The Second Coming of Jesus: Avoiding the Bait to Debate

Let me preface by saying I’m not here to give my opinion about the second coming of Jesus or the end times that you have heard so many others talk about. In fact, it is not my purpose to lure or convince you into subscribing to a particular persuasion at all—so relax.

The return of Jesus Christ … I’ve heard theologians and other Christian believers refer to it as “one of the most important and most frequently mentioned doctrines of the New Testament.” I once read a bold opinion from a “prophecy expert” that one out of every twenty-five verses in the New Testament refers either to the rapture of the church or to Christ’s coming to reign over the world. The problem with such a claim is that it’s nearly impossible to verify this because there are so many Scriptural interpretations that one will be forced to assume are referencing a “rapture” or a physical return of Jesus. In other words, once you are convinced or persuaded by the doctrine or the theory, you’ll begin to interpret Bible passages through that particular lens and the numbers become skewed.

Usually the opinions formulated about end times events will be based upon trying to apply a wide variety of “verses” and passages from the entire Bible to fit our predetermined viewpoints. Context can easily get lost, and this is not limited to second coming theology, but it’s often true regarding many mindsets about the Bible.

Here are just a few popular persuasions out of many thousands to consider:

  1. Jesus will return suddenly with little or no warning and believers will disappear or be taken away (raptured), followed by a great tribulation for 7 years.
  2. There will be a tribulation, but believers won’t be raptured until half-way through.
  3. There will be a rapture after the tribulation, but unbelievers will be taken.
  4. Jesus already returned … or prophecies and tribulation have already occurred in the first century church.
  5. There is no rapture, Scriptures have been misinterpreted or it’s more symbolic.
  6. You’re not sure about anything, but eschatology (the study of end times) causes confusion and fear in you—something from which God is not the source.

Therefore, you could be considered a futurist, preterist, partial preterist, historicist, idealist or none of the above. Add more subjects into the mix to include a millennium, judgement, and hell, and throw them into a blender for an even hotter debate. We could quarrel for centuries over something that is as clear as a London fog, woo hoo! Oh wait, we already have.

For those consumed with discussing (or arguing) their opinions on how the end of the world will play out, I’m exhorting you to stop wasting your time. I know that sounds a little rough, and I’m aware that this subject is practically an addiction for some who will be offended by what I just suggested. Therefore, I’m not intending to be critical of what people passionately believe, so please, hear me out all the way until the end.

As a child growing up in the 1970’s, I became consumed with the “second coming” topic. There was a movement at that time where bookstores were filled with a smorgasbord of end times material to feed upon with a wide variety of very different conclusions. I formed some pretty solid opinions that I carried with me for many years and I wasn’t afraid to dump them on anyone who would listen. And this was a Bible subject where almost anyone would listen, regardless of where they stood with faith. Understandably, people are intrigued and fascinated with the prospect that the world could suddenly end. Post something on social media about the finished work of forgiveness that came through the blood of Jesus, and it won’t get nearly the response about a post that a fresh news headline might be another sign of the end times. Over the years I’ve heard it said, “Your newspaper and your Bible are saying exactly the same thing.” Wow. Sounds intriguing, right?

More than twenty years after becoming a believer in Christ, as I began to discover and grow in the message of God’s abundant grace and His gift of righteousness, my opinions on the subject of the end times began to melt away. I’m not saying they changed—they just sort of disappeared. Why? I’ve often wondered the same thing, but I can say with confidence it had to do with the Spirit of God, as He overwhelmed me with revelation and a fresh understanding about the first coming of Jesus Christ. It consumes me daily with peace and joy. The gospel of grace completely engulfed my previous view on many things as I began to see and grasp the Word of God through a completely different perspective. This is why I don’t engage on this particular topic of the end times any longer. Frankly, some of the beliefs and theories just doesn’t always mesh or reconcile with the grace and truth that are realized in Jesus Christ … And that should raise enough concern to reconsider at least some predetermined theology.

The real problem: Many believers in Christ have fallen into a trap by focusing more on the second coming of Jesus than they have on the first coming. To a certain degree, it has parallels to legalistic roots which are always seeking something new and better from God, rather than resting in something God has already done. We’ve been programmed this way by those who pass onto others what was handed down to them, usually coming from hollow religious sources. Regardless of the Bible subject, we often continue to seek what has already been given. This is why I’ve placed the topic on the shelf in order to focus more upon proclaiming the gospel, while being immersed in the growth of knowing Jesus Christ and the power of His resurrection (see 1 Corinthians 2:2 & Philippians 3:8-11). I understand we ultimately look forward to being free from a world of suffering, but this will certainly occur for each believer in Christ, notwithstanding the end of the world as we may think we know it.

Of course, we are free to express our opinions and beliefs. But do we really want to spend our time debating on something nobody is likely to fully know or understand in this life? Even within the very same study Bible, we can find any number of very different possibilities or unique scenarios being offered by contributors about the end times. The list of topics within the topic for us to agree or disagree are nearly endless, and I believe it usually profits little or nothing.

When Jesus said He was coming “soon” in the book of Revelation, what did that mean exactly? And more than twenty centuries later, when someone uses the phrase “Jesus is coming soon,” what are they specifically suggesting, and how does it compare to what Jesus said in Revelation? More than 2,000 years after the cross, are we really convinced this is the time of a second coming? Has all of history really been building-up for this event to occur in our earthly lifetime? If the apostles believed a return of Christ was imminent (“soon”), is it not possible it could be another 2,000 years before the event would occur … or much longer? Is it possible something already happened during their generation? Are some (supposed) end times Bible passages really referring to something else? Is the book of Revelation a revealing about what will happen or what has happened? I’m not seeking answers to these questions, I simply state them to show the division and uncertainty.

Let’s be honest. We really don’t know with any precision or certainty, do we? In a passage many will assume refers to a rapture, Paul called it a mystery (see 1 Corinthian 15:51-52). He didn’t say it was a mystery revealed as he did on other occasions when he looked back on the “first coming.” He said it’s a mystery. Many of the (once) respected and popular prophecy books I read earlier in life have already been proven wrong. No problem, oh look, here comes another book or blog that has been revised with new evaluations on the subject. We may think we see signs going on around us that point to the end of the world as we know it. It might be so, or maybe not. That’s why I’m encouraging grace-filled believers to go and share the good news about what Jesus accomplished for the human race the first time He came. Focus on that.

I’m amazed and saddened at how believers and church folks will lose fellowship with one another over the result of their disagreements on this subject. We begin to develop an assumption that our passionate points of view represent absolute truth. Here’s a revelation to ponder: Our opinions about the end of the world or a second coming won’t change how things will actually turn out. But there is something we can know and the Bible is very clear about it: God’s love was demonstrated for us by Christ dying in our place and He revealed the gift of righteousness, apart from works. The New Covenant has been established. He has fulfilled all of the Law, the Prophets and Psalms that were written about Him (see Luke 24:44). It’s a finished work. Christ in you Gentiles … This is a mystery that has been revealed (see Colossians 1:27 & Ephesians 1:9). Believe it, receive it, and let’s continue with having that conversation.

For more about avoiding the trap of religious bondage which leads to fear, and to gain a better understanding of what Jesus accomplished through the cross, get the book: Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee Find It Here On Amazon

“Those ‘Hyper-Grace’ People Just Want Their Ears Tickled”

You’ve struggled for much of your life with trying to follow and apply many inconsistent, if not impossible church doctrines and burdensome Bible teaching. Lord knows you tried your heart out. All of those struggles with the ups and downs while attempting to maintain your spiritual performance, not to mention the arm wrestling matches that had you going back and forth between guilt and grace—it was just too exhausting.

Then you discovered the true meaning of unconditional love, the message of unlimited grace, and a forgiveness from God that has already been dispensed through the blood of Jesus Christ. It was the good news message of faith and peace that seemed absent from all of those sermons which you had been exposed to over the years. Finally, eternal assurance, relief and rest had been found through simply believing that Jesus did it all on your behalf through a finished work at the cross … it was something to believe in that was much bigger than yourself or your good and bad behavior.

And then … THUD! It happened. Concerned church people felt the obligation to spy out this newfound liberty you have been so excited to talk about. They begin the attempt to slowly let the air out of your tires by cautioning that this unbalanced message of “hyper-grace” is a dangerous doctrine, if it’s applied without the checks and balances of law and commandments. They’ll begin to spout all kinds of “verses” out of context in the attempt to remove the gospel seed that God had planted so passionately, and so carefully within your heart. One of those passages frequently used in their endeavor to throw you overboard into the sea of double-mindedness is from 2 Timothy 4:3-4 (NASB):

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” (bold added by author).

In traditional Christian legalistic circles, those who feel appointed as members of the jury will try to convict those “unbalanced” grace-bibbers by suggesting that the Apostle Paul was warning Timothy about those taking grace to an overly abundant extreme, which they believe will cause sin to increase. (Pssst … here’s a little-known secret … it’s the law and commandments that caused sin to increase—not grace).

Of course, when it comes to warning people about a risky doctrine of a grace overflow, Paul didn’t say anything of the kind to Timothy, but Scripture does reveal to us exactly who and what he was referencing … and it’s the precise opposite of what the jury has led people to believe. They have missed some key evidence.

Paul was coming to the end of his second letter to Tim—his child in the faith. He was wrapping-up the correspondence by reminding him of something he stated at the very beginning of his first letter. This is where Paul revealed the real culprits who would swerve from sound doctrines to teaching strange doctrines.  Let’s take a look in 1 Timothy 1:3-7 (NASB):

“As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.” (bold added by author).

Notice how the passages from both letters used the word “myths.” It’s the same Greek word in both epistles (Strong’s G3454). It is defined as a fable, a tale, a fictitious fabrication.  And who is Paul pointing the finger at when he admonishes Timothy to instruct these teachers to knock it off? It’s those who would attempt to become teachers of the law of works. That approach simply won’t sync inside of a new and better covenant, where the law was put to an end because it was weak and useless in regards to redemption, righteousness, and sanctification (see Hebrews 7:18-19). In the first chapter of 1 Timothy, Paul continued by saying the law which came through Moses was good if used properly. That is … even though the law was given to Israel, it’s meant to show humankind that everyone has fallen short of the requirement, and this was designed to point people to the truth that Jesus is the only way to God. But notice Paul’s clarification that the law isn’t meant for believers in Christ who have been gifted with God’s righteousness, established in love from a pure heart and a sincere faith.

Conclusion: It wasn’t the gift of abounding grace Paul was warning about when it came to people wanting their ears tickled with strange doctrines from teachers in order to suit their own desires. It was the law of works, also known as the flesh (see Galatians 3:1-5). It’s rooted in the barren tree of fruitless discussion, and it comes from those who are generally clueless about what they are saying as they try to teach a mixed message of law and grace. Stay away from that confusing concoction, because you are not under law, you are under grace and it can’t be both (see Romans 6:14). Grace removes our efforts from the equation and puts Jesus on center stage where He belongs. It takes away the boasting from those trying to establish their own right-standing with God as they needlessly work to make themselves more acceptable, more forgiven, more sanctified, etc. In other words, their ears itch for someone to tell them what they need to “do” to in order to become what God has already made them to “be.”

I’ve known or heard of numerous pastors who had formerly preached a mixed message of old and new covenant confusion, and had very successful attendance records at their church. Then they joyfully discovered the true revelation of New Covenant grace (or “hyper-grace” as it’s often called by religious legalists), and these pastors transitioned to teaching the truth of the gospel of grace and faith-based righteousness. God bless these ministers who are very much in the minority. Now get this … In just about every instance, their church attendance gradually began to shrink as they were accused of a love and grace message that was “out of balance” with the flock’s perceived understanding of Bible teaching, and their misunderstanding of the gospel. Many of these sheep will flock to the church down the road where that pastor will be more than happy to quench their hunger and thirst for strange doctrines, myths and fables, and a modernized version of the Mosaic law. Don’t be surprised, Paul told Timothy this would happen.

“Cross” Reference Bonus Coverage:

“For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work” (Titus 1:10-16 ESV). (bold added by author).

For more on avoiding the trap of religious bondage inside of a new and better covenant, and also gaining a better understanding of the teachings of Jesus, get the book: Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee.

Now available in paperback or eBook for Kindle.  Find It Here On Amazon

Beware of Hyper-Grace Accusers (The Enemy Within)

It seems nearly impossible to grasp how it could have come to this. Ominous warnings are being issued—not by the NWS (National Weather Service) or the NHC (National Hurricane Center), but by the NRS (National Religious Service). The warnings going out to church-goers and Christian believers are coming from what are usually presumed as trusted and reliable sources for those seeking accurate information … such as pastors, theologians, authors, magazines, and of course, those “best friends” who are always there to make sure you don’t go wandering from the church tenants that they hold so near and dear as the glue to keep them on a straight and narrow lifestyle.

What is it that has the corporate church so alarmed that they feel the need to caution its members to take shelter and protect themselves against? Prepare yourself for the preposterous: They are actually warning people about GRACE!  You know I’m not making this up because you’re probably someone who has been on the receiving end of such meaningless conversation. It’s like a horror movie entitled, “The Manifestation of the Kooky Monster!” Of course, the NRS will try some so-called political posturing by attempting to differentiate what they consider to be acceptable “regular” grace and contrast it with something they will define as dangerous “hyper-grace.”

These wolves will tolerate grace to a certain extent but will go on to warn of taking grace too far; a “cheap grace” they believe will issue “a license to sin.” There is no such thing in God’s Word about grace giving people a license to sin. It’s a myth and a fabrication that leads to fear and uncertainty … the very opposite of what the gospel of grace is meant to bring to people, which includes the gifts of righteousness, peace, assurance and life. This fear of “too much grace” is birthed from a mixed message of grace and law, rooted inside of doctrines which erroneously blend the obsolete Old Covenant with the everlasting New Covenant of Jesus Christ. People are free to make their own right or wrong choices, but to put the blame of sinful choices on grace is the equivalent to placing the blame on Jesus.

We need to begin to see grace for what it really is … or WHO it really is—the Person of Jesus Christ. He is the manifestation of grace. He is the very essence of grace. God gave us this grace that is found in Christ Jesus before time began, and it has nothing to do with good or bad works (see 2 Timothy 1:9). Consider this question: Can you have too much of Jesus? Of course not. But when the NRS warns of dipping into too much grace, that is exactly what they are saying.

They’ll imply with lip service that grace is a good thing, but they’ll advise to avoid putting on too many layers because it might lead to more sinning. This is the precise opposite of what the Bible teaches because it was through the law and commandments which caused sin to increase—not grace. God designed it that way to reveal sin, condemnation and death, and ultimately point people to the savior Jesus (grace). The book of John reveals a contrast between the law of works and the grace of God: “And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:16-17). Grace contains layers that never end … grace upon grace. It is the foundation of all truth.

Stop thinking about grace as merely something that “covers your sin” temporarily until you sin again. Get away from the mindset that grace is only there to “let you off the hook” when you do something wrong. Stop mixing law and grace! Why? Because you are not under law and the law is not of faith! Paul told Titus to avoid the empty talkers … that is, primarily those (Jews) whose teachings were not sound in faith, and with their “Jewish myths and commands” would turn people from the truth. They would profess to know God but denied Him by their works (see Titus 1:10-16). Paul went on to say this: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12).

When Jesus appeared, grace appeared. He (Grace) inspires and empowers us to live in a God-like manner. Grace never leads anyone into sin. Never. Scripture declares Jesus was filled with grace, yet He never sinned. So grace isn’t just about helping people who have sinned, it’s God’s purpose for us, and a part of the new life we have in Christ. It legitimizes us to experience a supernatural life of the Spirit of God in abundance. Shame on the hypocritical, legalistic hyper-grace accusers who have allowed themselves to be so deceived—but it’s not too late to start getting this right by repenting—which means to have a change of mind.

“Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20). The word abounded here in the Greek is where we get our English word for hyper and means “to abound and overflow exceedingly.” Literally, to super-abound or go beyond what is needed. “Are you saying people can go sin as much as they want?” Ugh … a typical question with roots connected to those trapped within a mindset of hollow religion. Paul was asked the same question by people who had been stuck under the Mosaic law. His answer was, “may it never be!” Once believers begin to understand they are not identified as “just sinners saved by grace,” and that they are no longer slaves to sin, but are dead to sin, the new heart within will cause them to see sin for the terrible thing that it is. The Spirit who abides within will change what we “want” when we are led by Him. In Christ, you are not identified as a sinner, you are a new creation declared to be holy, sanctified, and are the righteousness of God in Him.

Staying entrenched inside of doctrines from the NRS with a pattern of trying to keep the law and commandments along with other modern-day religious rules only results in the increase of sin. But grace abounded more! Repeat after me: Grace abounded more. Say it as often as you feel is needed until you get it. Thankfully for us, grace is hyper!

For more on avoiding the trap of religious bondage inside of a new and better covenant, and also gaining a better understanding of the teachings of Jesus, get the book: Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee.

Now available in paperback or eBook for Kindle.  Find It Here On Amazon

Religious Talking Points: “Jesus Told Us to Keep the Commandments.”

On more than one occasion, when Jesus was asked what they must do to inherit eternal life, His answer was to obey the law and commandments. The rich young ruler, and the lawyer who was trying to trap him, are two examples. The result was that they both walked away bewildered, perplexed, and hopeless. Jesus answered the questions in the same way they were asked … “Hey fellas, if ‘doing’ is your choice for obtaining eternal life, here is the requirement: follow the law, keep all the commandments … and let Me know how that works out for you.”

“Do what the law says and you’ll have life.” Jesus said this in Luke 10:28. We’re talking red letters in many Bibles. Therefore, it must have also been meant for us today as well, right? At least, that’s the mindset within the vast majority of Christian church organizations, and those who abide within them. Jesus said this to someone who was trying to trap Him into saying something against the Mosaic law. The passage also reveals the man was seeking to justify himself when he asked what he needed “to do” to inherit eternal life.

Compare that quote from Jesus in the book of Luke (before the cross), with this from the Apostle Paul (after the cross): “Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says?” (Galatians 4:21). New Covenant writings by the apostles reveal there has never been a doer of the law. It was a hopeless endeavor to try to keep it, but it was the only hope Israel had, even though it couldn’t provide what they were seeking. And the rest of the world was without God entirely, with no hope at all—and then came the cross and resurrection.

Questions we should ask: Was Jesus speaking specifically to those who were still under the law at that time, or were His words also meant to be directed at us today? Does acquiring eternal life require keeping the commandments of the law, or is it a gift received through believing, by grace through faith?

Answers: It can’t be a combination of both works and grace, because they are polar opposites. We find in New Covenant writings from the apostles that salvation came to the world through Christ as a gift, received by faith, apart from the law (see Romans 3:20-24). Why does his seem to contradict some of the things Jesus said? Because during His time on earth as a man, the objective of the ministry of Jesus was directed at those who were under the law—the people of Israel. He was communicating the true purpose of the law to those Jewish people who were under the first covenant. It was given not to justify, but to pronounce guilt and to condemn. His purpose was to show them that keeping the commandments and statutes from the law couldn’t be done to the standard of perfection that the law demanded. That ministry of “death and condemnation” came to an end after the cross, and God ushered in a New Covenant that would be available to Israel, along with the rest of the world (Gentiles). Jesus fulfilled all of those “Old Testament” Scriptures which contained the message of the hidden Christ, now revealed from the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms.

Bottom line:

Most Christians have the mindset that if we’re making changes with proper lifestyle choices, and “trying our best” to follow the commandments, God will honor and accept our effort. This approach is the complete opposite of the gospel. Lifestyle changes may be a wise and positive thing for us to do for our own good in this world (and for those around us), but it has nothing to do with salvation or sanctification. We’ll be better off allowing the Spirit of Grace to guide and live through us daily, rather than trying to swim in a sea of inconsistency through a written code.

By the way, which commands will you decide to obey? Are you planning on browsing the Bible buffet where you can pick and choose what seems appropriate to follow? Some religious rules will look good to eat, others not so much … and notice how folks will select different portions based upon their own preferences. The all-you-can-eat church buffet is something the military defines as the mess.

Few have understood Paul’s teaching that if you want to apply one commandment from the law, you would be obligated to keep the whole law, a practice known as “falling from grace.” Did you realize all 613 commands and statutes came together in one package, and that if you have broken one (1) rule, you are considered guilty of breaking every single commandment within the law? Are you aware that your good intentions and “trying your best” is unacceptable? Anything less than perfection falls short under that ministry of bondage. That’s why the Jews had to keep spilling blood through a never-ending trail of animal sacrifices that couldn’t remove sins. That was the curse of the law—no wiggle room, no runs, no drips, no errors allowed, and no permanent grace.

Jesus brought complete deliverance and freedom from the curse of that package. And similar to how one man (Adam) brought sin to the entire world through his one unrighteous act, it was one man (Jesus) who brought eternal forgiveness and the removal of sin through His one righteous and completed work at the cross. It is finished!  Believe it.

The old law was a perfect, holy, and a humbling reflection of God’s perfect standard, but trying to live by the commandments doesn’t work. God never meant for it to work. It doesn’t bring life or righteousness. That law is contrary to us, and will only cause sin to increase. God knew this when the covenant was established with Israel. He meant for it to be a tutor to bring people to the end of themselves and their feeble attempts which resulted in dead works, and He did it in order to point them to a Savior—Jesus Christ. The old ministry of the letter has ended and no longer has glory (see 2 Corinthians 3:7-11). We now live in the eternal replacement ministry of God’s Spirit, empowered by grace.

For more on the teachings of Jesus from a New Covenant perspective, and avoiding the trap of religious bondage, get the book: Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee Find It Here On Amazon

Condemnation Written in Stone (& Wiped Away Forever)

Condemnation and judgement.  It may be the greatest spiritual disease experienced by Christian believers today, and sadly, it’s a virus that spreads needlessly because Jesus has provided the world with the antidote.  Oh sure, you’ll hear various Bible verses getting tossed around in church circles, such as this one:

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 NASB).

While many church attendees may have been told there is no condemnation in Christ from this reference, it is likely that within the same breath they are taught to try to live by the very same ministry that brings condemnation, with little or no concept of what was fully accomplished at the cross.  What is it that previously delivered people into condemnation?  Don’t miss this: The roots of condemnation come from the law and commandments that came through Moses, which were part of the Old Covenant given to Israel.  You may not have heard this from the pulpit before, but it is a vital truth we need to begin to understand.  Those commandments and the condemnation that comes with them go together like peas and carrots.  If you try to live by that law of sin and death, condemnation will be sure to follow you around every corner like a hungry dog, until you put your foot down and chase it away.

To gain some Biblical context, check-out what Paul said for the previous seven chapters in Romans, or at the very least, carefully read chapter seven and see what prompted him to reach a conclusion in the 8th chapter of Romans, when he starts out with the word “therefore” from the above verse.  The word therefore signals he is concluding thoughts previously stated.  Before Romans 8, Paul had already revealed to his readers that the old law did not reduce sin, but increased it!  Paul’s personal testimony to the church was that the command not to covet actually resulted in coveting of every kind (that’ll go over big with the legalistic pastor).  He explained how attempting to abide by those commands bore fruit for death, not fruit for God.  Believers in Christ should have no relationship whatsoever to that old law because it could not bring life or righteousness.  God had ended the marriage relationship between the people and Professor Law, and they became free to marry someone else—Jesus Christ.  Paul continues to explain why there is no longer condemnation for us who are in Christ:

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:2-4).

Many believe it is sin that causes condemnation.  But it is the law that was given to reveal sin, and through the law comes the knowledge of sin (see Romans 3:20 and Galatians 3:19).  The tree of the knowledge of good and evil that Adam ate from represented the law, as man wrongly attempted to establish himself through his own actions in order to become righteous and more like God.  It resulted in the same thing as those trying to live by the written code found in the law of commandments—bearing fruit for death, instead of fruit for God (see Romans 7:4-6).  In Christ, all have been freed from the law, and sin has been taken away … sin is not a good thing, but it is not the source of condemnation.

In the third chapter of 2 Corinthians, Paul specifically referred to the entire law, including the (10) commandments written on stone, as the ministry of death and condemnation.  Wow.  When was the last time you heard that in church?

I can hear the legalistic covenant clashers arguing that “no condemnation” has a condition attached: not walking after the flesh.  They assume the flesh is always referring to sinful actions or evil deeds, but this is not always the case, and it’s not how “flesh” is defined in the Greek.  Paul told the Galatians they were foolish for falling prey to religious vultures who bewitched them into going back to certain aspects of the old law and commandments.  Don’t miss this:

“This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of [the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:2-3).

Paul would go on to explain how the law brought a curse, and those stone commandments gave birth to bondage.  Do you see the connection between trying to abide in a relationship with the law and commandments from the previous covenant, and how it results in condemnation?  Trying to abide in the law of works and other religious rules in order to become clean, justified, or sanctified is called walking after the flesh, which profits nothing.  “And those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you” (Romans 8:9).

The good news for us in Christ is that the law and all of the commandments were put aside and came to an end.  Those Jews who were under that law, were fully redeemed from its curse that had required nothing less than perfection!  Woo hoo!  New Covenant writings from the apostles are filled with these truths.  Question: Why in the world would we believers want to place ourselves back under a ministry that was proven to be weak and useless, and has been nullified and canceled? (see Hebrews 7:18-19).

And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14 NKJV).

We are under a new law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.  The old ministry of death and condemnation no longer has glory at all, because of the surpassing glory of the ministry of the Spirit found in a new and better covenant (see 2 Corinthians 3:7-11).  Although God never condemns you, your attempts to establish righteousness and sanctification through works, commands, or religious rules will result in you bringing condemnation upon yourself, thereby allowing the enemy to confuse and convince you it is from God.  Chasing after commandments from an obsolete covenant will keep you in a prison that Jesus already freed you from.  Get out of there!  The door of escape has been permanently opened by Jesus Christ, and you are free indeed.  Now walk accordingly.

For more on the teachings of Jesus from a New Covenant perspective, and avoiding the trap of religious bondage, get the book: Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee Find It Here On Amazon

Should We Try to Keep the Ten Commandments?

Traditional Christian church tenants that are constantly mixing law and grace have led to a mixed message that lacks consistency when it comes to sound doctrine.  Unfortunately, this has become the rule and not the exception among the religious wolves.  Their members become unsuspecting prey, not realizing they are being held as hostages, all in the name of what they falsely assume to be absolute truth.

The confusion between law and grace stems from mixing portions of the (obsolete) Old Covenant law of works, and pouring it into the same blender with the grace found in the current New Covenant of Jesus Christ.  This causes a clash or conflict, due to attempting to combine two separate and very different covenants together.

There are numerous questions that we can ask a particular member of the flock in order to confirm whether or not they are a legalistic victim.  Here’s one from the top of the list: “Do you think we should attempt to live by and keep the Ten Commandments?”  Hostages and victims of the Christian religion will shout and scream accusations of heresy, blasphemy, and apostasy for anyone who might answer “no” to that question.  Why?  Because sadly, they haven’t been made aware of why the law was given to Israel, and why God replaced all of the law and commandments from a temporary covenant, with a better and permanent arrangement (or covenant) which has been established upon better promises.  While ignorantly pointing judgmental fingers with accusations of hyper-grace, their desire to be teachers of “some” of the law exposes them as ministers who do not understand what they are talking about (see Timothy 1:6-7).  The law was not made for the righteous in Christ Jesus.

Covenant clashing ministers will sound the alarm that we grace renegades are suggesting to go ahead and commit whatever sins you want.  This is not at all what we’re saying, but they can’t help to make this misguided assumption because of the legalistic mindset by which they filter everything through.  Just because we don’t attempt to keep the stone commandments doesn’t mean we’re breaking them or seeking to do so.

Don’t miss this: Here’s a key piece of information that probably got skimmed over during all of those Sunday sermons over the years: You can’t eliminate certain portions of the law while holding onto other parts.  All 613 commands and statues came together as a package that can never be broken up.  Nobody is permitted to add anything to the law or take away from it (See Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32; Joshua 1:7).  This includes the Ten Commandments, sacrificial laws, dietary laws, etc.  When you see a reference to the law in any part of the Scripture, it’s not referring to ceremonial practices only, but the moral statutes as well.

Ask a “Christian law advocate” if they are keeping all of the top 10.  Nobody (none) can honestly give an affirmative answer.  The typical response is something like, “I’m trying.”  According to the law itself (not to mention Jesus), that’s not good enough, no matter how sincere your effort may be.  Therefore, the law that came through Moses within the first covenant—all of it—had to come to an end in order for the New Covenant to take effect.  We can’t pick and choose what should be thrown out, while trying to keep other commands intact.  It all had to be thrown out and put aside in order for something new and better to take effect.  A complete change of law occurred when Jesus became the High Priest, which occurred “after the law” (see Hebrews 7).

Having said that, keep in mind the law was never given to us who are Gentiles, but it was given only to Israel—those born of the Jewish race.  We Gentiles weren’t invited into the previous covenant, and that old law is not part of the New Covenant of Jesus Christ.  He would be the replacement!

Let’s look at some references frequently ignored or overlooked by covenant clashers.  Below are just a few samples of why we should no longer be trying to abide by a handwriting of requirements contained in any of the law that came through Moses.  Instead, we abide in the Spirit of Grace, who empowers us from within to live Godly lives (see Titus 2:11-12).  But Christ has already fulfilled the law on our behalf.  Refer to this list whenever temptation seeks to entice you back into a lifeless written code of human morality that is constantly changing and always falling short.

  • The law demands perfection, but makes nothing perfect (Matthew 5:48; Hebrews 7:19).
  • The law was a yoke of bondage the Jews were unable to bear, and the church in Jerusalem agreed with the apostles not to thrust it upon the Gentiles (Acts 15:10).
  • We are justified and made righteous by faith, apart from the law (Romans 3:21, 28).
  • The law came not to reduce sin, but to increase sin (Romans 5:20).
  • We are not under law, but under grace (Romans 6:14).
  • We are dead to the law and freed from the law (Romans 7:4, 6).
  • Sinful passions are aroused by the law and will bear fruit for death (Romans 7:5).
  • The commandment resulted in more sinning, not less. But apart from the law sin is dead (Romans 7: 7-10).
  • Christ has set us free from the law of sin and death to serve in the newness of the Spirit (Romans 7:6, 8:2).
  • Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to all who believe (Romans 10:4).
  • The power of sin is the law (1 Corinthians 15:56).
  • The law, including the (10) commandments written on stone, is described as the ministry of death and condemnation … and no longer has glory (2 Corinthians 3:7-11).
  • Pursuing the law of works is walking in the flesh (Galatians 3:3).
  • The law is not of faith (Galatians 3:12).
  • Christ came to redeem from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:10-13).
  • No law is able to provide us with life or righteousness (Galatians 3:21-22).
  • The law was a tutor to point people to a Savior, but now that faith has come, we are no longer under the tutor (Galatians 3:24-25).
  • The (10) Commandments given on Mt. Sinai gave birth to bondage or slavery (Galatians 3:24).
  • Abiding by any of the law leads to falling from grace (Galatians 5:3-4).
  • If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law (Galatians 5:18).
  • The law does not produce the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
  • Christ broke down the dividing wall—the law of commandments (Ephesians 2:14-16).
  • The law was nailed to the cross (Colossians 3:13-14).
  • The law is not made for the righteous in Christ (1 Timothy 1:5-9).
  • If the old law is still in place, Jesus is not a legitimate High Priest (Hebrews 7:12-14).
  • The former commandment (law) was set aside (abolished) because it was weak and useless (Hebrews 7:18-19).
  • Because it’s a package deal, whoever keeps the whole law but stumbles at one point is guilty of breaking all of it (Galatians 5:3; James 2:10).

Final thought:

“I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly” (Galatians 2:21).

For more on the teachings of Jesus from a New Covenant perspective, and avoiding the trap of religious bondage, get the book: Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee Find It Here On Amazon

The Deception of “The New Testament” Page

Bible Publishers have inserted a page into the most commonly read versions, and it has been a substantial contributor towards leading people into misunderstanding the gospel.  That page is found between the books of Malachi and Matthew, and it typically appears with these words: “The New Testament.”

Although found in-between the pages, it should not be considered a part of Scripture, and there is nothing to indicate this page is given by divine inspiration.  Why is this such a big deal and what has it done to bring doctrines of utter confusion about the good news of Jesus Christ?  People have jumped to the wrong conclusion that the New Covenant began with the birth of Jesus Christ, and this leads to a domino effect of misinterpreting much of what Jesus said, and to whom his words were meant for in any given situation.

The three English words of testament, covenant, and will are all translated in Scripture from the same Greek word, and are basically interchangeable with various combinations used inside of English Bible translations.  The book of Hebrews sums it up within these three verses:

“Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive” (Hebrews 9:15-17 ESV).

If you’ve ever been the beneficiary in someone’s will (covenant, testament), you know it didn’t go into effect until the death of the testator.  That’s also how it was with the will and testament (or covenant) of Jesus Christ, it began with His death, not His birth.  By His own words, Jesus came to minister to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  That was His purpose …to help them repent— that is, to have a change of mind by leaving behind the impossible works of the law which came through Moses, and turning to the alternative (Jesus).  “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4). Unlike the first covenant, (non-Jewish) Gentiles would also be invited into this New Covenant.

My eyesight is terrible. I’ve worn glasses since I was in third grade.  I joke around now about how I can use my prescription to view the rings around Saturn.  One year I went to renew my driver’s license and looked into one of those viewers you put your face up against for the vision check.  I squinted to try to focus on the letters, “U C Z I P,” I said in a determined but unconfident tone.  The lady behind the counter replied, “Those are numbers on the screen.”  What a dirty trick!  My optometrist always used letters.  Armed with this new perspective, I refocused and oh yes, now that I knew what to look for, I could see those same characters the way they were meant to be seen.

And so it is with reading the Bible, including those four books known as the gospels, from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  If you’re attempting to view Old Covenant teaching with New Covenant lenses, or vice versa, you’ll end up with a blurred view and an inconsistent message that often leaves people needlessly hungering and thirsting for grace, truth, righteousness and peace.  Sadly, it often leads to believers thinking the following applies to them:

Sell everything you have and give it away.  Forgive or you won’t be forgiven.  Move mountains.  Never turn anyone away who wants to borrow, and don’t expect it to be paid back.  Cut off your hands, pluck out your eyes.  Pray the Lord’s Prayer.  Seek the kingdom and His righteousness.  “Depart from me, I never knew you.”  Carry your own cross.  Count the cost and pay the price.  Be a disciple of Jesus—hate your family.  You are salt that lost its flavor and needs to be thrown out.  You must confess all your sins to remain forgiven.  Only doers of the Mosaic law will be justified.  Righteousness and sanctification will (hopefully) occur gradually as you attempt to improve your behavior.

Those things are not meant to be directed at you to be applied to your life personally.  We’re in the everlasting New Covenant; meaning that we’re in the Person of Jesus Christ, gifted with His life.  His death and resurrection launched an eternal exposure to His unconditional love and forever forgiveness, where He took judgement upon Himself to set the captives free.  He finished the job.  You are free indeed.

For more on the teachings of Jesus from a New Covenant perspective, and avoiding the trap of religious bondage, get the book: Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee Find It Here On Amazon

Pastor Claws is Coming to Town

Merry Christmas, but beware!  Tis always the season for legalistic wolves seeking their prey.

You better watch out
You better not slide
Prepare to doubt
I’m telling you why
Pastor Claws are bringing you down

They’ve got a rules list
While checking it twice;
You’ll find out keeping it means no dice
Pastor Claws are bringing you down

They see the money you’re keeping
The tithe must be taken!
Spouting Old Covenant rules and law
But it’s okay to eat bacon?

O’ you better watch out…
You better not slide
Prepare to doubt
I’m telling you why

Pastor Claws are gripping
Pastor Claws are ripping
Pastor Claws are bringing you down

For more about avoiding those pesky, legalistic Pastor Claws during the holidays and the rest of the year, get the book “Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee.”  Find It Here On Amazon

Two Extremes: The Guilty & The Self-Righteous

I spent nearly twenty years in Christian radio broadcasting, which allowed me a somewhat unique view of the Christian church as a whole.  Within all of those many denominations representing thousands upon thousands of different doctrines, I was blessed to meet people with a wide array of backgrounds, and from all walks of life.  Regardless of their theology, I was fascinated with the passion many of these people had for Jesus Christ, and the love they showed to others.  Sometimes we may think certain church denominations are light years away from the true gospel message, but I came to realize there were still many within those religious labels who had a sincere desire to experience God in their daily lives.

Having said that, there is a common theme found within “Christianity Incorporated,” and it’s a sad state of affairs.  We often find two extremes within the church and unfortunately, it is the fabric of the culture. These two extremes are:

  1. Guilt and condemnation.
  2. Self-righteousness.

These two components are on the opposite end of the spiritual spectrum.  Churches are filled with people who seem to wallow around in the thick, muddy pond of guilt for their failures and shortcomings, unaware of God’s permanent forgiveness through the blood of Christ which was shed once, for all.  Much of it is based upon what they have been taught—a mishmash of legalistic tenets which dilutes the finished work of Christ by trying to place redemptive responsibility or progressive sanctification back onto the church member.  At the very least, they’ll receive warnings and threats that the status of their relationship with God is negatively being affected if they aren’t staying on the course of the vaguely defined “straight and narrow.”

In the condemnation camp, the pupil hasn’t been taught or clearly understood they have a new identity with the gift of God’s righteousness and holiness indwelling them; instead they’ve only heard they are a lousy sinner who should work harder at keeping the commandments written in stone, along with whatever additions and amendments have been included within their church statement.  Examples include: pray more; sacrifice more; do more; commit more; give your all—especially your money.  These victims will work at trying to follow a written code, which was identified by the Apostle Paul as the ministry of death and condemnation, rather than abiding in the ministry of the Spirit who dwells within.  What’s even more disheartening is that the people who are trapped inside of this bondage of guilt are often the ones doing the most!  But they soon discover it’s still never going to be enough.  It leaves them feeling unworthy and wondering where they stand with God.  They begin asking questions: Am I still saved?  Does God really love me?  Have I fallen from grace?

At the same time, there are those who have persuaded themselves they are living in a way that has kept them in God’s good favor through lifestyle changes, reducing their sin count, and (in their minds) improving their behavior to a higher level of morality.  Having these things occur in one’s life is not a bad thing at all, but it is a problem when we begin to believe it is what allows us to experience or maintain God’s acceptance and blessings.  Behavioral changes do not set you apart, only the blood of Jesus had the power to fully and completely sanctify, and that is a finished work.  It will be beneficial to know the difference between being sanctified and being sanctimonious.  Quite often, it is the self-righteous bunch that will warn about the dangers of excessive grace, and that teaching and proclaiming too much of it will give people a “license to sin.”  This hollow grace warning from well-meaning believers is not from God’s Spirit, but from a source of deep darkness.  Understand this: If grace has even the slightest chance of causing sin to increase, we should throw it out altogether and remove it completely.  Of course, this means we would have to fully eliminate Jesus from the picture as well, because grace was realized through Him.

Regardless of how good we think we’re living the Christian life, our position and relationship with God is always based upon His unconditional love and what Jesus did on our behalf.  You see, God’s standard is (and will always be) perfection.  We can all agree to admit we continue falling short of that, regardless of what has changed with our behavior improvements.  However, perfection has been found in us, not as the result of changes we’ve made in our lives, but because we’re in Christ, who is our life and our perfection.  We have nothing to boast about … nothing … except to boast in the Lord and what He has done to bring us forgiveness, righteousness, holiness, sanctification, peace and so much more.  These things belong to us “because as He is, so also are we in this world” (see 1 John 4:17).

Avoid jumping aboard the guilt train by understanding there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus.  Why?  Because He removed the ministry of condemnation found in the law that came through Moses, and He accomplished for us what that old law was unable to do … give us life (see Romans 8).

On the flip side, stay away from the attitude the Pharisees had by thinking they performed in a way that elevated them to a higher spiritual stature.  It’s about the gift of God’s righteousness in you.  “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14).  In Christ, we’ve been freed from law and delivered into grace.  There is no balance between these two extremes.

For more on the teachings of Jesus from a New Covenant perspective, and avoiding the trap of religious bondage, get the book: Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee Find It Here On Amazon

Have You Carried Your Cross Lately?

If you’ve ever attended “Church Incorporated” for any length of time, at some point you were probably taught how you need to “count the cost” and “carry your cross.”  These words came from Jesus when He was speaking to certain Jewish followers and would-be disciples.  Most people have been taught to assume Jesus was also speaking to future generations of believers, including us today.

As we begin to shift our mindset to an entirely different paradigm, we begin to realize on many occasions that Jesus wasn’t providing instruction for us on how to achieve a higher spiritual stature, but He was attempting to show the Jewish people who were still under the Mosaic law how they would never be able to meet the required standard of perfection that the law demanded in that first covenant.  Jesus put it this way:

“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.  For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’” (Luke 14:27-30).

In the Greek language, a disciple is simply a pupil or student, nothing more.  It meant becoming exactly like the teacher (see Luke 6:40).  But unlike what we’ve been taught through religious doctrines, this would not be accomplished through a person’s effort of good works and dedication.  Jesus isn’t encouraging these Jewish people under the law to pay the price and carry a cross, He was revealing they wouldn’t be able to afford the cost that only He could pay.  He is stating they may be able to start the project, but they would need to count the cost and realize they would never be able to say the words, “it is finished.”  The cost was too much for us to pay!  Ultimately, He was attempting to show those under the law that they would need to look to Him instead of themselves.

“So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions” (Luke 14:33).  That’s a biggie.  If you want to identify yourself as a true follower and disciple of Jesus in order to become more like Him through what you do, have you sold everything and given it away?  Probably not.  Why?  Either because you are being selective about the teachings of Jesus, or … and I hope we can go with this: You know in your heart of hearts He wasn’t speaking directly to you, but to those He was with prior to His suffering on the cross.  If this is not the case, we’re in trouble … but that wouldn’t be the gospel … which is always good news.

Did these people have any clue as to what Jesus was talking about by carrying their own cross?  Of course not.  They couldn’t even wrap their minds around Jesus rising from the dead, even though he stated it quite plainly.  In fact, right before Jesus said they would need to carry their own cross, He told them he would need to suffer, die and would rise again on the third day (see Luke chapter 9).  He said whoever wishes to save their life would lose it.  Nobody should try to save themselves and there is no need for us to do what Jesus did by suffering with our own cross.  Whereas Jesus carried the cross once and for all, you and I would’ve been required to do it daily, much like the repeated animal sacrifices which could not take away sin.

Everyone is undeserving of the title of disciple when it comes to being like Jesus and following His lead—which is defined by doing everything perfectly and actually carrying a cross that brings redemption.  The work He completed at His cross was more than enough.  Ask one-hundred pastors what it means to count the cost and carry your cross, and you’ll receive just as many different answers.  Here is a radical thought … suppose Jesus was not using mysterious hyperbole, but meant exactly what He said.  The vantage point we have by being positioned in a New Covenant allows us to see that Jesus wasn’t really encouraging or expecting us to carry a cross that only He could successfully endure.  We might be better off counting the cross (one), and grasping that Jesus carried the cost (all of it).

Here is the clincher on why we know Jesus was not speaking directly to us: There is nothing in new covenant writings from the apostles about us carrying our own cross in order to be a disciple of Jesus.  There is “the” cross that only Jesus would be able to bear, and He did for us what the law of commandments could not do, nor what we could not do for ourselves.  In fact, the word disciple never appears again after the book of Acts.  If being a direct disciple of Jesus was an integral part of our identity as a believer, surely one of the apostles would’ve mentioned it at least once or twice.  Do we carry a cross?  No.  Count the cost?  Yes, by realizing Jesus paid it all and there is nothing we can do to add to it.  “The now and the not yet” is theological mumbo jumbo—we can’t improve upon what is already finished.

For more on the teachings of Jesus from a New Covenant perspective, and avoiding the trap of religious bondage, get the book: Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee Find It Here On Amazon