|T O P I C R E V I E W
||Posted - 22 Jan 2006 : 21:25:37
Deceived by Grace?
Source: John Bevere
The Word of God is eternal. In fact, the universe could pass away before one of His words, for they uphold all things (Matt. 24:35). Think of it; the stars by which sailors have safely navigated for thousands of years could disappear before a single word from God's mouth could fail. Yet Jesus, the very Word made flesh, tells us only one thing makes His words powerless-tradition (Mark 7:13)!
Most traditions in churches are born from incorrect perceptions of Scripture. These erroneous beliefs are then extensively taught or written until they are eventually accepted as truth. When this becomes widespread, then the proclamation of the actual "truth" is perceived as extreme or even heresy.
There is just such a tradition in modern evangelical and charismatic churches. It is a thought process conceived and brought forth by an imbalanced teaching of grace. This traditional teaching of grace holds back multitudes from walking in the power of godliness and genuine holiness. Too often I hear grace referred to as an excuse or cover-up for a life of worldliness. To put it bluntly, it is used as justification for a self-seeking disobedient lifestyle.
Many Christian circles emphasize the goodness of God to the neglect of His holiness and justice. This swing to the extreme has left many with a warped and often erroneous understanding of the grace of God. Consequently many fall short of grace's power. The grace of God is not merely a cover-up. Yes, it covers, but far beyond that, it empowers us to live a life of obedience resulting in true holiness.
To explain, let's reference Jesus' words: "Not everyone who says to Me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heavenů" (Matt. 7:21). This statement does not line up with most believers' idea of salvation. Most believe that if we pray a sinners prayer, confessing Jesus as Lord and Savior, we will be saved and headed for heaven. Yet Jesus clearly warns there are going to be many who confess Him as their Lord yet are denied entrance into heaven. (See Matthew 7:22- 23.)
So we must ask the question, Who then will be saved? Jesus answers by continuing, "But he who does the will of My Father in heaven." So it is not confessing His lordship alone, but confessing and doing the will of God that will grant us entrance into His kingdom.
But you may be thinking, "But that sounds like works." You are exactly correct. In rebuttal, some argue, "But the Bible says, `By grace we have been saved through faith not of our own works, it is the gift of God'" (Eph. 2:8-9, paraphrased). Yes, this is true; it is impossible to live a life worthy of our inheritance in the kingdom of God in our own strength, for all have sinned and fallen short of God's righteous standard. No one will ever be able to stand before God and claim their works, charitable deeds or good life has earned them the right to inhabit His kingdom. Every one of us has transgressed and deserves to burn in the lake of fire eternally.
God's answer for our shortcomings is salvation through His gift of grace! A gift cannot be earned! Romans 4:4 says, "Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt." You cannot live a life good enough to deserve or buy it. You could pour out your life in sacrifice and charitable works, yet never earn this grace. It is a gift, and it is received through faith in Jesus.
Yet let's complete the story and not stop short. James boldly states to believers: "Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead" (James 2:17). James does not contradict Paul, but he rounds out and clarifies Paul's message. He makes the point that a person who has truly received God's gift of grace through faith will have a changed lifestyle. In other words, the evidence of him receiving grace is that he will be more and more like Jesus. For this reason John says, "Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked" (1 John 2:3, 6). A professing believer who consistently disobeys God's Word is one who is trusting in a grace that does not exist!
James continues by writing, "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only" (James 2:24). Wow, what a statement! I believe I could safely say many Evangelical and Charismatic believers are not aware this verse even exists! Not long ago I opened my message by isolating this scripture. It was followed by a hush over the auditorium. They were so accustomed to a works-free message that it took a few moments for what was read to sink in. Now we can understand why Paul says with such urgency, "This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works" (Titus 3:8). I don't think we've affirmed this constantly in some of our circles, resulting in many who are fruitless and who lack what Jesus is looking for.
While in prayer the Lord spoke to my heart a few eye-opening statements that so contradicted what I'd been taught that it startled me. In fact, I questioned whether it was really His voice. But I quickly found them in the Scriptures. Before sharing these, allow me to describe the subject matter. In the beginning stages of the Book of Revelation Jesus gives seven different messages to seven churches. These are historic churches, but God never would have put these messages in Scripture if they did not have prophetic application. In other words, they apply to us today. They are Jesus' messages for us in this present hour.
The first of the two statements the Lord made to me in prayer was, "John, did you notice that the first words out of My mouth to every one of the seven churches in the Book of Revelation were, `I know your works!'" I turned to Revelation to confirm this and found this to be truly His voice. I was amazed; all the times I'd read the seven letters I had never noticed what He had just spoken to me. I questioned myself, how did we get so far from the very thing He values and emphasizes?
While pondering this, I heard a second statement that riveted me. "John, did you notice I did not say to one of those churches, `I know your hearts!'" I thought back to many counseling appointments with those who led a loose and worldly lifestyle. so often I heard with firm conviction, "Well, God knows my heart!" Later this illustration came to me: We don't have to drill into the trunk or heart of an apple tree to determine if it is good or not; all we need do is examine the fruit!
Jesus is not looking at our intentions, wishes or knowledge of right. He is looking for our works-the evidence of true faith! Are we allowing the grace of God to produce holy living in our lives, or have we received the grace of God in vain? (See 2 Corinthians 6:1.)
We receive God's grace in vain when we do not use its potential. Consider this example. Say I lived on a volcanic mountain. An announcement is made that it will erupt in the next twenty-four hours. All those who live on the mountain will be annihilated unless they are a couple hundred miles away. The announcement brings absolute shock and terror, as I cannot run that far in twenty-four hours, and I don't own a car! I realize my doom, as I am without hope or any way of escape.
Seeing my great need, a generous man knocks on my door. I open it and behold, this man stands with a set of keys in his hands. Behind him is a four-wheel drive vehicle. He says, "I know your condition, that you are doomed and without hope." He holds out the keys for me to take saying, "The car is yours." Surprised I respond, "But, sir, I can't pay for it." He says, "I know, it is my gift to you." I respond, "Why would you do this?" He answers, "Because I really love and care about you." Overwhelmed I receive the keys. This person has freely given me the automobile that can carry me to safety. I call my friends and tell them, "I'm saved! I am not going to die! Isn't this wonderful?" I dig out my maps and read the owner's manual to make sure I know how to operate the car I've been given. However, for the next twenty-four hours I remain in the house. I fail to get into the car to drive to freedom. The volcano erupts, and I am swept away to destruction. The gift that would lead to my freedom was provided, and I received it, but I just celebrated and took no action. Afterward, all who knew my position and what I had received would say, "He received the car in vain."
For this reason Paul says to us believers, "We also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain" (2 Cor. 6:1). God has not only redeemed us, but He has given us the power to walk free from the bondages, addictions and other lusts the world is ensnared to. So don't trust in a counterfeit traditional cover-up grace, but discover the power of His amazing grace by which we stand and live.
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||Posted - 09 Jul 2006 : 14:17:49
I have been going through the bible on my computer lokking at the Greek word Charis, which is mostly translated as grace in the New Testament. I am amazed that if I change the word Grace to "God's Power," "His Power," "The power of God" etc. the scriptures become more alive to me. It is not that Grace is a mistranslation, not at all, but that modern man has an uinderdeveloped understanding of the word. It means so much more than we think.