No discussion of the law in Scripture is without controversy. No discussion of the law is complete. It is too large a subject. One of the many controversies found, when discussing the law, revolves around the application of the law to the life of a believer for sanctification. This seems to be an orthodox view. Most grace teachers reject this view. I camp with the grace side of the issue.
I find that the arguments circle around, but never really deal with a core issue. There will be talk about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the life that that brings to live righteously, or the power that that provides to a believer to keep the law, but the discussions never seem to get to the core of the issue and that is that good rests in the nature of God. Only God is good and only He is able to express who He is. I will touch on that and other issues in what follows.
Any law demands compliance. When told not to speed in my super cool Volvo, I must do something, and not do something. I must be observant of the speedometer and I must avoid pushing harder on the gas pedal. When told to Love the Lord with all my strength, I must apply myself with my whole being. The law, a command, requires work to comply. The law demands discipline, diligence, and a level of understanding. You cannot live by law and not do works, they are inseparable.
God’s moral law is particularly demanding. It asks that I have the character of God. The moral law is a reflection of who God is. Under the moral law, all that I do must reflect who He is. God makes legal demands because man must be holy if man is to have a relationship with Him. Adam and Eve broke their relationship with God and left the garden because they were no longer holy. Their desire to be their own god made them unholy. They decided that they could decide, out of their own being, what was good and evil. Only God knows what is good, because all good is found in His being. God is good. “God does what He does because he is who He is.” (Dr. James Fowler) God does not follow a set of moral laws. His actions flow out of His nature.
God cannot be satisfied by a partial compliance with His law. A partial compliance falls short of who He is. We are to be holy as God is holy. Only Jesus was able to keep the whole law.
God’s character is eternal, while God’s law is only a reflection of His character. A reflection of something is not the real thing. God’s law is not eternal. It is not God’s character. It is an error to equate the two. The law is temporal. It has a beginning and an end. Why then was the law given? It was added because of transgressions, until the arrival of the descendant [Christ] to whom the promise had been made. (Gal 3:19 [NET]) But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian [the law]. (Gal 3:25 [NET]) Add sugar to tea and you have something in your tea that wasn’t there before. The presence of sugar in your tea had a beginning. The law was added, thus it had not existed in the world before. It had a beginning. The law had a goal, an end in mind, the coming of Jesus and man’s faith in Him. The law was to be a tutor, to prepare men for the perfect sacrifice that the law demanded.
God’s presence in men could not be achieved through the law. The law lords over a man as long as he lives. The law demands work, and no work of man can produce God’s character, thus make him holy or righteous. Man’s failure to keep the law leads to spiritual and physical death. There is no law that can produce life. To live, man must be reborn, recreated. That rebirth is not acquired by being good and doing good. No human work can produce the recreation we require. Only God can create a new mind and heart in a man. We obtain this new state of holiness by giving up our trust in our own ability, our own work to obtain righteousness. It is faith that saves, not works of the law.
Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, the sacrificial death of the unblemished Lamb of God, makes the way for our being made whole again. Placing our trust in Jesus allows God to make us new. God forgives all our sins, and makes us holy. We are made a suitable dwelling for a holy God. His Spirit brings to us all that we need to live the life He has for us. …you died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you could be joined to another, to the one who was raised from the dead to bear fruit to God. (Rom 7:4) Jesus was raised from the dead to bear fruit to God. The mechanism for acting out our faith has changed. We do not try to keep the law to demonstrate we are righteous. We have a new life in Christ. Christ in us is a source of God living through us. Christ in us means that we have God’s holy and perfect nature alive in our being. Christ is our righteousness. In Christ we cease our works and we enter His rest. We live free and abundant lives. 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. [Eph 2:8-9] We have been released from the law, because we have died to what controlled us, so that we may serve in the new life of the Spirit and not under the old written code. [Rom 7:6} Believers have been released from the law to serve not by an internal, Spirit empowered version of the law, but by newness of life. That life in us is Christ.
God achieved what the law could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. [Rom 8:3-4] Paul could have easily said that you will now keep the law because you are empowered by the Spirit to do so. Instead he says that God achieved what the law could not do. The saved man walks/lives by the Spirit not by works of the law. The Spirit does not give us a new power to keep the law, or to produce good. Man was created to depend on God to produce good. The saved man dies to the law and lives by God’s Spirit. The Spirit is your life. That life is pure, righteous, and holy, not because the Spirit enables us to be obedient to the law, rather it is because that life is God’s life within us. If you are led by the Sprit of God you are an adopted child of God. He has placed His very being, His nature, His goodness within you and expresses that life through you.
Live free! Live abundantly! Don’t become enslaved again to the law. It is an instrument of death. Christ’s Spirit brings life.
For through the law I died to the law so that I may live to God. I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing! (Gal 2:19-21)
Notice the change. I died to the law so that I may live to God. Why go back to something that will not give life, something that I am now dead to? Will we walk in the fruit of the Spirit or walk in the works of the law? To be clear, the choice between Spirit produced fruit in our lives, or fleshly produced works of the law involves our moral conduct. It is not just the judicial and ceremonial parts of the law that we have died to. It is also the moral law.
Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God! But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit. (Gal 5:19-25)
“…let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit .” Let us behave in accordance with the new life/Spirit God has placed in us. Our behavior is Spirit, not law directed, and Spirit is our life..
No law exists against God’s character. No law exists that can create that character in us. There is no law against those things that are natural (in ones nature) to reborn Christians. Righteous living comes naturally to those who are indwelt by the Righteous One. Our actions/behavior reflect the new, holy nature God has placed in us. Our actions reflect who we are in Christ.
It is in the nature of a tree to produce fruit. No work required. It is in the nature of a born again Christian to bear the fruit of God’s Spirit, to reflect God’s moral character in our lives. No work required. Step back into the works of the law and the flesh is free to express its moral lawlessness. Walk by faith and enjoy the fruit of God’s Spirit in your life. Live free! Live abundantly!
Now I will make an abrupt change and tell you why I wrote this. I wrote in response to a chapter in one of Dr. Walter Kaiser’s books (book and chapter reference below). He is a consummate Old Testament scholar who impeccably captures the flow of Jewish to Christian history and the Jewish foundation on which Christianity rests. Having said that, I was disappointed in his chapter on the Law.
Dr. Kaiser is quite strong in his position making the following statement: “Consequently, any solution to the question of the unity of the law and the gospel that quickly does away with the law for the believer today cannot look to Scriptures for support. One cannot say that believers have nothing to do with the law anymore, for in that case they will stand opposed to the plain teaching of Scriptures.”
So now I stand in opposition “to the plain teaching of Scriptures.” Read Dr. Kaiser’s book and let him support his thesis. I have a simple question. If Christ is my life, why do I need an internal version of the law that the Holy Spirit empowers me to obey? I have Christ the law giver and the law keeper in me, expressing himself through me. I no longer live, Christ lives in me.
Am I wrong? I have tried to show that I am not, but I will let you be the judge.
Recovering the Unity of the Bible, One Continuous Story, Plan, and Purpose, Walter C Kaiser Jr., Zondervan, 1984, pp. 157-168, The Unity of the Bible and the Law of God
Grace doesn’t come to us in doses. God doesn’t have a grace bottle where he doles out a little grace here and there when we hurt, or need encouragement, or have misbehaved.
They say of God’s grace that it is unmerited and at Christ’s expense. That is true, but it does not go far enough. The cost to God the Father, who sent His Son into the world to die, breaking the eternal, loving relationship between the Father and Son, all at the expense of our sin, is incomprehensible. How can we ever comprehend such a cost?
Scholars argue about cheap grace as though we have some control over what it is and how we use it. Simply a commodity that God gives that we can abuse. Cheap they say as if we could negotiate the price. Grace is not something I can spend or exhaust. It is never mine. I do not possess grace. I can only experience God’s grace.
I know what is meant when there is talk of cheap grace. It is about the law, a correct response, our obedience, or good behavior. Our response to grace must be in proportion to its cost otherwise we cheapen it. However, how can I diminish the greatest act of love [Grace] that was given for sinners, none of whom could earn the benefits of Gods death on the cross if they tried? Christ came to save sinners, not the righteous. There is never any merit with God’s grace. It is always undeserved and comes at God’s initiative. “God have mercy. Lord have mercy.” As Michael Card sings so wonderfully.
What then is grace? Grace is not a kind act, or forgiveness for a transgression. Grace is Christ alive in us now and forever made possible through the Cross. I bet we only see a tiny part of the grace that is in Christ. Grace is the incarnation, the death, resurrection, ascension of Christ. It is the coming of the Holy Spirit, Christ and the Father residing in our very being. Grace is the entire package, not some part of it. Grace has nothing to do with us. It has everything to do with Jesus. Grace is not a thing to be possessed or used. Grace is Christ’s activity, His living presence. Grace is what Jesus is doing in our lives, and in our very being. Grace has everything to do with what we cannot do for ourselves.
John reports in John 1:16, 17 For we have all received from his fullness one gracious gift after another.For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ. [NET Bible] Charin anti charitos in the Greek is translated as “one gracious gift after another.” This is a long accepted translation. God’s graciousness is beyond measure. There might be a better translation given the context. The preposition anti is most often translated “instead of.” Try this, “For we have all received from his fullness grace [Christ and all he brings to us] instead of grace [the perfectly good, but no longer applicable grace of the law]. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ.”
The grace we experience in the New Testament is far different and far better than the grace of the Old Testament. Never confuse the two.
I highly recommend the following:
James Fowler: The Grace of God: http://www.christinyou.net/pages/gracegod.html
What is Christian legalism? Looking around the web you will find examples of legalism in Christianity. Usually they deal with some extraneous rule imposed on a Christian fellowship. One example is the Southern Baptist rule for leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention, which forbids drinking alcohol for six months before taking office. Dress codes or restrictions on the movies a Christian can watch come to mind. We all know some example or another like these.
If we look a little deeper at our various doctrines, we will find some who will maintain the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount as a basis for living out our lives in a Christian way. They will enforce a behavioral code of conduct based on God’s moral law. Paul in Galatians rebukes this approach to Christian living. Paul emphasizes that we walk by the Spirit and not by the law. We are dead to the moral law.
Dig a little deeper and we find a Christian theme of works. We are saved by grace, sanctified by our good works, our obedience. We are to emulate Christ and walk in this world like him as best we can. Paul says grace and not works save us. Our works are but filthy rags. God says that He needs nothing from man.
Legalism began in the Garden of Eden when man ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Man chose to judge what is good and what is evil for himself. Man took on himself what only belonged to God. We weigh what is right and wrong for ourselves and for others. We are the judge and jury. We carry a set of internal rules and measures and apply them to our lives and then we lift the results of those measurements up to God or our fellow man hoping that they measure up. Legalism is the way of fallen man that we carry with us in our flesh. We deal with the world around us and with our expectations of ourselves with this fleshly pattern. We want to measure up. We want to excel. We want to look good.
At the fall, Adam and Eve looked at one another and for the first time they were aware of themselves. They covered up and felt shame. They had become self-conscious. They had lost their God-consciousness. They judged themselves wrongly and man has been covering up ever since. Legalism is our way of looking good in our own eyes. It is so ingrained in us that only God by his grace can free us from it.
At the fall man said to God that he could live independently from Him. It is a lie we continue to tell ourselves. We cannot live by our own self-efforts and according to our self-made measurements. We only fool ourselves when we try. We certainly will not fool God.
The only antidote to legalism is God’s pure grace. The Spirit of God vies against the flesh and He will win. We need to stop eating of the forbidden fruit and return to the Tree of Life. That tree is none other than Jesus. By God’s grace we can rely on Him. God is pleased with His Son and He is pleased with us because His Son dwells in us. We are God’s adopted Sons and Daughters, set apart for His glory. We meet God’s measure through the work of His Son in and through us. Doesn’t that make our feeble self-efforts meaningless in comparison?
Christ is our everything.
Mr. Christian rises early in the morning and quickly prepares for the day.
His first stop after leaving home is to visit the God dispenser. Mr. Christian is running low on his God supplies.
Fortunately, he filled his debit card the previous day by performing a series of good things. He prayed longer than usual, he skipped breakfast as a kind of fasting, he wrote a check to his favorite charity and he gave food to a hungry neighbor.
An issue arose at work and He made a particularly hard moral decision. He strongly defended his Christian values and when it was over, he felt that he had done the Christian thing and made the right decision.
He tried very hard to curb his bad behavior with his wife and managed not to yell at her for the whole day—a new record.
To top the day off, he presented a defense of the doctrine of inerrancy and infallibility at a church meeting. Afterwards attended a praise meeting where he felt particularly ecstatic and this was not even Sunday.
With all that religious effort, Mr. Christian knew he had earned enough to top off his debit card.
Mr. Christian rushed down the street hoping to be first in line at the God dispenser. Fortunately, he was second in line and had only a short wait. However, by the time he stepped up to the machine, his patience was running rather thin.
He swiped his debit card and a deep mechanical voice told him how many credits he had. That voice always made his knees shake in holy fear and Mr. Christian let out a deep breath. He had not realized how anxious he had become. He began to push buttons to make his selections.
Mr. Christian started in the fruit section and obtained a pack containing love, peace, patience etc.. It was like a multivitamin for the spirit. He then started browsing and selected righteousness. He thought he presented himself rather well when he was righteous.
Of course, he needed wisdom, and knowledge. They went together so well and helped his performance at work.
He felt particularly weak today so he got a double supply of the Holy Spirit with power. He almost missed faith. Grateful he remembered, he got a double measure of that also.
His credits had diminished and the deep mechanical voice warned him to choose wisely with the remainder of his credits.
He was particularly aware of his sin of late. Sin plagued him. He spent a lot of time tamping down temptations and he was only partially successful so he selected a healthy measure of forgiveness. It happened to be on special. He found it in the grace section.
His debit card was empty, Mr. Christian pressed the final check out button, and a spirit pack came out of the shoot. He unplugged his old pack, placed it in the recycle slot, and then plugged in the new pack.
He immediately felt the presence of God. He felt loving, wise, and forgiven. The feeling was strong, but he knew it would fade during his day as the spiritual pack from the God Dispenser wore down.
Mr. Christian was now ready to face what life would bring him and he began to plan how he would earn the credits he needed for the next day’s visit to the God Dispenser.
religare Latin for religion. To tie back, to bind.
God does not give out commodities that then deplete as they are used. God gives us Himself and actively expresses Himself, His character, through us. We can do nothing to produce God’s character in us and we can not earn that character. We appropriate those things by grace through faith. Everything in our story above is religion. The view that God is a dispenser creates a need that binds us to religious duties, values, and morals meant to earn our keep. God cannot be divided. His character can not be separated from His being. In order to express God’s character we must allow Him to be active through us.
1 John (3:6) Everyone who resides in him does not sin; everyone who sins has neither seen him nor known him.
1 John (3:9) Everyone who has been fathered by God does not practice sin, because God’s seed resides in him, and thus he is not able to sin, because he has been fathered by God.
1 John (4:17) By this love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because just as Jesus is, so also are we in this world.
1 John (5:18) We know that everyone fathered by God does not sin, but God protects the one he has fathered, and the evil one cannot touch him.
Do not be deceived.
First John addresses the problem of deceivers living among Christians. He tells Christians how to know that they are indeed Christian and how to recognize deceivers. It is rather simple, Christians love one another, and they love Jesus. They live in an immoral world by faith. They have conquered the world. They do not sin.
Yes, John says that Christians do not sin. That is hard for us to wrap your minds around. It is not what is taught to us on most Sundays. To say that Christians do not sin goes against our own experience. Nevertheless, as the verses above demonstrate, Christians do not sin. We have moved from a state where sin occurs to a state where sin cannot occur. John makes an unreserved statement that “everyone who resides in him does not sin.” He says, “…everyone fathered by God does not practice sin, because God’s seed resides in him, and thus he is not able to sin… and everyone fathered by God does not sin, but God protects [them].” Paul comes to similar conclusions when he concludes that we are no longer under the law. He says that the law excites sin, but we have died to the law and its penalty of death. John says that we have life and joy.
We have a profound problem accepting the concept that we do not sin. Christians major on sin to a flaw. We cling to our continual need for confession and repentance. A verse like 1 John (1:9) feeds our paranoia.
1 John (1:9) But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.
Christians take that verse so seriously, that all those other verses make no sense to us at all. That one verse brings a lot of pain into our lives. We doubt that we have confessed all our sins. We wonder how many sins we have overlooked. We know that our pride will not allow us to confess some of our sin. We debate about how often this confession must occur. What do we do with forgotten sin? Is it even possible for us to identify all our sins? How many sins do we commit unaware? This verse is nothing but trouble for most of us.
We arrive at one conclusion. We are unrighteous and someday we will have to pay for those unconfessed sins. There will be a judgment day, we will stand before the Lord, and He will review our life, one unconfessed sin at a time. I can see the humiliation on our faces even now. I fear that humiliation as much as you do. This is not a pretty picture and it is one reinforced Sunday after Sunday from our pulpits and in our Sunday school classes.
It is reassuring that that theological construct does not fit the Gospel. It does not fit what John is trying to convey. Our problem rests in what we have been taught. It is time we take a fresh look and find out what John is saying, especially verse (1:9). This will be hard to do in the face of sermon after sermon extolling how sinful we are and how we must be accountable for those sins and how thy must be confessed before a Holy and Righteous God.
Look at those ‘you do not sin” verses for a minute and then try to reconcile them with that one verse that demands confession of sin. You have statement after statement that we Christians do not practice sin. John does not equivocate. He makes simple statements that are impossible to ignore. In that light the, “confess your sins,” verse stands out starkly from the others. That verse is rather unique. In fact, you will not find another like it in all of the New Testament. Seriously, try it. Find another New Testament verse that directs you to confess your sins as plainly as this one does. Let me tell you, a lot of doctrinal weight rests on that one lonely verse.
We find it easy to answer these simple questions. Is Jesus holy? Yes. Is there any darkness, or any evil in Christ? No. Finally, are you in Christ? Of course, you are in Christ. Now stop and think a second. What conclusion can we draw from these simple questions? The obvious conclusion is that if you were essentially corrupt, then God would not allow you to be in Christ. He would not allow something corrupt to dwell in His Son. That is a simple argument. There is no sin in Christ. God cannot allow sin to indwell Him. We are in Christ. We can have no sin in us if Christ is to remain holy. God wants us to be in Him and he assures that we remain sinless in Him.
John says the following: 1 John (1:5) Now this is the gospel message we have heard from him and announce to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.
Light and dark represent real things to John. Christ is the light of the World. The darkness is the state in which the unsaved reside. There is sin and death in the darkness. There is law keeping in darkness. There is purity, love, and life in the light. There is walking in the Spirit in the light. In the light, one overcomes the darkness. It is important to understand that a person cannot stand in the light and in the darkness at the same time. That is a physical and spiritual impossibility. We overcome the world in the light. John leaves no room for some middle ground between the reality of being in the light or the darkness.
1 John (5:4) because everyone who has been fathered by God conquers the world. This is the conquering power that has conquered the world: our faith. (5) Now who is the person who has conquered the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
John (8:12) Then Jesus spoke out again, “I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John (17:11) I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them safe in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one.
We are united with Christ. We will never walk in darkness. We have the light of life. We are no longer of this world.
Confession, in the Biblical Greek, is a compound word, homo, and logeo, that means “same-say,” or to speak the same thing. Confession occurs when ones speech reflects some inner truth, an inner reality. True confession is spontaneous, unrehearsed, and heartfelt. It is not testimony, or a speech.
There are twelve “If” verses in first John? We are looking at a subset of six of them. These verses address qualities of either believers or deceivers. Here are the verses along with some comments:
(1:6) If we say we have fellowship with him and yet keep on walking in the darkness, we are lying and not practicing the truth. [Deceivers claim fellowship with Christ, yet continue to walk in darkness. They are liars.]
(1:7) But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. [True believers walk in the light and do have fellowship, not only with Christ, but also with one another. Believers are cleansed from all sin. Believers are always in the light.]
(1:8) If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. [Deceivers deny their guilt of sin. They do not have truth in them.]
(1:9) But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness. [Believers find themselves in this state.]
(1:10) If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us. [This refers to deceivers. They will not admit to their sinful state and thus make Christ a liar and his word is not in them. They have no life.]
Verses 6, 8 and 10, are based on what deceivers are saying. These quotes reflect past or present behavior. The outcome of that behavior is certain, when and if the behavior occurs. We can imply that verses 7 and 9 are parallel statements about believers. The first clause in each of the verses concern past or present behavior, which, when they occur, their outcomes are certain.
Verse 9 then, says something true about believers. The confessing is a past or present occurrence. The second part of that verse makes clear when that confession occurs. Look at the promise in this verse. The promise is that Christians will be cleansed from all unrighteousness. I must repeat that, cleansed from all unrighteousness. How much of our unrighteousness is cleansed? ALL OF IT. Sorry for yelling, but if you do not get the point, I will lose you.
How often does this cleansing of all unrighteousness occur in a Christian’s experience? I will give you a hint. It has to do with light and darkness. It has to do with the clear divide between being unsaved and saved. It has to do with the effectiveness of Christ’s shed blood. It has to do with our being “in Christ.” It has to do with life or death. At what point in our Christian experience do we finally speak the truth about the sin that exists in us? At what point do we “same-say” what we recognize to be true inside our very being, that we have rejected God and served ourselves. It only happens once in our Christian experience. It occurs when we confess our fallen state before the lord. We confess the truth that we have denied about ourselves and we seek His righteousness, not our own.
John is not calling on a Christian to be a navel gazer, repeatedly confessing or sins. He is declaring our standing before God based on our true and final confession that we have denied His rightful place in our lives. John says that when we come to Christ we no longer sin, we have the righteousness of Christ in our very being.
John’s 1:9 verse about confession does not place a Christian back under the constant microscope of the law that exposes sin and brings death. John is saying that true believers have confessed their sin and have the absolute assurance that they now have the righteousness of Christ. Christians walk in the light as He is in the light. 1 Corinthians (15:56) The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. Romans (8:2) For the law of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.
Romans (7:5) For when we were in the flesh, the sinful desires, aroused by the law, were active in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. (6) But now we have been released from the law, because we have died to what controlled us, so that we may serve in the new life of the Spirit and not under the old written code.
Romans (8:1) There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (2) For the law of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. (3) For God achieved what the law could not do because it was weakened through the flesh. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, (4) so that the righteous requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Romans (8:8) Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (9) You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this person does not belong to him. (10) But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is your life because of righteousness. (11) Moreover if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through his Spirit who lives in you.
Do you see the power of the Gospel to set us free from the absolute curse of law keeping? Christians should be free from navel gazing. We have the righteousness of Christ at work in us. We walk in the Spirit that sets us free to be all that God desires for us to be. We confess our sin once and we are assured that God will make us righteous. That is all verse (1:9) means. It is not a command for navel gazing. It is a guarantee of our freedom in Christ. If that does not bring joy to your heart, nothing will.
It is easy to find problems within the Church. It does not matter what denomination, they all have some serious problems. The same problems exist no matter where you look. The same issues exist in liberal churches and in conservative ones.
The core problem is that we no longer know whom we are or what we are to be doing. We live in a fallen world. We live in a world where morality is thrown to the wind and where ethics are seen as anachronistic. Politics follow suit and display the base of human motives. Christians jump into the fracas. We offer our Biblical World View and we try to answer every moral question society poses. We lay down the law. We interpret what is good and bad around us and we make judgments. We are the people of the word, preservers of the faith, and keepers of the doctrine. We have right on our side. We are the people of God. We fight fire with HOLY FIRE. The result is frustratingly, dismally small.
Most of our mainline, large denominations are crumbling. Some are dividing themselves and eating their own. However, you say these are important issues. These are vital to keeping the church pure. We need to take a stand in society and push back against evil. I say indeed, amen and amen. I pick up my sword and I enter the battle and soon I am surrounded by darkness and evil that is beyond description. I soon find that my weapons are those of the world, not of God. I have no power except persuasion and a little of the truth and that has no impact on a deaf and sightless world.
God is light. Jesus is the light of the World. Jesus was born into a dark world. He brought light and men loved the darkness more than the light. It has been that way from the beginning of Christ’s ministry and it will be that way to the very end when he returns triumphant. We fight back against the evil in the world to no avail, with no effect. Why? We are attacking the symptoms not the cause. We are relying on human means to fight a spiritual battle. We have forgotten who we are.
We need to get something straight. We were not put here to create heaven on earth. Jesus promised that on this earth we would experience suffering. The City of Gold and the time for no more tears are closer than any other time in history, but they are not here yet.
I am not being morose. We do experience joy, but that has far more to do with who we are than with what the world can offer. Christians need a reality check. The more they know who they are the more the world will reject them. Praise God not all. By the grace of God, some will get it if we will simply wake up and realize who we are. We have lost contact with our ontology, our very being.
If you are not dying to know who you are by now, I have lost you. Who are you really? Let me ask it another way. What makes you a Christian? Is it correct answers to a long list of doctrinal question? Is it a properly understood belief system? Is it a set of morals diligently kept that makes you a Christian? Is it your discipline in reading the word and keeping God’s law? Perhaps your sacrificial love for others makes you a Christian.
I can hear someone screaming “Faith Alone” makes me a Christian, well yes in a way. We cannot become a Christian until we receive what God offers us in Jesus. We certainly live our Christian life by receiving day to day the grace God has for us. If your faith varies, does who you are, as a Christian vary? Does the degree to which you are Christian waver depending on your human ability to have faith? The answer to that is no. That answer is based on the knowledge of who you are.
We are in the world and that is the pits. We are not of the world a wonderful miracle God has provided. What happened in this fundamental transformation? The answer is our rebirth of course. The problem is that we do not realize the extent to which that miracle has touched our lives.
You see we are dependant beings. We are the branches not the vine. We are the vessel not the wine. We were created dependent on spirit, either God’s Holy Spirit or the spirit of the deceiver, Satan. That is a pretty harsh reality to know that most of the world is under the influence of evil including ourselves before we knew Christ. It is wonderful to be free of Satan’s direction. Notice what we are not in the above sentences. What is coming has been interpreted as pantheism, or panentheism. It is neither. The vessel does not become the wine or the wine the vessel even though they are united.
“…do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” (2 Cor. 13:5) Who are you? You are a Christ-One. You have within you the very presence of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So what you ask? What does that mean to have Christ in me? How does that change who I am? This is not just a nice verse to memorize. It is a dynamic that influences your every moment, every action, every thought, and every desire. You are a vessel in which Christ dwells. You have available if you receive it all you need to completely and effectively be who God wants you to be. You walk this earth under the influence of Christ himself accomplishing His design for your life, which is to Glorify Him. Paul in Galatians 2:20 expresses it this way: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” There is so much in this verse. Just note the use of “I” by Paul. I have died. Christ lives in me. I live by faith in the Son of God. I live in the flesh. Paul is describing a unity of being. His very being joined with God. Not absorbed into God or replaced by God. Paul is still Paul. Jesus is still Jesus, but they are one. Paul is a new creature in Christ. He has a new mind, a new heart and at the deepest part of his being, he is united with Christ. “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col 1:27)
The world seeks to glorify man. Christ seeks glory through the lives of those who would become Christ-Ones. Through those who would walk by receiving all He has for them day-by-day, hour-by-hour, moment-by-moment. Our salvation, our sanctification, our hope of glory rests in the living presence of Christ in us. Who then are we? We are people indwelt, empowered, sustained, directed, purified, sanctified, glorified, by the God of all creation who dares to join Himself with our very being. Please note that this is not a form of perfectionism. Paul makes it clear that he is united with Christ while still abiding in the flesh and all its old habits and tendencies.
We do not have a perfect belief system to offer the world. We do not have perfect understanding of the word. We do not have an answer for every ethical dilemma. We do not have the final word on doctrinal interpretation. We do not have every answer to every problem man faces.
What we have is Christ. What we offer the world is Christ in you the hope of glory. Who we are is what the world so desperately needs. The great commission does not say, “do evangelism,” it says “as you go be evangelists.” It is easy to be who Christ in us has created us to be. Our doing will be the fruit of who we are if we by faith embrace that reality and receive what Christ has for us.
Who are you? You are an indwelt one. You are a new creature united with Christ. Your very being is a testimony to God’s love, mercy, and power. The light of Christ shines through you simply because of who you are in Him. Let it shine. Much of the world and many in the Church will reject that presence in you. Let it shine. Some in the Church and some in the world will get it and in their discovery through you of who they are in Christ, Christ will be glorified.
Do you know who you are? I pray you do.
It is Christ in you the hope of glory. Our hope of glory does not rest in our proper beliefs, or how good we make ourselves, or how complete our doctrine, or how disciplined we can be, or ethical. Our enforcing the law on ourselves and on others will not produce the glory we seek. Only God can produce His character and His perfect obedience in us. Only in Christ can we find the wholeness that our churches, the world, and we seek.
Who are you?
Are you familiar with the moral argument for God? It goes like this:
- If there is no God, there are no objective moral values and duties.
- Objective moral values and duties exist.
- Therefore, God exists.
This is an argument for the existence of God. It is not a proof that God exists. It is an argument that it is probable that God exists. It is reasonable for men to believe that God exists. This is not an argument for the existence of a Christian God, but as I will show it can be used to support that probable conclusion.
The first problem most people have with the argument concerns the definition of “objective” moral values. You will often hear people argue that moral values exist based on various human attributes. Pollution is bad because it hurts us. Science says that mercury in your air is harmful. Eating vegetables is good for you. It is not nice to hurt someone’s feelings. I do not like it when you treat me unfairly. War makes no rational sense. Good or evil in these examples rests on some human evaluation.
Moral values based on our feelings, our senses and our reasoning are all subject to the foibles, biases and self-serving nature of men. They are ever changing. They vary from society to society. They will change over time. In a word, they are subjective. They are not objective.
Objective moral values are values that find their basis outside the realm of human reasoning, feeling, or senses. They are consistent over time and across cultures. Objective moral values simply exist. They are fixed principles that have the same standing as the facts of mathematics. Murder is wrong the same as 1+1=2.
Notice that the argument does not address how we come to know what is good and evil. It says nothing about how we come to understand that murder is wrong. The argument stands without addressing this important issue.
Do objective moral values exist? Many atheists will stand on their constructionist approach to moral values while defending with moral indignation some basic injustice they observe in how they are treated as atheists. They will argue with moral indignity with the theist, reacting emotionally to what the theist seems to demand. Many atheist philosophers have concluded that objective moral values do exist and then they struggle to ground that existence. They often turn to evolution or to our understanding of DNA as the basis for our having common, unarguable moral standards. Like many evolution arguments, they seem to want to produce something objective out of a chaotic and chance driven mechanism. Given a different evolutionary process, murder might be good.
Watch a group of kids on the playground or go watch a group of preschoolers and you will soon observe expressions of moral indignation. To our children it seems intuitive that certain things are fair and others are not. That sense of fairness largely crosses cultures. Social scientists have come up with lists of common moral principles that cross cultures and time. The application of the principles may vary, but the underlying moral values do not. It is not difficult to support the second argument that objective moral values do exist.
The existence of objective moral values presses us towards finding a basis for their existence. Moral values are expressions of creatures that have the ability to discern good and evil conduct. Men commit murder. Animals kill, but they do not murder. We do not make value judgments on animals that kill to survive. We can conclude that objective moral values have to do with creatures who are cognizant and who develope relationships. This suggests that objective moral values must rest in a being. For those values to be fair in all circumstances and to be just that being must be all knowing, just and loving concerning their application. It is not difficult to carry this argument forward to the place that you are describing the greatest possible being. This exercise will lead you to a description found in scripture of our Christian God.
Objective moral values exist and our intuition about them can lend support to accepting the moral argument for God. It does not take much to move beyond that argument to understanding that belief in the Christian God is reasonable. We cannot prove God’s existence. We can give rational and reasonable support for the probability of His existing. Yes, we are people of faith. Do not , however, allow people to tell you that our religion is mindless, or unthinking. It is not and there is an abundance of Christian philosophy around to demonstrate that.