Category Archives: Grace

Running From? Or Running Toward?

We have so much in common with Jonah.
We want justice for our enemies. We want grace for our sins.
We want to take the easy route, ignoring the difficult path of repentance.
We ignore God’s instructions/directions/commands/laws/teaching, and then we are upset when we reap the difficult harvest of bad decisions.

As I was reading the book of the Prophet Jonah today, I was struck by two verses. The first was Jonah 1:3 – “But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish.”
What kind of God does Jonah have? Based upon his actions, Jonah’s God is one who can be avoided, who is not everywhere and has limits. None of this is true for the God we see in The Bible. But are we any different? Too many times we believe the lies of the enemy that we can not be loved, that what we have done is not forgivable, that God is angry and best be avoided. I would offer that if a theologian had sat down with Jonah prior to his escape from the call of God, Jonah would have affirmed that God was all the omni’s [Omniscience, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.] But just like Jonah, our actions often speak volumes about what we really believe deep down inside. Our thinking can agree with the “proper answers” but our actions belay a different belief system. We abandon what we are told in Genesis 1:26, that we are “made in the image of God,” and instead we remake God according to our ideas so that God fits in our box.

That leads me to the second verse that leaped off the page. In chapter two we have Jonah saved/held captive in the belly of the fish. We find him driven to prayer. This is a pretty normal reaction. In Jonah 2:8, we come to this verse, “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” Wow! How true this verse is. This verse could not be more true of our world today. We cling to what the market is doing. We agonize over what the election might bring. We chase after the latest and greatest tech [that may catch fire in our pants, i.e.: Samsung Galaxy Note 7]. We model our lives after what someone famous is doing. We mimic our societal norms. All the while, we are “forfeiting the grace that could be ours.”

“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” Jonah 2:8

God loves us. It’s a fact. He proved it in the life of Jesus. Jesus loves us. He proved it in His willingness to die for us. What sports star/team, famous person, rich person is willing to die for you? Yet we idolize them, devour their tweets, and buy the products they hock. What 401K plan, stock option, bank account can really provide the grace that we need to forgive our selves, forgive others, and live a life free of mental burden? What new CEO, business practice, worldly exercise, advertising campaign, or cunning insight is really going to bring about the heart change that you and I need?

At the heart of all discipleship is following, running toward whom we are following. It is time we stop running from God and forfeiting His grace. It is time to run toward God, and be blessed by His love. I am reminded of the old hymn with the stanza, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus name.” Let us stop running from God’s call on our lives. Let us stop trying to model God after our thoughts, and instead change our thoughts to match God. Let us stop running to the useless things of this world, so that we would not forfeit the amazing grace that God wants for us to enjoy.

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Dead to Sin – Alive In Jesus

Ephesians 2:4-5 “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”

What does it mean to be “dead” in sin? In Ephesians chapter two, Paul is contrasting the way of the world vs. the way of Jesus. Paul’s position is that there are two ways to live:
1. according to this world, which is controlled by Satan and is evident in the life of sin that this world displays through disobedience to God’s way [verse 2].
2. or according to our saved status, from Jesus,that is graced to us because of who God is. This Jesus status [verse 4 calls it “made us alive in Christ], that we share, boasts that we are seated with Jesus in the heavenly realm [verse 6], so that we might show off how amazing Jesus is [verse 7], and we are the handiwork of God, designed with a purpose to accomplish [verse 10].

This comparison, between the way of the world and the Jesus status, brings into focus what sin is. Sin is anything that is contrary to the will of God. Specifically, in verse 3, Paul shares with us that living for ourselves, seeking to satisfy our selfish thinking and desires, is of the evil one and deserving of wrath.

What is the will of God? It is that we love Him [God] and we love others [Matthew 22:37-40]. Anything that we do that is not loving toward another person, is sin. It is easy to pick out the obvious sin: gossip, lying, murder, abuse, cheating, adultery. But the not so obvious, that is not loving toward another person, is also sin. Like: assuming we know what a person is about/how they think, using guilt trips, manipulation, dismissive attitudes, passing judgement in our minds, taking a second [critical] look at another human being, is also unloving.

    Jesus is perfectly working on our perfection in Himself.

Jesus died [God’s mercy demonstrating grace] so that NOTHING could stand in the way of our relationship with God. Our creator loved us so much and so wanted to be part of our lives that, though we deserved wrath [verse 3], we did not receive wrath, but grace. God also wants this kind of relationship with every other human being. So, when we act in unloving ways toward others, we sin and we potentially stand in the way of that person’s relationship with God.

Any time we do anything that could damage our relationship with God or another person, that is sin. Sincere believers ask me all the time, how can I be dead to sin? The answer is that, if you follow Jesus, you already are dead to sin. Jesus accomplished this work on the cross and with the empty tomb. It is not something we can accomplish for ourselves. It has already been done.

Followers of Jesus are dead to sin when they live out their journey in light of the love relationship they have with Jesus.

A Jesus follower may struggle with surrendering a behavior or an attitude to Jesus. But that struggle is part of the relationship that is alive, growing, dynamic, interactive, real. Jesus is perfectly working on our perfection in Himself. He loves us so much that He is not willing to leave any morsel of sin hidden in our closet. Paul writes in verse 3 that all of us have lived according to the world at one time. It is God who makes us alive in Jesus.

A follower of Jesus who loves Jesus could simply ask this question when confronted with sin, “Will this hurt my relationship, or another’s relationship, with God?” Is this the loving thing/attitude/behavior/thought? We fail from time to time. We fall short, but we are alive in Christ, thankful and dependent upon His love.

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