GRACIOUSNESS

God’s Glorious Attributes

GRACIOUSNESS

By Rayola Kelley

Part 11

Being on Facebook has reminded me of the somewhat small world I live in. In spite of the earth being small in light of the universe, I know there is a big world out there and Facebook reminds me just how big and entangled the world can be. This is not new for me because for the last three decades I have been serving the Lord and have dealt with many people through the years from various backgrounds. When Jeannette and I started out, we dealt with New Age coming into the church, along with the Positive Confession movement, the Laughing Revival, and Unity through Signs and Wonders to name a few. We watched the seeker friendly church take center stage, while some chased after demonically inspired phenomena that heightens the flesh.

      We have witnessed old hymns being cast aside to be replaced with mantras that lull people into an almost trans-like state along with aggressive songs that inspire fleshly hype that brags of bringing the god of this world and his kingdom down in defeat, which will only happen when Christ comes back to set up His kingdom. We have been accused of preaching another Gospel because we believe the Word of Jesus and strive to be obedient to it, which some consider to be a point of earning our salvation rather than obedience becoming an expression of it. I could go on and on but I think you get the point.

      The commission to preach the Gospel and make disciples of Jesus Christ is so simple, but Jeannette and I have found ourselves swimming against a strong tide of twisted, perverted nonsense that often bogs us down in utter muck. The problem is that Satan, as the god of this world, hides the true light of the Gospel, which is the person of the Lord Jesus Christ from those who do not love the truth (2 Corinthians 4:1-6). People become so blinded by half-truths that they become unreasonable towards the whole truth. Often times these people take an acceptable truth into the extreme making it an untruth that highlights what I call a “cult mentality.” Keep in mind, Satan has no new lies, just repackaged lies to fit into the terminology and culture of our day. These repackaged lies are like mutations of old lies. Each mutation manifests itself in its followers in more aggressive ways. When challenged, you feel as if you’re talking to a person who plays the same recording over and over, or a thoroughly programmed robot.

      The Bible talks about the falling away in the last days and yet this warning seems to be ignored for the most part (2 Thessalonian 2:3). I don’t know about you, but I am very aware of the fact that I can be deceived, because I have been deceived. I can be conned, have the wool pulled over my eyes, seduced into another reality, and even conditioned to be indoctrinated into complete heresy.

      Sadly, being on Facebook has shown me that there is nothing new happening under the sun when it comes to man’s reality versus God’s truth. There are those who are swept away by every new fad or movement taking place in Christianity into the vast ocean of seduction (Ephesians 4:14). There are others who have allowed themselves to be indoctrinated into a certain school of religious thought, making them unreasonable and nasty when challenged. You actually encounter a demonic front with these people that is arrogant, condescending, and mean-spirited. Clearly, these people’s indoctrination has caused them to hide behind a religious cloak that gives them a form of godliness; but they lack the power of the Holy Spirit to live it, making it dead-letter; thus, as a result of their hypocrisy of preaching it, but not living it, we are instructed by the Apostle Paul, “from such turn away” (2 Timothy 3:5).

      There are those who have a certain theology. They dash here and there, picking and choosing what suits their theology and critically inserting themselves into arenas they disagree with so they can become an expert and set those whom they deem to be ignorant on the right track, only to be rejected by many and sent off to lick their wounds to only rise again another day to once again insert themselves into the religious masses to save “stupid” people from Scriptural beliefs that have been around and proven and upheld for 2,000 years. The Apostle Paul described such people in this manner in 2 Timothy 3:7, “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of truth.” The knowledge here is not based on what a person knows because often such knowledge will puff a person up and blind him or her to the destructive precipice that he or she is balancing on, but it has to do with coming to the knowledge of the true Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 8:1-2).

      Not only do you encounter people with different attitudes towards their religious ideas, but you deal with people who want to direct, adjust, repackage, and edit truth so it can become more acceptable to their way of thinking. They want to take the harshness out of it by diluting God’s holiness and soft-pedal man’s sin. They want to emphasize certain attributes of God such as His love to give people a false hope so they don’t feel so bad about their spiritual ineptness as they wallow in their spiritual misery. In essence, these people serve as the politically correct police of Scriptural truth, and every time they take offense for how truth will affect others, they attack you for simply stating the truth. You realize that for these people it has nothing to do with truth that can set the captive free but instead is a means to justify their own fragile reality or shallow faith that clings to their wishful thinking, but not to the reality of God (John 8:31-36).

      It is easy to erect a god to our own liking. This god will agree with us whether the Bible does or not. This image will allow us to remain in stagnant comfort zones that continue to remain untouched or immune from the sharpness of God’s truth. This idol allows us to pick and choose what our theology or doctrine will consist of and even accept fleshly worship that leaves us feeling good about our religious experience without any reality of God.

      The problem when trying to confront these individuals is that in many cases, they do not believe the full counsel of God’s Word. You can use Scriptures to challenge and bring balance, but some of these individuals will have none of it because they have Scriptures to confirm what they are saying and what does not fit. Some are so caught up with their sentimental concepts of God, that no matter what you say, they will either see you as agreeing with them (even though you don’t) or they will unmerciful judge you as legalistic and unloving.

      As I encounter these different responses, I wrestle with how to respond. Keep in mind, I would rather simply preach the Gospel, but when you run into the various opposing responses of those who call themselves Christians, you begin to realize Jude’s possible frustration in Jude 3 when he stated, “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”

      To contend for something means to wrestle for it. Jude mentioned the wrestling match in Jude 21-25, “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling and to present your faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion, and power, both now and ever.  Amen.”

      I believe the first response to any opposition must be with truth that is presented in a spirit of love and meekness. James 5:19-20 states, “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” However, when confronted with the truth, you find most people will become offended by it and will focus their offense towards you. The reason why is because truth will challenge people’s present reality and often offend their pride, occasionally leaving them embarrassed, feeling totally undone, as well as very small, stupid, and foolish.

      I have been confronted with the truth and it immediately insulted me, but I have chosen to love the truth and once I step over my fleshly response and see that it is truth, I will humble myself before it to receive it in the right spirit. Keep in mind people are always saying they love God and will do whatever He wants them to do. They fail to realize that ultimately, they will be tested as to whether they love the truth because truth will challenge their attitude towards it, reveal the character of their faith, and show whether their claims are fading sentiment or real devotion.  

      The next thing I do is see how the person responds to the truth. If they keep on insisting on their reality, I will do what the Bible instructs, “Let the ignorant remain ignorant” about such spiritual matters, knowing that the Lord no longer winks at such ignorance for we are told in Acts 17:30-31, “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained: whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” (See 1 Corinthians 14:38.) God has given us His Word and instructed us to handle it by rightly dividing it. We need to be workman that show we know how to let the Word have its way in our lives to produce a desired result that will bring glory to God, for we all will be held accountable to how we handle His Word (2 Timothy 2:15). 

      There are others who are outright heretics. They can be wolves looking for a personal following or a heretic that will lead people into the ditch of destruction with false teaching. With the wolf, we take the sword to such an individual, usually causing the wolf to flee seeking those who are vulnerable, but we are told that after a second admonition to a heretic, we are to depart from the person. The Apostle Paul gives the reason in Titus 3:11, Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.”

      Finally, there are those who I find a place of agreement with and leave it there. These people usually walk away thinking they have won the argument, but you quickly must learn when to fight because putting fuel on the fire of those who sincerely and fearfully think they are right about all matters will prove to be unprofitable in the end. It is up to God to deal with such individuals. The problem with them is not that they are necessarily wrong; it is that they are adjusting the Word to their opinions or conclusions.

      When I consider how God deals with those who oppose His truth, I realize He is ready to be gracious towards them because many of them are at crossroads or struggling with the shades of gray that are being promoted. As we can surmise, the word “grace” is a noun. In other words, it is the name or identification of something. The word “gracious” is an adjective. An adjective cannot stand alone because it serves as a description or manifestation of the noun.

      It is for this reason that Strong’s Concordance defines “graciousness” as a matter or act where divine influence is exerted that will reflect favor, benefits, and gifts that should be received in gratitude because it is not earned. It implies one stooping to show grace, mercy, kindness, and pity, and all matters related to it are moral and will speak of the goodness of the One who is the source of all goodness, the Lord.

      Consider what is associated with God’s graciousness that provides Him with the avenue to show His kindness. Exodus 34:6, “And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, the LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.” In this Scripture we see where mercy is the avenue in which God can show His graciousness. In order to do it, He must be longsuffering because it is His heart for people to know His goodness and truth.

      In Nehemiah 9:17, we are told, “…but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not.” We see in this verse that pardon or forgiveness is the avenue in which God wants to be gracious towards His people by showing them mercy and kindness. Nehemiah goes on to remind the rebellious people of Judah in Nehemiah 9:31, that it is for the sake of mercy, He has not consumed them in His wrath or forsaken them because He is gracious and merciful. How many of us realize that it is because God is gracious that He never leaves or forsakes us? He is ever ready to show His graciousness towards us in the form of His faithfulness to keep and preserve us.

        Psalm 86:15 states, “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.” Out of God’s great compassion flows His graciousness as He remains longsuffering towards those in rebellion, ever ready to show mercy and truth that will set the captive free to love, worship, and serve Him.

      Psalm 145:8-10 tells us, “The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works. All thy works shall praise thee, O LORD; and thy saints shall bless thee.” The source of graciousness is the Lord Himself. Graciousness is one of His many attributes and it serves as a beautiful description of His grace. In this verse we see where His graciousness manifests itself in compassion and is slow to anger, ready to show His mercy. In fact, His mercy is over all of His works which will bring honor and glory to Him.

      Isaiah 30:18 confirms that His graciousness is to bring Him honor, “And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.”

      It is clear that the Lord wants to be gracious and show His grace to us, but the harsh reality is that people who are dull of hearing, rebellious, and complacent towards righteousness will not be in the position or spirit to properly discern and receive His graciousness. After all, such individuals are walking away from Him and doing their own thing.

      The Bible is clear that only those who truly repent will be recipients of His graciousness. We read this in 2 Chronicles 30:9, “For if ye turn again unto the LORD, your brethren and your children shall find compassion before them that lead them captive, so that they shall come again into the land: for the LORD your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if ye return unto Him.”

      Joel 2:12-13 states, “Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.” God cannot turn from judgment and show graciousness until we turn from our rebellion and truly repent before Him to receive His graciousness in humility.

      The Apostle Peter made this statement, “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Peter 2:1-3). Think about it, the Lord wants us to experience, or taste, His graciousness but before we can, we must lay aside those things that would defile us. We can only taste His graciousness through the sincere milk, the doctrine of His Word, that should cause us to grow as we learn to partake of His divine nature. While growing, we will develop discernment so we can know what is the acceptable, good and perfect will of God and carry it out as our reasonable service and not because we see our works as part of a merit system where we are earning His grace. (Romans 12:1-2; 2 Peter 1:3-4). Grace is a matter of a gift that is not earned, but like every gift, it must be taken out of the package and properly used or it becomes a matter of neglecting, or setting the gift aside because of not valuing it (Hebrews 2:3). 

      I want everyone to taste God’s graciousness by way of His salvation. I want people to taste the products of His graciousness by knowing mercy, being touched by His kindness, experiencing His compassion, walking in assurance of His faithfulness, and receiving His love in a grateful, humble way.

      I will leave each of you with the benediction the priest said over the people of Israel in Numbers 6:24-26 that has served as a beautiful picture of the Godhead to me, “The LORD bless thee, and keep thee (The Father): The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee (the Son): The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace (The Holy Spirit—Comforter).”