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Authors: Paul Ellis

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you got whacked.

But in the new covenant, you have already died (Colossians 3:3). Your old self is in the

grave. Having been raised with Christ you are free to live fearlessly.

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GRACE REMIX

The Spirit of love

Fear has no place in a healthy, loving relationship. It’s important that you get this for you

cannot balance fear with love. You cannot have a part of your heart shouting, “I love you Lord”

while another part whispers, “but I’m afraid of you.” You will never give yourself wholly to

someone you’re afraid of.

If you ever hear a message that leaves you fearful and uncertain of your Father’s love, reject

it. It’s anti-Christ poison. The words may be from the Bible, but the spirit behind it is not from

the Lord. God has not given us a spirit of fear and intimidation, but a Spirit of love:

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts

through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5a)

The Holy Spirit will always seek to remind you that you are God’s dearly loved child.

“Sure, Paul, I get that. I know God loves everyone.”

Not just everyone; he loves
you
. You need to make this personal. You need to see yourself as

the apple of your Father’s eye.

I encourage you to get into the habit of agreeing with the Holy Spirit. Tell yourself every

day, “God loves me and there’s nothing I can do to make him love me any more or any less.”

And as the love of God takes root and grows in your heart, it will drive out all fear. The phrase

“Fear not” will become real to you. You won’t fear failure, you won’t fear men, you won’t fear

death, and you certainly won’t fear your loving Father.

Unbelievers may fear, but the children of God are fearless. The wicked flee when none

pursue but the righteous are as bold as a lion.

But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him. (Psalm

103:17a)

Only those who are secure in their Father’s everlasting love know what it is to fear the Lord. It

is to see him as he truly is and respond with awe-struck adoration. It is to tremble in his

presence knowing he is surely good, he is surely supreme, and he surely loves me.

A word after

“Paul, you are forgetting the sternness and severity of God. Romans 11:22 says we’re supposed

to consider it, otherwise we might get cut off.” I have no doubt that Romans 11 has been used to

sow fear in the church, but that was never Paul’s intention. Romans 11 isn’t a warning to the

church, but the Gentiles in general. “I am talking to you Gentiles” (Romans 11:13). He’s saying

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ESCAPE TO REALITY – GREATEST HITS VOL. 4

the Gentiles have been given an opportunity to receive God’s favor but like the Jews they may

miss out on account of unbelief. He’s not warning Christians; he’s warning unbelievers.

Many scriptures have been used to terrorize the saints, but Paul’s desire was that we might

have an assurance of our Father’s love and live free from fear.

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the

Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba,

Father.” (Romans 8:15)

Before I understood grace, I tolerated a little fear of the Lord. I thought it was healthy. I thought

it would keep me on the straight and narrow. But I have renewed my mind! There is no fear in

love and we are not to be governed by fear. Not even a little bit. Jesus didn’t suffer and die so

that we might live in fear, but so that we might be free.

51

14. James—Preacher of Grace?

It seems everyone has an opinion about James and how his letter fits, or doesn’t fit, into the

New Testament. This week an E2R reader sent me a line from a commentator who basically said

James was not on the same page as Paul when it came to the gospel of grace. Their letters do not

line up because James did not get grace.

I can understand how a glance at one or two verses in James might give this impression. But

do you really believe that 26 books in the New Testament preach the same gospel message

while James preaches another?

Paul said if anyone preached a different gospel, that person should be accursed (Galatians

1:8–9). If James is preaching something different from Paul, then the New Testament writers are

a house divided. And if
that
were the case, the Bible cannot be trusted.

I take a different view.

Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. It is his gospel that the New Testament writers

proclaimed. I’m going to present some scriptures side-by-side to show that not only were Paul

and James on the same wavelength, but they both preached the good news exactly as Jesus

modeled it.

Below is a list of statements that you might hear from any grace preacher. Under each

statement I have pasted sound bites from Jesus, Paul, and James. As we will see, those things

that mattered to Jesus, also mattered to Paul and James. They may say things a little differently,

but they all say the same things.

1. Good news: God offers you his unmerited favor!

Jesus: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to

the poor… to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18a,19)

Paul: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith…” (Ephesians 2:8a)

James: “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but

shows favor to the humble.’” (James 4:6)

2. Believe this good news …

Jesus: “Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15b)

Paul: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings

salvation to everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16a)

James: “…humbly accept the word planted in you which can save you.” (James 1:21b)

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ESCAPE TO REALITY – GREATEST HITS VOL. 4

3. …and repent—change the way you think and live.

Jesus: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is

like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24)

Paul: “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their

repentance by their deeds.” (Acts 26:20b)

James: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says… Faith

by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 1:22, 2:17)

4. It is God who makes us acceptable…

Jesus: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the

world through him.” (John 3:17)

Paul: “Giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance

of his holy people...” (Colossians 1:12a)

James: “Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up.” (James 4:10)

5. Now go and tell others the good news of God’s grace!

Jesus: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15)

Paul: “Do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” (2 Timothy

4:5b)

James: “Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them

from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” (James 5:20)

As you can see, James was not marching to the beat of a different drummer. His message was

essentially the same message that Jesus lived and Paul preached.

A word after

Several years ago, on a long drive home with Camilla, I was fired up with the thought that

James has been dismissed as a grace ignoramus.

“James had a one-on-one encounter with the risen Lord (1 Corinthians 15:7). Paul was

radically changed when he saw Jesus. Why do we think James wasn’t?”

I was just getting warmed up.

“James was Paul’s friend. Don’t you think Paul would’ve said something if James was out of

line? Paul confronted Peter, yet he never confronted James. He didn’t need to. They were on the

same page!”

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GRACE REMIX

I was so fired up it’s amazing I didn’t get a speeding ticket.

“Some people think they know Paul’s gospel better than James did, but James heard it in the

flesh (see Galatians 2:2). He got it straight from the source.”

When I got home I sat down to write the first of what turned out to be a dozen articles on

James. The article above was the last one in that series. (You can find the others in the E2R

Archives.)

I am absolutely convinced that James understood the gospel of grace and the proof is in his

letter. Read his epistle through the lens of the cross and you can’t help but see Jesus.

54

15. The X-Men Gospel

In all literature, there may be only five or six great stories but these few stories are told again

and again, a thousand different ways.

I was reminded of this while watching
X-Men: Days of Future Past
. (Warning: spoilers

ahead!) On the surface, this is a film about saving the future by altering the past. But there is a

deeper narrative here, and one that connects to a Greater Story that has been told again and

again since the beginning of time. I am referring to the ancient struggle between a kingdom

built on power, and another built on love. It’s Satan vs Jesus, Anakin vs Obi-Wan, Gollum vs

Frodo, and in the X-Men film, it’s Erik vs Charles.

Erik, a.k.a. Magneto, is a powerful mutant who is determined to do whatever it takes to

secure the future of his race. His friend, Charles, a.k.a. Professor Xavier, is a fellow mutant who

dreams of a future characterized by peace between mutants and humans.

Erik/Magneto represents the kingdom of power. He’s Herod, Caiaphas, and Caesar, all

rolled into one.

Charles Xavier represents the kingdom of love. He’s Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and Jesus,

all rolled into one.

While Erik treads the path of power, Charles prefers the way of grace. Erik is a warrior;

Charles is a healer. If Erik’s goal is to make things right, Charles’ goal is to make things

beautiful.

The dramatic tension between Erik and Charles makes for a great story because it evokes

two universal questions.

1. Do the ends justify the means?

In the X-Men movie, Erik is fighting for a cause and will do whatever it takes to accomplish his

goal. Initially, we have some sympathy for his heavy-handed methods. After all, he’s just trying

to protect his mutant family. But when Erik himself starts killing mutants, we realize something

has gone terribly wrong.

Erik’s goal is not evil—he just wants his kind to live—but his methods are so brutal that

other mutants describe him as a monster. In this and other X-Men films, Erik’s strategies

ultimately pit mutant against mutant, and brother against brother. This is a recurring theme in

the kingdom of power. Cain kills Abel, Sméagol kills Déagol, Scar kills Mufasa, Michael

Corleone kills Fredo, and Magneto’s actions ultimately lead to the deaths of virtually every

mutant, including himself.

What can we learn from this?

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GRACE REMIX

We repeat Magneto’s mistake whenever we put a cause—a vision, a ministry, a career—

ahead of people. Zeal for a goal can lead us to value people by how much they help us and

shoot those who get in our way. We may tell ourselves that the outcome justifies the means—

“I’m building the kingdom of God”—but we are really building the kingdom of Satan. Like

Saul, who thought he was serving God, we are really persecuting Jesus (Acts 9:5).

Erik’s methods are selfish and ugly and consequently any good he seeks to do becomes

rotten. He’s Anakin Skywalker sliding towards the dark side and he’s Boromir of Gondor

lusting for the ring of power. But ultimately he’s Adam sewing fig leaves in a futile attempt to

make things right.

Charles shows us a different path. For Charles, it is not enough that the dream is beautiful,

the means must be beautiful as well. While Erik draws lines dividing us (those who are with

me) from them (those who are against me), Charles reaches out and turns enemies into friends.

He sees the good in others, even those who have lost their way, and he prophetically calls them

towards their destiny.

2. Walk by faith or sight?

A seminal moment in the film occurs when Charles has a conversation with his older self.

Young Charles is beginning to lose sight of his dream of peace. Humanity seems unredeemable

and the future looks bleak. But Old Charles intervenes with words of grace and forgiveness:

“Just because someone stumbles and loses their path, doesn’t mean they can’t be saved.”

How does salvation come? How is a wrong put right? Not with power enforced by violence

but with love. Justice isn’t found down the barrel of a gun. It’s made by peace-makers who

embrace their enemies and resist those things which are opposed to love.

The success of the film is this: although Charles is more powerful than Erik, he does not win

by engaging in a contest of strength. In the critical moment Charles lies crippled under a fallen

steel beam, as helpless as a Savior on a cross. Yet even in the face of death, Charles refuses to

wield his power. He doesn’t call down his twelve legions of angels. Instead, he yields control,

effectively laying down his life, by putting his faith in another.

Into the cataclysmic battle between power and love comes a broken and hurting woman.

BOOK: Grace Remix
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