I want to come at you again from the apostle Paul. It is very much in line with where we have been in recent weeks – the finished work of the Cross.
That is where the power of God resides. God’s spirit operates exclusively within the parameters of the finished work of the Cross of Jesus Christ. When you are in sync with the realities of the Cross you are in sync with the spirit of God Himself. And the first thing we understand is this – it has nothing to do with what we do for God. It is all about what God, through Christ, has done and does for us.
GRACE TO YOU
The apostle Paul is the most prolific writer of the New Testament. He is responsible for nearly two thirds of it. He is described in the Bible as the apostle of grace. He is the one God used to reveal his thoughts to the church. He wrote some 13 letters not including Hebrews, the author of which is unstated.
In all 13 letters Paul establishes the foundation of everything he was about to unpack. Who would agree that the introduction is important? What about the finish? The last words are important too. If there is one lingering thought you want left with the hearer it is in your last words. If there is one thought you want to abide in the ear of the hearer, it is in your first words. So you can generally take it from the first words and the last words, that the middle is in essence, the sum total of the first and the last. He is the alpha and the omega and he is therefore everything in between. His name is Jesus.
Now Paul uses exactly the same introduction in all of his letters. I will use three of those letters to established that fact…
- GRACE TO YOU and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. ~ Rom. 1:7
- GRACE TO YOU and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. ~ 1 Cor. 1:3
- GRACE TO YOU and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ ~ Gal. 1:3
So moving on through the letters you find the same introduction is consistent, GRACE TO YOU.
Lets now revisit the definition of grace.
Grace in Hebrew is Chen, which is favour and goodwill. It conveys the idea of stooping, from a superior to an inferior. That is the imagery of God coming down.
Religion is all about man coming up. Grace is God coming down. Religion would say you have to clean your act up in order to meet God. No, God would say I come to you exactly as you are. My grace is your sufficiency.
Grace in the Greek is Charis, which is the unearned, undeserved and unmerited favour of God. So grace is all God’s initiative. It is the experience of God’s love because of who God is. Grace is what God does for me. Law is what I do for God. Grace is what God does for us. Law is what we do for God.
LAW VS GRACE
Law is what I do for God in order to be blessed. Law is what I do for God in order to be righteous. Law is what I do for God in order to be saved. Law is what I do for God in order to be just.
Grace is what God does for me in order to be saved. Grace is what God does for me to be righteous. Grace is what God does for me to be blessed. Hence the apostle could say, “You are blessed with every spiritual blessing the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Why? Because grace is what God does for me.
And Paul says, “You are not under law you are under grace.” On those grounds and those grounds alone Jesus calls us into his “rest”. (Matt. 11:28)
How may have been brushed by the mind of religion that has caused you to believe that everything you want from God is determined by what you do for him. That is not good news. Our gospel is a gospel of good news. And from what he does for us we bear fruit of him in our lives. Grace is God experienced.
GRACE BE WITH YOU
So “grace to you” was Paul’s introduction. Now lets have a look at his close…
- The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ BE WITH YOU. Amen. ~ Rom. 16:20b
- The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ BE WITH YOU. ~ 1 Cor. 16:23
- Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ BE WITH YOUR SPIRIT. Amen. ~ Gal. 6:18
So here we have in the introduction, “Grace to you”. And in his close, “Grace be with you”. And we discover the reality of God’s grace through who? The person and the finished work of Jesus.
So how can Paul say grace be with you? He is not wishing. He is stating a fact. Grace is with you because God is with you. How? Through Jesus Christ. And He says, and this is grace, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” The law says I will never leave you [to God]. Well we know what happens when we take that approach eh Peter? Three denials is perfect failure. Sow to the flesh, reap corruption. Sow to the spirit, life. The spirit is received not achieved.
Grace be with your spirit. Did you see that? You are spirit. Principally, you are a spiritual being. You are a new creation. On what basis does Paul say that? You are a spirit creation (born again). You are a spiritual man. Grace is with the spirit, not the flesh. The law is with the flesh. Grace is with the spirit. Whenever you hear a message where it is about what you do for God to move God towards you, there is no grace in that message. You are therefore in the flesh. Whenever you are in the rest of God, hearing what God through Christ by His spirit does for you, you are in grace. You are not under law you are under grace.
FREEDOM IN CHRIST
One of the first things you discover upon a revelation of grace is a burden lifts because there is no more demand. There is no burden to perform. The burden to perform was on our Savior and His performance was flawless. You are begotten of a flawless reality. So you do not look to you to take a measure of your standing before God, you look to the Cross. There, He made Him who knew no sin to become sin so you could be made the righteousness of God in Him. And on those grounds alone there is therefore now no condemnation in Christ Jesus. You only come under condemnation at the point you make yourself the object of your trust. The law then becomes the measure of your performance and it will always find you wanting.
Hence, condemnation is the legal declaration of failure. Justification is the legal declaration of success. Who’s success? Jesus’ success. You are “in” Him. And therefore the Bible says, “As Christ is so are you in this world.” On whose merit? The merits of the Cross. On that basis Paul would say “Dare I glory in anything except the Cross of my crucified Lord!”
It is not based on my obedience. By one man’s disobedience many were made sin but by the obedience of the one man Jesus we have been made righteous. Your obedience doesn’t make you righteous. I realise that may come as a surprise to some people. We rest in the obedience of the Lord. His obedience is the root. Obedience at our end is merely the fruit of the reality of the root. We rest in Jesus. Amen.
Grace to you – grace be with you. Grace is the diet of the spiritual man. So if you are not feeding on grace my friend, I ask you, what are you feeding on? Because chances are there is not real sustenance or sustainability in the diet that you are hearing. And I say hearing with intention. Grace, and you are going to see this shortly, is a diet. What eating is to the natural man hearing is to the spiritual man. What eating is naturally hearing is spiritually. We will establish that further in a minute.
Who has seen [the program] Master Chef? It is a cooking competition to see who can come up with the best meal. It starts with contestants all lined up. And we’ll use Paul as one of them for the sake of this analogy. Next to him is minister such and such and pastor such and such. The first thing they do is go out to a room full of ingredients that they can select. They take the pick of the ingredients.
Now, religion would run out there and he’ll grab a bit of your will-power, a bit of religious discipline, a bit of tithes and offerings, some goodwill programs, some sacrifices of praise, a bit of your church attendance record, he’ll grab your commitment and he’ll come out and stir that all up and put it on the table.
Paul doesn’t need to race out he just stays in rest. He goes out there and he’s only looking for only one ingredient and there’s a good chance it is going to be there because no one else has touched it. There it is. He takes the grace brings it out and puts it on the table.
The master chefs try the other stuff and find it sour and nasty. What you got there? It is the sum total of human effort. Nasty. Paul puts his dish on the table. That’s amazing. Give me some more please. How did you make that Paul? I didn’t make it he says. That which I received I give to you. You don’t need to tamper with grace. It is beautiful all on its own. Actually, everything we add subtracts.
They love the grace. Meanwhile everyone at the table of religion is going to pieces. Do you know how hard we worked to make that? Now you get the reaction of religion. His whole intention was to glory in his effort. When I think about these master chef shows, the environment of religion is more in line with that fella Gordon Ramsay. Pastor Gordon Ramsay! Never happy. The spirit of Gordon Ramsay is rampant through religion. So that was all to bring you to my key text for this morning..
Jeremiah 15:16a (NKJV) – Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart
Happy meal! Lest you become like little children. What do you want kids? Happy meal! Now this is a very powerful spiritual truth. I told you what eating is to the natural man hearing is to the spiritual man. Faith comes by hearing, but a certain hearing. Do you see there is a specific outcome or result from this kind of eating that is being established here? Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart. Lets track this word to its origin. Joy is Chara (χαρά) which comes from Chairō (χαίρω) which is “Rejoice”. Chairō derives from Charis, which is GRACE.
Jeremiah ate grace. You cannot have an exposure or discovery of grace and not be happy. When you receive a gift so great, so indescribable, so incredible, so substantial, and you receive it through no merit of your own, but the motivation and love of he who supplies it, you cannot help but be happy. So we traced joy and rejoicing as the outcome of the experience of the eating or hearing of grace. Out of His fullness as a source we have all received grace upon grace. The law came through Moses but grace and the reality of God came through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the master chef.
EAT WITH ATTITUDE
I ate them.
I want you to see something in this. The majority of the translations use that phrase but I want to bring a couple of other translations to help you understand what this is saying…
- “I feasted on them” Common English Bible
- “I devoured them” Complete Jewish Bible
- “I swallowed them whole!” The Message Bible
There is an attitude in this eating. Who has heard of the phrase, you are what you eat? There is a lot of truth in that from a spiritual perspective. Who is interested in spiritual growth? You see, if you grow spiritually everything else comes in line with that. And this is how you grow. You hear. But there is an attitude in the eating that begins to be understood here. To swallow them whole. This is to do with grace. Don’t nibble at it. Don’t leave anything on the plate. Get it into you. And you start to develop a taste for the grace message whereby mixture becomes unpalatable. Why? Because not only does it taste off but there is no growth as a result of it. Grace is the fullness, the full richness of the nutrients of the divine life. Your words came to me and I ate them and they made me happy.
There is a definite attitude in the nature of this eating. Some of us are very polite with our manners and table etiquette. And that’s nice. But do you think a hungry man cares for table etiquette when he comes to the table? No, he swallows it whole. The thing about grace is that it is always meeting our need for sufficiency. If you are full of yourself you will not be hungry for grace.
EAT TO GROW
There is also a consistency in eating and here we draw another parallel. As often as the natural man eats the spiritual man needs to eat. Hearing is about eating the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Now we don’t just eat naturally on a Sunday do we? We eat daily. And we need to eat for what reason? To GROW. And so it goes for the spiritual man.
Here is another thing about eating. Spiritual growth is not something you do. Growth happens best in rest. See, if you want a child to grow you don’t try and make them grow, you just feed them and the child grows by virtue of the fact that it is eating. But the quality of growth will be determined by the quality of the food that child is eating. We see a lot of conditions borne out in the natural – physical conditions and ailments that are the result of inadequacy in the diet. More often than not, it is a diet comprised primarily of human additives in the place of what should be organic, natural food.
There is a strong parallel to the growth of the spiritual man. Religion would make growth about what you need to do (works), and it would put the burden of that growth on you. Do you know how hard it would be to grow yourself through effort? That would be the most frustrating and demoralizing idea. Because growth doesn’t come from what you do it comes from what you eat.
Yet I am the first to put my hand up, guilty? When I feel I need growth in some area my tendency has been to try and work for it instead of resting in Him, hearing and growing. Particularly when we face adversities and challenges. Our human reaction is to try and take control. Create an outcome. Whereas, the spirit is the origin of the outcome we need. So where our tendency was once to work it should be from a spiritual perspective, to rest and hear and feed and grow.
THE GOOD PORTION
Some would say spiritual growth comes through a really disciplined and regimented religious life. That is a recipe for burnout, stress and anxiety. Martha is full-on into religious performance and she is upset that sister Mary is resting at Jesus’ feet. Jesus says, in looking right into Martha’s inside world, “You are worried and anxious about many things.” Martha is trying to get spiritual growth happening but Jesus says, “Only one thing is necessary and Mary has chosen that good portion and she is swallowing it whole!” He uses the word “portion” for a purpose. Mary is seated and she is hearing and what she is hearing she is feeding on and as a result of that she is growing, and as the Bible says, Mary did an act of love that Jesus ensured was recorded for all time. It was not an act of obligation or duty. It was fruit of the love of Christ himself. Meantime Martha is stressed and anxious.
Your words were found and I ate them and it was joy and rejoicing to my heart. Now let me pull up one more verse alongside that.
LIFE AND HEALTH
Proverbs 4:20-22 (NKJV) – My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. 21 Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; 22 For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their flesh.
God’s word when heard has a definitive outcome, life and health. We don’t really connect these dots do we? We think that is stuff we do. Principally, and this is in keeping with the last scripture which said “You words came to me and I ate them,” for they are life and health to all their flesh.
Now this life and health is no ordinary life and health. It is divine life and divine health. It is life and health that originates out from God as the source – the empowerment of God that saturates every area of life touching the spiritual you, the emotional you and the physical you. How is that provision received and supplied and enjoyed? Through hearing. My son, give attention to my words. Incline your ear to my sayings.
How important is hearing? And I am labouring on this for a reason because earlier I asked the question, who wants to grow? Who wants 2018 to be a year of profound spiritual growth? Well it will be relative to what you are hearing. Not what you are doing. You see, many are rolling up their sleeves and ramping up what they are going to do for God next year in the name of spiritual growth. I am going to go into an even deeper level of rest and hearing and growth will take care of its own self.
That idea offends religion. Jesus, make them work like me! That is exactly what Martha said to Jesus with regards to Mary. Why do you think the apostle Paul would have to say I am not ashamed of the gospel of resting and receiving. But therein is the power of God to saving grace. Eternal life. God’s ways are not our ways people. So while this doesn’t appeal to the ear of the flesh it is the stuff that the spiritual ear loves and receives and eats whole.
And there are many things we are faced with and things we would like to see happen. You’ve got yours and I have got mine. We could very easily put a plan together and strategize towards that end. Been there and done that. What about taking God at His word? Which starts with hearing. Resting. Receiving. Trusting. Enjoying.
JESUS WITH YOU
Going into the year knowing Jesus is with you. That is a profound consciousness. The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear. The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? David’s strength and confidence was not in himself, it was in the Lord. If you know my Lord you understand why I am not afraid. The Lord would say stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. Watch what I do without your help. That is grace. He who supplies the spirit works the miracle. But such is our natural – the human condition – the arm of the flesh wants to find something to do to glory in its effort.
Hence the apostle Paul would be moved to say to the church, just one question I ask of you, did you receive the spirit by works of the law or by the HEARING of faith and receiving what the spirit supplies? Are you so stupid, having begun in the spirit you now seek perfection through the flesh? It is ever on the doorstep of our humanity to perform towards God in order to receive.
Question. Do you feel like you have some spiritual deficiency today? What about emotionally? Do you feel anxious or fragile? What about physically? Do you feel flat? The solution is to hear, eat, taste and see that the Lord is goodness.
You are a spiritual being. You are not a natural person seeking a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual reality in a natural world. You have a greater reality at work in you. Renewing our mind is being more conscious of spirit reality than sense-knowledge on a natural level. You have a greater sense called your spiritual senses. The sense of your spiritual eyes and spiritual ears – a greater awareness. You have all of heavens dimension at your disposal. Yet we are more conscious of natural realities so we let them govern our feelings and our outlook.
Look at the sun and the moon. The sun is exponentially more powerful than the moon. But the moon has proximity so it affects the tides. The earth is more conscious of the moon than the power of the sun. And so it is with the human condition. We are more conscious of the proximities of the natural world than the reality of the immensity of the Son. God so wanted you to have a consciousness of the Son’s proximity that he put Him in you. Christ in you is the hope we are anchored in.
Put up Paul’s resume of challenges. Shipwrecked, naked, starving, beaten, stoned, killed! But he had a greater consciousness. Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice! Where was he singing that Richie? Was he in the platform of a grand cathedral? Oh no, he was down in a cellar, in a dungeon, in the dark, in the mud with the rats and the nasty’s, in chains! Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice. The rat starts singing it. The jailer hears it and starts signing it. Now the whole jail cell is moving to the rhythm and next minute it breaks open. Free! What was it? A greater consciousness – Son conscious. Not sin conscious or self-conscious. What a place to live from. He had a consciousness of God’s goodness that was not measured or defined by human experience. It must begin somewhere. Who is the author of that? JESUS. Who is the perfector of that? JESUS.
PRICK YOUR EARS UP!
Proverbs 4:20a (NKJV) – My son, give attention to my words
There is real intention with this statement, “Give attention.” It is the Hebrew word Qashab which means to prick up the ears. I kid you not. That is what it says in Strongs, and it takes its expression from animals. It comes with the idea of sharpening.
Do you know what a dog whistle is? A dog whistle has a high pitch frequency beyond the hearing of human ears. When the whistle is blown the dog’s ears immediate prick up. Humans are oblivious to it. Likewise, you can say grace in a place and there is a certain ear that will prick up. There is a frequency. There is a hearing that is attuned to the frequency of grace. It is beautiful and attractive. When the writer says, “Give attention to my words” he most definitely has the imagery of pricked up ears in mind.
So let me finish with this. And please allow me some creative license to bring this together. Who has heard of Caleb? Do you know what his name means? Caleb (kä·lāv’) means “dog.”
Numbers 13:1-2 (NKJV) – And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel
Canaan is the promise land. The land of rest. Now, “the land which I am giving” is the language of grace. This is a grace message. So there are 12 men who hear this message but only 2 sets of ears prick up, Caleb and Joshua. Joshua means Jesus. Caleb means ears pricked up! The others just don’t hear it.
They see the promise but they also see giant obstacles. They see in the realm of logic and human reason. But Joshua and Caleb are in the frequency of grace. They are feeding on grace.
So 10 of the 12 come back with a bad report. Caleb quiets the people and says it is as God says it is and that God is giving it, meaning everything else (perceived obstacles) is irrelevant. Take possession. How can he say this? He is on the grace frequency.
What is the key issue? Caleb is God conscious. The rest are self-conscious. How do we know? Because their response is, “We were grasshoppers in our own sight therefore we were grasshoppers in their sight” (Num. 13:33). Isn’t that interesting? How they saw themselves is how everyone else saw them. There is a real principle in this. That is why God wants you to see you how He sees you. He sees you deeply loved and highly favoured. He sees you as His own child. He sees you as special. You are the apple of His eye man!
But if you don’t see you like that, it doesn’t change how God sees you, but it will definitely affect you and therefore it will affect how people see you. Why do people walk all over me? Why are people always mean to me? Well for some reason they think what you think. As a man thinketh in his heart so is he. How important is the thought life? So the first thing God establishes for you at the Cross is the proof of His amazing love for you.
So Caleb, who is God conscious, has a different attitude of hearing when the message of grace came. The words came and he ate them! So, many years later Caleb comes to Joshua, and you have got to see this…
Joshua 14:6-14 (NKJV) – Then the children of Judah came to Joshua in Gilgal. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him: “You know the word which the Lord said to Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh Barnea.
Wow! This is so many years later. The word he heard he is still hearing. The word is resounding in him.
7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land, and I brought back word to him as it was in my heart.
Do you remember the Proverb? “My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings… Keep them in the midst of your heart.” This speaks to our friend Caleb.
8 Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt…
What made their hearts melt? No word in there. No substance. No strength.
… but I wholly followed the Lord my God.
I swallowed the word whole and left nothing on the plate!
9 So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.’ 10 And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive…
And again we are in the Proverb, for they are life to those who find them, And health to all their flesh. See here this attitude of hearing has had a direct outcome in Caleb’s natural world.
… as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the Lord spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. 11 As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in…
Are you getting this? 85 years old and he is as strong now as he was then. What was his secret? Was it his paleo diet? Was he a gym fanatic? What was it? We know the answer. He heard and grew on the inside which impacted every area of his life. Here is something else, where does strength come from? Joy. The joy of the Lord is my strength. Your words came to me and I ate them, and they were joy and rejoicing in my heart. I reckon Caleb was a happy man, full of the joy of the Lord. The joy of the Lord was his strength. He ate the grace message and left nothing on the plate. He heard the word and kept hearing it. It is not just what you heard, it is what you are hearing. And at 85 years old this guy can still rumble. Amazing. He is a spiritual giant. How? Hearing.
13 And Joshua blessed him, and gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh as an inheritance.
It is significant that Joshua blessed him. Joshua means Jesus. All of God’s promises are yes and amen in Jesus. Only Joshua could pronounce the blessing. There are promises to be claimed in the name of Jesus. In the name of Jesus. They have been paid for at the Cross. The best is yet to come. That is not a religious cliché. It is a fact of our faith. Taste and see that the Lord is good.