11/04/2008

Revenge against the spirit of accusation

I have recently finished listening to Rob Rufus teaching from Dubai on grace from 2006.

Towards the end of the message, Rob, in applying the parable of the prodigal son, spoke with passion about how actively standing in the truth of the finished work of Christ sets us totally and completely free from the spirit of accusation and condemnation. Condemnation locks up, grace sets free - not to carry on sinning, but to live in freedom from guilt and freedom to be holy.

I am about to go on holiday (for a week), so I thought I would leave this quote behind, and I encourage you to let the truth impact you and liberate you. Blessings in abundance to you. Over to Rob:

"Satan hates for us to find out about grace, but the Father has prepared a table for us in the presence of our enemies, and the best thing you can do to take redemptive revenge against the evil one is to enjoy the feast; dance, celebrate.

The day you feel least worthy to praise God, that's the day to come like a prodigal into the Father's arms with the first robe, the ring on the finger, the sandals on your feet, and say, 'I'm going to glorify the mighty work of God at the finished work of the cross, where He triumphed over principalities and powers and disarmed them openly at the cross, took away the rules and the regulations at the cross and cancelled them, and forgave all my sins past, present and future. And even though I haven't been perfect this week, I'm going to eat of the table of blessing in the presence of my enemies cos my Father gave me this robe, my Father put His arms around me, my Father ran to me; I didn't run to Him, He ran to me, He sought me out, He gave me the grace, it was His initiative!'

If God is for you, who can be against you? It is God who justifies, who is it that condemns? We're gonna celebrate, we're gonna praise, we're gonna dance because it is God the Father who initiated this feast in the presence of my enemies.

Revenge against the spirit of accusation."
Before moving on in his message, Rob concludes with this sobering challenge:
"And friends, if you do not maintain and sustain an agressive attitude to the spirit of the older brother; unless you sustain an agressive attitude against the spirit of accusation, a move of grace will dwindle within weeks."
Let's not allow grace to dissipate into accusation and condemnation. We do sadly fall, but we don't have to allow accusation to keep us down - be it accusation from our own thinking, from others who would want to draw us back to some form of law and regulation, or from the enemy and his hosts of hell.

Let's stand, without giving in even for a moment, in grace. Please don't read this and start saying "that's a licence to sin". It's not! It's simply a licence to be free from guilt and condemnation, and in that freedom to enjoy God, to bask in His presence, to encounter His glory, to be changed, and to walk in fruitfulness.

08/04/2008

What Happens If We Sin?

At the moment over on Life on Wings, a couple of posts have led to some important discussion in the comments, about both the source of holiness, and also about whether our experience of the power of God is linked to our purity.

I don't really like quoting my own sermons at length - there is plenty of quality teaching available on blogs and sermon downloads - but I feel prompted just to copy into this post my notes from a message I preached back in February entitled "what happens if we sin?" It's a far from perfect message and I am still learning loads about grace - every time I open the scripture, fresh things are hitting me about the extravagant grace of God - but this message is a start, and I hope some find it helpful.

Anyway - here goes (please excuse the note form!):

Text 1 John 1:5-2v1

Last time we looked at propitiation as part of our series on building the kingdom. Looked particularly at two verses: 2 Cor 5v21, Heb 10v14. Established that we have been made perfect forever. But does that mean that, for example, upsetting another person (and grieving God) doesn’t in fact matter? Does it mean that sin doesn't matter?

Does it make us less perfect in God's sight? No! Does it matter? Yes? Why?


I) Why sin matters

  • God saved us to be like Jesus (1 Jn 3v2-3). So if we don’t, we are missing out.

  • It is part of the old life (Rom 6v1-7). We don’t do the things that we are formerly ashamed of. It is very interesting the way Paul argues. He says, that is what you were (1 Cor 6v10-11). Or because of these things His wrath is coming upon (not you) but the disobedient (Eph 5v5-7). Why does sin matter, because it is living as if you have not been transformed. You have been transformed, you are saved and you are perfect, but sin is living like the world from which you have been gloriously delivered.

  • Continual sin can lead to bondage (Eph 4v25-7). Anger and bitterness, and habits can become strongholds.

  • We have been given the Holy Spirit. We are told “do not grieve Him.” (Eph 4v30). It doesn’t say “do not anger him”, because His wrath is satisfied. But we can grieve Him. Not breaking His law, but His heart.

  • As we grow in love for Him, sin becomes more and more unacceptable because He is our Father, and we want to please Him (Rom 5v5, 2 Cor 5v14). You are in a relationship, so you feel His grief. That is the gracious work of the Spirit in us.
Remember, nothing changes our standing, reduces His love, or makes us less righteous in Him, nothing can banish us from His presence, from serving, from praying, from being fruitful – because we are the righteousness of God in Him. Yes that sounds outrageously too good to be true; it almost sounds like a licence to do what we want. But actually, that is the logical conclusion of the gospel. Rom 6v1. Commenting on this verse, Lloyd-Jones says that if our preaching does not lead to this question being asked, then we are probably not preaching the gospel properly.

But Paul’s response is not – of course you shouldn’t sin, remember that God will judge you if you break the commandments. Instead he says – of course not, don’t you know that you have died to that old way of life?

So sin matters. I don’t want to sin, because I have been saved for better than that. I don’t want to sin, because I love Him. I don’t want to sin because it grieves the Holy Spirit.

It’s also important to see to see that the Bible warns us that we will sin. If we say we do not sin then we make Him a liar. On the other hand, the passage says “if you sin.” It’s not contradicting, it is simply expressing a paradox. A paradox is two things that can both be true even though they seem to contradict. It is true that we sin, but sin should be diminishing. So he says “you are not without sin” on the other hand our expectation is not “when we sin”, but “if we sin.” And if we do sin, we have an advocate who speaks in our defence. Who declares over every single sin – “not guilty”. Not “father have mercy” upon them and be kind to them, but “Not guilty” because of the finished work. Because He is a propitiation, He is the One who has turned aside the wrath of God, and satisfied it fully.

In OT, at the Passover, the angel of death examined the blood, not the performance of the occupants in the house. When someone brought a sacrifice, the priest examined the lamb, not the person bringing the lamb. Our Lamb is perfect!

Nothing changes your standing, but I’m writing so you will sin less, and less and less. But if you do, take courage. Nothing changes your standing.

That’s the foundation. But what does happen if we do sin? What do we do? Do we just ignore it and carry on, or do we need to respond, to change, to repent?

But actually there is another question we need to ask first:


II) How do we know what sin is?

  • God’s word. A sword. Double-edged (Heb 4v12-13) – to bring on the one hand challenge, and on the other hope. It is that which exposes the intents and attitudes of the heart. It is the light of God, and as we read it, and meditate upon it, we are shining the light on our heart. A lack of the word can de-sensitise us to sin. We haven’t got the light on. We are fumbling and lost and just simply floundering around. And if we hide it in our heart, we will sin less (Ps 119v11)!

  • The Holy Spirit. Sense His grief. Walking by the Spirit, we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Gal 5v16). So, as we walk with God, the Spirit will be our guide. His gracious voice, whether we hear it audibly, or simply a touch in the heart, a check, a sense of being unsettled, a lack of peace (Col 3v15). You know. You are no longer walking in agreement (Amos 3v3). He hasn’t left you, but there is a lack of agreement. Feelings that He has left you, are of the devil. He cannot leave us. We are the righteousness of God in Him. If we start thinking He has left us we have moved out of grace into works. We have moved to a place of saying well I need to do something to get the presence of God back. Do something? Jesus was asked “what must we do”. Paul was asked “what must I do?” And the answer in both times was “believe”. No, we do not have to do anything to have His presence in our lives, we are not saved, nor are we kept by our works. But when we sin, we have grieved Him, we are out of step with Him. He is still there, He still loves, He is still a friend that sticks closer than a brother. But we have stepped out of agreement, and so we know that things are not right.
So we know sin, by the Word and by the Spirit, and usually both. God has highlighted sin in our lives. Not to condemn us – the Bible says there is now no condemnation. And how can there be any when the handwriting has been wiped away? No, the work of the Spirit in the believer is to sanctify us. He is changing us, and so He is highlighting the sin in order to bring about that change.


III) So what do we do?

1. Confess

1 Jn 1v9. “To forgive” does not mean eternally forgive, because what happens if we sin and then fall under a bus. It is not eternal forgiveness, but a removal of the grief of the Spirit. So the Spirit is grieved, but the moment we confess, then the grief is GONE.

Confess means “to agree”, to acknowledge “God you are right”. Not a long speech. This is another trick of the enemy – “have I confessed enough?” It’s not a long speech or a written confession, but simply agreeing with God. It’s a heart thing, more than anything, simply to say from the heart “God. I agree! You are right, I am wrong. I have got angry, I have spoken badly, I have hurt someone.” Confession is not a work, it is simply agreement.

Often struggle because we don’t really confess. We say “I am so sorry, I am terrible, I am such a sinner, how can you accept me.” So the focus becomes us! And we end up with a great cloud of guilt.

But it says here “confess”. Tell God HE is right and you are wrong, without excuses. That’s enough and that moment the Spirit’s grief is gone. The grief has gone because you are now in agreement. So you are walking together. You haven’t necessarily got everything right, but you are in agreement. You have confessed.

If after that there is any sense of guilt, conviction, darkness, unsettledness, replay of the sin – it is the enemy. And you have the sword of the Spirit. “I am the righteousness of God in Him… He has made me perfect forever through His sacrifice.”

Is 54v7-10 – a new covenant promise. The purchase of Ch 53 is shown here.

2. Repentance

Rev 2v5 – do the works you did at first. Change your mind. Seek to walk in the Spirit. It is not walking in perfection, but having confessed, getting back to doing what you should be doing.

Also means getting right with the person you have grieved. Yes, we have sinned against God but we may have hurt others. If we wrong others the word says we need to put it right. Live at peace with all men (Rom 12v18). Paul says “if he wronged you, put to me.”(Philemon 18) He was putting right what Philemon couldn’t. The Lord blesses unity, as far as it depends on us we are to leave at peace.

And you know that if we have confessed to God, it makes apologising easier. Confession says “God you are right”, not “God I’m sorry, but did you see what he did, hear what he said, I was provoked Lord.” That is simply stirring ourselves up to bitterness. But to declare to God that He is right (without any excuses on our part), prepares us to get right with the other person – again without any excuses on our part.

And that is a major step in the healing process. If our apology is rejected, then we have done our part, we must leave it with Him. Then we must stand on who we are --- the righteousness of God, been perfected forever, with the garments of salvation.

Because our advocate is our propitiation, there is no wrath, all is turned away. No matter how great the sin, how frequent the sin, nothing changes our standing. There’s no height in the Father’s glory and the Father’s love that you cannot ascend to because there was no depth into darkness and depravity that Jesus didn't descend to on your behalf. And at the cross Jesus identified with you at your worst so that you could be identified with Him at His best.

So you are free to confess without fear of rejection, or God saying “not again.” You are free to confess and step back into the joy and peace in the Spirit, and continue an unhindered walk.

I had a picture in last home group when praying, just for a moment –everyone clothed in radiant, dazzling garments – and my thought if we could only see ourselves as God see us, we would never be condemned, but also would also not want to sin. You are clothed in spotless garments. Garments that guarantee your standing before God forever, clothing that marks you out as His, and clothing that doesn’t belong with sin. If we sin, we have an advocate with the Father – all is covered, all is clean – but our garments have fitted us, not for sin, but for the throne room of God’s presence.

And that is why we stand on the finished work of Christ. That is the foundation for personal and corporate growth.