Category Archives: The Way We Live Toward Others

Grace Prevails

There is a song out by Matthew West entitled, “Grace Wins.”
The words are powerful, the concept beautiful, here are the lyrics from part of the song:
“For the Prodigal son
Grace Wins
For the Woman at the well
Grace Wins
For the blind men and the beggar
Grace Wins
For always and forever
Grace Wins
For the lost out on the street
Grace Wins
For the worst part of you and me
Grace Wins
For the thief on the cross
Grace Wins
For the world that is lost
Grace Wins
There’s a war between guilt and grace
And they’re fighting for a sacred space
But i’m living proof
Grace wins every time”

As a person who writes and speaks, i am keenly aware of how important it is to define the words we use.

Traditional definition of GRACE – the free and unmerited favor of God.

Dallas Willard – “GRACE is not opposed to effort, but to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action. Grace is not just about forgiveness — if we had never sinned we would still need grace! GRACE is God acting in our life to do what we cannot do on our own. Grace is what we live by, and the human system won’t work without it.”
When God chose to act on our behalf, in the person of Jesus, He did what we could not do. That grace existed because of the very nature of our God, [who He is] and it shapes our relationship with God. We can not have a relationship with God apart from the GRACE of God in Jesus.
GRACE is God’s action in our lives. GRACE is not a once and done, rather it is a consistent living into. Relationships are constantly changing, either growing together or growing apart. God’s grace/action in our lives is designed to draw us closer in our relationship with God. When we refuse to accept this grace/action and choose our own will/way, we grow apart-the relationship suffers. This growing apart does not lessen God’s grace/action/love for us, God is not like us, God is not fickle. GRACE wins every time.
Why is this so important? Why spend five paragraphs defining GRACE? Because I believe that the lack of living into God’s action/grace/relationship is the single largest reason the light that disciples are supposed to shine in the world has dimmed.
The Christian church has become a people who love their position/opinion/beliefs/politics more than we love other people and more than we love Jesus. We are so convinced that our position is right that we love that supposed “rightness” more than we love the person who has a different position. When this happens, we have missed the point of God’s action/GRACE in our lives. To do this is to miss the mark that Jesus has called us to as disciples.

Think about Simon the Zealot and Matthew the tax collector. Two people that couldn’t have been more politically/socially/economically different. For Simon the Zealot, he loved a free Israel so much that he was willing to kill Romans to accomplish that freedom. For Matthew the Tax collector, he loved money so much he was willing to be branded a traitor and nationally despised. And Jesus called them both to be His disciples. Can you just imagine Simon sitting at the camp fire as Matthew joins the group for the first time, and Jesus says, “Hey, Matthew, I think there is an open seat next to Simon.”
Plug what ever opposing “stances” you want into the equation. The result is the same. Pro-life vs. Pro-choice. Homosexual vs. Not. It doesn’t matter. Both sides love their position more than they love the people on the other side. This is where God’s GRACE/action in our lives comes to play. Simon and Matthew loved their positions, and had given their lives over to their cause/ideology. Yet, having encountered God’s GRACE in Jesus, both chose not to love their position, but to let go and to love Jesus more. GRACE wins every time. Their encounter of God’s grace in the person of Jesus led them to love him more than they loved their position. And because they loved Him more than their position, they were willing to obey when Jesus commanded them to love each other!

Grace cannot be experienced apart from a relationship. When we choose to define people by their stance, rather than a person whom Jesus loves, we miss the point of the Gospel. Many churches are going the legislation route. Legislation will not bring about healing, only relationships built on the person of Jesus can do that. In Christ, there is no Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female…. see Galatians 3:26-29. A disciple of Jesus will always choose to build a relationship with another person because of the relationship the disciple has with Jesus. The encounter of GRACE/God’s action in their lives compels the disciple to seek the relationship with the other person not in spite of their ‘stance’ but because of who Jesus is.
This is the problem that the broader church faces: people want to love their position or their building or their theological stance more than they love their neighbor. We fail to love others because we fail to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. This dims our light/witness to the world. Our light is hidden under the basket/bushel of our position. The church has learned the lesson of the world all too well, that people are disposable. It’s OK to write off your brother; it’s OK to dismiss someone, if they don’t agree with your perspective/stance.
Don’t hear what I am not saying. I am all for Biblical authority, I am all for conservative values. But, above all, I am for Jesus. And Jesus commands me to build relationships with other people out of my love for Him based upon His love for me. I need God’s grace to do this. In the end, GRACE wins every time.

Dead to Sin – Alive In Jesus

Ephesians 2:4-5 “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”

What does it mean to be “dead” in sin? In Ephesians chapter two, Paul is contrasting the way of the world vs. the way of Jesus. Paul’s position is that there are two ways to live:
1. according to this world, which is controlled by Satan and is evident in the life of sin that this world displays through disobedience to God’s way [verse 2].
2. or according to our saved status, from Jesus,that is graced to us because of who God is. This Jesus status [verse 4 calls it “made us alive in Christ], that we share, boasts that we are seated with Jesus in the heavenly realm [verse 6], so that we might show off how amazing Jesus is [verse 7], and we are the handiwork of God, designed with a purpose to accomplish [verse 10].

This comparison, between the way of the world and the Jesus status, brings into focus what sin is. Sin is anything that is contrary to the will of God. Specifically, in verse 3, Paul shares with us that living for ourselves, seeking to satisfy our selfish thinking and desires, is of the evil one and deserving of wrath.

What is the will of God? It is that we love Him [God] and we love others [Matthew 22:37-40]. Anything that we do that is not loving toward another person, is sin. It is easy to pick out the obvious sin: gossip, lying, murder, abuse, cheating, adultery. But the not so obvious, that is not loving toward another person, is also sin. Like: assuming we know what a person is about/how they think, using guilt trips, manipulation, dismissive attitudes, passing judgement in our minds, taking a second [critical] look at another human being, is also unloving.

    Jesus is perfectly working on our perfection in Himself.

Jesus died [God’s mercy demonstrating grace] so that NOTHING could stand in the way of our relationship with God. Our creator loved us so much and so wanted to be part of our lives that, though we deserved wrath [verse 3], we did not receive wrath, but grace. God also wants this kind of relationship with every other human being. So, when we act in unloving ways toward others, we sin and we potentially stand in the way of that person’s relationship with God.

Any time we do anything that could damage our relationship with God or another person, that is sin. Sincere believers ask me all the time, how can I be dead to sin? The answer is that, if you follow Jesus, you already are dead to sin. Jesus accomplished this work on the cross and with the empty tomb. It is not something we can accomplish for ourselves. It has already been done.

Followers of Jesus are dead to sin when they live out their journey in light of the love relationship they have with Jesus.

A Jesus follower may struggle with surrendering a behavior or an attitude to Jesus. But that struggle is part of the relationship that is alive, growing, dynamic, interactive, real. Jesus is perfectly working on our perfection in Himself. He loves us so much that He is not willing to leave any morsel of sin hidden in our closet. Paul writes in verse 3 that all of us have lived according to the world at one time. It is God who makes us alive in Jesus.

A follower of Jesus who loves Jesus could simply ask this question when confronted with sin, “Will this hurt my relationship, or another’s relationship, with God?” Is this the loving thing/attitude/behavior/thought? We fail from time to time. We fall short, but we are alive in Christ, thankful and dependent upon His love.