God does not give an “E” for effort
Nor does he grade on a curve. Many “Christian” religious people cling to obedience to the
Law of God thinking that if only they could obey well enough, then God would have to keep them safe and blessed. However they are duped into thinking firstly, that they can obey “perfectly” (at least enough in their own minds) to where God would be happy with them. Secondly, because of their biased appraisal of their obedience, that God is bound to his oaths to bless them (at least for trying). Unfortunately for them, Paul says that “If we break his law in just one point, we are guilty of breaking them all.” We also forget that the punishment for breaking just one of his laws is punishable by eternal death and separation from God. We just don’t like to think about that part because we like to comfort ourselves with the fact of God’s love. The hard thing about depending upon law is that there is no wiggle room; its total obedience or death. That is why God gave the Jews the sacrificial system, to deal with covering their sin. The temple sacrifices were a picture of Christ’s sacrifice for them and for us. Christ is the incarnation of God himself and the perfection of the Law so that Christ’s death could be the perfect fulfillment of the temple sacrifices in our stead and he is also our Great high priest. Just as we do not have to bring bulls and goats to slaughter anymore, now we do not have to live under the Law with its curse any more. Why? Continue reading.
We died to the Law
Rom 7:1- 6 Use this link for the NIV or your favorite version of the Bible. Emphasize verses 4, 5, and especially vs 6.
As we ponder God’s character from the above passage, I wonder if God would answer our signature question below in the following way…
Who are you Lord?
I AM the God who is perfect holiness and gave my Law to reveal that holiness to you. I AM the Holy God who demands perfect obedience to that Law. I AM the God who alone has the right to institute the penalty of breaking my Law. I AM the only one who can perfectly obey and thus could fulfill the righteous requirements of that Law on your behalf in Christ’s life. And thus only I AM the God who alone can pay the price that I set because of your disobedience. Since I AM the God who declared you sinful by your lack of obedience to my Law, then, I AM the only God who can declare you righteous apart from your inept attempts to obey my law. It is not about your trying, rather your relying on me to fulfill them in you and for you.
I AM the Righteous God and only I have the right to declare whom I will to be righteous by my acts of righteousness on their behalf. I AM the God who saves those who know that they are incapable of attaining my standard of Righteousness. Once I have placed my righteousness in you, only then can you serve in newness of my spirit in you. Like I told Paul as he penned Philippians 3:9 “…and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” And in 2 Cor 5:21”God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” And in Gal 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I 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 for me.”
“The purpose of the Law”
God gave his law for two main reasons: Besides that of giving righteous requirements to protect his chosen representatives on this earth from the harms of improper living and to spare them from destructive social, economical and dietary decisions the other societies make. He gave them to show mankind how Holy he is, and to show us how bad we are by comparison. Thus verse 5 above that says “the sinful passions aroused by the law”. According to Paul, it provokes our sin natures to do wrong. For example, there was a hotel that overhung the ocean. They put up signs saying do not fish from balconies. What do you think that the people did? It wasn’t until they took down the signs that the hotel didn’t have to replace their sliding glass doors any more. Something in people will do precisely the opposite simply because we were told not to. Satan capitalized on that aspect of man’s sin nature in the garden when he pointed out to Eve the one thing she could not have; “Hath God said… ”
Can a mirror clean your face?
The Law is like a mirror to show us our lost condition in sin, not a 10 step self help program to better ourselves. Nor can you clean your face with a mirror. Christ on the other hand is the only person in history who was perfect in all of the law and will of God, Jn 17:4. Thus he is the only one who could say as he died on the cross in Jn 19:30 “It is finished” indicating that God’s righteous requirements in the Law were fully met to God’s satisfaction. In other words, Jesus lived his perfect life so that his substitutionary death for us could be perfect. Jesus fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law on our behalf in his life and fulfilled God’s righteous judgment of sin in our stead when he died. In other passages it says that he included us in his life and death giving us his righteous standing before The Father. Now, we do not have to rely on our own ability to obey the law in order to earn our own righteousness. He did this so that as a result, we might have the power to live righteous lives by his Spirit in us telling us what God desires, not just follow the rules stamped on stone tablets. This is not to say that we are free to break his laws, we just are not to depend upon our own will power to obey them (which nobody can). They have been fulfilled by Christ for us so that Paul says the old has been made “obsolete” by the new. Now we can live with the benefit of God’s unmerited blessings on us because of Christ’s obedience not by our own merit. And thus our obedience is motivated by what the Spirit does through us and our gratitude for it.
How do you receive God’s righteousness?
By faith. Faith is taking God at his Word, believing the promise of God and believing like Abraham, that God is capable and willing to uphold it. Noah took God at his word about rain and destruction even though there had never been rain before. Abraham took God at his word about giving him a son through Sarah, even though Sarah was old and barren.
Is there anything that you have to “do” to have faith? Imagine opening your hands to receive a gift that is being offered to you – that is faith. Receiving is not works. Do you feel a desire for God’s righteousness? Are you tired of your wrong doings? Are you seeking real meaning and purpose to the reason of your existence? Then faith is simply agreeing with God’s Word which tells you that you need to admit that you are sinful, and then choose to allow God to forgive you personally. In reality, let Jesus’ death on the cross; be for you personally right now. (I say personally because I grew up in a Presbyterian Church hearing that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, but no one told me that it included me.) Confess your sin, ask his forgiveness, and take God at his promise (believe) to forgive you and he will place his Holy Spirit in you right now (see Eph 1:13, 14). There is nothing you can “do”, rather just depend solely on, and thank him for his work on your behalf. It is not about praying a “prayer” as a prayer can be a work which “we do” and rely on to “earn” God’s favor (people often ask themselves, “Did I pray the prayer right”). Rather it is about heart dependence based on what you know to be true of God’s Word (you can express this dependence upon Christ’s forgiveness in a prayer, but don’t think that a prayer has anything to do to get you saved). Cornelius in Acts 10 didn’t “pray a prayer”, and neither did Paul on the road to Damascus. But they believed to be sure. There is no “asking Jesus in your heart” because that would also be something you “do” to be saved. The Gospel is Christ’s work to make God happy FOR you. Like a gift, simply receive it and give thanks from today onward, and be sure to tell others what Jesus did for you.
The Christian life is about learning more and more about the one who took your place in death and gave you life. Spend time daily with him who made you and wants a relationship with you because we are not talking about religion here, but personal relationship with God (just you and God walking through life’s joys and hardships together). Know that he put you IN CHRIST and that HE PUT the Holy Spirit in you. Salvation is a gift, your faith receives it. And unlike religion he changes you from the inside out. The rest of chapter 7 speaks of why we keep on sinning and failing as Christians.
More to come,