Our beliefs have to line up with God's truths and so our definitions need to be the same as God's definitions - many times they are not. In my study on grace, I have also found this to be true. Because we love people, and we want people's souls to be saved, we tend to think of grace as a "get out of jail free" card. And in reality, that isn't what it is at all. When we study the ways of God, we have to be open to receive from Him. Many times what we read in our bible is different than how we've thought about it, how we've heard it preached or what it really is.
We should desire to know the truth about God's ways but too many times we cling to what we have always believed and refuse to accept any other version of that belief, including God's Truth. For some of you, our study on grace may be a little stretching. It's in the stretching that we grow. So embrace the stretching and let's grow together this month!
For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord bestows grace and favor and honor; No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
When we read our Bible we have to find the action step attached to what we want to receive. God loves to give lavishly to us but we have to take that first step. We have to do our part first and THEN God does His part. And this is how grace works too. God doesn't forgive sin, God forgives people who sin. God hates sin. Sin is not "ok" with God because it's the opposite of Who He Is. As we recognize our sin, and look to the Lord for forgiveness, He forgives and then extends His grace to our life. While we are actively sinning, and staying away from the Lord, grace is not applied because that would be God condoning behavior that He finds evil. God will never partner with things that aren't His good creation. Forgiveness and grace are tied together.
Feeling stretched yet?
We are going to look at this in depth both through the podcast and especially in church this month so you can gain biblical insight, have more scripture references and a foundation for this principle of God, His grace. Something you are going to hear me say a lot this month: Grace doesn’t take away consequences. Grace provides provision in the midst of consequences after we’ve turned our eyes back to the Lord. The ways of the Lord truly are a mystery, which is why our brain draws logical conclusions. We need to keep those conclusions in check because from God's perspective many times they aren't logical to Him. We need to think about our conclusions as if they are an educated guess and not absolute truth. That's where our ego, our humanness, takes us down the wrong path. Many times we don't even realize we've taken our own logical conclusion and declared that it is factual. It's just one more way that we can course-correct ourselves and be refined more into the image of Jesus. We need to eat that slice of humble pie and stay teachable, holding things loosely.
We tend to think about God's grace in a way that comforts us and gives peace to our mind. It gives us hope for loved ones. We just need to make sure that what is giving us comfort is actually from the Lord, otherwise it's a false sense of security. Our culture has a saying that "the truth hurts." When in fact, the truth heals because our God is a God of Truth and He also is The Healer. This is why equally-yoked community is so vital to our lives. We need one another to remind us of God's truths, God's goodness, God's security.
I want to know what God thinks. I want to know how God feels. I want to know God's Truth! And if you are reading this, then I'm sure that's what you want too. Which means we all need to come together, study diligently and receive from the Lord being ready to let go of our conclusions and learn His Truths. There is no better way to learn than sitting at the feet of Jesus.
[Growing in grace] they will still thrive and bear fruit and prosper in old age; They will flourish and be vital and fresh [rich in trust and love and contentment];
The scripture above is talking about a righteous person. There is deep contentment in the Lord's Truth and when we follow His ways and are in right-standing with Him, we are considered righteous. As His Truth becomes a part of our life, we will thrive, flourish and prosper.
When I was in ministry school, I had one of my teachers say to me "you are so righteous." In my limited knowledge at that time, I had made a conclusion about what righteous meant and so when my teacher said this to me, and he said it as a compliment, but I became very offended. My conclusion about being righteous was for those who laid down all worldly things to serve the Lord full time and dedicate their lives to being holy. I thought that righteousness was only for pastors and missionaries. I knew that I had not lived my life in a "holy" way and I wasn't good enough, worthy enough, and not even close to being called a righteous person in my own mind and understanding. But, of course, then my teacher lovingly corrected me and quoted this scripture: 1 John 3:7, "Little children (believers, dear ones), do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who practices righteousness [the one who strives to live a consistently honorable life—in private as well as in public—and to conform to God’s precepts] is righteous, just as He is righteous." Only a person's present way of living can define him/her as righteous, it is not about a person's past.
That was an eye-opener for me. That was my first biblical introduction to how our beliefs don't always line up with God's Truths. And as we study grace this month, let's allow His Truths to dictate what our beliefs are. We are in for a rich study this month and will continue to look deeper into scripture, allowing the Word of God define God's definition of grace. And as the month progresses we'll discover how and when He extends us grace and then how to apply it to our daily lives.
I can't wait to go on this journey with you! Be sure to join me for church on Wednesday nights. CLICK HERE to find the next live stream.