Grace

Words of Grace by Scott Patty: A Book Review

Words of Grace by Scott Patty

                                            (Photo Courtesy of LifeWay)

Written prayerfully and from the heart, Words of Grace: A 100-Day Devotional, penned by Scott Patty, pastor of Grace Community Church in Nashville, Tennessee and a graduate of Belmont University and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, is a powerful spiritual devotional that illuminates the most essential message of the Bible: grace. Through the devotional pieces in this book, Patty strives to “open up the meaning, relevance, and application of God’s Word of grace to people” (xi). The author hopes readers “hear God’s Word, see the grace of Christ in it [the Bible], respond to him [Christ] in faith, and come to know him [Christ] personally” (xi).  

As a minister and theologian whose teaching praxis and theology centers on grace, this book is a welcome addition to my library. Each devotional piece begins with one or two scriptural verses, and then Patty starts teaching the reader critical truths and principles based on the verse(s), triggering valuable spiritual reflections and personal calls-to-action. When reading Words of Grace: A 100-Day Devotional, therefore, don’t think you’re about to pick a book that’s not about to challenge you to experience spiritual renewal and transformation. This book has the power to produce a truly new you; a new you in virtually every area of your life.

One of my favorite devotional pieces in the book is “God, the Just and Justifier,” based on Romans 3:21-26, which is arguably “the most important paragraph on salvation in the Bible” (9). This portion of the book is a beautiful (and brief, of course) explanation and reflection on how God’s grace has liberated those who believe His grace is sufficient to forgive and cleanse their sins forever. Patty writes, “As such, when Jesus died on the cross he took our sins to himself, bore the punishment of God against our sin in his body, and thereby freed us from condemnation for our sin. God sent Jesus to be our substitute. This is the definition of grace” (9).    

In short, I highly recommend that you purchase and read this book. As you read this work, you will grow deeper in your comprehension and appreciation of grace. To help facilitate a critical review of Patty’s work, B&H Publishing Group/LifeWay supplied me with a copy of Words of Grace: A 100-Day Devotional.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Pop-Up Sermon: Jesus is the Answer to Poverty

Poverty

(Photo Credit: New York Daily News)

Jesus is the answer to poverty: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (II Corinthians 8:9). What Jesus accomplished at the Cross—at Calvary—provided every believer with access to experience victory over poverty in every area of his or her life—not just in the area of finance. Each day, believe that you have already received freedom from poverty in every area of your life. Mark 11:24 states, “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” This verse, therefore, informs you that to possess this liberation from the bondage of poverty one has to receive it by faith. Begin each day with this confession of faith: “Jesus, I receive the victory from poverty in every area of my life that your shed blood on the Cross has made available to me. Thank you, Lord, for giving me this precious free gift.”

According to II Corinthians 8:9, Jesus loves you so much that He took upon His own body the viciousness, ugliness, heaviness, and bondage of poverty for you. The most brutal beating in human history that Christ suffered empowers you to triumph over poverty. Without the Finished Work of the Cross, you would have had to bear the tremendous burden of poverty. Christ has such a great love for you that He does not want you to be dominated by poverty, for He desires for you to enjoy everyday life (John 10:10).

True believers have an intimate knowledge and understanding about how the grace of Jesus Christ has already supplied them with everything they need for this life: “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (II Peter 1:3). How does one receive this blessing of Christ? II Peter 1:4 divulges the precise answer to this query: “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” One must, therefore, “partake” of this blessing that has already been made available to him or her. How does one “partake” of this blessing? Each day, declare and believe you have everything II Peter 1:3-4 reveal that you have.

When you believe something, you will open your mouth and confirm it—and keep confirming it.

#PopUpSermon

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Between Pain & Grace: A Biblical Theology of Suffering: A Brief Review

Between Pain and Grace

(Photo Credit: Design Corps)

In Pain & Grace: A Biblical Theology of Suffering, Gerald W. Peterman and Andrew J. Schmutzer offer a thorough and astute assessment of Scripture’s treatment of pain and grace.  Although many readers, especially those who are not advanced bible students or theologians, will find Peterman and Schmutzer’s assertion that God experiences suffering unsettling, their argument on this topic is worthwhile to consider. For those of us who understand the realities of anger, the scholars’ view of anger as a type of suffering may be satisfying.  They discuss mental health and sexual abuse in the context of suffering. What one will discover from this text is his or her faith in what grace has made available will lead him or her to triumph over pain and suffering.

Unlike most books concentrating on pain and suffering that relate them in such generic ways, this work concatenates biblical truths and evidence with clinical research about pain and suffering. I found this book to demonstrate how powerful the grace of Christ is in helping believers to overcome the challenges and problems they experience. As Peterman and Schmutzer explain, pain and suffering are unavoidable in this life. How we elect to confront them will determine our outcomes, however. After reading this book, many readers are likely to increase their faith and trust in Christ’s ability to enable them to rise above pain and suffering.

I highly recommend this book. In a nation and world where elevating violence and hate can seem unbearable, Peterman and Schmutzer remind us that the Finished Work of the Cross has already conquered the pain and suffering we face. It is our job to partake of the grace Jesus has extended to defeat pain and suffering.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

President Jimmy Carter is Cancer-Free: Never Lose Faith

President Carter

(Photo Credit: Life News)

Former President Jimmy Carter announced he’s cancer-free, demonstrating the power of faith to conquer what many suggest is impossible. President Carter’s healing is a testimony of the power of God’s grace. When you put your faith in the power of the Finished Work of the Cross, Jesus will heal you. In Zechariah 4:6-7, God informs us that whatever our mountain may be, including a mountain of sickness and disease, shout “Grace, Grace” to that mountain and it will become a “plain.” Because of Christ’s love for President Carter and his faith in grace, the mountain of cancer that once afflicted him has become a plain.

President Carter had people across the world praying for him. Look at what God will do when Believers across the globe join in unity for intercessory prayer.

When we pray, we should speak to our mountain (cancer, poverty, pain, etc.) and tell it to be cast into Hell (Mark 11:23). Believers have been given the authority to use their mouths to command the healing they and others need. The key to seeing healing manifest in your and others’ bodies is to believe that you have already received what you desire when you pray (Mark 11:24).

An unwanted report from your doctor indicating you have cancer doesn’t mean you’re going to die. Starve your fear and feed your faith with the Word of God. Allow President Carter’s example to inspire the hope of Christ in you. While I understand the argument that President Carter was able to benefit from the best medical care on the planet, numerous other famous and wealthy people have died with cancer. One shouldn’t, therefore, falsely believe his cancer being cured is simply a product of his economic and social privilege; cancer doesn’t care about privilege. Cancer kills regardless of privilege. Grace has healed President Carter!

President Carter, millions of people across America and globe rejoice with you and for you. What God has done in your life proves He’s still performing miracles.

May God continue to bless you, President Carter, and may God continue to bless America.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Too Many “Babes” in Christ in the Pulpit

Black Preacher

(Photo Credit: Bossip)

Too many pulpits across the globe are being occupied by babes in Christ. Hebrews 5:11-14 state: “Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” In those aforementioned verses, the Apostle Paul teaches those Jewish Christians who have been saved for a considerable amount of time that they should now be teaching people the full Gospel of Grace, but they’re still struggling with mixing the Mosaic Law with Grace. They’re still living mostly by the rules and regulations given by Moses instead of the Grace Jesus Christ has given them by the shedding of His precious blood on the Cross at Calvary.

Christians who cannot handle the full Gospel of Grace are those who don’t fully understand or accept everything about the Finished Work of Jesus Christ; that is, the Work He did at the Cross. When you don’t fully understand or accept the Finished Work of Jesus Christ, you’re a “babe” in Christ. Unfortunately, we have too many babes in Christ in the pulpit. A babe in the pulpit is dangerous.

Preachers Still Being Breastfed

Babes are too beholden to the past: the Mosaic Law, old rules, old customs, what the founders of their church denominations have said, and etc. You cannot have a serious understanding of the Bible without having a comprehensive understanding and acceptance of all that Grace has made available. Numerous preachers who fail to receive the Gospel of Grace fully are highly skeptical of the freedom and new agreements that accompany Grace. They’re so accustomed to living under the condemnation of the Mosaic Law that they cannot completely receive the liberation from sin Jesus has made available to us today.

Your church pastor might just be a “milk baby,” a Christian who has never gotten off of the nipple of the Old Covenant and continues to drink only the “Milk of the Word.” (Chapter 6 of Hebrews discusses the “Milk of the Word.”)

Stop Serving Moses—Serve Jesus

Although preachers who are babes in Christ are unintentionally serving Moses instead of Jesus—as a result of them mixing Law and Grace—they teach and preach the condemnation of sin that was a part of the Old Covenant given by Moses. Under the New Covenant of Grace, there’s no condemnation for Believers: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). For preachers who are still shaming people about what they can and cannot wear, telling them what music they can and cannot listen to, telling them they cannot go to the movie theater, and etc., they’re activating “the law of sin and death.” It’s no wonder, therefore, they and their congregants struggle greatly with sin and death—the preachers are activating this dangerous law or principle and their congregants are receiving it.

Doctrines of Devils from the Pulpit

While it’s okay for your pastor to give you advice about what to wear, what type of music to listen to, and whether or not to go to movie theaters, the moment he or she forbids you from wearing something, listening to a certain type of music and/or going to the movie theaters—as if it is sin—he or she has engendered “doctrines of devils” (I Timothy 4:1). I Timothy 4:1-2 state, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;” When a preacher, therefore, makes his or her personal opinions rules and regulations all must follow, his or her teaching departs from “the faith”—grace—and he or she begins “speaking lies in hypocrisy.” If you try to challenge the doctrines of devils they espouse, you can be sure hey will attack you and attempt to undermine you. They will assert that you’re simply trying to change everything the denomination was founded on, and that you’re simply one of the false teachers the Book of Galatians discusses. Ironically, they’re unintentionally (in most cases) functioning in many ways like the false teachers in the Book of Galatians.

Acknowledge When Others Have More Bible Knowledge than You

Too many preachers simply are unwilling to admit that some of those they lead have more knowledge of the Word of God than them. Their arrogance leads them away from opportunities to grow in their knowledge of the Word of God and Jesus Christ. They’re too arrogant to concede they’re still babes in Christ, and when a lay member is able to demonstrate more knowledge of the Word of God than them, they often attempt to undermine their knowledge as simply the words of “the educated”—as if being educated makes one diametrically opposed to the true knowledge of the Word of God and Jesus Christ.

Embrace those in your churches who have deep knowledge of the Word of God—don’t be envious of them and don’t try to undermine them. If you disagree with something a person who has deep Bible knowledge says, confront him or her directly and not in underhanded ways.

Milk Baby Preachers, We’re No Longer under the Law

Preachers who are babes in Christ are still struggling with applying Abrahamic faith in their own lives. Galatians 3:6 states, “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Righteousness was given to Abraham because he believed God—not because of his personal performance, conduct and style of dress. For a mature Christian, he or she finds Abrahamic faith to be an elementary phenomenon, even though it’s a highly important phenomenon. Elementary aspects of the Bible compose the “Milk of the Word” babes in Christ continue to drink.

It’s time for preachers to stop drinking “milk” and start consuming and embracing strong meat—the full Gospel of Grace.

Preachers, it’s time to stop issuing rules and regulations and concentrate your congregations on beholding Jesus. Jesus didn’t die to give people rules and regulations. He died so that they can have eternal life and fellowship with them. Romans 6:14 says, “Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” Believers now live by what the Spirit of Christ (the Spirit of Grace) informs them to do and not by rules and regulations established by man, including those unscriptural rules forbidding women to wear pants and certain lipstick and fingernail polish colors.

We’re no longer under your laws and the Mosaic Law. Jesus has delivered us from the curse of the Mosaic Law (Galatians 3:13), and we no longer obtain and maintain our righteousness through the Law but through Jesus Christ (Romans 10:4).

Conclusion

I encourage all preachers and Believers to engage in a focused and comprehensive study of the Book of Romans. The Book of Romans is Paul’s masterpiece and is a treatise on Grace. Read Romans with New Testament eyes and not with Old Testament eyes. From the Book of Romans, you will be able to gain a foundational understanding of Grace and will learn the importance of teaching and preaching the Gospel of Grace.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

A New Past, Present and Future in Jesus

Black women in church

(Photo Credit: Black Youth Project)

Under the New Covenant of Grace, you receive a new past, present and future when you receive Salvation. When Jesus died upon the Cross, He died for you to have a new past, present and future. The most vivid evidence of this new past, present and future we receive through Salvation is found in II Corinthians 7:2: “Receive us; we have wronged no man, we have corrupted no man, we have defrauded no man.” If you understand the Apostle Paul’s history, dating back to his unconverted days as Saul, you recognize that Paul persecuted and killed more Christians than any person in history. The question becomes, therefore, is Paul lying when he says he has not “wronged no man,” “corrupted no man,” and “defrauded no man”? Not at all. The reason why Paul says this is he has fully received his new life in Jesus Christ. Through the Finished Work of Jesus Christ, Jesus has bought for us all—through His precious shed blood—the right to have a completely new past, present and future.

We enter into this blood-bought Grace Covenant with Jesus when we receive the Salvation He has made available to everyone. After you receive Salvation, Jesus says that not only are your sins forgiven but He will also never remember them again: “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more” (Hebrews 8:12). Receiving the Salvation that Grace has made available allows you to no longer live in the condemnation of your past, present and future sin: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). As a Believer, Jesus no longer remembers your sins. Why would you choose to remember them? Why would you continue to hold on to the condemnation attached to your past sins when Jesus knows nothing about them?

When your sins are forgiven, Jesus expects for you to no longer live a life where you’re sin-conscious: “For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins” (Hebrews 10:2). When you’re constantly worried about sin threatening your position of righteousness in Christ Jesus, this sin-consciousness causes you to receive bondage and fear—this bondage and fear is not a part of your reborn spirit in Christ Jesus, but it is bondage and fear you receive from Satan when you fail to Rest in the fact that your righteousness is eternally secure when you continue to place your Faith completely in what Grace has made available to you. Romans 8:15 states, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” When we receive Salvation, we become a part of God’s family; He becomes our Daddy—all because of what Jesus did at the Cross and our receiving of His Finished Work. Receiving Salvation means we receive God as our Father. A Believer can never be separated from his or her Father—you’re eternally connected to the Father, even sin cannot separate you from the Father because when God sees us He sees Jesus—not our sins.

Ephesians 1:4-7 state, “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” Because of Jesus and what He did at the Cross, our righteousness in Him is eternally secure. Again, not even sin can ruin our position of righteousness in Christ Jesus. If our sin could ruin our position of righteousness in Christ Jesus, then John 3:16 would have to be a lie, and we know God is not man who has ever lied and will not ever lie (Numbers 23:19).

After receiving Salvation, your eternal life is secure and all that Grace has made available to you is secure. The more you sin in this life, however, can unravel your life in this present world—sin cannot unravel what has already been laid up for you in your eternal life in Heaven.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Biblical Fasting Isn’t about How Long You Fast: It’s about Intimacy and Fellowship

Praying Black Man

(Photo Credit: Thy Black Man)

Biblical fasting is about intimacy and fellowship with Jesus. Too many Christians become too focused on how long they should fast and not on the two primary purposes of fasting: intimacy and fellowship with Jesus. When you’re having genuine intimate relations and fellowship with Jesus, you’re not concerned about how long you’re fasting and clock-watching; your undivided attention is given to spending quality time with the Lord. If you’re truly spending quality time with the Lord, you don’t have time to stop and share with others via social media about how great of a time you’re having with Him or how hungry you are. Matthew 6:16 states, “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you. They have their reward.” Fasting is a deeply personal and sacred experience with God—not a vehicle for veiled boasting. Matthew 6:17-18 say, “But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.”

Fasting Isn’t about Suffering

True biblical fasting is not about suffering. If you feel like you’re going to get sick due to hunger, then go ahead and eat. You don’t win brownie points with the Lord for getting sick because you ignorantly allowed yourself to attempt to reach some artificial time goal. When you fast, you do set aside a time that you plan to fast. You don’t, however, concentrate on ending the fast at the exact time you planned. Let this spiritual experience flow naturally. As you become more acclimatized to fasting, which comes from fasting regularly (not just a few weeks at the beginning of the year and a few days here and there), you become better able to fast the entire time you plan to fast, and hunger does not become a significant factor. When you have authentic fellowship with Jesus, He will take your mind off of natural food and give you spiritual food—food that lasts eternally. Revelation 6:16-17 proclaim, “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”

Just remember that it’s never about the length of time you fast.

Fasting Gives Birth to Desired Manifestations

When you have true intimacy and fellowship with Jesus, you become pregnant with the things He desires to see manifested in your life. You don’t, therefore, fast to get something; you fast purely for the intimacy and fellowship. You receive the things you need and desire from Jesus as a natural byproduct of the authentic intimacy and fellowship you have with Him. Concentrate on the intimacy and fellowship and let Him handle the things you need and desire to see manifest in your life. Matthew 6:33 declares, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” When you’re intimate with Jesus, you’re able to give birth to the phenomena you need and desires of your heart.

What You Need is Already on the Inside of You

For those who have received Salvation proper, Jesus has already placed on the inside of you everything you need for this life. II Peter 1:2-4 state, “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According to his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world.” While fasting, you pray, read and study God’s Word and meditate on what His Word says. Fasting is about focusing on Jesus. As you devote your attention completely to Jesus, you grow in “the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,” which results in “Grace and peace” being “multiplied unto you.” The Apostle Peter informs us that Jesus’ “divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” Jesus has, therefore, given us everything that we need for this life. Think about everything you need in this life, and then think about the reality that Jesus has already made all those things available and placed them on the inside of you.

Conclusion

When Jesus is not the focus of your fasting, you’re simply going hungry or dieting—not fasting.  Jesus-centered fasting empowers you to become a more effective disciple and to operate consistently in Christ’s love, peace, protection and power. Make a greater commitment today to spend more quality time with Jesus through solemn fasting.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison