Tag: grace

September 22, 2017 Melanie Newton

Grace-yes. Karma-no. A Christian's life is based on grace. MelanieNewton.com.Facebook Theology. That’s what I heard it called the other day. You know, those “cute” sayings posted by Christians on Facebook. I see it all the time. Cute sayings that seem “true enough” to sound okay but are really not true and can lead to some really bad conclusions. I recently saw two very colorful, eye-catching posts referencing karma as something to pursue (especially “positive karma”). One was tips for improving good karma. The other said, “Create positive karma now!” My first response to these expressions of Facebook Theology was this, “Does karma have anything to do with a Christian’s life?” So, I decided to examine these in light of Scripture to discern truth from error and then think of a gracious response to someone I meet who thinks karma is an okay thing by which to live your life.

Step #1: Define the terms and issues. Define “karma.”

The first thing I did was to research what “karma” actually meant. I discovered that “karma is a theological concept found in the Buddhist and Hindu religions. It is the idea that how you live this life will determine the quality of life you will have after reincarnation.”1 Although an eastern religious concept, the idea of karma has seeped into our western Judeo-Christian society like it’s something cool. The western understanding of karma is the idea of cause and effect where whatever you do is returned to you. Karma teaches that you get what you deserve. Westerners particularly hold onto this when it comes to wanting revenge on someone who has wronged you.

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Step #2. Ask questions and support your answer with Scripture:

The next I did was to ask questions about karma and how it differs from what the Bible teaches. So, I posed these questions and answered them biblically.

•  Is the idea of reincarnation biblical?

The answer is, “No.” Hebrews 9:27 says we die once then comes the judgment. For believers, we receive salvation and then get a new body but remain the same person. No reincarnation.

•  Does the Bible teach that you always get what you deserve? Why or why not?

There is a general principle stated in Galatians 6:8-9 about sowing and reaping. The context is your moral and spiritual life. In general, when you choose to live apart from Christ, your life will get messed up. However, there is no one-to-one correlation between doing something good or bad and getting the exact good or bad reward for it. You can be as nice as possible to all your family members and yet have everyone still dislike you or be mean to you. We cannot judge what happens to us by whether we deserve it or not. Thankfully, we do not get what we deserve when it comes to judgment because not one of us would get anything good from God! His mercy chooses to give us His grace instead.

•  What is the difference between karma and grace?

Huge difference here. The Bible does not teach karma. You cannot earn salvation through any good works or lose it through bad works. There are no scales. God took that away. The Bible teaches God’s grace toward us. Ephesians 2:8-9 states very plainly, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast.”

Grace is where you get what you don’t deserve. Grace is unmerited favor. It is love and mercy bestowed upon us by God because He desires us to have it. As you can see, very different to karma. More like polar opposites.2

We deserve judgment — every one of us — but we get life by just our faith in Christ. And, zillions of wonderful blessings come to us by that one act alone! We just might have to wait to receive some of them until later.

•  How does wanting people to “get what they deserve” (referring to the wicked) fit in with the gospel?

You are talking about REVENGE here! Hard-heartedness. There is no place for revenge in the gospel. Romans 12:17-21 tells us to payback evil with kindness and good.

Jesus calls us to respond counter-intuitively. Instead of meeting evil with equal or greater force, he urges us to meet evil with a completely different force: with good. Instead of paying back in kind, we are called to pay back with kindness.3

What is the kindest thing you can do for someone who has wronged you? Pray for their salvation, right? Pray for them to experience God’s amazing grace, right? Not look to “karma” to make things right.

•  What is the one act upon which you can guarantee your destiny?

The one and only act in this life that guarantees what will happen in the next is this: placing your faith in Jesus Christ or rejecting Him. That’s plainly stated in John 3:16-18; 5:24. No doubt about it. Done deal. And, even this is pure grace.

Step #3. Come up with a graceful response.

When someone you know is caught up in the belief in karma, you need to have a graceful response ready to point her to the truth. Recognize that a belief in karma can certainly cause fear in someone’s life or lead to a hard heart towards others. So, how can you respond? Simply say, “I am so glad that God doesn’t give me what I deserve. I deserve severe judgment for my sin and nothing good at all in light of His goodness. I am so grateful for His grace to me that expresses His kindness to me because of His love for me. It’s a much better way to live than to live in fear that I am not good enough or to live in bitterness against those who have mistreated me.”

Does karma have anything to do with a Christian’s life? Absolutely not! By perpetuating the idea of karma, you actually draw people away from Jesus and His amazing grace and toward something that poorly substitutes for Him. Grace = YES! Karma = NO!

So, there is today’s lesson in Facebook Theology 101.

Bible Study Leadership Made Easy. Learning to lead with confidence & grace. An online course at MelanieNewton.com.

For additional reading:

1 What does the Bible say about karma? Gotquestions.org.

2 What is the Difference Between Grace and Karma? Crosswalk.com.

3 Sweet Revenge. Bible.org.

4 What does the Bible say about reincarnation? Bible.org.

July 20, 2017 Melanie Newton

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Hey there! Welcome to part two of the 4-part “Choose a Bible Study” series. In this series, I’m showing you how to choose the next Bible Study for yourself or for your group. If you missed the first post in the series, then you best be catchin’ up. You can check that one out here.

July 7, 2016 Melanie Newton

God’s people were His children. And, like any good parent, God demonstrated His love for his children over and over again—teaching them, providing for them,  protecting them, and giving them guidance. Yet, the children rebelled again and again. Finally, the ones living in the Northern Kingdom called Israel were attacked by Assyria and taken away into captivity. The repercussions of that horrific event reverberated throughout the southern kingdom of Judah. And, the fear of that happening to them motivated them to finally obey their father God—under the leadership of their godly king, Hezekiah.  

Hezekiah was 25 years old when he became king. His father Ahaz was very wicked. When you trace back the chronology, Ahaz must have been only 12-15 when Hezekiah was born. A teen father. Immature. Yet, Hezekiah’s mother was the daughter of a very godly man (2 Chronicles 29:1) so Hezekiah’s mother was likely a godly woman. It matters who your mama is! Thankfully, Hezekiah chose to follow his maternal side rather than his paternal influence. He was a true son of David (2 Chronicles 29:2). Hezekiah’s first priority was to repair and reopen the Temple (ravaged and shuttered  by his father). So, he brought together those responsible for maintaining and operating the Temple and the worship of God—the priests and Levites (verse 4-5). In his challenge to them, Hezekiah rightly held accountable the previous generation of leaders and people for being unfaithful to God, which led to Israel’s captivity (verses 6, 9). It was time for a fresh start, and he needed all the religious leaders onboard for this, reminding them of their purpose. “My sons, do not be negligent now, for the Lord has chosen you to stand before Him (verse 11).” The priests and Levites purified themselves and jumped into the task. It took 16 days to clean the filth from the Temple (verse 17). 16 days! Must have been a total wreck! Hezekiah then called together all the local leaders and publicly confessed the sins of the nation, just like on the Day of Atonement. His message to them was, “We cleaned the Temple, so now let us get ourselves clean before God.” This was followed by worship through offerings, singing, band playing, reading of the Psalms and hearts filled with gladness (verses 27-31). What a glorious day! The leadership of Judah was going in the right direction at last!

In 2 Chronicles 30, Hezekiah invited all the people of the land including those Jews left behind in the northern kingdom to come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover (verses 1-5). An attempt to unite Israel into one nation again after 215 years of separation. His letter of appeal said, “People of Israel, return to the Lord…that He may return to you who are left, who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria…If you return to the Lord, then your brothers and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will come back to this land, for the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn His face from you if you return to Him (verse 6, 9).” Hezekiah knew the character of God. The captives still belonged to God, who still loved them. You would expect an overwhelmingly positive response to that, right? Well… Some of the people in the north “scorned and ridiculed” the couriers (verse 10). They didn’t want God’s compassion. That’s foolishness. Others “humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem (verse 11).” That’s repentance.

And, God gave the people of Judah “unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered following the word of the Lord (verse 12).” As a group, they cleaned Jerusalem of its idolatrous filth that King Ahaz had done to it. Hezekiah prayed for God’s grace upon the people who really didn’t remember how to purify themselves. “‘May the Lord, who is good, pardon everyone who sets his heart on seeking God…even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.’ And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people (verse18-20).” That’s grace. That’s what God does. We can never really clean ourselves. God cleanses the heart of faith. There was much rejoicing that day, “including the aliens who had come from Israel and those who lived in Judah (verse 25).” That’s Gentiles! Gentiles joined the assembly of God’s people and were accepted by God that day by faith. Foreshadowing of the future. Thank you, God!

So, what was the difference this time compared to previous attempts to bring the people back to God? Their response. The people responded with obedience to God, not just compliance to the king’s commands. This is what is recorded in 2 Chronicles 31:1, “When all this had ended, the Israelites who were there went out to the towns of Judah, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. They destroyed the high places and the altars throughout Judah and Benjamin [southern kingdom] and in Ephraim and Manasseh [northern kingdom].” The response to grace was obedience. The people destroyed the idolatrous worship centers that had led them astray. Reminds me of the Ephesian Christians who created a bonfire with all their sorcery books and tools (Acts 19). Peeling back the layers, why were the people so willing to do this? Fear. Fear of the consequences of continuing their wicked lifestyle. The threat of captivity .They knew what happened to the 10 tribes of Israel through the brutality of Assyria and the dragging off of hundreds of thousands of people to who-knows-where as slaves. That was the motivation. God didn’t want to do that. He sent prophet after prophet to woo His people back to Him. They wouldn’t pay attention. They spurned His grace and His love and His protection. But, His love didn’t end… 

God gave the people a leader. Hezekiah did what was good and right and faithful before the Lord. In everything he did for the Temple and for restoring God’s law in the land, “he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered (2 Chronicles 31:20).” And the nation prospered so people had abundance to bring as offerings to the Lord (verses 9-10).

We can all learn wisdom from watching the mistakes of others and choosing not to do that! It’s much better to approach life God’s way. In this case, a healthy fear of consequences can motivate selfish people to follow God instead. 

Bible Study Leadership Made Easy. Learning to lead with confidence & grace. An online course at MelanieNewton.com.