Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: God’s Grace Locked Up In You

Monday, June 25, 2007

God’s Grace Locked Up In You

“19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. 21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: 23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained” (John 20:19-23).

In the above text, we find the Church (in embryonic form) locked up behind closed doors trembling in fear and unbelief. Mark 16:14 tells us Christ . . . “appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.”

It was at this appearance Jesus gave these disciples the command, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Christ had just spent three exhausting years pouring Himself into twelve men almost 24 hours a day. One had already betrayed Him for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 27:3). Peter had denied knowing Him on three separate occasions in one evening. Of the twelve, John was the only one recorded to have been at the Crucifixion.

Even after the risen Christ appears to them in John 20:19-23 and commands them to begin doing what He trained them to do, where do they go?

“Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing” (John 21:3).

They went fishing, but not recreationally, vocationally. They went back to their old jobs. But notice, “they caught nothing.” Why? DISOBEDIENCE! They were called of God to be fishers of men. The Lord Jesus had spent three years training them to be fishers of men.

We could stop right here and close this message with the fact these men were not willing to make the sacrifices demanded of ministry for one simple reason, UNBELIEF! That unbelief resulted in FEAR. Fear is always the product of unbelief and will exist directly proportionate to the degree of one’s unbelief. In turn, this will directly impact the professing believer’s willingness to step out of his comfort zone and take the risks demanded in serving the Lord and reaching the lost.

These men understood the Lord’s commission of evangelism to “go.” Going is a command obeyed by faith. Without faith, the command will not be obey. Rather than doing what God commanded because of the fear that resulted from their unbelief, these men got busy with their secular occupations so they would not have to do what Christ commanded. However, Jesus would not leave them alone.

Now, before we go on to see how to overcome the fear that results from unbelief, let’s stop right here for a moment and confess to God and one another that unbelief and fear are inherent in each of us. Amen? Until we recognize that fact, we will never honestly deal with our unbelief and the fear resulting from it. Until we confront this in our lives, the enabling grace of God will continue to be locked up in our lives. Our spirits will remain closed to the will of God and we will exclude God’s commands from the plans of our daily routine of life. We also will purposefully exclude evangelism from those plans.

How can we measure the degree to which God’s grace is locked up in us due to unbelief and fear? We can begin by asking ourselves some questions and honestly answering them. Unbelief is defined as not believing Who God is and not trusting in His promises. A person can believe in God and still not believe Him. Some questions that might reveal the degree of our unbelief are:

How often do you pray and what are the circumstances of life that prompt you to pray when you do pray? Do you pray only in crisis situations? Then expect God to continually bring crisis situations into your life to teach you to pray and trust Him.

How often do you personally share the gospel and seek to bring lost souls to Christ? Do you make plans and provisions to witness during your work day? Did you prepare your heart to be used of God through a time of Bible reading and prayer before entering into the routine of your day? Do you take Bible tracks with you to work? Do you carry your Bible with you to work? The degree these are a regular part of your life measures the degree you are trusting and expecting God to use your life.

How many opened doors of opportunity did you walk by this week? How many times did you excuse yourself from God’s prompting to minister or witness because you were just too busy? How we prioritize our time measures our belief in the reality of Heaven and Hell.

How real is a faith that knows, but does not do? James said, “. . . be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22). There is a lot of self-deception going on about the reality of faith in our lives.

If we are honest with ourselves before God, we will admit and recognize that God’s overwhelming, enabling grace is locked up in us behind the closed doors of unbelief and the resulting fear. The purpose of the ministry of Christ to the seven apostles on the Sea of Galilee (John 21) was to expose their minds to the potential of God’s power unleashed through their lives. In order for that potential to be unleashed, they would need to overcome their unbelief and fear.

Learning to open our spirits to release the enabling grace of the indwelling Spirit of God through our lives is essential to anyone ever being truly used of God. That is what Christ was doing in this particular series of events in John 20 and 21. Take a good look at this scenario. In John 20:19, it was Sunday evening of the resurrection day. The disciples (the eleven) had locked themselves in behind closed doors thinking the Jews that had Jesus crucified would also seek them out and have them killed. These Jews had started the rumor that the disciples of Jesus had stolen His body from the tomb and now were telling people He had risen from the dead (Matthew 28:11-15). The disciples feared being arrested and prosecuted.

As the eleven remaining disciples (Judas had killed himself) stand in the shadows of the lamplight, locked away from the world they were trained to reach with the gospel, suddenly out of no where, Jesus is standing in their midst. There was no flash of light or no cloud of smoke. One moment Jesus was not there and the next moment He was standing right in the middle of their huddle of fear.

His first words to them give us our first key to unlocking the doors of unbelief and fear that shut up the grace of God in us. He said, “Peace be unto you” (John 20:19). What do those words mean? Christ was saying, calm down fellas. I am here just like I promised I would be! I always will be with you. That was part of Christ’s promise to all believers in the Great Commission.

“18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:18-20).

When our relationship with Christ is real, the presence of Christ with us will be understood, accepted and realized.

“5 Let your conversation {manner of life} be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. 6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord {Creator of Heaven and earth} is my {personal} helper, and I will not {resolve} fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

Jesus’ second words (John 20:21) to His disciples give us the second key to unlock the grace of God in our lives. This was the key to their motivation for ministry. He repeats “Peace be unto you and adds, “as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” Although no one will ever do the work of ministry until they go, they will not go until they are motivated to go (a cause for which they are willing to sacrifice and take the necessary risks). When Jesus said, “as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you,” He was reminding them of His sacrifice on the Cross and the purpose of the Father in sending Him into the world. He had taught them that purpose on numerous occasions.

“16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).

“For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:56a).

How can that help us unlock the grace of God within us? A soldier learns to focus on the importance of the mission, not on its dangers. When he spends all his time thinking about the possible consequences, he will never get out of his foxhole.

Understanding the enormous importance of our purpose and the eternal consequences to the lost, we will step out of our comfort zones and set the grace of God of the indwelling Holy Spirit free to accomplish His purposes in the world through us (Romans 6:11-13). We overcome the fear that comes from unbelief by relying on the continual presence of Christ with us (which gives us peace in our hearts). We overcome the fear that comes from unbelief when we concentrate on the nobility of our purpose (cause) in reaching lost people with the gospel.

Thirdly (John 20:22), we overcome the fear that comes from unbelief when we actuate the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit and seek to release the power of God through holy living and personal testimony. Any local church (local, corporate body of believers) that is not Holy Spirit controlled (filled), Holy Spirit changed (sanctified) and Holy Spirit motivated (the fruits of the Spirit released) will continue to be a Church locked up behind the closed doors of unbelief always fearing the consequences of boldly telling others of their need of Christ.

When grace is locked up in the believer due to unbelief and fear, the truth that sets souls free from sin and death is locked up as well. God is not calling the world to come to church. God calls Christians to the Church to train them so He can send them into the world on a search and rescue mission to bring lost people to Christ and than to the Church for training.

What locks have you put on your spirit that keep God’s grace (enabling power) from being released into the world through your life, personal testimony and sharing the gospel? Whatever they are, they reveal to you your degree of unbelief. Unlock the enabling grace of God in your life with the PRESENCE of Christ, the PEACE of Christ, the PURPOSE of Christ and the POWER of Christ.

How did Christ finally motivate the church to go, PERSECUTION (Acts 8:1-4). Perhaps we should pray like the man in Luke 9:24 who had a son possessed with a demon, “And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” The word “unbelief” is the word that identifies our battleground for service. Until we admit it, confront it and begin to obey what Christ has commanded us to do, we will never put go back into the gospel. Until we admit it, confront it and begin to obey what Christ has commanded us to do, God’s overwhelming, supernatural working of His indwelling Spirit will never be enabled and God’s grace will remained locked away within the prison of our own carnality.

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