I’ve been spending a great deal of time reading the Scriptures and praying for understanding of the whole of scriptures in relationship to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There has been a great deal of growth, and yet I feel like I’m only scratching the surface. I hope you can relate to that feeling. Lately, I’ve been trying carefully to re-evaluate every aspect of my doctrine to make sure that what I believe is in line with the Scriptures. I’ll admit, it’s not fun. We usually like to start with those beliefs we didn’t trust, or that we suspected were unBiblical, but when it comes to challenging our own… *sigh*… it can be rough. My personal growth has been what I would call a Renaissance of the Preeminence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in all of Scriptures. I’m learning that a common pitfall in Evangelical circles, is to allow ourselves to somehow graduate from the Gospel and move on toward living a Holy life. The problem is in the false-notion that we can (or should) graduate from the Gospel. There is nothing beyond the Gospel, because the Gospel is everything. Outside of the Gospel, there is no hope of living a Holy life. So, instead of graduating, what happens is we allow our focus to fall from the grace of the Gospel, back under the Law.
Galatians 5:1-6 (ESV)
5 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
The Apostle Paul is not encouraging any sense of Lawlessness. I have no desire to encourage or condone lawlessness. So where’s the balance? I can cite several places where Paul is rebuking those who fall from grace and back into Law… and also where James is rebuking lawlessness. I know (intellectually, theologically, scripturally) the answer is, “in Jesus Christ”. I’d like to share an object lesson I believe the Holy Spirit gave me over the weekend.
I am the father of a wonderful 4-year-old son, and a beautiful 2-year-old daughter. Lately, my daughter has been pushing the limits of her authority and testing the patience of her parents. She’s always been strong-willed, and quite the ham, but lately she has become very aware of her desires and quite capable to communicate those desires. She has been testing the waters in matching her will against ours. If you have toddlers now, or can remember when your kids were at this age, you know that this is simply a part of growing up. It isn’t rebellion, but it is a resistance to submission of will. Naturally, it is my duty to rebuke, reprimand, and even admonish such willful acts of disobedience, so I must, though it breaks my heart to do so. My son generally just needs a strong word. He may not understand (or even want to) why he was “in trouble” but he acknowledges he was reprimanded and then we have to build him back up. My daughter… will fight. Over the weekend, she disobeyed direct commands (stop that, don’t play with that, come here, pick that up) to varying degrees of defiance. In a few cases, this lead to punishment, tears, and a few instances of “telling on daddy” to mommy. A funny thing also kept coming up… once all was said and done, she apologized, we hugged, and reaffirmed our love for each other… she’d ask me later, “Daddy… you mad?”. I’d tell her, “no, honey, I’m not mad. It makes Daddy mad when you don’t do what I tell you to do, but I’m not mad now, and I still love you very, very much”. She’d smile at me and continue playing, sometimes hamming it up with an overwhelming tackle of a hug. As we were putting the kids to bed this past Saturday evening, and I started thinking about how I relate to our Heavenly Father.
Luke 11:11-13 (ESV) 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
As a father, I am an imperfect picture of the Perfect Love of Our Heavenly Father. Yes, my daughter is learning what it means to please and displease me, her earthly father. But those lessons are being taught and reinforced within the context of my love for her as my daughter. At no time… ever… is there any question that I love my daughter. None. And in my flesh, I am evil. How much more… is a powerful statement. One of the most dangerous lies of the devil, is when he accuses God of malice in His correction/punishment of our disobedience. Do not allow the enemy to twist the consequences of disobedience or the fleshly failings/stumblings that are going to happen, into doubt of your standing with God. Just as my daughter doesn’t stop being my daughter just because I had to correct her wrong doing, we don’t stop being Children of God simply because we failed to be Holy. Our performance was not what saved us in the first place!
Ephesians 2 (ESV)
2 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. One in Christ 11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
The Christian life, is a life lived in Christ. We are being built together, joined together, grown into a holy temple in the Lord… but Jesus Christ is the cornerstone. You cannot make (or keep) a wall straight, if you take your eyes off of the cornerstone. When we fall out of alignment (and it will happen while we walk in the flesh), the Holy Spirit will work us back into alignment. Do not mistake the rebuke and correction of the Holy Spirit for malice. There is no room to question God’s love, for Scripture makes it clear that He loved us while we were dead in our sins. We don’t reject the Law and the Prophets, we don’t ignore them one bit, not a single iota, because in doing so we would lose sight of depth and width of that for which Jesus gave Himself as the final sacrifice.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV) 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
The problem is not the Law and the Prophets, it’s in allowing your focus to move off of what Christ did for us and onto an obligation to fulfill the whole law ourselves, something we are incapable of doing apart from Christ! How does that pan out?
- theology that declares that God hates you because you sinned
- theology that limits the forgiveness paid by Christ to only those sins you committed before you were “saved” (leaving you to seek penance through the Law to make up for sins committed after you “received Christ”)
- theology that declares you “owe it to God” to fulfill the Law
- theology that tells you that you need to prove to God how much you love Him by performing works of the Law
So, in closing, we should expect to get corrected, rebuked, and punished for wrong doing… as Children of God in Christ Jesus, for the maturing of the Church. We will mess up and He will correct us. But we remain, forever, His children. Bless the Lord for His Love, His Kindness, His Mercy, and His Grace. Amen.
May the Lord bless you and keep you,