Taste The Grace
I first heard the phrase "Taste The Grace" by a lady called Philippa, from my Church. It is a good term and captures how powerful God's Grace is. So strong that you can taste it.
The transforming power of Grace is not meant to weaken you, in the sense of "God will take care of everything" No, it should be received under the spirit of empowerment, which is to overcome difficulties. Remember that ultimately, the only way to negotiate the difficult route to the Wonders of Heaven and the Almighty, is through the assistance of God's Grace. And in the here and now, in the most difficult or demanding of times, in the most devastating and horrifying moments that may arise, it is only through Grace where we have the hope of some kind of answer.
Jesus came to Earth on behalf of the sinners, not the righteous, for the sick not the healthy, for the poor not the rich, for the sorrowful not the happy and so on. Yet Grace is available to all, whatever station in life, read Ephesians 1 7-20. God's Grace is inexhaustible. In fact this incredible Holy Grace gives us what we don't deserve. You are not here by accident, you were hand-picked by God. Try not to mess things up too much!
Taste The Grace
Salvation does not come within one ‘magical’ single step. You will find that some, who have been baptised in water, do not bother with the burden and task of following our Lord, at least not very much. Some don't attended Church, some just continue in old ways, such as drinking or swearing. There is a strong belief that by accepting Jesus you are saved, yet Jesus did warn us that He would say to some that He doesn’t know them.
Salvation then is not a one step hop from sin into Heaven. These are only my views of course, views helped into focus by comments from Godly people such as David Pawson.
So, as the saying goes, "If it sounds to good to be true - it probably is". Any decent reading of the New Testament proves that statement. What is true is that being ‘Saved’ is a gift from God and we cannot save ourselves. We cannot be saved for example by doing good deeds or through ‘good works’.
Imagine going up to a famous pop star or celebrity and saying to them “I’m your biggest fan, I have followed you for years, I adore you so much and I hear you are getting married, so can I come to the reception?” The reply is likely to be “But I don’t even know you and the reception is only for my family and close friends”
When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, we do not cross some kind of spiritual vertical line into a Heavenly Invite to a Heavenly Reception. Salvation is not about one-step it is about many steps, it is a journey along a horizontal line. When you are baptised you are beginning your journey to being Saved, not reaching Salvation in one hit.
It is clearly spelled out in the New Testament; in fact this journey is split into three categories. The first part of the journey is called Justification; this is when we take our first steps to a new way of acting and thinking as we accept Jesus into our life. We are then baptised in His Name in order to ‘wash away the sins of the past’. Incidently, this is where we take up the mantle of repentance.
Repentance can be very very hard because it is a turning away from your old ways of doing things or your old ways of acting. Many can fall but falling is no problem, it is to be expected. Falling is fine because you can be picked up again to continue the walk. Falling away is what needs to be avoided. Remember though that Justification is not the be all and end all, as Paul clearly illustrates in Romans 6, 7 & 8. Justification is only a first-step. And, like with any genuine repentance we hope to achieve, we can only take such a step if we seek counsel with God in prayer to help us move tentatively yet bravely forward.
The next and longest part of the journey is Sanctification; it is in this part that you need the Force of The Holy Spirit to be with you. In the early days of the Church, following Jesus Christ was simply called ‘The Way’, not Christianity, it was not religious, it was The Way to follow God. So it is along this Heavenly route, which is The Way (or road) to Salvation, whereby we are only truly saved. The Way can last a lifetime. A journey full of different adventures and one rife with dangers. Two forces will pull and tug, which is why Christianity is a struggle. One force is always trying to pull you back (your old self), whilst one Force is pulling you forward (within your new self).
The names of these forces are the Flesh and the Spirit. The Flesh will pull our intentions backwards, using the five senses we are used to. It will delay our walk and then drag us into old comfortable but sinful ways, creating images and thoughts that serve to reassure us that we are ‘saved anyway’. Acts of repentance will not last, be fulfilled or be fulfilling, the Flesh will be too strong to resist and this is because we are still living in our natural earthly and sinful bodies. It's all we know.
A question is often raised as to whether we could lose our salvation. Apparantly you can't I guess, if you believe that just saying "I accept Jesus" is enough. But If you think of being saved by walking on a journey along The Way, then Salvation becomes much more fulfilling and most importantly it becomes a goal to strive for. Then the question of whether you could lose your Salvation loses all merit because you can’t lose what you haven’t even got yet.
For sure a person’s behaviour and thinking will be hugely different depending on what viewpoint is taken. Either it is accepted that The Way (Scripural) is correct or that instant Salvation through a one off Justification doorway (man-made) is correct. If we reject the second and accept the first principle then we will grow to understand that during the long journey of Sanctification we will need power. The Power of The Holy Spirit is readily available to keep us strong and if we do fall down, we can seek the Spirit to lift us back up again. All need the Spirit of God; many times.
It is the actual walk that is so important, as stressed throughout the New Testament. Remember that living 'right' does not earn you Salvation, you cannot earn it, ever. It is a Gift from God. The essence of The Gift though is that we walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Some fair-weather Christians end up walking backwards in this walk, often called backsliding and, eventually, can lose everything they once had. You can fall out of Grace! Even at the Gates Of Heaven there might be roads leading off to Hell, so it is vitally important to heed the words of Peter, who said that for some, it would be better to have never known The Way than to have set out on it only to go back (2 Peter 2:21).
One of the Commands set to us is that we look to guide others onto the Right Path, which is The Way. Better we do this from a repentant life, one baptised in the Spirit and from a life that is engaged in walking the walk to Salvation, rather than trying to save others when we have not genuinely repented ourselves (Matthew 7: 3-5 springs to mind).
If we accept the teaching shown to us in Scripture, one that identifies that accepting Jesus into our lives is only the start of a journey, called The Way that after we have been baptised we need to be baptised again, in The Spirit, so that we can continue with the Power we need to complete The Way to our Salvation, then finally we can look forward to entering what is called Glorification. This is our journey's end. None of us are there yet; no human that has ever lived has been ‘Glorified’; NO ONE. Only Jesus is Glorified. However, let’s all move towards this Magnificent Goal, seeking the help of The Holy Spirit along The Way not only as our Guide but for Strengthening our determination to arrive at our destination in good shape. God is going to take us into a New Universe, one that is perfect, which is why we have to be made perfect (otherwise we would spoil the New Universe within minutes). In the Book of Romans, Paul actually seems to be encouraging us to run towards Glorification.
Justification sets us free of the PENALTY of sin
Sanctification sets us free from the POWER of sin
Glorification sets us free from the PRESENCE of sin.
How To Pray When You Don't Hear God Speak
What God wants from us beyond all else, is communication. Yet prayer can be quite difficult sometimes because it tends to always be a one-way conversation. If there was a physical telephone line to God, He would not answer and likewise not text or e-mail. God seeks only prayer, simple prayer, which is for sure a type of communication available to anyone anywhere in the world, in any time period and in any circumstances.
When you pray how can you be sure of what you are doing. Are you talking to God or fresh air? There are many different ways to pray and often it is best to pray in your own style, as long as you take onboard how Jesus instructed us to pray.
In a personal tip, I find that as God is not going to chat then talk for him.
Sit down somewhere quiet and start to pray in a soft voice. It is important to actually speak and not pray in the mind when you are seeking communication. Have the Bible open and speak God's own Words from selected chapters. Usually I 'chat' for about 30 minutes, asking, wondering and answering all out loud, never in my head, often answering my own prayers by reading Scripture. However, mostly I will moan to God that the Scripture I have felt compelled to read has nothing to do with my prayer requests or questions!
Invariably though, meaning is eventually gained much to my astonishment and sometimes I learn things more important than what I was initially praying about. It is important I believe, when seeking dialogue, not to start by just listing out a series of requests, after all this is about having a conversation. And a conversation with God no less! To know God's thoughts, reading God's written word - out loud - in prayer is, possibly, a good way to create a chat with our Creator.
Who Does God Look Up To?
The headline here poses and interesting question. Who does God look up to? We would all probably shout out that God looks up to nobody, yet this is not what God Himself says.
God is The Original. God upholds all things. God was and is The Image of existence before there was existence. God should look up to nothing. However, due to God being absolutely wonderful, there is a circle of perfection that He has made that creates a situation that enables Him to look up. We know this because He has told us. Is God amazing or what!
Let us remind ourselves first of what God is. God is a ‘Perfect Trinity’ and with in Him He has ‘Three Perfect Rules’
Rule One - God Could God could do anything He likes but at the same time he also will not do anything He likes because of His own rule. He allows randomness
Rule Two - God Can God can do anything but also cannot because of His own rule. He allows free will
Rule Three - God Can’t God can’t do anything but he also could and can because of His own rule. He does not allow programmability
In Rule One we can see that God could do anything yet if He did, He would upset His Own Imperative that allows for randomness, arbitrariness within the order of the Universe. Without this rule you could pray to God to give you the next winning lottery numbers, buy a ticket and expect to win. That is not going to happen. But it could happen if God broke His own rule, God could do anything, they are His Rules after all. For example, if you prayed that you could dodge every raindrop in a storm then for sure your prayer is going to be unsuccessful, yet what about Jesus, He calmed a storm. So He dodged the rain. Here God is at least bending His rule, however it should be noted how difficult it is to stop a storm. We should remember that even Jesus only calmed the one storm.
In Rule Two because of God giving us free will, He has limited Himself over what He can do. Many will shrug and say that God can do anything regardless of free will, that if you decided to kill someone of your own free will that God can stop you doing such a horrible thing. Yes God can do anything but He also cannot, whatever way you look at it. The only thing that would stop you carrying out an act to kill someone of your own free will would be your own free will (you could for example pray to God before the act and realise how wrong it would be to continue in your evil plans). If you are unsure about the fact that God is limited in what He can do then ask yourself the following question. If God can do anything why did He not stop Jesus from being killed so terribly? Or even ask this, if God can do anything why doesn’t He go back in time and undo that black day? The answer to both questions is simple. Although God can do either, He cannot. He cannot remove the redemptive work of Jesus Christ from our history.
The final Rule brings the first two together. God could do anything, God can do anything but at the same time He can’t do anything if it disturbs the regulation of non-programmability. Without this final ruling we would all just be robots or at best artificial intelligent beings or even as Richard Dawkins might say, towers of selfish genes just walking around with the sole motive of survival. If God had wanted a planet of dummies He could have made one, it would be a design format giving God no problems at all. Of course this is not what God wanted or had in mind, he wanted independent living breathing spiritual human beings.
If you ever ask yourself the question “What does God want”, the answer again, as with all things relating to God, is simple. God wants one thing and that is NOT worship. Many atheists scoff that our God just wants a world of slaves or servants bowing down to Him and doing everything He says…or else.
In my humble opinion God wants one thing and that thing is NOT to be an object of love. Neither does God want us to garnish a fixation of faith in Him by one of the many religious outlets available. God does not want His intelligent creation scratching around in a hope that He will be pleased with them, or see humanity excess in charity, goodness or sacrifice. These things, important as they are, often get spread around in God’s Good Name in unfavourable contexts. The Word Of God declares that He prefers simplicity to complication, so God wants His Word to be easily understood by anyone, which is why the Bible is written as it is. Only humans complicate it. From Scripture the one thing God wants from us is clearly revealed, it is communication.
Naturally communication with our Maker will generate attributes of worship, love, faith, hope and charity. Generosity, goodness and kindness, sacrifice and the rest will all come about as a relationship with God develops. Then after the relationship (if allowed) develops strongly, God Himself, The Creator, The Maker of the Universe, will not so much look down upon a person but will start to look up…that is look up in joy…as the communication becomes a delight in the sight of the Lord.
There is something else that comes about when real communication is invoked, which is above and beyond all the categories listed above. It is wisdom. And the first tenant of wisdom is a fear of God Almighty (Prov 9:10). Once a healthy trepidation of God is established within the soul, much of the fine kinds of living as already noted will fall into a good order. There is no question that within such a fear of God the individual soul will become lined with avenues of brokenness as regret, maybe even shame, bothers the mind at how short of the Glory Of God one can be.
How do we communicate? God has told us how it is by prayer. It is best, always, to seek out personal guidance from God whilst reading His Holy Book, prayer will help, and prayer is what God desires. Read for yourself.
Isaiah 66:2. This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at My Word. (New International Version)
To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and have a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My Word (King James Version)
And unto this one I look attentively, unto the humble and bruised in spirit, and who is trembling at My Word (Young’s Literal Translation)
Wrong Statements In The Bible
We must always be very careful when quoting from the Bible because we could take stuff completely out of context. It is really important to be mindful that Scripture was written without chapter and verse, it was written book by book.
For instance the Bible clearly states things as true in sections of the Book of Job. Yet if we quote these things as the truths of the Bible we would be in error. Later in the very same Book we are told that the advice and words that are given to Job are all wrong in content. Therefore, if we read Job in its entirety, we would not fall into the trap of quoting passages out of their perspectives, as some do in order to make points to back themselves up.
So never quote a passage from the Bible as a personal back-up to your dialogue; unless you have read the particular Book fully, ignoring our modern formats of chapters.
Then you may have a handle on the context and be able to speak with better authority. We are meant to remember what we read, not memorise it. There is a difference.
Grinding Wheels Of Doubt
In this modern world we are subject to the grinding out of more and more propaganda over the issue that there is no God. Yet the most famous book we have to hand, the Bible, gives us not only accurate historical accounts but also prophecy. The point is, the Bible has never been wrong, ever, in anything, so it is probably right about the here and now and right about what will happen in the future.
Often the Bible is tested, like recently as a team set out to discover if four anchors were in a bay in Malta from a shipwreck described in Acts 27-28. Sure enough, they were there and were recovered from a seabed of 90 feet in depth on a dangerous sandbar, just as declared in the Bible. As investigator Bob Cornuke said when he saw the anchors "My heart skipped a beat and I realised that I could be standing in the presence of Bible history".
24% of verses in the Bible have a prediction about the future and there are a total of 735 different prophecies. 596 have already come literally true exactly as predicted (81%), so there is a good chance the remaining 19% will come to pass. And by the way, twenty more things have still to happen before Jesus returns.
It is impossible for the Bible to have been written without there being a God. The Bible is THE ONLY book that has been written that tells real history and forecasts real future events. It is the only book that when you are reading it, it will read you back!
But If Not
Daniel 3: 16-18
The power, faith and strength of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the face of the brutal intolerence of King Nebuchadnezzar is quite extraordinary. Even though they were sure God could save them they had no idea whether He would save them.
Yet their faith never wavered, even though death in a terrible manner lay before them. The men had a simple yet powerful faith, it yielded to the position that they would remain perfectly confident of God, even if He did not save them
How many Leaders preach on this topic?
But If Not. What then of your faith in God?
Many times you may pray that God will save you from an ordeal, yet what if He doesn't. God does not pull strings, He is not a puppeteer. So if God does not divert you from a trial, if He does not protect you from a nightmare if He does not release you from suffering, what then?
God is not subject to our ways, our demands, our wants, our timescales. He will deliver you from all nightmares, suffering and trials. But He will do so along His Holy Pathways only.
You need healing, you need protection, you need money, you need security, you need love, you need forgiveness, you need strength, you need answers..and you need it now!
But If Not
What Is The Most Important Question
Have you ever wondered what might be the most important question in the whole of the Bible? It is an interesting poser and many might have a preference.
Having deliberated this myself, I would personally come down on the side of a matter asked in the Book of Matthew. I am particularly fond of this as an answer to the above due to the fact it was highlighted and preached in my own home town Church by one Rob Lea, although I am sure my vote is not biased because of this!
My choice then is that the greatest in the whole of the Bible is the one asked by Jesus Himself. He posed a powerful question to his disciples whilst chatting to them, asking of them about who people thought He was. Their replies varied. Some they said, thought Jesus was either Elijah or Jeremiah or maybe one of the other great prophets who had been allowed to return to Earth. Some thought He was actually John The Baptist.
But this was not the main thrust of the question.
Jesus said to them "What about you?"
And it is here that we come to the Greatest Question.
Jesus asked "Who do you say I am".
The answer, from Simon Peter, is fantastic.
The answer, like the question, is the essence of the Bible.
Matthew 16: 13-17
The Bible is incredible, truly a Book meant for Holiness, a Book written by humans but above humans. It covers a period probably spanning around 1600-1700 years, containing detached and separate writings (on the whole) sixty-six accounts, which all mould together to reveal a pattern and a purpose that the individual writers could not have comprehended, enlightening society from a comprehensive perspective undetected by any one author from a list of forty.
The Bible is completely without contradiction. Atheists dream up and point out many inconsistencies but they all flounder under examination. Remember that this inspired Book was also written by authors over three different continents.
The main hope for anyone reading Scripture is that any study would be taken on only under the Guidance of the Spirit of God. Without a prayer request for the Holy Spirit to be with the reader then the enormity of what is being made known will not be made clear.
Scripture is a God-Breathed cohesive revelation to not only help us with our understanding of this Universe or to realise where our origins stem or to understand Grace in its Pure form; it is to grasp real history from God's Perspective.