Tuesday, February 7, 2012

100. - Redemption In A Nutshell

100.0 - Redemption Is A Process: God's Plan of Redemption is better understood as a process than one critical event. Today it is common that the Conversion Event almost entirely defines the believer's concept of salvation. However, taken alone, this event does not even come close to adequately defining the redemptive work.

The conversion event, that actual moment in time when we truly embrace Christ's values and directions for our life, is but one milestone in a long journey.   Technically, redemption really begins long before that place and continues far past it,. And, it involves several key events and general phases in its course. And each of these is every bit as important to our final success as the event of Conversion. (Ref. John 15: 1-8)

However, that "conversion moment," that moment when we do embrace the Lordship of Christ  certainly is an important  "crossroads event" in the redemptive process which does, indeed, initiate a life changing journey of every day steps.   So, what follows is a simple summary of that redemptive journey.

100.1 The Common Path: Obviously, in the details of our lives there are great differences in the way we encounter God. But, there is also an essential redemptive path that we, as believers, hold in common.

And, while we may have different perspectives, still The Path, is The Path. It remains the same and operates very nicely in the heart and life of every genuine disciple, without regard for denominational perspective etc. Our various perception differences simply do not reshape or alter spiritual realities.

So, let's look at this precious common experience which believers treasure together. Let's go over this basic redemptive path from beginning to end.

An Overview: Let's begin with a simple overview. The two basic needs that we face regarding redemption are these:  1. The need for forgiveness, which, in turn, enables a personal reconciliation with God.  And, 2. we need a personal renewal which insures that this new relationship is not once again defeated by our old nature and ways.  

God has provided two basic answers for these needs in Christ.  First, He has given us the Dying Christ of the Cross to secure our forgiveness and reconciliation to Himself.  And secondly, He has given us the Living Christ of the Resurrection, who is capable of sharing the vitality of His life with the believer to empower our personal renewal.

So, through the atoning work of Christ on the Cross, three things are furnished to the believer. He or she is provided forgiveness, reconciliation to God, and imputed (assigned) righteousness in God's eyes.

And, through the Resurrection, the Living Christ provides a thorough personal renewal, and through that renewal, a reality based righteousness - thus insuring an enduring and consistently meaningful relationship with our Holy Creator. 

The Basic Phases:  When we look at the redemptive work in very general terms, we notice that there are really three basic phases to the redemptive process. The first is the Forgiveness Phase where the preeminent need to be reconciled to God, as mentioned, largely defines this stage of the process.

The second phase is the Renewal Phase. In this phase of our redemption, the believer is primarily involved with the conquest of the sin instinct or motive, and with the "re-creation" process which brings harmony of heart with God. (Ref. John 3: 3)

Then, in phase three, the Fruitful Phase, the believer is primarily involved in further cultivating and giving empowered expression to the renewed character that the Living Christ is cultivating within him or her. (Galatians 5: 19-25)

So, that's the overview. Now let's look in particular at the experiential steps involved in the redemptive work.

The Experiential Steps: As mentioned earlier, technically, and traced to its uttermost reaches, the redemptive path actually begins at the judgment seat of God. There, before we embrace Christ, we find ourselves already under the condemnation of God's disapproval for rebelling against the authority of our Creator.  

This condition flows out of our insistence on the right of self-determination.  The idea is that we see ourselves, and not God, as our own best hope for fulfillment in life.  So, this perspective is simply lived out as an attitude of self-sufficiency.

Thus, we are not in this position of jeopardy before our Creator simply because of one act of disobedience or another. We are not in this position because of some moral indiscretion, etc. In fact, our actions are not the primary issue at all.

We are actually in this position only because we refuse to accept God's guiding authority over our life. It is only because of this intense attitude of self-determination which, in fact, is the essential sin attitude

So, it is this independent attitude which is the root cause of our alienation from God and draws His disapproval and judgment - not the actions which this attitude eventually spawns.  The key issue in redemption is the attitude, itself.

But, the magnificent heart of God is, of course, not willing to let this circumstance go unaddressed. So, moved by His great love for His creature, the graceful heart of the Creator has formulated a plan to resolve this rift in our relationship with Him through Christ.

Typically, our first meaningful indication of what God is doing to restore our relationship with Him comes as we begin to feel the drawing of the Holy Spirit in our heart. This drawing expresses itself in various ways from emotional upheaval, to intellectual questioning, to disturbing impacts upon our everyday circumstance. (Ref. Acts 9:1-6)

But, however it unfolds, this divine orchestration of events is always designed to get our attention. And, as it does so, it begins to heighten our sensitivity to God.

Then, if all goes well, as the mix of our life conditions properly align themselves under God's direction, the "conversion chemistry" becomes correct. And, in this God-orchestrated moment of personal clarity, we are able to see and acknowledge the wrongness of our self-determined approach to life and embrace the Lordship of Christ.  In that embrace, what we are really agreeing to do (intuitively, if not cognitively) is embrace the values and directions of Christ for our life, going forward.

Instantly, flowing out of this decisions of repentance and faith (two sides of the same coin) comes forgiveness and reconciliation to God. And, with that forgiveness and reconciliation comes the assignment of that imputed (assigned) righteousness which was mentioned earlier. But, the redemptive process is not finished here. In fact, it has only barely begun.

Now, we start to move past the need for forgiveness and reconciliation, to the business of renewal, to the renewing of the believer. This is a natural progression because the redemptive work of Christ not only involves the removal of the consequences of sin, but ultimately, the sin motive, itself, from the life of the believer to insure the safety, certainty, and enduring meaning of our new relationship with God. So, this becomes the next important phase of the redemptive process. (Ref. Rom. 8:1-5)

Now, in this renewal phase, we are literally empowered over the sin instinct. This empowerment is achieved through an actual mystical merger between the human nature of the believer and the divine nature of the Living Christ.  It is through this unique and distinct integration that Christ actually energizes the believer's thorough character renewal. (Ref. Ephesians 2:10 // 2 Corinthians 5:17)

In the main, it goes like this. We usually experience a period of great relief and brightness after our conversion. Yet, almost immediately, if all goes correctly, we move into a confrontation with all that we are naturally. 

We begin to confront the residual, subconscious sin attitude that still exists within us, even as a believer, on that lower level of our mind. We begin to do battle with this wayward thing that is still "under the skin," which still pushes us toward the old ways, even though consciously, we are now determined to please God. (Ref. Romans 7:14-25)

So, in these inner struggles, we enter what might be described as a personal wilderness - not unlike that described in the book of Exodus in the Bible.  And this time of personal upheaval essentially becomes a time of separation and humiliation

But, it's in this "personal humbling process" that we discover our God and ourselves at new levels. This discovery process is, for a while, often painful and disconcerting. But, it is also effective. 

If we remain faithful to follow the leadership of Christ through this trying time, this personal wilderness experience will empty us of our subconscious arrogance and our residual self-assurance. And, in doing so, it prepares us for The Target Event of the New Testament - our personal merger with Christ, what the Church calls The Spiritual Baptism. (Ref. Acts 1: 8 // 2:38-39)

So, at the end of this very intense humbling process, when God thinks it's time, it occurs - a merger between the human nature of the believer and the Divine Nature of Christ. At that point, the character essence of the Living Christ, through the conduit of the Holy Spirit, is literally merged with the character essence of the believer. 

Now, empowered by the character essence of Christ, we are able to consistently make truly good and godly choices in our everyday life.  And, beyond that, we are now able to "make them stick." (Ref. Romans 8: 1-13)

This is true because, through is pivotal merger we are now very literally connected to the strong faith (consistent humility) and the all sufficient grace (naturally occurring goodness) of Christ. Thus, we are able to live consistently in His empowering faith.  And, we are able experience the easy and very natural guidence of His grace to take us through life's circumstances.

And, as a result of this Christ-provided empowerment, the sin motive of self-determination is subdued, even on the subconscious level. Thus, our heart is no longer torn and divided by that subconscious motive. So, that sub-level disagreement between God's agenda and our own disappears. Now our heart is singularly devoted to God's will in both our conscious and subconscious person. (Ref. Romans 8: 1-13)

And finally, now, there is the natural heart government of grace! The naturally occurring goodness (grace) of Christ begins to express itself in us to naturally guide our daily steps from within. And this naturalized inner heart-government is shown to be far easier and vastly more effective than an external list of Do's and Don'ts.

Also, this transforming merger with the nature of Christ, through the baptism of the Spirit, actually marks our entrance into the mature stage of spiritual life. In essence, it is the "bar mitzvah" of the New Testament.  It is our right of passage to character maturity.  
 This experience marks us as spiritual adults.  Young spiritual adults with a minimal experience level and a lot of room for growth, to be sure, but spiritual adults, nevertheless.

Now, the redemptive process takes on the full force of the renewal process. We begin, with real vitality, Christ's vitality, to confront and expel the residual remnants of sin at all levels of our heart, and in every aspect of our life.   Now, we are able to confront those sin remnants successfully, whether we find them in the form of an inner motive or the more material expression as an action

Thus, we grow more and more consistent. We begin to actually show signs of true personal renewal and character maturity. And somewhere along the way, still something else happens.  The emphasis changes. 

Somewhere along the path of this Christ empowered redemptive walk, as we become more consistent at living above the outflows and impacts of the sin motive, the focus starts to shift. It comes to be more about bearing more "fruit" in our character than just living above the impact of the sin motive. And this becomes the much more positive challenge that primarily occupies the later stages of our spiritual maturity.

So, in other words, we gradually experience a shift in the primary focus from the more negative emphasis of the sin conquest to the more positive emphasis of becoming ever more polished in the character essence of the Living Christ as His character impacts ours.  Thus, with the Living Christ as our energy source, we are, day-by-day, thoroughly transformed in to new people with an entirely renewed character - which in turn transforms our life circumstance.

So, the believer begins to naturally reflect God in character, in views, in heart, in mind, in actions. The believer moves toward a tangible oneness, a mature and completing harmony, with the heart of his or her Creator. And that harmony of hearts, based in the sufficiency of Christ, become the strong matrix which insures the deep meaning and durable endurance of the relationship.  And on and on this new and deeply fulfilling relationship goes, transitioning eventually, even into eternity.

A True Redemption:  This is the great human success story that only Christ could write - first in His blood on the Cross, and then in the rich vitality of His shared life essence. This is the common path, the common plot line of the redemptive work.  This is the true God Agenda.

Again, certainly, the details of the drama are as varied as the individual believers involved. But, the basic redemptive experience remains the same for all who embrace Christ. We travel a beautiful, and graceful, and ever elevating path in Him, which brings us fully back into the harmonious and eternal embrace of the God who created us.

Thus, redemption is, indeed, a magnificent process of God's truth-based love.  And it is a process that, from beginning to end, is based in the sufficiency of Christ as both the Dying and the Living Savior.

Obviously, it is a great disservice to Christ's thoroughly redemptive work to down-grade it from a life-long path of renewal and make it into only the passing milestone of the conversion moment.  In truth, authentic redemption is exponentially more than a point in time, momentarily noted and reverenced, before we moved on to other things.

101. - The Destination, The Cost, & Where It All Starts

101.0 The Ultimate Destination Of Faith - Oneness With God: In John, chapter 17, Jesus said, "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in me through their word; that they all may be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I in you; that they also may be one in us..."

While the redemptive path might meander from one life lesson to another; while it may move through various phases; nevertheless, as surely as a river flows toward the depths, the redemptive flow always maintains a constant direction. It always and intentionally moves toward its ultimate end: Oneness with God.

This goal entirely establishes the directional purpose of our salvation. This ideal of concerted hearts, a mature harmony with God, is the ultimate prize toward which believers are always moving.

This is not, of course, as some world religions hold, oneness in the sense of actual identity. We do not become God. Neither does our own identity or personality cease to exist.

Rather, this is an intellectual oneness, an emotional oneness, a spiritual oneness. A similar harmony is easily seen in couples who have continued to grow together over a long period of marriage. Eventually, these wonderfully special relationships reach a point where the couples live in a beautiful and consistent harmony, and thus, can easily anticipate each other, because they have become so merged in heart.

Consider the larger passage in John, where Jesus says, "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. "

There are many paths in life. And, some lead to the most pleasant places of comfort, gratification, and joy, at least in the short term. But, if you do not experience the glow, the light of "heart oneness" with God, reject that path. It is not the true path.

101.1 - There Is A Cost To Salvation: The Bible says in Genesis 1, (KJV) "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."

From that very moment, man became an influence in the universe, capable of independent and self determined thoughts and actions. As such, mankind came face to face with the first and most primary question of his existence - "What will I do with my influence?"

There are essentially only two options. Option 1: We can choose to maintain our independence, our personal sovereignty, limited though it may be, and simply express and exert our influence however we see fit. In essence, we choose to be "self-determined," and remain the masters of our own destiny.


Option 2: We can choose to surrender our personal influence back to our Creator. So, rather than our own, we embrace His plan, His destiny for us through Christ. Thus, we become God directed instead of self directed.

And therein lies the redemptive cost to us. The toll of our redemption is the surrender of our personal soverignty. We must give up (pay in) our right of self determination in order to travel the path of faith.

To become God directed is, in fact, an expression of profound personal humility before God. And that is, indeed, the only faith expression that saves our soul. And, in the sense that we have discussed, it is the contribution we make to our salvation.

So, to experience the Redemptive Path, we must pay this toll. We must surrender our life plan, and become a "pursuer" of God's plan, rather than our own. Thus, in fact, the path marked "totally free" is not the right way after all, though it is widely touted as such. The so called "free way," which does not involve the surrender of our right of self-determination, will always only take us to the lower regions, never to the higher.

Jesus put it this way in Luke, chapter 9, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it."

101.2 - Salvation Starts With God's Intentions: Sometimes, we allow our awareness of human frailties and inabilities to limit the redemptive possibilities in our mind. This constriction usually starts out something like this, "Well, after all, we are only human." The problem with defining where God can take us in this way is that it does not take into account the resources and intentions that a limitless, Almighty God brings to the table. So, we should first factor in the Godly intentions and resources. These are what truly define our possibilities as believers, not our human limitations.

The scope of God's aspirations for his people actually fills the Bible. So, let's just begin to get the idea by looking at Ezekiel, chapter 33. Few places in Scripture would afford us a more inspiring picture of God's absolute intention to raise His people to an elevated life plane.

God, speaking through the prophet, reveals His intentions this way, "...For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them."

Notice, there is no mention of human limitations in the passage above, and for good reason. Human limitations, though they are a reality, do not alter the larger and more forceful reality of God's capabilities.

Now, let's move briefly to the New Testament. Consider Romans, chapter 8, where Paul writes, "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." (KJV)

Again, God reveals His wonderful intention for renewal. In short, he plans to empower His people to fulfill the "righteousness of the law" through the power of His Spirit. That is the certain outcome of his redemptive work. Human limitation will not defeat that expectancy.

And so it goes. When we start with God's intentions, we "cut to the chase" so to speak. In doing so, we are able to see more accurately the sweeping scope of God's redemptive work instead of getting caught up in the obstacles.

Certainly, there are obstacles, but the God declared outcome is all that ultimately matters. We may be weak, but God is strong - a simple statement, but so profoundly true.

So, to experience The Rising, you cannot follow the small trails defined by human frailty and excuses. They are always too short, too narrow, and the vistas are just too small and uninspiring.

102. - Redemption Is A Serious Selection Process

In Matthew, chapter 22, Jesus tells a parable of a great King who prepared a wedding feast for His people. The end of the parable goes like this, "Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.'
" So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.

"So he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?' And, he was speechless.

"Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are called, but few are chosen."

102.0 - The Concept of "Try Outs:"  In major league baseball, there is something called, "try outs." These try outs are generally open to the public; and, anyone wishing to go out for the team is allowed to do so. 

However, "going out for the team" is not the same as making the team. To be selected for the team requires a superior performance. So, while the invitation is open to all, the result is entirely decided by our Christ empowered performance.

The point is this. We easily get this concept of selection when it comes to sports, etc. But, it seems we sometimes struggle to accept it in regard to the salvation of our soul. 

Nevertheless, it is this concept that drives the statement in the preceding parable that "many are called, but few are chosen." The indication here, and in many places in the New Testament, is that we are engaged in a serious selection process.

And, the idea exposed here is that it is ultimately God who is doing the choosing, not us. He is about the business of populating His Heaven with those who are truly faith expressive. 

And, in fact, this time, this world, this physical economy is but the "try out" to discover those people of true devotion, the people who actually embrace the daily Lordship of Christ in their lives. All others will fail the attempt.

So, it is perilous to the human soul to ever move far from the awareness that we are involved in a stringent selection process. Thus, to approach our  "try out" casually, to make it, in practical terms, a kind of secondary pursuit is to guarantee that we will fail the selection process.

The rigors of the true path to eternal life may be a little offensive to our modern sense of what is desirable. But, that very ancient and authentic path takes no note whatsoever of our modern druthers.  

It does not change because we judge it to be too demanding. It is The PathAnd, even in this modern age, it still involves a demanding scrutiny.  

And, that is why the statement remains true.  Indeed, "many are called, but few are chosen."  And, as Jesus said in another place, "...strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it."

103. - The Spiritual Awakening

Our first perception of God's redemptive effort, the place that it really begins to touch us, personally, is the point at which we start to sense the Holy Spirit drawing us. Jesus said in John, chapter 6, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him..." As the Holy Spirit draws us to Christ, we start to become more aware of our own need and the worth of what Christ offers.

So, this drawing, this heart awakening process, is how God initiates contact. It unfolds in many varied forms including providential encounters with godly people (or books). Or, it may be a personal epiphany or recrimination or guilt. The drawing sometimes involves insecurity, curiosity, desperation, or an awareness of need or emptiness, etc. There are many ways that this divine "pull" expresses itself.

Nevertheless, if all goes well, at some point, the "chemistry" becomes right. The Holy Spirit's overtures, of whatever sort, align perfectly with our mental, emotional, and/or circumstantial condition. It all becomes a powerful concert of divine arrangements. So eventually, as a result of this Heavenly alignment, we find ourselves able to respond to God, if we choose to do so, with a profound humility in true repentance.

103.0 - Releasing Control: Repentance is simply a decision for change. In the redemptive case, it is a decision for change on a very profound level. It is a conscious decision. The material outcome of this decision is that we choose to stop setting our own life agenda and allow God to do that.

103.1 - The Same Coin: Repentance and faith might be thought of as two sides of the same coin. That is, they occur as two facets of the same decision. As we turn from self determination (repentance), we move toward spiritual humility (faith).

So, we give up sovereignty over our life as an act of repentance, and we give over the sovereignty of our life to God as an act of saving faith. Essentially though, it is one movement, one decision.

103.2 - A Good Example: We can see a perfect example of repentance and faith framed in the words of the apostle, Paul. At the time of his own conversion, he said in Acts, chapter 6, "Lord, what would you have me do?" Clearly, he was now willing to lay aside his agenda and embrace God's.

It is precisely at this point that the salvation of the soul occurs. The divine pardon happens when we truly turn from our self determined course and humbly embrace God's authority over our life. At that point, the sacrifice of Christ is applied to us, personally; and, we are entirely pardoned.

104. - The Nature of Sin

104.0 - Sin, A Primary Concept: Sin is a very primary concept in the redemptive work, obviously. So, let's consider it here. And, perhaps the best way to do that is to continue with the idea of influence and the question of who will have charge over our influence.

When we begin with this question, we are well positioned to understand the nature of the essential sin which leads to the condemnation of the soul. And, when we understand this, many, many other things in our spiritual life simply become obvious.

104.1 - The Answer To The Question: Again, the question of who to trust with our personal influence involves two choices. One, we can pursue a friendship with our Creator by electing to return the government of our lives to Him. Or two, we can choose to retain control for ourselves, and just chart our own course in life.

The choice to do the latter, to reject God's love and authority in favor of our own willful intent is the perfect idea of the Essential Sin. Sin, in its essential form, is just a deep rooted, instinctive motive to be free of outside restraint or interference from God. And it is this motive which endangers the soul, long before any evil deeds are done. Those deeds are only the product of this motive. So, it is this deep and driving instinct that is the primary issue in redemption.

We usually conceive of sin as some ugly and evil action. But, the reality is that sinful acts are a secondary issue. In fact, it is the Sin Motive that is the primary issue. And it is the presence of this motive in our heart for which we will ultimately be judged - not the works which it spawns.

And, in fact, this instinct for self-determination does not always show itself as an ugly, shake-your-fist-in-God's-face kind of expression, at all. It may actually occur as simply a quiet, self assured independence in our daily decision making.

And this more acceptable looking, but still self-guided, course can, indeed, be very moral and socially sensitive. It can be one that practices religion, and quickly acknowledges the goodness of God. But if, in the practical terms of the everyday, we are instinctively driven by the sin motive to just quietly do our own thing - then, we remain in peril of soul, in spite of our seeming "goodness."

104.2 - Sin Has Two Dimensions: We should also emphasize what we have already noticed: there are, indeed, two distinct dimensions of sin. We have already described the first, the inner impulse for self-direction.

But, the other dimension of sin is, of course, the more concrete expression - the act of sin which springs from this inner motive. So, we have this invisible but very real and pervasive sin instinct. Then, springing from this basic motive is the visible sin, the action.

It is important to understand this dual nature of sin. It is only as we make a distinction between the two dimensions of sin, the motive and the act, that we can begin to understand why the sin motive is God's primary concern in redemption. It is because what we do, is always based in who we are. Thus, the work of Christ is aimed at changing who we are in our heart; because, that ultimately takes care of what we do.

So, God's first priority in redemption is to remove the sin motive, the real source of our behavioral problems.

Behold, "The Great Dead Tree" of sin. The visible, sinful acts are certainly a blight on the landscape of our life. But, to merely cut down the visible tree does not remove the problem. It has, in its roots, an invisible essence, a living motive which will simply regrow its ugly presence.

Obviously then, destroying the visible tree, the expression of sin, is not really the solution. Getting at the invisible essence of the tree, the sin instinct or motive, is the real answer. And, while we can't really do that, Christ can, as we shall see.

105. - The Nature Of Faith

105.0 - Faith: Essentially, Humility:  When the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith in Luke, chapter 17, he replied, "... So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.'" The simple word for what Jesus describes here is Humility.

Again, in Luke, chapter 14, Jesus said, "For whoever exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." And, once more, in Matthew, chapter 16, He said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake [give up control to me] will find it." [Brackets added]

105.1 - The Comparison: So, from these and other verses in the New Testament, we can easily understand that redemptive faith is essentially a very profound humility which causes us to confide ourselves to the care of our Savior in the sense that we embrace His values and guidence for life. Obviously, this is the exact opposite of the sin impulse which causes us to trust only in our self.

105.2 - True Conversion:  So,the faith which saves our soul is the willingness to give up our sovereignty over our own life, and willingly place ourselves under the control of our Savior. This is true conversion to Christ and the real salvation of the soul.

105.3 - Intellect vs Will:  This is what it means to believe, to trust in Christ in a soul saving way. Saving faith is not to simply subscribe to the idea that God exists. It is not to believe that Jesus exists or is the Savior of the world. 

The Bible indicates that the Devil knows all of this beyond the shadow of a doubt. Redemptive faith is never so much about what we know of God in our intellect, as it is our willingness to respond to what we know, our willingness to confide the government of our life to Him.

When we correctly understand that redemptive faith is a true willingness to embrace all that God has for us, including the renewal of our character essence, we can then truly grasp what John was saying in chapter 3 of his epistle where he writes, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in [entrusts himself to]Him should not perish but have everlasting life. " [Brackets added]

105.4 - Again, A Duel Nature: But notice, faith, like sin, also has a dual nature. It also exists first as an inner motive. And, as with the sin impulse, the faith impulse also has a visible dimension:  the works of faith, which are simply humble actions of obedience to God . So, good works, born of a humble and obedient heart, are simply the real expressions of a true faith.

Behold, the "Life Tree of Faith."  Like "The Death Tree of Sin," it is also composed of both an inner motive, and the outer and tangible expressions of that motive.  And also, as it is the motive of sin which condemns us, it is the motive of faith which first acquits us at God's judgement seat. Our obedient works of faith are simply the evidence of that redemptive inner motive.

106. - The "Geography" Of The Redemptive Journey

106.0 The Long Look: When we take a general overview, we discover that the redemptive journey actually has three phases. The first, of course, is the Reconciliation Phase. This is certainly the most familiar phase. Before anything else can occur, we just need to experience God's forgiveness through the Cross of Christ.

106.1 Renewal: The second phase is the Renewal Phase. This is the restorative phase. This is where we start to get our messed up emotional, intellectual, psychological, and spiritual "wiring" straightened out. And it is in this phase that Christ deals decisively with the Residual sin problem.

106.2 Fruitful: Finally, there is the Fruitful Phase of the journey. After God forgives us and straightens us out in a thousand ways and empowers us over sin through the Living Christ, we move on to other important things. Specifically, we start to focus on producing something of value to God: Character Fruit.

This "fruit" is actually new and beautiful character traits that are generated in the believer by the power of the indwelling Spirit Christ. Paul mentions some of the fruitful traits of this Christ empowered character in Galatians, chapter 5. So, in this third phase the believer is defined mostly by the new, fruitful expressions of character in his or her life.

We should note that these three phases of our redemptive journey are not perfectly distinct. They are somewhat distinct in that forgiveness is the dominant issue early on, then renewal becomes dominant, then finally, fruitfulness. But, there is certainly some overlap and mixing of these issues during the overall process of the redemptive work.

107. - The Perfect Savior

107.0 Two Distinct Roles: The writer of the Book of Hebrews calls Jesus the "Author and Finisher" of our faith. To fully understand the redemptive intrigue, we must grasp the full scope of the role that Christ plays, or perhaps better said, the dual role that He plays. So, let's look at the "Alpha and Omega," the "Beginning and the End," of our faith. As these titles indicate, we are really looking at one Christ in two distinct roles.

107.1 The Christ Of The Cross: First, consider the Dying Christ. He is the Christ that we celebrate first. He is the Christ of that magnificent Cross. It is His purpose and work in this role to satisfy God's justice by dying for our sins in our place. In doing so, He secures our forgiveness and enables relationship to be initiated with the Father. In short, His role is to bring about reconciliation with the Father.
He is the Jesus that we know first. He is our forgiveness. He is our first teacher, to show us God's love and the opportunity that His love offers. This is the Christ that loved us first, and whom we first loved.

107.2 The Christ Of The Resurrection: But now, let's consider the Living Christ. Because God's redemptive design not only requires the means of forgiveness and reconciliation for His creature, but also the means of real renewal, the Living Christ becomes indispensable. This is true because it is the Living Christ who brings that renewal and a real elevation to the believer.

And, He accomplishes this transformation of the believer in a very unique way. It is achieved through a divinely arranged merger. Literally, this divine merger brings together the frail human nature of the believer with the renewing divine nature of the Resurrected, Living Christ.

Within the Church, we have come to generally refer to this merger as our spiritual baptism into Christ. So, because of this unique merger, the apostle would write in the book of Romans, chapter 5, "For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life."

107.3 Perfect Redemption: So, the employment of the Savior in these two redemptive roles is perfectly suited to the Father's every redemptive intent and to humanity's every need. We are not left forgiven, but still broken. Rather, God's graceful plan adds to our forgiveness a beautiful restoration, a Christ empowered newness. Such is the magnificent result of the Dying Christ and the Living Christ working in concert in the believer's behalf.

Thus, it works like this. Christ is our Guide along the redemptive path. He conducts us as both the Dying Christ and the Living Christ. In His frail form on the Cross, He became our reconciliation. And, as the resurrected and powerful Living Christ, He becomes our empowerment for newness as we are literally merged with Him through the Pentecostal mechanism, the Baptism of the Spirit.

108. - The Two Great Shaping Forces

108.0 An Example: In the Old Testament, we are given an historical picture of the Hebrews in the wilderness after they departed from Egypt. Here is how Moses, himself, assessed that wilderness journey in Dueteronomy, chapter 8. He says, "And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.

"So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord."

108.1 The Forces: In this description, two characteristics of that historic journey stand out above all else. It was a journey of separation. And, it was a journey of humiliation.

We also notice these two great shaping forces operating in the redemptive journey of the New Testament. Usually, we find them, as in the Exodus, operating together as a part of the same process to empower a new perspective.

108.2 Two Aspects: Also, notice that Israel's separation in the wilderness had both a "from" and "to" aspect. It was a withdrawal from the Egyptian world with which they were familiar. And, it was a withdrawal to God and His purpose.

That is also exactly how godly separation works in these New Testament times. We, as the Church of Jesus Christ, are called to, as Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians, chapter 6, " 'Come out from among them and be separate,' says the Lord. 'Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters,' says the Lord Almighty."

So, we are called upon to separate ourselves - in heart - from the "worldly" economy. The "world" or the "worldly" are simply terms that denote anything in the physical economy that refuses to recognize and/or respond to the authority of God. But notice, while we are called upon to be separated from the world; at the same time, we are also called upon to move toward God. The idea is to embrace Him at a higher personal level. So, there is this to / from, this positive / negative aspect to separation.

108.3 Among The Patriarchs: This wilderness time is easily identified in the lives of major biblical characters. Beginning at Abraham and moving through the life of Paul, the Apostle, we can often notice this prominent period in the life of godly biblical players.

It was a time when they withdrew from the normal fragmentation of life and gave themselves to God in a focused and deeply personal way. And, this period of personal focus became a defining time for them.

108.4 The General Idea: The path to intimacy with God always goes right through the "Wilderness Of Separation." Jesus, Himself, was called the Nazarene, "the separated one or the branch." And, the Spirit of Christ, operating upon the believer will certainly draw each of us to his or her own personal wilderness experience. Then, in that place of personal seclusion, will occur the mother of all reality checks.

108.5 Sister # Two: Now, we come to the means by which we discover both God and ourselves at a much higher level. The primary means of these discoveries is the second of the Sister Winds. It is what might be called the "humbling process."

Humiliation is the second major shaping force in the life of the believer. It is what Moses describes above when, again, he said about the Exodus journey, "So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know..."

108.6 The Driving Motive: And, the motive for it all is revealed here also. He continues, "that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord."

The simple truth is that humanity is notorious for having a small reality awareness. Very often, we assume that we have a complete picture, when, in fact, we don't. So, for example, we go to a new job expecting to "make our mark" quickly. And, because we think we know "exactly what needs to be done," we plunge right in to "work our magic." And, when the situation "goes South," we are forced to analyze what went wrong.

All too often, we come to the very problem that we are discussing as the cause. We discover that we simply did not have a good grasp of reality, we did not see the whole picture. We thought we knew - but we didn't. So, the office politics or the quirkiness of the boss or the unwritten rules of the business "ate our lunch." They were the part of the picture of which we were ignorant; even though, we thought we saw it all.

That same short coming also exists for humanity on the spiritual plane. In fact, it is probably safe to say that it is at its worst there. When it comes to our relationship with God, especially in the beginning, we always think we "get it," but we never really do.

So, it is this very flawed awareness level, especially regarding who we are in relationship to God, that is Humanity's chronic and universal illness. Thus, the humbling process must come into play.

The purpose of this time of humiliation is still what it always was. And, the personal process is for us, exactly what the national process was for Israel. It is, as Moses indicated, to make us "know," to help us see the larger picture. So, the humbling process, even today, remains a painful reality check that introduces us to the true picture of our existence.

This humiliation is not pleasant. It is not easy. And, it is not negotiable.

But, this humbling is, at its conclusion, beneficial in the extreme. This scary, troublesome, hang-on-for-dear-life experience not only enlightens us, but it brings us in close, it facilitates a deep and intimate knowing of our God. It ultimately forges the strongest kind of bond.

108.7 How The Humbling Works: It works like this. As we are forced to see our own frailty, our arrogance begins to melt away. We start to see the part of reality that we were unaware of before - our own "smallness," as compared to the "bigness" of God. Thus, our awareness becomes enlarged and more accurate, albeit with some pain.

In simple terms, the humbling process just makes us "little in our own sight." We were always small, but the problem was we simply couldn't see it. Through the divine humbling, we not only discover this reality, but we actualize it within ourselves.

108.8 The Power To Transform: And, this true humility has the power to transform the human existence. As we experience it, we are positioned to become people of real gravity, import, and character. And, it is only here, on the back side of the wilderness of our separation, having endured the humbling process, that we can experience the high plane of life and a renewing personal intimacy with our Creator.

So, there it is, the two great shaping forces. Separation and Humiliation, these are The Sister Winds, working in concert to position the believer to discover the larger truth and real intimacy with God.

109. - The Carnal Nature

109.0 - From The Scripture: In the Bible, Paul describes the human condition in this way in Romans, chapter 7, where he says, "For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.

"If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

"I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?"
109.1 - The Big In-Between:

What Paul is describing here is the condition that exists in the believer between the time that we are converted and the time when we are merged with the Living Christ through the Baptism of the Spirit.

This is a time when, with our conscious mind, we have made the decision to follow Christ. But, in our subconscious mind, where the "fleshly drives" exist, the issue of Christ rule or self rule remains unsettled.

So, by these strong, subconscious motives the believer is pushed off track, as Paul describes. The disciple can see the "high road" and reach for it with the conscious mind; but, these powerful subconscious impulses push him or her away from the faith path and toward the base path.

109.2 - The Flesh: Before we go further with this thought, let's consider more carefully what Paul calls "the flesh." The flesh can be accurately understood as simply a body of selfish appetites. They are essentially just a part of the subconscious sin instinct or motive.

They are in one way like the physical appetites that we are familiar with. Specifically, like the physical appetites, the fleshly appetites are also a motive to move us to some action. However, in the case of the fleshly appetites, they always move us to act in a self-centered manner, which puts us at odds with God.

109.3 - The Carnal Mind: These appetites are at the heart of what the Bible calls the "carnal mind." The Bible says of this mind that, "...the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God."

The carnal mind is that subconscious "sin mindset" that insists on being self-determined, doing what it wants to, even if that is displeasing to God. That is why the Bible says that this mind "cannot please God." It cannot please God, because it is forever bent on pleasing itself.

109.4 - The Outflow: So, as Paul describes in the verses above, the godly thing that we consciously want to do, we don't do. And the thing that we make a conscious decision not to do, that is the very thing we do. Why? Because the subconscious, carnal mind, driven by completely self-centered appetites, chooses always to pursue its own pleasure, rather than Gods.

Thus, we are all plagued with this evil "subconscious twin." And we are defeated daily by this carnal villain until he or she is arrested by the power of the Living Christ.

So, in a sense, there are really two people involved in the decision of whether or not to surrender our influence to the God. The first, of course, is the conscious person and the second is the subconscious person. The first is able to surrender to Christ at conversion, but the latter, the subconscious person, will never surrender. The carnal man must be overpowered and arrested by the by the power of the Living Christ as He comes to dwell within the believer through the Spiritual Baptism.

110. - The Spiritual Baptism

110.0 - The Means Of Newness: We can no more experience the true newness of God's redemptive plan in our own strength, than we can pull ourselves up by our own boot straps. So, where does the power for such newness come from?

The power for our transformation comes through a divinely arranged merger with Christ. It is a merger that literally brings together the human nature of the believer with the divine nature of the Savior. In this merger, the Holy Spirit becomes the conduit to connect the Savior with the believer in a very intimate way. We commonly call this merger the Baptism of the Spirit."

110.1 - The Target: This Spiritual Baptism is the pivotal event in the believer's life. In fact, this merger of natures is the Target Event of the New Testament. Our ultimate success absolutely depends on this opportunity to tap into the vitality of the resurrected Christ. So, all else, including the moment of conversion, is arranged around and pointed toward this subsequent event in the redemptive process.

110.2 - The Point: We are accustomed to most things in life having a point. Well, this is the point of this Spiritual merger with Christ. It is to bring us to newness in the energy of Christ.

110.3 - The Final Piece: This is the secret, the mystery, the part of the redemptive puzzle that has been held in reserve by God from the beginning. But now, in these New Testament times, it has been revealed as the ultimate resource for the believer.

Paul says as much in Colossians, chapter 1, where he makes these comments to the Church, "I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."

110.4 - True Renewal: This personal merger with Christ is today exactly the same as it was for the disciples of Christ 2000 years ago. It is an integration with Christ. Literally, the Holy Spirit becomes a living conduit to convey the essence of the Living Christ to the believer. In this way, the divine essence is made available to the believer as the primary resource for renewal. Thus, through this spiritual merger, the frail and failing human creature is made strong again.

It is this event that makes the redemptive plan come to life in the physical reality. This personal baptism into Christ is the power to move past mere forgiveness to a profound personal renewal, in real terms.

From this event springs the potential to actually become "a new creature in Christ." From this event springs a true hope for freedom from the inherent and chronic waywardness of the self-determined heart. It provides the real hope of personal elevation and fruitfulness.

Now, it becomes clear what Jesus meant when he said in John, chapter 15," ...I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine dresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit... Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
" I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing..."

111. - Magnifying The Spiritual Baptism

111.0 - Magnification: Now, let's do something. Let's change the setting on our microscope, so to speak, because of the mysterious nature of this phenomenon of Spiritual Baptism and its pivotal importance in the actual transformation of the believer. Let's look more carefully at this event.

111.1 - The Living Christ, Our Completion: As we have already noted, God's redemptive agenda not only requires the means of forgiveness and reconciliation for His creature, but also the means of real renewal. For that reason, it is impossible for a believer to experience the completion of God's redemptive work without experiencing the reality of the Living Christ within.

So, this Spiritual Baptism is simply an intrinsic part of the redemptive process. The New Testament speaks of this transformation through Christ in such passages as 2 Corinthians, chapter 5. There the Bible says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."

Again, we read a beautiful account of this opportunity for renewal in the book of Acts, chapter 2, which says, "Now when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."

Peter, in his epistle, also refers to this marriage of natures in Second Peter, chapter 1, where he says, "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust".

Jesus also speaks of this mysterious communion that exists between the Savior and the believer in John, chapter 14. He says, "If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you."

111.2 - The Implications: Throughout the New Testament, this remedy for the human frailty is mentioned. Consider the implications of all this for the believer. In simple terms, it means that the believer is no longer consigned to past failures; but rather, there is the real possibility of a profound newness as the power of the Savior expresses itself within him or her.

111.3 - Explaining The Mechanism: So, our transformation, in real terms, begins with this spiritual baptism into Christ. The mechanism of this phenomenon is easily understood through the use of a physical analogy.

Consider the DNA codes of the physical body. The genetic message is there from the beginning; but, it only fully expresses itself with time.
So, also, is the spiritual process. We receive the "Christ essence" in primordial or infant form. God then uses the circumstances of life experience to bring a growing expression to this "Spiritual DNA."

And just as there are environmental impacts, challenges, and setbacks, etc. in the physical growth process, these also occur in the spiritual process of growing up in Christ. Nevertheless, these struggles in no way discount the process. They are, in fact, an important part of it.

So, with time, the "Christ code" within the believer will find its mature expression. It will eventually bring him or her to the mature character image of Christ. Paul describes that maturity this way in Ephesians, chapter 4, where he says," ... unto a perfect [mature] man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ..." [Brackets added]

111.4 - Finishing The Former Thought: Now, about that evil, carnal twin. At this point, we can finish the thought that we began earlier. The thought was this: "The carnal man must be overpowered and arrested by the Living Christ as He comes to dwell within the believer through the Spiritual baptism."

Very simply then, it is the first mission of the Spirit Christ to deal with this carnal mind set, this unyielding subconscious twin. And, He does it handily through the Spiritual merger.

It works like this. As part of that merger, the strong faith of Christ is added to the more frail faith (humility) of the believer. Literally, the believer is baptized into the faith of Christ.

As a result, the subconscious argument is immediately settled. By the power of Christ's faith, now operating within the believer, the faith motive (God's will be done in my life) is established as the always dominant value in the believer's heart. Now, due to the believer's access to the empowering faith of Christ, the sin instinct loses its ability to dominate subconsciously. So, the old, rebellious subconscious man is dethroned; and, the new inner man of faith comes to power in Christ.

Thus, where before, the default subconscious motive was self-determination, now it is one of profound humility of influence before God. So, the faith motive is made consistent in Christ. No more, as long as he or she wishes, will the believer be governed on the primary level of the heart by the impulse for self-government.

As long as the believer chooses to do so, he is free, empowered by the faith of Christ, to consistently choose God Government with the whole heart. And, that empowered freedom positions the disciple to master sin at all levels and literally become a new and godly creature - both inside and out.

111.5 - Not Just A Growth Process: As a final thought, for the reasons that we have just outlined, the spiritual maturity that the Living Christ brings to the believer can never be thought of as simply a growth process or an expanded life experience. As noted, the spiritual merger with Christ certainly initiates a growth process; but, to be clear, it is not merely a growth process, and never can be. A new creature in Christ is the function of an actual Spiritual integration with Christ, not simply trying harder or learning more.

Again, Jesus said in John, chapter 15, "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me." So, absent a personal merger with Jesus Christ, which brings the vitality of "the Vine," the believer is left without any real possibility of reaching a "God approvable" state of completion.

To be sure, human effort can, in some measure, make us wiser and enable us to live somewhat more consistently than if we did not try at all. But, such effort cannot bring us Heart Oneness with God. It cannot enable us to conquer the sin impulse in our subconscious. It cannot bring us to the empowering faith of Christ. It cannot enable a truly intimate spiritual communion. It cannot bring the profound peace that flows from an undivided heart.

112. - Two Kinds Of Righteousness

112.0 - Righteousness In Christ: Now, let's consider the two distinct kinds of righteousness that Christ brings to the believer. One is Imputed Righteousness, and the other is Reality Based Righteousness. These two different benefits are rooted respectively in the dual roles that Christ plays in the redemptive work as the Dying Christ and the Living Christ. So, let's begin with Imputed Righteousness, which is rooted in the work of the Dying Christ.

112.1 - Inputed Righteousness: The Dying Christ enables forgiveness and initiates our relationship to the Father. But, here is the rest of the story. His sacrifice not only brings forgiveness and reconciliation, but it also provides the initial protection of Imputed Righteousness.

Paul describes this in Romans, chapter 4. He says, "... But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 'Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.'"

Imputed righteousness is simply an assigned righteousness. It has no basis in fact in the believer's lifestyle reality. In other words, the believer, himself, is not actually righteous. He simply enjoys an assignment of righteousness in the mind of God, due to the atoning work of the Dying Christ.

We should probably also point out that this initial benefit of Christ's death on the Cross is somewhat transitional in nature. This preliminary protection anticipates a time when the believer will enter into a Reality Based Righteousness in some measure.

112.2 - Reality Based Righteousness: This reality based righteousness, as the name indicates, is based in the believer's lifestyle reality. It is a real righteousness that is brought to life and enabled by the power of Christ as He lives within the disciple. In short, the Living Christ empowers the believer to actually be righteous.

And, while it may be accurate to say that Imputed Righteousness always remains the believers safety net, we should also note that a life lived in the power of the Resurrected Christ tends to render it less and less employed. This is true because, as the power of Christ begins to express itself in the believer, he or she begins to exhibit an expanding righteousness that is actually based in fact.

Sometimes, in life does two bridges are, indeed, required to complete a crossing. So it is also in the course of the redemptive journey. It requires both Imputed Righteousness and Reality Based Righteousness.

113. The Nature Of Grace

113.0 - Back To True North: Obviously, grace is also a very important concept to the redemptive agenda. In recent times, grace has come to be popularly understood to mean "unmerited favor." This is actually more the definition of mercy, which is a product of grace, than it is grace. So, the two terms don't precisely interchange.

So, let's just look at the recognized definition of the "Grace." Webster's Dictionary defines Grace as, "Seemingly effortless beauty, ease and charm of movement, proportion, or form; a charming quality or characteristic." Funk and Wagnall's Standard Dictionary defines it as, "Any excellence, characteristic, quality, or endowment."

The Greek word which is translated as grace every time, save one, in the New Testament is "Charis." Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament , a widely and highly regarded work, gives this definition for that word, "That which affords joy, pleasure, delight." Strong's Dictionary of the Greek New Testament - also a very highly regarded work gives this meaning: "Graciousness (as gratifying) of manner or act."
113.1- The Simple Meaning: The idea here is simple. These dictionaries give us a much broader definition of grace than is involved in the popular idea of "unmerited favor." These respected lexicons define grace, in short, as simply a kind of "innate goodness" (innate meaning, from the beginning, or occurring originally or naturally.) So, the idea being conveyed in these dictionaries and lexicons speaks simply of a natural or characteristic goodness.

And that is the way grace should be understood in the New Testament. It is the natural or characteristic goodness of God. God is "graceful," or naturally good.

113.1 - The Common Language: We should point out that the Bible does not have its own special meanings for the words which it contains. In fact, just the reverse is true.

It is a necessary requirement for a Bible translator that he or she have a broad and accurate knowledge of both the language that is being translated from and the language that is being translated to.

This is necessary so that words can be employed accurately as to their common and true meanings. In any reputable translation of the Bible, every effort goes toward this accurate rendering into the commonly held usage.

So, accuracy is far better served when one understands grace as the general references render it: simply a naturally occurring goodness, especially in the nature of God. In the New Testament, the word grace usually speaks to us of that goodness, or in some cases, the products of it - a product such as mercy.

113.2 - The Role Of Grace: When we understand the true nature of grace correctly, the stage is then set to understand the role that grace plays in the transformation of the believer. There is a tremendous and extremely essential insight, which is entirely lost through the "unmerited favor" definition. It is the understanding that this same godly grace also eventually expresses itself within the believer.

113.3 - How Grace Comes - What Grace Does: It works like this. As we are baptized into Christ through the Spiritual Baptism (effecting a literal merger of His character essence with ours), then grace, like faith, is another is one of the qualities of His nature that is transferred to the believer. In other words, that naturally occurring goodness which compels Christ is then also embedded in the character of the believer. And, The result is a spectacular change in the way that God's people are personally governed and guided in their day to day life.

Paul confirms this transition to a new means of personal government by his statement in Romans, chapter 6, where he says, "For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace." With this statement, Paul affirms that in these New Testament times we have transitioned from the external government of the law to the internal government of grace. We are now guided by a natural occurring and compelling goodness; more precisely, the goodness of Christ, expressing itself within the believer.

This change provides a wonderful new simplicity to the believer. Now, he simply responds to the inner compelling urgings of goodness as the means of ordering and directing his own steps. In this way, grace becomes an effective internal replacement for the awkward and ineffective external law.

113.4 - A Vastly Superior Way: Obviously, this is a far superior method of running our daily lives. It is one that fits naturally where the external law did not. And, it is entirely the gift of the Living Christ living within the believer's character essence.

How very logical it is when you think about it. God has found a way to bring effective personal government to the human heart. It is the easy government of His grace. It is the much more intuitive government of instinctive goodness, which flows from the nature of the indwelling Spirit Christ.

What could be more normal? As the impulses of Christ course through the believer, he or she now serves God and true goodness with the same natural affinity with which they once served sin. Where once the dark urges of rebellion and self-determination designed our course, now we design our actions by the natural impulses of the inner law of godly goodness. And, to be sure, it does not make us a law unto ourselves; rather, it merely attunes us to God's highest law.

Oh, so that's what God meant when He said, "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes; and, you will keep My judgments and do them." So, it is grace that produces the insights, wisdom, and easy government of the heart which elevates and correctly directs our daily steps and designs the good solutions which life requires.

Therefore, faced with a redemptive choice between a no-investment-required kind of mercy, and the alternative of the living goodness of Christ directing from within - we should choose grace. Indeed, grace is the spiritual "golden goose." It is this Christ-enabled gracefulness which produces within the believer the precious "daily treasure" of true goodness.

114. What Place Works

114.0 Ridiculous Paranoia: Since the time of Martin Luther, the Church has been paranoid about connecting good works to faith, as though this somehow diminishes the vitality of faith. However, in fact, works complete faith.

James, in the second chapter of his epistle, makes it quite clear that this is true. He indicates that the expression of faith, in the form of works, is not only possible, but expected. He also indicates that a faith that cannot express itself in actions is "dead." His direction is that we are to experience a faith that does, indeed, express itself in obedient actions.

He says it like this, "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

"But someone will say, 'You have faith, and I have works.' Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

"You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.' And he was called the friend of God.

"You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."

Obviously, the teaching of the scripture is that people cannot gain heaven by their own self-determined good works. But certainly, those God-directed works of humble obedience, designed by grace, and prompted and empowered by the faith of Christ within, are of the greatest value. And, they are a natural necessity to God's plan for his people.

As James indicates, these works are a true indicator of a living faith. And they are certainly not a threat to it. These works are faith expressed, faith made complete. And, these works are valuable, fulfilling, and a real part of God's expectations for the disciple.

115. - God Is Love - But What Kind

115.0 How God Loves Us: Now, let's consider the nature of God's love. We do this because it is essential that we understand not just that God does loves us, but how he loves us. His redemptive agenda is obviously very much impacted by that reality.

115.1 The Trilateral Nature Of God's Love: So, we begin by understanding that God's love has a trilateral nature. God loves us with a love that is based in His nature. He loves us with a love that is based in His position. And, He loves us with a love that is based in His expectation of performance.

115.2 Conditional vs. Unconditional: To accurately understand God's love, one must understand all three facets of it. Always, it exists in these three ways - at the same time. And, because this is true, God's love is sometimes conditional and sometimes unconditional.

115.3 God's Love Based In His Nature: So, let's begin with the aspect of God's love that is based in His nature. This is the tender, unconditional love that we hear so much about; and, it fully fits the popular description. It is the love of John 3:16. It is a forgiving love, a securing love, a welcoming love, an unconditional love. It is the love of the open arms of God.

This is the kind of love that we were exposed to in our infancy and earliest childhood from our parents. It is this kind of love that we give our children in their infancy. But, this is not the love that entirely rears and matures our children, nor us as God's children. Another kind of love is required for that.

115.4 God's Love Based In His Position: God's raising and rearing kind of love for His children involves the love that is based in His position as the Governing Creator. To explain this aspect of God's love involves a simple statement. It is this: God always loves us in the context of His larger responsibility to His creation. In other words, God's love for us, individually, is always set in His larger awareness of His responsibility to the whole of His creation.

It is this aspect of God's love, the position based love, the love of the Governing Creator, that places Him on the throne of judgment. It is this position based love that causes Him to look beyond just the immediate needs of the individual child. To be always a God of love, He must attend to the higher and larger concerns of the whole of His creation.

It is this same kind of positional love that causes us, as parents with a larger responsibility, to say no to our children for their own good, to punish them for their wrong doing, or to refuse to give them a position above principle or what is right.

Good parents will always love their children on some level with that unconditional love that loves - no matter what. But, that is not the love that supersedes in the realm of our larger responsibility to them and to society. There, the rearing love of our parental position governs.

The same is true of God's love for mankind. On the most primary level, God loves us irrevocably as His dear children. It is a very basic and unconditional love that is ever there. But, though it is always there, it is ultimately subservient to God's positional love, which is based in the context of His larger responsibility to the whole of His creation.

And, this position based love of the Governing Creator is very much a conditional love. And, it does, indeed, govern. So, this is the love that we encounter as God rears His children and manages the affairs of His larger creation.

115.5 God's Love Based In Our Performance: Finally, let's consider the aspect of God's love that is based in performance. This is the love of John 14:21 and following where Jesus said this:

"He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.

"Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, 'Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?' 

"Jesus answered and said to him, 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; [the performance condition] and My Father will love him and We will come to him and make Our home with him [response based in performance].  He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me.'" [Brackets added]

The love described here is a love that requires, even demands, something from us in the way of performance or reciprocation. This kind of love must be earned, even from God. It is not given except in response to merit. Thus, this type of God's love is also very much a conditional love.

The New Testament makes it clear that this expression of God's love will only be experienced by those who merit it. Consider, for example, in addition to the verses above, The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25: 14 and following). Then simply continue reading in that same chapter of Matthew, the teachings of Jesus on how He will separate the "sheep" from the "goats" (Matthew 25: 31 and following). These references speak of an expression of love from God that is only given as a response to performance or merit.

115.6 Conclusions: So, God's love is unconditional; but, it is also very conditional in the ways that we have described. Like the sky, the sun and the clouds, the different types of God's love are always there together, and yet they are different to serve different needs.

To understand God's love only as unconditional will never really explain the real God with which we have to do. But, when we see His love in this three dimensional way, we can very accurately understand the God that is love and more accurately anticipate His actions and responses.

116. - Sharing In The Essence Of Christ

116.0 - A Daily Vitality: A truth that is implicit to the life and ministry of the Messiah is that God is capable of living within the human form. The Dying Christ took the human form in order to reach out to humanity in the love of the Cross.

We should note that the Living Christ also resides in human form - ours. As He does so, He imparts a daily vitality that strengthens the disciple in every necessary way. Paul said it this way, "But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life [a daily vitality] to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you." [Brackets added]

Here is a summary, a brief catalog, of some of the benefits that flow from Christ living within the believer and vice versa:

116.1 - Character Fruit: It is the merger with the divine nature that enables the believer to actually bear godly character fruit. Again, Paul describes this fruitfulness in Galatians, chapter 5, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control..."

116.2 - The New Birth in Real Terms: This spiritual partnership is the means to experience the new birth in real terms. Paul writes of this aspiration in Romans, chapter 12, where he says, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."

116.3 - A Reality Based Righteousness: This oneness with Jesus is the power to fulfill, not just the letter, but the very spirit of the law. Paul indicates this in Romans, chapter 8, where he says, "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." (KJV)

116.4 - God's Vision Enabled: This mysterious merger with Christ enables the realization of God's redemptive vision of intimacy with His people. Paul wrote of this in 2 Corinthians, chapter 6, "For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: 'I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.'

"Therefore 'Come out from among them and be separate,' says the Lord. 'Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters,' says the Lord Almighty."

116.5 - A New Creature: Again, this superimposing of God's nature over that of the disciple is like giving him a new spiritual DNA code that completely redefines him. With time, this "Christ code Overwrite" literally makes of him or her a new creature. Paul says as much in 2 Corinthians, chapter 5, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."

116.6 - An Empowered Faith: As a result of the Spiritual baptism, rather than being limited to just his own faith, the believer will now be baptized into the faith of Christ. As Paul said in Galatians, chapter 2, "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ..." (KJV).

And consider this from Ephesians, chapter 2. Paul says, "For by grace [God's natural goodness] you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." [Brackets added]

116.7 - Power Over The Sin Instinct: It is the divine integration that rewrites the believer's day-to-day reality. In effect, Christ, upon entering the believer, firmly establishes the faith instinct (God's will be done) as the ascendant value in the believer's heart. Paul says it like this in Romans, chapter 8, "For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live."

116.8 - True Holiness: As our new, Christ empowered faith expresses itself within, it brings a deeply satisfying rest to the soul of the believer. No longer is the disciple suspended between two opposing heart governments. Now, he or she tastes the deep sweetness of true holiness, which is very simply, an undivided, singularly dedicated heart, a heart with a one primary devotion - God's pleasure.

Again, Paul writes of this transformation in Ephesians, chapter 4, "...that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness."
116.9 - Enduring Peace: Just as He said He would, the Living Christ also brings peace with God to the believer. This is the peace that Paul speaks of in Romans, chapter 5, where he says, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."

But notice, it is an enduring peace based in the strength of Christ within, the peace that comes from truly conquering the discord created by the impulse of self-determination. It is not the pretentious peace of acquiescence to it.