Have you been good enough?


I wonder...One of the finest men I ever knew was my wife’s step father, T.L. Cannon. T.L. was a true Texas gentleman in every sense. And, he was a Christian.

He had been a member of several churches of Christ all of his adult life. He had served in many ways, even serving as an elder in two or three of those churches.

T.L. was a kind, compassionate, and loving friend. He was a car guy and he and I became fast friends soon after we met. His phone calls to me and our shared projects when I visited him are cherished memories.

When T.L. was well past his 80th birthday and Carol’s mom was about 80, one of our conversations included dying and what lies beyond the grave. Carol’s mom had also been a Christian since she was a girl. The church of Christ legacy ran back several generations in both families. In fact Carol’s father was a preacher and ministered in many churches of Christ until near his death several years ago.

We sat at the kitchen table and I listened to two dear people express to me their shared fear that they might not go to heaven. I was saddened and my heart went out to them. As they talked, one said and the other agreed, “I don’t know if I have been good enough”.

I opened a Bible and tried the best I could to give them some assurance from the Bible, to share God’s promises, but to no avail. On my birthday about two or three years after this conversation we buried my friend. Carol’s mom is now 89.

I wonder, how many Christian’s live their lives devoted to Christ and His people and face what they believe is an uncertain future? Is it tens of thousands, millions?

“T.L. was right, he had not been good enough. And, this is precisely the reason Jesus bore his sin, died for him, and was raised again for his justification. None of us are “good enough” to be approved by God. The righteousness he accepts is that of Jesus. It is that righteousness which is revealed in the gospel (Romans 1:17) and given as a free gift to those who depend on Christ alone for forgiveness and eternal life. (Romans 3:23, 4:22-25)

I suggest that perhaps we should do some house keeping ourselves before we make a fuss over the dirt in someone else’s house. What a sad commentary on over 60 years of preaching and teaching in the case of my wife’s mom and step father.

In the last decade I have seen more and more Christ centered ministry in our fellowship. People are embracing the good news of the grace of God. The joy of being freed from the yoke of trying to do it themselves is refreshing and hopeful. So, many of us keep preaching Christ  and against every voice that opposes the good news about Jesus.

Truth always prevails in the end. You have not been good enough to go to heaven. Put your trust in Jesus who is your only hope. He is the way, the truth, and the life and you can be safe only in Him.

Royce

Advertisements

Gospel Gold Mine – Romans 5


1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

9Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him10For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11Not only is this so, but how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

12Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— 13for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 14Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.

15But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification17For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

18Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men19For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

20The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

What a remarkable chapter of God’s word and revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have taken the liberty of highlighting phrases and words that jumped out me as I read and reread Romans 5. The resulting emphasis is amazing and wonderful. There is a series of causes and results as follows.

v1 “We have been justified…we have peace”

vs 2,3 “We have gained….we now stand”   “we rejoice in hope….we rejoice in sufferings…..because we know”

v5 “God has poured out His love…He has given

vs6-8 “Christ died for the ungodly….died for us…..God demonstrates”

v9 “we have now been justified….how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath?”

v10 “We were reconciled….we have been reconciled….we shall be saved through His life

v11 “how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath…have now received reconciliation.

v15 “God’s grace….the gift….overflow

v16 “The gift….brought justification

v17 “those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness….reign in life”

v18 “One act of righteousness….life for all men

v19 “through the obedience of the one man…. the many will be made righteous”

v20 “grace might reign through righteousness… to bring… eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

This is the justified sinner’s declaration of dependence. At least a dozen times in this rich chapter Christ is referenced. He came, His death, His life, His obedience, His gift…

The story of redemption and the grace of God toward wicked sinners is not about a partnership. It is about a benevolent God who in grace and mercy obeyed in the sinners stead, He died in the sinners place, He was raised again because of the sinners justification, and we reconciled sinners are alive forever by His life.

God is a lover of sinful, wicked people…and he loves you. He spoke and things lept into existence from nothing except His power. He needs no help to make sinful men and women fit for heaven. The work was done before we got here. Our decree of pardon has been signed, sealed and delivered. The gospel extends God’s offer to receive the gift and live.

This is the love of God, this is the grace of God, this is to the glory of God alone.

Royce

Facts and fiction about the grace of God


If you are one of those people who like me read Christian blogs, read, watch, and listen to sermons and Bible lessons, you will agree that there is lots of hubbub on the subject of God’s grace. You don’t need to read, or listen long to realize that many of the voices either extolling the virtues of Grace, or fear its excesses, don’t really understand what it is.

From my teen years as a new believer the pat definition I learned from my teachers was this one. “Grace is God’s unmerited favor toward man“. While that definition is true, it is woefully inadequate. The Bible reminds us mere mortals that every good thing we have comes from the unchanging had of God. (James 1:17) Every despot has experienced the “unmerited favor of God” in that he has the breath of life, food, and shelter. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. (I have thought I must be both, judging from the amount of rain recently in N E Louisiana). Both the best people in your town, and the most vile, alike share at least in part the unmerited favor of God.

A better definition of God’s Grace is this acrostic. God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. This view of Grace, although more narrow, is by far more rich and full. The word “grace” appears in the New Testament alone far more than 100 times, and with very few exceptions, is in the context of this more narrow understanding of what God has done through Christ for men as opposed to what I call “common grace”.

Those of us who teach grace and refute its ugly opposite, legalism, are the targets of the ire of religionists who are themselves threatened by something they don’t understand. That is quite a charge! So you can justly ask, “How do you know that Royce?” I know that because of the charges made and the fears exposed by those charges. The alarmist warnings go along this line of thought.

“You are teaching cheap grace!”

“You believe Christians can live any way they want and still go to heaven.”

“God requires obedience…”.

“There is God’s part and your part in salvation.”

And one of the newest,

“You are teaching universalism.”

All of these spurious charges are born of ignorance or unbelief. The idea that teaching what God has accomplished in Christ for wicked sinners is cheap, a license to sin without penalty, or that Christians should not be obedient to God is hopefully based in ignorance. Otherwise it is simply dishonest.

God’s grace is free, but not “cheap“. It is given to sinful men and women as a free gift but it cost Christ his precious redeeming blood. (Romans 5:15) (1 Peter 1:18,19) As Jesus shared a final meal with his inner circle he gave them bread to eat, representing his body, and wine to drink, representing his blood, and reminded them that his very body and his own life giving blood would be payment for the new covenant. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) What one works for, or earns, is given by obligation. The justification of the ungodly is not received as something due, but as a free gift. (Romans 6:23)

The idea that somehow those of us who teach free grace believe God has lowered his standards is incredible. The truth is that God raised his standards. Remember the words of Jesus? “You have heard is said…., but I say unto you……” Adultery is no longer only the physical act of sexual intercourse outside the bounds of marriage but the one who lusts is guilty as charged. And, he went on saying, one who hates his brother is guilty of murder. (Matthew 5:28) (Matthew 5:20,21) This level of moral responsibility is hardly an example of God lowering his standards for holiness. What the legalist fails to comprehend is that even though new covenant standards are considerably higher than the old, God now enables and empowers his own to desire to live out his requirements by “nature“.  Not one child ever reaches the ceiling of perfect obedience but every child is looked upon as if he had. (Romans 2:14) (Romans 4) It is because of what God has done and is doing in us that we live out his will before a watching world. (Philippians 2:12,13)

Do I teach grace that sin may abound? What a strange idea! When Paul asked this rhetorical question his answer was “God forbid!” (Romans 6:1,15) Those who have been set free from the slavery of sin by the representative death of Jesus (A dead man is not bound by any law) are those who joyfully surrender to be love slaves of Jesus to do his bidding. The spurious charge that teaching people are saved by grace alone encourages sin is an idea conjured up largely by people who believe they can in some way contribute to their own salvation. The word of God paints a different picture. It says the exact opposite. It is precisely grace that teaches us to say no to unrighteousness and to live upright lives as we wait for Jesus. (Titus 2:11-13)

The lavish love of God demonstrated in the perfect living, sacrificial and substitutionary dying, and triumphant resurrection of Jesus for sinners is the full measure of God’s grace. In the same way that by one man (Adam) sin and death entered into the world, by the obedience of one man (Jesus) many are made righteous. (Romans 5:18,19) Jesus did man’s part by giving to the Father a life of perfect obedience and taking the punishment for sin so that God could justify the ungodly and still himself be just in so doing. (Romans 3:26)

It is certain that God loves you more than you think and likely the expanse of his grace is much larger than you have thought. The complete package of salvation including justification, sanctification, and glorification, are wholly the work of God. Nothing can be done by the will and in the energy of humans to substitute or supplement this great work of redemption designed before the creation of the world.

One of the most clear statements in the Bible about the grace of God in salvation is found in Ephesians 2 verses 4 and  5.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved.”

Once you see the full impact of this simple statement it is simply astounding! Remember when Jesus visited the tomb of his friend Lazarus? He had been dead and buried long enough that his body was decaying and had a foul odor. He was dead……until……..Jesus cried out “Lazarus come out!” Then “the man who had died came out!” (John 11:42-44) The very one who said “I am the resurrection and the life..” called him out of death to life. Although we were dead spiritually, the Bible is crystal clear that we were “dead”. Just as Jesus made Lazarus live, in the same way he made us to live with Him. A dead man can do nothing to reverse his condition. Only God gives life to the dead and that is my story and it is your story if you have been made a child of God. Nothing can we claim but the love and grace of God. We can only boast in the Lord our God.

May we together grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. We were saved by grace, we stand in grace, and one golden day we will see Jesus face to face by grace and grace alone.

for Jesus,

Royce

Who are you now?


godJesus said something astonishing to Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. Nicodemus had come to see Jesus and to discuss His amazing miracles. He understood there was something other worldly about Jesus. It was pretty obvious that God was with him. The only sensible explanation for some of the things Jesus had accomplished was that He must have had supernatural help, namely God!

In reply to Nicodemus’ statement about Him, Jesus replied, and then repeated, “You must be born again“. Of course this strange response stumped the learned leader of the Jews, so he questioned further, asking about this strange teaching. Jesus made it clear that the kingdom of heaven is only for those who have had a Spirit birth. Flesh produces flesh and Spirit produces spirit.

Today there are many in our churches who are like this ancient religeous leader Nicodemus asking “How can these things be?” In discussions with my Christian friends both in person and online it is clear that many of them have missed an important truth that if not understood leaves a person confused just like Nicodemus. Have you pondered the message of grace and then the many commands and rules and wondered “How can these things be?” I’m not going to ask you to raise your hand, but does the New Testament seem to you like a series of contradictions and paradoxes? I know it does to many, many people, especially in our churches of Christ.

Every person who has been born of the Spirit (from above) lives every day of their life on earth, since that new birth, in two distinct dimensions. They are alive in the dimension of the “flesh” and the dimension of the “Spirit”. Both realities are equally real and true. In fact, the spiritual, one could argue, is more real becaus it is eternal while the other is temporary. I am a living breathing human man and at the same time I am a spiritual man, one of the household of God by the new birth. And so are you if you have been born again.

The Bible addresses both of these realities in very distinct ways. I could write pages about those differences in Scripture but I want to focus on one point. With regard to our status with God, or salvation, there is also two realities. The first is what I call our position with God. This is our positional standing with God. It is what it is only upon the basis of the person, work, and worth of Jesus Christ. We are only accepted in Him, and never accepted for any other reason.

The second reality again relates to our spiritual selves but is what I call our practical standing. It reflects our response to God’s lavish love and grace shown to us in His Son. It is what we “practice” as believers day by day, hense the term “practicle“. My friend Edward Fudge says it this way and makes it clear, “We work out what God works in“. The Bible says both to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling“, and “It is He who is in you both to will and to do His good pleasure“. So both our positional standing and our practicle standing are addressed and identified.

Finally, I’ll add that these two realities can be viewed from two perspectives. There is first the view from God’s perspective and secondly the view from the street where you live. God sees you as already perfected, safe and secure, clothed with the rightsousness of Jesus and seated in the heavenlies already glorified. That is God’s view and He allows us glimpses of that reality. You and I see ourselves as strugglers, trying to do what is right and often failing even ourselves. We don’t like our sin but it keeps hanging around, most of the time in the shadows but far too often in the light of noon day it explodes on the scene. We are shocked and saddened and quickly repent and receive God’s promised cleansing…and then the cycle continues. We find that we are never right about everything, or everyone, we never perfectly obey what we do know to do, and secretly we admit to ourselves that we are misrable failures in the Life.

The very good news is that our daily living, fail as oft’ we do, does not in any way change or threaten our position with God, or our standingwith Him. You are just as much a child, just as saved, just as secure, on the days you disappoint yourself as the days when you think you’ve done ok. God is constant and consistant in His sovereign love for His own who are actively trusting the Christ of the gospel for eternal life.

Cheap grace you say? Hardly! “Shall we continue to sin that grace may abound? God forbid!”Are you crazy? If you can live in continual sin and experience no tension, no sorrw of soul, you must take care to see if you are really in the faith. Everyone who is truely a believer is safe and sure of heaven and God’s great promises. There is no securityfor imposters. People who are trusting in themselves, church membership, baptism, family heritage, or scores of other things instead of Jesus Christ are only promised the wrath of God and perishing.

I am convinced that once a person knows who He is in Christ he will more liekly live like who he really is. Those who hope to become who they hope to be by what they do are certain to be sadly disappointed.

I hope the next time you read the Bible you will remember your Positional standing and your Practical standing with God. This will set you free to be who God called you to be, free to lovingly obey, rather than be confined to the bondage of legalism, failing over and over and over again. Any person who claims to be justified by what he does is either a liar or lost. He is a liar if he doesn’t admit, at least to himself, it just isn’t working out well, he fails too often too easily. Or he is lost and does not know God spiritually because he has never repented of his wickedness and thrown himself upon Christ’s mercy with his whole heart and mind.

Of course those who are not Christians live in two realities also. They live in the body of human flesh and they live in the dominion of Satan the god of this present world and are spiritually “dead“. They are in the sway of the evil one to do his pleasure. Only the God of heaven can breathe life into the man who is dead spiritually. Put your whole trust in Jesus the best you know how and He will make you to stand whole and holy.

For truth,
Royce