Thursday, November 14, 2013

RVCC Sunday Message Reflections

It seems my life is up for another change. Monday, I began a new job. I am training to drive a school bus for the Medford school district. This will give us a little money to fill in the gaps that exist right now and hopefully a little extra. It will only be part time which I hope will leave time for other things where I want to be involved.
This week David started his message by asking how many of us liked to party. It seemed like a bit of an unusual question. Then he reminded us of the stories we had looked at last week; the lost sheep, followed by a celebration and then the lost coin followed by a celebration. And then we looked at the story of the lost son. (Luke 15:11-32)
In this story we see 2 sons of one man. One son, the younger, took his inheritance and left home. Then he wasted all of the money and found himself in a very low place. Today we might say he found himself in the sewer. The good thing is that “he came to himself” vs. 17.
*****
What a wonderful thing! How many of us long for our children or a loved one to come to them self and see the true condition of their life. At that point they are truly ready to do what this son did. (my private rant)
*****
He came to himself and said, “My father’s servants have food and clothing, I will go back home and ask to be made a servant.”
It didn’t work out like he thought. His father saw him coming and ran to meet him; he covered him with kisses and put new cloths on him then said we’re gonna have a party, my son who was lost is found! ( or something like that)
In both of the stories last week and in the story this week Jesus pointed out that there is more joy in heaven over one lost soul who finds the grace for repentance than over 99 righteous souls who need no repentance. When anyone comes to Jesus there is a party in heaven.
The question then was do we celebrate the things that they celebrate in heaven?
Sometimes I tend to be a critical of others and think they are being too interested in natural things instead of spiritual things. Jesus used 2 very natural examples and made no indication that there was any problem with that. I see that I need to learn to not be critical.
Another thing David mentioned is that mission without celebration is not really mission. He then pointed out how many celebrations there are in the Old Testament. God apparently wants His people to be a people who know how to enjoy a celebration. Actually one of the complaints that the religious leaders had about Jesus was that he was a winebibber and a glutton. (Luke 7:34)Apparently Jesus enjoyed a good time.
We tend to avoid celebrations and parties because of all that is wrong in the world. We tend to focus on the ones who are not following God and they become the reason we feel we cannot celebrate. Or we simply look at our own difficulties and think, “What do I have to celebrate?” Then we need to ask, are we looking to celebrate the things that are celebrated in Heaven or are we only looking for our own comfort or encouragement?
One of the life group questions is, how does celebrating more often and more wholeheartedly affect our lives? One of the members of our life group shared a challenge that someone had shared with her. The challenge is to think of at least one thing each day that you are truly thankful for and write it down in some kind of note book. She shared that it had had a very pleasant affect on her life. It made me think of the scripture in Philippians 4:8-9
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

I know that focusing on the negative things around me has no good affect. The word of God seems to promise a much better affect if I will give my attention to the good things that God has provided. I would encourage you to join me in taking some time each day to write one or more things that give you reason to be thankful for the next month. See if you can notice a difference in your attitude or even your health. Have a little party each day, eat a cookie or have a cup of tea in celebration, or whatever you choose, but make it a little party.
David also pointed out that when the older son found out about the party, he only wanted to complain and talk about what a good son he was. He sort of took the place of the religious leaders who were critical of Jesus for spending time with sinners. Let’s not be like them.
I also noticed that the father was watching for the lost son. Are we watching for the lost ones ready to welcome them back to the family of God with love and encouragement?
Walk with God this week and
Celebrate your blessings!
Rick

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sacred Mysteries

Several years ago, I heard Jack Hayford  (the pastor of The Church on the Way, in Anaheim California) speak about mysteries. One thing he said was that mysteries involve things that are hidden and even when revealed, they remain mysteries. My wife is a reader. She enjoys reading mysteries. There are several mysteries by Agatha Christie that she has read several times, because even when she finds out who did it and how they did it the story is still a great mystery.
In God’s great dealings with men, I see that he reveals mysteries to us as we are ready to see them. The greatest is of course in Colossians 1:26-27.
“The mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but has been revealed to His saints. for to them God would make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the nations, which is Christ in you the hope of glory.”
This is The Great Mystery. In fact this is the mystery that we are exploring throughout this writing. The word Christ is a Greek word that is seldom translated in the different versions of the Bible. The word means; The anointed one. When kings and priests were inaugurated, the inaugurating officer would pour oil on his head to signifying a divine endorsement of the king or priest. in the case of Jesus, God truly did endorse him by giving Jesus His eternal Spirit. In the same way, God endorses his saints with an actual measure of His very Spirit. This is the very greatest mystery, and the more I learn of this mystery the greater it becomes.
In the communication of this Great Mystery, God has given us 3 lesser mysteries. Even so these mysteries are still far beyond our complete understanding. Marriage, Baptism and Communion (or The Lord’s Supper) are the 3 sacraments (or sacred rituals) of the church that God has given us to help us realize our potential as his children. These are sacred rituals, not because of some Church ruling, but because God established them.
The rest of this chapter is primarily my personal reflection about these mysteries. I am absolutely sure that I may be mistaken about much of what I will write here, but I am sharing the things that have been a help to me. So please weigh the following carefully and if you find things of value for your life give glory to God. If not pass on and leave these things for another time or abandon them altogether.
The first great mystery is marriage. Marriage was established by God in Genesis 2. In verse 18 God says, “...It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” And that is what he did. This is truly a miracle which is repeated when we marry in the Lord. Consider verse 2:24; “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Throughout the Bible story, marriage has been honored and considered very serious. God spoke to Joseph to encourage him to take Mary as his wife when she had been found to be pregnant with Jesus. Jesus first miracle took place at a marriage celebration. Then Jesus puts the seal on marriage when he says, “Wherefore they are no more two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”(Matthew 19:6) The Word of God says that marriage is a sacred union created by God. Later in Ephesians, Paul clarifies this a little when teaching about family relationships. He is speaking of the husbands place of sacrifice toward his wife; and then he quotes Genesis 2:24 immediately following with “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the Church.” (Ephesians 5:31-32)  It is impossible to explore all that marriage can show us, especially in this context, but please consider that marriage is a great mystery created and established by God.
The second great mystery that God has given the church is baptism. Baptism is another Greek word that has not been translated, but in stead re-spelled with our alphabet. The Greek word simply means to dip or immerse. Jesus validated baptism in what is called the great commission, when he said; “All authority is given to Me in Heaven and in earth. Therefore go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things, whatever I commanded you. And, behold, I am with you all the days until the end of the world. Amen.”  (Matthew 28:18-20)
Later in the book of Acts in chapter 2, on the first day of Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection, also called the birthday of the church, when the apostles of Jesus were filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter stood up in the Temple and spoke of the proof that Jesus is the Christ (anointed redeemer) of God.  When the people heard this message they were deeply moved and asked what they could do. Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ to remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:14-38) As you read the book of Acts in many places, when people believed the gospel they were baptized. Refer to Acts 2:41,8:12, 8:36, 10:48, 16:15, 16:33. I have just listed the references to baptism, but take some time to read the whole story and see how people decided they should be baptized.
With baptism came the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit. (ref.  Acts 2:38) This is at least part of the process of being born again. The great mystery of the new birth. Can I explain it? Do I understand it? No! Do I believe in it? Yes! with all my heart.
What can we learn from baptism? There are some clues in God’s word that I have found helpful. In Romans 6:1-5 Paul is talking about the change that should be happening when someone is born again. In verses 3-4 we can see this powerful illustration of the new birth in the sacrament of baptism.
 “...all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism unto death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life.”
There is much to say about baptism, but primarily I hope that you can get a little idea that marriage and baptism are physical acts that we can participate in, that are directly linked to the miraculous work of redemption.
The final mystery that I will speak of at this time is Communion or The Lord’s Supper. After Abram rescued his nephew Lot, as he was returning to his home Melchizedek the king of Salem brought bread and wine and blessed Abram. This is the first reference to something that looks a lot like our communion (Genesis 14:18-20). Then in Exodus 12 we find the story of the children of Israel being delivered from bondage in Egypt. At this time God established the Passover feast. there was blood and there was unleavened bread. Because of the blood around the door, the angel of death passed over the houses of the Israelites. But in the houses of the Egyptians where the blood was not found the angel of death came in and killed the firstborn. Then the Egyptians drove the children of Israel from their land. That is how God delivered them.
On the night that Jesus was betrayed, he ate the Passover with his disciples.
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matthew 26:26-28)
This event is also recorded in Luke 22:19-20 and in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. Communion is an extremely great privilege. I do not think we can take it too seriously. PLEASE read these scripture verses carefully. Read them exactly. Then consider the instructions and warnings that follow in 1Corinthians 11:23-30.
God reveals himself in these sacred mysteries. Take time to read the references, think about what is said and ask God to show you what he wants you to see.

These things happen in the meeting of the Church. They belong to the church. They are for our encouragement and edification. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Saved by Grace?

It may be good to address a popular idea about being a Christian. As I have traveled around I have heard many sincere people quote Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” This has been quoted to prove that God has done it all for our salvation and there is nothing for us to do. I sincerely believe that this is an error that has been allowed to grow in people’s understanding because they have not taken the time to search the scriptures diligently. And because it sounds very pleasant to hear from “The Bible” that I have nothing to do. When I look at the whole book of Ephesians (It was written as a single letter to an individual assembly of believers) the passage in 2:8-9 is part of a larger statement. As part of that larger statement it is absolutely true and correct. But it is not the whole statement or intention of what is being communicated. In this case I had to read the entire epistle to get the fuller meaning of what is being said and how this passage relates to the whole. Chapters 1, 2 and 3 are a sort of introduction to the message of the letter. In chapter 1, Paul expresses his prayer for the saints (Christians) in Ephesus; that they will realize all that God wants to accomplish in each of their individual lives. In chapter 2 he does speak extensively about the grace of God, and that it has made us alive (vs. 5) so that we will be able to actually accomplish good works (vs. 10). Without God we could do nothing of any eternal value. In chapter 3, Paul goes into some detail to explain that God has made him an apostle, in spite of his own unworthiness, in order to show to those who will see, the amazing scope of all that God desires to accomplish in each individual child of God. Then the meat of the message which has been well prepared by the first 3 chapters is presented in chapters 4,5 and 6. Here we find practical instructions for realizing more and more of the wonderful benefits that are ours as the children of God, because of the redeeming power of Jesus’ cross and the tremendous working of God’s grace in our life. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Reflections of sermon by David Wise 9-15-13

Dear Friends,
 As I read the letters of Paul, I am always encouraged by the way he opens each one by telling those he is writing to that he always gives thanks for them. I have come to understand his feelings a little better as I have worked at sending out these letters each week (almost). God is building that same kind of thanksgiving in my heart for each of you, along with the sincere prayer that he will show you His mercy and give you His peace in each of your situations.
Jeannie and I are still working at recovering from our traveling pains. I guess it just takes a lot longer when we get older. I have been thinking a lot about people who are in constant pain and have been encouraged to pray.
Sunday was the kick off day for the opening of the season of small group meetings. They stop having them in the summer and then start them back up in the fall. The message was directed toward building community and the importance of being part of each other’s lives. Then after the second service there was a really nice lunch served and a presentation promoting small groups and encouraging everyone to sign up for one.
David began his message by saying that small groups is something RVCC is passionate about, because we cannot really become close to one another meeting for an hour in a large group. But small groups of people getting together can get to know each other and care for the needs of each other more genuinely.
David read from John 15:1-4:
I am the True Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away. And every one that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bring forth more fruit. Now you are clean through the Word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
Grape vines are kind of amazing. One vine can produce over 80 pounds of fruit in a season. They can do this and remain alive even in drought conditions because they have extremely deep roots, sometimes reaching 150 feet down and out to find the water and nutrients needed to produce the fruit.
In the same way Jesus is the true vine for our spiritual life. If we abide in him we will have life that produces fruit that is beneficial to all. His roots go all the way to the Father of all life. And from the Father he supplies nourishment for our life if we stay connected to him.
David also pointed out the part about pruning. Pruning is often not pleasant but our Father does it anyway just as we disciplined our own children for their good. Probably we didn’t do it always with their best interest in mind but God ALWAYS has our best interest at heart and only prunes or disciplines us so we can be more fruitful.
Branches that are not pruned bear less and less fruit until they bear no fruit at all. Then the branches become weak and eventually die. So it will be with us, and if we can learn to accept the pruning with thanksgiving God will use it to make us more fruitful.
In the hall of the church building are 3 banners that form 1 larger banner. The center banner shows the form of a tree with branches reaching up and out at the top and roots reaching down and out into each of the other 2 banners at the bottom. The banner on the left says “Connect”, reminding us that we must be connected to the root that is Christ. The center banner says “Grow” and the silhouette of the tree reaching up and out signifies our growth in Christ. Then the banner on the right says “Serve” encouraging us to serve Christ by serving one another.
Each of us is pruned of God in some way, that we may bear more fruit. Sometimes it seems there is nothing that I can do, but in my spirit I always hear, “You can pray.” We can each of us in our own place speak to our Father and care for the church and one another in prayer. Please remember the leaders of RVCC as they work to help us grow, and as they work through the transition from Russell to David being the senior minister. I am sure there are other needs that you know of. The greatest need that we each have is to grow closer to Jesus and to our Father in Heaven. I do thank God for each of you as I write these letters and as I address and prepare each one to be sent. Then through the week often God will bring you to mind and I will pray with thanksgiving for each one.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Be Faithful in your place

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Rogue Valley Christian Church: message from 8/11/13

  I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. (Psalms 121:1-2)
What an uplifting verse! But the question arises; Do you, do I, truly look to the Lord in times of trouble? Or do we look to other resources. When there is financial stress, where do we look for the help we need? When there are relationship problems, where do we look. In times of sickness, where do we truly go first for help? Or do we treat him like technical support, and after we have tried all other resources then we call on God.
After reading this passage Russell told a story that is found in II Chronicles 16; about Asa king of Judah, that God wanted to bless, but he would not turn to God. Instead he took the gold and precious stones from the temple and bribed the ally of his enemy. This worked for that present situation but God sent his prophet to Asa and told him that because he did not rely on God he would have wars for the rest of his life and it was so. For the eyes of Jehovah run to and fro through the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of those whose heart is perfect toward him. (2 Chronicles 16:9) Asa was so angry that he put God’s prophet in prison. Later when his feet were seriously infected he still would not call on the Lord. And so he died.
In Luke 7 we see two stories that were extremely different. In Capernaum there was a Roman centurion that had a servant that was ill, and that servant was very dear to him. When he heard that Jesus was coming he sent some of the leaders of the synagogue to him requesting that he would come to heal the servant. The Jewish leaders said that the centurion was worthy because he loved the people of Israel and had built them a synagogue.
Russell pointed out the contrast between the two men. Asa was a king in Judah and should have logically called upon the Lord for help, but he refused. The centurion was part of the occupying army of Rome and considered the enemy of God’s people. The centurion turned to God’s people to request help from this Jewish prophet, Jesus. And he did not seek help for himself but for a servant.
Jesus said he would go and as he was going the centurion sent some of his friends to Jesus to say that he was not worthy that Jesus should even come into his house, and he did not feel worthy to even come to Jesus. But if Jesus would just say the word he knew his servant would be healed, because he was also a man under authority. He understood that authority only comes from submission to authority. And Jesus authority was derived from his submission to God and therefore he had authority to do this without being with the servant.
It says that Jesus marveled because of this man’s faith. Russell pointed out that there is only one other time that it says Jesus marveled and that was in Mark 6:6 where it says he marveled because of their unbelief. But in this case Jesus said, “I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel.” What a profound compliment for this man.
God is not impressed with anything we can do or accomplish. God is impressed when we have faith.
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
Russell said, “faith is a conclusion we come to based on examining the evidence before us. We follow that evidence toward that which we do not see.” Faith and action go together. We do not impress God by our actions but at the same time our faith that pleases God will result in action.
Russell told a story of faith that occurred in our own church family. Samantha and Matt were expecting a baby. After the doctors did some tests and then did some of them again they came in and told them that their baby would surely have problems if he could even be born alive. He would be disfigured and probably mentally handicapped. they advised that she have an abortion. Sam and Matt prayed about this for a while, but came to the conclusion that they would let God decide and she would carry this baby as long as God wanted. Rylan was born with many complications but he lived to go through many procedures and miracles. Finally there was a problem with his liver and he was sent to Portland. In Portland they were told that Rylan would have to have a very dangerous procedure and probably would not survive. It worked out that Russell and David Wise were in Portland and stopped by the hospital to visit and heard the news. They gathered around Matt and Sam and prayed that God would glorify Himself in baby Rylan in such a way that the doctors would have to acknowledge it. The next day the doctors informed them that somehow Rylan’s kidneys were functioning normally and the procedure would be unnecessary. Rylan is home in Medford and was at church yesterday. To the glory of God!
They believed in God and cried out to him for help, then went toward the help they sought. God can go where we cannot go and do what we cannot do. We need to rely on him in all of our need and trial to help us in ways no one else can.
Further on is the story of the widow whose son had died. (Luke 7:11-16) This is another amazing story of Jesus miracles, but the thing Russ pointed out here was that it says of Jesus, “He had compassion on her.” What a wonderful thing to think about. What a wonderful truth to realize, and apply in our daily life. God cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7
This last week has been difficult for the Vaughn family. Shannon was planning to go with the team to India this week, but her back went out and there seems no help for it. They prayed and called the elders but it is not any better, so she will not be going. This was a big disappointment, but they are believing that God cares for them and knows what is best.
And this is the challenge for the week. Seek to have a renewed and increased confidence in God’s love and care.

Rest in Philippians 4:4-8

Friday, August 9, 2013

 Once again I am writing from beautiful humid Oklahoma. I started working again at the church here. I took a couple weeks off because my back was hurting and I couldn’t straighten up once I bent over. All better now and I am not trying to work as long as I was at a stretch. Seems I’m getting to be a wimp, maybe just old. I enjoy being outside in the mornings and the weeds show me how persistent sin can be. Here there is a lot of Bermuda grass. I hate even calling it grass, but it is green and it thrives. Bermuda, grows and spreads by sending runners above ground and roots under ground. So, it is in the flower beds where we don’t want it. That’s my job pulling and digging it out. But you just cannot get all of the roots so it will always pop back up and if you leave it alone it will spread again and thrive. So you see how it is like sin that hides in our lives and we can attack it with our will and get the best of it for a time but it will pop out again when we don’t expect it.
Sunday Russell says he finished Luke 6. He also said that we could probably stay there for a few more weeks otherwise. I agree, there is a lot in this chapter to work on. But then I am kind of a slow student of God’s Word. At any rate he took a look at the last few verses of the chapter, calling it sort of an orientation speech for the 12 apostles that he chose and we heard a little about last week.
Beginning in verse 27 it basically says, “You who are listening, live out love.” that was sort of Russell’s version. He pointed out that it begins with, “You, the ones who are listening.” So many good and profitable things are said, but because no one is listening there is little benefit. Russell prayed that we would hear the things we need to hear in the message he shared. I pray that also for you as you read my reflections on his message. Whether some one is speaking or we are reading the written word if we are not paying attention to understand the thing we need, it will do us no good.
Covering verses 27 to 49 Russell said we were going to get sort of the Google Earth view of the things Jesus said. What is the primary impression we can get from this section. That primary impression is that we are to love our enemies, love those who are contrary, love those who oppose us. Loving our friends is no big deal Jesus wants us to take it up a notch or two.
Russell pointed out that verse 31 is commonly called the golden rule. “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” This is the sum and substance of this command. He pointed out that we don’t need to like someone in order to love them. He also pointed out that anyone who has been married for sometime knows this is true. And so when it says to bless (vs.28) or speak well of, or to turn the other cheek (vs.29), and to give to those who ask of you (vs. 30) we see practical application of this instruction.
NOTE: Russell pointed out that some of Jesus’ teachings were exaggerated to make the point and emphasize the seriousness of the command. He did not imply that we should receive brutality from others as acceptable.
The phrase he used was, “Love others more than your own pride.” He also said, “Love to the extreme and be children of your heavenly father.” Look at verse 36.
Russell mentioned that if you want to see a good illustration of love your enemy you might consider the book “The Shack”. He said he didn’t necessarily agree with all the spiritual teaching but the spirit of loving our enemies is very well illustrated.
Russell spent some time talking about the Old Testament book of Hosea. In this book God illustrated His love and mercy in the life of the man Hosea. God commanded him to marry a prostitute. This shows how God continually showed mercy to the children of Israel even though they repeatedly turned their backs to him and served other gods. This is the kind of love God desires to develop in us; His kind of love.
Also in Psalms 103:9-12 we can see God’s great mercy demonstrated.
Then in verse 37 of Luke 6 is the verse that nearly every one knows whether they are Christians or not. Well they at least know the first part, “Judge not,” . Compare this with Matthew 7:1-2 and you will see a little clearer picture of the intention of Jesus’ statement.
“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”
And so we can see again the application of the “golden rule”. Judge as you would wish to be judged. And we can see nearly the same words repeated in verse 38. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. We are all prone to falling short of God’s will and we aught to be merciful to one another. The agape love that God shows us is the love he wishes to develop in each of us. The only way to accomplish this is by his grace working in us in the obedience of faith.
Jesus spoke of the splinter in my brothers eye and the beam in mine. How silly of me to try to help my brother before I get the beam out of my own eye. The blind cannot lead the blind. Both will fall into the ditch. the disciple is not greater than his master but everyone that is perfected is like his master. Jesus is the Master. Jesus can see clearly. I must set my mind to follow Jesus and do his will. Then I will be able to see good fruit coming forth. Not because of my virtue but by the virtue of the Spirit of God working in me, to his glory.
Time Magazine asked several prominent authors to answer the question; “What’s wrong with the world today.” Among those that they asked was G.K. Chesterton, a prominent Catholic writer and philosopher of that time. His answer was, “I am.” This is the attitude we each should have. My problem is me.
There is a tremendous amount of material here and I hope I have conveyed a small portion of it in an understandable way. I believe that God’s will for us is always the same, and that is that we become like his son Jesus. If we seek him, He will do it. What a wonderful Gospel.

Always be encouraged to Faithfulness

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Grace: The divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.

Over and over I hear that we will get to heaven because of Jesus death on the cross and not because of anything we do. I hear, “You can’t earn your way into heaven.” All of this implies that I am without responsibility. What does the Word of God say?

Someone will say, “We are not under law we are under grace.” Now lets look at what God’s word says about “under grace.” Romans 6:14-15 is the only place that phrase appears in the New Testament, so what does it say.

“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.  What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid” kjv

So  here you have it. Grace is not a get out of jail free card. Grace is not a pass. This creates a larger problem. What is grace? Let us see if we can find any clues in God’s Word. The first time we see the word grace in God’s Word is in Genesis 6:8.

“And Noah found grace in the eyes of The Lord.”

What happened next? Do you know? He was given something to DO. It was not some little thing like raise your hand or say these words. This job took him and his sons 100 years. All of the cute pictures of the ark are something of an insult to what Noah and his sons had to do. And they did it without any power tools and no lumber yard to deliver the lumber. So how big was this ark? The best I can figure it was 547 feet long and a little over 91 feet wide and 54 feet high. It had 3 levels and each level had rooms. that is over 149,000 square feet of floor space. Oh, and it is free standing, not on a foundation and coated inside and out with tar for waterproofing.

Grace didn’t leave Noah with nothing to do!

In Exodus 33 beginning in verse 16 the term grace appears several times. Each time it seems that it could be a synonym of favor. But once again we see that Moses is given something to do. In Exodus 34:1 God says to Moses, “Hew thee two tables of stone like the first and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which you broke.”

If you are not familiar with this story it is the story of how God delivered the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt. How they came to be in bondage is another story. All of these stories are to help us see how God deals with His people.

In the King James Bible the word ‘grace’ appears 39 times in the Old Testament and 131 times in the New Testament.

In the New Testament grace first appears in reference to Jesus in Luke 2:40. And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. Here the word grace is a the same Greek word that we use when speaking of the gifts of the spirit (charis). This is the word in every appearance in the New Testament King James Bible.

GRACE: The divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.

This is the most complete statement that I can find in Strong’s Concordance and Greek Dictionary. Since that is the case lets use that definition and see if it works. I hope I am not violating any rules of proper Bible study if I modify the definition slightly in order to make it usable in our comparison. I will simply eliminate some words and change it to; “divine influence upon the heart, reflected in the life.”

And so beginning with the first appearance of the word grace and looking at a few more references, let us see if this definition will work.

Speaking of Jesus in Luke 2:40 it says,And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God (“divine influence upon the heart, reflected in the life.”) was upon him.”

Also speaking of Jesus in John 1:14 it says, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace (“divine influence upon the heart, reflected in the life.”) and truth.” I notice that the verse unmodified says “and we beheld”. Something was visible!

Then in verses 16 and 17 we see how this grace applies to us. “And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace (“divine influence upon the heart, reflected in the life.”)(is this grace to the second power?). For the law was given by Moses, but grace (“divine influence upon the heart, reflected in the life.”)  and truth came by Jesus Christ.

This is even spoken of in the Old Testament. In Jeremiah 31:33, God proclaims But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” This seems to me to be a perfect illustration of the definition of grace, in prophesy.

In the book of Acts it speaks of the early Christians and in Acts 4:33 it says, “And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace (“divine influence upon the heart, reflected in the life.”) was upon them all.”

Later in Acts 11:23, When Barnabas went to Antioch it speaks again of grace, “... when he came, and had seen the grace of God (“divine influence upon the heart, reflected in the life,) was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.”

OK, all of that is fine, but how does it apply to being “saved by grace?” This phrase or a form of this phrase only occurs in Ephesians 2 in verses 4-5 and 8. In both instances the definition is almost stated if you read them in context. But you must realize that the context goes at least to the end of chapter 3. Paul was really wordy. Anyway lets plug our definition in here and see how it agrees with the sense of what is being said.

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love with which He loved us (even when we were dead in sins) has made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are saved),” The definition of grace; “divine influence upon the heart, reflected in the life”, seems to fit in well with God making us alive. That would surely be a divine influence upon the heart.
Again in verse 8; “For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” If grace is a ‘divine influence’, how could anyone take credit or boast of any result as though they were the source of the power.

But now I begin to see a proper relationship between grace and all of the commands of the New Testament: Matthew 5:48, “Therefore be perfect, even as you Father in Heaven is Perfect.”; in Philippians 2:12, “...work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” ; Romans 12:2, “...but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.”; and there are many more which if you have looked may have given you some problems.

In Hebrews 4:16 with the help of our definition there may be some clarity.

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

At the throne of “divine influence upon the heart” we can find the help to be transformed and become like Jesus"its reflection in life". It will never come about by acts of our will and when it does occur we will only be able to follow the example of the demoniac, and tell all men what wonderful things God has done for us. (Mark 5:1-20)

Surely it is Jesus; as it says; “but as many as received him, to them gave he POWER to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, BUT OF GOD.”

GRACE: The divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.

NOTE: I use the King James Bible because I am use to it and it is commonly acceptable. I also feel that in many cases it is sharper (Heb 4:12) than most of the more modern translations. This is just one person’s opinion.