Friday, July 20, 2012

False Gospel Fridays 4.0 Changed

I used to think that a change in my behavior was the right kind of response to the gospel.  For me, this reduced Christianity to a set of rules and morals.  It was all about not doing x, and making sure I did y.  But recently I have been convinced that a genuine, heart felt acceptance of the gospel will lead to a much deeper change then that of just my behavior.  It will lead to a change of my very character.  2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."  And Galatians 2:20 says, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

When I thought behavior change was enough, I was really taking my salvation into my own hands.  I was believing that if I lived right, I would be saved.  And yet the scriptures clearly tell us that we can't accomplish this on our own.  No matter how many bad behaviors I manage to curb, I'll never be able to accomplish making myself new.  No matter how much of myself I "put to death," I could never really give myself new life. The scripture is equally clear that how we choose to live does matter.  We must choose to "live by faith."  But moving beyond changing my behavior or morals and allowing Christ to make me new is where salvation is found.

So its about a character change, not just a behavior change.  And its not something I can do to or for myself but It is something that the Lord does in me.  I am starting to see how the gospel is less and less about me and what I do, and that it is more and more about Him and what He has done or promised to do!  I rejoice that He has made this promise in His word: "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."

Friday, July 13, 2012

False Gospel Fridays 3.0 Qualified

Sometimes I find myself believing that the more training, education, qualifications that I pursue the more God can use me.  This is really only half true.  I remember hearing a friend quote something like this a number of years ago..."God doesn't call the equipped.  He equips the called."  We find this concept true throughout scripture.

The disciples were noted in Acts as being unschooled men and yet they were able to teach with such wisdom that it simple amazed all of those who heard them (Acts 4:13).  Consistently throughout the new testament the Lord chose to use those who came from humble backgrounds.  Moses was afraid of public speaking (Exodus 4:10), Gideon was found hiding in the wine press and asked the Lord how he could possibly be the mighty warrior needed to lead Israel (Judges 6), Solomon started his reign as king with such a humble view of himself (1 Kings 3:7), Paul called himself the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).  And the list could go on and on!

Personally, I have put a lot of emphasis on my own education and training.  At times I lean on these qualifications in pride.  But if we think back to the disciples, the thing that qualified them more than anything else to speak and teach was the time they spent with Jesus himself.  That time was a true gift of grace from Him.  Nothing can prepare you for life better than time spent soaking up God's grace!

In conclusion, and just to be very clear, education and training is a very good thing!  But we should remember that it is not the ULTIMATE thing!  Lets not trade worship of the Creator God for worship of a created thing (Romans 1:25).  Sometimes, I don't need to read another book or attend another seminar to teach me how to be a better wife and mom.  I just need more time with Jesus so that he can carry on the good work he started when he began to change my life, heart, mind (Philippians 1:6).  Sometimes, I don't even need another bible study to gain more understanding or knowledge.  I just need more practicing living out the knowledge and understanding that he has already given to me.  Sometimes, I don't need another degree to be a better servant in His church.  I just need to step out in faith and serve trusting him to take care of the rest.

God doesn't call the equipped.  He equips the called.  And he is faithful to meet all of our needs out of his immeasurable grace! 

2 Corinthians 9:8 "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work."

Friday, July 6, 2012

False Gospel Fridays 2.0 Justified

Do you believe you are justified before God?

His word says that if we believe, we are justified.  And this is not because of ourselves but as a result of God's grace.  The Lord continues to work salvation in me but I have to confess that this is a way that I have failed to believe and live out the true gospel.  I have discovered that I seek justification from others through my ability to verbally explain my perspective to them.  If I can make them understand then I'm good and justified in doing whatever I do.  It has made me self righteous, not really righteous as a result of His work, just plain, old, false gospel, self righteous.  I hate apologizing and I am starting to see that at the root, apologies are so difficult for me because I have believed that I can explain anything away and in the end be justified and if I am justified there is no need for forgiveness.  Oh this is so wrong!

Romans 5:1-2 says "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God."  Ephesians 2:8 says "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,"  Justification comes from faith.  Faith comes from God, as a gift.  And not just any gift.  The best kind of gift.  The one you did nothing to deserve!

God is the one who accomplishes our justification.  He did it through what many people call the great exchange from 2 Corinthians 5:21 "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."  Jesus took on our sinfulness and gave to us his righteousness.  Because of this those who believe can stand before God in confidence, knowing that God sees Christ gleamingly white righteousness instead of our dirty sinful pride, selfishness etc.  God accomplished this out of his love for us and his natural goodness.  Thinking we can accomplish justification on our own is just silly.  We can't.  But he offers it to us anyway.  Therefore, out of gratitude that God has made me justified, I should seek repentance and forgiveness.  Not because it gets me anything of value but because God has already given me everything I need