About Signs

As I was driving this morning before Sunrise, I couldn’t help but notice all of the signs emblazoned with light everywhere. Direction and travel information, businesses, billboards, and other advertisements on giant TV screens. Everywhere I looked there was at least one sign. No, I am not turning this into a dissertation about the Five Man Electric Band song from 1970.

I am saying that we don’t give any of these signs a second thought. We see them, understand them, decide if we want the goods or services offered, and either pursue them further or keep on moving. We know that if we see an advertisement for a steak dinner, we don’t pull up to the sign and wait to be served. Neither do we gather with other people who saw the sign and discuss how to interpret it. We instinctively know that those pursuits are pointless.

Yet, when we see a sign or a wonder that Jesus said would portend His return, we tend to either freak out and ignore it, or make camp around it and sing songs whilst wearing the obligatory tin-foil hat. This just makes us look silly, and that isn’t why He told us about them.

Jesus said that when you see these things to look up, for our redemption draws near! Not that it IS here the moment you see the sign. Signs are placed well in advance of a destination, so people have time to diverge from the path they were on, onto the road that leads them where they want to be. That is the purpose of a sign, and that is God’s heart in producing them: He wants to give us time to merge onto His path.

The restaurant you want to eat at won’t plop onto the highway just because you want what they have, and God won’t merge onto your path just because you wish it were so. The world would have you believe that there are many ways to Him, but there is only one, and Jesus is that way.

As wonderful as celestial signs can be to behold, we acknowledge them for what they are – just signs – and move beyond them to our destination and the one who produced them. Regardless of what may come in the days and years ahead, keep your focus on Jesus. He won’t steer you wrong.

About Grace: Part 2

Okay, so how does grace enable us to be obedient to the gospel of faith? When I think about this question, God is showing me a scene wherein a parent is teaching a child how to walk. First, I see the parent demonstrating how to walk with the child standing on the parent’s feet. Then I see the parent walk behind the child while holding their arms up to stabilize them as they take steps. Next, I see the parent across the room motioning the child to walk to them. Finally, I see the child walking on their own.

God takes us through similar stages in our Christian walk. You would never chastise a child for trying and failing to walk, and neither does God discipline us for trying. He knows it’s hard, but He needed us to understand how hard it was, too. The Law and the Prophets were not meant to be a practical means of getting right with Him, that’s why He also instituted the blood sacrifice. This, of course, was a foreshadowing of the Cross that redeemed humanity to Him, but it also served to reveal the nature of His grace because, without the law, it’s powerless.

The Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world. That means God planned for us to screw up. Before He said, “Let there be light,” He knew it would happen, and he created us anyway, knowing ahead of time that He would have to sacrifice His only son to set things right again. He did it anyway. That is a perfect image of the heart of grace.

Grace empowers us to try and fail at doing so because that is how we learn. Repetition of a task leads to ability, ability leads to proficiency, and proficiency leads to mastery. In like manner, The Law reveals the depth of grace, grace enables us to walk in holiness (by faith, not works), and holiness is the living embodiment of the Law. It comes back around, full circle.

Now, circling back around to our rule of opposites, the flip-side of this story is that religion will tell you that performing the law makes you holy, being holy earns you grace, and grace gives you license to abuse the law. That is what the world teaches you, and it is the essence of the hyper-grace message, thus revealing it as false.

If you are breathing air, you are going to mess up – big time. Sometimes even on purpose. I’ve done it many times. Even the Apostle Paul, who wrote an entire book to the Romans about grace said in 7:19, “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” He knew what was right, and chose to do the opposite, so there is grace even for those who abuse grace, but it must be acknowledged as such and repented of.

God isn’t looking for perfection, but he does want us to believe that He will work it in us when we yield to His leading. That is how grace enables us to be obedient to the gospel of faith. He is your loving Father, and He isn’t looking for an excuse to kick you out of His house. He is looking for the smallest of reasons to believe that you’ll trust Him with your life. The token effort we put into yielding our will is the “+1” at the end of a string of exponentially multiplied work that God has already put into the goal of conforming us to His image. Will you let Him work it in you today?

About Grace: Part 1

Grace has been given a lot of bad press lately, and for good reason. Like all revelations or moves of God, we humans insist on pushing the pendulum of sanity to extremes once we take hold of a word and run with it. For a time, being saved by grace wasn’t even in the vocabulary of most Christians. Then Martin Luther came along and told everyone that doing penance and earning your salvation was a farce. Today, that message has swung so far past sane that it is said to excuse all sin without the need for repentance. This, of course, is another lie.

The fact of the matter is that there is no such thing as hyper-grace. I know this because of the rule of opposites. If there is an up, there is a down; a left, then right; an in, then out. In 2 Corinthians 12:9, God told the Apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for [you].” (KJV) Well, if it’s sufficient, then it can’t be insufficient. If it can’t be less than we need, then it can’t be more than we need. It is EXACTLY what we need and nothing more. Continuing with the rule of opposites, that means there is only true grace and false grace.

In his opening salutation to the Romans, Paul says that we receive grace for the purpose of being obedient to the gospel of faith. He later shows us the other side of that statement in chapter 6:1, 2, when he says, “What…shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.” (KJV) Paul clearly shows us what grace is and what it isn’t; what it’s for, and how it is abused. The true and the false.

Grace is God’s way of enabling us to live within the gospel. It isn’t a license to sin. Some say that mentality is bondage and that we have been made free from the law of sin and death. This is a twisted view of scripture because, without the law (and a healthy respect for it), we wouldn’t know what grace is.

Picture a vast, featureless landscape for as far as the eye can see. No distinguishable landmarks, borders, or unique features to help you determine your location. Are you on your property? If not, how do you know which way to go to get back? How can you tell others how to find you? You can’t. Now, imagine the same area with a fence and a gate. You now know where you are and can navigate to any location with an absolute certainty that you could get to where you need to be.

The law is the fence, Jesus is the gate, repentance is the passport that gets us inside the fence, and grace is what stays God’s hand from revoking our citizenship when we decide to wander outside of His kingdom.

 

Return tomorrow for Part 2 to see how grace trains us to live by faith, not works.