rsvpGrace is not a detour. It is an exit.  If you are riding down a road and see a detour sign. Following the detour is a way of staying on your present route while appearing to take a different one. Eventually, you plan to end up on the road on which you are already traveling. This is why grace is not a detour.

Grace is not meant as a temporary measure against sin, keeping you from the roughest part of sin’s road, loop you around that section, and then let you turn back after the posted danger is past. Grace is an exit that takes you off the road of sin and turns you onto the pathway of grace.

There is also another way grace is not a detour.  When God calls you to live according to His purpose, God is inviting you to live with Him.  Wherever God is, that’s where you go and that’s where you stay.  Sometimes when work is being done on a road a detour sign is posted. No through traffic is allowed. Only those whose home is on the road ahead (before you get to the construction) are allowed to go forward.

Oh, you can drive forward stubbornly and keep to your original route and ignore the detour sign. But, if your plans were to keep on going your way, you’re going to be frustrated in a few minutes. You will have wasted your time and have to backtrack.  You will be following the detour sign eventually anyway.

Or, you can pay no attention to the sign because your home or the house of a friend is just beyond the redirection of the detour sign.  Your plans are not to go your own way. You received a call to come over and be with them.

It was a gracious invitation. One you do not want to miss. One where you do not want to keep your friend waiting.

Yes, to a stranger the detour sign is very helpful. But, to those who have been given grace we will not be deterred from the presence of our Friend. We, receiving directions, should have been given an exit off the way we were going but grace is not a detour. Grace is an invitation to come over and come home.

asformeIf you’re going to serve the Lord you’re going to have to realize that it was grace that brought you this far. It wasn’t Israel’s strength of arms or their technology that gained  them the Promised Land. God says through Joshua, it was a gift. “And I have given you a land for which you did not labor, and cities which you did not build, and you dwell in them; the vineyards and olive yards which you did not plant, you eat.”

It was grace. “For the Lord our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way we went.” (Joshua 24: 17)

We also realize a change of heart and mind is always needed. The beginning of what we do is marked by the fear of the Lord. Our worship is our first consideration. Therefore, Joshua directs the people to see that to serve God requires complete and perfect integrity. Fidelity to truth determines how reliable our relationship is. Every other method of judging things must be put away. (Joshua 24: 14)

Now, we can choose not to serve the Lord but we cannot choose how we will serve the Lord. God chooses that and says to us, “Follow me”.

The sooner we realize that, the better.

 

 

 

christcrucifiedHow did He go to the cross? Was it willpower that got him there? That was part of it but it was more than that. The Bible tells us Jesus was willing and able to go to the cross because of the joy that was set before him.

How does a woman bear the labor pains of childbirth? When she’s done, she’s holding her baby. Isaiah 53 says, it is the joy and satisfaction of “justifying many” that will make the pain worth it for Jesus. That joy, knowing he would be satisfied with the result of his labor on the cross, allowed him to endure to the end.

Isaiah 53 adds another important aspect of Jesus’ work – the mindset he carried. “He shall see (of) the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53: 11 KJV) Jesus carried himself as a righteous servant.

This is the description the Apostle Paul calls us to have along with Jesus in Philippians 2: 5 – 8, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who,being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God. But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

The joy, the exaltation, being seated at the right hand of the Father is coming but the mindset that begins and ends the journey is the mindset of a servant.

Yes, how did Jesus do it? How did he accomplish all that  he did for us on the cross? He kept the joy set before him, the knowledge and satisfaction that he would justify many. He kept the mindset of a servant, and finally, Jesus didn’t get stuck on the shameful things that were happening to him. Hebrews 12: 2 says, Jesus did not regard the shame.

They stripped him of his rights and gave him a mock trial. They blindfolded him. Cursing him, they asked him to prophesy and say who was hitting him. They took his robe away and cast lots for it. Yet, he did not demand his rights. He did not hang his attention on their insults or accusations; he hung on the cross.  Naked and exposed, Jesus paid attention to the thief and remembered him. Jesus forgave his enemies. Jesus paid attention to his mother and entrusted her into another’s care. Jesus didn’t get hung up on anything but the cross.

We live in a Facebook world where we are deluged with regarding the shame and the things others do to us. We constantly exert our rights and how we should be served and then we wonder why there is not more joy and satisfaction in our living. Perhaps, we are being called to follow Jesus and see how he did things, and then act accordingly.

crownofthornsWe describe the passion of Jesus as the short, final period in the life of Jesus covering his entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and the time up until his crucifixion on the cross. Washing his disciples’ feet, sharing his last prayers and last supper with them are all a part of his passion. Agonizing over “the cup” he had to drink and sweating drops of blood in the garden of Gethsemane were all a part of his passion.

Enduring the mocking trial, the beatings, the pulling out of his beard, the scourging, the taunts and derision were all a part of his passion. The weight of the cross, the abandonment of his disciples, the ignominious place of his death were all a part of his passion. The nails driven through his hands and his feet, the crown of thorns upon his head, the piercing of his side, and bearing the curse of sin were all a part of his passion.

But, his passion was not for the sake of an idea; it was for an individual multiplied a billion times. It was for you and for me. It was for whosoever would call on the name of the Lord. It was to draw as many as would to come from being far away and draw them near.

You see, we were meant to share in his passion. This is a call to share in his sufferings but even more to share in the salvation his suffering bought for us.  I pray you will allow his passion to capture your heart and enliven your mind. I pray you will allow his passion to restore your soul and raise you to newness of life.

After all, passion makes life possible!

tedwilliamsYou can only hit a home run inside the batter’s box. If you’re not there and your bat makes contact with the pitch, the ball is dead and you are out. In the same way, if you have faith, yet never repented, you would constantly be swinging for the fences outside of the box. Your great swings, the magnificent flight of the ball would all be in vain.

Without repentance, we remain in sin’s on deck circle.  Maybe motivated by good intentions but never in the right place to act upon and fulfill those intentions.  Life is not about your intentions or imagination, anyway. Otherwise, all those practice swings would count for something.

But, they don’t.

This is why repentance is so important. Repentance puts us with God instead of our sin. Repentance gives our faith legitimacy beyond our own bias and connects us to the Truth. Repentance, as it were, pulls us out of the on deck circle into the batter’s box. Repentance then sets our stance to await the pitch.

Faith will give us our grip on the bat and that will be coordinated with our whole body as we make our swing. Contact will be made and our follow through will set us in motion down the base path but none of that can happen until we are set in the box.

joytotheworldJesus said, “Unless you repent, you too will likewise perish.” (Luke 13: 3, 5) What’s the counter for that?  Have I got any other options? Jesus says, ‘No’.

Jesus says, “Don’t be surprised when I tell you, you must be born again.” (John 3: 7) The rules haven’t changed. Grace doesn’t change the rules. Grace makes the rules more emphatic. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.” (John 3: 16-18)

So are you going to follow the rules or not?  “God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now He commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to Jesus. For He has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17: 30-31)

Jesus began his ministry with this here’s-the-way-it-is call to each one of us. “He said, ‘The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the gospel’!” (Mark 1: 15) Some may want to ask, what about those who haven’t heard the gospel? Do they warrant an exception? Once again, the answer is ‘No’.

“For since the creation of the world his (God’s) invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:  20 NET) Same rules apply because everyone is expected, even if they haven’t heard the gospel, to align and prioritize their lives with God and do it with joy and thanksgiving in their hearts. What’s made has always had to meet the approval of their Maker. The rules haven’t changed.

Are you going to follow the rules? Grace says, you can!

dominoeffectJesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one makes progress to the Father except by me.” (John 14: 6) And, for us to be successful we need to learn the sequence in which God’s grace works in our lives.

  1. Grace begins (always) with a call to repentance. What is repentance? It is the alignment of our life to God’s in Jesus Christ. It is experiencing the divine ‘with-ness’ of forgiveness and reconciliation through Jesus Christ that turns us from our own way into the way of God.
  2. Grace then requires we believe in the good news of Jesus and exchange the bias and blindness of sin for the truth of God’s Word.
  3. Grace then guides us to build up our faith: praying, listening, learning to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, the restoring of our souls, and in the reformation of our priorities and habits.
  4. Grace then calls us again to be a blessing and a witness of grace in the power of the Spirit.
  5. Grace then holds us accountable to bring life, making a difference by the urgent and passionate way we love and sacrifice ourselves for others.
  6. Grace will finally lead us to breakthrough where we move forward with the Lord into a new level of repentance and faith and…

     

     

    Gary Keller and Jay Papasan in their book, One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, point to the power of following this kind of sequence. “Getting extraordinary results is all about creating a domino effect in your life. Toppling dominoes is pretty straightforward. You line them up and tip over the first one. In the real world, though, it’s a bit more complicated. The challenge is that life doesn’t line up everything for us and say, ‘Here’s where you should start’. Highly successful people know this. So every day they line up their priorities anew, find the lead domino, and whack away at it until it falls.

    Why does this approach work? Because extraordinary success is sequential, not simultaneous. What starts out linear becomes geometric. You do the right thing and then you do the next right thing. Over time it adds up, and the geometric potential of success is unleashed. The domino effect applies to the big picture, like your work or business, and it applies to the smallest moment in each day when you’re trying to decide what to do next. Success builds on success, and as this happens, over and over, you move towards the highest success possible.” (p. 12)

     

    Read the sequence God’s grace follows again. Align your priorities anew with the Lord. Find the one thing God wants for this moment and whack away until it reveals what’s next!