The Scandal of Grace

The Scandal of Grace

We hear people in church talking about "knowing God" or having "relationship" with Him. It sounds life-changing, but for many, the question is: "How? How do I have relationship with an unseen God? How do I practically build my life around these concepts?" 

 

Base scripture: Romans 1:16 - "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

 

Concept: Beyond facts, how do I know God?

 

You know people by how you encounter them, not by what you believe about them. KNOWING God is the key.

  • Knowing God and loving Him for who He is will affect the way we view Him, relate to Him, and receive from Him.

  • Paul's desire was to "know Him and the power of His resurrection." Another way to put it is to know Him through the power of His resurrection. Resurrection power is what shifts my world from believing God to experiencing Him.

  • Example: The woman with the issue of blood believed that Jesus could heal her (faith comes by hearing); however, it was when she acted on her belief and touched Jesus’ robe that she had an encounter and was healed. It was in the encounter that what she believed was transformed into what she knew.

 

Belief is not an end in itself - belief should lead us into encounter.

  • Belief should lead us into an encounter, because it is in the encounter that I get to know. Belief is a collection of thoughts that form a concept which I accept as truth. It may or may not be true. Knowing, on the other hand, is an objective confirmation.

  • Example: Vivi doesn’t like fruit and vegetables. So, if I were to ask her if she would like a strawberry, she would say, "No thank you, I don’t like strawberries." Actually, she doesn’t know whether she likes strawberries because she has never tasted one. However, because it is a fruit, she believes that she doesn’t like them. It is only if she was to taste one that she would know whether or not she likes them. There is a difference between believing and tasting (knowing).

  • Ps 34:8 - "Taste and see that the Lord is good." Beyond hearing, seeing, thinking, dreaming, even believing...taste introduces us to knowing! It’s knowing truth that sets us free, not hearing or even believing. We need an encounter.

 

Knowing Jesus does not equate to the way we know an historical figure.

  • I can know Jesus like I know George Washington – I have the facts, but it doesn’t affect my life. There is something incomplete about knowing someone through study and memorization. Knowing is more than facts; it needs shared experiences. It’s coming to see yourself through the eyes of someone whose opinions and thoughts you value and in so doing learn to value and respect yourself in a new way. I can respect George Washington because he has significance as an important figure in history. However, he has no relevance to how I live my life today. Any doctrine without grace is nothing better than an empty tomb.

  • We leave ourselves vulnerable when we live out of belief rather than knowing.

 

The Gospel of Christ is about grace.

  • Acts 20 & Galatians 1

  • Grace is not a thing; it is Jesus in action (a culture characterized by love).

  • Our environment creates our culture and identity. It tells us who we are, what we can do, what we cannot do, etc. Israel was in a culture of slavery. A culture of slavery puts you in survival mode, only thinking about how to survive until tomorrow. It messes with our perception of ourselves, causing us to see ourselves not as worthy as others and less fortunate; it compromises who we are and restricts where we're going. Being born into a culture of slavery will define who we are and how we live according to realities that will steal, kill and destroy from us.

  • Although Moses was born into slavery, he was adopted into royalty – a culture of privilege and provision that defined him in a very different way. He grew up believing he could do the impossible because his environment told him so. His dad was king, and his limitless culture made him feel like he could do anything. He was not limited or restricted by a slave mentality; rather, the sky was the limit to his abilities and future.

  • We are no longer slaves; we are sons and heirs! We have been set free from the culture of sin (slavery) that defined our lives before Christ; we are now citizens of the Kingdom. We don't have to have the inputs of the enemy's environment anymore - the culture that says we're less than, not as valuable, restricted in our abilites, destined to a particular income or status in life, etc.  It is kingdom culture that is to define who we are and how we live; God's culture assures us there are no limits, and we can do the impossible because we're sons and heirs. Kingdom culture, grace, is to define our future. How? It does this by making our thought culture new as we read the Word. The Word shifts my life from being conformed to a sin (slave) culture to being made new according to a thought culture immersed in kingdom truths.

 

Grace is love in action. It’s about God – His initiative and demonstration of love.

  • Grace is always dependent on who and what God is; never on who and what we are. God blesses us on His merits, not ours.

  • God’s love: “For God so loved the world that He gave…” – gives us insight into the foundation of grace. It is a culture characterized by love. Love that sees us as being too valuable to leave us where we are and intends to introduce us to truth and a whole, or holy, way of living. It also speaks about the transferring of value in the kingdom: it is given, not earned.

 

God’s intention is that a Kingdom thought culture leads us into life of a superior nature.

  • God’s plan: “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that you may have life of a superior nature." (John 10:10) 

  • Kingdom culture not only defines my way of Doing, but my way of Being – “in grace, the righteousness of God is revealed." We have been born into the family of God - I’m discovering my righteousness (His way of doing and being) through grace.

 

I'm not ashamed of grace.

  • Grace will lead you into God’s design for your future, whereas the things around you will draw you back to where you used to be: worried, insecure, anxious, tentative, feeling less than, etc.

  • Grace will elevate our self-worth causing us to raise the standard of our expectations. No longer will we be prepared to put up with or live in the crud we used to!

  • Grace will make you discerning; I used to be happy with getting by, now I’m set on being more than a conqueror.

 

"...the power of God to salvation (experiencing the power of grace is for everyone who believes." - (The power of grace is there to shift our lives from belief into knowing.)

  • God wants to flood our lives and world with His grace. The only entry point to our lives is through our soul/heart. If the gateway is not open, God has no way to take the things of heaven and introduce them into our lives. Filling our lives with The Word defines our thought culture. Living in this culture defines who we are and our life expectations.

  • Example: As an entry level employee in an advertising agency, I was an employee but I wasn’t a good representative. I was part of the organization, but I wasn’t experienced or knowledgeable enough to effectively use the agency’s resources to add value to our clients’ needs. It is the same with many Christians; we are kingdom citizens, but we’re not mature enough to be good ambassadors. Maturity is a process – first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear; don’t give up during process! When your spirit is made alive and you are born again – don’t stop there. Fill your thoughts with the Word to create a thought culture based on kingdom truth – but don’t stop there. As these thoughts come into unity, they will establish a kingdom belief set – don’t stop there. A hunger for more will give birth to faith – the evidence that what you’re believing for is established in you – don’t stop there. When life demands a response from you, act on your beliefs and enter an encounter – this where we get to know Him! Take the process to maturity where you can transfer what you believe into what you know.

 

We receive the righteousness (His way of Doing and Being) throught grace by faith.

  • Righteousness is not revealed from Law to Law or from good deed to good deed; it is revealed from faith to faith.

  • Sin won’t stop the power of Grace for salvation in our life, but trusting in our own good works will.

 

Just like Moses, you've been adopted out of a slave culture and mentality and placed in God's Kingdom through your born again experience. Your Father is King and His environment defines who you are. You have unlimited access to the privilege of being a son and heir and are primed to do the impossible. Let your life be transformed by the culture of the Kingdom. Let yourself really know God. Let your mind be engulfed in the truths of Kingdom so that you become an Kingdom ambassador in our world. It's through our ambassadorship that people will see God, become hungry for His truth, and come to know - really know -Him for themselves! This is how we bring Kingdom culture to earth - it first happens through us!

 

 

The Scandal of Grace - Part Two
 

In a world that is looking for authenticity and a validated Christian experience, Jesus offers us the opportunity of reinvention. He puts forward the offer of leaving our past behind and starting our life new, rediscovering ourselves in Him. The reality of stepping into a new and better beginning is evidence that “we are not ashamed of grace because it is the power of God to salvation." It’s God’s way of introducing us to a future characterized by His extraordinary nature. 

 

Base scripture: Romans 1:16 - "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

We must embrace process as much as we embrace promise.

  • People love the idea of God providing for us, living a life of abundance and blessing; coloring our lives with His grace. We’re infatuated with promise, but frustrated with process!

  • We’re looking for the miraculous; for God to fix everything immediately. But God wants to usher us into process so that who we are and the way that we manage life is grounded and established in Him. From this place we are able to overcome all of life’s challenges. Fast food Christianity never provides the nutritional value or diversity of a home-cooked meal! This is the goodness we need to grow into - people who are more than conquerors. Process leads to promise – but it takes time.

 

“In it (grace) is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith."

  • Righteousness is discovered in grace. Righteousness, right standing with God, is given definition by the Word. When we have no Word, we don’t know God’s intention or plan for my identity or how He wants for me to deal with the situations of life. We are unable to give expression to God’s design.

  • Example: Salvation is how we receive the gift of grace; lordship is how we experience it. By faith to faith, we grow in righteousness. We have received all the grace we are going to get; however, the degree to which our lives are conformed to this grace is determined by the degree to which I allow it to inform my identity and way of life.

  • Colossians 2:6 - "As you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, so walk in Him.”

  • Example: Righteousness is like the coolest Lego Set: I have all the pieces for the Mothership, but I only get to play with it when I take the pieces and use of them to construct the model. I’m made righteous at salvation (I have all of the pieces), but I only get to realize the benefits of the design when I put the pieces together.

  • James 4:6 – Encourages us to walk in a greater measure of grace - God gives “grace to the humble."

 

Promise and process find context in purpose.

  • The reason that God puts us into process is to establish His nature in us. As we live from this nature, so we are transformed by it, and through it we reveal the Father to the world around us, as Jesus did.

  • Process introduces us to growth, but we need to identify and define what we are growing into. It’s about what nature is evidenced in me – a cow-patty neatly wrapped with a bow is still a cow-patty! This is why our works are like filthy rags.

  • “Guard your heart” – the thoughts that take root in our heart determine the boundaries for expansion and the territory that will be occupied. What we think on is what we are becoming.

  • “It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me." Jesus revealed the Father; He wants to do the same through us – stop trying to look like Him and let Him be Himself in you.

  • We encounter grace when we realize that it is “Christ in me, the hope of glory." This is what righteousness is all about; releasing His way of being and doing. It speaks to holiness – wholeness.

 

The scandal of grace: God justifies sinners; grace is for the undeserving!

  • Luke 18:9-14 - “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

  • Self-effort introduces the idea that because I’ve worked so hard, it’s an injustice that someone like you gets blessed!

  • When we are planted in self-effort (earning, deserving and merit) we bear the fruit of being judgmental, which kills. But grace makes alive (2 Cor. 3:6 - “the letter kills but the spirit gives life.”).

  • The Prodigal Son. People feel bad for the older brother because he worked so hard. They can’t understand why Jesus would throw a party for a prodigal and not for him.

  • Religious people think righteousness by faith gives one license to sin. They are uncomfortable with the idea that we cannot change ourselves, believing that making people aware of their sin and the wrath of God will keep us in check.

  • Grace sets us free from sin, not free to sin (we are no longer slaves to sin, but sons and heirs). Getting His nature established in me; saturated in Kingdom culture, will change the way I live; we’ll wind up living holier accidentally than we ever have on purpose.

 

Jesus came to reveal the Father, not tell us about Him. He revealed a Gospel of grace and a culture of love - the ultimate encounter with Father's heart. The more we live out of His grace, the more we give the world a true Kingdom expression of Father.

 

 

The Power of Peculiarity
 

God's desire is that we continue to grow, build, and expand, throughout the course of our lives. Sometimes when we're on the brink of new things, the thoughts of success or failure can be overwhelming. The enemy always comes to kill, steal, and destroy, but God is abundant life. So anything He calls us to, though it may have challenges, will bring life. To move ahead, we must know that God is bigger than any of the thoughts of defeat and inability that may try to dissuade us. 

 

Base scripture: Numbers 13:27-33 (NASV)

God uses "process" or "transition" as a means of moving us from what we've known into something new. Israel moving out of Egypt into the wilderness and then into the Promised Land is a prime example.

  • Egypt represents slavery or bondage. The Israelites were slaves in Egypt for many years. They were told what to do, when to do it, how to do it, and how to think. In slavery, they were dependent on the Egyptians as their providers. They had developed a mentality of bondage - they weren't free to live life how they wanted to live or view things from other perspectives.

  • The Wilderness represented transition or process on the way to the Promised Land (Kingdom life, God's promises). Once Israel was freed from Egypt, Israel moved from Egypt into the wilderness.

  • The wilderness was an unsettling place because they were moving out from everything they had known and believed, into a whole new way of living and thinking. They were moving from who they were (slaves) into who God called them to be (free sons/daughters of God). They were in the process of being made new.

  • We, too, are in the process of being made new. It's in the migration of the wilderness that we learn to depend on God for everything. When we're taken out of our comfort zone (the framework of our lives that we know and are able to control to a certain extent), we must learn to depend on God. If we don't develop faith and trust in God and hold that position during transition, we'll go back to what we knew (what we were comfortable with). Time in process introduces us to God's design for our identity - something I will need in order to possess the Promised Land (His promises).

  • Examples: Pastor Gavin's son, Carter, was apprehensive and uncertain about practicing lacrosse with his older brother's team because the kids were older and more experienced. Once he was pushed into doing that thing that was so scary for him, he realized he could do it. The images, thoughts, and beliefs he held were shown to be wrong, and he was much more capable of succeeding than what he had thought. He enjoyed it, and the challenge expanded and grew him.

 

God is in the process of making us into "peculiar people." We must shift in the ways that we understand and develop our identity and our approach to life.

  • Romans 12:2 tells us not to be conformed to the patterns of the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

  • Conformed identity:  natural influence, self-focused, works-oriented

  • Transformed identity: spirit influence, Jesus-focused, faith-charged

  • How we define ourselves determines how we deal with challenges and promises. As born again believers, we have options that others do not have.

  • We step out of grace when we reduce it down to works (dealing with behaviors is not the same as living from His nature). God's grace is His power - the divine influence upon our hearts and its reflection in our lives.

  • 2 Cor 12:9 (Passion Translation) - "But he answered me, 'My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.' So I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I’m weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me.”

 

The moment we lose sight of our identity in God is the moment we lose possession of His promises.

  • Israel sent 12 men to scout out Canaan, the Promised Land, and to return with a report. Ten men reported that the land indeed flowed with milk and honey like God said, but that the people were too big and fierce for them to overcome. Only Caleb and Joshua saw the potential and said that they could take the land. Only Caleb and Josua were standing in their identity in God - the others had lost it and, therefore, brought a defeated report.

  • Nature is the innate, essential qualities of a person; grace gives us the essential qualities or nature of Jesus. When we share in His divine nature, we begin to desire the things God desires.

  • We've built the foundation and framework of our lives on inputs from the natural realm (experiences, upbringing, education, memories, thoughts…), which is characterized by sin, meaning it is incomplete, not functioning as God intended. The framework for our lives has holes, or areas where I’m not functioning correctly, and where I'm searching for completion and fulfilment. When I’m whole or complete, I live from fulfilment and I am positioned to influence. Our appetite for wholeness sends us in search of a savior.

  • Example: My need for security means that I make my job my savior. I’m prepared to do whatever is necessary to hold onto that savior because it meets my need for security.

  • Example: We have a need for value, affirmation, and a sense of worth, but we should find it in God. When I don't find it in Him, I become codependent.

  • Codependency: when I look to others to fill my needs instead of God. I can’t love people authentically when I’m using them to meet my need. I’ll compromise my values and build my life around serving you to keep you in it – you become my savior.

  • Nobody wants to carry the pressure of being a savior - it's exhausting being responsible for making others feel whole!

  • We never truly love others with authenticity when we’re using them to fix our holes.

  • Growing up from behaving like a child to adulthood, introduces us to responsibility. No matter what may have caused our holes, there comes a stage in life where we have to stop blaming, recognize our holes, and take responsibility for repenting of these and letting Jesus come in as Savior. We must recognize that sin no longer controls us - His nature makes us His sons and daughters, conforming us to the image of Jesus.

  • We are “more than conquerors” because of the power of grace that introduces us to wholeness. Jesus said to "be holy as I am holy." When we live out of wholeness, we are no longer consumers but we become producers; influencers in the world. (Rom 5:17)

 

There is potential within us that is embryonic and unformed. Unless it is given life and expression, we won’t know who He designed us to be. 

  • God told Israel of a Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey. It was a good, healthy, prosperous land where they and their descendants would thrive forever. They would never have to deal with a slavery lifestyle again.

  • A land of Milk and Honey speaks of God’s promises to us. In Him is everything we will ever need or desire - it's a good, healthy, prosperous life!

  • Some people never discover who God intended them to be because they are comfortable in the knowledge and control that the status quo offers. No shift has taken place in their lives, and they are not prepared to embrace the risk of stepping into something new that will draw significance and greatness out of them in ways that they never knew existed. God’s invitation is for us to put ourselves in environments that cause us to grow, that demand things of us that we never thought were possible.

 

The Father respects our free will, yet He draws us into doing things that are not comfortable for us because He knows who we are. Obedience to Him injects us into Godly dimensions that we cannot get any other way.

  • The Giants in the Promised Land challenged their obedience to God. He had given His word that they could take the land and own it, but they had to move out in obedience despite the Giants that faced them. Caleb and Joshua were willing to go based on God's words, while the other spies were looking at the land, not considering God's words.

  • The Father respects our free will, yet He draws us to into doing things that are not comfortable for us because He knows who we are. When we are obedient, we are introduced to our identity as a Peculiar person. We take on a renewed identity that has nothing to do with what we thought of ourselves. Obedience injects us into Godly dimensions that we cannot get any other way.

  • Many times we don’t feel comfortable stepping into something new; because it feels different, we make excuses (i.e., But that’s not me; it’s not who I am; I’m different to that, etc.). As a result, we never step into God’s design and get ourselves settled in new things.

 

Who is speaking into your life?

  • What we listen to can disempower us from what Jesus has prepared for us. The Holy Spirit speaks from the Kingdom; others focus on natural reality.

  • What is the focus of our lives? Self or Jesus? Every time we hear the voice of God, He is taking the resources of His world and using them to build our foundation and framework out of kingdom material. He is setting us up for peculiarity. These deposits make us bigger on the inside than we are on the outside.

  • When we address the things going on inside us, it positions us to deal with the world around us. The truth that defines the inside of us should become the blueprint for our external reality.

 

There is a Promised Land inside each of us. Dreams and desires that we've had are encapsulated in the promises of God. He's calling us to step out and to step forth into more. He's calling us to face the giants called fear, doubt, inability, etc. and to move forward past them toward our destiny. The reality is that they only exist in our minds; n God, they're non-existent. As we walk through transition and trust Him more, we will take our Promised Land!

 

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