EVIL’S GOAL January 3, 2017 ~by Paul Gray
Evil’s goal is to keep us from knowing God. Not intellectual knowledge. Not having bible verses memorized. Not knowing the right doctrine. But keeping us from our intimate personal knowing God – who God is and what God is like in every moment of our life! Knowing what Jesus is thinking and what He wants at any given moment.
The evil one knows that when we actually know the only true God, when we know He is Grace, then evil has lost all influence on us. So, he tries to keep us in the dark.
Suspend reality for a moment and picture a man and a woman. Imagine, if you will, the man saying to the woman, “I think so much of you, that I want to demonstrate my love to you in the greatest way possible. I choose you to be my bride. I love you and I always will. I want to give you a gift to demonstrate my love to you. This is the mother of all gifts! This gift has many facets.
Let me tell you, I forgive you in advance for everything you might ever do to me. You are mine and we are one forever. Everything I have is yours. You can’t make me love you any more or any less. I have no demands of you. I will help you fulfill your potential to the max. I want you to enjoy me and my family forever and we are all good… we all love you unconditionally.
“We are all full of joy, peace, patience and we’re totally good. There is nothing bad in any of us. We’re always gentle and kind and we’re totally faithful, even if you aren’t. When you mess up, we never even condemn you. We don’t give you what you think you deserve. We call that mercy. Even when you do mess up, we give you what you think you don’t deserve… our unconditional love, forgiveness and acceptance. We call that grace. I love you and am always for you and I so hate anything that hurts you that I will ultimately get rid of it all and ultimately make all things right. I call that justice.”
Can you imagine a husband like that? Would anyone ever be able to deserve a husband like that? Could you ever repay a husband like that? Could you ever earn a husband like that?
What if you thought, “This is SO good…I’m just going to do whatever I want… see if I can really get away with it. I’ll stay out late, have affairs with others, mock and make fun of my husband, do whatever I want just to see if he really keeps his promise.” Some of us might be tempted to do that. Would you?
THE GIFT OF GRACE
Do you give much thought to the gifts you give? Some People just want money. Some prefer gift cards.
These days my wife and I don’t need a lot, so we prefer to give each other gifts that we know we’re going to use anyway. For example, we recently gave birthday gifts of tickets to a Royals baseball game for me and Home Depot gift cards for her.
Did you know that the Greek word for birthday gift is “charis” – which we translate as joy…or grace?
2,000 years ago a lot of thought went into giving gifts. There was no internet, there were no shopping malls, no gift catalogs, no gift cards. Then, the concept was that what the gift was worth indicated the value or worth that the giver placed on the person receiving the gift.
Thought went into giving a gift…i.e. it would need to be something the receiving person would really like, that would also be useful and beneficial. It’s worth would convey to the recipient what the giver thinks about them, how much they value them.
The ultimate gift would be something so astounding that the recipient would exclaim, “Wow! You think that much of me? That’s too good to be true!”
Actually, the New Testament word that we translate as “grace” means something way more than just “birthday gift” – it’s so utterly astounding that we think it must be too good to be true.
We throw the word grace around a lot. We say grace before meals. We sing Amazing Grace. We have doctrines of grace, but we’re really in the dark when it comes to what grace actually means in its original use.
The primary reason that we don’t know the true meaning of grace is that the whole objective of evil is to keep us from knowing Grace!
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (Italics mine) For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
What the enemy is ultimately doing is coming against our knowledge of God! Specifically, our knowing that Jesus is Grace personified!
RESPONSIBILITY...THE ABILITY TO RESPOND ~by Paul Gray
Many Christ-followers are familiar with the following verse: Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18)
Peter is encouraging us to grow in the knowledge of God – not what we think we know about God, but in God’s own knowledge that He gives to us – the mind of Christ! The way to grow in the knowledge is to grow in grace!
Growing in grace is not something that we work at to bring about by our own effort. Growing in grace is “growing in the experience of Grace…Jesus Himself…living in us, as us and through us!”
Most people who have been involved in a church or para-church ministry have been encouraged to grow spiritually, to become spiritually mature. Unfortunately, most of us have been taught that it is our responsibility and duty to do this by our own effort, which is totally contrary to the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ!
“Responsibility” literally means “the ability to respond.” Our growth only comes as we respond to Christ in us who reveals His truth and causes us to grow!
No plant, fruit or tree can cause itself to grow! Humans can facilitate some areas of our growth (body builders), but we have no control over how tall we’ll be, what our bone density will be, etc.
It’s God who causes our growth. He has given us the ability to respond to His initiative.
1 Corinthians 3:6 (Paul) I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.
(MIRROR) I have planted, by bringing the gospel to you in the first place, then Apollos watered the seed in his ministry to you; but God causes the Christ life to ignite and expand in you.”
Dec 22, 2016 GRACE IS MANY-FACETED ~by Paul Gray
The Holy Spirit in us reveals to us the many facets of grace…although eternity isn’t long enough to ever see them all!
1 Corinthians 2:12 (MIRROR) The Spirit proceeding from God unveils the gifts of His generosity. He has graced us with understanding so that we may know what He has always had in mind for us; this is so unlike the secular spirit of the wisdom of the world where everything has a price tag!
Christ is the unveiling of the mystery of God’s wisdom: now we know how God redeemed our righteousness and our wholeness in Christ. In God’s economy, Christ represents us; what man could never achieve through personal discipline and willpower as taught in every religion, God’s faith accomplished in Christ. Of His design are we in Christ; we are associated in oneness with Him. Our wisdom is sourced in this union! Also, our righteousness and holiness originate from Him.
Holiness equals wholeness and harmony of man’s spirit, soul and body. Our redemption is sanctioned in Him. He redeemed our identity, our sanity, our health, our joy, our peace, our innocence and our complete well-being! Secular religion is the product of the spirit of this world where everything is performance based; only the heroes of the moment are acclaimed; the rest are reduced to spectators and audience.
Ephesians 2:4-7 God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us.
RELIGION’S FALSE “MEANS OF GRACE” December 21 ~by Paul Gray
Religion has taught a variety of half-truths and un-truths about the means of grace – meaning “things we can do to get God to give us grace.” That whole concept flies in the face of the very meaning of grace!
By its very definition, Grace is a free, unmerited gift! God’s will and purpose since before creation was to give us grace. In fact, God says He did give us grace before creation, then in time and space, Jesus manifested this gift at the cross!
2 Timothy 1:9-10 (Italics mine) God has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
Religion considers grace to be a “doctrine,” but doctrines don’t “appear” and doctrines don’t “teach.” Jesus, who is Grace personified, appeared, and Christ in us teaches us!
Titus 2:11-12 (Italics mine) The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age
John writes that they saw Jesus’s glory – full of grace and truth. Jesus is grace! John 1:14-18 (Parenthesis and italics mine) And the Word (Jesus) became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. For of His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (MIRROR) Your salvation is not a reward for good behavior! It was a grace thing from start to finish; you had no hand in it. Even the gift to believe simply reflects His (Christ’s) faith! (By grace you are! Saved by the gift of faith; grace reveals who we are, and the faith of God persuades us of it! You did not invent faith; it was God’s faith to begin with! It is from faith to faith, (Romans 1:17) He is both the source and conclusion of faith. (Hebrews 12:2) If this could be accomplished through any action of yours then there would be ground for boasting.
RESIST “BUT WHAT ABOUT…” ~by Paul Gray
Now that we have a working definition of grace, I encourage you to suspend whatever you may have been taught about grace in the past… at least until the end of this chapter. Ask the Holy Spirit of Christ to reveal The Truth of Christ to you. For now, be willing to resist the temptation to jump to, “But, what about (the verse of choice that “seems” to contradict pure grace).”
Growing in Grace requires letting the Teacher be the Teacher and our being the one who is being taught.
Hebrews 8:10-13 (MIRROR) Now, instead of documenting my laws on stone, I will chisel them into your mind and engrave them in your inner consciousness; it will no longer be a one-sided affair. I will be your God and you will be my people, not by compulsion, but by mutual desire.
Knowing me will no longer be a Sunday-school lesson, or something taught by persuasive words of doctrine, neither will they know me on account of family tradition or door to door evangelism. Everyone, from the most unlikely to the most prominent people in society, will know me inwardly. This knowledge of me will never again be based on a sin-consciousness. My act of mercy, extended in Christ as the new Covenant, has removed every possible definition of sin from memory!
He announces the new dispensation to confirm that the old shadow system has been redundant. (When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first (the law) obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.)
John 16:13-15 (NLT) When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring Me glory by telling you whatever he receives from Me. All that belongs to the Father is Mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever He receives from me.’
JESUS IS GRACE December 19, 2016 ~by Paul Gray
Definitions of grace abound. My working definition is: Grace is God’s free, unmerited gift which was given in Christ to all people prior to creation and was manifested in time and space at Jesus’s finished work at the cross. God’s grace is the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit’s unilateral (one-way, with nothing expected or demanded in return) expression of:
• unconditional agape love.
• unconditional forgiveness of all sin.
• total acceptance.
• universal inclusion of all.
Grace includes, but is not limited to God:
• eliminating everything that we falsely believed caused us to be separated from Him.
• creating everyone as new creations who are pure, holy, innocent, without fault and right with God forever.
• indwelling us all forever with The Holy Spirit of Christ
• providing us Holy Spirit Power.
• effortlessly living Christ’s life in us, as us and through us.
Grace is totally a free gift from God and requires no request or any action on our part!
Once a person hears the Good News of the Grace of Jesus Christ, The Holy Spirit gives them the Faith of Christ to believe what is already true. Then a person grows in grace as The Holy Spirit continues to reveal the things that have been freely given to us by God.
1 Corinthians 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.
December 16 God is love in Community! ~by Paul Gray
Loving and Living In Community
We’re learning that God is love and God is community (Father, Son and Spirit), and they have included us in their community!
And, they have included everyone else!
But…we’re all different! We believe different things, we have different values. We live differently. We’re all selfish and self-centered to some degree…especially “that boss of ours”—and “that neighbor who has the loud angry dogs and hosts the loud, angry parties”—and “that person who gossips and lies about me.” How do I live in community with them? Do I have to? Yeah, I sometimes feel that way too.
Humanly speaking, it’s impossible. But, with God, all things are possible!
Trying, by our own resources, to be loving to hard-to-love people is a set-up for failure. Only Jesus can love like only Jesus loves.
However, the really good news is that Jesus lives in us and He wants to live as us and through us! As we rest in Him, trust Him, and allow Him, He uses our bodies, our personalities, our speech, and He does love even those hard-to-love people in our lives.
Let’s look again at 1 Corinthians 13 and look with excited anticipation at how this will look in our own lives…when He does it!
1 Corinthians 13: God/Love is patient and does not give up; God/Love is kind; God/Love is not jealous and does not envy and thinks no evil; God/Love does not brag or boast and is not arrogant or proud; God/Love does not act unbecomingly or dishonor others; God/Love does not seek its own…is not self-seeking. God/Love does not insist on its own rights or its own way; God/Love is not provoked and is not irritable and puts up with anything. God/Love does not take into account a wrong suffered—keeps no record of wrong; God/Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness and is not happy with sin. God/Love rejoices with the truth; God/Love bears all things and always protects. God/Love believes all things, always trusts, and is ever ready to believe the best of every person. God/Love hopes all things; God/Love endures all things and always perseveres. God/Love never fails and never comes to an end.
Galatians 5:6 The only thing that counts (what is important) is faith expressed as love.
Letting Christ live and love as us and through us brings a new…and much better…way of life!
December 15 God is love in Community! ~by Paul Gray
Fleshing out Community – Part IV -- How did they do it?
I grew up in a “Christian” home and had wonderful, loving parents who loved God and were very involved in their church. I was in the church pretty much every time the doors were opened. Although I continued my church attendance after I left home, it was in large part because of “duty” and in reality, more cosmetic than spiritual.
I knew that Jesus went to the cross for my sins and that He saved me. That was about all I knew. I never thought much more about it…even after I became a pastor and had led the church that we started for almost 20 years.
However, as I started to learn what really happened and why…I finally started to see what really is, and started to enjoy a new…and much better…way of life.
Baxter Kruger gives us great insight in his final words on “The Trinitarian Vision.”
“In the life and death of Jesus the Holy Spirit made his way into human pain and blindness. Inside our broken inner worlds the Spirit works to reveal Jesus in us so that we can meet Jesus himself in our own sin and shame, and begin to see what Jesus sees, and know his Father with him. The Holy Spirit takes of Jesus and discloses it to us, so that we can know and experience Jesus’ own relationship with his Father, and we can be free to live in the Father’s embrace with Jesus. As the Spirit works we are summoned to take sides with Jesus against our own darkness and prejudice, and take simple steps of trust and change. As we do Jesus’ own anointing with the Spirit—his own fellowship with his Father, his own unearthly assurance, his own freedom and joy and power in the Spirit—begin to form in us, while not diminishing but augmenting and freeing our own uniqueness as persons. The Spirit’s passion is to bring his anointing of Jesus to full and personal and abiding expression in us as unique persons, and not only in us personally, but in our relationship with the Father in Jesus, and in our relationships with one another, and indeed with all creation, until the whole cosmos is a living sacrament of the great dance of the Triune God.”
December 14 God is love in Community! Part 8 ~by Paul Gray
Fleshing out Community – Part III
They did it together!
The very essence of the Trinity – their oneness – has always been, is and always will be. They have always been one, have never been separated, and never will be.
One of the greatest, most tragic, most damaging lies that religion has foisted off on us is the “Lie of Separation.” This lie rips the very fabric of God and damages the human soul in almost irreparable ways. Thank God it’s “almost.”
One of Jesus’s core teaching is the contrast between “darkness and light.” I believe that the “Lie of Separation” IS The Great Darkness.” We have been taught the horrendous lie that we have caused God to separate himself from us because of our “inherited sin” and that the ultimate result of our actions was God the Father separating Himself from Jesus at the cross and “pouring out all His wrath” on Jesus. We’ve heard that so often by so many people that many “Christians” have never questioned it. On the other hand, the watching world has seen the incompatible dichotomy of saying that “God Is Love and God is One…” and in the next breath saying “God is not loving at all and is separate…”as being, well, unbelievable. So the multitudes have walked away from organized religion.
Fortunately the truth will set us free from those lies!
More from “The Trinitarian Vision” by Baxter Kruger
“When Adam and Eve rebelled, ushering in chaos and misery into God’s creation, the Father, Son and Spirit never abandoned their dream, but wonderfully incorporated darkness and sin into the tapestry of the coming incarnation. As the Father’s Son became human, and as he submitted himself to bear our anger, and bizarre blindness, and as he gave himself to suffer a murderous death at our hands, he established a real and abiding relationship with fallen humanity at our very worst—and he brought his Father and the Holy Spirit with him. It was in Jesus himself, and in his death at our bitter hands, that the trinitarian life of God pitched its tent in our hell on earth, thereby uniting all that the Father, Son and Spirit share with all that we are in our brokenness, shame and sin—adoption.”
December 13 God is love in Community! Part 7 ~by Paul Gray
Fleshing out Community – Part II
In the “Mirror Bible” paraphrase, Francois Du Toit has a wonderful way of helping us see what really is. The Mirror is a divinely insightful, life-giving and transformational translation. In the words of Francois’ fellow South African and former secretary general of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, the Mirror is “A welcome revelatory and revolutionary development that is divinely sanctioned, inspired and directed. This translation is by no doubt a compelling grounding expository of our century. To God be the Glory.” Following is his paraphrase of Ephesians 1:8-11
“This grace shown towards us communicates a wisdom and discernment of our worth that completely surpasses any definition. The secret is out! His cherished love dream now unfolds in front of our very eyes. In the economy of the fullness of time, everything culminates in Christ; all that is in heaven and all that is on earth is reconciled in him. This is how we fit into God’s picture: Christ is the measure of our portion, we are in him, invented and defined in him. God’s blueprint intention is on exhibition in us. Everything he accomplishes is inspired by the energy and intent of his affection.”
More from “The Trinitarian Vision” by Baxter Kruger
“Before creation, it was decided that the Son would cross every chasm between the Triune God and humanity and establish a real and abiding relationship with us—union. Jesus was predestined to be the mediator, the one in and through whom the very life of the Triune God would enter human existence, and human existence would be lifted up to share in the Trinitarian life.”
December 12 God is love in Community! Part 6 ~ by Paul Gray
Fleshing out Community – Part I
God is love and God is love in Community. What does that have to do with me…why should I care?
It has everything to do with why God created us to begin with and what His (Their) plan has always been! Understanding this is the beginning of grasping “the meaning of life!”
More from “The Trinitarian Vision” by Baxter Kruger
“The stunning truth is that this Triune God, in amazing and lavish love, determined to open the circle and share the Trinitarian life with others. This is the one, eternal and abiding reason for the creation of the world and of human life. There is no other God, no other will of God, no second plan, no hidden agenda for human beings. Before the creation of the world, the Father, Son and Spirit set their love upon us and planned to bring us to share and know and experience the Trinitarian life itself. Unto this end the cosmos was called into being, and the human race was fashioned, and Adam and Eve were given a place in the coming of Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son himself, in and through whom the dream of our adoption would be accomplished.”
They have in mind for us a new…and much better way of life!
December 9 God is love in Community! Part 5 ~ by Paul Gray
While many Christians are aware of the term “Trinity,” few of us know what it means, and sadly, fewer still have any concept of its importance.
C.S. Lewis and others have referred to the relationship of Father, Son and Spirit as a “dance.” In borrowing from Lewis, Dr. Steve McVey, Dr. Baxter Kruger and other Trinitarian writers, I view their relationship (in which they have already included us!) as their “Divine Triune circle dance of unconditional love and everything that flows from their love: joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faith, compassion, mercy, grace, and so much more!”
In his article titled “The Trinitarian Vision” Baxter Kruger states:
“From all eternity, God is not alone and solitary, but lives as Father, Son and Spirit in a rich and glorious and abounding fellowship of utter oneness. There is no darkness or emptiness in this circle, no depression or fear or insecurity. The Trinitarian life is a great dance of unchained communion and intimacy, fired by passionate, self-giving and other-centered love, and mutual delight. This life is good. It is right, unique, full of music and joy, blessedness and peace. Such love, giving rise to such togetherness and fellowship and oneness, is the womb of the universe and of humanity within it.”
This is truly a new…and better way of life!
December 8 God is love in Community! Part 4 ~by Paul Gray
Can you remember your first love? God has always been love…in community.
"All sorts of people are fond of repeating the Christian statement that ‘God is love.’ But they seem not to notice that the words ‘God is love’ have no real meaning unless God contains at least two Persons. Love is something one person has for another person. If God was a single person, then before the world was made, He was not love." - C.S. Lewis
Notice how Baxter Kruger paraphrases John 1:1-2 –
Before the time of the beginning the Word (Jesus) was face to face with God. He was there before the ages in intimate union with God, and fully God.
God’s community of love is really hard for us to fathom, because humanly speaking, we have nothing to compare it with. God transformed the early church from a people who believed in a single, solitary, angry g.o.d. who was not relational and was not experienced in community, into a people who experienced authentic community with Jesus, Papa and The Holy Spirit. They coined a word for this new experience of community:
“Genuine acceptance removes fear and hiding, and creates freedom to know and be known. In this freedom arises a fellowship and sharing so honest and open and real that the persons involved dwell in one another. There is union without loss of individual identity. When one weeps, the other tastes salt. It is only in the Triune relationship of Father, Son and Spirit that personal relationship of this order exists, and the early Church used the word “perichoresis” to describe it. The good news is that Jesus Christ has drawn us within this relationship and its fullness and life are to be played out in each of us and in all creation.” C. Baxter Kruger, “God Is For Us.”