Teach Me About God’s Grace

“Grace” is traditionally understood by many born-again believers to mean God’s unmerited favor. Ironically, this traditional definition has been so used and abused to where it has lost relevance in the lives of so many born again believers. Many cannot comprehend how pervasive this attitude of God is in their lives, and many cannot understand how they can be a recipient of it nor walk in it. In short, many born-again believers do not appreciate the depth nor the breath of this unmerited favor.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines “grace” in a way that reflects its deepest implication. It defines “grace” as unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration and sanctification.

Well, the implication here is that both the unbeliever and the believer as human beings are beneficiaries of a divine assistance that is unmerited. Meaning, it is an assistance that is given to them, not because of anything they did that qualified them to receive it, but it was given to them because of the character of the giver.

Now regeneration is the born-again experience and this pertains to sinful man. You see, sinful man needs divine assistance from God to be saved; to convert from an unbeliever to a believer in God. Sinful man cannot do this on his own merit.

Sanctification is the process of growing and maturing in God that a believer experiences once they have received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. It means that transformation occurs in every aspect of their life, in a way that allows Christ to live through them, bringing glory to the Father through the multiplicity of good works God calls them to perform. Now the believer cannot do this on his own merit, he too needs divine assistance to accomplish it.

So what caused man to be in need of divine assistance?

The answer is in the Garden of Eden. It is the place where God put Adam and Eve to dwell and have dominion over all He had created. It is where they had intimate fellowship with Him. All was well. Life was good. Then something happened. Sin entered into the picture. The sin of disobedience to the command God gave, not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

God told Adam and Eve if they ate the fruit from the tree they would die the moment they did. God was referring to eternal spiritual death; eternal separation from His presence, His kingdom, and His intimacy. This separation brought the curse of physical death, the toil, and the change of their nature from godly to sinful with loss of dominion and authority over the earth. The result; man and God are separated. Eternally separated.

Well, it is at this point that the concept of assistance comes into play. God did something to bring about a reuniting of man to Himself because man could not bring himself to God due to his sinful nature. You see, sin cannot stand in the presence of God.

Therefore, man can do nothing to change his separated condition because he cannot be in God’s presence due to his sinful nature. Man is doomed to eternal separation from God.

ENTER GRACE:

John 3: 16-17 (NIV):  16For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.

This is God’s divine assistance for the purpose of man’s regeneration. God through His Son Jesus Christ provides rescue from eternal separation.

Scripture tells us that no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him and that those who do come will be raised up in the last days. Many people are under the assumption that they have the power to approach God for their salvation. Well, that is not true. God calls you to Himself because of His loving-kindness towards you. You must make a decision when this call comes, either to accept or reject the invitation.

Jesus tells us that He stands at the door and knocks. If anyone hears His voice and opens the door, He will come in and eat with them and they with Him. You see, God is reaching out to mankind and asking him to accept His provision of regeneration. This is the dimension of “grace” that is of greatest importance to God. His assistance in reuniting, reconciling, and forgiving fallen mankind for the sin of Adam.

Then there is the other dimension of “grace” that provides us with the assistance to live the Christian life while in our physical body. God provides us with help to do this in the person of the Holy Spirit. He is our Paraclete; someone who walks with us until we are taken home with Christ.

Scripture tells us the work of the Holy Spirit is to teach us all things and remind us of what Jesus has taught us. The Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth and will tell us what is yet to come and will take from the Father what is Christ’s and make it known to us.

This awesome disposition of God, this “grace,” is rooted in an attitude of God, to want to extend a favor to mankind because of His love for mankind. It is unmerited because man is not worthy of such a favor. Because of what Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden, man deserves to be punished. It is only through the mercy extended toward us from God that we are recipients of this unmerited favor or divine assistance.

God sees to it that not only does the assistance reunite, forgive, and reconcile us back to Himself, but it also covers us until the Day of Redemption when we will be taken out of our physical body and placed in a heavenly body that carries no corruption with it for eternity.

So as a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, walk continuously in the knowledge of the “grace” of the Father and be ever mindful that His “grace” is sufficient for you until you are taken home to eternity. Always be encouraged that God is faithful when He tells you He will never leave you nor forsake you.

I need rescue, I cannot escape…

Many people cannot spiritually understand nor comprehend what happens to them when they ask Jesus Christ to come into their heart and become Lord and Savior of their life.  They cannot fully understand what changed in their lives.  Many are looking for an outward change that shows that something is different.

Scripture tells us that a spiritual relocation takes place in the lives of all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

We are told in Colossians 1:13:

“For He has rescued us from the one who rules in the kingdom of darkness, and He has brought us into the Kingdom of His dear Son.”

Many people do not know this truth.  They believe they come into the Kingdom of God by good works.  They do not know that they have been “rescued” from their former lives they lived in the kingdom of Satan and have been relocated to a new spiritual home in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

It is critical that you understand, there are only some life-threatening situations and circumstances that we can “escape” from; the rest require some form of rescue.”  Why?

Because in some situations you do not possess the power to overcome those forces that are life-threatening on your own effort.

It is like a person trapped in a burning room who is unable to overcome the power and effects of the flames, heat, and smoke that are consuming every breath of oxygen. Unable to safely make it to an exit, this person will die of suffocation and burn.

In effect, this person was not able to “escape” from the burning room on their own effort or merit.  They needed some form of external help such as a firefighter or Good Samaritan to come to their assistance.  They needed someone who had the power to overcome the effects of the burning room.

If that had happened, we would say that person was rescued” from the burning room by such and such; we would not say that they “escaped.”

The person who is trapped in the burning room has a final destiny that awaits them if they are not removed – the loss of their life – and they can do nothing on their own to stop it.  Make no mistake about it, they are going to die from suffocation and burning.  Their self-efforts are of no avail because they cannot overcome their physical condition.

This is the situation with mankind and God.  Man cannot escape” the sentence of eternal death that God has pronounced on them as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

It is a fact; man is destined to be thrown in the Lake of Fire to be eternally separated from God and eternally tormented.

The devil wants you to think that you can “escape” from this sentence of death and separation.  He makes you think you are not in any danger with God.  He makes you think that all you have to do is be good throughout your life and you will be able to “escape” this sentence.  That goodness alone will give you eternal fellowship with God.

God tells us something different.  He tells us that we cannot “escape” His sentence of eternal damnation and wrath on our own merits or efforts.

He tells us the only way to have eternal fellowship and union with Him is through faith in Jesus Christ.

He tells us when we believe in His Son for what He did for us by taking our punishment and dying on the cross; shedding His blood to provide the forgiveness of our sins; and entrusting our entire lives over to His care – only then will we be “rescued” by Jesus Christ from the sentence of eternal judgment and condemnation.

Escape Is A Deception Of Satan

Don’t let Satan continue to deceive you with his lie that you can “escape” the eternal judgment of God by your good works.  It is only by believing and having faith in Jesus Christ that you can be “rescued” from God’s eternal judgment and condemnation.

The Mirror Of Rebuke

The blog message for today deals with something that all Christians find themselves struggling with at some point in their lives – confronting another person because of their actions toward you.

Usually, when people are confronted for something that they have done, they become indignant. They may say things like: “Who do you think you are?” or “Why are you coming up in my face with that?”

Well, listen to a response that you could give back to them.

“I’m in your face because I love you as a brother or sister in Christ and I want you to know the conduct you are demonstrating is not becoming of you.  You say you are a child of God, well, therefore, you should know better.”

”Stop using those curse words when you speak to me. Stop getting drunk every time you want to have some fun.  Stop trying to go to bed with every woman or man who comes your way.  Stop using people to get what you want.  Stop telling lies to cover up your mistakes.  Stop cheating on your wife or husband and stop abusing your kids and start being who you say you are; a born-again believer in Jesus Christ.”

Well, this type of confrontation is rare between people of faith.  We have come to a point where we think this kind of interaction is not Christian.

But let me remind you that confrontation is necessary for the life of a Christian. Without confrontation, spiritual growth and maturation will not happen in one’s life.

Confrontation defined is the state of being confronted.  As a face to face meeting; the clashing of forces or ideas or comparisons.

It is not defined as a negative or positive process.  It is just a process where ideas may clash, comparisons may clash, or opposing forces may clash.  It’s just a face to face meeting.

People have come to understand confrontation only from the outcome they take away from that face to face meeting.  Since many Christians do not like having someone tell them of their shortcomings or their faults or their idiosyncrasies, it’s difficult for them to see the process of confrontation as anything else but negative or not Christian.  Their reactions are usually defensive and counteracting.  Very rarely do they come away with edification or new insight into themselves.

As born-again believers in Jesus Christ, you are mandated in Scripture to confront your brother or sister to facilitate spiritual growth and maturation when they’ve offended you.   So, be thankful that you find me up in your face.  I love you with the love of Christ and want you to grow to maturity.

In the Scriptures, the word “rebuke” is the biblical word used instead of “confront”.

When someone offends you according to Matthew 18:15, it is your responsibility to have a face to face meeting with them. A “rebuke” in other words.

Listen to the scriptural reasoning for the necessity of this rebuke:

15If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault just between the two of you.  If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.  Matthew 18:15 (NIV)

You see, even though you have been offended by them, you are still responsible to go to them and show them their fault.  Something that is very difficult for many Christians to do.

But you go to them because you love them as a believer in Christ.  You go to them because you have faith in Christ that they will be convicted of their fault and confess their transgression.  And you go to them because it’s your duty in Christ.

We are told in Proverbs 28:23 (NIV) that:

23He who rebukes a man will, in the end, gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue.

Also in Proverbs 27:5 (NIV) we are told:

5Better is open rebuke than hidden love.

Therefore, you do not rebuke them with your desire to avenge yourself, or your desire to get payback.  You rebuke them to win them over, to help them grow, to help restore the breach that they’ve made with you, and to show them the mercy of God.

Now there’s one last thing I want to add.  If you ever truly want to understand what it means to crucify your flesh, being offended is a good place to start.

Following an offense, your flesh will rise up and take over every emotion you have to justify itself or avenge itself.  Your flesh will present very convincing arguments to win you over to resentment, bitterness, anger, rage, etc. if you do not crucify it.

Since it is the proclivity of man to sin against his brother, it is then from the crucible of offense that you learn to be truly merciful to your offender.  You learn what it truly means to rely on your faith in Christ to crucify your flesh and to heal you from your hurt.

Wisdom NuggetIt is in the crucible of offense where you learn what the true meaning of forgiveness is.

As it is in the natural – so it is in the spiritual

“As it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual.”  I am sure you have heard this expression before if you are a born again believer in Jesus Christ.  Somewhere during your Christian walk, someone has tried to help you gain the understanding of a natural circumstance you were involved in by relating it to a spiritual truth or perspective. Though you were able to follow their comparative analogy with your intellect, you may have had difficulty appreciating its truth with your spirit.  One reason for this difficulty could be that you are not familiar with the spiritual realm in which you exist; a condition I like to call spiritual illiteracy.

Consider this:  The past is what shapes us.  The way we have handled experiences in our past will dictate how we will perform in the present.  Another way of saying this is:  the past is experiential; the present is predictable because of our past, and the future is experientially unknown.

Therefore, salvation (being born again), is a present experience that presents problems to our comprehension because there are no past experiences in our memory banks that support its reality.

The same is true of our natural birthing process.  Once we come out of the birth canal we are in what you could call a “present” experience with no memory to support this new physical reality.  There isn’t one of us who has the memory of a womb experience.  We leave behind one realm of existence and enter into a new realm of existence.

And therein lies the parallel of the natural to the spiritual. The point being, you cannot live in the physical world using the dynamics you lived by in the womb; neither can you live in the spiritual world using the dynamics you lived by in the physical world.

Experiences in “new realms” bring “new experiences” as the order of the day with no past experiences to fall back onto.  The womb world has passed away, behold all things are new in the natural realm at the moment of birth, and the natural world has passed away, behold all things are new in the spiritual realm at the moment of conversion.

This parallel continues with the development of behaviors.  Parental and societal influences in a person’s life are the essential ingredients to the success of this process.

In the natural realm, a person’s behavioral habits are formed as a result of the interactions they experience with family and the society that surrounds them.  This is a development that begins at birth and continues throughout their formative years.  Likewise, the person who has been born-again forms spiritual behavioral habits through the interactions they have with other born-again believers.

Our natures undergird our proclivities.  Our proclivities give rise to our habits and our habits dictate our behaviors.

Here is an acronym:  H.A.B.I.T. = How All Behavior Is Taught.

Therefore, we can say that carnal behaviors and Christlike behaviors are taught.

Born again believers have a spiritual nature and a spiritual existence. Their essence is spiritual, that’s who they are.  They are not carnal in their nature.

Here is a critical observation…many to most believers are not able to identify with; make the connection with; acknowledge, or take confidence in their spiritual nature because they have no memory recall of that nature to fall back onto.  Their memory recall is only from their carnal existence and therefore they suffer conflict.  There are not enough accumulated spiritual experiences in their present life to draw upon.

Behavioral growth in the natural is dependent upon the influence of parents and the social environment that surrounds the baby.    The same is true with spiritual behavioral growth.  The spiritual parent of the believer is the Godhead (the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost).  The societal environment that surrounds the believer is the body of Christ (the church).

The born-again believer comes into the spiritual kingdom of God as the baby comes into the natural world;  innocent, immature, and undeveloped.  Both must go through a growth development that will mold their behaviors and attitudes.

As a child can be disobedient to the natural parent; so can the believer be disobedient to the Godhead.  As punishment follows disobedience in the natural; so does punishment follow in the spiritual.  As direction and guidance are given by the natural parent; so are direction and guidance given by the spiritual parent through the Word of God.

In my tenure as a biblical counselor, I have come to the conclusion that one of the major hindrances undergirding Christian people who are struggling with issues of life is their ignorance of who they are spiritually.  They have not developed strong habits of spiritual behaviors. I have found that many “born again”, “saved”; “redeemed” persons do not understand they exist in a spiritual realm once they give their life to Jesus Christ.  This truth is foreign to their understanding.  Many believe that the only thing that happens to them when they give their life to Jesus Christ is that their “sins” have been forgiven and they have received the gift of eternal life.  Though this is true, they have no understanding of the “rebirth” they experienced.

Though many will tell me their lives have changed drastically, I have come to the conclusion that they are referencing only the tangible things in their physical lives.  They are blinded by all the tangible elements of the physical world; they are indoctrinated by all the philosophies of the physical world; they are motivated by all the aspirations of the physical world and they set life goals according to the paradigms of the physical world.  They have not learned that their spiritual realm of existence is a reality of their “present” state of existence, so their behaviors and attitudes remain immature and undeveloped.

As it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual is an expression of the truth that needs to be a reminder to us of the aspect of the world we live in but are not a part of.   A reminder that we are to concentrate our efforts on understanding the spiritual realm of existence we are a part of and not the carnal realm we came from.

And to always understand that the combined integrated influences we experience from our spiritual parents and the surrounding spiritual social environment we live in are what is needed for us to come to the fullness of behavioral growth and maturation in the Lord.

As it is in the natural – so it is in the spiritual.

Come to the table and eat…

Having meals together around the kitchen or dining room table is something fewer and fewer families are doing nowadays.  Having hectic schedules to contend with; both parents working; electronic technologies competing for our precious spare time; children involved in after-school and recreational activities that carry on into the early evening, and “dinner on the run”; the luxury of quality family fellowship around the meal table is slowly becoming extinct in many households.

What’s the effect?  Family values are not strengthened; parental input and oversight weaken; family unity breaks down resulting in family dynamics that are drastically redefined.  There is no opportunity for the children to learn of their family heritage or histories; no opportunities to “pass down” treasures of the family.  In a sense there is disconnectedness among the family; each person striving for themselves and not necessarily for the common good of the family.  Then there are those fractured families; those with only a single head; either a mom or a dad.  In these cases, there is even more magnification of disconnect and loss of the common good of the family unit.

Society has drifted far from the will of God in reference to family dynamics, especially as it pertains to unity and fellowship.  The influence of modern values, worldviews, philosophies, and morals have corrupted and tainted the family.  God knew this outcome would happen.  He knew the world would bring this deterioration to the family.  I believe that is why He commanded those who are in His family to commune together regularly and commemorate the heritage and history of the chosen people of God.  We are His children; Jehovah is our Father; Jesus the Son is our Savior and Lord; the Holy Spirit is our Paraclete and teacher and the body of believers is who make up our family unit.  God wants His family to function differently than the families of the world.  God wants our focus to be centered on Him and all He provides for His family.  God wants His family unified through intimate fellowship.

So why are we saying to our family members things that God has not said to us concerning fellowship around the meal table?

Why are many born-again believers in Jesus Christ being told by pastoral leadership they are not worthy to participate in the communion meal because of unconfessed sin in their lives; because they have not forgiven someone that harmed them; because they are holding an aught in their heart toward someone or because they have backslidden into old sinful behavior patterns?  Why is this happening?

Could it be we are leaning onto the traditions of man and having the counsel of God darkened over our minds and hearts?  Have we forgotten the command we were given that said to do our best to present ourselves to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth?

I believe this to be the case!!!  Instead of properly exegeting (pulling out of scripture) the interpretative will of God as it pertains to the communion meal, we have put into scripture (eisegesis) what God has not put there.  Because of this, we have wrongfully misinterpreted the will of God as it pertains to communion and has denied many born-again believers their inherited right to partake of the communion elements along with the rest of their God-given family members.

Do you find yourself being one of the people who has been told you cannot take communion?  Have you been told that if you are guilty of any of these sins in your life and proceed to take communion that you will be bringing judgment upon yourself?

Are you one of these people?  If you are, let me say you are being misguided and being taught an untruth” concerning your privilege to participate in the communion meal.

The misguidance stems from a traditional misinterpretation of scripture passages from 1Corinthians 11:23-32, specifically the 26th to the 29th verses.

Somewhere in the annals of Christian tradition lie three false teachings that come from verses 26-29.

  1. The first deals with “unworthiness” in taking communion
  2. The second deals with what a person is to examine in himself before taking communion
  3. The third pertains to the nature of judgment that is brought upon someone for sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.

I say “untruth” because any doctrinal teaching that is not reflective of the revealed will of God is a false and untrue doctrine.  When such false doctrine is assimilated and incorporated into the sanctification walk of the believer, it weakens their faith and opens them up to deception.  We must exercise great caution and care to guard against such teachings.

So, from where did this false teaching originate?  It came from interpreting verses 26-29 out of context to the body of scriptures that surround the account of the Church at Corinth concerning the communion meal.  The Apostle Paul was concerned about the manner in which they came together to take the Lord’s meal.

Somewhere, there developed a misinterpretation of the following points:

  1. Unworthiness
  2. Self-examination
  3. Judgment
  4. Reason for doing communion

It is incumbent upon us then, to shed the light of truth on these four verses; to deliver people from the shackles that have held them back from communing with their brothers and sisters, and to restore them back to their rightful place at the communion table.

But before we can learn anything about communion, we must construct a basement foundation that it will rest upon.  Why should we do this?  Because any structure is wholly dependent on its foundation.  Poorly constructed foundations provide poor support for the building; well-constructed foundations provide excellent support for the building, so we must build an excellent basement foundation of knowledge to rest our communion table upon.

Transcendence is our basement foundation.

It is defined as to be independent of the world; to exist above and apart from the material world. 

By implication, whatever is transcended is not subject to the physical limitations of the material world, it rises above those limitations and is free to become something else; something the material world could not limit it from becoming.

Jesus Christ is who introduced the dynamic of transcendence to us during His observation of the Passover Meal on the night He was arrested.  In order to understand the significance of transcendence we must first build a sub-basement from the following three areas:

  1. The Historical Old Testament Passover Meal
  2. The Significance of the Old Testament Passover Lamb
  3. The Identification of Jesus Christ as the Passover Lamb

The Historical Passover Meal

The Israelites were enslaved by the Pharaohs of Egypt for 430 years.  The Nation of Israel is the chosen people of God who were in physical bondage and slavery and could do nothing on their own to escape.  They were in need of rescue and only God could do it.

The difference between “rescue” and “escape” is that if you can get yourself out of danger, you have escaped.  If you can do nothing to escape then you need someone to overpower your situation and get you out of danger, you need rescue.

The manner God chose to rescue his people was through the means of a substitutionary sacrifice of an innocent animal.  That sacrifice brought propitiation, (the regaining of favor or the goodwill of God) to his chosen people.  In this case, it protected the Israelites from the anger, wrath, and agitation of God toward Pharaoh.

The head of each Israelite home sacrificed an innocent lamb and used its blood to cover the doorposts and lintel of the entrance to the home.  When the death angel came to destroy all the firstborn in Egypt, (men and animal), he passed over” those homes that had blood on the doorposts and lentil.  The judgment of God toward Pharaoh passed over those inside the homes.  Deliverance from their physical bondage came that night because God broke the shackles of captivity and slavery under Pharaoh and the next day the Israelites left Egypt and headed toward the land of promise – Caanan.

This account of physical deliverance from bondage in Egypt authored by Jehovah God is a true historical event. It gave to mankind a prophetic foreshadowing of the process of spiritual deliverance and rescue from the bondage of Sin and death that was to come through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the propitiation of God’s judgment against fallen man.

After their deliverance, God commanded the Israelites to remember and celebrate the events of that night throughout the generations so the people would not forget that God Himself rescued them and brought them out of bondage.

The commemorative meal is called the Passover Meal.

The Significance of the Old Testament Passover Lamb

The lamb that was chosen to be sacrificed had to be a one-year-old male without physical defect.  It had to be slaughtered and then eaten by every member of the family. Its blood was used to “cover” the doorposts of the home; to act as a sign to the death angel that those behind the door belonged to God, His chosen Israelite Nation, and they were to be shielded from the wrath of God’s judgment on the first-born of Egypt. The lamb took the place of the first-born in each Israelite home.  The lamb was sacrificed in their place.  It was reckoned worthy to be sacrificed because it was without physical defect, and innocent.  Since the life of every creature is contained in its blood, there had to be an exchange of life as payment for the cost of rescue; the life of the lamb in place of the life of the first-born.  This exchange is called substitution, the taking of one life in place for another. The sacrifice propitiates the anger, wrath, and agitation of God.

The Identification of Jesus Christ as the Passover Lamb

God’s disposition toward mankind with respect to being spiritually separated from His presence as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, is to bring reconciliation and restoration between Him and who he spiritually created – man.  This can only be accomplished by appeasing the wrath He has against mankind and pacifying His desire to condemn mankind to an eternal second death separation in the lake of fire.  Enter Jesus Christ.  He is the manifestation of God’s grace toward mankind.  He is the atoning sacrifice that brings propitiation for man’s sinful nature.  What I mean is that Jesus Christ brings forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration between God and mankind as a result of his sacrifice on the Cross at Calvary.

Jesus Christ can do this for one reason and only one reason.  He is accepted by God to be innocent of sin.  He is unblemished as it relates to sin.  He is in this respect as the Passover lamb was; innocent and unblemished.  This fact qualifies him to be an acceptable sacrificial entity that represents all of mankind in God’s sight.

It is crucial that you understand this point of fact.  Adam represents all of mankind from the human perspective and Jesus represents all of mankind from the human perspective because he was fully human when he walked the earth more than two thousand years ago.  Adam sinned against God, Jesus Christ did not.  Therefore, all mankind is credited as sinning against God because of Adam and all mankind is credited as not sinning against God because of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ being an acceptable sacrificial entity had to die (pay the cost for sin) in order to bring propitiation (appeasement) from God.  This act of Jesus Christ brings spiritual deliverance from the wrath and condemnation of God.  It brings spiritual release from the bondage of sin and death and the authority of Satan over our lives.

It is this recognition that one must have when they are taking communion.  The transcendent recognition of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.  No other focus is to be in mind.  If the elements of the communion meal are taken without full transcendent recognition of these points, then judgment is the outcome.

Therefore, if anyone has received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, then they are not to be denied a seat at the communion table. The requirement to sit at the communion table has nothing to do with a sinful lifestyle.  The requirement has everything to do with what Jesus Christ has done.  He gave His body to satisfy the requirements of the Law, and He shed His blood to provide remission of sin.  Your acknowledgment of this, and your receiving of Him as Lord and Savior are all that is needed for you to partake of the communion meal.

So, come to the communion table with a heart of peace, and gratitude, and love for what Jesus Christ has done for you.

Infidelity

This article is for married men and women who are ignorant of fidelity.  Now before you say to yourself “That’s not me…I’m not ignorant about fidelity”, be absolutely sure that you know what I’m speaking about before you stop reading any further.

Fidelity defined: faithfulness to a moral obligation, pledge, promise or vow.  It implies complete submission; complete entrusting; and complete allegiance to that which you have committed yourself to.  The key word in this definition is COMPLETE.

Therefore, can you say that you have been completely faithful in the fulfillment of your marital vows to your spouse since the day you said: “I Do”?  If you can say “Yes I have” then you can stop reading, but let me challenge you to consider one more thing before you do.  The word complete implies total; nothing lacking.  Can you say with assuredness that you have never fallen short in your words, thoughts or deeds concerning fidelity with your spouse?

Humm…I thought you couldn’t.  Let’s learn something then about the word fidelity and how we have many times missed the mark in our marital relationships by manifesting infidelity in ways we never thought we were.

By its definition, fidelity is not confined to marriage.  It is a condition that is applicable to any commitment.  Infidelity then would mean there was a breach in faithfulness concerning a promise, pledge, vow or moral obligation to someone that resulted in a violation of the commitment of fidelity between the parties involved.

So, when we use infidelity in the context of marriage, we must replace the misconception that the word implies only having sexual relations outside the covenant of marriage.  There is a much deeper significance we must come to understand.

It is easy for us to focus on issues of adultery, substance abuse, gambling, physical and verbal abuse as behaviors that undergird marital discourse.  These are like “bombs” that explode in our faces.  As a result, they are not hard to identify.  They are extremely devastating to any marital covenant.  But there is another “villain in the camp” that we pay very little attention to.  This villain is subtle and appears innocuous but brings a sense of anesthesia into relationships that cause a gradual state of emotional numbness to develop.  The villain’s name is Mr. Erosion, aka Mr. Drip/Drip/Drip.

You know how he works.  I’m sure you’ve seen him do his thing in nature.  He’s that constant drip of water that keeps striking in the same spot on the earth, and over time, erodes the soil it’s been pounding on to create a crevice that penetrates deep into the ground.  Can you recall seeing his works?

Well, did you know that he likes to abide in marital relationships also?  Instead of water, he uses things like impatience; unkindness; jealousy; envy; boastfulness; pridefulness; haughtiness; selfishness; rudeness; demanding one’s own way; irritability; or holding records of wrongs.

Through these areas, he develops insensitivities between husband and wife.  Each tries to initially co-exist with these insensitivities, but as time goes on in the marriage they find themselves emotionally distancing from each other.   One insensitivity leads into another and the intensity of the insensitivity grows; more distancing occurs until there becomes an emotional “crater” existing between them.  You begin hearing one of them say: “He doesn’t love me like he use to” or “She doesn’t show me respect anymore” or “We don’t seem to connect with each other anymore” or “We are always arguing over the little things”.

In my tenure as a biblical counselor, I have encountered numerous marital cases that were byproducts of these emotional erosions.  The geography of the crater that these couples present in counseling is often times very deep, very jagged and very treacherous.  For the spouse who has fallen into that crater, negotiating the terrain back to the surface isn’t easy because of the extent of emotional numbness that exists.

Do you remember the vows you made to your spouse on your wedding day?   When was the last time you took an inventory of them?     The covenant of marriage is the most basic of relationships established by God.  He expects us to be virtuous in that covenant.  If you don’t remember what you vowed, how can you guard against Mr. Erosion?

What specifically did you vow to your spouse?  Was it to love and cherish and care for?   Was it to honor, obey and respect?  Was it to be there for your spouse in sickness and in health?  Was it to forsake all others?  Fidelity is the cornerstone of any relationship. Does it matter to you that God expects you to be virtuous in his covenant?

Let me give you a homework assignment that will complete your schooling on fidelity.  Meditate on the following scripture passage from the Living Bible, and then write a letter to your spouse relating what the Holy Spirit has revealed to you about your role in the marital covenant.

Ephesians 5: 21-27, 33 (TLB)

{21} Honor Christ by submitting to each other. {22} You wives must submit to your husbands’ leadership in the same way you submit to the Lord. {23} For a husband is in charge of his wife in the same way Christ is in charge of his body the Church. (He gave his very life to take care of it and be its Savior!) {24} So you wives must willingly obey your husbands in everything, just as the Church obeys Christ. {25} And you husbands, show the same kind of love to your wives as Christ showed to the Church when he died for her, {26} to make her holy and clean, washed by baptism and God’s Word; {27} so that he could give her to himself as a glorious Church without a single spot or wrinkle or any other blemish, being holy and without a single fault. {33} So again I say, a man must love his wife as a part of himself; and the wife must see to it that she deeply respects her husband – obeying, praising, and honoring him.

Stop the erosion in your marriage.  Renew your wedding vows by restating them to each other.  Do it soon.  Do it this weekend.  Send the kids to a sitter and go for a weekend getaway.  Dress up.  Go to dinner.  Create an atmosphere of intimacy.  Speak life back into your marriage by vowing to each other that you will protect the fidelity of each vow.  Commit to edifying each other every day.  Commit to love and honor and respect your covenant of marriage.  Commit to letting infidelity be a thing of the past.

I pray that you were able to digest this and I pray that God gives you the courage and desire to revive the flame that was ignited between you and your spouse on the day you entered into His blessed covenant of marriage.

A devotional challenge – What Foundation Is Your House Built On?

Read this devotional message and then challenge yourself to follow what it’s asking you to do:

Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV)

24”Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Insights:      Jesus Christ is the one making this statement.  He presents a truth; an insight into an element of belief that is overlooked many times by believers or not fully understood.

That element is “acting on what you believe”

People make decisions every day in accordance with what they believe, and what they believe is a result of their own processes of acceptance or rejection of presented facts.  A person will assume a posture of a belief that will reflect their understanding of those presented facts as being either true or false.

What is significant for us to note is what does the person do with their beliefs? They can either act on them or not.  Just because someone has a belief in something does not mean they will act on that belief.  When they “act on” their belief it is because they put their trust and reliance on it.  When they “do not act on” their belief it is because their trust and reliance are lacking.

We are told in the Gospel of John 1:14 (NIV) that Jesus is the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us.  We are also told in Psalm 119:160 (NIV) that all of God’s words are true and eternal.

Therefore, in verse 24 of our devotional scripture passage, Jesus is speaking about those persons whom He calls wise, who hear His words of truth and accept them as truth and act on them out of trust and reliance.

In verse 26 of our devotional scripture passage, Jesus is speaking about those persons whom He calls foolish, who hear His words of truth and accept them as truth but do not act on them because of a lack of trust and reliance.

Jesus is giving us insight into the dynamics of what our faith should be.  The truths of God’s words are what we are to trust and rely on.  If we do what He tells us to do – we are demonstrating the trust we have in Him.  If we do not do what He tells us to do – we are demonstrating a lack of trust in Him.

Jesus is telling us that only by having trust in Him and doing what He asks us to do will ensure that we will overcome the situations, circumstances, trials, and tribulations that come upon us.  We can and will withstand these things because we are anchored on a “rock” foundation that is not moved by any situation, circumstance, trial or tribulation.

On the contrary, if someone has little trust in what Jesus says then they will find themselves not doing what He asks of them and when those situations, circumstances, trials or tribulations come upon them they will suffer great loss.

Application:      Examine yourself over the next thirty days to see how much trust and reliance you are putting in Jesus Christ in the various situations, circumstances, trials, and tribulations you encounter.

Do the following:

  1. Write down what situation, circumstance, trial or tribulation you find yourself confronted with.
  2. Write out the options you have concerning your responses to these areas by drawing a line down the middle of a piece of paper. On one side, label it “My Ideas” to solve the situation. On the other side, label it “Jesus’ Methods” to solve the situation.
  3. Use your Bible to locate various scriptures that speak to your situation. Write those scripture references on the side of your paper labeled “Jesus’ methods.”
  4. Compare your side to Jesus’ side and see what discrepancies exist between the way you would handle your situation and the way Jesus would.  If there are discrepancies you will have to ask yourself how much you believe that Jesus’ methods are true and better than yours. The proof of your faith will be evident with your decision to follow Jesus’ methods.
  5. Record how many times you were successful following your methods’ versus how many times you were successful following Jesus’ methods.

Prayer:        Lord, give me the desire to put into practice the truths of your Word concerning all of the situations, circumstances, trials or tribulations I find myself in.  Strengthen my faith through my obedience in fully trusting and relying on your Word so that I can experience your wisdom of standing in you as my “rock” of deliverance.  Change me, Lord.  Change my habits of reliance on myself so that I can bring glory and honor to you in the way I respond to life’s challenges.

It is in Jesus name I pray.   Amen.