How can we be followers of Christ who extend grace to one another, yet stand firm for the faith and against sin? That was how I ended a blog post a few posts ago.
It is a question that deserves an answer. Grace is key to the Christian life. We are saved by the grace of God, not of works, so no one can boast about how great or how good they are. In additon, we must extend the grace that we have been given to others who are walking this path of faith with us.
The answer to extending grace and staning firm for the faith and against sin is simple, yet often overlooked in the life of a believer. Here it is, in just five short words:
Read the Bible and pray.
Yup. That's it.
Read the Bible and pray.
There is no magic formula. There is no special annointed prayer or sprinkling with magic water from the sea of Galilee. In order to extend grace and yet stand firm for truth and against sin, we must read the Bible and pray.
2 Timothy 3:15-17 (New International Version)
"and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
It is by reading scripture, over and over and over again that we will begin to see through the errors of false doctrine. We will learn how to live for the Lord, and we will continually see the grace of God poured out on us while we were yet sinners. Not only that, but we will experience the continuing grace of God through our relationship with Jesus, even though we will still sin after salvation. This should give us much grace to give others, yet enable us to speak up and say when something is a sin and what the Word has to say about the sin, as well as what the Word has to say about righteous living.
And how/where does prayer fit into this?
James 5:16 (NIV)"...The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."
If you know the Lord as your savior, then you have beome a righteous man, or woman, and your prayers are powerful and effective. Let me say it again, your prayers are POWERFUL AND EFFECTIVE. Over the years I have met many, many, many Christians and a common denominater with many of them is the lack of an intense prayer life. Prayer is a chore, or a shopping list at best. It is the last thing we do, rather than the first thing we do. We pray for "little" things because we are afraid that God will not come through on the "big" things. We don't see our prayers as powerful and effective because we don't pray in a powerful and effective way. We spend our time asking God for a closer parking place at Wal-mart, when He wants us to park further away from the store so that on the walk in we might share our faith with someone, plant a seed of the gospel - yet we don't pray for that, so we don't see any power in our prayers or any effects.
Jesus chastised Peter, James & John because they could not pray for one hour, but we have a problem being able to pray for half of that, or even for ten minutes. Yet Paul tells us to pray much more than that. Here is what he says:
1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NIV)"pray continually"
How do we do that? By having a continuous open communication with the Father. By keeping Him in the forefront of our minds. When I think of how many times I have prayed to God to get me out of a jam, only to realize that if I had prayed to start with there would be no jam!
You may be wondering how this relates to the title of this blog though, but all will be explained now, as I share a little of my history.
I was severly backslidden for about ten years. When I came back to the Lord, I prayed this sincere prayer more than once. It went something like this, "Lord, I know that I have learned a lot about You when I was a child, but I don't want to take any of that for granted. I want to make sure I know what I believe. I want to make sure I believe what I know. So please open up your Word to me, that I might see it with fresh and new eyes. Reveal to me if there is anything I used to beleive that is not right."
And then I began on a journey to read the Bible. First I read certain books over and over again (John & Acts several times), then I began to read through the Bible each year.
Eventually God began to show me that some things that the church(es) that I belonged to taught that was not in scripture. This was a long and painful process, and was not without it's own problems. When I raised questions, I was shot down and shunned. I developed a reputation for being un-conventional and rocking the boat. Eventually, I left the church(es) that I was familar with. This was not easy. I was saved and baptized in one of their churches. I met my wife in one of their churches. I surrendered to the ministry in one of their churches. I was ordained in one of their churches. The first church I pastored was one of their churches. There was a loooong history here.
But as grateful as I was (and still am) for all they did for me spiritually, the time had come where they had moved from a help to a hindrance. The area of their teaching that was toxic was infecting myself and my whole family. (For those who are curious as to the teaching that I could no longer follow, I will let you know what it is in a private email if you would like, but will not do so in a public forum such as this blog).
Now I realize that with many toxic churches the "victim" is a new believer, and so they are unlearned and still a baby in the Lord. However, I stand by the formula for growth, and that is Bible reading and prayer. As the infant in Christ grows, then they will be led by the Spirit as they spend time with Christ in the Word and in communication. Will it hurt? Probably. Growing up is not without it's pains, but the affects of remaining in a toxic church and in a stage of stunted growth will hurt more in the long run.
Read the Word.
God is faithful and He will honor your commitment in theset two areas.
Ok, next blog will be a little lighter. We will discuss the new name for the blog.
Still following Jesus,