Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Triumphant Church, Part 2

As I’ve said before, a lot of people want to be a testimony without going through the test! There is no shortcut with God; He’s going to take you through the process so that your life becomes the sweet-smelling fragrance of Christ. Frankly, Christians who haven’t gone through anything are the ones who lack the fragrance. You’ll see it in the fruit. Those who have been tried, tested, and put through the fiery challenges of life tend to keep their eyes on Christ. If you keep your eyes on Christ, in the end, not even a hair on your head will be singed. You won’t even have the smell of smoke on you so long as you’re walking with the Fourth Man.

If we don’t run the race, how can we hope to attain the prize? If we don’t endure the test, how can we hope to be the trophy of which Apostle Paul speaks? Paul had received and understood the revelation of Christ from God. If you turn to the first several verses of 2 Corinthians chapter 12, Paul speaks of receiving revelation from God. Because of that revelation, Paul was strengthened, able to endure, and subsequently triumphed! In fact, he consulted with the Lord about three times regarding the situation he was in and the challenges he was facing. Every time the Lord responded to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you.”

A lot of people say that Paul had sickness in his body and that’s what he was inquiring about. There’s absolutely no indication that he was speaking of sickness. In fact, the Scripture could not be clearer about the opposition to which Paul was referring. He was very specific and stated that it was a messenger sent from Satan to buffet his body. A demonic power was trying to hinder him in the work of God, trying to get him off track, trying to distract him, and trying to get his eyes off of Christ and onto his own problems and situations. It had nothing to do with sickness or disease. It was a demonic spirit! So the Apostle consulted the Lord and said, “Lord, what’s up with this?” Well, that would be modern-day lingo. The Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for you for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Now a major point needs to be made today regarding “grace.” Many people believe that grace simply means, “the undeserved, unmerited favor of God.” In researching this word “grace” as the Apostle Paul used it, we discover that the definition goes beyond unmerited favor. It means, “divine influence upon the heart, the reflection seen in the life.” That’s what grace is.

Over and over in the New Testament, we see this as the definition in reference to God’s grace. It’s not simply, “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense,” and it’s not only unmerited favor! It goes deeper than that. It is God’s divine influence on my heart and the reflection of that being seen in my life! So Paul has consulted the Lord, and He said, “My grace is sufficient for you.” What He’s saying is, “My divine influence upon your heart and the reflection of it being seen in your life is sufficient, for in your weakness, I’ll make you strong. I am strong in man’s weakness.” How? By grace, not just by unmerited favor! “I am made strong in you through My divine influence upon your heart!” We need to allow God to influence our hearts! This is how we receive grace.

 A lot of people say, “Well, grace is just this ‘free’ thing; it’s ‘intrinsic.’” No, it’s not just intrinsic! The more we open our heart to God’s grace, the more we experience it! What are we experiencing and receiving? Divine influence upon our hearts! This is how the grace of God changes a man’s heart. This is how the grace of God changed my heart! My heart was so hard; I was a Christ-rejecter, my friends! I literally used to tell Christians where to go in no uncertain terms. I told them where to go, how to get there, and to leave me alone! I had become so hard-hearted and closed until one day, in a moment, divine influence hit me and changed my stony heart into a heart of flesh and love. The divine influence of God changes a man’s heart.

Yes, it’s undeserved. Yes, it’s unmerited, but oh, how deeply it can penetrate even the deepest and darkest of hearts! I think that one of the greatest compliments a Christian can receive is, “Man, you’re not the same person. What’s happened to you?” I know in my case there were family and friends who said, “Oh, Emory got religion.” And I’d tell them, “I got a whole lot more than religion; I got Jesus. I have a relationship with God! I grew up in religion, and it didn’t bring life.

So keep in mind the accurate definition of grace. Let it be indelibly inscribed in your hearts and in your mind. It is divine influence in your heart and the reflection seen in your life. 

~ pg