Tag Archives: Grace

Sunday with John — Need

John 12:37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” [Is 53:1] 39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” [Is 6:10] 41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. 42 Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
The Sovereign Lord has set guidelines to control what is seen, heard and believed by every heart.  John records some of the most difficult Words in the Bible from Isaiah; that God will withhold Himself from those who’s heart’s desire would only lead them to abuse His Grace. God alone knows exactly who to reveal Himself to.  He alone knows the hearts that have created a lord of their own ideas to give them what they want.  Those hearts are not interested in wanting God who desires to give them what they need “for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
God sets the rules. His heart’s desire is to accept confession and heal but His perfect and timeless knowledge knows the reality of each heart.

What does it say about people?
It’s possible to know the reality of the Lord enough to know what His heart’s desires are, without understanding He knows the truth of what your heart wants and acts accordingly to preserve the integrity of His Grace.

Is there truth here for me?
I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard the phrase “wants versus needs.” Usually it’s been cherry-picking that phrase in relation to accumulating “stuff.”  John and Isaiah have thrown Grace into that picture. Can I accept admitting my need for Jesus is part of the gift of Grace rather than a crutch or weakness?  Can you?  Now I think I see what Isaiah saw; when I confess my need for Jesus, the wants of my heart change and I experience the reality of “the glory that comes from God”…His Grace for my need…Jesus.

Sunday with John – Purity

John 7:53 – 8:1-11
7:53 [[They went each to his own house,
1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5  Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”]]
[[The earliest manuscripts do not include 7:53–8:11.]

What is the general theme of the passage?
One guilty woman, a crowd of male accusers and Jesus — all facing the reality and consequence of sin!  Jesus must distill the broad brush of the situation into something personal for both the guilty woman and her accusers.  The woman caught in the act of adultery must see that disgrace and guilt are not what Jesus has in mind for her even though she is far from innocent.  Jesus with so few words and such an underwhelming physical display of His presence has reminded the accusers they are not innocent either.  Both the guilty woman and the guilty accusers must recognize the consequence of sin is lost innocence and once lost, innocence can never be recovered.  Whatever Jesus wrote on the ground, twice, has convinced the accusers of that. They go away with only their guilty memories never acknowledging what Jesus wants them to see. While the law cannot restore their innocence, the experience of the law through His grace offers something more lasting for those accused by their own sin…a pathway to purity, “go, and from now on sin no more.”

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground… once more he bent down and wrote… Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before Him.  

What does it say about people?
Here are a couple ideas to consider about what Jesus might have written before those men.  Maybe Jesus wrote the scripturesa that spoke about adultery and guilt. “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel” and “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” Were there guilty men there? Or maybe it was the names of the two required eyewitnesses needed to bring this charge.  The standard for bringing such a rare charge was extremely detailed; the witnesses must see the actual sexual act with their own eyes.  Were those men there? Jesus clearly identified “something” the accusers recognized with their own eyes in those words or marks He made on the ground …and “they went away one by one.”
a Deuteronomy 22:22 and Leviticus 20:10 ESV

Is there truth here for me?
Jesus was left alone with the woman, not to reveal her obvious guilt, but to offer her His guiltless righteousness to replace the condemnation of her lost innocence.  “Therefore there is now no condemnation at all for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh…” Ro 8:1-3 NASB

Poetry by the Book Finale – Galatians 6:11-18

Poetry: Literary work in which special intensity is given to the expression of feelings and ideas by the use of distinctive style, rhythm and structure.a

See with what LARGE letters
I am writing to you with my own hand —
THE GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
BE WITH YOUR SPIRIT, BRETHREN.
I bear on my body the marks of Jesus
by which[through whom]
the world has been crucified to me,
and I to the world.
HENCEFORTH LET NO MAN TROUBLE ME.
FAR BE IT FROM ME TO GLORY
EXCEPT IN THE CROSS OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.
PEACE AND MERCY BE UPON ALL WHO WALK BY THIS RULE.

Those who want to make a good showing in the flesh
would compel you to be circumcised
that they may glory in your flesh.
They desire to have you circumcised
in order that they may not be persecuted
for the cross of Christ.
NEITHER CIRCUMCISION
COUNTS FOR ANYTHING
NOR UNCIRCUMCISION
BUT A NEW CREATION!
AMEN!

a My poetry structure was created from the RSV Bible using sentences and phrases verbatim.

Poetry by the Book – Galatians 2:11-21

Poetry: Literary work in which special intensity is given to the expression of feelings and ideas by the use of distinctive style, structure and rhythm.a

When Cephas came to Antioch,
he used to eat with the Gentiles.
Certain men came from James.
When they arrived,
he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles.
He was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.
I opposed him to his face,
he stood condemned.
The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy,
even Barnabas was led astray.
They were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel.

I said to Cephas in front of them all,
“you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs
yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew.”
We Jews find ourselves also among the sinners,
doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? 

Absolutely not!
A person is not justified by the works of the law.
Through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.
If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker
because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles,
we too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus
that we may be justified by faith in Christ.
Do not set aside the grace of God!
Christ died for nothing
if righteousness could be gained through the law.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

a Structure taken from the NIV Bible

The Third Chapter – Ephesians

Ephesians 3:1 RSV For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6 that is, how the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.  7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in[by] God who created all things; 10 that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.

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Stewardship: Utilizing and managing all resources God provides for
the glory of God and the betterment of His creation.a

Stewardship is easily defined.  The mystery lies in the phrase that follows that word in this passage, “of God’s grace.” This great evangelist, held in such esteem by people of faith all these generations later, is reminding us grace is the mystery purposefully designed to encourage the diligence of people of faith to “see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in[by] God who created all things.”  Don’t miss the footnote “in[by].  Prepositions show relationship.  “In” is about position and “by” is about closeness.  Paul [and the translators] have used those two letter words to emphasize this truth; the closest we will come to solving the mystery “of God’s grace” and our stewardship of it in this life is to recognize our position in God and stay close to Him through “the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

Ephesians 3:17-19 MSG “And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights!
Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.” MSG 3:17-19

aHolman Bible Dictionary

Response of the Heart

ESV Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

NLT Eph 2:8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

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Take a minute and think of how many times you’ve heard yourself say “I should.” We are by nature a people of “shoulds,” even when it comes to our faith. Should’s are like the underbelly of human response compared to God’s Grace. Grace is “the gift of God.”  That gift is the foundation of His heart that validates every aspect of our faith.  “And you can’t take credit for this;”…your repentance, your transformation, your growth, your study, your wisdom, your knowledge and understanding of your relationship to God and it’s impact on your human relationships and behavior.  

Only by fully accepting how powerful Grace is in our life can we come to realize there is nothing in that list that is dependent on our “should’s.”   Grace is responsible for our repentance, our transformation, our growth, our study, our wisdom, our knowledge and understanding of our relationship to God and it’s impact on our human relationships and behavior.

This is the Word of God: “We are God’s masterpiece.”   He has “created us anew in Christ Jesus.”  Jesus is the Piece of the Master created within us to change our human nature from “should’s” to our response of the heart “so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” 

Dear Friend,

1 Peter 5:8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. NIV

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Dear Friend,
Be alert and watchful, of sober mind and spirit.  The devil is not an adversary content with luring you into sin but one who is intent on your complete destruction.  All my children are united in this struggle at this time of suffering…but I am the God of all grace who has called you beyond death to eternal glory with me.  I’ve given you faith to make you strong beyond your own ability to stand firm and resist.  I myself will support and strengthen you and make it happen.  Stay in toucha.

a A composite of ESV, NIV, NLT and NASB versions

About This Salvation:

I Peter: 1:10 The prophets searched carefully and tried to learn about this salvation. They prophesied about the grace that was coming to you. 11 The Spirit of Christ was in the prophets, telling in advance about the sufferings of Christ and about the glory that would follow those sufferings. The prophets tried to learn about what the Spirit was showing them, when those things would happen, and what the world would be like at that time. 12 It was shown them that their service was not for themselves but for you, when they told about the truths you have now heard. Those who preached the Good News to you told you those things with the help of the Holy Spirit who was sent from heaven—things into which angels desire to look. NCV

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Walking through the Coronavirus pandemic has been like a daily reminder of exactly how a walk of faith begins.  We’ve realized an awareness of needing to be saved.  Circumstances have revealed our best efforts to live well are not powerful enough to make us feel safe without help and following certain guidelines. “Feeling safe is not proof you are safe…You can need to be saved and not know it. For example, if a jet taking off from the airport were losing altitude and heading straight for this sanctuary right now, you would need to be saved; but you wouldn’t know it unless someone came running in here and shouted what was happening.  So you can see that feeling safe is no proof that you are safe.a

“About this salvation:”
“Salvation [soteria from soter = Savior] is a broader term in Greek than we often think of in English. Other concepts that are inherent in soteria include restoration to a state of safety, soundness, health and well being as well as preservation from danger of destruction.b

“About this salvation:” salvation is the inheritance of a believer in Jesus Christ and Grace is the promised allowance for the expenses of life.  That’s the “Good News.” Your life as a follower of Jesus Christ is now under a contract revealed long ago by diligent people writing on behalf of the Holy Spirit, “not for themselves but for you” today.  Today…when many of us see “suffering” as never before, we need an outpouring of that allowance of “grace” and “restoration to a state of safety, soundness, health and well being as well as preservation from danger of destruction” because the expenses have been too great for us to handle without help.  Come Holy Spirit!

Inheritance: property passing to those entitled to succeed
Allowance: a sum granted as a reimbursement for expenses

a John Piper, Desiring God
b https://www.preceptaustin.org/salvation-soteria_greek_word_study

He Speaks

John 15:22 They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin. NLT

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Jesus had “come and spoken to them” to make them aware of their guilt.  John records this truth about Jesus’s living Word; it reveals the destructive reaction of human nature to the awareness of sin and guilt.  That same reaction has lasted across time and many generations.  Is there anybody reading this that can’t understand a defensive response when confronted with their sin?  Let me answer that for you…NO!  Jesus’s Word only requires changing the generic pronoun “they” to make it personal enough to impact our human nature today too.

Hearing Jesus speak about sin in the same sentence with your name awakens an awareness of guilt that leaves you with a choice: defend your sin or take Jesus at His Word.  Jesus has “come and spoken to [me].” He speaks to offer this replacement for excuses…opportunity.  Opportunity to let defensiveness be replaced with repentance that replaces guilt with forgiveness and Grace.

In Us

NLT Hebrews 12 and James 1 & 2 [NLT]
Hebrews 12:2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.  Because of the joy [or instead of the joy] awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame…23 You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. 24 You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which `speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel.  25 Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking…

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You have come…. x4 to the place that “speaks of forgiveness.”  When we ask God to forgive our behavior His response is the unmerited favor of His Grace.  Forgiveness is the foundation of our faith that becomes this specific discipline of Grace; “Keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” and “mediates the new covenant between God and people.”  

Hebrews urges “Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking.” The first words I heard as I listened were; “forgiveness” [what only God can do] and “discipline” [what I can do].  Then I heard a familiar echo of those words with these from James 1 and 2 – “faith” and “actions.”   They’re copied below for you to read with ‘forgiveness’ substituted for the word [faith], ‘discipline’ for the word [endurance] and ‘Grace’ as the verb that replaces [actions].

James 1:3 For you know that when your forgiveness [faith] is tested, your discipline [endurance] has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your discipline [endurance] is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing…2:14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have forgiveness [faith] but don’t show it by your Grace [actions]? Can that kind of forgiveness [faith] save anyone? 

This post has become a perfect example for me of these truths:
ALL the books of the Bible work together for our good.  The Spirit really does link truths from different Scriptures in new and meaningful ways.  Forgiveness and discipline do help explain faith and actions AND faith and actions do help explain forgiveness and discipline.

AND finally the most important truth of all: God has saved the unmerited favor of His Grace IN us.  Living with the reality of that forgiveness is the discipline of Grace that turns faith into action.