Stewards of God’s Grace

by Mike Ratliff

“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:17-24 ESV)

At 3pm today I had my hair cut. The fellow who cuts my hair was a Marine in the Vietnam War. His was tank gunner. As he cut my hair we talked about Christmas and faith and many other things. He was in a depressed mood. I asked him why. He told me that Christmas has lost all of its significance. Here we are supposedly celebrating the birth of our Saviour and now it is not politically correct to use the word “Christmas” when referring to the Holiday. It is all about commercialism and political correctness.

As I drove home through the icy and snow packed roads I contemplated what we had discussed. The political correctness that we were talking about is just a symptom of something that runs much deeper. From the moment the Gospel was first preached, it has been under attack. Impostors have come along pretending to be genuine Christians or preachers or teachers and they have led many to destruction. As I planned this post I did some research into The Down-Grade Controversy that Charles Spurgeon was engaged in for many years until his death. Then I noticed a few hits on my blog from this link. I then did some research into the Restoration Movement that Chris Lyons and Tim Reed are part of.

My grandfather was a Baptist evangelist. He was born in 1877 and died in 1963. He preached in churches and brush arbors and tents from late in the 19th Century until the 1950’s. I was very young when he retired due to illness. However, my mother told me that one of his greatest battles was against those who wanted peace within the Body of Christ at all costs. To him there could be no compromise. It was the Restoration Movement and what remained of it in my grandfather’s time that he stood against. This movement sought to unite all Christians on only minor issues while overlooking divisive doctrinal issues.

The Down-Grade Controversy is closely related to the Restoration Movement. How can this be so? It is so because both attacked the very same thing, doctrines and creeds. I mentioned in my last post that my wife gave me a Geneva Bible for Christmas. It is a facsimile of the 1560 Edition. It is a product of the Protestant Reformation. I have only begun to delve into this Bible, but so far I have been blessed tremendously in reading the adamant sureness with which those who produced this Bible held to the truth from God’s Word. They were in a war for the truth and knew that they could be captured and killed by the enemies of it. What is our role in this battle? We are to be stewards of God’s Grace.

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.” (1Peter 4:1-6 ESV)

The Christian answer to the Great Down-Grade controversy and its many children such as the Restoration Movement is to be willing to suffer in the flesh for Christ’s sake and in light of His own suffering for us. What? How can that be the answer? Peter tells us in this passage that this willingness actually arms us in the battle against the flesh’s dominance of our lives. Those who deny that we need doctrine and creeds and such are those who are enslaved to the flesh and do not want to hear the condemnation against their sinful lifestyles coming from those doctrines and creeds. What they are overlooking though is that those doctrines and creeds are totally biblical. They are based entirely within the Bible and in no way take away from it or add to it.

God, through His Word, calls all of us to cease from sin and live in the flesh no longer. We must become free from human passions and learn to live for the will of God alone. To live according to the flesh is a mark of an unbeliever. Christians are New Creations. (2 Corinthians 5:17) That means they now have the ability to obey God, hear God, and know Gods truth. The unsaved are spiritually dead and have no ability to do those things.

How does living this way help us fight the good fight against false teaching and apostasy? The ability to stand in the gap and not fall away in the thick of the battle requires warriors who are wearing their armor and know how to use their weapons. If sin is working within a Christian then he or she is being undercut by it. The Conscience should be condemning them for holding onto their sin, but their hearts have become hard through their deliberate disobedience and now they can more easily ignore the Conscience. However, when they are called to stand and fight they are weak and ineffective because without a dynamic relationship with the Conscience they cannot stand the attacks that come through spiritual warfare because they will have a weak assurance.

Also, believers who are walking in victory with their hearts turned toward God will be in a constant state of repentance. This will be seen in their relationships with everyone around them. There will be no chinks in their armor because they are praying continually, loving the brethren, being patient in trouble, taking care of the poor, and counseling others to walk upright before the face of God, their Coram Deo. This is the Spirit-filled walk that is being moved and directed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We cannot be solid Christian soldiers who obediently suffer for Righteousness sake unless we first become mature believers, Spirit-filled, and focused on eternity. If our treasure is of earthly substance then we will have divided hearts that are useless in the battle. However, if our treasure is in Heaven then what happens in the temporal is insignificant because eternity is the genuine reality.

SDG

8 thoughts on “Stewards of God’s Grace

  1. “they are praying continually, loving the brethren, patient in trouble, taking care of the poor, and counseling others to walk upright before the face of God”

    Yes, God keep us faithful and not discouraged.

  2. Christmas is a holiday that was stolen from Pagans. As a Pagan I’m somewhat annoyed by this. That being said, I’m as disturbed by the “secularization” of Christmas / Yule as you are.

    Yule is a solemn holiday in my faith. It is – I presume – a joyous one in yours. In neither tradition is it an excuse to buy,buy, buy. It’s not the “Winterval” or any such dreck!

  3. The problem with those who do not come out of the world, is that they haven’t died to it yet. The preaching coming from the apostate church is, “come as you are and leave as you were.” In my own experience with regeneration, I noticed that the Lord had to hand me over to the world, with all of its false fulfillments, vanities, short lived pleasures, and what seemed right according to the natural. I got a cup full of poison which left me empty and begging for God’s mercy. Fame, status, sports cars, big muscles, money, good looks, popularity, parties of the rich and famous, or corporate titles, and having a barbie doll girlfriend doesn’t impress the Lord. All of these are vanity. They are a result of the lusts of the flesh.

    WE can know that we have died to the world because we will not want our new garment spotted by the flesh nor the rudiments of the world. Material possessions and popularity fade away fast. “WHAT DOES A MAN PROFIT IF HE GAINS THE WHOLE WORLD AND LOSES HIS SOUL?”

  4. Hi

    Thanks for this great site. I’m not sure how I came across it but it was very much needed at this time in my life. I just this week ‘saw’ christmas in a different light…. mainly becuase of my own loneliness and suffering at this time of year.

    I’ve always been a Bible believing Christian since Christ brought me into the Kingdom in my 20s. I used to be very strong on evangelism and speak with conviction that Jesus was the only way to God. Recently without really realising it I’ve felt that it sounds too dogmatic to say that – even in your regular church being that hard line is not considered ‘cool’ in the present climate. I’ve felt again the peace that standing on Gods word brings since finding this site and the courage to believe what it says without trying to fit Gods word around our 21st century culture.

    Jesus is Lord and the only way to God. Great!

  5. Perhaps, this post explains why we are to thank God “In all things”, even in trials, and tribulation. The growth in faith, and knowledge of Him who saved us from Hell ( by shedding His precious blood on the cross) , will stand us in good stead, as we suffer for the Gospel.
    The Lord said that the disciple is not greater than his Master, and that we would suffer also.
    Christians are being martyred all over the world, as they tell others about the good news; that by faith in Christ (and His atonement for our sins on the cross), they,too, might know that they will go to Heaven (John 5:24)

  6. Mike – like Christians of every age we’re at war. I know that you know this, but it bears frequent repeating so that we might continually retain and retrain our focus on the fountainhead of grace, our Sovereign Lord and Savior, the Great and Almighty God, our Kinsman Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

    From John MacArthur’s “The Truth War” The following excerpt is from pages 32-34 (HAT TIP Team Pyro):

    With increasing frequency nowadays, I hear people say things like, “Come, now, let’s not bicker about what we believe. It’s only doctrine. Let’s focus instead on how we live. The way of Jesus is surely more important than our arguments over the words of Jesus. Let’s set aside our disagreements over creeds and dogmas and devote ourselves instead to showing the love of Christ by the way we conduct our lives.”

    Many people these days evidently find that suggestion appealing. On the face of it, it may sound generous, kind-hearted, modest, and altruistic. But the view itself is a serious violation of “the way of Jesus,” who taught that salvation hinges on hearing and believing His Word (John 5:24). He said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). To those who doubted His truth-claims, He said, “If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). He never left any room for someone to imagine that the propositional content of His teaching is optional as long as we mimic His behavior.

    In fact, the New Testament consistently stresses otherwise. One vital principle about our redemption from sin destroys the whole argument: Faith, not works, is the sole instrument of justification (Ephesians 2:8-9; Galatians 2:16). In other words, what we believe rather than what we do is what secures us a righteous standing before God—because we lay hold of justifying righteousness by faith alone, and not by our works (Romans 4:5).

    Paul says in Romans 9:31-32 that “Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law.” In other words, regardless of how meticulous they may have been in their external observance of God’s law, their unbelief was sufficient to exclude them from the kingdom. “They being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (10:3-4). They doubted the truth of Christ, and that proved spiritually fatal, in spite of how well they had perfected an external display of piety.

    Notice: Paul expressly says they were pursuing righteousness. But they were looking for it in all the wrong places. Because they clung to wrong beliefs about the righteousness God requires and rejected the righteousness Christ would have provided for them, they were eternally condemned. Their failure was first of all an error about a vital article of faith, not merely a flaw in their practice. Their whole belief system (not merely their behavior) was wrong. Unbelief was enough to condemn them, regardless of how they acted.

    It is not kindness at all, but the worst form of cruelty, to suggest that what people believe doesn’t really matter much if they feel spiritual and do good. In fact, on the face of it, that claim is a blatant contradiction of the gospel message.

    Besides, real righteousness simply cannot exist in isolation from belief in the truth. In order to make the case for any concept of “practical good” that subsists apart from sound doctrine, one quickly has to remove just about everything that is truly righteous from the definition of good. Naturally, it doesn’t take very long for that kind of thinking to undermine the foundations of Christianity itself.

  7. Coram,

    I had that same experience when I was involved in Wednesday night visitation and evangelism at a local Baptist Church. My team leader shunned me for discussing doctrine because she thought it was not important. She said that she didn’t want to read the letter because she didn’t want to get into theology. I was shocked because the letter was about how to witness to a Jew or a Sabbatarian. It was a discussion about why Jesus used a Hebrew idiom from Jonah to explain his resurrection. This was common argument which noone in our group was equipped to deal with, so I felt in necessary to share what the Bible said. I have been involved in ministering to those in the occult as well. This letter was intended to equip the saints for defending the gospel and winning souls. Later, I brought this to the pastor and associate pastor’s attention, and they both blew me off. My team leader shunned me for disussing Biblical doctrine, and I immediately left. I knew that the organization was not funcitioning as Jesus intended because it was a hierarchy or bureaucracy. I am glad that they treated me like a leper, since it worked out to my benefit. Later, I ran into the associate pastor and I rebuked him for his lack of concern and Biblical discernment. He said, “Well, we don’t want to waste our time with outsiders.” I probably should not have said the following, but this came out….. “Well, I guess if I had given you more money, then you guys would have cared.”

    Easy believism– a gospel that doesn’t require thought. Just go with what they prescribe, do what they tell, don’t put them to the test, give your money, sit in the pugh, and shut up. Please smile while doing so. Enjoy the music, eat the junk food, buy their books, fall at their feet, and leave as you were. Don’t question the ordained ones. The Pastor is God incarnate. Anyone who puts them to the test is unregenerate and unChristian. Sound familiar anyone?

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