Thursday, November 1, 2012

GRACE Written by Lisa Collier Clewis 11/01/1012

I want to share with you about grace. In order for us to understand grace I think that we must first understand works. So many people are under the misconception that their works save them or that the works of the law keep them in God's grace. Just the opposite is true. In the book of Galatians the apostle Paul explains to the Galatians that the gospel of Jesus Christ had been perverted and that anyone who preaches any other gospel is accursed.  The Galatians were under the misconception that they were justified by the works of the law. Galatians 3:2-5 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 

Think back to when you learned that you were already saved through the crucifiction and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Think back to when you got down on your knees and prayed to God with a contrite heart and asked him to forgive you of your sins and you accepted him as your Lord and Savior. You know that by the grace of God you were forgiven of all of your sins and washed in the blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What did you do to deserve it? You didn't do anything to deserve God's grace. Neither did I or anyone else. God knew us and loved us before the foundations of the world. God's gift of grace and forgiveness of our sins is just that, a gift. We didn't work for it and we don't deserve it except by the love and grace of God who has made us righteous to stand before him. Why do you think that you have to do something to deserve it now? The realization that flesh and blood are sin and that sin is in us doesn't mean that we walk around conscious of our sins which is what Satan wants us to do to keep our mind off of what we should be doing. It means that we are conscious of our sins so that we can acknowledge what we are doing wrong and do what is right instead. When we allow Satan to bombard our minds with thoughts of sin and unworthiness we are not capable of moving forward or being a witness for Christ because we are paralyzed with the fear of not being good enough and losing God's grace.

Understanding grace and forgiveness of sins can seem like an impossible feat. When we get born again it is by God's grace. We are covered by God's grace. We become spirit like him but we are still in these flesh and blood bodies. So you wonder how can I be like him if I am still flesh and blood? Even though my heart loves him so much I still make mistakes and sin. Does that mean it is okay to sin? No! In Romans chapter 6 the apostle Paul teaches about sin and grace. Romans 6:14-18 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.

But what about those words that I said when I got home fromt the grocery store and realized that my chicken was rotten? What about me not answering the phone because I knew who it was and I didn't feel like helping him today? What about me rededicating my life to the Lord and finding myself next to an empty bottle this morning that I can't even remember cause I drank so much last night? Or, how about me having surgery or losing my loved one and getting hooked on pain pills again? The list goes on. Every single human being has some kind of demon that he/she has to overcome. That doesn't make us unworthy. That makes us need the Lord and his help and his strength even more. In II Corinthians Paul teaches about how he found glory in his infirmities. Paul realized that when he was weak the spirit strengthened him. I once heard someone say that if you are ashamed of your testimony you are ashamed of God. Think about it like this. We have got a conscience. When we do something wrong or think about doing something wrong our conscience tells us what we did wrong and we go to God in prayer with a contrite heart and ask God to forgive us of our sins and we are renewed in our faith in his grace. But the devil doesn't want for us to be renewed in our faith of God's grace. The devil wants for us to continue to feel guilty and unworthy and weak. II Corinthians 12:9-10 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

In Romans chapter 7 the apostle Paul speaks of the flesh and how the flesh is weak and how he felt about the sin and weakness that he found in himself. Romans 7:13-25 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, worketh death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivitiy to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

Satan uses our flesh and blood to trick us into self condemnation so that we feel unworthy of God's love and grace and promises that he has made to us, his children. The best way that I know how to explain this is to give you an example of me and my life and my addiction to cigarettes. When I was growing up I said that I would never smoke. I hated to smell cigarettes and ashtrays. I said that I would never spend my money on something that is so useless. Also, my grandma brought me up loving and believing in God's word. She taught me how to read by reading the Holy Bible to me and telling me about all of the wonderful stories in the bible which gave me the desire to learn how to read. My grandma loved the Lord. When I got born again and accepted Jesus Christ as my risen Lord and Savior I learned more about the meat of the word and why I should obey my parents and that my parents should not provoke me to wrath. Being said, my daddy lived in fear. He always expected the worst and it seemed like he constantly accused me of doing things that I had not done. He would search my room and later searched my car. And being a new christian and weak he cursed and yelled and badgered me. Jealous people telling lies on me did not help. Well, he came into my room one night about 3 'o clock a.m. and he accused me of stealing his coat and selling it to buy drugs. I didn't use drugs. I had never tried drugs. And I would not be caught dead with something that did not belong to me. Now mind you, I loved the Lord with all of my heart. I wanted for everyone to get saved. I did not want for anyone to go to hell or feel alone because they didn't know God. I wrote letters to a man who was in prison whom I knew needed to be saved. He beat on his wife and all kinds of ungodly stuff. God was always in my heart. I still feel this way I just want you to know that I felt that way back then because I want for you to understand that I did not mean to become the mean little spit fire that I was for a while.

Well, at 3 'o clock a.m. my daddy woke me out of a sound sleep hollering and cursing me and accusing me of stealing his coat and selling it to someone to buy drugs. He found his coat later on that night in a suitcase that was under his bed where he had left it. I did not get an aplogy. I snapped. Now, I'm not blaming my daddy for the things that I did. My mind and my heart were weak and I wanted to be the hellion that he evidently already believed me to be. I became rebellious. I thought and did and felt things that I never knew were in me, things that were the total opposite of who I was in Christ. I stold my daddy's liquor and poured it into little glass bottles and hid the little glass bottles of liquor in the foam cups that fit around the speakers in the trunk of my car.  I laughed to myself every time he searched my car. I laughed to myself every time he said he thought that some of his liquor was getting gone or that his liquor tasted watered down. I tried marijuana. I ran away from home. And I not only started smoking but I spent my lunch money on cigarettes. And even though later on I found forgiveness in my heart and repented of my sins, I continued to smoke and I continued to spend my money on cigarettes when I needed to spend my money on other things.

I tried to quit smoking many, many times. I even tried bargaining with God. I thought that if I promised God that I would not smoke, I would not smoke because I loved him to much to tell him a story. I started back smoking and I felt the absolute worst guilt about smoking and breaking my word to the Lord. I talked to my preacher about it and he told me that you never promise God anything because you are flesh and blood and you are going to make mistakes. I apologized to God for telling him that I would not smoke any more and smoking anyway. I struggled with smoking for many years. I made excuses and then I finally accepted the fact that I liked to smoke and I finally understood the reasons why I liked to smoke.

I finally decided in my heart that I did not want to smoke and I knew that I could not do it on my own. I would pray to stop and I would stop and then I would start back smoking. The guilt got worse every time I would start back smoking. I felt so condemned in my flesh. Finally, I realized that I had to give it all to God and I prayed to God that he would take away my desire to smoke. Praise God. He did. June 11, 2013 will be two years since God took the desire to smoke away from me. Praise God. I am free from that bondage. That ole devil will put the thought in my mind that I want a cigarette. It's usually when I am stressed out. I will say, "I do not want to smoke." And the thought will go away. Praise God. It works every time. Resist the devil and he will flee.

The reason for me telling you this story about myself is this, it does not matter how much you love the Lord you will find that you will do or say things that you did not mean to. And no matter how bad you want to stop doing something that condemns you in your flesh, you have got to give it to God and let him help you. Remember, when we are weak he gives us strength. The devil is a lion that seeks who he can devour. He looks for unhealed scars in our heart and bruised memories in our mind that he can use to keep us in sin and condemnation. He makes a rock appear to be an apple. And you know what they say about an apple, eat an apple a day and keep the doctor away. Try to remember in those times of weakness that Jesus is our rock. He gives us the strength to do the right thing even if the right thing was not our first thought. Do not let Satan use your past sins or present struggles or guilt from sin keep you away from being who God made you to be, his child, made in his likeness. Romans 8:1-4 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Praise God! He knows what is in our hearts and he gives us strength when we are weak. I love all of you, my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior.