Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Grace for Granted

                Do you ever find yourself asking if you are on the right track with God? Do you ever wonder if you are missing the mark? One of the things that I find myself questioning the Lord about is the obedience in the life of the believer after they have confessed Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. This is an area that has been of much discussion between me and a few other sisters in the Lord of late. In our women’s group we are going through the book of Revelation. This study has made me take a step back and really examine my life with Jesus. Am I truly walking worthy of my Lord Jesus Christ? Am I truly living the life that He wants me to live? One of the conversations we have had about obedience took a path into liberty, and grace. We discussed what it meant to have Christian liberty, and that grace was a huge part of our lives. We all agreed that no matter what, we would always have grace.
             
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   I am a firm believer in grace. It is because of grace that I have been given eternal life. It is because of grace that I can have a relationship with God the Father. It is because of faith in Jesus Christ that I have even come to know what grace is. But, my question to you today is can we take the grace of God for granted? We know that grace is God’s unmerited favor towards us. There is nothing that we can do to earn His love, forgiveness and mercy. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8) We know that we cannot earn our salvation. It is not through works, or our good deeds that we have been given this new life in Christ. It is only through faith in Jesus Christ, and the grace of God that we have been given eternal life. But do we take this grace for granted?
More and more within our Christian community is this desire to do what we want, when we want, and claim all the while that we are free to do these things because we have been given liberty in Christ. I do agree that we have liberties, and I am not here to judge you or your liberty. But, I do think that sometimes we can take our liberties too far and use them as a “cloak” for our carnal appetites. For instance, is it okay for a Christian to have a glass of wine with their meal, or to drink a few beers on the weekend with their friends? I personally, see no issues with having a glass of wine with your meal, nor do I see an issue with having a few friends over to watch the game and drinking a beer or two with them, in the comforts of your own home. What I would ask them is to question whether going out into the world and using that liberty in the world, with the world is acceptable to God. Is going out to bars and clubs okay? Is that something that God would be okay with them doing? You may be saying that I am judging these people, who want to go out with their friends and listen to a band at a night club, or go to a party and have a few drinks.  Maybe I am. God forgive me if I am. But, I also have to ask, is this liberty for God’s sake or yours?
Peter talks to us about our liberties in his first epistle. He writes to us in 1 Peter 2:11 and begs us, “as sojourners and pilgrims”, to “abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” What Peter is telling us is that we are not long for this world, this is not our home. Since this is not our home, it is only a place that we are passing through, and our conduct in this place should be different than everyone else’s- shouldn’t it? Peter tells us that we need to “abstain from fleshly lusts”.  To abstain means to hold oneself at a distance from something. Our fleshly lusts refer to our human appetites. To me this means that those things that I desire that are not “of God” are things that I need to refrain from. In the Hebrew/Greek Lexicon one definition for “fleshly lusts” referred to us being “governed by mere human nature, not by the Spirit of God.” Are we allowing God to govern us or are we allowing our liberties to govern us?(http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1657&t=NKJV)
                “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men- as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.” 1 Peter 2:15-16
                Peter tells us that the will of God for our lives is to do good and that through our doing good those that speak out against us will be put to silence, because they will have nothing on us. Sometimes I think we have become so watered down in this nation that we have forgotten what it means to follow Jesus. We use our liberties as an excuse to sin, just like Peter warned us not to do. We use our liberties to cover our carnal desires for self, instead of putting them away and abstaining from those things that are not pleasing to God. I think we must ask ourselves, in regards to our liberties, if we are seeking to please God or ourselves in them.
                Peter tells us not to use our liberty as a cloak for vice. A vice is a bad habit that can lead to immoral behavior. Let’s be real, and not mince words, I don’t want to sugar coat it and tell you that your liberty to go out drinking at the clubs with your friends from work doesn’t bother me, because I will be honest, it does. I do not understand how we can read the bible of Sunday and go out on Monday and live in our desires. If we truly desire to follow Christ, then shouldn’t our lives look like His? I know this is cliché, and you have heard it a dozen times, but maybe we should be asking once again, “What would Jesus do?” Are we seeking to please self, or are we seeking to please God? Are we using our Christian liberties as a covering for our sins? Do we look like Christ every day of the week, or just on Sunday?

                I know there are going to be some who are going to come at me and say that I have no right to judge others and their liberties, and you are one hundred percent correct, I have no right. But I do have a responsibility to tell you the truth in love, as I believe the Lord is leading me is to speak. Personally, I do not want to see any more of our Christian liberties being used as our excuse to sin it up, then the grace of God being taken for granted. This not only hurts our weaker brothers and sisters in the faith, but it destroys our witness to the world. When we use our Christian liberty as a cloak, or a covering for the sinful desire that is in our hearts, we are taking the grace of God for granted. We are basically telling the Lord that we want to live our lives our way when we decide to walk in liberties that God has asked us to abstain from, because they may stumble someone else.
                Think about the price that Jesus paid so that you might know and understand what the grace of God is. Now think about all those areas of our lives that we are using the excuse of liberty for, and ask yourself if it is really worth it? Jesus gave us the perfect example of how we are to live our lives as His people while we are on this earth. But I have to say that more and more I see Christians looking like the world rather than their Lord. If He is our Lord, and we proclaim Him on Sunday to be so, then shouldn’t our Monday look that way too? Listen, if you are not being convicted right now over any of your liberties that you are living in- praise God! But if you are, then all I ask is that you take a moment and go before the Lord. Ask Him to uncover any sin that is in your heart, any area of liberty that you are using as a cloak for your own vices. I just think (and this is my own personal opinion) that we need to become people of God who are willing to examine every aspect of our lives and hearts. Instead of taking God’s grace for granted, maybe we should start taking it seriously and let go of things that are of the world and not of God. I myself am convicted of certain liberties that I have taken, and I know that I must, if I want to continue to grow in His grace, I must now abstain from them- no more excuses. His grace wasn’t meant to cover our excuses.
                Barnes writes in his commentary on  1 Peter 2:16 that “The presence of these who have acted in this manner has been that, the freedom of the gospel implied deliverance from all kinds of restraint; that they were under no yoke, and bound by no laws; that being the children of God, they had a right to all kinds of enjoyment and indulgence; that even the moral law ceased to bind them, and that they had a right to make the most of liberty in all respects.” (Barnes notes on the Bible, http://biblehub.com/commentaries/1_peter/2-16.htm) Are we using the liberties that we have from the law as a covering to live as carnal Christians? Isn’t there a point in our Christian walks when we have to let go of “childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11) and start walking as mature children of God? Do we have the right to live as we choose, looking like the world and not Christ? Who are we imitating in our daily lives? Are we imitating Christ or are we imitating the world? Christ lived a life of surrender and obedience, are we living the same way? Is your liberty today being covered with the excuse of grace?  I pray, that we would examine our ways before the Lord, and see the truth in love that He wants us to see, and that we begin to not only walk separate, but be separate from the world around us.

                Father, I pray that we would come to see our great need for truth and understanding of Your grace. Your grace was not and is not given to us so that we can live our lives as we choose, but so that we can freely live for You in this world. Father, teach us what it means to be in the world but not of the world. I pray today that we as Christians would begin to imitate You and not the world. I pray today that if our liberties are causing us to sin, then I pray that You would convict us and lead us back into Your righteousness. We have been saved by Your grace through faith in Jesus Christ, help us to see and to live out this truth for the rest of our time upon this earth. Father, may Your word be heard, and what is of me, I pray that it would fall to the ground and be no more. In Jesus Name I pray, amen and amen.