Archives For grace

When the children of Israel were going into the Promised Land, God gave them a law. The law was part of His covenant relationship with them. But after Jesus came, many Jewish Christians wanted to know what role the law should continue to play in their lives. Were Christians obligated to keep the law? If not, what was to keep them from living sinfully? The apostle Paul boldly claimed that Christians “are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). Could that really be true? If so, what would that look like? What would that mean?

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I recently had a rather unfortunate debate on Facebook that revolved around a conversation I had with my son. I posted that I had told my son, people don’t go to heaven because they are obedient, they go to heaven because God is gracious and sent Jesus to die on the cross. Of course I wasn’t undermining the importance and necessity of obedience, but I was making the point that God saves us, “not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace” (2 Timothy 1:9). But it seems many are rather uncomfortable with that concept.

So I want to address the question, “Are we saved by grace or not?”

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How to be the Church of Grace

Wes  —  January 14, 2015

The word “grace” appears over 100 times in the New Testament. One could easily say that grace is one of the most dominant themes of the New Testament. The apostle John began his gospel account by saying, “The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Therefore, it is only right for Christ’s church to be known as a people of grace. Or, in other words, the church of Christ should be the church of grace.

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It seems there are a lot of people who wonder, “Am I good enough to go to heaven?” They wonder if they’ve done enough good, if they’ve helped enough people, if they attended worship services enough times, if they have taught enough people about Jesus. And then, on the other hand, they wonder if they’ve been too bad to go to heaven. I want to attempt to answer some of these questions.

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My last post addressing the question, “Is it Time for Churches of Christ to Fellowship Other Groups?” has sparked a great deal of discussion concerning the issue of unity. I would like to share with you a thought about why I believe the church struggles so much with this issue of unity.

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Imagine walking into an expensive restaurant and seeing an old friend, already enjoying his dinner. When you see the half-eaten feast on your friend’s table, you think to yourself, “Wow! He’s really pigging out tonight. That’s going to be huge bill.” You wave to your friend and he waves back. When you finish your dinner the waiter brings your check. To your surprise, the waiter has added someone else’s meal to your ticket. “What’s the meaning of this,” you ask the waiter. The waiter replies, “Your friend said you wouldn’t mind picking up the tab, so we put his meal on your bill.”

Personally, I would be outraged with such a person and I would no longer consider that man a “friend.” Are we doing the same thing to God?

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I hear constantly, “Well, that’s probably not a good thing to do, but it’s not a sin.” Or even, “That might be a bad thing to do, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is a sin.” It is very interesting to hear people talk this way and I wonder if we have any idea what we’re saying. I wonder, do we really know what it means to “sin”?

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What God Really Wants

Wes  —  June 18, 2012

Under the Old Testament, many seemed to believe that all God really wanted was ritualistic obedience. They seemed to think that as long as they went through the motions, regardless of their hearts, God would be pleased. This mentality was certainly prevalent during the days of Isaiah, and of Christ (Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:8).

There are those with this mentality today; however, many seem to have gone to the opposite extreme.

Many today, seem to think God cares nothing about obedience and cares only about the heart. They say things like, “It’s impossible to say whether anyone is right or wrong in what they do, because we don’t know their heart.” These people believe God will judge, not based on what a person did or didn’t do, but based upon how that person felt about God.

Neither of these two extremes are biblical. And neither of these two extremes are pleasing to God. As you read through the Bible, both New and Old Testaments, you will find that what God really wants is YOU! He wants all of you. He doesn’t want just your heart, and He doesn’t want just your obedience. He wants everything. He wants heartfelt obedience!

Jesus certainly rebuked the idea that God would be pleased with ritualistic, heartless obedience. But, He also debunked the myth that God would be pleased with anything less than total submission to His will.

John 14:15 (ESV) 

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Matthew 15:7-9 (ESV)

“You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'”

Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'”

Mark 16:15-16 (ESV)

“And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.'”

Mark 12:29-30 (ESV) 

“The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'”

Although we will inevitably fall short of God’s will for our lives (Romans 3:23), we must acknowledge the fact that God is pleased with nothing short of a heartfelt effort to be perfect and holy (Matthew 5:48). It is only while we strive (in futility) for perfection, that we walk in the grace of God (1 John 1:7).

God has high expectations of those who come to Him; expectations of your heart and expectations of your obedience.

I love you and a gracious God loves you,

Wes McAdams

 

 

P.S. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

There are certainly thousands of things a Christian should never be, so this is far from an exhaustive list. But here are 7 things, from 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18, a Christian should never be.

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1 Thessalonians 5:14-16

(14) And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. (15) See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. (16) Rejoice always, (17) pray without ceasing, (18) give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

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1. A Christian Should Never be Idle (1 Thessalonians 5:14)

Idle is defined as, “Not working or active…doing nothing.” This doesn’t mean we can never stop working momentarily and rest; but like our Lord, we need to constantly be about our Father’s business.

2. A Christian Should Never be a Discouraging (1 Thessalonians 5:14)

Christians ought to be people who build up; never tear down. Paul says in Ephesians 4:29 that every word that comes from our mouth should be good for building up. Even when we have to admonish someone, it should be done in an encouraging way.

3. A Christian Should Never be too Busy to Help Others (1 Thessalonians 5:14)

If you are too busy with your own life to “help the weak,” you’re too busy (Galatians 6:10).

4. A Christian Should Never be Impatient (1 Thessalonians 5:14)

Patience is indicative of love (1 Corinthians 13:4) and walking “by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16-23). Therefore, no Christian should be comfortable being characterized as impatient.

5. A Christian Should Never be Vengeful (1 Thessalonians 5:15)

Pretty straight forward, “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.”

6. A Christian Should Never be Without Joy (1 Thessalonians 5:16)

In spite of any circumstance, we can rejoice because we know that we are on our way home! And everything that happens between now and then can only make us stronger. James says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

7. A Christian Should Never be Ungrateful (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18)

Praying without ceasing and giving thanks in every circumstance is, “the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” If we realize we are saved by grace through faith, and that salvation “is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8), we ought not let a moment go by where we could be characterized as “ungrateful.” Christians should be the very personification of gratitude!

Although these are 7 things that we ought never to be, I know that I have been each of them. We are all working at becoming more and more what we should be and less what we should not be. I am thankful to be striving with you, and I’m extremely thankful for the grace of God through which I’ve been saved!

I love you and God loves you,

Wes McAdams

 

 

P.S. What other things can you think of that a Christian should never be? Feel free to share in the comments below.

How to be Saved

Wes  —  February 29, 2012

The greatest truth is this, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). The Son of God wrapped Himself in human flesh, suffered, bled, and died that man might be reconciled to the Father through Him. He conquered death through His resurrection, and gave man the hope of eternal life. It is truly Good News!

But how does one receive the salvation that is offered in Christ Jesus? There is too much confusion over this all important subject. So, try and forget all you’ve ever heard about how to be saved, and just listen to the Word of God:

1. Sin is the Reason Salvation is Needed – We have all committed sin (Romans 3:23). Sin is literally “missing the mark” that God has set for us. We weren’t born with sins (Ezekiel 18:20), we chose to sin. And the sin we chose to do separated us from God (Isaiah 59:2). The consequences of sin is death (Romans 6:23); it is what each of us deserves. We deserve to die and spend eternity in hell, separated from God. That’s the bad news.

2. Man is Saved by Grace – Man is incapable of saving himself. Since man’s problem is sin, he must be saved from his sin problem. He must be forgiven of his sins. The bottom line is this, you cannot do anything to deserve the forgiveness of sins. You cannot merit your salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 says that good works don’t earn salvation. You could do a million good things for others and for God, and those good works would never wash away sin. Only the blood of Jesus can wash away sins (Hebrews 9:22). That’s why salvation is by grace. Salvation is something you are given in spite of what you deserve.

3. Man is Saved through Faith – Ephesians 2:8-9 says that man is saved “by grace through faith.” We are told in Hebrews 11:6 that “without faith it is impossible to please [God].” God is spiritual, invisible, and unseen (John 4:24; Colossians 1:15). Therefore, since you cannot see God, faith is defined as being sure and convicted of things you cannot see (Hebrews 11:1). God, and the salvation He offers, is unseen. You must have faith that He is real and salvation is real. Receiving the salvation of God is not a matter of seeing, hearing, smelling, or feeling something. It is received “through faith.”

4. Faith Includes Belief – At the core of faith is a belief that God is who He says He is (Hebrews 11:6). Real faith believes that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and is present everywhere, because that is what Scripture says about Him. Real faith believes that Jesus is God’s Son, because that is what Scripture says about Him (Acts 8:37). Real faith believes Jesus died, was buried, and was resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), because that is what Scripture says about Him.

5. Faith Includes Trust – Belief is not the full extent of faith. After all, even the demons believe God is who He says He is (James 2:19). Faith also includes a profound trust in God. In order to receive salvation man must trust that God will do what He says He will do. In the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, multiple examples are given of men and women who were saved from peril when they trusted in God to keep His promises. Man cannot be saved from his sins if he does not trust God to forgive him.

6. Faith Includes Obedience – This is where some misunderstand “faith” and “grace.” Receiving grace through faith does not mean that obedience isn’t necessary. In fact, James says that without obedience, there really is no faith (James 2). As you read through the examples of faith in Hebrews 11, you will find they all obeyed whatever God told them to do in order to be saved. “By faith Noah…in reverent fear constructed an ark” (Hebrews 11:7). Therefore, if man is to receive God’s gift of salvation by faith, he must do whatever he is told to do to receive it.

Here is what God tells man to do to receive salvation:

  • Hear the Gospel – Since man is saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) and faith comes from hearing God’s word (Romans 10:17), the first thing man must do is really listen to the Good News about Jesus Christ!
  • Believe – Believing God, as already discussed is a part of having faith. In fact, it is called a “work” by Jesus (John 6:29). Man must be obedient to God by believing Him.
  • Repent – Sin was the problem that God man into the situation where he need saving. In order to receive grace, man must die to sin (Romans 6:1-7). Repentance is about changing your mind, your heart, and your life from sin and turning fully toward God.
  • Confess – Scripture says that man’s faith in Him must be so great that he is willing to confess that faith, even if it were to cost him his life (Matthew 10:32-33; Acts 8:37; Romans 10:9-10).
  • Be Baptized – Baptism is not something that a Christian does in order to be obedient. Baptism is something a sinner does to become a Christian. We are told that it’s at the moment of baptism a person’s sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus (Romans 6:1-7; Acts 22:16), his sins are forgiven (Acts 2:38), he is clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:26-28), he is saved (1 Peter 3:21), he receives the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), and he is added to the church (Acts 2:47).

Do not think that if you believe, trust, and obey what God has told you to do that you have some how earned your salvation and forgiveness. Again, man does not earn salvation, he receives it when he trusts and submits to God. Please, I beg you, take the time to search Scripture and see if these things are true (Acts 17:11). I want to leave you with one last verse:

“And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16).

I love you and the God who gives salvation loves you,

Wes McAdams