Posts Tagged ‘Grace’


The Demeanor of Forgiveness…

October 2, 2012

What should our forgiveness look like?

We should love one another, as Christ loved the church, he was willing to give His life that we might have access to the Father through grace.  Rarely are we called upon to give our lives to make relationships right.  The least we can do is be humble enough to forgive those who have offended us.  Only God can forgive sins. (Mark 2:7)  We are not forgiving their sins, When we forgive we are giving a witness of the Spirit of God that is in us.  We serve a God who is forgiving, and just as we are called to be Holy because He is Holy, we should forgive because he forgave us.  The NT

We should forgive obediently: Matthew 6:14-15

We should forgive from our heart: Matthew 18:35

We should forgive prayerfully: Mark 11:25

We should forgive our persecutors: Luke 23:34

We should forgive to relieve sorrow: 2 Corinthians 2:5


Tim Keller on Forgiveness:[1]

“…Forgiveness means refusing to make them pay for what they did.  However to refrain from lashing out at someone when you want to do so will all your being is agony.  It is a form of suffering.  You not only suffer the original loss of happiness, reputation, and opportunity, but now forgo the consolation of inflicting the same on them.  You are absorbing the debt, taking the cost of it completely on yourself instead of taking it out of the other person.  It hurts terribly.  Many people would say it feels like a kind of death. Yes, but it is a death that leads to resurrection instead of the lifelong living death of bitterness and cynicism.”

“Forgiveness means bearing the cost instead of making the wrongdoer do it, so you can reach out in love to seek your enemy’s renewal and change.  Forgiveness means absorbing the debt of the sin yourself.  Everyone who forgives great evil goes through a death into resurrection and experiences nails, blood, sweat and tears.”

“Should it surprise us, then, that when God determined to forgive us rather than punish us for all the ways we have wronged him and one another, that he went to the Cross in the person of Jesus Christ and died there?…On the Cross we see God doing visibly and cosmically what every human being must do to forgive someone, though on an infinitely greater scale…There was a debt to be paid–God himself paid it. There was a penalty to be born–God himself bore it.  Forgiveness is always a form of costly suffering.”

[1] [1] The Reason For God p.188-189, 192-193


How to Love our Enemies…

February 7, 2012

Matthew 5:44, “pray for those who persecute you…”

Jesus models for us the actions we must take to display love to those who are our enemies.  The love here in this passage is the Greek word Agapaw or “Agapa’oh”.  This love is a self-sacrificing love; love that goes beyond feeling, but moves to action.  This is the same word we find in John 3:16.  The world was hostile to God, denying Him and choosing their own way (Romans 1) and yet he “loved” them so much that he sent His only Son. That is the love for “enemies” that is displayed before us.

How do we show enemies we love them?  Love for our enemies begins in our heart.  Jesus has already told us that we are to consider ourselves blessed when “others insult you and persecute you… because of me.”  Jesus makes clear that outward actions have their genesis in the heart, whether its murder, lust, adultery, anger, it begins with the condition of our heart.  Here He instructs us concerning love.  We are to display our love to our enemies through prayer.  We are to pray for them.  When we are reviled we don’t curse in kind, we pray.  When we are taunted we don’t take the bait, we pray.  When we are teased we don’t respond in anger, we pray.  It is difficult to pray for anyone you hate, and that is kind of the point.  Prayer softens our heart, orients it toward God, and focuses on Him and His love for us and others.  We are rarely more like Christ than when we pray for those who seek our harm.  “praying for an enemy and loving him proves mutually reinforcing, the more love, the more prayer, the more prayer the more love.”[1]

“When you pray for someone while they are persecuting you, you are assaulting the throne of God on their behalf: “God, help this person.” That is supernatural! If you do that, you are walking in the heavenlies with Jesus. One of the benefits of praying for our enemies is that it changes us. It is impossible to go on praying for another without loving him or her. Those for whom we truly pray will become objects of our conscious love.”[2]

[1] Carson, DA. The Gospel of Matthew. The Expositors Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 1984. 158

[2] Hughes, R. K. Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom. Crossway Books


Who is our Enemy and Does it Matter?

February 6, 2012

Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, and even throughout His ministry Jesus is constantly reorienting His listeners and directing His disciples.  In this Sermon, blessing is defined, the law is upheld, and the disciples are called to a new level of living.  Murder is no longer an outward act alone, but a condition of a fallen heart.  Likewise lust, adultery, hatred, and confessions become out-workings of a heart that is not pure, and as a result has not seen God.  In Matthew 5: 43-48 Jesus begins to confront the hearts of those who felt it appropriate to reserve love, and display it to a select few.

Matthew 5:43-44 “You have heard it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute you.”

For the Jews, the enemy was the one who was not your neighbor.  A neighbor was one who was part of the community, typically a fellow Jew, but even a foreigner sojourning through your community. (Ex. 23:4-5; Lev 19:18, 3334)  The enemies were those outside of these communities, the non-Jews.  The Jews of this time were known for their exclusion and hatred of non-Jews.  This is evidenced in the writings of the Roman Historians, Tacitus and Juvenal.[1]  The Old Testament never prescribes, outlines, or commands that Israel is to hate their enemies.  Rather, they were commanded in Leviticus 19:18, which Jesus here quotes, to “Love your neighbor.”

The “and hate your enemies” line seems to be referring to the traditional Rabbinic Teaching that grew up around the Law of God.  The Rabbi’s and Jewish religious establishment slowly added to God’s Law, distorting it and choking the life out of it, turning it into legalism devoid of God’s character.  Throughout His Sermon, Jesus is breaking down these man-made barriers, and revealing the Law we are meant to uphold.  One rooted in a heart reflecting the love of God, who “while we were still enemies, reconciled (us) to God through the death of His son.” (Romans 5:10)

For us, loving our enemies is not an easy task.  G.K. Chesterton once remarked that “The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also love our enemies; probably because they are often the same people.”  There is a certain amount of wisdom in that saying, as we often have the greatest amount of strife with those who are close to us.  The word used here for enemy is the Greek word ekthros or Echthros, it is an adjective meaning hated, a man who is hostile toward others or toward God.  The common idea throughout the New Testament regarding the word enemy is one who stands in opposition.  They may be standing in opposition to God, or in opposition to you, or both if you are attempting to accomplish God’s work.  Your enemy may be real or perceived.  He or they may be actively opposing you, or simply passively displaying anger; inflicting pain, emotional damage, or financial hardship on you.  They may be family members, children, co-workers, or someone who happen to dislike.  They may be the drunk driver who accidentally killed your uncle in an accident.  They may be the boss who passed over you for promotion.  Obviously the list could go on and on.

It is much easier to identify your enemies than it is to show them God’s love, forgiveness and kindness.  Jesus is less concerned with the form your enemies take, and more concerned with the form of your attitude toward them.  For the Christian, an enemy should not be defined by the hatred in our heart or the vitriol from our lips, but rather our enemies should be marked as those who receive the outpouring of our kindness and love.  If they are hungry, we should feed them; if they are thirsty, we should give them something to drink. (Romans 12:20)

God Himself is kind to “ungrateful and evil men” (Luke 6:35); He came among them, and though they did not receive Him, He died for them.  And as they were pounding nails into His flesh, to hang Him up to die on a cross, He cried out on their behalf.  His cry was not one of cursing, as we might do when someone cuts us off in traffic;  His cry was not for God’s wrath, as we might call on for the one who steals from us at work.  His cry was that they might be forgiven, that the Father who loved them, might forgive them this horrendous act. What wrong could be done to us that has not been felt and forgiven by God?  If we are His and have His love, how can we love less those who He loves so much. “If the cruel torture of crucifixion could not silence our Lord’s prayer for His enemies, what pain, pride, prejudice, or sloth could justify the silencing our ours.” – John Stott

[1] Quarles, Charles. The Sermon on the Mount. Nashville. B&H. 2011. 160.


What we Believe: The Rooted, Responding, Real Grace of Christ

November 7, 2011

Sermon on the Mount Part Six

From the very Beginning of the Sermon Jesus is outlining the marks of the Kingdom that He Himself is ushering in.  The Beatitudes spell out how we become members of the Kingdom, a surely Blessed state.  All who exhibit these signs of blessing are inheritors of the kingdom.

The beatitudes are about becoming; becoming poor in spirit, meek, merciful, forgiving, righteous, peaceful children of God.  Those who display these traits are blessed or Happy.  Then we move to verses 12-16, in this section Jesus spells out who we are.  So we have become blessed in the beatitudes, then we move on to understand who we are in Christ:  we are Salt and light, impacting the world, seasoning it, enlightening the darkness with the power of the Gospel.  A light that shines in the darkness, a light that the darkness can not overcome.  This is who we are, mixing with the society, engaging the culture, in it, but not of it.

What makes us different?  We are different because of what we believe and who we believe in.

This leads us to the next section; we have become blessed, we know who we are, now Jesus instructs us in what we believe. (verses 17-20)  We believe the Word.  A Word which Jesus has come to both preach and fulfill.  The temptation among those who have heard Jesus up until this point is to believe that this radical new preacher has come to do away with the law and Scriptures they have always been taught.  Until now the people on that mount, listening to Jesus had only every heard of righteousness as taught by the Pharisees and religious leaders.  These leaders, over the centuries, had added to the law copious amounts of rules and regulations, stressing outward conformity, regardless of the inner condition.  Jesus shines the light of truth into the darkness of their hearts, while their lips honor God, the hearts of the Pharisees are far from God.  Jesus will rebuke these teachers, calling them a den of vipers, and whitewashed tombs, clean on the outside but dead on the inside.  But in case anyone hearing this sermon was to doubt that Jesus was not orthodox, He uses this section to push those doubts aside.

Rather than slavery to law, Jesus gives us grace.  Grace rooted in the Word of God, (5:17-18).  Jesus’ ministry was to affirm the very Bible  that testified about His coming.  Grace responding to the law, (5:19).  Grace does not do away with the law, it responds to the law.   The law was meant to reveal the character of God, and set His people apart from the world.  The law reveals sin, (Romans 7:7-14) and Grace responds by covering our sin through Christ’s sacrifice. And finally Jesus preaches grace made Real in Himself, in Christ (5:20).  Righteousness is still required, but it is only through grace that we become more righteous than the Pharisees.

We are often tempted, when confronted with the grace of the gospel to change the subject and shift the focus to the law and rules that we all feel we need to uphold.  Think of the woman at the well in John chapter 4.  Jesus greets her and announces that the messiah has come, but all she wanted to do was to talk about how she worships and how her family has worshiped.  Beyond where the law prescribed that she should worship, Jesus wanted to address sin in her life and the heart of her worship.

The message of Jesus is one of grace, God’s grace has come upon us, and now we must deal with our sin, we cannot hide behind the law and behind rules.  Jesus sees into our heart and comes to proclaim the gospel recorded in the law and the prophets that one greater than Moses will come and has indeed come, and unless we are found righteous we will not enter the kingdom of Heaven.  The hope Christ provides is that through His grace we are found righteous in Him, when we become blessed, recognize whose we are, and believe in God’s grace.  Grace Rooted in His Word; Grace Responding to the Law;Grace made Real in Christ.


Believer or Not, that is the Question…

June 22, 2011

I have struggled for several years with the meaning of Romans 7:15-25.  When Paul speaks of doing what he does not want to do, and not doing what he desires, what is he talking about?  Is he describing his own experience as a believer, desiring to do what is good but hindered by sin?  Or is he speaking of  an unbeliever, who is aware of the law but unable to fulfill it?

Below are my thoughts on the passage and one perspective that I agree with at this point in my life and ministry.  This view may change over time.  May God guard me from heresy.

There are of course two perspectives, one which argues that Paul could not be talking of Himself, or of a fellow believer, as numerous times throughout his writings he states that sin has been put to death in us, Gal 2:20 we have been crucified in Christ, that we no longer live but Christ lives in us.  How can that verse be reconciled with the notion that somehow a believer can be divided against himself, the flesh willing one course and the mind another.

The other perspective views this as a pastoral confession of Paul’s own weakness, that his spirit is willing but his flesh is weak, so to speak.  He knows what he should do, but because his flesh is fallen, and ‘of Adam’, then he often misses the mark and does what he hates.

Both perspectives miss the point of the passage, it would be really convenient, especially when talking to brothers and sisters in Christ, to use this passage to give comfort and say that ‘Paul too, often times struggled and fell short, doing what he hated, and not doing what he loved’.  But if we look at the passage in context it is clearly not about Paul, or a believer.  The passage is centered within the defense of God’s law against antinomianism and redeeming the law’s rightful function in the history of man.

So let’s look at the passage.  Both Martyn Lloyd-Jones and NT Wright advocate that the whole of Romans 7 serves as exposition on Romans 6:14 “for sin will have no dominion over you since you are not under the law but under grace.”

7:1-6 drawing an analogy between the binding nature of the torah and the binding nature of marriage.  Just like the marriage covenant is broken through the death of one party, so too the legal covenant binding us to Adam’s sin is broken by sins death through grace and we are free to ‘marry another.’  However, simply because the law is no longer binding does not make it irrelevant.

7:7-14 Paul describes the substance and function of the law.  It is not sin, as it comes from God and shed light on our iniquity (7); It has been corrupted by sin, and provides great opportunity for sin to occur (8); when the law came it brought with it standards which could not be met and death followed (9)

[NT Wright has a great illustration here, think of Moses arriving with the ten commandments on Mt. Sinai, when the commandments arrive and are given to Israel, the law finds Israel in a state of rebellion and Moses breaks the tablets on the ground symbolically indicating that the covenant the law represented has already been broken, death follows immediately after as those in rebellion were visited by a plague Exodus 32:35.  Israel was alive prior to the law, but when the law arrived, their sin was revealed, and death was their punishment]

7:10-13 So the law, while good, lacks the power to provide life, it only brings opportunity for sin, and death as a result of failure to keep it, nevertheless it is holy, righteous and good.

Now 7:15 and following.  Paul is writing as a believer, reflecting on the state of an unbeliever grappling with sin.  This unbeliever has received the law, and is aware of its demands.  Although it is an extremely attractive option to argue here that Paul is talking about his personal struggle as a believer with sinful flesh, it is really impossible to reconcile that with the scenario he is describing.

The unbeliever’s desire is to follow the law; but as he is in bondage to sin, as he is descended from Adam (5:14); he is unable to do what he desires (7:15).  He agrees that the law is good and should be desired, but sin reigns in him (16).  His talk is good, but his walk is inadequate. (17)  Sin is his master, and so as he is in bondage to sin.  He does what his master dictates and the law then convicts him and death is the result(18).

7:19-24 describe the horrid realization that there is no relief for this man whose mind is set on the law; no matter what his mind desires, sin reigns in his mortal body controlling his actions and imprisoning his being.  He is wretched and forever at war with himself.  He will ultimately meet the fate of all those under the law, striving but never hitting the mark, and paying the price of failure, in death.

The source of common misconception about this passage, in viewing it as a confession of a troubled believer, is rooted in our own misconception of the freedom we have in Christ.   This freedom is outlined in 8:1-13.  We as Christians must come to realize that we have been set free from the law, and its bondage to sin and consequences of condemnation (2).  Christ does what the law weakened by the flesh could not do, He enables us to fulfill the demands of the law, in that He satisfied those demands for us through His sufficient sacrifice (4).  The law no longer condemns us rather Christ, through His atonement, condemns sin in our flesh.

When we are converted, we receive the Spirit of life.  The Spirit reorients our mind, and we should cease to have a “fleshly” mindset (5).  For a mind of flesh, sees only the law and can not see passed it.  There is no room in the law for forgiveness or grace, so the fleshly mind denies these things and is bound up in legalism and condemnation.  Unbelievers are those who are ‘according to the flesh’ (8:5) and like the man in 7:15-25 they are unable to follow God’s Law and they cannot please God (8:8).

As believers, we have the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead, so we are not ‘in the flesh’ we have a different mindset (8:9)  We set our mind on things of the Spirit; Christ’s work for us, God’s grace, our freedom from the law of sin and death.

We continue to sin and as a result we experience conviction.  But conviction brought by the Spirit is different than conviction brought by the law.  The law convicts to condemn, the Spirit convicts to correct.  So we struggle with sin putting to death the deeds of the body, helped in our weakness by the Spirit (8:13,26); knowing that we are not righteous because of that struggle.  Our righteousness comes from Christ who died, was raised, and who stands at the right hand of the Father interceding for us (8:34).


What is man? Our place in the mind of God…

June 6, 2011

Psalm 8 is a masterful meditation with a tapestry as rich and complex as the night’s sky. Here a king comes to grips with the significance of God and the minuteness of man. David might be seen strolling atop his palace at night glancing across God’s chosen land into His created heavens, and amid the trappings of royalty, the gold and the silks and the rooms of opulence, he gazes upon a splendor that surpasses all that man can manifest. The earth is wrapped each night in the majestic testimony of the creator God, whom David calls by name. “Oh Yahweh, our Lord.” How many nights he must have seen the heavenly drama unfold, tending sheep. The God he calls to, called him a child an infant, to rise up and still the enemies of Israel. As a small boy, ruddy in complexion, and ruff in demeanor, God used him to establish strength and build a nation, slaying giants and founding cities. Such favor prompts the response, who am I? What is man that You are mindful of him?

Throughout the immensity of earth and the inexhaustible vastness of space God focuses on us, on children in mangers and shepherds in wilderness fields. On single moms and struggling families, students and corporate tycoons, He sees us and is aware of our condition. As we pass by the hurting around us, mindful of only our own needs, God is mindful of them and all of us, and has set about a plan for our redemption and glory.

This psalm is not about our insignificance but rather our insurmountable role as those who would exercise dominion over this creation. God takes the small, the weak, the unwise, the poor and gives them the kingdom of Heaven as an inheritance. Despite being like children, weak and defenseless; despite being the most fragile of God’s creations, as generations of us will pass in the life of a single star, God has chosen to display His glory through us. All that He has created shall be planted beneath our feet and we shall reign.

How majestic is this God? The word majestic used twice in this psalm, is glorious, wondrous, illustrious, illustrating God’s preeminence above His creation. The term is just as good when used to describe the scene in Genesis when the stars are formed, as it is to describe their fall in Revelation. And like his majesty displayed at both ends of scripture, David closes this reflection with the echo of God’s renown. Who are we, but a vast tapestry of God’s grace, millions of minute points of light shining in the darkness bearing witness to His unlimited grace and infinite greatness.

That He is mindful of us in never in doubt, what remains to be seen is if we are mindful of Him.


Find the Time and Redeem it…

August 5, 2010

I thought I would post a couple links to some resources for those who ask the question, “I have a Bible, so now what?”

The first is an excellent and brief book of instruction on studying the word entitled, How to Study the Bible” by John MacArthur from Moody Publishers, 2009.

This book attempts and succeeds to communicate the vital importance of the word to the life of any believer. It is an excellent aid for those new believers as well as those Christians who need to taste and see, again, why our Lord is good.