Glory

Glory

1Pe 1:24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:

Ro 8:18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

2Co 3:18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

I have been thinking of how amazing is the wonder of God’s handiwork in making man. He is so intricate and detailed. He is composed of the basic elements of matter, arranged in complicated combinations of molecules which do wondrous things. Just the 5 physical senses of sight, touch, taste, hearing and smell are each fantastic within themselves. Then you add the circulatory system, the nervous system and the organs, the skeleton, mussels, skin, tendons and so forth and their operation to provide function expands the wonder even further. Lets not leave out the brain and its unequaled ability to think and reason. Then to consider that man is a trinity in that he not only has a body but also a soul and spirit and you ask the question, “For what purpose would God go to such length in creating life, only to see it die in a short time. It is glorious but so temporary.

The answer cannot be in the physical aspect of its beauty. There must be a greater purpose for man than in just who he is. The fact that the flower dies quickly reveals the fact of man’s temporary nature and the need for an eternal purpose. The answer is in God Himself. The glory of man is simply a reflection of his Creator. Man did not make himself but was created by God. The purpose of man is not to be seen as only an object to behold but become more than just physical, but more than that, to become eternal and like his creator.

Within that short span of time he makes that choice of becoming like God in his nature and being or rejecting that opportunity and attempt to make himself after his own image. We can easily see the end of that choice is death – just like the flower, because that was not why he was designed for. God’s plan for man was so much greater in every respect. First of all, the flower is to call attention to the Creator not the creation. Second, we have a sin problem that can only be remedied by God’s provision, the blood of Jesus. Thirdly, God is a good god and has only good planned for us. If we reject it then it is on us and not Him. Fourthly, the best that man can do is things of this world but God’s plan for man is eternal. The flower is only a sample of the goodness that is ours in Him, and it does not end but is eternal.

Flowers are found everywhere, all over the world. It’s like God is saying to the world, look at all I have for you. Don’t hate me when I have so much for you. Yes, I know that you have so troubled times but it is through these times that I am building in you that eternal nature that will endure forever. Just keep you focus on me and trust me that I know what I am doing. The more you view my glory, the more that you will be changed into that same image. You’ll really love it in the end.

Baptism

There has been much debate on the subject of baptism over the years that have caused a lot of confusion among believers and even the splitting of churches.  What you believe about baptism is important and can cause real problems in fellowship.  Baptism is not required for salvation.  If it were, the thief on the cross would not have been saved yet Jesus declared that they would be together in paradise that day.  Though it is not a requirement for salvation, it is a requirement of obedience and a faith walk of the believer.  It is proper evidence of your conversion.  A Scriptural baptism will include these 5 points of identification.

  1. The first point of identification is that there must be a proper candidate.  A proper candidate is one who has become a believer in Jesus as Lord and Savior.  He has been converted from the old way of living (sin) to the new life (walking by faith in Jesus).  This is done by a confrontation and confession of sin (called repentance) and the surrender of the control of your life to Jesus (faith in Him).  This is a conscious and deliberate choice of the will.  An infant is not capable of making such a choice, yet a few do make that choice at an early age prior to the teenage years.  A proper candidate is already a believer so baptism is not a part of getting saved but it is an important part of walking by faith and should be done as soon as possible after getting saved.  Without the conversion experience, you are not a proper candidate.  Baptism is not part of your qualification for salvation but an evidence that it has already been accomplished.  See Acts 2:38, 8:12-13, 36-38, Ephesians 4:5
  2. The second point of identification for a scriptural baptism is a proper mode.  A proper mode is how it is done.  The word baptism is a transliteration of the Greek word “baptizo” which is the only method used in the Bible.  It means to dip, immerse or plunge under.  The sprinkling or pouring came much later in the history of the church and was in response to the erroneous doctrine that baptism was necessary for, or a part of salvation.  Scriptural baptism knows of only one method and that is by immersion and is seen in its meaning.
  3.  It is the picture of God’s provision of our salvation in Christ:  He died on the cross, He was buried in the tomb and He was raised victorious over death hell and the grave.
  4. It is also the picture of what has happened to the believer.  He has died to sin, buried in a grave of water and raised to walk in newness of life.
  5. It is further, a picture of the Christians’ hope.  We die physically, we are buried in the ground and we will be resurrected to join Christ in the air and so shall we ever be.  See Romans 6:4-6, I Thessalonians 4:13-18
  6. The third point of identification for a scriptural baptism is a proper time.  There isn’t a lot of scripture about the timing of baptism but the scriptural example is that it should be done as soon as possible after conversion.  Acts 8:36-38  I have heard of a number of individuals who claim to be believers but have never been baptized. In every case I have observed that there is a major problem in their faith walk.  We are commanded to be baptized once we become a believer and to put it off becomes disobedience when not done promptly, as it will affect your faith walk. 
  7. The fourth point of identification of a scriptural baptism is a proper purposeMatthew 3:15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.  A common question about baptism is why should I be baptized since I am already saved?  Some people have the idea that going to heave is all that is important but Jesus said that we should fulfill all righteousness.  Getting to heave is just the means of travel but God is in the business of transformation of the believer so that when he gets to heaven he will be at home.  Without this transformation we would either miss the trip all together or if we should actually make it there we would be dis figured or handicapped forever.  Here are some of the reasons that we should be baptized.
  8. It is a declaration of independence from the control of sin on our lives.  It is also a declaration of independence from the curse of the law (legalism).  Further it is a declaration of independence from the dominion of the old nature.  We are no longer a prisoner of our old nature.
  9. It is a declaration of dependence upon Christ not only to provide salvation but a means to continually be cleansed from sin by our confession of it to Him.  It is also a declaration of our dependence on the Holy Spirit to teach us the scriptures, give us recall of them (John 14:26), convict, convince and convert the world (John 16:8),  guide you into all truth (John 16:13), Shew you things to come (John 16:8), and to glorify the Lord (John 16:14).  We are totally dependent on the Lord.  Further, it is a declaration of dependence upon the Scripture.  It is wholly trustworthy as it will never pass away.  It has stood the test of time, trials and twisting and remains the sure foundation of all doctrine of God.
  10. It is a declaration of interdependence.  The church is the bride of Christ and very precious to Him.  As a part of a local church we support one another and learn  to lean on the Lord as He is in the church.
  11. Baptism is to be administered by a proper authority.  The proper authority is His church made up of His believers.  It is the church that was commissioned to carry the gospel to the whole world, to baptize the new believers and then to teach them to observe the things that He commanded us to do. (Matthew 28:19-20)  Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22) Acting under His authority and leadership we have been given the ministry of reconciliation.  (II Corinthians 5:18)

Which is Better, Success or Failure?

As I thought on this question, I realized that it is a loaded question.  My opinion is just that, an opinion, but it may not be a fair answer without taking into consideration some basic considerations.  For example, what determines success or failure?  Which perspective is being considered?  Who is determining the outcome?  Is there a specified time period to consider? 

Perhaps we should just consider these ideas separately so we will start with a definition of success or failure.  My first thought is can it be both or is it either/or?  Could something be considered both a success and a failure?  The original question is presented as an either success or failure so we will start there.  So what is the standard that makes it a success?  Is it because it brings the desired outcome or the best outcome?  Is it best for me or best for others?  Is it because of monetary, emotional or appearance reasons?  How about who is doing the determining of the outcome?  One might conclude something a success whereas another would see it as a failure.  And finally, what may appear a total loss could turn out to produce the greatest reward.  As you can see this isn’t going to be an easy task and my conclusion could be just the opposite of yours.

Perspective is another consideration that can change the outcome.  For example, let’s suppose that there are four of us sitting at a table on each of the four sides and we are looking at a cup sitting in the middle of the table.  If I am looking at the cup and see that the handle is on the right, the person opposite of me sees the handle on the left, and the person to my right sees the handle in the middle and the person to my left asks, what handle?  We are all looking at the same object, but from a different perspective.  Sometimes we are not in a position to see the outcome and therefore could not make the determination of success or failure.

Values are another important aspect of deterring success or failure.  My life is touched by many different things.  If it affects my life then it may be important to me but if it doesn’t affect my life it may not be so important to me.  The price of tea in China may not concern me unless I am buying or selling tea from China.  If I am living in America and don’t use tea from China, it may not be important to me at all.  Another consideration is if it doesn’t affect me directly, it may affect someone who is important to me and thereby affect me indirectly.  What your values are will carry weight as to whether it is a success or failure.

Time is another consideration.  Is the benefit needed quickly or is the final outcome more important.  Variations of the time line of the event will necessarily affect our determination of success or failure.  What may be considered a failure in the short term, may be totally different when viewed from a long term outcome.  There may be many other considerations beyond these but these will suffice for my query.

By now you are seeing the problems with the original question.  It is easy to see why we may not be able to determine whether the outcome is a success or failure.  In our eyes we see a totally different view than that of God.  We see how it affects us in a temporal world but God sees it from the eternal perspective.  We see how it affects our environment, but God sees it from how it affect us in the light of eternity.  We measure it in terms of our profitability but God sees it from the perspective of the good of everyone.  We want to look good in the eyes of others, but looking good in God’s eyes is the only eyes that count.  Because of these considerations (and probably many others) he stated in 1 Corinthians 4:3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.  It is not necessary to know if an event is a success or a failure.  All of us are flawed is determining such a thing.  What is important is that you do it in faith in the Lord and leave the results in His hands. 1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

Crises of Faith – 4

2 Timothy 3:1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.  2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,  3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good  4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;  5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.  6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,  7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.  8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds,  reprobate concerning the faith.  9 But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.

Today, I want to look at a passage of Scripture in 2 Timothy 3:1-9 copied above.  The apostle Paul is writing to his son in the faith, Timothy and describing the conditions of the latter end of the last days.  This looks a lot like the days we are living in today.  We know that we are much closer to the last days than we have ever been before.  Paul describes these times as perilous, that is risky and dangerous, and that there would be a type of “religious” people who are like the world but not like Christ.  Notice that they have a form of godliness that is they may be benevolent and involved in a church but are not focused on extending the kingdom of God. When the time to stand on principles comes, they stand against truth.  You need only to look at the issues of abortion, free speech for Christians, prayer, etc.  The workplace is a mine field and can bring accusations of raciest, sexist, homophobia, prejudice, unfairness, etc. for proposing any alternate to the proposed cause. 

How can you tell if the “religious” are real Christians or just imposters?  One way is to test their message.  Does it speak of glorifying anything other than Christ.  It the message is “Hey, look at me, it or them” when it should be saying “Hey, look at God”, then it should shout DANGER!  Another evidence is that those who are following Christ are accompanied by God’s power.  God backs up the believers faith by His power.  If there is an absence of God’s power, then there is cause to turn away from the person or teaching proposed. 

A third warning is the appeal to knowledge as opposed to a faith walk.  I am not against knowledge for the Scripture states that we are to study God’s word.  However, when we come face to face with the knowledge of the truth, we are changed by it.  We will be changed  from faith to faith and we will not be able to just absorb the information without being changed.  In My dad’s day, they used to speak of educated idiots.  They had tons of information but no application.  The military used the phrase, “a thirty day wonder.”  People sometimes think that if they could just understand it then they could believe it. Just the opposite is true, however, that you must first believe it and then understanding will come.  That was Jannes and Jambres problem with Moses.  They opposed it because the problem was in their minds and the Scripture states that they were reprobate (depraved, corrupt, unprincipled) in their faith.  The Bible states that their folly shall be manifest to all men.

The crises of faith we see in the church today is not because there is no faith, but that the faith is exercised in the wrong things, when it should be in response to God’s directives.  The lack of power in the church, the use of the platform for attention, and the hypocrisy in the leadership are some of the causes of today’s crises of faith in the church today.

Crises of Faith – 3

Today I want us to look at the state of the church in America.  We see its values being attacked on a daily basis and its effect on the American culture lessening continually.  Church attendance is shrinking and the message is becoming confused with false doctrine.  In short, we are steadily losing ground  

Churches are trying different strategies to try to turn the tide, but nothing seems to bring lasting results.  One of the cries is that the church is out of date and boring, so some churches are changing the format to include a different type of music and dress code to make people feel more comfortable.  The doctrines are being watered down and compromised.  Some churches are promoting the “prosperity gospel” that is measured by physical prosperity.  While it is true that the attendance does increase for a time and the excitement is there, it is also true that many of the traditional values are driven out of the church and when the emotions subside (and they will) and when the music style changes (and it will), then the same results of a diminishing core will certainly follow. 

The reason that these will be the results will follow is that they have not identified the real problem.  It is just as my father used to say, “you can’t fix it until you know what is broke.”  Attendance and excitement are not what makes a church effective.  In reality, it is much easier to fill a church with people than it is to fill a heart with hope. 

There are several flaws in this type of approach to building a church.  First of all, we need to remember that the church belongs to the Lord.  It is not our church and therefore the ultimate responsibility is His and not ours.  He is the one who has the power to convict of sin, and He is the one who will draw the people to come.  The point is that He will fill the church in direct proportion to the room we make in our hearts for Him.  God is willing and able to turn the tide but His grace is frustrated by our refusal to surrender the control of our lives to Him.  As long as we cling to the controls of the church, we prevent God from working as He wants to and our faith is in our abilities instead of in Him. 

As I shared with you in my last blog, the object of our faith is the Lord.  Not in what He will do but simply in Him.  We need to trust His working and not our programs.  We need to trust His promises and not our ways.  Our faith must not be in our ability but in His ability to effect change in us first and then in our living in His ways.  Here is a glimpse of what that means:   new life comes from the death to the old life; gain comes from giving; greatness comes from serving; humility and compassion trumps power and authority and Love never fails.  When the lost world sees the life of Christ in the believer, then that is the only thing that will satisfy the hunger of the heart.  No other plan of man will work to stabilize the church.  The problem is not in what we are doing but is in our failing to live by faith in Him.  Romans 14:3 states that whatsoever is not of faith is sin and Hebrews 11:6 states that without faith it is impossible to please Him.  That is why I say we are in a Crises of Faith.   We are religious but not righteous.  2Ti 3:5  Having a form of godliness but denying  the power thereof.

A Crisis of Faith

There is a strange phenomenon going on in the churches of America.  It is affecting all churches of all sizes and all denominations and that is that the attendance is dropping, as well as resources, influence and power.  If it were only one denomination we might conclude it was because of a teaching or doctrine.  If it were just the larger churches or just the smaller churches we might conclude it was because of resources.  But it is affecting all churches which are causing church leaders to ask why is it happening.  I have even heard that it is the fulfilling of the prophecy that times will wax worse and worse as we get closer to the end times.  However, this process of degenerating has been going on for thousands of years already.  No, this phenomenon is something else that has not yet been understood by the vast majority of the churches.

I remember before I became a Christian that it was hard to distinguish between the Christians and the non-believers.   They all seemed to follow the same moral code and conduct.  There was a general respect for the church member over the nonmember but little else.  Later, after I became a Christian I became curious about not seeing God’s power working in the lives of the members and churches.  I wondered why I didn’t see or hear much about God doing much in His people.  Then the scandals of the tele-evangelist and the breakdown of our national morals followed, until today when we have been devastated by compromising many of our long held beliefs.  Despair has become much more prevalent and there are all manner of “churches” sprouting up that claim that the long held truths that we have stood on for ages are no longer valid and were just for a time.

Lest I be understood to be saying that there is no hope and that everything is falling apart, I want to say that this is nothing new.  It has happened many times before.  If fact, every great revival of history began in such times as we are in today.  Let me also say that this phenomenon is not worldwide, though it is found in several countries.  Last year, I visited the underground church in another country and found an altogether different church.  There it was illegal to publically share your faith and Christianity was declared as darkness by the government.  Still, believers were so hungry for the gospel that they would travel up to two hours to a Bible Study; they would arrive 30-45 minutes early and quietly pray and read their bible;  sit on a plastic child’s stool that didn’t even have a back, for nearly 3 hours without complaining or squirming around;  take notes like a college student studying for an exam; stay for an hour or more in fellowship; and travel the up to two hours home.  After they completed their work day they would return the following evening and each day thereafter.  They weren’t tardy or missed opportunities but considered it an honor to be able to be there and were very grateful.  I came home wanting to bring that back with me.  Under these conditions the ratio of Christians was around 1in14 where here it is somewhere between 1in50 or 1in100

So we come back to the question of what is wrong in our churches in America.  I have prayerfully considered this for a long time and remembered what my Father told me years ago, “ You can’t fix it until you know what is broke.”  If we do not properly diagnose the problem we will just be treating the symptoms and will not see real change so I share with you what I believe is the real problem.  We are in a crises of faith.  With all of the books that are written on faith, I do not know of one that is addressing this as the problem.  So I will be writing several post on this and hopefully we can move closer to the center of God’s will in this matter.  After all, Romans 14:23 tells us that whatsoever is not of faith is sin and Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please Him.  I conclude therefore that until we get our faith walk right that we will see a continued deterioration of our churches and the quality of life that we live.

Worship

Think back to a recent worship experience.  Was it enjoyable?  Was it memorable?  How about life changing?  Sometimes we leave the service with an “oh hum” attitude that leaves us examining the value of the use of our time. 

Your response to the worship service is quite revealing and it is worth noting how you left the worship service.  The first thing you notice is was it a positive experience or did it leave you with something missing.  It may be the service but it could also be because of what is going on within you.  Before we go criticizing the church for failing to bring you into worship, we should at least consider that it may not be their fault.  Worship is personal between you and God and must begin with us.  Worship is possible in any situation when we are focused on Him, rather than on ourselves.

Now look at the focus of the worship.  To what did the service call your attention?   Did it focus on life in the here and now or in the sweet by and by?  Did it emphasis individuals or the Lord?  Sometimes it seems as though the leaders are saying, “Hey, look at me” rather than “Hey, look at Him.”  Was the main emphasis the church growth, a program, a performance, or was it one of what God is doing and how He is leading.  Oh, and be sure to check out your own expectations.  Were you looking to be entertained or were you looking for some direction or answer from God?

Thirdly, Look at the message, itself.  Did you take notes?  Even if you never look at them again, taking notes are beneficial for you to digest the message and to organize your thoughts.  Can you tell about the message in a word or sentence or two?  What was the message about?  Another very important point is was the interpretation in agreement with clear biblical doctrine.  The message should be directed by its text.  Preaching should break open the hidden things of the text and expose it to be examined by the listener.  Where did you thoughts travel?  Did your thoughts travel heavenward or were they anchored here in this world by circumstances or needs.   Were they led by the speaker or was you focus on things of this life and you never caught the concept of what is beyond this life only. 

Fourthly, consider your vision of life, were you left with the feeling of times are getting worse and worse, or did you leave with hope in the end that God has a plan and He is in control.  There are needs a plenty and difficulty is common to all but how does God fit into all of life.  What is the purpose of God in allowing us to go through all of this?  How can we have peace in the midst of all of this turmoil?

Finally, as you think back over this experience, were your expectations met?  This may sound strange to you at first, but I hope that they were not.  Many people leave a church because their “needs” were not  being met.  The criticism vary and may include such things as the sermon was too long, the choir is always off key, so and so has this problem, and so on.   This type of criticism is selfish and focuses only on self.  It lacks understanding of the others and the point of worship.  Worship is a corporate event and includes everyone.  Though it is true that God is concerned about your every need, it is also true that He is concerned about everyone’s individual needs.  We all need to be loved and valued.  True worship finds us as a part of God’s plan that includes everyone and excludes no one. 

So, as you consider your own worship experience, consider that worship requires and investment of yourselves, a discipline to bring self under His control, a vision beyond this life into the next, a faith in God and not in something temporal such as a man or church or a plan, and  a surrender to the will of God rather than just your will. My prayer for you is that your worship will become richer and fuller with each experience. Since worship is at least a part of our eternal existence, we should be practicing it now.

I cannot take credit for this insight as it was outlined by David Jeremiah with the following thoughts:

                It is not about us – it is about Him

                It is not about here (the physical) – it is about there (the eternal)

                It is not about what is seen – it is about what is unseen

                It is not about now – it is about then      

                It is not about one person – it is about many people

What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?

I have listed a few of my favorite scriptures on believing as I will be discussing them and they are here for your reference.

John 6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

Mark 9:23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

Matthew 17:19-20 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?  And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

John 14:12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

In our harried world of social networking, busy schedules, pressures, and hectic paces, we often try to simplify or reduce the topic to one main idea.  We have all heard the saying, “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.”  When it comes to studying the Bible, we often look for basic concepts or verses that go straight to the heart of the truth.  One verse that was eye opening to me was John 6:28-29 (The title of this article and verse 29 listed above).  I was a new Christian and I simply wanted to know what I should be doing.  I didn’t know a lot of verses or history and it was all new to me so I wanted to just be doing the right thing.  I wasn’t interested in denominations or traditions, just what the Bible said.  Verse 29 summed it up for me.

But then I asked the question, “What does it mean, to believe on Him?”  I had a generic idea that it meant to be in agreement and to do right things but what were those things that I was supposed to do?  Like so many other people, I thought that the Lord would be pleased with me if I did the right things.  My understanding was in the doing, but the verse said that it was in believing and not in the doing.  As I studied I learned that the word, believe and the word faith are the same word in the Greek.  That word is pistis and it is translated as believe in one place and faith in another.  This opened a whole new thought process to me.  The Lord is not looking for me to do great things but He is asking me to allow Him to do great things through me.  Now I am not working for God (as though I am earning His favor), but He is working on me, and consequently through me so that he can transform me into His likeness and image to prepare me for eternity.

I learned that to believe on Him is to trust and rely on Him to do the work.  It is His job to do the mighty works and it is my job to be in a position of faith, reliance and dependence on Him for the results.  Those results are limitless. There is nothing impossible that he will not do to those who are believing in Him.   This brings up the question, why then, do we not see this power working in and through our churches today?  I believe that He answered that in Matthew 17:19-20.  The disciples could not cast out the demon because of their “lack of faith”.  But it was not a shortage of faith, rather it was that their faith was not in Him.  This was also brought out with the father of the demon possessed son.  He began with the word “if”, as though to say I don’t know you well enough to trust you but I have no other one to turn to so please help.  I trust you to help my son, but I need you to first help me with my faith.  The barrier to our seeing God work is that we see him as a man, but he works when we see him as God.

This faith in Jesus is to see him as the God of Creation who can move mountains.  Even to the extent of using the likes of me to do greater works than those that He was doing.  Simply put, to do the impossible.  So how do you know Jesus?  Is He just a man?  Or even a prophet?  A might man of power?  Or is he very God who loves you and will spare no expense, and cross any barrier that we might know Him for who He is and know His resurrected power in this present evil time.

John 14:14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

Luke 1:37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.

Grace and Mercy

Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Recently, my wife asked me the difference between grace and mercy.  She said that she has gone over this before but still has trouble distinguishing between them.  I know that they can be confused as they are so similar.  As in the verse above they are used in the same sentence and the difference is not readily understood.   At one time I heard this explanation and it stuck and I have been using it ever since, as it made it clear to me.  Grace is getting what you don’t deserve and mercy is not getting what you do deserve.

I remember when I was growing up that there were times that I messed up and came under the judgement of my parents.  I was confronted with my fault and there was a time of discussion followed by some punishment which was then followed by my dad taking me in his arms and telling me how he loved me and that it was harder on him than it was on me.  I never understood what was so hard on him because I was the one facing the music.  This came clear to me as a parent and on the other end of the situation.  The purpose of the discussion was to make sure that my understanding was clear so that I would be able to make a good decision next time.  The punishment was never for the purpose of me paying for my transgression, but to turn me from such actions.  Had it been for punishment it would have been much more severe.  That was mercy – not getting what I deserved.  Then when it was all over and he would take me in his arms and tell me how much he loved me – that was grace- getting what I did not deserve.

So often, people do not want to come to God to be confronted with their transgressions out of fear, not knowing the heart of God.  Perhaps  no one does, but I have found that it is necessary if we are to our relationship with Him.  This is also true between individuals as well.   No matter how good the relationship was before, when a breach of that relationship happens, it is never the same again.  That does not mean that it cannot be repaired and even become greater than it ever had been, but in order for that to happen, there must be a confrontation between the offended and the offender.  If it is only dismissed or ignored then the relationship cannot continue until it is repaired. 

When the confrontation happens, then the offended must cancel the debt in some manner.  It will include both grace and mercy.  There will be a forgiveness of the debt (grace) and the holding of the person in greater value than the offence (mercy).    Whenever  the offended is not big enough to extend both grace and mercy then the offender is unable to get past the breach and will carry it from then on and it will stunt his growth in future relationships.  It will either cost you something or you will forfeit something.  So the end result is that the offender and the offended have an opportunity to grow or both become handicapped because of the offence.  It is really up to those involved as to which path they will travel. 

Forgiveness

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Matthew 6:14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

2Corinthians 2:7 So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.

1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Forgiveness is a concept that is often misunderstood and has therefore not brought the peace and relief that was intended.  We hear phrases like “Forgive and Forget” or “God will forgive us because He loves us”.  Though these type of phrases are well intended, they do not properly represent the truth about forgiveness.  You do not have the power to just forget.  You will still remember long after forgiveness has been given.  Forgiveness does not wipe the memory, but it justifies the memory.  Further, God’s forgiveness is not based on his pity or compassion for us but it is based on the death of His Son, Jesus Christ.  If we reject His Son and His work on the cross, we also reject His forgiveness and we remain condemned.

Forgiveness is not excusing the trespass but accepting the cost of the trespass for yourself.  Forgiveness is not discounting the trespass as though it doesn’t matter for it does matter.  Forgiveness is not overlooking the trespass for the barrier it has brought will continue to grow until it is addressed with forgiveness.  Forgiveness is understood as ‘giving forth’ or giving to the extent of the need.  Forgiving will cost you something.  It not only hurts but also requires something from you that is beyond your human ability.  To forgive requires that you go to God to receive the grace and mercy that is required by the offence.  It is not a natural thing but is a supernatural response of the Holy Spirit to reach the heart of the offender and to reconcile man to God and man with man.

When we shut up our forgiveness several things happen.  First there is a conflict between you and God.   To refuse to forgive is a slap in God’s face for what He has done for you.  Second, your concern for the offender should be cause enough for you to forgive him.  To withhold forgiveness reveals a lack of love for your fellow man as well as a lack of faith in God.  Third, when we withhold forgiveness it causes a barrier for us in our growth and we become bitter and the longer it goes on, the more bitter we become.  Further, it hinders our spiritual life is every way and we open ourselves up to the tricks of the Devil.  There is every reason for us to forgive as it exposes God who lives in us, to the world, it improves our relationships and people skills and equally importantly, it not only improves our disposition and attitude but also settles the war inside of us, restores our joy and peace and builds us in multiple ways.  We are all on a journey to our eternal home so lets enjoy the trip.