Monday, February 20, 2017

Living Grace

Before you begin your Bible study, as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, be sure you have named your sins privately to God the Father.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
(Known, Unknown and Forgotten sins) (1Jn 1:9)

You will then be in fellowship with God, Filled with the Holy Spirit and ready to learn Truth from the Word of God.

"God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and Truth," (Joh 4:24)

                                                Living Grace

                   THE BENEFITS OF GRACE (Tit 2:11)

          Every believer-priest has the privilege and responsibility of preparing himself for the study of the Word of God. This preparation involves the grace provision of the "rebound technique." The benefits, the profits in the study of the Word of God, the avoidance of hang-ups, the avoidance of disillusionment, and the ability to focus on the message depends upon the ministry of the Third Person of the God-head in the Spirit-filled believer. The Holy Spirit does not control the life when we are in a state of carnality. The only way we can be filled or controlled by the Spirit is through, (1Jn 1:9):

          If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

          Therefore, confession of every known sin should precede the study of the Word so that you can assist yourself of all the benefits of His grace. This should always be a matter of privacy. The priesthood functions best, in privacy under conditions of silent prayer!
          There is absolutely no way any believer can avoid the Person of God the Father. There is no way we can ever escape His plan. He knew about us in eternity past; we could not escape then, and we cannot escape now. There is no corner of the earth to which we can run, there is no activity of sublimation, and there is no way that we can bury ourselves in "Cosmos Diabolicus," (The Matrix). We belong to Him; we are His children. He has placed around us a wall of fire, which is His making, His doing. (Psa 139:1-18; Zec 2:5)
          Every blessing we have ever had, every wonderful thing we have ever discovered, every worthwhile thing in this life, and even many things that may not be, are the result of grace. And since grace belongs to God, and since it is an expression of His character and His Person, and since grace is the key to our capacity to love Him, I trust that God the Holy Spirit will make these things very real to you as you meditate on His matchless grace from the passage before us in, (Tit 2:11): For the grace of God has appeared, bringing Salvation to all men.
          On the surface, it looks as though this verse could be explained in about three minutes. However, nothing could be farther from the Truth! Two fantastic Doctrines reside in this particular verse; in fact, almost every other word is a category of Doctrine. Let's take the first phrase: "The grace of God."


          We have to start with the last word of this phrase --- God; because of Who and what God IS. He has, within His own character, a number of facets which are not contradictory, which are absolute, and which are perfectly reconciled to each other. God has lived with Himself FOREVER! PAST PRESENT AND FUTURE! There never was a time when He did not live with Himself; there never was a time when He was disappointed in Himself, or a time when He failed, nor when He thought He had failed, when He was discouraged, upset, depressed or unstable. GOD IS EVERYTHING; that we are not!
          When we came from the hand of God in the form of our original parents, mankind was in a state of perfection. Sin was only a possibility because of volition. Furthermore, man enjoyed perfect environment --- Bible class, as well as pleasure every day! That was it. It may be difficult for some of you to think that Bible class might be a part of perfect environment. But in perfection, that was the pattern and that was the story. Apart from naming the animals; no work --- all play! And it certainly didn't make Adam and Eve dull. So far as we know, they never had a complaint.
          But they did have one thing that eventually fouled it up: they had volition, or free will. By an act of their own volition, they actually destroyed their perfect relationship with each other, as well as with God. Now, I don't like the word "innocent" in connection with Adam and Eve because there are two things that an innocent, naive person will never do: one, come to Bible class every day; and two, have sex every day. But that is exactly what happened to Adam and Eve over a period of perhaps a hundred years.
          Now, how can two people have so much and "blow it''? You must understand that we are merely looking at the historical facts of Truth; we are not criticizing Adam and Eve. If I could sit back and look at my life and say that it was perfect, I might look down my nose a little bit at them; but somehow I have not been able to manage it. Yet I never think about Adam and Eve without wondering why they "blew it." Now you stop and think about it. What was there to make them unhappy in the Garden? Food? No! Did they lack any fun? No! Did they lack any Truth? No! And then add a few other things: it was quiet in the Garden --- except when they were frolicking; no bad music; no noisy neighbors; and --- pardon the expression no children! No problems with schools and busing!
          Can you imagine anything better? They had everything… Never getting up to go to work… Never being tired… Spending the entire morning with your right man or right woman… Spending the afternoon in Bible class… Having a great evening probably living on a couple of hours' sleep and never having a wrinkle… No puffiness. Everything they ate was good and healthy. They never had bad weather, so no need for air conditioning.
          And think about all the things they couldn't do. You know that Adam was never jealous of Eve? Do you know that Eve never checked up on him? Do you know that not once were they ever suspicious of each other? Do you know that they never lied to each other? Do you know that they never had a fight? Do you know that they had so much fun they could hardly stand it? Do you know that they had a phenomenal understanding of Bible Truth? And the best Pastor-Teacher - Jesus Christ, Himself! Well, how did they manage to "blow it"?
          Now I know that you don't think much about Adam and Eve because you just don't dwell on things so far in the past. But I want to tell you how man is, and then, in contrast, how God Is; to help you understand the phrase "grace of God."   Man has something great and "blows it." Oh, you and I have done the same thing. Can you ever look back at your life at something that was so fantastic you couldn't believe it and then proceed to take steps to mess it up? Or are you an unusual member of the human race? Apparently some of you have never had any fun!
          Did you ever reach a beautiful plateau, and, though you may not have realized it at the time. Everything was so fantastic and so great that you started looking over your shoulder waiting for something horrible to happen? It was just too good to be true. I guess some of you have never been there. But enough of you have for me to make the point. By an act, or by a series of acts from your own volition, you ''blew it." You walked into "Paradise" with dynamite --- mental attitude sins --- and blooey! You threw a grenade of insult and anger. You blew the whole thing apart. Did you ever sit down and ask yourself why? Why did I do this? Because man, with his free will, could never do anything by his own merit or by his own ability BUT "blow it"! And that was even before he had an old sin nature! Adam and Eve didn't have a sin nature. And God never solicited to sin --- not once! The reason why Adam and Eve "blew it" comes out so beautifully and so clearly in the third chapter of Genesis. The woman heard a couple of things that appealed to her. She thought she was low on the totem pole. There was Jesus Christ coming to them in Person every day; (Gen 3:8) there was Adam, her husband, who made fantastic love to her, gave her the greatest soul activity in the world; gave her everything that is perfect in Spiritual Virtue love. (Also trees for the Body, soul and spirit; Gen 2:9) But she still had the feeling that she was a little low on the totem pole.
          Then along came Satan, disguised as her pet serpent! "Honey," he suggested, "you can be as smart as God is, and that means you will be smarter than Adam!" Now why would a woman who has been perfectly fulfilled every day of her life for perhaps a hundred years want to be smarter than Adam? What could she gain by it? But that appealed to her. Something else Satan suggested got to her: "Won't God let you eat of all the trees?" And the implication was that God was so unfair He wouldn't let them eat of that ONE tree!
          "All but ONE Eve replied. Oh, how anxious Satan was for her to eat from that tree! Whatever fruit it was, it is what it represented --- Satan's plan, sin and the old sin nature. Satan wanted her to eat --- to win the appeal trial of the angelic conflict. (Free will --- rebellion and insubordination; 1Sa 15:1-35) Satan looked down and saw man and woman having a ball in the Garden. After a few years, Satan began to tap his foot because it didn't look like the angelic conflict was even going to get off the ground. Suddenly he realized what was wrong. He realized that everything God provides is perfect, but that man had free will like himself; and if Satan was ever going to get the angelic conflict off the ground, he must get man to "blow it" of his own free will. So he started studying Adam and Eve. He made a good reconnaissance. Apparently, as he watched them in Bible class, he saw that the woman wasn't listening as well as the man. She was missing a few points. He studied her until he saw her weakness.
          Now here's the approach. If the woman is going to go negative toward God, then the Person of God must be attacked. The essence of God must come under attack, and the woman must change her mind about God --- not about the man --- for the key to their perfect relationship was God's character --- GRACE AND LOVINGKINDNESS! They had not earned anything nor deserved anything, and they were the beneficiaries of everything that added up to human happiness. It wasn't that they couldn't stand prosperity. If a member of the human race fails, it is by failing to Spiritually Understand Who and what God Is; and what His plan and Reality IS. And that's exactly what happened.
          "You mean that God won't let you eat of all of the trees of the Garden?" was the subtle question. The woman didn't even understand that, because she answered, "God has said we may eat of the fruit of all the trees in the Garden, but we may not eat of this particular tree, NEITHER SHALL WE TOUCH IT, or we will die." Somehow she had thought that death was in the property of the tree. (A poisonous substance) But death was in the act of negative volition to God's Command. Apparently, she had never even touched it, which indicated a basic distortion or misinterpretation. In other words, she didn't have the true REALITY of the facts; clearly in her mind; and as a result she thought, "If I touch it, I am dead. If I eat of it, I am dead!" (To live in unbroken fellowship with God now --- we must learn, believe and adjust to ALL OF THE THOUGHTS OF GOD ON EVERY SUBJECT; AND THINK WITH THEM! Isa 65:2; Pro 22:17-19)
          Now when she finally looked at the fruit, she longed for it, she latched on to it, and she lost Spiritually. (Gen 3:6) She died Spiritually immediately. She lost her human spirit and acquired a sin nature. Now there is a second attack upon God. There was an attack upon the character of God when Satan dealt with the woman. Adam wasn't even there. But now Adam came back and saw his right woman minus a human spirit. She had become dichotomous, while he was trichotomous. She had an old sin nature; he did not. As the woman offers the fruit to the man, he must decide for God or for the woman. And he made his decision --- he ate of the fruit.
          Now both of them are in a maximum undeserving situation. The first time they sinned they acquired an old sin nature, and that put them in a totally undeserving position. There never has been in all of human history a more undeserving situation. They committed one sin of negative volition --- just one sin! You can say, ''Why, I have done worse things than that: I have done thus and so, and thus and so!" Yet, in the entire human race, no one has ever sinned like the first man and woman in their first sin. There is no way you can top it; there is nothing you can do to equal it. You can have a thousand sins to your credit, but you'll never come close. And at that point, we have totally undeserving mankind both Adam and Eve --- "Ish" and "Isha."
          The first thing they did after they were Spiritually dead was to provide for themselves fig leaves. They turned "respectable" ; they became self-righteous. And that made it even worse. If God simply followed His righteousness or His justice to the maximum, He would have placed them in an eternal lake of fire; then and there, because they were Spiritually dead. He would then have started on some other course of action; with regard to the angelic conflict.


          But God did exactly the opposite. God looked down upon them in GRACE --- the sum total of His character. Let's take a look at His essence in relation to their sin. Sovereignty might have made the decision to wipe them out because their sin was so repugnant to His righteousness. His justice must demand payment for sin --- so wipe them out. They are already Spiritually dead, so finish up the job --- make Spiritual death the second death, and that is the end of the line!
          God is also Virtue love. No one in the human race can ever say that God doesn't love him, for God's love received its greatest test --- its greatest challenge --- with the first two people. And as goes God's love with Adam and his wife, so goes God's love in the human race. Eternal life: certainly eternal life looked at them in their fall and observed that if they lived forever in their sin, they would be miserable. Omniscience looked down the corridors of time and saw their children, grandchildren, great-great-great grandchildren --- right down to the Twentieth Century, and it wasn't a very encouraging sight. All He saw was an accumulation of sin, sin, sin. Billions of sins have been committed by the progeny of Adam, and there are no exceptions! If you stacked up these sins, you could walk up a stepladder all the way to the third heaven. He saw the total depravity of man. He saw the human old sin nature human good of man, which is sickening to Him --- "a filthy garment"! (Isa 64:6)
          Therefore, omniscience would have to say, ''Wipe them out and forget it!" Just as you, many times in your own soul, have become bitter or disappointed or angry with someone and said, "Wipe him out! Hurt him! Destroy him!" Your vindictiveness isn't new to God. Your mental attitude sins do not take Him by surprise. He took a look at Adam, and He took a look at you and me. He saw all of us. Now you might be very smug in your self-righteousness, as though you've never done anything wrong. Nothing could be farther from the Truth! You just haven't had anyone point it out properly from the Word of God.
          Where did you ever get the idea that you earned or deserved anything from God? When you understand the basic principle of the fall of man in contrast to God's PERFECT ESSENCE, (Isa 33:10-17) you see how easy it would have been to wipe him out. His omnipotence had the power to do it. His omnipresence was a personal witness to the whole thing. Immutability: He cannot soft-pedal any of His characteristics. He can't say, "Since I love these people, I will just forget my righteousness and justice." He can't change one of His characteristics. God cannot change Himself. God cannot say, ''Well, I'll excuse you this time."
          That removes His perfect righteousness --- "plus-R." That destroys His justice. That turns His Virtue love into something unstable, sentimental and unreliable. Just Think of it! This very moment, no matter who you are or what you've done, you can count on the Virtue love of God! Why can you depend on His love? Because it has never changed! (1Sa 15:29) The entire force of Satan rolled up at the fall to challenge God's Virtue love for you. But it didn't waver for a minute. Why? His love and His capacity for love is based on righteousness and justice, eternal life, immutability and omniscience!
          Veracity: God can only tell the Truth. God was, as it were, in a corner; but He didn't box His way out with a few lies. Did you ever get into a jam and lie your way out? Don't think too long about it! All right --- so at least once in your life you have done so. Do you know how despicable that makes you in God's sight? If you got away with it, it didn't necessarily make you despicable in the eyes of the one you deceived. But let me tell you something: God knew ALWAYS that you would tell fifty thousand lies, or twenty-five thousand, or whatever it is. I am not trying to dwell on your lies or my lies; I am trying to show you that they are an insult to the veracity of God.  
          Now perhaps you may not be aware of it, but we have just given a dissertation on THE GRACE OF GOD. You cannot point to a single characteristic in the Essence Box and say, "I deserve..." There are certain facades you put up that you think make you deserving. Take your own righteousness, for example. All of you have been good people at some time or another. I mean "good" in the sense that you more or less didn't step out of line, as far as society is concerned. You lived an overtly good life. And you want to put that up for heaven? You are depending on YOUR old sin nature's "good." Do you know what I like about Berachah Church? It is the biggest collection of stinkers, hypocrites, "rat-finks," jerks and self-righteous snobs I have ever seen. And that is great, because all of these types --- and I have missed a few --- are positive toward Bible Truth! Some of you are missing the very key to Truth; but you are getting it now: THE GRACE OF GOD! Now what am I saying? First of all, I do not deserve to be here. I think it is easier for you to understand if I start with myself. I do not deserve to be a pastor-teacher. I can't look back to one glowing Spiritual experience. The heavens never opened, I wasn't tapped on the shoulder, I never went blind; (Except once at the beach accidentally, which had nothing to do with Spirituality) God never spoke to me in the night and said, "Go, boy, go!" I have never had any such great experience.
          I know a lot of preachers who have, and they can give the most glowing account of how God tapped them on the shoulder and called them to the ministry. There is actually no such thing as a "call to the ministry." God the Holy Spirit sovereignly bestows the gift of pastor-teacher at the point of Salvation. It's as though He has a stamp; and when certain MALE children arrive on the scene, down goes the imprint - PASTOR-TEACHER! Now you tell me how you can earn or deserve the gift of pastor-teacher! You can't! You are set apart by God at Salvation. From then on, it is just a matter of Divine guidance. God isn't mysterious about this. It is a step by step process --- and there you are! (Through: Prayer, Thinking with Truth, The Word of God, The filling of God the Holy Spirit, Remembering Scripture, Coincidence and Comparing of events and information)
          There seven methods of Divine guidance. You may fail in business, or in two or three careers. You may simply have been listening to Truth and decide you must be called to be a pastor. Perhaps one day some person turns to you and says, "What is that Doctrine?" You find yourself explaining it and doing a better job than the pastor. You think, ''Well, I guess I can make a point now and then," and you are launched as a pastor-teacher! The point is you just keep learning Truth, step by step, and keep moving on!
          Just as we don t deserve or earn the right to be a pastor-teacher, neither do we deserve or earn the right to be here, or even to be alive on the face of the earth. Stop and take a good look at it: what did we do to earn the right to be here? Nothing! But we may say, "I was born on this earth; I've got a right to be on it!" Is that so? WE have an old sin nature that says you don't! But we have done a couple of nice things here and there. We can remember that time we gave sacrificially; that time we rang doorbells for Christ, or when we sang in the choir --- little things we've done here and there. Now listen!
          We all have a scale of values that we've built up in our minds. Called it the "legalistic scale." We all have a set of standards, and when we comply with this set of standards, we think of ourselves as "A-OK." We decide that on the basis of complying with these standards, somehow God is going to bless us because we are meeting standards that WE have set up. Now let's take a look at our legalistic scale. Here it is: 0-100. On this scale we have certain things with which we must comply. We move up the scale for awhile; then we stray; move up stray; move up --- stray. Every now and then we take a look, and we've gone twenty-four hours, and everything is lined up perfectly. So we stand around and tap our foot waiting for God to throw out-the blessing --- because we have complied with the standard we have built up in our mind!


          Now, let's not kid ourselves. We all have a standard. But one thing about it if we are not meeting our standard, then we rationalize and say it's someone else's fault. God has a standard, too. The highest: PLUS-R! We are the recipients of this perfect righteousness at the point of Salvation; this is what we have by GRACE. We don't earn it or deserve it! He has also provided ways for experiential compatibility with His righteousness. Your life and mine is described by this phrase, THE GRACE OF GOD.
          Why is it so important? Let's get some isagogics, (History) here. Why is it so important for Titus to realize this? Because although the Cretians were spread out all over the island, they were just like the people of Berachah. They were people who were ready; people who were ready to go positive toward Truth; people who were ready to respond to the right pastor. Yes, even people who would get angry, people who would react, people who would respond; BUT people who would stay positive, no matter what! People who were the recipients of the grace of God. Titus needed to know this while still in "seminary."
          I know of some seminary students who think they are called to minister only to a certain class of people --- usually the type of people they like or are relaxed around. Now this is idiocy. Why? Who knows who is on positive volition? No one but God! The ideal situation is to have a maximum number of people who are positive toward Truth --- rich or poor; regardless of personality, human or social categories. It is positive volition toward Truth that counts.
          Many of the people who come to Bible class every night are real stinkers. But that is fine. Why? Because they are positive toward Truth! The variety is unbelievable. We have everything, and love it! In fact, it is the way it should be. As a church, we are going first class for one simple reason: we are as different in our personalities as it is possible to be; yet the beautiful thing is that no one is trying to change anyone's personality, manner of dress, or social status. There is just one requirement that counts here; and that is positive volition toward the Word of Truth. (The Bible) Why? Sooner or later, if you stay positive long enough, you are going to understand Who and what God Is! You are going to understand this phrase, "the grace of God." And you are going to get away from that idea you hear so often that a church is great because of its missionary outreach, or its administration or its teaching pulpit, or even its tape and publications ministry. Not that these things aren't all fine; BUT if any church, including Berachah Church, is great, it's strictly THE GRACE OF GOD! We don't earn it, we don't deserve it, and we haven't worked for it. Now that is relaxing!
          Suppose right now Satan is in one of the angelic con- vocations, (Job 1:6-8) and he is complaining vehemently about Berachah Church; so God just pulled His righteousness and justice out of His essence and gave us what we deserve in the next two minutes! Do you know what would happen? This would be a miniature of hell. We would be in the most awful agony. We would be screaming; we would be the full recipients of righteousness and justice; and while we lasted, which wouldn't be too long, we would have the most miserable moments we have ever experienced. We would all scream loudly. This place would be chaos! And when it was all over, there would be just a hole in the ground. That's all!
          Now don't get nervous, because God isn't going to do that. You are going to remain in one piece. But don't stick your nose up in the air as though you deserved it, because you don't and I don't! It's God's grace. But if you want to take out God's characteristics and isolate them; that is where we'd be. Yet that is what people want to do with God's love. They want God's love without His righteousness and justice. That's not what I want! I want God's love for me to be so perfect, so great, so stabilized, and to have such a marvelous capacity that it will always depend upon Him; and that means it would have to depend upon His righteousness and justice. Of course, that was taken care of at the cross by propitiation.
          I don't know about you, but every time I think about it --- at least once every day, and sometimes many times a day --- I thank God for Who and what He IS, that His character remains intact. No characteristic of the Essence Box has ever been canceled. None of them has been pulled out and isolated. His characteristics do not neutralize each other. Since there are no inner conflicts in the Essence Box, God is perfectly objective in His love toward you and me; and that is the grace of God! Where could you go and ever find anything like that? You could go to the ends of the earth...  You could experience everything in life which people consider to be fun... You could have every detail of life...  You could have everything which was wonderful and worthwhile in your own estimation... And you will never find anything which comes close to the grace of God! You see, you don't have to go anywhere, it's here in Bible class; it's in the Word of God, in Bible Truth! And if you stay with it, you'll get it!


          The next phrase in, (Tit 2:11) "bringing Salvation," looks like a verb, but it is literally an adjective, ("Soterios") which means "imparting Salvation." THE GRACE OF GOD IMPARTING SALVATION. Do you know what Salvation really means? It means that God has found a way to love you forever, to give you eternal life, to provide for you forever, without compromising one characteristic in the Essence Box. That's the cross!
          His sovereignty isn't compromised, for He made a sovereign decision about the cross in eternity past. His righteousness isn't compromised because Christ on the cross had plus-R. His justice isn't compromised, since Christ bore our sins in His own body on the tree. His love isn't compromised, for the cross is the maximum and perfect expression of love. His eternal life isn't compromised because Christ, having propitiated the Father, is free to give you His life. His omniscience is not compromised, for He knew billions of years ago that every sin you would commit would have to be poured out on the cross. His omnipotence is not compromised because He had the power to put this into operation. His omnipresence is not an issue, except that He witnesses our failures. His immutability is not compromised, because not one characteristic is changed; and because God never lied to you once, His veracity is not compromised. Now where do we stack up? We don't! It is very relaxing and very wonderful to know that we not only do not, but that we cannot; yet God has provided for us in entirety. And that's GRACE!

          GRACE TO ALL

           "Has appeared," (Tit 2:11) is a beautiful thing: God didn't keep this a secret; and this is a manifestation of grace. "Has appeared" is "epiphaino" in the Greek and means ''to make a clear manifestation." In the aorist tense, as here, it means "throughout all time," "in any point of time" when the gospel is declared. Passive voice --- this Salvation is received; indicative mood --- the reality of this appearance!
          To whom is this addressed? TO ALL MEN. The entire human race --- without exception! The grace of God provides Salvation, imparts Salvation to ALL men --- no matter how bad they are; no matter how good; no matter what category of degeneracy; no matter how they have failed; no matter how they have sinned; no matter what they have done! There is no exception. (Mat 5:45)
          Now that is Who and what God Is. He is so fantastic, so wonderful, so marvelous, that He should be the object of all the Virtue love you could ever possess. But you cannot possess any Virtue love apart from a word mentioned in, (Tit 2:12). TEACHING! TEACHING! TEACHING! A pastor has to teach us Truth; in order for us to have Virtue love for God! That means that someone has to communicate to you Bible Truth. That was the problem in Crete: there was no one to communicate Truth to a local church.
          What greater challenge could you have in this life than the challenge to have Personal Virtue love for God? And then lead others to the teaching of Truth? But we will never make it without Thinking with the Mind of Christ; Bible Truth; Daily! Daily! Daily!


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