Category Archives: Grace

Resolved

My resolutions for the 2015?

Resolved:

  • To have the truth of God like steel poured in my backbone, and the grace of God to bend over backwards for others.
  • To do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with my God. ~Micah 6:8
  • To rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. ~Romans 12:15
  • To be very careful to fear, love and serve the Lord my God with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my might and walk in all his ways, to Know that the Lord my God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations. ~Deuteronomy 6:5, 7:9, 10:12; Joshua 23:11
  • To remind myself that I am clothed with the Righteousness not my own; My sin, guilt, and stain are upon Another; I am forgiven; I can come humbly yet boldly to the Throne of Grace for Jesus, the Righteous One and Sin Bearer pleads my case to the Father Who claims me as His own, “Dave is MINE, no one can pluck him out of MY hand”.
  • To make war. ~Romans 1:16-17, 8:13; Colossians 3:5-10
  • To look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. ~2 Peter 3:13

What Wondrous Love!

“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to lay aside his crown for my soul, for my soul,
to lay aside his crown for my soul.

To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing,
to God and to the Lamb, I will sing.
To God and to the Lamb who is the great I AM,
while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing,
while millions join the theme, I will sing.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free I’ll sing and joyful be,
and through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and through eternity I’ll sing on.”

Don’t Judge Me

Judge not, that you be not judged. ~Matthew 7:1

Many quote this verse to stave off the onslaught of being judged by others unbeknownst to those many from where this quote comes or what it really means.

When folks quote this verse, they really mean we shouldn’t judge others because, then, we’ll be judged.

That’s a part of it, but don’t substitute the part for the whole.

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. ~Matthew 7:1-5

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. ~Romans 2:1-11

What Scripture is telling us: Don’t judge others by your standards because, when it comes down to it, you don’t even live up to your own standards all the time.

I have no doubt God will judge us by His standard, but does He really have to judge us by His standard if we don’t even live up to our own standard(s) which are far lower than His?

James says, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it” (James 2:10).

I think this applies to our own standards, our own “laws”. If we fail in one point of our own standards, we are guilty of breaking our whole personal standard.

And we are accountable for all of it.

This is why we need grace. It is a graceful thing to address sin, yes, but love also covers a multitude of sin (1 Peter 4:8).

We are to judge others by the fruit they bear in the Gospel, but there is wisdom in knowing when to address the sin(s) and when to cover it in love.

Journey in Grace: An Interview with Wendy Alsup

This interview was done in 2007. This is a repost of the exchange.

I want to thank Wendy Alsup for her time and thoughtful answers to my questions. Wendy is a member of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. I believe this Q&A will be a blessing to you as it is to me.

Q1: What are some challenges you face ministering in Seattle, Washington? Compared to South Carolina?

A1: Well, some might call it a challenge. I call it refreshing. But growing up in SC, everybody claimed to be a Christian but nobody acted like one (I generalize of course). The Apostle Paul uses a child’s expected growth as an illustration. When a baby drools, it’s an expected result of their stage of growth. When an adult drools, we know it represents some type of disability. That adult isn’t functioning as expected for its years of life. Growing up in the Bible belt, I knew a bunch of Christians who had been believers (in theory) for many years but still acted like toddler Christians. I admit that I have lost my patience with believers who should have long since learned better. It was God’s wise hand that moved us to Seattle at the time He did. Here, people either are or are not Christians, and their lives pretty consistently testify to the truth of their claim. There are many hostile unbelievers here. Our papers, politicians, and cultural figures tend to be much more frank in their opposition to Biblical truth. On the flip side, most of the new Christians in our church are blissfully ignorant of the concept of a lukewarm believer. When they came to Christ, it radically changed their lives. Christianity here isn’t a culture–it’s a radical change of life based on a completely new identity in Jesus Christ. There are still plenty of immature believers, but as they grow older in the faith, godly maturity follows.

Q2: What advice do you have for other women who are also trying to juggle ministry in marriage, family, and church?

A2: You need to have your priorities in a godly order. I used to drive to church praying that God would bless my ministry to women there. Then one day I was convicted that I never prayed the same as I was driving back toward home afterwards. Ministry at church had become exciting and fulfilling, and I rightly wanted to be a good steward of those opportunities. However, I have an even clearer calling to ministry in my home. It’s less glamorous, so I have to constantly fight to keep my husband and boys my first priority. I’ve learned to give my husband first right of refusal when a new opportunity arises for ministry at church. I’m also learning to not make him feel guilty if he doesn’t want me to take on a ministry opportunity that excites me. He knows better than anyone the stresses I am currently facing and has a good perspective of which opportunities would end up being a distraction from my true calling. Generally speaking, it is much better to do a few things well than a lot of things halfway.

Q3a: What has your church done to prepare you for “Deacon in Charge of Women’s Theology and Training”?

A3a: Honestly, I became a deacon before we had a streamlined training process. Back then, training consisted of extended conversations over coffee with whichever leader was available at the moment. We have a more formal process for deacon training in place now, which includes reading books, answering discussion questions, writing out statements of doctrinal belief, and apprenticing with a current deacon or elder.

Q3b: What responsibilities does “Deacon in Charge of Women’s Theology and Training” entail?

A3b: The analogy I use to illustrate the ministry at our church is that we are building the plane while it’s flying. With that said, it’s highly probably my responsibilities will change between the time I send this to you and you actually publish it. But right now, I help organize women’s teaching events, both our small weekly Capstone training and our quarterly large group events.

Q4: I know Elisabeth Elliot is one of your female heroes of the faith. Who else has influenced you? Why?

A4: I did a lot of Bible reading on my own growing up. At some point, I read the greatest command and took it to my pastor (I was probably around 18 at the time). I was curious why I had never heard a sermon in my fundamentalist church on the command to love–after all, it was the GREATEST command and therefore one would think it should be covered at some point. My pastor answered that I was reading neo-evangelical stuff and that they had an overemphasis on love and therefore our church didn’t like to talk about it. That seemed really odd to me, but that pastor and his cohorts were the only spiritual authorities I knew at the time. Then a few years later, someone gave me Desiring God by John Piper. It was the first confirmation I got that what I was seeing in Scripture in the Greatest Command wasn’t some evangelical compromise but the heart of the gospel itself. So I have great appreciation for John Piper–he gave me confidence that I was reading Scripture correctly. And I of course love Spurgeon, Luther, and Pascal.

Q5: Was there a single point in time or series of points in which you began to understand the Gospel is for all of life AND for the believer, not just for the unsaved?

A5: It’s been ongoing. I would have said quite boldly that I understood it years ago. Then last month I reread Ephesians and was hit with it again in even deeper ways. I think it’s something we get layer by layer, slowly with meditation and experience over time. I’m burdened anew that women need to really get this. We are the worst at comparing ourselves to each other. We feel shame if we don’t measure up and pride if we do. We compare ourselves on looks, husbands, education, career paths, children, cooking expertise, Martha Stewart decorating abilities, and so forth. And that path is SLAVERY. But when we find our identity in Christ and our self-esteem at the foot of the cross, we can start walking the path of freedom from both the shame and pride of comparison living.

Q5a: You said, “when we find our identity in Christ and our self-esteem at the foot of the cross, we can start walking the path of freedom from both the shame and pride of comparison living. ” Do you have any advice for women (and men!) on how to combat comparison with the Gospel?

A5a: For me, it started by getting a grasp on the idea that the gospel was something I needed to meditate on and apply to my life DAILY for the rest of my life. The only advice I can give to someone is to meditate on Scripture. John 15 was key for me (I am the Vine, you are the branches … Apart from me you can do nothing). It was life-changing when that last phrase finally settled into my psyche–apart from Jesus I can do NOTHING. Understanding the implications of Christ being the vine and I the branch and of Christ being the Head and I part of His Body were key. Meditating on Ephesians has also been life-changing. The phrase “in Christ” dominates chapter 1. And everything else in the book, including the call to Christian unity and principles for marriage and family life all flow from this first chapter.

I was taught to read the Bible as a young person, but I read it much like the Pharisees (John 5:38-39). I missed how all of Scripture testifies of Jesus. I’m learning to seek the Word whenever I read the Word. I love Luke 24:25, “…then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Him (Jesus) in all the Scriptures.”

When I don’t get the Word and my identity in Him, I inevitably look to find my identity in whatever else I can. For me, it was boyfriends and popularity as a teenager and young single adult. Did people notice how I dressed? What about my hair? After marriage, it started to be how well I kept my home. The worst for me was realizing that when I signed up to take a meal to a sick church member, I decided what to take based on what made me look like the best cook. And it’s opposite reflects the same wrong thinking–I felt condemned by Satan after the birth of my 2nd son when all my friends brought over GREAT meals that I could never replicate myself. Why did that matter? Why was I comparing myself to them and either finding status or self-condemnation by how well I measured up? It’s ridiculous, but when I’m not meditating on my identity in Christ, I can follow that line of comparison thinking on a 1000 different issues. I’ve noticed that if I don’t deal with how I think about myself in relationship to Jesus, I just keep going from thing to thing to thing to bring me comfort, find status, and generally make me feel good about myself.

Q6: In what ways does Andy minister at your church? Do you have a ministry in which you participate together?

A6: We participate in all our ministries together, whether our names are both listed or not. Andy is a private person, and most of his service in the church is never seen by the masses (though many benefit in my humble opinion). He takes seriously his ministry to the boys and me and is a constant source of wisdom and discernment to me in my public ministry at church.

Motivation For Doing Good Works for Which We Will be Judged

Why do I focus on the Gospel so much when Scripture tells us, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10)?

Position
Where does this verse fall in this epistle? Paul writes this statement after he explains and expresses the Gospel. We could say 2 Corinthians is a follow-up of 1 Corinthians, and in both epistles, Paul continually points us to the Gospel. And only after pointing us to the Gospel does Paul give us commands, things we ought to do.

But as Dave Gill explains, “If someone says “God commanded it, so we must be able to do it,” RUN. God’s commands force reliance on Him, not tell what is possible.”

As I have stressed before, many times before, all of our good works are perfected by and through Christ’s finished work on the cross and the good works we do are the fruit of the Spirit’s Gospel-Applying work in our lives. In fact, our good works are fruit and the power to defend ourselves is fruit, as well. Scotty Smith hits the point with, “Don’t focus on the ‘how to’s’ of the Christian life as much as the ‘Who did'”.

So how do we reconcile this fruit of the Spirit’s Gospel-Applying work in our lives? Simply put, and I hope this is not oversimplifying the issue, we are free to do all that we can for God’s glory.

We don’t have to worry about what others think because the only Person who loves us and fully and completely accepts us is pleased with us because He sees us as “in Christ” and we have Christ’s righteousness.

We are not trying to gain God’s favor. Christ has already gained it for us and in our place. That work is finished.

The power of our idols and sin is broken. 1 Corinthians 15:50ff. We are free. We are free to love God and love others.

Because of this freedom in Christ, we can do all we can for God’s glory in Christ. And it is the good works in this freedom for which we will be judged. There is now no excuse to exhort each other to love and good works. “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

“16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

And this is good news! This motivates us to share the Good News of the Gospel because we are motivated by the Gospel to do these things. And this is why I focus on the Gospel so much – it is the motivation for us to do the good works for which we will be judged. And we definitely need motivation. There is only one sustaining motivation for the Christian. It is the Gospel.

We Are Not Worthy – That’s Why There is Grace

This kind of thinking is no gospel. Where is the good news?

This writer says, “If your love is distracted by someone else then you are not worthy. If your love is not given completely, then you are not worthy.”

But isn’t that the point? None, may I repeat this, none of us is worthy (Isaiah 64:6).

Scripture tells us we love God because He first loved us. We are not worthy of God’s love but that’s Who God is (God is love just don’t confuse with love is God…). God loves us and demonstrated His love for us by sending Jesus to die for our sins and even our bad motives for good things we do.

Even our very effort to be worthy falls completely short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). Even if I can love God completely, I am still a fallen creature in need of saving.

I can’t pick myself up by my own bootstraps and “be worthy”. It’s impossible.

This is why we need grace. We’re not worthy of anything God gives us except His wrath, and Jesus is our propitiation (He satisfied God’s wrath for us and in our place). Without Christ, we are children of wrath but with Christ we are children of grace.

I am not worthy of God’s love but He certainly is worthy of my love and devotion. Thankfully I rest in Christ’s work on my behalf and not on my own effort or merit.

I am not worthy but Christ is worthy for me and in my place. That’s good news.

THIS Is Grace

Paul writes in his second letter to the church at Corinth, “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I awoke to a song on the radio about grace. Mmm…. Grace.

My thoughts turned to what is commonly known by theologians (pardon the pun) as common grace, as well as, special grace.

Both kinds of grace are mediated through Jesus.

John 1:3 explains, “All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.” In other words, everything that exists is because it was created and made by Jesus. Romans 11:36 conveys this fact, “For from Him (Jesus) and through Him (Jesus) and to Him (Jesus) are all things. To Him (Jesus) be glory forever. Amen.”

Do you realize, you are alive this very moment by the power of Jesus? Hebrews 1:3 tells us, “He (Jesus) is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of his power.”

This is common to all of creation. All of creation is upheld by the word of his power!

Mmm…. Grace!

Now what is so special about special grace? Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

It is this special grace that saves us. Paul continues in Ephesians, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Mmm… Grace!

It is grace in Jesus that creates us. It is grace in Jesus that re-creates us through faith in Him. This is nothing of our own doing.

We have nothing to do with our first birth, and we have nothing to do with our second birth. It is all of grace.

And those good works we so want to do for God? Jesus is fruiting through us. In other words, it is the fruit of what Jesus has done on the cross that blooms in our lives (See Galatians 5).

This is good news! This is the Gospel because it is all of Jesus. This is grace.