Monday, March 5, 2012

Gripped by God's Grace by Ted Roberts

Grace is not a doctrine or a theological concept it is a person-Jesus Christ. Paul declares in Romans that the Law was given by Moses but grace and truth come through Jesus Christ. Grace is the gospel. When Paul talks about the gospel he talks about the gospel of grace. God's radical grace will never get a grip on your soul until you understand this truth.

Therefore just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.-

But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man. how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!
Romans 5:12, 15 (NIV)

Re-read those verses again because there is something you must not miss if you want to truly get free. Here it is: Scripture declares you are a sinner, not because you sin; you sin because you are a sinner. You are a sinner because of Adam's sin. I remember the first time I read that passage and said to myself, "That's not fair. If I am a sinner, I want to be a sinner by my own deeds." But I have come to understand that it is totally fair. Romans 5:15 tells me that once I said "Yes" to Christ I was made righteous, not by my performance, but by Christ's obedience. That's such a radical truth. It's very difficult for us to grasp.

Let me use a simple illustration. Recently I had to spend a week in Houston. A hurricane had visited the city just prior to my visit so hotel rooms were in shod supply. My secretary managed to find a three star hotel. I am not into fancy hotels, but when I arrived, I discovered the hotel was overrated by four stars. It didn't take me long before I desperately wanted to get back to Portland, How did I eventually get out of there? Simple. One day I walked out of that fleabag hotel and began flapping my arms up and down as hard as possible and lifted off and flew back home! I don't think so! But that's what so many people try to do spiritually and it never works. You will never get free from sexual bondages by just trying harder, You probably have discovered that fact or you wouldn't be reading this workbook. The only way out, Paul says, is for us to realize that we are stuck in the roach hotel of sin. And we are not getting out by our efforts because we are addicted to sin, But the grace of God in the person of Christ has lifted us up to become slaves of righteousness. Now don't miss this because it is crucial to you getting free.

Your performance didn't ultimately determine if you were a sinner and your performance didn't ultimately determine if you are a saint.

No matter how hard I may have flapped my arms up and down, no matter how many good works I may have done, I was stuck in the roach hotel of sin. What could transform me from death to life? Nothing but the blood of Jesus! I eventually got home by getting on board a commercial jet, And no matter how cranky I was on the flight home-and I was-once I got on the plane I am not going back to the roach hotel, My point is this. We were in the hotel of sin apart from our performance and our addictive behavior, because of Adam's sin. But now, despite our performance and our addictive behavior, we have been seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6). There are people who teach directly or indirectly that the moment you sin after coming to Christ, God throws you out of the plane of grace. Of course, this approach really helps someone struggling with sexual addiction and battling with relapse! Please understand that I am radically opposed to sin! Pure Desire Ministries is totally devoted to helping people get free from the bondages of sin. Yet at the same time, I want to vociferously declare with all my heart that even though you sin as a believer, you are still righteous.

Frequently the objection is raised that Paul's radical statement can just encourage people to sin- that if you tell someone they are forgiven in Christ when they sin, they will just keep on sinning.

But the exact opposite is truth, For example, the woman of questionable character barged into the banquet Simeon the Pharisees was hosting so that she could wash the feet of Christ, Jesus asked Simeon, "Who will love God the most? One who is forgiven a little or the individual forgiven a lot?" It was a rhetorical question. The answer to the question Simeon chose to ignore in his obsession with religious performance. I have noticed through the years that one of the major reasons people do not love the Lord passionately is they think God has just forgiven their past sins. The mind blowing biblical truth is that God has forgiven ALL of your sins, past, present and future.

Paul, like so many Christian leaders I have counseled who cried out to God, in Romans 7 says "Who will deliver me from myself? Who will get me out of this roach hotel of my own weakness?" (Romans 7:19-20) The answer he discovered is not logical; it is revelational. In fact, it is so radical it is difficult for most translators to bring themselves to literally present what Paul said. So let me translate word for word Paul's response to his cry in Romans 7 which is found in Romans 8:1

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are In Christ Jesus . . . .''

Various translations add phrases to the verse to ease the radical edge of Paul's statement such as, ''who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." But in Romans 8:1 Paul made a categorical Casement about the scandalous nature of God's grace. Why is it so important to understand what Paul declared? So many men are caught in a merry- go-round of condemnation and death. When they sin or relapse back into their old sexual behavior, a deep sense of guilt and shame is triggered within, This leads to further condemnation and stress driving the individual ever deeper into relapse. Every single pastor who has come to me for help with sexual bondages in his life has a core problem. He has a vicious and pernicious sense of worthlessness at some point in his life. You would never guess that when you first meet those pastors. They are very capable, outgoing, dynamic guys but deep within hell has been gnawing on their souls for years. Like Paul, the only way out for them is to realize the radical truth of Romans 8.

I have shared these radical and biblical truths with certain groups and had individuals come up to me afterwards and say, "Dr. Roberts, you can't just let people sin and not bring some sod of correction and condemnation into their lives!" I am into correction, but condemnation is never an approach that Jesus used. For example, the woman caught in adultery in John 8 was drug before Jesus by the Pharisees. They challenged Jesus with the fact that Moses in the Law had said such a woman should be stoned. The question was what would Jesus do with this lady? I love my Savior's response, ''If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." John 8:7 (N IV)

In other words, the Law came to show us our need for grace. Then the Bible tells us Jesus knelt down and began writing in the dirt. Scripture doesn't tell us exactly what he wrote, but I know what happened. I have counseled enough men to know exactly what he wrote in the did. The oldest Pharisee stepped forth to stone the cowering woman; the tradition was for the oldest to lead the way. I am convinced Jesus leaned forward and wrote something like "Rachel" in the did.

And the old guy remembers his time with Rachel and drops his stone of accusation and runs for the hills! And with each man that stepped forward, some gal's name appeared in the dirt of their supposedly perfect souls.

The final scene of the story shows the only one who could have condemned the woman, the only man without sin in his life asking her the question, ''Woman, where are your accusers?'' When she commented that they all had run for the hills Jesus made a life changing comment. Then neither do I condemn you, Go and sin no more." He spoke correction to her without a hint of condemnation. Here is the part that you can't miss:

Christ gave her the gift of no condemnation SO THAT she could go and sin no more.

The order is critical in your life. Only when you choose to receive the gift of grace, the gift of no condemnation, will you then have a fighting chance in this battle. Once you are gripped by grace, then you can go and sin no more. Otherwise, you will just be trying harder which only digs the hole deeper and deeper. The first law of the hole is to stop digging! Don't bury yourself deeper into the bondage; instead get gripped by grace.

Your view of God is the most important thing in your life. How you see yourself in God's sight is everything. For example, how do you see yourself? Are you a sinner who struggles to love God? Or are you a lover of God who struggles with sin? The more incorrect your view of God the more rigid and legalistic you can become. If you have a punitive view of God, as most Americans do, then you will only see yourself as a loser in God's sight not a lover of God. This will set you up to become mad at God.

So frequently I have had individuals in the counseling office finally admit they are angry with God, Recently, a counselee was starting to get free and he looked at me with a lot of emotion in his eyes and said, "Why didn't God show me these answers years ago?" I paused and said as gently but as firmly as I could, "My friend you had the wrong god. As we go through this process you will begin to discover just how faithful God has been to you through the years, He has loved you with a covenant love."

Another radical New Testament truth concerning God's goodness and grace is the fact that it is His faithfulness that makes the covenant work in the first place. In the New Testament, Christ is the covenant maker, The covenant of the New Testament, the agreement that makes our salvation possible, is an agreement between the Father and the Son. It is not an agreement between us and God. Jesus is the covenant maker and the covenant keeper.

This makes Jesus the guarantee of a far better way between us and God-one that really works! A new covenant. Hebrews 7:22 (MsgB)

God the Father and God the Son made a covenant together to deal with sin, God the Father keeps His promise to bless us by placing us in the Son. The wisdom of God is incredible, He has placed you in the one place where the covenant would be kept, And this arrangement can never be changed, which is precisely why Jesus declared, no one comes to the Father but through me." (John 14:6) Meaning that he (Jesus) is the covenant maker and keeper.

And that is why Jesus also proclaimed, "I will never leave you." (John 14:18) I don't know if you have realized this yet, that verse is not only a promise it is a threat. Jesus is promising you if you think you are ever going to escape being loved by him, well you better think again! The evidence of God's scandalous love is overwhelming in the New Testament, yet so many church people get it turned upside down. Of course, this is an absolute killer for individuals caught in the grip of sexual bondages. Your hope is only found in being gripped by His grace. But why do church folks get it so twisted? I think for the simple reason that it's just too good to be true. But it is true! That is why we call it the Gospel, the good news. The Gospel is something our finite human brains just can't get a grip on, but our heads can, once we realize God doesn't condemn us .

This is the Jesus I have discovered who has entered into covenant with me: He has an immense and eternal compassion.

· His love for me is always stronger than my sin.
· His fiery mercy bums away my shame.
· He is the most gracious person I have ever met.
· He is a powerful warrior on my behalf and invites me to join him in a battle he has already won with hell.
· His love for me captivates me and calls me to become like him to the depth of my being.
· His patience with me is incomprehensible as I battle my way through my fear and shame and low self-esteem to believe his promises to me.

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