Wednesday, December 25, 2013

No Condemnation Part 5

This week, we continued the “No Condemnation” series. In this part, we looked at the importance of operating by grace so that the Spirit can work in you to the fullest extent possible. In Galatians 5, we read about the fruit of the Spirit. Our law mentality has often made that list of attributes of the Spirit yet another list of rules for Christians – thou shalt be loving, kind, gentle, patient and, by all means be self-controlled.  That is what human nature does. Let’s look, however, at Galatians in its entirety. In Galatians 1:6-10, we are warned not to drift from the true gospel that we received (grace) and not to listen to anyone teaching another gospel (forms of law), which is not a gospel at all. It goes on to say that one who IS teaching such a gospel is eternally condemned.

Law thinking likes to make rules where there are no rules and then use them to disqualify people from salvation or God’s blessings. Law also likes to zoom in on any verse that mentions condemnation or damnation and find a way to use it to disqualify others. This scripture in Galatians 1 is a great example. First, examine the verb tenses—anyone who IS teaching, not anyone who has ever taught, the “wrong” gospel. If that were the case, Paul would be eternally condemned, because at one time he was zealously preaching and teaching the law.

 The issue in Galatia was that Hebrew people who received salvation then slipped back into living by law – ignoring the true meaning of the gospel.  Then, in chapter 2, we are warned of those false brothers who were trying to steal away the freedom that came by grace by enslaving believers with law.

You see, this is a lie the enemy has used to tie the hands of the church and strip it of its power. Our heart is to do what is right and pleasing before God. That is very GOOD. But the enemy convinces us that the way to do that is to create lists of rules and keep them. Instead, we must receive grace and live by it. Then, we will allow the grace to do its work in order to help us defeat sinful actions. We won’t overcome sinful actions until we overcome sin’s condemnation.

As long as we continue to live by law (which seems good), we prevent the true power of the Spirit from being able to work in us.  Then in Galatians 3, Paul calls the Galatians foolish for tasting grace and then returning to law.  In verse 3, the word “human effort” in the King James is “living by the flesh.”  The Greek word means “by the sinful state of man.”  In Galatians 4, he lays the case for the difference between Ishmael, the one born of the normal means, and Isaac, who was the promise born of a miracle. Ishmael represents the law, and Isaac represents grace. Paul says that the “Ishmael” will always persecute the “Isaac.” The law will never receive the inheritance. It will argue that it has more right to the inheritance than grace because it has a “legal” right to it because it has earned it.

Get a hold of grace in your life, and you are bound to be persecuted by those who have  a law mentality. They’ll accuse you of lacking “holiness” or accepting sin. They’ll tell you that grace is dangerous. They will also continue without ever receiving the inheritance of the riches of God’s Word.

In the beginning of chapter 5, Paul describes those who return to law, having fallen from grace. That is probably the opposite of what you’ve heard or thought about that concept. We’ve been led to believe that when you willfully sin, you fall from grace. Willful sin is extremely dangerous, but it is not “falling from grace.” Either grace covers a multitude of sins and is sufficient for all things, or it is not.

Finally, in the act of receiving communion, we have been scared by 1 Corinthians 11:27-32 that warns of taking communion in an unworthy manner. I am sure I am not the only one who has felt a little fear when a pastor announced they were going to serve communion. Immediately, you begin asking for forgiveness for every sin you can remember. But what if you forget one? I mean it says some have actually died because of taking in an unworthy manner…..

You need to ask yourself what makes you worthy. Does your worthiness before God ever have to do with you, or is it always because of Jesus? I truly believe the most unworthy way we who actually are believers can receive communion is from a state of self-righteousness.  If you choose to partake in communion because you believe you have done good and didn’t sin, you are not acknowledging what the body and blood of Jesus represent and what they did. That is the actual warning in that passage – that you do not take it without acknowledging what it means. If you are truly worthy because you act right, then you don’t need the body and blood.

I think the most worthy approach to take is to realize that you are human and you sin, that God’s grace alone has made you worthy, and that grace was provided by the body and blood of Jesus. That’s the ONLY way to be worthy!

To listen to the entire sermon go to  To learn more about Living Word Ahwatukee, visit

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

No Condemnation Part 4

No Condemnation Part 4

This week, we continued our “No Condemnation” series. This week, we began looking at the connection between grace and faith. We must learn to receive those things that are gifts from God without injecting our own self-righteousness. 

Romans 10:3 says that with ignorance of His righteousness, we seek to establish our own righteousness. When we do not fully realize that He has made us righteous, we will still feel un-righteous and seek to fix it by creating our own form of righteousness.  We can even do this in trying to receive a physical healing. Frequently we hear or maybe even have thought or said ourselves that someone who has been so faithful in serving the Lord and giving and doing all the right things can’t seem to get the answer to their prayer for healing. We lament how unfair it seems that God must be.  That line of thinking is actually based on an “ignorance of His righteousness.” The two are not connected. In fact, we easily fall into the trap of thinking that we deserve something from God because we have done so many good things. That is simply not how God operates.

It is like saying that you can’t believe that all the work of crawling on your hands and knees for 3000 miles on gravel roads to get to New York City didn’t get you to Disneyland. All the commitment to that work was fruitless because you don’t get to Disneyland by crawling on your hands and knees to New York. You get there by driving to Anaheim. Is God so unfair that He did not reward all your work? No! You simply did not use the right system.

We receive from God entirely by the grace provided by the blood of Jesus. Your faithful service is very good, and it is profitable, but it does not earn you anything from God that is provided through grace. The works are the wrong currency. Jesus’ blood is the currency.

We also examined Hebrews 10:1, where it tells us that the law was merely a shadow of what was to come and that it was not the reality of the promise.  So, we should put the model together – the law is a shadow (that means the law has no power). A shadow has no substance; it is merely an absence of light. There is something between that shadow and the light source that causes the shadow.  The light source is God. 1 John 1:5 says that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. If God is the light, and the law is the shadow, what is the object creating the shadow? Well, the author of Hebrews in this context was speaking about the past. The thing that was to come was the cross. The cross was the object that the light hit and cast a shadow through.

What is interesting is the fact that the tabernacle of Moses’ day was designed by specific and detailed instruction from God. It represented the practice of the law, and it was where the sin offerings were made – offerings that never forgave sin, but merely covered it for the next year. If you were to look at an aerial image of the layout of the tabernacle, it formed the shape of the cross. From the sacrificial altar to the laver, to the Holy Place with the golden lampstand, table of showbread, and altar of incense, to the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant was– the cross is clearly seen. It was that shadow of what was to come.  Romans 3 says that the law makes us conscious of sin.  Verse 21 says that now we have righteousness apart from the law. 

Hebrews 10 goes on to say in verses 11-12 that the priest in the tabernacle had to continue offering sacrifices because there was always more sin. His sacrifice was not about eliminating sinful actions but about Him eliminating our guilty conscience.  The prior sacrifices were unable to clean the guilty conscience, but then Jesus came and made the final sacrifice, and now He sits at God’s right hand. 

In the instruction for and building of the tabernacle, there was one piece of furniture conspicuously absent – a chair. The priest could never sit because the work was never complete – but Jesus completed the work. If we choose to continue on by law and self-righteousness, we will never be finished and never get to sit down. “In Christ” we are seated, and we cease from the work of trying to sacrifice for our sin. Instead, we enter into the rest of the eternal sacrifice. 


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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

No Condemnation Part 3

This week, we continued the series, “No Condemnation.” Specifically we discussed the importance of receiving grace so that we are empowered to live by the Spirit.  In Romans 7:21-23, Paul illustrates what we have referred to as the “three-vote proposition” or the battle that goes on inside every believer. In verse 22, he refers to his inner being (Spirit) that desires to do God’s will in all things. Then in verse 23, he laments that the members of his body (Flesh) wars against his mind (part of the Soul) to make it do what it wants.

That is the battle that we continually fight. The spirit is always in line with God and His Word. The flesh is always interested in what it wants and rarely lines up with the Word. The soul is where the battle is waged. The mind has been conditioned to live by law. It is human nature to not only want a list of rules that we should live by, but also to then despise the rules and break them.   Remember what it said in Romans 6:12 – that we should not let sin reign. As long as we have a physical body, we are going to sin. It is inevitable. However, be LED by the spirit to keep that sin from ruling your life.  

Part of that sinful nature is the desire to justify self by rules and law. We base our righteousness on whether we think we’ve done “good” or “bad.” But that is not how God is looking at it. He looks at you and judges your righteousness only on the blood of Jesus and whether you have wholeheartedly received that gift.  Living by this grace is the ONLY way you will truly overcome sin in your life. God still hates sin. In Romans 8:3, Paul says that God has condemned sin in sinful man. He did not condemn man. He never has. In fact, read Genesis carefully and you find that God cursed the serpent and that the land was cursed, but he never cursed Adam. God does not curse and has never cursed His children!  Actually, all the blessings written in Deuteronomy 28 for fully fulfilling the law are ours in Christ Jesus.

Instead, He established a plan where He would take on the form of man, shed blood and die in our place for sin so that the curse of sin would not make us cursed. There is a legal term called double jeopardy, which means you cannot be tried for the same crime twice. If you have been found not-guilty, you cannot be tried again for that same crime. Jesus already took the punishment for your sin. You cannot be punished again for that sin.

I am not saying there are no negative consequences for sin. That would be denying obvious truths. If you sin, it produces horrible things in your life and negatively affects others, but that is not punishment from God. That is, instead, the actual reason God hates sin so much – because of what it produces in this earth.

Let’s say someone owed me $1000. The relationship between us would be strained. That person would never feel comfortable around me. They’d probably avoid me if they were unable to pay the debt. What if then someone else comes along and pays me $1,000,000 to cover that debt. If the one who owed me did not know about it, they would still avoid me. Even though their debt were paid, their belief would still separate us.  Also, that person could know about the payment, yet feel that the payment was not legitimate because they did not pay it themselves. It was their debt, and they need to pay. Sure, I got far more than what they owed me, but they think I must still look down on them because THEY never paid me back.

I think many Christians live this way in their relationship with God. They may believe in what Jesus did, but they still feel like they owe God because they did not pay the debt that they owed. God got his “blood,” but I didn’t shed it. So they still live as one in debt to God – estranged and separated.  Well, Jesus didn’t only pay a million for your thousand in debt. He paid trillions. Was that a gross overpayment? It only is if you look at it from man’s perspective. If you look at it from God’s perspective and the way He values you, it is not.   God has made a tremendous investment, and he desires a return on His investment (ROI for you business folks).  He needs you to receive His investment of grace so that it will empower you to be used by Him to expand His kingdom. Living by law and self-righteousness neglects that gift and gives God little, if any, ROI. If all we do is receive salvation so that we can go to heaven when we leave this life, we have given God ZERO ROI. We must receive His grace and be used to change the world.

In service last week I did an investment schedule to illustrate this idea. Note, we are NOT equating grace and the blood of Jesus with dollars and cents! I am merely using numbers we can relate to in order to illustrate a point.  Imagine that God invests a trillion dollars to pay your $1000 debt. That seems like overpayment, but God is a shrewd investor. You see, if you choose to become good soil by receiving the gift of grace you could produce 30-,60- and 100-fold return. It can be argued that the 30-fold is actually exponential, but for the sake of simplicity we’ll call it 30x or 3000% (I’m figuring our production conservatively at the bottom end of the multiplication range God gives at 30 instead of 60 or 100). So the model is $1000 (the initial value of the trillion dollar investment) invested at 3000% compounded annually.

After the first year, that investment is worth $31,000. After the second it is $961,000. But by year seven it is worth over $27.5 trillion (making profit by year 7, the year of completion), and by year ten over $819 quadrillion! God wants that ROI in your life. Receive His grace and become good ground!

To listen to the entire sermon go to  To learn more about Living Word Ahwatukee, visit

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

No condemnation part 2

This week, we continued the “No Condemnation” series. To further illustrate the meaning of 2 Corinthians 3:6 that says the law kills, but the Spirit brings life, we looked at the contrast of the first miracles of Moses (Law) and Jesus (Grace).  In Exodus 7, God instructs Moses to meet Pharaoh by the Nile and warn him that if he did not let God’s people go that the Moses would strike the Nile River with his staff and turn it to blood. All the fish would die and the river would stink and be undrinkable. Moses does as God commands, and the results are just as God said. This first miracle of “the law” turned water to blood and brought death and stink.

Then, Jesus’ first public miracle is recorded in John 2. Jesus is with His mother at a wedding, and they run out of wine. What we may miss when we read this story is the detail of what kind of jars Jesus used and their state. The jars He had the servants fill were the ones used for ceremonial hand washing. At an event like a wedding feast, there was a lot of washing that was necessary through the Law.  Worse yet, these jars were empty. You see, this miracle Jesus does actually has great spiritual significance. The jars for ceremonial cleaning were empty. The law had done all it could do! Having done all it could, there was still dirt and filth. Hands were still dirty. Jesus had stated that His time had not come. Perhaps He was referring to the fact that the time for the New Covenant had not arrived quite yet.

Cleaning from the outside was ineffective. Going all the way back to Noah, flooding the earth and starting over with just one righteous man and his family still couldn’t clean mankind. We quickly returned to sin and corruption. Jesus came to clean the inside of the vessel. A clean inside will produce a clean outside. No amount of law on the outside ever makes a man truly clean. The law was powerless!

Romans 7 discusses Paul’s struggle between the Spirit alive in him and the old, sinful nature. He points out that the law was good, but that sin uses the law to magnify sin and even create a desire to sin. He says that he did not even know what covetousness was apart from the law. Once he heard of coveting, then everything in him desired to covet. Law defines and magnifies sin and our desire for it.  This is human nature. Put up a sign that says. “Wet paint. Do not touch,” and see how many people walk up and touch. As soon as we are told we can’t do something, the sinful nature desires with every fiber of its being to do that very thing.

In Romans 8, Paul says that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. It begins with a “therefore” which means it is related to what he said in chapter 7. Because this struggle goes on and because we truly are spirit and not flesh, it is not our true self that sins, but the old, sinful nature or the flesh.  Yet, for the born-again spirit, there is no condemnation.  Until we get a realization of the fact that we are no longer condemned before God (through grace) we will have a hard time loving and showing grace to others. Once we freely receive, we will be able to freely give.

 Finally, in Luke 7 we read a story of Jesus being invited to the home of a Pharisee for dinner. While he is there, a prostitute enters and falls at Jesus’ feet, washing His feet with her tears and pouring expensive perfume on Him. The Pharisee, caught up in law, rebukes the woman and Jesus. He says that, if Jesus were the Messiah (God), he would not have contact with such a sinful woman.   Do you ever wonder how a known prostitute was able to walk unencumbered into the house of the Pharisee? Hmmmmm….

Jesus rebukes this Pharisee, Simon, by sharing a story about forgiveness. One master forgives the debt of two servants – one with a huge debt and one with a small debt. He asks Simon which one would be more thankful. Simon correctly answers the one with the large debt.   For us, the debt is actually equal. All have sinned and fall short. One does not need more or less forgiveness. Forgiveness is forgiveness. When we allow ourselves to use the law to make ourselves self-righteous, we are not as thankful for our salvation. This is because we feel we earned it. If I am right before God because I keep all the rules, then what did Jesus do for me?

This Pharisee was an expert in the law and a “keeper” of the law. As such, he had little thankfulness. In contrast, the woman knew full well she had been forgiven and was very thankful. When we receive the grace and His righteousness as a gift, we can be thankful and then, in turn, show love and grace to others.


 To listen to the entire sermon go to  To learn more about Living Word Ahwatukee, visit