After calming down a bit from last week’s thoughts, I began to think about the answer to that first thought in last week’s post:
Why do we as Christians insist on teaching obedience to the Law?
As I asked the question, I came up with three simple answers. First, because we know Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commands.” (John 14:15) In this verse, we confuse Jesus’ teachings with Moses’ teachings. Moses gave us the Law. Jesus gave us grace and truth (Look up John 1:17). We assume that the Law is what Jesus commanded. That is because we know that Jesus came to fulfill the Law, and the Law is perfect. But we fail to realize that the Law empowers SIN, not our walk. Also, we don’t understand that love naturally obeys. We think we have to teach obedience, as if Holy Spirit doesn’t do His job. We assume it is our job to encourage and teach and push people to read their bibles, instead of showing them the wonders and glory of having a close and intimate relationship with God. No one has had to encourage me to read my bible in years. Holy Spirit does it every time. He even calls me out when I don’t read, convicting my heart to make more time for Him.
The second reason I came up with for why we insist on teaching obedience is because Satan knows that the Law empowers sin, so he has kept us bound to the Law. We must realize that if we aren’t walking with Holy Spirit, we will be walking with the devil. I know that is an extreme sentence, but it’s still true. If I walk in the Spirit, I will not give in to sin. But if I walk in obedience to the Law, I will sin more and more. It’s a hard pill to swallow- that there are many “Christians” out there preaching a strong message about obeying the Law, and we don’t even realize they are closer to the devil than they are to Jesus… because Jesus didn’t preach the Law, He preached Grace through Holy Spirit, and it’s the devil who preaches the Law. It is my hope that someone here would read this and realize this error and get free from the bondage of obedience.
The third reason we insist on teaching obedience to the Law is there is comfort in following a list of do’s and don’ts. As long as my eyes are on a list of what to do and what not to do, I will stay a victim to the schemes of the devil. When I do what I want to do, it’s good. But when I don’t do what I want to do, or I do what I don’t want to do… well, that’s bad, isn’t it? And suddenly, we all find ourselves relating to Romans 7 more than we do to actually walking in the light and glory of God, in the freedom that He promises. It’s in chapter 7 that we find the promises of God to be a foreign dream, and not a reality. We don’t even realize that chapter 7 was written to explain what life is like when we are pursuing obedience to the Law more than actually pursuing Christ. Just remember what Romans 5 tells us: where sin abounds, death reigns (which is also why Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 15:35-58).
In response to these 3 answers, I would like to take us to Galatians 2:19-21.
“For through the law, I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the Law, Christ died for nothing!”
That’s some real truth right there. As Paul wrote in Romans 6, I am supposed to consider myself dead to sin, but alive in Christ. It is He who is alive in this body. I don’t focus on obedience to the Law, but instead I focus on the grace of God. If obedience to the Law has value for my soul, then Jesus died for nothing!
What’s even more amazing is what Paul writes in Galatians 3, particularly in verses 10 and 11:
“All who rely on observing the Law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’ Clearly no one is justified before God by the Law, because, ‘The righteous will live by faith.’”
When we feel that our obedience to some of the Law is of any value… for example, if I believe that I have more value than someone else because I have never murdered anyone… then that means Jesus dying on the cross has equal or less say than my obedience to the Law. That would be ridiculous. No one is justified by the Law, regardless to how well we have been able to follow the Law. Also, if I believe that my ability to not sin adds any more value to my life, then I am denying the power of the Cross, saying it doesn’t have full say in my life. Remember, “the Law is not based on faith…” (Galatians 3:12a).
In fact, Faith and Obedience are and WERE at odds with each other, and faith defeated obedience at the cross. Faith brings us close to Jesus. Obedience pushes us away from Jesus. Again, I’m referring to Obedience to the Law*, and not to Jesus’ commands. Remember, in John 14:15, Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commands,” but this was not in reference to the Law. This was referring to Jesus’ commands to love each other and love God, as well as to heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons, and cleanse lepers. Jesus was referring to partnering with Holy Spirit, and make your body a home for God to dwell. And again, we aren’t saying the Law is bad. We are saying that committing your life to obeying the Law will never work, and if you place any value in your ability to follow some of the Law, then you are actually denying the Cross’ work in your life, or at least devaluing Jesus’ sacrifice for you.
Why is this so important? Because we need to realize that we must walk in faith, not in obedience. The righteous live by faith. Our justification does not come from anything but Faith. The more we focus on doing things, the less justified we are, and eventually it will lead to a denial of God’s goodness… which is why many Christians preach the wrath of God instead of the kindness of God.
So this week, let us strive towards letting go of the desire to be good, do good, and earn anything. Let us all focus on what Jesus has already done for us. I pray that each of us realize that Jesus has done enough, that we don’t have to do anything else to gain value. We are all priceless to God. Be blessed…
Faith is a difficult concept to fully grasp, isn’t it? I find that I often feel like a pendulum, swaying back and forth, in and out of faith. Sometimes my faith even falls into the wrong things, such as faith in my prayers instead of faith in God, or faith in my obedience instead of faith in the Cross. I’m not sure how common this is, but I feel I’m not the only person who battles these things. I’m pretty sure most of us fall victim to placing our faith in our obedience (or lack of obedience) than believing the Cross and grace. For example, I’ve found myself believing that my desire to do what God wants often pales when compared to what I actually do, and this brings guilt and condemnation of my failures. When I was reading my bible this week, I came across a single verse in 1 Corinthians which seemed to jump off the page and open my eyes to some truth.
1 Corinthians 15:56- “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.”
Did you see it? The Law empowers sin! It hit me like a ton of bricks. There it was, written in black and white, for all to see, but I had never realized it before. The Law empowers sin. Some of you may know me pretty well, and so you know I often preach how we are no longer under the Law. I often quote the passages that say this truth in Romans and Galatians, and try to teach that a relationship with God is not about obedience- a list of do’s and don’ts. But this single verse is pretty clear- sin gets its power from the Law.
Immediately, upon reading this verse and thinking a bit, my mind was taken to Galatians 2:16, which says, “Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”
I’ve read (and seen) this many times, but when I read it beside 1 Corinthians 15:56, it just had bigger impact in my life. My first thought after reading them together was, “If our faith in Jesus justifies us, and not our obedience, then why do we as Christians insist on teaching behavior through obedience?” Why is that we as Christians spend so much time in churches learning how to be good, how to obey, how to prove ourselves, instead of focusing on Faith in Christ? Why have we watered down this faith to simply a prayer of, “I’m sorry for my sins, Jesus. Forgive me. I want to be better. I want to do better. I will do better. Come into my life and be my savior and lord.”? How is it possible that Christianity has watered down the main teaching of the Gospel, and instead used that same “prayer of faith” to refocus back on obedience?? Does no one see the problem? Have we been so misguided that we are now blind to the truth in which sets us free?
The flip side to this would be living like the Pharisees did. For example, Jesus told a story about a Pharisee and a tax collector both going to the Temple and praying… The Pharisee prayed allowed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men. I fast twice a week and tithe my 10 percent.” The tax collector stood at a distance, bowed his head and beat his chest as he prayed, “God, have mercy on me. I am a sinner.” Which one is focused on their ability to obey, and which is focused on the grace of God? Jesus went on to explain that the tax collector left justified, while the Pharisee left condemned by God. You see? When we focus on our own ability to obey, it will either condemn us in our guilt, or it will condemn us from our pride. The more we focus on obedience to the Law, the more sin will abound.
So my prayer for you this week is that you will slow down and focus on the grace of Jesus, displayed on the Cross. The man beside Jesus, a known criminal and bad man, was promised Heaven. He didn’t have time to obey. He didn’t tithe. He didn’t do anything “right.” He simply believed in what Jesus was doing on that cross. I hope you do too. God bless you…
I took some time this morning to reflect on the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection. What an incredible weekend that was. It would have been filled with extreme sadness, dread, and joy- a truly emotional rollercoaster. Can you imagine?
Just think about it… Thursday night, you’re eating dinner with Jesus, and things seem to be going great. Here is Jesus, you’re breaking bread, He’s washing feet, taking time to explain the future to them- how they will do greater things than He has ever done, explaining faith, what to preach, and keys of the Kingdom- and suddenly says He is going to be betrayed and denied by some of the group. Next thing you know, Judas gets up and runs out of the room, and then Jesus says it’s time to go. So now, you’re in the Garden of Gethsemane late at night, and Jesus walks off to pray. It’s a cold night and the guys all start falling asleep. Jesus comes back with blood on His face, and wakes everyone up and confronts everyone that is asleep. Meanwhile, Judas shows up with soldiers and Jesus asks them, “Who are you looking for?” They say they are here to arrest Jesus, and He responds, “I am He.” As He says this, everyone flies back and falls to the ground. One of the men, a servant of the High Priest of Israel (the holiest man in your religion) gets up and grabs Jesus. As he does, Peter pulls out a sword and chops the dude’s ear off. (What is going on?!) Before you can even begin to process anything, Jesus heals the ear, rebukes Peter, surrenders to the soldiers, and leaves with them. Your entire world has suddenly collapsed. How did this happen? Just a few hours ago, everything was amazing. You were hoping that Jesus was going to become King and change everything, but now all you see is chaos. You can’t gather your thoughts. Years of preparation, miracles, studying, learning, helping people… it’s all over.
Friday morning comes and Jesus is being tried. The whole city has changed. You haven’t slept, you’re scared to death, and you are extremely confused. Everyone has gone crazy. Just a few days ago, the whole city was worshipping Jesus and celebrating His arrival. Now everyone wants Him dead, and you are afraid they will kill you too. Then you find out they found Jesus “not guilty”, but instead of releasing Him they sent Him to another court. A few moments later, Jesus has been found not guilty “again”, but they still don’t release Him. He is sent back to the first court. The Romans don’t have any reason to do this, except that they are afraid of 1 million people going crazy (even though they already are). They announce that Jesus is going to be beaten, and they take Him to the military barracks. A little while later, they bring Him back, you think. If it is Jesus, you can’t recognize Him. As a matter of fact, He doesn’t even look human. Blood is everywhere. Your heart breaks. Desperation explodes within you as you see what they have done to an innocent, wonderful man. He is so gentle and kind, full of grace and truth. He stands as best He can, proudly. The Roman in charge tells Him, “Don’t you realize I can save you?!” Jesus replies, “I give myself willingly.” Everyone heard it. The statement causes anguish in you, and extreme hatred in others. They bring out an evil murderer, who calls himself Bar Abba, which means “Son of the Father.” It’s the same thing Jesus has called Himself. This is why He was arrested. Two men, both calling themselves the same basic name, are presented to the crowd. Now it is up to everyone to choose who lives and who dies. Jesus is to die. They laugh, you cry. They take Jesus to Golgotha. It’s a brutal walk, carrying His cross. How He could even take a single step after losing so much blood, I will never know. He is so weak, but still filled with joy. You ask yourself, “How is He still so joyful?” That’s when you catch His eye, and hear deep within yourself, “He is joyful because He knows something. He has a purpose, here. He knows what He is doing.” He climbs on His cross, excited and joyful. He is quoting the Davidic Psalm (which we know to be Psalm 22) about crucifixion. Suddenly it’s starting to make sense. The mob has mostly left. They couldn’t stomach such a scene. Only the most religious are here to support His death, and on the opposite side, Jesus’ most devoted followers- those who haven’t let fear or shame overwhelm them. You watch Him take His last breath. Immediately, after His death, the ground began shaking, and clouds filled the sky. Rain falls. It’s not the rainy season. Even the Roman soldiers there say, “Surely He is the Son of God.” The Rabbis leave in disgust. Jesus is dead. It’s over. You start to head back to the city, but you hear screaming. Dead people are no longer dead. They are coming out of the tombs! It’s insanity. Everyone sees it. The chaos continues until sunset. It’s now Sabbath, and everyone goes home.
Saturday comes and no one is allowed to anything. You can’t even mourn. Mary and the other women make plans to go to the tomb tomorrow morning, first thing to take care of the body, and to mourn. You go to the Temple and pray.
Sunday morning comes. It’s before dawn, and the women leave Bethany to head to the tomb like they had planned. They are openly grieving, wearing the traditional clothes for mourning, and carrying the supplies for Jesus’ body. They are scared because we know there are Roman soldiers guarding the tomb, and Romans can be ruthless. Later, you see Mary running at full sprint back! She’s screaming, “He’s gone! He’s gone! There are angels at the tomb! He has risen! Come and see!” You don’t think twice, you drop everything and run as hard and fast as you can for miles, until you reach the tomb, and you pass Peter on the way. The old man just can’t run like you can. You get there and some of the ladies are crying on the ground, the guards are nowhere to be seen, and the stone has been rolled away. You stop at the entrance and bend down to see inside, and as you do Peter runs by you, going right into the tomb! You go inside too, and see the linen sheets for Jesus’ body there on the ground, and the cloth for His face neatly folded and placed where His feet should be. As you see the cloth, you realize “He will be back!” Hope floods your heart! “Oh my! Jesus really is the Son of God! He is! He is risen! He is the Messiah!”
You come out and talk to the ladies… They tell you how difficult the journey was for them this morning. Since they are all dressed in mourning clothes, everyone knew they were followers of Jesus. They were made fun of the entire walk. You ask them what happened here, and they tell you as they were coming close there was another earthquake. When they passed Golgotha, they turned along the hill towards the tomb. When they got here, they found no guards, and the stone was rolled away. Instantly, they were terrified. They say it felt like a crime scene. They felt emptiness in the pit of their stomachs. All of them were gripped with a powerful fear. Suddenly, the women heard a voice from on top of the stone, it was an angel! The angel told them, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So they began to run, but Jesus appeared to them, and said, “Greetings.” They were so excited, and began to worship Him! Jesus told them to go and tell us He would meet us in Galilee, but we were filled with so much emotion, that when Mary came, we just couldn’t help it but to run to the tomb. After hearing the stories, you and Peter decided to go back to the house you were staying at.
Later, you ask Mary what she had encountered and she tells you Jesus appeared to her. She says she saw 2 angels inside the tomb and began talking to them, but then Jesus appeared and interrupted. She went to hug Him, and He stopped her and told her He had to ascend to Heaven and talk with His Father first, but that He would meet us in Galilee soon.
Some of the guys headed to Emmaus, instead of Galilee because they couldn’t believe what they were hearing. They came running back later to tell us that Jesus met them along the way! They told us how He taught them, and helped them to believe. Then Peter came and told us that He had seen Jesus, too! So we were all just telling each other these stories and rejoicing, when suddenly, Jesus appeared to us!! We got so excited! We were filled with joy and amazement! While we were jumping and shouting, Jesus interrupted us and asked for some food, so we gave Him some fish.
Later, Luke wrote down this to explain what happened after Jesus ate the fish:
He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God. (Luke 24:44-53)
So, again, I was reflecting on everything that happened on that weekend, long ago. I was blown away, contemplating all that must have gone through their minds and hearts during those few days. Today, as I wrote this, I cried. I wish I could express how I feel, but most of all I hope this has been a blessing for you to read. I hope it has brought you closer to events, made it less of a story, and more of an experience. God bless you…
I love how God communicates with us. He often speaks in unexpected ways… Last night, I asked Him what He wanted me to write about for today’s blog, and I didn’t hear an answer. I sat still for a while, waiting, but didn’t hear anything. Suddenly, I felt like opening an app on my phone that plays movies, even though I was actually watching a classic football game on TV. I opened the app and searched through my movies to see if there was anything worth watching or that caught my eye. As I scrolled through, I found Justice League, the newer version. I thought to myself, “I don’t really care to watch a 4 hour movie right now; it’s already after 10 pm.” As soon as I had that thought, I remembered that my brother and I had talked about it a few months ago. You see, I didn’t have any desire to watch it. I’ve heard good things about it, and I was sure I would enjoy it, but I just never felt it was something that I had to watch. Never the less, I couldn’t shake it, so I decided to at least start the movie, and just watch the first hour or so.
I began watching it, half-heartedly, just to see what the differences were. There are a lot by the way. After the first hour or so, I was reminded that the bad guys feed on fear, and instantly knew that God was directing me towards today’s blog. I hope you remember that before I began to even think about watching this movie, I prayed and asked God about the blog… and I believe now that God was directing me to watch this movie so that I could focus on a need that I have neglected to write about in over 15 months.
Fear is a constant problem for us. Every single person on the planet is familiar with fear, aren’t we? We know what fear does to us, how it affects us, how it sneaks its way into our hearts and minds and causes relationships to break up, families to split apart, how it causes us to lose jobs, and even death. After all, Job said in 3:25-26, “What I feared most has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” What did Job fear most? He feared that his children would die in their sin.
I read somewhere that “All fear is fraud, all fear lies that we could somehow end up beyond the love and arms of God- and the truth is nothing is beyond God.” Fear, at its core, is simply a lie that God’s love won’t come through for us. When we get bad news, we often turn to God and beg Him to help, but our motivation is fear that if we don’t pray, He won’t help. That couldn’t be further from the truth: God tells us in Isaiah 65:24, “Before you even ask, I will answer.” No pain, loss, heartache, mountain, situation, circumstance, or closed door is beyond the love of God.
In Deuteronomy 3:22, Moses told Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.” I hope this clarifies this point- You don’t have to cry out for Him to rescue you. He is always ready to save you.
Over 360 times in the bible, God encourages us to not fear (Revelation 1:17, for example). I have heard it said He says it over 365 times, at least one time every day of the year. That’s awesome, but why does God spend so much time encouraging us to not fear? Fear is generated by unbelief, and it causes us to sin- fear causes anger, jealousy, resentment, and can even cause us to covet. Fear questions God’s goodness, limits, and Word.
What God wants from you is your love. Learning to love God, learning that you are worthy of His love, and learning how to love others is what God is after for you. It really isn’t any more complicated than that. The key, though, is learning to love like God, and not like man. The world’s love doesn’t even come close to God’s love. The world’s love is selfish, not faithful, not patient, not forgiving, and definitely not kind. Our challenge is learning to love God, ourselves, and others on His terms.
2 Timothy 1:7 is a critical verse for us to look at when talking about fear and love: “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love, and of a sound mind.” And 1 John 4:18 tells us that “perfect love casts out all fear because fear involves punishment.” God loves you. As Jesus told us, “Now remain in my love.” Remaining in the love of God will allow you to be free from fear. Jesus left us His peace, and then warned us in Luke 14:27 to guard ourselves so that fear doesn’t creep back into our hearts and steal our peace.
I haven’t finished the movie, but I remember how the older version ended: the bad guy suddenly realizes he can’t win, and fear enters him. His confidence is replaced with fear, and his army turns on him, as it feasts on fear. Suddenly the general of this giant army of creatures becomes its victim, and they carry him away, presumably to devour him. Like this scene, our bible tells us that the enemy walks around searching for victims to devour, but when we stop allowing fear to control us by learning of God’s love, we are no longer victims. When this happens, scripture tells us that we are able to stand firm against the devil, and when we do so, he runs away in terror. Fear is a very interesting thing… if it can’t torment you, it will find something else to torment. So do not fear. Set your mind on God, who sits above, and has seated you with Him. There, you will find peace and joy, and fear will no longer have a place for you. Bless you…