Tag Archives: law

The Balance of Law and Misunderstood Grace

28 Oct

At times there seems in the Christian walk to be a paradoxical battle between the balance of law and grace. At one end of the spectrum there can be within us a complete allegiance to the law, (by the law I mean Mosaic Law and our own laws), that attempts to earn righteousness by obedience through self, that longs to tick all the boxes and what’s more add extra boxes to gain a sense of self-righteousness. On the other hand there is an unjust weight of a complete denial of the holiness of God’s law, a rebellion to all morality and good deeds and an abuse of the freedom found in Christ Jesus in pursuit of a misunderstood form of grace. To pledge an allegiance to the law, to find salvation, acceptance and a sense of righteousness by obedience to it is intrinsically wrong, likewise a lack of good deeds, irreverence of Gods law and the pursuit of a sense of freedom in rebellion must also be wrong.

God spoke to me back in 2009/10 with the scripture Christ quoted from Isaiah and aimed directly to the Pharisee’s, namely, Matthew 15:8 “these people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me”. At first I wondered if I was hearing correctly, however, as Christ revealed more clearly my brokenness and unclean heart the more I realised how pharisaical and religious I was. I was trying to earn my acceptance and salvation by the things I did, by my allegiance to the law and my own law. The more I tried to stop sinning the more I realised how helpless I really was. This was the point where I had met my match; in fact I had met something that far outweighed my efforts, an unattainable standard only able to be attained by Christ, namely, the law. The only place I could turn was Christ, my efforts, my striving to be acceptable and my own self-righteousness was not good enough for God and there was nothing I could do but come to Christ and enter his rest.

Two scriptures come to mind:

Galatians 3:24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.

Hebrews 4:9-10 9There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. 11Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.

The sense of freedom and liberty that came as God took me through a process of untangling me from the precise and sharp demands of the law was immensely powerful and peaceful, however the more I was led into grace, the more I abused it. I became in a sense, resentful of the law, that which has a grip on so much of Christianity today, that which I saw and still see destroying people’s liberty, I set out to rebel against, not necessarily consciously, but in my heart I was resentful towards it. Not only was I resentful towards the law, but my sense of freedom had led me to not only ask the question Paul so blatantly and sternly answers in Romans 6, but also stray into its path.

Romans 6:15-18 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! 16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin [j]resulting in death, or of obedience [k]resulting in righteousness?17 But thanks be to God that [l]though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

I sinned because I believed I was no longer under law. Sure, those who have died to the law are no longer bound to its unattainable demands, however, the issue was that I used my freedom to sin, to rebel against what I thought to be a stumbling block to me and to all the religious, despite knowing Pauls letter to the Romans in which he writes “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good”. The problem was not the law, it was me.

Romans 7 13Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

14We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.

Before I was a believer I was a salve to sin, I was entrenched in it, obeying its every move and command. When I became a believer I did not stop being a slave, I was no longer a slave to sin but now a slave to righteousness, moving from one master to another. In one sense I am completely free in regards to sin, however in regards to righteousness I am a slave. This is the reason Paul writes in Romans 6 concerning presenting ourselves to God as alive from the dead and as instruments of righteousness. The revelation that we are no longer bound to sin but bound to righteousness must lead us to offer ourselves to God as an instrument, not to play our own self worshipping tune, but to allow Him to play his righteous standard (law) and holy tune through us to His glory.

Ephesians 2:8-10

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and [h]that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as 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 so that we would walk in them.

This passage in Ephesians 2 is the essence of God’s plan for humanity. The ultimate aim for God’s people is that we bring Him glory, our end if you will is not our good works or righteousness, that is our means, to the end of which is Christ being glorified in and through His children. We are not saved by works but faith, works however, are not wrong, they are right only when they are IN Christ Jesus and NOT of ourselves to attain salvation. Works bring God glory, but only works motivated in Christ rather than stained by self, are edifying to him.

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Heirs of Promise

22 Aug

Since the day faith came under the New Covenant ethnicity is no longer the requirement to be a descendant of Abraham. Only those of faith in Christ receive the promises given to Abraham.

What was the promise?

Land

  1. “Get thee out of thy country…unto a land that I will shew thee” (Gen. 12:1).
  2. Abraham “went on his journeys…to Bethel (in Central Israel) And the Lord said unto Abram…Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever…walk through the land…for I will give it unto thee” (Gen. 13:3,14-17).
  3. “The Lord made a covenant with Abraham, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates” (Gen. 15:18).)
  4. “I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession” (Gen. 17:8).
  5. “The promise that he (Abraham) should be the heir of the world” (Rom. 4:13).

Seed

  1. “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee…and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:2,3).
  2. “I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered…all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever” (Gen. 13:15,16).
  3. “Look now toward heaven, and tell (count) the stars, if thou be able to number them…So shall thy seed be…Unto thy seed have I given this land” (Gen. 15:5,18).
  4. “I will give unto…thy seed after thee…the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God” (Gen. 17:8).
  5. “I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 22:17,18).

Neither Jew nor Greek

Galatians 3

Verse 7 “Therefore be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham”.

Verse 28-29 ” There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abrahams offspring, heirs according to promise.”

To be an heir of Abraham is not based on ethnicity, gender, race etc but is based on faith in Christ. Why? The law did not nullify the promise given to Abraham, however it couldn’t enable us to receive the promise as we were shut up under sin (verse 22) but is given to us not on the basis of our works, ethnicity or race but on the basis of who Christ is. He is the author, fulfiller and rightful heir of the promise. Therefore the promise can only be received in Christ by faith (not based on merit).

Romans 9:6-13

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s [d]descendants, but: “[e]through Isaac your [f]descendants will be named.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as [g]descendants. For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would [h]stand, not [i]because of works but [j]because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

Geographical or heavenly?

When coming to the Old Testament we must view it through a New Testament lens. With this in mind we can say that the things of the Old Testament pointed to something greater, namely Christ.

Hebrews 11:8-10

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; 10 for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

The land of promise that Abraham dwelt in pointed to something far greater which he looked for. Not a geographical dwelling place but a dwelling place with foundations God has built, namely the eternal land of promise, a dwelling place in God that can only be accessed in Christ. This is indicated by the fact that he is described as an “alien living in a foreign location”. So the promise of land points to a greater completion of the promise fulfilled by Jesus, the nations having access to dwell with God in Christ, not in Canaan geographically but a heavenly Canaan, the Kingdom of God.

The writer goes on to say, “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.”

In revelation 21:1 John writes “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.”

This is the city Abraham longed for. He had knowledge of him being part of a much bigger plan, namely Christ’s bride. He looked forward to the heavenly marriage, the heavenly city that will be established on earth by Christ at his return. He looked to something greater than an earthly land or location we know presently.

Hebrews 12:22-24

22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.

Similarly, this scripture states that we have now come to the city of the living God, In contrast the preceding verses compare Mount Sinai with Mount Zion. Sinai was a mountain that could not be touched or commonly accessed; it represented law, judgement and Gods holiness. Now, however, we have come to an accessible Mount Zion, which represents Grace and Gods righteous judgment through Christ. Those who have come to it are made perfect by Jesus who’s covenant is far greater/gracious than the punishment/judgment for the shedding of Abels blood which Cain describe in his own words as “too great to bear” (Gen 4:13).

Then, under the Old Covenant, Mount Zion where the temple was located was a place of bloody sacrifice and offering which God had no desire for. Now, under New Covenant, Mount Zion is a place where we find grace and refuge from the wrath of God, where the Son of Man offered a perfect sacrifice reaching all eternity.

Therefore no longer do we seek an earthly Zion, but a heavenly one, a heavenly City for which we are enrolled in now and will be partakers of through Gods grace at his coming.

We align our hearts with the writer of Hebrews, “For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.” Hebrews 13:14

So we can rule out two questions.

1/ Does ethnic Israel have a basis for receiving the geographical land today? No

2/ Do those in Christ (heirs of promise) have a basis for receiving the geographical land? No

The picture is not the church or ethnic Israel taking possession of an earthly nation, but a heavenly nation is formed in Christ through the gospel. One day Christ will return to establish this heavenly Kingdom on earth where He will reign over all creation.

Conclusion

So we can conclude as follows

1/ Inheritance of the promise given to Abraham is not based on ethnicity, gender or race but is based on faith.

2/ The land promise has been fulfilled in Christ, we look no longer to an earthly city but a heavenly one in which we are enrolled in now and will partake in at Christ’s return.

3/ There is a bigger picture than a receiving of an earthly location as an inheritance but a heavenly nation is formed in Christ in which we harvest the benefits of through faith.

Achievement

6 Aug

Over the past week we have seen some awe inspiring athletes compete in one of the greatest athletic events, the Olympics. As I watched Andy Murray on Sunday I was on the edge of my seat waiting in anticipation and excitement for him to beat Roger Federer to win the Olympic gold tennis tournament in Wimbledon at the London 2012 games. Andy’s last winning serve led the crowd into a roar of celebrations, after years of gruelling, long, hard, rigorous work, he had finally achieved his goal. In his own words “It’s number one for me,” he told BBC1. “The biggest win of my life. What an achievement for one man.

As he received the gold medal in splendor I couldn’t help but begin to look at my own life, “What have I ever achieved?” Have I achieved anything worthwhile?” “Why can’t I be talented or at least achieve something decent?”

Pondering further it dawned on me that I was thinking not from a Godly perspective but from a self motivated desire. My desire to achieve, to be something or someone, to be different from the average Joe is influenced by a longing to be recognized, to receive glory and if you will accept the root of which is a want to be worshiped.

When Christ chose his disciples he chose those who were the rejects of society or more to the point, ordinary. They were mere men who had not made it as educated Rabbis, they were seen as unimportant and irrelevant. Their jobs were that of what we may deem today as working class. The point is that Jesus doesn’t look for those who have made it, who have achieved great things, but he comes for the weak, the ugly, the unintelligent, those who have missed the mark.

So what am I saying? God wont chose Andy Murray to be his disciple because he has achieved great things? No, in the gospels and throughout the whole of scripture it is clear to see God is impartial, The whole message of the gospel and the issue I want to hopefully relay is that God doesn’t choose on the basis of our works, rich or poor, weak or strong. The message I believe Jesus conveys to us through his choosing of the disciples is that the requirement of being part of his Kingdom is not based on achievement or whether I have done right or wrong but on the basis of his choosing alone.

John 15:16 “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.

This I believe gives us great hope. This unbiased impartial God speaks to us of his unconditional love, something that can be a rarity in today’s society. We have no need to prove ourselves or work up some kind of achievement to be accepted.

This revelation of the Kingdom also destroys our self glory/worship. The Kingdom is divine with only one King over all, namely Christ. Our achievements pale into insignificance at the sight of Jesus’ achievement on the cross. This gives me rest in my soul to know that despite me missing the mark, not being good enough and those works which are good, even those are rubbish in the light of the accomplishments of the cross.

Paul’s journey in Christ is a great example:

Philippians 3:1-14

Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Is achievement wrong?

For me to suggest that achieving something is all about self would be wrong. Achievements should rightly be celebrated. The Olympics has highlighted fantastic talent and hard work and has hopefully inspired many young people to continue in the athletes footsteps. However I would suggest that our longing to achieve can be influenced by wrong motives. Achievement in itself is not wrong, what leads us to achieve is that which must be questioned.  We must look into our hearts to make sense of our motives, to ask ourselves “Am I doing this out of a need for recognition or am I doing this to bring glory to God?” When the answer is for self, come to Christ who is our advocate and ask him to deal with the wrong motive. When it is to glorify God, ask him to multiply and increase the pure motive.

God is continually bringing those in Christ to the end of themselves. Why? His main purpose is that He, The King may be rightfully worshiped. When we want the “I” in us to be worshiped we deflect God’s deserved praise to our undeserved selves. When we are brought to the end of ourselves, there is no more “I” to be praised but only glory can be credited to God.

So I encourage you to look at your motives. What motivates you? Have you achieved lots? Lay it at the cross. Have you achieved little? Know that you are accepted and not rejected.

May God continue to bring us to the end of ourselves to live a life that reflects Gods true nature and brings him glory.

Thoughts on Humility

1 Aug

During 2010 God began to speak to me about humility, something that I though I had but soon began to realise I was and still am very far away from.

I pray as you read through God will clear out any rubble that I have written to reveal clear truth that will speak to you regarding humility

Humility

A word regarding self-denial

 Matthew 16:26-25

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

Deny your own ability in the flesh

Deny your confidence in the flesh

Deny self-righteousness and self-worth

Deny striving

Deny your own glory

Deny praise from men

Deny self-seeking

Deny your own wisdom

Deny self-indulgence

Deny unfaithfulness

Deny sensuality

Deny self-sufficiency

Deny pleasing self

Deny pleasing man

Humility

If you want to be great, deny yourself and follow Christ (Matt 18:4). The soul raised up shall be destroyed, the soul made low shall survive (Matt 16:25). Don’t think of anything as coming from yourselves (2 Cor 3:5). Deny me and I will deny you (Matt 10:33). Peace will only come when I am found in humility. Think nothing of yourselves (Gal 6:3). True identity is found in humility. The self-righteous person finds his identity in his own good deeds, he receives his reward in full (Matt 6:5). The person who trusts in my righteousness finds his true identity in me, he will live forever. The ways of man are burned up but God’s ways last forever (Isaiah 40:8).

How to view ourselves

In order to be humble we must have the right view of ourselves, we must see ourselves as God sees us. That is helpless, depraved and futile, in need of his grace eternally. All self-righteousness does is mask the truth of that human being, it masks the shy, dependant, incapable man. When seen for what he really is he is to be pitied. This man cannot even stand or walk without the grace of God.

The most horrible sin

The sin that we must be aware of, flee from and be protected from is the exultation of man, thinking of one more highly than he ought (Phil 2:3). The Lord despises this sin (Prov 8:13). We must be overprotective in our battle against pride, become nothing.

Help

You need help.

A prayer regarding giving

Lord please show me how to give. Mould my heart into a giving heart and a mind set on others. Amen.

Prayers of the saints

I pray that I will revel in and love the prayers of the saints. Amen.

How we should view adversity

Lord, if this adversity brings you pleasure then let it not stop until it ceases bringing you glory.

You are nothing (1 Cor 1:26-32).

Those who know God

Rejoice if someone knows God better than you. Don’t envy them, learn from them. You are so weak that you need others instruction and guidance.

Embrace the cross and suffer

Embrace the cross, be humiliated, be rejected, be despised, be scorned be mocked, be embarrassed, be free. Suffering is the only way to Gods kingdom (Rom 8:17).

 1 Peter 4:1-2

Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.

1 Peter 4:19, Hebrews 6:8-10, Hebrews 2:9-10.

Freedom in grace

You cannot be free from anything unless you become humble, unless you embrace the cross. God gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). We need grace to be free, therefore humble yourself and you will be free. The man who walks in pride can’t be free from the law because he is self-righteous. The man who walks in humility is free from the law because God has given him the grace to walk in the righteousness that comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

Disobedience

Disobedience is unbelief. If we are disobedient we don’t believe in Gods perfect judgment. If I don’t trust in God for provision, I don’t believe he is able to provide. (Heb 3:18-19).

A prayer for belief

Lord I pray for belief. Amen.

Nothing comes from you

Nothing comes from you, it all comes from God. How dare you claim anything to be from yourself?

A Prayer

Lord let me love your glory so much that when I see believers preach with passion and boldness I will bow down before you and thank you from the depths of my heart.

Room for less

There’s always room for me to become less.

No rest for the proud

The proud can’t rest. They are always looking at themselves trying to make sure everything is in place and perfect, they care too much about what others think, they can’t accept failure and won’t admit defeat. They love praise from man and commit their lives to temporal earthly desires. God cannot contend with mans striving, he resists the proud. The humble can rest and know they are accepted not on a basis of striving or works. Rest reveals Gods glory and mans dependency on him. Striving reveals a trust in self.

The proud are anxious. The humble are peaceful.

The proud can’t accept forgiveness, they can’t admit their wrong.

Preaching humility

Humility desires for someone else other than you to preach on humility so that God will be glorified and not you.

Praying for others

Humility is when you get great enjoyment and pleasure out of praying for others as well as receiving prayer from others.

Jealousy

The humble man is not jealous of another mans gift for he knows all gifts are from God and not man.

Jesus

Everything Jesus did was marked with humility, a denial of His will. He daily embraced the cross.

A prayer

May my requests not exceed my praises for you.

 How to approach the father

Don’t come to God in relation to what you’ve done. Come to God in relation to what he has done.

Be quiet.

God’s view on repentance

Repentance is a renewed mind that says “I can’t be saved by my works, I can’t be delivered by obeying the law, only Christ the righteous can save me”. (Isaiah 30:15)

The weak

God gives more and more grace to those who become more and more weak.

Others

Humility regards others views as more important than theirs.

Being humble is seeing God’s work in others, encouraging that person and then worshiping God for the great things he is doing in their lives.

Pride is seeing Gods work in others, comparing yourself to them and glorying in self or condemning self.

Competition

A reason for competition in the body of Christ is due to lack of thankfulness. We must be thankful and grateful for what he has done and given us. He has given us more than enough and a lot more than we deserve. It’s wrong to think you deserve anything. What you have been given is a free gift. Use what you have been given. (Luke 10:16, Matthew 25:21)

Accrediting God

The humble person credits God for the good things he has done and credits himself for all the bad things he has done.

The Pharisees denied the outward things but did not deny the inward.

False humility

Man is so foolish that he boasts in his weakness to get glory from others and look like he is doing well as a Christian. This is false humility.