Showing posts with label Grace. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Grace. Show all posts

21 December 2012

Law or grace?

On the one hand is law and on the other grace. Can I base my daily living on either of these? Is there any other way to live my life? We look at obedience in the life of the believer, based on Christ's love within and the actions that stem from this.


Tetrahedron
Sometimes things are not as clear as they seem.

Some followers of the Way are bound by rules and regulations; in other words they are
convinced there are standards we must meet in our lives.

Others may say they are free in Christ to do all things since he dealt with sin once and for all. Perhaps the former are in the majority although it's hard to tell.

At the absolute extremes we would be so law-focussed that we might rely on our own purity, or so grace-focussed that we might treat continuous forgiveness as our right.

It's unlikely that anyone could be found at either extreme, but some might come close. The rest of us are spread out in a continuum between law and grace. So who is right? How should we live our lives?

It doesn't often occur to us that both might be far from the simple truth.

Law - If I depend on the Law I'm like the Pharisees who criticised Jesus for allowing his followers to harvest and thresh grain on the Sabbath. As they were walking through the fields they took ears of grain and rubbed them between their hands to extract the seeds to eat (Mark 2:23-24). It was hardly an industrial-scale process! The Pharisees also prided themselves on meticulously tithing even the smallest quantities of herbs and spices like cumin (Matthew 23:23).

Meanwhile, for all their complaining about others and pride in their tithing they failed to help the poor or take pity on those in difficulty. Adherence to the law is not sufficient. Or more correctly, it would be sufficient if I had never sinned and could continue to lead a sinless life. But I haven't and I can't.

It's already far too late for me to depend upon observing the Law.

Law is a gift from the Father.

Grace - But if I look to grace am I any better off? Perhaps that depends on how I understand grace. If I see it as a precious gift it is all I need. If I treat is as a licence to sin without further consideration then I lose its true value.

Grace came at great cost, it is a precious, precious thing. It enables us to stand confident in the presence of the Most High, to see him as a loving Dad, to recognise we are forgiven, special, precious, loved, honoured and glorified by the Creator of the universe.

I dare not abuse it, I am called to receive grace as a gift but also to offer it freely, to forgive as I have been forgiven, to love as I have been loved, to honour as I have been honoured.

Grace is a gift from the Son.

Obedience - Law is too rigid. It's not the right place to look, I can never earn forgiveness and justification by obeying the Law. Yet grace (if I mistreat it) is too flexible.

But there's a third alternative, rarely considered, and it transforms everything.

Obedience is good, but obedience to the Law is impossibly hard. It is unachievable. It is already lost. However, grace opens the way, not only to forgiveness, but also to life in the presence of the King.

Jesus sent the Holy Spirit precisely so that I could hear what the Father is saying to me moment by moment as I live out my life on this Earth. So rather than a vain attempt to live by obeying the Law, I can now begin to live by obeying his voice, just as Jesus did. This is truly revolutionary!

There is nothing I am not allowed to do - as long as I'm told to do it. It's hard to see the freedom and opportunity wrapped up in this statement. Paul writes that even eating food sacrificed to an idol is OK, providing I don't cause others to sin by eating  (1 Corinthians 8:1-13). In other words my care for others trumps the law and is made possible by grace. Love wins. It's no accident that Paul judged love to be the greatest thing (1 Corinthians 13).

It's not that there are no longer any rules, but in Jesus those rules have been fulfilled and now I'm free to look away from them and focus my attention on Jesus instead. And he'll guide me by the power of the Spirit. It's just as written by Isaiah, 'This is the way, walk in it!' (Isaiah 30:19-21) and by Jeremiah to a disobedient people, 'Where the good way is, ... walk in it' (Jeremiah 6:16).

Obedience is a gift from the Spirit.

Conclusion - Everything comes from the Father, Son and Spirit. Just as they are inseparable, so too are law, grace and obedience. We cannot pick them apart, we need all three. But the amazing truth is that Jesus ministers all three to us. He is the way, the truth and the life; do you see that those three concepts have the aroma of the Father, Son and Spirit? We can lay them out here.

  • The Father provides law and has the aroma of the truth.
  • The Son provides grace and has the aroma of life.
  • The Spirit provides obedience and has the aroma of the way.

But because they are one, you can mix and match and every statement you make remains correct. The Father, Son and Spirit are all about law, grace and obedience and all have the aroma of way, truth and life. There is a wonderful symmetry about the great Creator King, a multidimensional knot that holds the universe together and cannot be unpicked.

As an aside, the tetrahedron is an interesting geometric shape in three dimensions. There is a base (think of it as the universe or the world). High above is an apex, think of this as the Almighty. There are three faces (Father, Son, Spirit), three edges connecting the apex and the base (law, grace and obedience) and the base has three sides (way, truth and life).

The law had to be fulfilled and Jesus does that. Grace is sufficient for me and Jesus provides it. Life needs to be lived and Jesus shines a spiritual light onto my path. He is all in all. Jesus says, 'If you have seen me you have seen the Father'.

Jesus came to set me free. And I am free indeed! But he set me free to obey him in everything.

Questions:

  • How large a part should traditions have in church life?
  • What does it mean to be 'free indeed'? (John 8:36)
  • Is Jesus the way, the truth and the life for you, personally and daily? (John 14:6)

See also:

15 July 2012

Throwing stones

The law brings judgement and death. Grace brings forgiveness and life. And what I receive I should also freely give to others. There is no advantage in receiving grace if I do not also share it around liberally. As I judge, so will I be judged.

Writing in the dust
While I was walking back from town two days ago I was thinking about the woman caught in adultery and brought before Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees. And I was struck powerfully by a sudden thought. I realised what Jesus had meant when he said that the one without sin should throw the first stone. he was talking about himself!

Looking the passage up later I discovered, of course, that others had come to this conclusion ahead of me. But the sudden revelation while walking left its mark nonetheless. It had been a revelation to me. It was an example of how abruptly and quite without warning we can grasp a new aspect of something. We suddenly 'get' it, and usually for no particular reason.

These flashes of inspiration or revelation are valuable, but they don't seem to come from careful and exhaustive study. Rather, they are like small movements caught in the corner of the eye. Our attention is caught, our gaze shifts, and we become suddenly aware of what we had not known and were not looking for.

Here is the passage I was pondering...

Early next morning he returned to the Temple and the entire crowd came to him. So he sat down and began to teach them. But the scribes and Pharisees brought in to him a woman who had been caught in adultery. They made her stand in front, and then said to him, “Now, master, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. According to the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women to death. Now, what do you say about her?”

They said this to test him, so that they might have some good grounds for an accusation. But Jesus stooped down and began to write with his finger in the dust on the ground. But as they persisted in their questioning, he straightened himself up and said to them, “Let the one among you who has never sinned throw the first stone at her.” Then he stooped down again and continued writing with his finger on the ground. And when they heard what he said, they were convicted by their own consciences and went out, one by one, beginning with the eldest until they had all gone.

Jesus was left alone, with the woman still standing where they had put her. So he stood up and said to her, “Where are they all—did no one condemn you?”

And she said, “No one, sir.” “Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus to her. “Go home and do not sin again.” (John 8:2-11, JB Phillips New Testament)

Jesus said the one without sin should throw the first stone. But there was one person in the room who had no sin and who therefore had the right to throw that first stone. And that was Jesus. All the others had left, aware of their own sin and, perhaps, not wanting to have it pointed out!

So instead of condemning her, Jesus simply told her 'Neither do I condemn you, go and don't sin any more'.

This is grace at work. The law demanded the death penalty. Jesus alone had the right to pronounce and carry out that penalty. But he forgave her and let her leave in peace. If we are not forgiven by the one who has the right to exact the penalty, we are not forgiven at all!

Thank you, Lord, for your grace - freely given but never deserved. Thank you for your love towards us. Thank you for your peace resting upon us. Thank you for your presence amongst us and your fellowship with us. Where two or three are gathered... Thank you, Lord.

06 January 2012

Like light on the water

Part 11 of a series - 'The Grace Outpouring'
< Grace outpouring | Index | A royal priesthood >

Behind the prayers for blessing and the abundant evidence of the results, an inner awareness was growing of the need for grace in dealing with people. A new understanding was developing in Roy and Daphne's hearts and minds.

Blessing and grace like sunlight on the waterIn this section, Roy continues to explain the need for grace towards others. The Almighty blesses us despite our faults and we should treat others in the same way. Praying for people to be blessed is part of that.

We are called to be more like him. When we ask him to bless people we are merely asking him to do what he has already chosen to do.
We found that there is often resistance to heart habits that incline towards grace. There were plenty of Christians who told me that our practice of blessing people who were not yet Christian was absolutely wrong. We were advised that it would be much better to cry out to God to make things much worse for them. Such people were not pleased to be told that this type of prayer was like a curse.

I cannot find a home in faith houses built on judgement. My personal experience is that God has had favour on me and shown me mercy when I don't deserve it. I have been disobedient and apathetic but the mercy that he's poured out on me has taken my breath away. When we hear the testimony of a wretched sinner who has found salvation we rejoice with them and the angels. The lower they have been, the greater the glory. It is not quite as straightforward when it is someone who is already a Christian, whose life has imploded, and that has been my experience. I know that if I were God I wouldn't have given someone like me another chance.

As these understandings had taken hold in my life in the years prior to coming to Ffald-y-Brenin, I concluded I didn't want to persuade people about the veracity or non-veracity of the words in a book. I believed they could encounter the living God and that the words would come alive to them as a result.

Asking people if we can bless them is an offer that few refuse. We're not saying, 'Can we pray for you in a general way?' We're not putting a difficult burden on those doing the praying. Blessing someone is simple and easy. The Holy Spirit comes because when you bless you are reflecting something that the Father is doing and speaking words that the Father desires to be said.

God's desire to bless is absolutely outrageous. Nothing can stop him. He has set himself with immovable intent to bless mankind. His longing is that Jesus shall have many brothers. That's us. Before we knew him, he knew us. Before we loved him, he loved us. He designed us for a purpose wrapped up in blessing. Heaven, our ultimate destination, is full of blessing and we are invited to pray for the coming of heaven on earth right now.*
Let's all aim to walk in step with the Father. We have nothing to lose and a very great deal to gain. Let's not resist him in our hearts, instead we simply need to accept that he was gracious towards us, is gracious towards others, and we should act and speak out of grace too.

Blessing and grace poured out onto the people we meet are like beams of bright sunshine pouring down onto the surface of a lake. Everything is transformed.

The Father, the Son and the Spirit are one, they are abundantly alive and want us to enter into their relationship of absolute love and grace and oneness. Furthermore they want us to draw others in. It's that simple!

Read a brief review of the book (includes several ways to buy a copy).

*Copyright 2008 Roy Godwin, Dave Roberts. The Grace Outpouring published by David C Cook. Publisher permission required to reproduce. All rights reserved.

< Grace outpouring | Index | A royal priesthood >

01 January 2012

Grace outpouring

Part 10 of a series - 'The Grace Outpouring'
< The abundant results of prayer | Index | Like light on the water >

Behind the prayers for blessing and the abundant evidence of the results, an inner awareness was growing of the need for grace in dealing with people. A new understanding was developing in Roy and Daphne's hearts and minds.

Rainclouds and sunshine over GalileeAs a result of the answers to prayer, it was now becoming clear that the best way to reach people is by first blessing them. Simply confronting people with truth and correction is ineffective and even counter productive.

Roy and Daphne start to challenge the accepted norms where these involve any form of judgement or criticism.
My old ways of giving away my faith were being changed as this understanding of blessing people began to not merely take hold of our hearts but actually bear fruit in our community.

I was no stranger to the 'truth and Scripture' method. This appeal to the mind is valid, good and powerful for many. But for people who don't consider themselves particularly literate and for those who have moved to a more visual, 'discovered in life' knowledge it can often fail to stir their hearts, minds and emotions.

I had started to challenge the 'faith as normal' mindset that I felt many Christians had slipped into. I had already begun to question a culture of faith that places a high value on correcting strangers. For example, we're very good at throwing stones at politicians and the media. Christians seem very keen on petitions. I started to ask people who wanted to publicise their petition objecting to a particular broadcast, for instance, whether they had ever previously commended the broadcaster for programmes that were wholesome. Were they praying for the media or was this simply mud-slinging?

Having a heart to bless will challenge the judgemental mindset that can colour how we look at those we live with and among. We can become a 'grace first' people. We're still asking people to turn away from rebellion against God but we're seeking to be part of the revelation from the Father that his primary desire is to bless those he created in his image.

If we will let the wisdom of God inhabit our thinking, a consistent 'grace first' pattern will emerge in our actions and words. 'Grace first' prayer for healing doesn't search for wrongdoing in a person's life, which needs correcting as a prelude to a miracle. There doesn't seem to be much evidence for that approach in the ministry of Jesus. We simply ask that the power of God should touch that life.

As goodness, grace and mercy are manifest we can remind people to change their ways - they're ready to hear the words of correction when they've heard the shout of love. Jesus, for instance, saved a sinful, adulterous woman from death and then gently suggested that she 'go and sin no more'.

Think for a moment about your experience with God. Sometimes a truth enters your life and you value it. It becomes a thread in your tapestry of faith. Then a season comes when you realise how important that insight is. The idea of blessing people, already growing in our lives, took hold of me in a new way as our life at Ffald-y-Brenin unfolded, despite the attacks that it also released.*
We can all learn from Roy and Daphne's experience. They found that a 'grace first' approach and prayer for blessing is a wonderful way to capture attention, hearts and minds and open the way for Jesus. We can take this approach too.

Why not look for opportunities to bless the people you meet in your daily life? Pray for them to receive a touch from the Lord. Ask him to bless their coming and going, their homes and families and jobs and businesses. And then, when you meet them at the supermarket checkout, in the street, at a school parent's evening or the cricket club or in the local pub, pray secretly in your heart again.

Ask for an abundance of good things for them, and when they start to tell you their stories you will be able to say, 'I asked Jesus to bless your business' - or family, school, garden, or whatever. And another seed will have been sown in a heart.

If we can all change our habits just a little here and there it will make a big difference. Here is one habit I want to cultivate in my own life - to pray for a blessing upon everyone who reads one of these blog posts. It seems such a little thing, but a lot of little things add up. A little habit consistently applied can achieve a lot of bad or a lot of good.

So why not develop little habits that will bring good results? Be like your Father in heaven who pours out the life-giving rain and sun on all people.

Read a brief review of the book (includes several ways to buy a copy).

*Copyright 2008 Roy Godwin, Dave Roberts. The Grace Outpouring published by David C Cook. Publisher permission required to reproduce. All rights reserved.

< The abundant results of prayer | Index | Like light on the water >

04 November 2010

St Neots (Cornerstone) - Meeting at the corner

This evening we decided to meet at Cornerstone Cafe and Books because Pam was planning to do some cleaning there. We all worked for a while, had a coffee, then met, and finally did a little more work before heading home.

Cornerstone's websiteWe chatted for a while as we often do. Jim asked me what I'd been doing during the day and I mentioned waxing one of our new doors at home. Then I shared how I'd read 1 Corinthians 13 and how it is perhaps my all time favourite chapter, and how I'd read Psalm 7 today too. I read out the last verse in which David relies on Yahweh's righteousness, not his own.

Jim told us that he's been reading Hebrews and how the people seemed to be starting to drift away from Christ. The author is saying, 'Hey, get back to the truth about Jesus!' Someone he knows had spoken about Jehoshaphat who ahead of battle had spent time praising the Lord instead of preparing his weapons. We have to have the same frame of mind, the real priorities are not always the obvious ones.

Sean told us about a dream he had. He was in an old Anglican church and the vicar was going through the service. Sean became bored and began praising and worshipping loudly. The people in the church tried to stop him but couldn't. They were prevented from interfering.

Jim and Sean then discussed how, without revelation, the gospel is a mystery and may even repel people. In the end it's all about the supremacy of Jesus, not about the law, rules, and regulations.

I thought that we're just like the prodigal son, but we sometimes overlook the fact that the father in the parable was also prodigal. He poured out abundant mercy, grace and love upon the returning son. We have only to turn back towards our Father and he runs out to meet us and throws his arms around us.

I felt I should speak out the words of the old song...

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face.
And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace.

Jim was surprised and encouraged by this as it was the second time today that someone had shared those words with him. And of course I found that encouraging too!

02 November 2010

Brampton - Look at his face

We began by running through SASHET together (part of the CO2 idea). This helped us to understand one another's current situation and thoughts. Then we made a start with Virkler (also part of CO2) where we deliberately listen to what Jesus is saying to us, it's a way of paying attention.

A fast flowing streamHowever, we agreed that this didn't work as well as listening individually and sharing later. I saw a picture of a little babbling brook running down towards me. I had to look up the slope to see it, sometimes it was running smoothly, and sometimes the water was tumbling down over rocks. I just had to share it there and then, it simply seemed wrong to wait.

Then I saw a large shovel, very big, loaded heavily with grain. And I thought about the jubilee, a Royal Jubilee when debt is cancelled, slaves are freed, and there is a sense of renewal and a fresh beginning throughout the land.

Sean said the the harvest is so big that we won't be able to bring it all in. We need to look to the source of the stream of living water, and we need do it all the time. We need to look at his face to see his love for us, but we often won't look because we think we know what his reaction will be. We expect him to be angry and disapproving and disappointed. If we did look we would see only love and acceptance.

We think our acceptability depends on the good work we do and the bad things we don't do. In fact it depends entirely on his grace and love. How can we get it so wrong?

15 September 2010

REVIEW - The Grace Outpouring

A lady came into Cornerstone in St Neots and asked for a copy of 'The Grace Outpouring' by Roy Godwin and Dave Roberts. She had heard about it somewhere and felt she needed to read it. James was serving at the book counter and checked the catalogue to see if we had it. We did. We hunted the shelves and failed to find it, but we said we'd continue looking for it and the customer agreed to come back later to collect it.

The Grace Outpouring
After she had left we found it almost immediately!

James went off for lunch and left me in charge. The shop was quiet so I picked up 'The Grace Outpouring' and flicked through some of the pages. One or two passages leapt off the page and I was close to tears as I read how a young American woman had come to faith simply through reading some Bible verses and praying to a Jesus that she did not initially know.

It quickly became clear that the book was full of stories like this and I ordered a copy for myself. I've just finished it and already intend to pass it on to a friend tomorrow evening.

Roy and Daphne Godwin are directors at Ffald-y-Brenin (Welsh for 'the King's sheepfold'), a retreat centre/house of prayer and more that is being used by the King himself to bless local people, the whole region of south-west Wales, and much further afield internationally too.

Roy and his co-author Dave Roberts describe how Ffald-y-Brenin came into existence, how Roy and Daphne became involved, how the place has been used by the King of Kings to touch individual lives and the entire area in extraordinary ways, and how you might expect to see similar things happen where you live too.

It doesn't require skill or knowledge, great wealth or influential friends. All it takes is a willingness to be used by Jesus, an open and humble heart, and the courage to surrender what you thought you wanted from life in exchange for what Jesus wants for you.

Basically, it's about obedience. That means listening carefully to Jesus, hearing what he says, seeing what he does, and following him wherever he leads. These are the same things we have been learning over the past few years, and we too have seen extraordinary things happen as a result. It's not what we do that counts, it's what Jesus will do in us and through us.

I heartily recommend this little book, 185 pages containing a great story told well. Like all good, true stories this one is full of illumination; I guarantee that it will delight, challenge, encourage, and excite.

Obtaining a copy - Order it in paperback or as an audio book from Cornerstone in St Neots if you live locally, or direct from Ffald-y-Brenin. It's also available from Amazon and other online sources.

See also:

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