Category: Jim Groth

Thought-provoking Stuff on “Living in Freedom”

I am thoroughly enjoying teaching through Jim Groth’s book “Living in Freedom” with him on Sunday nights. Jim has a way of laying things out there that really engages you and makes you think. He sent me this, and I wanted to pass it along as something to get you processing a bit.

The question is frequently asked of this dangerous world we live in, where people want to kill you simply because of what you believe, or what country you live in: how many of us are willing to give up freedom for the sake of the promise of safety? I have a good friend who has said many times that most Americans would be perfectly satisfied if China took over the United States as long as we could still go to Wal-Mart and watch the TV programs we want to. The same question needs to be asked of our spiritual life: how many times would we gladly trade true spiritual liberty for the “safety” of a legalistic worldview?

I am sitting here studying and thinking and it came to mind that a question came up about the vine and wine.  I got to thinking and it seems to me that this may be quite difficult to understand.  It illustrates to me just how subtle and insidious sin is, and the nature of our vigilance about keeping the “knowledge of good and evil”, not to mention our misunderstanding of grace versus law.  

The question was (something along the lines of, I think) whether or not it is legitimate to grow vines from which the fruit of grapes are harvested and then turned into wine.  I remember your answer about the alcoholic content, etc.  But to me the issue has a different slant.  It seems the question itself asks, “How willing are we to live by the knowledge of good and evil, always looking for some rule to live by, or conversely, some violation?”  It is interesting that Jesus used this illustration since winemaking was the primary reason for a vineyard.

Here is a gray area that Paul addressed many times in his letters.In his time the question was about meat offered to idols or circumcision or something else.  His principle was about the conscience and the freedom we have and the responsibility to exercise it in love.  It seems to me there is no sin in the growing of grapes, the harvesting, the making of wine (regardless of alcoholic content) or the consumption of wine (Paul told Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach’s sake in 1 Timothy 5:23).  Getting drunk is another matter, and even then it seems that the real problem is the compromise that it may bring to behavior, not the just the actual effect (“Do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit” [Ephesians 5:18]).

The principle involved is that we shouldn’t be looking around for the possibility of sin and spending all our time and effort to live by avoiding it or suspecting others.  Doing so misses the whole point.  Don’t get me wrong, some sins are quite obvious and Paul also deals with them in his letters, and he does condemn lifestyles of bad behavior.  Even then we must be very careful defining what bad behavior or sin is.  For instance, it is not in owning an vineyard and making wine or consuming wine, but in the behavior loosened by too much wine.  These kinds of questions are often neverending, and frequently lead to a loss of freedom.

We must be vigilant in not turning into Pharisees, looking under every rock and crevice for the possibility of sin, and then condemning even that which may lead to sin.  We must not repeat the desire of Adam and Eve–having the understanding of God in all the fullness of what is good and what is evil.

And to conclude as an aside, I am not too sure how weak the wine really was in Roman times.  Certainly, at the wedding in Cana, after many hours and even days of drinking and celebrating when all the wine was gone it is probably true there were way too many who had had way too much. The reason the best was served first is because the celebrants would often be too drunk to tell the new stuff wasn’t as good.  Even then, Jesus made more wine. He made it because it was the Father’s time to do so.  As the miraculous “winery” He had no guilt or reluctance to make more wine.  It was not His job to limit the wine so there would be no abuse.  He didn’t argue with His Father about the ethics of doing this. The sin was not in the winemaking, and not in the potentiality of what others would do with what was given them–it only became sin when someone allowed themselves to consume too much wine and lose control of themselves. But lest we think to highly of ourselves, remember: we may never be “drunk with wine”, but we allow plenty of other things to control our words, actions and decisionmaking.

 We need to keep in mind how easy it is to go down the path of the sin of distraction and take our eyes and minds off of God’s grace, and settle for the “easy” path of legalistic “safety”.

How Do I Know My Faith Is Real?

A thought-provoking article from Jim Groth today. What do you think?

I was thinking about last Sunday’s night class when an idea came to mind.  Somewhere during the night a question began dancing around, at least in my mind, about how to determine the reality of a person’s faith that is our own faith.  As I think about it now it seems to be a pretty good question, but it may be misplaced.  How do we know whether or not we have saving faith?  Is it possible that I only have a counterfeit faith?  Maybe I just think I believe, but I really don’t.  Can I tell by the evidence of good works?  Can I tell by how religious I am?  Or what?

I think these questions arise because we place the emphasis on our own ability to generate and sustain faith.  We think of faith as a means to an end instead of a reaction to what is happening.  This is what I have often called faith in faith, rather than faith in what Christ did for us we cannot do for ourselves.  It is Christ who saves, not faith.  Scriptures tell us we are saved by grace through faith.  It is very clear that the reason for our personal salvation is by God’s grace.  Our faith is our reaction to that.  We believe and trust what God says is true.  The Bible then goes on to tells us this salvation is a gift of God, it is not of ourselves.  When God works in our hearts He will, upon those He has called, generate faith and sustain it.  That does not mean we will always be faithful in our behavior– we will not.  That does not mean we will always look to God first–again, we will not.  That does not mean we will never be deceived by the world and give in to its deception– we will.  What it does mean is that we trust God that He means what He says when He has declared us righteous and pure through Christ.

When we look in our lives for evidence of faith, what we are really looking for is faithfulness.  If we are just a bit honest, we will conclude we are sorely lacking.  As we mature as Christians we see more and more how powerful the deception of sin is and how great its appeal is and how faithless we can be.  To ever think I have matured enough, this side of death, to declare myself and my life as proof enough of my faithfulness would eradicate the work of Christ who came to enable me to give up that foolish quest in the first place.

Good works are a result of God’s work in and through us, not of our own doing.  Believers do good things not to be accepted or to prove anything– they just do them.  There is no need to wonder about our faith.  The only question is do you trust God about what he says about Jesus and what He did, or not?  And if you do, are you willing to give Him the credit and let go of proving anything?

Be Praying For Blog Contributor Jim Groth

Jim, who also team teaches “Living in Freedom” with me on Sunday nights, has had a rough time lately with his foot. Keep him in your prayers, if you would. Here’s Jim in his own words:

On January 21 I noticed a slight pain in my right foot about 8:00PM.  By Saturday it had become worse with far more pain and some swelling.  On Sunday morning we went to the ER as I could not stand on the foot.  They diagnosed it as gout, since the uric acid level was a little high.  They gave me a shot of demerol and sent me on my way. 

However, this was just the beginning of how bad this would get.  On Thursday (27th) I went to the doctor and she gave me prescriptions for pain, for treating gout and took her own blood test.  On Monday (31th) I returned to the doctor and she gave me an anti-biotic injection and a prescription.  The results turned out negative for gout and she was very suspicious of a blood clot or an infection. I had an ultrasound done on Tuesday (Feb. 1) and discovered it was not a blood clot.   I returned to the doctor on Wednesday (Feb. 2) and she was quite puzzled because not much progress if any had occurred and conferred with another staff person there and determined it was slightly better.  My next appointment is tomorrow (7th).  I am very uncertain about when all this will end and I can get back to normal.  I suppose this may the most difficult part.  I am thankful that this is not life-threatening, but also very distressed that it hurts so much.  It never lets up.  It is better sitting down foot elevated, but as soon as I stand up, oh my…  Karen has been great anticipating almost every need I have, even while suffering with a fever, then a cold or sinus infection of her own.  Pray for her as well.

This brings me to the personal part of all of this.  I miss the Sunday evening class so much and was looking forward to it (perhaps too much).  I also miss my Sunday morning class with the senior men, which has been a wonderful experience and also the Wednesday night classes about Revelation.  Sunday morning worship also is something I have missed very much.  Needless to say I am very disappointed and sort of “in the dumps”.  I certainly trust God when he says that all things work out for our own good.  I pray that this strengthens me spiritually and that it will soon be over as it is preventing me from doing the things I felt God had called me to do.  The main thing to keep in mind is that God has a plan for each of us and it doesn’t go as we often like or anticipate.  Whatever happens, it is always my belief that it is all for the glory of God and our own good.

Pain and suffering always take a toll on us.  However, for Christians, we know that everything about this life has as its goal our glorification, not just in heaven, but more importantly, in the world to come when we will live with immortal bodies truly without sin and pain.  In this, God Himself is glorified at the completion of his plan for each of us.

Every step we take in pain, any emotional suffering we endure, every heartache we have, any surgery we undergo, any difficulty we have, He is there with us enduring and encouraging if will just look beyond the deception of evil and see His truth.  Life is not about just the present, but the future to come.

Jim

Jim Groth–Think About the Thief

This past Sunday I preached on the thief on the cross next to Jesus who placed his trust in Christ and was told “Today, you willl be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). I have already mentioned him on my blog last week right here–http://marcusbuckley.com/2010/11/17/reader-question-is-baptism-required-for-salvation/–but my friend and blog contributor Jim Groth has this to add:

Some thoughts came to me about the thief who went to heaven.  First, I love this guy.  His example is what makes the grace of God so appealing.  He shows us how simple it is without complicated theological adornments and religiosity.  Just think about him.

He never read the New Testament.

He was not baptized.

He never took the Lord’s Supper.

He had no concern about end-times philosophies.

He never asked for forgiveness.

He was such a bad criminal he was crucified.

He was not a member of any church.

He never walked down an aisle.

He never said the “Sinner’s Prayer.”

He never asked Jesus to come into his life or heart.

He never vocally confessed his sins.

He never memorized any scriptures.

He never did any “religious” things.

What he did have was a change of heart and trust in Jesus.  Repentance and faith.

“Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

It’s that simple.

Great Explanation of What “Salvation” Means To You

As Christians, we are really bad about assuming people have any idea what we are talking about. We use “churchy” words that we are very familiar with, but someone who has never been in church much has no concept or context with which to understand it. “Salvation” and “saved” and perhaps the biggest examples of this. My friend and occaisional contributor on this blog Jim Groth helped out during Judgement House recently, filling in my spot when I had to go fill the role of someone who went home sick. Jim was gracious enough to write down what he shared with people as they came to the end of Judgment House, and it was so well stated, that I thought I would post it up here. Thanks again, Jim:

“At the end of life there are only two paths or alternatives.  It doesn’t make any difference if you like it or not, believe it or not or just think it’s unfair.

The one alternative available is Heaven.  In heaven you will experience eternal joy, peace, love, happiness, security.  It will be unspeakable wonderful.

Or…

You will go to Hell.  There you will experience eternal bitterness, hatred, envy, total hopelessness, with no joy, no happiness, complete insecurity, and extreme torment.

Our problem is that we must decide this issue on this side of death.  There is a reason for that.  The Bible tells us we are made righteous by faith.  Faith can only be exercised on this side of the grave.  I’ll mention more about that in just a few minutes.  Once we die, there is no need for faith, the situation is then obvious.

We all have a real problem.  We are born into this world alienated from God and as his enemies.  Everyone!  You cannot escape it.  It makes no difference that you have sinned very little or a lot or what you may have done or not done.  It makes no difference who you are… a pastor, fireman, teacher, in the choir, teaching Sunday School or whatever.  Our biggest problem with this is there is nothing at all we can do about it.  The evidence is seen in our acts of behavior we call sins.  They are proof of our problem just as spots are the symptoms of measles.  So now we have personal accountability.  This is the situation unless God intervenes.  We are all condemned.

God in his love has intervened.  Jesus was born as a baby.  But his birth was very different than ours.  He was born of the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary.  In contrast we were all born in the natural way.  He was not born alienated from God as we were.  His birth was unique. 

He lived a perfect sinless life.  He described it this way: He said he never did anything that the Father did not tell him to do, and he never did anything without the Father telling him to do it.  His will was always subject to His Father’s will.  They lived in perfect unity of will and mind.  All based upon their love for each other.  This was his perfection.  They were completely united.  This is what God intended for us… to have the same unity and love.  It was his desire that we should have the righteousness of Jesus.  He lived a perfect life in our place so that his perfection can be transferred to us.  God wants no one to be alienated from him.

In his life we see the kind of perfect unity of will, mind and love when Jesus asked his Father, in the Garden of Gethsemane that the burden of the cross be lifted from me.  But he concludes with the words, “Not my will but yours be done.”  He is always in subordination to his Father and without resentment. 

And so we see Jesus go to the cross.  At the moment of his greatest agony, he cries out from the cross, “My Father my Father why have you forsaken me?”  Why has the one who created the universe been forsaken by God?  The answer to “Why?” is because at that moment your sins, my sins and the sins of the whole world were laid on him.  The Father reacts the only way he can.  Sin cannot be in the presence of God.  He steps away from Jesus.  In horror, He turns his back to him.  Jesus, with our sins, is rejected by God.  The Bible tells us Jesus became sin.  He became sin so that we may receive his righteousness.  Here in the greatest moment of history, we are declared not guilty of sins and Jesus, God himself, takes the blame, guilt and shame.  So the deck is cleared.  No longer do our acts of sin, lying, cheating, hating, etc., count against us.  They now count against Jesus.  We all, the entire human race is declared not guilty of any evil acts.  The sin problem is resolved.

But, even though we are no longer guilty of sins we are still alienated from God.  We are still spiritually dead.  When Jesus took our sin, He made what was not possible now possible.  We can have new life.  We can be made as righteous as Jesus.  Jesus wants us to have the perfect life he lived for us as our substitute.  The means for this is faith.  The Bible tells us we are made righteous by grace through faith.  All we need to do is trust what He says is true.  God wants us to count on faith and turn away from our own schemes and mechanisms to appease God to get Him to bless us.  God is not interested in our sucking up to Him.  What He wants is our trust.  That is all He has ever wanted.  We put our hand in His, trusting Him, trusting that what He said is true.  It is when we do that that we are born again as new creations with the righteousness of Christ.  Our identity has completely changed.  We are no longer His enemies–we are His friends.  This is true of you if you simply trust in Jesus.”