The Mercy of God

Ephesians 2:4-9, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, (5) even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved-- (6) and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, (7) so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (8) For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, (9) not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

There are some things in life we can count on with great confidence - the brightness of stars, the inconsistency of man, and the mercy of the loving and forgiving God. There are many other things like this but you get the point. As people we need to know the boundaries of our existence.  This is far more freeing, than restricting, when it comes to the human condition.

While some things can remain unknown to man, we must know that God’s love and mercy is the foundation of our existence at any time. If we get this wrong, we will get the rest wrong as well. For some reason we twist these pretty easily. We refuse to accept our Savior’s love or doubt our value in His eyes. Mercy is about one’s lack of deserving the gift offered. This critical truth is one
that is extremely hard to accept. I have to accept mercy because I don’t deserve to be treated as innocent.

Why is absolute mercy so difficult to understand? In writing an article recently, I talked about our need to beg for God’s grace. Is so doing I was attempting to point out our outright need
for unwarranted forgiveness and God’s complete mercy of a rebellious sinner. We shouldn’t beg as if somehow we could sway God’s judgment. It has more to do with our innate need for His offer.
We were lost and dead in our sins and He still gives us life. (Ephesians 2:5) People fail to understand mercy because of the rarity with which it is practiced. We struggle to forgive when others are hostile to us. In fact, vengeance is more understandable than grace. The truth is that the world doesn’t love its enemies, or open up to strangers very well. The world waits for the apology, the downfall, or the simple death to allow them to begin to heal. People aren’t cut much slack.

We serve one who has forgiven us in all of that. He made the first move – He loved us when we were dead in our sins. He still loves us when we fail to keep our promises to Him. He is betrayed, lied about, forgotten, besmirched, and denied. Yet, He is still our Father when we repent. He is God whether we do His will, or not. A study of the trinity can help with that last statement, but it is true. He has made Christians His sons and daughters through the sacrifice of His sinless Son – Jesus. We wrestle with understanding a love that is not based on merit, or return. We fail to grasp a forgiveness that relieves us of any past sin, because of the world we live in, yet this is the One in whom we trust.

If we can let the mercy of God be the foundation of our lives, we can have lives that will change. We can become secure enough in Him, that we can extend love to our enemies. We begin to function as a result of His love for us, and not the fuel of guilt, or hate, or cowardice. As we live out this life with God, we understand Him more clearly and are more amazed every day, at His limitless compassion, bottomless love, and immeasurable mercy. I have needed all of those things and more in my life. I am so grateful for one who has no ulterior agenda, just a plain and simple love for the imperfect heart of a faithfully repentant servant.

To try to build our lives on anything other than the mercy of God leads me to think I have somehow earned the grace given me. One can never earn grace. While there is no excuse for simple
irresponsibility, I am saved because God says so. He demands repentance and so I am. He is magnanimous, and loving. This foundation allows me to remain calm in the storm, rest without
worry, and live out my faith with joy and peace. I can’t get this gift with my own perfection or persistence. It is the free gift of the One who loves me. And never forget, He loves you too!

Godspeed as you make this journey…

What the World Really Needs the Church to Be...

Deuteronomy 30:20, “…loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them."

I have spent much time discussing what the church thinks the world wants to see in us. We often have these discussions because we care about what the world expects of us. We do this because as
human beings we spend too much time fretting over worldly evaluations of who we are on the most microscopic level. I do care about people, but I try not to be overly concerned about what they expect me
to be. I have to keep it there because their expectations change with every wind and road bump. Love people but never be overly dedicated to the pleasing of them. Frankly, it is an impossible position to be in!

The far more important question is, “what does God want us to look like to the world?” The greatest commandment, according to Matthew 22:37 and Deuteronomy 6:5, is to love the Lord with all that wepossess. Every talent, every resource, and our entire future all belong to the Lord. I am sure it might take several lifetimes to learn to love the Lord the way that He deserves, (if we ever could) but one gloomy truth is this – we don’t often love Him the way we should.

Have you ever tried to define the foundation of your faith? If you think it is religion, you’ll be left sadly disappointed with your Christianity. Is it scholarship, or maybe works? Neither of these seem to be
the whole of faith. Emotions are what some people gravitate to but soon find themselves sinking into the mire of life because the fire of emotion is always a finite source for anything. So what is faith about?
It’s about a relationship driven by love and accountable to the Word of the living God. God is always clear on this. It is never one or the other. It is always both. The Word tells us to emote, study and seek out wisdom, but the foundation is always our love for the Father. If we don’t have that we fail in all. (I Corinthians 13)

Back to our original question, “what does the world need from us?” It needs love. It needs to see it in our actions, and specifically in our hearts. If the Church wants to effect the world it won’t do it with
atmosphere (dim lights, and spectacle preaching), but through the honest exposition of scripture lived out in a loving life. Love is our fuel and the world needs to see that. By definition we are to be people in love with Jesus. Loving Him includes understanding His revelation to us, experiencing His grace, and studying His truth. These are all necessary. Without love these elements of our faith are irrelevant. They have no meaning without being couched in the context of loving service. Without love they carry no weight in the eyes of God and have no impact on the world in which we live.

If you want a powerful faith, learn how to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and spirit! All the best as you walk this journey and grow through learning to love the God of all.

 

Sound Doctrine

The term “sound doctrine” is a phrase often associated with people and attitudes as opposed to its real meaning. When some use that term they might associate it with what they have always heard or believed instead of what might actually be Biblical truth. Others hear it with disdain because they assume an uneducated and possibly Biblically illiterate position held by unstudied obstinate people. Of all the arguments the church has, and it has some as all families do, we should be united on the literal meaning of believing in and preaching “sound doctrine.” The problem is not helped by those who seek change for their own purposes which, while having nothing to do with scripture and everything to do with a personal desire to challenge established truth, are simply arrogance couched in pseudo intellectualism. I am weary of the smartest person in every room who is more brilliant than any real Biblical scholar. They profess wisdom while spouting blasphemy.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not speaking about people who ask questions or look for Biblical foundations for what we or they believe. That is not only natural, but wise. But, to cause division because one has changed their own mind due to a life change on their part, or someone else’s, is inexcusable. For instance one who chooses to validate public or social drinking, in spite of what the Bible clearly teaches in regard to drunkenness (1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7) or fleeing all types of sin (1 Thessalonians 5:17) or simple debauchery, (Ephesians 5:18; Titus 1:6; 1 Peter 4:4) so that they can indulge their own desires is simply being self-serving and not credible in any real way. Those who argue for the existence of Biblical errors and call themselves scholarly are sad examples of a defeated and lost world. (Colossians 2:13-14) I would ask them to point out the error that proves the Bible is not the Word of God. If one place can be proven wrong, then all can. The truth was best stated to me by a great Biblical scholar some years ago in a private conversation. He said simply, “proven science has never disproven the Bible.” I have always appreciated Basil Overton and the very real impact he has had on my life and more importantly my faith.

Sound doctrine doesn’t need my defense because it is sustained by scripture. I do however find myself in discussions with many about traditional doctrine who substantiate their questionable or wrong positions more on some person than on the Word. As a minister and preacher, I am bound to teach what the truth of the Bible is no matter who wishes to deny it. I can’t help what people learn from secular sources. Man’s wisdom and God’s wisdom are in constant conflict. God actually calls man’s wisdom foolishness. (1 Corinthians 1:17-25) In the end we will all stand before our creator and face judgment based on the righteousness of God and His written Word as opposed to the senselessness of half dedicated, change oriented, so called scholars. I am not trying to be caustic, but those who seek to challenge the Word are actually challenging the author – God.

If we are ever divided I assure us all, it is not the fault of the Bible. It could be human selfishness, ignorance, apathy, or wrongheadedness, but never the fault of the greatest and holiest book ever penned. Our Savior is actually called the Word, and is God. (John 1:1-14) Sound doctrine should be the accepted norm, not the burdensome phrase protecting the hard headed, or the target of the weak of faith. It is not scholarly to accept a doctrine because a well-known brother proclaims it. It is also not scholarly to be the ever present iconoclast of all that is holy because you’ve read a certain scholar’s book that correlates with your desired position. The only book that matters is the Bible! Everything else is a human assumption and is subject to change or revision. You can accept the Bible or reject it, but no one can straddle the world and heaven, keeping one foot in “pseudo scholarship” and the other in sacred scripture.

have come to my conclusion and am more than willing to stand before God with what I have personally studied. I don’t seek to change what someone thinks about the Bible unless they are really willing to discuss it from a “Biblical/scholarly” standpoint. I trust God with what He has given me. My salvation hinges on what He has promised and the invalidation of any Biblical truth is the destruction the whole book, thus the destruction of my hope. I have looked for error and found any troublesome passages explained with some study. That is not to say that I have understood every difficult Biblical passage, but after careful consideration and study(over 15 years of academic pursuits, and 33 years of personal study) have found no “error” to be present. The day I do I will walk away and live the life of one who no longer believes. I have been pushed and prodded and faith has not come easily. I have wrestled with scripture and struggled at times to understand it. After all this, one thing remains true, we have the written Word of God. Everything I know about God comes from the Bible. If the Bible has some tendency to be wrong, then I can know nothing about Him or His will for me? If only parts are true, then which parts are they and who is to be trusted to know the difference? God is not fractional, we are totally committed or completely out. We are faithful or we are faithless. I know this is hard to read in a world of secular relativism where all are equal – the Bible and the scholar who opposes the Bible. In God’s eyes, all are not equal. The will of man and the will of God are often opposed, and never equal. We are called to be servants, not our own masters.

Never be ashamed of what you believe, just be studied and sure based on real Biblical fact, not the well intentioned analysis of someone with many letters behind their name. Be prepared to have it challenged in a variety of ways. Challenge yourself. (2 Corinthians 13:15) The term “sound doctrine” should mean that one relies on accurate Biblical information to establish faithful practices in their Christian life. I realize we vary in our understanding. As a matter of your own salvation, please keep searching scripture to establish truth. Be the one who knows what’s right because you have seen it with your own eyes and accepted it with your own heart, and have studied it in your own Bible. Godspeed as you journey down the path of life seeking to understand God and His will for man and for yourself.