Friday, July 16, 2010

Cheap Grace??

It is vital that we distinguish between Biblical grace and what is known as CHEAP grace. Cheap grace carries the perspective that since God is a God of grace and mercy and love, and since we are righteous in Christ and accepted in the Beloved, it doesn't matter how we live. We can sin all we want, or at least treat sin lightly because we are secure in Christ. Notice how the heresy dances on the edges of truth! This is precisely why Paul was accused of teaching cheap grace (Romans 6:1)!!

What we emphasize at Oak Mountain is the two-fold wonder of grace that helps us avoid Cheap Grace: We talk about:
1) Grace as Unconditional Love
2) Grace as Transforming Power

Both elements of grace find their source in the Work of Christ.

Grace as Unconditional Love finds its source in the Imputed Righteousness of Christ to us. The righteous life and substitutionary death of Christ and all their merits are credited to our account. This leads to a believer's justification: God accepting me and delighting in me IN CHRIST just-as-if-I'd never sinned and just-as-if-I'd done everything perfectly my entire life! This is the Christian's confidence and joy and peace in Christ.

Grace as Transforming Power finds its source in Christ as well, but is the result of IMPARTED righteousness. There was the PAST work of Christ which involved His perfect active obedience as He walked this earth and His perfect passive obedience as He submitted Himself to suffering death on the cross and embraced the wrath of God on behalf of His people.

BUT, there is also a PRESENT Work of Christ that involves Him sharing with us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, His actual righteousness...a continual work of grace in us that conforms us more and more to His image. We are renewed daily by grace (as we WALTZ--the 3-step Dance with Christ of Repent, Believe, Fight!) and His righteousness is imparted to us so that we put to death, by the Spirit, that which is sinful in us and we are SUPERNATURALLY renewed moment by moment as Christ shares His resurrection life with us. It is NOT the result of human effort or striving (Gal 3:1-5!).

BUT, and this is KEY: BOTH imputed AND imparted righteousness are experienced by grace through believing the Gospel Promises and hoping continually in the finished work of Christ. Imputed righteousness is GRANTED ONCE, at conversion, but is to be looked back upon over and over as we feel the weight of our daily sin and failure. Imparted righteousness is granted continually as we look to Christ in faith to change us by His grace at our places of repentance!

Both the imputed and imparted righteousness of Christ form the "breastplate of righteousness" that we are to put on as part of the armor of God in our battle with the devil. The devil seeks to discourage us that we are not loved and that we are powerless failures. Christ calls us to place no confidence in self or any of our own works, but continual confidence in His righteousness...both imputed and imparted.

May your heart be filled with encouragement over these words!!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Losing Your Life or Finding Your Life?

In Matthew 10:34-39, Jesus says some hard things. Strong medicine...challenges our "soft" culture is not used to. Marine-like stuff...He's still looking for a "few good men" (women too!).

Jesus says that if anyone loves father or mother more than Him, he/she is not worthy of Him. Or if anyone loves son or daughter more than Him, he/she is not worthy of Him...WOW!! Put THAT in our child-centered idolatrous culture "pipe" and smoke it!

He says that if we don't take up a lifestyle of dying to self, of crucifixion of selfish desires and agendas and temporal priorities, we are not worthy of Him.

Then, at the end of His "sermon" He says, "Whoever finds his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." He said similar things quite often apparently...

Later in Matthew 16:24-25 He says, "If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever WOULD save his life, will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."

Tough words.

But words that actually end on a positive note.

It's that positive element that I so easily miss. All the time.

I have realized lately that I am a pain-avoider. I've bought into the American paradigm that the worst circumstance possible in this life is to be in a place of suffering. Suffering is the ONE thing that Americans fear above all else...and it's killing the church! Neutralizing it, actually.

...and needlessly...

What God has been teaching me is that I have been so focused and fearful of the "losing your life" element that I have minimized the promise that AS we lose our lives for Christ's sake and the sake of the Kingdom, we will actually FIND our lives!

I have so often read these verses and left them with the taste of oppression and aversion in my mouth.


Is my view of God, my Heavenly Father, really so pathetic as THAT? is.

Maybe your view of God is that pathetic...hopefully not.

Here's the deal: If the One who GAVE UP HIS LIFE says that losing our lives for His sake leads to finding them...why would we focus on the "losing" part and not emphasize the "finding" part more?!

I'll tell you why...

Lies. Lies!

I...perhaps we...listen to the lies of the enemy...lies like...if you are willing to surrender to Christ, if you're REALLY willing to lose your life, it's really gonna hurt...gonna be painful...gonna be a matter of fact, you're gonna resent it 'cause it will never be worth it.

Hmmm...what's the TRUTH say: "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." (Rom 8:18). And, "For this light, momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (2 Cor 4:17).

So, when Jesus challenges us to LOSE our lives in order to FIND them...He's telling us how to really experience LIFE.

Don't miss that...'cause so often, I have.