Jun 26

Exchanged Life Podcast Available

Listen to Eddie’s weekly messages on iTunes. You can also join us in worship in Marietta, GA. Find out more at http://www.hollydalebaptist.com

Aug 18

Does the Lord Allow Trials? (A follow up to Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh)

The article on Paul’s thorn in the flesh has generated some questions. To those who emailed me, I apologize that I can’t reply individually. I’ll try to answer the main points of objection in this post. Some of the emails I’ve received said that God did heal Paul of his thorn in the flesh. As one person put it, “God’s grace was sufficient, and that means Paul was healed.”

The primary point Paul was making is that when he was weak through the infirmity of his flesh, God more than made up for his weakness with God’s limitless strength. This is intended to teach us a principle of life.

It is hard not to be emotionally invested in a belief, but we must be careful not to explain away scriptures that challenge what we’ve been taught to believe. Every Christian group has misconceptions. Many of the things I was taught, such as a legalistic mixture of law and grace, have been dismantled by scripture. When someone challenges our beliefs, the first reaction is to fight against it, but I encourage you to examine the scriptures and see if these things are so. Perhaps you have a perspective I haven’t considered; but equally true is that I may have a perspective you haven’t considered. Don’t disregard the scriptures I am using but prayerfully seek to reconcile your understanding to what the Bible is teaching.

This is why clarity through looking at a scripture in its context is so important. The purpose of the passage from 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 was to rely on God’s strength, and that our weaknesses enable God to show Himself strong on our behalf. Paul did not say he was healed. He said, “I will glory in my infirmities that the power of God may rest upon me.” To glory in our infirmities is not a declaration that we have been healed. It is a call to look beyond human strength and our measures of success, and rest fully upon God’s power. When we recognize our inabilities or infirmities, we are then able to rely on God all the more.

This does not mean that God does not heal. It does mean that God has the right to use infirmities when the greater blessing is our discovery of His strength.

This is not a passage about healing. Paul pleaded three times and God made it clear that the answer was not to come through healing. How can we see Paul acknowledge his infirmities, but then deny that God allowed it to remain? Let’s let Job testify again. Look at Job 23:10-11

10 But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.
11 My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and not turned aside.

Job wrote this in the midst of his anguish, and gave this as a testimony to his friends that declared, “God will never do this to a righteous man.” Does God not have the right to refine us? Peter instructed the church not to be shaken when a fiery trial comes upon them as though some strange thing has happened. God not only permits hardships, often times God orchestrates these things for the purpose of removing the things that hinder our life in the Spirit. Let’s let Job again testify, Job 2:10

But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

This is when his wife was shaken by the trials Job went through, and told him to curse God and die. Some say that God will never bring adversity, but the Bible says that Job’s statement was not sin. He said that God has the right to send adversity, and clearly credited God with the trials he was going through.

So is it a sin to make a false declaration about God? Yes. The Bible calls this blasphemy. But God said to us, “Job did not sin with his lips,” when Job testified that this adversity was from God’s hand.

The heart of the problem is that people measure good based on comfort and what the flesh determines as good. It’s easy to call the monetary blessings good. When we prosper in this world, we say, “God is good.” But when we suffer in this world, this is a greater blessing than worldly prosperity. To be refined with the promise, “I shall come forth as gold,” is not evil. The truth is, if we get everything we want and God meets our will as we demand His riches, our faith will be tissue thin and our perspective will be flawed. God does not produce spoiled children. He produces people who are strong in the power of His might, a people who are not shaken by this world, and trust in God without wavering.

When the church teaches that God answers our prayers based on what we will to happen, this shakes people’s faith more than adversity could ever do. Paul pleaded with God three times to change his circumstances, but God’s will was for Paul to be refined. God’s answer was ‘no’ to Paul’s will, but yes to God’s perfect will for Paul’s life. And God’s will was to weaken Paul’s human strength for the purpose of revealing to Him God’s perfect strength.

If we are taught that God must answer as we expect, this forces people to pretend they have what they demanded, even when it never comes to fruition. There is no willingness to acknowledge that God’s purpose may be counter to what we are claiming for ourselves. Then people either have to keep saying, “I have it,” when they don’t, or they are criticized with, “You just don’t have enough faith.” But when we teach people to trust in what God is doing, then God’s people walk confidently in every situation, knowing that on the other side of every adversity is greater glory.

Yes, God WILL sacrifice your physical comfort for your eternal good. The point of the Christian life is not to demand our will, but to die to our will and rest fully upon the Lord. We trust God to both heal, and to give us strength when the Lord chooses to use our struggles to refine us. Stop looking at the earthly perspective, and start seeking God to reveal the life of the Spirit to you.

Take care not to cheapened grace and reduce it to only fit within a fleshly perspective. It is commonly taught that grace means, God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. That is true, but you have to understand that the greater riches are not the things that are manifested in our natural / carnal life. God indeed richly blesses us in many, many ways, most of which are not bound to the physical world. Grace is also the invitation to enter into the agape fellowship of God (the fellowship that has always existed between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). The gifts of this world that come from God’s love are extras. They are not the purpose. If we only want physical riches, we are missing the true meaning of the Christian life. We are called into unhindered fellowship with the God who created us, and redeemed us out of our sin.

Grace is the love of God that removed every barrier between God and man so we could experience the same fellowship that Jesus had with the Father. Those who don’t understand grace still exalt sin, and rebuild the barrier by placing themselves back under condemnation each time they fall back into the flesh. Those who don’t understand grace make the Christian life about what we can get from God, and how God can make our life in this world more comfortable. Both of these perspectives rob us of the true fellowship God has invited us to be a part of. This is the only way we can live a life that cannot be shaken, for once we are in agape fellowship and grounded in grace, we’ll experience Romans 8:37-39

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,
39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Any view on grace that does not center us on the love of God will not stand when the world falls into chaos. Grace is not about getting what God has, but growing in intimacy with God. Or as God told Abraham, “I am your exceedingly great reward.” God promised Abraham many things, and though these physical promises enriched his life, the center of it all was his walk with God. If he only focused on what he was getting from God, he would not have been willing to give his nephew the best of the land when a dispute arose in the family. He was able to leave possessions behind because of his confidence in God as his reward.

To the one walking in intimacy with God, hardships cause them to trust all the more. To the one focused on what they get from God, when something they want is taken out of the way, it will rattle their faith. One teacher said, “The Lord gives, but the Lord never takes away.” To those bound in this mindset, they will never have confidence when trials arise.

When Job lost everything, his faith was not shaken. He said in Job 1:21-22

21 And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.”
22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.

Once again, the Bible makes it clear that Job’s testimony was right with God. When he said that the Lord has taken away, God declared that his words were not blasphemy. Job proved that his faith was not dependent upon blessing. The worse things became, and the more his friends called him faithless and guilty of sin, the more Job leaned upon the Lord. In the midst of many days of religious people scorning him with many accusations, Job said in Job 19:25-27

25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth;
26 And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God,
27 Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!

When his health was stripped away, Job declared his confidence in the Lord. While the religious community ridiculed him, he proclaimed his faith that He will stand in the end, and his eyes will behold God. When everything humankind holds dear was stripped away, Job declared how his heart yearns for the Lord.

We should learn from this example. If your confidence is in anything other than the love of God, when hardship tries to shake you, your faith will not stand. But to the one grounded in the rock of Christ, no storm can move them.

Jesus explained this when He spoke of the two men building their houses. The man who rushed to get into prosperity and ease, his house was built on the sand. The man who built on the rock had to study the word, dig deep into his foundation, and through steady growth his house was raised on Christ. He did not escape the storms of life. Until the storms came, both foundations appeared good. Both had to weather hardship, but the one founded on Christ stood secure, while the other had a great fall.

A Christian should never be dependent upon circumstances. We all want comfort, but in the end, we’ll be grateful that God didn’t settle for leaving us in the comfort-at-all-cost mentality. God wants you to grow in the life of the Spirit, and when the flesh is in the way, God refines us. We have a natural tendency to gravitate toward the flesh, but the Lord wants us to have an eternal mindset so we don’t come short in any gift. Look at James 1:2-3

2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,
3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.

The word ‘patience’ here is ‘hupomone’, which means steadfastness, constancy, and patient endurance. This tells us that trials are intended to break the distraction of the flesh so we can have a steadfast faith. This is why we count it as joy. Joy is when we look beyond our circumstances to the good outcome we know is coming. Just as the Bible says that Jesus despised the cross, but for the joy set before Him, He endured it. The joy before Him was the outcome of the cross – our reconciliation to Himself. You were the joy that gave Jesus endurance. The joy set before us also gives us patience/endurance when trials come.

We should not teach people that trials come because we don’t have faith, or that God would never do these things. Then people are confused because when they are taught that trials are never God’s will, but they do come, instead of being strengthened through the joy before them, they believe God has abandoned them or that they are lacking in faith.

Don’t allow the challenges of life to shake your confidence. View life through the love and acceptance of God, and when hardships come, walk in confidence knowing that God is your strength and He is producing a life in you that is pure like gold. When you are weak, take pleasure in your weakness, for that is when the strength of the Almighty rests upon you. When you walk through life with a steadfast spirit, you will see the end of God’s purpose, and you will be grateful God brought these things in your life. God never settles for merely restoring us. He restores abundantly above what we have lost when we are steadfast in our trust in Him. Let this be your confidence!

Eddie Snipes
2015

Aug 17

What Was Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh?

In my book, Stop Trying to Fix Yourself, I speak of the Apostle Paul and how the thorn in his flesh put him into a position where he had to accept a physical struggle that made him weak, but this weakness became his greatest asset. He explains, “I will take pleasure in my infirmities…for when I am weak, then I am strong,” referring to the strength of the Lord that empowers us when the flesh is no longer our focus.

 

Though I don’t believe this should be controversial, it has created a bit of controversy – especially in Christian circles that believe God will never allow a Christian to have a physical problem. Since this comes up frequently, I thought it would be good to answer these objections in a post. Let’s begin by focusing on an important principle for interpreting scripture. As much as we are able, we should approach scripture with an open mind. Problems arise when we are so emotionally invested in a doctrine that we cannot accept what is plainly stated in scripture. When we impose our ideology on scripture, instead of drawing our understanding from the Bible, it becomes hard to get past preconceived ideas.

 

We all struggle to overcome this, but we should also be willing to search the scriptures to see if what we are being taught is true – and to see if what we believe is true. Many misconceptions I once held dear have died slow and painful deaths as the scriptures challenged my ideas. Some ideas I held on to, but the more I studied, the more I had to let go of beliefs that could not be supported by scripture. When I say a doctrine can’t be supported, I am referring to looking at passages in context. Nearly any belief can be proven when scriptures are taken out of context.

 

It is argued by many well known teachers that the Apostle Paul’s thorn in his flesh was not a physical problem, but rather it was the persecution he endured. The reason this is important to many is because there is a belief that God will never allow sickness to enter the life of anyone who has faith. Before digging into this, let’s stop for a moment and analyze this idea.

 

Will God allow persecution? Obviously he will, for the Bible says that any who live godly will suffer persecution. What about physical harm to the believer? Even in the Bible, we see physical pain inflicted upon Jesus’ followers. Many were killed by the damage done to their bodies. So the logic is, God will allow a sword, bullet, or whip to damage our bodies, but he will never allow an infirmity to damage our body. Is there a difference?

 

As one teacher put it, “If Jesus suffered for it on the cross, we won’t, for by His stripes we are healed.” He was beaten, so why weren’t His disciples spared this penalty? Some argue that sickness is an attack of the devil, but so is persecution. Let’s look at the passage that has bothered some people, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.
8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.
9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

Let’s first dispel the idea that persecution was Paul’s thorn. In Acts 14:22, Paul has just been stoned and left for dead, but he recovers and immediately visits the disciples to encourage them. Knowing people may be shaken by this type of persecution, the Bible says he strengthened the disciples by saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”

 

In Acts 5, Peter and John are arrested for preaching Christ, even though they performed an undeniable miracle. They were persecuted and then beaten at the stocks as a stern warning not to keep preaching, and Acts 5:41 says they left the council after being beaten and began rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Christ. So are we now to believe that the other apostles rejoiced that they suffered for Christ, but Paul was tormented because he was being persecuted? He first encouraged the church to be strong because persecutions were something we endured on the path to heaven, but when it came to himself, he begged God to keep him out of persecution?

 

Don’t forget that when God called Paul, his ministry began with God telling him, “I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” (Acts 9:16) Every apostle was persecuted heavily. Every apostle except John was tortured and killed because they would not stop telling people about the new life of the Spirit through Christ. But even John was beaten, persecuted, and banned to a penal colony, isolated from the church on the isle of Patmos for his faith.

 

It’s undeniable that persecution was part of the early church, and has been a part of the church for thousands of years. In many countries, Christians are being tortured and killed for their faith even as I write. In Hebrews 11:35 we are told that many believers refused to accept deliverance, knowing they would obtain a better resurrection. Does God allow His children to suffer? Why? Not one thing that is lost in this life has value. We are giving up health, life, and possessions for the sake of Christ, knowing that what God returns to us is far better than what we lose.

 

Paul’s thorn of the flesh is NOT persecutions, though he was persecuted. Let’s go back and look at Paul’s conclusion concerning his thorn in the flesh in 2 Corinthians 12:

 9b Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

Persecutions are mentioned. So is needs. So is distress. More importantly, so are infirmities. It was the first thing Paul mentions. Infirmity is mentioned 13 times in the New Testament. 100% of the time it is referring to a physical problem. In fact, the word infirmity (astheneia in the Greek) means physical frailty, feebleness of health, illness, disease, or sickness. It does not mean persecution. By Paul’s own testimony, his infirmity was an attack of Satan, but was actually a gift of God to produce weakness so he learned to receive the strength of the Spirit – which was far better.

 

According to Paul, pride was a struggle, and so he didn’t get lifted up in pride, God gave him a thorn in the flesh. I know this flies in the face of the belief system of many who say God will never inflict a believer, but as we shall see, this is not what the Bible teaches. We’ll look at another example in a moment, but let’s see how Paul discusses his own infirmity.

 

In Galatians 4:13, Paul says that he preached to them through his physical infirmity. Some translations say ‘because of physical infirmity’, but the word is ‘dia’, which means ‘through or with’. Either way, Paul clearly says it was a physical infirmity. In Galatians 4:14 Paul again affirms this by saying, “My trial that was in my flesh, you did not despise or reject.” Let me reiterate this. Paul said, “I preached to you through physical infirmity/illness, and you did not reject the trial that was in my flesh.” There is no way to escape the truth that Paul’s thorn in the flesh was a physical problem that people could see, and some rejected him because of it – but not those who believed his preaching in Galatia.

 

Paul then gives a clue as to what that infirmity could be in the very next verse. “For I bear witness that if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me.” If you read the full context of Paul’s discussion, he makes it clear that the people he reached with the gospel did not turn away from Paul because of the infirmity of his flesh, but as they grew to love Paul, in their compassion, they wanted to take away his thorn, and if they could have, they loved him enough to give him their own eyes to ease his infirmity. There is no other reason they would have wanted to give Paul their own eyes.

 

Let’s throw another monkey wrench into this doctrine that limits God’s authority to use the flesh as He chooses. Look at Exodus 4:11

So the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD?

 

Who made the mute, the deaf, and the blind? According to God’s own word, He did. According to Psalm 139, God knit us together in the womb, and we are made exactly as God intended. Why does God allow disabilities at birth? He doesn’t always give the answer, but He does assure is that whatever we miss in this life, becomes a better resurrection in the life to come.

 

Then there is Job. Job went through immense suffering from the hand of Satan, but who began this challenge? Look at Job 1:8

Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”

 

God challenged Satan to consider Job’s faithfulness, and then God permitted Satan to afflict him, but with specific boundaries. God allowed Satan to rob Job of everything, including his health.

 

Job’s friends accused him of having secret sin or some reason that this evil came upon him. They said, “God would never do this to a righteous man.” They all were very religious, and one even said, “The Lord said to me,” and then gave Job counsel from his own heart while claiming it was the word of God. All three of Job’s friends rebuked Job for claiming he was standing upon faith. Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him,” and expressed his confidence that in the end, God would rescue him. The only thing Job said wrong was, “When I see God, I’m going to ask why.” Then when God appeared, God said, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” God then asks Job where he was when the earth was founded. Since Job was wise enough to question God, the Lord asked him questions and says, “Tell Me, if you have understanding. The one who corrects the Almighty, let him answer it.”

 

That was the moment Job understood that God had the right to do as He pleased. He also found out that what God permits Satan to steal, He abundantly restores. Job received ten times what he lost, for God’s goal was always to bless. Through the infirmity of Job’s flesh, he suffered, but that suffering established him in the Lord’s strength, and made it clear that all good comes through God, and Satan has no power to defeat God’s will for Job’s life.

 

To Job’s friends, the ones who said, “God would never do this,” God said in Job 42:7

And so it was, after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, that the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.

 

God made Job’s friends, the ones who claimed to be wise counselors and condemned the suffering Job, to come and submit to Job. God said He would not even hear their prayers, but Job had to petition for them before they would be forgiven.

 

Similar situations happen in the church today. When my grandfather was dying of cancer, the church heaped the burden of guilt upon them by saying things like, “There must be secret sin in his life.” To my grandmother, one person said, “You are the reason he is dying. If you had enough faith, you could raise him off that bed.”

 

Is this what the Bible teaches? That we should condemn the sick? Does the Bible teach us to criticize people for not having enough faith? Or does it teach us to bear one another’s burdens. I have many friends in various healing movements. One thing they all have in common is scolding the ailing. If someone gets a cold, they are the first to tell them they shouldn’t be sick. If I had a prayer need, I wouldn’t tell them because I would hear how I shouldn’t have a need – I just don’t have enough faith.

 

Have they never read the letters the Apostles sent to the churches? Nearly every letter expresses prayer needs. When imprisoned, Paul pleaded for the church to send him a cloak before winter. He praised the Philippian church for meeting his needs.

 

What about 2 Timothy 4:20 where Paul said he had to leave one of his missionary helpers in Miletus because he was sick? Or what about Philippians 2 when Paul talks about his companion, Epaphroditus who became very sick and almost died? Or what about 1 Timothy 5:23, where Paul tells Timothy to drink a little wine because of his stomach problems, and his frequent infirmities?

 

Do you know one thing that is missing in all these accounts of sickness in the Bible? Not one time does a minister of God condemn the sick, nor do they tell them they shouldn’t be sick. Does God heal? Absolutely. I have friends that were miraculously healed. I have a relative that had terminal cancer as a baby. The doctors gave up and called the family in to say their good-byes. They gathered and prayed, and the child was instantly healed. Nearly 50 years later, he is still healthy and cancer-free. I have a friend of the family that had cancer of the mouth. She is not active in church and is not part of any healing ministry. The night before she was to go in for surgery, she poured her heart out to the Lord. When she went in the next morning, cancer could not be found.

 

Yet others pray, claim divine health, and do all the right things according to what people teach, but are not healed. Why? According to the book of James, the prayer of faith will heal the sick. I’ll also add that the elders are responsible for praying for the sick, and no where do we see the church condemning the sick. But also keep in mind that the Bible says that God deals each person a measure of faith and that faith is a gift of the Spirit. Faith is not produced by man. You can’t muster up enough human faith to do the work of the Spirit.

 

God did not explain why Paul could miraculously heal the unchurched people he encountered in Acts 28:8-9, but did not give Paul the power to heal Epaphraditus, Timothy, or Trophimus. Indeed we should pray for the sick with expectation, but ultimately healing is a gift of the Spirit and is according to a purpose we, like Job, cannot see.

 

People put God into a box, and then they have to explain away scriptures that don’t fit in that box. Because of doctrines like these, people are distracted from the truth. Instead of seeking God, they are seeking their will. Paul struggled with this. Three times he begged God to heal him, but God’s answer was, “My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in your weakness.”

 

Sadly, the teachings of some cause people to reject this. Instead of walking by faith, they are demanding their own will. Unless God gives them the miracle they demand, they are paralyzed in their walk, and if God doesn’t give them the answer they want, their life becomes one of confusion, disappointment, and frustration.

 

Expect the miraculous, but don’t forget that the miraculous might be God’s strength in your weakness. Don’t short-change yourself by demanding the strength of the physical when God is calling you into the power of the Spirit.

 

Eddie Snipes 2015

Audio

Meditate on These Things – Podcast

A study on Psalm 37 and Philippians 4:4-8

Jul 20

Stop Trying to Fix Yourself!

Everyone has struggles of the flesh. Whether your struggles are life-controlling issues, such as substance abuse, Stop Trying to Fix Yourselfuncontrollable habits, or you are longing for more meaning in your life of faith, this book explores the scriptural teachings that guarantee the life lived more abundantly. Jesus said, “The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Most religious practices (even those under the title of Christianity) are built on a flawed principle. They seek to strengthen the flesh and depend on coping mechanisms, and try to force our source of weakness to become our strength. This can only create very limited success, and is often a guarantee of failure. God’s design is to die to our weakness, and grow in the life where the Spirit is more than willing to empower us to live and thrive in a fruitful life, built around acceptance and perfect fellowship with God. You can’t fix the flesh. You can’t fix yourself. It’s God’s job to subdue your sinful flesh and empower you to live and thrive in the life of the Spirit. God is your strength; not your condemner. God is your righteousness, not your punisher. As you learn to walk in the Spirit, you’ll understand the Bible’s statement, “Now all things are of God. Old things have passed away. Behold all things are new.” You were meant to bloom in every circumstance, and the Bible says that a joyful and fruitful life is a guarantee. This book explores the principles that help you grow in this promise! The ebook version is only 99 cents.

Jun 24

Is Trusting in Grace Equal to Disobedience?

It amazes me how that the church completely rejects the Bible’s teaching that the just shall live by faith. The church has no problem believing you are saved by faith, but once you teach that we must live the same way we enter the Christian life, legalist call this ‘disobedience’.

Legalism attempts to force Christians to choose between believing in the grace of Christ and obedience, as if these two are opposing forces. This is a false teaching. The Apostle Paul said it best when legalist persuaded the Galatian church to submit back under the law when he said, “Are you so foolish, having begun in the Spirit, do you now think you are perfected in the flesh?” He goes on to explain that it is the hearing of faith that transforms their lives, not turning back to the law.

In order to create conflict, legalists are telling the church that believing in God’s grace through Christ is equal to disobedience. We supposedly must choose between grace and obedience. The truth is, obedience IS trusting in grace. When the law-minded religious community came to Jesus and ask what they must do to do the works of God, Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him [Christ] whom He [God] sent.”

God didn’t change His mind after the cross. This is still the work of God, that you believe on Christ. Everything comes through Christ. Nothing comes through human effort. The just shall live by faith – not – the just shall live by the law or by works.

Here is a typical response I received. Similar arguments often come from legalistic believers in the law. As you read this, ask yourself, “Do these scriptures undermine grace?”

This was posted in response to the article, The Myth of Hypergrace:

Let’s let the Scriptures Speak for themselves. 1 john 5:2-3 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. 3For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

Matthew 5:16-19 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Luke 24:46-48 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.
——

Does 1 John 5:2-3 teach that God is pleased by works and not by faith in the grace of Christ? If anything, this shows why scripture should not be taken out of context. This builds on what John said in 1 John 3:23

And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.

The commandment is not to return to the law, but to believe on Christ, and out of a heart that is receiving by faith, we have the love of God (which is agape) and through the love we are abiding in, we also express agape toward one another. Man is incapable of agape love outside of the Spirit. Man’s love is called ‘philia’ love in the Bible. Agape love is the love of God that is poured in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).

Legalism takes a passage that places our trust in Christ and transforms it into a law that trusts in what we do for Christ – or think we do for Christ.

Now let’s look at the next objection from Matthew 5:16-19. The answer is actually in the objection. Jesus indeed says that the law will not pass away until all is fulfilled, but in verse 16, He clearly says, “I have come to fulfill the law.” If Jesus has fulfilled the law, are we now going to count the blood of His sacrifice as a common thing and do despite to the Spirit of grace, and try to fulfill it ourselves? (See Hebrews 10:29).

This question is also answered in Romans 8:4
The righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

Verse 2 tells us that the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. The Bible calls the law ‘the ministry of death’ (see 2 Corinthians 3:7). Romans goes on to explain that the mind on the law is in the flesh, but the mind in the Spirit (which is the mind on faith in Christ) creates life. After explaining that the mind stuck in the law is the mind in the flesh, verse 8 says, “So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” People try to make it sound like those who are in the flesh are those who are committing adultery and other sexual sins. Not so. The mind that is not in the Spirit by faith is in the flesh, no matter what the person is doing or not doing.

This is further affirmed by Hebrews 11:6
Without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

The law is strangely absent from this promise. Other than the law of faith, which is to trust fully in Christ. Man desires to have a share in his own salvation because it gives him glory. But God said, “No flesh shall glory in my presence.” You cannot make God owe you salvation. You can’t make God owe you a reward. Your obedience cannot put God in debt to you. Obedience without faith is actually disobedience, for we are rejecting the gift of God’s righteousness, and trying to usurp glory for ourselves by substituting our righteousness in God’s place.

To the claim that grace-believers are teaching people to not obey the law, I refer back to Jesus’ words. He came to fulfill the law, and we who walk in the Spirit by faith have fulfilled the law in Him. We are doing the works of God because we believe in Christ, who was sent to fulfill the law AND redeem us out of the debt of the law.

To those who trust in the law, I refer you to Galatians 5, which warns that those who submit to the law are a debtor to keep the whole law – not just a modernized version of the law that fits our lifestyle. I also refer you to James 2:10, which warns that if you keep the whole law, but stumble on one point, you are guilty of all the law.

Why is it so hard for legalists to see that the law is not a merit system, but a condemnation system? If you fail once, you are guilty. There is no blessing. There is no reward. There is no honorable mention. The law was intended to make every person guilty (Romans 3:19-20) so we were driven to Christ. If you trust in the law, you are not trusting in Christ, but yourself. And the Bible says that your flesh IS the weakness of the law. You are the weak link. That is until you enter Christ, who fulfilled the law, which none of us can do.

Finally, let’s look at the misconception of the meaning of Luke 24:46-48. This does not point to your ability to keep the law. It is not a man-dependent religion. It all points to Christ, not our ability to become Old Covenant keepers. Forgiveness is through Christ, not obedience to the law. It can’t be obedience to the law, for we just discussed that one offense nullifies any obedience. That is the nature of law. A good man who breaks the law is a law breaker in the eyes of the law. No one can point to all the good things they have done as a defense for their crime in a courtroom. Their good means nothing. They broke the law, and the law demands condemnation and penalty.

This is through Christ. And the word repentance has nothing to do with keeping the law. To repent means to change the mind. Your mind was once in the flesh, but when faith came, you were invited into the Spirit. The mind in the Spirit is life and peace, but the mind in the flesh is death. Repentance means to change the mind from the flesh to the Spirit – which means turning from anything else (religious or anti-religious) and turning to faith in Christ alone.

According to the Bible, you and I have been given all things that pertain to life and godliness by God’s divine power through Christ.(See 2 Peter 1:3) What is not included in all things? Is there anything other than life and godliness? It is a call of faith. Christ has accomplished all things, and all things are given to those who will believe and receive by faith. Righteousness, godliness, holiness, the fruit of the Spirit and all other things are gifts of God through Christ.

Romans 4:4-5 makes it clear that grace is freely given through faith, but unattainable through works. The moment you try to earn grace, it becomes your debt. But to him who does not work, but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted as righteousness.

The natural mind scoffs at grace, and to that mind the Bible says, “those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” It is no surprise that religion hates grace, for the Bible says, “The natural mind cannot understand the things of God and cannot receive them, for they are spiritually discerned.” Those who are trusting in their own works and righteousness scoff at the grace of Christ, for the natural mind cannot understand how grace drives out sin. They don’t understand how a life that has been freed from the law will do by nature the things that are in the law, and do so without fear of condemnation or a legalistic rule demanding submission. Grace frees us to walk according to our new nature, but legalism calls us to take our eyes off Christ, and return to the same type of system that couldn’t succeed through human effort.

When the natural mind encounters grace, it rages. It does so because the fleshly mind is threatened by anything that does not build its glory. Or as the Apostle Paul said about those who were trying to bring the church back under the law. They don’t keep the law, but they desire you to be under the law that they may glory in your flesh. In other words, the flesh feels glorified when it persuades others to submit to the form of religion it is drawing self-glorification from.

The truth is, we are all receivers of God’s works as we trust in Christ. Anything we do for God is a rejection of what God has done for us. But by faith, we are transformed into Christ glory as we behold His glory. By faith, we enter the Spirit where the life of the Spirit will give life to our mortal bodies. Only then will our outward behavior reflect the righteousness of God. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. But we have the promise, walk in the Spirit (which is walking by faith in Christ) and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.(Galatians 5:16) That’s a promise the law cannot fulfill. Compare that to Romans 7:5, which says the law stirs up the passions of the flesh. Faith and grace stirs up our life in the Spirit, and legalism and law stir up the flesh. Which is more likely to produce obedience?

Eddie Snipes
2015

Jun 08

The New Covenant According to Jesus Part 3

Part 3 of Jesus’ teaching just before going to the cross.

Jun 06

What would Jesus say to Bruce Jenner?

One of the biggest mistakes Christians make is demanding the world to live by a Christian standard. According to the Bible, we are all born into a fallen nature. Before I became a The_Revelation_of_Gr_Cover_for_KindleChristian, I tried to be religious, but I could not live by the perfect standard of Christ. After becoming a Christian, I didn’t do much better. My struggles didn’t improve until I learned what the Bible meant that I am a new creation, and for this reason, I am called to walk according to the Spirit. Or as the Apostle Paul put it, “It is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives through me.”

The truth is, a fallen nature cannot live by an eternal spiritual standard. Bruce Jenner’s gender identity crisis is not the problem – it’s a symptom. The problem is that in the flesh – or our old natural state, we are all slaves to our passions. It just happens to be that some people’s passions are socially acceptable. I don’t see Christians blowing up over a sailor that has a girl in every port. Or the countless people in the church that give in to their passions with the opposite sex. Or what about people whose God is their belly (Philippians 3:19). What about the warning of Proverbs 23:20, which tells us not to mix company with gluttons, and to put a knife to our own throat if our appetites are aroused by the foods of the glutton?

This is the very reason why Romans 2:1 says that we who judge others are condemning ourselves, for we are guilty of the same things. The truth is, we are all born in the same boat as Jenner, even though our symptoms may be different.

What is the response the church should be making? Is it to wag our fingers at someone who is clearly tormented by their inner struggles, and condemn them for making choices that they hope will meet their needs? Is this really what the Bible teaches? Or could it be that Jesus showed us how to reach starving souls?

The woman caught in adultery is one of my favorite examples of ministry. Just as we see in the church today, religious people threw this woman at Jesus’ feet and said, “This woman was caught in the very act of adultery. The law condemns her to die by stoning, what to you say?”

Why did they come to Jesus? They didn’t need His permission. The Bible says that Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but bring them into salvation. The same message is given to the church by Christ. He said, “You are not of the world, but I have called you out of the world.” This is the heart of the great commission. Jesus did not command His disciples to force the world to live like Christians. He commanded them to go out into the world, call others out of the world, and make disciples.

The world knew that Jesus lived contrary to it. This includes the religious world. They thought they were serving God, but the Bible calls them enemies of the cross. Jesus even warned that they would persecute His followers while thinking they were doing God a service. Why did religion hate Christ? Because He was full of grace and truth. Grace does not condemn sin. Grace overcomes sin with the goodness of God. This is why the Bible says that our righteousness is worthless to God, but His righteousness is a gift to us. We are righteous by becoming receivers of grace, not accomplishers of the law. In fact, the Bible says that by the deeds of the law, no one will be justified in God’s sight.

The woman in adultery is the evidence of this truth. Instead of pointing at the woman’s sins, Jesus pointed at the sins of her accusers. When He stooped down, He wrote things on the ground that began convicting them. I imagine Him writing things like, Adultery = to lust is adultery in our heart. Thievery = he that is greedy is a thief in his heart. He that covets is guilty of idolatry. One by one, Jesus exposed their hidden sins, then He stood up and said, “Let the one who is without sin be the first to cast a stone at her.”

Grace was given to the woman before the call to sin no more was issued. “Are there none to accuse you? Neither do I accuse you. Go and sin no more.”

The thieving tax collector Zacchaeus was hated by the religious community. He robbed people with the Roman tax system, was greedy, covetous, and guilty by any religious standard. Yet without pointing out a single sin, Zacchaeus was transformed by grace when He spent time with Christ. As he was filled with the love of God, he volunteered his money. “I will give half my money to the poor, and if I have robbed anyone, I will repay four times what I took.”

Ironically, the religious rich young ruler refused to part with his money in Luke 18, but the sinful scoundrel who was anti-religious eagerly gave up this world once he experienced the grace of Christ.

And we haven’t even gotten into the prostitute, Mary Magdalene, the foul mouthed fisherman named Peter, or the other thieving tax collector Matthew. Matthew and Peter both abandoned their sin without Jesus pointing out their faults. Once they saw the value of the new life of Christ, their old life suddenly looked like trash. They soon became the apostles that Jesus used to present the church of the New Covenant. Or what about Paul. He was a murderer of Christians, yet Jesus called him through grace, and the very religious Paul declared that his old life was nothing but a dung heap compared to the excellence of knowing Christ.

Another great example was the woman at the well. She was living in open sin. Her sinful reputation was so shameful that she would not go to the well to draw water until the heat of the day. The other women came for water in the cool morning and the cool of the evening, but to avoid the scornful looks and whispers of gossip, she came during the high noon time of the day. In a culture when divorce was almost unheard of, she was a five time divorcee, and was shacking up with a man who wasn’t her husband. She was the town tramp.

Just as it is with the struggles of someone like Bruce Jenner, her life was a symptom of her problem. She couldn’t fulfill the need of her soul, so she bounced from relationship to relationship. She was openly living in adultery, yet Jesus didn’t address her sin. He addressed her need. Her soul was parched and starving, and her life was a symptom of that problem. So how did Jesus address this? He focused on her need; not her lifestyle. “I can give you living water.” He explained that not only could He satisfy her soul, but this living water would become a spring of life that would flow out from her.

As He spoke, she began to recognize her need, though she still believed this need could be satisfied in her flesh. Jesus used the need of her flesh to reveal the only source of satisfaction and fulfillment; the life of the Spirit.

Are we ministering like Jesus did? Are we looking at the Bruce Jenners of the world who are trying to fulfill their need with the dry things of this life, and telling them about the living waters? Did the scorn and condemnation of religious people change the woman at the well? The religious community scolded her, and this only caused her to avoid them. Beating her over the head with the law didn’t do anything to rescue her from her sin.

The truth is that we don’t need to shove condemnation into anyone’s face. We don’t even need to tell them that they are sinners. According to Jesus, the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin. That is His job; not ours. Our job is to point others to the living water. When we unveil the grace of Christ, the Spirit unveils the true need – to be rescued from a parched soul corrupted by sin – and in doing so, people are able to see the life-giving living water that is given freely as an act of God’s grace. Grace is the unearned and unearnable love of God.

Trying to chew moisture out of dead sticks only looks good because the spring of life has never been seen. To tell someone to stop trying to draw life from death sounds foolish to someone who sees this as the only hope of their soul. To tell the Jenners of this world to stop trying to find satisfaction from their passions seems foolish. It’s something that cannot be comprehended until they see life. And the church is repelling instead of drawing.

Why were sinners drawn to Christ, but religion hated Him? Why are only religious people drawn to the church, but the church repels sinners. It repels even those who are seeking answers. If sinners are repelled by the church, but were drawn to Christ, what does this tell us about the spirit of our churches?

The Bible tells us that the way of the Spirit is incomprehensible to the natural mind. Yet we are trying to force people into a way of thinking and living that cannot be lived outside of the Spirit. Instead of condemning, we should be pointing others to the living water.

Until Bruce Jenner or any other person is transformed from within, constraining them from the outside is only building frustration, and driving them away from life. We have to remember one of the basic truths of faith. No one can live until they die. When we put our trust in Christ, we were crucified with Christ, buried with Christ, and a new life was given to us as a gift of God. We are born from above, with a new spirit, which has a new nature. That nature is the only way we can live in righteousness. Bruce doesn’t have that nature. Until he does, condemnation is fruitless and we, are becoming the very people who drove the woman at the well into isolation.

Our call is to be like Christ. We should be showing the world that the Spirit is life to their parched soul, and when someone gets a glimpse of true life, their life of the flesh will become worthless. Or as Jesus said, the kingdom of God is like the man who found a treasure in a field. For the joy of obtaining that treasure, he sold everything he had to buy that field. Everything in this life becomes worthless once we discover the treasure of the Spirit. Until then, demanding someone to sell out seems foolish. Grace must come first. Until then, all affection, passion, and value will be on what cannot satisfy – the life of this world.

Let us become preachers of living water instead of condemners of parched souls.

Eddie Snipes

May 31

Grace conference 2015

I will be the speaker at the Grace Camp in Washington this year. If you would like to attend, below is the information. You can find out more information at www.gracecamp.org

GRACE CAMP OS 2015 (9/25-9/27/15)

LEARN AND CELEBRATE GOD’S GRACE (AT THE BEACH)

Download a PDF flyer by clicking here.

GUEST SPEAKER: Eddie Snipes. Eddie is the father of five children, and is the pastor of Hollydale Baptist church. He has served as the president of the Christian Authors Guild, served in management in a Fortune 500 corporation, served as pastor and interim pastor, and was nominated for Georgia Author of the Year. Some of his titles include Abounding Grace, It is Finished, The Promise of a Sound mind, and many other books founded upon grace. Find out more information about Eddie www.exchangedlife.com or eddiesnipes.com. DATES/TIMES:

  • Session #1: Friday Evening 9/25/15: 6:300pm – 9:00pm, Introduction to Grace and Living in the Spirit.
  • Session #2: Saturday Morning 9/26/15: 9:30 am to 12:00 pm, Understanding the Flesh and the Spirit.
  • Lunch & Fellowship: Saturday 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm (restaurant of your choice)
  • Session #3: Saturday  9 /26/15: 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm, The Crucified Life.
  • Break: Saturday 3:00 pm – 3:30 pm
  • Session #4: Saturday  9 /26/15: 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm, The Resurrected Life.
  • Dinner & Fellowship: Saturday 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm (restaurant of your choice)
  • Session #5: Saturday Evening 9/26/15: 6:30 pm – 9:00pm, The Spirit-Filled Life.
  • Church Services: Sunday Morning 9/27/15: Attend a local Ocean Shores church. List to be provided.
  • Recreation: Sunday Mid-Day +  9/27/15: FREE TIME in Ocean Shores and/or travel home.

LOCATION: Galilean Lutheran Church, 824 Ocean Shores Blvd NW, Ocean Shores, WA 98569.  Click here for directions and map. COST: You will need to provide your own transportation, lodging and meals for the event. There will be a free will offering taken at each session. The donations will go to pay for the costs of the camp, a speaker honorarium and hopefully some to go to scholarships for those needing financial help with transportation or lodging costs. Make your checks payable to “Boundless Grace Ministries”. Click here to Register.

Limited Discounted Lodging Available: We have reserved a limited number of rooms at the Quality Inn in Ocean Shores which is a 1/2 block from Galilean Lutheran Church where we are holding this year’s Grace Camp OS 2014. Rooms begin at $68.00 per night for a non-ocean view room to $118.00 per night for an ocean view suite. Includes free high-speed Internet access, hot breakfast, coffee, local calls and weekday newspaper. • Guests will need to call in directly to Quality Inn at (360) 289-2040 (Ask for “Grace Camp Discount”). Guarantee your rooms before 8/25/15 to get these rates. • Link: http://www.qualityinn.com/hotel-ocean_shores-washington-WA111#rsm-rate-RACK . Remember to call (360) 289-2040 and ask for “Grace Camp Discount” and NOT book on-line to get these discounted rates.

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