BY: LLOYD ELLEFSON
GRACE AND LAW
GRACE AND OVERCOMING
GRACE AND TRUTH
GRACE AND LAW
We are all familiar with the law; some of you may even be well-versed in the Mosaic law! This law was, and still is, very important to the Israelites. It is also very important to most Christians. It remains powerful and it is difficult to think of life without it. It was given to the Israelites - not to the Gentiles - as a preparation for something better - for receiving Christ!
We are not to remain in the law, for the law opposes grace. Therefore we cannot be in Christ and in the law at the same time! Paul upbraided the Galatians who had gone back into the law. After they had received the grace of Jesus Christ, they went back to keeping the law for sanctification and holiness. If a person falls from grace, he falls back into the law; he does not fall into hell.
"For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ." (John 1:16) Here grace and law are contrasted. If we are not in grace, we are in the law, in our own righteousness, our own condemnation and all the resulting problems. The more we think of grace, the more we realize how unexplainable it is to us, and how hard it is for us to understand it. For want of a better definition, we call it unmerited favor. There are some things, which are just beyond us, and among them are love and grace. It is impossible for words to convey the content and extent of God's love! Even agape does not adequately express His love! The grace of God is also totally foreign to us. That is why we do not know how to receive it.
In John 1:17b it says that grace and truth came by Jesus Christ; they were realized through Him. It almost seems as though there wasn't any grace and truth before that. But Christ existed before He was manifested on earth. Grace has always been present because God is eternal. But His grace was not generally recognized.
Noah was an exception. He found grace in the eyes of the Lord. That struck me one day, because we always look at that verse and think that God extended grace to Noah because he was a good man and therefore He picked him for the job. While that may also be true, it does say that Noah found grace. He was the one who found grace in the way the Lord looked at things. When we begin to understand the grace of God, it will change us! We can only appropriate grace in subjection. It is not forced upon us, nor can we force it on others. If we only understand the law, we will become legalistic, and be either self-righteous or full of condemnation.
The scriptures declare that we are to "receive the adoption as sons". We all know that the meaning of words often changes over a period of time. For example, the word GAY does not have the same meaning today as it had fifty years ago. So the word ADOPTION in the scriptures does not have the same meaning it has today. The scriptural meaning of adoption is the transition from childhood to manhood. When a male was placed as a son in the household, he was no longer under the law and command of servants. At that time he was placed as a son over the servants and they now had to obey him. This is what is meant by adoption. In the dispensation of God, when we come out of the righteousness of the law and into the righteousness of Christ, we receive our adoption as sons. We come out of the law and into the grace of God in Christ. When the Holy Spirit within us cries "Abba! Father!", we know that we have been placed as sons in His household - heirs through God. (Gal. 4:1-7)
In John 1:12 it says, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right (authority) to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name." God gives us this authority. Authority and power are related and intertwined. If you have authority, you can give power to someone. Christ has been given all authority. It is rather interesting to note that Jesus said, "I can do nothing of Myself." In effect He was saying that His source of power was not in Himself but in the Father! He did nothing independently of the Father!
At some time or other we have all felt that power over sickness, evil, etc., would be the solution to all of our problems! But man is not given resident power like that. All power comes from God and we can only be vessels of that power. If we want power that emanates from ourselves, we would use it according to our own discretion or judgment. If we want to be independent, we no longer need God. If God would give us this kind of power, we would think we could take care of ourselves and our own affairs.
The gospel works very differently! John 1:13 says, "Who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." That does not leave much to us, does it? We were not born of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man; none of these brought the new creation man to birth!
What does birth mean? Is it the beginning of something new? Is it the origination of life? No, birth is a continuation of life. Our birth in the flesh is a continuation of the life of our parents; it is not an original in the true sense of the word. Spiritually speaking, our new birth is a continuation of the life, which is in God!
When we are born into the Adamic race, or into the flesh-concept, we become aware of our surroundings and become familiar with them - and that takes a little while. When we were first born, our only desire was to maintain life. We wanted mother every time we were hungry or wet. Gradually we grew in knowledge. In regard to spiritual things, our natural knowledge has to be put aside in favor of a higher knowledge.
"And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father..." (v.14) It is interesting to notice that this glory is associated with the Father; it does not say the "glory of God". Since it also says begotten, which speaks of birth, the reason for this is readily seen! Jesus Christ was the glory as of the only begotten from the Father; that is, all the glory He had, had been birthed of the Father. This glory did not refer to the works of God; this glory has come to birth from the Father. That is a different association, isn't it? Birth is different than creation or formation.
It says, "as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." Grace and truth belong together in Christ; we cannot have one without the other. We cannot have grace without truth, and we cannot have truth without grace.
John the Baptist brought a message of repentance. He also testified of Jesus saying, "This was He of whom I said, `He who comes after Me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before Me.'" (John 1:15) Since Jesus has a higher rank than John, His message is greater than the message of repentance which John preached. We cannot live in repentance. John said, "I must decrease." If we are growing in the Lord Jesus Christ, He is increasing in us. Consequently, in time, there will be fewer things to repent of. We will not be repenting of the same things on the same level of repentance.
"For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace." (v.16) Although we may not be aware of it, we have all been receiving of His grace because His fullness consists of grace! Where would we be without it? If He did not continually extend grace toward us He would constantly be punishing us. Grace takes us out of the concept of law and power entirely.
"For the law was given through Moses; but grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ." (v.17) The law always displaces grace. They work against one another; if we are involved in law we will have a problem with grace. The spiritual awareness of what grace is, has to come by Christ. He is bringing us into a level of grace, which was unknown to us.
What happens when law is the motivating force? Law will motivate us to use our own willpower and strength to fulfill whatever the demand of the law is. Then we are using our own physical power, our determination, discipline and mentality to implement the law. But grace cannot be appropriated through power; we cannot forcefully take or appropriate it - it can only be received. Nor do we have power to bring it into being.
In order to get into grace, we must be willing to get out of the law, for it activates our own endeavors. But our energy cannot fulfill the law. The natural mind always tries to convince us that we have ability, doesn't it? So it is entirely against our humanity to depend on the grace of God. But it works! It worked in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ did not use His own energy for either good or evil. By the grace of God He became a vessel of the energy of God.
Grace came in Jesus Christ, and it was demonstrated by His life. God's grace enabled Him to accomplish and perform what He did! Grace enabled Him to fulfill the law, but the law did not help Him to walk in grace. Grace and law contend against each other. So Christ got out of His subjection to the law and came into grace when He was baptized in the Jordan River.
From that time on, the grace of God was at work in His life to release Him from the law and to implement a change. The law brings bondage, condemnation, and the motivation to establish a righteousness that is based upon the law. This gives people a feeling of self-righteousness. The energy to bring about self-righteousness has to be displaced by a new energy - the energy of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us the faith to rest in what God has accomplished in Christ! This is the grace God extends to us! If we don't get to the place where the grace of God displaces the law, we will remain in the law.
Let's take a closer look at grace and see what it is. "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Eph. 2:8-9) Grace is not a gift through which we receive God's forgiveness, a release from our sins, or a promise of heaven. If that were the case, then after we had received the gift, we would feel indebted to God. We would feel that we needed to perform because of all His favors.
We must recognize that all religions - including religious Christianity - are based on the principle of punishment and rewards. What happens when we live in the consciousness of a God who punishes and rewards? We will try to be good in order to get a reward, and try not to be bad so we won't be punished. Isn't that where most people live? When the old conscience works in the law, we eventually have to settle for our own judgment on our behavior. We are pleased with ourselves when we have done a good deed, when we think we are not as bad as the world, and are good enough for God. So we try to walk according to our own judgment.
Grace is beyond that! In grace there is no punishment and there are no rewards! That sounds wrong, doesn't it? The rewards and punishment come when we are not in grace. For how can there be either rewards or punishment for something that is not the result of our effort? When we are in grace our motivation does not stem from a desire for rewards nor from a fear of punishment, but from a love to do the will of God! Those who are fully in grace will not be punished by God. Is it hard to understand that God does not punish us when we are in His grace? If God wants to justify us, and He is not imputing our sin, then why would He punish us? We continually think punishment because we do not understand grace. We are so familiar with the law - where punishment comes as the result of our own efforts - that it is hard for us to believe that in grace there is no punishment.
How do we reconcile this with other scripture passages, which speak of rewards? Various Greek words have been translated as REWARD in English. Rewards are benefits. In Matthew 6 and in other passages, Jesus spoke of the reward for being persecuted. He also said that those who practice their righteousness to be seen by men, have their reward in full. In 1 Cor. 3:8 it says, "Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor." These are rewards for our labor - not rewards of grace. This is substantiated in Rev. 22:12. "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done." Again, these are rewards for our labor. God gives us rewards for our labor, but in God's grace there is no punishment nor reward. However we benefit greatly by receiving His grace!
"But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)." (Eph. 2:4-5) Even when sins were predominant and causing death, He made us alive. Our being made alive did not begin after we got out of sins; it began when we were enmeshed in them. This is grace! We are frustrating the grace of God if we expect His grace to work because we have been getting rid of our sins. If that were the case, it would be works - a reward for our works.
To fathom the depths of God's grace is out of humanity's reach. That is why we always think we have to work to obtain it. However God made us alive when we were dead in our transgressions! Just what could we do when we were dead in our sins? We would have to be made alive or resurrected before we could do anything. We are saved by grace; we are not saved by anything we do!
"And (He) raised us with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." (Eph. 2:6-7) Do you think that we can learn to understand the grace of God, when most of our time here is spent in seeking the things of the world, and in believing the deluding imaginations of our mind? Do you think that we can get to understand the riches of God's grace, when God says that He is going to show us the exceeding riches of His grace in the ages to come?
His grace is so great that it will take more than a lifetime upon this earth to understand it! We have a lot of growing to do. We should never think that we have all truth and that we understand the grace of God. Grace and truth are always present, and God is revealing His greatness to us continually.
The grace we receive is just the prelude to more grace. When we think of how we are being blessed by this grace, what do you think will happen when we get into the exceeding riches of His grace? Won't that be something?! That is awaiting us in the ages to come! Though He is not withholding this knowledge from us, we are very slow to believe that such marvelous grace is possible. It takes ages for us to believe His show of the exceeding riches of His grace, in His kindness toward us through Jesus Christ! Grace came through Jesus Christ. Only His Spirit could accommodate the grace of God. Jesus Christ was the only one who could subject Himself to the grace of God instead of relying on His works to bring Him God's favor. His Spirit is the same Spirit who dwells in us and is our salvation. It is His Spirit who causes us to be subject to the grace of God!
No situation could get Jesus Christ perturbed or provoked to the point where He got out of grace and into His own works. Christ was continually opposed by everyone. It must have been a great test for Him when even His own disciples did not understand Him. If we think we are not quite as bad as the people of that day, we are mistaken. The old man simply does not have any ability to perceive the grace of God. There is nothing within him that can latch onto spiritual realities. The total lordship of Christ in our lives can only take place in the crucifixion of our old life. Everything comes to us through the grace of God implemented in us through the Spirit of Christ. It can only happen through His Spirit.
Only in Christ can we appropriate the grace and truth of God. The grace of God is simply the goodness of God. It is always there for us! It can never be deserved! If it could, it would not be grace, for grace can never be earned. It is present whether we believe it or not! God has given Christ to us as a gift, and He does not give gifts only to take them back again. So He has given us the vessel (Christ), and He can appropriate the grace of God. In Him we can receive His grace.
Our prayers reflect our thinking. So often we think we have to influence God to do something He may not want to do. We fast and do good works so God will answer our prayers. So often we ask Him for mercy and grace that He has already given, instead of asking that we may avail ourselves of the grace and mercy He has already freely given. He has given us Jesus Christ, and with Him He has freely given us all things. (Rom. 8:32) Why do we keep on begging for something He has already given? Why don't we just receive the grace of God? Why don't we just receive the lordship of Christ?
Years ago, when I was in a certain church, all the people were crying and wailing after the Sunday evening service. I wondered what was going on. We Lutherans never did that. I suddenly realized that there was an unfulfilled spirit. Longing, crying, begging - is not the Spirit of Christ; He is a confident, expecting Spirit. The Spirit of Christ who is resident in us, knows that God is good and that God is our Father! God will give us the grace for everything we need!
Because of the greatness of the revelations Paul received, he was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet him. Paul was so troubled about this that he asked the Lord three times to take it away. This showed that he really did not want what God had given Him. Then God gave him an unexpected answer. He said, "My grace is sufficient for you!" Some difficulties are not to be removed from our lives, because they are good for us. But He wants us to experience His grace in walking through them and overcoming them! The bottom line is: "My grace is sufficient for you." This means that we do not have to beg; we can relax. We just receive His all-sufficient grace and keep living in it!
The grace of God is so great and so rich that it will give us everything we need. It will not take every difficulty out of our way; it will not get rid of all our problems; it will not grant us perfect health because that is not God's purpose for us. However, He will give us confidence in the inner man - a confidence which knows that no matter what difficulty comes our way, we have God's grace; and God's grace is always sufficient! Therefore, we can abandon our own efforts, and rest in the Spirit of Christ.
"By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves..." We cannot do anything to begin the salvation of God in ourselves; much less can we ever complete it. Paul said that it was God who had begun the good work in him, and he trusted God to complete it. When God does the work, then it will be done to His satisfaction!
People are always looking for peace. Even in Jeremiah's time people were saying, "Peace, peace," but there was no peace. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that while people are saying, "Peace and safety", destruction will come upon them suddenly. There is no peace in this world. The inward peace of God is the only peace we can have. Grace brings us peace and rest in God. It is more than a sporadic rest when things go well; it is a continual participation of His grace so that we live in His peace and rest; it remains in times of trouble and pressure! When the grace of God is resident in us, it gives us a new sense of being. This is more that a sudden urge to receive the grace of God because of an urgent need. By living in that grace, we have the overcoming of that need resident in us!
Since it is so easy to have the mentality that God is a rewarder and a punisher, a giver of gifts and blessings when we are good, and a withholder of blessings if our behavior does not meet with His approval, it is important to take a fresh look at how grace is working in our own lives. God is the life, and He is bringing us into His life - into His state of being. We are not to live in a syndrome of highs and lows, ups and downs. These highs and lows are the result of fears and fantasies, and a mindset of rewards and blessings. If we find that we are entertaining these concepts, we should begin to live in the grace of God! It is very evident that we don't have a handle on the grace of God the way we should. There is much more grace than we can ever conceive of!
The things of the world will not give us peace. We can pray for financial security, health and companionship, and expect to have peace, yet be disappointed. In the world, everything comes out of the material, the fleshly sense, doesn't it? All the power to lord it over others comes from the earth, from the flesh. But God's peace comes to us inwardly. Fellowship and companionship with Him come inwardly.
The farther we get into God, the more authority and power we will have to do the will of God. From Jesus Christ we learn that the grace of God is sufficient to satisfy and fulfill us. Our problem is that most of the time our wants are not in line with what God wants for us. He knows our needs and gives us what we truly need! But He will not fulfill our greeds.
As we learn to understand that the grace of God is sufficient for our every need we will rest in God's sufficiency. God will take care of our need in the way He wants to take care of it - not necessarily the way we demand that it be taken care of. It is time we quit being beggars in the kingdom of God. Wailing and moaning reveals a spirit that is not confident in Christ's Spirit of peace and grace. Let us begin to rest in the fact that God's sufficiency is there all the time. It is there even before the problem comes upon us, for His sufficiency is always present. It is even there before we begin to pray! God bless you. Amen
GRACE AND OVERCOMING
Something I received in a letter the other day is worthy of thought. It said, "From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth, from the laziness that is content with half-truth, and from the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth, God of truth deliver us!" The Holy Spirit brings us truth - sometimes it is new to us and at other times He brings previously revealed truth back to our remembrance on a higher level.
Everything that benefits us has its source in the grace of God! It does not come as a result of our works. That is hard for us to believe because rewards and punishment are so ingrained in us! Even in our childhood we experienced the rewards and punishment for our behavior.
There is only one source of power in life. When we are in life, death has no power over us. So we have to get rid of the idea that we are subject to several powers. Those who think there are two sources of power eventually fear both of them. They fear the devil, they fear God's judgment, and they fear hell. All hope fades away if we think there is no hope in God nor in the devil. There has to be something better - and there is!
In John 16:33 Jesus said, "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." Notice that Jesus did not say, "I'm going to give you peace." Nor did He say that He would protect us from the world. He was telling the disciples that there were two places of living. One place is in Him, and the other is in the world. Living in Him gives us peace, for in Him we can overcome the world. If we live in the world we will have tribulation.
Jesus said, "I have overcome the world." How can we understand this statement in view of what is happening in the world today? We see unrest, violence, evil; we see nations warring against each other, and war within the nations. Evil is multiplying! The tribulation that we experience in the world is ever-present! He has not forced people to settle all their disputes that result in wars and atrocities. There are so many problems in the world that it is almost like a time bomb today. In spite of all this, we must believe that He did (even though we don't see the evidence), because He said He did! So we have to find out how He overcame the world, for we too want to overcome the world!
So how did Jesus overcome the world? Does overcoming the world mean getting rid of all the evils of the world? Does it have anything to do with getting rid of pornography, abortion, alcohol, drugs, etc.? No, overcoming does not mean getting rid of evil; it means to have victory over the evils of the world. It has nothing to do with fighting against all these evils. Our fight is against our carnal nature that wants to implement its own desires by natural methods. This may sound like a contradiction, but our fight consists of resisting our desire to fight, so the grace of God can work this overcoming. We want to live in the faith that brings us into the rest of God, so He can produce change in us.
In 1 John 5:4 it says, "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith." This is an interesting statement. Whoever is born of God has the faith that overcomes the world - there is no question about that! To overcome the world we have to have faith in God; having faith in the world is not going to do it. Since Jesus was born of God, He had the faith to overcome the world. He overcame the world by faith!
There is a wonderful promise in Rev. 3:21. It says, "He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne." If we are going to overcome the world, we must have the same understanding of God that Jesus had. We have been given the same Spirit Jesus had, and His Spirit of truth brings us the correct understanding of God! This overcoming is for now!
"And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him." (Rev. 12:9) I wonder how many people who are successful, rich, and in good health would believe that they are in deception. But if they are not in Christ, they are in deception. Christ is the truth, so when He rules, deception is thrown down.
"Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, `Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood (soul) of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death." (vv.10-11) The power of His Christ is not the power that is in the world; it is not the power that man has been able to accumulate with his scientific knowledge of bombs, etc.
We have no control over life. We can never begin it; we can never destroy it; we can never end it because life is God. We can only operate in a consciousness of life, a sense of being. That is what our soul is. The Greek word PSUCHE has been wrongly translated as LIFE; it should read SOUL. The soul is our awareness, our sense of being, and our consciousness. Those who understand the scriptures, know that most of the references regarding our soul, speak of the destruction of our old soul and the beginning of another. When we receive Christ, we receive a new awareness of being!
The very fact that Jesus Christ came to bring truth means that man did not have truth. Since he did not have truth, he was under a delusion or a deception. If truth had been present before Jesus came, why would He say, "I am the truth"? To Pontius Pilate He said, "For the truth I came into the world." He came to bear testimony to the truth.
Do you think that Christ is made alive in all of the Christian congregations today? Not at all. Many only take the natural concepts of God and bring people into bondage to them. They are denying the Spirit's rule in them, so they are anti-Christ.
"They overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb." They did not overcome because of the blood that was spilled on Calvary. We overcome because we drink His blood, and thereby receive His sense of being! Receiving His soul means receiving His sense of being. That is what redeems us!
The circulation of the blood in our body helps us to understand this. If our blood did not flow to our fingers, we would lose our sense of touch. What would happen if the blood did not flow to the brain or legs? You see, the blood is really the circulation of the sense of our being. It makes action possible.
It is the same with Christ. When His blood comes to us spiritually, we receive His sense of being, realization and understanding of God. Whoever is in Christ Jesus is a new creation, a new creature! If we are to overcome the world and the god of this world, we have to overcome in the same way that Christ did! We must live in His life, and not love our soul even when faced with death!
Our dwelling place must be in the heavens, and it is a place of rejoicing! "Rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them..." (v.12) When we are living in Christ's sense of being we are not loving our soul, and the devil has already been overcome.
There is nothing in the Ten Commandments or in any other laws that helps us to overcome the world. Jesus did not use the law to overcome the world, did He? He did not overcome the world during the thirty years in which He lived under the law. If He would have died before He went to the Jordan River, we would not have had any proof that He was the Son of God; He would have died like an ordinary man.
Jesus began to demonstrate the overcoming of the world after He was released from the law at the Jordan; from that day onward He was no longer under the law; He was over the law! All the laws against the evils of this world will never overcome them! The only way they can be overcome, is by embracing the peace of God that is in Jesus Christ, and by having the faith that is in Jesus Christ. A whole new realm of thinking and realization of life is ours in God! This is the message we receive in the Holy Spirit!
Everyone wants to overcome the world, but their ideas and methods vary. Many think that getting money, health, and security is the way to do it. They want power over people and power over nations. Jesus told us to come out of this worldly mess, and to begin operating in the kingdom of God. That is our call, and it has always been the Christian's call!
Rom. 6:16: "Do you know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?" Mankind is a slave to sin because it has given itself up to sin. It has yielded to the wrong idea of God.
The mentality of the world is materialism and self. This mentality is anti-God and anti-Spirit. People yield themselves to this type of thinking. After all, Satan is the proponent and promoter of natural materialistic thought, isn't he? If he can get you to think his way, you will have the tribulation that is in the world. All you have to do is to think like the world in order to be taken into the problems of the world.
When we think as Christ thinks we are taken out of the tribulation that is in the world. Yielding ourselves to obey Christ results in receiving His righteousness. How do we yield ourselves to Christ? It begins by yielding our thoughts and ideas to Him. How did unrighteousness have its beginning in Adam and Eve? Were they not offered some thoughts and suggestions, which were against what God had said? When they yielded themselves to that wrong thinking, they became slaves to that kind of thought.
Let's look at the consequences. Because we have yielded ourselves to the thoughts and ideas of the world, we are in bondage to them as slaves. We can't get out of this bondage by ourselves. Therefore we have to look for help to change our thinking. If we were not in slavery, we could remedy the situation ourselves. Since we are unable to remedy it, Christ has come to introduce us to a new kind of thinking which will free us. His blood or His soul brings us a new realm of thinking which will eventually overcome the natural mind of this world. Doesn't that sound good? Yes, and that is what He is doing!
In spite of the great salvation Christ has achieved for us, many still think of His death on par with an animal sacrifice with the added power of getting them into heaven. So often we want God to answer our self-centered prayers, for it is so convenient to have a God who is at our disposal to help us. To have our minds changed is such an inconvenience! Haven't we got things backward? What right have we to ask God for things, which do not have their source in Him? But haven't we been praying these prayers? They don't work, for the world isn't any better than it was before. Yet we keep believing our delusions.
How can we change? When we recognize that our ideas are inferior to God's, we will be willing to submit to His thoughts, for they are better and higher than ours. This enables us to leave our own ideas - the thoughts, which come from self. Everything has to originate from God's purpose and intention for man! When we think according to His will, we will function in His will, and things will begin to happen.
We have to remember that God is not dealing with people's sins. That is not the problem, for He has already dealt with sin. Man's carnal nature, His carnal mind that causes him to sin, is the problem. But God has dealt with that problem too, for in Christ He has created a new man!
Man can only be changed by giving up his own ideas, his own nature. We feel so irritated when people harm us and wrong us, and we often meditate on why they would do such a thing. Wouldn't it be better if we would get our mind off the "Why" and remember they are only acting according to their nature? As long as they live in that nature, they cannot do anything else. Why pick on the little things that people do? Why not just remember that they are operating from the nature in which they are living. That certainly makes for a more peaceful life. Changing their behavior will satisfy us, but it will not have any eternal value. Actually, it is wrong for us to expect them to live in a nature they do not have. Why then do we put these expectations on people? Do you think God expects an unregenerate person, living in the Adamic nature, to live according to a nature which he does not have? If He did, He would have more ulcers than we do.
In order to have the peace of God, we have to receive understanding about our responsibility toward other people. It is not up to us to change the nature of people, or to correct them by putting the law on them and by harping on their wrong doings. Our part is to testify of our understanding of God.
In Rom. 3:4 it says, "...let God be found true, though every man be found a liar." Can we let God be true? Do we let every man be a liar? Or do we have a problem with this? Unless we receive truth and grow in it, we will not know what error is; neither will we have patience, righteousness, and that good which is from the tree of life.
In Psalms 51:4 we read, "...So that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge." People's unbelief continually judges God. However this does not mean that God is wrong. Every man who declares God to be wrong will be proven a liar. God is going to be justified in what He says, and He will overcome when He is judged. Therefore, when our confession agrees with what God says, we will be justified in what we say, and overcome when we are judged.
When we are convinced that there is no other truth but the truth we have in Christ Jesus, we will testify to that truth. Judgment reveals the truth of that testimony; it will prove that we have overcome error. All unbelievers will be proved wrong.
Matt. 6:25-28 says, "For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin...Do not worry then, saying, `What will we eat?' or `What will we drink?' or `What will we wear for clothing?'...So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (vv.31, 34) In these verses we notice that it is in our thoughts where needs first present themselves. We think that we need this and that as we plan for tomorrow. As we contemplate, fear and/or desire drive us to do something about it.
There are natural things, which we need for life. If we do not have wood for the fire, we need to go out and get some. Jesus was not implying that we should not do that. He was talking about something else. He said that we should not be anxious about these things! We should be concerned with the thoughts, which are in God.
It says, "The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You." (Isa. 26:3) How can we get into trouble if our mind is always on Christ? If our mind is on Christ, how can our peace be disturbed? To keep our mind on Christ means to keep our mind in line with the mind of Christ, and to listen to His voice alone! It means to see Him as the answer to our every need!
Jesus said, "You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect." (Luke 12:40) People's thinking does not influence or hasten the time of His coming, nor does the world's deterioration determine the time of His coming. His coming will occur in an hour when we are not expecting it - when we are not thinking about it. We are to understand that all our natural thoughts about the coming of the Lord are wrong. If we try to induce Him to come by our figuring, we are acting as lord over His coming.
Jesus Himself said, "I don't know the hour." Why? The timing was up to His Father. He did not tell the Father what to do; He only did what the Father told Him. That is the way it should be with us too. The presence of Christ only comes according to the Father's will. Christ does not come according to our figuring. Just because many think He will come at a certain time to set up His kingdom, does not mean He will do so. He comes to us through His own thoughts. He has to give us the thoughts and desire to seek Him. Do you understand that? We cannot find truth by reading the Bible unless the Holy Spirit reveals truth to us; we cannot discover Christ by human activity. He has to reveal Himself!
As we come into subjection to God and meditate on Him, Christ will speak to us and we will hear Him. We cannot know Christ by our own thoughts. It is a subjection of our mind to the mind of Christ. In this process we do not initiate thought, but we let Him speak to us. That is how we receive the coming of Christ, the presence of Christ and the understanding of Christ! As we take time to get into this realm - the realm where we abandon our own thoughts and understanding of God - He will bring us into a deeper and higher level of understanding! God does not take every natural thing away from us; He places the natural into the light, so that the carnal part of it loses its appeal. That is what we need. The grace of God came by Jesus Christ; it does not come in any other way! We are not going to overcome the world until we can let go of our own works, thoughts and mental attitudes.
The god of this world, of whom Jesus Christ said, "he has nothing in Me," is a thought system. These thoughts were introduced to man in Genesis 3. They are the carnal or natural thinking of the Adamic man. We overcome that mind by the sense of being we have in Christ Jesus! That is why we need the Holy Spirit to be the Lord of our life! We need Him in order to overcome the world!
God bless you! Amen
GRACE AND TRUTH
Grace is a wonderful commodity! In order to avail ourselves of God's grace, we need to recognize the inadequacy of our own efforts and ability. As long as we feel secure in our own proficiency it will be meaningless to us. Humanity has been trying to prove its self-sufficiency, so it is unaware of its need for help! Nor does it want to recognize its need of the grace of God. For this reason it needs to experience a dilemma so great that it cannot see a way out without help. When it can no longer depend upon itself, its knowledge, skills and inventions, all hope in its own competence, capability and expertise will disappear.
Since God is full of grace, He wants humanity to avail itself of this grace. To accomplish this, He has to get humanity to recognize its destitution by establishing the fact that man is really helpless - otherwise he will never admit his need of grace. Eventually he must come to recognize that EVERYTHING has to stem from grace!
Do you suppose this is why we have evil? If evil were an identifiable, separate power whose source was not from God, we would have more than one God, wouldn't we? We know that God's nature is not evil. If it were, we would all be in trouble and never get out of it. Since God's nature is GOOD, He displays His goodness. Evil opposes His goodness. I think that the manifestation of evil comes because of God's goodness. God does not create evil out of Himself. In order for us to recognize His goodness, there must be an antitype. This antitype is evil and it manifests itself in opposition to His goodness.
Since evil is an antitype of God's goodness, evil must have a beginning; if it has a beginning, it will also have an ending; it is not immortal. I think it is important for us to see that. Only that which is in Christ has immortality. We know that evil and death are not resident in Christ, and are therefore temporal. This gives us hope, doesn't it?
Man was subjected to vanity, but not without hope. The subjection of the mind to vanity produced the supposition that there are other powers. This led to the idea that man could oppose God. However, at some time or other, man has to come to the point where he recognizes his inability. On his deathbed his confidence sort of melts away. After Adam was subjected to vanity, he did not understand the goodness of God; neither did he understand the source of evil and death. So God put a program for redeeming man from his ignorance into effect. Man did not have the law to guide him, and in his ignorance he did everything evil. Man's unbelief in the face of Noah's preaching proved that, for he would not even believe what Noah said. So God put into effect His overall plan of redemption by bringing in a flood, then the law, and finally Jesus Christ.
The law brings with it a desire to disobey it. "I was once alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive, and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me." (Rom. 7:9-11) Sin produces a delusion. We think our delusion is reality, don't we? We have to find a true way of looking at things, and that is what the Holy Spirit came to teach us. Living in the dominion of sin, evil and darkness, increases our delusions. In our delusion we try to figure things out, but the more we figure, the worse off we are. The more secure we feel in our natural thinking and reasoning, the farther we are from the security that is in God. This brings us into an even greater dilemma and delusion.
Sin was present all the time, but people were not aware of it; so God gave them the law to introduce them to the concept of sin. This showed them the power of sin. The law is the power of sin. Sin took its opportunity through the commandment, and deceived man, and through it killed him. "So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful." (Rom. 7:12-13) It effected our death through that which is good. We cannot unravel this unless we begin to see that God is God, that all things really come from Him, and that He has a good purpose in them.
"For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin." (v.14) "...having been disposed of under sin." (Concordant) I have been given over to sin, so that sin rules me and I have become a slave of sin. That is where redemption comes in; it has to do with buying me back from the condition of slavery that I am in. We know that we have been redeemed by the blood of Christ - and the blood of Christ is the soul, the understanding, awareness or consciousness. That is how our redemption comes; it comes to bring a release of our soul from its affinity for earthy things.
Since the law was spiritual and Israel was natural, they could not believe the law nor receive the things of the Spirit. They claimed to believe the law, but Jesus told them they didn't. They were so enmeshed in their own idea of the law and their ability to keep it, that they thought they were obeying it. Therefore they did not see their need of GRACE; they only saw their need of more ENDEAVOR to fulfill the law - if they tried harder, they would be better off.
The spiritual aspect of the law does not come to the natural carnal man. That is why it merely gave him a greater knowledge of sin; not a knowledge of God. Most people think sin is just lasciviousness, stealing, murder, etc. Sin itself springs from the wrong idea of God and the wrong idea of who we were. We did not know why death was coming. Death reigned from Adam to Moses, and nobody understood it. But the law came to identify sin, and natural man used the law to produce his own righteousness while he kept on sinning.
"For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the law, confessing that the law is good." (Rom. 7:15-16) The knowledge that comes from the natural mind is death, even though it may appear to emphasize what is good, natural and from God. The things that are good and can be used for good are not spiritual if our nature is not spiritual. This results in a security and dependence in our natural mind, and not in God. We cannot even keep the law, much less fulfill the things of Christ, because the natural mind is set on the flesh - and this is death. It is unable to comprehend spiritual realities.
Christianity is using Jesus Christ and the crucifixion as a motivation, exactly like the Jews used the law. Because the law said, "Thou shalt not", they were to be motivated to refrain from doing that. Now we are to be motivated to give ourselves to God because Jesus died for us. That is not the gospel! The death of Christ as an intellectual, historical happening, will only perpetuate the law in us - nothing spiritual! It will tell us we have a debt to pay and a law to obey. So we remain debtors. The good news is that grace does not produce debts! If we are given something, we feel indebted to the giver, don't we? Some people cannot accept anything without somehow repaying the gift. So we become swamped with writing out 200 Christmas cards. Isn't that the same principle? However, grace does not produce debts, for then it would no longer be grace! Therefore we do not owe God anything for His grace!
Redemption brings us out of our carnal reasoning; out of the notion of trying to please God with our works by trying to obey the law or trying to obey Christ. We were slaves to that type of relationship to God. Our freedom does not consist of doing or not doing things. We are freed from slavery to our old nature. That is the liberty we should be singing about!
Grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw (beheld) His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14) This Word that became flesh was full of grace and truth. So why do people say, "Just wait till Jesus comes; He is going to deal with your sin. Are you ready?" Why do they have this attitude about Christ? This is the crime and punishment attitude of the law! You must keep the Sabbath, you must not murder, you must not swear, nor lust after your neighbor's wife, otherwise you will get it. That is the law! The kingdom message is different! It says that we are going to be like Christ. We will walk in victory! We will walk triumphantly over this earth like an army that has fire going before it, and fire burning behind it, to purge the earth and defeat Gog and Magog. This is not an army, which destroys the wicked.
People are looking at the grace of God through the eyes of the law. Their testimony is, "I have received Christ; I have made a decision for Christ, and if you don't, you're going to go to hell." Is there any grace in that? They think receiving salvation is due to their own choice and good works. Conversion would then be due to our own effort; we would have something to do with it. It would then be according to the law instead of God's grace. Our conversion is all grace - nothing but grace! "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one may boast." (Eph. 2:8-9) Receiving Christ causes us to recognize we are sons of God. Zechariah prophesied that the hands of Zerubbabel would lay the foundation of the new temple and that he would put the last stone in place (the capstone - not the cornerstone) with shouts of grace. It was all grace that built the temple.
"He had the glory of an only-begotten from the Father." (Concordant) This Word, which became flesh was the only-begotten of the Father; He was the only Word from the Father and He was "full of grace and truth!" The only word of edification we can receive is manifested in Christ. Jesus said, "All that came before Me were thieves and robbers." All the words, instructions, and ideas that came before or outside of Him and in preference to Him, were nothing but thieves and robbers. They were promises - great promises, but they lacked fulfillment.
"John testified about Him, and cried out, saying, "This was He of whom I said, `He who comes after Me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.' For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ." (John 1:15-17) Here we have two important issues contrasted - the law through Moses, and grace and truth through Jesus Christ. The law brought the knowledge of sin, and Jesus Christ brought redemption and the truth of who God is. It is of vital importance that we understand that all our knowledge was wrong. Therefore we cannot build on it! Man's natural concepts of God are all sin! Man's ideas which are so wonderfully expressed in the many beautiful poems, the gorgeous word pictures of sunsets, streams, and mountains, are still produced by the natural carnal mind which does not know the goodness, mercy and grace of God. They do not give the glory to God. It is hard for us to believe that this is still sin.
Grace and truth came in Jesus Christ. We can only be freed from error by being in Christ - by having Christ's Spirit in us. Only having knowledge of His crucifixion and resurrection does not save us nor free us from legalism. The redemption He brought has to be appropriated by receiving the grace and truth, which came through Jesus Christ. "The only-begotten, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He unfolds Him." (Concordant) Grace and truth did not come through the law nor man's reasonings. The scriptures existed before Christ came, but they did not bring us grace and truth, because Christ, the Word of God, was hidden in the letter. Life came out of death. Without Christ the Bible is dead. If we are not in Christ, words will only motivate the flesh; but if we are in Him, we will see that the spiritual part of it comes in Him. Before the coming and manifestation of Christ, His resurrection and pouring out of the Spirit, we were in a delusion and did not know truth. The prophets spoke about the Christ, but they were not living in that dispensation. The darkness they were in concealed Him from being to them what He is to us now, even though Christ was ever present.
Spiritual realities cannot be comprehended by the natural mind! "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ." (Col. 2:8) Everything in philosophy that is not in accord with Christ and the Spirit He sent, is wrong or sinful that which causes a person to put more confidence in one's natural reasoning rather than in God's word to us, brings further seduction into delusion, error, confidence in self and in the old man. It brings a reliance upon the traditions of men. These are in accordance to the elementary principles of the world.
"For in Him all the fullness (the entire complement) of Deity dwells in bodily form." (v.9) It says IN CHRIST! Many erroneously have the mentality that it is BY Christ instead of IN Him. The things Christ DID came by Him, but IN HIM we have the inheritance, the union, and the affiliation with these things in reality. The fullness of the Godhead dwells in one form or one body in Christ. All that God IS, is represented in Christ; He is not divided. The whole body of truth or reality of God dwelled in Him. God was expressed in His fullness in Him - not in fragments or portions. Christ is our life!
God is not concerned in just having us do things for Him. A certain Christian quit his ministry to go into politics and run for the presidency. This seems to indicate that being president of the United States was more valuable to him than the preaching of the word of God. The morality that is in the law and the works that can be produced through politics, will supposedly help the United States more than preaching the kingdom of God. We need to see the kingdom of God, and not be despoiled through the seduction of the world!
Our completeness or fulfillment is IN CHRIST! "And in Him you have been made complete, and He is the Head over all rule and authority." (v.10) To the Galatians Paul said, "...with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you." They did not understand their completeness in Christ; they thought they needed the works of the law to bring them completeness. Paul was bringing understanding to them so that they might be released from their error and brought into truth. Our position in Christ and our practice here on earth should agree. Our actions flow out of who we are. What we practice is what we are; the practicing portion is ours and shows the position we have in Christ. That is the portion that we have in our position. What I am saying is this: if we are COMPLETE in Him, then our fulfillment is in Christ. And that is God's intention for man. Every man who is not in Christ, is not partaking of the fulfillment that God has for man, because the fulfillment is in Christ.
It says that in Christ we HAVE BEEN MADE complete. Notice the past perfect tense; therefore it is a PRESENT fact! Our faith should spring from our completion in Christ, rather than in an endeavor to get there. If we keep on endeavoring to get INTO Christ, or trying to fulfill ourselves in Christ, or trying to do what Jesus told us to do, we are not allowing ourselves to be incorporated into His life! We are not praying to Him as we would beseech a human being; we are just allowing His Spirit of knowledge and word to work in us, and/or to change a situation. For example, Alda and I were talking about praying for the sick. If someone is sick, we want him to be healed. So we pray for the healing. Instead, why not pray for the Christ (the truth) to displace the error, and let truth do the work. We get so zeroed in on the healing, that we fight it by looking at what WE ARE DOING - how we are praying and agonizing, etc. - instead of allowing the truth to do away with the error. We don't want to believe that truth is stronger than error. Our problem then is in getting our works out of the way so the grace and truth that are in Jesus Christ can do their work. If grace and truth are separated, we come into error. We struggle with trusting God completely, and battle minors instead of majors. We deal with symptoms instead of with problems. We are complete in Christ!
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich." (2 Cor. 8:9) It was for us that Christ became poor in this world. As He is, so are we in this world. If He was poor in the world, we are poor in the world. Many will look at this from a human point of view. Christ has become the most maligned, the most misrepresented, and the most degraded of all men. Some participate in this falsely and others ignorantly. Isaiah said that Christ's image was so marred that He could not be recognized. Although this may be true in the natural, Isaiah was not referring to that. It was His countenance as the Son of God that was so marred by human thinking, that they did not even know who He was. Nor do they today! Neither do they know who we are.
"That you through His poverty might become rich." Natural thinking deduces that God is in trouble, so He needs our help. He needs money, so we take a collection and do the begging for God. I think it is worse to beg FOR God than to beg God. People often beg FOR God, don't they? They beg for money in the name of Jesus, and they say they can't do His work unless they get more money, etc. It is through His poverty that we become rich. He gave up His glory and His position, became lower than the angels for a little while so that we could become partakers of His riches and glory. So Jesus Christ is really a Giver - He gives us His nature! And we become rich in what He gives! Remember when He gave talents, some buried the talent in the earth, and never got anything in return. That which He gives is to bear fruit in us!
"I give my opinion in this matter, for this is to your advantage, who were the first to begin a year ago not only to do this, but also to desire to do it." (v.10) Paul told them that it was the grace of God, which produced in them an eagerness to give. They were not giving to prove they had faith or to fulfill a law; they gave because they WANTED TO participate in the work of the saints. There is a difference between works flowing out of our faith, and our faith being recognized by these works, and doing works to prove our faith. James taught something that was diametrically opposed to Paul's teaching. He taught that his works proved his faith. Why? James was a key figure in the church in Jerusalem where keeping the law of Moses was still very important. We know this because prior to the coming of certain men from James, Peter ate with the Gentiles. Peter was embarrassed about that, for he feared their disapproval. So he withdrew from the Gentiles and joined those who came from James. The legalism James taught brought fear and hypocrisy, and a reliance upon self. Paul would not join them in that. Is it sacrilegious to see the faults of leaders as portrayed by the Bible? Obviously there were some good things in James, but there were also tinges of legalism. The various accounts in Acts and Galatians prove this.
Thinking that our own efforts brought us into Christ and into grace, brings us right back into the same kind of dilemma that we had when we endeavored to keep the law. That is why we have to get into a REST about this, let the Spirit of Christ work in us and give us His attitude, for He came to do the Father's will. Then the willingness of Christ will begin to operate in us; we will have the willingness to have GOD do His work within us. The grace that brings debts is no longer grace! We need to see grace for what it is and begin to GROW in it. Our actions are not to be motivated by legalism or the repayment of a debt. Once we have the acceptable will and the eagerness and desire created in us to do it, then our actions will be commendable.
We should not be looking at the completion or perfection of who we are in ourselves. It may sound right to say who we THINK we are, but we do not KNOW who we are. We need to humble ourselves to say who God says we are. In order for a continual WILLINGNESS to do His will to be worked in us, we need to be in a state of humility. "If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from myself." (John 7:17) If we don't have the will to do His will, then we will not know. People are content with their own thinking of what godliness is - that is the antichrist sitting in the temple. They think they can determine whether it is of God or not, without being willing to do His will.
A lot of Christians sit back and judge others without having any willingness in their hearts to do His will. Our denominational affiliation does not make any difference if there is not this willingness; nor can we know whether the teaching is of God without it. Unless people have a willingness to do the will of God, they cannot judge correctly, for they are judging with their carnal mind. Just as Jesus, Paul and Peter were misjudged, we also will be misjudged.
Grace has come to us in Jesus Christ; He is full of grace and truth. As we avail ourselves of His grace, we do not incur a debt. He has come with His riches to give, that His poverty might make us rich in the way He was rich. He did not have a place to lay His head, so we are not praying for Cadillacs or nice homes. Jesus Christ, the Word, came to destroy all other words that made promises, but did not have the power to fulfill them; they were nothing but thieves and robbers. We are praying for the same relationship with the Father that Christ had. Praise God! AMEN