Monday, January 24, 2011

Grace For Grown-Ups

Anyone in Christ knows of the glorious grace of God through Jesus Christ.  Grace is awesome for without the grace of God, we would be destined to eternal judgment for our sins.  We love to hear about grace, talk about grace, and bask in grace.  Grace, for us, has become the be all end all of the story of our faith.  Grace, however, does not end with our salvation.  For many, unfortunately, the message has become what grace is or what grace can for for us.  Too many churches leave out the rest of the story of our lives and the grace of God.  Today, I want to talk about what is sorely lacking and that is what grace does to us.  Without the teaching of what grace does to us, we will remain babes in Christ perpetually stuck on the first principles of our salvation and never growing from babes in Christ to men and women of God.
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.  Hebrews 5:12-14 NKJV
I know some Christians who have been going to church since they were old enough to be in the nursery, but who still know extremely little about the Word of God.  They are 30, 40, sometimes even 50-year old in the Lord and still babies.  They are tossed to and fro by many false doctrines that someone teaches with the slightest endorsement from their pastors.  They never take the time to actually study for themselves.  Then again, why should they, as they only want to hear what they want to hear anyway.  They feed on the milk of "Jesus Saves" and never move on from there.  They are as the author of Hebrews declares "unskilled in the word of righteousness."  We must, as human babies do, develop as Christians through the growing knowledge of the Word of God.  Hebrews declares that a man of God with a working knowledge of the Word of God is able to discern both good and evil.  The babe in Christ is not.
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?  1 Corinthians 3:1-3 NKJV
A babe in Christ is a carnal Christian, and does that not describe so many in the church today.  When you are a baby in Christ, you are just like a baby in the world.  All your cares are material and you cry and whine until your flesh is satisfied.  We have so many teachers today filling their churches of people waiting to suckle on the "formula" of false milk they bottle feed to their nursery flock.  They teach that with God, whatever is bothering you will go away.  They rock you to sleep like a doting mother, never really expecting you to grow.  They teach that God will give you toys and will kiss all those boo-boo's away never anything about giving our excesses to the less fortunate or the fellowship of suffering with Christ.  They keep you babies by never teaching you anything else.  They cater to your base material fleshly desires and shoo away the bogeymen known as changed lives, sanctification, repentance, responsibility, and growth. 

This "grace" they teach is not grace at all.  It is imitation grace suckled from cheap plastic bottles mass produced in some factory where the overriding concern is how much money they can make from selling their poison product.  It never leads you to grow and leaves you spiritually stagnant.  Again, this is not the true grace of God.  The grace of God never leaves us as babies, but grows us into men and women of God.  We are born again in Christ and suckle on the sweet milk of His grace.  This true milk of His grace grows us from newly born again babes in Christ the the men and women God has ordained for us to become. True milk does not keep us as carnal, but makes us grow.
Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.  1 Peter 2:1-3 NKJV
Now let us see what that grace does to us. For that, we will turn to Colossians.
Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds,  Colossians 3:5-9 NKJV
This is who we are when we come to Christ.  We are slaves to our own sin and the fruits of our lives are fornication, uncleanness, evil passions and desires, covetousness, and more.  When Jesus comes into our lives those things are necessarily no longer who we are.  I know that a bright light does not shine down from Heaven at the instant of our salvation and wash all those things away.  For some, it practically does, but for most it does not.  When we accept Jesus we are but newborn babes still carnal in that we seek that which comforts our flesh.  Those things, though, are already dead to us and so they begin to drop away.  As we go through our first initial and fast growth we begin to put aside those areas we once walked in and much of that is a measure of teaching.  God has given us His Word and it is through that Word that we learn what things in our lives are pleasing to Him and which things are not.  The old man is dead and the newborn babe begins to put away those things such as anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language, dishonesty, and everything else not becoming of a child of God. 
and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.  Colossians 3:10-11 NKJV
This passage shows the wonderful transition from what we were to who we become.  This verse is often rightfully used to show that there is no place in Christianity for racism, but for our purposes today I want to share the doctrine behind this statement.  When we come to Jesus, we are a newborn babe that is a new creation in Christ.  Who we are genetically speaking (where our human race is derived from) no longer has any meaning.  As a newborn babe, we are created into a new family and a new "race" though ours is a spiritual race not a physical one.  What we once were no longer matters.  The old man is no longer relevant. 
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.  Colossians 3:13-14 NKJV
And now we see who are are growing into in Christ. As we put off those old desires, new desires come and take their place.  This in only by the grace of God as we are incapable of recreating ourselves into any kind of new man.  By the grace of God, we are brought up as new creations.  Note the contrast from what we put off to what we put on.  It is a very dramatic change and a change that is necessary as we grow in the Lord.  But even as we grow in the love of our brethren and the Lord, God is still not done with us.
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.  Colossians 3:15-17 NKJV
Now as we grow in Christ, we see a picture of the mature Christian man or woman.  First of all, they are beyond petty disputes that have no meaning in their lives in Christ.  They put away those evil attributes that once marked our lives like malice or envy and those have been replaced with love and care for the brethren. They understand that they are all part of one body in the Lord.  The word of Christ (the Bible) dwells inside them as they read and study the Word.  The Word that is now in their hearts is the fount of wisdom, teaching, admonishment, encouragement, and worship that defines their interaction with other members of the body.  We sing the grace of Christ not just for our salvation but for the man or woman of God He has made us into.  The mature Christian does all in the name of the Lord and with thanks to the Lord.  

We have today a disconnect in the church.  We stop at Jesus saves and rob ourselves of the new creation we become in Christ.  We like to stay as babies being rocked gently to sleep by our false teachers sharing nothing of what we are to become in Christ.  We remain as carnal Christians never allowing the grace of God to produce that fruit in our lives to truly put away what old man of what we were and grow into that new man that Christ wants to raise us as.  Love the grace of God, but love it enough to allow its complete work in your lives.  God loves you too much to keep you the man you were when He found you, love God enough back to allow Him to do that work. 
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ Philippians 1:2-6 NKJV

1 comment:

  1. Good word, Ben. Thanks for the reminder to never be satisfied with the empty grace that is being peddled in far too many churches. Empty grace, like empty calories, can never satisfy the deep hunger in the human heart for a relationship with the true and living God.