Self-Correcting Grace – An Illustration

Analogies, Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
Last post, I addressed the issue of indulging in sin as a way to abuse God's grace.  I explained Titus 2:11-14 and the concept that grace, properly understood and applied, actually teaches us to deny sin and live godly lives.  Grace has a way of self correcting.  Today, I would like expand on this idea. Pastor Judah Smith of Seattle's The City Church shared a useful illustration along these lines in a recent interview with the Christian Post.  In addressing a question about grace, Pastor Smith first talks about his relationship with his wife, Chelsea. He summarizes, "Chelsea is just the most incredible, considerate, compassionate, loving, gracious spouse, she's a lot like Jesus.  In the 13 and a half years of her loving me and serving me and being so kind and…
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The Sin Zombie

Analogies, Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
Last time, I emphatically stated that Jesus would not have commanded us to "take the log out of our own eye" if it were impossible to do so.  God would not implore us, over and over in the New Testament, to "put on the new self and lay aside the old self with its evil practices and deeds of darkness" if it were impossible to do so.  So why is there so much preaching that suggests believers, rather than experiencing victory over sin, are actually still living under sin's power; that believers are still desperately wicked in our heart of hearts?  Could it be that we agree with this teaching because it actually describes our experience with sin's rule in our lives? How do we explain the tension between God's…
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Doing the Right Thing – Motivated by Our New Identity

Analogies, Motivation, Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
We come now to our last installment of how believers are motivated to righteous living; because this is who we are.  In our new identity as holy and beloved saints, righteous living is what is expected of us.  It is what should come natural to us.  It fits who we really are. In Romans chapter 6, the apostle Paul answers the question, "If greater sin brings greater grace, should we continue in sin?" with an emphatic "No".  And Paul's "No" is based on our new identity in Christ.  The apostle takes the rest of chapter 6 to explain.  When you became a believer, you appropriated the fact - and it is a fact - that your old sin nature died with Christ on the cross.  Your sin nature is dead. …
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Lining a Canoe Upstream

Analogies, Hebrews, Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
Writing about the river's flow in our last post reminded me of the idea of "lining a canoe".  The basic principle is this:  when seeking to take your canoe upstream against the current, you tie a rope near the front of the canoe and, walking upstream along the shore, you provide the power by pulling the rope and the river's current keeps the boat from running into the bank.  When I googled "lining a canoe" to learn more, I found this explanation on The Alaska Hunting Forum: "I can tell you from personal experience that lining any boat upstream any appreciable distance comes down to one thing - HARD WORK.  There's just no easy way around it.  The truth is that you will be in, on, and around that river…
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The Tug of Sin’s Power

Analogies, Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
We have all heard the story of how baby elephants are trained.  A chain is placed around the baby elephant's foot and attached to an iron stake driven into the ground.  The young elephant pulls at the chain but does not have the strength to dislodge the stake.  Eventually, the elephant gives up.  As the story goes, when the elephant is fully grown, he can be easily contained by a chain and a stake - something he could now easily uproot - because he is conditioned by his past experience to believe the chain is a sufficient constraint.  I have been unable to determine if this is a true method of elephant training or a story used by life coaches to identify the chains in your life that limit your…
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The Exchanged Life

Analogies, Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
When our preaching wanders into the realm of motivational speaking, we play right into Satan's hand by delivering a less than complete gospel message.  When our teaching takes the form of self-help pop psychology delivering ten steps to a better life, we have stripped the power from the gospel.  But when we let the Bible speak for itself, the message of Christ is a message of an exchanged life.  It is not a message of life improvement; it is a message of life transformation. For the unbeliever, it is the exchange of my sin for Christ's righteousness.  This is the basis of my justification, my being reconciled to God.  "God made Him [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of…
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We are the Body

Analogies, Church Life, Thoughts
The United States of America has a long history of embracing personal liberty and self-determination.  From its pioneer spirit to its entrepreneurial energy to its capitalistic economy, America has been an immigrant magnet to those seeking an independent life.  There appears to be a spirit here, even beyond our materialism and consumerism, of freedom and independence. Fast forward two hundred thirty-six years from its founding and nearly every political debate in the USA today is essentially about the balance between our libertarian ideas of personal freedom and the role of central government in promoting the common good (or not so good).  Where the balance lies in a democracy like ours, I will leave to the political types.  My interest is what happens when the individualism so celebrated in our country enters…
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Costume Jewelry or Tarnished Silver

Analogies, Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
How do we know "It's In There!" - the raw ingredients for living the victorious Christian life?  We know because the Bible tells us so.  The Bible says: You are holy and beloved. (Col 3:12) The seed of God lives in you. (I Jn 3:9) You have a new heart. (Ez 26:36)  Your old deceptively wicked heart has been removed. Your new self is created in the likeness of God; in righteousness and holiness. (Eph 4:24) When you look in the mirror, you see a representation of the glory of the Lord. (II Cor 3:18) He who has died with Christ has ceased from sin. (I Pet 4:1) The time for sin is in your past. (I Pet 4:3) God’s divine power has granted to you everything pertaining to life…
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Holy Temples

Analogies, Thoughts
In the area of lifestyle issues, we must teach our children - and understand ourselves - the important distinction between the sacred and the profane, between the holy and the carnal, between godliness and worldliness.  By virtue of our relationship (children of God) and affinity (moral resemblance) to God, we now inhabit the world of the sacred, the holy, the godly.  Not because we keep a certain list of do's and dont's, but because God has placed us there by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Look at these New Testament labels for believers.  "As those who have been chosen by God, holy and beloved..." (Col 3:12), or "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation..." (I Pet 2:9).  Over and over, the apostle…
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A Flood of Dissipation

Analogies, Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
Our last post included a quote from I Peter chapter 4.  I include it again here, extending it to verses 1 through 5.  "Therefore, since Christ has suffered death in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered death in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.  For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousals, drinking parties and abominable idolatries.  And in all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same flood of dissipation, and…
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The Happy Dinosaur

Analogies, Family, Thoughts
Several years ago, while attending the Society of Exploration Geophysicists Annual Meeting, I had an opportunity to catch up with an old friend I had worked with in Alaska.  We hadn't made a connection in quite some time, but Dean is the kind of friend you can easily pick up the conversation with no matter how long it's been between visits.  This salt-of-the-earth fellow shocked me when he announced that he was divorced and remarried since we talked last.  As we compared notes about other co-workers from our Alaska days, Dean observed, "I think you are the only one who is still married to his first wife.  How does it feel to be a dinosaur?"  I wasn't sure what to say.  I didn't want to make light of his situation…
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Building a Cathedral

Analogies, Family, Thoughts
A group of tourists went to visit a marble quarry in western Vermont.  As their tour progressed around the quarry, one of the visitors called out to a jack hammer-wielding worker below, "What are you doing down there?"  The worker snarled back, "I'm cutting this stupid rock into a square!"  Seeing another worker who appeared to be doing the same thing, the visitor called out to him, "What are you doing?"  The second worker, obviously happy in his work, called back, "I'm on a team building a cathedral!" When we view family life through the eyes of the first worker, we are just a group of people living under the same roof.  Your contribution to the effort may go unnoticed in the busyness of day to day activities.  Conversely, you may…
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Accounting 101

Analogies, Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
"Christ died for us" (Rom 5:8) is a fact of Scripture that we are quite comfortable with.  If you are part of God's family, you are not only comfortable with that fact, but you believe it.  So what do you think of the fact stated one chapter later, "Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin" (Rom 6:6-7)?  The fact that "our old self died with Christ..." carries the same scriptural weight as "Christ died for us", something we readily accept and embrace.  So what does God want us to do with "our old self died with Christ..."? God wants…
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The Discipleship Earthquake

Analogies, Thoughts
I am taking a one-post break from our new identity train of thought for this exciting development.  As a geophysicist, I am familiar with the physics of earthquakes; their magnitude, the tsunamis they produce, their precursors, and their aftershocks.  Precursors are hard to identify until after the fact, but most major earthquakes give some signal that something big is coming.  In the spiritual world, I believe we are feeling the precursors of a coming "discipleship earthquake."  This idea was reinforced by the cover headline, "A Discipleship Revolution" on the latest issue of Mission Frontiers magazine.  The publication is available online and I highly recommend it. Over the last century, by the grace of God and the work of His servants, the gospel message has reached around the globe.  People groups…
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The Sin Closet

Analogies, Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
"As those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on [clothe yourselves with] a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience" (Col 3:12).  In both Ephesians 4 and Colossians 3, the apostle Paul tells us more than once to "put on" the new self along with its character attributes, and to "throw off" the old self with its sinful traits.  We often view lists of character traits to aspire to and those to avoid as somehow equal choices for the believer.  But based on the promises of Scripture, this is not the case. The bad choices we face are not equals that we have to drum up the moral energy to resist.  They are simply clothes that do not fit our new identity.  They are clothes that don't…
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The Sin Cow

Analogies, Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
I grew up in a farming community in northern Indiana surrounded by the idyllic landscape of contented milk cows grazing in fields of green.  These cows looked pretty happy munching away on grasses of all kinds.  Cows eat grass.  Cows like grass.  It is in a cow's nature to eat and enjoy grass. But cows aren't the only rural residents who eat grass.  Sometimes kids eat grass.  I remember lying in the grass of our front lawn on a summer afternoon thinking, "My, this grass looks tasty."  So I did what every kid has done sometime in their life.  I grabbed a handful and began to chew it up.  The chewing was soon replaced by spitting as the taste settled on my tongue.  Soon I was spitting out everything I…
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The Sin Dog

Analogies, Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
One of the amazing things that happened to you and me when we embraced the gospel message of Jesus Christ was the beginning of a new relationship with sin.  In short, sin no longer has dominion over us.  Sin is no longer our master.  We are no longer slaves to sin (Rom 6).  (For a 7-page pdf commentary by Jay on Romans chapters 5-8 explaining the biblical basis for this concept click here.) As for this post, let me summarize our new relationship with sin with this illustration.  Prior to our conversion, sin was the Great Dane in our life that bowls us over and flattens us every time we come home.  We hear him on the other side of the door and sure enough everytime we open it, he…
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