Archive for the ‘Grace’ category

An Open Serving Policy

July 8, 2014

Greystone Bakery taught me about grace once again.

Anyone that comes to the front door of their bakery is given the chance to work, no questions asked. When a job becomes available they take the next person off the waiting list and give them a job.

keep out

I want to be part of a church that has an “open” serving policy. Anyone who wants to serve, can. This doesn’t mean they can do whatever they want, in whatever way they want.

There are standards and expectations for certain types of service. Elders and deacons are held to higher standards than others. But, graceful churches, like Jesus, can adopt an open serving policy. Think of the band of misfits Jesus used. One of them wasn’t even a believer.

The open hiring policy of Greystone says your past isn’t your future.

Reluctance:

  1. Children need protection from predators.
  2. Financial integrity is essential.
  3. Quality of service needs to be held high.

In other words, open serving doesn’t mean anyone can do anything. But, its incumbent for those who believe in grace to express grace by providing places of service for anyone.

Religious pressure:

Could it be that you are worried about what other believers think? After all, what would “they” think if the person who is passing out bulletins was drunk last night?

I’d rather offend a religious person than belittle an unbeliever by excluding them, unnecessarily.

Bigger issue:

The bigger issue is you feel superior to “them.” Your sins aren’t as bad as their sins. But, you don’t have permission to look down on outsiders, especially when Jesus loves them and died for them.

Low responsibility jobs have low or no standards. For example, the next time you take out the garbage, ask the guy who was drunk last night to help.

The Right Idea – The Wrong Idea

May 5, 2014

Grace is under-appreciated and abused. But, protecting grace from being abused turns some into self-righteous rule-makers.

wondering

I was reminded yesterday that people might get the wrong idea when they hear a graceful message from the Bible. The “wrong” idea is that sin doesn’t matter.

Paul was concerned the Roman believers might get the wrong idea.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? Romans 6:1 (ESV)

What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? Romans 6:15 (ESV)

10 Observations:

  1. You haven’t taught grace until people start asking, “Does sinning matter?”
  2. Grace always goes one step beyond your sin, regardless of how much you sin (Rom. 5:20).
  3. Don’t solve your concerns about abuse by re-instituting the law. We aren’t under law (Rom 6:15)
  4. Sin has negative consequences, even for people under grace.
  5. Believers who fall into sin need more grace not less.
  6. Grace changes us from the inside out.
  7. Laws don’t have power to change us. Telling people what not to do never changes their heart.
  8. Freedom in grace is freedom to love and be loved.
  9. The standards of grace are higher and nobler than law. We live by the law of love.
  10. Holy living must be freely embraced.

Source of concern:

Why was Paul concerned that believers might get the wrong idea about grace? Because he was teaching in a way that might give people the “wrong” idea.

The question, “Does behavior matter,” only comes up when you teach that people are made right with God by faith, apart from behaviors. (Rom 4:5).

The idea that someone could be righteous before God and have unrighteousness in their life is astonishing. Grace is astonishing.

Can grace be abused? You abuse it everyday.

Should we remind people that sin matters? Paul did.

Stop Making it Difficult

March 17, 2014

The first church fight addressed issues we grapple with today.

Who can be part of us?

What do you have to do to belong?

don't make it difficult

The issue, back then, was do you have to keep the law to be/become a Christian?

The fight is recorded in Acts 15. After the fight, James summarizes the key principle in verse 19 (NIV):

It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.

In other words, make it easy. The rule applies to those who have and those who are turning.

Make it easy:

  1. Invite people to turn TO God. It’s easy to point out what’s bad. Turn away from drugs, sex, and rock-n-roll, for example. But, the gospel is good news, not bad.
  2. Forget about fixing people. Let God fix.
  3. Err on the side of grace. When in doubt choose compassion over confrontation.
  4. Avoid arguments on peripheral issues. Trusting Jesus is THE issue. Nothing else matters until that issue is resolved.

Four rules:

The four rules James gave gentile believers in Acts 15:20 (NIV) illustrate the “make it easy” rule.

Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.

  1. No “idol” food.
  2. No sexual immorality.
  3. No strangled animals.
  4. Drain the blood.

Why these rules? Acts 15:21 (NIV):

For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.

James says the principle of “don’t make it difficult,” applies both ways. Jewish believers in Jerusalem are working to make it easy for Gentiles to turn to God. Gentile believers should be concerned for the Jews in their communities. Make it easy for them to turn to God, too. Avoid offensive behaviors for the sake of the Gospel. 

No Demands – No Obligations

February 18, 2014

dancing

Christianity is not about demands and obligations. It’s about love and love can’t be demanded.

Life, on the other hand, is filled with never ending demands. Do…do…do, go…go…go, work…work…work. But, grace can’t obligate.

The only demand of grace is receiving it by faith. The more I talk about grace the more I enjoy grace and the more I want to talk about it. I’m addicted.

Grace means gift. Gifts exclude compensation.

Any attempt to pay for grace blocks it. 

Rewards:

God protects free grace by rewarding service. Rewards remove any hint that obedience is payment for grace.

God pays for service – rewards – so no one can brag they are paying for grace.

Illustration:

Think of God as a graceful dancer. Our maker dances His way to us. The melodies of grace permeate His presence.

He risks looking foolish by dancing alone. All we do is take it in. As the music sinks into our hearts, He invites us to join.

He leads. We follow.  We respond. It all starts and ends right here in the dance of grace.

Grace cannot demand love.  Grace enables love.

How to be a Friend of “Sinners”

February 10, 2014

friends

It’s a great compliment to have self-righteous Christians complain that you’re too friendly with non-Christians. The religious elite made a similar complaint about Jesus – the friend of sinners (Lk. 7:34).

But there’s another side to this issue.

1 Corinthians 15:33 (ESV) “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” Our friends predict our future.

How can you be a friend to “sinners”?

The inner circle:

Cultivate and develop an inner circle of three deeply committed believers. One of them should be a visionary like Peter. One should be a doer like James. And the other, should be a lover like John.

Questions to ask before becoming a “friend of sinners”:

  1. Do you know who you are?
  2. Where do you look for approval? Or, who are you trying to please?
  3. Are you deeply connected to committed believers?
  4. Can you explain the gospel quickly, simply, and clearly. (The best way to do that is tell your own story of trusting Jesus.”
  5. Do you deeply love “sinners”? If God loved the world, so can you.

Three attitudes:

Every believer who aspires to be a friend of sinners knows they are:

  1. “One of” not “one above.” Christianity isn’t morality. Christianity is Jesus. Everyone is in the “falling short” bucket. The fact that you may sin less doesn’t make you sinless.
  2. Not trying to change or reform “sinners”. Your job is sharing Jesus. Changes are his business. Getting people to sin less, might make life better, but it doesn’t help in the long-term.
  3. Dedicated to serve others, not be served. Jesus came as one who serves and you aren’t above Him. The path to influence is the path of service. Solve a problem. Meet a need.

Embrace these attitudes or you’re doing more damage than good.

Be a friend of sinners. But, fasten your spiritual seat-belt. You’re in for a challenging ride.

The Tongue Rule Challenge

February 3, 2014

horse's tongue

Of all the people in the world, Christians should use words more skillfully than anyone.

Ephesians 4:29 (GNB)

Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you.

Sadly, we have a reputation for speaking against things rather than for. Frankly, we are often known for negativity.

Positive speech, in some Christians circles, seems like a sin. We go so far as to suggest that railing against something indicates strength and holiness. In reality, tearing down is unbiblical, misguided, and weak.

Yes, there are exceptions. Jesus hammered the religious elite. If you’re inclined to fight, attack denominational leaders who choose law over grace. Call them pretty coffins full of dried up bones.

But, the tongue rule may be a better option.

The tongue rule:

“Only open your mouth to make something better.”

Other than that, be quiet.

Even if you’re pointing out a problem, only point it out so you can explore how to make it better.

Sounds simple enough. But, James, the brother of Jesus said,

But no one has ever been able to tame the tongue. It is evil and uncontrollable, full of deadly poison. James 3:8 (GNB)

Developing a graceful tongue:

If you enjoy challenges, adopt the tongue rule challenge.

  1. It’s a journey.
  2. Receive and enjoy God’s favor.
  3. Treat others the way God treats you.
  4. Find some friends who are on the “tongue taming” journey with you.
  5. Start again after you screw up. Grace is beginning again, again.
  6. Talk less. But, realize silence isn’t the goal, building up is.
  7. Only speak to make things better.

The Long Holy Nose

January 22, 2014

nose

Christians, under the guise of holiness, judge and condemn “sinners.” When we do, we condemn ourselves.

What makes you better than others?

  • You don’t murder. But, you hate.
  • You don’t rob banks. But, you steal another’s reputation with gossip.
  • You aren’t a drunk. But, you disobey your parents.

I’m not trying to make you feel bad. I’m trying to help you see that Christians aren’t above others.

Stop looking down your long holy nose at people God loves.

The long holy nose makes us ugly. I’m convinced that the ugliest people in the world are self-righteous, good-living, religious people. The truth is, “We” need God’s love as much as “they” do.

Holy living is not an excuse from compassion, respect, or kindness.

Holiness:

Lets call fellow believers to holiness. The issue isn’t should we live holy lives. The issue is how we grow in grace by faith.

Inviting Christians to holiness requires transparent connection. Apart from connection, calling fellow believers to holiness is self-righteous and arrogant. When you call someone to holiness, get in it with them.

Faith:

Lets call people who aren’t believers, to trust in Jesus. The issue isn’t moral reform. It’s Jesus.

Inviting people to trust in Jesus requires connection. Connection empowers the call. Disconnection makes us look like arrogant fools.

Let’s call fellow believers to trust God in new ways. We need to trust Jesus today like we did when we trusted Jesus for the first time.

The people “out there” didn’t make Jesus dirty when he rubbed elbows with them. They won’t make you dirty when you connect with them, either.

Love:

Love is not rude or arrogant. Love is kind, patient, hopeful. Love endures. You have permission to live a holy life and treat people who don’t know Jesus with Love.


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