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Entries in grace (40)

Wednesday
Jan132016

Why didn't God just start with grace?

Why didn't God just start with grace?   Why put His people through the Old Covenant Law with it's painfully exhaustive list of "do's and don't's?"  Why not go right to the good stuff?

Because the Law had a temporary, but genuinely merciful purpose. 


"WARNING, ACTIVE GRIZZLY AREA. STAY AWAY."

Our tour group was pulling over at a rest stop in Denali National Park, Alaska.   As we were getting out, our tour guide immediately cautioned that we were in active Grizzly habitat.  There was a sign about 300 feet away that read, "Warning, actively grizzly area.  Stay away."

If we had chosen to ignore the posted warning sign and gotten between a Grizzly sow and her cubs, the surgeon's needle sowing our scalps back on would have served as a painful reminder just how foolish it would have been to ignore the clear and present danger. Ignorance hurts.  Foolishness hurts even more.

Similarly, our medication bottles often come with a warning label saying, "Do not exceed recommended dosage."  The label itself cautions that there is something at risk: You.  But, "If one pill makes me feel good then five pills would make me feel great!"  Maybe so, but the intense vomiting or drug-induced coma that follows will be a painful reminder that sin hurts. 


The law was a temporary form of grace.
  The Old Covenant couldn't offer a cure for foolishness and the even greater pain of trying harder not to be so, but it mercifully made clear the painfulness of chosing against life.  Against health.  Against wholeness. 

We'd beg God to free us from chronic arguments with our spouse, the addiction to emotional eating, the pull of porn that won't let us go.  Sin hurts.  Ignoring the warning signs hurts.  And when it hurts that badly, you want help:  When you spin your wheels long enough, you want to stop the madness.

 

SO THE LAW CREATED A CRAVING FOR GRACE.

"As long as an intense longing for deliverance from sinning has not been wrought, they will naturally fall back into the power of the law and the flesh.  The holiness which the New Covenant offers will rather terrify than attract them..."  - Andrew Murray

Ask any addict or person who has tried harder to be a better person:  Grace is far more attractive to the powerless than it is to the prideful.  The Old Covenant Law's painful exposure mercifully ushered in a craving for authentic goodness, a desire to get out from underneath sin's manure pile.  Sin hurts.  Goodness restores us.  We'd beg God to free us from something that had a hold over us.

Law created a craving for grace. 

 

Monday
Aug052013

How we accuse our hearts of all kinds of things...

Too often, when we talk about "the heart," we tend to view the heart as our entire internal world; that is, anything and everything that's going on inside of us - whether good, bad or ugly.  This catch-all, kitchen sink view of the heart has led us in some really unhelpful directions. 

Notice how we often frame what's going on inside of us:

  1. "I had to really examine the motives of my heart."

  2. "My stubbornness means that I have a 'divided heart.'"

  3. "You haven't given your whole heart to God."

In each of these instances, the accusation is clear:  Your heart will mislead you.  It is not to be trusted.

This simply isn't true. Your new and noble heart isn't capable of deceiving you or leading you astray.  Let's look at each claim:

1.  "I had to really examine the motives of my heart." 
Yes, you may have poor motives in this or that situation, but those corrupt motives are not originating from your new heart:  They emanate from your flesh - the old programming left over by your old self, or the "old man."  That old self is no longer here; but it's imprint was left behind.  That is where your faulty motives lie.

Another source of bad motives comes from the virus that lives in your body:  sin.  Notice that I didn't say your "sin nature."  Why?  Because you no longer have a sin-nature.  After your sin-nature was removed at conversion, there remained a sin virus that can leave collateral damage in its wake, but it cannot become you; and it isn't you; just as you might have the flu, but are not the virus itself.

A third source of bad motives comes from the Enemy of our hearts.  The foul beings will quietly come up beside you and whisper in your ear all manner of wicked things, and pin those thoughts on you!

2.  "My stubbornness means that I have a 'divided heart.'" 
No.  You don't have a divided heart.  Your new spirit [heart/will] may be in conflict with your flesh, but your heart [true nature] itself is united with Christ and inseparable from his nature.  There is no separation between your heart and his: One cannot be distinguished from the other.  As Luther declared, “You are so entirely joined unto Christ, that He and you are made as it were one person; so that you may boldly say, ‘I am one with Christ,’ that is to say, Christ’s righteousness, victory, and life are mine.”  Because his heart cannot be divided, yours cannot be divided.

3.  "You haven't given your whole heart to God." 
False.  It was never about giving your heart to God.  [Surprised?] Jesus wasn't asking you to offer him your old heart:  He was asking you to receive!   The heart you used to have wouldn't have done you or Him much good.  It was beyond repair and needed to be replaced.  Not fixed; but replaced.  "Getting saved" wasn't about offering a ruined and wayward heart to God, hoping that he'd fix it one day:  Rather, it was about receiving a new-hearted nature from God.  It has always been first about receiving.  He doesn't require anything from you that he hasn't already deposited within you. [1]

 

Try this:  For three days, write down some of your own internal dialogue about your heart and its motives.  What are you accusing your heart of?  What's the real source of those undesirable thoughts or motives?  Then apologize to your heart:  There's no shame in this:  After all, its no longer in your heart to accuse your heart anyway. 

 

[1] Dwight Edwards, Revolution Within

Thursday
Jan312013

Video: Healing From "I'm Never Enough."

In this teaching video, I share one of the biggest barriers to moving out of a shame-consciousness ["I'm never enough."] towards a new-hearted, confident consciousness that believes that, despite the mess on the surface, God has removed an incapacitated heart and replaced it with one whose growing reserves of strength, goodness and nobility are being grown and released by the Holy Spirit, setting us free from the things that pin our hearts down.

 

Wednesday
Jan092013

Video: How Preaching Has Failed Us

Most preaching and Christian teaching today leads us to expect to sin.  Jim contrasts this typical understanding of preaching with a New Covenant/New Heart approach that views preaching as a means of affirming and releasing [with the help of the Spirit] the new-hearted desires, appetites, and tendencies that now reside in the Christian's heart. 

New Covenant preaching expects that there is a new-hearted goodness that is awaiting nourishment and release [through community and the Spirit] - a goodness that will grow stronger than any fleshly appetites.

 

View E-book:  "No Longer Prone to Wander"

 

Monday
Dec312012

Grace and royalty have the right to you claim you: A lesson from "Kingdom of Heaven."

 


"I'm your priest, Balian; and I tell you, God has abandoned you...The village does not want you."  - village priest

 

Balian [Orlando Bloom] and Godfrey, Baron of Ibelin [Liam Neeson]

 
"Murder.  I've done murder.
"  - Balian the Blacksmith

Balian [Orlando Bloom] is a blacksmith, whose wife has died of suicide.  Unbeknownst to Balian, she was beheaded post-humously [for being a suicide] by the wicked village priest  who, rather than consoling the grieving Balian, assures him that God has abandoned him and the village has rejected him. 

Balian's true father [Liam Neeson], a man he's never met, is Godfrey, Baron of Ibelin; and has just come to the village to reach out to Balian and to invite him to follow him into the Crusades, joining the baron's small band of warriors.  Balian refuses to go.  He has no desire to know his father, Baron of Ibelin; nor to move beyond the world he knows.  After all, he's just buried his wife.

 

The crime

The scene escalates as Balian discovers that the wicked town priest has cut off his wife's head just before burial, claiming it was punishment for the sin of suicide and that his wife would certainly be in hell for it.  In a fit of striken horror, Balian runs a sword through the priest, killing him.  After murdering the priest, leaving his blacksmith shop to burn, Balian flees town to see if he can catch up with his father, Baron of Ibelin, on the road.

The Law would claim him

Balian catches up with his father, Baron of Ibelin, on the road, and confesses the murder to him. But the law has sent a hunting party for Balian.  The law has come for him so that he may face charges for murdering the priest.  Even knowing his son's sin, his father still won't give him over to the Law; and they quickly discover themselves ambushed by the hunting party. 

Half of the baron's warrior band is slain.  When the dust settles, Balian reminds his father,

"They had the right to take me."


His father replies,

"And so do I."

 


Notice three things:

  1. Balian the blacksmith doesn't realize there is royalty in his blood.

  2. The Law will always try to claim you.

  3. Grace, his true Father, also has the right to claim him. 

 

 

 

Tuesday
Nov272012

Reacting to a threat that no longer exists. 

My good friend,  Joel Brueseke of Graceroots Podcast, invited me to guest-podcast on his series.  [Thanks, Joel!]

What can we learn from the mistakes of a tribe in the Sudan of Africa about letting go of threats that no longer exist? 

Too many Christians believe that a threatening sickness lies in their heart and needs to be extracted - much like the Dinka tribe of the Sudan painfully extracts their children's adult teeth with a crude fishhook in order to remove a threat that no longer exists.

You can read an earlier post I've written on this curious practice of the Dinka tribe here.

 


LISTEN:  Here's my guest podcast on GraceRoots/  "Treating a threat that no longer exists."

 

 

Tuesday
Oct302012

Podcast: Part 2- "Revolution Within" - Jim interviews best-selling author Dwight Edwards

PODCAST:  "REVOLUTION WITHIN" -  Part 2, with guest author Dwight Edwards

As Dwight Edwards suggested in Part One of our podcast, the un-pressured Christian life is about releasing the good God has placed within us rather than trying to get something fixed.

Then what are the new resources of powerful goodness awaiting release within our new Christ-given nature?

 

 

 

In Part Two of our converstion, Dwight and I talk about four resources of our new -hearted nature:

A new purity

A new identity

A new disposition

A new power

....................................................................................................................

Podcast:  "REVOLUTION WITHIN" -Part 2-  Jim interviews best-selling author, Dwight Edwards, about his book, "Revolution Within."  [Part 2]

 

 

[For Dwight's books and resources, go to his website:  Kindling for the Fire.]

*Listen to Part One here, if you missed it.

....................................................................................................................


 
LISTEN ON iTunes

Monday
Jul232012

New podcast: "If I really do have a good and noble heart, then why does the evidence seem to suggest otherwise?" -Guest Joel Brueske joins Jim.

Joel Brueseke [see his insightful GraceRoots podcast] joins me as we try to offer encouragement for Christians who do want to believe that their heart is now good and noble because of Christ's redeeming work for them, but who continue to struggle to live from that new-hearted goodness.


Podcast:  "If I really do have a good and noble heart, then why does the evidence seem to suggest otherwise?"  [Special guest, Joel Brueseke of GraceRoots.com]

 

 

In the podcast, Joel and I address:

  • Why does my experience seem to suggest my heart really isn't good, noble and true?

  • Why truth must drive experience and not the other way around.

  • What about us is "finished" and what is still "unfinished?"

  • What happened to the "Accuser" in our worldview?  "Warfare" has been grossly abused in the Church, but for the sake of our hearts, the idea is worth revisiting.

  • Why multiple exposures to the truth is necessary so that our minds, emotions and bodies can catch up to the truth about our new and noble hearts.

  • Should you leave a church that preaches a performance-based, "bad-heart" message?

  • Resources for finding new-hearted community and messages. 

................................................................................................................

You can find new-hearted community - people who want to live from their good and noble heart - on the "COMMUNITY" page on my website.  The focus is simple:

1.  Where are you finding it difficult to live from your good and noble heart?

2.  Where are you finding encouragement to live from your good and noble heart?

Tuesday
Jul102012

From borrowed righteousness to actual righteousness: That's the point.

Many Christians end up thinking that the goodness they possess doesn't really belong to them -- that it's only Jesus being good within and through them that counts; as if Jesus dwells within them, but alongside a still faithless or tainted heart.  

They assume that they themselves couldn't possibly be good:  It's just Jesus indwelling that makes them so.   The hope is that they're simply banking on Jesus' righteousness within them: because all the faithfulness and purity appears only on Jesus' side of the ledger and none on their side.

While our goodness is exclusively the gift of Jesus to us, and must always be the result of grace, his goodness has become our actual goodness.  That's the point of the New Covenant.

The Old Covenant system of sacrifices could not do two things:

1.  It couldn’t take away a person’s sin or wash the guilt away.

2.  The Old Covenant sacrifices could only lend the person a temporary and outward righteousness:

“The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God.”

“The law … can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they [the sacrifices] not have stopped being offered? For the worshippers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins.” “…because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” (Heb. 10: 1,2,3,4)


Under the old way of relating to God, the worshippers borrowed righteousness through the sacrificial system, but it never really made them righteous.  Because of your union with Jesus, his goodness has become your goodness. 

We have shifted from borrowed to actual. 

Wednesday
Jun272012

A reader's response: "After all this time, why am I still struggling to live from my new heart?"

A reader's reaction to my recent post, "Why Do Your Best Is Exactly What the Enemy Wants."  Many of you will find her honesty refreshing:

Jim, thank you for what you said in this newsletter. This speaks to part of my struggle. I've been struggling with circumstances lately that have made me feel really bad about my seeming lack of faith. I tried it for 7 years in the system and left. When I found people online showing me better answers, I left the system full of hope at the time.

Now 5 years later, I'm realizing I don't 'get' living IN Christ much better than I ever did. Oh, sure I can talk a good talk about it, but I'm not doing so well at actually walking it. I think what you speak of, learning to live from the new heart, is still a hindrance to many people because we don't believe, deep down, that God really, truly loves us, accepts us, and thinks well of us.

I'm not sure how much time this is supposed to take. You'd think after 5 years I'd 'get it' better, and I've even had other 'outside the box' Christians imply such to me. I'm not sure what the trick is to 'getting it' that God loves and accepts me, but I haven't found the key yet.

Please understand I'm not looking for advice or tips on how to 'get it.' I think I've already heard it all. I guess I just wanted to tell you this because you're a fellow introvert and you do get that. And as an introvert, you're not likely to take a "just do it" fix to a heart problem. Maybe there's some conversation out there to be had on this... maybe I'm not the only one...

....................................................................................................................

Note:  I'll have more to say later on why I think it's so hard to live from our new hearts and what the nature of that battle is.

Friday
Jun222012

The King has granted you "Naud." What Celtic lore knows about law and forgiveness.

What do you do when you don't get justice for the wrongs done to you? 
- When the King seems more interested in pardonning your abuser than making sure you get justice?

 

The betrayer claims "naud:"
Everyone knew that Paladyr, the murderous betrayer, would receive the death penalty for what he had done to them:  Stabbing his former king through the ribs - slicing the cold blade into the king's heart; then setting fire to a village that killed twenty-five, including young infants choking on acrid smoke as they burned while they slept in thatched huts; and joining ranks with the king's wicked son who raped, burned and slaughtered innocent life.

When they captured Paladyr, only a death sentence would satisfy the villagers' grief.  But to the horror of every widow, every father of a burned child and everyone watching, Paladyr claimed "naud" of the High King, and the king granted it.
.................................................................................................................

In Stephen Lawhead's book, The Endless Knot [Part Three of his Song of Albion Trilogy],  we watch as the wicked Paladyr stands before the Aird Righ, the new High King, arrogantly claiming the clemency and grace of "naud" - which if granted, would instantly erase his crimes; and with that, the hope of justice for the wounded.  There would be no satisfaction for the mother whose daughter was thrown from the high cliffs as Paladyr tossed her onto the bone-splintering rocks below; nor any justice for the father whose baby lay under charred timbers.

Yet Paladyr didn't ask for the mercy of "naud" out of repentence or sorrow for his crimes:  He isn't the humbled prodigal son:  He asked because a bizarre twist of the laws of Albion gave him that option.  In effect, "this personal feature of justice means that the guilty man can make a claim on the king which he has no right to make:  naud."

If the King refuses mercy
Granting "naud" to a criminal put the king's own reputation at stake:  if he refused to grant mercy, "the king effectively declared himself inferior to the criminal" because his grace couldn't surpass the criminal's wickedness.  It would give the impression that the king's power and sovereignty would have limits:  In effect, the king's authority would be constrained by the strict letter of the law, binding the king's authority to the narrow rights and wrongs, consequence and punishment the law demanded.  In effect, not granting mercy/naud tied the king's hands to the law, making the King a servant of the law, rather than Sovereign over it.

If the King grants mercy
If, on the other hand, the king did grant pardon, allowing naud, his mercy would be seen as greater than than the crimes...extending his sovereignty beyond the guilty one's offenses.  Because the king himself is justice incarnate, his choice to grant naud supercedes the strict letter of the law.  He is able to grant mercy over and against a forensic, "eye for an eye" unforgiving legalism. 

Because the High King of Albion did chose to grant the mercy of "naud" to Paladyr, the angry crowds' cry for justice found an unlikely answer:    When the High King granted "naud" to the beligerant Paladyr, the king says that "in essence, I had been asked to absorb the crime into myself."  

The truth behind the analogy
Does this not strike you as oddly familiar?  Under the grace of Jesus' reign, justice is no longer a written code of sin and sanctions.  Rather, Jesus, because he IS justice in the flesh, [as Lawhead says, "justice wears a human face"] isn't obligated to mete out justice according to a rigid adherence to a legal code:  Rather, Jesus' authority supercedes the legal code:  "The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."  [2 Cor. 3:6]   God isn't obligated under law to dole out punishment equal to the crime, nor any punishment at all.  He has granted us a peculiar gift of his sovereignty:  he has given us the outrageous right to "claim naud" of him.

Justice absorbs the crime into Himself.  The Cross is our claim to "naud."

Monday
May212012

"Fully-Devoted" and Quietly Ashamed: How some Christian books crush the heart with pressure tactics.

Pop Christianity's message of "commitment"
Popular Christian books come with a clear message:  "You are lukewarm at best; on the fence with Jesus and far from a "fully-devoted follower."  You're keeping Jesus at arms'-length because you're too busy or too apathetic.  You're not fully-surrendered to Christ." 

Serving up a diet of pressure, "conviction," and self-deprecation, these pop-Christian books will have you nervously reconsidering whether you're a radically committed "fully-devoted follower" of Jesus or merely a "fan" watching casually from the stands.  The author's "wake-up call" will admonish you to "up your game" and "ratchet up your commitment" with the same suffocating judicial strong-arming the Accuser himself delights in. Their message is built upon this core assumption:  "Your heart, Christian, is naturally unfaithful and it is our job to point that out to you."

Exposure disquised as truth-telling
These popular books delight in exposing you.... reaching in to rip your spiritual fig leaves off, leaving you naked and branded for spiritual adultery.  "Step up your commitment.  Get off the fence." The authors use pressure disguised as "admonishment" and "truth-telling" to lay bare your lack of spiritual fervor.

Here's one reader's comment on a recent popular Christian book she read:

I feel this is a great book to get you really thinking about your relationship with God. Am I "all-in"? Am I committed? Am I a fan, or an "enthusiastic admirer," that is running lukewarm for Christ, instead of on fire?

The reader's comment continues...

In all honesty, this book revealed to me that I'm not 100% completely committed. When I'm honest, I put other things before God. Not all the time, but sometimes. Do I surrender all? Do I die to self everyday? It's sad to say the answer to these questions is . . . no. I can be full of pride, I can be selfish, I can be judgmental. I'm a sinner...

Why do authors and pastors write these books?
Can we live from the flesh and get apathetic, succumbing to a myopic view of other's needs?  Of course.  But the problem doesn't lie in the commitment or faithfulness of your heart - for the heart that was "prone to wander" has been replaced with a thoroughly good...and faithful heart.  [Ezek. 36:26]

I think one of the reasons there are so many Christian books designed to expose our lack of commitment to being "radical followers" is precisely because those leaders believe the Christian's heart remains "prone to wander" and therefore prone to apathy and lukewarm commitment. The authors are writing books based upon outdated assumptions, treating a threat [a diseased nature] that no longer exists - like vaccinating people against small pox even though that disease was declared wiped out worldwide by 1979.

Rather than assuming the believer's heart needs scolding and judicial exposure, they need to acknowledge that Christ has decisively removed the old, unfaithful heart, and replaced it with a new heart that will gladly move in love and devotion towards God and others if they'll just stop scolding it.

Related posts:

 

Note:  I don't fault pastors for what they believe - they're simply teaching what they've been taught.  However, a refusal to question our assumptions about the Christian's heart will lead to more defeated and less Christ-like followers.  A pressured focus on law inflames sin rather than constraining it.

Wednesday
Mar212012

Are you costume jewelry or tarnished silver?

As Dwight Edwards, author of Revolution Within suggests,

Costume jewelry is essentially worthless metal covered with an attractive coating.  So many believers see themselves in that way - sinners through and through, yet covered by the blood of Christ...

Tarnished silver is a much truer image of who we are after conversion. 

In "good and noble heart" vernacular, the Christian's heart or true tendency is pure and untainted now, the old diseased heart having been removed and replaced by a completely radiant heart containing no trace elements of sin. 

That noble heart may be surrounded by a tarnished layer called, "the flesh" - sinful residual programming leftover even after our old heart was removed; but that tarnish does not penetrate to the level of the new heart.  Why? Because your new heart [unblemished silver] is no longer compatible with sin [tarnish].  In fact, your heart propels sin away from it.  The unfiltered radiant wattage of your new heart dispels the darkness of the flesh.  ["Light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it, right?]

 

Related posts:

Video:  "THE PRONE TO WANDER MYTH."

Blog:  "Your Heart Is Not A Ship Off-Course."

Blog:  "Sin Is No Longer A Heart Issue."

 

 

Wednesday
Mar142012

Your new heart is as holy as it ever will be.

Your new nature is fully-completed. 

Your heart is not growing in holiness because it doesn't have to; it is already as holy as it ever will be.  A bucket overflowing can't get any more full.  Even among Christians who believe God has made them new creations, giving them his righteousness, there's a great deal of confusion over this issue.  

Most Christians think their heart is somewhat holier now with a moderate level of improved goodness, but probably isn't thoroughly, 100%, good.  So they mistakenly believe their nature will continue to improve with time.

This view short-changes the biblical view of our new nature.  As a Christian, your nature is no longer fallen or in need of improvement: It is as steadfast towards God as Jesus' heart is.  Your heart no longer possesses false convictions about God, nor harbors any deceit.  Nor is your heart easily mislead or self-centered. 

Replaced
The old heart that did possess false convictions, deceit and mistaken conclusions about life was replaced.  Not tweaked, not altered or improved.  REPLACED.  It's gone. 

After surgery, Jesus didn't leave the removed heart just lying around your interior world like a rotting organ left in a trash bin after surgery:  That old nature is gone.  Flash-obliterated:  Burned up by his righteousness.

Your completely-new heart only possesses the noble DNA of Jesus and his convictions.

The real question is,

"Then why do Christians still sin?" 

The answer is because the life in our new heart has yet to reach the creases of our mind, our choices and convictions.  The process of sanctification has nothing to do with our hearts growing in goodness:  Our hearts couldn't be more true and noble than they are now.  Rather, sanctification has everything to do with our actions, convictions and relational patterns coming into alignment with that new heart and its goodness.

[There is also our flesh, but that too is no longer your identity.  And the Spirit wages war against the flesh, not you.]

Jesus does not give approximations or half-solutions:
Our new hearts don’t simply possess a purity like Jesus had:  They possess the actual purity Jesus had, his DNA.  Our purity is not an approximation of what Jesus possessed:  It IS the purity Jesus possessed.

 

Wednesday
Mar072012

Sin is no longer a heart issue.

Bottom line:  Your heart is no longer compatible with sin.  Sin cannot penetrate your heart.  Jesus now lives within your heart, and he isn't compatible with sin.

Your new heart in Christ deflects sin rather than absorbing it!

A friend and I were reflecting on a sermon we had recently heard in which the pastor was urging  people to be more honest in their relationships and toward God. The pastor concluded that the reason people (he was speaking primarily to Christians) are not as honest as they should be was because of a deep-seated condition: “It’s a heart problem,” the pastor said.


So, as my friend and I sat smoking cigars (some of my best conversations have been over a good cigar), I asked him: “What did you think about the pastor’s statement—that it’s a “heart problem.” Is he right?


While my friend paused to think through it, I asked another question: “Is it a heart problem or a flesh problem?” As we talked through it, we agreed that it was, in fact, a struggle with the flesh, or old programming, not with the heart.

When I told my friend that his heart was now pure because of Christ, he  immediately felt a sense of pressure lift from him. Christians may be slow to live from their hearts, but sin is never a “heart problem” in the believer: sin is a flesh problem. As Christians, we don’t reject our hearts: we reject (consider as dead) our flesh through Christ’s cross.

[Excerpted from Jim's book, RECOVER YOUR GOOD HEART.]

Tuesday
Feb282012

Your heart is more faithful than you think.  

On another forum, I recently posed the question:  "As a Christian, do you believe your heart is still 'prone to wander?"  -- still in danger of being unfaithful to God, in other words.

Reader:
"Yes - by experiance I do believe that although I have a new heart, my old man battles against it.  Therefore Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.  I believe that it is a constant choice to offer my heart up to God. That HE might take and seal it afresh and anew for the courts above.  If my heart was not prone to wander I believe that I  would not have to choose this day who to serve."

 

Jim:
When God gave you a new heart, why would he give you one that was still prone to wander?  Wouldn't that leave us exactly where we were before?  It would serve him better to give us a heart that was now steadfast and faithful to him.  Otherwise, that "changed heart" or new creation really isn't all that changed. 

You might be surprised to learn that it's not your new heart that wanders -- it's your flesh; and in fact Paul says your flesh no longer represents the true you.  You can still sin, or course; but your new heart no longer wants to.  Your heart/will is already dedicated to His will because Jesus actually replaced that wandering heart with his own heart and purity.

Although your flesh is at war with the Spirit, your heart is not.  This actually isn't a new message at all:  It's the classic Christian doctrine of "regeneration."  In my book, I point out folks from Martin Luther to J.I. Packer who talk about this surprising biblical truth.

We no longer have to daily recommit our heart out of fear that it will wander off.  Jesus didn't have to do that.  He worshipped God with all his heart certainly, but didn't feel anxious about having to constantly renew his faithfulness to God.  His DNA is now in your heart.

..........................................................................................................................

[Note:  As we talked more, the other person and I seemed to be tracking more together; yet I realized that there's often the acknowledgement of a new heart without understanding the quite radical implications of that new identity.   We often want to cling to the dirt in our lives far more than we want to celebrate the radical goodness Jesus has given us.]

Tuesday
Feb212012

Kids Are Not Cattle 

Thursday
Feb162012

What's the opposite of grace?

The opposite of grace is reciprocity.
You owe God nothing: Obligation isn't a part of grace. Love is, but not obligation.

The opposite of grace is pardon alone. 
The version of Christianity we have today is cruel: It amounts to pardon without palingenesis [i.e. regeneration].   [- Pull that puppy out at your next gathering and you're sure to impress. ] 

"Palin" means "again." "Genesis" means 'birth.' Grace without restoration is cruel; like releasing a man from prison without giving him new internal desires and capacities. Grace has gone beyond forgiveness (pardon) to giving the Christ-follower a new and supernaturally-good heart.

The opposite of grace is rationalization.
Rationalization and self-defense only inhibit our ability to receive.

The opposite of grace is self-improvement.  Growing into a new God-given goodness and radiance, yes.  Even professional mastery, yes.  But efforts at improving our core nature, no.  Why try to be loving when God has made you loving? 

New behaviors [outward signs of an inward renovation] will flow when we cooperate with God as he releases our new super-natural goodness. 

"When you clean the inside of the cup, the outside will also be clean."  - Jesus. 
[Behavior follows heart.]

Saturday
Feb112012

Louder doesn't mean truer: Why your false desires shout false things.

"But it feels like I really want that.  How can I enjoy my good and noble heart when I still want the things that trip me up?"

What happens when you hear the message that your heart has been made good and true in Christ, yet your desires pull you in the opposite direction?

  • That desire that seduces you?

  • That pseudo-addiction you "can't help"?

  • The anger at your kids that seems so...automatic?

Here's the problem
We've been taught that powerful feelings and attachments must be true of us.  The louder those feelings shout, the more true we think they are.  We've allowed feelings to be the cornerstone of our identity, rather than God's redemptive assessment of us. 

We mistakenly think that:

If I feel I want that other woman, it must be true that I want her.

If I can't let go of anger, it means my anger must be stronger than my patience.

If I can't let go of control, it means I must be a controlling person who can't let go.

It's destructive circular thinking:  "Because I experience a powerful pull, I must want that.  Worse, I must be the kind of person that wants that."

Here's the lie:  "Yeah, the 'good and noble heart' is a nice ideal; but you're not there yet.  There's no real power in it."

We've forgotten what God knows about us:  That those dishonorable desires are no longer us.  We have a new set of desires waiting to be released within our new hearts.  More accurately, the Holy Spirit is right now in the process of releasing those new and noble desires within us.


Here's how God might answer your doubts:

"You are my son [daughter] in whom I am SO-pleased!  Yes, you may have those wayward desires, but they are no longer you.  You have them, but they no longer have you.  Celebrate the new power, new resources, and new desires I'm now releasing in your good heart."

 

Wednesday
Feb012012

Video: "Relating Without Control"

Most of our relationships end up being "If ___, then" relationships, based upon control and compliance. We offer love and delight only when our expectations are being met. It's hurting our families and our kids.