Spiritual growth comes through faith not works

“Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal 3:3)

How do we grow as a Christian? Is it through ascetic practices, being more disciplined than we once were, or by keeping the Law to a greater extent?

Salvation comes through faith not by works. We are justified in God’s sight through the work of Christ on our behalf when we exercise faith in Jesus’ work on our behalf.

If we are saved/justified by faith, we are also sanctified by faith. We don’t come to Christ through faith, then grow in righteousness through our works. No, we grow as a believer, putting off the old and putting on the new through faith in Jesus’ work on our behalf and the Spirit’s work in our life.

It is the Spirit who works in us to bring to mind our sin. He also works to change our desires so that over time, or in some instances in a moment, no longer desire the things of the world. We live for and long for the things of God.

Beating our body into submission through ascetic practices will not work. The desires of our flesh is strong. For thousands of years, the law didn’t work to make man righteous. We need Jesus’ justifying work and we need the Spirit’s sanctifying work in order to grow in righteousness.

You can’t earn your salvation

“yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” (Gal 2:16)

God’s Word could not be more explicit — works of the law do not provide us with salvation. Right now, if you are working for your salvation, you will never gain it. You will never do enough to make yourself righteous in the sight of God. You can’t because you are infected with sin. You are totally corrupted by sin. Sins mark is on you and you cannot remove it in and of yourself. Sin is like a 500 lb gorilla on your back that you don’t know is there but you are carrying it around. Even if you knew it was there, you could not remove it yourselves.

However, all is not lost. We can experience salvation and release from the bondage of sin. Not through our actions, but through Jesus — the perfect God man — to substitute His Work and perfection for our works and imperfection. By faith in Jesus’ work on our behalf we are saved. We are justified through Jesus’ work. Justified is a legal term that means we are declared righteous before God. It is not that we are actually righteous in and of ourselves, but a declaration of righteousness is pronounced on us through our faith in Jesus’ right action on our part.

If you are struggling to save yourselves, stop struggling because it will never happen. If you are living in anxiety constantly wondering if you have done enough to please God, listen to your anxiety and wonder. It is telling you something. It is telling you that the system you are using for self-salvation is not working. You can’t earn salvation. It is only through faith in Jesus’ work that we are justified.

Instead of trusting in a new year, trust in the Lord.

“Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!” (Psalm 4:1)

Today marks the beginning of 2021. For many of us, we are hoping it is a better year than 2020. A vaccine promises relief from the Corona Virus, a return to work, activity, and visiting with family and friends. A new year marks a new beginning, new resolutions, and new goals.

While 2021 offers us a new start, we must not put our hope in the turn of a calendar page. Though it is January 1, 2021, a new year, it is just another day. Another day with its own successes and problems. Distress, anxiety, and all our problems haven’t disappeared because the date turned over.

Instead of trusting in a new year for relief, trust in the One who can and does provide relief. Place your trust in the Lord. The God of the universe. The One who pours His immeasurable grace out on us and who answers our prayers.

Instead of trusting in a new year, trust in the Lord.

Giving financially changes us and brings God glory

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor 9:7)

“Tithers make up only 10-25 percent of a normal congregation. Only 5 percent of the U.S. tithes, with 80 percent of Americans only giving 2 percent of their income. Christians are only giving at 2.5 percent per capita, while during the Great Depression they gave at a 3.3 percent rate.

But if believers were to increase their giving to a minimum of, let’s say, 10 percent. There would be an additional $165 billion for churches to use and distribute.” (1)

An additional $165 billion is huge! Global hunger could be relieved. We could eliminate deaths from starvation and preventable diseases. Illiteracy could be erased. Water and sanitation issues would be solved. Overseas missions work could be fully funded. There would still be an additional 100 billion left for ministry expansion. (1)

We could accomplish a lot if we were to give.

I don’t present these statistics to compel you to give beyond your hearts desire. Instead, I present them to show you what you could accomplish if you were to purpose in your heart to give faithfully.

But in order for us to be cheerful givers, we have to understand why and what our giving can accomplish, hence the numbers above. We also have to understand that the Lord is the one who cares for us. Verse 8 reads:

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” (2 Cor 9:8)

Why don’t we give? We don’t give because we don’t trust the Lord. We don’t believe He will continue to provide for us nor do we believe we can make it on 90%. But He can and we will. The Lord is the One who actually provides us with 100% of our income (2 Cor 9:10). He can provide what we need to care for ourselves and our families, we just need to trust that He will provide. One way we show our trust is by giving.

But we aren’t to give reluctantly just so we will get from the Lord. That is what the prosperity gospel teaches. Instead, we are to give out of a cheerful heart because we are thankful for how God has provided. As well as we give to bring God glory. When we exercise our trust through giving, we bring God glory by proclaiming to others we believe God is able to provide for our needs and care for us with our 90% instead of our 100%.

When we see God care for us as we give away a portion of our income, our trust in Him will grow and our heart for giving will grow too. Not only will we experience change as we give, but we will also change the world with our giving.

Will you begin giving in 2021 for your own heart and the world’s needs?

(1) http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/what-would-happen-if-church-tithed

Godly grief is healthy grief, it produces repentance and growth in Christlikeness

“As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.” (2 Cor 7:9)

One of the things wrong with today’s society is the desire not to offend or cause someone grief. We go out of our way to make others comfortable, even if making them uncomfortable for a time is what is best.

I believe these desires are birthed out of selfishness not love. We selfishly don’t want others to tell what we are doing wrong, nor do we want to deal with the difficultly that comes with telling others they are acting in the wrong. Conflict, even if it is good and healthy, is difficult. We have become a society, a people, who avoids conflict at all costs, even if it means not doing what is best for another.

Paul, however, didn’t avoid conflict. He spoke the truth in love to the Corinthians. It grieved them for a time, but Paul rejoices because it resulted in repentance and growth in Christlikeness. His words of love caused them to turn from their sin. They ultimately resulted in them living in community in unity with others in a way that builds others up rather than tears down.

I believe if we are going to grow as the church, we must get to a place where we are ok with causing others godly grief. Accountability, speaking the truth in love to others, is biblical, as well as it is necessary. We will never grow if others don’t tell us how we need to grow.

Godly grief is healthy grief, it produces repentance and growth in Christlikeness.

When the gospel is faithfully preached, taught, and lived, its your affections that restrict you

“You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections.” (2 Cor 6:12)

When the gospel is faithfully proclaimed, taught, and lived it’s not the person proclaiming, teaching, and living that restricts others from following God’s Word. Instead, it is the person’s affections that restrict them from turning to the Lord.

Affections refer to what we love. They determine what we are drawn to and what captures our attention. When we refuse to turn to the Lord, our affections are captured by something or someone else.

If we claim to be Christian, we must allow Jesus and Jesus alone to capture our attention. We shouldn’t be drawn to anyone or anything else but Him.

When the gospel is being faithfully proclaimed, taught, and lived, that which restricts someone from coming to Christ or following Him in obedience is their own affections. To what are your affections given? Are they given to the world? Are they given to something or someone more than to Jesus? God desires our heart, our affections, our love.