Traveling, Traveling, Traveling

Acts 1:8 (NKJV) 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

It has been quite a busy year for my wife and me. We have been doing our best to fulfill today’s scripture as we establish Living Word International as our primary ministry. Unfortunately, the travel has left us behind in posting to this space as well as in other writing we feel God has called us to do. For that I apologize.

However, as you pray for us and support us financially, the bible is clear that what we do is credited to your account in heaven as well. Please do pray for us. The doors are open. We need you to agree with us for the finances and the strength to go. God has been good to us and he will continue to be in the future.

As much as it would bless us to have your support financially, it is even more important that you pray. Over my nearly 40 years as a pastor, I often stood before our church and asked them to do their financial best but to agree with me that whatever we could not do, God would do supernaturally. We saw God move time and again as our faith was mobilized together. I would request that those who have been blessed by this blog would do the same. You may not be able to give but if you will really agree with me today, I know God will continue to provide. Thank you in advance.

I want to take a moment to give you a quick update. We spent the first 3 weeks of this year pouring into students at Blue Ridge Bible School in Rocky Mount Virginia. We really appreciate the trust of Pastors Phil and Gina Crandall as well the whole family at Blue Ridge for the opportunity to teach these fine students. We will be there again in January of 2019.

We left Virginia and spent a week with The Rock in Conneaut Ohio and New Beginnings in Erie Pennsylvania. The Rock is pastored by Pastors James and Michelle Friend and New Beginnings by James’ parents Paul and Anne Friend. We had a great time in both places. Thanks.

We then had our annual Unity Through Fellowship leadership conference at Living Word in Greene. From there we spent about 10 days in Costa Rica ministering with Pastor John Snyder, Dr. Eldon Wilson and Pastor Paul Friend in prophetic ministry to a group of pastors from a major denomination in that country. We also ministered to the local church in Aguas Clara, Costa Rica.

Next up was a trip to the Philippines with Pastor Ron and Lorraine Estep of Havre de Grace, Maryland. We had a great time ministering to a group of churches and a bible school on the island of Palawan. We traveled the length of the island visiting churches and teaching in a conference for their leaders and people at the school in the city of Narra.

Next it was back to the Bible School in Virginia for graduation and a visit to our oldest son in Nashville and some dear friends in Michigan. We will finally have some time at home from the middle of May through July.

Next up is a short trip to Mamaroneck, NY in June and then our annual visit to Kenya and Uganda. We will spend 2 months there from mid-August to mid-October. This is a major focus for us so please pray.

Finally, we end the year with a trip to Columbia in December with my son-in-law, Louis to visit a pastor friend of his named Julio Valandia where we will minister to pastors and leaders in the city of Bogotá.

Continue to pray for us. Visit https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=bill+KIefer to purchase our books. The proceeds will help finance our travels. There are many more doors open and we are praying about what the Lord wants us to do to meet the tremendous need we see in the world.

If any would like to help with the costs of travel, we would appreciate it. Checks can be made out to Intercession Ministries and you can give electronically through PayPal using the email address wkiefer@aol.com.) (Intercession Ministries is our personal incorporation that pre-dates our church, Living Word Christian Center. Giving through Intercession Ministries makes the bookkeeping easier and gives tax credit for those who ask.)

Thanks again for reading and for supporting us. You are a blessing to us even though we may never have met.

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Newness of Life

Romans 6:4 (KJV) 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

In our last post I talked about one of the most important topics in the bible. The fact that we have been made the righteousness of God in Christ is what I call one of the grand truths of scripture. Understanding this can change everything. When we received Jesus as Lord, our nature was changed. We were made right with God. All the requirements of the Law were fulfilled. We cannot earn this righteousness. However, now it is our responsibility to walk in what God has done for us.

1 Corinthians 15:34 (NKJV) 34 Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.

Paul is not saying that we should not sin so we will be righteous. He is saying that if we understand what God has done in making us right with him, we will have the power to overcome sin. Sin is a disease. It produces death everywhere it touches. Righteousness does not make sin less sinful. It does not make it less of a disease. Waking up to the fact that God has changed our nature and made us right with him gives us the power to live above sin.

Romans chapter 5 is one of the greatest chapters in the Word of God. It tells us about the power released in Jesus sacrifice and how it changed us. In this mighty chapter, Paul points out that through one man death came into the world. Because sin changed Adam’s nature, death passed on to all who were born of his race. He goes on to say that through one man, Christ Jesus, God gave the gift of Grace.

Romans 5:16 (NKJV) 16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification.

Paul sums up this chapter this way:

Romans 5:19-21 (NKJV) 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. 20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Paul reveals to us that grace produces righteousness in everyone who receives Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9-10.) If one man’s disobedience causing him to sin could bring death to all then one man’s obedience to die for sin can bring righteousness to all. This is just and it is logical. Verse 21 is how Paul ends this chapter.

It is important to understand that Paul did not write in chapter and verse. He was writing a letter to the Roman church. The chapters and verses were added later. Paul has not changed the subject. He continues in chapter six what he was talking about in chapter 5. It is vital that we begin with what Jesus did. If we do not understand that our righteousness is a gift that was paid for by the blood of Jesus, we will live our Christian life trying to earn what we already have. That does not mean that we have no part to play. Look at chapter 6 verse 1 through 5.

Romans 6:1-5 (NKJV) 1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,

Does the fact that I have been made right with God by grace mean we should feel free to continue in sin? Paul had been accused of preaching that very thing. Some today are preaching that very thing. I love Paul’s answer. In this case I like the King James Version better than the New King James.

Romans 6:2 (KJV) 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

Paul cannot even understand how anyone who has been rescued from sin could think that way. Only those who do not understand could come to that conclusion. Righteousness by grace means we are dead to sin. We no longer have to be subject to its power. In verse four we find out what God has enabled us to do. We can walk in “newness” of life.

I looked up the word translated newness in the Greek. It means just that. It can also means a renewal of life. What is Paul telling us? When we received Jesus as savior and Lord, we were made right with God. However, there was much more than that. Our nature was changed. We were put back into union with almighty God. He did something inside us. We died in Christ. Our spirit was made alive in him. A new kind of life came into us when we were born again. It was not a change of philosophy or religion. It was a change of what we were.

In weeks past, I talked about man’s creation. In Genesis 2 we learned that man was different from all other physical beings. Their life came with their creation. However, man’s body was formed without life. It did not become “a living soul” until God breathed into it. Man came alive from the inside out. The source of his life was direct union with God. When Adam fell, that connection was lost and he was instead connected with the devil by nature. He was still alive from the inside out by the source of his life was not the purity of God. It was the evil of the Satanic nature. It was spiritual death (Ephesians 2:3 and Romans 5.)

What happened to us at the new birth? We were made right with God! Our nature was changed! We became children of God in spirit once again. THE SOURCE OF OUR LIFE WAS CHANGED! We no longer draw our life from the sin nature. We have “newness” of life. We have something in us that is so much more powerful than the sin nature that we never have to give in to temptation again. I am not talking about law or will power. That is the Old Covenant. I am talking about the power and victory that grace bought for me.

I am free from sin by the blood of Jesus. I no longer have to walk in it and I no longer have to endure the earthly consequences of sin. The eternal consequences are taken care of when I receive Jesus as Lord and savior. However, the wages of sin is death. When we allow sin to reign over our mortal bodies, our lives, we open the door to things God does not want for us. We no longer have to do that.

The law could not keep it from happening but the righteousness of God by grace can. Not by making sin no longer deadly. The righteousness of God by grace gives us access to that newness of life that Adam enjoyed in the Garden. When we access and walk in that life, sin is not longer a problem. We walk above it. We do not have to pay the legal price because we just do not sin. How do we access this newness of life? Let us hear what Paul has to say.

Romans 6:11-14 (NKJV) 11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

The Problem was the Nature not the Sin

Ephesians 2:1-3 (NKJV) 1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

We can never understand unmerited or undeserved favor, also known as grace, unless we understand why we did not deserve God’s favor and what he had to do to give it to us. We have looked at creation, the problem God faced and his solution. We have seen that God took upon himself the consequences of Adam’s sin and made a way for us to come back into relationship with the Lord.

Let me show you a timeline of how the process has played out.

1. God chose to create man. In order for man to fulfil his purpose as the focal point of fellowship, he had to have the capacity and the right to choose love.

2. Man chose to rebel against God in the Garden of Eden. When he did, he was separated from God. His nature changed and became like Satan’s nature. Hell was created for Satan and his angels, but because man was now identified with Satan, that became his eternal spiritual future as well

3. God chose not to leave man in this condition. He chose to come to earth as a man, Jesus. He chose to become the propitiation or sacrifice for the sin nature of man, returning to him choice

4. Man must now choose to receive what God has done for himself. If he does, he is saved by grace through faith. He will pass into eternity as a child of God and live forever in God’s presence. If he does not, he remains bound to Satan and must share Satan’s eternal punishment.

5. Death is the dividing line. Once that line is crossed, the person has made their choice and cannot change it.

The book of Romans is Paul’s revelation of this to the believer. We are not saved by understanding. We are saved by believing. We hear the Gospel preached and something inside awakens. When we respond to the drawing of God, we are saved. Nevertheless, we need to learn what happened to us so that we will be able to walk in it and so that we can become a conduit of salvation to the world.

We have already begun in the most important place, Genesis. Let us look at man’s condition from a slightly different perspective. Why did man not deserve God’s favor? What is favor? The English noun means approval, support, or liking for someone or something. The Verb means to feel or show approval or preference for someone or something. Why was humanity underserving of God’s approval? They were created to be God’s family. Why was he unable to show them preference over Satan?

From our human perspective we would say it was because of what Adam had done. We are geared to think in terms of “crime and punishment” or “right behavior and reward.” There is an element of both in God’s dealing with man. Justice demands payment. Love demands forgiveness. God is by nature both in the absolute sense. We have already pointed out in detail that God could not overlook the “crime.” His solution was to pay the price. The debt has been paid. All man must do is choose to accept it. However, he must choose to accept it. If he does not he is eternally separated from God. Why?

It is not because of God’s anger. It is not because God is legalistic. If that were the case, coming to salvation in Jesus would require confession of what a person had done. He or she would have to take responsibility for those things. Man would have to become worthy of being a child of God. That is impossible. No one has the ability to pay the price.

By grace all the sins of mankind have been forgiven. They are not forgiven when we receive Christ. They were already forgiven. They were forgiven the moment Jesus paid for them. Why must every individual receive the sacrifice for themselves? If the sins are forgiven and the price paid, everyone should be saved and go to heaven. There are two reasons each person must receive Jesus as their personal savior.

The first is the timeline I laid out. Choice is the engine that drives the whole process. God chose to create, man chose to sin, God chose to pay the price. When he did he restored choice to man. Before the cross, man’s choices were limited. God gave the law and the covenant to give man the choice of limited relationship. However, that was never what God wanted. He never wanted a relationship based on law. He wanted a love relationship. Under the Old Covenant that was not possible. The death burial and resurrection of Jesus restored man’s right to choose to love God.

The second reason is what keeps man from God. It is not his sin. That is paid for by the blood of Jesus. God has no problem forgiving sin. The thing that makes it impossible for God to give his favor to man is not what he does. It is what man became in the fall. Today’s scripture makes it clear. He became by nature, a child of wrath or the devil. God cannot favor man because of his nature. If he allowed that nature into eternity the results would be unacceptable. I do not pretend to know all of why. I simply believe that Bible and accept it as so.

What did grace do for us. It did not just forgive our sins. Grace, in the form of Jesus’ sacrificial life and death, opened the way for our nature to be changed. The new birth in 2 Corinthians 5 is not just about the forgiveness of sins. It is about the change of nature. That is what we must choose. God will not force it upon us. When we receive Jesus, we are made new creatures in Christ. Old things pass away and all things are made new. 2 Corinthians 5 never mentions the forgiveness of sin. That is a given. It was done by grace.

Romans 6:3 (NKJV) 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?

The truth of salvation is that there is a part of us that dies when we are saved. We are baptized into the death of Jesus. We become partakers of his death and are then “born again.” The me that was born in the sin of Adam died in Christ. Everything I ever did died with him. All of my sins were washed away because I died with Christ. The price for all that I did was paid for in the Cross.

Colossians 2:13-14 (NKJV) 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

The blood of Jesus wipes out the handwriting on the charges that were against us. When a person receives that for him or herself, a miracle happens. The old, corrupt spirit dies, and a new clean spirit is born. We are still the people God created in our mother’s womb, but we are also “new creations.” Old things have passed away and all things become new. Paul said it this way.

Galatians 2:20 (NKJV) 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

That is what grace does for us. It kills us and raises us up. That, however, is only the beginning.

Grace Made Us Right With God

Romans 3:21-26 (NKJV) 21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

As we study grace we find that grace does not make sin “OK.” Rather, grace gives us the ability to overcome sin. Paul makes an interesting statement in 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 15: 34 (NKJV) 34 Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.

Paul says if we will “wake up” to the fact of righteousness in Christ we will be able to stop sinning. He did not say that once we awake to righteousness we do not have to be concerned about sin. The wages of sin is death. That does not mean we will die when we commit a sin. If that were true, there would be no Christians left alive. It means that we open the door to the power of spiritual death. This enables the devil to gain access to our lives and bad things happen.

What Paul is telling us is that if we would come to an understanding of the right standing with God bought for us in the sacrifice of Jesus, we would have the power to stop sin as a factor in our lives. That does not mean we would never sin. We are still human. However, the more we understand the righteousness of God, the less hold sin, and the flesh, will have over our lives.

What is it that made us right with God. It was not our works. It was not our religious fervor. It was not confessing all our pre-salvation sins. None of those things can make us right with God. Today’s scripture uses an interesting word. It is the Word “propitiation.” This is not a word we use every day. It is one of those bible words that we may have a vague idea of its meaning, but we do not really know what it means.

By the context, we know that it has something to do with our sins, but what exactly may be unclear. Propitiation means a sacrifice made to appease an angry God. We have all seen movies or read books where the uncivilized culture needed to sacrifice a virgin to the volcano god, so he would not destroy their land. The volcano was erupting because the gods were angry, and they demanded a sacrifice. The word in Romans does not mean that exactly.

Our God was not angry. Our God is just. We have looked in depth at the need and nature of the payment for the sin that separated man from God in the Garden of Eden. God was not angry at man, but the sin committed by man changed his nature. The absolute nature of God’s justice could not simply overlook it.

The payment was the life of man. Nothing else would satisfy justice. Here is where the idea of propitiation comes in. The propitiation is whatever the god requires in order to satisfy him and quell his anger. Our need was not that God’s anger would be appeased it was that God’s justice would be met. The propitiation was what God required to meet justice. Man did not have the price. God’s solution was that Jesus came as the propitiation. His sacrifice was all God required.

What is that called. It is called grace! We do not deserve it but Jesus came as the propitiation or full payment for the sin of all mankind. He perfectly met the requirement of justice so that could never meet. All we need to be made right with God is to accept God’s propitiatory sacrifice.

There is no other way we can be made right with God. We cannot do enough good works or penance to make ourselves right with God. We cannot offer any other sacrifice because none would be the “propitiation” required. No matter how much we work in the Kingdom of God, read the bible or pray it will never be enough. The only way to be made right with God is to believe in and receive for ourselves the propitiation that God provided.

The old hymn is still true. “Just as I am without one plea but that thy blood was shed for me.” There is no case I could make that will prove my righteousness. I was by nature sin. I could not work hard enough to overcome that curse. The only vehicle for me to be made right with God is the shed blood of Jesus. Nothing else will do.

Grace is what sent Jesus. Grace is what caused him to shed his blood. Grace is what made him a propitiation for my sin. It is hard for us to believe because we are so geared to paying our own way, but we cannot earn salvation. It can only come by God’s undeserved favor, grace.

If I wake up to the fact that I am made right with God by what Jesus paid, the result is that I can overcome sin. There is no where in the bible that says I am now free to sin because Jesus paid for all sin. Behavior is irrelevant to our becoming right with God. We are dead in Christ, therefore what we did before cannot be applied to us once we are new creatures in Christ.

I believe behavior cannot cause God’s grace to fail. After salvation sin does not make us no longer children of God. We have been born again. We are his children. My kids did things that were wrong growing up but that did not mean they were not my children. Depending on the sin it did do a number of things.

It strained our relationship. I always loved them, but sin put something between us. I believe that affects the child far more than the parent. Their sin made them vulnerable to dangers I knew about and they did not Sometimes they got away with no consequence but if they continued in that path the consequences would catch up with them.

Thankfully my children never experienced this, but their sin could have cause them to die. This has happened many times in the lives of other families. Traffic accidents caused by speed or driving impaired, drug overdoses and many other acts of rebellion against parents have taken the lives of multitudes of young people. In most cases, if they had listened to their parents they and those around them would not have died.

God sets standards for the behavior of his children. They are set forth in the Ten Commandments and throughout the bible including the New Testament. Jesus set standards. Paul set standards. All the New Testament writers set standards. They are not laws. They are the requirements of relationship. They are the words of an all knowing and loving Father who knows what is best for us.

What happens if I fail to walk according to these standards. I am not cast off. I am still God’s child. I am still in his kingdom. There are some scriptures that indicate we could lose our salvation, but I am not talking about that. I am talking about the everyday believer who fails. Jesus paid for that failure as well. He gives us a way to stop most of the consequences for our sin.

1 John 1:9 (NKJV) 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Jesus paid for our sin. When we confess what we have done wrong we take and that releases the power of grace to forgive our sin and cleanse the unrighteousness that it brings to us.

Grace and Right Behavior

Matthew 5:17-20 (NKJV) 17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

As we look objectively at what the bible says about the grace of God, we have learned a number of things. Grace was part of the original creation. Revelations 13:8 tells us that the Lamb of God, Jesus, was slain from the foundations of the world. God knew all that would happen when he created. He knew man would rebel and he pre-programed a solution before Adam was ever created.

We learned that sin broke the connection between God and man. Man was created as God’s child for fellowship with him. Sin made that impossible. The penalty for man’s sin was eternal separation. This is not the penalty for individual sins. It is the necessary consequence of being separated from God in the spirit. Man’s nature had changed. God could not and would not allow that contamination into his eternity.

The only solution was for him to come to earth as a human being. This was accomplished by the virgin birth. Jesus was born of a completely human mother. He was not born of a human father. The seed that fertilized the egg in Mary’s womb was the word of God. He was completely human. However, he was not born with the sin nature that was passed to all humanity by the seed of Adam. The method of his conception meant that he was also fully God.

Colossians 2:9 (NKJV) 9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;

For the 3 and ½ years of Jesus’ earthly ministry he demonstrated to the world who God the Father really. He healed the sick, cast out demons and dealt with people in a way that the Pharisees, who knew the law could not understand. He said, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.” What he showed to the people was the grace of God.

When we consider the Bible, we must do so in light of what Jesus revealed in those 3 and ½ years. When we interpret the Old Testament, we must do it in the same way. If we want to understand what grace really is to us, we must read again and again the accounts of Jesus life. Everything he did was demonstrating grace. Everything he said was revealing grace. Everything.

I was talking with someone some time ago who had taken to a particular interpretation of Grace. He seemed to be saying that standards of holiness and righteousness were no longer relevant. Jesus had paid for all sin. What grace meant to him was there was no need for repentance. We simply needed to believe that we were right with God and that was enough.

I asked him about the words of Jesus in Matthew 5.

His answer was that Jesus was speaking to those people but not to us today because we are saved and have partaken of grace. That is not possible. Every word Jesus spoke was a revelation of the Grace of God. The sermon on the mount is not just for those listening in that day. Jesus said building our lives on these sayings would cause us to build “houses” on an unshakeable rock. No interpretation of the Bible would eliminate the teaching of Matthew 5-7 from the lives of believers today.

I do not believe this man wanted to sin. I believe he had fought very hard to do the right things early in his Christian walk. He failed just as all of us will fail if we try to deal with our flesh by the discipline of the flesh. He took grace to mean he could stop trying to fight sin. There is a truth in that statement but not how I think he was interpreting it.

Grace is not meant to do away with the Law. It is meant to be a way for us to fulfill the law and the prophets. It would be impossible for our righteousness to surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees according to the law. Nevertheless, the words of Jesus remain. Our righteousness must exceed theirs.

We might say that righteousness refers to our position in Christ once we are saved. That is true. 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that we were made the righteousness of God. The context of this statement implies that I did not make myself righteous. God did that when Jesus died for my sins. I partook of that righteousness when I received his sacrifice personally. However, that is not all that the word means. In Vines Expository Dictionary of Greek Words, we read this definition.

“Dikaiosynē (the Greek word translated righteousness) is found in the sayings of the Lord Jesus, (a) of whatever is right or just in itself, whatever conforms to the revealed will of God, Matt. 5:6, 10, 20; John 16:8, 10; (b) whatever has been appointed by God to be acknowledged and obeyed by man. Matt. 3:15; Matt. 21:32;

We see clearly by this definition that righteousness includes doing what God defines as right. In the rest of this chapter Jesus reveals a level of righteous behavior the scribes and Pharisees could never have imagined possible. He equates anger without cause, calling someone worthless or a fool with murder. He says if we look at a woman and lust for here we have already committed adultery. The list goes on and on. He makes the statements “You have heard it said” and “but I say to you” many times.

By the time we finish reading this chapter we are left with the conclusion that what Jesus is asking of us is impossible. However, he did not say you should try to live this way. He said we must live this way. Some would say, “Grace understands that we can’t live like that. If we commit adultery either inwardly or outwardly, it is already paid for. We must just believe that, and everything is fine.” Jesus did not say anything like that. He says we must live this way, period. How can we?

We live this way by Grace. Grace does not just cover sin. Grace destroys the power of sin. If we see grace as a way that sinful behavior can be made all right, we will never overcome the things that we need to. We will never fulfill the righteousness spoken of in the words of Jesus in Matthew 5.

It is true that all sin is paid for by the blood of Jesus. We will look at how that works in another post. It is not true that Grace excuses ungodly or sinful behavior. Every New Testament writer including Paul makes this very clear. The problem is that we cannot seem to separate righteous behavior based on the Law from righteous behavior born of grace. We cannot keep the law in the flesh so some choose to assume we do not have to. That is wrong.

What does grace offer me as a Christian? It offers me the ability to be overcome sinful behavior from the inside out not the outside in. The revelation Jesus wants us to see in Matthew 5 is that we can access something that will so revolutionize our lives that we will walk at a level of holiness that the Law could never accomplish. It does not make sin “OK.” It destroys its power to control us until it becomes irrelevant to our lives. Temptation becomes something we overcome by virtue of God’s life at work in us not by discipline of our flesh alone. This is the Grace of God at work in the believer.

A Life in Demonstration of Grace

Acts 10:38 (NKJV) 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

In our last post we examined the birth of aspects of his nature. God is both absolute justice and absolute love. Justice demanded payment for sin. Love would not allow the Father to abandon his children. The solution was for God to become flesh. In Mary’s body he became part of Adam’s race but because he was born of the seed of the Word of God, he had no sin nature. He became the perfect mediator between God and man.

1 Timothy 2:5 (NKJV) 5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,

It was through his death, burial and resurrection that he fulfilled the role of mediator, so what was the purpose of Jesus’ public ministry. He spent that time showing the world what God was really like.

The Jews of that day were typified by the scribes and Pharisees. They knew the law better than any other human beings in the world. They understood all its requirements, sacrifices and consequences. They were zealous to guard the Law and the traditions of the Jewish fathers. What they did not understand was the true nature of God.

The law was never a manifestation of God’s wrath. It was always a manifestation of God’s mercy and grace. In fall man became sin. He could not help but sin. The law was a system by which God could maintain at least a limited relationship with man. Without the law man had no approach to God.

Ephesians 2:12 (NKJV) 12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel (and it’s law) and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

Although the Law was always God’s mercy and grace, Israel never really understood that. All they saw were the rules, regulations, requirements and punishments. They did not understand that the purpose of the law was fellowship, albeit in a limited sense. As a result, they saw the God of Israel as harsh and unyielding. Paul said concerning them that they understood the letter of the law, which kills, but had no idea about the spirit of the law which gives life.

Israel was the only revelation of God the rest of the world had to look at. When Jesus came, he came as the incarnation of mercy and grace. He came to show the world, starting with Israel, who God really was. That is why when Peter described the ministry of Jesus to the gentiles in Cornelius’ house he said what is written in today’s verse. Jesus went about doing good. He healed, physically, emotionally and spiritually, all those who were oppressed by the devil.

Jesus reveals his purpose to Nicodemus in John chapter 3.

John 3:17 (NKJV) 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

I believe that it is important to remember that the Bible teaches us that we should walk according to standards of behavior that are befitting those who are the heirs of salvation. However, I also believe we need to start with the truth Jesus came to reveal. He did not come to condemn but to save. Who was he called to save?

John 3:16 (NKJV) 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

He did not come to save the righteousness. He came to save an unrighteous world who did not deserve it. He came as a manifestation of undeserved favor or grace. In his ministry, that is what he showed to the world. He did it by destroying the works of the one who had bound man to begin with, Satan.

Space will not permit us to give many examples of how he did this, but we can list a few. We know he healed the sick. There is a saying in America that says, “If you have your health you have everything.” There is very little more important than health. Jesus healed multitudes and he healed individuals.

He provided for the physical needs of people. On more than one occasion he fed thousands who had followed him into wilderness, using supernatural power. In Matthew chapter six he tells us the that Father loves us more than birds or flowers and if he takes care of them he will take care of us.

When he met the woman at the well in John 4, how did he minister to her. He did not excuse her sin, but neither did he condemn her. She was a sinner and she deserved punishment, but he never talked about what she deserved. He simply revealed what God was offering her; undeserved favor and a new life.

The Gadarene demoniac was violent and vulgar. Surely, he deserved to be locked up. I do not know if he destroyed property, but it seems likely. Why did Jesus fail to tell him to make restitution? All he did was set him free from the power of the enemy by casting out 1000 demons that had controlled his life.

In the same chapter, Mark 5, we see Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue who came to Jesus for the life of his daughter. Was he a good man? Often the rulers were harsh and unforgiving. We do not know, and Jesus does not ask. He simply raises his daughter from the dead.

The woman with the issue of blood is there as well. She was in a condition considered unclean by Jewish law and custom. She should not have been in the crowd following Jesus, but she knew he was the manifestation of the grace of God. She pressed through until she touched the hem of his garment. Jesus did not rebuke her. Jesus just healed her.

There are many more but let me share one that is very typical. We know the story. There was a woman caught in the act of committing adultery. They brought her to Jesus trying to trap him. What she deserved according to the Holy Law was to be stoned to death. Jesus never denied that fact. He simply gave direction to her accusers. The one who had no sin must cast the first stone. They all left.

John 8:10-11 (NKJV) 10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

Jesus did not excuse her. He showed mercy by seeing to it that she did not get what she deserved and gave her life back to her. That was grace. Then he exhorts her to sin no more.

In this we see the foundation of all Jesus brings to the world. He brings mercy to save us from what we deserve. He brings grace to give what we do not deserve but he also reveals to us that we must turn away from sin if grace is to have its full affect.

Where are you beginning in your witness? It should be with grace. That is what Jesus brought to the world. Upon what foundation are you building your walk with God. Sin is unacceptable because it is contrary to the grace we have received. However, sin is not defeated by Law. Jesus defeated sin by making grace know to the world. So must we.

Grace Born in a Manger

Luke 1:34-35 (NKJV) 34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” 35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.

In our last post we watched as sin entered into man’s nature. The result was a separation between God and his children. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23.) Death in a spiritual sense is not just ceasing to exist. Death is a condition of separation from God’s life. Eventually it resulted in the death of Adam’s and Eve’s body as well. This condition is eternal. Unless something changed man would be eternally separated from God. That is what he deserved and that is what he would have received. However, God had another plan.

Let us lay out the problem God has after the fall. God created man to be his family. That is the reason for all of the physical creation. He wants to share his life with his children. For this love to be real he must give man a choice. Man made the choice to sin and was cut off from the life of God. This is an eternal choice. Once it is made it cannot be unmade. Because everything must reproduce after its own kind, man’s offspring will carry the same seed of death in them with which Adam was affected by the fall.

God is an absolutely just being. He cannot simply overlook sin. He cannot just forgive man. That is not justice. If man can be forgiven without payment, why is it impossible for Satan to be forgiven? Man must pay the price for his sin. Man will pay the price. The problem is that the price is death. Physical death is the inevitable result of the fall. Man’s body will ultimately fail. However, that is not the price. That is simply a symptom of the disease.

The price is eternal separation from God. Physical death, though not the price itself is the threshold beyond which eternal separation becomes certain. Once man leaves time and enters eternity nothing can change. Man will pay the price, but he will pay it forever.

The other difficulty is that no one else can pay the price for him. It must be a man. Not in the sense of gender but in the sense of humanity. God cannot pay it. That would not be justice. Only a flesh and blood human being can pay the price of separation from God. It seems that God has no choice but to condemn his children to eternal separation from himself. Satan has won. God’s plan for a family is defeated. The best solution to this problem would be to destroy humanity now so that only Adam and Eve suffer the consequences of their sin. That is what they deserve. That is pure justice. However, God is not just absolute justice. He is also absolute love.

It is just as much against God’s nature to leave his family helpless as it is to forego justice. Man deserves the penalty for sin. God has every right to “wash his hands” of man’s future. Nevertheless, at this point the three elements of the love of God go into motion.

God is a God of compassion. He identifies with man’s condition. Compassion moves him to mercy. Mercy is God withholding what is deserved. Man deserves justice and will have it if that is what he chooses. Mercy seeks to find a way for man to avoid the eternal consequence of sin while remaining within the bounds of justice.

If man fulfills the need of justice, he will be eternally separated from God. What if a man could be born who was not of the seed of Adam. What if there could be a human being who did not carry sin. The “seed” is carried in the human male. The seed fertilizes an egg in the human female. The body is formed in the womb. It is made up of the DNA of both father and mother, but the body is formed in the female. What if there could be a human being born whose DNA did not carry the human male component?

Many “enlightened” Christian scholars have come to view the Virgin Birth of Jesus as part of Christian mythology. Surely, we cannot believe that something like that could happen. We live in the twenty-first century. We know where babies come from. If we believe the bible, we understand that the virgin birth is the only solution the mercy of God can use to satisfy God’s absolute nature of both justice and love.

A descendant of Adam must pay the price. Once a descendant of Adam pays the price they will be eternally separated from God. However, the sin nature is passed on in the seed of Adam. The virgin birth is the result of a human female conceiving through the energy of a different seed.

John 1:1 (NKJV) 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:14 (NKJV) 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

How did the word become flesh? We read how in today’s scripture. The Holy Spirit come upon a virgin woman and she conceived by the power of God. What was the seed that produced this conception? I believe we can get a little more insight by reading about our own “new birth.”

1 Peter 1:23 (NKJV) 23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever,

The seed that entered Mary’s womb was the Word of God. The child that was born of that conception was Mercy incarnate. All of humanity deserved to be separated from God because of the nature Adam brought into the earth through sin. God’s compassion would not let that be the final word. Mercy said there is another way.

What was Jesus? Because he was the son of Mary he was fully human. He was born of Adam’s race. Because he had no human father he did not carry the curse of spiritual death. He is called that last Adam by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:45. His body is completely human but without the curse of death.

Not only is he a human free of death, but he is something else. The Word was with God and the Word was God. He was not only man. He was also God.

Colossians 2:9 (NKJV) 9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily

What is it that Mercy provided for God’s family? Mercy provided a being who, as man, could rightfully pay the price. However, because he did not carry the stain of sin he did not owe the payment. Because he was also God we see that what Mercy did was choose to pay the price himself. God chose to create knowing what man would do. Man chose to rebel and become separated from God for eternity. God chose to take on flesh and pay the price for man’s rebellion himself.

The result is that mercy has made it possible for man to escape what he deserves. He must choose to accept God’s mercy and grace. He must receive this grace by faith. Grace is getting what you do not deserve. Jesus is the vehicle by which grace became available to man. The only way for man to escape what he deserves and obtain what he did not deserve is to receive the sacrifice of Jesus by faith (Ephesians 2:8.)

What was born in the manger. What came forth from Mary’s womb. Mercy and grace came forth. After the process of redemption was complete all of humanity had could choose again. Adam chose death. We have the right to choose life. That is Grace.