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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ - His True Grace, Not the Watered Down Religious Version!


By Charles Crosby

Now, I hope to reach people of all levels of Holy Spiritual maturity with this article, whether the Father God is, right this minute, beginning to call you, or you have been a faithful follower of the Lord Jesus Christ for many years. To those of you who are long term believers and have been fortunate enough to find and belong to a grace filled fellowship, I say to you, you are truly blessed, but please read on as there will probably be something new for you here anyway.

Grace - why grace, what is it for? Why did Paul always greet the Churches in his letters with the opening remarks in 1 Corinthians 1:3 "Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ"? Could it be that together with the message of the free undeserved gift of eternal life in the Kingdom of God it was the most important aspect of the Lord Jesus Christ's message and the reason for His coming? Yet in so many fellowships, it is at best misunderstood, and at worst, completely ignored and not preached at all. Why is that, and why is the word 'grace', in Paul's salutation, accompanied by the word 'peace'? Quite simply, because without fully understanding grace and living fully under grace you will never fully experience the total peace that Paul refers to in Philippians 4:7 as "the peace of God that passeth all understanding." We have to be totally free of guilt and reproach in order to know and experience this peace. Without fully understanding what grace is you will never be at peace as a Christian. Are you one of these unfortunate people?

I was a member of a legalistic cult, known as The Worldwide Church of God, for seven years, where the ministers behaved like Pharisees and regularly laid guilt upon us through Old Covenant teaching i.e. trying to get us to keep the Old Covenant Law under our own strength. We, the congregation, were as those described in Galatians1:6 (foolish Galatians) only most of us, in all fairness, had never heard the original true message of grace in the first place. In defence of the cult, what I will say is that we learned Old Testament scriptures very thoroughly indeed, which in itself, as a study, was not a bad thing. I will also add at this juncture that cults do not have a monopoly in legalism - they are not the only grace killers, but I have digressed somewhat - just a little about my background.

To give us a sense of what is important to God, the word 'Grace' appears 131 times in the New Testament (The King James Version), and the words 'Kingdom of God/Heaven', 109 times. By contrast, the word 'religion' appears 5 times. In three cases of the use of this word it accurately refers to the Jews and their legalistic ritualized religion. In the other two uses, it means praise and worship in one and in James 1:27 it is referring to pure religion which, in this context, is really love in action and not religion at all. James here, though, is mocking religion not sending it up. From this evidence alone we can easily deduce that religion is of man and not of God.

So what is so important about Grace? Well, to those being called as well as to those already called, it's all-important. It's all about Jesus' sacrifice - His once for all time, for all sins, sacrifice. Jesus took all of our sins with Him to the cross, all the sins we have committed in the past, all the sins we have committed today and all the sins we will commit in the future.

Psalm 103:11-12 For as the heaven is high above the earth [so] great is the mercy toward them that fear (love and revere) Him. As far as the east is from the west [so] far hath He removed our transgressions? (Brackets mine)

Under grace our sins are not only forgiven but also forgotten, and all of them, not just today's and yesterday's but our future sins too. We must learn the above truth about the all encompassing nature of grace and take it on board or we will never fully grow in faith and reach our full potential. In Luke 18:8 the Lord asks this very question, the second part of verse 8 "Nevertheless when the Son of Man cometh (returns as King of Kings), shall he find faith on earth?" (Brackets mine) This is what Jesus will be looking for, not how many Saturday or Sunday Sabbaths you are keeping or have kept. The Pharisees, with their religious mind set, were not a first century phenomenon; they are still with us today. 2 Timothy 3:5 "Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof" - the men of the Christian Religion.

The wondrous thing about this once for all and all time sacrifice is that it is only half the story. The Lord Jesus Christ's death took away our all our sins but His Resurrection gave us life, a new life and a new identity as a new person, a life of freedom, free from guilt, no more reproaching ourselves and most importantly an opportunity to grow in Godly confidence and faith. We cannot grow in Godly confidence without living under The Lord's true grace - it's impossible! Furthermore, this means we can then be confident in Jesus' love and unconditional acceptance of us His friends and brothers just as we are provided we have repented and confessed our sins at baptism.

Finally, and this may shock some of you, after our initial repentance and keeping a repentant heart (a right attitude toward sin) or looking after our new heart of flesh, no more confessing of sins is needed; no more asking forgiveness, and no more penance, what ever that means. I never could figure that one out and if I were you I wouldn't even go there!! (Please see my article: "Is Repetitive Confession of Sins Biblical?") Let us now get one or two things straight, because under Grace we now have a new identity and that is what it's all about - identities. This means we are Born Anew, a completely new life; we are now Born Again, we're new people. Read the wonderful story of Nicodemus John 3:1-13. I never tire of it.

Now, when the Father looks down at us from Heaven, He sees not us, with all our sins and imperfections, but the Lord Jesus Christ, who is perfect and in us through the indwelling of Holy Spirit - this is grace. As and when we do sin, even willfully, Jesus is there to intercede for us with the Father. (Roman Catholics please note, not Mary as she is asleep or dead in her grave and knows nothing. Furthermore she will continue to know nothing until she is resurrected when The Lord Jesus Christ returns to this earth in power and glory. Please see Ecclesiastes 9:5 to learn what happens when we die). If we continue in willful sin He will even sort that out too. (Please see my articles: "Are Christians Going To Heaven?" and "What Does it Mean - To Sin Wilfully? - Parts 1 & 2)

Now I have covered quite a lot of ground so far on this crucial topic and I can hear the flagellators crying "heretic!" and groaning at the thought of realising that they may have to admit to the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ has done everything for them, but will they? They will probably reach for their Bibles and immediately quote John's letter:

1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

The thing is, is this verse countering what I have said in the above paragraphs? No, definitely not. The first chapter of John's letter is not written in the same style as Paul's letters and, perhaps, is not a letter at all, but more of a sermon. Now this evidence is crucial, for the first chapter of 1 John is addressed to a different audience from those in the second chapter, which is where a lot of 'experts', Bible intellectuals and theologians go wrong. The opening verses are a declaration of John's witness and personal experience of the Lord Jesus and of the opportunity, for those who believe, of eternal life, and the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Light - verses 1-5; but to whom is he declaring this information? Those who were already believers or already Born Again would have known this information. People don't declare old information they only declare new information or news; something that has not been heard before.

Time was precious, even in the first century, and John would not have wasted his time preaching to the converted. John was speaking to non-believers or those who were beginning to show an interest in the Good News or those being called. That is why he is declaring it, as if, for the first time because his audience will have not heard this message before. As stated, in verse 8 we read "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves..." Those born again in that congregation would have already known this and would have confessed their sins previously at the time of their baptisms; again, why would John preach this message to the converted? Once born again, we have a new heart - a repentant heart; we now think differently. No, these verses are aimed at the unconverted - those who may be saying they have no sin.

Back to verse 3: "that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us..." Please, note this and, note it well, because John is saying: "that you may join us." These people are not yet church members, they are potential converts - they are not established believers and they are not yet members of The Church. All John is saying to them is this; you can no longer carry on living the way you are, denying that you are sinners or thinking that you are not in need of redemption. He is explaining that they must decide to put their old lifestyles behind them, they must confess their sins, admit their wickedness and not try to kid God or themselves that they're without sin. Quite plainly, John says to them again in verse 8 that if you say you have no sin then you are lying to God, your fellow man and even to yourselves.

More importantly, in chapter 1 verse 10, John also says that we make God a liar as well and His Word is not in us. These passages are here to help bring new converts to true repentance i.e. to help them realize that in their fallen condition they need redemption and to know what is involved in order to become a Born Again true believer and follower of Our Lord Jesus Christ. All the Lord is looking for, is that God given change of attitude towards sin, a one and only confession, and then a continuing repentant heart. This means an ongoing willingness to change as He empowers us and guides us, not our "personal self-improvement program," "our getting ourselves 'right' with God," "our participation," "daily cleansing," "salvation by progress," "sanctification by process" or "boot strap DIY Christianity" as I call it.

The words of the first chapter of 1 John should be extremely challenging and thought provoking for those coming to the Lord, and if accepted, then euphoric for new believers, but, and this is a big but, if these words are preached or taught as binding on those already Born Again, they are blasphemous and lethal, and will literally put that believer back into bondage and legalistic slavery.

In chapter two, of 1 John he continues his message to new converts and babes in Christ, repeating some of the basics of the first chapter, but by verse 8 of chapter 2, he has shifted the emphasis by explaining that the darkness has past and they are now walking in The Light. By verse 12, he speaks to these new converts by telling them their sins are now forgiven; notice, not some of their sins, but all of their sins. In verse 13, his message shifts again, and it is now aimed at the older members of the church, here called fathers, but the correct word here is elders for we have only one Spiritual Father. In the same verse he also speaks to the young men of the church. We have, therefore, in 1 John a letter that is not only addressed to non-believers and newcomers, but also to people at different stages of maturity in the Faith.

OK, I have now come to the core issue of this study and the main question, which is - do we as Born Again believers have to continually and repetitively keep asking the Lord God for forgiveness and endlessly confess our sins to Him? Let's stop and think about this for a while. I have already quoted God's Word that Our Lord took all of our sins with Him to the cross. If that is the case, and I know that it is, then why do we keep on reminding Him of our latest sins? By doing this we are really saying to Him:"Here you are Lord, here are some sins you forgot to take with you to the cross." Now is this a blasphemy or not? To me it most assuredly is. Here is another question: If you are still confessing your latest sins having already confessed you were a sinner at baptism, what do you expect The Lord Jesus Christ to do with your latest sins? He dealt with those sins at the cross so that at the point of your calling he would accept your confession. At that point in your life He forgave you all your sins, how many times do you need forgiving?

I now, no longer confess my sins to Him, and I will now give you the Biblical reasons why. Let us move onto 1 John 3 verse 1. As Born Again believers, we are now loved and accepted sons and daughters of God. Verse 2: he who sins breaks the Law and yet, verse 3, Jesus was manifested (clearly visible and apparent to the mind), to take away our sins - all of our sins, not just some of them. Verse 6 - now get this: "Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not;" how does that work then? I have not stopped sinning, I am human, but then I have not stopped trusting and believing either. Doh! Of course! I am abiding in Him if I keep on trusting and believing, so even though I sin, I don't sin as far as the Father is concerned. He sees only the new Born Again man with Jesus Christ in me via the Holy Spirit, and not the old me. I am not going to argue with Jesus Christ and the Father over that, are you?

John then reaffirms this in verse 9: "whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin: for His seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin because he is born of God." I'll repeat my question: How does this work then? It works because He took all of our sins to the cross. This includes all of today's sins and tomorrow's as well. If He took them all then we must be perfect in His sight. Quite plainly if He didn't take them all then we are, horror of horrors, still in our sins. The bottom line of this is, if we, as believers, are still confessing our sins and asking for forgiveness of our sins, we are trampling all over His Sacrifice. We are forgiven - period, there are no steps, stages or phases to forgiveness, we are either forgiven or we're not forgiven and that's it.

What about the Lord's Prayer I hear you ask? Am I saying then that The Lord's Prayer is not for Born Again believers? In a word, yes, because it was delivered to those who were not yet Born Again, they were still under the Law. Even the Lord Jesus Christ was under the Law whilst He was in the flesh and walked this earth; Matt. 6:9-15. Verse 12: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." This statement is a conditional remark. Life under the Law was strictly conditional, do this and do that, don't do this and don't do that, in order to be forgiven. Now we are under Grace, we are free to choose. Because we are now forgiven, it should be natural to forgive, not forced or coerced. It should now be unnatural not to forgive. How can we not forgive knowing what He has done for us? Please read the story of the wicked servant in Matt. 18:23-35.

Now let's go to the last verse of this study, 1 John 3:3 which I believe says it all: "And every man that hath his hope in Him purifieth himself even as He is pure." There you have it in one verse, and if you keep your hope and trust in Him you are as pure as the Lord himself. So if we are pure through keeping our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ how can we confess sins - where is the need to confess sins? We are literally asking the Father God to forgive transgressions and sins He cannot see.

I hope this will be of help to all who read it. Watch this space for further studies.

Charles Crosby

http://yes2truth.com.istemp.com/index.html

Following the Lord Jesus Christ is not religion - Charles Crosby

Revised and edited 5th August 2008

You can contact me at yes2faithatyahoo.co.uk with any questions you may have. Please replace 'at' with '@' to send an e-mail, thank you.

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