Ready for a Challenge?

Sunset at Cadillac Mtn 031Pure Grace, The Life Changing Power of Uncontaminated Grace, is my latest eye-opening find. Clark Whitten, writing with sparkling clarity concerning the gospel and its multi-faceted simplicity, has opened my eyes wider to our glorious Savior Christ Jesus. The brief passages included here should refresh you even as they challenge some mindsets – but that’s a good thing. If you are challenged or encouraged (or both) by what you read, purchase the e-book or the print version to read it in its entirety. You won’t be disappointed.

Sin, for the Christian, is a violation of friendship – relationship – not a violation of the law. Christians are not under the jurisdiction of the Old Testament law. Many believe and teach grace without law is a pathway to sinful behavior. They see grace and law as “balance.” The Apostle Paul saw it as “mixture.” 1

What is salvation? Many would say it is getting me out of earth and into Heaven, but that is not salvation. It may be one result of salvation, but it is not salvation. Salvation is not getting me out of earth and into Heaven; salvation is getting God out of Heaven and into me! 2

. . . the only way to sin against grace is to refuse to receive the grace it cost Jesus His life to give. Our only hope of “putting to death the deeds of the body [flesh]” (Rom. 8:13) is receiving the abundance of grace.3

True repentance cannot be achieved by a response to condemnation. Condemnation has no place in a believer’s thinking. If it is present, you can rest assured it did not come from the Holy Spirit. Condemnation has its source in the kingdom of darkness and is ministered by demons. When a person is born again, that person is translated from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son. There is no condemnation in His Kingdom! (See Romans 8:1.) 4

If I am a believer, I am in Christ and there is no safer place to be! I will die when He dies – and He lives forever. I will be condemned when He is condemned – and that is impossible. I lose my position at the right hand of the Father when He loses His position there. I lose my inheritance when He loses His – and that is never going to happen. I am as secure as He is secure. I repeat, there is no safer or more secure place to be than in Christ! 5

  1. Introduction, p.20 
  2. A Grace Reformation, p.30
  3. Receiving the Abundance of Grace, p.42
  4. Like Rats in a Maze, p.108
  5. Saved Completely, p.131-132

P.S. I was not asked to endorse this book, or paid for it in any way.

Enough Already!

“This is how it is for the believer when the gospel of righteousness takes root in their heart.  The first reaction is one of sweet relief.  “Really?  Jesus did it all?  I don’t have to work to impress him?  I can stop studying for the exam?  Oh happy day!”  Many are dreading the final exam.  The good news is there is no exam.  Jesus already took it on your behalf, and guess what?  He passed.  School’s out forever!1

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had spent so much of my Christian life trying to do more for God, to prove how much I loved Him, because that’s what I thought Christians were supposed to do.  No matter what or how much I did, I knew it was never enough.  I was always frustrated and felt guilty.

I have become one of the believers described above.  One who realized I had been trying to do for God what I never could, and that Jesus had already achieved it all at the cross for me.  His blood not only paid for my sins, but for my self-efforts, too.  Every righteous requirement of God’s law He fulfilled.

To put this good news into the language of the quote: Jesus not only passed the final exam, but He gave me His grade!  In Him I am now completely righteous.  I graduated simply by receiving Christ and the work He finished for me so long ago, and His righteousness is my diploma.

Jesus is enough – already and forever!

1  Paul Ellis, The Gospel in Ten Words (KingsPress, 2012 version 1.0), Kindle edition, chapter titled Righteousness

Faith Gone Wrong

I can’t get away from the book of Hebrews.  To be honest, I haven’t tried.  I read through it a couple of months ago, but found myself not ready to move on once I got to the end.  It continues to be a wonderful journey with Holy Spirit highlighting various verses, phrases, even individual words, and then helping me really see them.  One particular verse, and the insight He has revealed in it, is radically affecting my understanding of the rest of the book of Hebrews, the Bible, and my everyday life.  Please read on to join us in this part of the journey.

Hebrews 11:1 NIV (2012)  Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. . .

This is such a familiar verse, one we frequently quote in our preferred translation.  Perhaps it helped that I was reading it this time in an updated NIV, so a couple of different words jarred me out of rote recitation, forcing me to stop and consider it again.  As I did, the simplicity of faith became clearer than ever before.

Haven’t we used this verse primarily for things – even good things and promised-by-God things – and in so doing, made this thing called faith a hard work?  Think about it in some of the following familiar statements: “I’m believing God for _________  (fill in the blank), and ________ and ________.”  “I don’t have enough faith for _________,   only enough for _____________.”  “She only had enough faith for this part, not for the whole ________.”  “I must not even have a mustard seed of faith.”

We don’t find statements like these in the Bible, though we certainly hear and use them today. What’s the common denominator in all these modern-day so-called faith statements?  It’s an “I” focus.  Faith has become all about us, about our efforts to believe enough for whatever end result we seek.  What an endless and wearisome cycle!

But the Bible is good news!  The faith, confidence, and hope of Hebrews 11:1 are to be in Jesus Christ alone, not in our ability to believe for the desired change in situations or circumstances for ourselves or others.  Don’t believe me?  Look at the previous verse.

Hebrews 10:39 NIV (2012) But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

Since Hebrews is written to believers in Christ, we belong to those who have faith and are saved.  What faith is required to be saved?  Simply, faith in Christ Jesus alone – in what He fulfilled and finished completely in our place because we never could.  In Him all our needs are met.  Like the believing-while-in-unbelief man of Mark1, our focus (and our faith) is to be Jesus, not what He does or will do.  In Christ, all work (healing, too) is already complete and all provision is already made, though our natural eyes may not yet see.  He, Jesus Christ, is our answer.

No longer is our question, “What am I in faith for?”  Rather, it becomes, “In Whom is my faith, my confidence in what I hope for, and assurance about what I do not see?”  And the answer comes via two questions.  Is Jesus Who He says He is?  Does He always point to our Father?  Absolutely.  He can be fully trusted.  He cannot lie.  Whatever He has promised is for all time.  That’s where we fix our eyes, regardless of current circumstances.  Our faith is not even in what He has promised, though we can bank on it.  Our faith is in Jesus Christ, the totality of Who He is, the very Promise Himself.  Therein is His peace.  Therein is His rest.  Therein is our confidence and our assurance about what we do not see.

This major, radical, mind shift is causing a major “tilt” in my brain multiple times a day as the adjustment – the refocus – takes hold, forcing the old-and-gone-wrong to leave forever.  What a wonderful journey, though, this faith in Christ Jesus alone!

1 Mark 9:24 – “help my unbelief” – Jesus helped the man focus only on Who He was, no longer mixed with what his natural eyes saw – it was faith in Jesus alone

I Can See Clearly Now

The exercise for the memoir-writing workshop was designed to help us realize how many stories we have to tell.  The Lord used it for a different purpose for me.

I tried to follow the directions.  Really I did.  I was supposed to write a sentence about a favorite memory from childhood and then from each succeeding decade of my life.  Afterwards, we were to expand on the memories as the instructor had indicated.  I never got that far.

I was stumped from the beginning.  Ask me what my favorite anything is, and I freeze, for some reason.  I just don’t have a favorite color, favorite food, favorite movie, memory, etc.  If I’m pushed to name something, it’s as if I go blank about the category altogether.

In my struggles to write about memories through the decades, I had a major light bulb moment.  While I had many good things throughout my life, I am absolutely more content than I have ever been in my life.  Not just today or this month.  It’s been a gradual “taking over” that began to take shape in the last couple of years.

The reality of the gospel of Jesus Christ has been progressively unfolding beyond what I have ever known – to the place that the Third Day song is mine: “Feels like I’m born again.  Feels like I’m livin’ for the very first time.”  Yet, I’ve been born again for the majority of my life.  What’s new?

Believing what the Bible says – despite what my feelings, emotions, and my actions may tell me.  Jesus Christ has taken every sin I committed thus far, and every sin I will ever commit until I’m home with Him in heaven.  Not only did He take them all, but He took the severe, excruciating judgment of God for me – for every sin.  And He gave me His undeserved righteousness – for all time.  I truly am a new creature because I am in Christ.  I am not guilty or condemned by my Father ever again, because I am in Christ.

I knew this in the past, to a point.  But it has become real to me, gradually changing my mind and my life, and helping me walk more and more in the glorious freedom of the children of God!  Hallelujah!  It’s in His righteousness I find that peace and joy.  Here – in Christ alone – is where I find true contentment.

I’m so glad I attended this workshop.  I came away with some helpful instruction for my current writing project – a temporal concern.  Better yet, I came away renewed by the Spirit with an ever-clearer eternal perspective!

Philippians 3:10-11 AMP  10 [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope] 11 That if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body].

Be Careful Little Ears

The title’s few simple words of a children’s Sunday School song have been sounding over and over in my head lately.  It stems from stopping to consider one key word of our Christian existence – gospel.  After all, it’s what Jesus told His disciples to share with the whole world, just before He ascended to heaven.

Mark 16:15 NIV  He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.

Just what is this gospel we are to share with the whole world?  In brief, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words says the English word gospel denotes the good tidings of the kingdom of God and salvation through Christ and what He did, which is to be received by faith alone.  We don’t have to work to receive or keep salvation.  It is in Jesus Christ and His finished work alone.  This truly is good news!  But, do the messages we hear always sound forth the simplicity of this truly good news?

If the gospel is good news, then it is always totally good news.  The completed gospel of Jesus Christ will stir our faith and bring us into deeper revelation of freedom from condemnation and guilt, with its post-salvation lie of working to make ourselves righteous.  It will always exalt the finished work of Jesus on the cross and expand our understanding of the perfect and unconditional love of our Father for us, which removes all fear.  When what we hear from our pulpits, our fellowship with one another, Bible studies, online ministry, etc., produces anything contrary to these things, we are not hearing the gospel.1  Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly2 – because He paid the price for our sin and unrighteousness already, not because He would help us work to become righteous.

The reality of the gospel needs to be the filter for every message we hear, in whatever form the message takes.  Then we can receive only that which Jesus came to give, and discard that which would draw us back into the place from which we were saved.  Confusion will be greatly diminished, and that peace that passes understanding will be greatly increased.

What are you listening to and receiving?  Be careful, little ears, what you hear!

1 Galatians
2 John 10:10