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Responding to God's Grace

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Responding to God's Grace

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Responding to God's Grace

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God's grace is a very uplifting, happy, subject. The idea that we can have a positive, warm, friendly relationship with the Creator of the Universe should make you feel good. I believe the prospect makes God feel good as well. But, once you have reconciled what do you do? How do you follow up?

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Responding to God’s Grace

God’s grace is a very uplifting, happy, subject. The idea that we can have a positive, warm, friendly relationship with the Creator of the Universe should make you feel good. I believe the prospect makes God feel good as well.

If you have a run-in with someone at work, in your social circle, your family, at church, the tension between those involved can tie you up in knots. Restoring good vibes with the people in your life results in mental peace, smoother operations, even spiritual joy.

Graciously extending mercy and forgiveness feels good, receiving mercy and forgiveness feels good too.

Question: once you have reconciled what do you do? How do you follow up?

Let’s say you lose your temper with a co-worker… they’re upset, you’re upset… lots of tension… you realize you’ve been stupid… you apologize, they forgive. Where do you go from that point? Do you change your behavior? Or do you intend to keep on letting your temper flare assuming the other party will keep on forgiving you? If you make no effort to change… what do you think is going to happen in the workplace if this pattern continues?

You might say that with God such a scenario is possible: He is infinitely merciful, always ready to forgive etc. This is true, God is infinitely merciful and forgiving. But His infinite mercy, and infinite forgiveness is graciously extended to you to accomplish an greater purpose: to make change possible.

The Purpose of Mercy & Forgiveness

Mercy and forgiveness serve an immediate purpose of making peace, reducing tension etc. which are good outcomes from any perspective. But of themselves mercy & forgiveness do not lead to lasting solutions. Even in human affairs only a positive change of behavior is going to produce lasting reconciliation. God’s mercy and forgiveness serve a greater purpose: they allow you time to enact change. If that change is pursued in accordance with the express will of God it leads to life everlasting.

Otherwise all we have is an endless loop of sin–>forgiveness–>sin–>forgiveness

Once God graciously offers you mercy and forgiveness for sin you achieve this wonderful state of spiritual peace and joy… because you are reconciled to the Creator of the Universe.  Then what ?

One school of thinking is to wallow in the moment of reconciliation: I am going to call this the “God accepts me just as I am”, He loves all people and is willing to make peace with them even though they are hopeless sinners. OK, the United Church of God teaches that too…  Its scriptural: God is willing to make peace with everyone no matter how awful they are, God accepts you just as you are… But  He doesn’t want you to stay that way… this too is scriptural.

How Does God Want You To Change?

The best way to answer is to look at what caused the offense in the first place. For example: if an employee caused trouble by losing his temper and spouting off on others… you can extend mercy and forgiveness… but you want them to stop making the same mistake that got them in trouble in the first place. What they need to change is defined by the offense.

Your Behavior Is What Caused Your Bad Relationship With God

Romans 3:23 Romans 3:23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
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 - all have sinned

Isaiah 59:1-2 Isaiah 59:1-2 1 Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: 2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
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 - separates you from God/breakdown of positive relationship, tension, trouble

1 John 3:4 1 John 3:4Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
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 - sin is disobedience to God’s commands

The change of behavior God is wanting to see is related to His commandments.

Perhaps you don’t see yourself as having offended God… “I’m a basically good person, so what’s the big deal”. Perhaps you see yourself as having a problem but don’t really know exactly what’s wrong or where to begin. In either case your course of action is the same:

Isaiah 55:6-11 Isaiah 55:6-11 6 Seek you the LORD while he may be found, call you on him while he is near: 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, said the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and returns not thither, but waters the earth, and makes it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: 11 So shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
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 seek out God’s desires by examining His commandments, His judgments, move on to familiarizing yourself with the life wisdom He offers, look into the attitudes and perspectives He has on human interaction, social responsibility, worship and religious practice. Grow in understanding so the grace of God makes a difference.

Go To Where You Know You Can Find Him

Luke 15:11-24 Luke 15:11-24 11 And he said, A certain man had two sons: 12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me. And he divided to them his living. 13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. 14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. 15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave to him. 17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before you, 19 And am no more worthy to be called your son: make me as one of your hired servants. 20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight, and am no more worthy to be called your son. 22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: 23 And bring here the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
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the prodigal son received mercy but wouldn’t have received that mercy, forgiveness, acceptance, and joy… if he had not had a change of mind and acted on that change of mind.

Point : the son returned to the Father.

In the same way, the Creator of the universe does not change to suit your tastes. The standards and definition of righteousness don’t bend or shift to suit you… He’s not even coming to meet you half way. Your heavenly Father is gracious and merciful to you… so that you might have ample opportunity to change your ways. Reconciliation with God your Father is about you returning to Him.

Seek God by turning to His written word [the bible] and to His Church.

Point : the son had to believe [have faith] the Father would take him back. That belief prompted him to climb out of the pig pen, pack up his stuff and head back home. Faith and action work together… faith without action is dead.

Have 100% confidence in this: God is ready and waiting for you to return to Him

God’s Work In T h is World

A lot of changes need to happen in this world: cleaning up corrupt political institutions… re-balancing unjust economic systems… stamping out suffering, war, and oppression… and are of these all on Christ’s future agenda… but God’s agenda proceeds in a logical order.

First, God will fix the broken relationship between man and Creator… then create clean hearts and minds. Only on that foundation can  lasting solutions to the world’s problems be built. Without that change of heart and mind… any fix is bound to fail.

2 Corinthians 5:16-20 2 Corinthians 5:16-20 16 Why from now on know we no man after the flesh: yes, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now from now on know we him no more. 17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 18 And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses to them; and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be you reconciled to God.
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 God is at work in the world is at the present time. Thus it is the primary message of His church at this time; to proclaim and promote His agenda. Which is: the reconciliation of human beings with their Creator and the purification or cleaning of hearts and minds 1 John 1:3-7 1 John 1:3-7 3 That which we have seen and heard declare we to you, that you also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things write we to you, that your joy may be full. 5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleans us from all sin.
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Changed hearts and minds can make a difference here and now but just understand the results are  going to be kind of a mixed bag… good and evil.

Sins of The Past & Future ?

That initial change of mind and direction… leads to baptism which is for the remission of sins, a person is baptized into Jesus death so that the penalty for their sins might be paid for. This deals with past sins… what about the life we must live after baptism?

After a person comes up out of the water… the first thing that happens is they receive the holy spirit of God through laying on of hands from the ministry. This is the beginning of a new life… and a new way of life.

Your guide to living this new way of life is the word of God. One of the works of the holy spirit is to guide you… which is accomplished by continually pointing you back to the answers found in the written testimony of God Deuteronomy 8:3 Deuteronomy 8:3And he humbled you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you knew not, neither did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD does man live.
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Christ participates in the process through the power of His spirit within you, and through the Church of which He is the head… both point you back to the word of God, the bible Ephesians 5:25-27 Ephesians 5:25-27 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
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A common error believed and taught is that once a person accepts Jesus sacrifice and is saved from sin they are always saved… with boldness and confidence you can count on God’s grace to be freely applied to you come what may… well, yes… but also no… it depends on you.

Romans 6:1 Romans 6:1What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
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4  a baptized person is expected to live differently!

1 Corinthians 9:27 1 Corinthians 9:27But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
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 story of running to make the team, lounging in the grass

Colossians 1:21-23 Colossians 1:21-23 21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now has he reconciled 22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and blameless and unreproveable in his sight: 23 If you continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which you have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;
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Jesus died so you might be able to draw near to God not alienated or separated because of sin… and that healing of the breach remains… if you continue in your faith, which means to believe God, believe what He says is true, and believe His commandments.

Philippians 1:6 Philippians 1:6Being confident of this very thing, that he which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
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 If you are working at it… God is with you. He does not give up on you, but you can give up on Him.

Two enemies of the baptized person are: bitterness and neglect.

Bitterness: we can become bitter because of what others say or do to us, we can also become bitter because of unresolved suffering, or hardship… “why obey if that’s the kind of treatment I get”. Bitterness causes people to walk away in frustration.

Neglect:  hopefully this is obvious… we stop listening & attention, we let out minds wander, maybe we decide to take a break for a while, a little more “me” time, cut myself some slack, the spirit within you can die out like a neglected flame.

Whether its bitterness, neglect, deceit, or something else… to continue in, or go back to, the same sort of living you had before baptism {or find some new perversion] will simply start the process of alienation from your Creator all over again. Note: the remedy is not re-baptism. The remedy is to clean up your act… come back home to God and His word James 4:8 James 4:8Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded.
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God   Wants To Give You Direction

We all grow and develop as we age. If you need a reminder of that simple look at a picture of yourself from 10 years ago. We change a lot physically [its inevitable]… and we change a lot internally; mentally, physically, spiritually [that too is inevitable]. Will it be good change or bad?

If you don’t take care of your body you can find yourself aging very badly… when you look at that picture you don’t like what we see. The same can apply to what is going on inside.

God your Father wants to offer you guidance and direction.

If a child does not get guidance from parents they tend to grow up wild [unruly, or sullen, dark]. Not because they are any worse than others. They simply conform to the wild, unruly, sullen, and dark world in which they live… a child raised by wolves is going to act like a wolf.

Titus 2:11-14 Titus 2:11-14 11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; 14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
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 your Father Creator’s goal is to purify you… He has a positive uplifting program of discipline through which you to grow/learn/develop in a manner that is focused, with clear guidance and direction. That focus, guidance, and direction begins with His commandments, judgments, His wise commentary on human life provided in the bible.

He offers you all this so you can have a good life when you mature and resurrected to spirit.

Do You Want to Change?

As parents we have charge over our children for a short time, after which we must be released to live their own lives. We want them to have good lives. As a parent my goal has always been to move my children from “have to do” to “want to do” because one day they will live one their own. Plus,  I have always known that the only way for them to remain in God’s truth is because they want to.

I believe it is the same with God our Father and Creator. It is His desire that you live by His word because you want to… because you are convinced it’s the best way to live… a way that leads to peace, joy and every good thing imaginable.

Wanting is measured by doing.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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