[In this article we explained the Christian message relating to the finished work of Jesus, also referred to as the Grace Message]
In regards to types of christian teachings, we tend to coin new phrases to differentiate ourselves from something that is more commonly accepted. In this case, the term “Message of the Finished Work.” or “Grace” message is popularized. Sometimes a new phrase is just a re-branding of the same old thing. At other times, it is a new perspective, but essentially the same principle or doctrine. Yet, there are times when a teaching will add something that has never been widely taught, or has been misunderstood. Even further, sometimes a teaching will radically reinterpret scripture to mean something totally different than how the modern church understands it. So, when one says “I teach the Finished Work or Grace Message”, it can mean lots of different things, and we need clarification of these differences.
What’s Left for Jesus To Do?: Nothing
It is best to start clarifying by establishing common denominators. For this term, the following seems to be widely agreed about the cross:
- Jesus perfectly accomplished His work
- Jesus left nothing undone or incomplete
- Jesus left nothing unfinished or deficient
- Jesus left nothing unaccomplished or lacking
- His work was totally sufficient.
Since Jesus paid it all; nothing needs to be added to His finished work.
So the message at its core is about resting in what Jesus already did, and not laboring to receive or to somehow earn inheritance. It is done!
The term Grace Message is used interchangeably, and contrasts the grace aspect of the message compared to mainstream Christian doctrines that are more works and law oriented. In what I have observed, though, is that many mainstream Christians believe this message in part, and when we drill down on things like Bible reading and prayer, we find that we often get into law and condemn ourselves when we do not measure up to expectations–whether those expectations comes from the Bible, a minister, or our own interpretation.
Most evangelical Christians I have met in my 32 years of being saved would agree, though, that the cross is all inclusive and complete. There should be no controversy. I find the addons to this message, however, are what differentiate the message among grace ministers, and this article will differentiate some of the differences.
Finished work message = understanding who you are
History of the Core Message
Back in the 1940′s, a message emerged that focused on who you are in Christ; much of which came had roots in the Latter Rain Revival . Out of this movement came authors such as Bill Britton, George Warnock, Kevin J Conner, and Kelley Varner, which continued writings that are indicative of what we would call the Finished Work or Grace Message. Other names for the type of teachings espoused are Sonship, Manifested Sons of God, and the Apostolic Reformation or Movement, though no one likes to be labeled. An important principle to remember is that all these messages have common denominators yet divert its message into many different theology viewpoints.
The one component that you can learn from these authors is the fact that types and shadows are very important as a principle of interpretation, and that we gain understanding in both who we are in Christ and the prophetic through this brand of Finished Work Message.
Today, the message has blended into so many spheres of influence, so we can only bubble up some of the most important aspects of the message, and examine some of the differences when these terms are thrown around by contemporary ministers. In many circles there has been a departure from these principles of interpretation, or they are simply absent because of the lack of progression.
The Core Message
The Finished Work Message states that we are the righteousness of God in Christ positionally– because of the finished work of the cross. Thus, if the white walls surrounding the Tabernacle of Moses represents God’s righteousness, and we have entered into that tabernacle by accepting Christ, the Father only sees the righteous walls of Jesus, not you. When God sees you, He sees His Son. Your only part was to enter in. Additionally, when you entered into the tabernacle, you abide in Him because the Person of Jesus is that tabernacle. At the root, this is who you are, and this is the basis for the Finished Work and Grace Message.
So, I taught this tabernacle message in the early 80′s, thus you could have called me a “finished work” teacher. But in reality, the message was not new, it just added another perspective on that simple truth. If we can see a picture like the tabernacle, it helps us to understand and walk in it better. The Bible is full of these types and pictures that even show the intricate detail of who we are in Him. We understand even better when we combine these pictures with truth such as: Eph 1:7-8: In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. NASU
As this message progresses, we learn to not return to the cross every time we do something wrong. We learn we are not bound to oppression by other Christians, being force-fed doctrines, or to obey a list of do’s and don’ts. There is a grace we rest in that receives deliverance from anything that does not look and act like Jesus Christ, and that grace allows us to do much more than we can imagine. In all, the message is a victory message, opposed to a draining, joy robbing, works doctrine, that self-inflicts us with our shortcomings–daily.
In all, the Finished Work and Grace Message is a message about overcoming. It is characterized by victory, defeating sin in this life, and achieving God’s high calling–in this life. It does not put off all the promises of God to the next life.
Adding Detail to the Finished Work Message
I see the Finished Work Message dealing with the prophetic as well, describing what the last day church looks like. How will the bride make herself ready? What are the things that she is doing that demonstrate the finished work of Jesus to the world? And this message gives the needed guidance to train the bride how to make herself ready. This is the type of finished work message that aligns with the Temple Builders message.
What is the finished work message accomplishing? Its objective is to get us to see who we are in Christ to the point that we will start walking in that reality. We will truly walk by grace, not under law. We will cease to be sin conscious. We will stop a life preoccupied with christian works, which we thought would make us feel righteous. Then we flip it by saying that the revelation of knowing who we are in Him propels us to good deeds, obedience, and becoming a mature temple builder. We start understanding the desert life–the dealings of God that are painful, and learning their lessons.
As we add detail to the message, controversies appear because we start deviating from the core message, taking a fork in the road that leads to error. A heretic deviation comes when we go too far with a truth, losing balance, or we start getting goofy with scripture interpretation. However, a progressive deviation occurs as Jesus reveals more of His plans and purposes for your life, and for the church. This path may not align with the denominational church as a whole.
In addition, heretical deviations also occur when we think we have a better revelation of grace and start to relax our call to obedience, stop building, start sinning more, or shun discipline. We know that if the righteous seed is pure, we are now destined to become God’s tree of righteousness in the Earth, but that may not happen even with a revelation of the finished work. This is where the practicality of understanding God’s ways come into play. You can be walking in the grace revelation and still be cruel to others. You can understand that you are His righteousness and still be lazy. You can fully understand the finished work on the cross, and choose to practice homosexuality until the day you die.
The idea is to stay balanced, and do not forsake the discipline of the Spirit. Learn of His ways and His correction, staying humble.
Balance to the Message of Grace
How do I spot deviations in today’s grace message?
- Does the message of grace hold Christians accountable? It should!
- Does the message downplay rewards in heaven, or consequences of disobedience in eternity? In contrast, our walk should have fruit that remains, and that fruit will be rewarded.
- Does the message try to label scriptures as old covenant? Both OT, NT, and the Gospels all have applicable truth for your daily walk, and will also prophesy to a day that will come. Scriptures have a strict meaning, but also have interpretations that instruct us in God’s ways.
- Does the message brand scriptural observances such as water baptism, the Lord’s supper, the sabbath, as useless? Jesus is the Sabbath, and there is a great revelation of that rest, but God allows for duality of meaning to observe a day of physical rest as well.
- Is the message theoretical and you find it hard to apply in your current trial? A good finished work message will help you to practically walk out your salvation.
- Does the message remove the role of the Holy Spirit convicting Christians? A new doctrine being circulated is suggesting that the Spirit does not function in convicting Christians. In contrast, without the Spirit showing us our sin, disobedience, or false thinking, none of us would mature.
- Does the message oppose types and shadows of who the church is? For instance, does the message say that you are NOT the bride, essentially removing this prophetic picture of the body of Christ? We ARE the bride of Christ and messages should not spread confusion of our prophetic identity.
- Are the defenders of the message acting in the spirit of humility? Or, do they dismiss critics as religious and law-oriented? Many times you can tell a message by the character of the people following it.
Latter Rain Purism
In today’s church, we are 64 years removed from the Latter Rain revival. During any revival or movement, God never straightens out our doctrine perfectly. Most of the time, some doctrines are changed to align with the mind of Christ, and others may be misaligned for years. The Holy Spirit has His own timetable for revealing, and when He does, those with ears to hear and eyes to see will continually be transformed to Jesus’ mind on every matter. So, 64 years later we have progression. We also, however, have heretic deviations.
I always find myself with different eyes than many of the ministers and authors that I may feed from. My point of view on grace is certainly a contrast with most grace teachers I know. The most problematic issue I have is what they leave out:
- Christian responsibility, with a focus on the God-kind of discipline
- Victory without emphasis on the pain and struggles that it takes to achieve it
- The church’s destiny
The 3 D’s
In my blog The 3 Ds to get to the next level: Decision, Discipline, and Diet, my focus is God’s challenge to us personally. The grace message has to be relevant, and understood easily. This in turn will allow us to apply its principles to our life. However, it is HARD. Jesus said that the gate into the kingdom is difficult. We figure that only applies to our entrance to the kingdom. If we think that, we would be wrong. Christian growth is hard as well. We will have to learn to make the right decisions, allow God to instill discipline in us, and feed on the diet that God approves, forsaking the doctrines of man.
The lack of emphasis in today’s Finished Work and Grace Message on the 3 D’s will cause us to stay in bondage instead of experiencing the end goal of what the message is about: liberty. A wise man must learn to evaluate what a ministers DOES NOT say as well as what they do say.
Victory without Struggle
I wish there was a doctrine that I could adhere to that would allow me to focus on just victory, and the end game would be nothing but success. But, I would think that most would agree that both history and our daily struggles reveal that there is a price to be paid for true victory. If we want the church to achieve the victory that the Grace message desires, we have to teach the church how to respond as Jesus would in any situation. We also have to teach the church how to deal with falling short of the response that pleases Jesus. Along with that is the understanding of the strategies of the enemy, how to tactically have the faith that overcomes, and how to leverage all the gifts that God provides us.
The Temple Builders message has always focused on the purpose of affliction and enduring more than any aspect of the Christian message. I think the reason is because this is how I have to live my life daily. I have to deal with circumstances, the enemy attacks, and worse of all: myself. I tend to be my worse enemy when it comes to doing the things that please God most. I teach this message knowing that many struggle the same way that I do, and I have found hope, grace, and enduring faith in a well-balanced Finished Work and Grace Message.
I have always focused on the church’s destiny because we need to have an image on the inside of us where we are going. Every good runner sees a finishing line. Every successful CEO sets financial and organizational goals that will increase revenue and profit. And, every minister should teach the church what spiritual maturity really is, what Jesus’ destines for each one of us in this life, and then the ultimate conclusion to all the plans and purposes of God in this age of redemption and victory. If the destiny is portrayed accurately and with balance, the “how to get there” methods will fall into place.
What is Spiritual Maturity?
One of my greatest frustrations, though, is that most ministers mischaracterize God’s mind on all these things. If you were to form a round table discussion with a group of your Christian friends, asking them to describe in detail what they think spiritual maturity is, the answers would surprise you. Some may answer with works, law, extreme grace, ministry gifts, or accomplishments, none of which are correct. Some may even believe that the ministry popularity, church size, or number of books authored are some kind if indicator of spiritual maturity. Again, incorrect answers. I think a sort, correct answer would be to focus on the fruit of the Spirit, and the attributes surrounding that fruit. Enduring faith that looks like Hebrews 11 is also a true indicator.
If you look at most of us, we are just common folks that walk out this life day by day. We simply want ministers that can give us the manna that we need to grow, and in a way that pleases Jesus. To accomplish this task, we need ministers to abandon man’s doctrine, which is oppose to the mind of Christ. They need to feed from the Tree of Life and learn the Spirit’s word for all they meet. And, they need to make sure that it is fresh manna, and bold enough to be contrary to the sphere of their ministry friends when there are disagreements. I would say that ministers need to think for themselves, but more accurately they need to get the mind of Christ on every doctrine and church matter. The church is needlessly struggling to grow because ministers have yet to learn balance in teaching God’s word, and to properly exercise understanding the principles of interpretation combined with Holy Spirit revelation.
Our Personal Destiny
Have you ever heard a minister giving what seemed to be a revelatory message yet it seemed totally applicable to your life? Sometimes these messages help straighten our thinking with the result of indirectly influencing our faith. But alone, these messages are not enough. These messages must show us how to deal with our struggles today. They must show us how to have faith in that grace that many ministers theoretically espouse. The messages must deal with our hangups and idiosyncrasies. The messages must help us through periods of grief and tragedy. Finally, the messages must help us to attain the things we know we are destined for.
We must teach the grace doctrine with methods to achieve it in our daily life. In other words, how did the minister achieve it in their life? How did they take the doctrine and overcome their numerous obstacles? What personal faults did they have to deal with? (We all have hangups!) How did they learn to respond as Jesus in life’s toughest circumstances such as losing a loved one? And, how did they deal with sin? One reason young ministers have to rely on gifts is because many of them have not sufficiently been dealt with by the Spirit in hardships.
Why is it that the minister does not want to reveal his or her weakness? Yet most great success stories are comprised of doubt and lack of confidence, mistakes, and outright failure. It is what we do in spite of these things that bring us to victory that pleases Jesus. All of us must truly understand that the capability of God in us can achieve the “greater works.” We are all success stories in the making. It is the job of every minister to push us towards that success!
The Church’s Final Destiny
I hope to publish my third Temple Builders book called The Final Push to the Summit. In that book, my desire is to conclude the Temple Builders message by carving out the final goals and destiny of the bride. Already some ministers are trying to thwart our destiny by teaching that the church is NOT the bride. Thus is our inner battle in the church today. We battle whether the church will be raptured, how the types and shadows should be interpreted, and how the Book of Revelation ends it all. The who, what, how, why, and when are hotly debated–to our disgrace. Even the most like-minded Christians in the Grace message do not agree on numerous doctrines.
Today’s ministers must get a grip on how all this plays out. One minister is preaching that hell and the Lake of Fire are not literal, while others are damning half the church to eternal damnation. On one side of the coin we have ministers teaching that there is no church age, and that the Book of Revelation is in the past, while others teach that tomorrow they could all be taken to heaven without any further purpose for the church. Still, others simply forfeit the destiny of the church and give it to the physical Jew. This is all enough for the average Christian to just live life without regard to the future, hoping it all works out. THIS IS NOT OUR DESTINY!
The Finished Work Message includes many principles that a grace minister might teach, but we need to complete this message with balance and truth. Jesus only has one point of view for these doctrines. Imagine what would happen if Jesus came to our congregation and sat next to us listing our doctrines, one by one. I can hear Him say on many of them, “what were you thinking?”. We inherit a lot of goofy doctrines from misguided men. Others, we are simply confused and start guessing. The Finished Work Message brings life, though. It produces genuine fruit. He enables us to do what pleases Him. And, it builds in us an understanding of Jesus’ opinion on every subject, scripture, and controversy. In the end, it is about being in Him.
The gospel is good news, and the good news is that the work of the cross is finished and there is nothing to add; there is not left for Jesus to do inside our spirit. However, Jesus is not done. He is dealing with our mind and our will, and consequently what we DO. He is actively working through His body to build the true temple of God. Jesus is the Temple Builder, and He is the Branch that is growing up in that temple. That part IS NOT FINISHED. Thus, the Finished Work is not really finished, and grace is not yet walked in a way where we have finished this race.
Temple Builders: The High Calling book seeks to build a proper foundation for this last day message. In addition, please visit our content on the Temple Builders Ministry website and our Facebook Page.
John Robert Lucas, author of Temple Builders the High Calling
August 27, 2011 [revised 2/19/2012]