This chart addresses the differences in mindset between Christians living under legalism, licentiousness and true grace. Because it is a table, we have been unable to display the document correctly on this blog. Please click on the PDF file below to access the chart. Enjoy!
When you are truly proclaiming the Gospel of Grace, you are in danger of people misunderstanding the message as being licentious. Just as they did in Paul’s day, people will think you are saying it’s ok to sin if there is no law. In fact, the more you are misunderstood in this manner, the more likely it is you are preaching the Gospel spot on. But the message is not, and never has been licentiousness. The message is transformation.
When you proclaim that we are no longer bound by law, people who don’t understand the supernatural transformation of rebirth will scoff and say something like, “So are you saying we can just do whatever we want? You can go commit adultery, murder, or bank robbery since we’re not under law?” My response is simple...why on earth would I want to do that? I’m a new creation. I have a new heart. So yes, I’m free to do whatever I want...because what I want now is what God wants. I have been united to Him in Spirit. I even have His mind through His Spirit, who knows His thoughts (1 Cor 2:11-16). This is what is meant by we are free to serve in the manner of the Spirit, not by the letter (Rom 7:6), by simply living by the desires of our new heart that is controlled by the Spirit (Rom 8:9).
Grace is not a license to sin, it is the power to live according to an entirely new nature. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). As a new creation, you have new desires. And even if you stumble in living out your new identity while your mind is being renewed, your heart is now truly for God (Eze 36:26). Therefore, you are free to follow your new heart, no longer deceptively wicked, but rather controlled and united with His Spirit, apart from the law that kills (2 Cor 3:6). Yes, we are free in Christ to do whatever we want, because what we want is never to sin, but only to walk in righteousness. Of course the discernment of our spirit and godly desires sometimes takes prayerful consideration, testing against the Word, and even wise counsel. But you are 100% free to do whatever your new nature truly wants. Once again, Romans 7:6 says, “But now we have been discharged from the law, having died to that in which we were held; so that we serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter.” Rejoice in your freedom!
When I first believed, I innately knew the old self was gone and a new self had replaced the old. It was undeniable and utterly apparent to me that I was a 100% a new person, having been made free from sin and the law. And Scripture backed up my new life experience. However, not every Christian has such a dramatic rebirth experience, and many are still under the impression that they must obey God to please Him and/or must work really hard to kill their flesh that still exists alongside their new self. I’ve heard really solid teachers claim the heart is still wicked, and convince other believers to be equally sin conscious. Nothing will hold you in bondage better than believing the lie that your old self isn’t really dead and gone. So they go on struggling. And it feels real, though it is really a shadowboxing match rooted in incorrect belief.
There is one reason why the Christian still sins, despite having been crucified with Christ, and raised to walk in new life. That reason is the unrenewed mind. Their thinking does not align with the reality of who they are in Christ. The truth is the old self is dead (and removed), and they are no longer bound by ANY law. But we are in a process of learning and growing. First, we have to be told the truth that Christ took care of that old dirty self once and for all on Calvary when he not only died for us, but stepping into humanity, also died as us. Second, we have to be told the truth that we are not under the law in any way, shape or form, because Christ became our perfect response to God for us, in perfect faith and obedience. Finally, we have to grow in the knowledge of the Word, the character of Christ, that we may manifest our new true identity. Therefore, the reason a Christian still sins is NOT due to his wicked heart (it’s been replaced), nor is it due to his “flesh” (the biblical term is actually “old man”, and it is in fact DEAD and CUT OFF). No, the reason he still struggles is that he is still under some form of law (for the power of sin is the law), or has never been told who he really is in Christ (new and holy), or the aspect of that identity he is having trouble with has not been fully cemented into his mindset (mindless habits), and he forgets for the moment what he has begun to learn.
The truth is, as a believer, you never HAVE to sin again, even though you certainly CAN. And this is not denying that you had sin in the first place, for that would negate the need of a Savior. If you want to conquer sin, understand that you can’t, and that He already has. Understand that you are dead and free. Understand that there is nothing that God expects of you, because Christ is your response to any expectation the Father has. It is finished. The next time you’re tempted, remember what you really desire, and who you really are in Christ (perfectly holy already). There is no such thing as a Christian who enjoys sin. The new heart just doesn’t allow for that. What we really desire is God and His ways, because Christ has made us one with God. Learn who He is, and consequently, who you now are in Him, and practice REMEMBRANCE. Renew your mind with the Word. Confess that you are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, NOT that you are a wicked sinner. What on earth did His blood accomplish then, if not making you white as snow AND a partaker of the divine nature? Do you think you now have to kill the flesh since the cross didn’t do the job? No, it accomplished all. Yes, it’s that simple, this scandalous Gospel! No killing of the flesh, no pious self denial, nothing…because it has been done. Jesus said take up your cross daily in reference to being hated, not in dealing with an ongoing sin nature. When Paul talks about holiness, it’s always, this is who He’s made you…now act like it. Not the other way around. Praise and glory to God and Christ who has set us free! If you are struggling with sin right now as a believer, let me be the first to tell you…that’s not who you really are. You are a saint because of what He has done. He has accomplished all you needed to be free. You don’t have to do that anymore because it’s not what you really want, and the person who used to want it is dead and gone. You ARE the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus! So practice the renewal of your mind with the Word, and know that you are totally, completely clean and new at all times. God bless!
(See Scriptures Below)
9For in him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10and in him you are made full, who is the head of all principality and power; 11in whom you were also circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ; 12having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
20If you died with Christ from the elements of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to ordinances,
1If then you were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God.
3For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Colossians 3:5 (NASB®)
5Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.
20I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me. That life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me.
24Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts.
14But far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
2May it never be. We who died to sin, how could we live in it any longer?
4We were buried therefore with him through baptism to death, that just like Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will also be part of his resurrection; 6knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be in bondage to sin.
8But if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him;
11In the same way, consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
6But now we have been discharged from the law, having died to that in which we were held; so that we serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter.
9But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if it is so that the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if any man does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not his.
2 Corinthians 5:14
14For the love of Christ constrains us; because we judge thus, that one died for all, therefore all died.
2 Corinthians 5:17
17Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Look, new things have come.
2 Timothy 2:11
11This saying is faithful: "For if we died with him, we will also live with him."
26I will also give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.
1 Corinthians 1:30
30And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption,
1 Cor 15:48-49
48As is the one made of dust, such are those who are also made of dust; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. 49As we have borne the image of those made of dust, let us also bear the image of the heavenly.
2 Peter 1:4
4by which he has granted to us his precious and exceedingly great promises; that through these you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world by lust.
9then he has said, "Look, I have come to do your will." He takes away the first, that he may establish the second, 10by which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
6and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
1 John 4:17
17In this love has been made perfect among us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because as he is, even so are we in this world.
Does a Christian have to obey God’s law? Some would say only the moral law, not the ceremonial/civil law. Some would cherry pick the ones that they think will keep the flock in line in today’s world and discard the rest. Others, would say no, but then subtlety put a “work hard” spin on their declaration of grace. (We don’t want to get too free now, do we?) The truth is, the law- moral, civil, ceremonial and everything in between –has been fulfilled FOR us by Jesus Christ. That is Good News! He stepped into humanity, and became your obedient response to God in everything. He then not only died for you, but as you, so in being raised would loose you from the power of sin and death forever. So, therefore, the answer to the question does a Christian have to obey God’s law is decidedly…they already have, apart from themselves. There is no further obligation. It is finished. We are free.
That is not freedom TO sin, but rather freedom FROM sin. I’m not saying that sin is now fine. I’m saying it’s been dealt with. I’m saying that a person is transformed into a new creature that no longer enjoys sinning when they trust in Christ. Obedience is the automatic fruit that grace will sprout. If you’ve been under subtle law preaching for a time, this Gospel of Grace will no doubt push some buttons of the religious strongholds that might have been established in your thinking. But the more you examine the unadulterated Good News, you begin to see there are indeed no strings attached. All the admonitions of holy living in the New Testament are to walk according to your new nature. Be who you already are. Not work at being holy so that you can please God. It’s been done for you, God made you new, so act like it. It’s simply a statement of true identity, of the fruit that will come from resting in the Vine.
Paul said everyone will be judged according to “my gospel” (Rom 2:16). Wow, that’s pretty bold…perhaps we should sit up and take notice of the revelation of Good News that Paul was preaching! Jesus Christ died for our sins, was buried, and raised up on the third day. There is forgiveness for all who trust in Him. That is Paul’s gospel…nothing but Christ and Him crucified. Nothing but pure grace. Ask God to give you a fresh revelation of this Good News. Ask Him to help you see where you are trying to perform for Him instead of simply enjoying Him. Ask Him to show you religious thinking and mindsets that need to be renewed by gazing upon the finished work of the cross. The more grace you understand, the more ecstatically joyful you become, and it is in that freedom that you bear copious fruit. It is in that freedom that you follow the Spirit in perfect love and effortless holiness. How far do you want grace to go? It goes further. This scandalous, glorious Good News is far better than anyone of us can comprehend. Drink deeply, brothers and sisters!
I think much of the time we go about our days unaware of the immense power working for us. It was Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians that they may know “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead…” Then it goes on to say that the church, his body, is the “fullness of him who fills all in all.” It’s easy to scan over that and miss the immense revelation. It’s so immense that I think we back away from receiving it. But Paul just stated that the power that raised Jesus from the dead is the exact same power at work toward and ultimately in us, as it says we are the fullness of Christ who fills us. No wonder Paul has to pray that people would get it!
That they may know. Not that they didn’t already have all the power working in them, but they just weren’t aware of it to the full degree. Out of all the things the apostle could have been praying for them, he prays they would have assurance (faith) that the power is there. Why do you think that would be so important to him? I think it’s because that power, that grace, is realized, or made manifest through belief. It is my prayer that we may know this immeasurably great power, and stop putting limits on what we believe God will do in and through us. This power now filling us, raised Jesus from the dead and caused his glorified human body to ascend out of our realm and into the throne room of heaven. Let’s start putting the bar a little higher on what we are capable of in Him!
If your dreams can be accomplished in the natural, it’s time to dream bigger. I challenge you to think of something you would love to do that seems utterly impossible, and actually dare to say to God that it is possible with Him. Then guard it like a tender shoot of faith so it won’t be trampled by naysayers. There is tremendous power working toward us, in us, and through us. Oh that we may know! What kinds of greater works might we actually then do? Would we be bold enough to dream of entire cities being saved? People they call unreachable being reached? Our own nation turning back to God? Would we be confident enough to trust that our old man is actually dead and we are a new creature, victorious over sin? Would we be brave enough to dream of clearing out hospitals or raising the dead? Would be daring enough to take the Good News to the marketplaces and streets, demonstrating the Kingdom with power? The fullness has already been given to us…we are “the fullness of Christ.” Oh that we may know!
A couple weeks ago my 3 year old watched a cartoon about ice skating and got an idea. He wanted to put on socks and “skate” around our wood floors. But he didn’t think I would let him do that. So, instead he thought of a worthy reason to ask for socks. “Mommy,” he said, “my feet are cold. Can I have some socks?” I went to get him socks and put them on him. As soon as he got them on, he began to try out his “skating “idea with a big grin. I knew then he had not told me the truth about why he wanted the socks. I asked him, “Son, were your feet really cold or did you just want the socks to skate around?” He admitted right away that his feet were not cold, and he just wanted the socks for skating. I asked him, “Son, did you not think mommy would give you socks for skating?” He nodded no. My heart sank. He hadn’t trusted me with his heart’s desire. He didn’t believe I would really grant him this just because it would make him happy. He thought I needed a loftier justification. It’s not like it was bad for him, he just thought it wouldn’t be important to mommy. Cold feet are important to mommy. So he went with that appeal.
And then I heard the Lord say in my heart, “You know, you do that with Me sometimes.” My heart sank again; as I realized times I had brought requests before Him based on a “worthy” justification, instead of just being honest about wanting something for happiness sake. Just like my son with me, I thought God needed a better, more Kingdom-oriented reason than just…Dad, would you do this for me? I’ve not even been aware at times of how I’ve approached Him on the basis of something being biblical, rather than like a child in need. He desires transparency, vulnerability, and honesty. I’m not saying returning Scripture to the Father in prayer isn’t good. I’m talking about hiding behind that. And that’s not good. That’s manipulation, not relation.
This is not “prosperity gospel”, “sugar daddy in the sky” nonsense either. I’m not saying God wants you to have a sense of self-centered entitlement or that your prayers should be from a place of selfish desire. I’m just talking about being honest with your Father about why you’re asking Him what you are asking. I’m talking about praying with faith- believing that He is a good Father who cares about YOU and everything that concerns you. He cares about your hobbies and interests, your everyday obstacles and activities, and your personal hopes and dreams. All things concerning you- so cast your cares. I would give my kid socks for skating, just to see him smile. And God is an infinitely more loving parent than I am. Scripture tells us that without faith, it is impossible to please God. Pray with faith. Pray with honesty. The purity of a prayer like that no doubt reaches His throne room as a pleasing fragrance of incense to His nostrils.
“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus toward you” (1 Thes 5:16-18).
I love statements like this in Scripture. Especially when we can so often over complicate our lives and our relationship with God. He has such simple, poignant ways of bringing us right back into childlike focus, like a breath of fresh air. We see that these three things are in fact keys to peace, as they are echoed in Phil 4:4-7, resulting in the peace of God. So where there is unrest or chaos, a lack of shalom in you, remember what God has made simple for His will that will move you into His peace.
To rejoice is to express joy. Let the expression of the joy of salvation be your lifestyle. Children are excellent models. They laugh hundreds more times a day than adults. They smile with ease. Their eyes are constantly glimmering with wonder. Christians should be the most radically joyful people on the planet. Let us practice the expression of our joy of the cross with childlike abandon! All your filthy sins have been removed! If thinking on THAT doesn’t make you want to either shout, do a jig, roll on the floor with laughter, or fall into blissful stupor I’m not sure what does. Rejoice in whatever manner is extravagant for you personally, but by all means, let it out!
PRAY WITHOUT CEASING
Prayer is simply paying attention to God. It’s the attentive open communication that occurs between you and Him. There is a place for carved out time alone with God in prayer, but that is not what is in view since we cannot do that without ceasing. What’s in view here is a constant communion with God as we attend to Him in all things. We are praying even when our hearts are in silent longing for the Lord. Just the simple awareness of His presence and the quiet attention we give the Spirit as we do even the most mundane of tasks is a form of prayer. This is how we pray incessantly. We enjoy Him and stay aware of Him in all things. It’s as simple as a small child who looks to mom or dad every moment of the day. It’s watchful dependency.
GIVE THANKS IN ALL
Giving thanks has such tremendous power. When we give thanks we are positioning ourselves for God to move us from glory to glory, as we make much of His Name. Not only does it posture us well, but it also does wonders for our perspective. Giving thanks radically transforms our attitude and aligns our thoughts with God’s Word. It is ultimately an expression of our faith in His goodness, no matter what circumstances actually look like. It places us in an attitude of humility as we give extravagant thanks for things that might go under-noticed if we’re thinking with entitlement. My kids are naturally thankful for the most seemingly insignificant things. They beam and bubble with thanks if I give them a sticker or take them outside on a pretty day. I want to be that thankful too. Let us appreciate every ounce of blessing the Father gives us, and lavish Him with radical thanks!
If you spend any amount of time online in today’s Christian blogshere, or if you even just Google any number of prominent preachers from any Christian stream, you are likely to come across some mud-slinging, witch hunting, trash talking, finger pointing drivel coming from what is supposed to be the Body of Christ. It doesn’t matter what stream they're in, someone somewhere has branded them a heretic and has devoted a lot of time and web space to making it known and handing over their head on a platter in the name of “truth”. Some even brand entire denominations heretical and condemn them straight to hell. It’s nothing new really. We’ve been burning each other at the stake for thousands of years over differences of beliefs. This makes my heart so sad. Aren’t they to know we are Christians by our love for one another?
Sound teaching is very important. But may we be careful how we approach the issue rather than biting and devouring each other. If someone truly needs to preach a more accurate Gospel, let’s pull them aside honorably and explain for them, as did Priscilla and Aquila with Apollos in Acts 18. If they still truly preach contrary to the Gospel as defined by 1 Cor 15:1-8, then of course they should be shunned. But that’s not what’s at issue here. People are being slandered because they disagree about soteriology or pneumatology or any number of doctrinal beliefs that are not the announcement that Jesus Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again. One day, all these differences won’t matter and there will only be faith, hope and love. And the greatest is love.
I pray that the Body would catch such a fire of grace for one another that we can begin to come alongside brothers and sisters that are far outside of our own camps to reach the ends of the earth with the glorious Announcement. I believe it’s already stirring, and that the Lord is beginning to bring greater unity in the Body as a whole. Let us put aside our own preferences for the sake of the King and the world that He is saving. Let us not fear losing our core values or cultures just because we join hands. There is such power and glory in the unity of the Body. Let us not think of ourselves as greater than we really are. You may actually learn from and be stretched by those unlike yourself. Better yet you may find that your weaknesses have been needing their strengths all along.
God gives us such incredible grace that we aren’t even able to fully grasp just how far it goes. When the Father looks at us, He sees the perfection of His Son. He IS love and Love hopes all things. He sees and calls out the best in us, which is Christ. He honors us, even when we have not been honorable. We are compelled by this kindness that leads us to a change of mind – metanoia, or repentance (Rom 2:4). This is precisely how we are to engage others- with nothing but the grace of honor. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think on these things.” Now Paul is encouraging them to meditate on godly things for the sake of receiving peace. While this is a general admonition, it certainly does include our thoughts concerning OTHERS.
When we look at others, it is at times very easy to see and even fixate on faults. But we should intentionally look for and fixate on that which is lovely in them, showing them the grace of honor that our Father extends to us because of Christ in us. When we call out the fruit in another, showing the Father’s kindness, we know that metanoia – the changing of mind, will follow. That is not to say that we should never confront sin. But even in our confrontation of sin, it is far more honorable to say, “Hey that’s not who Christ has made you now,” rather than fixating on the fault.
Husbands, call out the Christ in your wives. Mothers, call out the Christ in your children. Friends, call out the Christ in your brothers. Shepherds, call out the Christ in your sheep. Sheep, be intentional about honoring and seeing the Christ in your shepherds. Commit to intentionally seeking out the excellence of Christ in others, just as your Father does. Extend the grace of honor to every person, and see how Christ manifests both in them and in you.
Have you ever found yourself praying like this? “Lord, if it’s your will, heal me/them.” The heart is beautifully submitted in that prayer, but perhaps misguided. If you pray that prayer, I believe you love the Lord and want what He has for you, no matter what that looks like. But the problem is, the Lord has already instructed us that we are to pray like this: “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” No matter what your doctrine on suffering may be, we must pray that way. Even within the Reformed framework of God having two wills, “permissive versus perfect,” we are never to pray out of earthly possibilities of the “permissive will.” You have been instructed by Jesus to always pray out of the “perfect will.” In other words, if you pray for the “Lord’s will to be done” in any given situation, it better be attached to “as it is in heaven.” And if we’ve been instructed to pray that way- then we are also to believe that way.
There is no sickness in heaven. No matter what you believe about healing on earth, if you are a Christian, you cannot deny that sickness is not of heaven. And no matter what you believe about whether God is always “willing” to heal on this side of eternity, you also cannot deny the Lord’s instructions. He modeled for us to pray heaven to earth, and to persist in doing so. We aren’t even to consider “sovereign possibilities” but rather keep our minds fixed on the Word and the things of heaven where Christ- and you- are seated. It may sound noble to pray “if You’re willing” because you think God could want to refine you in sickness, but I want to encourage you to pray as Jesus told us to. He has made it clear what He wants us to pray for with assurance: always “as it is in heaven”.
© Copyright 2014 David and Kelly Macias. All rights reserved. Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures quoted on this site are taken from the New Heart English Bible, edited by Wayne A. Mitchell, public domain, 2008-2016.
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