God’s Grace – Part 9

 

“Perhaps there is no word in the Bible more precious than Grace.”
~ Rick Countryman, Senior Pastor, Big Valley Grace Community Church
Modesto, Ca.

The Performance Trap – C

In my last two blogs, we have been looking at the issue of the performance trap that we can get ourselves into when we attempt to earn our way into Heaven. Today, I want us to look at the questions of “Do we deserve God’s Grace” and “How can we relax in God’s Grace?”

Do We Deserve God’s Grace?

The simplest answer is: NO!! However, that’s not what most of us believe.  We think that we deserve God’s grace because of our sacrificial service to the cause.  Let’s look at the story of the Roman centurion in Luke 7: 1-10.  The man sent some of the Jewish elders to Yeshua asking Him to come and heal his sick servant.  “The elders came to Yeshua and pleaded earnestly with Him, ‘He really deserves to have you do this, for he loves our people – in fact, he built the synagogue for us!” (verses 4-5).  Notice the Jewish elders’ emphasis on deserving.

The centurion surely was a remarkable, God-fearing man. He was an officer in the Roman occupation army, yet he served the occupied people by building a synagogue for them.  Think of an occupying army in today’s culture and ask yourself how many “enemy” officers would do such a thing.

But the centurion’s attitude about himself is even more remarkable than his deeds. Instead of thinking of what he should receive because of what he deserved, he freely confessed he didn’t deserve anything.  He sent word to Yeshua, saying, “Sir, don’t trouble yourself. I’m not worthy to have you come under my roof – this is why I didn’t presume to approach you myself.” (verses 6-7)  Because of this he not only experienced the joy of having his request granted, but also the added joy of knowing he had received what he did not deserve.

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God’s Grace – Part 8

 

 

“Perhaps there is no word in the Bible more precious than Grace.”
~ Rick Countryman, Senior Pastor, Big Valley Grace Community Church
Modesto, Ca.

The Performance Trap – B

In my last blog, we began to look at the issue of the performance trap that we can get ourselves into when we attempt to earn our way into Heaven. Today, I want us to look at the problems we can get into with our perfectionism or what I like to think of as our fear of failure.

The Problem with Perfectionism and the Fear of Failure

Perfectionists usually base their self-worth on their ability to accomplish a goal. Therefore, failure is a threat and is totally unacceptable to them.   Perfectionists can be quite vulnerable to serious mood disorders and often anticipate rejection when they believe they haven’t met the standards they are trying so hard to attain.  Therefore, perfectionists tend to react defensively to criticism and demand to be in control of most situations they encounter.  The focus of the Messianic life should be on Yeshua, not on self-imposed regulations.  Our experience of Yeshua’s Lordship is dependent on our moment-by-moment attention to His instruction, not on our own regimented schedule.

When we learn how to relax in God’s liberating grace and break out of the prison of perfectionism, we find a new level of joy and freedom in our life. This is because perfectionism is destructive to your life in several ways.

I know from personal experience that being a perfectionist is a dysfunctional character trait. As far back as I can remember I have always been concerned with the fear of failure.  I had to get everything just right to feel good about myself.  I had to be in control.  With God’s help and my spouse’s insight, I am now a recovering perfectionist.

According to Robert S. McGee in his book “The Search for Significance: Seeing Your True Worth Through God’s Eyes,” the false belief that we must meet certain standards – for example, perfectionism – in order to feel good about ourselves results in a fear of failure.  He then goes on to list several effects of this fear of failure.

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God’s Grace – Part 7

“Perhaps there is no word in the Bible more precious than Grace.”
~ Rick Countryman, Senior Pastor, Big Valley Grace Community Church
Modesto, Ca.

The Performance Trap – A

So far in this series on God’s Grace, we have looked at What Is God’s Grace and How Do We Appropriate God’s Grace. Before digging deeper into other aspects of God’s Grace, I want to cover what I consider is the primary stumbling block to appropriating God’s Grace ~ perfectionism.  I confess that this has been a major stumbling block for me and an issue that I still struggle with from time to time.  In his book “The Search for Significance: Seeing Your True Worth Through God’s Eyes,” Robert S. McGee labeled this stumbling block as the “Performance Trap.”

You may recall that in Part 1 of this series I quoted from Rabbi Sha’ul’s statement to the Believers in Ephesus: “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift – not from works, so that no one can boast” Ephesians 2:8-9 (HCSB).  As Believers, we know in our knowers that we can’t earn our way into God’s Kingdom; we can’t be saved by trying to obey all His commands – no one but Yeshua has been able to accomplish that; we can’t even do good all the time (see Romans 7:13-24), so why do we think that we have to be perfect this side of Glory?  Many of us strive to be perfectionists.  We delude ourselves into thinking that success in whatever we do will bring us fulfillment and happiness.  We usually base our self-worth on our ability to accomplish the goals we have set out for ourselves in our own strengths.  However, we eventually figure out that as Believers we should focus our walk on Yeshua, not on self-imposed regulations.  Our experience of His Lordship is dependent on our moment-by-moment attention to His instructions, not on our own regimented schedule or activity.  Our goal is to endeavor to become more and more like Yeshua in everything we think and do, recognizing that we will stumble and fall on the way.  But, we will always fall into His waiting arms.

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God’s Grace – Part 6

“Perhaps there is no word in the Bible more precious than Grace.”
~ Rick Countryman, Senior Pastor, Big Valley Grace Community Church
Modesto, Ca.

How Do We Appropriate God’s Grace ~ Part D

So far in this sub-series on appropriating God’s grace, we have discussed prayer, consuming the Word of God and being submissive to God. In this post, we will look at the fourth and final means of appropriating God’s grace through the ministry of other Believers.

Ministers of Grace

The Bible says by helping each other with our troubles, we obey the law of God, which is, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Vayikra 19:18 and Matthew 22:39)  God never meant for us to go through life on our own.  He puts weaknesses in our lives so we realize how much we need each other.  We need to accept support from God’s people.

The fourth means by which we can appropriate God grace is through the ministry of other Believers. This is a fundamental means God uses, because He has ordained that the Kehilah be such that “all the members care for each other.” (1 Corinthians 12:25 NLT)  Of course, this is to be a reciprocal ministry.  We should be channels of grace to one another.

However, the times when we need an extra measure of God’s grace are often the times when we are most reluctant to let other people know we need it. This leads to an important principle regarding the ministry of grace.  Each of us needs to cultivate a small group of friends with whom we can be transparent and vulnerable.  This might be on an individual or small group basis.  But we need a few people – including our spouse, if we have one – with whom we feel free to share our failures, hurts, and sorrows.

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God’s Grace – Part 5

“Perhaps there is no word in the Bible more precious than Grace.”
~ Rick Countryman, Senior Pastor, Big Valley Grace Community Church
Modesto, Ca.

How Do We Appropriate God’s Grace ~ Part C

So far in this sub-series on appropriating God’s grace, we have discussed prayer and consuming the Word of God. In this post, we will look at the third means of appropriating God’s grace through our submission to God.

Submission to God

The third means God uses to administer His grace to us is our submission to His providential working in our lives. Kefa said, “All of you should clothe yourselves in humility toward one another, because God opposes the arrogant, but to the humble He gives grace. Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that at the right time He may lift you up.” (1 Kefa 5:5-6)

God gives grace to those who humble themselves under His mighty hand of providence. Our tendency is not to humble ourselves but to resist the workings of His mighty hand.  However, if we are to appropriate God’s grace, we must humble ourselves, we must submit to His providential working in our lives.  To do this we must first see His mighty hand behind all the immediate causes of our adversities and heartaches.  We must believe the biblical teaching that God is in sovereign control of all our circumstances, and whatever or whoever is the immediate cause of our circumstances, God is behind them all.

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God’s Grace – Part 4

“Perhaps there is no word in the Bible more precious than Grace.”
~ Rick Countryman, Senior Pastor, Big Valley Community Church
Modesto, Ca.

How Do We Appropriate God’s Grace ~ Part B

In my last post in this series, we left off discussing the first means of appropriating God’s grace is through prayer. In this post, we will look at the second means of appropriating God’s grace through consuming the Word of grace and holding onto God’s promises.

Consuming the Word of Grace

Let God’s Word comfort, strengthen, fill, soothe, and give you the energy to keep going. Get into God’s Word every single day of your life.  David prayed, “I lie prostrate in the dust; revive me, in keeping with your word.” (Psalm 119:25)  If the answer you were looking for to solve your problems was to look within yourself, you’d already be changed and the problem solved.  You need to look to God!  He’s the only one with sustaining strength.

The grace we receive from God, then, is the aid of the Holy Spirit. We do not understand just how the Holy Spirit interacts with our human spirit, but we do know He most often uses His Word.  That is, He brings to our mind some Scripture or Scriptures, particularly appropriate to the situation.  He may do this through one of our pastor’s sermons, through a Christian book we are reading, through the encouraging words of a friend, or through our own reading or study of Scripture.

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God’s Appointed Times – Part 4

Sukkot 2014 – The Ultimate Sukkah

In 2014, the festival of Sukkot – the Feast of Tabernacles, begins at sundown on Tuesday, October 7th. Sukkot is the third of the great annual pilgrimage festivals (Vayikra 23:33-43).  Each year, all adult Jewish males were required to go up to Jerusalem to celebrate the feasts of Matzah, Shavuot and Sukkot.   The festival is also called the “feast of ingathering” (Sh’mot 23:16; D’varim 16:13).  It is celebrated immediately after the harvest, in the month Tishri, and the celebration lasts for eight days (Vayikra 23:33-43).  During this period the people leave their homes and live in a sukkah, a temporary dwelling, formed of the branches of trees as a memorial of the wilderness wanderings, when the people dwelt in sukkot (Vayikra 23:43).

 Sukkah

Typical Backyard Sukkah

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God’s Grace – Part 3

“Perhaps there is no word in the Bible more precious than Grace.”
~ Rick Countryman, Senior Pastor, Big Valley Community Church
Modesto, Ca.

How Do We Appropriate God’s Grace ~ Part A

What do we do when we can’t fix a complex or even an unfixable problem? What do we do when we can’t solve an unsolvable situation?  What do we do when we can’t change an unchangeable circumstance?  What do we do when we can’t control something that hurts us deeply in our lives?

How do we repair a damaged relationship with a loved one who is no longer living? How do we live with ourselves when we have broken our sobriety?  We throw ourselves on the sustaining grace of God.

How do we appropriate God’s grace – His power – to enable us to respond to the various circumstances and challenges that constantly come to us? Perhaps the idea of appropriating the grace of God is a new thought to you, and you’re not quite sure what I mean.  The basic meaning of the word is “to take possession of,” and that is what we do when we appropriate God’s grace.  We take possession of the divine strength He has made available to us in Yeshua.  To use an analogy, we draw on an inexhaustible bank account of God’s grace.  His “checks” never bounce.

Now there are times when the Ruach works in a sovereign way in our lives, apart from any appropriating activity on our part, but more often He expects us to act to appropriate His grace. To this end, God has provided four principal means of appropriating His grace: prayer, His Word, submission to His providential workings in our lives, and the ministry of others.  In order to keep the posts on this topic of “How to Appropriate God’s Grace” at a reasonable length, I will address each principal individually.

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God’s Appointed Times – Part 3

 Yom Kippur 2014 – The Day of Atonement

In 2014, Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement begins at sundown on October 3rd.  The Tanakh says that the blood of the sacrifice is given to make atonement.   The Hebrew words translated as “atonement” in English are kippur (noun) and kapar (verb).   The root occurs about 150 times in the Tanakh, and is intimately linked with forgiveness of sin and with reconciliation to God.  What does “atonement” mean?

Atonement means making amends, blotting out the offense, and giving satisfaction for wrong done; thus reconciling to oneself the alienated other and restoring the disrupted relationship.

Vayikra (Leviticus) 16 gives detailed instructions for a special sacrifice to be offered once a year, on the tenth day of the seventh month – Tishri. On that day the whole community of Israel was to gather at the Tabernacle (and later, the Temple) to fast and to pray.  The high priest followed carefully prescribed steps and entered the Especially Holy Place (Holy of Holies), bringing the blood of the sacrificed animal.  There he sprinkled the blood on the mercy seat.  This animal was a sin offering for the people (16:15).  That sacrifice was an “atonement … to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites”.  Following that sacrifice, Israel was told, “You will be clean before Adonai from all your sins” (v. 30).

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God’s Grace – Part 2

“Perhaps there is no word in the Bible more precious than Grace.”
~ Rick Countryman, Senior Pastor, Big Valley Community Church
Modesto, Ca.

What Is God’s Grace (cont.)

In my last post in this series, we began a new series on the topic of God’s grace. We left off studying the word grace in both the Tanakh and the Brit Hadashah by looking at the Hebrew and Greek words used for grace in the Scriptures.  In this post, I want to finish looking at what God’s grace is from a definitional standpoint.

God’s Power Freely Given: Joyce Meyer’s defines grace as:  “God’s power to help us do whatever it is we need to do.”[1]  If you’ve been in the world very long, you’ve learned that there are very few days that go exactly the way we’d like them to go.  Thankfully, God is never going to put us in a situation without giving us the ability to be in it with joy.

You can have that dose of God’s power today, but you have to receive it, and the only way to receive it is by faith. The Bible says that “God has measured out a portion of faith to each one of you.”  (Romans 12:3b CEB)

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