Tag Archives: grace
One of religion’s subtle dangers is that it actually hinders the expression of divine love, because it’s emphasis on outward behaviors and “correct beliefs” allows one to feel justified without genuine Spiritual encounter or the expression of the Spirit’s love and Life. Recently, I was talking with a friend about how, over the past several years, as our understanding of spiritual things would change and grow, we would gravitate toward different teachers and ministries. Each time we thought we had “found it,” only to see later that flesh/Adam/carnal was still mixed in somehow (including in us). Many of us have moved from church to church or ministry to ministry, but we have not moved from flesh to spirit. In going from one mixture to another, we have changed expressions, but not substances. That said, some of these changes may have been positive, with a little less flesh and a little more spirit present each time. I suppose the main thing is that we remain humble and correctable. I’m no one’s judge, nor do I condemn anyone – I just grieve at how the body of Christ, of which I am a member, has been deceived and hindered.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”1 -Jesus
I recently re-read this parable, and purely as a gift I was able to see it from a new angle that amazed me. I always thought this parable was basically about being careful of judging others because I’ll be judged in the same way (which is true and amazing on its own). But what I saw is that the real issue Jesus is discussing here is much bigger; what he’s really discussing is sight. Judgment becomes a blockage to the bigger issue of our ability to “see,” as well as our ability to help our brother to see (perceive spiritual reality as it is in Christ, without filter or distortion).
According to the greatest prophet who ever lived, if a fellow believer has something hindering their spiritual perception/vision, you cannot help them if you approach them with an attitude of judgment, condemnation, or criticism. That very attitude becomes a greater hindrance to your own sight than the one you’re trying to remove in your brother. I think this is why Jesus referred to those who try to help others while judging them as hypocrites. It becomes another scenario of the blind leading the blind, and both of you will end up wandering off the way and into a ditch.
An attitude of judgment and criticism comes from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This tree/source makes one more aware of natural things such as the law, sin, and self; things that the religious people whom Jesus called “sons of hell” are very aware of and fond of talking about, but things that God doesn’t deal with. We need to start eating from and leading others to the Tree of Life once again, where there’s no condemnation, but grace, mercy, truth and Life. One of my favorite scriptures is John 1:4, which says: “ In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” Jesus was full of LIFE, and it’s only that life that dispels and conquers the darkness and death that are within us and which often cover themselves with religion.
Again, the “plank” in the eye that Jesus talked about is an attitude or heart of judgment. The main lesson in this teaching isn’t that we have to quit sinning before we can confront the sin in someone else, it’s that if we confront someone in an attitude of judgment, we become more blind than they are and cannot truly help them to see reality in the spiritual realm (in light of the cross). Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save it. He said he judges no man, but came to seek and save the lost.2 Certainly, Jesus was far from the emasculated lovey-dovey figure many have made of him, and he often stressed the need for repentance and the severity and hardship of being his disciple. Nevertheless, he didn’t come telling the world how terrible they were (he saved that for the religious hypocrites). Instead, he came declaring truth and made a way, the way, for reconciliation with God. Paul wrote “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not counting men’s sins against them.”3 This is good news to those who love God, because the way has been opened – not the way to get to heaven and have a pleasurable existence, but to have the honor of knowing God and participating in building His kingdom as a son or daughter.
- Matthew 7:1-5, NKJV
- John 3:17, 8:15; Luke 19:10
- 2 Corinthians 5:19
As I’ve said before, and will probably say again, Jesus doesn’t waste words. Everything he said has meaning and was for a purpose. Therefore, overlooking something he said, no matter how small, will at best lead to a loss of the full meaning and impact of what he was saying. I want to look at one example of this.
In Matthew 6:24-26, Jesus states: 24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?
Jesus discusses two masters (God and mammon) that compete for our devotion and love, and then immediately tells that worry is to have no place in our lives. In connecting the devotion to one master and the worries of life, Jesus uses the phrase “for this reason…” It’s easy to gloss over that phrase, but it actually tells us that the inability to serve two masters – God and mammon, is the reason that we shouldn’t worry.
So what is “mammon?” You can study this further, but essentially mammon is the confidence that accompanies wealth. “Confidence” appears to be the root meaning of this word. The pursuit of confidence by means of riches and the pursuit of confidence by means of daily relationship with the spiritual God and Father are opposed to each-other. Not only are they opposed, but devotion to one of these means of confidence will lead to a despising of the other.
That was Jesus’ point. If one finds confidence and assurance in wealth, then one essentially becomes the servant of mammon – because mammon is what your trust in and pursue. By default, you cannot at the same time be a servant of God – dependent upon and pursuing Him. To trust in God alone takes faith, which is a spiritual confidence. Mammon is the confidence of the soul of man, which is based purely on the world’s system and is devoid of any knowledge of God. Jesus later says the “Gentiles,” the peoples with no knowledge of God, seek mammon. But to those who know God, this is tantamount to idolatry, if not worse, because mammon replaces God as that in which we trust and serve. No small thing. Jesus reminds us that God provides for even small creatures, and certainly we are more valuable than they.
Faith is spiritual confidence, based on relationship with God and hearing His voice. Mammon is worldly confidence, based on the principles of the world and totally absent of God-awareness.
I may talk more about faith and it’s origin soon. Seek to know God and hear His voice, which I am becoming more and more convinced is the basis for the life of a child of God. Seek desperately and you’ll find Him. Any other pursuit and source of confidence is probably mammon, and will cut you off from relationship with God. God bless you.
It seems to me the primary goal of all religions is selfish. Buddhists seek Nirvana, Muslims seek heaven and in some cases perpetual sex, Mormons seek Godhood, Christians seek heaven, etc. Maybe this seems obvious or trivial at first, but after a little thought one can see any system that ultimately serves self does not honor another, (i.e. God). Doing or speaking good for an ultimately selfish end is not true love and makes everything a servant of self. Religions glorify and praise God(s) in word, song, and feeling. They advocate various forms of self-denial or hardship in order to please God, as well as advocate helping one’s fellow man. But when it’s all boiled down, the ultimate goal of each is a selfish one, and this totally prevents any true honor of another. Thus we see religion DOES NOT honor God.
I am coming from the perspective of a Christian, having been raised in the Christian world most of my life, and still near it and familiar with it in many ways. I can truly say that the goal of most Christians is to get to heaven and to avoid hell. Many Christians might deny this is their primary goal, but it is. Though this is impossible, if ALL promise of heaven and threat of hell were removed, most of Christianity would crumble. You see, only in freedom does one’s true nature come forth. Only when restraints and fear are removed do you see the true nature of the heart reflected in one’s actions.
Here’s a small example. Lets say a man owned two dogs, who he kept chained on the front porch while he went to work during the week. One Monday morning, after a long weekend, he put the dogs on the porch but forgot to chain them down. When he returned, one of the dogs had stayed right where he was left, and the other had run away. The owner was surprised, because the dog that ran had for years acted just as affectionate and loving as the one who stayed. But by running away, this dog showed that all along, he was loyal to his master only because he essentially had no choice. The other dog showed that his loyalty was from the heart, being proven by the test of freedom.
Freedom could be said to be a test. Only when one is free do you see the true motives of the heart come forth in the actions. Someone might object that there’s not freedom in Christianity, because of the constant threat of hell or judgment. Well, Christianity might teach that, but Jesus himself and the apostles taught that in Christ, we are free. Free from condemnation (Romans 8:1), free from law (Ephesians 2:13-19, book of Galatians), free from fear (Romans 8:15), free in God’s love, as a son (John 8:32-36). One thing we’re not freed from automatically is ourSELF. Salvation is a process which involves being freed from the influence of self, which is opposed to God.
It is very freeing to know God has adopted you into His family, that you have been cleansed by a once-for-all sacrifice, and that He isn’t watching over your shoulder to wait for you to sin so He can smite you. There’s many old-testament minded Pharisees today that will tell you otherwise, but this is the truth. For some, if they believed this, they would start pursuing the desires of their flesh/self. To do this is essentially to be your own god. But if you desire to be a disciple of Jesus, if you love the Father simply for who He is, you’ll follow and obey Him from your heart, from love no matter what you may get out of it or what happens to you. This was the attitude of Jesus – to do His Father’s will and to deny himSELF. It wasn’t and isn’t easy. The real goal of a follower of Jesus is to build and establish the Kingdom of God on earth – not to go to heaven. Examine your motives, and I pray we see that the glorious God is greater than we’ve ever known, His love is beyond our comprehension, and living for Him is the highest pursuit of all. Amen.
Here’s a really cool blog I read on the “role of the law” in the New Covenant. More could be added, but this summarizes it really well. This is from http://www.phildrysdale.com. Highly recommended.
Something I’m realizing is it’s important to simply be honest. Religion and fear tempt men to hide their faults and sins, fearing judgment or condemnation, but this is itself a fault. I believe the dynamic that keeps men full of pretense – PRETENDING to be holy and Christlike, is pride. Pride won’t allow a negative perception of self. Jesus called the Pharisees and religious folk of his day “hypocrites.” This word carried the idea of an actor in a play, who wears different masks and performs different roles. Hypocrisy is pretending to be something one is not.
(Matthew 23): 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Don’t be a hypocrite. Refuse to let fear keep you from being “real.” This isn’t to say that you should give in to any desire you may have, or say anything that comes to mind. No, there are competing natures within a believer – the flesh and the spirit. The spirit must conquer the flesh, and the flesh must remain crucified and in a position of death. To speak or act from anger, compulsion, fear, etc. is to speak or act from the flesh – the corrupt, selfish nature. I’m simply saying be real in regards to your weakness, failures, and struggles. Don’t put on a “mask” and pretend to be righteous or wise or strong or whatever – this is hypocrisy when in reality you have places within that need to be cleaned out, or areas of confusion in your mind. Be real, be honest, humble yourself before God and men, and if you are God’s child and desire righteousness, you will see and be a recipient of God’s discipline and His grace to change you and conform you into His image. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, you should have no greater honor or desire.
(James 4): Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? 6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
(Titus 2): 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 teaching us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age…
God bless you.