toward all
    • Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant (I Corinthians 13:4, ESV)
  • Do not render evil for evil, rather follow after that which is good – among your brethren in Christ, and among all men.
    • So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10, ESV)
Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22, KJV)
  • Rejoice
  • Pray
  • Give thanks
  • Do not quench the Spirit
    • And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30, ESV)
    • Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. (I Timothy 4:14, ESV)
  • Do not despise prophesies
    • On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their edification and encouragement and consolation. (I Corinthians 14:3, ESV)
    • Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. (I Corinthians 14:1, ESV)
    • Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (I John 4:1, ESV)
    • Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. (I Corinthians 12:3, KJV)
    • By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. (I John 4:2-3, ESV)
  • Prove (discern the spirit of ) all things
  • Hold on to righteousness
  • Abstain from the mere appearance of evil

So, you want to be like Jesus?


Then answer the question: Why?
Why do you want to be like Jesus? To please the Father? To be better than you are?  Were those the motivations of Christ, or did He have something else in mind?
"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him ..." (Philippians 2:4-9)
"Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner" (John 5:19)
"But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." (Luke 11:20)

Before we can answer the question #1, "why do I want to be like Jesus",
we must answer the question, #2 "who did Jesus want to be like?"
But before we can answer question #2, we must answer question #3: was Jesus trying to be like God, or was He simply watching the Father, and doing what He did, doing His will?

Someone once said, "I will be like The Most High", and it didn't go to well for him. (Isaiah 14:13-15)
We can only be who we are, who God has molded us to be. He does not want us to all look the same, but He does want all of us to be about His business.
Once we've learned that there is grace and mercy for our sins, and teachings and doctrines enough to keep us from sin if we will only take the time and patience to learn, then we can be about His business and doing what Jesus did: "nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, humble of mind and regarding others more important than ourselves, not just looking out for our interests, but the interests of others, emptying ourselves of our pride, and looking to the Father for our next marching orders."
So, why do you want to be like Jesus? Do you want to do the will of the Father, or do you have other motives?
Do you just want to be happy, or are you willing to be battered and bruised doing the work of the Lord? Is happiness the goal, or is Glory of God the goal? One is incorrect, the other is not.
Do you think being like Jesus will make you accepted of God, or do you want to put the needs of others before your own? One is a lie, the other is how we live in the Kingdom.
Desire the best gifts, but not for yourself: desire them so that you may edify others, so that you may build up others through love.
"Therefore it says, 'WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN ... for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; " ... for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; " (Ephesians 4:8,12)

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