Thursday, February 28, 2013

On Christian Perfection - by Vicki Hong

I read this reply to a post about a book by John Crowder called Mystical Union.  It seemed the post author misunderstood some things in the book, like Christian perfection, sanctification, and Christians not having a sinful nature.  This reply was given to address those confusions and I thought the reply was so amazing!   Vicki gives us some wonderful insights into the finished work of Christ and how we are perfect now as new creations in Christ!

When we speak of perfection we talk about it the way that is defined as “excellence; without any flaws; no defects; no shortcomings; exact; correct, etc.” Aka, never missing the mark and never sinning because sinning is breaking some code of conduct. Aka, moral perfection. But according the Thayer’s Lexicon, the word perfect means “to be complete, lacking nothing from purpose, finished.”

This makes sense because the goal of a Christian life isn’t moral perfection. It isn’t trying to become more like Christ. Why is it so hard? Because it was never meant to be our job. We thought it was. And mankind tried. But we only failed and always will fail. What you think as moral or as “perfect” even misses the standard. And that’s why He came. We couldn’t do it right to save our lives. Literally. We were ruled by sin. Sin isn’t just the dirty act you do. Sin was a governing entity, a master that ruled from the inside of us (you can look it up.) But that’s why Christ came. He came not only to forgive you, but to set us free from sin. He did that by making us NEW in Him by allowing us to die with Him and to rise again with Him inside of us. Now that’s good news. His life became my life. And my life is Him living through me. If I died with Him, then every part of me that was ruled by sin is now gone, and now I am free to live by His Spirit because now I am a completely new creation. And all of this is not something I did unto myself, but what Christ did for me. SO now, by faith, by His grace, by my dependence on what HE did, I am now free. Now that He lives in me, I am righteous, I am perfect, I am good, I am holy, I am free. So now the real definition is true. I am lacking nothing in Him because my faith has made it so. He made me complete when I couldn’t do it on my own. And now, as the Bible would support, we are transformed into His image by the work of His Spirit, not by our own efforts.

Recap: Christian perfection is dependence and faith in Jesus, the one with whom we were made one on the Cross. He ran the race we couldn’t run and won it for us when we weren’t even looking. Why? Because we could never achieve it on our own. Never could. Never have. Never will. 

Sanctification is a person. 1 Cor 1:30 says that He became to us righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. That’s why we can only boast in Him. Because it was all by grace. It was a gift. God Himself was the gift given to us. It was never about what we could do, what we did, or what we didn’t do. And so it remains that way. And now He lives inside us.

So what is our role? Christ did it all and now do we sit back and do nothing? We can do whatever the heck we want? No. Paul addresses this. People are afraid that grace allows people to sin. But it is quite the opposite. Grace is what gave us freedom and keeps us from sinning. Actually, it has made me not want to sin any longer! Why would I want to? 

Now just because I believe in this and have faith in Him it doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes. It doesn’t mean I don’t need to grow either. But those mistakes aren’t what disqualifies me anymore because nothing can separate me from His love. My feelings of acceptance and closeness and of His presence aren’t dependent on me anymore, but on Him. Because it was never about me in the first place. Knowing that it isn’t about my performance, sets me free.

This gives you freedom. Freedom to know that you’ve been made new. Made good. Freedom to trust your heart and your imaginations and your creativity. Freedom to believe, to dream, to be pure, to be righteous. Sure, I will stay away from the things that I know are “sins” as much as I can, not because I don’t want to sin, but because I don’t need to anymore. I’ve found something that satisfies, something that lasts, something more real, something I can trust with my whole life. Because if you think about it, sin isn’t a rule you break and it’s not just disobedience from a list of “don’t's”. Sin is ultimately all a form of DISTRUST. Faith is what pleases Him. Faith is what qualifies us. Faith is what makes us righteous. Not our moral excellence.
Believing in a certain doctrine, or not believing in one, isn’t going to make all your problems go away or explain your imperfect actions. But I think if you really know what Jesus did for you on the cross and accept His gift, you’ll see that it is easier than you ever dreamed to truly be free. 

I think all that Crowder was saying is that if you believe yourself to be a sinner, never to be truly free, you’ll behave that way, but if you believe that there is greater reality – that Christ truly made you new, that He didn’t just forgive you and then gave you second chance with the old self, but gave you His very life to life, then you’d live by this reality. That’s all that faith really is. Seeing the real reality. 

It might seem to easy. It might seem dumb, even. But I believe there is a greater reality. A better one. A true one. The Christian life has to be more than fighting and wrestling with sin, trying to control our thoughts and actions, analyzing ourselves so we can fix ourselves, feeling good ‘cuz we read our Bibles and prayed and then feeling crappy because we didn’t, doing things because we know it’s right, and trying to be “good” so that God will be pleased, and so we can feel close to Him. It’s gotto be more than calling down fire from heaven and crying out for revival, too. What if really the Christian life is about enjoying our lives and what God has done for us? Because He has already made Himself one with us? What if everything we ever needed to do and be fulfilled was done through Christ, and now all we have to do ENJOY it and live in His love, expressing His goodness on this planet? What if God truly did set you free and made you holy? What if God is really that good? What if Him saving us meant a living a life so much better than what we thought? Wouldn’t being a Christian be more FUN?! What if Christians were actually happy about being Christians because it’s the best thing in the world?!

Wahoooo! I dunno, but I’m having fun!

                                                                                                                    Vicki Hong

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Wonder of the New Creation - the Old is Really GONE!

To me, the Gospel of Grace is that He has taken away our sin and given us innocence like in the Garden of Eden, so we can enjoy partaking of the Tree of Life...He has removed our sin, blown it away with His holy dynamite (that's how I see God's wrath - as holy dynamite that blows up our sin so it can't harm, control, ruin, poison or kill us anymore!) and reconciled us to God (restored us to harmony and friendship), so we are face to face with Him - now there is NOTHING between us and God, nothing holding us back from Him, nothing to keep us apart, ever!

Believing this wonderful fact has opened the door for God to manifest the work of Christ in my life, making me come alive to it!! I partake of the tree of Life, Jesus, and the fruit is sweet indeed, through His Spirit coming in me I am born again into a whole new existence as a whole new person - I am a new creation, the old me is gone and the new me has come.

And amazingly, any hangups, struggles, sinful thoughts, fears and oppressions coming at me are seen for what they are - lies of the old existence..they don't represent me anymore! They are part of the old self, and that self died with Christ on the cross..I am now a new self, who was raised with Christ in the resurrection!

Hey, what a revelation that I don't have any hangups, problems, issues, or sin struggles. The person who had those problems is dead! When God made the new creation, He didn't make a flawed and messed up person with sin issues, no, He made a righteous, beautiful, pure and lovely new creation, created in righteousness and true holiness after the image of Him who created it (Eph. 4:24-5).

I guess I don't have any problems then! I guess I'm not a messed up person! I guess I am pretty wonderful, pretty amazing, because I'm a new creation in Christ, and He is pretty wonderful and amazing in me!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

You've Been Surrounded!

My dear friend Julie and I were talking one day about some of the verses in the Bible that talk of how God surrounds us with His love and care.  This was so uplifting to think about!  So I decided to do a little study of all the ways God surrounds us.  Of course, the beautiful glory of the New Covenant is that He not only surrounds us but is also IN us, and greater is He that is IN us, than He that is in the world!  Christ is IN us, that is so wonderful!  So I think we have it so good, He's covered us coming and going - surrounded by God's presence and filled from the inside to overflowing with God's presence!  It doesn't get any better than this on earth, and heaven will be the complete physical manifestation of His glory on, in, and around us!  Heaven will be where the whole atmosphere is the presence of God, and He fills every cell in even our physical bodies!  But even now, we have eternity here with us, around us, and in us through the Spirit of Christ in and upon and filling and flowing forth from us!!

So here are some of the ways I found that God just surrounds and is in us:

God surrounds us like the mountains surround Jerusalem..

He surrounds us, so the enemy cannot swallow us up..

His love will envelop and enfold us, His unfailing and steadfast love ever surrounds us, keeping sorrows away..

His peace is a guard on my heart, protecting me from worry and fear..

He wraps me in a robe of His righteousness, clothing me with eternal beauty..

He has covered me with His feathers like a mother bird warming, shielding and protecting her young..nothing will harm me..

Not only am I safe UNDER His wings, but He also has carried me on His wings to His bosom, and He bears me on His wings and makes me fly free, always with His wings under me to catch me and keep me from falling..

He lays His hand upon me to bless and protect me, and also He puts His arms underneath me to bear both me and my burden and to keep me from falling..underneath me are the everlasting arms!

He hedges me in safely from behind and He is always with me, protecting me as my rear guard and going before me to clear the way into a safe and beautiful future..

He surrounds me with songs of deliverance..sings over me and puts a song in me..

He encamps around me and rescues me from al my troubles, sorrows, afflictions and fears..

He is a wall of fire around me to protect me and is also the glory in my midst..

He is a wall on both sides of me, keeping back the raging floods of life so they can't consume me or pull me under, thus allowing me to walk forward in victory and in my destiny with Him..

He spreads His protection over me and covers me with favor, goodwill and pleasure as with a shield..

His beauty is upon me and He has made me beautiful from within..

On troublesome days, He hides me in the shelter of His presence and I rest there till the disaster passes by..

He fills me with His Spirit who pours out His love in my heart, and He also makes His Spirit of glory to rest upon me and crown me with love and compassion..

He Himself is a shield to me, and He shields me with His faithfulness..

His glory covers me, His tabernacle, and Christ is also in me as the hope of glory, for He glorifies me by shining forth the glory-light of Christ from within me..

Even in my weeping and dryness, He covers me with His Spirit showers of blessing and makes His spring of living water, the Spirit, gush forth from within me full of life and joy..

He covers my head and protects me in the day of battle, and He is also in me  - the power that raised Jesus from the dead, and greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world..

He's put me in grace, under grace, filled me with the Spirit of grace, and made me full with His fullness which is full of grace and truth! 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

We're In Right Relationship With the Father, Just Like Jesus Is!

Because we have been made righteous with the very righteousness of Christ, all that is true about His righteous state and standing with the Father is true for us, too, for we have His righteous state and standing with the Father:

Jesus never has any hindrance in His relationship with His Father..
and so we never have any hindrance in our relationship with God!

There is never any barrier between Him and His Father..
and so there is never any barrier between us and the Father!

The Father never has any problem with Jesus..
and so the Father never has any problem with us!

The Father is always well-pleased of His Son..
and so the Father is always well-pleased with us!

Jesus is always approved and acceptable before the Father..
and so we are always approved and acceptable before God!

Jesus exists in a state of being totally sinless in nature..
and so we exist in a state of being totally sinless in nature!

There is never any sin in Jesus nature, never any wrong attitude..
and so there is never any sin or wrong attitude in our nature!

Jesus is totally right and righteous before the Father..
and so we are totally right and righteous before the Father!

Jesus is always in the Father's favor and good opinion..
and so we are always in the Father's favor and good opinion!

Jesus always has all His prayers heard and answered..
and so we always have all our prayers heard and answered!

Jesus is qualified for the blessing and inheritance from the Father..
and so we are qualified for the blessing and inheritance!

Jesus and His Father have a perfectly right relationship..
and so we and the Father have a perfectly right relationship!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Favorite New Grace Books I Am Reading

I just wanted to share some new grace books that I have really been enjoying..there are so many new books on God's gospel of grace coming out in recent years, which is so awesome!  I pray that the good news of grace would spread like wildfire around the world and awaken many, many people to the love of God and the good news of the gift of righteousness  and a union relationship with God apart from our works!!

This first one, Pure Grace, is really special to me, because I first started reading it when I was coming out of a really dry period in my life.  I had somehow fallen into a lot of self-condemnation and didn't even realize how much I was living under law, feeling my performance was terrible and feeling down on myself.  As I read Pastor Clark Whitten's explanations of the gospel of grace, it was like a fresh wind started to blow, clearing away the cobwebs of confusion and guilt!   It was like waking up after a bad dream, you know, and remembering and coming back into the real world again.  I still remember so vividly how it hit me all over again as I read this book that "I am righteous"!!  We are righteous in Christ, which Pastor Whitten describes as a state of being, not something we attain by works.  This wonderful book is good for anyone interested in the 'grace' definitions of words like repentance and confession.  He has a beautiful chapter on "God's House" and how we are the new dwelling place of the Spirit!  And another favorite chapter is the one on how we are Saved Completely, which gives lots of encouragement for any who have ever doubted their salvation or worried they could lose it - Clark helps us see that our salvation is safe because it's in God's hands, not our own, and held in place by a perfect new covenant based on Christ's performance, not ours!

 Revelation to Transformation is by Paul White, a wonderful grace preacher.  I have enjoyed reading his daily devotions over the years, and I thought I would enjoy a book by him also - and I did!  This book is great.  I love the questions and answers Pastor White scatters through the book as he is writing about different topics, so he can address questions that might be going through your mind as you read!  For example, in a chapter discussing how the Bible says "All things are lawful", he lists a question that might be raised: "Even though all things are lawful for us, shouldn't we set some boundaries in our Christian walk?" and then he addresses the question.  He has a great knowledge of scripture!  I also love the section on the Holy Spirit's ministry to believers.  He addresses the idea of transformation, and says it basically happens effortlessly as we gaze on the loveliness of Jesus and His finished work for us - Amen!

Perfect Love Too Good To Be True?

 Perfect Love:  Too Good To Be True?, by Dan Robins, is such an awesome book on the love and grace of God!  I am in the midst of reading this right now.  Last night as I stuggled with just feeling 'off' spiritually, I picked this book up and began reading at different spots.  I was really encouraged and refreshed by God, and went to sleep happily knowing all was well between me and God because of His wonderful grace and the finished work of Jesus that made me righteous and close to God forever!!  One quote I read really stands out in my mind:  "You can never fail in God's eyes."  With God, we can't fail, because we are the righteousness of God in Christ!  All our sins have been taken away at the cross, and we are just loved, accepted, righteous, holy, and embraced by God now and forever, all because of what Christ has done, which we simply see as true with the eyes of faith.  I love how this book talks about faith as seeing what is already true and has already happened, as in seeing that Jesus already reconciled us to God.  The author makes a great point:    Why try so hard to get something you already have?  Why labor so hard to get God's acceptance and closeness when you already have all that through Christ?  Yes, why indeed!  This book is very joyful, speaking of God's great love and how we already have that love, can't ever lose that love, and can just sit back and enjoy that love!

Glimpses into

Glimpses Into a Love Beyond Words, by Danny Randall, is another great book on the wonderful love of God!  I haven't gotten very far into it yet, but what I have read I have really loved!  The author is very warm and joyful, and I know God is going to refresh me with reminders of His love and grace through this book!  The author talks about the great affection of God for us as our Father, and how He brings us into the family circle as equals, letting us share in the fellowship between the Father and Son.  He also talks about how God is close to the broken-hearted and how our value to God is equal to that of Jesus Himself!  I really want to have a deeper revelation of God's love, and this book will be great for just basking in that love that is so great we could never get to the end of it!

So I hope you enjoyed this little post sharing some of my new favorite grace books! 

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Little Boy Tells Us Our Identity in Christ

I love this video of a child telling of our identity in Christ! We, His dear children, can stand up and declare as confidently as little Isaiah Jackson, that we are His and therefore victorious, whole, righteous, loved, free, etc. and etc. and etc.!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

You and I are SAFE under His wings forever!  Shielded, protected, kept safe, warmed, nurtured, embraced, cared for, tenderly hugged, held close, LOVED!

Under His Wings

Psalm 91:1-4
He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. 3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. 4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

Under His wings I am safely abiding,
Though the night deepens and tempests are wild,
Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me,
He has redeemed me, and I am His child.

Under His wings, under His wings,
Who from His love can sever?
Under His wings my soul shall abide,
Safely abide forever.

Under His wings, what a refuge in sorrow!
How the heart yearningly turns to His rest!
Often when earth has no balm for my healing,
There I find comfort, and there I am blessed.

Under His wings, oh, what precious enjoyment!
There will I hide till life’s trials are o’er;
Sheltered, protected, no evil can harm me,
Resting in Jesus, I’m safe evermore.

William Orcutt Cushing

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Healing of Our Shame

I have been raised thinking in such a legal/performance way that when I fail, I am vulnerable to feeling I deserve punishment or seem to want to peanlize myself with shame or condemnation. Of course this is a lie from the enemy, because really, I already got punished for that sin and can't be punished twice! Christ didn't just die FOR me, He died AS me, and that means, as I read somewhere once, that "the old self you loathe is on the cross'!

The person who did the wrong got punished on the cross! There is no need to beat myself up about my sin, because the sinner has already been beaten and executed for that sin! The old man that I hated, that I felt so ashamed of for being so wrong and ugly and misshapen and ruined and hideous - is dead and buried and GONE! That person got what he/she deserved - death - when Christ died as me on the cross! That person is gone forever and doesn't exist anymore! That person is not coming back!

Justice has been served, so I can rest my case against myself! I am not that person anymore, and just as much as I hated that old self, I am now freed by Christ to love the new, true me that came out of the grave with Him, the new me He brought up with Him in the resurrection! Now I can love myself, because I am new, I am lovely, I am good, I am holy, I am pure, I am innocent, I am righteous, I am just like Jesus, being made of His holy and divine DNA and nature!

Thre isn't any shame or condemnation left...all of it was taken away at the cross when both my sins AND my old sinful self were wiped off the books! The new me that came forth is beautiful and lovable, and made just like Jesus! 

I'm glad to be rid of that old sinful self, yet somehow grace helps me to even love the old self I used to be!

The most amazing thing is that though I hated my old self and wanted to punish it and get rid of it, Jesus showed how amazing His love really it because it was that sinner that He loved, that sinner that He died for, that sinner that He came to rescue, that sinner that He saw as a wayward child lost from the Father's house!

And His death was a way to bring that child home and back into the Father's embrace, by freeing that child from all that bound him/her in shame and ruin, and giving that child a new and clean heart that would never turn away from the Father and never ever have sin come between them and the Father ever again!

He loved us at our worst and saw the Father's image there, distorted by sin but still there! He loved the sinner and rescued us from all that sin did to us! He wasn't ever vindictive or harsh. He wasn't ever wanting to punish or harm us. He only wanted to kill off the sins and the sin nature that had caused all the problems, being at its source just full of the enemy and his lies. God saw us at our worst and called us lovely and worth saving, precious and beloved, of high value and wanted!!! He saved us when we were at our worst, and He made us into His best through Jesus...

And so He made a way for us to even give grace to ourselves when we see any old sinful habit trying to resurface...we can give ourselves grace if we have a bad day, forget what grace means, or even get caught up in the lie of performance to earn acceptance!  We can give ourselves grace on our worst days, not only because those are just vestiges of the old man who got what he deserved and is gone, not who we really are now..but also because Jesus loved us when we were sinners, and we can even somehow love ourselves when we fail.  We don't have to be perfect to be graced!  We are loved with our failures, not in spite of them!  They are already taken care of and aren't who we are anyway.  And we can know that God loved us as sinners, so of course He'll love us as saints who sometimes don't act like their true identity!

So Jesus heals our shame by not only dealing with the old sinful self and his sins, but also by loving us while we were sinners, proving that He'll love us no matter what! 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

One Thing Remains - Kristian Stanfill (Passion)

This is one of my favorite worship songs, for it states a deep truth our hearts long to hear:  His love won't ever leave us!  It won't ever run out, no matter what happens!  We never have to be afraid because His love will always be there, He will always love us, always hold us, always care for us, always keep us, always accept us, always be with us...thank You, Dear Father, for the grace You showed us through Your Son in paying our debt so we could be with You in this love relationship with You for all eternity!  There is nothing that can separate my heart from Your great love!

One Thing Remains  (Passion, Kristian Stanfill)

Higher than the mountains
That I face
Stronger than the power
Of the grave
Constant in the trial and the change
One thing remains
One thing remains

Your love never fails
It never gives up
It never runs out on me
Your love

Because on and on and

On and on it goes 

It overwhelms

And satisfies my soul

And I never, ever, 

Have to be afraid 

One thing remains 

One thing remains

Your love never fails
It never gives up
It never runs out on me
Your love

In death, in life

I'm confident and covered 

By the power of Your great love 

My debt is paid

There's nothing that can separate 

My heart from Your great love

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Real-Life Illustration of Grace

I read this on a website called "Exploring Christianity" as I was studying the meaning of the word 'grace' in scripture.  It made me cry to read it and think of the gracious love and acceptance God has for me, for us, for everyone!  So I wanted to share it here:

[To illustrate the meaning of grace, a] story is told by Rob Parsons in ‘Low on Grace’, an article in Christianity. Some years ago he was invited by Dr R. T. Kendal, then pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, to hear a guest preacher at the morning service and have lunch with him afterwards. On inquiring who the mystery preacher was, he was told, “It’s Jimmy Bakker—the disgraced American television evangelist who was jailed for fraud.” Parsons continues:

The man I heard preach that day had been broken by his experiences. He has lost his reputation, his ministry, his wife and his living. And he expressed deep sorrow and repentance, not only for what he had been charged with in court, but for some of the ways he had gone about raising money in the first place. He told a little of what life had been like for him in prison. One of his jobs was to clean the toilets, a task for which he wore a special set of old clothes. One day a guard came to his cell and announced that he had a visitor. Bakker was dirty, unshaven and had just got back from his cleaning job, still wearing his latrine duty clothes. He asked the guard if he could have a moment to make himself presentable, but his request was denied.

As he made his way down the corridor towards the governor’s office, Bakker wondered who was there to see him. At that time of his life most Christians wouldn’t have crossed the street for him, let alone come to visit him in prison. When he entered the room his visitor strode towards him and Bakker found himself engulfed in the warm embrace of Billy Graham. And it was the Graham family who, when he was released, asked him to join them for church. He remembers that they kept a seat for him, next to them, at the front.

That is grace!

He comes to us as we are, dirty and ashamed and ruined, and He loves us..He embraces us...and He gives us value and worth...He considers us important...He considers us clean and right...and He gives us a place of honor beside Him, the Ruler of the Universe!  Grace loves us when noone else will...grace gives us dignity..grace gives us hope...grace gives us a place of belonging...grace sets us free from our past, free from ourselves...grace forgets our messes...grace nurtures something wonderful inside us...grace gives us back what sin had stolen from us...grace makes everything sweet and fresh and new...grace makes life worth living again...grace makes us a carefree and innocent child again...grace frees us to be real, loved, and valuable...grace makes us a whole person..grace loves us back to life!

Friday, February 1, 2013

I Receive Your Love, I Know I Am Accepted - Hillsong London

Here's a great song from Hillsong London that makes me rejoice in His wonderful grace!

I Receive (Hillsong London)

Accepted, highly favored of the Lord
Forgiven, by Your love I am transformed
It's not what I do but what You've done for me
And by Your grace, oh God, I stand with my head held high

I receive Your love
I receive Your love for me
I receive Your love
I know I am accepted

Established, ever blameless in Your sight
Forever I am chosen to be loved
It's not by my works but by Your work in me
And by Your grace, oh God, I stand with my head held high

I receive Your love
I receive Your love for me
I receive Your love
I know I am accepted

Behold, all things have been made new
My past has gone, my shame removed
You gave Your Son, Your love for me
Now at the cross I've been made free

I receive Your love
I receive Your love for me
I receive Your love
I know I am accepted
May the amazing grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, and the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. 2 Co. 13:14