Tag Archives: theological debates

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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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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The Trodden Path

Grace 101

 

In Jesus’ parable of the sower, some of the seed falls on the path.  The path is a well-used and recognized walkway around or through the garden.  If you step off the path, you pack down the prepared soil, so you are supposed to stay on the path.  Anyone who walks through the garden without using the path is a troublemaker and trespasser.

You can probably see some parallels already.  The old way is the right way, the only right way.  The traditions and values of the past are sacred.  Don’t mess with what has always been.  If you want to be recognized and valued, you have to stay on the path.

The problem, of course, is that the path isn’t very receptive to the message/seed.  It is not prepared to receive anything new.  In fact, it is hardened against any change.  You can talk all day about grace and the love of God in some churches and among some people and no one will respond.  No one expects to learn something new, so they don’t.

I remember, from my first church, how some people would sit in the back, in the pew they had used for decades, cross their arms over their chests and wait for the sermon to be done.  There seemed to be no way to get the message through to them.  They simply were not interested.  They had been in church all their lives and what they had learned in the past was good enough for the future.

Traditions are not bad.  In fact, they are usually just the definition of “how we do things.”  But traditions can certainly stifle any good news.   Most churches and organizations make traditions quite quickly.  Even newer groups settle to regular styles and perspectives.  Doing something different is uncomfortable.

The message of grace doesn’t fit well into most church traditions.  Oh, they use the word and they hold it high.  But I have watched as the eyes glass over in some groups when I talk about a relationship with Jesus.  Relationships are messy and personal and unpredictable.  They really don’t fit into tradition because each one is new and special.  Jesus interacts with each person in a unique way.

So the message falls on the trodden path.  Never mind that the message was there before the path.  This is the true gospel!  God loves you and provides all you need in the person of Jesus Christ.  He wants you to trust in the person and work of Jesus.  That’s not a new message.  That’s the first and foundational message of the gospel.

But, over the years, the gospel has become trodden under the feet of so many and their ways.  Yes, they say, trust Jesus, but you have to be a member of our church; or you have to be baptized our way; or you have to avoid certain activities and lifestyles; or you have to start doing something.  It goes on and on.  There’s good soil under the path, but it is so packed down from the traditions and policies and doctrines that it cannot receive the seed.

That’s why the grace message seems new.  It reveals the heart of God apart from all the human additions and traditions.   I can’t tell you how many people have said that they never heard this message in their church.  They wonder how it could be true when the church doesn’t share it.  But it is not a new message and, when you begin to understand, Scripture opens up in wonderful ways.  So many have said that Scripture makes sense now that they understand grace.  That’s because you can see the message of the Scripture without the smoke of the traditions.

But we’ve never done it that way before!  Yes we have.  Before all the stuff was added; before all the people with their human interpretations started telling us what to put on the message; before the path forgot that good soil should bear real fruit.  This was the message the disciples took to the world.

God loves you so much that He provided the way of salvation and sanctification and glory through His own work in Jesus on the cross.  He knows all about you, your compromises and failures and fears.  He still loves you and calls you to Himself.  In Him you will find wholeness and peace and victory.

Jesus is the only real answer.

Jesus is the only message of grace. 

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Ready to Receive – What?

Grace 101

 

You are ready to receive what God wants you to have.  You believe and you have pushed past your doubts and fears.  You reject the lie that says you are unworthy and you acknowledge the love of God.  But what is in the gift?

Someone I know well was recently awarded a cruise by his company.  He knew from others that he would receive many gifts and that all requirements of the cruise would be provided.  It was an honor for him, a thank-you for superior service, and he was looking forward to the trip.

But he really had no idea what he was going to receive.  He didn’t know what to expect.  Should he take this?  Should he take that?  How much money would he need?  You see, he had never been on a cruise before and had never received any special award from the company before.

Now, suppose that someone met him at the airport to take him to the ship.  This person would be his guide through the whole process.  The first thing the guide asks is whether he brought enough money.  What?

“Well, there are a few things you will need to take care of for yourself.”

Uh oh.

“The cab fare to the ship.  The key deposit for the room.  Breakfast and dinner will be provided, but lunch is your responsibility.  And I hope you brought work clothes.”

It doesn’t take long before the free trip becomes something different.

I am afraid that we do something like this to new believers.  We tell them that salvation is a free gift.  God loves them and wants to give this to them.  Their sins will be washed away.  Heaven will be theirs.  And it’s all free!

“Well, there are a few things you have to take care of for yourself.  You won’t want to sin anymore because you will have to go through a process of confession and penance to pay for any new sins.  And you have to read your Bible and learn to pray right and evangelize your family and give your tithe and work in the church wherever we need you.  But these are just ways we celebrate the free gift of salvation.”

People who find the love of God in Jesus usually have no idea what they should expect.  They understand the idea of Heaven, someday.  They might even believe that their sins are forgiven.  But no one has told them much beyond that.

Then, when they get to church, they begin to learn that the free gift has a lot of strings attached.

“Do this.  Don’t do that.  If you don’t live up to the expectations you might lose your place.  At the minimum, you won’t enjoy the trip.”

So, they get involved in the church, with a lot of others who have received this “free” salvation, and they begin to work hard to maintain the little hope and joy they picked up at the beginning.

And that’s where a lot of believers are today.  Still on board the heaven-bound ship, paying for their own meals and working to keep the ship nice.  And they wonder what it would have been like if it were not free.

Now, suppose someone else was on board that ship who understood what free meant.  This person is having a great time, paying for nothing and working for nothing.  When he sees you, he asks why you are working and what you are paying for.  “But didn’t you get a free trip?” he asks.  Your guide quickly steps in to separate you from him, calling him a trouble-maker who is cheating the system.

Sometimes people who teach grace are thought to be dangerous.  After all, if people are content with striving to earn something that has been given freely, they should be left alone.  The grace message, some say, cheats the system.

Okay, all of this to say that we need to be upfront with what we can expect to receive in this free gift.  If we know what to expect, then we can evaluate the message of others to see if they understand what free means.  Over the next few weeks I will be taking the Grace 101 posts into a series of topics that will encourage you and, I believe, make you stronger in your faith.  These will be the things we should expect to receive in the free gift.

You will be surprised at how large the gift is!

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Receiving

Grace 101

 

It is a fundamental of the grace message that what we receive from God we receive as a gift.  That which is earned by hard work or deserved by good behavior is not a gift, but a wage, and is not of grace.

I do not consider the act of receiving to be work, at least not in the sense of earning that which is received.  So to strive to become holy or to work toward forgiveness is something different from reaching out to receive the gift God gives.  Jesus told His followers to consider the birds of the air in Matthew 6:26.  He pointed out that they do not do the normal work of planting and harvesting, yet the Father feeds them.  He pointed out the lilies in Luke 12:27 and says that they do no work, yet they grow in glory.

Faith is trusting or believing.  Faith in the Lord opens our hearts to believe that He loves us and wants to give us what we need.  Faith opens our hearts to God’s grace.  Receiving is an act of faith.  Some would say that obedience is an act of faith as well; but, if obedience comes from a desire to earn or deserve something from God, then faith is not in the love of the Lord but in the effort of the person.  In other words, if you are still working for your salvation, then you are not trusting in what God has done for you.

Some people ask what our part is in this whole relationship.  They have been taught to believe that God does His part if and when we do our part.  For some, God’s part is contingent on our part.  For others, our part is required after God does His part.  If we fail to do our part, perhaps God will rescind His part.  But all of that is contrary to the message of grace.

If you want to say that we have a part, say that our part is to receive.  To reach out and take what is offered is not a good work, but just an act of faith.  You don’t get spiritual points for receiving what God offers, but you will get what He offers.  I know that even saying this bothers some grace teachers because they want to make the strong point that we do nothing toward our salvation or sanctification or glorification.  But saying that our part is to receive is only semantics.  It satisfies the need for two active sides in the relationship but still acknowledges that the whole work and initiative is on God’s side.

So what if you do not receive?  There are some people today who say that we don’t have to receive what God has done in order for it to be ours.  He just does it for us and to us.  In fact, they say, He has done this for everyone and most people just don’t know it.  After all, they say, if being saved is contingent on receiving, then we have made receiving into a work.  And, if it is a work, then we are somewhat saved by works.

I find that to be an unfortunate argument.  It lacks reason and common sense.  But let’s go back to what Jesus said about the birds and the lilies.  We love to watch birds and it sure seems that they work.  Some of the little ones pick up a seed from the feeder and fly away to eat it.  Then they return for another seed.  We wonder how they can have a net energy gain from what they eat.  The lilies push their roots toward food and water, grow their leaves, and open themselves to receive the sun.  Yet, Jesus points all these things out as evidence of the Father’s provision.  That’s because receiving is not work.  Receiving is an act of faith in the One who provides.

But if there is no faith, then the gift is not received.  Faith moves us to reach out and take what is offered.  If we do not believe, we will not take.  And, contrary to what some are teaching, if we do not receive the gift, then the gift does not become ours.  Those who will not receive salvation, because they do not believe, are not saved.

The work of grace, on our side, is to receive.  I know that is an uncomfortable statement for some people.  The meaning is obvious by now.  The study of grace is to learn how to receive.  The heart of grace is a heart open to receive.  Grace, from our perspective, is about receiving.

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Hyper-grace?

There have been several articles lately referring to the idea some call “hyper-grace.”  It appears to me that the discussion started with an article in Charisma magazine and has branched out to other venues and teachers.  I may take a stab at answering some of their criticisms in future posts, but I would like to discuss this word, “hyper-grace.”

It is a negative word, meant to put people down.  The prefix “hyper” comes from a Greek word that means “over.”  Someone who is hyper-critical is overly critical.  A thyroid gland that is hyper, is over- producing.  The idea is that it is too much, more than necessary, more than what is good.

When connected to the idea of grace, the word apparently means “over the top grace” or simply “too much grace.”  But can you have too much grace?  How does that make sense?

There have been those who have said that we must maintain a certain level of law or performance in our message.  Maybe 90% grace is okay.  Maybe 80%.  After all, grace is nice; but there are still rules and expectations and sins to deal with in life.  Even in the Christian life.  We are still responsible for teaching believers how to behave.

I believe and teach that everything God does for us is grace.  Grace is the activity of His love.  Law, I suppose, is what God asks of us.  That certainly fits with the idea of Scripture and with the teaching of most of those who think that we still need to teach law.  God does His part and we do ours.  Right?

But the whole message of the gospel begins with the understanding that we have failed to do our part.  (God knew we would fail, of course.)  So the plan from the beginning was not that we would do our part and He would do His.  It was that He would do His and He would do ours!  God does His part and God does our part.

Jesus said that He had come to fulfill the law (Matt. 5:17)  Paul said that Jesus was the end of the law (Romans 10:4)   The law had become a curse for us and Christ delivered us from that curse (Gal. 3:13)  The story goes on, but the point is that God in Christ has done our part.  There is nothing left for us to do but accept what He has done.

So let’s think about this word again.  If it is all grace—salvation, justification, righteousness, glory, Heaven—and we have done nothing (law) to achieve any of it, then how can any teaching of grace be over the top?  If grace goes all the way to the top, how can it be wrong to go all the way with it?  There is no such thing as
“hyper-grace.”

Now, I know there is error taught among some of the grace teachers.  There is also error taught among the law teachers.  That’s the way things are and always have been.  Error does not negate truth.  Error simply exposes lack of understanding or compromised motives in expressing truth.

When someone comes against what you believe with words like “hyper-grace” or “cheap grace” or even “antinomianism” (yeah, you probably won’t have to worry about that one), remember that this was the basic charge leveled against Jesus by the Pharisees and Paul by the religious leaders of the Jews.  The idea that God would do it all, that we would be saved and kept saved entirely by His initiative and action, goes so strongly against what the legalist teaches that he has to attack with false charges and nasty words.

David Martyn Lloyd-Jones said it so well:

There is thus clearly a sense in which the message of "justification by faith only" can be dangerous, and likewise with the message that salvation is entirely of grace. . . . I say therefore that if our preaching does not expose us to that charge and to that misunderstanding, it is because we are not really preaching the gospel.

For the whole quote, which is worth reading, go to this page.

Just because some don’t understand or some misuse the teaching of grace doesn’t make it wrong.  In fact, understanding grace makes everything right.

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No Deals, Mr. Bond!

Grace 101

 

Deals with the Most High God.  Imagine bargaining with the Lord God Almighty!  What is the cost of the Lord’s favor these days?

In a bargaining relationship, something is expected from both sides.  If I go to the store, I expect to pay money for the products I take home.  If I go to a swap meet, I will bring something to trade.  If I make a deal with a neighbor, I might agree to do some work for him.  I will get something because I give something.

So what does God need that I have?  Does He need my time and energy?  Does He need money?  Does He need prayer or Bible study or Scripture memory?  What currency do I have that would allow me to trade with God?  It sounds silly, doesn’t it?  We can’t bargain with God.  We have nothing to offer Him.

You see, God is not about making deals.  He is about loving you and me.  He wants to give to us because we have needs we cannot fulfill and He is good and strong and kind.  When He made us, He made us to be complete only in relationship with Him.  He would enter into that relationship and give us what we need.  When we wandered, through Adam and Eve and through our own sin, He stayed ready for that relationship.

Since we could do nothing to restore the relationship on our end, the Lord has done all that is needed to bring us back to Him.  He did it all.  He is the Giver.

When we try to make deals with God we try to bind Him into a contract where we can demand that He keep His commitment to us.  I have seen television preachers pounding their fists on the floor saying, “God I demand . . . !”  But we are not on equal terms with God.  We have no right to design deals and expect that He will agree.  We have no right to demand anything from Him.  He is God!

If you are not serving the Lord because you love Him, then stop.  You are not earning spiritual points and He is under no obligation to reward your efforts.  If you think God owes you something, think again.  If you are working hard and making sacrifices because you think you are going to get something from God as a type of wage or deal, then rest.  He loves you and He gives all good things as a gift.

Now, I know that some people will say that the Bible tells of all kinds of rewards for good behavior.  I agree.  There are certain ways of looking at life that have certain benefits.  A husband who is kind and loving will very likely be blessed by a good marriage, certainly more so than an inattentive or cruel husband.  But there are no guarantees in this.  These are good things to do that usually have good results.

And nothing of this has to do with spiritual life or relationship with God.  No one is going to Heaven on the basis of their church work, for example.  Those who see themselves working through a bargain with God will be disappointed.

You see, the flesh understands human relationships.  It knows how to manipulate and bargain and work for things.  But when the flesh encounters God, it tries to do the same things and they don’t work.  Religion might be filled with “work for blessings” but God is not in that.  He wants to give.

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Two Plans in One

Grace 101

 

What do you get if you mix one good egg with one bad egg?  A bad egg that’s twice as big!

By the time Jesus came, the Law God gave to convict the people of sin, cover that sin from His sight, and call the people to Him, had become the religion of the Jews.  The Bible makes it clear that there was almost always a small remnant of people who truly desired and followed the Lord.  The rest were focused on the human system we have called the flesh.  By the time of Noah, it was just a handful of people.  After the Flood, it was just Abraham and his family.  It seems to have continued like that through much of Hebrew history.  There were prophets and a few others, but most of the people cared little about the real purpose of the Law.

But the flesh recognizes power and effectiveness.  God’s Law did work to help the people.  Those who followed it found God’s provision and protection in ways that were miraculous.  So the people were drawn to the Law for what they could get from it.  They saw it as similar to their own system, having morals and religion, and they wanted the special benefits it brought.  So they combined the two plans.

Now, this is a gross simplification.  But the point is that the Law, off and on through Israel’s history, was used as a tool of the flesh.  It became viewed as part of the cause and effect process the flesh loves.  Do this and you will get that.  Mechanical.  Mathematical.  Formulaic.  Obey the commandments and God has to bless you.

I want to be honest.  The Law sounds conditional.  If you do this then God will bless you.  You can see it all through the Law.  But you only see it that way because you and I were trained to think that way by the flesh.  The point was that God was giving the people important advice on how to live.  He wanted to bless them, but their own actions prevented His blessings.  He knew, for example, that certain cleanliness practices would prevent diseases.  He knew that rest was important for people and animals.  He knew that giving helped to release people from bondage to money.  He knew what kept them from enjoying His blessings and He told them how to be free from those hindrances.  It wasn’t “Do this and you will get this.”  It was “I want to bless you and here’s how you can receive the blessing.”

The Pharisees of Jesus’ time are the classic promoters of this “religion of the Jews.”  They taught that the Law was to be kept beyond the letter.  They invented more laws to surround the ones God gave.  They built up the system of cause and effect, obedience and judgment.  But they were not the first and they were not the last.  People who served the flesh believed that adding the Law of God to their system would give them the spiritual life they so deeply desired.  It would give them hope and make them righteous—if they did it right.  So everything was about doing it right.

When Jesus came, He said that He was not going to abolish the Law.  He meant the true and good Law God had given for the benefit of the people.  He would fulfill the Law; accomplish the work God had promised to do for them.  But He would abolish the religion of the Jews.  The idea that people could earn spiritual favor by making sacrifices or performing ritual acts of kindness was going away.  That was never the truth.

This is important for us to understand.  God’s Law was just as good as David and others said it was.  Jesus was the end of God’s Law only in the sense of the culmination, the satisfaction.  God’s Law served an important purpose and that purpose brought people to Jesus.  Jesus was the New Covenant that the Old Covenant pointed to.

But the religion of the Jews was just the flesh, the bad egg only bigger.

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Until the Right Time

Grace 101

So humanity fell.  Sin entered the world through the choice of our first parents and infected every part of human life.  Adam and Eve suffered the loss of spiritual life and nothing was the same.  Nor could they return to what they had.  For the first time, they knew suffering and deprivation.  They experienced pain and even death.  And sin entered the lives of all their children.

But God still loved them.  That never changed.  His desire was for fellowship with them.  Yes, they were separated from Him but He stayed near.  He would guide them and care for them, but they would not have the communion with Him they had before.

We know that God had a plan.  At the right time, Christ would die for the people God loved and those who trusted in Him would find that communion Adam and Eve had lost.  In fact, they would find much more.  The very life of Jesus Christ would be theirs.  He would live in them and they would live in Him.  But the right time was a long way off.

What about all those people who lived between Adam and Jesus?  By the most conservative count, there were 4000 years between them.  That represents a lot of people.  Was there no hope for them?  This question has challenged us for a long time.  What about the Old Testament people?  How were they saved?  There were some good people, according to the stories.  What about them?

Let me reduce centuries of debate to a single statement:  Old Testament saints were saved by grace through faith.  Sound familiar?  That’s right.  They were saved the same way we are saved.  They trusted in the Lord as their Savior.  The only difference between us and them is that our salvation is already and theirs was coming.  They looked forward to what would be accomplished for them on the cross.  We look back to what was done for us.

God alone is the Savior!  There is no other.  We believe that Jesus is God.  Otherwise He could not be the Savior we need.  The unity between the Old Testament/Covenant and the New Testament/Covenant is Jesus.

I, even I, am the LORD, and besides Me there is no savior. Isaiah 43:11

“Yet I am the LORD your God Ever since the land of Egypt, and you shall know no God but Me; For there is no Savior besides Me. Hosea 13:4


But they did not know about the cross.  Not really.  They received hints and a call to trust the Lord.  They knew the burden of sin and their separation from God, but they did not know what He would do about those things.  They just had to trust Him.

I don’t think anyone really knows why Jesus came when He did.  The Scripture simply says it was “at the right time.”  It has been my experience that God’s sense of timing is very different from mine.  Most believers have found that to be true.  I remember hearing Chuck Smith say, “Every time I have given God a deadline, He missed it!”  Timing is something very special in the hands and mind of God.  He accomplishes things by precision timing that could only be described as miraculous.  So, we simply have to trust that Jesus came “at the right time.”

So what was supposed to happen during the 4000+ years between Adam and Jesus?  What were the people supposed to do?  Did God just leave them alone?  Not at all!  There was a plan to guide them and protect them until the Day.

Tomorrow . . .

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Avoid them

 

What good is having a blog if you can’t use it to rant just a little? 🙂  I have been in a discussion on another site with someone who is arguing against the grace and love of God by telling believers they should be focused on sin and condemnation.  It is frustrating, time consuming, and fruitless to get into these arguments.

You know the people I mean.  They just can’t stop.  Their logic is stretched and their words are cutting.  These guys pull out verses and claim certain Greek skills and ignore any real challenges to their ideas.

Paul met these folks, probably much more often than you or I do.  His advice?

9 But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. 10 Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned. Titus 3:9-11

17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. Romans 16:17

Avoid them!  Don’t let them suck you into their traps.  It’s hard.  I find that I want to speak out against their lies and errors.  But it is a trap.  It distracts you, upsets you, and you don’t win.  They will have the last word, no matter how stupid it is.

Yes, sometimes I do speak up.  I seem to think that I can get a word in as a teacher.  But I have learned that it will be unfruitful.  The best I can do is help others see the foolishness of the other’s position and statements.  I confess that I almost always come away feeling used and dirty somehow.

In the discussion I have been in this morning, the arguer referred to the pain and struggles of those who have come out of legalism as “dog poop” and “dog piles.”  I shouldn’t have been surprised.  When logic fails, be prepared for the jabs and depersonalization.  Like the narcissist, the legalist will use whatever means he can to “shut you up” so it can look like he has won.

Then, if you ever do manage to paint him into a corner, he cowers and cries and wonders why you are so mean.  He ignores his own attacks and cruelties and projects that on you.  By trying to counter his statements, you are hurting him.  And, again, he wins.

So Paul says to avoid them.  That makes a lot of sense to me.

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