The Bartender of Bethlehem: the unsung hero.

A young pregnant woman and her husband were on the run from their country. The Government was trying to kill them.

The young woman was about to give birth. With no money to rent a room they begged to stay at a pub. It was full of drunkards, laughing and shouting. But the baby was close to arriving. The water was breaking. It was the young couple’s last chance. They had no choice.

But the barman told them “No room here.”

But they begged and begged. They begged for shelter. They pleaded for refuge.

“My wife will give birth any minute,” the man said.

The bar tender was struck with compassion. How could he throw a pregnant girl out in the cold. She only looked about 17.

“Here,” he said. “It’s the key to the barn on the farm, next door.”

So they rushed to the barn and a baby boy was born kicking and crying amid the cows, the sheep and the squabble of the chickens. It was chaos.

There were no blankets to keep the baby warm, so the young mother  wrapped him in rags.

There was nowhere for the baby to sleep, so her young husband grabbed some hay, stuffed it into the ‘manger’ which was the long wooden box the cows ate from.

And so the young family were safe. Thanks to the barman.

And today, on our European borders, we are also turning away young pregnant mothers, desperate fathers, letting them freeze in the cold – families on the run from a government trying to kill them.

Merry Christmas.

So let’s thank God for that barman – the unsung hero. Without him there might not have been a Christmas. Baby Jesus may have died in the cold.

Click here for how to donate to the Syrian Refugee Crisis appeal.PAY-Syrian-Refugee.jpg

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Sons of Anarchy / Children of God.

SOA5_BW_1

I’ve been watching Sons of Anarchy recently.

It follows the story of Jax Teller – a young man struggling to follow in his father’s footsteps as leader of a biker gang.

Jemma is Jax’ mother.

She’s a real tough cookie – a biker mom. In one scene she talks to a priest who tells her:

Service to others is the only thing that keeps the self-loathing to a tolerable level.

I think he’s implying that his self-loathing for his own sin is so extreme, that his gratitude to God for taking His sin away can only be expressed through service to others.

Step 12 of the 12 Step Recovery Program is also all about service to others.

Jemma said she didn’t know how to serve others. She didn’t feel she had anything to offer. The priest told her she was serving him, now, just by listening to him, just by being there and being a listening ear. After all, we all need someone to listen to us.

The priest told her to look out for opportunities to serve because God presents them to us every day. We don’t have to sign up to volunteer for homeless shelters or drug rehab centers. We don’t have to train to be medics or join the Red Cross, although of course God needs people to do this work. But God presents opportunities for us to serve others every day in small, simple ways.

Look out for them.

It makes you wonder if it’s really going to be the people we think sitting closest to Jesus at that Great Wedding Celebration between Christ and His church in Heaven.

Me, I’m such a ‘bad’ Christian, I fail so much every day that I’ll just be happy to be there. I’ll be happy to be the homeless guy sitting on the floor, waiting for scraps to drop from the table (and I probably will be). Seriously, the way I fail in my life every day I don’t even deserve a place at the table.

But thanks  be to God it doesn’t depend on how good at being a Christian we are. It doesn’t depend on what we do. It doesn’t depend on our good deeds. It isn’t our own ability to be great human beings that gets us an invitation to that Great Feast. Being ‘a good person’ doesn’t open the door for us to spend eternity with God.

We only get to go to God’s great party because He loves us so much. We only get to go because He loves us enough to die for us, in our place, on a cross. We only get to go because He has made us supernaturally holy by the power of His spirit as a free gift.

We have been made holy by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ…

  • Hebrews 10:10.

I’ve received some messages on my blog recently about how, if we don’t live up to God’s moral standard for the rest of our lives, we will lose our place in Heaven.

I’ve received some messages saying we can lose our salvation.

I pity those who believe this.

I really pity them.

If they really believe their acts of goodness is the reason God invites them to that Great Feast then they have missed the good news of the gospel. The good news of the gospel is that God has invited us to spend eternity with Him because of His great love for us. It is a free gift. Paul makes this clear:

Not of yourselves. It is the gift of God.

  • Ephesians 2:8.

Those people who believe they can spend eternity with God because of their own ability to live good lives will be so proud while sitting at that table. I expect they expect to have a seat next to Jesus. I expect they hope to be like John at The Last Supper reclining with their head on Jesus’ chest.

And I hope they are.

I must admit, that does make me a little jealous.

I want to be close to Jesus at the table. I want to recline with him. I want to be ‘the disciple who Jesus loved.’

Yet I know, in my heart of hearts, I’ll be lucky to even be there.

I believe, absolutely, that I will be there.

But I won’t be at the head of the queue.

If Heaven were a nightclub I won’t be the one who the bouncers wave in first. I won’t be given the royal treatment. I’ll be the one who has to wait out in the cold for ages, and then only get in because I know someone ‘cool.’

I’ll only get in because I know Jesus.

Perhaps, once inside, the Prince of that Heavenly nightclub might wave at me from a distance, across the dance floor. He’ll be sitting, enjoying the best wine, surrounded by beautiful angels and all those superstar preachers will be with Him. Mother Theresa will be there. So will Billy Graham. TD Jakes will be sitting there in that VIP section. So will Benny Hinn, Joseph Prince, Creflo Dollar. CS Lewis. John The Baptist. The VIP section will be awesome. All those superstar preachers and old school teachers. I wonder if John the Baptist will be dressed in a loin cloth or will he upgrade to Versace?

Me…I’ll just be a nobody, as usual. I’ll be lucky to be there. But I’ll be grateful. And if Jesus were to come over and say hello, shake my hand, or even give me a hug, I would be so proud – not of myself – just proud to know Him. And if he were to offer me a drink at his table, I’d be so delighted, so excited. But overall, I’d just be so grateful to be there.

Because I feel like Paul, who says:

Here is a trustworthy saying which deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came to save sinners, of whom I am the worst.

To get invited to the party is something to celebrate.

We prodigals come home and our Heavenly Father kills the fattened calf, puts His best robe on us and puts a ring on our finger.

And in gratitude for that great gift, that gift that cost so much suffering, that gift that cost the blood of Christ on the cross, let’s keep our eyes and hearts open for those small opportunities for service.

Because Me, I want to say thank you. But not because I want a better seat at the table. Not because I want a seat with the cool crew in the VIP section of Nightclub Heaven. I know I don’t deserve that.

No. I want to help people because I know how much He has helped me. I myself am an ex-addict, ex-homeless, ex-criminal.

I want to help others because of these words of Jesus:

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me.

  • Matthew 25:40.

Like Jemma, let’s look out for those small, simple opportunities for service that God presents to us every day.

sons-anarchy-season-7-spoilers

Absolutely, perfectly, completely free!

Not sure if I told you before…but I’m an actor.

As an actor who’s used to memorizing whole Shakesperian roles there’s nothing I enjoy more than memorizing God’s word.

I memorize whole chapters.

All books even!

I can recite Philippians to you off the top of my head, together with books like Isaiah 53 (The Sufffering Servant Song) certain chapters of Hebrews, chunks of Romans etc. 

I’ve recently started to record them.

I only record the ones I know by heart.

Anyone can read from the bible and record but a lot of work goes into memorizing chapters and books. And on that memorizing journey you get a lot of insight, too.

Once I’ve learned a chapter my favorite place to recite it to myself is in the sauna after a workout.

Don’t ask me why!

I guess because it’s so quiet, and usually empty, so I get the place to myself.

At the moment I’m reciting Romans 6.

You can listen to the recording here.

I love Romans 6.

I love the way Paul repeats over and over again that we have been set free from sin.

Have a listen and see.

It happens in verse 7.

Anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Then again in verse 18.

You have been set free from sin.

Then again in verse 22 !

You have been set free from sin.

I think Paul was trying to tell us something!

And it doesn’t take a genius to work out what Paul was trying to tell us:

You have been set free from sin!  Tweet: You have been set free from sin! http://ctt.ec/e9UDW+ @thegracebase

We are free.

Free from sin.

Absolutely, perfectly, completely free.

Amen!

Grace, Forgiveness and The Blood.

Why are we always taught to continually ask for forgiveness?

If we have been forgiven once for all as Hebrews says, why ask for something we already have?

The writer of the book of Hebrews says this is like treating the blood of Christ like the blood of ‘bulls and goats.’

The Jews had to sacrifice bulls and goats for their sin over and over again.

Moses had to splash the blood all over the temple, the altar and all the people!

He took the blood of calves and sprinkled the scroll and all the people…in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood.

– Hebrews 9:19-21

Can you imagine? It must have been a bloody day.

But all this was pointing to Christ.

As Hebrews 9:22 says:

Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

Every year the Hebrews had to make a new sacrifice to be forgiven. But those animal sacrifices couldn’t take away sin, the writer of Hebrews tells us. They were only a ‘reminder’ of sin.

But those sacrifices are an annual reminder for sin. Because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin.

– Hebrews 10:3

It is impossible for the blood of animals to take away sin.

It was all pointing to Christ who took away our sin once for all.

We don’t have to sacrifice animals anymore because Jesus was the last, once for all sacrifice.

Through His sacrifice we have forgiveness of sins.

He will never sacrifice Himself again.

As God says in Isaiah:

From that cup, the globlet of my fury, you will never drink again.

– Isaiah 51:22

Christ’s one sacrifice was enough for all sin, for all people, for all time.

So, when we turn to God and beg for forgiveness in a way we’re behaving like the Jews of the O.T who needed to be forgiven again and again.

But we don’t need to be forgiven again and again.

Because we have been forgiven once for all.

As Hebrews says:

For Christ did not enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise he would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But, now, at the end of the ages, Christ has appeared once to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.

– Hebrews 9:24-26

So, let’s stop asking for forgiveness. We have forgiveness already.

If we do it’s like saying Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t enough.

But it was enough!

It was once for all.

But what happens when we sin? I hear you cry. Surely we should ask God for forgiveness?!

What does John say in his first letter?

If we sin we have an advocate who goes to the Father for us – Jesus Christ – the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sin, and not only our sin, but for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 2:1

Who goes to the Father?

Do we go?

No! Jesus goes to the Father for us and we are in Him – approved by God in Christ.

Amen!

ps. want to know how free you are? Listen to my recording of Romans 6 on soundcloud!

What Benefit Did You Reap?

Jesus painting close up

What I hear a lot of is this:

Jesus did his part but now we must do ours.

I used to believe this.

I used to believe this – in the way that many Christians believe it today.

But what we’re actually saying is this:

Jesus’ crucifixion wasn’t good enough to cleanse us from our sin.

The blood of Jesus wasn’t powerful enough to destroy sin.

Jesus did not die to sin “once for all”, as Hebrews tells us.

It wasn’t ‘finished’ as Jesus shouted, pouring out His blood, from the cross.

No.

Jesus did his part but now we must do ours.

Brilliant English theologian John Stott says this:

We resent the fact that we have no part to play in our own salvation, so we stumble at the stumbling block of the cross.

– The Cross of Christ.

You see, either Christ ‘did away’ with sin on the cross or He didn’t.

But He did.

Christ appeared once to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

– Hebrews 9.26

Paul tells us how.

He made Him who had no sin to be sin for us.

But this is a little confusing.

What does it mean exactly?

I like this translation:

GOD’S WORD.
God had Christ, who was sinless, take our sin.

However we phrase it, when Christ died, our sin died with Him.

All of our sin – past present and future.

This is great news!

This is the gospel!

On the cross, our sin died with Him.

But Paul goes further:

Anyone who was baptized into Christ was crucified with Christ. We were therefore buried with Him, through baptism, into death…

and

If we were united with Him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection.

If we are not yet a believer, we are still living with ‘sin.’

And, as Paul says:

The wages of sin is death.

But – and this is the good news – if we are in Christ we died with Him.

Crucified on the cross.

But, Paul says:

If we died with Him we believe that we will also live with Him.

– Romans 6.8

and

If the Spirit of Him who raised Christ from the dead lives in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal body through His Spirit who lives in you.

– Romans 8.11

It is only in Christ that we can rise from the dead.

We will rise as He is risen.

This is the good news!

It is nothing to do with if we mess up, make mistakes, or ‘sin’.

And –

Where sin abounds, grace super abounds!

– Romans 5:20

Super-abounding grace!

We are free!

“But that means we are free to sin!” I hear someone say.

I answer with Paul’s words:

What benefit did you reap from those things you are now ashamed of?

– Romans 6:21

Really, what benefit did you reap in the past from your wrong doing, from your selfish, destructive behavior, from your mistreatment of yourself and others, and from your unwise choices?

I know what benefit I reaped: shame and soul-destroying guilt.

Sin has terrible, life damaging consequences.

And…

The wages of sin is death.

But…

The law of the Spirit of Life has set us free from the law of sin and death.

– Romans 8.2

We have been set free from sin and death.

In Christ we have life!

Eternal life!

In Christ we have everything to live for!

This is the gospel.

The true gospel.

The amazing gospel!

Amen!

Steve Edwards

Shining with His Glory!

I gatecrashed an Anglican church recently.

I was shocked to see two leaders dressed in white robes.

I thought I’d been teleported to 13th century England from 2015 Phnom Penh!

The young American seemed embarrassed.

After introducing himself to me, he slipped back stage to ‘get ready for church’, reappearing after a few minutes dressed in this full length white frock.

“Still getting used to this,” he said.

I’m not surprised.

Being Christian isn’t about our external appearance.

We’re not ‘holy’ or ‘righteous’ because we wear a white robe.

Jesus didn’t walk around in a white robe. (Oh, alright, he might have, but so did everyone else. Robes in those days were the jeans and tees of today).

God doesn’t look at external appearances. He looks at the heart. Tweet: God doesn't look at external appearances. He looks at the heart.

The robe God has given us is not one that’s visible to the human eye. It isn’t a robe anyone can see.

It’s far more beautiful than anything that can be made with human hands.

This is why Isaiah was so ‘overwhelmed with joy.’

I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God for He has dressed me in garments of salvation, He has draped me in a robe of His righteousness.

– Isaiah 61:10.

These garments of salvation are not external. The garments are spiritual. The robe of righteousness is not a white cotten frock, it is a robe of His glory, of His beauty and majesty.

God sees us as He sees Jesus when he was ‘transfigured’ on the mountain before Peter, James and John, shining with the brilliance of the ‘Shekinah Glory‘ – the glory and presence of God.

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.

– Matthew 17:1

His clothes became white as light.

Not white as cotton.

I mean, if the leaders of the church are going to wear white robes to symbolize their righteousness, then everyone in the church should wear them too.

We should all wear them.

But we don’t need to wear white robes!

Our robes are spiritual.

Our robes are the indwelling Spirit of Christ.

Our robes are the presence of God within us.

We are shining with His glory!

As Jesus says:

You are the Light of the World!

– Matthew 5:14

To God, we are like Jesus: perfect, righteous and holy.

Not because of anything we have done, but because of what Jesus did for us.

By one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who have been made holy.

– Hebrews 10:14.

We have been made perfect forever.

On the cross He set us free from sin and adorned us in robe of His righteous.

There was, as Joseph Prince says, a “divine exchange.”

He became our sin and we became His righteousness.

As Paul says, on the cross we were set free from sin.

We died with Christ…and anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

– Romans 6:7

This is why I also take offense at the Anglican liturgy:

Almighty God, we have sinned against you and against our neighbor…Forgive us all that is past…

Why do I take offence at this?

Because we have been set free from sin.

I know, I know. What about –

If we confess our sin He is righteous and just to forgive us our sin and purify us of all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

Sure.

But John is talking about a “once for all” confession when we come to Christ.

Once we come to Christ he purifies us of all unrighteousnsess.

For an indepth study on this verse – and how it has kept the church bound in spiritual chains for centuries – read here.

Once we are in Christ we have been made perfect forever.

Paul knew that when Christ died we were set free from sin.

Totally. Completely. Free.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free!

– Galatians 5:1.

God doesn’t see us as sinners anymore.

No matter how much we mess up, no matter how many times we fail, Christ dealt with it all, on the cross, once for all.

By one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who have been made holy.

– Hebrews 10:14.

Perfect.

Forever.

It is essential we start to see ourselves as God sees us –

Without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but pure and holy.

– Ephesians 5:27

To see ourselves as less is to take the glory of Christ’s victory away from Him.

It’s to say the cross wasn’t good enough to cleanse us of all our sin.

It’s to say we keep sinning so we keep needing a fresh sacrifice.

That was the Old Testament law.

Every time the Israelites sinned they had to slaughter an animal and sprinkle the blood everywhere – even over all the people!

Moses took the blood of calves and sprinkled the scroll and all the people.

– Hebrews 9: 19-22

But Christ’s sacrifice was more powerful:

Not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.

– Hebrews 9:12.

He obtained eternal redemption.

Once for all.

We are redeemed forever.

He will never let us go.

That is what is so amazing about the gospel.

That is what’s so amazing about grace.

And the book of Hebrews continues:

He appeared once for all to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.

– Hebrews 9:25-27

‘Do away with’ is the Greek word athetesin.

It’s only used once in the bible.

It means ‘abolish, disannul.’

Let’s take those words one at a time.

Abolish: formally put an end to.

Disannul: to declare invalid, to cancel.

On the cross Jesus declared our sin invalid. He cancelled it. He put an end to it.

This is why Paul repeatedly tells us in Romans 6 that we have been set free from sin.

So why do we insist on presenting ourselves before God as sinners?

Christ destroyed our sin on the cross.

It is finished!

To say we still sin is to proclaim the cross of Christ as powerless.

It is to say Christ’s blood was weak, as weak as the blood of animals.

If we say we are sinners we are like the Israelites returning to the temple and asking for forgiveness again and again.

But Hebrews says:

He did not offer Himself again and again. He appeared once.

Once.

We have been made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

– Hebrews 10:10

Once for all.

Christ’s blood was powerful enough to cleanse us once for all.

All of our sin for all time.

As Paul says:

You have been set free from sin.

Romans 6:7

And, dear Anglican church, the robe He has draped us in is not a white cotton frock, but a robe of the glory, beauty and majesty of God.

He has draped us in robes of His righteousness!

Free from sin!

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8

Chatting about faith with a brother recently the topic came up about whether we, as Christians, are still sinners. My friend said he hears over and over again in the church that he is a sinner. “But God doesn’t see us as sinners,” I say. “He sees us as perfect, holy, and righteous.”

He is our righteousness. – 1 Cor 1:30.

I point out that Paul says our righteousness is a “gift” from God and, if it’s a gift from God, nothing we do can take it away. To us we may sin, but to God… the moment we sin it dissolves in the blood of Christ. Christ’s sacrifice was once for all. We have been made righteous once for all. Forever.

By one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who have been made holy. – Hebrews 10:14

To God, we are perfect. Of course, this is a difficult concept for us to grasp. Because to us, sure, we are sinners. We mess up every day. We look at someone lustfully. We are proud. Self- righteous. But our righteousness does not depend on what we do (thank God). It depends on what Christ has done for us. He made us righteous. He did away with our sin on the cross. He became our sin, Paul says.

He made Him who had no sin to be sin for us. – 2 Cor 5:21

He became our sin and was crucified. And when He died, our sin died with Him. To say we still have sin is to pronounce Christ’s crucifixion null and void. It is saying Christ’s self-sacrifice wasn’t good enough to take away our sin. It is saying Christ’s blood wasn’t powerful enough to cleanse us of our sin once for all, as the book of Hebrews says. It is calling God a liar. It is rejecting the gift. If we think it is up to us to overcome sin day by day by our own actions and choices, we are putting ourselves in the place of Christ. We are saying we don’t need a Saviour. If we could overcome sin ourselves, Christ would not have had to die! The cross would have been for nothing. But it wasn’t for nothing. Hebrews says:

He appeared once to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself. – Hebrews 9:26

“Do away” with in the Greek language that Pauls uses was the word ἀθέτησιν (athetēsin). It translates as ‘abrogate’ which is a legal term meaning: to annul, put an end to, cancel, and abolish.

Synonyms include: stop, terminate, eradicate, eliminate, exterminate, destroy, annihilate, stamp out, obliterate, wipe out, extinguish, quash, expunge, extirpate.

Christ did all of that to sin on the cross.

Amen!

This is why Paul constantly drives home in Romans chapter 6 that we have been set free from sin:

You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God.

– Romans 6:18 and

But you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. – Romans 6:22

and

We died with Christ…and anyone who has died has been set free from sin. – Romans 6:7

Grammar nerds will notice these are all in the passive tense, which means it happened to us. We did not do it ourselves. Christ did it to us. He set us free. He released us from prison. He rescued us. He saved us. He He He… not me me me! So what is Paul trying to say? What phrase does he repeat over and over again? We have been set free from sin! So if we have been set free from sin why do we identify ourselves as sinners? When Jesus died, our sin died with Him. All of our sin. Once for all.

For we have been made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. – Hebrews 10:10

Ah, my friend says, but what about when we sin now, when we sin today. We are still sinners! “To God we’re not,” I say. If you say we still have sin, we are contradicting what Paul says:

We died with Christ, and everyone who has died has been freed from sin.

Freed from sin. Do you think we, by our actions, can cancel Jesus’ work on the cross? If, by our daily sin, we can cancel the righteousness Christ earned for us by His sacrifice, then we make our sin more powerful than His blood. God says He has draped us in a robe of righteousness. Paul says our righteousness is a free gift, given through love, through Christ.

Not of yourselves. It is a gift of God. – Ephesians 2:8

Think about it. Christ’s sacrifice was once for all. This is repeated over and over again in the book of Hebrews. He will never go to the cross again.

It is finished. – John 19:30

One sacrifice cancelled all of our sin. Because of His one sacrifice God will never count our sins against us ever again.

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of Life has set me free from the law of sin and death. – Romans 8:1.

We are free from the law of sin. We are not under law, but under grace. When we realize we are completely forgiven, that we can never be held accountable for our sin, that we can never incite God’s anger for our sin ever again, then, and only then, are we free to love God without fear. There is no more fear of punishment. This is what John was trying to get across when he says:

There is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear. – 1 John.

Perfect love casts out fear. We begin to desire to live upright lives, filled with integrity, because we know God loves us, and we know He will never punish us for our mistakes – because Christ took our punishment for us. He served our sentence. He got what we deserve, and we get what He deserves: glory, riches and honor. Children of the King of Kings! Because Christ has taken our punishment for us we are completely, utterly, astoundingly free. Free to love, without fear. And we know that if we mess up, if we make mistakes, God will catch us in His grace – His arms of love. None of us are perfect in our natural selves. But God is healing us gently, slowly. The more we learn how loved we are, the more we desire to live out that love. Isn’t this what Paul means when he says

As dearly loved children, live a life of love. – Ephesians 5:2

My brother’s argument was that being free can lead us to sin. “No fear of punishment” can let us off the leash. Knowing that God will save us, has saved us anyway, can make us go wild. I don’t know about you, but I was already wild, I was already off the leash. I didn’t need grace for that. But this is exactly the same argument that Paul was up against, to which we replies:

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! What benefit did you reap from those things you are now ashamed of?

And that’s the point. What benefit did we reap? The consequences of sin are destruction, shame, guilt, broken relationships and broken hearts. And, to the unredeemed, ultimately death. But remember Paul’s words:

You have been set free from sin.

Notice the tense – present perfect simple – which means a completed action in the past. A completed action. It is finished. We are free from sin.

Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness, the benefit you reap leads to holiness and the result is eternal life. – Romans 6:22.

And then, of course, Paul’s famous verse:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God…

– notice ‘the gift’-

…the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our LORD. – Romans 6:23

And just to bring us back to the verse at the top of this post, Paul says ‘while we were still sinners…’ While we were (in the past). Which means we are not now. Fact is we do mess up, we do make mistakes, we do sin. But when we do it is not our new redeemed selves, it is our old human self, the ‘flesh’ as Paul calls it. But Christ is healing us little by little, step by step, from glory to glory. And what happens when we sin? For that we have to turn to 1 John:

But if you do sin we have One who goes to the Father for us: Jesus Christ, the righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sin. – 1 John 2:1

So what happens when we sin? Do we go to God and ask forgiveness? Is that what John says? Who goes to the Father? Do we go? Or does Christ go for us? Christ goes for us! Believing we can overcome our own sin, believing we make ourselves righteous by the way we live our lives merely ignites our self-righteousness and inflates our pride. We have absolutely no part to play in overcoming our own sin. Christ overcame it, no, destroyed it, on the cross, once for all. Yet if we do sin, Jesus goes to the Father for us, as our advocate, our atoning sacrifice. Everytime we sin God pronounces us worthy of death. No matter what sin. Any of the 300 + laws in the Old Testament. James says if we break one, we break them all. In other words, every day every one of us deserves death as none of us can live up to God’s moral standard of holiness. So God gave us His holiness as a free gift!

We have been made holy by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ once for all. – Hebrews 10:10

Yet every day, in eternity, in God’s court, Jesus stands before the Father with the marks in his hands and feet as our advocate – proof that punishment has already been paid. We are free. Jesus did it all. Nothing we do can cancel the gift of righteousness He has given us. Our sin cannot stain the robe of righteousness He has draped us in. Is our sin powerful enough to undo the work of Christ? Is our sin more powerful than Christ’s blood? If so, then we are all doomed. But no. Christ has washed us clean in His blood once for all.

By one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who have been made holy. – Hebrews 10:14.

Amen!

Paul says the law is a load of old bull!

You gotta love Paul.

He says it like it is.

Take Philippians.

Look at me, he says. I was the perfect law keeper…

Circumcised on the 8th day, of the tribe of Benjamin, of the people of Israel, a Hebrew of Hebrews! As for the law, a pharisee. As for legalistic righteousness, perfect.

Then he says:

But I consider it all rubbish compared to Christ.

And do you know what word Paul uses when he says rubbish?

Our bible translators didn’t have the courage to use Paul’s word.

The word Paul uses, in Greek, is skybalon.

It means dung, excrement, or bulls**t !

Believing we can make ourselves righteous by obeying the law is a load of old bull, according to Paul!

Righteousness comes by faith in Christ.

Paul couldn’t believe it.

There he was, a perfect Jew, a perfect law-keeper, who suddenly found out that he was righteous by faith and not by obeying the law.

Suddenly, Paul didn’t have to try anymore.

No more effort required.

Imagine that!

All your life you struggle to obey the law and then someone reveals to you that it’s impossible to become righteous by your own efforts, but not to worry because God has given you His righteousness as a free gift!

What?!

Unbelievable!

This is why Paul couldn’t stop banging on about God’s grace.

Couldn’t stop banging on about how righteousness is a free gift and nothing to do with our own self-efforts.

Not of yourselves. It is the gift of God.

– Ephesians 2:8

Some people teach we are “positionally righteous”, but that we have to struggle and strive to live up to that righteousness.

Well, show me where Paul says that.

There is no talk of being “positionally righteous” in Paul’s letters. There is no “now but not yet” as some people teach in the church today.

We are righteous now.

That is the gospel.

And it’s free!

The battle isn’t ours to overcome sin – Christ already won that battle on the cross.

He appeared once to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.

– Hebrews 9:26

Christ has done away with sin. That was His battle, and He won it.

Our battle is to stop believing we have anything to add to Christ’s work.

Our battle is to stop clinging to our own ability to overcome sin, and to cling to Christ’s ability.

Was Christ successful in crucifying sin on the cross, or wasn’t he?

Either Christ did away with sin or he didn’t.

Was the writer of Hebrews lying?

Is God’s Word a lie, or the truth?

Either we believe God, or we don’t.

Either we trust God, or we don’t.

Either we are free from the prison of sin, or we are not.

The answer doesn’t depend on how we live.

We can’t make ourselves free from sin.

The answer lies in Christ’s crucifixion.

Was it effective or not?

Was it finished, or wasn’t it?

Are we free, or aren’t we?

Paul seems to think we are.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free!

– Galatians 5:1

So does Jesus.

If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed!

– John 8:36

Our battle is not with sin, our battle is with our self-righteousness.

Our battle is with our pride.

Our battle is with our need to play a part in our own salvation.

Our refusal to accept we have no part to play in our own salvation keeps us from true freedom.

Christ has set us free yet we chain ourselves back up again, desperate to prove to God how good we can we be, when God has told us

There is no one good, except One.

Mark 10:18.

What does Paul say?

Does he say:

Now that we are righteous by overcoming sin ourselves we have peace with God.

Or does he say:

Now that we are righteous by faith we have peace with God.

– Romans 5:1

He says we now that we are righteous by faith we have peace with God.

We aren’t righteous because of our own brilliant self-effort.

We aren’t righteous because we have succeeded by ourselves.

We have peace with God because of what Christ achieved for us.

We have peace with God by faith.

Nothing we do, no minor success in our battle against sin, can earn us any gold stars with God.

Jesus gets ALL the gold stars.

That’s right, ALL of them!

Every single one!

Nothing we do can make us any more righteous than He has already made us.

Do you think we can add to the robe of righteousness God has draped us in, by our own self efforts?

How proud we are to believe that!

John Stott is right where he says:

We resent the idea that we have nothing to contribute to our own salvation, so we stumble at the stumbling block of the cross.

The Cross of Christ

We have nothing to add.

Christ did it all.

The sooner we start preaching the true gospel, that we are righteous by faith, through grace, the sooner people will be free to enter the rest God wants us to enter.

Does Jesus say:

Come to me all who are weary and I will make you struggle and battle to defeat your own sin.

Or does He say:

Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest.

– Matthew 11:28

He says I will give you rest.

Rest.

To sum up then, we cannot become righteous by ourselves.

Like the Prodigal Son, our Heavenly father has draped us in his best robe.

The robe of righteousness.

I always quote this verse, but I can’t help it. I love how excited Isaiah gets:

I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God, for He has draped me in a robe of His righteousness!

– Isaiah 61:10

Who draped Isaiah in righteousness? Did he drape himself? Or did God drape him?

God draped him.

And in the same way, God has draped us.

The moment we put faith in Christ He draped us in a robe of His righteousness.

His best robe!

His robe.

Not ours!

As if we can dress ourselves in a more righteous robe than God has given us!

That’s like the richest man in the world giving you a precious stone for Christmas and you give it back with a proud face, saying:

“Thanks for the gift, but I’m sure I can find one more beautiful, if only I try!”

Try all we might we will never drape ourselves in a more righteous robe than God has given us.

We can’t make our robe more beautiful.

We can’t make our robe more holy.

God has given us our righteousness – as a free gift.

All we have to do is receive.

What an amazing God!

Amen!

Steve Edwards

 

 

 

 

 

God sees you naked.


I’m reading this book at the moment.

I recommend it.

However, I’m writing this because while reading this morning I had a revelation that I had to share with you.

When we sin (and yes, I’m still prone to slip up on occasion) at that precise moment, particularly the worst moments, we are so angry at ourselves, and not only angry, but often also surprised.

I’ve been known to say to myself:

Steve! How could you do that? What are you doing?! 

To us, it’s the worst feeling ever. To us, we’ve not only let ourselves down, but we’ve let God down.

We can’t believe we’ve let ourselves do it.

We hate ourselves. We are wracked with guilt. Burning with shame.

We cry out to God.

God, please forgive me, please help me! I’ve let you down again! How can you ever forgive me?! You forgive me once, and the next time I sin, it’s even worse!

We are so surprised at ourselves. We can’t believe what we let ourselves do.

But, here’s the news: God isn’t surprised.

He knows exactly who we are.

He knows exactly what we are capable of.

He knows us inside out.

Not only that, He already knows what sins we are going to commit in our lives.

He knows what sins we have committed in the past, and what sins we will commit in the future.

He knows us better than we know ourselves!

Nothing is a surprise to God.

Even though I suprise myself with my sin sometimes, God isn’t surprised. He already knew what I was going to do!

I find this comforting.

In his book How to Overcome Sin author D.R Silva writes about how Adam, in the garden, after he had eaten the fruit and realized he was naked, hid from God:

“Adam, where are you?” said God.

“I saw you in the garden,” said Adam. “But I was naked and ashamed, so I hid.”

Adam had been naked since God created him and didn’t know. Then, suddenly, when he ate from the tree of knowledge – he knew he was naked.

God, however, had seen him naked since the day he had created him!

Silva compares this to us as children:

Our parents see us naked for the first ten years of our lives, then, when we reach puberty and become aware of our bodies we suddenly cover ourselves up from the eyes of our parents – even though they’ve seen us naked a million times!

So it is with God and our sin.

God already knows what sins we will commit.

He knows the depth of our hearts.

He knows our sinful cravings, our lust, our unhealed desires.

He knows exactly what we will do wrong in our lives.

He tries to warn us, but ultimately, He gives us free will.

He allows us to make our own mistakes to learn the very hard lessons we have to learn to become the amazing people he created us to be – to grow into our identity in Christ.

This is what the writer of Hebrews means when he says:

Do not despise the discipline of the LORD, for he disciplines those He loves and punishes everyone He accepts us a a child.

Hebrews 12:5

It isn’t ‘cracking the whip’ punishment. The punishment is the consequences we experience. The emotional turmoil that comes as a consequence of our sin. The guilt. The shame.

As Proverbs 20:30 says:

Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways.

Yet, the amazing thing about grace is, because of Jesus, God doesn’t judge us according to our brokeness, according to our sin.

He doesn’t treat us as we deserve.

Because of the cross, God treats us as Jesus deserves.

God doesn’t see us as unworthy sinners, but as His beautiful children.

Children of the King of Kings.

God sees us as He sees Jesus, righteous, perfect and holy.

And not because of anything we have done, but because of what Jesus did for us.

And this not of yourselves. It is the gift of God.

– Ephesians 2:8

How amazing is that?!

So, remember, you may be surprised when you sin, but be comforted that God knows you inside out.

Nothing you do can suprise God.

God loves you in spite of your failings.

He loves us with an unfailing love.

Listen to these words from Isaiah:

Instead of your shame
    you will receive honor,
and instead of disgrace
    you will rejoice in your inheritance.
Everlasting joy will be yours.

– Isaiah 61:7

Amen!

Steve Edwards

Be Holy for I am Holy. Or else.

For it is written: “Be holy, for I am holy.”

1 Peter 1:16

Often we’re taught we should ‘be holy’.

God is holy, so we should be holy.

But this is impossible. No one can be as holy as God.

That was The Law.

So, what does ‘holy’ mean?

We are sometimes taught that the Hebrew word for holy – quadosh – means ‘set apart’.

But set apart from what ?

The Bible Hub website says ‘holy’ means to be set apart from human impurity.

Set apart from sin.

Amen!

But who sets us apart?

Check this out in Hebrews:

We have been made holy by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, once for all.

– Hebrews 10:10

It is Christ who has made us holy. Christ who has set us apart from sin.

So, what does Peter mean by “Be Holy for I am Holy.”

Is it possible for us to ‘be holy’ by demand ?

If not, why demand it of us?

Isn’t he quoting a law that was impossible to keep?

And wasn’t The Law only given to show us how much we need Christ?

Here’s something we don’t hear in church often:

Be Holy for I am Holy is NOT a command – it’s a promise!

Check out this translation from the Greek:

Holy you will be, for Holy I am.

Holy you will be, for holy I am.

That’s completely different from “Be Holy, for I am Holy.”

It’s not a command, but a promise!

And we are children of promise!

Here’s something interesting. Remember when God said to Moses:

Go and tell the Israelites I AM has sent me to you.

Exodus 3:14

Remember this verse? When Moses asks God His name and God replies: “I am who I am.”

Well, the Greek translation of God’s name I am is

ego eimi

Now, check this out: when Jesus says his seven I am statements:

I am the bread of life.

I am The Good Shepherd.

I am the Gate for the sheep.

I am the Light of the World.

I am The Way the Truth and the Life.

I am the True Vine

and

I am the Resurrection and The Life

– his words I am are translated in the Greek as ego eimi.

The name of God!

‘I AM has sent me to you.’

I am.

Like when Jesus says:

Before Abraham was, I am.

– John 8:58

The Hebrew words are –

Ehyeh asher ehyeh

– which literally translates as:

I Will Be Who I Will Be.

And just as

I am who I am

can be translated

I will be who I will be

so –

Be holy as I am holy

can be translated as

Holy you will be because holy I am.

So you see God isn’t commanding us to be holy.

He is telling us we will be holy because He is.

And God doesn’t mean we will be holy at some random point in the future.

The tense of the verb gives a sense of now and forever.

We are holy now and we will forever be holy.

Our holiness is ongoing – now and forever.

Amen!

Paul also teaches us that –

Christ Jesus is…our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

– 1 Cor 1:30

So, to sum up, Hebrews teaches us that Christ has made us holy.

Peter teaches us that we will forever be holy because God is.

And Paul teaches us that Christ is our holiness.

Being holy has nothing to do with our own effort to overcome sin.

We have been made holy by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ once for all.

– Hebrews 10:10

Christ did it all.

It is finished!

So what does Peter mean when he tells us:

Just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.

1 Peter 1:15

Peter’s reminding us to behave in a way that reflects who we already are.

Just as Paul said:

Let us live up to what we have already attained.

– Philippians 3:16

Christ made us holy by His sacrifice.

Christ redeemed us.

Christ paid the price.

Christ took our punishment.

Christ served our sentence.

Christ did everything for us.

“Worthy is the Lamb. Not worthy is the Lamb and me!”

(Thanks Joseph Prince for that one!)

To conclude, then, it is Christ who has made us holy.

Holy you will be for holy I am.

We could never be as holy as God so He made us holy.

What a God!

This is the amazing wonder of grace.

So, finally, Peter isn’t commanding us to be holy.

We have already attained holiness in Christ.

Check out this verse from Paul:

But The God of peace shall make all of you perfectly holy.

– 1 Thessalonians 5:23

Who makes us holy?

God does.

Through Christ.

Because He loves us.

He loved us in the past.

He loves us now.

And He will always love us… continuous, ongoing, now and forever.

For –

God is Love

Amen!

Related posts:

Be Holy, Hyper Grace StyleHis Grace is Enough – Simon Yap 

If We’re Holy, Why Does God Call Us To Be Holy? Escape to Reality – Paul Ellis

What Does God Mean When He Asks Us To Be Holy? Christianity Today – Joel Scandrett

Steve Edwards

Have you grasped grace?

My heart leaps for joy when somebody grasps the wonder of God’s grace.  Tweet: My heart leaps for joy when somebody grasps the wonder of God's grace! via @thegracepace

For years as a Christian the word ‘grace’ didn’t mean anything to me. Then, 2 years ago, I was struggling with my own ‘sin’ so much, I was in such a state of despair, that I cried out to Jesus for forgiveness, yet again.

And He said to me –

Steve, I have already forgiven you, once for all, on the cross. I have given you My righteousness as a free gift. Nothing you can do can make you less righteous. And nothing you can do can make you more righteous – because I am your righteousness.

Wow!!!

This was such an amazing revelation to me, straight to my heart. And I hadn’t even heard Joseph Prince, yet!

So I started to read the bible afresh, with new eyes, and suddenly grace became a magic word. All Paul’s letters were about grace!         

Then I re-read Philippians and a verse that I’d read a hundred times suddenly came alive to me for the first time!

…not having a righteousness of my own that comes from obeying the law, but that which is through faith in Christ. A righteousness that comes from God and is by faith!

– Philippians 3:9

Paul couldn’t believe it. And nor could I !

For 17 years I’d believed that it was up to me to live a righteous life. That’s what I’d been taught. And here was God turning that teaching on its head and telling me I was righteous regardless of my own efforts. Whether I succeeded or whether I failed, I was righteous anyway – because of Christ. He had given me His righteousness as a free gift!

How much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life!

– Romans 5:17

Hallelujah!

Could the news get any better?!

OK, the gospel before I understood grace – that I was saved by Jesus and that I was destined for Heaven – was good enough. But the walk was difficult. I was constantly falling off the horse, constantly giving up the fight, to the point of despair.

But then God revealed to me a whole new gospel, that I was righteous by faith!

That I was draped in a robe of His righteousness!

I was the Prodigal Son come home, overflowing with thankfulness.

So, whenever I see that people teach that we have to ‘add’ to our righteousness, my heart is deeply saddened. I have been reading critics of the hyper-grace movement on Charisma News and Dr. Brown’s website.

We cannot add to the righteousness God has given us! How can we, mere humans, add to God’s gift of righteousness by our own efforts?

The idea that we have anything to add is pride. It is self-righteous. We want some glory for ourselves. But as Joseph Prince says, in Heaven one day it will be “Worthy is The Lamb not Worthy is The Lamb and me!”

We have nothing to add to God’s gift of righteousness.

John Stott says this:

We hate the fact that we have no part to play in our own salvation, so we stumble at the stumbling block of the cross.

– The Cross of Christ

How could our righteous acts add to God’s righteousness when Isaiah makes it clear that all our righteous acts are like filthy rags!? Not our sins. Our righteous acts!

How then can we possibly add to the righteousness God has given us?!

So, my heart is saddened when people are yet to grasp this amazing truth – that we are perfectly righteous by faith.

I believe it takes a revelation from God to see how amazing God’s grace is – and perhaps it needs a deep cry from the depths of our souls for God to reveal it. I know that was the case for me.

Check this out:

Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin; for His nature remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

-1 John 3:9

We cannot sin!

We know that who ever is born of God does not sin. The One who is born of God keeps him safe, and the wicked one cannot harm him.

– 1 John 5:18

The wicked one cannot harm us!

But what does John mean exactly?

Joseph Prince describes it as if we are stones in a waterfall, perpetually washed clean. Even if Satan tempts us to sin – even if we stumble, fall, stain ourselves – the dirt is immediately washed away in the eternal waterfall of God’s grace, love and forgiveness.

Famous old-school preacher Spurgeon describes it as if we are bathing in Christ’s blood!

It’s not only John who says we cannot sin. Paul tells us that we ‘died with Christ’ (Galatians 2:20), and

…anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

Romans 6:7

Freed from sin!

Isaiah grasped grace – and he also couldn’t believe it!

In fact, not only did Isaiah realize that all his righteous acts were like filthy rags, but he also knew, like Paul, that God had given him His righteousness – the righteousness of God!

I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God for He has dressed me in garments of salvation. He has draped me in a robe of His righteousness!
– Isaiah 61:10.

Notice that Isaiah doesn’t say he draped himself, but God draped him.

We don’t make ourselves righteous. God makes us righteous. Tweet: We don't make ourselves righteous. God makes us righteous. @thegracespace

As if anything we do could add to the righteounsess God has given us as a free gift!

We are sanctified, righteous and holy because of what Christ did for us.

Nothing we do. It is the gift of God.

It is finished.

Amen!

Steve Edwards

Lavish Love.

I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God, for He has dressed me in garments of salvation. He has draped me in a robe of His righteousness!

(Isaiah 61:10)

Isaiah couldn’t believe it. He had been clothed in God’s righteousness. It didn’t depend on him anymore. God had done it for Him. God had clothed him. God had dressed him. God had adorned Him with His beauty and majesty. A beauty and majesty that can only come from God.

That is why we can’t do it ourselves.

Anything we do ‘right’ is like filthy rags compared to what God has given us, the beauty and majesty He has clothed us with.

This is why GRACE is amazing!

It doesn’t depend on us anymore.

Let’s all breathe out a collective Phew!

Nothing we do can add to our righteousness.

None of our good works can make us worthy of salvation.

Nothing we do can earn our way into Heaven.

Nothing we do can earn His love.

Nothing we do can even lose His love.

He loves us because of who He is, not because of who we are… thank God!

When Jesus said ‘It is finished!’ He meant ‘It is Finished!’

It is finished!

No wonder Paul couldn’t stop banging on about ‘grace’ in his letters.

Let’s look at the opening of Ephesians:

In love He predestined us to be adopted as His children… to the praise of his glorious grace which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us…

Ephesians 1:3-8

I LOVE this.

lavished on us.

Lavished!

The image I get is of a dog, so pleased to see you that He’s licking your face all over with his tongue, wagging his tail, excited beyond comprehension, just to see you, just that you are there.

Dogs love us anyway, regardless of what we do.

God loves us just because we are here, with Him, regardless of what we have done or do.

He simply loves us.

So why the need for the cross?

Somehow, supernaturally, God consumed all human sin, the sins of the whole world, into Christ’s bloody, beaten, tortured body – and then destroyed it through His death.

Christ had to die – to kill our sin.

Our sin, all of it, died with Christ.

But then He rose again with a new glorified body – free of sin, holy, perfect and beautiful !

And one day we will also have new bodies and we will all share His glory – we will all be perfect and beautiful.

The miracle is – because of Christ’s death – that is how God sees us already.

If only we could see ourselves and each other the same way!

I’ve been listening to the Bruno Mars song recently ‘Just the Way You Are.’

It’s as if God is singing directly to me.

God loves you just the way you are.

Because of the cross God sees no sin in our lives and sees the amazing us, the original us, the us He created – the perfect, pure and holy us.

He sees us as we really are.

He sees our true selves.

He sees us as

…a glorious church…without blemish, pure and holy.

(Ephesians 5:27)

That is the power of the cross.

Have a great Sunday.

Here endeth the lesson!

Steve Edwards

Walk like Jesus.

Everyone who claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.

(1 John 2:6)

I love this verse.

I used to wonder how Jesus walked.

I always imagined with a bit of a cool swagger, but possibly a bit awkward because of the sandals.

But then I realized, the verse isn’t literally about ‘walking’ like Jesus, but living like Jesus!

Christians love to say ‘The Christian Walk.’

The great thing about GRACE is it becomes a lot easier to walk the walk when there’s no pressure to be perfect.

Knowing that He has already made us perfect.

If we fall, we can simply get up, and try and try again.

This is why kids love clowns. No matter how much they fail, they keep trying.

And so with us.

We are like kids, children of God, learning to walk in our new identities, learning to walk in this world, so corrupt, so counter – cultural to God’s values – and represent Him and His love, His values, His compassion.

We don’t have anything to prove to God.

We have admitted we are failures and in need of a Savior, and our acceptance of Him means we have His righteousness.

To God we are shining lights – representing Him… His ambassadors.

All we need to do now is learn to walk as Jesus did – full of grace and truth – and with a sandals swagger !

Steve Edwards

Does Hebrews 10:26 warn us we can lose our salvation?

If we deliberately keep on sinning after receiving a knowledge of the truth no sacrifice for sin is left except a fearful expectation of judgement and of raging fire which will consume the enemies of Christ.

Harsh words. Terrifying even.

But rest assured, beloved Children of God, the writer of this letter is not writing to you who have been cleansed once for all by the blood of Christ, as he says in verse 14:

By one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who have been made holy.

Now, if Christ’s sacrifice has made us perfect forever, how can we then be destined for the raging fire?

Verse 26 seems to imply that even though we have been made holy and perfect by Christ’s sacrifice, we still go to hell if we deliberately sin.

Well, that means just about every person who ever lived is destined for the fiery furnace then!

Certainly me!

So, come on writer of Hebrews, what do you mean?

Either we have been made perfect by Christ’s sacrifice once for all, or we haven’t.

Either salvation is a gift of God, as Paul states in Ephesians 2:8, or it depends on our own ability to stop sinning.

If it depends on us, then we are back to the law.

But Paul says we are saved apart from the law:

…a righteousness not of my own that comes from obeying the law, but that which is through faith in Christ.

(Philippians 3:9)

And the writer of Hebrews says we have been made perfect forever by Christ’s sacrifice.

So what’s going on?

Let’s look at the context.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews is writing to, you guessed it, the Hebrews, the Jewish people who still believed that sacrificing animals could take away sins.

But this writer was telling them that after Christ there is no more sacrifice for sin.

The verse ‘If we deliberately keep on sinning after receiving a knowledge of the truth’ isn’t talking about any old sin, the kind of sin that we talk about today, sexual sin, lust, or things like that.

The ‘sin’ the writer is referring to is the sin of rejecting Christ.

As Matthew Henry’s concise commentary states:

The sin here mentioned is a total and final falling away, when men, with a full and fixed will and resolution, despise and reject Christ.

The writer is telling the Hebrews that if they keep rejecting Christ, no sacrifice for sin is left. That there is no point continuing to sacrifice animals, because animal sacrifices don’t work.

In fact, earlier in the chapter, he says that animal sacrifices never worked, but were merely an ‘annual reminder’ for sin.

For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin.

(Hebrews 10:4)

Only Christ’s sacrifice can take away sin.

If anyone rejects Christ’s sacrifice, no sacrifice for sin is left.

This is what the writer is saying.

It isn’t aimed at me or you.

We have accepted Christ’s sacrifice, and therefore our sin was taken away, on the cross, making us holy and perfect forever.

Thank you, Jesus!

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Shall we go on sinning?

Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?

(Romans 6:1)

If we go on sinning, grace increases.

The more we sin, the more God pours out His grace.

Grace is ‘on tap.’

Many people think that a true understanding of this will cause people to sin purposely, saying:

Well, God forgives me, so I can do what I want.

But this is a lie.

Anyone to whom God has revealed grace to has already reached the bottom of the barrel.

They have strived and tried to overcome sin themselves.

They have wrestled with God.

They have cried out to Him from the bottom of their hearts, begging to be released from the sin that enslaves them.

It is when we completely and utterly give up, and say to God:

I desire your presence more than this continual struggle with sin.

that He reveals grace to us.

It is when we have nowhere left to turn, when our trying and striving just seems to lead us to more sin, more shame, more self-condemnation, more self-hatred, and so more sin, that we cry out to God and he sets us free, with a freedom so beautiful, so abundantly forgiving, so amazing.

The gospel of grace is this: it is not what we do that makes us holy, it is what Christ did that makes us holy.

We have been made holy by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, once for all.

(Hebrews 10:10)

It is not what we do that makes us righteous.

How much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life?

(Romans 5:17)

Righteousness is a gift of God.

And this not of yourselves. It is the gift of God.

(Ephesians 2:8)

We cannot overcome sin. If we could, would Christ have had to die? Would Christ have had to sacrifice Himself, like an animal?

But now, at the end of the ages, Christ appeared once to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

(Hebrews 9:26)

Because of Jesus’ great love for us we are pure, we are righteous, we are holy.

We could not do it on our own. We can not. Only He could do it. As Paul says:

Nothing we do, it is the gift of God.

If only all of the men and women Christians who still believe we have a part to play in defeating sin would just throw their hands in the air and give up, then God could reveal the wonder of His amazing grace to them and they would be free.

Unfortunately, pride gets in the way, as John Stott says:

We regret the idea that we have nothing to contribute to our own salvation, so we stumble at the stumbling block of the cross.

(The Cross of Christ).

Yes, we may make mistakes, yes, we may mess up, yes, we may do wrong, but Jesus paid the penalty for every mistake we will ever make, ever, so that God is able to see past our old sinful nature and see us as righteous, perfect and holy – as he intended us to be – our true selves.

If you’ve ever felt the presence of God, you’ll know He is amazingly beautiful.

If you’ve ever felt the love of Jesus you’ll know that He is amazingly beautiful.

Well, that’s how God feels about us.

To Him, we are amazingly beautiful.

As beautiful (I know it’s hard to believe) as Jesus.

To God we are righteous and perfect, because He decided, out of His abundant love, to adorn us with His righteousness, with His glory, with His beauty and majesty, as a free gift!

As if we can add anything to the beauty and majesty He has given us!!!

Not of ourselves.

It is the gift of God.

And finally, for those who say too much freedom leads us to sin, there is no such thing as too much freedom.

If God has decided to reveal radical, pure grace to you, it is because you needed to hear it – perhaps you were struggling, and condemning yourself, like me, feeling unworthy of God’s love.

Perhaps you are in a leadership position and God wants you to be preaching His grace to the flock under your care.

Or perhaps God simply wanted to set you free from the trying and striving to please Him, so you may rest in His beautiful presence and simply enjoy the freedom that comes knowing you are completely forgiven and perfectly loved – and that nothing you can do will ever change that.

It is finished!

There is nothing left for us to do, except, like Paul:

Complete the task Jesus has given us to do, the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.

(Acts 20:24)

Amen!

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You are not a sinner.

You know what, you’re not a sinner.

That’s not how God sees you. He sees you as righteous and holy.

He sees you as perfect.

By one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who have been made holy.

(Hebrews 10:14)

He sees you as His glorious, beautiful child, they way He intended you, because Jesus cleansed you of all of your sin on the cross.

Sins, yesterday, today and forever.

His sacrifice was once for all. 

For we have been made holy by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ once for all.

(Hebrews 10:10)

Our righteousness is a free gift, by grace.

Even if we sin, grace keeps on flooding out. That’s what’s so amazing about grace. That’s the gospel. 

We are free forever.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free!

(Galatians 5:1)

I know how terrible sin can make you feel.

If we could only grasp the wonder of seeing ourselves how God sees us – as beautiful as Jesus – then we could truly start to walk in freedom.

If we could really grasp how much He loves us, how the sacrifice of Jesus cleansed us once for all.

If we could really believe and accept that !

Lord, help us to see ourselves as you see us, adorned with your beauty and majesty, dressed in garments of salvation, as Isaiah says, and draped in a robe of your righteousness!

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Grace and Peace.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.

(Romans 5:1)

When I became a Christian 15 years ago, being an actor, I memorized huge chunks of Paul’s letters and could recite many chapters by heart. But do you know what? I didn’t have a clue what I was saying!

Take this verse…I didn’t really understand ‘peace with God’ because I didn’t really understand ‘grace.’

It’s only since my revelation of ‘grace’ last year through Joseph Prince’s ministry that I have begun to understand words like ‘grace’ and ‘peace.’

I knew I was saved, and I believed I had peace with God when I wasn’t sinning, but if I ‘fell’ my peace would leave me and I would beg God for forgiveness with tears of guilt and shame.

Does that sound like peace?

Romans 5:1 says we have peace with God because we have been justified by faith.

Our faith gives us peace.

Not our repentance or our confession, but our faith…our belief…our trust in Him. 

As Paul says, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have now gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.

We have gained access by faith into grace.

Into the grace in which we now stand.

We are ‘standing in grace.’

Joseph Prince describes our faith in Jesus as being like stones in a waterfall, constantly being washed, constantly being purified, forever clean.

Forever forgiven.

Forever in God’s good books.

Isaiah 53 says ‘the punishment that brought our peace was upon Him.’

He was punished for our sins.

It is this knowledge, that we will never be held accountable for our sin ever again, because God poured his anger out at Christ instead of us – that gives us peace.

So, that said…

May the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, equip you with every thing good for doing His will.

(Hebrews 13:20)

Now wonder Paul starts and ends his letters with these 2 words:

Grace and Peace.

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Nothing in all Creation.

God is Love
Teaching that every time we sin we have to repent and be purified again by our confession is dangerous because it teaches us that our sin separates us from God, and we can only re-enter fellowship with Him when we ‘confess, ask for forgiveness, and repent.’

This is, as Hebrews says, like treating the blood of Jesus like bulls and goats. This is crucufying Jesus over and over again.

He was so pure, so righteous, so perfect, that His sacrifice cleansed all of our sin once for all.

We do not have to confess and repent to re-enter God’s presence. He promises us, He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Does God lie?

John says ‘Those who are in Christ can not sin.’ Why? Because we are being perpetually purified. WE have been cleansed once for all. We have been made perfect.

To God, we have no sin. Our sin was crucified with Christ on the cross.

When we do wrong it is our old nature trying to rise from the dead. But sin can not stay risen. Not like the Lord Jesus.

‘It is impossible for those in Christ to continue to sin.’ (1 John 5:18).

His sacrifice was once for all. One time, for all people, for all sin.

We are sin free, washed clean, perfect forever.

Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love.

Amen!

GRACE – He has no other way

A knowledge of this grace, of this free pardon, truly knowing and understanding that we will never ever be condemned for our sin, our wrong doing will never ignite God’s anger towards us because he satisfied His anger in Christ on the cross – truly knowing we have complete and utter freedom sets us free from the desire to sin.

As Roy Hession says in The Power of God’s Grace:

“Men can abuse grace, but that is the risk God takes. God might have added all sorts of extra conditions…but has decided to let grace be grace, and to attach no strings to it. If grace does not produce holiness, He has no other way. But it does produce holiness.”

In fact, I would suggest the only way any of us can live a truly holy and righteous life is seeing ourselves the way God sees us – draped in a robe of His righteousness, cleansed by the blood of Christ.

Revival – The Grace Revolution!

This week a church elder said to me:

“Even if 1 John 1:9 wasn’t there, it simply expresses what is said in a variety of other ways throughout the Old and New Testaments.”

Firstly, the Old Testament is exactly what is says on the tin – old  – and, as the writer of Hebrews says, obsolete. It is valid no more. The Old Testament was all about sacrificing animals for atonement of sin. But Christ was the last sacrifice. He died for all sin – of all mankind, forever. Secondly, where in all of Paul’s letters does he ever mention confessing to be restored to God’s presence? He doesn’t. Not once. What does he say about sin? He says:

“We died with Christ, and everyone who has died has been freed from sin.”

(Romans 6:7)

and

“If I sin, it is no longer I who do it, but sin living in me that does it.”

(Romans 7:7)

Paul completely disassociates himself from sin.

“I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

(Galatians 2:20)

We too have been crucified with Christ. We too no longer live and Christ lives in us. Is there sin in Christ? No way. He crucified sin once for all on the cross.

“Christ appeared once to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”

(Hebrews 9:26)

Christ did away with sin on the cross. John also agrees, later in his letters, where he says:

‘Those who are born of God do not continue to sin. They are not able to sin because they have been born of God.’

(1 John 3:9)

An entire church doctrine has been built on 1 John 1:9, keeping Christians in out in out of the presence of God for centuries. Someone has described it as a ‘Christian bar of soap.’ But Christ is our soap. He is our washpot. Not Moab. He has washed us once for all. He has made us perfect (Hebrews 10:14), righteous (Romans 5:17) and holy (Hebrews 10:10).

Let’s look a bit more closely at 1 John 1:9. To begin with, the word ‘confess’ in Greek doesn’t even have any meaning of asking for forgiveness attached to it. It simply means ‘say the same’ or ‘agree’. So, if we agree with God about our sin he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin. Furthermore, the word ‘repent’ merely means ‘to change your mind’ or ‘change your devotion from yourself to God.’ In other words, stop thinking about yourself and your own ability to be obedient, but think about Christ and His obedience. Paul instructs us to do exactly this:

“…bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

(2 COR 10:5) King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)

People ask me, but Steve, if you believe all of your sins have been forgiven past present and future, do you repent? Do you confess? Yes I do, but not in the way the Anglican church would have me confess. Woe is me, I’m not worthy to eat the crumbs from under your table, blah blah blah… I’m worthy because Christ died for me. I’m worthy of the shed blood of the precious Christ. If Christ thinks I am worth dying for, I am worthy. In my own eyes I am not worthy, but in God’s eyes I am. The key is, renewing our minds and seeing ourselves as God sees us, holy, righteous and perfect.

“By one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who have been made holy.”

(Hebrews 10:14)

If God says He has forgiven us once for all by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, isn’t it an insult to God and Christ’s precious shed blood if we keep returning and asking for forgiveness over and over again? Isn’t this treating Christ’s blood like old testament bulls and goats that had to be sacrificed over and over again for every new sin. We’re not under the old testament law any more. There is no sacrifice for sin left.

“For then,” the Hebrews writer says “Christ would have had to be crucified many times since the creation of the world. But now at the end of the ages, Christ has appeared once to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”

Simon Yap says this:

“When you think that God’s forgiveness is given to you again and again every time you confess you are treating the blood of Jesus as blood of bulls and goats.”

– His Grace is Enough

So, as far as 1 John 1:9 goes, who was John writing to? He was writing to address people in the church who thought they were saved but who denied having sinned. They were not actually saved. This is what John was saying to them. If you agree with God that you have sinned the blood of Jesus will cleanse you. But if you deny having sinned, you make God out to be a liar. John wasn’t talking to Christians. He was talking to people who thought they were saved, but they weren’t.

But John says ‘we’ I hear you say. ‘He’s talking about himself.’ Really? Does John also believe he has no sin? Does John make God out to be a liar? A technique of any good teacher, John is putting himself in the same arena as the sinners. He is not elevating himself above them. He is humbling himself, so as not to alienate them. He is being polite for the gospel’s sake. John already agrees with God that he has sinned, but he still uses ‘we’. John is being inclusive.

The way 1 John 1:9 has been used, and is being used, as a Christian ‘bar of soap’ to suggest when we sin we come out of fellowship until we ‘confess’ our sin again is a lie from the accuser. Our sin does not separate us from God because Christ’s blood covers us. Our fellowship is never broken with God. We are being continually cleansed in a perpetual fountain of Christ’s blood and forgiveness. Joseph Prince describes it as being like a stone in a waterfall. We are always clean. The moment we sin or make ourselves dirty, His blood washes us and we are clean again. Spurgeon described being saved as ‘bathing in Christ’s blood.’  Christ’s blood is like acid. The moment we sin the acid dissolves it and it disappears.

We can not sin as Christians. If you don’t believe me check out 1 John 3:9 + 5:18. I’ve written an article on it here. This is the wonder, the majesty, the magnitude of God’s grace. This is why grace is amazing. Christians who have been saved for many years are coming out of the woodwork with tears of joy and saying they never really understood grace before, but now they do, and the freedom they feel is, as Isaiah says, overwhelming.

“I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God, for He has draped me in a robe of His righteousness.”

(61:10)

People are realizing they don’t have to do anything to contribute to their righteousness, their holiness, or their sanctification. Christ did it all.

“We have been made holy by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ once for all.”

(Hebrews 10:10).

Revival is happening in the Body of Christ. There is a grace revolution.  God will never, ever, ever count our sin against us, ever again.

“Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against him.”

(Romans 4:8)

Hallelujah!

Thank you Jesus!

You rock!

Is sin more powerful than His blood ?

All this focus on ‘sin’ ! How about we focus on the righteousness we have received as a free gift from God – a righteousness that is not dependent on what we do or don’t do, but is dependent on Christ’s love and grace alone.

“I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God, for he has dressed me in garments of salvation. He has draped me in a robe of His righteousness!”

(Isaiah 61:10)

Can our actions subtract from the righteousness He has given us? The glory we have in Christ? The beauty and majesty He has imparted to us through Christ? Is our sin more powerful than God’s majesty? Than Christ’s blood? Christ’s blood consumes our sin, supernaturally, into His body on the cross. Those in Christ are forever free. If we are not, His blood is of no effect to cleanse us.

If we can continue to sin after His blood has cleansed us, if we can go to hell after His blood has cleansed us, then His blood is weak, has limited power. But His blood is not weak. His blood has the power to cleanse us of ALL our sin past present and future. His blood has the power to save us; has the power to make us Children of God; has the power to make us a Royal Priesthood; has the power to make us a Spotless church, without stain blemish or any other wrinkle. His blood alone.

Not our good works. His blood. And only His blood.

His blood has the power to make us:

1. Righteous (Romans 5:17)

2. Holy (Hebrews 10:10)

and

3. Perfect Forever (Hebrews 10:14).

Come on church!

Will someone give me a good AMEN?!

He loves us

And you know the amazing thing?  We don’t have to do anything for it. He loves us just as we are. Not as we should be. Exactly as we are.

I never really got that until I grasped GRACE – Jesus died for me so that He would never ever have to punish me for my sin ever again. No matter how much I sin, He will always love me, and welcome me into His kingdom, into His loving arms.

Even if I were to rebel against His love from now until the day I die, He would never let me go, but would drag me home to Him, kicking and screaming, because my salvation doesn’t depend on my love for Him, but on His love for me.

Knowing that whatever I do wrong I can never ignite God’s anger towards me ever again because He poured out all His fierce anger at my sin in Christ on the cross; knowing I am absolutely and totally FREE from punishment, free from fear, I love Him all the more deeply because now I truly understand what He did for me: He paid the punishment for all my sin on the cross – past, present and future.

Nothing I can do can ever make Him angry at me ever again.

And despite all my wrong doings, all my failings, every thing I’ve ever done wrong or ever will do wrong, He crucified Himself because He would rather die than live without me.

That’s my God.

He died for me so that He could be with me forever.

And He died for you so He could be with you, too.

Because He loves you.

Want to know how much God loves you? Watch this!

The Good News!

We cannot heap additional punishment onto Jesus by our sin.

He is not on the cross anymore.

He suffered once for ALL sin.

His blood covers every sin by everyone, past present and future.

God sees us as he sees Christ – even in the midst of our sin – perfect, righteous and holy.

Now that IS good news !

The Good News Revolution!

Recently Mike Bickle has attacked what’s being called the ‘hyper-grace’ movement – the main forerunner of which is the anointed Singaporean preacher Joseph Prince -on Charisma News.

As some of you will know by now this year I’ve had a massive revelation of God’s grace through Joseph Prince’s ministry which has set me free in a way I’ve never experienced before. The basic teaching is from Paul’s letter to the Romans:

‘There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.’ (Romans 8:1)

One person’s response to a comment on the article struck me as capturing the heart of the movement powerfully and eloquently. Thanks Ed Casavant for allowing me to post it here:

“The Apostle Paul was often taken wrongly on this subject (Grace) so I suspect that Joseph Prince might be in good company. If we aren’t being accused of promoting “license”, we probably aren’t preaching the Good News because the diluted “good news” has been preached and taught for so long — centuries actually.

If a revelation of the understanding of unmerited favor causes the breaking of bondage then our Comforter – the Holy Spirit – is definitely involved. If I receive the empowerment to change because I am experiencing no condemnation, then it is because the deepest root of human dysfunction, condemnation, has been identified and uprooted.

Joseph Prince explained this in his first book, Destined to Reign. With the illuminating wisdom of the Holy Spirit, he cracked the “condemnation code” which has plagued believers’ spiritual growth for centuries and kept them like little children only consuming spiritual milk, not meat (I include myself as having once belonged to that group).

Frankly, prior to him, I had never heard anyone say what Joseph Prince is saying — not Dr. Michael Brown, not Mike Bickle, not Leonard Ravenhill, not David Wilkerson: the list goes on and on. I have listened to most of these men of God very carefully for several years (I’m just turning 49) and the message of ‘no condemnation’ has transformed me more thoroughly than all of what they taught combined together.

Furthermore, teaching born-again believers that they can lose their salvation is injurious, harmful and frankly, wretched. That is what this extreme reaction to “hyper-grace” is all about: It is the fear that believers are going to backslide and lose their salvation because sin will abound. Quite the opposite: the focus on “discipline” and progressive sanctification has indirectly produced more sin and transgression than many in the Body of Christ will ever realize.

Progressive sanctification is a myth. When we accept Christ into our hearts, we are 100% sanctified through our brand new new identity in Christ. We died to sin and are alive to God unless misguided but well-meaning preachers successfully convince us that we are still essentially alive to sin.

By continually focusing on and stressing our part in destroying sin, more sinning and missing the mark results. Guess what, we can’t destroy our sin natures. It was already destroyed for us by our induction into Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. Don’t worry about a new denomination taking root: The Good News Revolution is sweeping over the world right now and will affect every church no matter what denomination or persuasion; it will be the Second Reformation. It’s time for the revival of sin and sin consciousness to end. The world is ready to receive the incredibly exciting Good News that was already there right under our noses all the time.”

Thanks Ed for this superb response.

Another response to Mike Bickle’s article can be found on Simon Yap’s brilliant website His Charis is Enough:

There’s Nothing Wrong with Grace.

Grace and Peace to you.

Steve.

Righteousness Comes Easy.

I read a blog post recently by a leader of the MST project, a men’s outreach program, where the writer says:

“Holiness and righteousness are not characteristics that come easily to us as mere mortals.”

Disagree. Holiness and righteousness do come easily to us because God has given them to us as a free gift.

This is the gospel. This is the good news!

No matter what we do, how we fall, if we are in Christ we are absolutely covered by the blood. God doesn’t count our sin against us anymore. The moment we sin we are forgiven and our sins forgotten.

Why do men seem intent on remembering our sin when God forgets?

It seems this writer believes that ‘being good’ makes us more holy, more righteous, and that if we fall, in some way, we become less righteous.

i.e “If I don’t look at porn, I’m holy and righteous, but if I do, I’m not.”

This is not  the message of Grace. This is a works gospel.

The message of Grace is that God has given us His righteousness as a free gift.

Our right standing before God has nothing to do with what we do or don’t do – but all about what Christ has done for us.

We are absolutely holy,  righteous and perfect in God’s eyes regardless of what we do or don’t do.

Nothing we do has any bearing on our right standing with God.

If anyone thinks he can earn righteousness by himself he is, by very definition,  ‘self-righteous.’

The only one who makes us righteous is Christ in us.

And because Christ is in us, to God we are perfect.

“By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who have been made holy.”

(Hebrews 10:14)

Perfect forever!

Because of Him, not because of us.

The moment we start pointing to our selves and our own achievements instead of to Christ we reject God’s grace and put our self back under the law: if I don’t look at porn for a week I am holier than if I don’t.

This is not the gospel! The gospel is ‘I am righteous and holy because of what Christ has done, not because of what I do.’

“Not of yourselves,” says Paul. “It is the gift of God.”

We could never achieve perfection ourselves, so God gave it to us a free gift, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

This is why we’ll be forever grateful. Why should we be grateful for something we could achieve ourselves?

Imagine if you needed heart surgery and someone gave you some aspirin, well, you could buy that yourself. But if someone died voluntarily and gave you their heart to save your life how grateful would you be?

That’s what Christ did. He died to save our eternal lives. He is our spiritual heart surgeon and our donor all in one.

This is the good news: righteousness is ours as a free gift – so is eternal life.

Not a gift I’d want to take back and change for something else.

But when we try to earn it, when we try to be righteous by striving to be ‘good’ it is like taking the gift back, saying:

“”Um…great gift Lord, really appreciate the thought y’know, the cross ‘n’ all that, but I really want to earn my righteousness on my own.”

Or saying to the heart surgeon / donor:

“Thanks for the offer, but I really want to do my heart operation by my self.”

God knows we can’t give ourselves a new heart, so He says:

“I will give you a new heart and put a new Spirit in you.”

(Ezekiel 36:26)

The new Spirit is Christ!

In the same way as we can’t give ourselves a new heart, we can never achieve righteousness by ourselves, no matter how hard we try.

If we think we can this is pride – the sin of Lucifer.

Remember his words:

“I will make myself like the Most High.”

(Isaiah 14:14)

Satan was already ‘perfect in beauty’ Ezekiel 28 tells us. But that wasn’t enough for him. He wanted to be God.

And if we think we can make ourselves righteous, we are saying we can be our own Savior, we are putting ourselves in the place of God.

But we can not save ourselves. We can’t achieve perfection ourselves by ‘being good’.

If we think we can we’re like the Jews of Jesus’ day who believed they could attain perfection by obeying the law.

But the bible teaches:

“Whoever breaks one law breaks them all.”

(James 2:10)

Obeying the law was impossible. Only one person kept the whole law – Jesus. Thank God then, for Grace. As Joseph Prince says:

“Law condemns the best of us, but grace saves the worst of us.”

Thanks to Jesus we are blameless before God – not because of what we do, but because of what He did for us. We are righteous because of Christ in us. We have His righteousness. This is the good news! This is the gospel! As Paul says:

“In the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith.”

(Romans 1:17)

and:

“Not a righteousness of my own – a righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”

(Philippians 3:9)

No wonder Paul kept banging on about this – he couldn’t believe it! No more struggling to obey the law! He was righteous simply by believing! We can never achieve righteousness by our selves. That’s why God had to send Jesus. And thank God he did because now we are:

“Justified by faith.”

(Romans 5:1)

The writer in Present Truth magazine says:

“Paul says no one can become just in God’s sight by his own performance, and he uses the future tense: no one will ever be considered justified on the basis of his own life. The reason is clear:

“All have sinned and continue to fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace.”

(Romans 3:23)

Freely by grace!

We’ll always fall short of God’s standard, no matter how hard we try, no matter how hard we strive to be righteous or holy. Our only hope is receiving it as a gift, by grace.

Justified.

Even if we sin, our sin cannot condemn us.  Because, Paul says:

“There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.”

(Romans 8:1)

The devil may accuse you, men may accuse you, but Paul says this:

“If it’s God who justifies you, who can throw a charge against you?”

No one can ever charge us with a sin because Christ has paid our penalty, once for all, past, present and future. Yet even if we sin God doesn’t count it against us.

“He reconciled the world to Himself through Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.”

(2 Cor 5:19)

All of our sin was crucified with Christ on the cross:

“He appeared once to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”

(Hebrews 9:26)

Do away with. Wipe out. Eradicate. Once for all. If we are in Christ, Paul says:

“We died with Christ, and anyone who has died has been freed from sin.”

(Romans 6:7)

Freed from sin!

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free!” yells Paul.

(Galatians 5:1)

And Jesus:

“The Spirit of the Lord has sent me to set free the prisoners of sin.”

(Luke 4:18)

Joseph Prince calls it the ‘Divine Exchange‘:

“He made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that through Him we could become the righteousness of God.”

(2 Cor 5:21)

He became sin. We became righteous. Denying this once for all sacrifice, to claim we are not righteous when God says we are, again, is rejecting Gods gift!

“I’m sorry God, but Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t good enough. I’m still filthy in my sin. I sin every day! I’m not righteous at all. I am weak.”

To which Jesus replies:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

(2 Cor 12:9)

His power is made perfect through our weakness! Paul says:

“Therefore I am glad to boast of my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may work through me!”

Let’s not give God’s wonderful gift of grace back. Let’s not say Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t good enough to cleanse us of all our sin. If Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t good enough the writer of Hebrews couldn’t say:

“He appeared once to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”

(Hebrews 9:26)

When Jesus cried from The Cross ‘It is finished,’ He meant sin was finished. Dealt with. Done away with. Destroyed. The Divine Exchange had taken place. He became sin. We became righteous.

“Not of yourselves,’ says Paul, ‘It is the gift of God.”

(Ephesians 2:8)

We have to get it out of our heads – we can’t earn God’s righteousness. It’s a gift. All we can do is receive and believe.  So let’s hold our hearts out and say:

“Thanks Lord. I know I can’t be righteousness by myself. Thanks for suffering for me on the cross and that I’m righteous because of you. Your cross was good enough. I am free.”

No more striving. No more trying. No more stress about sin. Instead of focusing on ourselves, let’s focus on Jesus. Let’s be ‘Christ conscious, and not sin conscious,’ as Joseph Prince puts it. Paul says:

“You are not led by the sinful nature if the Spirit of God lives in you.”

(Romans 8:9)

If the Spirit of God lives in us, our minds are set on what the Spirit desires. Yet even if we do sin The Spirit turns our devotion back to Christ.

This is the true meaning of ‘repent’ – turning our focus from our ‘self’ and our sin back towards God. Turning from a belief in our own achievements towards a belief in God’s achievement – on The Cross.

But we don’t do it. We are incapable.

The Spirit does it for us.

Paul says:

“And we all who reflect the Lord’s glory are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

(2 Cor 3:18)

When we focus on Him instead of ourselves His Spirit reflects on us and we change into His image, becoming more and more like Him, with ever-increasing glory. Paul says the ‘mystery’ of the gospel is:

“Christ in you – the hope of glory.”

(Col 1:27)

‘Glory’ in the bible means ‘a beauty and majesty distinctive to God’. And ‘hope’ means ‘a joyful confidence.’ So Paul is saying because Christ is in us we have God’s beauty and majesty.

Now, if I were to stand and proclaim ‘I have the beauty and majesty of God’ I’d sound proud and pretentious. But Paul says we can say this with joyful confidence because of Christ in us.

We are adorned with His beauty and majesty.

Again, it isn’t something we can give ourselves. We can’t adorn ourselves with the beauty and majesty of God! Only God can. In the same way we can’t earn our own righteousness. This is why Isaiah gets so excited when he says:

“I’m overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God, for He’s clothed me in garments of salvation and draped me in a robe of His righteousness!”

(Isaiah 61:10)

Isaiah’s overflowing with joy! He understood God’s grace. God had adorned him with His beauty and majesty and with His righteousness. And notice how Isaiah doesn’t say he clothed himself, but God clothed him.

His ‘righteousness’ was not his own doing, but God’s.

No wonder Isaiah says he’s ‘overwhelmed with joy’ – he was draped in the beauty and majesty of God!

And so are if we are in Christ .

“Look at the flowers of the field. Not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned as beautifully as these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, how much more will he clothe you?”

(Matthew 6:30)

In garments of salvation, a robe of righteousness, and in the beauty and majesty of God!

Grasping Love.

Once we grasp how great His love for us is our desire to sin melts away like ice in the sun because we don’t want to hurt Him.

We know how much He loves us because we know how much the gift cost Him – His son’s blood poured out on The Cross. The gift of righteousness comes free to us, but it cost God everything. We were bought at a price.

“God demonstrated His love for us by sending his one and only Son into the world.”

(1 John 4:9)

Accept you are completely holy and righteous in Christ.

Accept God’s great gift.

The devil may attack, with emails from people in the church, saying:

“This teaching is wrong. You still have a long way to go. You are full of sin. You should step down from ministry.”

But this is a lie from the devil, the father of lies. This kind of teaching has been keeping the church in prison for centuries.

Reject it. It’s a lie.

We are completely holy, righteous and justified in Christ.

We are adorned with His beauty and majesty.

Don’t accept this teaching, people. Distance yourself from it.

“But I don’t feel beautiful,” you say. “I still sin every day.”

But Paul says:

“We died with Christ, and anyone who has died has been freed from sin.”

(Romans 6:7)

We’ve been freed from sin!

Believe it and receive it. Even if we do sin, God doesn’t count it against us.

We are righteous by faith. We are free!

Look at Paul – 15 years after his conversion he wrote to the church at Rome regarding his own battle with sin:

“What I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

(Romans 7:15)

Now if Paul, the greatest apostle to ever live, was still battling with sin 15 years after his conversion, what makes us think we should be any different? But the fact is, even if we sin, God doesn’t count it against us.

“Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against him.”

(Psalm 32:2)

But did Paul, even when he ‘did what he hated to do,’ condemn himself? Did he wallow in guilt? Declare himself unfit to preach the gospel of grace? Absolutely not! His response was:

“Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

(Romans 7:24)

Paul didn’t look to his own strength or ability to defeat sin, he looked to Christ. This may come as a surprise to some, but nothing we do affects our righteousness.

We cannot defeat sin ourselves. If we could Christ died for nothing!

If we think we can conquer sin ourselves we are like the Jews of Jesus’ day, who thought they could achieve righteousness by obeying the law. But, God says, compared to His glory, beauty and majesty:

“All of your good deeds are like filthy rags.”

(Isaiah 64:6)

Shocking huh? Just when we thought our striving to ‘be good’ was getting us somewhere.

Well, rest easy, because we are already where we need to be, if we are resting in Christ.

As long as we’re relying on our own ability to ‘be good’ and pointing to our own achievements we are building our house on sand, not on the rock that is Christ.

As Peter White says in his brilliant essay From Law to Grace:

“We are to proclaim God’s Grace and never our own achievements.”

“So you’re saying we are still righteous, even in the midst of our sin, because our righteousness doesn’t depend on what we do, but on what Christ has done?”

Yes! This is the good news. This is The Gospel.

As Joseph Prince says:

“We are still righteous in Christ, even when we do wrong.”

Because our righteousness doesn’t depend on our own achievements, but on Christ’s achievement on The Cross.

Amazing?   Sure.

Unbelievable?  Yes.

Too good to be true? Absolutely!!!

This is why Grace is so difficult to grasp. It is too good to be true!

As Micah J Murray says in his superb article.

“We are probably just beginning to glimpse what the Gospel really is, and it’s better news than we had ever dreamed.”

The gospel is better than we ever dreamed. And Grace is easy to grasp if we just believe God’s word!

“But if I grasp Grace will it help me stop sinning?”

Is your focus on your ‘sin’ or on Christ? Are you ‘sin conscious,’ or ‘Christ conscious?’ as Joseph Prince puts it.

If we focus on Christ we soak up more and more of His beauty and majesty. But if we focus on our sin we stay chained in the prison of our sin. Yet Jesus says:

“The Spirit of the Lord has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners of sin.”

(Luke 4:18)

Freedom!

“And if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

(John 8:36)

In the hit TV series Prison Break – Tea Bag – a character struggling to break from his life as a law-breaker to live a righteous life, says:

“We are prisoners of our own identities.”

But if our identities are in Christ, we are imprisoned in His identity: holy, righteous and sin-free.

Truly understanding this freedom – that even if we sin we are still righteous before God – is so freeing we suddenly feel as light as a feather because it releases the burden of guilt.

It’s such a heavy load to carry trying to be righteous by ourselves, but Jesus says:

“Come to me you who are weary and I will give you rest.”

(Matthew 11:28)

Rest.

So please, take a deep breath, accept you are righteous and holy by faith, and relax in His Grace.

Then you will feel the desire to sin melt away like ice in the sun – or rather, in The Son!

But beware, the devil will attack you.

Distance yourself from any teaching  that tells you you are less than perfect in Christ, that tells you you still ‘have a long way to go,’ or you must ‘strive for purity, holiness and righteousness’, or because of your own actions you are not ‘holy’ enough to teach and lead.

For –

“We have been made holy by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ once for all.”

(Hebrews 10:10)

and

“It’s not of yourselves, it is the gift of God!”

(Ephesians 2:8)

Let’s accept our King’s gift of grace and wear our robes of righteousness with majesty and beauty, like Isaiah, overwhelmed with joy!

In the words of the great apostle, Paul:

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”

Amen.

Can a Christian sin?

No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. (1 John 3:9)

He cannot sin.

God’s words not mine!

You know what this means? It means that if we are in Christ, in God’s eyes, we cannot sin. We can do no wrong in our Father’s loving eyes. All He sees when he sees us, is not our old sinful self, but the righteousness of Jesus, his perfect son.

Yep, even if we do sin, he doesn’t count our sins against us, Paul says.

Men may accuse us, the enemy may accuse us, but —

“If God is for us, who can be against us? Who can accuse those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies!” (Romans 8:33)

In the eyes of God the Judge we are innocent.

Our slates are wiped clean!

Our punishment for all our sin, past, present and future, paid in full – thanks to Jesus, suffering in our place, on that rugged cross.

But if we can’t sin in God’s eyes, what about that 1 John 1:9 verse that says we have to confess our sin? I hear you shout. Well, research has proved John was writing that part of the letter to the ‘Gnostics’ . Gnostics believed that they were saved but they had no sin.

This verse was written to the Gnostics but we have turned it into a Christian ‘bar of soap’ to cleanse us again and again every time we sin – but this repeated ‘confessing’ isn’t necessary.

As the writer of the letter to the Hebrews says:

“We have been made holy by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10)

So when John says —

“If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and The Truth is not in us.”

— he was saying to these Gnostic Christians ‘You can’t be in Christ if you say you have no sin’ because to enter God’s family we have to confess that we are sinners and ask for forgiveness.

Once.

Not again and again.

Hebrews 6 is clear that if we sin, once we have received a knowledge of the Truth, we cannot return to repentance because it’s like crucifying the Son of God all over again.

Just as with Christ’s sacrifice once was enough, so confessing that we are sinners once is enough.

Repenting again and again is crucifying Christ over and over again, or, as the Hebrews writer puts it, treating the blood of Christ as an ‘unholy thing’ – and as Simon Yap says on his brilliant website treating the precious blood of Christ like the blood of ‘bulls and goats.’

But No.

The Cross was good enough to cleanse us from our sin once for all – for eternity.

If it wasn’t once for all, the Hebrews writer says, Christ would have had to suffer ‘again and again.’

But God told Christ:

“From that cup, the goblet of my fury, you will never drink again.” (Isaiah 51:22)

When God sees us who are in Christ he doesn’t see our sin anymore – he sees Jesus.

This is the good news.

This is the gospel!

Gnostic Christians couldn’t accept the gospel. They couldn’t accept they were sinners, so therefore Christ (The Truth) wasn’t in them. They were deceiving themselves. And if they denied having sin, they made God out to be a liar. John was trying to make the Gnostics see that they weren’t actually saved.

They weren’t Christians.

Do you know anyone who thinks they are a Christian but they aren’t actually saved?

Someone who says ‘Yeh, I’m a Christian. I’m a good person. I’ve never done anything wrong.’

Similar thing.

But we have been made holy once for all.

Our sin was crucified with Christ.

We have no sin to confess, ever.

It has all been dealt with, once for all, at The Cross.

And John says it twice, just in case we didn’t get it the first time!

“We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them.” (1 John 5:18)

Paul agrees:

“We died with Christ, and everyone who has died has been freed from sin.” (Romans 6:6)

Freed from sin!

And you know what they say… If the Son sets you free…

What gift will you bring?

I’d never heard The Little Drummer Boy before.

I’d heard of it, but had never actually listened to it.

Then, this Christmas, I saw this video, and it tore me apart in tears.

The story goes something like this:

A little boy hears that a new King has been born and that everyone is bringing their finest gifts to ‘honor’ Him.

Intrigued, the little boy goes to see, but, feels ashamed that he has ‘no gift to bring’ that is ‘fit for a king.’

So he offers to play his drum.

I played my drum for Him.

I played my best for Him.

What do these beautiful, simple words tell us about what it means to follow Christ.

All Jesus wants us to do is play our best for Him.

Even if we think we have no gift to bring, we do, because we all have something to offer.

God has blessed each and every one of us with a gift.

Whether we are highly qualified in positions of influence and power, or whether we are a little boy with nothing but a drum to play, all Jesus wants us to do is ‘play our best for Him.’

Not perfectly, not amazingly – as long as we do our best for Him.

Then, He smiled at me.

As long as we are ‘playing our best’, Jesus is happy with us.

We don’t have to be perfect – we cannot be perfect – but just doing our best.

Whatever gift God has blessed us with, let’s honor Him.

And remember the first line of this song:

Come, they told me.

The Little Drummer Boy is invited to come to Jesus.

This is the gospel, in the very first word: Come.

So, like The Little Drummer Boy, let’s come to Jesus and play our best for Him.

Come.

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Click this image for another amazing version.

 

 

 

 

He hangs out with “sinners”.

My first year here in Cambodia I was accused of being a ‘predator’ by the leader of a church because I would go out to nightclubs, reaching out to sex workers.

The reason I came to Cambodia was to battle the sex trade. Admittedly, I came to combat child sex trafficking but God didn’t open those doors. He opened doors to the nightclubs of Phnom Penh where not children but young adult women were working.

What did that leader think? I came all the way to Phnom Penh from England to stay in at night and watch TV?

I came here to reach out to the lost and the broken.

Often, in the clubs, the girls would stare at me with confused looks as I danced exuberantly on the dancefloor, praising Jesus, eyes shining.

The girls didn’t understand it when I looked them in the eye.

They didn’t see lust and sexual desire.

They saw the light of Christ.

The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

– John 1:5

I wasn’t a ‘predator’. I wasn’t out to pick up the girls. I was out to help them, to guide them to NGO’s that might be able to offer them a way out, a training program or a safe house.

I was misunderstood.

Tim Keller, in one of his podcasts says:

Unless you are vulnerable and being misunderstood, you are not in mission.

What a statement!

Jesus was a man of ill-repute. He hung out with sinners and ‘women of ill repute.’ He let a prostitute wash his feet with her hair. He was vulnerable. He was misunderstood.

That’s why I had to post this by Mick Mooney:

As much as we love Jesus, I think until we allow our own reputation to become as trampled and dirty as he allowed his to become, we’ll never quite understand him, nor his message. Until we break free from the prison of maintaining a religiously acceptable reputation, we will continue to read about the wild Jesus in Scripture, but we’ll struggle to truly understand him, and the way of life he exemplified.

Read the rest of the awesome article here.

Steve Edwards

What is Community?

(Originally posted in 2013).

This week we shared a pizza and cans of coke at our cafe in the red light area.

We shared a meal, broke bread (pizza) drank the blood (coke) and thanked Jesus for giving us eternal life.

This is what Jesus meant by “whenever you do this, remember me.”

He meant share a meal together, and when you do, remember Him.

 I have given you life, and life in abundance. 

It was a great moment. A moment of sharing life with people passionate for God. The cafe hub was buzzing, people outreaching to sex workers, ladyboys, sex-pats, huge tattooed Christians ministering to American / Cambodian returnees (people who have been deported from the US back to Cambodia because they have committed a crime – forced into leaving their families, their loved ones, into a country they don’t know, some don’t even speak the language).

So, life is a rich mixture. Shakespeare called life a feast.

This is what Jesus means by communion.

Community.

And we don’t always find community in that place we’re supposed to go and park our butts for 2 hours on a Sunday.

Community is wherever we are.

Whereever we are, that is church.

Whereever we are, Jesus is.

Letter to Pastor Tullian: Keep Preaching Grace!

I am deeply saddened hearing news of Pastor Tullian’s resignation as Senior Pastor from Coral Ridge church.

My heart goes out to him as he faces the consequence of his choices.

God knows, we’ve all fallen morally.

Some of us are in the public eye. Others aren’t.

I’ve failed morally many times, yet God’s grace always picks me back up. Jesus’ blood washes me clean once again and I get on the horse and ride again.

God knows, a recent study showed 30% of Christian men admitted to moral failure here in Cambodia.

But if we are all to resign after failing morally, who would there be left?

There is no one righteous. Not even one.

Where do we draw the line?

Correct me if I’m wrong, if we are saying a man is only fit to preach the gospel and lead a church if he is morally upright by human standards, then aren’t we missing the whole point of grace? Aren’t we missing the gospel?

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

  • Romans 3:23

This is all about obeying the law.

We are saying that the position of leader in a church depends on our own ability to live a moral life.

This is all about obeying the law!

But all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

According to Isaiah, compared with the righteousness we have received from God as a free gift – our own righteous acts are like filthy rags!

Not even our sin.

Our righteous acts!

If we can only lead a church if we are righteous by our own acts then NO ONE is able to lead a church…

As the only reason any of us are righteous is because of Christ in us. 

I’m sure if we delved into the secret lives of pastors NOT ONE  would attain the moral standard God requires.

NO ONE would be fit to lead!

This is why we depend on Christ.

It is He who makes us righteous.

He is our holiness, righteousness and redemption.

It is He who makes us fit to lead. Not by ourselves. Christ in us makes us righteous.

Leaders of Coral Ridge church: we are not morally righteous by our own acts.

Pastor Tullian is, if anything, more qualified to preach from the puplit, as he knows what it is to depend on the grace of God!

Seriously, what secret sins are church leaders keeping to themselves?

Where do we say “You did that, so you can’t lead,” and “You did that, so you can’t lead.”

Watching porn? Fantasizing over a congregation member? Cross Dressing? Having homoerotic desires?

Who draws the line?

Jesus drew the line – in the sand. And what did he write?

He who is without sin cast the first stone!

There is no one righteous. Not even one.

And if the church is saying we are only fit to lead a church because we have obeyed certain laws and managed to live righteously by human standards – then that church is living according to the law.

On its website, Coral Ridge acknowledged that Pastor Tullian

…admitted to moral failure, acknowledging his actions disqualify him from continuing to serve as senior pastor or preach from the pulpit, and resigned, effective immediately.

– Christianity Today.

Disqualifying him to serve as senior pastor or preach from the pulpit.

Who says?

God?

Or man?

This smacks of legalism.

We are only fit to preach from the pulpit if we manage to live upright lives and obey the law.

Legalism!

Law!

And under The Law no one can stand.

There is no one righteous. Not even one.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by His grace.

We all like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has gone to his own way.

Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love.

Pastor Tullian will be aching in his heart.

Let’s all gather round him and nurture him back to seeing himself as God sees him – holy, rightoeus and perfect – because of Christ’s sacrifice.

Nothing we do can altar the way Jesus sees us.

Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love.

Pastor Tullian – you are still a Senior Pastor in God’s Kingdom.

You are still an anointed preacher, a gifted writer and a great man of God.

You are still a warrior for Christ, saved by grace and righteous by faith.

Perhaps God has taken you out of a church that appoints its pastors depending on their own self-righteous acts, rather than on their honest preaching of the grace of God from the valley of their own shadow – where, if we are brave enough to admit it, we all visit.

Whatever happens, God’s grace is sufficient for you.

His power is made perfect in weakness.

From this trial you will grow stronger and the message of grace will reach far and wide.

I leave you with the words of Paul:

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.

  • Philippians 1:12

Bless you brother.

Wishing you a fast and powerful recovery.

Amen!

Steve Edwards