Category Archives: Grace 101

The Good Ground

Grace 101

 

As we conclude these thoughts on the enemies of the message of grace in our lives, it seems right that we should take some time to consider the things that support and nurture that message in our lives.  In His parable of the sower, Jesus points out that some of the seed fell on good ground, ground that was prepared and ready for the seed.  No doubt this ground was tended by the sower and the seed bore the expected fruit.  Are there things available to us that will protect this amazing message and help it to grow in our lives?  Of course!

You may be surprised at the things that will help grace grow in you.  Obviously, anything that builds your relationship with Jesus will be an aspect of the good ground.  What we will look at will seem very familiar but, in some ways, be very new.

Before we get into that, however, we have to remember that we have an enemy.  The Lord has an enemy.  The evil one seeks to destroy the people of God and the work of God.  He will not have it for himself, and he doesn’t want anyone else to have it either.  In the parable of the sower, Jesus spoke of the devil.  The devil wants to steal the message of the gospel of grace, snatch it away before it can take root.  If he can’t do that, he will take away as much support for the message as he can so that the roots cannot go deep enough to survive.  If that doesn’t work, he will bring distractions so that the message is choked out by other priorities.

So, if the enemy is that active, would he be interested in polluting the ground?  Okay, I know that’s not in the parable, and I am not pushing some environmentalist message; but bear with me.  What if the enemy were able to distort the support structure of the ground so that the food, water, temperature, and light were damaging to the seed instead of good for it?  Would that make a difference?

I think it would.

I think the evil one has worked hard to compromise the support structure of the message of grace in the life of a believer.

That’s what we will be talking about in the next few posts.

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Default Mode

Grace 101

My good friend, Lee LeFebre, has recently written a good book entitled, “The Shackling of Grace,” where he says that the “Mother of all Obstacles” to grace is pride.  Lee’s right.  I haven’t talked much about pride on this blog, but I have talked about the source of pride, the flesh.  Make no mistake about it; your flesh is an enemy of grace.

Your flesh has been trained, throughout your life, to “do-it-yourself.”  It is your default mode.  You and I have learned certain behaviors that work for us.  They might seem weak or they might be labeled avoidance instead of strength, but they have worked for us in the past and we expect them to work in the future.  In fact, when a difficulty comes our way, we jump to those behaviors without thought or plan.  These are the things we just do.

And grace is not part of the flesh’s equation for how to handle life.

Now, I would call the flesh the source of pride, but it might also be true that pride is the source of your flesh.  Basically, this is the inclination to do the work of God ourselves.  For some it is the expectation that they can be good enough by the actions of their flesh to satisfy God.  For others, even God doesn’t matter.  And, for others, there is the decision that they will never be good enough because they can’t do it for themselves.  Whether the outlook is positive or negative, the root of the problem is the same.

Most of us grew up thinking that money leads to happiness.  If we just had more, we could do this or that, buy this or that, attract him or her, and thereby be happy.  When we have money, we feel successful and proud.  But when we don’t have money, we feel like losers and are sad.  Never mind that we know better.  Either way, having money or not, the focus is wrong.  We know that money does not lead to happiness, but it took us a while to decide that in our lives.  Many have still not learned that truth.

In the same way, if I think I have the responsibility to be morally or spiritually good on my own, either for God or for society, then my focus is wrong.  If I do well, I may think of myself as better than others and worthy of God’s notice—and I would be wrong.  If I do poorly, I may think of myself as worse than others and believe that God could never accept me—and I would be wrong.  The focus, on either side, is still on what I can accomplish.

And, as long as I insist on that focus, I will miss the joy of grace.

Grace tells me to focus on what Jesus has done for me.  I am to take my eyes off myself and my efforts, whether good or bad, and trust in His work.  In fact, the message of grace tells me that my only hope for success and peace and joy is in letting go of my efforts and trusting in Him.  This is more than just a good idea; this is the source of life.

If you start your computer and go to the internet and the same page pops up first every time, that’s because that page has been set up to be a default page.  It is simply the first page your browser takes you to and you go from there.  But what if you don’t like that page?  Well, you have to go into your settings and change your default page.

Think of the flesh as your default “thinker.”  When something happens, that’s the first place your mind and heart will go.  That’s what developed as you have gone through your life.  Now, if you want that to change, the default mode has to be replaced with something else.  The Scripture reveals the division between the flesh and the Spirit.  We are called to walk according to the Spirit, now that we are in Christ.

Computers can change default modes with just a few keystrokes, but we are not so fortunate.  For us it takes time and will.  Desire the Spirit.  Ask the Lord to lead you first, before the flesh kicks in.  Learn to recognize the flesh so that you can choose to reject it and trust the Spirit.  This new life will grow in you more and more as you seek Him.  Trust the message of grace.

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Guilt

Grace 101

Ever feel guilty for doing something and then realize that you are already forgiven?  And then you feel guilty for not remembering that truth before?  We are creatures of guilt.  We are so familiar with guilt that we don’t recognize it as it creeps into our hearts and destroys our days.  It feels so right because it fit so well in our lives for so long.

But guilt and shame can distract you from the joy of grace.  They come when we forget that we are no longer under law, but they also come when we chastise ourselves under grace.  Many of us were taught to think of ourselves as stupid or weak or foolish.  Remembering the message of grace in a world (or in a church) that does not support that message can be hard work.

Some people who have had limbs amputated struggle with what is called, “phantom pain.”  Phantom pain is more than a memory that can simply be blocked out with effort.  Phantom pain, pain in a hand that is no longer there, for example, can be very real.  Something like 80% of amputees report some kind of phantom pain.  It hurts.  No one knows exactly what is happening, but almost all theories center on the continued functioning of nerves that used to extend to the absent limb.

Well, I don’t want to push the analogy too far, but you and I have nerves that are very used to experiencing shame and guilt.  In fact, most of us would worry about ourselves if we didn’t feel guilty for doing something wrong.  And we kind of want to have a reminder or a nudge when we do something wrong, don’t we?  But then, when we do feel guilty, we fall back into the self-condemnation and the oppression we experienced under the law.

So let me suggest a new tactic.  I think the nudge from the Holy Spirit is good.  There are things that we do that are hurtful to ourselves and others.  We don’t want to do them.  If we do them, we want to be nudged.  But we don’t have to feel shame and guilt.  That is something different.

If we could interpret the nudge from the Spirit as a blessing, as something good, then we could win.  Instead of the pain of shame, we could feel the attention of the Lord and the influence of His Spirit.  That’s not a bad thing at all.  In fact, we could go so far as to rejoice at our renewed awareness of His presence.

The next time the Holy Spirit nudges you with the mindfulness of your wrong action, just say, “Thanks!”  Believe that His only purpose is to help you and His only motive toward you is love.  There is no condemnation in His nudge, no shame, and you carry no guilt.  But He simply is telling you that this is not going to be profitable and He loves you enough to make His presence known.

Now, I know that someone will say that people will just sin more then so they can feel good about their interaction with the Spirit.  Listen: that’s dumb.  No one who wants to walk with Jesus will sin more so that they get more attention from Him.  What will happen is that the distraction that comes with the earthly consequences of sin and the false guilt will end and their hearts will be even more at peace in their relationship with Him.

You see, we no longer need guilt to guide us.  We have love.  God’s love for us is active and involved.  He speaks to us and leads us.  That is a very good thing.

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But What About…?

Grace 101

In the parable of the sower, Jesus spoke of three primary enemies of the sower’s intention for the seed.  I have used this little story as a structure for teaching about the enemies of grace.  First, there was the trodden ground, the hard path, where nothing could grow.  Then there were the predators, the birds of the air that swoop in to devour the seed before it can grow.  Finally, there are the distractions, the thorns that grow up and choke the life out of the new growth.

One of the most common things we experience once we begin to understand this amazing message of grace is that we forget.  It seems so easy to be distracted and to fall back under the shame and pressure of performance.  Fortunately, the Lord reaches in and reminds us from time to time.  But wouldn’t it be better to avoid those distractions?  Wouldn’t it be nice simply to walk in the light of grace?

Maybe thinking through some of these distractions will help.  At least we might know a little better what to watch out for.

I suspect that most heresies and unorthodox ideas begin with the words, “But what about…?”  Years ago I took the training of a popular evangelism program.  They taught us that we should be prepared to pull the discussion back to the gospel when we heard those words.  I have experienced this often as I have shared the good news of salvation.  People will say, “But what about my loved ones who have died?” or “But what about the dinosaurs?”  or “But what about politics?”  These might be worthy questions or discussions of their own, but they are distractions from the main point.

Lately the grace message has been greatly distracted by the universalist debate.  Before that it was the demonic debate.  Before this it was the charismatic debate.  Before that it was the Calvinist/Arminian debate.  Some of these things are never settled.  They are still distractions from the wonderful message of grace.

And the result of the debates is that those who love the message of grace are divided and discouraged.  In spite of all we know to be true about the unconditional love of God in Jesus, we still add things to the message.  “Grace is nice, but you have to see it from xyz perspective.”  The distractions choke the life out of the message.

Don’t let yourself get distracted and discouraged by these debates!  If you know the message of grace, proclaim it boldly and cleanly.  Tell people of the love of God and put the debaters into a room where they can only distract each other.  There are too many people who need to know the truth of love and grace.  We don’t have time for distractions.

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The Marketers

Grace 101

Years ago some friends of ours had a Christian bookstore.  It was a ministry for them and they tried very hard to cull through the books available to offer only books that were good and helpful.  They just wanted to make good books available to those who were searching. 

It was a great ministry for them and they met a lot of people with a lot of questions.  Unfortunately, they couldn’t make money.  It was partly from their reluctance to sell what we called “Jesus Junk.”  You know what I mean.  Pencils with John 3:16.  A hundred different sized pictures with footprints on them.  Smiley face plastic cups that say, “Rejoice!”  Precious Moments Bible covers.  Pieces of gum with Scripture quotes.  On and on.

I have a special sympathy for Christian booksellers these days.  Those few believers who actually buy books do so online.  The only things left for the local bookseller are the accessories and the “Jesus Junk.”  Some stores have only a small section of books.  The rest of the space is given to the things that make money.

And, if you look at the books, notice how many have the word “grace” in the title.  I just checked Amazon and it looks like over 20,000 Christian books are available that have “grace” in the title.  Why?  Because grace is popular right now.  A quick check on the name “Jesus” in the title will reveal only about a fourth that many.

Now, you can challenge these numbers and they aren’t really the point.  The point is that there are all kinds of books, accessories, and Jesus Junk items out there so that the marketers can cash in on the popularity of the idea of grace.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not against the word or the popularity of the idea of grace.  You may find a book by me someday that has that word in the title.  My concern is simple.  If grace is so popular, why is so much of the church still stuck in legalism?  Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that wearing shoelaces with the word “Grace” on them is not the same as understanding and enjoying the truth about grace.

I want the idea of grace to be popular; in fact, I want everyone to know the truth about God’s love in Jesus.  But the marketers are not about getting the message of love and grace out.  They are about getting the feelings of love and grace out.  If they can give you something so that you feel better, they don’t care what it says or does to you after you buy it.  There’s a reason many of us don’t trust marketing. 

Listen: grace feels good!  I have so enjoyed the feelings of acceptance and freedom and peace that have come as I grow in my understanding of grace.  The feelings are real and right. 

But feelings can be counterfeited.  I remember feeling great when I heard a new method of overcoming sin from the legalist teacher.  I remember feeling loved when I received approval for doing something “right.”  But those feelings were not based on foundational truth and they didn’t last.  Feelings are not enough without truth.

So the marketing birds watch the other birds to see what kind of seed is being spread.  They don’t really care what the seed is; they just want to get a piece of the action.  They hoard the seed, dress it up to look more attractive, and mix it with other seed.  Then they try to attract even more birds to snatch up the seed from the sower. 

The message of grace is so much more than most of the marketers understand.

 

(LOL! As I wrote this, I received an email telling me that “Scripture Candy” is now 16% off at the wholesaler.  Gotta get me some Faith Pops!)

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The Compromisers

 

Grace 101

Have you ever noticed how everyone jumps on a popular topic or style?  Today’s marketers are hardly original.  They wait until something begins to gain attention and then grab it to use to sell their product.  Once people realized that carnival hawkers actually sold product through their abrasive and loud approach, our televisions and radios were bombarded with obnoxious advertisements telling us what we need and the number to call to get it.  Today every business has to have a website just because every other business has one.  By far the majority have yet to find ways to make money from their sites.  We are so used to riding on the bandwagons that come our way that we don’t think twice about the value of doing so.

Sadly, the church does the same thing.  Once contemporary music became identified as progressive, almost every church moved to do it, most of them poorly.  For over 35 years I have watched so many fads come through the church.  Some are good and last; others were not so good.

Now the message of grace is exploding among the people of God.  People are beginning to understand that rules and standards are not the real gospel.  They are finding freedom and peace in their Christian lives.  New books are being written, ministries are rising up, and a new vocabulary is coming into the churches.

So it should not surprise us to hear pastors and teachers proclaiming grace and freedom from the law from the pulpit.  No one wants to be left out of the excitement.  But not all understand or accept the message.  Some want to use it to keep their people in their church.  Others want to use it to build their church.  And most want to use it as evidence that they are not “stuck in the law.”  After all, who would want to be considered legalistic?

And from those pulpits comes a compromised message.  “Yes, we believe in grace, but . . . .”  The message of law has not gone away, it has just been redecorated by the words of grace.  “Jesus loves you and you should work to deserve His love.”  “Jesus has done it all for you and now He expects you to do this and that.”  The people hear the words of grace and are happy to believe that their pastor is teaching truth, but it is truth mixed with lies.  They come away from a Sunday morning confused and burdened.  This grace message didn’t lighten their load.  They found no real peace or victory.  It was just words that sounded right.

Listen: the words of grace are not the message of grace.  The message of grace lifts your heart and sets you free.  You walk away knowing that you are loved and accepted, in spite of your struggles and weaknesses.  The message of grace is the message of Jesus and the love of God.

It can never be Jesus plus.  It is Jesus alone.  When you hear, “Grace is nice, but law is important,” run.  That is not the message of grace.  That is the message of the compromiser.  That is the message of the Pharisee.

Paul encountered these people and had strong words for them.  They said, “Yes, Jesus is Lord, but you also have to be circumcised and stay away from certain foods and keep certain rituals if you want to be right with God.”  They led people away from Christ and back into bondage.

When you hear that there is some division of spirituality between those who are saved and those who are “really saved,” you know that a standard other than the love of God in Jesus is being applied.  When you hear that you are saved by grace but have to maintain your salvation by works, the message of grace has been compromised.

I understand that a preacher can only teach what he has learned, but a compromised message is dangerous for the people.  It is just the old message of law and performance in the new language of grace, a predator that steals the joy away from those who need the true love of God.

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Error in the Name of Grace

 

Grace 101

Because the church system neglected or forgot the message of grace and the sufficiency of Christ, those who teach grace are often thought to be bringing a new gospel.  The message meets a certain amount of opposition simply because the people haven’t heard it before.  But, for the same reason, it attracts predators who want to use the freshness and excitement that comes with it.

Jesus used the birds to illustrate this opportunism.  The birds swoop to the new seed and snatch it away from its intended purpose before it has a chance to take root.  They come to feed, to use the seed for themselves, with no regard for the needs of the gardener.

Often, when the grace message is proclaimed, there are those who welcome it with open arms because they see ways to use it for their own agenda.  In the last post I wrote about the anti-law people who see in the message of grace support for their desire to serve certain passions of their flesh.  Today I want to focus on those who use this message to promote their unorthodox teachings.

The grace message teaches that God takes the initiative and does the work of salvation.  This has been used by some in recent days to support their ideas of universal salvation.  They say that, since we can do nothing toward our salvation, then God has done the work for all people in Jesus.  All are saved; all are forgiven; all are reconciled to God, they say, because that was what Jesus did on the cross for all people.  They do not believe that any personal reception or expression of faith can be necessary because Jesus died for all.  They believe hell was an invention of those who wanted to keep people in line under the law.

The error of this is obvious for many people, but the argument is now couched in the language of grace.  Since God loves all people and the sacrifice of Jesus is sufficient for any and all, then salvation has been given as a gift to all, whether they know it or accept it or not, they say.  Many of these people held this view before they learned of the grace message, but now they have changed their vocabulary.

Another very current area in which we find the grace message used is in the advocacy of certain movements which have been challenged by the church.  Homosexual marriage, for example, is said to be acceptable because “we are not under law but under grace.”  Drug use, pornography, and other practices deemed immoral by conservative churches are to be accepted because to reject them would be to operate under law.  Believers find this very confusing and some reject the grace message because it is misused.

We must understand that this is to be expected.  The definition of grace is a Person, not a code or a list.  We do not have standards to which we must measure.  We don’t have a law at all except to love one another and God above all.  We cannot point to commandments that must be obeyed in order for us to experience grace.  Frankly, the door that was opened to allow us into Christ without requiring a change of behavior is the same door that is used to suggest that such behavior is now acceptable.

But accepting a person is different from accepting that person’s behavior.  And living under grace is not the same as license to do whatever we wish in the flesh.  Nor does the truth of the sufficiency of Christ negate the personal responsibility of each individual to accept what Jesus has done.

Just because the truth is misused does not make it less true.

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Anti-Law

Grace 101

Over the past several Grace 101 posts I have focused on the parable of the sower from Matthew 13 to give us a structure for looking at enemies of grace.  I started with the trampled or trodden path, the hard ground that would not let the seed take root.  But other enemies take advantage of the hard ground to pick off the seed as it lies on top.  Jesus calls them the “birds of the air.”

The birds of the air are opportunists.  They watch for something to happen and then try to take advantage of it.  If you drop your french fries out of your car window in the parking lot, it won’t be long before the gulls or crows are there to eat them.  I once saw eight bald eagles eating the carcass of a dead deer alongside the road.  So, if the seed of the gospel of grace is scattered among the people, the birds will be there to pick it up.

One of those birds is what I will call the “anti-law crowd.”  You know these folks.  Since they are under grace, they say, anything goes.  I won’t go into details on their behavior, but their attitude is usually flippant, rebellious, and self-serving.  They excuse any behavior they choose by arguing that there is no more law over them.

The message of grace has always attracted the anti-law crowd.  Paul talked about them in Romans 6.  They push the limits of acceptance, even among unbelievers.  We are not supposed to scold them or criticize their choices, no matter how hurtful or foolish.  Why?  Because they are “under grace.”

And when the legalists criticize the message of grace, guess who they point at to make their case?  Of course, the anti-law crowd.  When grace is confused with “license to sin,” someone will point to a person who has little understanding of grace but wants to have the freedom to exhibit behavior God warns against.  We are called “antinomian,” anti-law, because we teach grace—even though we don’t do the things they do.

Now, I understand where the opening is for this error and I would never want to close that door.  The law no longer condemns us for our behavior.  Grace has freed us from that measurement system.  Those who belong to Christ and commit sinful behavior still belong to Christ.  That’s because He is the only measure of our acceptance to God.  We couldn’t change that if we wanted to.

But listen: no one is more free to sin under grace than he was under law.  I chuckle when I hear someone say that people sin more under grace.  I have lived under law and I have known very many people who live under law.  Sin is still very active under law.  It may be more hidden, less admitted, but it is certainly still there.  In fact, I could make a strong argument that the only real way to overcome sin is to live under grace.  Paul suggests that law only shines a light on sin, never stops it.

There is one important difference.  Under the law, sin is seen as evidence that the person needs a Savior.  Under grace, sin is evidence that the flesh is leading.  Making a Christian feel that he or she is under the law can only result in a life without assurance and more sin.  Allowing a Christian to understand grace is the beginning of life in the Spirit, rather than the flesh.  We are free under grace.

So what do we do about those who flaunt their behavior and excuse it by saying that they are under grace, when they are really just happy to be out from under the constrictions of the law?  Probably nothing.  We can warn them that sin still has consequences, I suppose.  We can explain that they do not represent our thinking when others point them out.  But it is hard to keep the birds away.

The anti-law crowd does not invalidate the message of grace.  They are simply confused and they confuse others.

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The World

Grace 101

I remember something Zig Ziglar said years ago about exercising.  He was trying to lose weight, so he would jog.  At first, he told himself he would have to “pay the price” if he wanted change in his life.  Each time he went to jog he struggled.  Each time he pushed himself out the door by saying that he had to “pay the price.”  And each time he hated it.

Then, one day, as he was getting ready to run again, he looked out on a beautiful day and the opportunity to see new scenery and breathe fresh air and he stopped himself from saying his usual phrase.  Instead, he began to think of jogging as his opportunity to “enjoy the benefits.”  The change he described in his own heart was dramatic.  Finally he didn’t have to fight himself any longer.  Now he could rest in the joy of what he was about to do.

There is something in this for us.  When we think of the Christian life as full of duty and service and penance, it is very easy to get discouraged and fall backward into thinking that didn’t get us anywhere before.  As long as we have to “pay the price,” we suffer through our Christian walk.

When we begin to think of what Jesus has already done for us, that He has paid the price, then our lives become a process of enjoying the benefits.  That’s what the message of grace is all about.

But the world tells us that we have to pay the price if we expect to get anything out of life.  Hard work, sacrifice, playing the game—these are all things the world tells us to expect.  “No pain, no gain!”  The world cannot see success without struggle.

Except for those who win the lottery, are born into rich families, or discover gold.  Right?  Well, we are also told that those people aren’t happy.  The lottery winners suffer great personal loss.  The rich kids are never happy.  The “gold diggers” usually are prey for others.  This is what the world tells us.  Easy success comes at a cost.

So don’t expect something for nothing.  There is no free lunch.  Right?

But the world doesn’t know Jesus or the love of God.  The message of grace is that Jesus paid the price, suffered the pain, endured the cross—all to give us the gift of life.  Free!

Imagine that the greatest thing of all, eternal life in relationship with the Lord who loves you, is given as a free gift.  He took the initiative when we would not.  He gave the sacrifice when we could not.  All because He loved us.

The world has no way to understand this.  And the world’s perspective has been taught to us.  Even the church has taught this, because the world has perverted the message of the church.

One enemy of the message of grace is the world system.  It has spawned the church system and even our flesh.  But remember what Jesus said:

“Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!”

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But what about…

Grace 101

There are times when the preacher goes from preaching to meddling.  Some people might think of this post as meddling.  You might be right.

Jesus told us to treat others in the way we would want to be treated.  I think there’s a reason He said that.  It’s because you will never receive what you are unwilling to give to others.

You see, the hardest part of the path is not what we find in the church or even in our judgment of ourselves.  The part of the path that is least likely to receive the message of grace is our judgment of others.  We see the sins of others more clearly than we see our own.  We sometimes have less patience and forgiveness for others than we would like to experience ourselves.

Often, when I talk with people about grace, the fact that God has dealt with our sins and no longer holds them against us and has done everything necessary for us to be saved, I get a response like this: “That’s nice but what about…?”  The example given is usually some behavior observed in others that is offensive to the person.  Usually it’s something the person doesn’t see in himself.

Can you live with your girlfriend and still be saved?  Can you drink to excess and still be a Christian?  Can you be a part of XYZ church and still go to Heaven?  Can you smoke, cuss, look at porn, cheat on taxes, steal cable TV, lie, drive badly, or have doubts about some facts in the Bible?  If these behaviors won’t keep a person out of Heaven, what will?

It is very difficult for us, even with an understanding of grace, to let go of the judgments we learned.  We have invested in a game that measures success on the basis of doing better than others.  Notice that it is not doing well, not really.  No, we have trouble believing that we can do well, but we sure can do better than some of the people we know.

Listen, I do this.  I suspect we all do.  I know grace teachers who proclaim boldly the love of God and sufficiency of the person and work of Jesus but criticize and complain about other people’s behavior.  I know that there are certain things that trigger my irritation and are hard to ignore when it comes to letting Jesus deal with His people.  After all, they are only accountable to Him, not to me.

Why do we judge?  Some of it comes from the values drilled into us by parents, church, or life.  We see certain behaviors as wrong, simply because we were taught they were wrong.  Some people, according to our prejudices, are unacceptable because of those behaviors.

And some of this comes from the energy and frustration we spend trying to avoid the passions and temptations that come along in our lives.  We work to stay away from sin, and then we become frustrated when we see others who don’t seem to try to avoid it at all.  We are especially tested when we are supposed to understand that Jesus accepts them just as He does us.

But listen: how will we ever really accept the truth about the way the Lord accepts us if we can’t believe that He accepts others the same way?  If He rejects one because of a certain behavior, then why would He not reject us when we do the same thing—or anything else that is sin in His eyes?  We will not receive the joy and peace of knowing the love of God if we don’t see that He accepts all people just as He accepts us.

Yup, that’s meddling.  Lord help me to remember this throughout the day!

(Since I wrote this post, I have received a comment on the previous post that has prompted me to add this paragraph.  When others hurt us, they are accountable to God for their sin.  If they truly belong to Him and He chooses to forgive them, that’s His business because He is their Master and they answer to Him.  But that doesn’t make their actions less evil or sinful.  God is not the Author of evil nor does He condone evil done by the hands of His people.  We can acknowledge this without being legalistic or unforgiving.  It is certainly true that Christians can hurt each other and participate in the work of the evil one as we operate in the flesh.  There are many admonitions against believers hurting each other in Scripture.  If we fail to understand that Christians can do things which are evil, we will misplace the blame for that evil.  Instead, we must allow the Lord to love and forgive as He wills and trust His servants to His hands.  He may discipline or change them, but He will not stop loving those who are His.  And remember, not all who claim His name are His.)

 

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