Mastering Our Moods

PART 1: David’s Method

Psalm 42

Feeling Moody Lately?

Do you ever have one of those days where you’re just in a mood? A mood is a hard thing to pin down. Sometimes you know why you’re in a mood, sometimes you don’t. You just have it. What is a mood? A mood is not purely emotional, although it involves emotion. A mood is also mental—it has to do with your thought patterns. Maybe you’re looking backward, inward or forward. Our minds often think irrationally. A mood is emotional and mental, but also it is physical. We may feel down simply because we didn’t get a good night’s sleep or we’re hungry. Have you ever felt a bit edgy when your stomach was empty, or you were exhausted after a long, hard day? All three components—mental, emotional, and physical—mix together to create what we calla mood or an attitude.

Does God’s Word have anything to say about moods? Yes, it certainly does. In the Bible, the word that indicates a mood or an attitude is the word, “spirit.” Of course, spirit can often refer to spiritual beings, such as the Spirit of God, angelic beings, or an individual’s invisible spirit, but often the context makes clear that the word is referencing the idea of an attitude or mood. This kind of “spirit,” while not necessarily spiritual in nature, is certainly an opportunity for spiritual darkness and deception to take hold of an individual. The Bible is full of references to both good and bad attitudes: a haughty spirit, cheerful spirit, angry spirit, joyful spirit, broken spirit—just to name a few. Thankfully, God gives us instruction about how to master our moods.  You do not have to be a slave to your mood!

David certainly knew the darkness and power of negative moods. The psalms record his experiences, but also his method of gaining divine power over his moods. A good example of this is Psalm 42. I would encourage you to stop and turn to this passage right now and read it. You’ll find that David never actually uses the word “spirit,” and yet the whole psalm is David’s prayer—David’s method—of dealing with inner darkness and despair.

Why do I feel this way?

We see David grappling with his feelings. He is up and down in this psalm. He starts out expressing a longing for God. He feels parched. He thirsts for God. David’s mind went back to the days when he could freely go to the place of worship with his friends. Most likely this was written while David was in exile, running from King Saul (1 Samuel 18-31). He missed the house of God.

David was lonely. Loneliness is a mood: a sense of being forgotten, a sense of abandonment. In verse 5, he asks himself this question: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul.” We often ask ourselves that, too. “Why am I feeling this way? Where did this mood come from? Why can’t I shake it? Will these storm clouds ever part? Is there something wrong with me?”

The word, “disquieted” means the sound of war—loud, chaotic noise that upsets and disturbs our inner calm. Our minds and souls are often filled with the clamor of crazy thoughts, feelings, and imaginations—noise that only we can hear.  What can be done? How can we silence this noise and restore peace and quiet in our hearts?

Hope in God.

David gives the answer: “Hope thou in God. For I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” Hope, in the Bible, doesn’t mean to cross your fingers and wish for the best. Hope means a joyful, confident expectation. It’s choosing to believe that something good is coming because Someone good is in control. It’s turning your gaze to an object outside of you and bigger than you, and declaring to yourself and anyone present that God is in control, God is good, and God will bring you through! Everything changes, but God never will. You can choose to anchor your mind on the unchanging rock of God’s Word.

This is the first step in mastering your moods. Hope in God. When you’re in a dark place emotionally, mentally or physically, it feels hopeless. But when you choose to turn to God, you have hope. The clouds will begin to part as you declare your faith in Him. This leads to the second step:

Praise God on Purpose.

David continues: “I shall yet praise Him.” Do you ever do things that you don’t feel like doing? Maybe you get up early because you don’t want to be late to work, or you do the laundry because somebody has to do it. You don’t feel like it, yet you do it anyway. David understood that he would probably not feel like praising God. He had determined that He would do it anyway. It was the only way out of a dark place. You can’t wait for the feeling. Sometimes we feel like praising theLord, but in the dark times we must praise Him on purpose.

Praise turns the Light on!

Praise turns the light on. Have you ever walked into a dark room or dark basement and felt around for the string hanging from a light bulb? You can’t even see your hand but you know the string is there. You move forward cautiously waving your outstretched arms hoping to brush against the dangling cord. There! You found it! With a simple pull the light bulb clicks on and the darkness is gone. Praise is the act of faith that makes God’s truth and God’s presence real in our hearts. He is truth and light. Praise allows His light to shine in our hearts. Praise is a focus on our God.

This leads us to the third step in mastering our moods:

Take Comfort in God’s Presence.

David continues: “For I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” God’s countenance is simply His face. It’s the idea of God’s nearness, and it implies God’s attitude of favor toward His children. We don’t get to see God’s face literally, but when we hope in God and praise God His face comes into focus. We remember what His Word declares, and the Holy Spirit makes His presence real to us. This is not necessarily an “experience.” It’s not something rooted in our feelings. It’s also more than a head-knowledge. The help of God’s countenance is received by faith. God ministers His comforting presence in a real way that is beyond human understanding—the “peace which passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

Many Christians feel as though God is distant and disapproving. They ask for His presence, when all along they could have rested in His presence. God is not far away! He indwells His children and has promised never to depart.

Many Christians feel as though God is distant and disapproving. They ask for His presence, when all along they could have rested in His presence.

“Yes,” you say, “God may be with me but I don’t think He likes me very much.” This idea of an austere, disapproving God does much to darken the heart and send us into the most destructive paths. Many believers understand theologically that God loves them, but practically they don’t feel it.

Perhaps they try to win His favor through fervent service, or confession of sin, or by cultivating a heart of surrender, but always God’s presence is something to be desired—something outside of them—something to be sought after—something to be earned. I find it interesting that David did not ask for God’s presence. Instead, He declared it as a comforting reality. He knew God was with him, that God’s face was toward him, and he took comfort in God’s favor.

We haven’t mentioned the word yet, but we’ve been talking about it. The word is GRACE. Grace is God’s unmerited (undeserved, unearned) favor toward us. It was this favor that sent His Son Jesus Christ to earth to die for our sins and be raised again for our salvation. Have you trusted in Jesus and accepted Him as your Savior? If not, do so now. It’s the only way to make peace with God and receive the promise of eternal life!

It is God’s continued favor that sent His Holy Spirit to indwell each one who trusts in His Son. If you’ve asked Christ to save you and been born again by faith in Christ, you’ve been washed of your sin by His blood. God now looks upon you with the same favor that He has toward His Son, Jesus. His favorable presence is not only with you, but it is in you. You need not ask or beg or plead. You don’t have to strike a deal with God or woo Him to your side. He simply wants us to hope in Him, praise Him, and rest in Him. He isn’t going anywhere, and He hasn’t changed His mind about you. As Christians, nothing we’ve done or that has been done to us “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). Hope in God, and praise Him for the help of His countenance and you’ll see your mood begin to change.

Painting by Numbers

Painting by numbers can be fun! It requires mostly patience and attention to detail. If you follow the steps, matching the paint to the numbers on the page, you can produce a beautiful painting. However, doing so does not make you an artist. You’ve only proved you can follow instructions! A true artist–a master–doesn’t need to follow step-by-step instructions. He’s not bound to those elementary guidelines. All he needs is some paint, a few brushes and a blank canvas. He sees everything in his mind and skillfully, creatively lays it down.

This illustrates the difference between law and grace in the Christian life. Some Christians go through life using the paint-by-number method. Yet the law is much more demanding. Our best attempts fall short. Even if we were able to obey every command (which we cannot), that would not make us truly righteous! Rather, it would merely demonstrate our ability to obey instructions. Christ is so much more than that. He is the Master! He is the very essence of righteousness, virtue and wisdom. We have the Master dwelling in us! He will guide us, not by the letter, but by His Spirit. Christ doesn’t simply enable us to be better law-keepers!

Christ fulfilled the law once and for all. He has moved us on from paint-by-numbers. We are no longer “under the law” (Romans 6:14). Every Christian is out from under the law’s jurisdiction because “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Romans 10:4). 

The spiritual Christian, therefore, is no longer ruled by laws and commands; instead he is guided by wisdom. If we yield to the Holy Spirit, He will cause us to glean wisdom and instruction from the law–and from every page of Scripture–informing our conscience and heightening our ability to discern God’s will. We see the virtues, principles, and wisdom of God revealed in every command–even if the command itself no longer has jurisdiction over us as Christians. We see God’s heart revealed and we embrace His virtues from a heart of devotion and love. Laws expressing God’s moral virtues are fulfilled in us as we love God and love others (Matthew 22:36-40). Just as a master artist produces artwork far superior to a paint-by-number painting, the indwelling Christ guides our hearts through the “law of love” and causes us to far exceed the righteousness which the law prescribed.

We will make mistakes as we’re growing in grace. Yet, amazingly, the Master artist is able to incorporate these errors into His masterpiece. He declares us righteous while guiding us in the paths of righteousness. We would make a mess of it all, but GRACE makes all the difference! What a beautiful picture.

Redeeming Grace (Part 3)

Grace and Law in the Christian Life

Previously in this series I have attempted to show some of the pitfalls surrounding the subject of grace. Some pervert grace by making it a license to sin while others frustrate grace by subtly adding a meritorious (legalistic) system of thought. In the first error, grace becomes freedom from biblical constraints, while in the second grace is no longer free.

At issue here is a fundamental question: What is the relationship between law and grace for Christians? While much has been written on this subject in broader evangelical world, Independent Fundamental Baptists have often tried to avoid the question altogether. Sadly, while many evangelical authors do a great job explaining grace, the worldly lives and compromised ministries of many give evidence that they have embraced license in the name of grace. Fundamental Baptists rightly point this out but commit the error of overreaction. To avoid the “slippery slope” of grace, many seek to fortify themselves with law. Statements like the following are common:

“We are saved by grace, but as Christians we are still under the law”

“Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not under the law.”

“We’re not in bondage to the law, but it is still necessary for our sanctification.”

“Grace is simply the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to keep the law.”

“Christ came not to destroy the law but to fulfill. Therefore, if you follow Christ, He will lead you to fulfill the law as well.”

Or, as I heard in a sermon recently, “Christ IS the law! Christ is the law personified.” Such a statement is a gross error, yet all too common among Fundamental Baptists.

Another preacher once told me that if he were forced to lean towards grace or law, he would choose law because it was the “safer” option. He feared that if he preached grace his people would slip into lawlessness and worldliness. He believed in God’s grace to enable obedience, but to him, the law still applies.

While it may be tempting to “fortify” grace with law, our real concern should be to understand what the Bible has to say on this subject. It is not our job to protect people from grace. Rather, we must rightly explain what the Bible teaches about grace and law and let God’s Word provide the balance.

This is a longer post than normal. Not everything can be reduced to a 140 character Tweet! As concisely as possible in this article I shall attempt to explain and harmonize four Bible-based propositions:

“Christ fulfilled the Law.”

“Christians are no longer under the Law.”

“Grace provides righteousness and produces godliness.”

“The Law still benefits Christians.”

Each of these propositions builds upon and balances the other. May I ask that you please stick with me to the end of this article? Don’t bail out if you think it’s imbalanced. I promise I’ll bring it all together at the end, but each of these propositions must stand on their own and be accepted by faith.

First of all, we must understand a foundational Bible doctrine:

1.  Christ fulfilled the law.

The law was not imposed upon Israel as a means of salvation, but rather as a mirror by which they could see their sinful condition and look to God for cleansing and redemption. The Ten Commandments as well as the hundreds of other commands given in the law of Moses were designed to drive them to the sacrificial system, which foreshadowed Christ’s sacrifice of Himself for sin. It was intentionally detailed and burdensome so that men’s hearts would bow under the weight of sin and cause them to look to the coming Messiah for salvation. Paul states, “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. (20) Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:19-20).

The only one to ever fulfill the demands of the law is Jesus Christ. He fulfilled both its commands and its curse. The law talked about righteousness, but Jesus is the very personification of righteousness. The law revealed God’s righteousness in black and white, but Jesus revealed God’s righteousness in living color.

In Matthew 5:17 Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” Christ was often accused of breaking the law of Moses. Of course, He never did, rather He obeyed it as it was originally intended. Though He denied being a destroyer of the law, He asserted that He had come to “fulfill” it. The word fulfill in the original language means to complete, to fill up and bring to conclusion, to satisfy a demand.

Christ fulfilled the law in the same way a criminal must fulfill his term of incarceration or community service. Once completed he has fulfilled his obligation. He is free. The prison guard or probation officer no longer has jurisdiction over him.

The “Law and the Prophets,” were a “shadow of things to come” (Colossians 2:17). If you stare at a shadow on the ground and follow it, watch out, you might run into a tree! The law was a shadow of God’s righteousness, but Jesus is the real thing. He IS righteousness. When Christ came He fulfilled the demands of the law though obedience and through death. The law has been fulfilled, satisfied, completed and put away. On the cross Christ was “blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” (Colossians 2:14).

If you follow the shadow of the law you’ll run into the cross where Jesus cried, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

You may wonder, “What about Christians? Shouldn’t believers fulfill the law as well?”

It is vital that we understand and embrace the following truth:

2.  Christians are no longer under the law.

Paul states in Romans 10:4, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” The word “end” used here has a similar meaning to “fulfilled.” Christ was the very consummation of the righteousness to which the law pointed. I like that is says “end” because He indeed fulfilled it and put an end to it’s demands, not only for Himself, but so He could grant “righteousness to every one that believeth.”

By faith we receive the grace of salvation and are placed into Christ. His fulfillment of the law counts for me. His righteousness is now my own. The law has no demands on me because I am in Christ. That is why Paul could boldly say, “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14). The law cannot save, neither can it sanctify; it can only command and condemn. In fact, according to this verse, being “under the law” is equated with being under the dominion of sin. Look at it carefully: “sin shall not have dominion over you: for (because) ye are not under the law…”

Ironically, those who lean on the law for sanctification do so to ensure they WILL NOT be dominated by sin, when in fact the very opposite will occur.

If you look to the law for assistance in living a righteous life, you can be assured you will experience the rising dominance of sin. That’s why Paul said, “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20).

Christians have graduated from the law to something better: GRACE! When you graduate from high school there is a commencement service. A diploma is given which states that all the demands and requirements for graduation have been fulfilled. High school is over, done, complete! Toss your hat in the air! As you “commence” your new life as an adult, you do not continue under the rules and constraints of high school. You’re free from that law system even though you will forever benefit from what you learned there.

Paul actually uses this analogy when explaining our relationship to the law. He states, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (25) But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (Galatians 3:24-25).

Many dear Christians resist this liberty and try to explain it away. They want to obey God’s Word and walk in all the commandments. This is a good goal, yet they resist the clear teaching of the New Testament regarding the law and fall into a merit-based system of sanctification. This could be called Christian legalism. Christians fail to realize the law is a school—a school from which we have graduated. This school was designed to teach us one thing: we are sinners incapable of righteousness. You haven’t graduated until you have come to that humbling conclusion and embraced it as your own. “I am wretched, sinful and in need of a Savior.” This is the moment of salvation when we call on Christ to save us and give us His righteousness.

Sadly, many Christians receive the diploma of their salvation but then refuse to leave the school premises. They are comforted by law’s familiarity, constraints and structure. They are used to being driven by guilt and motivated by fear. They don’t trust themselves (rightly) to live righteously without the law, yet they fail to trust the Righteous One who lives within them: the person of the Holy Spirit.

Christ is not the Law personified; He is Righteousness personified. The law is immaturity; Christ is maturity. The law commands and condemns, but Christ declares us righteous and leads us in “paths of righteousness” (Psalm 23:3) as we “grow in grace” (2 Peter 3:18).

This brings us to the next biblical proposition which, when properly understood, opens the door to true liberty and victory over sin:

3.  Grace provides righteousness and produces godliness.

Through grace we are justified—declared righteous (Romans 5:1). This means we are legally and actually righteous in God’s sight. Our hearts have been sprinkled with the precious blood of Christ (Hebrews 10:22). If we were not legally and actually righteous, the Holy Spirit would never be able to indwell us, but He does.

Justification is received by faith as a gift. After all, that is the essence of grace. By definition, it cannot be earned. Anyone who adds law to grace spoils it, as Paul said, “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work” (Romans 11:6).

Grace makes Christ’s righteousness our very own, even while we falter, fail, struggle and grow as Christians. This does not mean that everything we do is righteous, far from it! It means God unflinchingly declares us righteous because we are in Christ by faith.

At salvation God planted our feet firmly in a place called grace. It’s a righteous standing. It’s also an endless resource for Christian living. Paul puts it this way: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: (2) By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-20). We have continual access to the grace that saved us. By faith we may rely upon God and receive His strength, His wisdom, His virtues…whatever we need. No longer must we cling to laws and commands, lists and warnings to somehow produce the righteous living that God demands. Those demands have already been met in Christ. Having received His righteousness I now am set at liberty to grow into the grace of God. His Word, His virtues, His wisdom and all of His eternal principles will be applied to my heart by faith, by the Holy Spirit, step by step, as I access the grace wherein I stand.

In Paul’s letter to Titus he makes it clear that true grace produces godliness, not self indulgence: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, (12) Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11-12). Saving grace is also sanctifying grace. Anyone who glories in grace while indulging the flesh is sadly deluded. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid!” (Romans 6:1).

The declared righteousness we received at salvation is also a well-spring of righteousness for daily use. Christ Himself is our righteousness. He is the Well! We draw from Him by faith and He produces a righteous life that law-focus and law-dependence could never do. Grace produces the fruit of the Spirit “against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:23).

It is vitally important to conclude by affirming that every word of God is true, profitable and applicable to the Christian. We must understand this final balancing proposition:

4.  The law still benefits Christians.

Although we are no longer enslaved to the law, and though Christ has fulfilled and put away the law system, we do not then “toss out” or discard the righteous wisdom which it contains.

Being no longer “under the law” does not mean that the law has no value. Nothing could be further from the truth!

When we graduate high school, do we throw out everything we learned? Well, algebra, maybe (just kidding!). No, we build on them and incorporate them into our lives. In fact, we continue to learn and grow outside the classroom throughout our adult lives in ways we never could have “under the law” of the schoolmaster.

There are countless commands, principles and biblical precedents—Old Testament and New—that directly or indirectly apply to the Christian. Remember, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (17) That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Also, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

Many Old Testament laws were for the people of Israel, specifically, and are clearly done away in Christ. Laws concerning temple worship, ceremony and civil government were for a different people, time and place, yet even these commands reveal eternal principles of God’s righteousness and wisdom which are beneficial to the Christian.

Most Christians agree that we’re not under obligation to the civil and ceremonial laws but still insist we are under the “moral law,” or the Ten Commandments. However, the Ten Commandments are actually “ten applications” of the two Great Commandments: Love God and Love Others.

Jesus said it clearly when responding to the law-keepers of His day, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. (38) This is the first and great commandment. (39) And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (40) On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40). These two commandments are actually eternal virtues of God’s righteousness. Grace produces love in the life of the believer. Love fulfills the law. Love is God’s righteousness lived out.

Every command is, in fact, an application of God’s righteous virtues. The Bible reveals these underlying virtues and principles through each command and on every page. The sabbath day, for instance is one command which is fulfilled in Christ. It was designed to picture how God finished the work of salvation and the rest which believers enjoy by faith in Christ (see Hebrews 4:1-10). Yet, there is still a “sabbath principle” which leads Christians to set aside one day each week (Sunday) and call it “the Lord’s day.” We are not bound by the Old Testament sabbath laws, yet we honor the precedent, going all the way back to the creation week, in which one day was set aside for God.

A Christian who is growing in grace does so “through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). How are we to know Him? Through His Word, both Old and New Testaments. It is by gazing into the mirror of God’s Word that we are changed into Christ’s likeness. James called it “the perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25). I love that! God’s law, when viewed from our standing of grace is not a law of bondage but of liberty. We have been set free from the old tyrant so that we may serve God freely—out of love, not fear.

Every command of God reveals God’s heart, and it is His heart beating within us! Grace causes us to embrace not merely the letter, but the spirit behind the letter. Grace leads us to cherish every word of Scripture and to obey it gladly. Does God have commands for us as Christians? Of course. Should we obey them? Of course! God’s rich grace toward us wells up in our hearts and causes us to respond in obedient love to all of God’s righteous commands—not out of meritorious thinking, but out of a loving desire to please Him in all things. Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Which commandments? Grace leads us to embrace every righteous command and precept, as we discern the context and find the underlying eternal principle.

In Conclusion:

I remember teaching each of my three oldest kids to ride a bike. We started out with training wheels and a helmet. Why? It was necessary at the time. The training wheels are not meant to be permanent. Those small wheels on each side of the back tire are slightly elevated off the ground in relation to the big tire. This causes the bike to wobble side to side as a child is learning. I remember watching one of my children ride, and noticing less and less wobbling. He began to ride straight, balanced on the main wheels—the training wheels hardly touching the ground! Finally, the day came when I removed the training wheels. I walked alongside my child, assisting and providing balance as needed, until, “Voila!” he was on his own. No turning back!

In the flesh we can try to live a righteous life by adhering determinedly to God’s laws, but we’ll always have a “wobble.” Actually, its worse than that; what we’ll have is a miserable Christian life where sin has dominion over us. As we “wobble” back and forth struggling to obey, Christ stands ready to remove the training wheels. “You’re free from the law,” He says, “I’ll walk beside you. Better yet, I’ll come live within you.” It’s fun to ride a bike. It is pure joy to allow Christ to live His life through you. You may struggle with the old sins and legalistic thinking. He’s there to forgive and get you going straight again. He’s patient and kind. He helps us grow in grace and discover the joy of a balanced, mature, godly life.

How strange and sad it would be to see a grown man riding a bike with training wheels still firmly attached! Yet there are many Christians who still religiously cling to a law-based system of Christian living. Let Christ remove the crutch! You’re a graduate from law school! Let Grace lead you in a maturing walk of faith. Let’s “Redeem Grace” from its counterfeits and allow Christ’s righteousness to be seen in us.

A Quiet Revival

I want a quiet revival:
No news headlines or big fanfare,
     No electricity in the air,
No man or church receives the glory,
     No biographer to write the story.
Just quiet miracles of grace –
     A softened heart, a radiant face,
A step of faith no one will see,
     The joy of a sinner now set free.
God’s love flows from heart to heart
     And lives are given a brand-new start.

A quiet revival steady and strong
     Where ransomed souls break out in song,
The church is filled – each pew and chair –
     With folks who know that Christ is there.
God’s Word is preached, the Spirit stirs,
     No mighty rushing wind occurs,
But humble Christians bow in prayer,
     And stubborn hearts are conquered there.

A quiet revival, for this I plead,
     Where grace transforms a home in need.
Dads begin each day in prayer
     And guide their homes with tender care,
Mothers seek to know God’s Word
     And implement the truths they’ve heard.
Children learn to fear the Lord
     And dwell together in sweet accord.
As Christ is all to man and wife,
     Marriages come back to life.

Revival quietly will spread
     To hearts and homes that once were dead,
And one by one, as homes revive,
     The churches, too, become alive.
No stadium or conference hall,
     No big-name preacher or national call.
Just people finding Jesus lives!
     Receiving the help the Bible gives.
Learning to pray and boldly share
     The simple Gospel everywhere.

Churches growing, establishing more,
     Giving to missions like never before.
Standing for right, repenting of sin,
     Patiently seeking a loved one to win.
This is revival. It needn’t be loud.
     It won’t necessarily draw a big crowd.
But little by little, by God’s mighty hand,
     A quiet revival could cover the land.

When God sends revival down like a flood
     It’s oft marred by chaos and paid for in blood.
A fair price no doubt for the souls that are saved,
     But many backslide and again are enslaved.
In a quiet revival, the churches keep pace
     And teach young believers of growing in grace.
Christians established and churches made strong
     Give God much glory as they praise Him in song.

So, Lord, send revival! Your mercy we plead.
     Send a revival! You know what we need.

The High Ground

Grace and Law prepared for war
Sharpened the weapons they’d used before.
With Scripture, logic and force of will
They’d fight to claim a rugged hill.

“The high ground must be ours!” they said,
“No matter how much blood is shed.”
Then up from their trenches both sides ran
Atop the hill clashing man to man.

Law said, “Grace, go rest at ease
You think you can do whatever you please.
A lame excuse for lawlessness,
Your wickedness God cannot bless.”

Grace fought back, “You hypocrite!
Faith in works won’t work one bit!
God sees your heart, God looks inside.
He knows the rotten things you hide.
God’s not impressed with your haughty face.
You can’t earn God’s amazing grace!”

Law said, “The Spirit helps me to obey.
I trust God’s commands and do what they say.”

Grace said, “The Spirit leads me differently.
He soothes, forgives and comforts me.”

Law asks, “Will the Spirit lead against His Word?
Such self-deception I’ve never heard!”

Grace responds, “He leads me in Christ’s law of love
Which fulfills the Law and far above.
And patiently He takes my hand
and leads me through the Promised Land.”

Law said, “The Spirit is Holy, don’t you know?
But by your life it doesn’t show.
Like Lot you love this world of sin.
You ditched your tent and now you’re in.
I wonder if you’re even saved.
You couldn’t tell by how Lot behaved.”

Said Grace, “‘Judge not, lest ye be judged!’
Some laws you’ve broken, some rules you’ve fudged.
If by the law you live or die
Then you can kiss salvation goodby!
The humble sinner Christ came to save.
The law condemns you beyond the grave!”

With bloody swords and weary feet
Both sides made another retreat.
But atop that hill of blood and loss
There stood a lone forgotten Cross.forgotten cross

Redeeming Grace (part 2)

There is another variation of legalism which is harder to spot, and it has sprung up among sincere revival-seeking Christians within the last 15-20 years It is a teaching which speaks of grace while undermining what grace really is.

(Click here to read Part 1)

Redeeming Grace.  Yes, grace–the term, the idea of grace–must be redeemed from legalism and license.  Legalism destroys grace; license disgraces grace. Grace must be redeemed and set at liberty.  In fact, liberty is the essence of grace.  But we must clarify….

What is legalism, and how does it destroy grace?

I know this word is used oftentimes to attack people who believe in holy living and standards of biblical behavior, but that is not legalism.  Everyone has standards of behavior.  The essence of legalism is this: meritorious thinking.  At the core of every religion is meritorious thinking, the idea that what you do, whether good or bad, will merit a certain response from God.  Good works are rewarded, bad deeds are judged. Legalism is the idea that God’s favor and blessing in my life is ultimately determined by my behavior.

Salvation from sin occurs when we realize that Jesus paid the full price for sin, we realize that we are unworthy of anything but His judgment, and we choose to trust solely upon Him as our Savior.  We must reject legalism to be born again.  Yet, sadly, Christians revert back to a meritorious way of thinking in regards to living the Christian life.  Some believers attempt to achieve holiness and fruitful service by their own strength. This is the standard form of legalism among believers.  Usually these folks will either burn out, give up, or march on in a sense of self-righteous resolve, knowing only stress, struggle and spiritual failure.

There is another variation of legalism which is harder to spot, and it has sprung up among sincere revival-seeking Christians within the last 15-20 years.  It is a teaching which speaks of grace while undermining what grace really is.  These Christians, having discovered the futility of serving God in the power of the flesh, have looked to grace to enable their efforts at holy living and fruitful service.  They realize that God’s grace of salvation is also available for sanctification.  They learn that the Holy Spirit may be depended upon to enable holiness and produce fruit. Yet, here is the pitfall: they see grace as something they need to get where they’re going.  They’re headed for holiness and fruitfulness but can’t get there on their own.  They need GRACE to get them there.  Grace becomes a means to an end.  

There are many Christians who long for holiness (victory over sin) and fruitful service (souls saved, growing, thriving ministries, etc.) and realize they need to access God’s grace to achieve these ends.  So they say, “I need grace!  How can I access and experience this grace?”  In steps legalism: “Well, first you have to confess all your sin.” Should Christians confess sin?  YES!  Why?  So we can access the grace of God? NO!  We should confess sin because we love God, not because we need something from Him.  Do you see the meritorious thinking here?  Also, how would you know if you had confessed everything?  Even after searching your heart for hours you still would find yourself in a perpetual state of doubt as you consider whether or not your heart is truly clean…yet.

Let’s say you finally (timidly) feel you’ve confessed everything.  In steps legalism again: “Not so fast! You must also be FULLY surrendered to God in every area before you can access God’s grace.  After all, you won’t have the fullness of the Spirit unless He has 100% control of you!”  Any semblance of peace is  now shattered.  Are you fully surrendered?  What about that neighbor you haven’t witnessed to yet?  What about the fact you haven’t given up that time-wasting activity yet? What about….

So maybe you just try to cover everything with a blanket prayer like this, “Lord, the best I know, I yield myself fully to your control.”  Does that cover it?  Are you surrendered now?  **swallow hard**  “Well, Lord, the best I know, I have confessed all my sin (oops, just remembered one…sorry for that one too, Lord).  I have NOW confessed all known sin, and the best I know I am fully surrendered in every area of my life (oops, forgot one, I now surrender my mornings to spend more time with you…) I am NOW surrendered in every area of my life. And so, Lord, now that my heart is clean, I ask for your grace upon me today as I walk with you.”  You get up from prayer, in a somewhat conflicted state of mind, and attempt to trust God for grace…yet without peace, without joy, without any confidence that you are TRULY filled with the Spirit and accessing God’s grace.

Let me sum up: This is frustrated grace (Galatians 2:21).  Grace isn’t something I NEED from God, it is something I HAVE in Christ. Grace is not a means to an end. Grace is Jesus!  He IS the end.  Grace is not something I have to qualify for.  Grace is undeserved and unmerited!  Grace is God’s gift of Himself, and if you’re saved, you have that gift.  His name is Jesus!  I should confess my sin…BECAUSE of God’s grace to me, not as a means of receiving God’s grace.  Should I surrender myself fully to God?  YES!  Why?  Because in light of God’s generous salvation, that is my reasonable service (Romans 12:1).  I surrender BECAUSE of God’s grace, not as a means of receiving it.

Does this make sense?  So many Christians today are ultimately trying to earn, or qualify for, something that they have already received!  Don’t ASK for God’s grace, don’t plead for God’s grace, and don’t try to clear the way for God’s grace. Simply THANK Him for His grace and humbly depend upon Jesus for it.  God gives grace to the humble…not to the holy (James 4:6).  Holiness is a fruit of grace, not the gateway to it.

Don’t frustrate the grace of God.  Look up, thank Him, stay humble, and rest in the grace brought unto you in Jesus Christ (Titus 2:11-14).  This is the grace that leads to a life of holiness and service, and you already have it…if you have Jesus.

(We will explore how "Licence" makes a disgrace of grace, in Part 3.  Stay tuned.)


Redeeming Grace (part 1)

Grace has gotten a bad name through misunderstanding and abuse. Many Christians view grace as a license to enjoy God’s love while living as they please. This results in everyone doing “that which is right in [their] own eyes” (Judges 17:6)–all in the name of “grace.”

GRACE: something we all need; something God gives; something Satan perverts; something Christians misunderstand; something Christians strive to achieve, but never enjoy.

We are saved eternally by grace. True Christians understand this and have received God’s free gift of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, though we were saved by grace, we often never learn how to live by grace.

Grace has gotten a bad name through misunderstanding and abuse.  Many Christians view grace as a license to enjoy God’s love while living as they please. This results in everyone doing “that which is right in [their] own eyes” (Judges 17:6)–all in the name of “grace.”  Yes, the Apostle Paul proclaimed Christian liberty, but he warned, “only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).  The popular concept of grace today is the licentious behavior spoken of by Jude. Preachers boldy stride into pulpits across this land and “change the grace of God into lasciviousness” (Jude 4).

Other Christians pursue grace in a manner which ultimately “frustrates” the grace they are seeking (Galatians 2:21).  Their preachers and teachers make holy living and obedience the gateway to grace, and thus, “grace is no more grace” (Romans 11:6). They are taught that, in order for a believer to access God’s grace for daily living, one must have a “clean heart” and also be “fully surrendered” in every area of their life.  This results in a constant self-examination and a continual cloud of self-condemnation. After all, how can you be sure you’ve properly confessed ALL your sins?  How can you be sure you are FULLY surrendered…in EVERY area of life?  These poor Christians are unwittingly led down a path of law, bondage and despair, never knowing the joy of their salvation and the grace available to them in Jesus Christ.  They frustrate the grace of God and find themselves…frustrated.

What is the answer? Redeeming Grace! The grace poured out at Calvary which redeems lost souls must itself be redeemed from those who have perverted it.  What if you could discover a grace that sets you free from sin? What would it be like to enjoy the grace of God without constant self-doubt and self-condemnation?  What if you found a grace that grounded you in God’s love and produced a life of of holiness and service?  This is the grace of God.  You received it at salvation, because grace is JESUS CHRIST!  Yes, there is a grace that’s not frustrated  by legalism.  There is a grace that is not a licentious “slippery slope” into worldliness and sin. We will dig into this further in PART 2.  Stay tuned.

Introducing…my first blog post!

Dear friend,

I’m excited to announce the beginning of my new blog!

I wear a few different hats–husband, father, pastor, just to name a few–so I stay busy.  But, Lord willing, I plan to carve out time to write!

I will use this forum to express things that matter to me and which, I hope, will matter to you.  My passion is to challenge folks to think biblically and to allow the Gospel of Jesus Christ to radically change their lives.  Of course, the Gospel of Christ will change you radically for all eternity if you will receive Jesus as your Savior.  But the Gospel is about more than a destination called Heaven; it is about a Person named Jesus Christ.  Jesus is life.  You cannot begin to live until you discover how to rest in Jesus Christ.  I plan to write articles designed to help you discover the joy of your salvation.

I hope you’ll take time to read, comment, and allow God’s Word to transform your life.

Yours for the Gospel,20160101_143859

Matthew D. Barber

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

-Galatians 2:20