GCI Update

Does grace mean tolerance of sin?

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph and Tammy Tkach
Joseph and Tammy Tkach

I have had conversations with many people who think that to live fully in God’s grace, they must be tolerant of sin. Perhaps they came to that erroneous conclusion because their goal was merely to avoid legalism. But the Bible tells us that living in grace means rejecting sin, not tolerating or accepting it. The Bible is clear: God is against sin—he hates it. Scripture says that God, refusing to leave us in our sinful condition, sent his Son to deliver us. God could not possibly be for us without being fully against what is against us.

Jesus taught against sin. In addressing a woman who had been caught in adultery, he said, “I do not condemn you…. Go. From now on sin no more” (John 8:11 NASB). Jesus’ statement demonstrates his contempt for sin and conveys a grace that confronts sin with redemptive love. It would be a tragic mistake to view Jesus’ willingness to become our Savior as tolerance of sin. The Son of God became one of us, precisely because he was completely intolerant of sin’s deceptive and destructive power. Instead of accepting our sin, he took it upon himself, submitting it to God’s judgment, to be obliterated through his self-offering on our behalf.

Jesus and the Woman Taken in Adultery 
(public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

As we look around at the fallen world we live in and as we look into our own lives, it’s obvious that God allows sin to occur. However, Scripture is clear that God hates sin. Why? Because of the damage it wreaks upon us. Sin hurts us—it hurts our relationship with him and with others; it keeps us from living in the truth and the fullness of who we are, his beloved. In dealing with our sin in and through Jesus, God does not immediately remove us from all of sin’s enslaving consequences. But that does not mean that his grace gives us permission to continue sinning. God’s grace is not his passive tolerance of sin.

As Christians, we live under grace—freed from the ultimate penalties of sin because of Jesus’ sacrifice. As workers with Christ, we teach and preach grace in a way that gives people hope and a clearer image of God as their loving, forgiving Father. But that message comes with a warning—remember the apostle Paul’s question: “Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4 ESV). He also said this: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Rom. 6:1-2).

The truth of God’s grace is never meant to encourage us to remain in our sin. Grace is God’s provision in Jesus to release us not only from the guilt and shame of sin, but also from its distorting, enslaving power. As Jesus said, “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34) and as Paul warned, “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Rom. 6: 16). Sinning is a serious matter for it enslaves us to the influence of evil.

This understanding of sin and its consequences does not lead us to heap words of condemnation on people. Instead, our words, as Paul noted, are to be “always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 4:6). Our words should convey hope, telling both of God’s forgiveness of sin in Christ, and his eventual triumph over all evil. To speak of one without the other is a distortion of the message of grace. As Paul notes, God in his grace will never leave us enslaved to evil: “Thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance” (Rom. 6:17).

As we grow in our understanding of the truth of God’s grace, we understand more and more why God loathes sin—it harms and hurts his creation, it destroys right relationships with others, and it slanders the character of God with lies about God, undermining a trusting relationship with God. What, then, do we do when we see a loved one sinning? We don’t condemn them, but we do hate the sinful behavior that is harming them (and perhaps others). We hope and pray that our loved one will be freed from their sin and, as we are able, we reach out to help.

Paul at Stephen’s Stoning (source)

Paul is a powerful example of what God’s grace accomplishes in a person’s life. Prior to conversion, Paul violently persecuted Christians. He stood by (perhaps throwing stones) as Stephen was martyred (Acts 7:54–8:1a). Because he was vividly aware of the tremendous grace he received for the horrible sins of his past, grace remained a theme of Paul’s life as he fulfilled his calling to serve Jesus:

I consider my own life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. (Acts 20:24)

In Paul’s writings, we find an interweaving of grace and truth in what he taught under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We also see that God radically transformed Paul from an ill-tempered legalist who persecuted Christians, to a humble servant of Jesus who was fully aware of his own sin and of God’s mercy in adopting him as his child. Paul embraced the grace of God, and throughout his life devoted himself to proclaiming it, no matter what the cost.

Following Paul’s example, our conversation and counsel to others should be grounded in God’s amazing grace for all sinners, and God’s firm teaching that we are to live lives apart from sin—the life that God’s grace frees us to live. We are to “encourage one another daily… so that none of [us] may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Heb. 3:13). When we find people living in opposition to God’s goodness, rather than condemning them, we are to gently instruct them, “in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:25).

Comforted and instructed by God’s grace and truth,
Joseph Tkach

PS: Click here to download the GCI prayer guide for February. We publish these prayer guides on our GCI Facebook page at www.facebook.com/WeAreGCI.

Leadership changes in GCI-Africa

GCI Vice President Greg Williams recently announced the following changes to GCI’s denominational leadership in Africa.

Kalengule Kaoma (pictured at right with his wife Nsama) has been appointed to serve as Director over all GCI churches on the continent of Africa. In making the announcement, Greg wrote this to the GCI mission developers, regional directors and national ministry leaders in Africa:

We are confident that Kalengule will provide thoughtful and effective oversight for all of the regions that make up the vast continent of Africa. We congratulate Kalengule and ask that you support him as he endeavors to serve you in the gospel work of Jesus Christ.

Greg also announced that Takalani Musekwa (pictured at left with his wife Margaret) was approved by GCI’s South Africa Board to serve as the new National Ministry Leader for GCI in the nation of South Africa (RSA). Takalani will be working with a national ministry team that will share the office previously held by Tim Maguire.

Greg thanked Tim for his 10 years of service as RSA National Ministry Leader. As Greg noted, 2017 was a very trying year for Tim, capped off by a serious injury to his foot and ankle. Tim resigned from his denominational leadership position in November, but will continue serving the church in South Africa in a volunteer capacity.

We solicit your prayers and support for this new phase of GCI denominational leadership in South Africa and all the continent of Africa.

God’s provision in Charleston church

GCI’s congregation in Charleston, South Carolina, recently celebrated its fifth anniversary. Two years ago, the congregation, led by Pastor Tommie Grant and his wife Robin (pictured at right), moved into their own church building. After much prayer concerning where God would have them locate, the building, which had been vacant for two years, became available. It has served since then as an effective place from which the congregation reaches out to the surrounding community.

The anniversary celebration was special as the congregation thanked God for his provision. The event drew guests from the community along with family and friends. The guest preacher was Charles Young who pastors a GCI congregation in Atlanta, GA. It was a joyous day!

Jodie Haist

Prayer is requested for Jodie Haist, wife of Brad Haist, pastor of GCI congregations in Flint and Saginaw, Michigan.

Brad and Jodie

Jodie is scheduled to have a second back surgery on February 15. Brad says she is in great pain, and they are praying for relief. According to Brad, this surgery will involve rods, screws and more.

Please pray for Jodie and the surgical team.

Cards may be sent to:

Jodie Haist
618  9th Street
Sebewaing, MI 48759-1211 

Warren Wilson

Prayer is requested for Warren Wilson who pastors GCI’s congregation in Mineral Wells, West Virginia.

Lorraine and Warren

Warren had his gall bladder removed recently but had to return to the hospital due to complications, including a great deal of pain. Please pray that God will guide the doctors in diagnosing and treating Warren, and please pray for Warren’s wife Lorrain.

Cards may be sent to

Warren and Lorrain Wilson
220 Waverly Way
Clarksburg, WV 26301-4047

PS: Here is an update we received from Warren on Feb. 14: “I was just released from the hospital following an 11 day hospital stay for a bowel obstruction, which was cured by laprascopic surgery.  I want to thank you all for your prayers and support.

Pedro Rufián

In the last issue of GCI Update, prayer was requested for Pedro Rufián, GCI pastor in Spain. Here is recent update from Pedro:

Thank you very much for the outpouring of love, concern, prayers, messages and phone calls. I just came back from a visit to the urologist. She told me that I have grade two prostate cancer, with some metastasis into my bones. I will have hormone treatments for 15 days, followed by chemotherapy. My family and I trust in our loving Father as our ultimate Healer and in his perfect will for our lives, so we have peace and confidence knowing our triune God is always with us to comfort and strengthen us. I will continue to appreciate your prayers for my family and me at this challenging time.

Cards may be sent to Pedro and his wife Brigida at:

Mr. and Mrs. Pedro Rufián
Real 26
E-28610 VILLAMANTA
SPAIN

Death of retired pastor

We were saddened to learn of the recent death of Sam Templeton, former pastor of GCI’s congregation in Cambridge, Ohio.

A long time member of GCI, Sam (pictured at right) was baptized in 1966 and first attended WCG in Wheeling, WV. Sam was a founding member of the WCG/GCI congregation in Cambridge, OH, where he served as a deacon, elder and lead pastor. Due to declining health, Sam retired from serving as lead pastor in 2005.

A US Navy veteran, Sam was employed as a deputy sheriff and a private investigator. He was widely known and highly regarded, and will be missed by many, including the GCI members in the area.

Sam is survived by his wife Dorothy, who lives in Woodsfield, Ohio.

Cards may be sent to:

Templeton family
111 Young Ave
Woodsfield, Oh. 43973

Death of pastor’s wife

We were saddened to learn of the recent death of Jane Nolder, wife of Nevin Nolder, who pastors a GCI congregation in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

Nevin and Jane

Jane’s death from complications due to cancer was unexpected—the couple had been led to believe that they had more time together. A memorial service will be held on Feb 17.

Please join us in prayer for Nevin and his family.

Cards may be sent to:

Nevin Nolder
4690 253rd Ave NW
Isanti, MN 55040

Meet GCI-USA intern Mohammad Ali

We are pleased to introduce you to Mohammad Ali (pictured below), one of our newest interns in the GCI-USA Intern Program. Mohammad is interning in GCI’s San Jose, CA, congregation under the tutelage of Lead Pastor Mel Dahlgren, with CAD team member Ted Johnston serving as Mohammad’s ministry coach. Here is a short bio from Mohammad:

I was born in the Ukraine and moved back and forth from Jordan and Kazakhstan due to my father’s job. My mother and I came to the United States nine years ago, when I was 12. Throughout my middle school and high school years, I always acknowledged the existence of God, but never partook in the intimate relationship that Jesus Christ provides.

At age 18 I moved away from home and went from being a hereditary Christian to an individual who was transformed in heart, thought and action by Jesus through the Word. I believe it is my calling to be a minister of the gospel.

Currently, I am serving as the youth pastor and one of the worship leaders at my church. My hope is to one day plant a church and live in a region where the Word of God is either being suppressed or has never been presented. I know that God will use my GCI internship to continue improving my effectiveness as a disciple of Jesus.