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Reconsidering God’s Mercy and Grace

The young man took comfort in his notion that, although he was not committed to making wise choices for his health, God was nonetheless merciful and would deliver him from his desperate circumstances if he pleaded and cried enough to show how sad and sorry he was. He insisted that the mercy of God withholds from us the judgment we deserve and the grace of God gives to us the blessings we don’t deserve. He heard that from someone else, the same as I did many years ago. It sounds right enough, but it just isn’t supported by Scripture.

Indeed, God is merciful to us, but we do not understand that to mean he gives us a pass on our failed choices – not in the way the young man thought. Rather, God is merciful in the sense that it is his disposition to provide for our healing.

These provisions are his grace. This means, God’s grace flows out of his mercy so that, if his mercy ceased, so would his provisions of grace.

Again, the grace of God flows out of his mercy and is his provisions for our healing. For example, water is grace. Support relationships are the grace of God. And God’s ultimate gift of grace is Christ.

“For by grace are you saved.” – Ephesians 2:8

So while God's mercy endures forever to provide for our redemption, those provisions flow only to the door of our hearts and lives. If we suffer, it is not because God is not merciful, but because we reject his provisions for our healing.

This is exactly the meaning of Paul's words, “I do not set aside the grace of God” (Philippians 2:21).


Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 10J06

Serving Notice on God

God does not serve notice on us, but we on him. This in the same way water or food does not say to us, “You are on probation to love me, and if you do not, you will be in trouble with me.” Instead, all of God’s provisions call out for us to “come, receive, and you will be supported.” The promise/challenge/guarantee of God is: "If you do not find me faithful, you do not need to tolerate me just anyhow."

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.” – Psalm 34:8

So we do not hesitate a second to say to God, "You have made promises to me concerning who you are. I have opened the door of my heart to you and expect you to be in me who you promised to be and to do what you promised to do. If I do not find you to be true and helpful, I am not going to continue connecting to you."  

It is on the basis of this concept that grace resources do not abandon those they are giving opportunity to serve - that is, parents do not slap punish their children who misbehave, but rather investigate to discover how their support needs are being missed. Also, husbands do not kick their wives to the curb who aren't happy, but seek to learn in what ways they have been failed.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 10H29

Serving God, Using People: Grace Concepts Turned on Its Head

For example, to experience God is to experience his love, joy, and peace and all else that is true about “who Christ is” within us. Also, when we breathe oxygen, drink water, and eat food, we are experiencing the Life which God gives. “In him was Life,” John wrote, “and that Life was the light of man” (John 1:4).

We also experience God through every service provided to us in the home and church which meets and supports our redemption (health and recovery) needs. This means the care of a parent for a child, or husband for his wife, or a minister for the church is God manifesting himself to us.

Somewhat on the same subject, many fine churches have adopted “Love God, Love People” to state their mission. With all the appreciation we might have for their commitment, I still want to ask, “Is this love for God and also for people giving love or receiving love?” On those few occasions when I have had an opportunity to inquire, no one seemed to know the difference or even understand the question.

The answer to the question is at the core of our counseling message – that is, God’s love for us is giving love (“For God so loved the world that he gave…”), and the manifestation of his love in us for others is also giving love. But our love for God is receiving love. That is the reason we teach in our counseling sessions that no one can say, in the Scriptural sense, that he or she loves God (or his resources) apart from receiving him (his provisions), and that, in our service to others, we give rather than receive (so that our relationship to them is not about what they can do for us, but we for them).

Legalism, however, turns this understanding on its head so that our love for God is giving love, and our love for people is receiving love with the result that our relationship to God and to others is changed. Instead of receiving God’s provisions which he freely gives, we attempt to give to God in order to win his favor. Also, instead of serving people (invest in them) in order to meet their redemptive needs, we use them (suck the life out of them) in order to meet our own pain relief needs.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 10D13

Sometimes we hear that we should seek God more than we do his provisions. The teaching sounds pious enough but, in fact, we cannot separate God from his provisions. To have the one is to have the other.

Still Broken: The Missed Followup Step to Experiencing Wholistic Health

The abundant life (or wholistic health) which Christ said he came to give is not by merit alone of our trusting him as our Savior. 

Jesus said (expanded paraphrase), “I am come that they might
  • have life (regeneration so that they can go to Heaven), but also
  • have it more abundantly (a rich and satisfying experience on earth)” (John 10:10).
This means, eternal life and the abundant life are intimately related but are not the same experience, that our new birth experience (which makes secure our going to Heaven) is only a first step or condition which makes possible the abundant life, and that the abundant life becomes a reality only as we meet the second and third conditions, which are to
  • take time to be renewed and increased daily to a fuller measure of “who Christ is” in us (through Scripture reading, confession of need, prayer, and worship) - then, enabled by the increased healing and strength he gives us, follow through to
  • make the wise choices which further establish us in health - including physically, psychologically, financially, and relationally - which is the abundant life Christ promised to give.
Not only does this second condition get overlooked, but, even more, so does the third.

This means, even with all the emphasis our counseling gives to being renewed and increased daily to a fuller measure of “who Christ is” in us - that it is our most essential need for health and happiness - still we do not want to leave unsaid that, at least theoretically, we can be filled “to the measure of the fullness of Christ,” maybe even more than anyone ever, yet still be unhappy and broken in health.

Again: We can be filled to the fullest measure of the divine nature - which is “God’s power (dynamic) for the salvation (healing sanctification) of all who receive it” (Romans 1:16-17), and which also “gives us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3) - yet still be limited in our experience of health and happiness.

Understanding this perspective begins with identifying God’s purpose for imparting to us the power of his divine nature in the first place – that it is more than just for the enjoyment of a feel-good or even healing experience, beneficial as that may be.

Rather, it is primarily for the purpose of increasing us in God’s enablement for making the follow up choices which establish us in health and happiness.

This is the meaning of

Romans 8:17 (paraphrased): “Now if we are children of God, then we are also heirs (of the abundant life)…if indeed we share in his suffering (to make wise choices) so that we may also share in his glory (the abundant life).”

Philippians 3:12: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that (sanctification) for which Christ took hold of me (in regeneration).”

Philippians 3:16: “Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”

Philippians 2:12-13 (paraphrased): “Work out the salvation which God is working in you.”

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 10D06

The Limited Benefits of Reading the Bible

The Bible itself is not God, but a vessel he uses to communicate Truth - in the same way a cup is a vessel to provide water.

Years ago, one of my first counselees stated up front that he was looking for more help than just encouragement to read the Bible. I learned that he read the Bible mostly as a rulebook for Christian living, so, of course, since he was broken and had no enablement for living by the rules, he was worn out and done with reading it.

I told him that would not be a problem because the benefit of just reading the Bible is limited anyway, even if he read large portions of it daily, memorized it, or knew it well enough to pass a test on it or teach it.

He was surprised by my response, but also interested to hear my explanation that, by “limited” benefits of reading the Bible as a rulebook, I meant as compared to reading it in order to
  • hear the Holy Spirit communicate Truth to us, and especially in order to
  • experience God.
I said reading, or even studying, the Bible as a rulebook (but not in order to hear God tell us about himself and our need for him or to call us to receive him in fuller measure) is the same as studying the properties of water and our need for it, maybe even well enough to speak and write about it, but not drinking or bathing in it in order to experience its healing, cleansing benefits.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 10D05

God's Purpose for Allowing Brokenness: Rethinking "Can't Miss" Choices

Peter had no business trying to walk on the water. Yet when he was impulsive to try it, rather than stopping him, Christ allowed it. (The word “come” which Christ used in Matthew 14:29 was not an invitation or command to Peter to leave the safety of the boat, but was an expression of permission.) The outcome was not good, except that Peter learned a lesson about himself and his need for Christ. We do not read in Scripture that Peter tried the same stunt again.

The lesson taught is that God does not always stop us from making the impulsive choices we make for ministry which we think are “can’t miss” ideas. For some of us, experiencing the outcome of a wrong choice is the only way we would learn. Otherwise, the Holy Spirit would explain it to us, or send an elder to warn us, and simple as that, we would know not to make that decision.

It is for this reason that God allows sickness, financial burdens, and failed vocational or ministry efforts. During such times we have opportunity to rethink the choices that resulted in our brokenness. When we look to God, as Peter did, he is faithful to instruct us and gently guide us in a different direction.

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word… It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees... I know, O LORD, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me.” - Psalm 119:67, 71, 75

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” – Psalm 32:8

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 10C30

Since Jesus Came Into My Heart This Morning

I sometimes find myself singing this old song from my past…

What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought,
Since Jesus came into my heart;
I have light in my soul for which long I have sought,
Since Jesus came into my heart.

Also, the lyrics say that, since Jesus came into my heart, "floods of joy o’er my soul like the sea billows roll," that "I have ceased from my wand’ring and going astray," that "no dark clouds of doubt now my pathway obscure," and that "I’m happy, so happy as onward I go," and so on.

It is just a great song. But in the days of my legalism when I sang it, usually in church, I understood it to mean that as a born again Christian, the testimony of this song should be my reality. But it was not! I did not really have all that much light in my soul, or joy like the sea billows roll. I had not ceased from my wandering and going astray, nor was I happy, so happy as onward I went.

So I was confused, also very discouraged. I did not doubt my salvation, but understood why some did after listening to the song.

Oh, but now I understand! Jesus coming into my heart is not the same as the Holy Spirit placing me in Christ. The one (me in Christ) makes possible my going to Heaven when I die, the other (Christ in me) makes possible my sanctification and healing from brokenness. Also, the Holy Spirit immersing me into spiritual union with Christ (the new birth) is a one-time experience, but my experience of Christ in me is an ongoing, renewable experience, like drinking water or eating bread. There’s a difference. It is the reason Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” It also helps us to understand the meaning of "Behold I stand at the door and knock; if anyone will open the door, I will come in to him" (Revelation 3:20).

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 10B26

A Primer on Sex, Eating, and Worship

Every one of God’s provisions is redemptive. This means they were given to establish us in health, and then ultimately to enable us in our service to others. This means also that God did not provide food, or sex, or even our experience of Christ just so we could feel good or be superficially comforted in our pain.

Explanation: God’s purpose for the husband (man and his seed) is redemptive: It is for him to serve as a resource to propagate/reproduce life. By his sowing into his wife and by her union/connection to him to receive his seed (in the act of sex), the woman is served by God to fulfill his calling and purpose for her life - that is, to bear children and for her and her husband to parent them.

The act of sex is a gift from God. He could have chosen a different plan, but was kind to ordain such a delightful way for his plan to be fulfilled. We cherish the gift. It was not intended to serve lustful desires, but rather the health needs of another. Only as it is experienced in the way God intended does it remain beautiful and meaningful, also enjoyable.

God’s purpose for providing food to us is also redemptive: It is to sow life into our bodies. By God’s sowing his life into the earth, and by our union/connection to receive the seed (the act of eating), we are served nutritionally to fulfill his calling and purpose for us in redemptive service to others.

The act of eating is a gift from God. He could have chosen a different plan, but was kind to ordain such a delightful way for his purpose to be fulfilled. We cherish the gift. It was not intended to serve our base, fallen appetites; instead, it was intended to support our health in behalf of others. Only as it is experienced in the way God intended does it remain redemptive and beneficial.

Also, God’s purpose for giving his Son was redemptive: It was for him to serve as a resource to which we have opportunity to connect (the act of worship) in order to receive enablement for living out God’s calling in redemptive service to others.

Don Loy Whisnant/TheGrace Perspective 10B23

(This is the prayer I prayed almost daily for many years, and still do often. It is a deeply private and sacred prayer, but I post it to help guide the confession and prayer of others.)

A Confession of Need and Prayer of Faith

Dear Father, only you by the Holy Spirit can make your Word live in my heart to nurture in me the mind and likeness of Christ. To be like Christ, to be filled with his Spirit, to experience the transforming power of his resurrected Life in me, and to manifest boldly in my life the Light of who he is into a dark world is my sincere prayer, my deepest desire, and my earnest expectation and hope.

It is also my greatest need. I confess my sinfulness. I am horrified by the depth of my depravity. I am grieved by the wickedness of my heart - which is worse than I know. And my strength to change or improve myself indeed is small. But "I can hear my Savior say, ‘Child of weakness, watch and pray; find in me thine all in all.'"

Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. I turn from the fallenness of who I am and from the failure of my human efforts to be holy, and I trust wholly and alone in who you are in me. And I thank you for the confidence your Word gives me that your love for me is unconditional, your interest in every detail of my life is passionate and intense, and your commitment to complete the work of grace you have begun in me is unfailing. I thank you that in all things you are right now in this place working to accomplish your purpose for my life, to equip me with all things good for doing your will, and to cultivate in me that which is useful to you in service to others through Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Don Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 7A26

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