Multiplying Grace

I am constantly stressing that grace is the unmerited favor of God. I like to stress this point because it’s so amazing. Grace is God’s favor! God smiles on you and delights in you just as you are. You don’t have to worry about whether you deserve it or not. God’s grace is unmerited.

But that’s not all you get with grace. God’s grace brings with it the ability to let God work through you. Because of His grace, you can walk in His Spirit. Take a minute to think about that, because it’s awesome. Grace makes more grace possible!

For example, suppose I get home from work and I discover that my family is experiencing some chaos. We do have three young boys, after all. What should I do? Should I get angry? Well, is that what God would do?

Walking in grace means asking God to give me the ability to say and do what is needed to make my family feel loved in a time of chaos.  That’s what Jesus does. He makes us feel loved in our time of chaos. He doesn’t love us for who or what we should be. He loves us for who we are, right now. That’s who He loves. He loves you. And then in that love, He nurtures you. He loves and nurtures you into becoming more like Him.

This is what grace allows us to do for each other! When we let God work through us, we let Him turn grace into more grace. When we ask what we as Christians should be doing, that’s our answer. Let God work through you. Let Him compound His grace, multiplying it everywhere. Let Him make you more like Him.

Realizing that I have favor with God gives me so much joy. It frees me! It frees me up to do what I can for others. It frees me up to think about other people. Walking in the Spirit allows me to ease their pain, and bring Christ into their lives. My joy is so motivating!

You might say, “Look, I don’t have much money. I can’t just give money away.” But that’s not the point. If you want to give money, and you can, then that’s one thing you can do. But that’s not even close to all that you can do in Christ. Walking in grace isn’t about giving money away. It’s about reflecting Jesus!

Loving your neighbor as yourself doesn’t cost any money at all. You meet people all day long. What do they see when they see you? Do they see Jesus? This is as simple as looking at somebody who is having a bad day and saying, “Man, I hope your day gets better.” It’s as simple as asking, “Are you okay?”

Let people know that you are there, and that they are not alone. That is Jesus. Let Him nurture each of you through each other. And then grace will multiply in abundance, everywhere!

See you Monday.

You’ve Got to Show Who Jesus Is

There are times when celebrities or public figures get involved with a charity, and through it, they do so much good. You see it and think, “Man, they are doing so much good in the world!” You really get a sense of appreciation for their good works.

But do you ask yourself why they do it? Is it so that they can be on TV? Is it so that they can push their name? Maybe even be in People magazine? If they do a lot of good, they can get their face in a lot of magazines. Is that why they are doing it, so that we’ll say, “Look at him! Look at her! She did this event. He funded that cause.”

Sometimes we need to ask ourselves the same question. What is our heart behind the good that we are doing? Why are we doing what is good? Are we doing it because we are led by the Spirit of God? Or are we led by the spirit of fame? We need to ask, because we can get pretty famous for doing good things.

I don’t think Jesus did anything for the sake of fame. Everything He did, He did to show the glory of God. Even though He showed no interest in fame and did nothing for the sake of fame, there have been more books and songs written about Him than any other person, ever. People who don’t even think He’s really God still write about Him. They still talk about Him. They still sing about Him.

It’s His name that gets used in vain! I don’t see anyone using my name in vain. Nobody is getting mad and saying, “Jeremy Affeldt! That sucked!” I don’t hear that! Right? But people use His name all the time!

I’m not saying that doing good works to get (or perpetuate) fame is a common or widespread activity. I’m not thinking about anyone in particular. I just want us to direct our thoughts to our hearts. Doing good brings a lot of attention, so be sure you’re in the right place when you do it. Do it because the Spirit of God is behind it. Don’t do it for the wrong reasons.

Now, if you say, “I love Jesus, but I don’t do anything,” then I would probably challenge you on that. I wouldn’t judge you. I wouldn’t tell you that without doing good, you’re going to go to hell. No. I would want to challenge you to think about it, because I don’t know if that’s what He would want for you.

In Christ, you can do all things. In Him, through Him, and by Him, we are new creations. In Him, we are made new. So to become a new creation who can do all things, and then sit and do nothing, just doesn’t seem possible to me. I don’t see how that could be your calling.

There are times to be quiet. There are times when you need to just be still and know that He is God. There’s a need to listen to Him, and let Him fill you. Let Him talk to you. Let Him hear you and be heard by you.

But there’s also going to come a time when you’ve got to show who Jesus is. He is in you, and you are in Him. So what are you going to do?

More on this next time. See you Thursday.

Our Way to Heaven

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

I think there are a lot of good people that will not go to heaven. I really do think so. They can do good things their whole lives, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will go to heaven. What would keep them out? Just one thing: rejecting the only thing that matters. And that is Jesus. Grace! Just doing good things isn’t enough. They have to be done from the graced idea of living by the Spirit of God.

Think about it. None of Jesus’s works happened before the Spirit came upon him. He only started doing miracles, signs, and wonders when the Spirit came upon Him. He only started speaking in the Temple when the Spirit came upon Him. God came to Jesus and said, “This is what I need you to do.” And that’s when His work began.

It’s the same for us. If the Spirit is in you, then you’re going to live by the Spirit. But if you live in the flesh, you’re going to do things in the flesh. What is the flesh? It is selfish. It has no sense of service. It’s all about me and what can I have. As long as we live on earth, we will do things of the flesh. But with the Spirit upon us, we are forgiven. We live in grace, and we do the things that God wants us to do.

So when someone tells me that they said the prayer and were saved, but their lives didn’t change, I wonder. Have they asked God to send His Spirit?

The Bible says there will be people who say, “I cast out demons in your name,” and yet Jesus will say, “I never knew you.” You have to get into grace. That means you have to get to a point where you realize what Jesus did. He didn’t just die for us. He resurrected! He didn’t just die to works. He resurrected to grace! That’s what He did!

He said, “I have not come to break the law. I have come to fulfill it. I’m going to die, so you will know that the law has been satisfied. The law will become the old covenant. Then I’m going to resurrect, and this will be to new grace. That’s the way this comes into play.”

And did you notice? It was after the resurrection that we stopped needing to make animal sacrifices. It was after the resurrection that we quit stoning our wives for disobedience. Jesus put a whole new deal in place. The curtain was ripped, and the Holy of Holies was accessible to all. Because of Jesus, we all have access to the kingdom of heaven.

So no matter how good you are, if you’re not willing to go and access God, then all your works mean nothing. They mean nothing because they are not done with the backing of the Spirit.

In 2010, the Giants made a clerical error and accidentally added an extra half million dollars to my contract. I reported the error, and got the contract fixed. People said to me,”Oh, man, you could do a lot of good with that $500,000.” But I couldn’t have done any good with it, even if all my works were really good. It wasn’t my money! Right? This is what I’m talking about. You can do all the good you want. But if you do not carry the Spirit of grace, which is Jesus, I don’t know what it’s going to get you.

You Are Holy

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 6:1-4

The church tends to misinterpret righteousness. It teaches that we are righteous and holy only when we don’t sin, and that makes us perform to avoid sin. As a result, we have all kinds of rules that we follow in order to make ourselves righteous. If you do this you’re sinning. If you do that you’re sinning. If you don’t act like this you’re sinning. If you don’t talk like that you’re sinning. If you drink you’re sinning. Don’t do any of those things, because you have to be righteous.

But that’s not it. We are righteous and holy because of the blood, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “It is finished. I’ve done everything. Now you are righteous and now you are holy.”

If your parents told you that you’re a princess, every single day, you would grow up thinking, “I’m a princess.” Then you would act as a princess, dress as a princess, and talk as a princess. You would be a princess, because that’s what you were told you are. Now, suppose the church said, “Did you know that because of who you are in Christ, you are holy and righteous, all the time?” What if we did that? What if we taught that in church? What if we got people to think that way? Then people would be righteous and holy. All the time!

This is hard to wrap our minds around, and you can see evidence in the Bible that people had some questions for Paul about this. They asked him, “You’re saying grace abounds over sin, so you can just do whatever you want to do and grace will abound?” Paul said, “No, that’s not what I’m saying. The spirit gives birth to spirit, but the flesh gives birth to flesh. So I’m not saying you can do whatever you want. I’m saying that if you understand grace, and you understand that you are holy and righteous, then you will do holy and righteous things.”

Your identity as a Christian counts. If you think of yourself as a sinner, then your flesh will run your life with guilt and shame. But if you think of yourself as holy and righteous because of your identity in Christ, then you will be free. You will make holy and righteous choices, simply because that’s how you think of yourself. This is what the church should emphasize, every single day.

Chasing After Jesus

Matthew 25:31-46 describes a day of judgment, when Jesus will return to sit on His throne and divide the sheep and the goats. He will bless the sheep, the scripture says, but the goats will be sent away into everlasting punishment. The text is very specific. The goats ask, “How did we fail you, Lord?” And He says, “Inasmuch as you did not minister to the least of these, you did not minister to me.”

This scripture is a major motivation to minister to those in the most need, but it can also be confusing. It seems accusatory, as if it says, “Well, if you’re not moved to help, or you don’t want to help, then you are out of God’s grace.” But there are so many Christians that have been baptized. They pray, they’re faithful, and they earnestly seek to understand and do the right thing. Does this description of the Day of Judgment leave them in limbo? Is it unfair?

Or is it a call to action?

I think our confusion about God’s judgment comes from our inability to see what we’re doing as God sees it. It’s very hard to see ourselves as God sees us. Some people think, “I love Jesus so much, but what have I done? I really haven’t done anything.” But it may not look that way from where God sits. He sees that you love Him.

But if you love Him, don’t you want to listen to what He’s asking you to do? If you say, “I’ve been baptized because I love Jesus so much,” then don’t you want to Him to guide you? If you pray all the time, then what are you praying for? That would be my question. A lot of people say, ”Well, I’m praying that I have a close relationship with God.” Right! That’s a good prayer! A lot of us want that.

When I want to have a close relationship with somebody, I follow him, and listen to him, and do things with him. That’s how a close relationship grows. Now, you know I’m definitely going to follow Jesus. In fact, I’m going to chase Him! I’m crazy about Him! I’m going to pay attention to everything He did, so that I can do it with Him.

When you don’t do the work that Jesus did, you’re not following Him. When you’re not doing what He’s doing, you’re not following Him. Prayer alone doesn’t necessarily mean you’re following Him.

I think that’s what James was boldly trying to say:

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. (James 2:14-17)

James is not saying that you have to do works in order to get into heaven. He’s saying, “Works will come when you live by the Spirit and listen to Him.” When you live by the Spirit, He’s going to take you for His own. He’s going to listen to you, and He’s going to show you where you can be of help, and be needed. How do we know the Spirit is going to do that? Because that’s what Jesus did! Jesus said, “I didn’t come to help the healthy people. Healthy people don’t need doctors. The sick need doctors.” (Mark 2:17) So what did Jesus do? He did good works! More than we know! Jesus said, “I’m representing the kingdom of heaven. I’m doing what my Father in heaven has asked me to do.”

More on this next time. See you Monday.

Shortcut to Freedom

Here’s what God says: “Ask me, and I’ll help you. If you want to do it on your own, you’ll go through hell, and it will seem like a long, long time. Ask me, and I’ll help you. I’m here, and waiting! Ask me, and your walk will be my walk. My way is so much easier, and it’s wonderful.

“I came so you can have real and eternal life, more and better life than you ever dreamed of!” (John 10:10)

God is a patient, kind, compassionate, and loving Father. He has so much for us, if we just ask. He’s just waiting for us to ask. “Ask me,” He says. “I will help you.”

But people want to do it on their own, and He lets us. We’ve got free will. God sits back and says, “Alright! You want to do it yourselves, children? Go for it. Do it on your own. Let’s see what happens.

“Oh, look. You started a war. Congratulations! You want to say your religion is the right one, but you won’t ask me how to bring Christianity to the world? Great. Now you’ve got the Crusades. Now you and the Muslims are killing each other. We’ve got blood everywhere, and Christians look like a bunch of murderers. That’s awesome, because now Christians will be known throughout the world as people who kill for their religion.”

We didn’t learn. We kept doing it ourselves. Now God sits back and says, “Oh, look! Now you’ve got Protestants and Catholics. You’re arguing about whose theology is right, and you prefer the Thirty Years’ War to asking me how to live in harmony with one another. You would rather kill each other than ask me for help? You’d rather have WWII, and the IRA, and Catholics and Protestants blowing each other up? That’s how you think I want this going down?”

God looks at us and asks, “Why don’t you ask me for help? You want to do it yourself, and now we’ve got wars. You want to do it yourself, and now we’ve got murder. You want to do it yourself, and now we’ve got people getting raped. You’re not asking, and now we’ve got people being trafficked. We have greedy people that know how to get rich off of sin. They will take a woman and reuse her over and over again and treat her like crap. They get rich their way, not my way.”

And now we’ve got issues.

The church has access to God, so why don’t we just ask Him for help? Why don’t we go to God and say, “How do we eliminate these issues?” God will help us. He will say, “Here’s how you do it.” Done! Thank you! In five minutes, God will help us complete something we’ve spent centuries trying to do: free the slaves, end cruelty and violence, and restore health and happiness to all of His children. God’s wisdom is the shortcut to freedom. It’s the shortcut to the kingdom.

I’ve tried to do things my own way. I still do, sometimes. I’m only human! But it’s so much better to just say, “God, show me what I need to do. I’ll do it, with your wisdom.”

We are God’s resources. We are His hands. Let’s ask Him for help, and bring the kingdom!

See you Monday.

Ask Me, and I’ll Help You!

God chose us to help each other by loving each other as we love ourselves. This is how we stand up to evil and drive it from the world. This is how we bring the kingdom!

God knows we need help, but He’s not always going to take the first step. He’s not necessarily going to approach us and say, “I see you need help. Here. Here’s all the help you need.” No, no. God isn’t going to to that, because in the long run, that doesn’t help us at all.

If I did that with my sons every time one of them needed help, they would never become the awesome men that they are called to be. Instead I tell them, ”I’m waiting for you to ask me for help, son. When you ask me, I’ll help you. But I’m not going to just walk up and hand it to you.”

I’m not the dad that does his son’s history paper when the boy hadn’t done his homework. “Here,” that dad says, “I’ll do it for you real quick.” I can see why dads do that. The temptation to help our children is so strong! But what are we actually doing for them when we do their homework? All we do is reinforce the idea that it’s okay to wait until the last minute and then be scared to death. We teach them that this is okay, because then dad will take care of it.

That’s not teaching a son to be a good man. That’s not teaching a daughter to be a good woman. On top of that, they aren’t even learning history!

But what if my son says, ”Dad, I need help.” Then I can ask him, ”What do you need help with?” He’ll say, ”Can you help me with my history paper?” I’ll say, “Okay, son. You know you waited until the last minute right? But I’m going to help you. You’re going to write your history paper. I’ll help you do the research, we’ll talk about it, and I’ll help you put it together. Then you can type it up and polish it before you turn it in. I’ll help you because I want to see you learn and increase in knowledge and wisdom. After that, we’re going to learn not to wait until the last minute.

“You know what else I’ll do? I’ll teach you about history! Come with me. We’re going to go to D.C. You’ve been reading about the Holocaust? I’m going to show you what it looked like. Let’s go to the Holocaust Museum.”

That’s being a dad like Jesus! This is what God does. He says, “You need help? I’m going to help you. I’m not going to do it for you, but I’m going to help you. It will be spectacular! And then you’re going to be better because of it. That’s why you’ve got to ask. Ask me, and I’ll help you!”

The more that people scream out for the power of God, the more He responds. He says, “I hear your cries! I’m coming. I’m not going to fix it for you. I’m going to do something much better. I’m going to help you.”

More on this next time. See you Thursday.