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We were designed to live by the law before we fell in Adam. Had he kept it God would have given us eternal life. There would have been no sin and misery, only grace and approval.
After Adam’s fall we still want to keep the law, it’s the natural man’s default position, but now we can’t because of sin.
There is no way to be saved by the law. It has no life. It can only point the finger and denounce us for our sins.
It’s meant to do us in and draw us to Christ, who was the only man who kept the law after Adam.
He obeyed it perfectly.
He fulfilled it perfectly.
He earned salvation for us, in our place, because we couldn’t do it.
So it’s true we’re still saved by the law, but it’s Jesus’s obedience to it that saves us.
Now that is the best news you’ll ever receive. Today and forever.
You want freedom? Here it is.
Talk to me.
Have you ever asked yourself, like I have, what was lacking in the rich young ruler’s life that turned him away from following Jesus? Something nagged at him to ask Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. He said he kept the commandments and Jesus didn’t fault him in that. What was missing?
He may have been thinking that there was something he needed to add to the rule list. “Just tell me and I’ll be on it.”
Or he may have been thinking that he was doing alright and wanted Jesus to confirm him in his performance.
But that wasn’t it.
Just like this blog is fond of repeating that acceptance with God is by Christ alone, by faith alone, by grace alone, this young ruler had everything, including wealth and possessions, but lacked the one thing that could give him eternal life.
Without faith in Jesus he had nothing.
He was a rebel in God’s world. He was spiritually dead. Notice in today’s culture, he would be described as a seeker, someone who was close to God, and whom God was pleased with. But in truth his heart was of stone. His sins were not forgiven. He was under God’s wrath.
So what does Jesus tell him?
To sell his possessions and give his wealth to the poor.
Why would Jesus say that instead of telling him he needed to have faith in him?
No doubt Jesus saw that he trusted in his considerable wealth and put his finger on it to expose it. The young ruler heard that and walked away sorrowful. He was willing to do anything, but part with his riches. He loved them more than God. While being rich he was poor. He failed to realize that eternal life was more wonderful than all the riches in the world.
We see time and time again that those who feel secure in their performance, Jesus refers them to the law, but to those who are a mess, like the woman caught in adultery, he consoles with the gospel.
If you’re keeping the rules without a corresponding love for God inside, you of all people are not keeping any rule. You must be poor and needy inside, a beggar of God’s love and life and then he will grant it to you.
Talk to me.
faith in Jesus, the one person who could give him what he needed.
And notice how Jesus answered him.
You’ve heard the word legalism many times as I have. But do you know what it means for your life? It means your standing with God is obtained or maintained in something in you. Something you do or don’t do.
The Pharisees were experts in legalism. They were the ones looking down their noses at Jesus and reprimanding him for not keeping the law. He dared to heal people on the Sabbath. He didn’t fast. He touched the leper and the blind man. He ate dinner with sinners.
Legalism is legalism no matter if it’s Jewish or Gentile, it doesn’t matter. All people are legalists if they don’t know God. Everyone has a set a rules for living. That’s why most people live with guilt because they haven’t lived up to their own or somebody else’s expectations. And for the religious it’s Christ plus a bunch of strict behaviors. That’s why Paul rebuked Peter for pulling away from eating with the Gentiles. See Galatians 2:11-14.
Legalism does not keep you in fellowship with God, just the opposite, it is an offence to God. Why? Because by being legalistic you’re saying Christ is not enough, you have to add something of your own to his perfect righteousness.
And here’s another big one: legalism doesn’t make you holy. Only Christ makes you holy.
Christ obeyed and merited God’s favor and fellowship for you. It’s through him that God accepts and approves you.
Christ’s obedience to the law and his death for your sins is imputed to you by faith alone. As Martin Luther said, it is an alien righteousness, it’s outside of you and it’s not based on any holiness that the Holy Spirit accomplishes in you.
By faith alone, in Christ alone, you are counted as righteous as Jesus Christ himself. There is nothing more for you to do, but thank God for such a wonderful gift. The Holy Spirit’s job is to assist you in living it out. So no matter how weak you are or how often you fail, your sins are not held against you because Jesus paid for them all and you continue being righteous in Him.
You want joy today? Read this post again!
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Have you ever felt the desire to do something spectacular for God? I have.
That’s my attitude for most everything I do.
Who wants to be a nobody missionary, or a parent raising a family in obscurity, or a computer programmer locked in an anonymous cubicle somewhere?
We have this burning desire to make a splash. To be known. To be admired.
“Each one of us carries in our heart a horrible religious fanatic. We would all like to do something so spectacular that we could brag and say, ‘See what I’ve done for God.’ This religious fanatic, if not watched, will destroy our faith with foolish delusions of good works. God’s approval does not come to us through good works, but through Christ whose works are perfect. And He did them for us. We own his perfect record. It’s a gift God has given to us, his saints. – Martin Luther
How would our lives change if we really believed all our works were perfect, that we’ve already done the big splash because we’re in Christ? And that God is pleased with us?
For me, it took the weight of the mountains off my shoulders. I was able to breathe and relax. The performance was over. What joy!
Knowing that everything I do in Christ is mediated through him and therefore acceptable to God was revolutionary.
Even my best works require Christ’s mediation.
Can you imagine what my sloppy, lazy works require?
We don’t do perfect this side of heaven.
Everything we do is mixed in with remaining sin.
That’s why we need a Savior at all times.
That’s why he’s in heaven interceding for us and mediating everything we do.
Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Talk to me.
Freedom is not an end in itself like everyone seems to think.
Think it through with me for a minute.
Let’s say you are free to commit adultery.
It might feel good for a while, but then something begins to change.
You discover your freedom consists in lying about the affair.
You’re having difficulty remembering what you said to whom and keeping the lies straight so you don’t contradict yourself.
There’s the fear of being caught.
There’s the unknown reaction of your spouse if he or she finds out.
Before you know it you’re living like a criminal.
You thought you’d feel alive and young again. Instead you’re walking around with the burden of your guilty conscience and it’s a heavy weight.
Where’s the freedom in that?
In truth, freedom from God’s law means bondage.
We all live guilty lives. We were born guilty, did you know that?
That sweet little baby, all wrapped up in his mother’s arms, has a label on him.
That’s why we need a Savior.
Christ came and died on the cross in our place, bearing our punishment, absorbing the fullness of divine justice for us.
He died so he could free us, not to indulge the flesh, but to delight in serving God.
God has no slaves, only grateful sons.
Now that’s a life of true freedom.
Talk to me.
We’re inching closer to 2015 by the day.
And the gurus are marketing their webinars, books and videos to show us how to make new year’s resolutions. And then charging us for their experience!
What they’re peddling is a self-help course for those of us who make goals and don’t keep them.
And there’s millions of us out there.
So how do they fix us? By giving us more rules!
Here are some examples of the course titles:
A Goal-Setting Course
Live with Intention
Create Your Life Plan
You get the idea.
It makes me want to laugh or cry.
This doesn’t make sense for anybody, and especially for Christians.
First of all, the one life plan you need comes free – God gives it to you. It’s to glorify him and enjoy him forever.
Second, goal setting is fine if you set the right ones. Jesus had one goal when he lived here, to please his Father. And he did it spectacularly well. And as a free gift to you, he gives you that successful record as if you had lived it perfectly yourself.
And third, you can live with all the intention you have and still blow it. What is intention but purpose and drive. But those are traits for those who don’t have the Holy Spirit living inside them. The Holy Spirit’s purpose is to reveal Jesus to us. He directs our lives, so we don’t have to worry about it. What we must do is obey and rest.
So don’t fall into the temptation of changing yourself next year.
That’s God’s job and he does it really well.
Talk to me.
How many times have you valued being right, having the last word, being firm and in control?
If you’re like me, many times.
Has anyone told you that sounds an awful lot like self-love?
We are born legalists. We love law. We delight in being right.
“That’s not fair!” shouts a crying child when another yanks her toy away.
Our legal hearts demand what is right and fair. And where does that come from? From God’s law. We’re all born with an innate sense of right and wrong. That’s because God stamped his image on us, and even though we are sinners and live with a distorted view of God, remnants of it are still there like a shattered mirror.
Satan takes full advantage of our dilemma and, as a cunning rascal, pronounces us guilty every chance he gets and demands payment for our sins. And if we’re not watchful, we’ll fall into the trap and believe it’s up to us to fix ourselves.
This can happen a million times a day.
If your thoughts are negative, accusatory, pointing out other people’s faults, blaming others, devaluing the people in your life, dishonoring them, and demanding your rights and your way, you’re listening to the devil.
Resentment and bitterness produce a heavy heart and a broody attitude, all of which indicate you’ve moved away from the gospel – Christ’s righteousness for you.
Remember, Christ showers you with grace and mercy every moment of every day because he’s paid for your sins.
We’re happy and grateful to accept that truth for us, but what’s shocking is he also gives that same grace and mercy to the people around us that are hard to live with!
So instead of resentment and bitterness, let’s give forgiveness and peace; instead of rehearsing our wounds, let’s release them to the Lord at the cross, and walk away; instead of blaming others, let’s talk about our faults first and see what happens. Since the judge of the universe has declared us righteous in Christ, we can be vulnerable with others and not be afraid of their response.
Make these your Christmas presents this month!
Talk to me.
Contrary to every thing you hear in the media, your life is not your personal possession to do with as you please.
If you’re a Christian, you belong to Jesus. You we were bought with a price – his blood – to no longer serve yourself, but him.
How are you doing with this?
I’d rather continue being addicted to myself. It’s easy. It’s comfortable. I’ve been doing it all my life.
I also like burrowing into my world of entertainment – my favorite TV shows, sports, painting, writing and photography. None of those things are sin in and of themselves, but when they push out Jesus in favor of them, then I have a problem.
And I push out Jesus a lot.
I can spend a whole day without thinking about him or talking to him.
I don’t do that with the people I love, but I do it with him.
I don’t keep short accounts of my sins with him either. I tend to bunch them all together at the end of the day, if I remember, and then confess them. When I think about it, that’s pretty stupid and laughable. What I’m doing is just discharging a duty without any heart work, and I know it and so does Jesus.
I’m reminded in the gospels, Jesus was not autonomous. He could have been. He didn’t need help from anybody, he knew who he was and where he was going. And yet he was 100% dependent on his Father, from what to say to people to what to do for them. “So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.'” – John 5: 19
That dependency led him to the cross to die for me and you.
And I’m pierced through the heart.
I admit I fail miserably to live a dependent life. It’s foreign to me. But I don’t despair because I have hope. First, God makes me aware of my sin and depravity and I getting better at talking to him about it. Second, I don’t want to be like that any more and I tell him so. And third, in Christ I am becoming more like him. He’s doing the work he promised to do even if I don’t see it. “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” -Philippians 1:6. And for that I rejoice!
Where are you on this road? Talk to me.
If you’re like me, when I get sick I pray. When there’s an accident in the family, I pray. When someone is discouraged, I pray.
But when I sin badly, I don’t pray.
Why do I do that? I think it’s because my conscience tells me God is angry with me and I better not go near him. Just like Adam and Eve did in the garden when they sinned and then ran into the bushes.
As an aside, if you stop and think about it, that’s pretty funny because God is near to you and me all the time. He sees everything, hears every thought, knows every feeling.
And he doesn’t disengage and retreat! Just like he didn’t flee from Adam and Eve. In fact, the text tells us, he went looking for them. See Genesis 3:8-9.
So why don’t I run to God when I sin badly? Because at that moment I don’t believe the gospel. Instead I believe in the law, and the law tells me I’ve blown it, God is going to punish me, and I better get out of town.
But what does Paul say about the law? It’s meant to drive us to Christ! It takes us by the hand and turns us in the direction of our Savior, who bled and died precisely for those sins I committed. See Romans 7:4.
God hasn’t moved.
Are you ready to come back?