The Grace Pendulum Swings Both Ways

How does one lose salvation? Is it possible for one to become UN-“born-again”? What can separate us from the love of God? Does God ever disown His children? How important is God’s grace to your faith, your eternity?

Today, there is a liberal Pop-Grace Message out in the world being listened to by “itching ears” (2 Tim. 4:3). “Liberal” being the literal, strategic scratch, it tells the Body of Christ that confession and forgiveness of sin is no longer necessary. In short, Pop-Grace gives its congregations a license to sin, making holiness obsolete as a requirement to living the Christian life. However, God’s Word clearly addresses the subject of sin differently concerning ‘the world’ and ‘the church’. His way to treat a lost sinner is like one who is in need of a physician~ caring for him, presenting the ‘cure’ for his diseased heart. God is sterner in the way to treat a brother who has fallen into a sinful lifestyle; He tells us to forgive, but to separate ourselves from him and not to associate with him until he repents. (Mt.18:15-21)  In John’s latter writings, he implores The Church to live holy lives. He also reminds them of God’s faithfulness to cleanse and forgive any sins they may haphazardly commit.  The Voice Bible’s commentary on 1 John dispels the ‘pop’ view best:

The word “sin” has virtually disappeared from modern conversation. Afraid of sounding judgmental, we call sin something else—a mistake, an addiction, a tendency, a bad decision—and ignore it as normal and natural behavior. But John is calling the church to a radical holiness where those in the church will regularly remember their sins and seek God’s forgiveness. Each sin, small and large, injures us or someone else; it imprints on our soul, makes us imperfect, and separates us from the perfect God. If we confess our sins to God each day, then He will purify our hearts and draw us closer to Him. [VOICE]

For some time and much to my dismay, I have heard teachings on the opposite, conservative end of the Grace Pendulum which leave me just as perplexed by their philosophy as I am by the more popular. This end may appear more stable and conventional, but somewhat misleading. Its teachings are based upon the judgment that “faith keeps us connected to God” which is true at face value, but they take the verse beyond the limit of the contextual meaning by defining faith in connection to “works” in the strictest sense. I refer to this end as the “Working Grace Message”.

The followers from the ‘working’ end have a certain train of thought and use The Word as the basis for their ‘faithful conclusion’ about salvation. They begin with the truth of “faith comes by hearing the Word” (Ro.10:17). Secondly, they adhere to another truth, found in the book of Acts about the importance of devoting time to fellowship with like-believers and the studying of the “Apostles’ teachings”~ the only form of New Testament available to The Church at the time.  Their reasoning seems to be if one cuts himself off from Christian fellowship, he will turn to corrupt worldly friends who will lead him astray, eventually “losing” his way, ending up in Hell (1Cor.13:33).  Thirdly, they perceive the passage “faith without works is dead” found in the book of James as a literal translation meaning that if one is not known for his charitable good deeds, he must not be “saved”. Mainly, this falling from grace theory comes from a misinterpretation of The Vine teaching in John 15 where it says unfruitful branches will be cut off and thrown into the fire. On the contrary, “the cutting away” does not refer to damnation, but to a “lifting up” as in intervention of sorts for a time of healing and restoration. Time and space limits my expounding any further so I urge you to study the entire passage both in context and in depth. The source I found most helpful on this subject is “Secrets of The Vine” by Bruce Wilkinson. Some even go as far to say that those without fruit do not lose salvation, but was never in God’s graces?!

The Grace Pendulum is swinging in full force these days, and is gaining momentum. From one end it swings by a great grace with a little faith to the other where it’s energized by a little grace and great faith, with both sides getting its followers into Heaven by “their own understandings”.  The ‘popular end’ guarantees Heaven with a grace blanket covering and the ‘working end’ ensures Heaven IF you “do” life right! I believe to some degree that the teachers who build doctrines from both ends are sincere, but as one pastor put it: “One can be sincere and still be sincerely WRONG!”

There is, yet, another trajectory to this ‘swaying’ pendulum. A position on grace where a hot air has blown the timing of the bob out of control, now encircling the world~ where grace never rests at all~ Universalism! This horde waves their “ALL ROADS LEAD TO HEAVEN” sign in the faces of the masses. In other words, they preach no grace or savior required! They seem to ignore most of the Old Testament and the New Testament teachings altogether. This fact leaves me speechless to say anything further on that subject. So there you have it; my quick, condensed version of the ‘grace’ swingings and goings on out there.

Whoa! Stop the pendulum! Exhale. Sigh. Breathe. Now, let’s consider a few pertinent questions. Does our faith keep us connected to God? Absolutely! Should the Christian lifestyle demonstrate faithfulness AND grace? Absolutely! Will we get just rewards in Heaven for the good works we do? Absolutely! Are we to live sinless lives; is it possible? Absolutely, on both counts! However, our salvation is not dependent upon any of these ‘absolutes’; we are simply “saved by grace through faith”. Is it not obvious that we should be asking the important question of where is that “amazing grace” we all so often sing about? Our individual faith is important, but let us remember it is God’s gracious plan which made it happen, and He continues making it available to whosoever believes!

pendulum-praying-hands
By faith in the redemptive work of The Cross, we have peace with God; Jesus has brought us to this place of grace. [Ro.5]
The pivot is what gives the pendulum balance. It is in the middle where the cord is in its “equilibrium” position, where it is stabilized, where it is at REST! So, let all of us who want to be full of grace decide to be like Jesus Himself~ full of grace and full of truth. Let us land at Grace’s pivotal point, right in the middle, the place where grace does rest, where love of God and faith in Jesus reside. David Rials, my pastor, says, “Love and faith are the pivot of grace.” I agree. Grace and faith are equally important when initially presenting salvation’s plan to the ‘The World’. AND (that’s a big ‘and’), God’s Word has something else to say about salvation other than how to get it. It has a lot to say about what it actually IS!

Salvation IS a new birth. Salvation IS restoration to a relationship with Father-God by being spiritually BORN into His family. “Those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!” (2Cor.5:17)  A commentary in The Voice Bible explains the ‘new birth’ and our reconciliation to God this way:

The power of sin and death has been eclipsed by the power of the Spirit. The Spirit breathes life into our mortal, sin-infested bodies—thanks to what Jesus has done for us. By sending His Son in “the likeness of sinful flesh,” God judges sin finally and completely. The sins of the world are concentrated and condemned in the flesh of Jesus as He hangs on the cross. So now there is no condemnation remaining for those who’ve entered into the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  [Voice, Ro.8

The same power that raised Christ from the dead NOW makes alive your mortal bodies. ~Ro.8:11

 The truth of salvation is simple. The life of God IN US sustains us NOW and will throughout eternity. You see, even though I was raised in a denomination that does not believe in “once saved, always saved”, I gave my heart to Jesus in one that teaches otherwise~ a teaching of an ‘Eternal Grace’. Labeling myself as nondenominational all my adult years, I still lean towards the Eternal Grace ideology I learned there. I keep to the belief “nothing can pluck me from the hand of God~ nothing can separate me from His love”.  I trust in His saving grace to keep me. I trust His enabling grace to make me strong, to stand in face of adversities. I trust in His forgiving grace when I meet up with temptations. I trust the grace I found in the blood of Jesus flowing from The Cross that speaks “mercy” and tells me I am “the righteousness of God in Christ” when I “miss the mark of the high calling”. It is that eternal grace which gives me the confidence and boldness to go into His holy presence where I find even more grace in times of need.

~ ♥ ~
John 17:1-5
JESUS PRAYED THE NIGHT BEFORE GOING TO THE CROSS:
“Father, the time has come. Reveal the glory of your Son so that he can give the glory back to you…  …I have come bearing the plentiful gifts of God; and all who receive Me will experience everlasting life, a new intimate relationship with You (the one True God) I brought glory to you here on earth by doing everything you told me to and fulfilled the mission.  And now, Father, reveal my glory as I stand in your presence, the glory we shared before the world began.”  
(LB; VOICE)

~~ ♥ ~~
This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. …
… “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”
~Ro.1:17,NLT

For God was in Christ, restoring the world to himself,
no longer counting men’s sins against them but blotting them out.
…We are Christ’s ambassadors.
…pleading with you, receive the love he offers you—be reconciled to God…
~2Cor.5:19-20,LB

If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins,
He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises)
and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness]
and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness…
~1John 1:9,AMP

They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching
and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
~Acts 2:42,NASB

I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us
from the love of God
demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when
he died for us.
~Ro. 8:38-39,LB

 ~ ~ ~ ♥ ~ ~ ~ 

NEETER NOTE: For a deeper understanding of ‘GRACE’ and sanctification, read about SANCTIFYING GRACE~ (I like that terminology!). A quote from that source reads: “The doctrine is chiefly associated with the followers of John Wesley, founder of Methodism, from Wesley’s understanding of sanctifying grace. The doctrine is defined in Wesley’s book, “A Plain Account of Christian Perfection”… Christian perfection is commonly referred to as “going on to perfection”. … Perfection is the process of sanctification which is both an instantaneous and a progressive work of grace….” May I also suggest other ‘works of grace’ on the subject? For further enlightenment, I recommend Grace Works by Dudley Hall and any writings by Phoebe Palmer, The Mother of The Holiness Movement.  Grace be unto you, my dear fellow searchers.

SOURCES
Bible Gateway: https://www.biblegateway.com/

“Secrets of The Vine” by Bruce Wilkinsonhttp://catalog2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?DB=local&Search_Arg=2001001853&Search_Code=STNO&CNT=100

Picture: Praying Hands by George Hodan (public domain)

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

Christianity Today:  http://www.christianitytoday.org/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/

Bible Versions: VOICE~ The Voice Bible; LB~ Living Bible; NLT~ New Living Translation; AMP~ Amplified; NASB~ New American Standard.

 

 

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Shortcomings and Recovery

“To be aware of one shortcoming* in oneself
is better than to be aware of one thousand in someone else.”
~ANONYMOUS

Recently, a Facebook friend whom I have known since high school posted the above quote*. She copied it from an AA recovery website of which she is a member. Keep in mind that ‘shortcoming‘ simply means “an imperfection or lack that detracts from the whole”. My friend and countless others have recovered from their their common ‘shortcoming’ to regain the essence of their lives.

The quote reminds me of  Matthew’s (7:1-5) and Luke’s (6:27-49) summaries of Jesus’ teachings about dealing with people mercifully, about not judging our neighbors when ‘we’ have not yet taken care of our own flaws.  Flaws such as addictions, bitterness, and other sins stemming from selfishness are the very imperfections we usually see in others, but somehow the same seem less obvious when looking in the mirror.  However, The Bible encourages us to examine ourselves and to seek God’s instruction in order to overcome the areas we “come short”. The Good Book calls this process ‘sanctification’.

Sanctification is gradual; it comes from faith-to-faith and glory-to-glory. It is a process which begins in each of us at our rebirths (new birth)  and continues until we reach our total glorifications when we meet Jesus face-to-face. However, we don’t all grow at the same pace. Therefore when dealing with others’ shortcomings and they with us, we find ourselves in need of a little love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness. As well and more often than not, this life requires a whole lot of long-suffering before the growing process is finished. These essential attributes are referred to as “Fruit of The Spirit”. The are developed in us as we allow Holy Spirit to lead us through this life, teaching us God’s ways of dealing with each other and as we worship God in “spirit and truth”, getting to know Him better.  The “fruit” simply describe God’s character, His nature, His essence of life. In other words, we become more like Him, more like Jesus!

GRAPE CLUSTERS-Carmenere_grapes_close
“What happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard–” GAL.5:22
Jesus tells us that as long as we stay connected to Him (The Vine), we (the branches) will grow this fruit, abundant crops of it, enough to share with our neighbors. It is beneficial that we all grow in sanctification; it brings peace into the world in which we live and glory to The Kingdom of which we belong!

~ ♥ ~

“What happens when we live God’s way?
He brings gifts into our lives,
much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard–things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity.
We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people.
We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments,
…able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
Gal.5:22,23, MSG

~ ♥ ~

Ro.1:17
NKJV

…the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith;
…”The just shall live by faith.”

NLT
This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight.
This is accomplished from start to finish by faith…

MSG
God’s way of putting people right shows up in the acts of faith,
confirming what Scripture has said all along:
“The person in right standing before God by trusting him really lives.

AMP
For in the Gospel a righteousness which God ascribes is revealed, both springing from faith and leading to faith…

 ~ ♥ ~

SOURCES
*DISCLAIMER– The quote at the top of this post was originally quoted using the word ‘shortfall’ instead of ‘shortcoming’. Perhaps the person used “shortfall” on purpose in reference to occurrences of “falling off the wagon” so-to-speak, but I changed it to make it grammatically correct for this blog posting. I have no way of verifying my thoughts on the original intent of the wording. I quoted it “anonymous” due to AA policy, and my source is not named in order to protect her privacy.

“Shortcoming.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2014. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/shortcoming&gt;.

PHOTO— By Agne27 at en.wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

BIBLE VERSIONS– MSG– The Message Bible; NKJV– New King James Version;  NLT– New Living Translation; AMP– The Amplified Bible;