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Tag Archives: God’s grace

The Discipline of Believers

As a former teacher at a Christian school, every human being needs discipline. Upon my first day in a classroom, I made the assumption that these kids were all raised in Christian home. When I observed unruly behavior day after day, I was forced to alter my classroom management style. As a rookie in the area of discipline, I struggled to maintain control and order in my first semester. This painful experience led me to understand the need for disciplining believers.

For if we go on deliberately and willingly sinning after once acquiring the knowledge of the Truth, there is no longer any sacrifice left to atone for [our] sins [no further offering to which to look forward]. 27 [There is nothing left for us then] but a kind of awful and fearful prospect and expectation of divine judgment and the fury of burning wrath and indignation which will consume those who put themselves in opposition [to God], Hebrews 10:26-27.

The author of Hebrews addresses individuals who constantly cheapened God’s grace. There was an ungodly belief that spread throughout the first century that the more you sinned, the more God would pour out his grace upon you. This topic is first brought up in Hebrews 6:4-6, warning careless believers of the dangerous path they are going down. Four chapters later, the passage above serves as a grave warning for anyone heading toward the gates of hell. Perhaps this in the Bible’s version of scaring sinners straight back to the narrow path, Matthew 7:13-14.

And have you [completely] forgotten the divine word of appeal and encouragement in which you are reasoned with and addressed as sons? My son, do not think lightly or scorn to submit to the correction and discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage and give up and faint when you are reproved or corrected by Him; For the Lord corrects and disciplines everyone whom He loves, and He punishes, even scourges, every son whom He accepts and welcomes to His heart and cherishes. You must submit to and endure [correction] for discipline; God is dealing with you as with sons. For what son is there whom his father does not [thus] train and correct and discipline? – Hebrews 12:5-7

Following the chapter known as the Hall of Faith, Hebrews 11, the author returns to the reason why discipline is necessary. As you go through life, compared to a marathon, certain aspects will where you down over time. Subsequently, when you find yourself falling away from God, correction and discipline is a form of love. As I once taught to my junior high students, biblical boundaries are designed to keep you close to God while keeping dangers and evil out. While no one like to be disciplined in public, this is a necessary for believers to get back on the narrow road which leads to heaven.

by Jay Mankus

The Canceling of Our Shortcomings

One of the core messages of the gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ, is the spiritual reality of God’s grace. Acronyms of grace often describe this as God’s riches at Christ’s expense. God’s activity toward human beings rains down forgiveness, repentance, regeneration, and salvation from heaven. This unmerited favor from God serves as a spiritual do over to those who enter into a personal relationship with Jesus, Romans 10:9-11.

[So that we might be] to the praise and the commendation of His glorious grace (favor and mercy), which He so freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption (deliverance and salvation) through His blood, the remission (forgiveness) of our offenses (shortcomings and trespasses), in accordance with the riches and the generosity of His gracious favor, Ephesians 1:6-7.

In the beginning of his letter to the Church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul unravels God’s grace. Grace is lavished upon the children of God in the form of love. Instead of condemning transgressions, the blood Jesus shed as the perfect lamb of God has redeemed guilty sinners. Romans 5:8 clearly describes the spiritual significance of Jesus’ act of love; “But God shows and clearly proves His love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Which He lavished upon us in every kind of wisdom and understanding (practical insight and prudence), Ephesians 1:8.

King David prophesized about this spiritual reality in Psalm 103:12. As far as the east is from the west refers to God’s infinite love. In other words, God’s love is equivalent to infinity. When you add everything together, the canceling of our shortcomings is made complete. Luke 2:10 describes Jesus’ birth as good tidings of great joy. Perhaps Luke was exhibiting forward thinking, knowing that the promised Messiah of the Old Testament would soon cancel our shortcomings.

by Jay Mankus

The Transition From Elementary Teachings to Faith

From a public education point of view, Elementary is the second of four stages that students must complete prior to graduation. Learning usually begins at some sort of Pre-School, followed by Elementary, Junior High and High School. According to a recent study, the United States ranks 26th in the world for overall education. While stats don’t tell the whole story, the state of Massachusetts was ranked first in education in 2019 while New Mexico was ranked last. As Charter Schools become more competitive and popular, parents will make whatever sacrifices necessary so that their children receive the best education possible.

So we [Jewish Christians] also, when we were minors, were kept like slaves under [the rules of the Hebrew ritual and subject to] the elementary teachings of a system of external observations and regulations, Galatians 4:3.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul is referring to the spiritual side of elementary teaching. As a former high school Bible teacher, I developed curriculum based upon Bloom’s Taxonomy. This building block approach seeks to go well beyond elementary teaching so that students put into practice what they are learning. Instead of just remembering and understanding concepts for unit tests, this education theory forces students to go deeper by applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating. Perhaps Jesus had a similar idea at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount by urging listeners, “to put my words into practice,” Matthew 7:24.

But when the proper time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born subject to [the regulations of] the Law, To purchase the freedom of (to ransom, to redeem, to atone for) those who were subject to the Law, that we might be adopted and have sonship conferred upon us [and be recognized as God’s sons], Galatians 4:4-5.

The context of today’s selective passage is geared toward Jewish Christians who are struggling with observing the law while grasping their new found faith. When a religious zealot group known as the Judaizers began to overemphasize the law and de-emphasize faith, the apostle Paul felt the need to intervene. The author of Hebrews addresses a more pressing concern, Hebrews 6:4-6, as apathy within first century Christians began to cheapen God’s grace. If you want to graduate from the elementary teachings of studying the Bible, you need to transition from spiritual knowledge toward biblical application. As individuals begin to produce spiritual fruit, the transition from elementary teachings to faith is near completion. However, unlike an earthly graduation, Christian’s are encouraged to keep learning by striving to fulfill God’s will for your life.

by Jay Mankus

Times of Refreshment

While refreshments are often a light snack or drink purchased at a convenience store, times of refreshment are good for the mind. These brief moments in time tend to invigorate souls, serving as a form of revitalization. Whether this is accomplished by taking a day off of work or during an extended vacation, restoring mental and physical strength is good for your body.

So we are Christ’s ambassadors, God making His appeal as it were through us. We [as Christ’s personal representatives] beg you for His sake to lay hold of the divine favor [now offered you] and be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake He made Christ [virtually] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in and through Him we might become [endued with, viewed as being in, and examples of] the righteousness of God [what we ought to be, approved and acceptable and in right relationship with Him, by His goodness], 2 Corinthians 5:20-21.

The spiritual term for times of refreshment is revival. When lost souls stumble upon truths in the Bible, some promises seem too good to be true. Take the passage above as Paul provides an illustration in regards to sin. Because Jesus became the perfect lamb, living, dying and rising from the dead, when God sees you, your sin is replaced by the righteousness of Christ. This is the great news of the gospel, John 3:16-17, a time to celebrate.

I am writing to you, little children, because for His name’s sake your sins are forgiven [pardoned through His name and on account of confessing His name], 1 John 2:12.

One of Jesus’ disciples writes about this spiritual refreshment. Just as the president of the United States has the authority to pardon people convicted of past crimes, becoming a Christian gives you a spiritual pardon via God’s grace. However, like a traveler on a busy interstate, you have to get off on the Repentance Exit, Romans 5:8. Forgiveness is the process of making a u-turn away from sin, back toward God. May this blog serve as a time of refreshment and praise as you contemplate the fact that Jesus has pardoned all of your sins.

by Jay Mankus

How to Overcome a Common Flaw

The origin of the phrase ‘Ignorance is bliss’ can be traced back to an English poet. Thomas Gray’s Ode was composed in 1742, reminiscing about his schooldays at Eton College. While knowledge is power, students who graduate from college often develop a superiority complex. When adults who think they know everything re-enter society as so called experts, there is a danger that these individuals will forget the common flaw that all human beings share.

Since all have sinned and are falling short of the honor and glory which God bestows and receives, Romans 3:23.

The apostle Paul addresses this flaw in a letter to the church at Rome. Back in Romans 3:10, Paul quotes the Old Testament. This passage clearly states that there is no one righteous, not even one in a trillion. This flaw prevents the driven, disciplined and focused from honoring and glorifying God daily. This sinful nature is within our DNA. Subsequently, as embryos are conceived, no one can escape this imperfection.

[All] are justified and made upright and in right standing with God, freely and gratuitously by His grace (His unmerited favor and mercy), through the redemption which is [provided] in Christ Jesus, 25 Whom God put forward [before the eyes of all] as a mercy seat and propitiation by His blood [the cleansing and life-giving sacrifice of atonement and reconciliation, to be received] through faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over and ignored former sins without punishment, Romans 3:24-25.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul explains how faith can help overcome this flaw. While God’s grace is unmerited, redemption is possible by placing your faith in Jesus Christ. This acknowledgement is based upon the fact that Jesus was the perfect lamb, free from sin, who was crucified on a cross, died, buried and rose from the dead. Just as God passed over the homes of Jews during the first Passover in Egypt who marked their doors with blood, God will forgive sinners who trust in Jesus. Romans 10:9-11 provides a prayer to help anyone overcome their sinful nature.

by Jay Mankus

Pray Like You Mean It

Sike was a common expression used while I was in high school. “Sike” is a slang used to exclaim that are messing with someone. On numerous occasions either a friend or myself would get serious for a moment. A couple of my friends were even able to fake a tear only to cancel what was just said by saying, “sike.” Following a slight hesitation of silence, laughter often followed. Looking back, I wonder if this is how God feels when you pray fervently for a miracle, only to fall back into old sinful habits.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me, Psalm 51:1-3.

According to an Old Testament prophet, a shepherd boy named David possessed a special quality, 1 Samuel 16:7. This trait was hidden until David began to pray. Samuel eludes to this gift as a heart after God. To have a heart after the heart of God implies if one admits their sin by repenting, their heart will be cleaned and purified like the heart of God. The words of the passage above were inspired when David’s affair with Bathsheba was exposed by Nathan. Overwhelmed by guilt, David is not messing around.

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace, Hebrews 6:4-6.

Unfortunately, many first century Christians treated prayer like a “Get Out of Jail Free Card” from Monopoly. Instead of turning away from sin, those on the verge of giving into temptation used pray as a source of forgiveness. This mindset was perverted, rationalizing that the more you sinned, the more God’s grace was poured out upon you. The author of Hebrews corrects this ungodly belief in the passage above. Continuing in a downward free fall without repenting of sin is like ending a prayer with sike instead of Amen. In view of this, start praying like you mean it.

by Jay Mankus

Forfeiting Your Benefits

Forfeit refers to losing or being deprived of a certain right or privilege. As a former athlete and coach, I was given a victory or two due to another team not being able to field enough players for an official game. Yet, as an intramural coach in college, I was forced to forfeit a few games when a number of my teammates failed to show up on time. The Bible contains a couple of examples where Christians come close to forfeiting the benefits of heaven.

For it is impossible [to restore and bring again to repentance] those who have been once for all enlightened, who have consciously tasted the heavenly gift and have become sharers of the Holy Spirit, And have felt how good the Word of God is and the mighty powers of the age and world to come, If they then deviate from the faith and turn away from their allegiance—[it is impossible] to bring them back to repentance, for (because, while, as long as) they nail upon the cross the Son of God afresh [as far as they are concerned] and are holding [Him] up to contempt and shame and public disgrace, Hebrews 6:4-6.

The passage above highlights an individual who has become lukewarm. When spiritual passion fades, subtle compromises tend to follow. Since a name is not provided, I’m assuming that more than one first century Christian began to back slide. The author suggests that this fall was partially due to a convoluted view of God’s grace. Instead of showing on contrite heart followed by acts of transformation, many began to abuse and cheapen God’s grace. This passage serves as the first warning to those living on both sides of the spiritual fence.

For if we go on deliberately and willingly sinning after once acquiring the knowledge of the Truth, there is no longer any sacrifice left to atone for [our] sins [no further offering to which to look forward]. 27 [There is nothing left for us then] but a kind of awful and fearful prospect and expectation of divine judgment and the fury of burning wrath and indignation which will consume those who put themselves in opposition [to God], Hebrews 10:26-27.

The passage above uses imagery from hell to scare wayward believers back on track. The author suggests that some Christians will just squeak into heaven, barely escaping the flames of hell. While many theologians hold the belief, once saved always saved, these two passages in Hebrews reveal different levels of faith. If one of Jesus’ own disciples, Judas Iscariot, ended up in hell, then don’t get too comfortable on earth. Perhaps, this explains Paul’s words to one of his favorite churches, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” Philippians 2:12. When you develop a similar mindset, you won’t have to worry about forfeiting the benefits of heaven.

by Jay Mankus

Celebration and Suffering

News of an expecting birth is worthy of a celebration in the form of baby shower.  After labor ushers into this world a new human being, joy consumes families of this infant.  In the years that follow, there are a series of memorable moments, first steps, first words and first day of school.  As new parents work together to raise children, celebrating is often replaced by suffering.  From childhood to adolescence, life only gets more complicated, especially for first time parents.  At some point, celebration fades away as suffering intensifies.  I don’t mean to be Ebenezer Scrooge, but this is a reality of life.

Now it happened that the poor man died and his spirit was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom (paradise); and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades (the realm of the dead), being in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom (paradise), Luke 16:22-23.

After sharing the parable of the unjust manager, Jesus transitions into another parable.  Entitled the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus highlights a reason to celebrate and another to fear.  Using a story about a rich and poor man, Jesus uses a hypothetical scenario to detail what heaven and hell is like.  When Lazarus dies, God rewards this poor man with what Jesus calls paradise.  Meanwhile, a self-centered rich man who cared only about himself was sent to hell.  According to Jesus, hell is a place of eternal suffering, able to see those celebrating above, but unable to do anything to help their agony and pain.  This fact should convict and inspire the living to avoid a similar eternal destiny.

And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in severe agony in this flame,’ Luke 16:24.

In the previous chapter, Luke, a well known first century doctor recalls three parables that illustrate God’s grace, love and mercy.  Whether a possession is lost like a coin or pet, heaven celebrates each time a sinner repents.  Angels are programmed to embrace hearts that confess the error of their way.  Meanwhile, even if you are a prodigal son or daughter who has left your family, God will never abandon you.  These stories have been written to urge souls to surrender your life to follow Jesus.  Although this road is narrow as detailed by Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14, any worldly suffering that you might endure is worth this decision.  Therefore, do not ignore the passage listed above so that your eternal destination will be celebrated at your funeral rather than suffer, not knowing whether you are in heaven or hell.

by Jay Mankus

Simplifying the Process of Growing Old

When an adult explains a new concept to a child, certain things tend to get lost in translation.  Grown ups may be tempted to use big words, trying to impress an athlete or student.  Instead of simplifying the process, arrogance and pride can get in the way, widening this communication gap.  If an audience of kids become dazed and dumbfounded, its time to seek to a higher power, reflecting upon the story telling skills demonstrated by Jesus.

And looking toward His disciples, He began speaking: “Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are you who are poor [in spirit, those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant], for the kingdom of God is yours [both now and forever], Luke 6:20.

Jesus began his most famous sermon with a common sense approach, the beatitudes.  Instead of looking down on the less fortunate, Jesus used analogies that everyone could understand.  Thus, Jesus encourages individuals to set goals, attitudes that you want to aspire to be. obtain and possess.  Jesus takes negative terms like hungry, poor and weeping, then applies each to a positive spiritual quality.  These phrases give hope to the hopeless, comfort to the broken and joy to the emotionally numb.

Blessed [joyful, nourished by God’s goodness] are you who hunger now [for righteousness, actively seeking right standing with God], for you will be [completely] satisfied. Blessed [forgiven, refreshed by God’s grace] are you who weep now [over your sins and repent], for you will laugh [when the burden of sin is lifted], Luke 6:21.

Jesus simplifies the process of growing old by reminding adults of a child like faith.  Before the innocence of youth is lost, kids possess great ambition, dreaming about the person they want to be when they grow out.  As time passes, thoughts change, influenced by the culture of each generation.  Without striving to achieve some of these beatitudes, the complications of life stunt spiritual growth.  Unless you are refreshed by God’s grace, you may become a grumpy old man, frustrated by what might have been.  Nonetheless, if you want to simplify the process of growing old, call out to Jesus so that you can regain a child like faith.

by Jay Mankus

Properly Utilizing God’s Power

Prior to beginning his earthly ministry, Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit.  Over the next forty days, the Devil began scheming of ways on how to trick Jesus into improperly using God’s power.  The longer Jesus went without food, fasting and praying to spiritually prepare his mind, the more vulnerable his body became.  Thus, in the passage below the Devil tempted Jesus to use God’s power for selfish reasons.  In a game of Truth or Dare, the Devil dared Jesus to show off, calling upon angels to keep him from falling.  Responding with Scripture, Jesus corrects the Devil’s abuse of God’s power.

Then he led Jesus to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle (highest point) of the temple, and said [mockingly] to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; 10 for it is written and forever remains written, He will command His angels concerning You to guard and protect You,’ and, they will lift You up on their hands, So that You do not strike Your foot against a stone.’” Jesus replied to him, “It is said [in Scripture], you shall not tempt the Lord your God [to prove Himself to you],’” Luke 4:9-12.

Before gathering a ministry team of disciples, Jesus experienced the best and worst from his fellow Jews.  Upon entering a town, Jesus went to the local synagogue, debating, listening and teaching God fearing Jews.  Jesus quoted the Old Testament, speaking with authority without any education or extensive training.  On one day, Jesus spoke about God’s grace extending to Gentiles, non Jewish believers.  This comment turned the crowd in Nazareth against Jesus, committing heresy in their eyes.  This uprising forced Jesus outside of town to a nearby cliff, as residents attempted to push Jesus off the edge to his death.  On this occasion with his life in danger, Jesus properly utilized God’s power, like a ghost, Jesus passed by the crowds escaping to Capernaum.

As they heard these things [about God’s grace to these two Gentiles], the people in the synagogue were filled with a great rage; 29 and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the crest of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to hurl Him down the cliff. 30 But passing [miraculously] through the crowd, He went on His way, Luke 4:28-30.

Today, the debate of properly utilizing God’s power continues.  Should you treat God like a supernatural Santa Claus, praying to the Lord with a long Christmas wish list?  Or should you only ask for things in accordance with God’s will?  Do you take Jesus literally, “ask and you will receive?”  What is a good middle ground, a place to start?  If you use Matthew 7:12 as an outline for prayer, this may clear up any confusion that you currently are struggling to grasp.  Prayer is a three step process, asking, seeking insight to explain unanswered prayers and continue to persist, wrestling with the Lord in prayer.  May this passage guide you to understand how to properly utilize God’s power.

by Jay Mankus

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