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Some Thoughts on the Book “What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?” (Post #14): Chapter 13- “Jesus’ Grace”

As we continue in the second half of Martin Thielen’s book What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?, we are looking at the question Am I accepted? Thielen points out in this chapter that the unique feature of the Christian religion is . . . grace! He defines grace as “God’s unconditional love and acceptance of us just as we are.”

He refers to Anne Lamott’s story of feeling that God couldn’t love her with all her shortcomings and sins. An Episcopal priest said to her, “God has to love you. That’s God’s job.” Thielen then tells the well-known Tony Campolo story about Campolo throwing a birthday party for a prostitute in a diner. When asked what kind of church he attended, Campolo said, “I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3:30 in the morning.”

Jesus loved sinners, Thielen says, and “refused to judge and condemn them. Instead, Jesus saw them as beloved children of God, created in the image of God, with great value and worth. Obviously Jesus hoped they would change for the better” (87) In short, Jesus offered grace. Thielen quotes John 3:16-17 and says that grace does not mean that we can accept God’s grace and then live any way we please (“cheap grace,” according to Dietrich Bonhoeffer). “As we say in the United Methodist Church, we must move from ‘justifying grace’ (grace that makes us right with God) to ‘sanctifying grace’ (grace that leads to spiritual maturity).” (89). The bottom line, Thielen says, is Even with our  flaws, Jesus loves and accepts us as beloved children of God. (90).

MY RESPONSE: I am not really looking to find errors in Thielen’s chapters. And it is hard to disagree with this chapter on grace. My only concern is that we can confuse creation and redemption. What I mean is that creation (being made in God’s image) does not equal redemption (being “saved” or forgiven by God). The expression “children of God” can refer to people being created by God or to those who have repented of their sins and have trusted Christ (John 1:12). I wish Thielen were clearer about this distinction.

I would also point out that Jesus said that He would judge those who rejected Him. While His primary desire is to save, Jesus says the Father has given all judgment into the Son’s hands (John 5:22) and He will be the One who will separate the sheep (those who are saved) from the goats (the lost) at the end of time (Matthew 25). And that’s not grace — that’s holy wrath!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2019 in grace

 

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Stay Spiritually Fit and Healthy — Until You Are Dead! Part 5

How’s your health?  I mean your spiritual health?  And how do you measure your fitness before the Lord?  We’ve been looking at the little epistle to Titus which uses the word “sound” (or healthy) several times as Paul instructs Titus in the Christian life.

Let’s continue our study with the next section
of chapter two:

Now.  You need to know that this section is one of my most favorite passages in all the Bible!  In fact, I have posted on this text in a series entitled “Back to the Basics” which began on July 20, 2015! I also covered this section of Titus 2 in a post called “What’s So Amazing about Grace? A Free Sermon Outline” on August 16, 2018.

If I want to get and stay spiritually healthy, I need to deeply appreciate God’s saving, teaching, waiting, purifying, and encouraging GRACE!  And so do you.

It might help to think about what spiritual sickness looks like.  If I’ve somehow lost the joy of my salvation, I’m suffering from an illness.  A spiritual illness.  And I need God’s saving grace.  If I seem to be wandering aimlessly in my life (not allowing God’s teaching grace to guide me), I’m suffering from a malady which only His grace can cure.  If I’m impatient for the coming of the Lord, I’m missing out on His waiting grace and I need healing.  If I find my life is becoming conformed to the morally pathetic world around me, I need to recover the purifying grace which God gives.  If I walk around like I’ve been baptized in lemon juice and seem discouraged all the time, I need a fresh dose of His encouraging grace.

What does your spiritual thermometer say about your present condition before the Lord?  How would you rate your health in those five areas?  (to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2018 in spiritual health

 

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What’s So Amazing about Grace? — A Free Sermon Outline! (Part 3)

You may read a lot of books this year, but one little booklet that will change your life is called Ten Specific Steps You Can Take to Make Your Sermons and Preaching Better.  Yes, I wrote it.  But that’s not the point. If you preach or know someone who does or wishes you didn’t have to listen to another sermon by __, you’ll want to get this booklet.  It is guaranteed to alleviate the preaching blahs, or I’ll write your next sermon outline for you! (available on Amazon).

I’m passing on some of my favorite sermon outlines in these posts — with a few comments added.  Let me know if you find these helpful.  We are continuing with a sermon I wrote on God’s amazing grace.

What’s So Amazing about Grace?
(a study of Titus 2:11-15).

We’ve seen that —

I. God’s Grace Is a Salvation-Bringing Grace (v. 11)

We’ve noticed secondly that —

II. God’s Grace is a Teaching Grace (v. 12)

Let’s see, thirdly, that —

III.  God’s Grace Is a Waiting Grace (v. 13)!

I don’t know about you, but I hate to wait.  There are two kinds of waiting:  (1) wasted waiting and (2) worthwhile waiting.  Wasted waiting is when my wife says those seven most feared words any man can hear, “Let’s go shopping at the mall, Dear!”  And I forget to bring a book with me.  Or there’s no coffee shop in the mall.  And I have to wait.

Worthwhile waiting is when she says those feared seven words to me (“Let’s go shopping at the mall, Dear!”) and she reminds me to take a book with me, points me in the direction of the coffee shop, takes my credit card and says, “I’ll be back in a day or two.  Dear.”  That’s worthwhile waiting.  Kind of.

God’s grace prepares us to wait.  For what?  Really the question is, for WHOM?  The text says we are waiting “for the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (v. 13).  What a tremendous verse on the deity of the Lord Jesus!  For how many individuals are we waiting as believers?  For only ONE.  And He is “our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”  HE’s worth waiting for, right?  And no credit card is involved. (to be continued)

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2018 in Titus 2

 

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What’s So Amazing about Grace? — A Free Sermon Outline! (Part 2)

I wrote the little booklet Ten Specific Steps You Can Take to Make Your Sermons and Preaching Better a while back to help preachers (like me) not continue to make the same mistakes we often make. This is available on Amazon and is guaranteed to improve your preaching or I will preach your next sermon for you (just kidding).

In these posts I want to give away some of my favorite sermon outlines — with just a dose of explanation along the way. So, let’s continue with a sermon I wrote on God’s amazing grace.

What’s So Amazing about Grace?
(a study of Titus 2:11-15).

We’ve seen that —

I. God’s Grace Is a Salvation-Bringing Grace (v. 11)

Let’s notice secondly that —

II.  God’s Grace is a Teaching Grace (v. 12)

I never thought I’d be a teacher, but the Lord had other plans.  I could have been a much better student in high school than I was, but, by His grace, I’ve served for a bunch of years teaching undergrad and seminary students the Word of God.

We all need to be taught.  And, thank God, His grace is a teaching grace!   Verse 12 tells us that this grace “teaches us to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”  Please notice that there is both a negative as well as a positive side to God’s teaching grace.  We need to deny ungodliness and worldly passions.  The world sees Christians as being primarily negative, don’t you think?

But we also need to be taught the positives of living a yes-kind of life!  That affirmation lifestyle focuses on self-control, uprightness, and godliness, which the world desperately needs to see lived out!

Notice also that this kind of affirmative living is to take place, not in heaven, but “in this present age.”  The expression is really “in the now world.”  Right now.  Where you live.   Right now you and I are to be living out the grace of God in positive, attractive ways.

Are you letting the grace of God teach you?

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2018 in Titus 2

 

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Keys to Living Out the Christian Life! (A Study of Galatians 2:19-21) Part 5

How in the world do I live out my Christian life?  What principles does God’s Word give me to make significant strides in following Jesus?  We are camping on Galatians 2:19-21 to see what “keys” are there that can help us.

We have seen the first key in verse 19 that I must have a proper relationship to the law. The law brings death and I have died to it. The second key is that the old me is dead! We read in verse 20- “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live.” The third key that impacts me here is this: There is a NEW ME who is to live by faith! (v. 20). I have not ceased to exist. But now I can live a new life by faith in the Son of God.  The fourth key that I see in this passage is: I have been paid for! Please notice the expression in verse 20- “the Son of God . . . who loved me and gave himself for me.” Theologians refer to this as the doctrine of substitutionary atonement! [We get paid by the big words].

The last key that I notice in this passage is found in verse 21- “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.”  The principle I see here is I can never pay back God for my salvation — nor should I try to!  Salvation is a free gift of the grace of God in giving Jesus for my sins.  Gifts are to be received — and given thanks for.  But never paid for by the recipient!

I suspect that many believers live out their lives trying to repay God.  And that’s not the Christian life!  In perhaps their best-intentioned response to the grace of God, they nullify it.  They live as if righteousness could be gained through the law.  And the awful conclusion to that perspective is . . . Christ died for nothing!

Motivation is everything, and the reason I should live for the Lord is a grateful heart that wants to show my appreciation every day for His saving me.  My best good deeds are not good enough to pay for my sins.  But Jesus did for me what I could never do for myself.  Payback or praise?  It’s my choice.  And yours.

 

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2018 in CHRISTIAN LIVING

 

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Counting Your Blessings! (Time for a Great Cartoon)

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2018 in blessings

 

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Major Themes in the Book of Galatians (Ch. 1 Part 5)

We’re continuing our study of the book of Galatians which I get to teach to a group of Word of Life Korea students from June 7-16. We’re still in chapter one!

Let’s notice an additional theme in this first chapter.

A fifth major theme that comes up in chapter one is God’s interrupting grace!  As the Apostle Paul reflects on his life of persecuting Christians (vv. 13-24), he uses strong language like “my previous way of life in Judaism,” “how intensely I persecuted the church of God,” and “tried to destroy it.” (v. 13).  He had made great progress in Judaism, surpassing many of his age group.  His zeal for the traditions of his fathers knew no bounds (v. 14).

Then God interrupted his life with His grace!  Set apart from his mother’s womb, Saul responded to God’s call and God was pleased “to reveal his Son in me” (v. 16). How does God reveal His Son in you?  It’s a great question to think about!

 

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2018 in Galatians

 

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Jonah: Belief Contradicted by Behavior (Part 34)

Never were such orthodox words spoken with such animosity and fury:  “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity”!

Jonah knew the character of his God — and God’s character made him furious!  He knew that if he had gone to Nineveh in the first place, his God would give the Ninevites the chance to repent, be forgiven, and not be annihilated.  He knew that.  And that’s why he fled.

He knew that his God would not do what he wanted Him to do.  He knew that his God would show mercy and even — shocker! — express love to those hated Assyrians!  “I TOLD YOU SO!” were Jonah’s words to the Almighty.

Jonah does not cover up his anger with religious jargon or polite platitudes.  He rails at the Lord for being . . . the Lord!  And in the process of his rant, Jonah says some important things about God:

(1)  He is a gracious and compassionate God;

(2)  He is slow to anger and abounding in love;

(3)  He relents from sending calamity.

Those are some incredible attributes of the God of creation.  Laudable attributes.  But not to Jonah.  And certainly not now.  (to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Time for a Great Quote! (Piper on God’s grace)

“Every good deed we do in dependence on God does just the Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 12.36.52 PMopposite of paying Him back; it puts us ever deeper in debt to His grace. And that is exactly where God wants us to be through all eternity.”

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2015 in grace

 

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How to Get Spiritually Healthy! (a study of Titus – Part 16)

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 5.52.45 PMWe’ve been talking about exercise and about how I’m learning to use all the work-out machines at our university.  I believe in truth in advertising, and it irks me just a little that the diagram they have on each of these machines is of a thin guy who could be at home watching soap operas and eating chocolates.  He doesn’t need to work out.

Skinny guy getting paid big bucks.

Skinny guy getting paid big bucks.

I’d be much more motivated to use these machines if they had different pictures of real life Americans who obviously needed to exercise.

The TRICEPS EXTENSION is a machine that looks innocent, but could pull your arms right out of their sockets.  Used properly this machine works on the muscles on the back of your arms, called triceps.  I only found hair on the back of my arms.  Still looking for my triceps.

My going to the gym to exercise my 64-year-old body and do the required number of “reps” isn’t the point of this blog, really.  We’re interested in the little letter to Titus whose theme seems to be how to be SPIRITUALLY HEALTHY.

We looked at a few verses in chapter two and posed several questions.

11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.  15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.

Here are my responses to those questions:

1.  How does God’s grace offer salvation to all people (v. 11)?  Perhaps Paul’s point is that God’s witness in creation (general revelation) shows all people everywhere their need of a Savior (see Romans 1).

2.  What are some negatives that Christianity teaches those who Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 3.57.28 PMfollow Jesus ought to practice (v. 12)?  We need to recognize ungodliness, and turn from it.  We also need to identify and refuse “worldly passions,” as well.

3.  How do we positively live for the Lord, according to verses 12 and 13?  We positively live for the Lord by showing self-control, uprightness, and godliness.  And we are to live that way in the NOW (= “in this present age”).

4.  How does verse 13 show the DEITY of the Lord Jesus?  We are waiting for ONE person to return — our God and Savior, Jesus Christ!

5.  What kind of people is God seeking to produce (vv. 14-15)?  God is in the business of producing purified people who are eager to do what is good.  We are to be good-deed-doers in our culture.

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2014 in spiritual health

 

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