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The “grace of God” is foundational to the Christian faith. So why is there so much confusion regarding its meaning? Here’s an exercise to prove my point. Ask ten of your friends, separately, what grace means to them. How many different answers did you get? How many come close to the Biblical definition?

If your experience is like mine, many of the answers you receive will be limited to some work of God. Most Christians in America equate God’s grace with Jesus’ death for their salvation. This is what they have been taught or allowed to believe.

From the Outline of Biblical Usage (https://www.blueletterbible.org), we find that the charis of God is “the merciful kindness [goodwill and favor] by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.”

Did you get all that?

Grace is not an act of God, nor is it an event. Talking about grace in this way diminishes its meaning – and our understanding of God. Grace is a facet of God’s nature. God is gracious. Those that enter His presence are blessed by His gracious character.

I have heard someone say that grace is the disposition of God toward mankind. This sounds right to me. They go on to say that the grace of God produces things that are beneficial to man: justification, salvation, gifts, fruit, etc. It is important to remember that these benefits are not grace, but its products.

Furthermore, most have been taught or left to believe that grace and its benefits are free. This is wrong on two accounts. First, grace, as a nature of God, cannot be labeled as free (or costly). The Bible never speaks of grace in this way.

Some will acquiesce to this point, and move to argue that the benefits of grace are free. There are several passages they might reference. Let’s start with a couple from Romans. Read the rest of this entry »

The church in America desperately needs a reformation. Where do reformations begin? Romans 12:2 encourages us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Perhaps, in this Age of Reason, we need a reformation in the way we think.

We have gotten lazy with our thinking. We trust our thinking way too much. Those of us that teach trust the thinking of others more than we should.

I grew up in church hearing about “Jesus’ substitutionary death”.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

For the longest time, I assumed this meant that He died so I wouldn’t have to. Fortunately, God encouraged me to ask someone to disciple me. He introduced me to Romans 6:8:

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him…

And Luke 9:23.

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”

And Mark 8:35:

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.

Obviously, there is something more to His death than I – and many like me – were taught. Many have no clue that to live abundantly in Christ requires our own death. Tragically, there is no one discipling them. Read the rest of this entry »

Christ on the Throne 2An important reminder: The elementary principles are for the followers of Jesus Christ. They are not for the edification or conviction of non-believers. This is particularly important to keep in mind as we continue to explore the principle of eternal judgment.

In Part 1, we learned two foundational truths about eternal judgment: First, all will be judged, one way or another. Second, while there are two judgment events associated with eternal judgment, eternal judgment is, well, eternal. It has no beginning, nor end.

The Peril of Not Progressing

This is the heading given to Hebrews 6, in the New King James Version. Several other translations title this section “The Peril of Falling Away”. Regardless of your position on Eternal Security (I am intentionally avoiding that debate*), it is clear, from the verses following the elementary principles, that something perilous is at stake.

Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection… And this we will do if God permits. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. Hebrew 6:1-6

Like the elementary principles, this warning is for the followers of Jesus Christ. “And this we will do if God permits.” Permission implies judgment. Clearly there is judgment here; and it is not judgment that waits until a future event. Make no mistake about it:

God is judging our response to the elementary principles.

At this point, it might help to remember that there are two types of judgment. There is judgment that includes condemnation; and there is judgment that something doesn’t belong or is missing (e.g., sin and faith, respectively). Here – particular to our progressing – we are dealing with the latter. Read the rest of this entry »

Christ on the Throne 2The elementary principles are for the followers of Jesus Christ. They are not for the edification or conviction of non-believers. This is particularly important to keep in mind as we explore the principle of eternal judgment.

Sadly, many have raised their hand, walked the aisle and said a prayer; for the express purpose of avoiding eternal judgment. This is one of the most egregious deceptions in the church today; for even the most cursory study reveals that everyone will be judged – one way or another.

Furthermore, most assume that eternal judgment happens at a moment in time – sometime in the future. As it so often does, our event oriented view of Scripture minimizes the weight and importance of foundational truth – even in the most obvious cases. Read the rest of this entry »

The elementary principles are for more than our understanding. By grace, we come to believe the word of God in regards to each one; and particularly here, that faith toward God is a foundational principle of our life in Christ Jesus.

Furthermore, our believing is suspect if there is not accompanying work. Faith without works is dead. The work of faith is most often thought of as the outward manifestation of our faith (e.g., feeding the hungry, clothing the naked). However, there is another working that accompanies faith; and it is the work that must come first.

In this concluding part, we will explore the two-fold work of faith toward God. For those of you that have not searched out the deeper meaning of faith, Part 1 is a good place to start. To understand the importance of “toward God”, read Part 2.

Faith’s Work in the Believer

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

As we begin, it is important to recognize that faith is a gift of God. We will not find faith in ourselves; nor are we able to create faith, in ourselves or others. This is common knowledge among the followers of Jesus Christ.

However, we must ask ourselves: How many evangelistic crusades, revivals, and worship services are now focused on “working up faith” in the seeker? This is a dangerous and soulish deception. Faith comes from one source. Read the rest of this entry »

Faith toward God is an elementary principle. It is a basic element of the Christian foundation. It is simple – milk for babes. Yet, as we discovered in Part 1, even the meaning of faith is more than most of us consider when we hear and use the word. In this article, we will search further – to be confident that we understand, believe and live in faith that is toward God.

For your convenience, here is the meaning of faith, developed from our study of Hebrews 11:1:

Faith is the conviction of truth, founded on the substantial quality and nature of the LORD; resulting in a steadfastness of mind, courage and assurance; to hope and wait for salvation with joy and full confidence. As such, it is the proof and test of things we cannot see.

Faith is more than a feeling; more than a decision. The LORD is its foundation. It is effectual to our becoming the people of God. It is the proof and test of the supernatural.

Having laid this portion of our foundation, we can now – with greater clarity – weigh the importance of faith that is toward God.

Faith Toward God

People have faith in many things, most of them gods of another kind. Some have faith that their team will make the playoffs; or faith in a particular presidential candidate. People of “other faiths” believe in Allah, Buddha and thousands of other deities. Society works hard to train us to have faith in ourselves.

Obviously, faith alone is not enough.

Similarly, Christian faith can be misdirected. Some Christians have faith in their faith; that it will save them. Others have faith in their Christian Leaders; that they will lead them into salvation. This is faith in the wrong direction.

Faith in faith, and faith in leaders, is not enough.

The way the writer of Hebrews phrased this principle is interesting. Why not “faith in God”? After all, Jesus told the disciples, “Have faith in God.” Faith in God is important faith.

As best as I can tell, this is not a matter of translation. There is something more here. The Holy Spirit inspired the use of the word “toward” to encourage and convict us. Read the rest of this entry »

The elementary principles are foundations; and nothing is more foundational to Christianity than faith toward God. Of the six elementary principles, faith toward God is probably the most commonly taught. Consequently, you may be tempted to take a pass on this one.

So, before you decide to do that, let me suggest that foundation inspections are always good. The worse thing that can happen is you find out you have at least one principle covered. On the other hand, there may be something here that connects a couple of dots for you. Or, you may find a new way to explain this principle to those you are discipling. That is my hope and prayer.

The way the writer of Hebrews phrased this principle is interesting to me. Why not “faith in God”? Make no mistake about it, the Holy Spirit inspired the use of the word “toward”. I suspect this will be key to our gaining a full understanding of the principle. Before we go there, let’s make sure we understand the meaning of “faith”.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

This is one of the richest verses in all of Scripture – the definition of faith. In order to understand it fully, we must consider the words God chose to define and describe faith. As we do so, let’s remember that this principle is elementary. It is easy to understand; it is easy to consume. Read the rest of this entry »

In Part One, we explored the importance of Jesus’ resurrection and our participation with Him in it. We discovered that, without His resurrection, our faith is futile (1Corinthians 15:16-17). Why? Because it is by His life, not His death, that we shall be saved (Romans 5:10).

Furthermore, in Part Two, we learned that our resurrection begins when we are born again, through faith in Jesus’ resurrection.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead… 1Peter 1:3

Paul encourages us to press on to the perfection found in the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:8-11); the exchange of our life for that of Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:20).

Moving on to our conclusion, we consider the words of Watchman Nee: “We thank God that the church has actually experienced this resurrection power.”

This truly begs the question: Have you and I? Read the rest of this entry »

SONY DSCIn Part One, we explored the importance of Jesus’ resurrection and our participation with Him in it. We discovered that, without His resurrection, our faith is futile (1Corinthians 15:16-17). Why? Because it is by His life, not His death, that we shall be saved (Romans 5:10).

Our participation in Jesus’ resurrection is an elementary principle; easy to understand and believe for those with ears to hear. However, it is not enough to acknowledge and believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. “Faith without works is dead” applies as much to the resurrection as any other faith we claim. We must live out of that resurrected life.

The Resurrected Life

Jesus’ death would have been worthless without His resurrection. The same is true for His disciples. We died with Him. If we are not also resurrected with Him, then we are just dead. By grace, through faith, this is not the case.

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by [the] faith [of] the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20

In the particular context of this passage, our participation in the crucifixion of Christ accomplished two very important things: It killed our old man; and positioned us to receive the life of Christ. Read the rest of this entry »

SONY DSCThe elementary principles are for building a spiritual foundation for the spiritual man. Read that again. Now consider that Jesus Christ is making disciples and building His church. Being the wise maker and builder that He is, we can assume that He would not make or build anything on a poor foundation.

Lest we get discouraged, let’s look at this from a more positive perspective. These principles are elementary. They are not deeply mysterious. They are easily understood (for a child’s mind) and consumed (as milk). Furthermore, they are the word of God: Alive and powerful, sharper than any two edged sword (Hebrews 4:12); and they will accomplish that for which they are intended (Isaiah 55:11).

Our Father is loving and good. Even though we may be more immature than babes, there is hope for our understanding and belief. We have been given a Teacher.

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 1Corinthians 2:12

Keep this in mind, as we search out the principle of the resurrection of the dead. Allow the Holy Spirit to demonstrate Himself and the power of God, in the word of God, in regards to this elementary and foundational truth. Read the rest of this entry »

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